Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Happy Christmas Ride

We woke up on Christmas day to a brisk but beautiful sunny morning.  After weeks of morning fog and rain, which we really need, it was nice to see the sun so early in the day.  It felt like it was our Christmas present to be enjoyed by all. After a leisurely morning of drinking coffee and reading, I decided to take full advantage of this gift and headed out on the bike.

Riding on Christmas day has become a bit of tradition for me so there was no way I could pass up all this beautiful sunshine.  In fact, the sunshine seemed to add a bit of happiness to the ride and that quickly became a theme.  As I rode along, my mind was full of happy thoughts.  Perhaps that’s part of the Christmas magic.

I decided to head out of town along the path that follows the creek.  As I cruised along the path enjoying the day I wasn’t alone.  The path was full of couples, friends, and families who were also taking advantage of the beautiful day.  Trying to be courteous, I always gave a hearty “bike back” as I approached and replaced my usual greeting of “Good morning” with “Merry Christmas”.  In almost every case, I got a Merry Christmas in return.

As I continued to cruise along I saw a family up ahead.  When I got closer, I saw it was a cycling friend, Adrian, out with his wife and two sons.  For me, they seemed to be the embodiment of Christmas with the parents walking hand-in-hand as the children played on their new toys.

At least I hoped they were new.  One boy was on a scooter and the other on a bike.  I didn't look that closely but for some reason I just assumed they were presents out for a maiden voyage.  The thought of them coming down stairs and finding them under the tree made me very happy and I smiled as I thought about their squeals of delight.  

All of these happy thoughts continued after I left the path.  I passed houses with driveways filled to the brim with cars as family and friends gathered to celebrate the day.  I saw many other cars filled with presents as they traveled to be with their loved ones.  I also saw more than one truck loaded with mountain bikes and I was happy to know I wasn’t the only crazy cyclist out enjoying the magic of the day.

As I reached the town of Sebastopol, I was simultaneously hoping that one of the local coffee shops would be open while also wishing they would not.  I was happy that they were all closed to allow staff to enjoy the day although I would have been as giddy as a boy with a new bike if I could have found some espresso.  Still, it was fun cruising the calm city streets and testing my knowledge of coffee shop locations.

Finally, it was time to head back home.  I rolled through downtown Santa Rosa and enjoyed the quietness of the day compared to the shopping madness that occurred just 24 hours before.  This tranquility was bound to be broken the day after as people scampered to take advantage of post-Christmas sales.  But for now, all was peaceful and serene and that somehow felt right.

Yes, it was a happy ride full of happy thoughts.  Now, we just need to find a way to keep this happiness going year round.  That’s my Christmas wish for everyone.  To find a way to keep the joyous spirit of Christmas alive each and every day of the year!


Sunday, May 11, 2014

The American River Trail

Last Thursday was one of those really fun days on the bike.  The plans for this midweek mini adventure started back in April when Sherry and I were talking about her schedule.  She has meetings in Sacramento once a month so I decided to take the day off and join her.
I was planning on riding the American River Trail.  In essence, this is a bike path goes from Sacramento to Folsom Lake.  It’s 32 miles each way, give or take, and closely follows the American River. This was supposed to be an awesome bike trail and I was looking forward to riding it for the first time. 
We arrive in downtown Sacramento and head to Sherry’s standard parking garage.  Along the way we see signs posted everywhere for the Tour of California which reminds us the race starts on Sunday.  That’s pretty cool since I know that means all of the teams should already be in the area.  
We get parked, on the top floor, and as soon as I get out of the I’m blasted by wind.  And I mean strong, gusty winds.  I look at Sherry and immediately state - “This ride’s going to suck!!!”  Still, that’s why I came so as she heads to her meeting I head out on the bike.
Now, it was only 6-blocks from the parking garage to Old Town but I still somehow managed to promptly get lost.  The road I thought I needed had nothing but freeway entrance signs so I went through the Amtrak parking lot and eventually got to the path.
Technically, the American River Trail starts at Discovery Park, which is about 2 miles from Old Town but there is a path that connects them.  So, I ride along river and eventually cross over a bridge into Discovery Park.  But, I have no idea where the trail actually starts.  This is when I discovered that unlike Google, the map app on my smart phone did not always show the trail.
Long story short, I finally found it and was off to Lake Folsom.  The path was indeed awesome.  You can tell it’s very popular with cyclists given the number of people on the path on a Thursday.  It’s well paved and basically flat so I settled into a nice rhythm that was up tempo enough to feel fast but slow enough to enjoy the scenery.
I will say the trail was not as scenic as I anticipated.  There were glimpses of the the river from time to time but for some reason I expected more.  The pleasant surprise was that the path constantly twisted and turned as it went along.  I love this style of riding and I really was having a great time gusty winds and all.
As I get close to Folsom Lake the trail starts branching out in all directions and the route I chose abruptly ended.  Since I needed to be back by 1:00 for lunch with Sherry I decided to turn around and head back.
On the way back I actually had two team sightings.  As I came around one corner, there was the entire team from Team BMC heading my way.  A little later, I saw 4 members of Team Net App as well.  That really added to the specialness of the ride for me.
Back at the car I changed and got ready for lunch.  As I was changing I reflected back on my comment that the ride would suck.  Well, it didn’t.  Sure I had to deal with strong winds (in both directions), but in the end it was a great ride on new “roads”.  And while the views were not what I expected they were far better than the views from my office. 
Since Sherry has these meeting every month, you can bet I’m checking my calendar to see when I can do this all over again.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Big Rides, Big Climbs in 2014

