Monday, December 31, 2012

A Good Excuse

Wow, it’s been a really really long time since I posted anything on the blog.  However, this time I think I have a good excuse.  I’m in the process of writing a book.  And while it’s been a lot of fun it is definitely using up the little bit of creative energy that I possess.

I’ve toyed with the idea of this book for years.  I actually started this blog in part to develop my writing style.  Then, about 3 months ago, the whole book seemed to unfold for me while I was on a solo ride and I knew the time was now or never.

The book will be about my cycling adventures.  It’s not about racing, doping, the life of a pro, the fall of a pro or any of the other usual topics.  This about a weekend warrior who rides his bike a lot and has had many a great adventure with friends.  My goal is to get people excited about living their life even if that does not include cycling.

I floated this idea past a couple of friends, who I knew would provide honest feedback, and they both encouraged me to go for it.  I don’t know if it will ever be published but I’m going to have fun writing it.

So for now, the blog will remain silent.  But fear not!  Once I get passed the writing stage for the book I’ll be back at it.

Until then . . .  thanks for following along and sharing my adventures.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Faux Pas Fashion Show

I was treated to the most unusual fashion show at the end of my ride on Saturday.  I left the group a little early and was riding back to Healdsburg solo.  As I rode along Dry Creek Valley Road, there were many, many cyclists coming from the opposite direction.  You could tell from the somewhat matching  jerseys (more on this later)and aero bars that they were all practicing for the upcoming Vineman triathlon.

Before I describe the show, let me describe the progression most semi-serious cyclists go through with regards to clothing.  Since buying your first bike can be an expensive endeavor, you decide that you don’t need all that fancy clothing when you have a drawer full of shorts and t-shirts at home. 

Vegas MTBWhen you come back from your first ride, chaffed in all the wrong places, you realize that bike shorts may not be such a bad idea.  And, since your buying shorts, you should get at least one jersey because those back pockets might come in handy.  Now, you have a pair of black bike shorts and a sales rack jersey.

FJ KitAs you ride more, you begin to pick up more jerseys.  Then you buy a wind vest, which has to color coordinate with your jerseys.  You don’t know it yet but this is the beginning of the end for your black shorts.  You see, not long after that you buy your first matching kit.  Now you’re hooked.  A few short years later you now refuse to wear anything but matching kits and all your original black shorts and multi-colored jerseys are relegated to trainer rides in the garage.

IMG_3751There is one exception to this rule and that’s guys who kick ass on the bike.  I have friend, who happens to own a great Italian restaurant (don’t worry GP, I won’t tell them it’s you) and his philosophy on what to wear is “I wear what’s clean”.  You may be lucky enough to ride with him one day as he rolls up in red & black shorts and a lime green Liquigas jersey.  If you decide to tease him about this on the ride he will simply drop you. Hard!!!  He may then come back and drop you again just for fun.

With that as a base, let’s get to the faux pas fashion show from Saturday.  All of these folks were from a team that raises money for a devastating disease by completing a triathlon, marathon, or century.  While they may get coaching on how to ride, I’m guessing they missed the class on how to dress.  Here’s just a sampling of the awesomeness I saw on the road.  (BTW, their team gear is purple.)

  • Team singlet (no sleeves) with white arm warmers.
  • Team singlet with knee-high black compression socks.
  • Team singlet with white arm warmers AND knee-high black compression socks.
  • Team jersey (with sleeves) tucked into black shorts.
  • Black shorts worn over team shorts with just the team name showing underneath.
  • Team singlet with baggy shorts.

I could go on but you get the point.  While I’m very proud of all these good people for raising money and improving their fitness, I can’t help but to poke a little fun at them for their fashion choices.  After all, when I first started riding, people couldn’t help but poke a little fun at the way I was dressed.


Monday, June 4, 2012

It’s time to climb!

In my last 5 rides, not including recovery rides, I’ve climbed nearly 12,000 feet.   The rides themselves have not been all that long with most of them in the 40 mile range.  They’ve just had a lot of up and down to them.  Yeah, you could say I’m focused on climbing right now.

