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.


Monday, May 24, 2010


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.


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.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Milestones and accomplishments

Today’s installment is dedicated to my brother-in-law Mike.  I have written about Mike before, particularly his role in why I am such a cycling fanatic today (My ride with Mike).  Saturday was a milestone birthday for Mike, and his twin sister Robin, as they turned 40.  This is big, right?  And while some people piss and groan about getting older, others plan big events.  Mike is definitely a planner.

IMG_0213 Mike has participated in triathlons and enjoys cycling.  However, his passion is running.  He has completed numerous marathons and can kick out a wicked pace when he chooses to.  So Mike’s big 4-0 planned called for running 40 miles on his 4oth birthday.  (I think drinking a 40 oz beer was also in there somewhere.)  To help him out, he asked if I would ride in support.  My response was a quick and simple “hell yeah!”.

As the magical day got closer, Sherry decided she also wanted to help out.  Then we discovered that Mike’s daughter Kylie also wanted to join in the fun.  Now we have a game plan.  Sherry and Kylie would support from the car and I would provide support on the bike.  It was going to be a fun day.

Saturday arrives and it’s go time.  Sherry and I leave our house at 5:30 a.m. and head to Mike’s.  He is already on the road as planned.  Sherry loads his cooler and Kylie into the SUV as I unload the bike.  Then we are off. 

IMG_0207I start following the planned route but I made one wrong assumption, which put me in a position of not knowing if I was ahead of them or behind.  Then I realized I didn’t know exactly when he left and that made the calculation for where he was even harder.  So I spent some time riding the route and circling back.  Eventually, I called Sherry and discovered I was about a half mile back.  I finally make contact with them at around the 9 mile mark.

At 10 miles Mike was looking great.  He was using his GPS to run a nice even pace, which he is very good at doing.  As we enter Geyserville, there is a coffee shop open so Sherry, Kylie and I grab espressos and hot chocolates and watch Mike run by.  Just outside Geyserville, I decide to take a detour and climb Canyon Road.  When I caught back up, Pat, a good friend of ours, had joined us on the bike. 

A very short while later, Mike hits the 20 mile mark and starts the journey home.  He his still looking strong, running smooth and smiling.  Soon his wife Jamie comes along with his son Lance.  We now have 2 support cars and 2 cyclists providing support and companionship.  Before the run ended, his mom and dad also joined the caravan for a while.  Pat and I did another quick loop and then rode with or very near to Mike for the rest of the run.

IMG_0217 After another stop in the Geyserville coffee shop on the way back, you can start to feel that he’s going to make it.  That’s when his hip flexors started to bother him.  That’s understandable since he has covered 32 miles at this point.  With about 5 miles to go I asked if he wanted a coke.  He had never done that before so Pat explained how a little sugar and caffeine can be just the ticket for finishing a long endurance event.  He decided to try it and is now a believer.

IMG_0232 The final miles were tough as expectd but he knew he was heading for home.  On the last corner, I sped up to join the others waiting for him so that all of the glory was focused on him, as it should have been.  There were pictures, hugs, and high-fives.  His final time?  How about 5:21 for 40.23 miles?  In the end, his legs were tired and his hip flexors were starting to really hurt but otherwise you couldn’t even tell he had been running.  He was thinking about doing a recovery run today but I hope he changed his mind.

I am so proud of him.  Scratch that.  The whole family is very proud of him.  For me, there is just something awesome about anyone who sets such a monumental goal and goes for it.  It just goes to show that if you put your mind to something and train (or practice) appropriately it is amazing what you can accomplish.  And after that inspiring performance, I may just have to find my running shoes.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Wine Country Cols and Pavé – Ride 1

In an ode to the Spring Classics in Belgium, Coach Tim put together his own version of a cols and pavé ride here in Sonoma County.  His original plan called for one monster ride, however he decided not to kill us all at once and has now created a 3-ride series called Wine Country Cols and Pavé.  Last Saturday was the first in the series.

There were indications that this was going to be an epic day long before we got on the bikes.  First of all, Coach Tim can smell dirt so you know this ride will go off-road.  Plus, Sonoma County pavé means riding some of the worse, beat up, pot-holed roads the county has to offer.  This means we all converted our road bikes to cyclocross bikes as much as possible.  For me, that meant riding on my older Mavic Open Pro rims with 28s (versus the 23s on the road) on my steel frame bike.

WCCP 1 Finally, it’s Saturday and we all arrive bright and early at Howard’s Station Cafe in Occidental.  After a lot of coffee and even more laughter we get ready to roll.  We start down Bohemian Hwy, which is a beautiful road.  This lasts less then half a mile before we turn onto some little dump of a “road”.  Of course it’s still downhill and we are all freezing since it’s cold and we are not pedaling.  That changed soon enough.

