Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The final ride of 2013

This Sunday was my final ride for 2013.  It wasn’t anything fancy.  Just a 35-mile cruise from the house.  However, I’m still recovering from a pretty nasty cold so those 35-miles felt a lot longer than they should have.  I’ll be really happy when I’m fully recovered and I have my strength back.

It was another gorgeous but chilly day with the temperature hovering around 36 degrees as I rolled down the driveway.  No worries about the cold though.  That’s why I have a bag full of cold weather gear.  Of course, it would warm up before the ride ended so I was carefully dressed in layers.  I’ve got to say that putting on layer after layer of clothing just to ride a bike has its own twisted cool factor for me.

As I head down the street I realize I have no idea where I’m heading.  As I play through various options I noticed that I’m heading west so I stick with it and decide to head out towards Sebastopol.  Since it’s a quiet Sunday morning, I skip the bike path and stay on the surface streets as I roll out of town.

I ride through the community of Roseland, which is always a challenge for me.  You see, all along the main drag are these awesome Taqueria carts.  As you ride along your olfactory sense is overwhelmed by the cooking smells of chorizo, chicken, and beans. After riding through the heart of Roseland, I decided to give in to the smells and stop at the next Taqueria cart I saw.  You know what happened next?  That’s right!  After finally deciding to stop I did not see another cart.  Since I wasn’t about to turn around, I settled for a yummy chocolate GU (this is cycling-speak for barely tolerable chocolate flavored chemical mixture).

As I keep rolling, I’m having a blast making the ride up as I go.  As I approach each corner I have the same conversation with myself, which went something like,  “if you turned here you could go to . . .” Eventually, I ended up in Forestville where I stopped for a double espresso and simply enjoyed the morning.  After my little break, I decided on a route back and headed back to the house.

As I was riding, I couldn’t help but reflect back on 2013 from a cycling perspective.  It wasn’t a great year but it was bad either. I logged 700 more miles than 2012 with just under 3,500 miles total.  However, that’s still below the 4,000+ miles I would have preferred. 

I finally came to the conclusion most of 2013 was like Sunday’s ride – unfocused.  So, while I definitely logged a good number of miles, there doesn’t seem to be lot to show for it.  Don’t get me wrong - some of the rides were phenomenal and I enjoyed all of them but I didn’t set any goals or complete any really big rides.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time I rode 100 miles or more in a single ride.  Yep, it’s time to bring some focus back into my cycling adventures.

That’s what 2014 will be all about.  Setting goals and staying focused.  I’m not talking goals that are so serious they take away the joy of riding.  I’m talking about goals that make me push myself just a bit, which is one of the things I really enjoy about cycling.

What does 2014 have in store.  Well, for starters I looking at really big local event in June.  I’m also making plans for a cycling adventure in late September.  Lastly, Sherry and I are traveling to France in July and I’m already looking for a place to rent bikes while I’m there.   Of course, with these adventures comes the need to properly train so there will be additional focus with all my rides.

These adventures should also generate some interesting stories and I look forward to sharing them with you.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

The 17-mile reminder

I can honestly say that I find myself feeling grateful and blessed for my life each and every day. In fact, it’s something that I am quite proud of and while I don’t try to preach to others, I do try to be a good role model. I try not to bitch about the little things or blow them out of proportion although I will admit that’s a little harder to do.

About 10-days ago I managed to catch the nasty cold that’s been moving through Sonoma County.  Sherry actually got it first so I guess I could blame her but the truth is I’m not looking for someone to blame.  The fact is you’re going to get sick from time to time so get over it.  I haven’t been sick in over 2-years so I really don’t have any complaints.  The biggest downside, besides not feeling great, was the lack of strength to run or ride. (I’m sure Sherry has whole different viewpoint on the downside of me being sick.)

I telling you all of this as the back story to my 17-mile ride on Christmas Day.  It was my first real motion in almost 2-weeks. It was also the longest 17-mile ride of my life and I was frigging exhausted when I got home.  Still, instead of focusing on how tired I felt during the ride, I found myself feeling grateful.