This all started a few weeks ago when the Saturday club ride included a little climbing.  Frankly, I did not do well.  I was laboring up hills I usually get up with no problems.  As I slowly climbed it gave lots of time to analyze what was going on and then it hit me.  I’m not climbing well because I haven’t been climbing (duh!!!).  For whatever reason, our club rides have been on the flatter side so far this year.  It was time for a change.

Harrison-Coleman Valley-Bittner

Ride 1This is one of my all time favorite routes so I could not think of a better way to get back into the climbing groove.  This was a club ride so I also had great company.  Well, I had great company until we reached each climb.  Then I was by myself.  This route brought out some of our better riders who simply dropped me on every climb.  But I didn’t care.  I had a plan and I was sticking to it.  If it worked, I would be staying on their wheel soon enough.  Beside, like I said before, this is one of favorite routes so I also took the time to enjoy the scenery.  This would not be the case in the next ride.

Sonoma Mountain – Roberts Road

Ride 2I found myself riding solo on the Memorial Day Weekend so I chose to continue my climbing.  This time it was more serious.  I chose to climb Sonoma Mountain, which is not one of my favorites (because of the road condition) but it is a great climb for building strength.  Although the scenery on this route is very beautiful I was more interested in gearing, cadence and heart rate.  It was on this ride that I felt my climbing strength was beginning to come back.

Crane Canyon-Lichau-Roberts-Fountain Grove

Ride 3The next day I decided to tackle every major hill near the house.  This included riding Lichau Road for the first time, which is that second spike on the profile.  Lichau Road will get its own post here soon so let me just say this was an awesome ride.  I was toast as I approached the last climb but I held the course and completed the ride I started.  

Hill Work in Fountain Grove

Ride 4For my Wednesday after-work ride, I decided to continue with the climbing strategy.  The hills of Fountain Grove are less then 3-miles from my house and even closer to work.  The first 5-miles of this route was the ride to work so the hill work is really miles 5 through 20.  The coolest thing about this ride was that it was completely done in the middle ring, which told me I was getting stronger quickly.

Half of Rockpile

Ride 5Saturday’s club ride was going to the top of Rockpile, which is a very famous climb in Sonoma County and one of my favorites.  However, as soon as we began to climb I realized that my hill all the hill work was catching up with me.  I turned around about half way up with one of my fellow riders.  After a screaming descent, I was back at the car ready to call it a day.

Now, it’s time to recover.  I spent the last 3-weeks improving on the climbs and I am really feeling it.  That’s ok.  I know all this hard work will pay off in the end and I look forward to more climbing in the very near future.

Until then, bring on the recovery rides.


Friday, May 18, 2012

A fun way to end the day

I had an offsite meeting late yesterday afternoon so I used that as an excuse to get home early and go for a ride.  The meeting ended right on time so I buzz home, change and get ready to roll.  Looking at the clock on my way out the door I see it’s 5:30, and not my usual 6:40, so I have plenty of time.

I start to work out a plan as I roll down the driveway.  Since I don’t have any big rides coming up I don’t have a training plan from Coach Tim that tells me what to do.  I am truly free to ride however I want.  As I start to pedal away I think through my options.  How about hill repeats?  Probably not a good idea since Saturday’s club ride features over 3,000 feet of climbing in 40 miles.  I could do speed intervals.  That sounds too much like work.  How about we just ride and play on the bike until it’s time to go home. Ding, ding, ding, ding – we have a winner!!!

I decide to go play out in Oakmont since it has very little traffic.  Normally, I would time trial my way down a very busy road that is the most direct route there.  Yesterday, I cut through Spring Lake Park.  I don’t normally do that because of all the foot traffic but yesterday I did it because of the foot traffic.  It was so much fun.

I rode nice and slow saying hi to people, waving at kids on bikes, and just really trying to be a good ambassador for cycling.  Spring Lake Park has a large dike around it and I encouraged one young girl as she rode for the top.  Finally, I decide to leave the park on the entrance road, which has a small but steep hill.  Actually, I attacked the hill.  Not for the training but because it seemed like the fun thing to do.

After Spring Lake Park, I followed the road that is the main entrance into Annadel State Park.  Annadel is a phenomenal park that is great for hiking, trail running, and mountain biking and I saw folks getting ready for all three sports.  I guess I’m not the only one who knows a fun way to end the day.

