Friday, December 10, 2010

Time for a break

Well, it’s still my off season from cycling and I am enjoying taking a break from the hard riding of summer.  However, I feel I need to also take a mental break from writing as well.  So, I am taking some time off this December.  However, I fully intend to have fresh adventures for your reading pleasure starting the first of the year.

Happy holidays and we’ll see you in 2011.

Ciao!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Marshalling the GranFondo

Last Saturday, I got to spend some time hanging out with a couple hundred fine folks from our cycling community.  The occasion?  It was the party honoring the nearly 900 volunteers it took to run Levi’s GranFondo.  That’s right!  Just under a thousand people were needed to ensure the 6,000 riders had a pleasant experience.  And, I was proud to be one of them since I volunteered to ride the MedioFondo as a on-bike Marshall.

That wasn’t my original plan.  In fact, I actually paid to ride the GranFondo almost the same day that registration opened.  However, on a ride with my good friend Jeff, he went on and on about how much fun he had at the bike expo at the first Fondo last year.  After riding over 100 of Sonoma County’s toughest miles, I did not explore the expo at all.  I was too tired so I simply ate and went home.  So, Jeff got me to thinking it might be nice to do something different this year.

A couple of rides later, Jeff also mentioned they were still looking for on-bike Marshalls and this year we would get special jerseys.  That iced it!  A couple of emails later I was a volunteer as an on-bike Marshall and Jeff and I were paired to ride and work together. 

Over the next few months there were several emails to read about our role.  A couple of weeks before the event we all met at a local pizza place to learn more about our day.  It was pretty straight forward.  We were the eyes and ears on the road since the motorbikes couldn’t be everywhere at once.  Our rules were simply to be social, ask folks to follow the rules of the road, find emergency help if someone crashed, and offer advice for mechanicals (for liability purposes we were not allowed to help fix mechanicals, even flats).  We met once more the night before the event to go over our final instructions and learn how they wanted us to roll the next morning.

Marshalls The day of the ride dawned bright and beautiful.  It was going to be a spectacular day.  At 7:00 am we started mingling with the forming crowds just to say good morning.  At 7:30, we lined up in front of the official start.  The plan was to send us out 2-by-2 every 10 minutes or so.  The ride started right on time.  Jeff and I watched in amazement at the sheer volume of cyclists that rode by as we waited our signal to go.

Then we were released to start our ride.  Now we are riding along with the crowd, saying hello to the riders around us, explaining what a Marshall is, and really having fun with the social nature of our roles.  We checked on people who were stopped to make sure they were fine.  We talked a few people through changing a flat.  We asked a few folks to stay right of the yellow line.  We encouraged people as they slowly climbed the biggest hill they’ve ever encountered.  We loaned tools to a tandem team so they could fix a very jammed chain.  We rode at a very steady pace, talked to people right to the very end, and fulfilled our role admirably (if I do say so myself).

After our ride, we grabbed a beer and some paella and began to relax, all while being thanked by other riders for helping out.  After a short stroll through the bike expo, which was very cool, it was time to call it a day and head for home.

This may have been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had on the bike.  It was definitely the most rewarding event I have participated in.  Jeff and I are already planning to Marshall again next year.  However, this time he says we are doing the GranFondo for the ultimate marshalling experience.  I can’t wait.

I know there are a lot of cyclists out there who do not volunteer at events because you want to “ride your ride”.  I was one of them.  However, this experienced has changed my perspective and now I know just how rewarding it can be to support an event like this and I was proud to be part of it.  By the way, I also had a great ride.

Ciao!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Feeling strong and other observations

This post is going to be about a lot of little things mostly dealing with recent observations both on and off the bike.  I’d like to say these are solid Zen-like, life changing observations but alas, it is nothing like that at all.  It’s mostly a bunch of little things that I’ve noticed that aren’t big enough to fill an entire blog post.  So, I am combining them into one by taking full advantage of my poetic license.

If you read my last post, you know that I was absolutely hammered by a cold.  I had the high fever, body aches, constant coughing, etc.  And while I recovered from most of the symptoms relatively quickly, I am still not back to full strength.  One of the cool things about being sick is that you find out your ultra supportive friends are even more supportive then you thought.  I had all kinds of people offering to bring me soup, medicine, and other feel-good items.  I also learned that everyone in the world must have a different recipe for how to get over a cold. 

The evidence from riding in the rain! On Saturday I managed to get out for a ride with Carmen before the weekend rain got too bad.  I actually enjoy riding in a light rain.  It kinda makes me feel like a badass knowing all my fair weather cycling friends are tucked away safely indoors.  You just have to be a little more careful and really pay attention to the paint on the street and all manhole covers.  Carmen and I did just fine and managed to get in a staggering 18-miles before we were done.

The second nice thing about Saturday’s ride was that I was finally feeling normal again on the bike.  Of course, we were not pushing the pace.  This was more of a social let’s-go-play-in-the-rain ride.  Still, as we rolled along at 16 mph, my heart rate was right were it should be unlike my last ride were it was at least 20 bpm higher then normal.  Bottom line, I am feeling stronger again and that’s a good sign.

Of course, no rain ride is complete without a flat or two (or three).  After all, our rainy season is our flat season (see Beware of Bibendum as to why).  There’s nothing like standing around in the rain, fixing a flat, to immediately distinguish that badass feeling you had while riding.  So, in the spirit of the day, Carmen had a flat about 4 miles into the ride.  Then the replacement tube she used had a hole in it so it went flat.  Just for fun, she decided to flat again 5 miles later.  At this point we were out of spare tubes and decided to turn for home.  And, this was the reason our ride only lasted 18 miles.

warning light On the way home I got to observe a new cyclist safety measure in action.  On Montgomery Drive, heading west into Santa Rosa, there is a new bike warning signal, called a bike beacon.  There is a section of road that is narrow and curvy for 1.5 miles making cyclists hard to see.  If you are heading west on your bike you will trip this signal.  The signal continues to flash and warn motorist that a cyclist is up ahead for 4 minutes.   They are trying to find the money to put one in the east-bound direction as well.  I hope they are successful.

There you have it.  Great friends helping out during a time of need, feeling stronger, riding in the rain, fixing flats in the rain, and tripping our new bike beacon.   How’s that for an adventuresome little ride?  I can’t wait to see what observations this off season will continue to bring.

Until then . . .

Ciao!

Monday, October 18, 2010

A tough couple of weeks

I cannot believe today is the 18th and I am just now posting my first blog in October.  Where did this month go?  There is a reason for my non-writing and for a change it has nothing to do with a lack of motivation.  It was a lack of energy and that’s slightly different.  I was hammered a couple of weeks ago by a serious cold that moved into my chest and I’ve been trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to recover ever since.

Marshalls Of course, all of this started just days before Levi Leipheimer’s GranFondo where I volunteered to be a on-bike Marshall for the Medio course.  This meant going to a couple of meetings prior to the ride and then helping to serve as the “eyes and ears” along the course.  (There will be a separate post on how cool being a Marshall was.)  If it wasn’t for being a Marshall, I would have skipped the entire event. Yep!!!  I was feeling that bad.  However, as a Marshall you have a partner and since my partner was my good friend Jeff, I couldn’t let him down.

It all started Monday night when I started feeling cold-ish.  By Tuesday morning I was not feeling well at all and only managed to hang in at work until around 10:30.  I stayed home completely on Wednesday to deal with a high fever and constant coughing.  By Thursday morning the fever broke and I was starting to feel a tad better.  This was good since the ride was Saturday.

Coleman Valley Saturday was a beautiful day that promised everyone of the 6,000 riders a great time.  Well, perhaps everyone except me.  I was still feeling weak although I thought my symptoms were gone.  So, after standing around freezing, coughing, and telling everyone I was “fine”, Jeff and I were given the green light to roll and we joined the masses on the open road. 

Things were going well.  I knew I was weakened by my cold so the plan was to stay easy and consistent.  When we climbed our first hill I quickly discovered what my biggest issue was going to be on this ride.  I couldn’t take deep breaths.  So, I adjusted my gearing and cadence as I rolled along and enjoyed the excitement of the day. 

Coach Tim with McDreamy The rest of the day was ok.  I stayed true to my plan to ride easy.  The climb up Coleman Valley was challenging but I, well everyone, was rewarded with stunning views of the California coast and Pacific Ocean.  In addition, we also hung out with McDreamy (Patrick Dempsey from Gray’s Anatomy) who was joining the ride after a personal invite from Levi.

