Friday, March 30, 2012

Solvang -- My Tuchus!

Last Friday, I drove to Solvang for the first double of the season.  Forecasters promised rain, so I shelved the newly-repaired Llewellyn and went with my fendered Spectrum.  Checked into the hotel and dressed for a ride.  I hadn’t been on this bike in over a year, so definitely needed a shake-down ride.  Rode into the wind, westbound on Highway 246, then north on Drum Canyon Road -- also into the wind -- and back for 70 minutes.  When I returned to the hotel, my sit bones weren’t feeling good.  So I decided to raise the saddle.  By half a centimeter.  It’s not as bad as it sounds – on the ride I’d wear my Riivos that have a thicker sole than the Rocket 7s I wore on this ride.  So, yes, a different bike, a new position, and different shoes.  I also felt a bit cramped with the 10cm stem that was on the bike.  Stupid?  Very much so!  Oh well, what the hell.  Kevin Thornton came by in the evening.  We’d met online and would ride this double together.

Solvang Spring Double.  Sucked.  First 101 miles took 5:32 at 19.1mph.  The return took 7:40 at what felt like 12 mph into 15-25mph headwinds.  Fucking demoralizing.  The wind did a complete 180 from the day before.  Had this double been of Friday, we would have finished at least 1:30 earlier.  Last year’s 90 miles of rain was better than this.  Glad I brought the fendered bike, it made the rain stay away until late evening, but I wonder if my fenders were catching the wind and slowing me down.  Funny thing is legs felt OK at the end of the ride and responded well to efforts with no hint of cramping.  There was severe brain cramping, however.  I’m pissed at this ride and it’s all wind-related.  Fuck it; don’t want to write about it anymore.

Oh yeah, the bike fit and the shoes worked out just fine.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Looming Double

It's the week before Solvang Spring.  Every year I feel in equal parts excited and anxious as this double approaches.  This year it seems these feelings started bubbling up earlier.  Maybe it's because I was training well a month ago and felt optimistic.  Then I got sick and it took me two weeks before I felt normal and another ten days before I felt normal on the bike.  So I was nervous that I may have a bad ride or DNF, god forbid.  For the past week, I've been training well, albeit doing mostly intensity work.  But this training has returned the optimistic outlook.  Then there's the weather.  We have had a very dry winter until ten days ago, when it started dumping daily, just as I had hoped to do one last endurance ride to prepare.  I've been checking the forecast for March 24, the day of the ride and it's been changing daily.  First it was showers the day before, then showers the day of the ride, and for the past two days it's been partly cloudy the day before and the day of and showers the day after.  Since it's now four days before the ride, I hope that forecasts become more precise as the time to the ride shortens and it remains dry for the 24th.  Of course no one told Mama Nature that it wasn't supposed to rain on the day of the ride last year, when it dumped for the last 100 miles of this ride.  But even a cyclist very well prepared for louse weather doesn't look forward to riding in the rain -- at least one doesn't.

In other good news, my Llewellyn frame has been repaired and I'll have it built up and ready to ride at Solvang, if I choose to ride this bike.  I think I will.  I'll have to do a shakedown ride or two to get used to the bike again and for the bike to get used to me.  I think we can work together well.  Unless the forecast changes.  Then I'll take my fendered Spectrum. 

Hmm.  Just checked the forecast for Morro Bay, the north-most point of the ride and it has 30% chance of rain on the 24th.  Glad I looked.  Plan B is becoming Plan A and I will be taking more rain gear than anticipated... unless the forecast changes again.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Reacquaintance

I've been riding daily and writing about it not quite daily, albeit not here but HERE.  But this post is not about cycling.  Happy New Year, by the way.  No, this post is about something I hadn't done since March 29, 2011, the day I broke my ankle -- ice skating!

It seemed important to return to the ice during the calendar year of the accident.  December 31 was the last chance and I had to take it.  The entire family went back to Oakland Ice Arena, the scene of the calamity.  Honestly, I was apprehensive about putting the skates back on, in no small part because my left ankle is bigger than it was before and I worried about inability to put the skate on.

We went inside, I put on the skates and rushed toward the ice.  I strode from the plastic edge of the rink onto the ice, leading with my left skate.  Just as I pushed off with my right foot to step onto the ice, my right foot slipped on the plastic and I lost my balance, nearly falling before I had a chance to skate.  That was mildly frightening, but I regained my balance and found myself gliding on choppy ice that had been in heavy use for an hour and a half.  Not the kind of ice on which you'd want to figure skate or play hockey, but good enough for cautious recreational skating.

I was cautious for the first lap.  It was completely uneventful.  Encouraged, I picked up my pace, beginning to do turns and cross-overs.  For several years, I worked and rode with Mike Abel.  Mike was at the rink also, so we skated together for a while, catching up, and I entertained him with the tale of my ankle.  Then Sophie and I skated together, doing our best pairs skating impressions.  At the end of the session, Jessica and Sophie skated together and I just let it loose, skating fast and turning hard for a few laps. Just as I was exhilarated by my return to cycling, I am thrilled to be back on the ice in good form.  But I promise, no more skating sessions after 90 minutes at VeloSF.  Or maybe it was such a freak event that it could not happen again...?  Hmmm, let's not find out.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Wet and Painful Six Dozen

Ever have a mediocre-bad ride?  I did.