At the end of the pavement, there is a 100 yard section of gravel fire road that drops you into Oakmont.  As I hit the gravel road I notice a woman standing about half way down the road.   Oakmont residents claim, incorrectly, that we can’t use this path and I was afraid I was about to get a lecture that might otherwise ruin a great ride.

I am happy to say it wasn’t like that at all.  Instead, she was pointing further up the road where two small skunks were playing.  So, we stood there chatting for a while, as I kept creeping the bike a little closer, until they finally headed off into the forests.  After bidding my skunk watching companion a good day, I was once again rolling along enjoying the warm weather and my carefree attitude.

Once I finally reached Oakmont, I only did the 5 mile loop once before heading home.  The coolest thing about this part of the ride was that nothing really happened.  I just rolled along enjoying the view of Mt. Hood, watching people play golf, and saying hi to the residents.  Finally, it was time to head home for dinner and some serious TV time spent watching the time trial stage of the Tour of California.

So there you have it.  A perfect evening ride on the bike just playing around.  What did learn from this fun little adventure?  I learned that I definitely need to book more late afternoon off site meetings.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

All Things Cycling

Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California has now come and gone.  However, before the team buses headed out Sunday night on their way to San Francisco for Stage 2, I was able to make the most of this weekend.  In my last post, Countdown to the Tour of California, I shared the first part of my adventures.  Now, here’s the rest of the story.

Friday was another opportunity to hit the road on my bike and stalk, I mean watch for, the pro teams.  Since it work so well on Thursday, I opted to head out a little later and see if I could catch the teams returning from their rides.  It worked.  As I was heading out to Occidental I got to roll past three very young riders from Bontrager Livestrong Cycling Team, as well as the Optum Pro Cycling and Orica-GreenEdge Cycling Team.  It was another great day on the bike made even better knowing I was riding the same roads, at the same time, as some of the best cyclists in the world.

Friday night I attended the Santa Rosa SoirĂ©e, which was the official kick-off gala and team presentations.  The event was held at Sonoma-Cutrer Winery and was another incredibly awesome experience.  I was there with seven cycling friends drinking wine, eating great food, and talking about each team as they were presented on stage by Phil Leggitt and Paul Sherwen.

IMG_3766On Saturday, it was time for our club ride.    The organizers created a very cool Stage 1 route.  The race started with a 35 mile loop to Windsor, and then returned to downtown Santa Rosa before heading to the coast and back.  To keep things nice and social we selected the first 35-mile loop of Stage 1.  At 8:30 more than 30 club members and friends all descended on to the local Peets coffee in downtown Santa Rosa and then headed out.  As we rode along you frequently heard statements like, “can you believe we are riding the same roads the pros will race on in just 24 hours?”

IMG_3775Sunday was race day and my plan was to be downtown all day.  Since we live very close to centre ville, Sherry and I rode our bikes down to the Flying Goat to start our morning with pastries and coffees.  After checking our bikes with the bike valet (thank you Sonoma County Bike Coalition) we headed to the Livestyle Festival and eventually made our way over the team buses as they started to arrive.   We then positioned ourselves between the buses and start line and watched as all the riders slowly made their way past us to officially sign in. 

Finally, all announcements were complete and the riders were off!  The race started with two neutral laps around downtown and we got some excellent views of all 128 riders.  We continued to hang out at the Lifestyle Festival, got a bunch of free swag and goofed off until they riders came back through town about an hour later.

As the riders were heading to the coast, Sherry headed home for a bit while I stayed downtown with her brother, Michael.  We continued our search for free swag but eventually gave up the ghost and headed to a newly opened pub, Sprenger’s Tap Room.  We drank Belgian beer and ate American Buffalo wings as we watched the race unfold on TV.  As the riders got close, we found a great viewing spot about 200 meters from the finish line where Sherry rejoined us for the finale.  The speed they were generating as they made their final surge for the win is indescribable.  Lastly, we watched the podium presentations and finally called it a day.