As we continued on, Jeff and Pete, another Marshall, stayed with me to make sure all was well.  During the ride I did not push the descents, join pace lines, push the big ring or any other activity that would waste precious energy.  The result?  I crossed the finish line 62 miles later.  And although I was very tired, I still had decent power and enough energy to enjoy the bike expo.  It wasn’t my strongest ride ever but I survived.  Actually, I it was probably one of the smartest rides I’ve completed.

After the Fondo, I took the week off to continue recuperating.  Although I continued to feel a little better, I still had a full mucus factory in my sinuses and the inability to breath deep.  I tired riding with friends this Saturday but turned for home after just 18 miles.  My heart rate was 20-25 beats higher then it should be so I know I am still feeling the effects.

I am definitely on the mend however, I think I need to realistic about my strength.  This cold hit me hard.   It usually doesn’t take me more then a couple of days to bounce back and it’s been two weeks this time.  I am sure this is just another sign of aging process as I stare down turning 50 next April.

Still, I need to create a plan to get my strength back.  But, since it is the off season I don’t have to go crazy.  I will probably stay nice and easy until the first week of December.  That’s when Coach Tim will resume his garage rides and start getting us ready for 2011.  Until then, I am going to recover, relax, and hope for better weeks to come.

Ciao!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A great start to the off-season

The off-season!  This really is one of my favorite times of the year.  Not only is it fall, which I love, but my cycling takes on a whole new dimension.  Gone are the hammerfests of summer where the name of the game is racing to the next regroup point.  Gone are the mid-week hill repeats.  And gone are the rides where heart rate average is more important then scenery.

The funny thing is that there is no official start to my off-season.  For my friends who race it’s easy.  The off-season starts after the last race of the year.  For me, well, it kind of starts when I want it to and that’s typically once the days become too short to ride after work.  Yeah, nothing says off-season to me more then climbing on the trainer for my mid-week workouts.

There is one more key indicator to the start of my off-season.  I completely lose almost all motivation to ride.  I typically log over 3,000 miles on the road by fall, with many additional hours on the trainer, so I am mentally ready for a break.  This makes it hard to find my mojo for wet conditions, high heat, big climbs, or long rides.  I simply don’t feel the need to push it this time of year and so far, my off-season is off to a great start.

It started 2 Saturdays ago with the West County Revolution Soup Spoons & Carbon Forks ride.  We all headed out to climb Pine Flat as high as we wanted to go.  I was feeling very good but instead of pushing a lifted pace I settled into a very gentle rhythm that took me all the way to the top.  I also refrained from all of the pace lines on the way out and simply enjoyed the ride and chatting with friends.

On Sunday, I woke up to the first rain of the season.  It was a very light, and warm, rain so it really wasn’t a big deal.  In the spring or summer, I would have easily cranked out 40 or more miles in those conditions.  However, on Sunday I simply reached for my coffee cup and settled in for a nice relaxing day.  That was the first day of an impromptu break where I was off the bike for eight days.  I just didn’t feel the need to get on the bike and that’s got off-season written all over it.

Last Sunday I was finally back on the bike to ride with friends.  We were supposed to climb to the second peak on the Geysers and then climb Pine Flat.  It was a beautiful day but it was also going to be very hot.  We roll from The Flying Goat in Healdsburg and head straight to the Geysers and once got there I headed straight for my triple ring.  I took it slow and steady with my friend Carmen, who raced the day before, and we chatted all the way to the first summit.

IMG_0361 As we reached the top of the first summit it was already pushing 90 degrees.  That’s too toasty for me so I bid my friends good bye and headed back to town.  As they continued climbing to the second summit I did my own version of a second Geysers stop.  I stopped at the Geyserville Mud Cafe for a quick espresso before heading home.  The ride should have been around 50 miles and instead I got in a grand total of 31. 

There you have it.  In the span of 8 days I started the off-season, wimp out on a ride in the rain, bailed early on a ride in the heat, and my trainer has a slight coating of dust on the seat.  I am supposed to head to the trainer right now but somehow I already know that I won’t get any further then the coffee pot.

Ciao!

Friday, September 17, 2010

A cyclist’s signs of Fall

Fall is coming.  Although the calendar says it’s not official until next Wednesday, the early warning signs have already arrived.  The shorter days, a coolness in the air, trees just starting to turn colors, our first potential rain forecast, and the start of the grape harvest are sure signs a change is taking place.  However, if you are a cyclist, there are even more indicators that Fall is near.

The cycling “season” in Northern California is a long one.  We start having perfect riding weather as early as March and it continues on into October.  This makes for a lot of rides, a lot of miles, and in the end, a lot of tired cyclists.  So, just as the weather seasons change so does the cycling seasons and you don’t need to be Daniel Boone to read the signs.

Let’s start with FB.  In racing season, all through Spring and Summer, my cycling friends are always posting comments about their races.  You know, things like where they finished, how team mates did, and how they can’t wait unit the next race.  Now, the posts are different.  There’s a lot of comments like not being sure of having the legs for the next race or thanking their sponsors and friends for a great year.  This is definitely a sign of easier riding days ahead.

Ride descriptions are also starting to change.  Instead of long rides full of hills and pace lines, you are seeing more descriptions with the words easy, mellow, relaxed, and social in them.  This is another sure sign that the racing season is complete and the more relaxed riding of Fall is just around the corner.

There are also the post-ride descriptions.  This time of year you still have some people posting big rides like climbing Pine Flat or the Geysers.  Then, on Monday, when you ask how the climbing went, they pause and explain how they just weren’t feeling it so they skipped the climb and just went for a easy mellow ride.  And these are people who seek out hills with the same intensity that most of us seek out pastries.

There is one sign for me that stands above all others.  Trainer rides!  I loathe riding on the trainer but I understand the need to do it.  So, now that the days are shorter and I don’t have enough time to ride after work I have already completed my first trainer work out of the off season.  It was boring as hell but I got through it.

None of these changes mean we quit riding.  Not at all.  We still plan, post, and text about the upcoming weekend rides.  We just ride differently.  We don’t shift to the big ring quite as fast.  Some of us leave our heart rate monitors at home.  We are much more likely to pass on climbing a big hill in favor of stopping for coffee.  In fact some of our rides are designed to go from one coffee shop to the next. 

For many of you out there, me included, Fall is our favorite time of the year.  This is when a lot of us get back to the simple joy of riding.  We get back the joy of rolling along with friends chatting, laughing, and telling (perhaps re-telling) stories about our cycling adventures for the year.  We also sit up and enjoy the view.  I look forward to this change every year because these are my favorite rides.

Yes, Fall is here.  And we know that Winter, with all its rainy, cold, nasty weather can’t be far behind.  That’s ok.  Until it gets here I will simply enjoy the cool days and beautiful color-change in the vineyards as I ride along laughing with friends and trying to decide what I’m going to order when we get to the coffee shop.

Ciao!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Smartly pushing the pace

This was a great weekend of cycling.  Not only did I have two great rides but I had friends who performed very well in their various races this weekend in events ranging from mountain biking in Annadel to a 3-day stage race in Folsom.  Everyone seemed to have a blast and that’s what cycling is all about. 

What made my rides this weekend so special?  Well, it was a combination of pushing the pace and riding smart.  I was planning to ride "Sonoma County's Finest" Bike Tour with Brian and a few members of his Blue Line Cycling Team.  This was the inaugural ride benefitting the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Service, which I think is a great cause.  These people do so much to help others cope with terrible circumstances.

Saturday morning dawns crystal clear and you just know it’s going to be a great day for a nice relaxing bike tour through the Wine County.  Alas, that is not what happened.  You see, I ended up riding with just Brian and his coach Fran.  At this point I need to mention that Fran is a Cat 3 rider and Brian, who I used to be able to hang with, has become an animal on the bike.  At this point I decide to ride smart and hang with them as long as I can.

At 8:30 we’re off.  The pace was solid and lifted from the beginning.  The course was what we call Sonoma County flat.  This means it was a lot of rollers and the occasional small hill.  As Fran settled into a rhythm, I settled in behind him.  Then Brian take the front for a while as I simply drafted to save energy and continued to hang on.

We reached the first rest stop, at the 20 mile mark, in basically one hour.  That is fast for me.  At the rest stop I told them that if I drop to keep going.  They are still training and I am not.  Besides, I knew the way the home. 

