Family Bicycling

June 7, 2012

Santa Rosa 600k brevet ride report

Filed under: Solo Adventures — ttoshi @ 4:10 am

This 600k represents my conclusion of the “Super Randonneur” brevet series, which consists of a 200k, 300k, 400k and 600k ride.

I completed the San Francisco Randonneur 400k in late April, which gave me a little over a month to train for the 600k. I also planned on using my new brevet bike, which is a Rivendell A Homer Hilsen bike, as well as using an SP Dynamo hub, Rivet Pearl saddle, and Pacenti Pari Moto 38 mm tires. The SP PV-8 Dynamo hub is supposedly as or more efficient than the venerable Schmidt dynohub, but costs about half the price. I did have some concerns about the Pari Moto 38mm 650b tires because some people claimed it flatted every 25 miles, while others rode thousands of miles without flats. I decided to go for it, but added plenty of tubes and spare tires in the drop bags in the event of multiple flats or tire problems. The Rivet Pearl saddle felt very comfortable right from the start, and although it wasn’t fully broken in, I did feel pretty dialed into my position on my bike. All in all, I got about 150 miles on my new setup, so I would over double my total miles on my new bike on a single ride. That was a pretty daunting thought!

Bike is ready, is the rider ready?

Much of my training was done with my kids, and my big ride in May was the Grizzly Peak Cyclists metric century, which I did with my daughter: http://ttoshi.net/bicycling/blog/?p=104. Other than that ride, I stuck to my usual regimen of trainer rides and got in the occasional ride with my new bike along the Pinehurst/Wildcat/Grizzly/Skyline loop and a few rides up Tunnel Rd. with my family triplet bike, which I rode with my son and daughter.

The day before the event, I dropped my daughter off at pre-school, and as I was going back to the car, my left foot hit a crack in the sidewalk, and then my right foot hit the same crack and I went flying down head first. I managed to get my hands in front of my chest and the impact fell on my hands, which thumped into my chest and knocked the breath out of my lungs. I imagine I was experiencing what it is like to experience an asthma attack because I was wheezing trying to suck air into my lungs, and I was stumbling trying to get up off the sidewalk. I sat down by the side of the sidewalk taking stock of what happened and was hoping my ride wasn’t ruined by the fall. I had trouble squeezing both my right and left hand, although my right hand seemed worse. After I got to work, I applied an ice pack to my right hand and it seemed as if squeezing a brake would be okay, so I was hopeful that I would still be able to do the ride.

What did I learn from the crazy mishap a day before the big ride? First thing is that you can get hurt doing something as simple as walking down the street. I realize there are dangers with riding big events, but in the big picture, keeping fit and healthy is better in the long run for me than trying to avoid risk and potentially being overweight and getting high blood pressure etc…

The second thing the mishap can do is to remind me to keep changing my hand position and avoid numbness/circulation problems etc… I noticed that on my new bike, even on some short rides, my circulation was being cut off a little bit on my left hand, so I definitely wanted to keep an eye on that.

I made it through the day icing my hand, and then I drove to Santa Rosa to stay in the hotel the night before the ride. As I was driving up, I hit Friday evening getaway traffic, and it was basically a standstill through Petaluma. Since I’m no longer used to suffering through commute traffic, I was probably tense gripping the steering wheel with my left hand, and then I noticed that my left hand was hurting pretty badly and it hurt to open and close my hand. I focused hard to lightly grip the steering wheel as I crawled on to the hotel. Now I was icing both hands, and I popped an Aleve right before I went to bed, hoping that I’d be ready to ride.

Fortune smiled on me and didn’t want me to end before I started. My hands felt fine after the rest and I would take care of them as I rode.

My goal for the morning was to make it with a group to the Hopland grade, which is an 8-mile climb to the summit. I would go slowly at my own pace up the climb and then meet up with others afterwards if I could.

