Saturday, February 27, 2010

Our first (non) ride

Damn rain!!!  We were supposed to have our very first official Team Revolution Presented by Fitness Journal ride this morning.  All week long there was supposed to be a big storm on Friday with only a few lingering scattered showers remaining Saturday morning.  HA!!!  I get up this morning at 5:00 am as usual and it is raining.  Strike that, it’s pouring.  To add insult to potential injury, there is also gusty winds swirling about.  It was almost as if Mother Nature was daring us to ride our bikes today.

It was time for action.  Not the good kind of action like pulling your bike out of the garage and rolling down the street.  No, this action was pounding the keyboard versus pounding the pedals in a desperate attempt to find some weather web site or satellite image that would give us hope.  It was not to be.

Image after image, site after site, told the same story.  It was going to keep raining.   Damn rain!!!

Really, my problem isn’t with the rain.  We need water to survive.  I get that.  I love my green hills and the lovely spring flowers.  I enjoy the beautiful streams and cascading waterfalls that form after a rainy winter.  No, my problem has more to do with scheduling and accountability.

We have already had some gorgeous spring-like weather in Sonoma County.  However, it has been improperly scheduled for Monday through Friday.  I want to know who the hell thought that was a good idea.  Why would you ever put the nice weather during the work week and then have it rain on the weekends?  Haven’t these people heard of Camelot?

So day after day I sit in my office and watch white fluffy clouds float by against the backdrop of a beautiful blue sky.  And while this may help the whole work-stress issue, it doesn’t help my cycling.  Then Saturday rolls around and the clouds turn dark and mean and nasty.  They bear down on you like you’re some little middle-Earther with a ring and a mission.

How do you know it’s been raining a lot during the prime riding times?  When you have more hours logged cleaning your bike then riding it, that’s how.  I mean, really!  Even on the days it wasn’t raining, it hasn’t been that nice.  We have started a few rides already this year with clear skies above while we rode in the cold, wet, soupy fog below.

Now, let’s change gears and talk about the weather people.  I purposely did not use the word meteorologist because that might imply there was some science behind their daily version of truth or dare.  You know what I mean.  This is when they tell you the forecast and dare you to believe it’s the truth.

What happens when these soothsayers are wildly wrong?  Where’s their accountability?   I realize that predicting the weather is not an exact science.  I know Mother Nature has the best curve ball in the business and is not afraid to use it.  But at 5:30 in the morning when I am looking at a web site icon that shows the sun while it’s pouring down rain outside I can’t help but think it’s time to bring back public floggings.

If you haven’t already guessed, we ultimately cancelled this morning’s ride.  As excited as we were to get the first official ride on the books it just wasn’t worth it.  One of the hallmarks of Team Revolution is having fun on the bike.  I haven’t met the entire team yet, but I feel safe in saying that none of them would say 3-hours of sucking down road spray from the tire in front of them is fun.

Ok, I’m better now.  I just needed to get that out of my system.  Before long, Wine Country will be bathed in that special brand of bright sunshine, gorgeous skies, and gentle breezes that makes our houses cost so much.  I’m sure I can hold out until then.

In the meantime, I leave for San Diego on Wednesday for 4-days of riding in sunny Southern California.  But I swear, if it rains while I’m down there someone’s getting flogged.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It’s not for the exercise

Right now I should be out on the trainer.  I don’t mean figuratively, I mean that literally as I am typing this I should be on the bike.  A very long work day made me miss Coach Tim’s class last night and I need to get back on track this morning since I have dinner plans tonight.  And yet, here I sit drinking coffee and writing a blog instead.

There’s a very good reason for this.  The one thing I’ve concluded over the last few years is that I hate to exercise!!!

Now, I can already hear the wheels turning in your head.  You’re asking how in the heck can a guy who averages 5,000 miles a year on the bike not like to exercise?  The answer is quite simple.  Riding my bike is not exercise.  After all, the name of this blog is Lee’s Life Adventure and not Lee Exercises on a Bike.

Maybe it would help if I provided my definition of exercise.  For me, exercise is any activity designed to inflict pain without the benefit of socializing or even post-event coffee.  Where’s the fun in that?  I don’t want to exercise.  I want to do things, go places, and laugh with friends.  That’s why I ride.  It’s not for the exercise.

Let me put just how much I loathe exercise in perspective.  Last week, I was going with the A-team on the Soup Spoons & Carbon Forks ride.  These guys and gals are strong.  We were only riding 45 miles but it would be fast.  I knew I would have trouble hanging on.  I knew that I would probably be dropped.  I knew it could be 3 hours of pain and that I will be exhausted when we arrived at lunch.  And I could hardly wait.

