Sunday, January 31, 2010

A tale of 3 rides

Well, here is the first semi-serious ride report for 2010.  And not just any ride report but one that talks about three different rides.  The funny thing is that all three of the “rides” I am going to write about happened on a single ride on the road.  If you read further, I promise it will all make sense.

This weekend was shaping up as something special because my new best friend NOAA was saying that there was no rain in our forecast.  We’ve been dealing with a ton of rain and everyone was anxious to get off their trainers and out on to the open road.  They weren’t wrong and I think every cyclist in Sonoma County must have been on the road.

On Saturday, we dealt with a lot of fog, some overcast clouds, and just a little sunshine but no rain!  It also warmed up and at one point on the climb, which was the second “ride”, I was able to push down the arm warmers and enjoy the warmth.

So how did I end up doing three different rides in the same day?  Well, it was one part feeling great on the bike, one part monster climb, and one part completely misjudging when I would be home.

Enough chit-chat!  Let’s talk about the ride.

The “No Chain” ride
We started with pre-ride coffee in Windsor.  There were five of us heading out to ride the Geysers followed by Pine Flat.  These are both big climbs.  We took off at a moderate pace and I realized very quickly that I was having a “no chain” ride.

If you are not familiar with the term, it refers to turning the pedals so easily that you feel like you don’t have a chain on the bike.  I can also tell you it doesn’t happen very often for me.  As we rode along, I actually lifted the pace a bit too strong and dropped one of our riders.  So we regrouped and settled into a pace that allowed for plenty of socializing along the way.

At this point, I was comfortably cruising along at a nice L3 heart rate level but that all changed when we hit The Geysers.

The Climb
As soon as we turned onto The Geysers climb I knew my no chain pedal turns were done.  Since the season is just starting I decided not to push this climb since there was a second climb coming.  So when it got steep I went straight to the triple up front and the 27 on the back, found a rhythm and just kept rolling.

I was enjoying the climb when I started having trouble with the back cog.  The chain kept dropping off the 27 and into the spokes.  Finally, I decided to stay in the 25 and deal with it when I got home.  Now, the difference between the 27 and 25 from a physical  strength standpoint is not that great.  I should easily have the strength to turn the pedals even in the 25.

However, the psychological difference was huge.  Of course, this happened in the steepest part of the climb so I quickly found my L5 heart rate.  I felt myself really struggling with the bike to get up the hill.  Ultimately, I told myself to man up and ride.  So I found a new rhythm and continued to the summit.

The Time Trial
At the top, I realized it was 11:00.  I told Sherry I expected to home around noon.  What the hell was I thinking?  After we go bombing down the descent, I decided to skip the second climb and head home.  After all, husband points are more important then miles at this point in the season.

After saying my goodbyes, I got into the time trial position and start hammering.  I managed to mostly hold a strong time trial pace and cadence all the way back to the car.  It was a pretty intense work out and by the time I reached the car, I was toast.

There you have it!  On just a single rode without a chain, worked my way up a monster climb, and then time trialed to the car.  Not too bad for an early season training ride.  Of course, the rain is scheduled to return this week.  Hopefully, it will be clear by next weekend and we can do it all over again.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Things are getting serious

Things are starting to get pretty serious around here.  At least in regards to the role that cycling is starting to play in my life.  Seven years ago when I first started cycling I never imagined it would come to this. I just thought I would be this dude who went out on the bike now and then and did things like half ironman distance triathlons that made all his couch potato friends think he’s crazy.

IMG_2503 I am not sure what qualifies someone as a serious cyclist but I am going to assume that cycling over 10,000 miles in the last two years counts.  I now have 4 bikes and have to wear matching kits on all rides.  When Sherry catches me alone late at night with my laptop she assumes I am looking at new bikes.  I have socks that say I “heart’ bike porn. Yes, you could safely say I am consumed by this sport of cycling and all it has to offer.

So, where’s the serious part?

Let me start with riding.  I am coming out of the off season and starting to ramp things up a bit.  Nothing crazy.  A little higher intensity and a little more climbing.  But the real indicator is that I have switched back to my sports drink versus just drinking water.  I am also “practicing’ eating on the bike so it becomes second nature on harder rides. Like robins returning in spring, this means the season has changed and it’s go time.

I also have my writing.  In addition to this blog, which I am committed to updating more frequently, I am seriously contemplating writing a book.  I have had some tremendous adventures and it might be interesting to get them recorded in a single place.  Coming back the blog, I have set an unofficial goal of at least 6 or 7 posts per month.  I am also creating a logo for the blog that Coach Tim is putting on the cycling kit he is designing.  This might pose quite a challenge but with a little extra sports drink I think I can do it.