It was an incredible four days of all things cycling for me and I was loving every minute of it.  Now, I’ll keep following the race everyday and hope that next year Santa Rosa is once again selected to be a host city.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Countdown to the Tour of California

The Amgen Tour of California starts this Sunday in Santa Rosa.  As you can imagine, all of us cyclists are already giddy with excitement and anticipation.  Part of the reason is that since the race starts here all of the teams have to arrive early.  Most of the 16 teams had all arrived by Wednesday so there are pro cyclists all over Sonoma County’s roads.  There are also many “meet and greet” opportunities as local bike shops hosts events.

So, what’s a weekend warrior cyclist like me supposed to do when faced with all this pro cycling awesomeness?  You guessed it.  I took a couple of days off just so I could make some of the events and in general act like a groupie.  Here is just a sampling of some of the cool things that have happened so far.

RivieraOn Wednesday, I got the call I’d been expecting from my friends at Riviera Ristorante.  I’ve mentioned what a cycling mecca they’ve become so I assumed one or more teams would eat dinner there one night.  Sure enough, on Wednesday, the Omega Pharma-Quick Step (OPQS) team was in the house so Sherry and I, along with my newest cycling buddy John and his wife Cheryl, all ate in the presence of some of the world’s greatest cyclists.

IMG_3752The plan for Thursday was to hit the road, on bike of course, and see if I could get lucky.  My plan?  I watched Facebook activity and it looked like some of the teams were heading north.  I did the same.  Except I waited for a couple of hours to see if I could catch them as they headed back into town.  It worked as I was rewarded with passing a few OPQS riders, including the sprinting sensation Tom Boonen, the entire Argos-Shimano team, and few riders from Team Rabobank.

Thursday night it was time to meet a few of these riders up close and personal and there was definitely no shortages of opportunity.  Here’s a short list of the events I knew about that were happening around Sonoma County.

IMG_3762I choose to head over to NorCal Bike Sport to meet the riders from OPQS since this is the current team of local cycling hero Levi Leipheimer.  It is also the team of Tom Boonen.  There are two other important reasons for my selection.  First, NorCal Bike Sport is a sponsor of my cycling club so I want to support them.  But, more importantly, Sherry has wanted to meet Tom Boonen ever since she first starting following the wonderful world of cycling.  As you can tell from the photo, she got her opportunity.

What’s in store for today?  More riding the back roads of Sonoma County with one hand on the handle bars and the other holding a camera.  Then it’s off to the Santa Rosa Soiree tonight, which is the official team presentation gala.  Tomorrow will be a team ride on the first 30-mile loop of Stage 1 followed by some time watching the Junior National crits to check out the up and coming talent.  Sunday will be all about hanging downtown on race day.

So, stayed tuned next week to hear how this all turned out.

In the meantime, I have to get ready for my ride.


Monday, May 7, 2012

The US Cycling Hall of Fame Fondo

A few years ago, the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame was relocated to Davis, California.  Since Davis is only a 2-hour drive away, I’ve been looking for an excuse to check it out.  So, when an add popped up on Facebook for the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame Legends Gran Fondo, I immediately sent Coach Tim a text we both registered for the ride.

In addition to checking out the Hall of Fame, the Legends Gran Fondo also provided the opportunity to ride a few of the legends in U.S. cycling.  With us on the start line was Nelson Vails, Ruthie Matthes, Mike McCarthy, George Mount and Jacquie Phelan to name a few.  Coach Tim grew up on cycling during the Greg LeMond era and knew who all of these people were. 

As the ride got closer, I did the math on what time the ride started and what time we would have to leave to get there.  It wasn’t good.  Realistically, to get there early enough to park, get our race packets, and then be on the start line for the 7:00 a.m. call up meant leaving Santa Rosa by 4:30 a.m.  After a few clicks of the computer I found a hotel 2-blocks away for $100. 

IMG_3750We get to Davis Saturday night and check in to the hotel.  Then, it was down to get our packets and off to an Irish pub for dinner.  Back at the hotel we settled into our pre-ride routine of pinning our number to our jersey, putting the timing chip on the bike, charging the Garmins, filling water bottles, and other assorted activities. 

It was beautiful and warm we we headed out for coffee Sunday morning with only one issue.  The wind was already howling and it would play a big role in how the day went.  After coffee and croissants, we get to the start line, listen as each legend is introduced and then we’re off.