Let’s compare that to riding the trainer.  Let’s say it’s Thursday and Coach Tim’s plan calls for a 45 minute L2 recovery ride with a few L3 efforts thrown in to mix things up.  I see that on the training plan and my first thought is that he’s insane.  How am I ever going to  last for 45-minutes.  I mean, really!  That’s almost an hour.  There’s no way I can last that long without losing it mentally.

That’s when the anti-exercise Lee shows up on my shoulder dressed as the devil from the Tour de France.  “You don’t have to ride the trainer today” he says.  “You don’t have any big rides coming up soon so why not sit down, relax, and have another cup of coffee.”  I only need to hear this little voice once and I am reaching for the coffee pot.

This is not just a cycling thing.  If you’ve read this blog in the past you know I can’t stand core workouts.  There is no way to do a core routine without calling it exercise.  It’s the same with running and swimming.  Put me in a pool with a group of people engaged in a rowdy game of keep away and I’ll swim all day.  But after 10-minutes of swimming laps in that same pool I’m ready to shoot myself (or the person who suggested swimming laps).

Now, before all you exercise nuts out there get started, let me tell you that I totally understand the benefits of exercising.  It makes me stronger.  It can help me ride faster and blah, blah, blah.  I know all of that but I still don’t have to like it.  And since I am adult, at least in terms of age, I get to make my own decision, which this morning is coffee 1 – trainer 0. 

There is good news on the horizon.  The days are getting longer and soon my “exercise” routine will take me out of the garage and onto the open road.  That’s when I can leave the anti-exercise Lee sitting in a comfortable chair as I go do 90-minutes of power intervals, speed drills, or hill repeats.

Until then, I think I’ll just pour another cup of coffee and hit the publish button. 


Monday, February 22, 2010

Soup Spoons & Carbon Forks

For me, there is nothing quite like clipping into the pedals and starting a ride with 40 or 50 other riders.  To me, the sound of all those shoes clipping in says it’s time to go have fun.  Yep, there’s nothing better.  That is unless you know that the ride is going to end with a 3-course meal at one of our finest restaurants. 

SSCF #2 That is the concept behind the Soup Spoons & Carbon Forks rides.  A group of like-minded cyclist all get together for a little riding, a little chit-chat, some great food and a lot of laughs.  It’s hard for me to imagine a better way to spend a Saturday.

The latest rendition of this monthly ride was last Saturday.  We were starting in downtown Santa Rosa since lunch would be at Bistro 29.  As we gathered at Peets Coffee, you got the feeling this was going to be a great day.  By the time we rolled at the appointed 9:15, there were close to 50 cyclists of varying degrees heading out to enjoy a beautiful morning on the bike.

We roll out of the city along the bike path on our way to West County, which by the way is the same name of the bike shop that host these rides.  Ok, it’s really the West County Revolution Bike Shop but let’s not get caught up in the details.

We roll along chatting, laughing and enjoying the ride until we hit our first climb of the day on Graton Road.  Everyone settles into their own pace and starts to climb.  Since I know we are regrouping at the top, I feel there is no need to get there quickly.  I am actually riding with Coach Tim so we decide to do low-cadence power intervals up the climb and that worked out quite well.

Side note – I tried to hold Tim’s wheel to the top but he has been mountain biking a lot lately and that always makes him a kick-ass hill climber.

At the top, we are splitting into 2 groups.  As we are waiting for others to finish their climb, I notice my rear wheel is very soft.  Just then our SAG wagon appears.  So as everyone else heads out, I am pumping up the back tire.  Then Tim and I chase down the group to start the next big climb.

I was about a half mile up the climb when I notice the rear wheel going soft again.  Damn!  I tell everyone to keep going and start to change the tire.  Once again, just as I was starting to pump it up, a cyclist in a car stopped and offered his floor pump.  Sweet!

Then things turned ugly.  As I was remounting the rear wheel I noticed the chain had a loop in it.  WTF!!!  Ok, don’t panic.  I solved that problem and try remounting the tire again.  Now the tire will not completely slip into place.  No matter what I try, the tire is sitting at an angle and rubs the frame with very revolution.

SSCF #4 Eventually, I walk the half mile back down the hill to Occidental.  I get there just as the group is finishing their loop and Tim heads over to see what’s up.  Embarrassingly, the spring on the skewer is backwards but since I have had the tire on and off numerous times, I never thought to check that.

