Friday, November 27, 2009

My Thanksgiving Day ride

Yesterday was Thanksgiving and that means a it is a time for traditions. You have the tradition of spending time with your friends and family to give thanks. The tradition of eating way too much even though last year you promised yourself you would never eat that much again. Of course, we can’t forget football, whether it’s watching or playing. For me, you have to add the tradition of cycling.

This was the second year I joined the NorCal Annual Thanksgiving Day Ride. Last year I got the chance to participate thanks to a heads-up from my cycling buddy Jeff. This year my invite came via Facebook.  I must be moving up in the world.

There was one big difference for me this year. Last year I recognized about 10 people and personally only knew 4 of them. This year, I knew 30 or more of the 100+ riders. That’s the kind of year it’s been. I have made it to some great rides and met a tremendous number of local riders this year. I even met a new friend on Thursday after he realized the coffee was not free. As he started to his car to see if he had cash I simply said, “It’s on me” as I paid for both of us.

At 9:10, we roll out. Last year, we stayed fairly mellow until we hit the hill on Pine Flat. What would this year bring? Well, once again we started out at a mellow pace. As we head out town I noticed a young lad (he was 8) riding with his father. He was holding the pace well and I was impressed with his determination. I also enjoyed listening to dad give advice on how to move within the peloton. Then someone up front yelled “car up!’ and we began to bunch up.

As we were slowing, I let the young lad in front of me as his father guided him to the right. Just as his back wheel cleared my front wheel something happened and he simply went down. I am now heading straight for the small of his back as he lays on the road and thinking, “Sh!t!, I cannot run over this kid!” Fortunately, I was already breaking because of the slowing pack and managed to stop literally (not an exaggeration) inches from his back. So, first I breathed a sigh of relief and then I braced for impact.

The first bike from behind collided with the rear derailleur while the handle bar and brakes from a second bike struck my leg with decent force. Everyone else managed to stop so it wasn’t too bad. The lad was fine and no one was upset because in cycling accidents happen. I fixed the dropped chain and the rubbing back brake and headed out. Then I noticed the front brake was also rubbing. By the time I fixed all of this the peloton was nowhere in sight. Even my little guy that crashed had already gotten back on the bike and was once again pedaling down the road.

So the chase was on. There’s only one problem. I’ve spent the last 5 weeks doing nice easy rides and now I want my body to crank out the watts at maximum effort. It said no. Also, the pack I am chasing is faster then me anyway so, really, what’s the point?  So, I settle into a good rhythm, meet up with some friends at a regroup spot and then form a nice train the rest of the way to Pine Flat.

I managed to climb very well Thursday. I decided to lift my cadence about 10 RPMs above what I originally planned. I was able to hold this pace to the pond where I decided to stop. Actually, many of the day’s riders planned on stopping there so we regrouped and got ready to head home. Just then, some of the big guns, led by Odessa Gunn, came screaming down the descent. We joined the fun and for the next 10-minutes enjoyed the roller coaster descent that only Pine Flat can offer.

This same group of riders stayed together all the way to the finish. As we rolled along, people began to peel off and pedal towards the rest of their day. Me, I got home right on time, ate left over cassoulet as a recovery meal and watched a little football before going to dinner with the family. It was yet another great day for which to give thanks.

Lastly, I always end my T-day blogs with a reminder to not wait until the 4th Thursday of November to give thanks. Take a minute everyday to be thankful and to thank those around you who make your world a better place. Hopefully, they’ll do the same for you.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Big Ring Coffee Ride

Yesterday, I got to head out on the bike with two of my best friends, Coach Tim and Brian.  The riding plan was an easy loop out of Sausalito, around Tiburon, over the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marina, and back.  The real plan was to spend 3+ hours chit-chatting followed by lunch.

This day came about in a rather unique way.  It starts with the fact that Brian’s family owns a small cabin in Lake Tahoe.  A couple of weeks ago Brian asked Tim and I if we wanted to go up to the cabin with him to secure it for the winter.  The original plan was to make it a “guys day.”  We would drive up (almost 4 hours), go a quick ride in the mountains, secure the cabin and come home.  Earlier this week Brian discovered the cabin was already secured so we moved our “guys day” to Sausalito (about an hour away).

Starting in Sausalito turned out to be the right call.  It was 31 degrees in Santa Rosa when I got up.  The high yesterday in Lake Tahoe was 36.  When we arrived in Sausalito it was a balmy 46.  And there was not a cloud in the sky.  Just another gorgeous fall day in Northern California.

tiburon1 Now, we think that Sonoma County is quite the Mecca for cycling.  However, when we rolled into the parking lot there were cyclists everywhere.  There wasn’t a single cafe or coffee shop that did not have a large group getting ready to ride.  We had already seen 2 or 3 large groups on the road.  There had to literally be hundreds of cyclist either riding or getting ready to hit the road.