I am also a guest contributor to the West County Revolution Bike Shop’s newsletter Power to the Pedals.  My final bit of “writing” is helping Coach Tim with his FB fan page and his website.

I am thrilled that Santa Rosa will once again host a finishing stage of the Amgen Tour of California.  My friend David, who works for the city of Santa Rosa, is the Chair of the committee making this go smoothly.  I have agreed to Chair the sub-committee on merchandising and I am busy contacting local merchants to place Tour of Calendar stuff in their shops for sale.  So basically, I am contacting every bike shop in Sonoma and Marin county.

Wow!  That all sounds like a lot of work so let’s get back to riding.  As I mention recently, West County Revolution is starting a new cycling team, Team Revolution.  I will be on that team not only as a rider but as a ride leader, sponsor-getter, route finder, and just about anything else they need help with to get his team up and running.  It sounds like a lot of work, but they hooked me by holding the team meetings at Flying Goat Coffee.

Pace Line Pic This will be a great group of guys and gals to ride with and I can’t wait until we hit the open road.  Our first official ride is scheduled for February 27th but many of us have ridden together before.  I am getting so serious about this team that yesterday I officially became a licensed cyclist by the US Cycling Federation.  Now don’t get too excited.  This was really just a $60 charitable contribution to the cycling federation with the option that allows me to race.  Surprisingly, the only qualification necessary to be a licensed Cat 5 racer is the ability to navigate PayPal.

So there you have it.  As you can see, cycling is keeping me very busy.  And it’s not just riding.  Although it may seem like a lot of work I am having a blast with it all.  Who knows, maybe someday I’ll even make my living connected to cycling in some fashion.

Until then, I have to go write my article about the last Soup Spoons & Carbon Forks ride.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Water is child’s play

Editor’s note:  This was reposted with the picture.

Last week, all of my fellow cyclists in California were trying their best to ride before the forecasted storms.  The weather people had been trying to scare us for days with talk of a storm track that was going to bring heavy rain and high winds to most of California.  They didn’t lie.  We were pounded by torrents of rain that at times seemed to be coming down sideways.

Santa Rosa averages 6.25 inches of rain in January.  Last week we received over 7.5 inches in 5 days. This was enough to cause some minor flooding in local creeks and roads.  Cyclists out braving these conditions were constantly posting FB pictures of these flooded areas with warnings to avoid those roads for a while.

With all of this water falling to ground, you just had to know that if you chose to ride last weekend you were going to get wet.  Still, there was supposed to be a little break in the action so many of us were out riding while we could. 

For a lot of reasons, Saturday had me only riding with Dennis from our little cycling group.  It was supposed to be partly sunny but as we rolled out of my driveway it was starting to rain.  No worries.  We were dressed for it and decided to just keep rolling.  We headed down to the bike path to follow Santa Rosa Creek out of town.  We did this to not only avoid cars but we were interested in how much water was there.  It was a lot.  At one point, the path goes under a road and you could tell that whole section was recently underwater.

We continued to ride out towards Laguna de Santa Rosa, which almost always floods.  Sure enough, as we approached we saw the “Road closed due to flooding” sign.  However, we both know the road here drains quickly so we kept going.  As anticipated, the road was clear but there was water everywhere and once again you could tell there was flooding in that area.

We then headed out to Occidental.  The plan was to take Bohemian Highway into Monte Rio.  This is a beautiful road that follows a creek that is nearly dry in the summer but on Saturday it was roaring along its path towards the Russian River.  The flowing water, the green hills, and the dozens of small waterfalls flowing into the creek made for a magical journey.

By this time, it had quit raining and we were mostly just dirty from road spray.  In Monte Rio, we decided enough was enough and it was time to head home.  We followed the Russian River back to Martinelli Road and into Forestville.  From there, we followed the West County Trail back towards home.

It was on the bike path that things got interesting.  We ignored another sign warning us of flooding.  I mean, it’s a bike path so how deep could it be?  Of course, the flooded sections were all in the only section of the path that is not paved.  We hit the flooded section and rolled on through with the water barely reaching the bottom bracket.  As we scoffed at the flooded sign we came around a corner and had an “Oh Sh!t” moment. 

The second flooded section looked deep.  Still, we decided to “man up” and keep going.  With each pedal turn the water got deeper and deeper.  At one point, our water bottles were under water.  With each turn of the pedals your foot never cleared the surface.  But it was short and we were able to power through it laughing like school kids the whole time.