As we left the rest stop the pace started lifting again and we were cruising  at 20+ mph at this point.  Fran got things going with a very long pull.  Then Brian held the front with me on his wheel.  Then he pulled over and I was on the front.  Decision time.  They knew I was slower and had basically said it was ok to draft to the end.  However, I felt I needed to take the front at least once.

Brian came off the front at the perfect time.  We were on a short rise that was followed by about 2 miles of flat.  So, I used this section of road to take a decent pull then got back into my draft position.  This is where I stayed for the next 10 miles until I dropped back on a small climb.  By the time I got to the top they were gone.

From there, I settled into my own slightly-lifted pace and finished the ride.  I am very happy with my efforts for how long I stayed with them and that I was never passed once I was on my own.  In looking at the post-ride data on the Garmin, I can see that we averaged 20 mph from mile 10 to mile 35 (they managed it to the end).  I have never held that speed for that long (my average for long rides is typically around 17 mph) so of course I am pretty excited about it.

Sunday was supposed to be an easy recovery ride.  However, some of us were riding to the start and a flat tire from a fellow rider at the very beginning put us behind meant we had to kick it.  This is not what I needed but I managed to dig deep and take some big pulls on the front at 20+ mph once again.  Was I still being smart?  I pushed hard to get us there on time then back off the pace dramatically.   So in essence, I did a 10 mile interval followed by 30 miles of recovery and it worked out just fine.

There you have it.  Two great rides where I pushed the pace but in a smart way.  Apparently, it’s not just my legs getting stronger and that’s a very good thing.

Ciao!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ode to Riviera Ristorante

I have mentioned Riviera Ristorante numerous times in this blog.  It is a great  Italian restaurant that is one of the favorites of the cycling community.  It is a fabulous little place owned and run by Giampaolo, Luca and Rita.  After all these years, I decided it was time to let the rest of you know just how great these people really are.

Let’s start by saying all three of them are great riders.  Some of the stories about them have become legendary.  There is the time Giampaolo dropped half the Astana team on a local climb or the story of him riding the Terrible Two every year in about 11 hours and then working in the restaurant the rest of the night.  Luca has been heard to cook all through lunch and then get in a “quick” 75 mile ride before coming back to prepare for the dinner crowd.  Rita once ask friends if they wanted to join her for a short ride that turned into a 90-mile adventure on nothing but one water bottle and two pieces of focaccia.  I happen to know that at least two of these stories are true (I’ll  let you decide which two).  The point is, these folks are strong riders.

IMG_3079 Maybe it’s not so surprising that their restaurant would become a gathering place for cyclists.  And, I’m not just talking about the locals.  Of course we all eat there often but so does some of the greatest cyclists in the world.  We have our local pros Levi, Scott and Steve as well as local Teams BMC and Bissell who are all there on a regular basis.  However, we also get to see pro teams from around the world as they come to Wine Country for training camps.  I’ll be there waiting for an order to go and Giampaolo might tell me, in his Italian accent, something like Team HTC-Columbia called for dinner reservations.  I also know that Team Radio Shack and Team Astana have held dinners there are well.

This close connection to the international cycling community means that they have an  impressive collection of signed jerseys, photos and other memorabilia.  So, while the food is definitely Italian, the decor is cycling.  There are enough framed signed jerseys on the walls to make the US Cycling Hall of Fame jealous. 

IMG_0322However, here’s the real deal.  You could replace each and every jersey with fine needle point “art” from Ben Franklin Crafts and I would still eat there just as often as I do today.  Why?  Because their food is just that good.  It takes more then a few jerseys and the occasional mention of Dura Ace to attract food savvy Wine Country cyclists.  It takes great food with good wine and Riviera has both.  While I have my favorite dishes I always have to hear the specials first.  There are a few specials that appear regularly and some of these are simply too good to pass up.  (I wonder when they will have the spaghetti and crab pasta special again?)

Now, here’s where it all comes together.  A few months ago Riviera was closed for remodeling the garden patio.  And, while they were only closed for two weeks, the patio was out-of-commission for a while reducing their capacity by about 20 diners.  They also closed for lunch completely until the patio was complete.  If you’ve ever run a business then you know that when you are not open you are not making money.

IMG_3083 That’s when the cycling community rallied to help jump start Riviera with its new and improved patio.  Jonathan Lee, team director for the Red Peloton, send out emails, tweets, FB invitations, and any thing else you can think of to invite cyclist to the Jump Start Riviera dinner on August 30th.  The 78 available seats sold out in about two days.  So, there is a second one on September 6th.  I was at the first one and you can bet I will be there tomorrow as well.

After all, it’s the least I (we) can do for a group of people who have done so much for our cycling community.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to place my order.

Ciao!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mountain biking, Roadie style

I do not ride mountain bikes anymore.  That’s because I am more of you what you would call a mountain bike crasher.  I simply cannot stay upright and off the ground.  Every significant cycling scar I have is from my feeble attempts at mountain biking.  Now, I know that the dirt rats see these scars as badges of honor but I do not.  So, when I say I am going mountain biking that only means one thing.  I am heading for the Sierra Mountains with the road bike.

Sherry and I have a friend with a cabin, near Pinecrest Lake, in the Stanislaus National Forest.  (This is on Hwy 108 about 30 miles west of Sonora.)  Every year a group of us head that way for a long weekend of eating, drinking, laughing, and relaxing.  For me, this weekend also means cycling.

I absolutely love cycling in the Sierra Mountains.  The long climbs, the gorgeous views, killer descents, gorgeous views, fairly smooth roads, and gorgeous views create magical rides.  Did I mention the gorgeous views?

After our 5 hour drive it was time to unpack and then hit the road on two wheels.  Since it was already 3:30 pm, I opted for a short loop I do each year that takes me up to the Dodge Ridge Ski Resort.  It was a beautiful sunny day and the temperature was hovering around 80 degrees.  Absolutely perfect “mountain biking” weather!

IMG_0344As I start to roll along, I can feel myself begin to relax immediately and then my mind began to wander.  As my mind wanders, especially while riding at 7 mph up some long climb, I always ask myself the same question, “How fast can bears and mountain lions run?”  I don’t know for sure but I am pretty sure it’s faster then 7 mph.  Still, on Friday’s ride there were no such sightings.  Only birds, butterflies, ground squirrels, and one snake who I damn near ran over.  There were also many, many beautiful lakes and streams.

The highlight of the ride was actually when I missed my turn.  As I kept climbing I started to realize that the road no longer looked familiar.  Fortunately, a Forest Service truck came my way and I was able to ask the rangers how to reach Dodge Ridge.  Sure enough, I had climbed about  a mile and a half  further then I needed to.  Oh well!  At least I got to hear one of the rangers say that they admired my tenacity.  I finally reached the resort, which was followed by an awesome descent most of the way back to the cabin.

Saturday’s weather was a different story.  It was overcast, a little windy, and very cold.  Still, I came up here to ride so off I went.  The plan was to ride Highway 108 up to Kennedy Meadows and back.  The only trouble is the start.  I roll from the cabin down a short hill (less then half a mile) and then begin climbing immediately.  It took me quite a while to find a rhythm and I actually considered cutting the ride short numerous times.

IMG_0341 Instead, I persevered and made it to my original goal.  There are three real reasons this was necessary.  First, I wanted to take this picture so it could explain why I do not go pass Kennedy Meadows.  Secondly, I needed a good double espresso to perk me up.  And finally, I really look forward to all of the looks I get as the campers and RV’ers look at me like I’m crazy. 

On the ride back home, which has just as much climbing, I started to feel the altitude and was unable to take deep breaths.  Of course, this meant not as much oxygen and I began to fatigue, quickly.  The last climb before I reached the cabin felt brutal but once again I persevered and made it back.  I was both exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.

I choose to skip riding on Sunday and instead we lazed around the cabin for a few hours before heading home.  As always, it was a most excellent adventure and I can’t wait until my next opportunity to go mountain biking.

Ciao!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hammer time

Saturday was our last Riviera ride of the year, supposedly (more on that later).  You may recall these rides started almost two years ago and were a big part of catapulting me deeper into the Sonoma County cycling community.  They are fun, social, and end with a great lunch at Riviera Restorante.  They are also hammerfests.

These rides always draw a decent crowd and Saturday was no exception.  In addition to my Team Revolution mates, there were riders from the Red Peloton and Team Colavita/Baci.  We had at least a handful of Cat 3 riders or higher in our mix.  Add to that a fairly flat course and the boys and girls can’t help themselves so up and up goes the pace.

untitled We all gather at West County Revolution and after announcements and a lunch count we are off.  The pace was a little brisker then normal straight out of the blocks so I knew we were in for a treat.  And by treat, I mean you would be wiped out if you tried to hold on for too long.

