Thursday, January 19, 2017

Let the Training Begin

For us, 2017 is off to a very wet start.  We’ve seen storm after storm thanks to what is known as an atmospheric river. So, when the clouds gave way to beautiful blue skies and sunshine last Saturday it was time to ride.  And not just any ride.  No, it was time to start training for my Mont Ventoux challenge.

I considered joining my cycling group but they were doing a fairly easy off-season ride.   While I typically love the rides I felt I needed to push myself just a little harder.  As I thought about where to ride, two words kept creeping into my mind - hill repeats!  My training for Mont Ventoux was about to begin.

It was a gorgeous day but still pretty brisk as I kitted up and headed out the door.  I stopped at Trail House, our new uber-cool bike shop-cafe, for a cappuccino.  It felt really good to be back to my old cycling routine and I was trying to savor the moment.

Riebli Road
Finally, it was time to ride.  My goal was to head out Riebli Road, complete three loops of the Cross Creek, and return back on Riebli.  This would give me five decent climbs in a relatively short ride.  This was perfect since the quality of my initial training needs to be measured in elevation-gained, not miles.

I was surprised how good I felt as I completed the first climb.  I guess all that running helped a little.  As I went over the top I took it nice and easy on the descent since the roads were still wet and potentially icy.  There would be plenty of dry roads in the future to practice going downhill fast so there was no need to push it on the first real ride of the year.

As I started up Cross Creek for the first time I could tell I was going a little too hard.  I had to remind myself I wasn’t trying to crush the climb.  I just wanted to start building my power-base.  The second and third time were more evenly paced as I worked on climbing both in and out of the saddle.  I will confess that it was challenging getting over the final steep pitch all three times.  Still, it felt really good to be pushing myself just above my comfort zone on a ride.   Finally, it was back over Riebli Road to home.

Future hills to climb.
The final numbers were 25 miles with 1,854 of climbing.  Over all, I am very happy with my first real training ride in a while.  And, I wasn’t alone.  Thomas, my road bike, also seemed very excited.  He seemed thrilled to be completing a real ride full of climbs and descents.  It seems like he now knows running has been relegated to a secondary activity and he anticipates there will be many great rides in the months ahead.  He would right.

There it is!  The first real ride since the marathon is in the books and training for the Mont Ventoux challenge has begun.  I know my cycling future calls for long rides over epic climbs.  At times it’s going to hurt.  At times I’m going to wonder what the hell was I thinking.  But mostly, it’s going to be a blast and I can’t wait to see what fun the next ride has in store.


Monday, January 9, 2017

Ready, Set, Wait!

In my last post, I shared my goals for 2017, which is all about the return of Lee the Cyclist.  Just the thought of climbing Mont Ventoux three times in a single day has me all fired up.  I worked on the bikes, found all my cycling gear, and place my kits on top of my running clothes in the dresser drawer.  While I was ready to ride other forces would mean cycling would have to wait.

Mother Nature doesn’t really care about my cycling goals.  She tends to do her own thing and this weekend her thing was wind and rain.  Lots and lots of rain!

This weekend, the greater San Francisco Bay Area dealt with one the the biggest storms we’ve seen in many years.  This is actually very good news in terms of dealing with California’s drought it’s just not the best cycling weather.  Even as I spent the week hoping to ride on both Saturday and Sunday, the local weather folks were telling us to batten down the hatches.

On Saturday morning I awoke to a steady, but light, rain so I decided to go for a run.  During the run it wasn’t raining that hard so I started thinking about the Masi, my cyclo-cross bike.  Isn’t this why I bought the bike?  To ride on wet winter days like this.  Before I could convince myself to head out in the rain on the Masi the wind picked up dramatically so cycling would have to wait.

The rest of Saturday brought more of the same and I found myself wondering when the big storm was arriving.  When I woke up on Sunday I had my answer.  As Sherry and I enjoyed our morning coffee the rain was pouring down and there was a howling wind.  This was the big storm we were promised.  As I was reading the reports this morning, I discovered we received over 4 inches of rain in Santa Rosa with wind gusts of over 40 mph.