As I sit here drinking coffee on a cloudy and rainy Saturday morning I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to brave the elements on the road or ride in the comfort of my garage.  I hate riding the trainer so I’m thinking the road is going to win this one.

Of course Sherry pointed out another option.  I could skip riding all together and just hang out, read and keep drinking coffee.  In reality, that’s not an option because I have targeted some big rides with even bigger climbs for this year.

Here’s what I’m thinking about so far.  Now, admittedly some of these may not happen but this is what I’m considering as of today.

  • April 13th – Bottega Gran Fondo with 75 miles with 3,700’ of climbing.  I have already registered for this event, which is why I need to keep training.
  • May 10th – Tour of the Unknown Coast with 100 miles and 9,400’ of climbing.  This is promoted as California’s toughest century and a ride I’ve always wanted to do.
  • June 8th – Mendocino Monster –with 97 miles and 9,200’ of climbing.  This is another ride I’ve considered for years.
  • June 21st – Terrible 200k  with 121 miles with 10,000’ of climbing.  This is the second half of the Terrible Two (200 miles) and the part I didn’t ride in 2008 when the heat prevented me from finishing the entire route.
  • October 4th– Levi’s Gran Fondo with 102 miles and 9,600’ of climbing. I am already signed up as a volunteer ride Marshall for this ride.

You can see from that schedule why skipping today’s ride isn’t an option.  At the beginning of the year I needed base miles, which I started building nicely in January and early February.  Now, I need base miles on climbs.  So, how does one transition from flattish routes to climbs without killing yourself?  The answer is hill repeats.

Fortunately, I live in an area that gives me ample opportunity for hill repeats.  I even have 2 options.  The first is to climb a hill and then circle around and climb it again (and again and again).  These are great training workouts and I do these types of rides during the week either before or after work.

The second option is actually the one I prefer, which is to ride a route that has multiple climbs.  To be successful, there cannot be any monster climbs just lots of little ones.  The monster climbs come later.  The goal is to work hard on the climb, recover on the descent, and repeat on the next climb.  And, that’s exactly what I did last Saturday.

Ride of 10 Climbs

I am calling last Saturday’s ride the Ride of the 10 Climbs.  As you can see from the profile I constantly going up or coming down.  I actually ended up with 3,500’ of total climbing.  I will definitely ride this again.  Maybe I’ll even go the other direction next time just for fun.

I guess it’s safe to say that the serious training for 2014 has begun.  I enjoyed my time building my overall endurance with base miles but now it’s to time to kick things up a notch.  And, going up is exactly what I am going to do.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Let it rain!!!

Well, after a winter that has seen very little rain so far , Mother Nature decided to play a little catch up this weekend.  Ok, make that a lot of catch up as Santa Rosa received nearly 6 inches of rain from Friday to Sunday. While there were a few downpours, it was mostly just a good steady rain.

Weekend WeatherI knew on Thursday my chances of riding were going to be slim.  You don’t have to be a trained weather professional to understand the meaning of this picture.  I decided to sleep in and when I woke up it was pouring.  Since I couldn’t ride it seem like a good weekend to work on the book and I was able to finish chapter 12.

Around noon I was going a little stir crazy.  Then I read on FB that a friend had run that morning.  Why didn’t I think of that?  It’s never raining too hard to run.  I went for a quick 2.7 mile jaunt where I saw the local creek down the street was almost at flood level.  This is when I realized just how much it had rained so far.

Finally, around 3:00 I gave up the ghost and spent an hour on the trainer.  During my run I remember that I built out a set of wheels just for the rain.  After my spin session, I took the steel frame Jamis off the trainer, swapped out the wheels, moved my gear back and basically got the bike ready to go for Sunday.

IMG_0027I woke early on Sunday and continue to spend time writing in my book.  Later, Sherry and I went out to breakfast and did the weekly grocery shopping.  It was raining but not too bad.  Once again, around 1:00 I couldn’t take it anymore so put on a kit and a ton of raingear and headed out for a ride.

