Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Condor Classic

I meant to post this a while ago, but seem to have hit the "save" instead of "publish" button. So, belated ride report.

On October 11, Andrew and I did our first century. It started at the ridiculous hour of "before sunrise" in Hollister, so we drove down the night before and stayed at a hotel. This was complicated by (a) the need to find an open REI so we could buy arm-warmers; (b) extra-horrible traffic on the 101; and (c) the GPS having no idea where the hotel was and leading us on a wild-goose chase straight out of a horror movie. You know, the kind where the teenagers are hacked to death in the wilderness of the central valley. Anyway, we eventually made it to the hotel, which smelled exactly like my parents' basement, and I proceeded to get no sleep. (Those are not correlated.)

Six hours later, we woke up and discovered that it is cold in Hollister before dawn. On go the arm warmers and mittens, and we gather at the start line. My stomach was too cold to eat anything, so I sort of ate some gorp and a coke, but I couldn't even eat a chocolate croissant. The first few miles were downhill, where we made great time and I discovered each and every gap between the layers of my clothing. (For example: jersey sleeves end a half inch before the arm warmers start. Ears completely uncovered. Legs - forget about it.) Five miles in, we settled into the first climb, and I realized it was a very bad idea to not eat; so now bits of me are frozen, my stomach has started hurting, and I'm very hungry. Andrew feeds me some Gu and a pint of water and we kept climbing. Ten minutes later, the Gu kicks in and I'm all good. We climb faster than most, reaching the first food station at mile 15 in good time and passing lots of people who waste breath complaining about the steepness. I ate some peanuts. Andrew ate some of everything. The next ten miles are flattish, and the next food station has crackers and fruit, which I eat. So far so good: I am now neither freezing, nauseas, nor hungry. Some more climb, then long descent into the pinnacles, which was awesome. Peanut butter and bananas there at mile 40 or so. We're at least three hours in, which means our time isn't as good as I thought. Lost some time to Andrew's flat #1, then we start back.

But, what goes down must go up, and the next ten miles back from the pinnacles are the opposite of the "nice long descent" of the last paragraph, with a fairly stiff headwind. It's a good thing I'm not cold or hungry anymore, or I'd be giving up. We're plugging away at it, not seeing anyone for another ten miles, when Andrew gets flat #2. We carefully check the tire again, swap in a new tube, and watch the headwind blow tumbleweeds across the road. SAG wagon guy asks if we're OK, and a couple dozen riders pass us. We continue. Now hungry again, I'm extra-motivated to get to somewhere where there is food that is not classified as "energy bars". The wind remains against us through the next food station (mile 60) where it looks like the bulk of the pack has come and gone. Sandwiches and more fruit, then onwards.

There was an extra loop somewhere around mile 70 which gave us the chance to ride with the wind instead of against it, which I appreciated. At mile 75, out of nowhere, a hill loomed. Well, loomed is not the right word. Imagine an element of surprise. More like an iceberg, which I suppose does not 'loom'. Anyway. This hill cannot possibly be steeper or longer than the last mile to my house, but with 75 miles down already, that's pretty significant. I stood up and pedaled until I saw red. The reward for reaching the top is... more wind. And a nice view of some cows, who are unimpressed by our feat. I can't even keep my heart rate up anymore; it's sitting firmly at 160. Going faster than 12 mph is out of the question. It's ten-ish miles to the next food station, now with a side-wind (mile 90), where there are fresh strawberries. We've now been on the bikes for about eight hours, but several people show up behind us, so we are definitely not last. We're even on track to finish by 3 p.m., which is sort of the official end time.

Then Andrew says, "My knee feels funny". (Note: He did not say "... for the last five miles" or "... by 'funny' I mean 'hurts a lot'", either of which would have been more accurate. Out of that last station it's supposed to be an easy ten miles back on the shoulder of a still-being-constructed freeway, which is not so awesome given the traffic and that somehow we are still working against the wind. At mile 92, he says, "uh, I can't move my knee anymore", so we stop. He has already tried (a) taking it easy; (b) pedaling with only the other leg; and (c) ignoring it (*). He's sure that if he can rest for a minute that he could keep going, but this seems like a Bad Idea, so I flag down the sag wagon and get us a ride back to town.

Then there's a nice big barbeque, followed by a relaxing evening. Yummy.