Flood 1 We went through one last flooded section on a small wooden bridge and as we looked back Dennis mentioned we should have a taken a picture.  So, I went back through the water to the other side and returned slowly as Dennis snapped away with his phone.  As I cleared this flooded section a second time I heard Dennis say that it didn’t take.  So, back through for a third time.  Man, the things we do for pictures.

In the end, it was more of a playful adventure then a serious bike ride.  We saw both the power and beauty of Mother Nature while pedaling our bikes through water like a couple of 10-year olds.  There’s nothing like a little water to bring out the inner child in all of us and I can’t wait to go “play” again next weekend.


P.S.  There will be some serious bike cleaning going on this week.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Viva la Revolution!

Yesterday, I went out on the Soup Spoons & Carbon Forks ride.  This is a new monthly ride sponsored by West County Revolution Bike Shop, which is one of my favorite bike shops ever.  Surprisingly, this is not a write-up about that ride.  If you want to read about the ride, you will have to wait until it’s published in the WCR newsletter. Instead, this blog is about the shop. 

WCRI discovered West County Revolution (WCR as we call it) just over a year ago at the first ever Viva la Revolution at Riviera ride.  This is where I got the opportunity to ride with Team BMC cycling pro Scott Nydam (read My ride with a pro cyclist for more about this ride).  This is also the first time I met Steve, one of the owners at WCR.

So what makes a bike shop so great?  Well, in my mind, it starts with great people who share a passion for cycling.  In fact, the passion for cycling is so strong it overrides the desire to make “easy” money.  We all know, or have been a victim of, the "up sale” bike shop.  You know what I mean.  The shop that will sell people, especially newbies, much more expensive gear then they need.  WCR is not like that. 

The owners of WCR, Steve and Bradley, have both ridden and raced bicycles for years.  Bradley also started OrganicAthlete, a community of athletes dedicated to promoting an organic, vegan lifestyle, and provided some nutrition tips to help my vegan friend David participate in Ironman Arizona last year.  So yes, you could say these boys have a passion for cycling.

That brings to the next thing – relationships.  It is evident to me that WCR believes in the concept that helping people enjoy cycling to the fullest makes good business sense.  Their business model appears to put making relationships ahead of making money.  It seems they feel that if you treat people right, the rest will take care of itself.  In today’s world of depressing business headlines, I find this approach quite refreshing and one I can easily support.

There is one more critical attribute a shop must have to be great.  It has to support the cycling community.  And not just the local hammerheads but everyone from the weekend warrior to the family out for their weekly Sunday fun ride.  WCR has this covered.

SS&CF I’ve already mentioned the Riviera ride.  I also mentioned their new Soup Spoons & Carbon Forks ride.  This is a monthly ride that starts and finishes at one of Sonoma County’s fine restaurants.  There are always at least three courses, one the fast guys and gals, one for more intermediate riders and a route designed just for families.  Yesterday, we had all three routes and finished with an awesome lunch at Rosso Pizzeria.  Next month we will be lunching at Bistro 29.

WCR recently launched their new periodic newsletter Power to the Pedals to which yours truly has provided an article.  If you follow the link to the latest addition you can read about the Soup Spoons & Carbon Fork philosophy.  You can also read about WCR’s new cycling team being formed.  Of course, in true WCR fashion, this is not just another bike shop team.  This team will be about much, much more then racing.  It will be all about having fun on the bike.  And I want to be part of that fun.

Just to drive the point home, let me tell about this morning.  I went out for a short 30 mile recovery ride that took me near the shop.  So I decided to roll by and see what was happening.  As I got there, Team Swift was just leaving for their training ride.  So I was chatting with Laura about Team Swift and Team BMC when Steve walked over.  After some more chatting about cycling, I casually mentioned that I would be coming by later for new cleats.  Steve promptly walks into the shop, comes out with my cleats and simply says “Stop by and pay whenever you get the chance.”

There you have it.  A cool guy, supporting a local development team, and trusting a loyal customer to pay him later for gear he gave me today.  This is what WCR is all about.

I hope that each cyclist out there is lucky enough to have a local bike shop like West County Revolution to keep you riding.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go put on my new cleats.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

2010 is finally on the road

As you can probably guess from the title, I finally got out of the garage and out on the road. However, last night I was back in the garage but what the hell.  That’s winter for you. And even though I can now say I’ve entered the open road, it was a very gentle entrance. More like turning into an elementary school driveway and less like entering the freeway.