A bunch of guys organized a ride in West Sonoma county.  Starting in Monte Rio, on to Cazadero, up King Ridge, down Skaggs, south on Highway 1, up Ft. Ross, down Meyers Grade, then back to Monte Rio on River Road.  72 miles, 6,200 feet of climbing, most of the climbing in two hills -- King Ridge and Ft. Ross.  Both are steep.  King Ridge is longer, Ft. Ross is steeper.  Rain in the forecast starting at 1:00 p.m.

Brian, David, Howie, and I came up to ride together.  Mike G came up with Jules and Marius, a 20-something French whippet-like ex-racer.  There were 28 other cyclists there -- 27 men, one woman, all looking serious and fit.

The ride was to start at 8:30, but in spite of e-mailed promises and threats it wasn't starting at 8:30.  The four of us were circling the parking lot anxiously, ready to get going and to minimize our time in the rain.  Finally, after a few inconsequential announcements by chief ride organizer Theoren, aka "Buck Johnson," we started riding at 8:45 under gray skies in temperatures in high 30s.  Somehow, Brian and I found ourselves at the front, riding into the wind west on River Road toward Austin Creek.  We realized that we'd been pulling for eight minutes, agreed that we weren't so interested in pulling 31 riders and retreated into the shelter of the peloton (guffaw!).  Soon, we all turned onto Austin Creek Road, a badly surfaced, quiet road that parallels an eponymous creek.  A few drops fell, as we optimistically agreed that they were from redwood trees that are known for collecting moisture, except there were no trees overhead.  Well, even raindrops were OK, we were well prepared.  I was wearing two wool base layers -- a short and a long-sleeved, a long-sleeved jersey, a rain jacket, wool knee warmers, thick wool socks, and toe warmers.

Austin Creek took us onto Cazadero Highway, on which we rode through Cazadero and began climbing King Ridge and I discovered I wasn't climbing so well.  Quickly I found myself in my bottom gear -- an intentionally and embarrassingly low 30x29.  I was making progress, but had no energy to spin.  I was pushing it and, though only Marius, two guys I don't know and Brian and Mike were ahead of me, traveling lousy 5-6 miles an hour I was harboring no illusions about my climbing strength.  We had perfect climbing weather -- it was still and cool, so it was very frustrating that my legs weren't working.  Perhaps this was because I was sick a week ago and hadn't recovered completely.  Maybe it was because I've been riding very easy at nearly no intensity.  I could have been just having a lousy day.  Hell, I was having a lousy day, but it was just too early to be riding so weakly.  The tendon on top of the ankle was bugging me too and there I was, riding weakly.  Now that I think about it, no one was passing me, so maybe it was the road making me suffer, and I was suffering along with everyone else.  Mike and Brian were in view, they waited and when the grade eased, I picked up the pace and caught up with them.  A few more drops fell in King Ridge.  The road was damp, but not soaking, so descents were reasonably safe.

The road crested, but these roads never seem to crest, there were quite a few rollers of varying length and grade.  Brian took the rollers aggressively, jumping at the bottom, usually making it to the top.  I took the tortoise approach, catching up just after each hill topped out.  After a few of these, we came to the intersection with Tin Barn Road.  There was a Honda Element with water and food.  We refilled, David and Howie rolled in, we remounted and took the high road to the Temple of Doom, a copper-domed Buddhist temple in the middle of nowhere, Sonoma County.  More climbing and descending ensued.  It seemed there was more climbing.  Soon after passing the temple, we found ourselves at the top of Rancheria Wall, the infamous Terrible Two climb, but we got there from the easier south side.  We turned left on Skaggs Springs Road, descended and climbed and descended to the coast at Stewart's Point.

We regrouped at Stewart's Point Store and rain started in earnest.  It wasn't heavy, but it was steady.  We weren't making rooster tails, but we were getting pelted.  Sonoma coastline is full of hills and little canyons with creeks that drain into the ocean.  Therefore, Highway 1 constantly turns, dips, swoops, and climbs.  These are short, big-ring climbs.  Today it was a little harder because the road was wet and we warily  slowed down before hitting the turns, so climbing was harder because we carried less speed into the ascent.  Somewhere in Salt Point, we went through one of these dippy turns and stood up to jam up the hill.  As I stood up, I glanced ahead and saw Brian just ahead of me, his rear wheel about three inches from my front wheel, riding in one o'clock direction just as I was riding in eleven o'clock direction.  Oops.  My front wheel hit his rear from the right.  Instead of bouncing off and going to the right, I did what almost every cyclist does and pushed back against Brian's wheel with predictable results.  Lucky thing we were climbing, so I just fell on my left side, bounced back up and, happy that the front wheel was pointing forward, jumped back on the bike.  I think all that delayed us only 30 seconds and I recon proudly this was the fastest post-crash remount.