At the start I met Peg as well as Bassem and Metin, who also rode Rivendell bikes. Deb and Phil were friendly faces from previous rides, including the DMD, which we finished late at night after an epic day for me and my buddy Randy http://ttoshi.net/bicycling/blog/?p=61. I also recognized Linda because I met her when she was attempting her 50th double century!

Early morning sun, Photo credit: Bassem Youssef

Bassem’s Rambouillet on left, Metin’s Romulus far right, Picture credit: Bassem Youssef

We rolled out of the hotel and the pace was pretty reasonable at the start. Robert Choi, who is famous for completing the Terrible Two at the front every year was off the front of our group pretty quickly with another rider. We had a good group of riders that stayed pretty together through Cloverdale, but Bassem wanted to get more water so and Metin and Bassem dropped off. The pace started to pick up, and by the time we reached the 101, I think we were down to 6 riders.

At this point Robert Buntrock moved to the front and really laid down the hammer. I was starting to suffer when we were flying uphill into the headwind at 22 mph. I was just hanging on waiting for the 101 to end. There is a reason that Robert finishes all the rides I do at least 5 hours faster than me. I had no business being in that group, but I managed to make it to the first stop in Hopland, where I had no intention of following anyone else at that point.

In expectation of the temperature rising significantly, I pulled off the extra layers and brought out my bare bones camelback and filed it with some water. A couple of locals told us to watch out for the grooves in the road up the Hopland grade. Grrr, boy they weren’t kidding about the road! The road was ground down and ready for repaving. Of course, it wasn’t repaved, so it was pretty annoying on the way up, but of course we were going slowly on the way up. Hah, just wait for the descent on this road!!! Of course, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Nasty surface on the Hopland Grade: Photo Credit: Bassem Youssef

In Lakeport it is pretty darn hot, and I ask a hot dog stand if he has bottles of water. He says no, but the guy says there’s water being sold over by what looks to be a mini flea market. I buy a couple of ice cold bottles, which makes me feel much better.

I’m putting along Scott Valley Rd where there’s a stiff headwind, and Peg comes along and kindly offers to pull me, and we work well as a team. It was nice to swap pulls and get some rest from the wind. We get to CA-20, and it starts out with a nasty section with about 2 feet of shoulder next to a rumble strip and the cars are flying by at about 60 mph. It was nice that there was a tailwind, but the bad thing is that Peg was clearly stronger than me, and I wasn’t getting as much rest when I was drafting. I managed to keep up the pace ok, and we made it through the 27-mile stretch pretty quickly. However, there was a climb coming up on Sulphur Creek Rd. I told Peg I was going to rest and take it easy on the hill. After the next stop, I continued on my own to recover some more while I ate on my bike. I passed Metin and Bassem when Matin had the first of his flats (a screw). I then passed Peg who had a flat too. I was just lucky not to get a flat and continued on to the Pope Valley staffed rest stop.

The Pope Valley stop was great. I had a great smoothie and turkey wrap sandwich. There were several 200k riders who were happy to be done for the day, while I tried not to think about being done for the day yet, since I still had about 60 miles to go before my sleep rest. There were a bunch of us here. I remember seeing Michael, Clyde, Aaron, Phil and Deb, Bassem and Metin, and Peg and Linda.

On the next leg, I went off on my own trying to gain time to get more sleep. Of course, in situations like that, the opposite usually happens, and sure enough, I speed down a descent too quickly and miss a turn. I descend another two miles before I realize that I’m off course, and I start hammering back up the hill. I put in some extra effort trying to catch up to everyone and trying not to be alone and the last one on the course. On this leg I see Robert Choi and another rider on their return leg. A little later I see Robert Buntrock and Gintautas, and I think the last person I saw was Tim. I continue on to Winters and at the halfway point, I see all of the same suspects from Pope Valley there. Luckily I hadn’t missed the bus back home yet.