We turned left out the starting area and were immediately buffeted with strong cross winds.  As we made our way out of town, we tried to hide from the wind inside the group.  However, after 7 miles of 18+ mph with major cross winds, I knew I couldn’t hang and had to drop back.  Of course, now I’m fighting the wind alone.  So I just kept pedaling and rode as best I could knowing that eventually we would make a left turn that offered a kick-ass tail wind.

Let me share a few stats about the wind .  The almanac for yesterday measured sustained winds of 13 – 20 mph with gusts up to 30.  Just before the left turn I was pushing a 42x21 with a cadence of 80, a heart rate of 156 and going 10 mph.  Once I turned and picked up the tailwind my gear went to 52x12, my heart rate came down to 135 and my speed went up 28 mph.

Coach Tim with Nelson VailsThis was pretty much the rest of the ride.  We only got about 10 miles of tailwind in the entire 63 mile route so the majority of the day was spent with the wind as our constant companion.  It didn’t ruin the ride by any means but I was completely flogged by the end.  Perhaps the highlight of the day was when Tim got into a train with some of the legends before the first rest stop.  At one point, he was pulling up front and couldn’t believe the names of the people riding his wheel.

Would I ride it again?  I don’t think so.  It wasn’t a bad ride but there was only one 15 mile stretch in the middle that was very scenic and the rest was all farmland and orchards.  Will I keep looking for new rides to try?  Hell yeah!  Because even if the ride doesn’t go well, as Coach Tim always likes to say, “now you have a story my friend.”


Monday, April 30, 2012

Riding and Writing

Tomorrow is May 1st.  I have no idea how that happened.  Wasn’t it just a few short weeks ago that we were sipping champagne and sharing a kiss at midnight as we welcomed in the new year?  At first I thought it was an age thing but it seems like everyone I talk to simply cannot believe how this year is flying by. 

This has been a crazy year for me so far.  Major work projects, a 255 page project for my credit union management program, and being President of a new bike club, which I helped form last year, have all left precious little time for writing on this blog.  And, to be honest, I miss it.  So this is yet another attempt to get back into the writing groove.  We’ll see how this attempt goes.

On the up side, I have been on some great rides already this year so I had plenty of adventures to write about.  In fact, I usually write a big portion of each post while riding.  As I go through the ride, I notice cool things I want to mention and the blog just sort of takes shape in my mind.  Still, once I get back home I have not found the time, or motivation, to get those thoughts on paper or, in this case, cyber space.

I think I need a fresh start and that’s what this short post is supposed to be.  A new beginning.  Something, really anything, that gets me writing again.  Stay tuned to see how I do.


Monday, February 20, 2012

My “Bonk” Buster

Everyone who cycles has “bonked” at one time or another.  You know the feeling.  You’re riding along and then suddenly it takes every thing you have to turn the pedals.  It can happen in races, on training rides, and even recovery rides.  That’s what happened to me yesterday.

Photo courtesy of Bike RadaI went out on a brisk but beautiful sunshiny day for an easy 2-hour solo recovery ride.  I was riding alone with my thoughts when, about 20-minutes into the ride, I felt a kind of growling in my stomach.  I’ve been riding enough to know what this means.  I was starting to bonk.  Less then 5-minutes later I was looking for a nice place to lay down because I was done.  I had now officially bonked.

For those of you lucky enough to have never experienced bonking, here’s a description courtesy of  Bike Radar:

Deriving from the original meaning ‘to hit’, the bonk refers to that catastrophic moment when there’s suddenly nothing left in the tank; when the legs turn to jelly, and getting to the finish becomes an altogether supreme effort of will. The simple explanation for its occurrence is that long-endurance exercise depletes the body’s store of glycogen, which produces the energy required to maintain performance. When the glycogen depletes entirely, the body has no more fuel and instead burns fat, resulting in a surge of fatigue and a performance collapse.

My first that was “what the hell happened”???  I answered the question before I finished the thought.  I rolled at 10:30 and all I had eaten that morning was 5 pieces of dried apricots, a handful of grapes, and 2 slices of buttermilk pound cake.  Definitely not the breakfast of champions.  I immediately downed a whole bag of GU Chomps and a mini Cliff bar.  As feared, there was no immediate impact.