My plan was simple.  Go for an easy 1-hour ride that stayed on bike paths as much as possible.  I roll through town and make it the Prince Memorial Greenway.  From there I plan on catching the Joe Rodota Trail.  It didn’t happed that way.  The Greenway goes under 2 roads, which puts the path close to Santa Rosa Creek.  Both of these areas where flooded. 

IMG_1148I powered through the first flooded section (BTW – full shoe booties don’t keep your feet drive if they are fully submerged) but I’m guessing the second one was nearly waist deep so I decided to find another way to connect with the Rodota Trail.  This picture shows where I was planning to ride (yes, there is a bike path under all that water). 

Once I was on the trail I began acting like a little kid.  I rode through every puddle I could find.  I mean, there’s no use riding in the rain if you’re trying to avoid the puddles.  What kind of bullshit is that?  In Sebastopol, I start thinking about where to go next but since I know there is flooding everywhere I decide to simply retrace my path back home.

The ride home was uneventful except for one really cool instance. There was woman walking her 2 small dogs on the trail.  As I slowly rode by she pointed at me and said “You’re crazy!” with a smile on her face.  I can tell you my smile was bigger since she has no idea how much I consider that a compliment.

Finally, I’m back home.  Although I’m soaked I managed to stay warm so it’s all good. All-in-all it was 17.75 miles of pure fun.  As of right now, the weather report for next weekend is once again calling for rain and I’m looking forward to doing it all over again.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Off to a Great Start

For reasons she hasn’t explained yet, Mother Nature has decided we don’t need winter here in Northern California.  Sure, we’ve had some really cold temperatures but we’ve also had many days with record breaking highs.  But most notably it hasn’t rained.

Photo by Robin WalkerThe lack of rain is not good.  The local newscast is now using the phrase extreme drought.  Our reservoirs are drying up so there’s already talk of water rationing this summer.  Many of the ski resorts in the Sierras are closed due to lack of snow.  And, this could be one of the worse years ever in terms of fire danger.  This is a picture of Saturday’s sunrise but it could have easily been a photo of almost every morning in January so far.

Now, just for the record, I want it to rain.  I love the rain.  I love riding in the rain.  To be honest, I think this day after day of beautiful spring-like weather is getting kind of monotonous. However, that doesn’t mean that while I’m praying for rain I can’t take advantage of the great weather to ride and ride and ride.

That’s what I’ve done.  On Sunday’s recovery ride I went over 400 miles for the month of January.  That’s huge for me.  Typically in January I spend more hours on the trainer than on the road.  Not this year which is just fine by me.

It’s not just that I am riding more, I’m riding further.  In 2013, I had a grand total of 6 rides that were 62.5 miles or longer (this is the length of a metric century).  This year has already seen me logged a 63 and a 73 mile ride.  In fact, 73 miles matches the longest ride I’ve done since May 2013.  Before that, you have to go back to September of 2010 to find a ride of over 70 miles.

I can already feel a difference from cranking out this many miles.  For instance, I was never overly tired on Saturday’s 73 mile ride although I’m not sure I had another mile in me.  Once I finished I started to notice the fatigue in the legs and my lower back.  I ate right away and was able to relax for most the rest of the day.  I’ve always said that I made not be able to ride like a pro but I sure can relax like one.

On Sunday, I slept in and spend some time on the book before heading out for my recovery ride.  I will admit that I was more than a little concerned about how I would feel after such a big effort.  The answer – I felt great!!!  The fatigue in the legs and lower back were gone and I enjoyed a lovely 33 mile easy tempo ride in weather that required sunscreen and not arm warmers.

As long as Mother Nature keeps us in our current weather pattern I’m going to keep taking advantage of it.  Who knows how many miles I’ll be able to get in next month.  Still, I would gladly give up some road miles for trainer time if it meant it was raining.

For now, I think I’ll pour another cup of coffee, enjoy the sunrise and look up rain dances on Google.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

The 5-Friends, 1-Gear Ride

I admit it, I have a triple chain ring on my bike.  Now, I know that more than one bike purist out there is scoffing at this because a real cyclist rides a double.  Oh well, you’ll just have to get over it.  I like my triple and I don’t plan on changing any time soon. However, I can say that I am not in the small ring very often but it’s nice to know it’s there if I need it.

My rear cassette is a 9-speed, which means I have 27 gears to choose from on any given ride.  For yesterday’s ride I only chose one of them.

Social Ride My team decided it was time for a off-season, social pace, coffee ride.  This means the real purpose of the ride is to chit-chat and enjoy the day and not hammer yourself, or others, on the bike.  How do we keep the ride social? By penalizing anyone who rides in the big ring!!!

With that in mind, here’s the official ride description for Saturday’s ride:
If you are interested in a fun, unique Winter ride, come join us this Saturday. We will meet in the town of Windsor, and go over Chalk Hill, visit Alexander Valley, with a coffee stop at Geyserville Mud, before returning via West Dry Creek. All of this will be done IN THE SMALL CHAINRING ONLY! The first person to decide they can't handle the snails' pace, buys coffee for the bunch! Of course town limit sprints may happen, which can be quite entertaining to watch. 