My first road activity was actually a run. Last Friday I went out for a short little 3-mile effort. It was my first run since the horrible cold and sinus infection that took me out for most of December. In the six weeks since then, my focus has been getting strength back on the bike. Still, I wanted to bring back the cross training.  How did it feel? In the end, the best I can say was it fell into the it-hurt-but-was-worth-it category.

Saturday was the first road ride of 2010. I met friends Sarah and Soda at Flying Goat, where we chatted and drank coffee for a bit before heading out. The plan was to head towards Healdsburg, ride part of Sweetwater, and head back. I think we all assumed the ride would end with more coffee at Flying Goat.

Once we got going however the plans changed a little. Sarah was racing the Early Bird Criterium the next day and so we did not want to push it too hard. So we skipped Sweetwater and it’s very hard climb altogether and rode on to Healdsburg. We were actually having a great time riding even though it was very cold and grey. Fortunately, our conversation and laughter help ward off the cold as we rode back to Santa Rosa.

As we neared the end of the ride we realized that none of us drove to Flying Goat so we really didn’t need to go back there. We decided to add one more little climb and finish with coffee at Centro Espresso. You gotta love a ride that starts at one of your two favorite cafes and ends at the other one.

The plan on Sunday was to sleep in, eat Belgian waffles, and then take The Vegas (my single speed sled) out for a spin. The plan worked perfectly until I started down the street on The Vegas and heard a really weird noise coming from the rear hub. So back home to grab my other bike and I’m off again. This was a recovery ride and fairly routine. I did do two time trial intervals for the fun of it. Well, that’s not entirely true. One of the intervals was to stop from getting caught from behind. I was originally planning on 40 miles or so but it was yet another cold and grey winter day so I settled on 27 miles instead.

As I was heading home I considered calling Sherry to see she wanted to meet for coffee. I ultimately decided against it and instead decided to just head home, change out of the bike gear, and then go out for coffee. Of course, in thinking about all this I now wanted coffee. It was then I saw the little drive-thru coffee stand, Highway Espresso. Sherry had a cup from there recently and spoke very highly of it. So I roll up, order a double espresso, and drink it right there at the window all without ever clipping out of the pedals or getting out of the saddle. It must have been a pretty funny sight.

Last night it was back to Coach Tim’s garage for another episode of cycliste de garage. I still love the social aspect of riding on the trainer with a group of people. We are supposed to ride this weekend but it looks like rain. If it does, a bunch of us will again set up in one of the garages for 2-hours of riding and chatting.

There you have it. A little running, some easy riding, and Belgian waffles on a Sunday morning. You could definitely argue that I’m not in the fast lane yet but I at least I am now heading in the right direction.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Le cycliste de garage

As some of you may know, my other passion is wine.  In particular, I am a fan of big red wines from California, Tuscany, and Bordeaux.  It was in Bordeaux, in the early 1980’s, that a new wine making technique came into fashion.  People would plant vineyards on very small plots of land and then make great wine that was sold at ridiculous prices.  In many cases, these wines were made in the garage and therefore became known as vin de garage or garage wine.

That’s how I am feeling these days.  I am a cycliste de garage.  For the past couple weeks every “ride” has been in a garage.  Now granted, it is winter so it’s cold and wet outside.  There is also the issue of not enough daylight before or after work.  But mostly, I think I just miss the open road. 

I know I am not alone in feeling this way.  There are a few of my fellow cyclists who don’t mind riding on their trainers.  They have Facebook debates about fluid trainers versus rollers, post how long they rode, and some even track mileage.  But most of my cycling group simply tolerates the indoor trainer as an evil necessity at best.  I definitely fall into the latter category.

The question is – Can being a cycliste de garage make you a better cyclist in general?  Wait, that can’t be the question.  Cycling pros log hundreds of hours on indoor trainers in the off season to stay strong for upcoming races.  So the answer is obviously yes.  No, the real question is – Can I become a better cyclist?  Damn, that’s not the right question either.  Of course, that answer is yes also.  But am I motivated to use the indoor trainer to become a stronger rider?  Bingo!  That’s the real question!

ESP FJ 1 Enter Coach Tim and his Tuesday Night Indoor Training classes.  In November, Tim started running these classes in his garage.  These are not spin classes.  There is no music, just Tim constantly telling you what gear to push, what heart rate zone to be in, and where your cadence should be.  And they are very challenging especially since you don’t know what’s coming next.

