Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I'm taking a long weekend for a vacation this week. I think it's my first real vacation since our honeymoon in 2003. Of course, because I'm a geek, I'll be going bike riding almost exclusively. The plan is to ride a bunch of Sierra passes, including Ebbetts, Monitor, and Sonora. I'm doing it to reboot, enjoy the scenery and spend some quality time out on some quality roads. The last time I was in the area was 2006, when a friend picked up road cycling and got me back into it. We decided to do the Death Ride. I didn't really train for it except for doing a bunch of hard rides with folks in Santa Barbara and climbing to Santa Ynez peak several times a week. I was also coming off my first road racing season, 'cause you know, the first thing most people do when they buy a bike is decide to race it.

I did alright, but only recently realized that the cramps on the last climb were due to the energy drink I was using. Too bad, because it seems to work well otherwise. That day ended up with a giant hailstorm, but by that time I was fed and dressed and well off the bike. Most were not as lucky but they persevered to make it through all five passes. I danced around in the mud cheering the thousands who poured by to get to the finish; it was definitely a good time, but frankly, something I'm not likely to do again due to the sheer number of people there.

I've learned a lot since then. Nutrition-wise, it's simple for me. HEED and gel. That's it. Anything else is asking for trouble. I am often hungry physically, but I seem to have enough energy to keep going strong with this on-the-bike diet. I wish I could eat burgers and tri-tip like I saw my companions do on one particularly fast ride from SB to Figueroa and back, but I have trouble digesting that stuff when I'm not at LT. Such is the life of a weenie. I also strangely never care about climbing amounts anymore. Sometimes it's interesting, but in general I either am going up or coming down, so it's not as important as it used to be for me. That ride is still the longest ride I've ever done (I think) but I don't go out for distance anymore, now it's time and effort. Minor changes, but it helps in some way when you don't track those kinds of numbers. Of course now it's all TSS and CTL, but it's kind of a passing interest unless I'm trying to peak.

So, here's to vacation, and here's to climbing for climbing's sake.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Time Trialing

Supposedly, as a former MTB guy, I'm supposed to be good at TTs. At least that's what I've been told. Well, I don't mind suffering, but I don't put out the power necessary to be a stellar TT rider. I use a frankenbike - just my road bike with cheap aerobars and a flipped around seatpost. It's probably not UCI legal, but good enough for a training ride and definitely does the job for a cancer benefit ride. Beat the Clock puts on a great ride for a great cause, so I gave it a go this weekend. I was late to my start, but they were kind enough to let me slot in three minutes later. They really do aim to please! I was going to be chased by Justin Lucke, so my goal was to just not get passed, which I can say never happened. Obligatory graph for those of you that said I lack graphs:

Anyway, it felt good, so I probably could go faster next time. I always wonder what good TT gear would get me, but for my one TT a year, it's really not worth dropping the cash to get that stuff. It was already hot at the finish, and I'm going to head out to the mountains to try to do a cooler mountain bike ride without melting.

Monday, June 16, 2008


I went ahead and got my upgrade. Now I have a lot to learn and re-learn about racing with a team. Hopefully I can make useful contributions. This upgrade came a lot soon than expected, especially considering how I got injured twice this spring. A summary of my cat 4 "career":

2006: Everest Challenge
Challenge RR 9/26
Everest Challenge DNS first day, 9th second
Cantua Creek 6/~45
Pine Flat ~15/70 (mechanical)
Copperopolis RR 26/70 (still feeling sore after getting whacked by a car.)
Orosi RR 3/~30
Panoche Pass RR 8/45
Mt Hamilton RR 3/75
Pescadero RR 1/70

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Pescadero RR

I was less than enthused going into this race. I haven't been training that hard, and my knee has been hurting, and there's smoke in the air, etcetera, etcetera. I guess I whine a lot. It looks like my kind of course, finishing on a kicker of a hill that's about eight minutes long. My wife volunteered to take my place as a course marshal so I could race, so I had to follow through (my other job of placing prime signs went to those more well-suited, so I ended up bringing pylons to to the finish area.) We rolled out in the fog, and quickly passed the first sprint prime. We went pretty hard on the climbs, but harder on the descents! No breaks really rolled away, but we kept the pace fairly high.