So tire fixed and humble pie consumed, I get to head out with the group once more.  The rest of the ride was awesome.  We powered back up over Graton and then bombed down Harrison Grade.  The  lead-outs and attacks for the city limit sign started early and resulted in all of us pushing a solid pace to the end.

sscf #1Then we got our just reward.  A scrumptious 3-course meal prepared specifically for our group by Brian Anderson, an accomplished cyclist himself, of Bistro 29.  Although the main course was simply divine, I think the real winner was the salty frites already on the table when we arrived.

So there you have it.  Another Saturday of cycling and eating my way through the best Sonoma County has to offer. 


PS.  Once again I would like to thank Carmen who is becoming the semi-official photographer for this blog.  Thanks for the pictures Carmen!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Better then sitting on the couch

Last night was my weekly trainer ride in Coach Tim’s ESP Fitness Training Studio.  Ok, it’s really his garage but fitness studio sounds so much better.  Anyway, I have written before about how I enjoy the social aspect of these weekly workouts.  Last night promised to be a great time, with a great workout and I didn’t want to go.

Yesterday was one of those hard work days.  You know, nothing out of the ordinary, it just seemed harder then most.  Mentally, I was fried and wanted nothing more then to sip a little wine while trying to become one with the couch.  Fortunately, I decided that the idea of chatting with friends while getting stronger on the bike as a better option.  So no matter how much I tried to convince myself to go home, I found myself driving to Tim’s studio.

Even on the drive my mind kept creating scenarios that allowed me to skip the workout.  Maybe there wouldn’t be enough room for me even though Tim can handle up to 8 riders and we typically only have 4 or so.  Or, even better, maybe no one else would show up and I could convince Tim to skip the workout and open wine.

Alas, as I pulled up, I see the other three regulars already setting up. Damn!  As I walked up they all said hello and I think I grunted back some response.  Then they start teasing me about my cycling attire.  I have to go to Tim’s straight from work so I was still in my business suit.  Some of the comments were pretty funny but I don’t remember laughing.  During all of the this my mind was telling me that since the bike wasn’t set up yet it wasn’t too late to head home.

Less then 10 minutes later I was changed and on the bike warming up.  We start the intervals Tim has planned and I do not have it.  Physically, I am fine, maybe better then fine.  These weekly workouts have made a much stronger rider.  Mentally, well that’s a whole different issue.  Normally I can easily spin away all of day’s stress and grind but not last night.  I just couldn’t shut down the work side of my brain.  Plus, this is shaping up to be a tough week so I can expect more of the same.

It’s time to make a command decision.  Either get off the bike and go home or man-up and get on with it.  I choose the latter without ignoring that I wasn’t mentally into the workout.  Ultimately, I decided to keep going but drop everything down a notch.

This meant riding at a lower cadence and heart rate then everyone else.  Tim would tell everyone they should be at L3 and I was at L2.  Next we would hear go up to a cadence of 90-95 and I would stay at my comfortable 85.   I started to bonk thanks to a healthy dose of dark chocolate hearts consumed earlier in the day (another indicator of stress) but I was able to ride through it and persevere.

Finally, the cycling part was complete and we started our strength and core workout.  Honestly, I was still looking for excuses to leave but at least I know we are almost done. I am also finally starting to feel a little better.  During the core workout we were joking that there is not as much chit chat now as there was in November, which is directly related to increasing toughness of Coach Tim’s plan.

Once we were finished, Tim and I were chatting about the adjustments I had to make to get through the routine.  In the end, it was decent, but not great, workout.  However, although it may not have been the workout I had originally planned, it was better then sitting on the couch.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ouch, this is going to hurt

Let me start by saying that yesterday’s ride kicked my ass.  It was a combination of monster climbs, big pace lines, and a little too much testosterone that got to me.

wild flour group Yesterday, 15 of us headed out from Freestone for a 60 mile ride that started at the Wild Flour Bakery.  The plan was to ride part of the Grasshopper Adventure Series road course. Next Saturday is a road race from this series and I have few friends who will be riding and wanted to scope it out.

While this ride was not particularly long by our standards it was by no means going to be easy.  You see, we would be climbing the strong side of the Marshall Wall.  If you don’t cycle, let me just say that the slang “wall” simply stands for one long, steep, bad-ass hill climb.  For a glimpse into our day, here is the profile of our route.  The Marshall Wall is the section that goes straight up at mile 20.