It actually started as I was getting ready to ride. It’s December 25th and I dressing to ride in 63 degree weather under a perfectly blue sky.  If you can’t be grateful for that than something’s really wrong. 

As I get the ride started I ride by one of our local hospitals and I notice the parking lot is completely full.  It’s hard for me to imagine what it must be like to spend Christmas in the hospital.  It’s actually a thought I can’t dwell on too long or it starts to make me very sad.  So, although I am hacking away like a 30-year smoker, I am at least on my bike, rolling down the road and enjoying a gorgeous day outside.

My next reminder of how great my life is right now happened as I passed a local movie theater and I realized that there are people working today. And what am I doing while they work? Playing on my bike. I spent the next several miles wondering why all the people who got so mad that Walmart, and other stores, opened on Thanksgiving are not just as upset that movie theaters are open on Christmas.

This went on for the rest of the ride.  I just couldn’t stop listing all the things I’m grateful for in my life.  I have an awesome wife who makes my world a better place by simply being herself. I’m in good health even though I have a cold at the moment. My career has been on a steady upward trajectory since I left high school.  And, to top it all off, I was just in Paris a mere 3-weeks ago and have a trip to France scheduled in July to watch a few stages of the Tour de France. I mean really! If I start to complain about anything in life, with the exception of traffic, I think someone bitch-slap the hell out of me.  I’m sure there’s no shortage of takers for that job.

As I’m typing this I am starting to feel normal again.  The cold is fading and my strength is returning.  I have a couple of days off from work and the weather is going to continue to be beautiful.  So, I’ll go for some rides, hang out in coffee shops, and hopefully spend a little time working on the book. 

Whatever I do you can bet I’ll be stopping from time to time to realize just how blessed I am.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Running in Paris

I decided to use our recent trip to Paris to try and jump start my running again.  I typically run more in the winter when it’s harder to find time to get on the bike.  So far this off-season I’ve plenty of opportunities to run I just haven’t had the motivation.  I figured that if the allure of passing world famous monuments didn’t get out on the road then nothing would.

As we were packing, I began to talk myself out of my own plan.  It can be very cold in Paris this time of year so I needed to pack a lot of running gear.  I started to tell myself that I was going to be walking everywhere and that would be enough.  I told myself that I was going to see the monuments anyway so running by them wasn’t necessary.  As the packing progressed, the running gear kept moving further and further away from the suitcase.

Then I remembered that I told some fellow runners at work that I would post GPS maps of where I ran.  Many of them have not been to Paris and they seemed thrilled with the idea.  In fact, they were much more excited about than I was.  For some reason I felt like I could not let them down and just like that all of the running gear was packed neatly into its own little corner of the suitcase.

Before I talk about the runs, I should also mentioned that I had not run in the last 4-5 weeks or so.  Also, what little running I have done this year has been sporadic. This means I know the runs will be slow and perhaps just a bit uncomfortable. 

Tuileries RunLouvre Museum – I started my running adventures with a 3.0 mile romp through the Tuileries Garden, around Place de la Concord, back through the garden and then pass the Louvre Museum.  I then crossed the Pont des Arts, which is a pedestrian bridge across the Seine, and back to our apartment.  While it was a challenging run physically (due to my lack of running), it was an amazing run in every other sense.  I mean hell, I was running in Paris!!!  How cool was that?

Notre Dame RunNotre Dame Cathedral – My second adventure was 3.3 miles along the Seine River and around Notre Dame.  Our apartment was very close to Notre Dame so I added the Ile Saint-Louis to the mix.  It was around 32 degrees so I started out cold but that quickly changed as I watch the run rise over the river.  I then stayed near the river for the rest of the run.  The biggest difference was that I started stopping to take pictures and to ask Parisians to snap a few shots of me as well.

Eifel Tower RunEiffel Tower – The third run was my favorite as I decided to include the Eiffel Tower.  The problem was that to run to the Eiffel Tower and back would be at least 5 miles and I wasn’t ready for that.  So, I get ready, grab my metro pass and take the metro to a station that’s near the Eiffel Tower and start my run from there.  I have to say that riding the metro in my running gear was a pretty interesting voyage but the run beneath the Eiffel Tower and the trip back along the Seine made it all worth it.