The first time up Haskin's, we rode hard, but well within my limits. On the second lap I started to wake up, and started to plan for the finish. I had kept track of landmarks and time from finish on the first lap, thinking I wanted a 1-2 minute attack to stick right at the end. Both Roaring Mouse and Squadra were keeping the race active, but it seemed that Squadra had three strong guys that led the pace up the last climb. One of them attacked near the feed, but they seemed to bring back their own guy. After the 180, they attacked several times and I followed wheels, trying to stay around 3rd place. Peter from Action Sports came around and really started to drill it, finally putting me in pain. I attacked with a minute to go right when I sensed some fading, opened a gap, and held off the charge for the win! I rolled across the line, and right to the portapotty while the marshals were trying to get us all to run downhill. I had tried to visualize my attack all week, and I executed it just the way I wanted to. Felt great to win that way, especially among such a strong field.

I now have more than enough to upgrade to cat 3, but might stick around for a while. Have to make some decisions coming up...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sierra Road

Sierra road rises out of East San Jose on barren grass covered hills. It's steep in spots, often hot, and has the distinct smell of cows from the close-by grazing lands. I often see beat-up cars pulled over on the side of the road, waiting for what, nobody knows. Glass covers most of the switchbacks. I love this climb. I use it to set dorky power records, and the view down the bay from the top is incredible. Sometime I'll bring a camera to show it. It's also quite a bit like a Santa Barbara climb, in that it's exposed and really doesn't go anywhere, so there's little traffic on the climb and screaming descent.

I have had this irrelevant goal to hit 300W average on this climb (it's about 25-30 minutes long, depending on your pace,) and I finally eked it out today, just a day after the two month anniversary of gouging my knee cap out on a set of rocks. A month ago I was wheezing on hour long 'tempo' rides. It sucked. I rode it much more aggressively than I use to, attacking the steep portions and backing off a bit in between. Normally I just hold a constant power, but I've got to say the 'new' way is a lot more fun. So, for you other bike geeks out there 300W isn't much. What can I say, I'm small, like 60 kg small.

El Corte de Madera

One of the things I try to avoid is burn-out. I think cyclists in particular are prone to this, perhaps due to the repetitive motions involved. I try to break up the monotony with, of course, more cycling, but in the dirt. I started life as a mountain biker. I used to ride summers away at Upton State Forest with my friend Tony as we'd discuss what to build next in the basement: trebuchet, remote control hydroplane, etc... I stopped for a bit in early college, then realized I needed something to balance my life and got myself a new mountain bike. This time I really got into it and even took up racing, much to the chagrin of my GPA. I moved to California for its fine educational instituitions and mountain biking, noting that Santa Barbara had four thousand foot climbs right in its backyard. My MTB has remained a balance since then. Sure, road gave me a ton of fitness, but MTB invented it.

This weekend I went to Skeggs Point, aka El Corte de Madera. One thing I really dislike about the bay is the necessity to drive 30 minutes to ride a bike. The other is the speed limits on trails. I can climb faster than the speed limits on some trails, give me a break. Anyway, drive aside, I had the park to myself and the dense fog in the redwoods. It was beautiful. Sloppy at top, it dried out as I lost elevation along Fir and Resolution trails, remembering how to handle a bike in the dirt and slalom around trees. While reading a map, another rider came across the trail, so I followed him down South Leaf, a new trail for me. It was awesome ridge line riding with enough techy to keep it interesting. I kind of miss the death defying technical riding of the SB front side, but this was enjoyable for my lycra wearing butt these days. A long, beautiful climb lead me to Steam Donkey, which I rode up and down, savoring the huge bursts of power it took to climb the rock gardens and the flow of the descent. Next up was Manzanita trail, which had enough sandstone to almost remind me of SB, but all was over soon as I climbed back to the car. NorCal parks are small, except for Coe. It was a great reminder of how fun a mountain bike can be, and left me energized for the week. This kind of ride makes a bike feel like a logical extension of your being, while a road bike always feels like a tool to me. Hopefully I'll get out there more this summer.

One thing that always strikes me about racing out here versus riding is the difference in terrain. They'd never put a race on at a place like Skeggs, where I climbed over 3500' in less than 15 miles. Most races seem like dirt crits to me, and expensive ones at that. East coast racing seemed better about mixing up the terrain, but that probably has something to do with land usage rights. I never saw speed limit signs out there.