Wall As we start rolling, I immediately get the impression this will not be the moderate pace ride as described.  There are just too many people who can hammer the pedals.  Still, as we head off at a brisk pace, I am feeling very strong and relaxed.  At this point I’m thinking it’s going to be a good day.

We hit the first little climb, which is short but steep.  I go over 4th or 5th which is a little unusual.  As we head for the coast, we start our second climb and things changed.  I was not feeling good at all.  My stomach was getting upset and I started to overheat.  I backed way of the pace, dropped of the back and tried to recover.

I stayed this way all the way to the town of Tomales.  A couple of folks starting asking how I was doing because they could tell I wasn’t quite myself.  Out of Tomales, we followed Tomales Bay until we turned onto the Wall.   The pace was very brisk on the road to the Wall so once again I hung back and did my own thing.

Actually, that’s not entirely true.  I was riding with Carmen who was being very disciplined with her training.  Her coach wanted her to stay at L2 for the entire ride.  So between her discipline and my stomach we managed to hang together and just chat away.

The climb up the Wall actually went very well.  Carmen and I dropped to our lowest gears and just spun our way to the top.  Surprisingly, the more I climbed the better I felt.  We bombed down the descent and once again the lead pack takes off and this time I purposely choose to let them go.

Finally, we finish the major climbs and start back towards the bakery.  There were 4 riders off the front so some of us went after them.  As we caught them I stayed at the same speed and simply went around them.  Now the race was on as the group started to chase me down.

Honestly, my intent was to start a nice pace line.  Instead I inadvertently instigated a series of attacks.  There was some hard riding as people attacked and others tried to grab wheels.  After a couple of miles I looked down and we were doing 29 mph.  That’s when my lights went out.  So I sat up, watched them ride away, and waited for Carmen, who was still sticking to her plan.

scone Carmen and I basically rode the rest of the way back to the bakery together.  The true hammerheads had quit regrouping and the rest of the riders where going further. Although tired, the vision of freshly baked scones kept us going.

Everyone made it back to the bakery where we enjoyed scones, coffee and laughs.  I think my stomach problem resulted from too much effort up the first climb and once I recovered I was fine although, some of my fellow cyclist didn’t buy that excuse and suggested I should be tested for doping.

How do I feel today.  I actually feel great.  I was going to go out for a 2-hour recovery ride but it is all wet and foggy so I decided not to.  Besides, Sherry made french toast and that’s all the recovery I need.


PS – Thanks to Carmen for the photos.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Not your normal day on a bike

Last Sunday’s ride actually turned into an event for me.  It was the first day in weeks without rain, I was riding with one of my good friends to watch another friend race, and it had that “your crazy” factor I look for when telling non-cyclists about my plans.  It also ended up being similar to the week before in that it occurred in three parts and ended with me time trialing home.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The plan?  Brian and I were going to ride from his house in Sonoma over to Napa to watch another friend race in the Cherry Pie Criterium and then ride back.  It’s only 25 miles each way but to non-cyclists it seems like an impossible distance. 

imagesWe take off bright and early from Brian’s.  The sun is out and even though it was quite chilly at 34 degrees, we didn’t really notice.  We left early which meant we could ride at a sensible pace through the vineyards of Carneros where the mustard plants are in full bloom.  About half way there another rider from our group, Adam, caught up with us and we finished the ride together.

We arrive at the race just before 9:00, which is perfect since Scott races at 9:20.  While Brian was calling to find out where he was warming up, I watched the juniors who were racing.  It was awesome and our local team, Team Swift, was performing very well.

On the way to meet Scott, I saw many of my cycling friends such as Dan, Kashy, Michael and others who had already raced of were racing later.  We find Scott and just start chatting away while he is warming up on the trainer.  Then we pack everything into his car while he heads to the start line.

Scott 3At 9:20 exactly the Elite Cat 4 race is off.  Scott has a simple goal.  He wants to stay in the lead group for the first 20-30 minutes to get an intense workout and get into the racing season.  However, as they start counting down laps to the finish, Scott is with the lead group.  On the final lap, Scott is sitting 6th wheel and has a legitimate chance at a top 3 finish. 

The peloton comes across the finish line about 30 strong.  Scott wasn’t in the top 3 unfortunately.  In fact, we didn’t see him cross the finish line at all but with a big pack it’s hard to pick out individual riders.  So Brian and I head back to the car since Brian has his car keys.

This is were things got interesting.  We get to the car but no Scott.  No worries, he’s probably just cooling down.  So we wait.  And we wait.  I ride back to the start line and still no Scott.  It’s now 30 minutes after the race and he’s still not around and Brian and I need to start heading for home. 

