Monday, November 21, 2016

Back At It

Resurrecting a long dormant blog in an effort to remotivate myself to ride more and faster. I have a weekly Strava goal of 130 miles. Last week I rode 114 miles and was happy to have done so, with fairly heavy rain on Saturday and Sunday. I have the legs for about a 50-mile ride these days, a far cry from five years ago, when I was knocking out doubles regularly and almost comfortably. Now I am looking to get back to doubles.

So, today, I rode modest 21 miles that involved 2111' of climbing. It was a lovely November afternoon, sunny, slightly cool-breezy, roads drying from yesterday's rain. Now that I'm 54, I have realized that my senses aren't so sharp anymore. I am the last to hear a car approaching behind. Today, riding through Lake Temescal park, I heard a rider behind me. I glanced back at him and moved over to give him room to pass. He didn't. The path through the park ended. I signaled right turn onto Broadway and made the turn. Looked back at my follower and didn't find him. Perhaps he turned left -- no. Peeled off earlier in the park -- nope. Stopped earlier on the path -- negative. Are my sight and hearing screwed up or was I hallucinating?  Maybe sight and hearing are going but the sense of touch is just fine; damn it was cold riding past the lake. Then climbing frontage Broadway, with sun shining and wind at my back I felt 10 degrees warmer. The climb warmed me up I was comfortable for the rest of the ride.

And the rest of the ride felt good, probably from rain-forced two-day rest, so riding felt fast and easy. Carbon wheels, mmm the jury is still out. I've managed to work out the braking, but in the wind from any direction the bike feels unstable. Nothing terrible, but just unsettling enough to make me think twice about riding them.

Next ride is tomorrow. Hope that next write is tomorrow also.

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.


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.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012


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.


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.


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.


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.