With any hope of cycling gone I once again headed out for a run.  Why?  Well, there are many reasons I love running in the rain.  It makes me feel alive.  It makes me feel like a little kid again.  But mostly, it makes me feel like a badass!  And, I love the “he’s crazy” looks I get from drivers as they go by.  Even Sherry just shook her head and said “Tu es fou!” (you’re crazy in French) as I headed out the door.  I loved every minute of it as I ran along the local creeks that were already raging as a result of all the rain.

The biggest difference between running and cycling in the rain is that rain and wind does not make running more dangerous.  It just means you’ll get wet.  With cycling, wind and rain is a dangerous combination that is likely to put on the ground (as in, you’ll crash) sometime before the ride is over.  This is why I reach for my running shoes as the bikes hang quietly from the rafters on wet and windy days like this weekend.  

Of course, I do have a trainer in the garage so I still could have spent some time on the bike.  For the sake of brevity here’s the reason that didn’t happen.  I hate the trainer!  I have to be pretty desperate to cycle in my garage.  I’m not there yet.

So, no cycling this weekend.  That’s ok because my trip to France is not until August so I still have some time to get ready.  In the meantime, I’ll keep waiting and running until Mother Nature tells me it’s ok to ride.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Challenge with Old Friends

Believe it or not, it’s already January 3, 2017.  Many of the New Year’s resolutions so proudly announced and posted in social media have already been broken.  I can only assume that January 1st is Black Friday for weight loss programs and gyms.  If made a resolution and are sticking to it good for you.  If you’ve already broken it, fear not.  Every day is a chance to create a resolution. 

Mont Ventoux from Crillon le Brave.
Personally, I gave up resolutions years ago.  Ironically, it’s the only resolution I’ve ever been able to keep.  However, I do set goals or challenges for myself each year.  In 2016, the big challenge was running 1,000 miles.  This year, I hope to join the Club des Cinglés du Mont Ventoux!

If you follow the Tour de France, you know all about Mont Ventoux.  It is considered one of the hardest climbs in cycling.  While there are three routes to the top, from three different villages, the Tour always follows the route from the village of Bédoin, which is considered the most challenging.  The other two routes are from the villages of Malaucène and Sault.

I’ve been lucky enough to cycle to the summit of Mont Ventoux on three separate occasions (2007, 2009, and 2015) and I’ve always followed the route from Bédoin.  How do you join the Club des Cinglés?  I have to climb Mont Ventoux three times on the three different routes in a single day.  This will be an 85 mile ride with approximately 14,400 feet of climbing, which definitely makes it a worthy selection for this year’s challenge.

Fortunately, I will have a lot of help from some old friends to help me get ready.  It’s time to reacquaint myself with my bikes.  They’ve sat in the garage, patiently waiting while I focused on running, for way too long.  While I actually have 6 bikes, there are three that will play the biggest role.

My primary bike is the white road bike, who I named Thomas after pro cyclist Thomas Voeckler (that’s right, I have names for my bikes). It’s a Specialized Roubaix and I typically log thousands of miles a year in the saddle.  Thomas will be the work horse for the majority of my training since it is the bike I ride the most often.

The second bike is a single speed, which means exactly what it says - no gears.  If you want to go faster then you have to pedal faster.  It is the Specialized Langster, Las Vegas edition so I simply refer to it as the Vegas.  Initially, I purchased the Vegas just for fun and I use it quite frequently for recovery rides. However, it is also a great bike for doing hill repeats to build strength and you can bet there is plenty of those in my future.

The last bike is my Masi cyclocross.  This is the newest bike in the arsenal and it’s mostly used for those cold, damp winter days when the roads are wet.  It has bigger wheels so I feel much safer on it in poor weather conditions.  Since it’s a cross bike, I can also ride on the many gravel roads we have locally, some of which have significant climbs.  Mixing up the climbs as I train will be important so it’s great that the Masi opens a few new routes.

Joining the Club des Cinglés may not be the hardest challenge I’ve attempted but it will be an epic ride and it’s definitely a worthy goal for 2017.  And, with a little help from some old friends, I’m looking forward the all the training adventures ahead as we get ready.

Until then,