Fueled by crash-induced adrenaline rush, I was feeling good and riding strongly.  After riding for close to an hour we came to our turn-off, Fort Ross Road.  Fort Ross is the last major climb on the Terrible Two -- two miles averaging 12%. I was glad I had a 29-tooth cog.  Almost immediately, I was in my 29, pushing and shoving pedals around.  No smooth, graceful circles for me -- colloquialism for good riding is pedaling circles and for poor riding is pedaling squares -- I was pedaling triangles.  I was not glad that when Merlin built my Spectrum they put the rear brake bridge about half a centimeter too low.  I run 25mm tires and there's just 2-3mm of clearance between the rear tire and the brake. When my tire picks up road junk it can get stuck in the brake and rub against the tire.  When roads are wet and road junk is wet, the junk is more prone to adhere to the tire and get stuck in the brake.  Fort Ross was a wet and messy road and stuff kept getting stuck in my brake.  Normally, I hear a piece of junk rubbing against the tire, but I don't feel.  On this ride, I learned that I feel it when I am riding four miles an hour.  Every time I heard something rubbing, I reached down and tried to rub the brake-tire juncture to de-junk it.  Sometimes that worked, sometimes it didn't.  Eventually, whatever it was came off, inevitably replaced by another redwood twiglet, a piece of gravel, a leaf.  Let me tell you, it's not easy to ride a 12% hill one-handed while repeatedly reaching behind your, fishing for the brake.  Crampy twinges began as I approached the top, but the top was close enough that I managed to ward them off long enough to reach the top.

The SAG Element was at the top of Fort Ross.  It felt good to get off the bike.  We refilled and remounted again, proceeding southwest on Seaview, a lovely road with predictable views of the Pacific.  Before the road becomes Meyers Grade and descends to the coast there are a few minor rollers.  I was feeling strong and fresh, standing in the big ring up the first roller.  The second roller was a bit longer and steeper and, wisely, I shifted into the small ring.  As I spun ahead, crampy feelings in both quads returned.  I tried to change my pedaling style, focusing on spinning, using my hip flexors and hamstrings more, and immediately spinning myself into a severe right hamstring cramp, which required immediate action.

Immediate action consisted of screaming in pain, unclipping left foot, putting it down and trying -- with mixed results -- to straighten my right leg.  As I did this, most of my weight was on my left leg and my left quad was twitching threateningly.  Fortunately, I brought a licensed massage therapist -- Howie.  Howie grabbed my hamstring and squeezed.  This helped a lot, but I wasn't ready to ride yet, so I walked.  (Two years ago, I saw another rider walk up Rancheria Wall, explaining that walking is actually a good cramping remedy.)  I walked up the hill, escorted vigilantly by slow riding David and Howie.  I remounted at the top.  As we started, the rain intensified and the headwind picked up.  It was cold and I was getting pelted in the face by stinging rain.  Meyers Grade descent is 18%, it was wet and I felt my brakes almost bottoming out.  I focused on braking early and often to dry out the rims repeatedly, and to keep my speed down, so I wouldn't have to brake super-hard.  I made it to bottom uneventfully.  Brian and Jules waited for us at the Highway 1 intersection.  I explained and apologized for the delay and we set off on the last and easiest leg of the ride: south on 1, then west on River.  Highway 1 continued to dip and climb a bit.  Wary of more cramping, I took it really easy on the climbs.  Howie was feeling sympathetic and wanted to provide me with company and massage therapy, or emphathetic to the point of near-cramping, and he rode with me.  If it's the former, I'm grateful for the sentiment.  If it's the latter, I am just glad we were there for each other.

We rode into the wind and the rain, occasionally catching glimpses of David, Brian, and Jules in the distance.  After we turned onto River, it seemed they slowed down and I started pushing the pace.  We were probably within 50 yards of them, when we decided to back off a bit.  We sat up, they rode ahead.  Then we bore down again for a while and got almost within shouting distance, but backed off.  We kept making 3/4-hearted efforts, would get closer to them, then back off again.  Then I rode up next to Howie and said something to the effect that if we ride 17 mph than 20 we'd feel much better and arrive one minute later, so what's the point?  We backed off, but the whole smell-the-barn mentality kept re-rearing its head and we'd speed up, then slow down, then do it again and again.  We arrived soon enough; the River Road leg took about 25 minutes.

Just Brian, Mike, and Marius were in the parking lot.  I guess we were among the leading finishers of this non-race.  David and I got in the car as quickly as we could (the two us drove up together) and the rain really started coming down.  Glad we missed the dump.