As we approached the turn for Morelli Lane, which Tim said we were not climbing, I saw him make the turn.  I turned to my friend next to me and said “Find your triple, now!”  About hundred yards later he thanked me.  Morelli is just over 1 mile long and tops out at 18% grade.  It was also the first of 11 climbs we would do that day.

We make our way to the Russian River where we continually turn left or right, go up into the hills and come back down.  None of these climbs were long but they were all very steep in places.  The most memorable was Scenic Drive.  This was a 1 mile climb that maxed out over 20%.  Plus, it was mostly a gravel fire road.  This is were you could really feel the difference from road riding.  You can climb steep pitches on pavement out of the saddle but not gravel.  WCCP 2You need to keep your weight back to avoid spinning out.  You still spun out occasionally and this starts to zap your strength.  

This continued to Guerneville where we keep going after a quick water stop.  The next col was Duncan Road.  After another 0.8 mile climb with WCCP 5two 20% pitches, Coach Tim gave us an option.  Down the road over a bridge and back to the river or through a locked gate onto another fire road.  You know the answer.  After passing through the gate we continued on the “road”, which at times was down to single track.  Well, two flat tires and three bike portages over, or through, downed trees later, we were back on real pavement.

While we were at a coffee stop in Duncan Mills we realized it had taken us 40 minutes of ride time to cover the last five miles.  Welcome to cyclocross.  WCCP 3After refueling it was back on the bikes and out to the coast where our biggest climb of the day was waiting.  Willow Creek.

Willow Creek is a five mile climb with back-to-back 20% pitches near the top.  It is all fire road.  By this time I was feeling the efforts so I just settled into my own pace.  This was my first time and it was simply breath taking.   The climb is long and those two pitches are tough but mostly I was able to find a rhythm and just keep going.  Just as I was starting to loose my strength, I saw a woman pushing a stroller and I knew I was near the top.  After Willow Creek, it’s a fast and smooth ride back down into Occidental where we enjoyed a lunch of burgers, beers and laughter on the patio of the Union Hotel. 

WCCP 4 In the end, it was the hardest 48-mile ride I have ridden.  It was also one of the greatest adventures I’ve had on the bike.   The challenges and camaraderie were awesome as we all rolled along waiting for the next climb. 

This first ride was called River Snake.  The next one is named Calistoga Delight and the third ride is Temple View.  I cannot wait to see what challenges and adventure they have to offer.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Der Kaiser (via Copacabana)

Yesterday, as I was looking for something on my computer, I ran across a file that immediately made me smile.  You see, about 4 years ago I worked on a little project that was my re-entrance into creative writing involving Coach Tim.  However, before I share it with you I need to provide two back stories.

IMG_0844_JPG To begin with, he wasn’t Coach Tim back in the day.  He was der Kaiser.  We all had nicknames in our little cycling group and Tim’s came from the fact he loved to taunt us with a German accent.  Of course, Tim was stronger then the rest of us so that meant a lot of taunting.  There was one short period when for many reasons Tim did not log a lot of bike time and he was not riding very strong.  This was written during that time.

The second part of the back story involves Las Vegas.  Sherry and I, along with Tim and his wife Marnie, were all heading to Vegas for a few days.  Tim’s family has a timeshare so the room was free.  To thank them, Sherry and I volunteered to arrange for us to see a show while we were there.  When we saw that Barry Manilow was in town we immediately decided a practical joke was in order.

We plan to tell them about the fabulous Barry Manilow tickets we purchased over lunch a few weeks before the trip.  But at the last minute something occurred me.  What if Tim was a Fanilow?  As we put the joke in play Tim’s eyes start to get big as we start talking about seeing Barry’s show.  Sure enough, we discover that Tim loves himself some Barry and at the time had both Copacabana and Mandy on his iPod.  While it created some great laughs at lunch, none of us were willing to spend $125 on tickets so there was no Barry Manilow for us in Vegas.

After dropping them off at home, Sherry and I kept laughing and chatting about our new discovery.  It was during this chat that I came up with the line “He is der Kaiser, he is a cyclist” to the tune of Copacabana.  Turns out that was just the beginning.  After a few days of playing around, I wrote this.  (Check out the video if you have forgotten how the song goes.)