Metin, Clyde, Phil, Deb, Michael and I leave together to march back to Pope Valley and Clyde is suffering from a bad stomach and drops back. Cardiac spreads us out a little, and Deb and Matin catch Michael and head off, while I decide to not try to keep up and go at my own slow pace. Phil passes by wondering if I’m ok, since I’m going pretty slowly, and decide I’m feeling good enough to ride with him. We catch up to Metin and Deb who are taking a quick rest stop. We ride back to Pope Valley and are greeted to some great Heart music–I never knew they did covers of Elton John and Led Zeppelin! The food was also top notch. The tortellini, chicken and tri tip were perfect. Bassem, Peg and Linda make it in, and I decide to hit the sack. We were going to wake up at 4:30, which gave us about 3 hours of Zzs.

I panic at the sound of my alarm going off and wrest myself out of my sleeping bag. Three hours may not sound like much, but I felt so much better than when I initially went to sleep. Tim is stoking the campfire flames and I got some

Refreshed? after 3 hours sleep, Photo credit: Bassem Youssef

warmth in my bones. Aaron heads off at his own pace, Bassem, Metin and I head off together, and Tim flies by off to get some McDonalds food. Deb and Phil are close behind. Things are pretty mellow as we make our way back to Clearlake. There are a couple of hills but they aren’t bad. Peg meets us in Clearlake after she woke from her hotel stay in Middletown.

We get lost in Clearlake and Peg and Tim are close behind. We all continue on for a bit until we all decide we are lost. Along the way we get some bonus potholed 15% pitches on the road. We finally get on track, and I’m happy to hear that Metin and Bassem want to take a rest on top of the Sulpher Bank climb because that gives me the opportunity to do the climb super slowly and enjoy the scenery.

Fast cars, small shoulders and rumble strips, Photo credit: Bassem Youssef

Now we get to the worst sections of the ride in bunches. We have 27 miles of rumble-strip shoulders and super fast cars on Highway 20. Metin, Bassem and I decide that it would be best to break it up with 1 mile rotations–9 pulls and we should be done. We manage to get to about 3 miles from the end, and I finish my pull and pull out of the shoulder, but up ahead are a couple of big rocks in the shoulder that Bassem gets around but Metin unfortunately hits one with both tires and flats them both! I check my bag for boots, but then realize that as I changed saddlebags before the ride, my toolkit never made it in my saddlebag! I have plenty of tubes in the event of flats, but I don’t even have tire levers! I was fortunate that I didn’t have any flats or mechanicals.

Metin manages to boot his tire with duct tape and we continue on to the staffed rest stop in Lakeport. The boiled eggs really hit the spot for me, and I am looking forward to getting away from highway 20. On Scotts Valley Rd., one of Metin’s patches fails on his tube and we stop to replace the tube. Right now we are all mentally and physically preparing for the climb up the Hopland Grade. The first pitch up the Hopland grade gets pretty steep ~10%, but the second climb is not as steep and we eventually make it to the top.

Metin and I are ready to rumble (down Hopland grade), Photo credit: Bassem Youssef

The descent of the Hopland grade was worse than anything else on the ride combined. I was glad to have 38mm wide tires, and my ride was surely more comfortable than most of the other riders. However, I probably would have needed motorcycle tires to avoid feeling jarred by the 10 miles of rumble-strip road. When we finally reached Hopland, we met Tim, Deb, Phil and Peg at the little market. I was able to eat most of a chicken salad sandwich and we all left together to tackle the last horrible section of road on the debris-filled 101 shoulder.

Phil had a flat just before we left Hopland, and Tim got a fish hook in his tire on the 101. Tim was being everyone’s savior by doing big pulls and pulling us together if the pack broke apart. We were very grateful for his company and his willingness to hang out with us slowpokes! I was feeling ok, but I wasn’t able to eat too much due to a sour stomach and some acid reflux. Peg gave me some Tums and Deb gave me a Prilosec and I was starting to feel better. We made our way to Geyserville and had a break at the grocery where we

Chocolate and ice cream tastes way better than Raspberry Hammer gel, Photo credit: Bassem Youssef

had some ice cream bars. The chocolate ice cream bar helped fuel me up too.

