Monday, March 29, 2010

Lee, meet Karma

This past weekend, I was given two pretty blatant reminders about what happens when you start to think to highly of yourself.  So, let me tell you a little story so that perhaps you can learn from my mistakes.

Last Saturday, I was heading out on my second Team Revolution ride.  Our options were a 51 mile route with some significant hill climbing or a more moderate 35 mile ride with rollers.  As Saturday approached, the weather was offering a picture perfect spring day in Sonoma County.  I should have been very excited except I wasn’t.

The problem was time.  As in, not enough of it.  Sherry and I have an unspoken rule that I am always home by noonish on weekend rides so that we can spend time together.  That was going to be challenging since the ride started at 8:30.  As I am running the numbers, such as distance, speed, feet of climbing, etc., I have a concern about when we will be done and opt for the shorter ride.  To be honest, I am a little bummed that I won’t get to do the climbs.

Still, I want to go further then 35 miles because, to be honest, that doesn’t sound like much of a challenge (big mental faux pas).  That’s when I created my new plan.  I would ride to and from the start.  This added 20 miles and would get he home by 12:30.  Cool!  I am still bummed to miss the climb but at least I am getting in a decent ride.

Let’s cut to Friday night when Sherry asked what time I would be home on Saturday.  I explain that since we have appointments at 2:30 my goal is to be back by 12:30.  Then she reminds me about our eye exams at noon.  Damn!!!  I completely forgot all about them.  Now I need to be done by 11:30.  Long story short, it doesn’t matter how I run the numbers I realistically only have one option – drive to Windsor and ride 35 miles.  Now, I am down right pissy about the ride.  I even e-mailed Coach Tim a profanity-laced rant about how short my ride would be the next day.

Saturday dawns as the perfect day to be on a bike, for any distance, but still I was stewing about only going 35 miles.  I hung with friends during the pre-ride coffee and although it helped I am still in a mood.  As the ride starts, I am continued to focused on the “lack” of miles instead of enjoying the day, the scenery, and the time spent with friends.

You know what happened.  At around mile 16, Karma climbed out of my jersey pocket up to my shoulder.  Upon arrival she bitch slapped me so hard I couldn’t keep up with the group and got dropped.  She then spent the next few miles throwing out anchors and basically making me work my ass off while continuing to fall further behind.  When the 35 miles were done I was totally flogged.

You might think that was the end of it but no.  Once you get on Karma’s bad side, she lets you know it for a while.  She rode with me again on Sunday where she took the form of exhausted legs from my “short” ride the day before.  As a parting gift, she bounced me off the pavement (that means I crashed for my non-cycling readers) at around mile 16 so I turned around for a long, painful ride home.  And the total mileage for the day – 30 miles.

The bottom line is that I started taking rides for granted.  I started to think a little too highly of myself and my cycling abilities.  I started thinking that I was too strong to only ride 35 miles.  The result?  I was either struggling or in pain after my respective 35 and 30 mile rides.

I am actually feeling fine this morning so I think she is done with for now.  However, you know she’s not far away.  I will do my best to ensure I don’t get on her bad side again and can’t until the next ride, no matter how long it is.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

A mishmash of cycling stuff

Thanks to recent trips to San Diego and Yosemite, all of my latest blogs have basically been ride reports.  That’s fine because they were some really, really great rides.  However, there are a few more interesting things that have happened as well.  Since none of them are really long enough to have its own blog, I offer you this collection of random stories.  Are you ready?

Logo to size_final_best web Let me start by pointing out my new logo for Lee’s Life Adventure.  If you are one of my FB friends, you have already seen it or you may have noticed it just appeared not to long ago.  The logo came about after a conversation Coach Tim and I had one night after a training class that went like this.

Tim - “Do you have a logo for your blog?”
Me - “No! Why?”
Tim - “If you did I would put it on the ESP Fitness Training jersey.”
Me - “I guess I’m getting a logo.”

So that’s what I did.  I am proud to say that I came up with the concept.  However, it took the efforts of a very talented graphic artists to bring it to life.  So far it seems most people think it’s pretty cool.

On Monday, after my drive back from San Diego, I got the chance to head out on the West County Revolution Old Pros ride.  What made this ride kinda of cool was that we rode many of my favorite roads.  As much as I love riding in new places, I have to say I live in one of the best cycling areas in the world.  It’s nice to be reminded of that from time to time.

There is one other antidote from the Old Pros ride.  After topping a steep, steep little grunt of a hill, I was breathing very heavy.  Next thing I know, I have Steve’s hand in the small of my back pushing me along.  He tells me to stop pedaling and just take deep breaths.  It was awesome!  Nothing like having the team sponsor looking after you on a ride.