We find a place to park, get the bikes ready, and join the masses.  Here’s the other reason we chose Sausalito.  Are plan from the very beginning was to go for a very easy ride that allowed for ample talking.  So the bike path out of Sausalito was perfect.  We could ride side-by-side and chat to our heart’s content without worrying about traffic.  Plus, all of the other cyclists, walkers, joggers, strollers, and dogs forced us to keep the pace nice and slow.  That was important since the rule for the day was the first person to shift to the big ring had to buy coffee (hence the name of the ride and this blog’s title).

CoffeeWe make our way around the point of Tiburon where our view shifts from the San Francisco skyline to the hills of the East Bay.  We rode along Paradise Drive, which I have only driven, and decide it may be the best cycling road within driving distance of home.  Then it was back to the bike path and back into Sausalito.  The total distance so far was 22 miles. 

Now it was time to head for the City across the Golden Gate Bridge. I have driven over the bridge hundreds of times and I have walked across it twice but I have never ridden over it.  So we followed the same route as this year’s Tour of California out of Sausalito and we are on the bridge.  The views of the City and Pacific Ocean were simply stunning.  In the summer, the bridge is usually covered in fog.  In the fall, it is spectacular. 

Bridge 2We rode through Crissy Field to the Marina where we stop at the Chestnut Street Coffee Roastery, which was yet another great new discovery.  Tim also bought pastries from the bakery next door.  While sipping our mid-ride coffee and eating pastries, we decided that so far it was the perfect cycling adventure. 

Finally, it was back across the bridge to Sausalito.  Once we were back we reloaded the bikes, changed and  enjoyed lunch at a locally famous pizzeria. 

There you have it.  Just another outstanding day on the bikes with great friends.  So, did we stay nice and slow as planned?  Well, the final numbers were 35.5 miles in a time of 2:41 and an average MPH of a 13.5 so I think I’ll let you decide.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Perfect off season ride

There are two ways to make Coach Tim proud.  The first is to meet a goal that you have worked hard to accomplish.  The second is riding smart.  And that’s what I did today.

My normal group didn’t have anything going on today so Pat invited me to ride with the NorCal team.  Although I accepted, I was also anxious.  You see, these guys and girls can ride fast, very fast, and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go that hard.  To be really honest, I was not sure I could keep up with them at all. However, Pat’s back is bothering him, it’s the off season, it’s cold, etc., so it was supposed to be a mellow ride.  We’ll see.

I have a good reason for keeping things nice and slow.  My off season just started but it’s about to come to an abrupt end.  I have decided to train for next year’s Terrible Two, which is a mere 200 mile ride with 16,000 feet of climbing.  Coach Tim has my training starting in December so that’s makes for a short off season and I intend to savor it for all it’s worth.

With just a little trepidation, I head out this morning at 7:00 and ride over to the start.  We all hang around talking about how cold it is, it was 37, and waited for the ride to begin.  Finally, we have everyone accounted for and get started on the ride.  Even though this is my first ride with NorCal, I have ridden with many of these guys before.

We didn’t get very far before we passed my brother-in-law, Michael, out for his morning run.  Pat and I both give a big shout out and we keep going.  We only went a little ways before we were stopped by irony.  That’s right! Irony.  One rider somehow dropped his pump and it flatted the front tire of the rider who went over it.  Irony right?

While the tire repair was going on Michael caught up with us.  So Pat and I rode with him as he was kicking out a 6:45 pace.  And this was at the 11 mile mark.  It was a pretty cool moment.

The rest of the group rejoined us and we were off again.  Up to this point the ride has been very mellow with lots of chatter.   We ride over Chalk Hill and while the climbs were relatively small we all kept up a good pace that pushed the heart rate just a little.  For me, it has been the perfect ride.

We reach Alexander Valley and finally settle into a brisk pace line.  But since I am like the 7th guy in the line, I am not working that hard.  We make the turn and get ready to climb Pine Flat and that’s when I remembered my shortened off season.  So, as they started the climb I said good-bye to Pat and turned to the left.

Now I was on my own to simply enjoy the beauty that is Fall cycling in the Wine Country.  I rode at my own pace.  I stopped to take pictures.  It was truly awesome, relaxing and rejuvenating all at the same time.

There you have it.  A ride where there were some concerns I would have to go to hard but in the end it was a perfect off-season day on the bike.


P.S.  I don’t know why I feel the need to explain why it’s been a while since my last blog, but I do.   I am helping Coach Tim with his web site, which means I have to learn about web sites.  We also created a fan page for him on FB called ESP Fitness Training.  Also, my favorite local bike shop, West County Revolution, started a monthly newsletter called Power to the Pedals for which I contributed an article about Cycling with Champions.