Monday, June 29, 2009

A serious (and not so serious) ride

Saturday was another unique day for me. There were 8 of us heading out to climb Rockpile. This is a long hard climb and I would usually be quite excited. But there I was early Saturday morning strongly contemplating staying in bed and skipping the ride all together. And that just doesn't sound like me.

My issue was not the early start time of pre-ride coffee at 6:00 a.m. and rolling by 6:30. I like early starts. Plus, it was going to be in the mid to upper 90's and Rockpile is an exposed climbed most of the way up. No, my issue was that I just didn't feel like being around people or riding my bike. That's almost unheard of for me. Most people who know me would call me the poster boy for extroverts and if you read this blog regularly you know how I feel about riding. But every now and then I just want to be alone and this was shaping up to be one of those days.

Eventually, I decide to suck it up and go. I skipped the pre-ride coffee, which was at Starbucks so that doesn't really count (they were the only folks open at 6:00 in Windsor). I get ready to roll by myself and then wait for the ride to start. I start looking forward to the ride because if anyone can help me snap out of this funk it would be this group. They are great people that I enjoy hanging with both on and off the bike.

Finally we're off. I am enjoying the chit chat but not participating very much so I take the first pull. As we roll along, I begin to let the adventure of cycling take over. We are riding through vineyards on a gorgeous morning and I feel myself starting to come around. By the time we hit the climb I was my normal chatty self. However, I was still thinking more about Sherry's french toast then the ride.

As we start the climb, I decide I need a focus. So I make the decision to try and stay in the middle ring to the top. Now, let me give you a few stats. Rockpile is a 12 climb that gains nearly 2500 feet with double-digit pitches in some places. I have never even contemplated staying in the middle ring. Today, it was just what the doctor ordered. I focused on using every ounce of energy wisely to get myself to the top and it worked.

We hammered back down the descent, which actually has 800 feet of climbing, and headed home. Somewhere along the way I finally lost the battle, and all motivation to ride, so I simply fell back from the group. David fell back with me and we were both feeling like we just wanted the ride to end. Finally, we reach the car and once I was off the bike my spirits improved and I had a great time at our post-ride coffee chat.

Sunday, Pat and I went out to spin the legs for a couple of hours. Surprisingly, I felt great! We both wanted something easy and fun so we decided to try and drink more ounces of coffee then we rode in miles. We met at Bad Ass coffee and headed north while avoiding every road that had even the smallest rise. In Healdsburg, we had coffee at Flying Goat. We then rode the 7 grueling miles to have coffee at Cafe Noto in Windsor. Pat was posting each coffee stop on his Facebook page as another summit. It was the first time my maximum heartrate was caused by a double espresso and not the effort of riding. It was a blast!

So there it is. A very challenging ride both physically and mentally followed by a fun little coffee run disguised as a ride. The issue of not wanting to be around people - gone! The issue of not wanting to ride - gone! And what was my reward for riding my way through this self-induced funk? You got it. French toast!


Monday, June 22, 2009

Cycling down memory lane

This Saturday was a fairly nostalgic one for me from a cycling perspective. So much so that it inspired me to ride hard during our weekly ride as well as finally getting my butt in gear to post a new blog. Hopefully, this new found inspiration will last and I will start writing a little more frequently then every other week.

This was the longest Saturday of the year in terms of daylight and that can only mean one thing in the Sonoma County cycling world. It was time for the Terrible Two. This is a 200 mile ride with 16,000 feet of climbing. The winner finishes in just over 11 hours while most folks finish in the 14 - 16 hour time frame. The ride comes within 100 yards of our house, so Sherry and I went to the corner Saturday at 5:45 am to watch the race go by. And that's where the nostalgia began.

Last year I attempted this ride and was forced to resign at the 110 mile mark. The reason? Extreme heat! Last year was arguably the hottest Terrible Two on record with the predicted high temperature reaching 108. As the riders came into view, I was remembering my suffering from last year. I remembered that by the time I reached the lunch stop, where I missed the time cut and called it a day, I had already been riding in triple digit heat for over 3 hours. The projected high for this Saturday's ride - 78. I was grateful this year's cyclists would have a better chance of completing such an epic ride.