Team Rev Kit Speaking of our new team, the Team Revolution kits are done and I think they look freaking great and I can’t wait to start rolling around Wine Country flying the new team colors.  It will be an interesting change from our current rides where we resemble a race peloton with all of our mismatched kits.

Returning to riding, yesterday was the first day of Spring so you would think I would be out riding all over the place.  But alas, it was not to be.  Coach Tim has me doing back-to-back recovery rides.  As much as I hated missing out on the beautiful Spring weather, I was very fatigued at the end of last season because I did not spend enough time recovering.  I don’t want to make that mistake again.

The shorter recovery rides gave me time to get some yard work done and start seriously planning the next big cycling adventure, which will be France in 2011.  I will turn 50 next year so Sherry and I, along with 4 other couples, are heading to France.  As part of the trip, all of the cyclists in the group will climb Mont Ventoux.  I can’t wait.

IMG_3061 As to my more immediate future (I mean like in an hour or so), well that involves our new stove.  Now, I can already hear the question.  Why is Lee talking about a new stove in his cycling blog?  Well, it’s like this.  The new stove has a central oval burner with a griddle over it, which is perfect for making what?  You guessed it.  French toast! 

It’s quite funny to me how a joke about french toast that I made over a year ago continues to hang around.  People will actually ask me about it if I go too long without some form of french toast reference.  I guess there are worse lots in life then having to eat Sherry’s fantastic french toast on a regular basis.

There you have it.  A mishmash of thoughts and stories all somehow connected to the great sport of cycling.  Now if you excuse me, I smell french toast cooking.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Cycling in Yosemite

It’s not often that I get the opportunity for back-to-back cycling adventures so I try and make the most of it when I do. After an awesome 4 days of cycling in San Diego, Sherry and I went to Yosemite National Park for a few days. Among the items all neatly pack on the SUV was my road bike.

IMG_2991 Sherry and I have visited Yosemite many, many times. I have driven through the park, cross country skied on the valley floor, hiked to the top of Half Dome, and tooled around on a comfort bike, however this was the first time I was planning on doing any extensive cycling. You could say I was a little excited.

The plan was to speed down to Yosemite and enter the park via the central entrance on Hwy 140. However, it has been a few years and somehow we ended up entering through the northern entrance on Hwy 120 (and by “somehow” I mean I took the wrong route). No biggie! This is actually our favorite route to Yosemite so we just rolled with it.

The silver lining to taking Hwy 120 was it afforded me the opportunity to preview the road. My riding plan for the next day was to cycle Hwy 120 from the valley floor to the turn off for Tioga Pass. Our route would take us down this road so I would get a good idea of its ridability. As soon as we pass the road to Tioga Pass I knew my riding prospects were slim. There was still a fair amount of snow and ice on the road. The road was also very narrow, more so then I remembered, and had people flying by in cars, trucks, and RVs. Then I reached the longest of 3 tunnels, which is about ½ mile in length, very dark and has no shoulder. As this point, Sherry expressed real concerns about me riding this particular road. I agreed.

IMG_2978 We spent Monday relaxing and checking out the sights. We also changed hotels from the Yosemite Lodge to the Ahwahnee Hotel. One of the sights we visited was Tunnel View, which is a scenic vista that gives you a view of the entire valley. The road to Tunnel View goes all the way to the Badger Pass ski resort, however the vista is only one and a half miles from the valley floor and the road is in pretty good shape. I decide that I can make it there safely and now I have a plan.

I need to deviate from my story for just a minute. I have an amazing wife who allows me to have these little cycling adventures on our trips. And by that, I mean she is ok with me spending time away from her on our vacations to cycle. After seeing the road, she even volunteered to follow me in the car instead of spending her time reading in the Ahwahnee’s great room like she originally planned. How cool is that?

IMG_3021 Tuesday is another crystal clear sunny day. After sleeping in and eating breakfast in the Ahwahnee’s magnificent dining room, I finally hit the road. As I cycled along the valley floor I am in awe of what surrounds me. I immediately slow down to enjoy the ride and the scenery. This was cyclotourism at its finest. I completed my short climb to Tunnel View followed by a kick ass little descent. Once I got back near the Ahwahnee, I had only ridded 18 miles so I decided to ride the entire valley floor loop again. This time I rode with one hand, or no hands, as I was taking pictures. When all was said and done, I rode a very easy 30 miles in spectacular scenery.