As we rolled along the bike path to Forestville, the B riders were already splintering pretty badly as some tried to keep up with our A group and some did their own thing.  In Forestville, I noticed just how strung out we were.  So I told Jon, our main team leader, that I would hang back and see how everyone was doing.  It was then we heard that a rider went into a ditch but everyone thought he was ok.

After a few more minutes Adam, a teammate and very strong rider, and I decided to ride back to see what was happening.  Long story short, one guy did fall and he was fine but threw a spoke and his back tire wasn’t true.  He was with a group of three others and just trying to make it through the day.  A few miles later, he and his friend decided to go into Windsor and get the tire fixed, which left me with three riding partners and I immediately knew I was in trouble.

It was a B ride leader’s worse nightmare.  I was now in a group with myself, a Team Colavita rider, a Red Peloton Rider, and Adam (I think the Colavita and Red Peloton guys are both Cat 3s).  As soon as we started rolling the Colavita rider went to the front and hammered the pace.  I was watching my cyclometer was we reached 24, 25, 26, and then 27 mph.  I was fourth in line and just barely hanging on.  Then we hit a small hill that they charged up at 20+ mph.  About half way up the climb I completely popped and watched them ride away.  However, I was pretty happy that I held on as long as I did.

At this point we also caught some of the slower B riders so I spent the next few miles leapfrogging from one group to the next and making sure everyone was doing ok.  At Hop Kiln Winery I picked up Miriam and we picked up the pace and managed a respectable 20+ average for the next 5 miles to our regroup.  There, the A group continued on and the B group headed for food.  We picked a casual route back and the ride became much more social as everyone had already put in big efforts.

Back at Riviera, the lunch was awesome as is always the case.  We ate, drank, laughed, and chatted with friends with just a touch of sadness knowing this was the last one of the year.  However, as I was leaving Steve (from WCR) said that Riviera wanted to host one more in October so we get to do this all again in a few months.

There is one last connection to the title from the day’s events. After lunch I posted on FB that after a great ride and lunch it was hammock time.  One of my cycling friends made a reference to hammer time.  That’s all it took.   Next thing you know I am performing in Oakland and have my Halloween costume all set.  I really do love this aspect of cycling. 

Hopefully, they can all join me on the October Riviera ride where I will do the best impression of hammer time that I can.  Until then, I better start practicing.

Ciao!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The ups and downs of cycling

Cycling is full of ups and downs. Of course, I mean this both figuratively and literally. If you cycle in the Wine Country then you are going to climb some hills. Or if you prefer, you can climb a mountain or two. Cycling also seems to generate emotional ups and downs. Last night’s Tuesday Night Hill Repeats with Coach Tim offered a snapshot of a few of the ups and downs offered by this great sport.

It all started on my ride out. As I was rolling down Montgomery Drive this Suburban lays on the horn and gives a WTF look as they drive past. I fight the urge to flip them off and keep rolling. At the next intersection my Suburban is stuck at the light. I roll up to his open window fully prepared to go on a rant that’s worthy of Mr. Dithers, Dr. Cox, and Dennis Miller all rolled into one. Instead, I politely ask what he thought I was doing wrong. He presented his side and I mine. He started with not liking me on the road because it slowed him down and moved to he did not want to hit me. I agreed that I did not want him to hit me either. As the light finally turned green, we parted ways with him telling me to have a nice day.  Not bad.  A little bit of emotional up and down in that one.

As I continue on, I am still a little miffed that I was honked at in the first place when I look down and notice I cruising much faster then normal. There’s nothing like a little riding angry to increase your average speed. Then I notice I am gaining on another bike. And not just any bike but a motorized bike. I am sorry to admit I felt pretty damn good as I caught, then dropped him without even raising my heart rate.

Finally, I reach the starting point.  As we cruise along, we are chatting away and enjoying the easy part of the ride. As we enter Oakmont, I noticed we were joined by another rider.  He asks me about our plans and since they are pretty much the same as his he decides to tag along.  As we wait for a final friend to finish getting ready I get a good look at the stranger among us.  Of course, as I look at him, he’s looking at me. “Lee?” he asks. “Mike?” I reply.  That’s right!  We’ve ridden together 2-3 times before.  I simply love this aspect of cycling.

Now we are really headed for the hills to some of the more literal up and down parts of cycling.  We start up Sugar Loaf, which is about a 1.5 mile climb. I hit the climb pretty hard and have a really good pace going.  However, about half way up my legs inform me that if I do not back off the pace they will cramp up so bad I will wish I was dead.  So, I listened and slowed down to ease my way to the top.  Initially I was disappointed but then I realized that I have climbed over 11,000 feet in my last five rides so it’s okay to be a little fatigued.

The next hill was Pythian and Coach Tim tells me to climb the entire 1.0 mile route out of the saddle.  So I get on his wheel and hang on.  We passed four other riders out doing hill repeats which made me feel pretty good even in my tired state.  Then I noticed I was slipping off Tim’s wheel.  So I accelerate and get back on.  Then I am off again.  Not by much, maybe half a bike length at the most.  So I accelerate again only to get slightly dropped again.  This continues all the way to the top.  I then asked him if he was intentionally staying just ahead of me and he simply smiles and says “That’s what makes me a good coach.”  (Of course, my thought is “Yeah, that or it makes you a complete ass!” I decided to go with good coach.)

With the Pythian climb done, we headed back home.

There you have it.  A great training ride that included both the literal and figurative ups and downs of cycling.

Ciao!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I am a cycleholic

Hello!  My name is Lee and I am a cycleholic.  It’s been less then 12 hours since my last bike ride.  This addiction to cycling started about eight years ago when I started training for my first triathlon and it has grown every year since then.

IMG_2503 I have a pair of socks that say I heart bike porn.   When I bought my new bike about 4 years ago, I spent hours salivating over various models.  I would only buy a brand that was ridden in the Tour de France.  I went to site after site drooling over the beauty of the bikes and discussed gearing rations like they were chest sizes.  I read Bicycle Magazine for the pictures.   I can’t say the word Pinarello without drifting into some cycling fantasy world in my mind.

Sherry is aware of this addiction and her response ranges from ignoring me to being a codependent.  Once, as we were driving, we went past a beautiful blond all kitted out and cruising along for her ride.  As we passed, I found myself staring.  After we passed, I noticed that Sherry noticed me staring and as she looked at me with a frown she simply said - “you were looking at her bike weren’t you?”  If she catches me humped over the laptop late at night she just assumes I looking at the newest bike models hitting the streets.

When I first starting riding, anything pair of bike shorts and jersey would do.  Then they had to be somewhat coordinated.  Now, I only ride in full kits.  This is easy for me since I own so many.  I currently own matching kits for Fitness Journal, ESP Fitness Training (Coach Tim’s company), Team Revolution, 53x11 Coffee and Mont Ventoux.  And there are about a dozen other kits I would love to have but I am too busy spending money on the bikes to buy any more.

I have 4 bikes and each serves a different purpose.  I have my road bike, the single speed, my old road bike that is mostly used on the trainer, and my mountain bike.  I “need” at least two more.  I need a true cross bike and a time trial bike.  Why?  Because that’s just the way a cycleholic thinks.  What if I get invited to a team time trial event.  I can’t show up with a road bike.  Not even one with clip on aero bars.  In our minds, you can never have too many bikes.

You would think that being out on the bike with friends would be enough of a fix but not for the cycleholic.  While I am riding along with friends I always make sure the conversation stays mostly on cycling.  Yes!  I have the strong need to talk about cycling while cycling.  When I am riding solo I can hear the words of Phil and Paul providing commentary about my ride.

I will get up at up at 3:30 am to watch the Tour de France.  You heard me!  I gladly get up in the wee hours of the morning to watch cycling as it is being taped on the DVR.  Why?  Once again, it’s what us cycleholics do.  Why wait until later in the morning to watch the taped version when you can sit in your dark TV room and watch it live.  Of course, I will watch it again later in the morning.  And then again that night before I go to bed early so I can get up at 3:30 the next day.

As my cycling addiction grew stronger I began to wonder if there is a program out there that might help people like me.  I finally decided ef-it!!!  I am proud of my cycleholic nature and wouldn’t want it any other way.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to put on my socks and go say good morning to my bikes.