It is amazing to me how Tim can replicate a road ride with the way he structures the class.  We have practiced endurance rides, pace lines, and hill climbs.  In our class this week we did a 20-minute hill climb with another 10-minutes of rollers when we reached the top. I don’t want to give away his secrets but it he accomplishes this through a very strategic mixture of gearing, heart rate and cadence.

ESP FJ 2 The riding portion of the class last about an hour but don’t relax yet because you’re not done.  Next comes strength training followed by core work and stretching.  If you did it right, you are one tired puppy when it’s over.  You also can’t wait until the next class.

For the me, there are two reasons Tim’s classes are effective.  To begin with, it really helps with motivation.  It is a great group of people who take these classes so there is always plenty of banter and joking.  That is until Tim tells us to increase our efforts and we have to focus on breathing, keeping the rhythm, and not pushing ourselves to point of wanting to puke. 

This leads me to the second reason these classes work for me.  It’s all about the effort.  I work much harder at these session then I would ever push myself alone in my own garage.  Even tonight, as I do my best to cycle in Hawaii, I know that I will not go as hard as I did last Tuesday.

Is it working?  You betch ya!  This week I was feeling very strong on the bike.  It was the best I have felt since getting over my horrendous cold.  My core and upper body are also getting stronger.

When it’s all said and done, I really enjoy the classes because it brings back the social aspect of cycling that I enjoy so much.  Now, I’m not saying I’m going to turn into a fine Bordeaux wine but I will be stronger as a result of starting my year as a cycliste de garage.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2010 off to a slow start

Hello.  My name is Lee and I haven’t ridden my bike yet this year.

Yes, 2010 is off to a very slow start but I’m ok with that.  Even though the year started off with a 3-day weekend, the planets just didn’t align for my bike and I. 

On New Year’s Day it was supposed to be storming so I slept in. Of course it wasn’t and a lot of my friends got out and rode.  By the time I decided to head out it was storming but c’est la vie.  I did try the trainer for about 30-minutes but I really don’t count that as a ride.  Plus, it was supposed to be 60 minutes on the trainer but my pre-workout consumption of hot chocolate made that quite impossible.

On Saturday we hosted a dinner party for 9, including ourselves, who would all be staying over until Sunday morning.  Between prepping the meal and getting the house ready, there was no time left for a ride.  However, the good food, outstanding wines, and great friends where worth every second I didn’t spend pedaling.  (You can head over to my other blog, C’est la belle vie if you want to read more about the dinner.)

Sunday morning was cold and foggy so I spent the morning eating freshly baked chocolate croissants and drinking mimosas with our house guests.  By around 9:30, all of our guests had headed home so we began the clean up.  To be honest, we finished around 1:00, which gave me time to sneak in a ride but at that point I was setting a record for most days in the new year without riding so I rolled with it, so to speak.

So I was thinking about what I should post and I realized that I have not shared my 2010 goals yet.  But first, how did I do in 2009?  Well, to be honest, just ok.  I did reduce my mileage by 1,000 miles but that is only a 20% reduction and not the 30% I originally planned.  I did spend much more time riding with groups but not enough time on other activities like hiking and kayaking.  I definitely slept in more days and ate plenty of Sherry’s french toast and Belgian waffles.  Most importantly in 2009, I just had fun riding my bike and was constantly reminded about why I will continue to ride.

That brings me to 2010.  What does this year have in store.  Well, I’m not sure yet.  How’s that for honesty.  I know I am doing some big rides this year.  I am already registered for Levi’s Gran Fondo in October.  I have at least 4 century rides planned and 3 of those happen before June.  I may try the Terrible Two again.  I may even try a few local road races (although probably not crits).

This means that as I say good-bye to 2009, I guess it’s also time to say good-bye to my off-season.  My first 100 miler is in March, and it includes significant climbing, so I’ve got to get down to business.  I received my training plan from Coach Tim yesterday so it’s go time.

There is one thing from 2009 I want to keep – going on great rides with great people.  I want 2010 to continue my string of big group rides.  There should be plenty of opportunities.  There’s the monthly Soup Spoons & Carbon Forks ride offered by West County Revolution Bike Shop, the NorCal Cycling Thanksgiving Day ride, Pedro’s Winter Hills training camp and Cycling with Champions to name a few.

I also want to keeping riding with friends.  Since I don’t race, compete in triathlons, or run marathons, I may be the one who needs to adjust to everyone else’s schedule.  That’s fine by me.  As long as I get to hang around afterwards at the local coffee shop all is good.

I hope everyone has a similar goal for 2010.  Plan your events, train hard, drool over new gear, and never forget that we do this because it’s fun.