As you can imagine, it was not the effort, or the climb, or the challenge that made this a great ride. After all, it was only 30 miles with less then 1,000 feet of climbing that took nearly 2 hours. No, it wasn’t the ride but the setting that made this such a memorable cycling adventure.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Mont Palomar – awesome!!!

One of my favorite cycling adventures is going to a new location and riding its most infamous climb.  When cyclists visit Sonoma County we ride King Ridge.  In San Diego, they take you up Mt. Palomar.

Climbing Mt. Palomar was very exciting to me.  I learned about it watching Stage 8 of the Tour of California last year.  As I watched the pro riders work their way up the switchbacks of the l’Alpe d’Huez of California I became infatuated.  I also knew that one day I would have to climb this mountain for myself.

As a result of my infatuation, Mt. Palomar became a focal point of the San Diego road trip.  However, it was going to come after two hard days of riding and I was concerned about how well my legs would hold up this early in the season.  The original plan called for climbing Mt. Figueroa on Thursday, Mt. Wilson on Friday and finally, Mt. Palomar on Saturday.  Each one of these climbs included 4,500 feet of climbing so you can see my concern.

Then our plans changed.  After dealing with the epicness (I love poetic license) of Mt. Figueroa, we headed towards Mt. Wilson.  On the way, Brian started checking the weather.  Friday was looking very nice for Mt. Wilson however Saturday’s forecast for Mt. Palomar was rain, snow and high winds.  We made the unanimous decision to climb Mt. Palomar on Friday.

DSC04573 There was one order of business to be conducted on the way to our hotel.  You see, the bikes were covered in mud and dirt from the Mt. Figueroa climb with its two miles of non-pavement.  Then Brian came up with the brilliant idea going to a coin-operated car wash.  He consulted his connection to life (his Blackberry) and found just such a place about a mile from the hotel.  We found it with no problems and $2.50 in quarters later the bikes were clean.  We never even took them off the car.

Finally, we checked into the hotel, found an awesome Italian restaurant for dinner, and then kicked back and relaxed.  Brian once again called on the powers of his Blackberry and started reading us stats.  Surprisingly, they helped.  Yes, it was a 13-mile climb but it never goes above 10% and averages 7.5%.  On Mt. Figueroa we dealt with long grades of 10% or more and topped out at 18%.  The bottom line, Mt. Palomar was beginning to sound like a climb where you could find a rhythm.

Friday morning brought more beautiful blue skies and soon we were in the car and on the road.  After a couple of hours, we pulled into the Indian Casino where we were staying and got ready to head out. 

DSC04575 For us, the climbing began 400 yards after we left the parking lot.  Then we each settled into our rhythm and started what would be two hours of climbing.  And climbing.  And climbing.  After 6 miles we turned left onto a smaller road with less traffic and climbed some more.  I was feeling great and any concerns about my strength vanished as I floated my way up the climb.

With a mile an a half to go, I finally started to feel the fatigue of two hard days in the saddle.  Still, I kept turning the pedals in a steady rhythm.  Finally, I looked up to the right and saw Tim’s Fitness Journal kit shining like a beacon from the top.  A few minutes later, I was there. 

DSC04590We all headed over to the restaurant and quickly consumed hot chocolates.  Then it was time to head back down.  Of course, it’s freezing so we put on every article of clothing we have, stuff newspapers into our jerseys, and start the descent.  A mere 30-minutes later we were once again enjoying our favorite recovery drink in the parking lot of our hotel.

There you have it.  Another great climb in the books.  To be honest, after the mud, wind and snow of Mt. Figueroa, Mt. Palomar was a fairly routine climb.  However, it absolutely lived up to all of my expectations and makes we want to find more mountains to climb.  In the meantime, I’ll remember the awesome day I spent on Mt. Palomar with friends.


PS. For those friends who know I am currently in Yosemite, I promise stories about that adventure next.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mt Figueroa – an epic ride

The first ride, and by ride I mean climb, on our recent San Diego road trip was Mt Figueroa.  This route started in the quaint town of Solvang so that was the destination on our first night of driving.  A very long 6 hours after we started, we arrived in Solvang in a pouring rain.  In fact, it had rained for most of the drive down.

After the heavy rain of the night before, we were pleasantly surprised to wake up to brilliant sunshine.  After a quick breakfast, we got ourselves and the bikes ready to head out.  Although there was a very strong wind, we were still grateful to be riding in the sun for a change.

IMG_0140 The lead out to Mt Figueroa was gorgeous.  We quickly left the town behind as we rolled along the same roads used in the Tour of California time trials in years past.  There were open pastures with spring flowers, vineyards showing new growth, and numerous horse ranches.  However, Mt Figueroa was always visible in the distance, covered in snow, just beckoning our arrival.