Ciao!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Speed drills with just a touch of weirdness

Last Tuesday, Coach Tim put together a speed interval workout in Oakmont.  This was going to be fun since we usually do hill repeats on Tuesdays so I was looking forward to the change.  I just needed to get out of work in time to make it. 

The plan was to make three loops around Oakmont with each loop being almost 5 miles.  We will practice speed intervals in a pace line for the first two laps and then have a little fun that would involve some chasing on the last lap.

As expected, I get out of work just a touch late and the rest of the team is already on the first lap.  So, I ride in the opposite direction until I catch them coming my way.  After a quick U-turn I am in the group and riding along.  They were basically done and just cruising to the start of the second lap and this gave me plenty of time to chat and say hi to everyone before things got serious.

As we start the second lap, Coach Tim is barking out orders.  “Hold the speed!”  “Don’t accelerate!”  “No more then thirty seconds!  “Get off the front!”  “Lee, get your head out of your ass and pay attention!”  (Okay, he didn’t really say that last one.) 

Now, as much as I love a serious pace line, pace lines with newbies make me nervous.  They don’t always react properly just like I didn’t know how to react when I first started riding pace lines.  It’s not about how long you’ve been riding.  Pace lines are a separate skill that needs practice.  So as we rolled along, my focus was 100% on the riders in front of me.

The third lap consisted of a chase.  I would start with the two newer riders and after a head start Coach Tim’s group would try and catch us.  Early on we drop one of our riders and as I am looking  to see if she is back on my wheel I hear a rubbing sound.  I look up and notice that I have drifted right while the lead rider drifted left and now my front tire is rubbing his back tire.  This is a very dangerous situation that could have put both of us on the ground while riding at 20mph.  Instead, neither of us panicked and we drifted back in the opposite direction and kept rolling.  However, it was a little weird since I didn’t we were nearly that close to each other.

Back at the starting point more weirdness ensued.  After waiting nearly a minute for Coach Tim’s team, which means we were not caught, a car came from behind and I decide to move a little further out of the road.  As I start to move, my back tire sticks in a crack in the road and I simply fall over still clipped to my pedals.  Really!  I have dead bugged before but that was just weird.

While Coach Tim takes some of the group to do hill repeats, another group of us head home.  As we approach the bike path from Oakmont to Channel Drive, the last rider in our group missed the pole in the middle that stops cars from using the path.  And by “misses the pole” I mean she doesn’t see it and plows right into it.  That could have been another serious accident but fortunately she was left with only a bruised quad and small cut on her leg.  What’s weird is that we have ridden this path hundreds of times so you would think this simply wouldn’t happen.

There you have it.  A great night of speed drills, a silly guy falling over on his bike, and a couple of situations that could have been much more serious.  In the end, it was a reminder of the need for constant focus and attention when riding and you cannot take any situation for granted.  Personally, that’s one lesson I do not want to learn the hard way.

Ciao!

Monday, August 2, 2010

So good it hurts

It seems like it’s been a while since I went out on a serious ride.  I’ve been on many rides and logged some decent miles but most of my rides lately have been more social in nature.  Don’t get me wrong, I love these rides.  For me, riding along and chatting with friends is one of cycling’s biggest rewards.  But every now and then you just feel the urge to kick it and that’s what happened on Saturday.

There were 3 factors that lead to Saturday’s awesome ride.   First, there’s the afore mentioned need to kick it up a notch (BTW – I didn’t realize this until the ride started).  Next, I created a route that went over the Marshall Wall, which is a challenging ride,  because one of my good friends had never done that climb.  And finally, I had to work all day Sunday, which meant no riding, so I felt justified in putting in a harder effort on Saturday.

We all met at the appointed time and headed out.  As we were rolling along I was waiting for the pace to pick up.  It wasn’t happening.  Instead we were cruising along chatting and taking it easy.  This is when I decided I needed something a little more serious.  So, I simply went to the front and lifted the pace ever so slightly until we were in a nice pace line and the chatting had stopped.  Once we reached that point,  everyone kind of knew what was happening and our serious ride was on.

We rolled along at our nice pace, pushing the little hills and rollers, until we reach our real destination as we make the left hand turn onto the Wall.  Although I had been on the front quite a bit, I was feeling very strong Saturday so I decided to push myself on the climb.  I also decided that meant pushing bigger gears so I stayed in the middle ring all the way to the top.  I was quite proud of myself for pushing a 42 x 25 gear.  At least that’s what I thought at the time but more on this later.

After the Wall, we had one more significant climb, where once again I held the middle ring, and then rollers all the way back.  The pace was still lifted and I finally found myself wearing out just a bit after my long pulls in front and pushing big gears on the climbs.  On the drive home I was already starting to feel the efforts of 60 miles and over 3,600 feet of climbing.  Once I got home I discovered just how tired I was as I struggled to find the energy to get some yard work completed.

When I rolled out of bed on Sunday morning I created the title for this blog because every muscle in my body seemed to be sore.  My back was the tightest but the legs weren’t far behind.  It’s has been quite a while since a ride did that to me and it felt really good in a sick kind of way.  As I spent most of the day working at our company picnic, I definitely felt the efforts from the previous day and by the time I got home I could only collapse in my favorite chair and wait for dinner.

What about the gearing issue?  Well, on Sunday prior to heading to the picnic, I was goofing around in the garage and I saw the box for my new cassette.  I thought it was a 12x27 but it turns out that I bought a 12x25.  This means I was pushing a 42x23 all the way up the Wall.  Somehow, this made me feel prouder and tireder (I so enjoy creating new words) at the same time.

So there you have it!  A fabulous ride with good friends at an elevated pace.  Add to that the beauty of Sonoma and Marin counties and the accomplishment of pushing the biggest gear ever over the Wall and you can see why it was worth every aching muscle.  The soreness will go away but the memory of this ride will last quite a while.

Ciao!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It’s good to be back

After living the college dorm life for the last two weeks, it felt really great to be back home this weekend.  Back to my old routines.  Back to riding my bike.  Back to writing.  And, while I really enjoyed everything about the experience, I think Dorothy said it best as she closed her eyes and repeated, “There’s no place like home.”

Before going any further, I guess I should say a little bit about Western CUNA Management School (WCMS), which is where I have been.  Here’s a partial description of the program from their website.

“It prepares today's and tomorrow's credit union people with the depth and breadth they need to contribute to their credit union's success and their own personal career goals -- depth of knowledge to help them do their jobs better -- breadth of background to make them more well-rounded and valuable members of management. In addition to receiving solid academic training and practical background, students at Western CUNA Management School establish strong professional networks throughout the credit union movement that benefit both themselves and their credit unions.”

smith-campus-center Basically, it’s a miniature MBA program for people who work in the credit union industry.  It is a three year commitment with two weeks of college living at Pomona College (which is a beautiful campus) each July where you learn and study and network.  I have already forged deep bonds with many of my 87 classmates was we start our journey.  I am also proud to say that I passed the first exam with High Honors (I scored a 92) as did many others in our class.  Now, it’s time to start my first project, which is due April 1st.  They told us we should plan on the project taking 200-250 hours to complete so if anyone out there has some spare time I could have that would be great.

I got home Friday night and was ready to settle in.  Unfortunately, I had to work most of Saturday so my routine was still a little whacked.  It wasn’t until Sunday that my “normal” life got back on track.  I woke up, watched part of the Tour de France and then headed out for a ride.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I rode to the Flying Goat to meet Carmen and David.  After all, I had not been on the bike for two weeks.  Just to complicate things even more, I was testing out a new saddle.  In the end, I felt great.  The only real signs of fatigue where in the upper body and my back side.  It’s amazing how quickly my ass forgets what it feels like to sit on the saddle for three hours.  I ended the day with just under 50 miles of easy tempo on some of my favorite roads with just a few hills.  It was the perfect ride for easing back into the groove.

Another routine I missed was writing this blog.  I have actually been contemplating taking a long break but I discovered I missed this creative outlet more then I thought I would.  I guess the phrase “absence makes the heart grow stronger” isn’t limited to romance.  So, the blog shall continue as I record my adventures, and misadventures, on and off the bike.

When you think about it, it has been an awesome two weeks.  I am honored to be selected to attend WCMS.  I already miss my new friends that I met at school and my FB friend number is growing rapidly.  Upon returning, I was immediately reminded about the great friends I already have as we rolled and laughed our way around Sonoma County on our bikes.

Over the next year, I am looking forward to getting to know my classmates better even if I have to do it electronically.  As always, I am looking forward to many, many miles on the bike riding with close friends who I have gotten to know personally.  Throw in the occasional french toast breakfast and that’s a routine I can live with.