After the peloton rode by to our early morning shouts of encouragement, we went back to the house. I had some time to kill before my ride so we enjoyed our coffee while also enjoying the little slice of heaven that is our backyard. My trip down memory continued while I sipped coffee, enjoyed the view, and remembered why I live in Sonoma county. Finally, it was time to quit thinking about cycling and actually go ride.

I picked up Sarah and headed to Windsor to ride with people from our Velo group and a few of Sarah's friends from Berkeley. They were all up to ride the Vineman Triathlon course where they would be competing in a few weeks. As we began to ride I was remembering it was the Vineman that started by "career" as a cyclist. It was during my triathlon training that I discovered the joy of cycling. And while my triathlon days are long gone, it's hard for me to imagine a weekend that I don't ride.

I was also remembering my very first ride in training for the Vineman. It was with my brother-in-law Mike. We left from his house in Windsor and rode almost the exact same route that we did on Saturday. So there I am, my first ride on my new road bike, going almost 50 miles and climbing the infamous Chalk Hill. I remember getting into the absolute lowest gear I had (a 32x25) and still barely making it over the top. I almost had to call Sherry because I didn't think I had the leg strength to drive home. This Saturday, after 45 miles of attacking and taking huge pulls on the front, I went over Chalk Hill in the big ring (I was pushing a 52x21) for the first time. There's nothing like reclimbing that first hill to help you see how far you've come.

I really enjoy days like last Saturday. They remind me of where I came from, where I am today, and provide sneak peaks of what the future may hold. I am certain the future will continue to provide ample opportunities for cycling adventures and I look forward to sharing them with you.

Until then . . .


P.S. I would like to add more pictures to my blogs but everytime I upload a photo it absolutely jacks up the formatting. If any of you fellow bloggers have tips on how to prevent this I would love to hear about them. Thanks.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cycling in Hawaii (sort of)

Sherry and I both took this week off for a little "stacation" (basically, a vacation spent at home). My only real plan was to ride. A lot. However, mother nature seemed to have other plans as an unusual series of late rain moved into California. So as I sat inside on June 4th watching it rain out yet another day of riding I had a thought. I could be on the bike in my garage enjoying the beautiful sites of Hawaii.

A few months ago, I received a comment on my blog inviting me to review a new type of indoor trainer DVD from Global Ride Productions. In essence, they would send me their 3-DVD set of virtual cycling in Hawaii if I would be willing to write a review. So I went to their website and was very intrigued by this introduction.

"Global Ride's Virtual Cycling DVDs give indoor cyclists a unique first-person riding experience. Each DVD was carefully created by road cyclists to provide the best possible training for indoor cyclists, outdoor cyclists and group Spinning® classes. Upbeat music, multiple selectable coaching tracks and high-quality video shot from the rider's perspective take you on a global journey unlike any other cycling / Spinning® DVD on the market."

This really did sound interesting, so I agreed to check them out. A few days later the 3-DVD set Hawaii Rides arrived and I was ready to go.

Before I begin my review, I would like to set the stage. First of all, I would almost always prefer to be on the road and not the trainer. Although I understand, and enjoy, the benefits of trainer workouts, I would just rather be outside. I do have almost the entire collection of Chris Carmichael DVDs, which I use regularly. And I must admit that I have not seen any of the Spinervals® DVDs. With that said, on to the review.

Let me start off by saying I really enjoyed all 3 of the DVDs. They have a beauty and flexibility to them. And while I did not truly believe I was in Hawaii, I did enjoy the scenery and found myself getting "lost" in the moment. Now let's talk about what I particularly liked and what I would change.