We slogged through the final miles, and I was super happy to be a 600k finisher. The food and beer at the finish was great. I especially want to thank Peg, Bassem, Metin, Deb, Phil and Tim for their great company and help with the ride. I want to thank the SRCC for the amazing support and especially Bob who was at almost every supported stop along the ride. I wonder if he slept at all?

Afterthoughts:

My new A Homer Hilsen Rivendell bike was awesome. The Rivet Pearl saddle was great, and my butt felt better than after the 400k. The Pari Motos didn’t have a single flat despite all of the debris all over the road. The SP PV-8 dynamo hub performed flawlessly.

I felt pretty good after the 600k and could have continued to ride, although another 600k is impossible to imagine though! However the one thing giving me pause is the sour stomach. I had almost two V-8s at every control, but that didn’t seem to be setting it off. It was the raspberry Hammer gel that was giving me the most problems. Has anyone else had a reaction to Hammer gel? I wonder if the chocolate Hammer gel would be okay. I switched away from chocolate because it was much thicker than the other gels, but if it doesn’t cause sour stomach I would be much happier! Thanks for any advice! I am definitely still motivated to try PBP someday…

April 25, 2012

SF Randonneurs 400k ride report

Filed under: Solo Adventures — ttoshi @ 4:42 am

This 400k ride represents the third ride of 4 rides in a randonneur series (200k, 300k, 400k, 600k). The 400k would be the longest ride of my life, so it would surely be a challenge! Training time has always been an issue for me, but this year I’m getting a little more than my usual (mostly) trainer only fare. I’m prepping to ride the GPC metric century with my daughter on the tandem, so in the last month, we did a couple of 40ish mile hilly rides as well as some triplet rides with my son and daughter. All told, I probably got 140 miles of rubber on the road since the 300k, and I did my usual twice a week or so trainer rides after the kids go to bed.

The one development on my trainer rides is that my legs felt fit enough to do some all-out intervals, so I cut back on my movie watching and went back to the ~30 minute suffer-fests. All told, I probably peaked 2 weeks before the ride, which is before I took a week off the bike on Spring break with the kids, but hopefully I maintained enough fitness to do the ride. For the SFR brevets, they aren’t the hilliest of rides and I haven’t encountered rain, so finishing simply meant survive the hills and ride strong on the flats. That strategy was the same one I would take for the 400k.

Rambouillet ready for the brevet

Morning in Sausalito, Photo credit: Jack Holmgren

Of the GPC/SFR folks, Kirk Hastings and Rob Hawks were at the start (and Rob at the finish, although on an earlier

Sausalito at daybreak, Photo credit: Jack Holmgren

shift than my return). I saw Bruce Marchant at the start, but not much on the ride. I was very fortunate to have the company of Jack Holmgren and his buddy Kevin for probably 3/4 of the ride, but I’m getting ahead of myself. As we started the ride, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito, and I rode with Jack for what I thought was just before he took off like a rabbit (he finished the 300k a few hours ahead of me). However, he and Kevin were recovering from a big Fleche event, and Jack was busy taking pictures, so as the ride progressed down Nicasio Valley, I was very fortunate to ride with Jack as he pulled me up to a big group of riders. I talked to Carlos Duque and reminded him that he took a great picture of Tomo and me on our first brevet as we finished the SFR populaire a couple of years ago. That was still one of my best rides ever! http://ttoshi.net/bicycling/blog/?p=37

 

Morning in Nicasio, Photo credit: Jack Holmgren

Early morning pack, Photo credit: Jack Holmgren

 

 

I was able to stay with this pack of riders all the way to the first control in Bodega. At Bodega I bought 2 V-8s and chugged them as I was in line and a big bottle of water to refill my bottles (with Perpetuem) and part of my camelback that was empty until then. I knew that there were two big hills on this ride: Joy Rd. (or perhaps more aptly “Joyless Rd.” as someone commented to me) and HWY 128 and Black Mountain Rd. I took it easy on Joy Rd. where parts of that were really steep (over 15%?) then rode on and off with a couple riders till I got to the second Safeway control where I had more water and gatorade. It was really starting to heat up and after a couple of turns off River Rd. I got confused and went for a couple of miles and thought I was off course and turned around. Luckily Gabe and a couple more riders came by relatively soon and I was more or less able to keep up with them for a little while, and we took a water break at an air conditioned bar. There was a super nice bartender who filled up all of our water bottles and we got cooled off before continuing on.