Ciao!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Taking a little break

Life has been a little hectic this week and the next two weeks will be even worse in terms of free time.   It’s for all positive reasons but it has left little time for writing.  So to take the pressure off myself, I’ve decided it’s time to take a little break.

For the next two weeks I will be attending a very challenging program for credit union management.  It is a great opportunity but I will be basically back to college life for two weeks.  You know, living in the dorm with no amenities and spending all of my free time studying for the test which comes at the end.  This is actually my first year of a three year program.

Of course, that meant I had to complete three weeks worth of work this week to get ready.  Add to the that hours spent watching the Tour de France each day and you see that there is just not enough time.

So . . . reread some of your favorites and watch for new posts starting the week of July 26th.  Until then, Vive le Tour!!!

Ciao!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Grateful for it all

Yesterday, I had one of those days that reminded me of how lucky I am.  It started with being grateful for Sherry and quickly accelerated into being grateful for all that I have.  I have a great wife, a good life, good health, and a job that doesn’t completely suck so you can understand the reasons for my gratitude.

The day started the same as most do in July, with Sherry and I up watching the Tour de France at 5:30 AM (or earlier).  I just love that Sherry is such a huge cycling fan (read Cycling fans like Sherry for more on this).  A lot of the cyclists I know have significant others who do not share their passion for all things lycra on two wheels.

Next up was a nice recovery ride.  I was supposed to meet a few friends down at Flying Goat (simply called The Goat) at 7:30 and roll at 8:00.  For various reasons they couldn’t make it so I was on my own.  Still, I sat down and enjoyed my pre-ride cappuccino and the beauty of the morning.  I’m not sure why but whenever I sip a cappuccino outside The Goat on a beautiful sunny morning I cannot help but reflect on life.

This was my mindset as I rolled along doing the Bike Path Pokey and saying good morning to anyone who would listen (and some who wouldn’t).  I am happy to say most of them said hello back and I was feeling too good to really care about the ones who didn’t.

I discovered that the new portion of the bike path was open.  While I miss the gravel I have to admit rolling along on new asphalt was quite enjoyable.  Steve, from West County Revolution Bike Shop, also rode it yesterday and said it was like riding on carpet.  For the time being, it is the smoothest 2 miles in Sonoma County.

As I was enjoying my “carpet” ride, the vineyard views, the distant coastal mountains, and the blue sky, I thought to myself, “How friggin lucky am I to have ended up living in a place like this?”  As you can see, my thoughts of gratefulness were rolling right along with me.

I continued along and came across an act of generosity that I found amazing.  There is a section on Guerneville Road where a bridge crosses Laguna de Santa Rosa.  The trees from the laguna grow up and spill over into the emergency lane where us cyclist ride to avoid the 50+ mph traffic.  When you reach this section you need to actually move into the lane of traffic to get around it.  On Sunday, there was a cyclist who rode out there with large pruners and was clearing our path.  He told me he does it every year.  That is just awesome!

I took the bike path back to The Goat where I enjoyed a post-ride cappuccino to reward myself for keeping to a nice, relaxed recovery ride.  There were two more interesting things on my ride back.  First, I rode up next to a guy who was carrying a huge antenna.  So I slowed to inquire and discover he had radio-tagged numerous Western Pond Turtles and was currently tracking them.  I don’t know why but I found that very cool.

I also came up behind two elderly ladies who were dressed very similarly including the wearing of identical Gilligan hats.  When I said “on the left” the both raised their hands to acknowledge they heard me.  Except it was synchronized.  I’m serious.  They both raised their left hands to the exact some height and the exact same time.  Their elbows were also the same height and at perfect 90 degree angles.  Chinese synchronized divers have nothing on these gals.

Finally, it was back home where Sherry made french toast for breakfast.

I know I ask everyone to stop from time to time and acknowledge what they are grateful for.  On Sunday, it seems I took my own advice.  I started out being grateful for something as simple as Sherry enjoying cycling and before long I was grateful for it all.  I hope everyone else feels the same about their own life.

Ciao!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Bike Path Pokey

This blog was supposed to be about how strong I’ve been feeling since I restarted my season.  I’ve had some great rides and done good workouts that are paying off.  Yep, the plan was to write about how my strength is coming on faster then those stupid cyclist tan lines that we all know and love.  And then, I went for a ride last night that changed everything.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am feeling very strong these days.  I am back to my old climbing habits.  Even better, I seem to have my descending mojo again.  For instance, Saturday’s ride had 12 miles of climbing that totaled almost 4,000 feet in elevation gain.  I actually did the first 7 miles of climbing in the middle ring and felt great.  Then we got to come down.  I felt I was in complete control as I bombed down the descent.  In the end, I waited nearly two minutes for the rest of my group to arrive (to be fair, they tend not to bomb descents).

With that as a backdrop, I started out last night to ride speed intervals.  Leave it to a great coach, like Coach Tim, to change things up just when you’re feeling good.  After weeks of hill repeats where I was feeling nice and comfortable, he throws in speed intervals.  No worries other then I do expect feel the difference when I am done.

I get home and get ready to roll.  My first issue is that I am absolutely brain dead.  I spent the day working on a rather tedious project that just seem to suck the life out of me.  I was in definite need of Miracle Max but since he wasn’t around a ride would have to do.  The other issue was heat.  It was 91 when I headed out and I do not like the heat.  I choose to head out along the bike path since it is nice and shaded.  My plan?  The path would provide a nice 20-minute warm up and once out of town I would start my speed intervals.

It never happened.  I think somewhere in my mind I always knew it wouldn’t.  The longer I was on the path, the more I settled into a nice scenic easy ride.  As I neared the end of the first path and starting rolling to the second path I realize that I was doing the Bike Path Pokey.

The Bike Path Pokey is the kind of ride where you purposely stay on as many bike paths as possible.  Why?  Well, they’re called bike paths but the truth is there are a lot of other things on them.  Things like joggers, walkers, kids on bikes, kids on skateboards, commute riders, dogs on and off a leash (sometimes with or without people), etc.  This means you can’t ride hard and remain a courteous cyclist.  So in essence, riding the bike path forces me to stay slow while allowing me to blame my slowness on the other people using the path.

As I was meandering along, I decided if I was going to call this ride The Bike Path Pokey, I needed to create new lyrics to that childhood tune we all know and enjoy.  Here they are.

You turn your Gamin off
You throw your plan out
You clip your shoes in and you slowly move it out
You do the bike path pokey as you slowly roll along
That’s what it’s all about.

I could go on but I won’t.  I think you get the idea.  I also created a dance that focuses mostly on moving your shoulders around since your legs are busy.  Now, I never expect The Bike Path Pokey dance to get air time on MTV or reach the level of popularity as the shoulder rolls from the Palmer Girls in the Addicted to Love video but it’s still fun to do.

When it was all said and done I finish with a good 21-mile tempo ride.  It was perfect! Not only was it a good workout but it also gave me the opportunity to enjoy another beautiful evening.  And that’s worth singing about.

Ciao!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The ramblings of a writer’s blocked cyclist

I know, I know.  It’s been over a week since my last post.  I wish I had a good excuse.  You know something like my computer died or I was vacationing in the south of France or that I had been in a french toast coma.  But alas, it’s nothing like that at all.  I just can’t seem to get started.  I have things to write about.  I’ve been riding, spending time with Sherry, hanging with friends and work doesn’t completely suck so life is good.  I’ve got about 15 blog titles created there’s just nothing inside them.  Damn I hate writer’s block.

So I am trying something new.  It’s my I-haven’t-posted-in-a-while-so-I-guess-I-better-get-off-my-ass-and-write plan.  Too long?  Ok, how about the just write dammit plan?  Hmmm. . .I can already see this isn’t going to work.

I’ve got it!  I’ll think about all of the great riding I’ve been doing lately.  That’s it.  I’ll write about how much stronger I’m feeling these days or how  I went on Coach Tim’s second Wine Country Cols and PavĂ© ride, which was  a 60-mile heat fest.  That was adventurous, and beautiful, but I wouldn’t call it fun so nothing to really write about.  I climbed Sonoma Mountain on Saturday pushing a 42x27 (that’s a pretty tough gear for you non-cyclist out there) which is a huge accomplishment for me.  And although that really got the blood flowing as my heart rate climbed, it did not unleash my writing.