In sum:  two and a half hours in the rain, road rash, cramps, a nasty case of tendon pain, and unhappiness with my legs.  Then we got stuck in traffic in the rain in Petaluma.  We drove nearly four hours round-trip for a five-hour ride, and when I got home my formerly cramped legs were stiff as hell and my tendon ached so much I could barely walk, hence the title of this post.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

A Vanity Project

Blogging is ultimate self-indulgence.  If readers are lucky, bloggers offer opinions on current events, share recipes, or write about knitting.  The rest of us are using blogs as public diaries in what amounts to little more than a "look at me!" exercise.

I'll take this navel-gazing to the extreme:  The other day, I was coming back from a ride and as I came into  the house and glanced at the mirror, I saw a hard edge in my reflection that I hadn't seen before.  That guy looked like a cyclist rather than a guy who cycles.  Someone serious about the sport rather than a hobbyist.  So there you have it, a man who has ridden 109 days in a row finally considers himself a serious cyclist rather than a dilettante.  Of course, previously he had thought himself a serious cyclist, but it appears he'd been wrong.  I hope he's right this time.

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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Back on the Rainbow

I was bummed about not being able to use the Spectrum during Knoxville and was determined to get it back in riding condition.  So, yesterday, in the garage, I found another wheel with a Campagnolo cassette body and put the 12-29 cassette on it, but the cassette body wasn't wide enough to accommodate all the cogs.  Damn!  I put the cassette back on the original wheel and decided to play with rear derailleur tension.  That improved things somewhat but not to my complete satisfaction and by then I'd exhausted my bike mechanic skills.  It was time to call a professional.  Not just any professional, Tim Parker at Cycle Sports.

Now, what I did wasn't completely kosher by bike shop MO.  I called the shop at 4:30 p.m. and asked to speak with Tim.  "Tim," I said, "are you really busy now?"  "Not too busy," he replied, "what's up?"  "I have a drivetrain noise issue. Any chance you could take a look at it now?"  Tim was willing, so I jumped in the car and sped off.  When I came in, Tim was working on someone's commuter and seemed glad to have my bike in the stand.  I demonstrated the rumble and the noise.  Tim took out the bike for a test ride, then, when he returned, he removed the rear wheel and played with the hub.  "Your cassette body is pretty well shot and the bearings on the other side are pretty rough.  It seems like it's been ridden in the rain a lot," was the spot-on diagnosis -- this was the bike that spent six hours in the rain of Solvang Double in addition to other wet rides I'd done on it.  Tim ordered a new cassette body and repacked the bearings on the other side with grease.  All that took just half an hour.  Short-term, the wheel is good to go.  I'll have the cassette body replaced when it comes in and the hub should be as good as new.  And the great news is now I have my ridiculously puny 30x29 gear.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Knoxville '11

Knoxville 2011

Dedication: To My Honorable Shepherd, Jeffrey W. Gould, who dragged my sorry corpse into the teeth of the wind up and down Napa Valley, Butts Valley, Pope Valley and who knows how many other dales and hills all day.  Without him I may still be somewhere in Lake County, among people who count their teeth on the fingers of one hand.


This was the first double since my triple ankle fracture and surgery six months ago, so having bagged a double, with considerable help from Jeff, was important.  It feels good to have completed a Comeback Ride.

Ride Preparation
Ride plan – and it was a good one – was to start early at 5:00 a.m., ride comfortably but quickly, spend as little time as possible at rest stops, and finish in decent shape and at a decent hour.  I had the same good plan last year, but we spent too much time dallying at early and late rest stops, then tending to cramps and heat and gastric distress at mid-ride rest stops, and finished at 8:45 p.m. or thereabouts, riding in the dark for an hour and a half, fearing light battery failure as we went.

This year, I had a fail-safe option for battery drainage – a dynamo hub light, which lasts forever.  I installed the light on my Spectrum.  In preparation for the forecasted heat, I installed a saddle-mounted gizmo for carrying two additional bottle cages.  Finally, I bought a 12-29 cassette that would allow me to spin, spin, spin, thereby preserving my legs for late miles and warding off cramps.  This cassette would replace the 12-27 that was on the bike.  The day before the ride, I took the cassette and the rear wheel to a bike shop, where the mechanic installed it.  I tested the shifting at 8:30 in the evening and discovered that with the new cassette chainline was way off and shifting was terrible.  Cursing, I pulled the cassette off and discovered that the 1mm aluminum spacer that had separated the 27-tooth cog from the spokes had been tossed or lost (thanks shop mechanic!).  I didn’t have another one, so this wheel would be of no use.

Cursing some more, I took the bike downstairs and brought out Goldie (not too stiff, not too flexible -- just right), my Colnago Monotitan.  Goldie had been on just one double – last year’s Knoxville, so at least it knew the course and Goldie's 11-28 cassette was close enough to the Spectrum’s.  On Goldie I’d have a higher big gear, allowing me to ride faster on pedalable downhills and a slightly bigger low gear, but I still should be able to spin up hills.  I pumped up the tires, moved the bottle cage gizmo from the Spectrum to Goldie and got on the bike for a 15-minute streak-preserving spin.  I got off the bike at 10:10 p.m. and, with all the pre-ride prep still to do, didn’t get to bed until nearly 11:00.  With the alarm set for 3:25, I’d have to do the ride on little sleep.