We asked the announcer if there was a crash and he says no.  As we are pulling away he then calls Brian’s name over the microphone.  Uh oh!  He tells Brian to go see the guy at the start line with a white truck.  As we roll up I see Scott’s bike in the back.  That is definitely not a good sign.  Long story short, Scott crashed on the final lap, broke his clavicle and was in route to the local hospital.

Scott 4 We go back to Scott’s car and load both his bike and Brian’s into it.  Brian then drives to the hospital and I head for home.  My ride home was going to be another sensibly paced ride but now I am running late.  I had called Sherry and she was completely understanding but I still wanted to get home as soon as possible.  So just like the Sunday before, I was back in the time trial position and hammering the pace.  It was a strong ride that felt really good so I know my interval training is really paying off.

The update on Scott is that he is in good spirits and recovering.  I actually have never known Scott not to be in a great mood.  He is also planning his next race and asking when he can start spinning on the trainer.  I know he will be back soon stronger then ever.

The rest of my fellow cyclists survived their races just fine.  In fact Soda, who I ride with regularly, took third in her race.

There you have it.  I am so glad we rode over to watch Scott race.  His crash was unfortunate, but it was great that we were there to help out.  Brian also got some great stories about what a crazy guy like Scott says when he’s feeling no pain.

I hope everyone had a chance to get out and ride last weekend with perhaps just a little less adventure.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Beware of Bibendum

There are a lot of opinions in the world of cycling but only a few truths.  For example, a Roadie and a Dirt Rat can argue all day about their opinions on whether road cycling is better then mountain biking but at the end of the day they both agree to the truth that it’s harder to go uphill then downhill.  And here’s another truth.  If you ride a bike at some point you are going to get a flat.

Here in Sonoma County it’s flat season.  This is when Bibendum, the official name of the Michelin Tire mascot and God of Flat Tires, is at his busiest.  Don’t get me wrong, I deal with flats all year but it’s always a little worse in winter.  I once heard Paul explain why to Phil during the Tour de France.  Paul explained that when it rains “all of the bits of stuff from the road actually stick to your tire like flies to paper. . .” (you should have read that with a British accent).

Cyclists who think they will never get a flat are a lot like people on their way to catch a flight and hoping they won’t have to go through security.  That’s not going to happen and neither is riding without the occasional flat.  It’s kind of funny in a way.  They’ve seen other riders flat and still don’t think it will happen the them.  Then one day they hear that unmistakable pffffff.  The expression on their face tells you they just saw the security line.

I have many, many stories about flats.  There was the time I rode through thorns and my rear tire flatted and as I was changing it I heard the front tire go pffffff.  Are you kidding me?  A twofer?  I flatted a third time less then 2 miles down the road and Mr. Fitness Journal, Chris,  gave me his spare tube.  Just to show us that Bibendum has a sense of humor, Chris flatted a week later and that’s when he remember giving me his spare tube, which he never replaced.

I have run over thorns, glass, nails, you name it.  Perhaps my most interesting flat was when I ran over a utility knife razor blade one day on the single speed.  There was no pffffff.  The blade sliced open the entire rear wheel and the air was gone in a second.  In this case, just to show he can be merciful, Bibendum allowed this to happen close to home.

I’ve even had flats when riding the trainer in the garage.  If it happens to the front tire who cares, unless you are on rollers.  If it happens on the rear wheel then you have to deal with it.  My method always involves giving up on the training session and going back inside for a cup of coffee.  I just assume it’s Bibendum’s way of saying he doesn’t want me on the trainer that day.

Can you avoid flats?  No!  However, you can minimize them somewhat by paying attention to your tires.  It cracks me up when people complain about always getting flats and then you look at their tires and wonder how they even get out of the parking lot.  I mean really, if your tires have so many deep nicks and gouges that you get flats rolling your bike from the garage to your car then for Bibendum’s sake buy some new ones.

Like all Gods, Bibendum requires that you pay homage.  The cool thing is he gives you a choice.  You can either spend a little money replacing your tires when necessary or you can pay the equivalent sum in tubes and CO2 cartridges.  Being preventative also means you get to choose between replacing your tires in your warm garage with a cup of coffee nearby or changing a flat on the side of the road while cars go flying by and your fellow cyclists stand around taking deep breaths and telling you it’s ok that your flat just broke up the best pace line of the season. The choice is yours.

Now, go out and inspect your tires before your next ride.  After all, if you decide to chance it, Bibendum will be happy to join you on the ride and say hello.  It sounds a lot like pffffff!