He is der Kaiser, he is a cyclist
But he hadn’t ridden in so long now he wasn’t very strong
So he taunts riders to hide his suffering
And though he tries to pedal hard he isn’t getting very far
He plugs his iPod in and tunes to number 10
He hears Copacabana now he has strength once more

He hears Copa, Copacabana
He rides on with reckless abandon
He hears Copa, Copacabana
Sweating and grunting his pedals are pumping
When he hears Copa, he’s riding strong

He sees the leaders up in the distance
And while Copa is the song he’s still riding very strong
And so he’s gaining and riding faster
And then he gets his second wind as he really kicks it in
But now the next song’s on, Mandy’s such a sappy song
That der Kaiser comes in last and wonders what went wrong

He needs Copa, Copacabana
To ride on with reckless abandon
When he hears Mandy, he’s such a pansy
Weeping and crying there’s no use in trying
He needs Copa, to finish strong

His is der Kaiser and he was a cyclist
But now his cycling days are gone and his mind isn’t very strong
So he watches TV of others cycling
And he remembers sunny rides when his heart was full of pride
So he plugs his iPod in and tunes to number 10
Then he takes his brand new Lark out for a little spin

He hears Copa, Copacabana
He drives on with reckless abandon
He hears Copa, Copacabana
Yelling and cursing ‘cause his ass is still hurting
He hears Copa and rolls along

To make the ending to this story even better, a colleague at work is in a band and they have recording equipment.  She actually recorded her husband playing the music and singing the new lyrics for us.  It was awesome!  Then as the 4 of us began our drive to Las Vegas, I asked Tim if he wanted to hear some music.  His reaction was priceless.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to find a CD.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

A talk with Paolo

During yesterday’s windy, windy, windy ride with Team Revolution, I had to have numerous talks with Paolo.  He just wasn’t being his usual carefree self that charges up hills, bombs the descents, and takes on the wind with a devil-may-care attitude.  In fact, it seemed like he didn’t want to be there at all and he definitely was not interested in working with me to create an enjoyable ride.

Who is this Paolo character?  Paolo is my bike!  Yep, I name my bikes.  My carbon Specialized Roubaix is named after Paolo Bettini because he was an awesome all around cyclist who won numerous races riding on a Specialized bike.  My steel framed Jamis is named Phillipe, after Phillipe Gilbert who is a great rider on the cobbles of the spring classics and I just like saying his name.  My single speed is simply The Vegas (it is a Specialized Langster with the Las Vegas paint scheme).  Finally, there is the mountain bike, which I call the Sleeper because it mostly sits in the garage.

Yesterday, as usual, I was out on the road with Paolo.  From the time the ride started I wasn’t feeling it.  It seemed like I was working much harder then necessary to keep up with the group and get over even the smallest of hills. I am sure it was Paolo.  I never caught him at it but I think he was closing his brakes ever so slightly.  Or maybe he was deflating his tires just a bit.  Either way, he was not rolling with the smoothness I that I know he is capable of.

When I asked him what’s wrong, he says “Nothing!”.  But of course you can tell by his tone something’s up.  I keep talking to him and begin to realize he is kind of pouting.  Now I start to negotiate with him.  You know offering things like new wheels, fresh chain lube, or a nice wash when we are done.  I can’t even keep track of all the things I promised if he can just help me get home.  Nothing except for some snide remark about having Phillipe help me get home! 

Then it hits me.  He saw me getting Phillipe ready for the road and he’s jealous. You see, in an ode to the spring classics, Coach Tim has planned a ride for next Saturday called Sonoma Cols and Pavé.  We will be riding some of the worse piece of sh!t roads in Sonoma County so I am getting Phillipe ready to go.  Apparently Paolo isn’t happy with this since he wants to go on this ride.

Now I start to remind Paolo that while I don’t have favorites, I do ride him the most.  So far, he has seen over 1,300 miles of open road this year including trips to San Diego and Yosemite.  What has Phillipe seen so far this year?  The inside of our garage while sitting on the trainer.  And Phillipe’s big adventure was going to see the inside of Coach Tim’s garage. 

This seemed to do the trick.  Just before one of our favorite climbs, and descents, I felt Paolo’s demeanor change and he was back to his old self.  We climbed smoothly to the top and then bombed our way back down.  He was awesome as he helped me fight the 9 miles of cross winds to get back home.

Of course, you may be wondering why I am putting my hard ride all on Paolo.  It’s simple.  I woke feeling really good and it was a beautiful day to ride.  So the natural assumption has to be that my two colds, one crash, boat load of work, and overall lack of mojo so far this year had nothing to do with me not riding well.  I am also quite sure that all of the flat routes I have been riding should have perfectly prepared me for Saturday's hilly ride.  And if it wasn’t me then it had to be Paolo right?

Yet, even as I write this, the song Margaritaville keeps creeping into my mind.  Hmmm!  How does that last line go?  Oh, that’s right - “And I know, it’s my own damn fault”.


PS.  Sorry Paolo!  Can you forgive me?