Maybe I should take a scientific approach.  You know, analyze the situation, create a hypothesis  about the cause, and then develop a plan of action.  I actually Googled writer’s block and found some interesting stuff.  There’s even a Wikipedia entry devoted to it.  Here’s their definition - Writer's block is a condition, associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work.

Well, that’s problematic.  Writing is not my profession.  Can you get writer’s block if you are not a professional?  If the answer is no, then what do you call it when a non-professional is stuck?  Poser’s block?  Wanna-be writer’s block?  Blogger’s block?  Do professionals with writer’s block roll their eyes and sigh when they overhear a blogger talking about being stuck.

However, there may be something to this.  You see while I am not a professional writer today, I do harbor visions of making money from my writing in the future.  My goal is to have my writing supplement my income after I retire.  This blog is part of that grand plan and that creates pressure, which in turn leads to blocks.

The pressure comes from within.  For some odd reason, I feel that each blog needs to be better then the last.  Not only is that unreasonable, it’s unnecessary.  To begin with, I already know that this series of posts has not been one long crescendo which each post being better.  I also know that people have different tastes so that a post that I particularly like and feel is clearly better then the last one is not seen that way by others.  In many cases I have received more comments on what I would consider my more mundane blogs.

I am also aware that a blog needs to be consistent to attract followers.  That’s more pressure.  Everyday I go without writing makes it even harder to get started.  Somehow, I’ve got to find a way to quit putting so much pressure on myself and go back to writing for the fun of it.  Hey, maybe that’s what I should call my plan.

Whatever it is I hope it goes away soon.  I enjoy telling stories, in writing and otherwise, and I would like to get back to it.  For now, I’ll just keep plugging along and trying to come up with a real post for your reading, and my writing, pleasure.

Until then . . .

Ciao!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Cycling fans like Sherry

A few weeks ago, I posted this FB status - “You've got to love a wife whose idea of a romantic dinner is eating carbonara from Riviera in front of the big screen and watching the Giro as the pre-show for the ToC (Tour of California).”  I got a lot of comments about what a great wife she is and that “she’s a keeper”.  What I don’t think most people realize is that she would have done that whether I was there or not.

IMG_0271 You see, my wife is a huge cycling fan!  Strike that!  I think crazed is a bit more descriptive.  She likes everything about it.  Watching it on TV.  Going to races in all kinds of weather.  Meeting the riders, directors, commentators, etc.  Seeking out photo opportunities.  She will sag and support me and my cycling group any time I ask including helping  me twice up Mont Ventoux.  In fact, the only aspect of cycling she doesn’t participate in is actual riding and I think this makes her somewhat unique.

IMG_0276 It all started of course when I started cycling on the road to do my first triathlon.  I was immediately reminded that I really don’t like swimming but this cycling thing was something I could get into.  While on my rides with Coach Tim, he would talk about races like the Tour de France and could spout off names and stats like crazy.  So that year we planned to pay attention but didn’t really plan to watch the race per se.  We were immediately hooked, by both the race and the beauty of France, and now watching cycling is one of our favorite things to do together. Well, that and eating french toast for breakfast.

IMG_0262 How dedicated is she?  Well, this might give you a hint.  On July 22nd, I already know where she will be and what she will be doing at 3:30 a.m.  That’s right!  She’ll be watching live coverage of the Tour de France Stage 17, from Pau to Col de Tourmalet.  And yes, you read that correctly.  She will be getting up well before dawn to watch cycling.  Hell, I won’t even be up until 5:00.  But she already knows this is an important stage with huge implications in the final GC.

Cavendish We are also lucky enough to live very close to Riviera Ristorante where Giampaolo, Rita, and Luca have an outstanding Italian restaurant.  They are also very good riders and well connected in the cycling community with Team BMC, Levi Leipheimer, and others.  This means that anytime a pro team comes to town they eat at Riviera.   And so do we.  We will be deciding what to have for dinner and Sherry will suggest we drive by Riviera and look for team cars.  If they are there, then the dinner issue is resolved.  I can’t tell you how many pro-cyclist she has met there.

Last year during the Tour of California, I received an email about a fund-raising event for Bicycles for Humanity.  The famous commentator, Paul Sherwen, would be in attendance and you just knew that Phil Liggett would be there also.  To add to the ambience, it was at Sonoma Cellars, which was a new wine bar in town.  The problem?  It was on February 14th – Valentine’s Day.  So I casually mention it to Sherry and her response was simply - “Why haven’t you bought tickets yet?”

IMG_0265 However, our finest cycling moment was 4 years ago at the Tour of California when Santa Rosa was lucky enough to have both a stage finish and start.  We went down the start and were amazed at how relaxed and accommodating the riders were.  I became the official photographer and Sherry got a photo of herself with Bob Roll, Chris Horner, Bobby Julich, Ivan Basso, Thor Hushovd, Johan Bruyneel, and a few others.  She was in heaven.

So there you have it.  She may not ride but she is absolutely crazy about the sport of cycling.   And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Ciao!

Monday, June 7, 2010

I’m okay with that

Last week was a great week.  After taking some time off the bike I was back at it.  You know, routinely getting in my core and strength workouts, riding speed intervals or hill repeats on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and planning big weekend rides with friends.  The question was did my recovery week help.  The answer is an emphatic yes!  And, although I don’t have the form I would normally have in June, I’m okay with that.

Yet I feel the need to explain my recovery week one last time.  It dawned on me during my rides this weekend that many of you cyclists out there may be thinking – so you took a week to recover, what’s the big deal?  Normally, you would be right.  Coach Tim always builds recovery weeks into my training every 6 - 8 weeks.  He definitely believes in the power of recovery and what happens if you push too hard for too long.

However, this was not a well place break in a progressive training plan.  It was more of a complete stop and restart.  Now, I have the mental challenge of convincing myself it’s February from a training perspective.  So, how did I do?

On Memorial Day I broke out the single speed to ease back into things.  My group was doing our Goat-to-Goat ride, which is a 35-mile round trip route from the Flying Goat in Santa Rosa to the Flying Goat in Healdsburg and back.  It is always done as a social fun ride but it does get fast at times.  I figured the easiest way to ensure I didn’t get caught in the same mistakes that caused my fatigue in the first place was to not have gears.  Sure enough, at one of the city limit signs the group put down the hammer and attacked from about a mile away.  I simply kept pedaling my one gear and watched them ride away knowing I couldn’t participate even it I wanted to.  And I was okay with that.

On Tuesday, my training focused on endurance while Thursday’s efforts were all about hill repeats.  I did the hill repeats on Pythian Road, which is my new favorite.  It’s just about a mile in length with some decent pitches thrown in for fun.  And the descent is a blast.  I managed to get up it three times, which resulted in climbing just over 1,400 feet in 25 miles.  It felt very good to be out working on a plan again.

Saturday had Coach Tim and I climbing over Sonoma Mountain to meet good friends and then climbing back over the mountain with them.  My legs were actually very tired but it was a good tired.  It was not the general fatigue I had been feeling but more of a “hey, you rode really hard on Thursday” feeling.  Because I was trying to stay within myself, remember it’s February from a training perspective, I was dropped numerous times.  And I was okay with that since it meant I was sticking to my plan.  The cool things was that my friends were okay with that also and simply waited for me.

Another friend and I did an active recovery ride on Sunday.  I was going to break out the single speed again but decided that since our route included some rollers I wanted gears.  That was a good call.  On a few of the rollers I was pushing a 42x27 versus the 42x16 on the single speed.  It was just one of the great rides where you never push the pace and spend most of the time side-by-side chatting up a storm.

How am I feeling?  Great!!!  I feel like I am on track and I know the form will develop quickly.  Coach Tim has me totally planned out through October so all I have to do is follow the plan.  I have already looked at this week’s plan and it looks a lot like last week.  And you know what, I okay with . . . well, you know.

Ciao!

PS.  For anyone riding the 65-mile route at Levi’s Gran Fondo, check out Coach Tim’s special Medio Fondo Training Plan.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Enjoying some down time

Yesterday, at 7:30 on a Sunday morning, I was sitting around drinking coffee and watching the Giro on Universal Sports.  To make this more surprising, it was simply a gorgeous morning that followed a similarly beautiful Saturday morning.  After one of our wettest month’s of May on record, the weather was perfect for riding.  Still, there I was drinking coffee, watching TV, and hanging out with Sherry on both days versus putting air in my tires and suiting up to go ride.  And I’m ok with that.