Rise and Shine
I woke up before the alarm at 3:07.  Feeling pretty awake, I got up and remembered that I’d forgotten to pack my lucky ice sock.  I went to the dresser and rummaged in the sock drawer in complete darkness.  Unable to find the sock quickly, I decided to search systematically by removing every piece of hosiery until I stumbled upon the right one.  This approach worked.  I put on a sleeveless base layer, a short sleeve 6ABC jersey, arm warmers, and knee warmers – there were predictions of a cooling trend and I wasn’t taking chances.  I had my usual pre-double meal of two bananas and three egg whites, put everything in the car, and left the house at 3:50.
 
Driving through Berkeley, I noticed that the car’s thermometer read 56 degrees and remembered that I planned to bring a vest.  Oops, no time to go back to get it, I guess I’ll have to suck it up until it warms up.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to suck it up for very long, as by the time I reached Fairfield and glanced at the thermometer again, it read 73.  I was glad again to have found the ice sock.
 
As I approached the ride’s start at Pena Adobe Park , I saw ghostly lights crossing the freeway and traveling alongside it toward Fairfield – early starting cyclists.  I parked, got out the bike and after a moment's indecision shed knee and arm warmers.  I traipsed to the starting area, where I got my number and met Jeff and Brian.  To my surprise, Ken, who led me through the second part of last year's, was there too.  A few minutes after 5:00 we were off.

Heart of Darkness
Everyone’s lights were on, there wasn’t a hint of dawn in the Eastern sky.  We rode around Pena Adobe Lake, through Fairfield and north to points unknown; unknown because I’ve never seen those places in daylight.  As usual, Jeff was pulling at slightly faster than comfortable speed and I was trying to slow him down.  Just as we rode through a subdivision, a trio of riders wearing PBP jerseys passed us.  I looked at the names on their numbers and realized these were some of the most accomplished Northern California randonneurs: Eric Norris (campyonly.com), Todd Teachout, and Rob Hawks (head of San Francisco Randonneurs).  We sped up a little, they slowed down a little, and the seven of us rode north out of Fairfield together.
 
The staying together ended when we hit rollers somewhere in north Solano County .  People began popping off – even Rob admitted the pace was a bit much for him – and soon there were just three of us: Jeff, Todd, and I.   We motored through nasty headwinds past single riders and small groups with all of them acting as moving targets for Jeff.  At this pace, it felt like my matchbook was out and I was ready to strike, and this was not a good thing so early in the ride.  Finally, we came to a T-intersection that led to a climb over Mt. George.
 
Dawn was barely breaking.  Jeff rode ahead and I shifted into climbing mode, trying my newfangled high cadence technique.  It took a few minutes to get used to it.  During that time, a few people came past me, but I passed them again once my cadence went back up.  The descent in improving daylight into Napa Valley was fun and chilly, as fog and ocean air had reached Napa , where temperatures were in the 50s.
 
Jeff was waiting at the bottom.  We rode past Silverado Resort amid a loose group of around 20 people, going past most of them except for a man and a woman who rode at our speed.  I thought they were together, as they seemed to be in matching kit, but later I found out they weren’t.  The man, Tim, was also remarkable for full leg-length tattoos that didn’t seem to match.  Visible parts of his upper body were tattoo-free.  Jeff resumed pulling at 23-25 mph, and these two slotted behind me.  We rode north on Silverado, past chateaux, vineyards, fancy restaurants, hills, passing many riders.  At one point, Tim pulled alongside me and said, referring to Jeff: "We suck him until he's dry?"  I responded: "He can go like this forever.  For him, this is a social ride."  Satisfied that he wouldn't have to work for a while, Tim returned to his place on my wheel.  The first rest stop was in Yountville, 6.7 flat miles ahead.  When we reached Yountville Cross Road and turned left toward the rest stop, I looked back for the first time since Silverado and realized, surprised, that Jeff had been towing at least 10 people.  Many thanked him for the pull, as we arrived at the rest stop.

There, we greeted Scott Halversen, the head Quackcyclist, and other volunteers, refilled bottles, emptied bladders, and set forth quickly before unauthorized wheelsuckers were ready to go.  I was an authorized wheelsucker :-).  (I say this in jest because Jeff was extremely generous with his draft, inviting rider after rider to get in the paceline with us.  Their problem was we were going too fast.)

Go Jump Into Lake County
We rode west toward Highway 29 and on it for just a bit before turning west on Oakville Cross Road, back toward Silverado.  We turned north on Silverado, for another 7.5 flat miles.  We saw more of the same picturesque dullness: vineyards, fancy houses, wineries.  All along Napa Valley we'd been riding in low to mid 20s.  All that faster than comfortable riding through Solano County in the dark and Napa Valley in daylight starting adding up -- I was beginning to feel tenderized.  Jeff told me repeatedly to let him know whether we were going too fast, even encouraging me to use profanity to slow him down.  And though I said several times, "too fast, motherfucker! :-)," inevitably, we'd speed up again.  I was reluctant to keep reining him in, so I sucked it up and rode.  Finally, we reached Deer Park Road, the first serious climb of the day.  Howell Mountain Road, the usual way Knoxville Double takes from Napa to Lake County was closed due to construction, so we detoured by riding extra couple of miles north on Silverado before turning up and heading east over Howell Mountain by a different route.