We turned on to Happy Canyon Road and knew the easy part was over.  In our experience, any road with the name “Happy” isn’t.  Still, we rolled along for a few more miles and then started the climb.  Just as we get started Tim flatted.  So Brian kept going as I waited for Tim.  As soon as we restart, Tim pulls away (he’s a stronger climber) and I find myself climbing alone.

I managed to find a good rhythm, even though the grade was constantly changing.  After a few miles, I passed some firefighters clearing brush from the side of the road and was reminded that no matter how hard I was working on the climb, I was out there for the fun of it.

Then I came around a corner to see Brian and Tim stopped.  Then I notice the pavement ends and the road turns into a soupy mixture of mud with firm patches of ground here and there.  Brian tried to make it but his tires became caked with mud.  After I arrive, Tim hesitates long enough to say “Get a picture!” and off he goes.  As we watch him climb out of site we wait just a few minutes before we realize he’s not coming back.

IMG_0142 Now it’s our turn.  I hit the dirt section in a low gear and try my best to find a firm line.  I was not always successful so the tires and frame is collecting enough mud that I can feel the weight difference.  At one point, I spun out and had to unclip and put my foot down.  Great!  Now my cleat is covered in mud.  So I walked to a firmer section, clean out my cleat and started climbing again.  This happened twice before I made it through this 2-mile section of “road”.

With the mud behind us, we started a short descent that included two stream crossings, one that was fairly deep and running fast.  Next thing you know we are climbing once more.  At this point we are only half way through the climb and the second half is harder.  We dealt with miles of sustained grades in excess of 10%.  To add insult to injury, we were frequently riding into a strong headwind. 

Finally, after 12 miles and 4500 feet of climbing we reach the summit.  Now we get to fly down the descent.  At least that’s what we thought.  As we start the descent, we follow a curve from the sun into the shade and onto a road covered in snow and ice.  So, we gently make our way through about a mile of very dicey road before we are back in the sun and on dry pavement once more.  However, the very gusty crosswinds still made the descent tricky so we all took our time and made it down safely.

IMAG0034 With the climbing done, we made our way back to town aided with a 1% downgrade and an awesome tailwind.  This really allowed us to spin out our legs to get ready for the next day’s climb.  Finally, we reach the hotel and begin drinking our “recovery” drink before heading to lunch.

This climb definitely redefines epic for me.  Long climbs, mud, stream crossings, snow, ice, and gusty crosswinds all made it quite an adventure.  However, it is an adventure I would highly recommend to everyone.


Monday, March 8, 2010

San Diego road trip

There is nothing like a good old-fashion road trip to break up your routine and I just got back from a fantastic one.  The plan called for Tim, Brian and I to drive and cycle our way down the coast from Sonoma County to San Diego where the trip would culminate with us riding the Gran Fondo San Diego.  This trip has the word “epic” written all over it and it did not disappoint.

After months of planning, we were ready to debark.  With bags and bikes packed, Tim and I rolled from my house around 5:30 pm.  After a quick trip to Sonoma to get Brian we are southward bound and full of that special excitement and energy that you can only get from hanging with the boys.  As we rolled towards the Golden Gate Bridge we were already imagining the adventures that awaited us.  The only slight issue that dampened our spirits was the heavy rain.

After a quick dinner in San Francisco at Rubio’s, we kept heading south.  About an hour later our road trip enthusiasm started to fade.  Our goal was to reach Solvang, which would be a 6-hour drive.  What in the hell made a bunch of 40+ year old guys think we could work all day and then drive 6-hours in the pouring rain like a bunch of college frat boys?  We finally reach Solvang just after 1:00 am and we were totally wiped out.

IMG_0140Thursday morning we were pleasantly surprised to discover there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  So after breakfast we hit the road.  Our destination?  Mt Figueroa.  This ride will get its own blog post so for now let me just say it was epic.  Nearly 50 miles and 5000 feet of climbing. 

After the ride, we ate lunch in Solvang and then hit the road again.  Our destination this time was Woodland Hills where we would rest up for our climb up Mt Wilson on Friday.  However, as we made the 3 hour drive, Brian checked the weather and discovered that Mt Palomar, Saturday’s destination, had predictions of rain, snow and high wind.  Well, we were all more interested in climbing Mt Palomar then Mt Wilson so we changed our plans.

Friday morning had us back in the car on the way to Mt Palomar.  We arrived around noon and got ready for another epic climb.  I have to say however we were still a little flogged from Mt Figueroa and numerous hours in the car.  After another adjustment, we decided to simply climb Mt Palomar as an up and back route.  Once again, this ride will get its own story but I will say it was basically a 13 mile climb with 4400 feet of climbing followed by a matching descent.