What I liked:
  • The most important thing for me was that these DVDs psychologically engaged me in the ride. For instance, because the video is shot from the riders perspective you can see you are on a hill. At times when I wanted to ease back on the pace I found myself saying "You can make it to the top" and I would keep pushing. This is the exact kind of self-talk that would occur on the road.
  • The music was excellent! It all comes from real artists and doesn't have that canned studio sound you get with other workout DVDs.
  • I also enjoyed the coaching aspect. While there were significant differences between coaches, these differences added to the variety and did not distract from the quality of the workout.
  • The flexibility provided by these DVDs is also outstanding. You might be coached to hold a certain heart rate but it was up to me to determine if that heart rate would be 120 bpm or 160 bpm. Or, you can turn off the coaching and do your own thing while still enjoying the sites and music.
  • The video quality was excellent. I am not sure how they got it so still. I enjoyed watching the road from the rider's viewpoint. There was also video of a "fellow rider" so it felt like you were riding with someone.
What I would change:
  • I started with the DVD Maui Rollers. It starts with a series of still photographs and music but no other guidance. After about 2 minutes I realized I was supposed to be warming up. I think more instruction at the beginning would be beneficial.
  • I watched the DVDs with and without coaching, but always with music, and I sometimes had trouble hearing the coach over the music. I would to see them make the coaches voices a little stronger.
  • Each one of the DVDs has a bonus workout. For example, Maui Rollers has a yoga session, the Oceanside Ride has pilates, and the StrenDurance in Hawaii has strength training. I am wondering why each DVD can't offer all three.

In an effort to be thorough, I also completed a garage ride with Coach Tim where we completed 2 of the DVDs back-to-back. He was highly impressed and plans on recommending them to a few of his clients.

So what's the bottom line? I thought these DVDs were extraordinary and I would definitely buy them. If I am going to ride the trainer, I feel these give me the greatest flexibility in designing the workout of my choice.

I understand the next series will be on Italy. I can hardly wait.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Finally, King Ridge

Anyone who cycles has that one ride in their local area that is famous. The reasons for this regal status will vary but it is usually due to the challenge or the scenery. Sometimes you get lucky and find a ride that has both. In Sonoma County, that ride is King Ridge.

King Ridge was a local classic long before pros like Levi Leipheimer and Scott Nydum starting touting it as their favorite local ride. Levi is actually including King Ridge in his GranFondo. Whenever pro teams come to town, you can guarantee they will ride King Ridge at least once. It is also listed as one of the top ten rides by the Santa Rosa Cycling Club, which has a great write up about it on their website (you should really check it out).

Surprisingly, for whatever reason, this was the first time I was trying this legendary route. Before the ride I only knew 2 things about King Ridge. It was beautiful and challenging. As you can imagine, there is a lot of climbing. Of course, what else would you expect from a route with "Ridge" in its name.

So 10 of us head out on a foggy morning from Monte Rio. Of our group, 5 of us were riding it for the first time. I will skip the typical detailed ride report since you can read it on the SRCC site. I will just say this ride was magical. The long climbs, the technical descents, the scenery along the way, the views from the top, and the ride along the Pacific Coast, all combined for a spectacular day. You are not on this ride for long before you realize it very much deserves its legenday status

The day was made even better by my riding. You know how some days you're feeling it and on others you're not. So, how was I feeling as I climbed up to the ridge for the first time. In a word, strong. I rode within myself, stayed with the lead riders over the summits and just really enjoyed the challenge of the ride.

Perhaps the best way to convey how I was feeling is through this conversation that occurred on the second major climb of the day.
Friend - Hey! You have a triple.
Me - Yeah.
Friend - Have you been in it?
Me - No.
Friend - Strong climbing!

There it was. My whole experience of the day wrapped into one short conversation. I was feeling strong. In the end, it was 55 miles of riding and over 4500 feet of climbing on gradients the exceeded 15% at times. More importantly, I never did use the triple.

I will definitely ride this route again. Since a lot of us are riding in Levi's GranFondo, we plan on heading out to King Ridge at least 2 or 3 more times before October. And that's a training plan I can live with.