Unlike the Mt. George climb, I could see this one.  I also remembered this road somewhat, having descended it like a demon on Napa Century just over a month earlier.  I remembered a fast descent, which means a slow climb.  After 24 miles of flats we had 4.2 miles of uphill.  I shifted way down and spun.  It took a little while, but I found good spinning gears and decent spinning legs and went at it, almost at Jeff's speed.  I was working harder than he -- I think he was resting here after all the work he had done on the flat -- but I was just about keeping up on the easier, lower slopes.  After a couple of miles, the road kicked up, I shifted down, and slowed down.  Jeff pulled ahead, still riding comfortably.  I was working, but it felt OK and I thought I was riding pretty strongly.  I was more comfortable than on the flats, probably because I was in control of the pace now.  We passed a few more people.  By now, we'd passed at least 30 riders over the course of the morning and considering our fairly early start we had to be toward the front of the ride.  I told Jeff that if we keep going like this we -- well maybe he because I couldn't maintain this pace to the finish -- would "win" this ride.  He replied that if I thought we were going to win, I was suffering from delusions of grandeur.  To which I said, "maybe I'm deluded, but you're grand!"


Four miles up Deer Park and we turned left up White Cottage Road for more climbing.  At first the road rose steadily and steeply for a quarter mile, then mellowed and turned into rollers, frustratingly dipping and twisting, rising and meandering and slowly sucking strength from my legs for another three miles.  Finally, it leveled off and plunged toward Pope Valley.  Immediately, we were stuck behind a slow moving RV.  At one point, I tried to pass it in the opposite lane of traffic, but saw lights of an oncoming car, grabbed the brakes too hard, locking my rear wheel and fishtailing, and returned safely to the shelter of the RV.  A small adrenaline jolt is all that was.  The RV pulled over at a turnout half a mile down the hill and we proceeded down impeded only by potholes and wicked hairpins.


The next 10 miles was like riding in Vatican.  We went from Pope Valley Road to Pope Valley Cross Road, to Pope Canyon Road, which led us to the second rest stop at Lake Beryessa.  Pope Canyon Road lived up to its name with a few unpleasant hills, particularly unpleasant was the one immediately before the rest stop, which one (I) tends to climb harder than one should because one knows the rest stop is just on the bottom, where recovery awaits.  But it's all about burning matches and their number is limited and it's dumb to go hard 72 miles into the ride unless your ride is 75 miles long.  (Stop me if you've heard this before.)  I arrived at Beryessa rest stop tenderized further, my book a few matches lighter than at the start.


Kx 37
The 37-mile ride from the second rest stop to the lunch stop has one turn, a right into the park where we had lunch.  Before then, it was all straight on Knoxville Road.  Well, it's not all straight.  The road is quite three dimensional, as it climbs, descends and twists and turns many times, but you get the idea.  There's a flattish part that goes for quite a while along Lake Beryessa, where I was still feeling the efforts of the previous 70-some or 80-whatever miles, before the road leaves the lakeside, heading north toward Clear Lake's southern edge's imaginatively dubbed burgh of Lower Lake.  Again, as the road began to tilt up and its surface deteriorated, I began to feel better, spinning my small gears.  We passed a few more people on bikes and many more people with guns.  Knoxville Road is a popular hunting spot.  Some hunters wore camouflage gear, others wore bright orange.  Considering most of the game they were shooting is colorblind, I wondered why they wear camo.  Somewhere along here, my bike started making a rattling-jangling noise whose source I could not identify.  I worried that it came from the drivetrain, but when I reached for a bottle in my behind-the-saddle gizmo, I realized that David was right: those devices do come loose and mine was loose as a goose.  As I remembered, they required a hex wrench for tightening.  I didn't have one and neither did Jeff.  I began to look for the water stop, which was 22 miles into this leg.  I hoped to find the right tool there to fix my gizmo and hoped I wouldn't lose the nut that went with the bolt that needed tightening before I got there.


Well, around mile 90, I plain ran out of gas.  I don't now if it got hotter or I didn't eat or drink enough, but my legs felt empty.  My brain was OK, I wasn't cramping, but I had very little power.  Considering my two training rides for this double were only around 100 miles each, I suppose my body thought it was approaching the end of the ride and was behaving done and depleted.  As several times on other rides, I thought, "maybe I am in decent century shape, but I am not in double century shape."  Plodding was the only viable option, so I plodded.  Fortunately, most of the climbing of Knoxville Road was behind us, but some rollers remained.  If you are fresh and strong, most of them would be big-ring rollers, but I was neither, so I was in my 30x25 and 30x28 a lot.  On one of these rollers someone passed me after he sat on my wheel for a couple of minutes -- the first time that happened all day.  I would have been offended had I felt better, but I wasn't and, as he passed, I said to him, "not much draft at six miles an hour?"  He smiled, agreed, and rode away.  I was at peace with that, trying not to think about the fact that another 110 miles in 80-plus degree weather remained.