Here are a few pictures from each run as well.

IMG_1060   IMG_1068   IMG_1098

There you have it.  Three short runs in the City of Light that added a whole new element to the trip and you can bet my running shoes will be packed on our next visit.  In the meantime, I’ll just have find a different motivation to continue running now that I’m back home. 


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The rare no-ride weekend

This last weekend was absolutely perfect for riding.  The crisp morning air, bright sunshine, and leaves changing colors on the vines was magical.  All weekend long my road bike, Thomas, stood in the garage just waiting for me to slip the water bottles in their cages, pop on the Garmin and hit the road.  Around 3:00 Sunday afternoon he finally gave up and went over to bitch about me to the single speed.

I have no idea as to why I didn’t ride.  It wasn’t planned. In fact, the exact opposite would be true.  I had planned on riding both days.  I even had routes picked out for both rides.  It just didn’t happen.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve started my off season. At this point, the big charity rides are over so I’m no longer training for an event.  Maybe it was the feeling of not having to ride that created its own self-fulfilling prophecy.  You know, that whole I-don’t-have-to-ride-so-I-didn’t-ride effect.  It’s also the off season for NorCal Velo, which is my club, and we only have organized rides on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month.

I actually have a semi-decent excuse for not riding on Saturday. I’m always up at 5:00 a.m. and the early morning hours is when I do most of my writing.  After making coffee, checking email, goofing off on Facebook, and reading Cycling News, I started working on my book.  A few minutes later I found that I was in one of those writing zones when thoughts are coming together faster than I can type.

This was very exciting since I’ve found the book writing to be challenging as of late.  Chapters 1-6 are complete and in the hands of my trusty editor.  The remaining chapters are outlined so I know what I’m going to write.  However, the section on Spring, which is chapters 7-9, is proving to be a real pain so on Saturday I started on chapter 10.  I also completed chapter 10 and sent it off.

Sunday was a whole different story.  I knew I was riding Sunday because I didn’t ride Saturday.  Once again, I started writing as I waited for day break.  It was not the same flow as Saturday but I did make progress on chapter 7 so that was a good thing.

I decided to wait and ride in the afternoon and started completing a few chores around the house.  I painted a few spots on the house that needed touching up and clean out the garden for the winter.  Sherry and I went to the Farmer’s Market for some nice veggies and then out to breakfast.  As the day moved on I slowly began to realize that a ride was not going to happen.

In a funny way not riding was its own reward.  I’m actually a little proud of the fact that I am not so hell bound to ride that I can’t take the occasional weekend off and not worry about it.  I told Coach Tim about not riding and his response was “good for you!”  Don’t get me wrong, I still love cycling but a break every now and then is a good thing.

Next Saturday is the 3rd of the month so there will be a club ride.  I may even be the one who leads it.  Either way, I will be riding next weekend.  I’m sure it will be a blast and an immediate reminder of why I love riding in the first place.

Until then, I need to go apologize to Thomas and the single speed.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My adventures on King Ridge

King Ridge is arguably one of the most beautiful rides in Sonoma County.  Less arguably, it is one of the hardest rides in Sonoma County. One fact that’s indisputable is that I have a love-hate relationship with King Ridge. Well, that and the fact that it seems to absolutely kicks my ass every time I ride it.

Leaving from Duncan Mills, the King Ridge loop is 50 miles of pain.  With it’s relentless climbs, constantly changing grades and very little descending until the very end, it’s easy to see why it’s so challenging.

King Ridge Profile

Another challenge is that King Ridge is in the middle of nowhere with very limited cell coverage.  That means if you have a mechanical issue you’re hours away from being rescued.  If you bonk and feel like you can’t go any further your only real option is to keep going.  This is especially true if you reach the mid-point.

I remember the first time I rode King Ridge (Finally King Ridge). I was concerned because of how famously hard this ride can be.  However, I actually powered through the ride in the middle ring, which really gave me a false sense of conquering this ride.  That would change quickly.