As I was thinking about the ride I started to wonder if I should ride my single speed.  I mean it was a social ride after all so it might work.  My concern was that it was a 40-mile ride with a number of small climbs so it could be very challenging.  That’s when I emailed Coach Tim and here’s the  ensuing electronic conversation.

Me – I ‘m thinking about doing something stupid and riding the single speed.
Tim – Go for it!  It’s a social ride so you should be fine.
Me – My concern is the Chalk Hill Road and Canyon climbs.
Tim – Those might be tough.  What’s the gear on the single speed.
Me – 42 x 16
Tim – That’s a little too big.  Ride your road bike and stay in your 42 x 19 the entire ride instead.

Chalk Hill Social RideThat’s what I did and it was a blast.  I had to power over the climbs out of the saddle.  On the flats, I felt like a hamster I was pedaling so fast.  In fact my cadence ranged from a low of 50 rpms on one climb to 115 rpms on Alexander Valley Road.  I almost shifted once but fortunately I caught myself just in the nick of time. It was a truly unique cycling experience.  It was also a great training technique and one that I will use again as we continue through the season.

I was talking about my plan during our pre-ride coffee chat and two other riders decided to do the same thing.  They both gave up the ghost towards the end and shifted but I am happy to say I made it all the way.

I love having fun like this on the bike.  Besides having a blast by not shifting, it was also great just to kick back, slow the pace down and ride with friends.  It was just another example of why I love this sport so much.

So there you have it.  A beautiful ride that covered 37 miles (we cut out the Canyon climb due to a broken chain) and nearly 1,400 feet of climbing with 5 friends, a mid-ride coffee stop, lots and lots of laughs but just 1-gear.



Here's a story about the fun of turning your road bike into a single speed for the day. Enjoy!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Riding with a Plan

The first ride of 2014 is already in the books.  As is my tradition, it happened on New Year’s Day. Of course, living in the temperate Wine Country of Northern California makes this a little easier.  Especially when you compare it to my friends who live in New Hampshire and have to dress up like they just stepped out of the L. L. Bean winter catalog just to take out the garbage.

217310_10151617993302284_500107913_nMy first goal was to figure out where to ride.  As I mentioned in my last post (The final ride of 2013), I want 2014 to be more focused so I might as well start the process with the first ride of the year.  My strength is still not where it should be because of my cold so I settle on a 35-mile route that is basically flat with an few rollers just to keep me honest.

My plan?  I am going to alternate between endurance drills (riding in a medium gear at a lower cadence) and recovery (low gears, high cadence).  Well, that’s what my legs will be doing.  I also plan to keep the entire ride at a consistent level 3 heart rate.  I don’t know about you but that sounds pretty focused to me.

As I roll along, I start to develop my training plan for the first part of the year.  I’m starting to set some big goals so an actual plan will be crucial.  This made me start thinking about the training plan Coach Tim created when I attempted to ride the Terrible Two and just how beneficial that plan was to my attempt.

Coach Tim’s plan played such an important role that I consider it one of the main characters in the book I’m writing.  While triple digit heat spoiled my ability to finish, there’s no doubt in my mind that from a strength perspective I was 100% ready to go.   There will be a lot in the book about the plan, my ability to follow it, and the ultimate benefits it provided.

Of course, all of these thoughts lead me to think about all the weekend warriors out there, like myself, who try bigger and bigger rides without a training plan.  Many of these cyclists feel that you need to be a pro to benefit from a coach or a formal training plan.  Personally, I think the exact opposite is true.  I believe that recreational cyclist can benefit from guidance even more than the pros.

Why? Well for one thing your fellow cyclists are always going to give you a ton of advice whether you ask for it or not.  Most of this advice will be things that worked for them and a lot of it will be conflicting. Next, if you’re like most recreational cyclists you have limited training time because of things like jobs, family or other life obligations get in the way of your riding.  A plan can help you make the most of what little time you have to devote to cycling.

Another reason recreational cyclists don’t use coaches is that they think they are expensive and that can definitely be true.  However, it doesn’t have to be.  For the last couple of years Coach Tim has offered a very specific training plan for people attempting the local Gran Fondo (103 miles with nearly 10,000 feet of climbing) for $100.  There are many coaches out there who will design a plan specifically for you for very reasonable rates.  For me, spending $100 to ensure I have a successful day at my event seems like an investment in fun.

So, here’s my advice (I don’t you you would get advice without asking) to anyone who is attempting bigger events in 2014.  Find a plan that fits your needs and schedule!  If you find a plan that works for you and stick with it not only our your chances for success be higher but you’ll have a lot more fun in the process.