The water stop finally appeared as a tent in a turnout on top of another roller, competing for space with a Clif Bar tent, a rest stop for Clif's corporate ride that travels in the opposite direction.  Only two people were at our rest stop: Jeff and the guy who'd passed me.  I asked for a hex wrench, but volunteers said they didn't have one.  I examined the gizmo closer and discovered that I needed a 4mm Allen wrench, which I had.  Unwilling to rummage in my saddle bag, which was jammed behind the gizmo and access to the bag would be difficult, so I asked a volunteer for one.  He said he'd get one and went to the car, but either forgot or didn't have one.  With no tool forthcoming, however, I had to fish out mine.  Did that and tightened the correct screw as well as I could, topped off the bottles, filled the ice sock and set off again.


In spite of the stop, I still wasn't feeling great.  There was more groveling up rollers until the real descent began.  It was fairly long and fun and didn't require much braking, providing a nice rest.  Still, there were a few more small, stinging hills to climb, each taking a little more out of me.  The final flat drag to the lunch stop saw me gritting my teeth and hanging on to Jeff's wheel.  I was glad to have made it to mile 108.  The match book was quite depleted by now.


For lunch I had a very plain burrito, half a bag of potato chips, water, a coke, salt tablets, and Advil.  Refilled the ice sock and was ready to go.



Grovel-o-rama
When we left the rest stop, two things were bother me: I felt vaguely nauseous and my ice sock was giving me a brain freeze.  I figured that brain freeze would go away when I got used to the cold or when some of the ice directly on the back of my neck melted.  Or I could simply dump out all or some of the ice.  Nausea was more troubling because I couldn't figure out a way to get rid of it.  Running on fumes, I plodded along the false flat that is Siegler Canyon Road in my second and third lowest gears.  This was disheartening especially because double-digit grades of the climb to Loch Lomond loomed a couple of miles ahead, but I was ready to carry on.  I was willing to walk if I had to and was ready to barf if I had to.  In fact, on some level I wished I'd just barf and get whatever was bugging me out of my system.  Barfing wasn't happening, so I plodded on through this lovely, lush canyon with its rapidly flowing creek and happily chirping birds.  Jeff waited at the Loch Lomond Road intersection, but I was riding very slowly, so he rode ahead a bit.


The road tilted up and I shifted down, wishing for that 29-tooth cog.  No spinning for me now -- pushing and grinding.  I started cramping toward the top of this climb last year.  Mindful of that possibility, I rode carefully, trying not to over strain any muscle.  Trees line most of this climb and it's fairly shady in early afternoon.  Having shade helped, as did realizing that I was making decent progress even while feeling crappy.  Jeff was waiting half way up the climb and I announced that the climb was going better than I expected.  He offered words of encouragement, as he had done all through the day.  We crested at nearly 3000 feet, descended toward Cobb Mountain and climbed out of it.  I'd recovered substantially by then, but my climbing legs were pretty well gone.  I was still spinning well, but even on the tamest grades I found myself in the lowest two gears.  That was OK by me as long as I was making progress.


The Cobb climb from the north is mercifully short.  It is mercilessly steep from the south, but that was the side we descended, which was a blast.  What was not a blast was a feeling of shadeless heat from the valley, as we left what passes for cool mountainous climate in Lake County and approached Middletown.  We rode through Middletown and turned south into a nasty three-quarters side wind that blew me all over the road and must have been hell on Jeff, who pulled us manfully.  This was [kick my] Butts Canyon Road for 27 miles.  My computer died on Siegler Canyon, so I had no electronic way to tell where we were on the course, though I remembered terrain fairly well.  I remembered running low on legs and energy during these few miles that preceded the Pelican Lake rest stop and it was no different this year.


Valley Boy
Refilled the bottles at the rest stop, chatted with Jason, Bruce Carroll, Alfie, Lisa, and Bryan.  Bless Duck volunteers at all the rest stops.  They filled our bottles, took food orders, parked our bikes, dispensed pills, and applied sun screen with great cheer.  I had another coke and a bunch of gel and refilled the ice sock.  Not wanting to spend more time here than necessary, we set off.  Again, I didn't feel so great and wondered whether the not-so-great feeling was related to sock shock.  The sock had served me so well on a number of other rides that I wasn't going to blame it for anything that happened.  I was riding on autopilot, operating on what felt like a quarter tank.  Bless Jeff, again, for dragging me all over these roads.  At first, Butts is almost completely flat and beautiful, starting in a valley with a head-side wind, a valley that gradually narrows into a green and shaded canyon that provides shelter from the wind and the sun.  Twenty-some miles down the road, however, one has to climb out of the canyon and that is where I slowed again -- no drafting Jeff on slopes.  I was making decent headway up the hill when I heard a cyclist behind me.  I had enough energy and determination to refuse to let him pass me here, so I sucked it up and sped up.  I held him off comfortably, picking up Jeff's draft at the top and we sped away from the pursuer.  Just a few more mostly downhill miles to Lake Hennessey rest stop and we were there.