On my second attempt (Riding with Mike), King Ridge definitely reminded who’s the boss and I wasn’t sure I would complete the ride.  At one point a car with a bike rack pass me and I tried to flag them down.  I was that tired.  My third attempt (My Gran Fondo), as part of the first Levi’s Gran Fondo wasn’t any better as I suffered from severe cramping.  To be honest I quit riding King Ridge after that.

Still, my NorCal Velo club was riding King Ridge last Saturday and I decided to join them.  What fun did this legendary climb have in store for me this time?  We roll out of Duncan Mills at 8:30 and I was asked to set an even pace through Cazadero to the start of the climb. I was climbing surprisingly well and made it to the first summit in the middle ring.  As we waited to regroup, I was thanking the Ridge for having mercy.

After the regroup we complete the descent with no issues and start the second half of the climbs.  At about the 26 mile mark we stopped for water.  As everyone was filling up I was straddling my bike just casually waiting to start rolling again.  That’s when it happened.

As I was waiting my heart rate came down to 111.  Then it immediately spiked to 203.  I was diagnosed years ago with supraventricular tachycardia, which is an electrical malfunction that will case your heart to race.  They usually only last 90 seconds or less and are not life threatening.  However, this episode lasted over 15 minutes and had everyone, including me, a little concerned.

Long story short, the group starts riding while I wait for the episode to release.  When it didn’t, Jeff hauled ass to get Cary’s truck while Cary stayed with me.  Finally, it released and my heart rate came down from 190 to 88 in a matter of seconds. Cary and I started rolling again nice and slow and met Jeff at Fort Ross road and drove back to Duncan Mills where we were able to join the rest of the group for some post-ride burgers and beer.

I am fine and my doctor isn’t overly concerned although I will keep them informed if the episodes start happening more frequently or continue to last as long.  Otherwise, life is back to normal and you will find me riding this Saturday.  It just won’t be on King Ridge.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Feeling like a child

This Saturday we had our first rain of the season.  And, what was to supposed to be a chance of light rain turned out to be quite a soaking.  As you can imagine, the weekly club ride was cancelled since most people do not ride in the rain.  However, I’m not most people.

I love riding in the rain!!! There are very few things in this world that make me feel more like a kid again then riding in the rain.  To be honest, I originally thought I liked being on the bike in the rain because of its bad-ass factor.  I mean the looks from people as they drive by says it all.  While I really, I mean really, like the bad ass factor I’ve come to the conclusion it’s the child thing I like the most.  Yes, riding in the rain makes me feel young and alive.

As much as I like to ride in the rain I have to admit that it’s almost impossible for me to start a ride if it’s already raining.  I mean there’s also something to be said for sitting on the couch with a fresh cup of coffee and watching it rain as well.  I guess you could say  I prefer to get caught in the rain.  And when I say rain, I don’t mean wind-driven rain that’s coming down sideways.  I also don’t mean a light mist, which I don’t like at all.  No, I’m talking about a good solid rain that’s hard enough that people think you’re crazy but not so bad that it’s flat out dangerous.

These were the conditions Saturday morning.  As I sat on the couch, drinking coffee and reading Facebook posts about what all my cycling friends were doing instead of riding, I listened to it rain.  Finally, around 9:00 a.m. there was a break in the action and I decided it was time to roll.

I literally felt the first drops as I was rolling down my driveway and by the end of the block it was raining.  I could have easily turned around but in my mind the ride had started so I was “caught” in the rain.  It didn’t rain very long, only about 3 minutes. I wasn’t even all that wet.

As I rode along I was thinking that was kind of wimpy and I would have liked something a little more substantial.  I got my wish.  As I was having that thought I looked up the road and you could see the wall of water coming my way.  For the next 10 minutes or so I was riding in a complete downpour.  You can bet I was soaked by the time it was over.