On Saturday, we finally arrived in San Diego.  After checking into the hotel, we went out for a short, easy recovery ride that was awesome.  From the downtown harbor, we rode out to the end of Pt Loma and back.  On this day we were playing the role of cyclo-tourist.  We pedaled lightly and rode with our heads up soaking in the views of San Diego and the Pacific Ocean.

On the way back, we stopped to check in for the Gran Fondo.  We then grabbed lunch (at a brew pub of course) and settled in to relax.  As we did the storm promised by the weather people began to arrive.  Soon it was raining sideways.  However, it was supposed to be gone by morning and Sunday was going to be scattered showers.

IMG_0146 That’s not the way it turned out.  Sunday morning was still pouring.  After waiting at the start for almost an hour, I was already squeezing water out of my gloves.  Knowing we still had an 8 hour drive ahead of us, we finally decided that riding for 4 hours in the pouring rain wasn’t going to be fun so we turned in our timing chips and headed for home.

Now, you may think the trip was a disappointment since we didn’t ride the Gran Fondo.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Although we were a little bummed to miss that ride, it did not take way from a great trip.

We may try it again next year.  Who knows, maybe the weather will be more cooperative.  In the meantime, we will keep riding together in Sonoma County and share stories about our awesome road trip to San Diego.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A glimpse of days to come

I just assumed that after my full blown rant about the weather in Saturday’s post that Mother Nature would get even on Sunday in a big way.  It didn’t happen.  Instead, she provided us with a glorious day on Sunday and I think everyone in Sonoma County was outside.  Yes, it was just that nice and just a glimpse of the days to come.

I was a little concerned at first.  I could see the heavy fog bank to the west.  I kept waiting for it to roll in and take away the early morning sunshine.  That didn’t happen either.  It was a little chilly, a balmy 38, but I’ll take cold sunshine over warm rain any day, so just before 8:00 I was on the bike and heading out.

I was meeting a group of folks in Larkfield for some easy hill climbing.  On the way, I was joined by 2 friends who were also coming along on the ride.  For some reason I felt like we were running late.  So as we started the 5.5 mile ride to meet the group I got into my TT position and lifted the pace.  Nothing crazy.  I wanted to add a touch of speed but still be comfortable.  Then I looked down and saw I was cruising at 22 mph.  My friends were still with me so I just kept going and we didn’t stop until we arrived at Larkfield 10 minutes early. 

Although it was just the beginning of the ride, I was feeling very strong.  I was surprised at how smoothly and almost effortlessly I was holding that pace.  I’m really starting to see the benefits of those indoor trainer workouts I despise so much.  It’s also a sign that I will be ready for the harder rides I know this summer will bring.

The ride was promoted as a “no stop” ride with the exception of fixing flats.  That means if you stop, the group keeps riding and you have to chase back on.  We held a nice steady tempo all the way through Healdsburg and out to Mill Creek Road, which would be our first climb of the day.  The route also called for climbing Pine Flat later in the ride.  Since I leave for San Diego tomorrow, I was self-imposing a time limit that meant I would not get to ride Pine Flat so I decided to test my strength and conditioning on Mill Creek.

Of course, I don’t want to be an ass and look like I am attacking off the front.  I also did not want to take the time to tell everyone why I was going to ride hard.  Instead, I took advantage of the “no stop” rule.  Just before Mill Creek I did stop to peel off one layer of clothing before the climb.  As advertised, the group kept riding.  By the time I was done they were quite a ways ahead of me.

Now it’s time to push the pace.  However, I need to ride smart because this my first time on Mill Creek so I don’t know to expect.  When I made the turn, I could see the group ahead already starting to string out on the climb as everyone settled into their own tempo.  One by one I pulled them back over the next couple of miles.  I was not going flat out.  Instead I selected a “lifted” pace and held it to the top.  In the end I caught 5 of the 8 people in front and was feeling incredibly strong.

By the way, Mill Creek is now one of my favorite roads, and climbs, in Sonoma County.  It is an out and back so their is very little traffic.  The road follows Mill Creek, which was simply stunning on Sunday, fresh with all that rain I was complaining about on Saturday.  It is a beautiful route that climbs through redwoods, vineyards and meadows.  On most days you’re much more likely to hear the cry of a hawk versus the sound of a car.  I will definitely being riding this road again.  A lot!

So there you have it.  A glimpse of the beautiful weather, strong riding, and new climbs that await me in the days ahead all wrapped into one awesome ride.  I can hardly wait.