So, we almost made it. It sure felt like we put in enough effort to go 100 miles. Our average speed was pretty crummy, but I don't think I've biked in wind that strong ever for sustained periods. The event organization was fantastic, though, and I'd do it again. At no point was I worried about getting lost.

(*) Everyone has suggestions about what's up with the knee. Um, except for the actual doctors at Kaiser, who seem to think that rest and steroids fix everything. Current prevailing theory is that it's an IT-band issue, and that he should try stretching a lot and make sure the bike fits correctly.

Friday, October 10, 2008

An Adventure South on Highway 1 (Parts I and II)

In preparation for the century we're biking tomorrow, I've been doing longer and longer weekend rides, and trying not find new territory. This pair of rides emerged from the hypothesis that it would be totally calm and flat to ride down Highway 1 from San Francisco.

Part 1

to the end o
(Here's my MotionBased GPS data, for those of you that like to skip ahead.)

We started from SF, went down Skyline (Hwy 35), and cut over to Highway 1 on Sharp Park Road. (Which, by the way, has a bike lane for the first hundred yards - then you're in the lane with traffic and need to keep pace with it to stay safe; fortunately the speed limit's about 30 and it's downhill.) That dropped us into Pacifica, where we followed the beach for a bit and watched the despondent surfers waiting for waves. Then we got to ",-122.507987&spn=0.014487,0.043945&z=15">here, just south of Pacifica, where the road narrows to not-quite-one-lane-in-each-direction with negative shoulder (gravel leaks on the road, as opposed to there being excess pavement on the other side of the white line). It's twisty and the traffic is fast and it's pretty significantly uphill. I must have driven this road dozens of times, but somehow did not remember this four mile stretch. After an eternity we made it to the top, with a nice view of the ocean. The way down the other side is more complicated: instead of going 6 mph and keeping to the "mountain-side" edge of the road, you're going 25 mph on the "cliff-side" edge of the road. Cars that would have been able to pass you going up are now stuck behind you going down, with predictable displays of unhappiness. (It's a freaking construction zone - it's not safe for them to be going faster either.)

Anyway, we got to the bottom in one piece and decided we were definitely not biking back up that stretch of highway. The remaining descent into Half Moon Bay is very pleasant, with a wide shoulder and expansive ocean views. From Half Moon Bay, tere's only one other choice for getting back to SF: go up and over Hwy 92, then back on Skyline. So, after a sandwich, we headed up the 92. I remember this being ridiculously steep from the last time (5 years ago?) I tried it, so I stayed in a comfortable cadence in a lower gear the whole way, expecting it to get steeper. But I think it's a pretty even 7% grade for the whole way. Drafted off a motorcycle group on the way down. Back up Skyline was pretty uneventful, until we got lost and cranky in Daly City (a maze of twisty passages, all alike).

Total ride: 60+ miles, 6800 vertical feet.

Part 2

Having learned my lesson, and still wanting to see what was further south, the next weekend I drove the car to Half Moon Bay and rode the bike south starting there. (This was a solo ride, as my better half was sleeping off the previous night's festivities.)

South from Half Moon Bay, Hwy 1 is almost-imperceptibly uphill for a while, then is a series of rolling hills into Pescadero. I assume this would be beautiful country on a nicer day, but the sky and ocean were both slate-gray and the temperature was hovering around 50F. The surf looked like crap but there were still some diehard folks out there. I didn't see many other cyclists.

Pescadero appears to have no actual, um, restaurants or anything, so I nibbled at the gas station and watched tourists complain about the price of gas. Then I took Stage Road north towards San Gregorio, which has some hills taller than "rolling" but with a similar effect of "climb 300 feet, descend 300 feet, repeat, repeat". There's a general store in San Gregorio with a bike rack out front and a sign that asks cyclists to take off their shoes before entering. I was going to lock up my bike before going in, but the motorcyclists having a heated debate out front assured me that the last thing anybody would steal around here is a bike. I went in and got a coke. Sure enough, nobody stole my bike, although when I came back a dog was... never mind.

Stage Road meets back up with Hwy 1 a few miles later, and it's all downhill back into Half Moon Bay. At this point I suddenly felt the need to make creme brulee that evening, so I bought a blowtorch from the Target and drove home. 30 miles, 2000-ish vertical feet. (MotionBased data)