After the heavy rain, we settled into a nice gentle rain that lasted for another hour.  I was in heaven.  Sherry said that when it started raining before I reached the end of the street she was hoping that I would turn around.  But she knew I wouldn’t because I would be smiling from ear to ear like the child of one of our neighbors who had been riding in the rain earlier that morning.  Eventually the weather did clear up and in the end I managed to get in a very nice 35-mile ride.

I know as we head into winter the weather is going to kick my ass more than once.  Saturday’s rain came from the south so it was actually fairly warm.  Soon, we’ll start dealing with cold fronts from Alaska and it will be a different story.  But that’s in the future.  As of right now, it’s child 1 – rain 0.


Monday, September 16, 2013

My Fast Freddie Gran Fondo

Last month I had one of those great adventures that combined many of the things I love most in life.  It involved traveling with Sherry, cycling new roads and plenty of great food and wine.  Who could ask for more?

It all started during the Tour of California when a commercial came on for the Fast Freddie Gran Fondo.  (Freddie Rodriguez is a pro cyclist and the current U. S. champion.)  After seeing the commercial numerous times Sherry asked if I was going ride it.  Well, I hadn’t thought about it but now maybe I should check it out.

ClaremontI discovered the ride is starting at the Claremont Hotel & Spa in Berkeley.  I then discovered that the Claremont is offering some very nice discounts and I shared this with Sherry.  She has always wanted to stay at the Claremont so a few clicks later I’m all registered for the ride and Sherry and I have reservations for a get-away weekend.

The plan was simple.  We took Friday off so we could maximize our short get-away.  We would drive down Friday afternoon and have a nice dinner watching the sun set on the bay.  On Saturday, I would ride 86 miles with over 10,000 feet of climbing while she relaxed at the spa.  Then another great dinner Saturday night followed by a leisurely Sunday morning before driving home.  Yeah, that should work.

Meritage RestaurantIt actually worked perfectly. After checking in to our room we went to Paragon for drinks.  It was then on to the Elmwood Shopping District for a nice walk.  Dinner Friday night, which was excellent, was at Meritage, with its views of San Francisco and the bay.  Finally, it was back to the room where I got the bike ready for Saturday’s adventure.

The weather Saturday morning was beautiful as I got ready.  After one last kiss, I head downstairs for the start of the Fast Freddie Gran Fondo.  Let me tell you right now that my ride was neither fast or gran!  Because of some business travel I wasn’t able to train the way I wanted so I knew 86 miles, with all that climbing, would be tough.  I also realized that I could be hanging out with Sherry at the Claremont so I opted for the 48 mile ride with its published 6,200 feet of climbing instead.

Holy shit was that the right call!!!  When the ride started we roll downhill out of the parking lot for about 50 yards before making a right turn onto a hill that was between 8-15% for the next 2 miles.  When I saw people walking their bikes before we covered the first mile I knew it was going to be a hard day.

FFGFAfter a screaming downhill it was time to climb again.  Then downhill again and back up.  I think you get the picture (or you can look at the profile).  I was either grinding my way up a hill or flying down one with no flat roads in between.  Still, it was a gorgeous route and I really enjoyed my first experience in the East Bay hills.  In the end, it was 48 miles with 5,300 feet of climbing.  As I rolled into the finish I felt pretty good so it was time to continue with the mini-vacation.

We spent the rest of the day shopping, eating, drinking and enjoying our time together.  On Sunday we choose to sleep in, drink cappuccinos in the room and simply relax.  Finally, it was time to pack up and head back home.

This was a great trip and I cannot stress the value of these mini-vacations enough.  They add a sense of adventure without going too far away.  I’m already watching the web site and waiting for the dates of the Fast Freddie Gran Fondo to be posted so we can do it all over again next year.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Inquiring Cyclists Need to Know

While the book writing is in a bit of a lull right now my riding is going strong.  Yesterday, I put in my first big ride of the year at 67 miles.  I’m not sure I rode that far at all last year.  Since we were increasing the distance, Coach Tim and I decided to get a very early start.  We would leave from his house at 7:15, which meant I was rolling from home at 6:45.