The silver lining to all of this was that I was riding alone.  So, I didn’t need to maintain a group pace and I could adjust the route to eliminate anything that slightly resembled a hill, which included avoiding freeway overpasses.  Still, I needed to make it home.

payday_barThat’s when I saw it.  Up ahead in the distance was a gas station mini-mart.  So, I roll up and head inside to buy the one thing I know will get me home – a Payday candy bar!  You see, as an endurance athlete (and I using the term athlete very loosely here), I know my body and I know that I need something “real” to eat.  I need something that satisfies my emotional hunger as well as my physical hunger.  Paydays always do the trick.  I find them filling, satisfying, and they have just enough sugar to replenish my glucose levels until the GUs and Cliff bars finally kick in.

I really must take a moment here to discuss the psychological aspect of what to eat when I bonk.  I know all those scientifically engineered “foods” are designed to get energy to the body quickly but they are not satisfying to eat.  When you hear someone say the like a particular GU flavor what they are really saying is that although  they dislike that flavor they dislike the other flavors even more.  For me GUs, Cliff bars, Shark Bites, etc., are all items to be tolerated, not enjoyed.

Thanks the to Payday, I easily managed to not only finish but to enjoy the rest of the ride. 

So, did I learn anything?  Would I do anything differently in hindsight ?  Well, you might think I would have eaten better before the ride but the only thing I would really changed is that next time I’m buying 2 Paydays.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Serenity of Riding Solo

After a prolonged absence, I am finally finding the motivation, and time, to write again.  Actually, it’s been more of a time issue then motivation.  (BTW – a big part of the time issue will be explained in a future post).  And, I definitely don’t have a lack of stories and adventures to share.  But for me, the longer I go without writing, the harder it is go back into it.  Typically, I need something to happen that is so special that I can’t help but share it.  Yesterday was that something special.

Yesterday, I went for my first long solo ride in a very long time.  Now, I’ve done the short 90-minute recovery rides alone but spending 3+ hours alone in the saddle is totally different.  You get to do your own thing while being alone with your thoughts.  Plus, when you mix in quiet country roads, fog in the vineyards, sunlight through the forests, and an awesome mid-ride double espresso, you simply can’t avoid feeling like you’re part of something bigger in this world.

It started when my normal Saturday group ride canceled because of the possibility of rain and very wet roads.  A couple of folks tried to pull rides together but in the end, we all did our own thing.  So, off I go with only two goals – to enjoy the world around me while pushing the pace just a little.  I accomplished both.

After riding for about 30 minutes, I realized I was overdressed and stopped to peel of a layer.  As I stood there, I realized I couldn’t hear any “people” noise.  No cars, planes, people talking on cell phones, nada!  Just the sounds of birds chirping and singing, sheep baa-ing, and the majestic cry of a lone hawk as it circled overhead.  I knew right then that this ride was going to be special.

The ride continued in that fashion. I rode along vineyards draped in sunlit fog.  I rode through forests of oaks, redwoods and bay trees.  At one point, I was surrounded by bay trees and the recent rains accentuated their powerful bouquet.  I rode along the river shrouded in fog as the sun shined brightly on the forested hilltops all around me.

I made up my route as I rode along and eventually found myself in Guerneville, where I enjoyed a double espresso from the Coffee Bazaar.  From there, it was back home through Pocket Canyon along smooth roads, through patches of dabbled sunlight and the smell of wood fires.  Being west county, there was also the occasional smell of burning “herbs” but that is a whole different kind of serenity.  To each his own I guess.

This continued all the way home.  I took unexpected turns.  I rode on some of my favorite roads.  I rode in and out of fog, shadowed canyons, and sunlight.  I continued to listen to the sounds of the world around me while I rode alone with just my own thoughts to keep me company.

I love rides like this.  Don’t get me wrong, when given the choice between riding alone or riding with friends, the friends win 90% of the time.  But in that 10% when it’s just me and my bike, those rides always seem to be special in one way or another.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have go meet my friends at The Flying Goat for today’s ride.