At the rest stop, they were serving hot soup and not finding any takers in the 80+ degree weather, but they also had hot dogs and I asked for one.  I sat down in a lawn chair, armed with a coke and a dog.  That dog was the tastiest thing in the world and I inhaled it in no time.  I had to use the bathroom, which meant that I was at least somewhat hydrated.  Upon using the port-a-potty I realized that I wasn't so well hydrated, but the guy who used it before me was in worse shape than I.  Others were in the same boat; I wasn't the only one suffering and was lucky to have a friend and a team leader in Jeff.


End in Sight

This is the point in the ride where it feels like we're on the way home, but the way home lies over a number of hills, including one immediately after the rest stop.  As I began climbing, a strange feeling came over me, a feeling of having eaten the hot dog too fast, not a good feeling.  Even if I had better legs, my stomach would not have let me use them.  Jeff was playing, riding on gravel surfaces along the road.  I didn't mind.  If I had a much weaker riding partner I'd be somewhat bored with the slow pace and look for diversions too, and it was fun watching him do it.


Soon enough, we crested, rode over the plateau, and descended into a valley whose name I didn't know.  Cardiac and a few nameless climbs remained.  The road rolled and boat towing trucks rolled past us, but it wasn't even 5:00 p.m. yet, so we had plenty of daylight and were plenty visible.  I felt OK on the climbs, aided immensely by my grandmotherly gearing.  On descents, I discovered that the hot dog wanted us to become reacquainted when I got in the drops, so I stayed on top of the bars.

Just one climb to Putah Creek Dam remained.  We were at lake level.  I've climbed to a few dams and it takes at least half a mile to get up all of them.  This dam is weird, traveling eastbound, the road passes the dam at practically lake level, so the climb was barely a pimple.  We descended along Putah Creek into a valley, blown along by a howling tail wind.  This tail wind was stronger than the tailwind I had for the last leg of 2009 Central Coast Double, where I rode 25 mph alone for over an hour.  It was the first time I'd seen this part of the course in daylight and, as we were blown southward.  Yes, we were pedaling too, but pedaling was almost superfluous.


The last rest stop at Pardehsa Store (wtf is Pardehsa?) at Pleasants Valley Road intersection came into view about half an hour sooner than I expected.  Whether that was a result of wind, our riding, or low expectations I don't know, but I was thrilled to be there.  It was just 5:45 and with another 90 minutes of daylight and just 13 miles of flats and false flats before us, making it back in daylight should be a snap.  We left the rest stop quickly, climbed a roller, after which Pleasants Valley really feels like the final leg, and proceeded.  After spending significant time on state highways with their sometimes fairly heavy traffic, it was nice to ride on a quieter rural road.  For a change, we rode side by side, with Jeff entertaining me with stories from his junior tennis tournament playing days.  I found the story about his cowing of Malibu Cheater particularly entertaining.

We rode and rode.  The road is mostly straight.  We rode past ranches and ranch-like houses on large lots.  It was bucolic and scenic and looked like the residents were engaged in recreational agriculture.  After a while we started looking for Kx directional signs for the turn toward Pena Adobe.  The course was superbly marked and we hardly consulted our route sheets, but we just kept going south on Pleasants.  We passed a turn off toward Vacaville (literally, "cow town" in Spanglish) and it wasn't our turn.  Another mile or two later, a small yellow directional sign loomed in the distance and a car turned right from that intersection toward us.  I told Jeff that I thought that was our turn, from where less than a mile to the finish remained.  Jeff glanced back and looked just a little miffed.   He said there were a few riders behind.  "Close?" I asked.  "Pretty close," he replied.  "No way in hell," I said, and we went back to work, which means Jeff went back to work and I assumed my customary role of a caboose.  I turned around at the Cherry Glen intersection.  They group was about 100 yards back.  I told Jeff that we had a winning lead and were going at a winning speed.  That group had no chance.  Just to be safe, Jeff made sure that they really had none.  We arrived at Pena Adobe Park at a ridiculously early hour of 6:40.


Jeff nudged me toward the volunteer who was taking down arriving riders' numbers to announce my arrival first.  I told him that he deserved to be first, but he demurred.  So, to the volunteer, I said "207," Jeff's number, and then added "117," mine.


Just like that, my Comeback Ride was in the books.  I felt pretty spent, but in good spirits.  I hadn't cramped.  Considering that my two long training rides for this double were both around 100 miles, the huge jump in the distance on a hot day went surprisingly smoothly.  For the last time, I give a tremendous amount of credit and gratitude to Jeff for helping me not just finish this tough ride but to finish it in what for me was a fast time of 13:35.


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