As you can imagine the city streets are pretty quiet at 6:45 on a Saturday morning.  At least they are here in Santa Rosa.   In fact, for the first mile or so I didn’t see a single car.  However, what happened when I did eventually see that first car on the road generated a litany of questions in my mind as I rode to Tim’s.

Here’s what happened.  I was cruising along enjoying the quiet ride.  The traffic light ahead of me was green and since there were no cars around I expected to roll right on through.  However, before I got to the light, a car (the first of the day) came in from the left just in time to change my light to red and make me stop.  This happened two more times before I got to Tim’s.  After the third time I was thinking, “how in the hell do these cars always seem to time it perfectly so my light changes and I have to stop?”

As I finished the ride to meet Tim I couldn’t help but think of other questions that inquiring cycling minds need to know and I pose them to you here.  Feel free to comment if you think you know the answer.

Q – What is it about the smell of cinnamon buns coming from the bakery that makes your legs go weak?  (This same question applies to the morning aroma of chorizo and frijoles cooking at the little taqueria stands in Roseland.)

Q – How can 40 riders, who have their bikes pointed in 40 different directions, start the ride as a picture-perfect definition of grace, harmony and unison as we clip in and start to roll?

Q – How is that these same 40 riders, who are now going in the same direction, turn into the police from a Charlie Chaplin movie on the road when someone yells “Car Back!”?

Q – How come young stupid guys in pick up trucks only know how to shout one word (it always seems to be faggot) as they drive by?

Q – Why do so many century rides place the lunch stop at the base of a big climb?

Q – If I haven’t had a flat in over 4-months should I change the tubes as preventive maintenance or keep making daily sacrifices to Bibendum?

Q – Will Westside Road ever be repaved?

I’m sure there are more but that’s all I can think of for right now.  So while you sip your coffee and give these questions some very studious thought I’m going to get back to the book.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Time for Reflection

I’ve decided that I need to start blogging again even though I’m in the middle of writing a book.  There are just too many good things to talk about.  To be honest, it’s really this felt need I have to share my experiences and feelings with others.

The real catalyst for this revival happened a couple of weeks ago.  I had one of those weekends just makes you realize how great life was and how those occasional periods of chaos shouldn’t drown out the good stuff.

It actually started with working on the book, which will be about my adventures in cycling.  I was working on the first section where I talked about how I got into cycling in the first place and some of the great, great people I’ve met along the way.  This started my period of reflection.  It was so nice to sit back and remember the people I’ve met who have made such a positive impact on my life.  It was also fun to relive some of the great rides from my earlier days as a neo-cyclist and how much has changed since then.

After a great morning of writing, reflecting and drinking coffee, it was time to stop writing about cycling and go for a ride.  I’m feeling much stronger this year so I wanted to do a kind of pre-season test to see how the legs were really feeling.  This meant it was time to climb.

I was thinking about a climb called Sweetwater, which is a true bitch of a climb.  However, it’s in the middle of nowhere without cell coverage so Sherry would prefer I not tackle that alone.  So she says, “Why not climb Los Alamos?”  This is another brutal climb that’s a mere 5 miles from the house.  As I started to roll I couldn’t help but think about how great Sherry is and how when lucky I am to have her in my life.

As I start the climb up Los Alamos I am immediately reminded of why I don’t climb it all that often.  It is brutal with sustained pitches of 15% or more.  Still, on this day I was feeling stronger then ever as I climbed.  Part of this was due to my form but I think another part was something much larger.

You see, this was the first time I climbed Los Alamos since a young man of 23, who was adored by the local cycling community, died at the summit.  As I understand it this was his favorite climb.  I couldn’t help but think of Matt with each turn of the pedal.  The sadness of losing him at such a young age mixed with knowing that he died doing what he loved the most on his favorite ride was a very powerful moment for me.

I believe it was Matt’s spirit calling me to the summit (yes, I do believe in such things).  When I reached the summit I took a few minutes to pause next to the small memorial in his honor.  As I stood there looking out over the valleys and hills under a grey and cloudy sky, I couldn’t help but be reminded that I have a great life.

I truly hope that everyone finds these moments in life where you can take the time to stop and reflect on how great life can truly be.