I mentioned in my last post that I needed to take some time to recover.  The 2010 season started strong but then some colds, a small crash, work issues, and a lack of mojo really impacted my form.  I found myself trying to “ride into shape” like someone at the Tour de France.  As a result, I was also starting to feel very fatigued overall. 

It was time to take some time to recover so I decided to take 8 days off and get things restarted on June 1st.  This is turning out to be a great decision.  Taking a little time off the bike had more benefits than I expected.  Of course, I knew the body would recover.  What surprised me a little was how my mind and spirit also rebounded.   

It’s funny how stressful trying to get in rides after work can be.  I typically don’t get off until 6:00 pm, which leaves precious little time for getting in a ride.  My goal is to try and get in an intense 60-75 minute work out before dinner.  If I leave even 15-minutes late the timing is shot.  The days I plan to leave early can actually be even more stressful as I spend the day hoping that nothing gets in the way.

I also took the week off from writing.  Since this blog is about cycling I thought I should take a break from it also.  In fact, my only connection to cycling this week was watching the Giro (I wasn’t going to miss that).  I really enjoy writing and this blog has been a fun creative outlet but every now and then it feels like work.  So taking a break from it also helped my mind relax and think about other things for a while.

How it the break improve my spirit?  Well, I think it was mainly the change in mentality.  Usually, when I’m watching the Giro on a weekend morning I am also trying to calculate how to get a ride in later that day.  This weekend there were no such worries, which allowed me to totally relax and enjoy the race.

What did I do on my short break?  A little bit of everything and nothing.  I started my core exercises and weight training (no leg workouts) again.  I spent the weekend cleaning out the garage and having fun in our garden.  I drank wine for dinner and had waffles and french toast for breakfast.  I read, watched TV, barbequed all kinds of stuff for dinner, and just basically enjoyed living.

I was so relaxed that on Saturday night as I was reading Facebook posts of all the great rides my friends had that day I wasn’t even jealous.  Instead I was thinking about the great day I had just hanging out in the back yard.

However, everything comes to an end sometime and so it goes for my break.  I am actually coming out of it a day early since my friends have put together one of our famous coffee-chat social rides.  It is the perfect ride to check the legs and see how I’m feeling.  And just to be sure that I don’t get caught up in any city limit sign sprints I will be rocking it on the single speed.

After today?  I already have my new plan from Coach Tim that I will start to follow tomorrow so it’s back to the routine.  After all, Levi’s Gran Fondo will be here before you know it and I want to make sure I am ready. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go put air in my tires.

Ciao!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Toast!!!

Right now my cycling friends who read this blog are letting out a collective groan.  Why?  They know what this word means in our world.  They also know the feeling associated with it because each of us have been there at least once, but probably more, during our cycling adventures.

Toast is cycling vernacular for riding yourself to exhaustion on a ride that was harder, longer, or faster then you expected.  It’s that feeling at the end of the ride (hopefully it’s at the end) where even the slightest breeze feels like a brutal head wind, freeway overpasses feel like King-of-the-Mountain climbs, and you can’t decide between reaching for a Gu or reaching for your cell phone.  It’s at these moments you are almost pleading with the cycling Gods for someone to get a flat, although preferably not you.

In case you haven’t already figured this out, I was toast after my rides from this weekend. 

On Saturday, I went out with four other riders from Team Revolution.  We were leaving from Cotati where the B ride was planning a 42 mile ride and the A folks were going 50.  I always face a dilemma on these rides.  I want to go the A distance but I cannot maintain an A pace.  In this case, it was perfect since Cotati is 10 miles from the house.  I would simply ride to and from the start for extra miles.

The ride itself was uneventful.  I was riding some roads I haven’t been on in a while and was really enjoying the scenery, the company and just being on the bike.  However,  there was a strong wind building up.  As you can see from the profile, there were not any major climbs but we were constantly going up and down.

Chileno Valley Elev

As we were coming back to Cotati I was starting to get that toasted feeling as a result of the terrain and wind.  Finally, we only had about a mile to go and I was feeling good.  That didn’t last because I suddenly remembered I rode to Cotati.  Damn!  This means I still have 10 miles to go directly into a head wind.  Needless to say, I was very much toast by the time I rolled into the drive way.

I should have bailed on Sunday’s ride.  Instead, I decided to head out with three close friends on their L2 recovery ride.  Although the pace was going to be slow, we were aiming for 50 miles and climbing Sonoma Mountain.  Initially, my legs were mush on every little hill we crossed but I was actually feeling very good by the time we reached the big climb. 

That’s where it fell apart.  I almost stopped two different times on the climb because I was loosing the strength, and will, to continue.  Finally, it was up and over and I discovered that being toast didn’t impact my descending mojo as I flew down the hill.  After one more small climb, we headed for home against another head wind where the team basically had to pull my tired ass all the way back with the promise of coffee from the Flying Goat.

These rides were tough but they should not have been that tough.  This meant it was time for a little perspective and I discovered two things.   The first was that  I am slipping into weekend warrior mode where I don’t do a thing during the week and then hammer on the weekends.  I am also not very good at assessing my current form.  I have a bad habit of comparing myself to where I should be in May and not recognizing this is an off year.

The solution?  It’s time to regroup.  I am now staying completely off the bike to recover until June 1st.  Then I will relaunch the 2010 season by dutifullyfollowing Coach Tim’s plan to get me ready for Levi Leipheimer’s Gran Fondo in October. 

This means I will not be riding over the Memorial Day weekend and will get to enjoy three days of sleeping in and relaxing.  Sherry is quite excited about this.  My reward for being smart and not continuing to push myself.  The recovery will help my riding and Sherry has already promised to make french toast.

Ciao!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A little cycling heaven

This last weekend was almost a little piece of cycling heaven for me.  Between events on and off the bike I got the chance to support my brother-in-law Mike, ride with great friends, and watch the pros sprint to the finish in downtown Santa Rosa.  Yes, it has been a great three days.

Saturday started things off with Sherry and I supporting her brother Mike in his effort to run 40 miles on his 40th birthday.  Mike did great (read Milestones & accomplishments for the full report) and I had a blast riding SAG.  Of course, you might think my workout was not all that great since I was spending the morning on the bike riding next to a runner.  You would be wrong. 

I actually got in a great workout.  It started with a time trial since I started almost an hour after Mike.  So once I hit the road I warmed up a little and then started to hammer the pedals to catch up.  Then I made an incorrect assumption about the course and didn’t know if I was ahead of him or behind him.   I continued my time trial pace for almost 9 miles and when I didn’t see him I decided he was behind me.  I turn around and start riding an active recovery pace.  Three miles later I decide I am wrong again and he has to be ahead of me.  So back into time trial mode until I finally make the catch.  I also did a few climbs and then time trialed from Mike’s house back home.  In the end, I had covered 60 miles in just about 4 and half hours of saddle time with some decent interval efforts thrown in for fun.

On Sunday, six of us headed out to some of my favorite roads.  This was an L2 ride for the ride leader, which left us plenty of time to chat.  While we did form the occasional pace line, it was mostly a quiet affair.  The best part was that I was feeling great.  I have not had great form this year and Sunday was the first time I felt like it was coming back.  I was on the front quite a bit riding tempo and I just felt good.

After riding it was time to fulfill my final Tour of California committee duties.  I headed up one of the fundraising activities.  Basically, AEG allowed host cities like Santa Rosa the opportunity to become a Amgen Tour of California merchandise wholesaler.  We would provide tour stuff to the local bike shops, they would sell it, and we would split the profits.  It was an fundraising effort to help pay the costs of bringing the race to town.

Monday was our big race day and of course it rained.  If you live in Northern California you know that it rarely rains this late in May.  Still, it didn’t dampen our spirits and we were looking forward to a great race.

I arrive downtown around 10:00 to drop off the unsold merchandise.  There I got to meet the two AEG staff members who I have been emailing over the last four months.  I then ran a few errands for my friend David, who was the Chair of the local committee.  In the process, I ran into many, many of my cycling friends and even met a few new ones.

As the race was drawing near, it was time for my reward for all the work I did with the merchandise.  I took my little VIP pass and headed for my VIP tent, which was on the finish line.  I won’t say how but I also got Sherry a pass.  With the riders out on course burning up the miles we are eating delicious foods and drinking wine.  Then we moved over to the barriers and enjoyed an unobstructed view of the final sprint for the finish.

There you have it.  A weekend of supporting family, riding with friends, watching the pros and enjoying a little VIP treatment for my efforts.  No wonder it feels a little like cycling heaven.

Ciao!