I was going super slow in the heat and Roland rode past, although he also had some issues with hot foot later, but passed me while I rested in the shade and ate a couple boiled eggs that I brought with me. I finally made it to Cloverdale where I saw Jack and Kevin getting ready to leave and I got some more Gatorade and water and I got to talk to Gabe, Ian, Brian and one other rider (I’m sorry I missed your name!).

It look idyllic, but it was over 100 degrees on this climb! Photo credit: Jack Holmgren

 

At this point, I was riding pretty slowly in the heat, so I went off on my own, figuring that the others would easily catch up. Just before HWY 128, I ran into Kevin and Jack who were doing some derailer adjustments. I rode with them for a little while until I was nearing heat exhaustion and decided to slow down and try to cool down. For the rest of the climb I took it slowly and rested at nice shady and breezy locations.

 

I managed to make it to Hopland without completely withering and bought a clammato (should have bought 2!), gatorade and slice of pizza (yum!). I took off, and Eric Larsen and I went to find our way, but managed to get lost when the road we were supposed to turn on had a different name (Old River Rd., I think).

 

Resting before Geyserville, Photo credit: Jack Holmgren

The lucky thing was, as Eric and I retraced our route, we ran into Jack and Kevin, who also seemed to miss the turn too. Lucky for us we were 4 strong as Kevin organized our 0.5 mi pulls down HWY 101 to get us efficiently past any dangers on that road. We made it back to Geyserville, at which point there were a bunch of us, including Ian, Gabe, Brian and gang and we teamed up to go to Petaluma. For some reason, nobody wanted any bonus hills on the Geysers so we continued down 128 and climbed a hill, but on the descent, Brian flatted(–those Grand Bois tires), so we all stopped and rested. Just as the flat was fixed, Kitty, Eric and another rider came along and we all continued our way to Petaluma.

 

At this point, the paceline speed varied depending upon how badly the rider in front wanted to get to Petaluma, so we lost a few riders, but in the end we did all manage to get to the Petaluma Safeway, where I got some hot chicken fingers and more water for perpetuem.

Speeding through Jimtown, Photo credit: Jack Holmgren

 

 

The end was within range, so Jack and Kevin kindly waited for me while I finished my preparations and we took off for the final leg. All in all, I was actually in pretty good shape. The heat was gone and it was starting to even get a bit chilly, but with the decreasing temperature, my strength returned. My butt hurt like crazy and I was getting sleepy tired, but luckily my legs still had enough energy to ride, and Kevin was expertly pacing us through the hills and flats. –I was extremely fortunate to have ridden with these super experienced veterans of 1200k events! We basically counted down the hills until we made it back to the finish.

The GG bridge was shrouded in mist and while it was a nice view, it wasn’t so nice on the bridge. My glasses misted up and I just followed Kevin’s tail light hoping that I wouldn’t crash on the last mile of the ride.

Finishing in the Golden Gate mist, Photo credit: Jack Holmgren

At the end, Sterling and another great volunteer helped us out and got us warm fluids and sustenance. I rested and caffeined up before my drive home. My finish time was 21:39 or so, and my original goal was 22-23 hours, assuming I rode alone. I had a ton of help and despite the heat, I still finished with a good time, so I am very pleased with the outcome of the ride. As I was leaving, Brian Chun followed by several others from the Petaluma gang showed up, including Gabe, Brian, Ian and company. Thankfully my butt recovered after a few hours of sleep, and I am having amnesia over the pain of the heat, so it looks like I will make an attempt to do a 600k next. Thanks to all the volunteers and friends both new and old for making it a great ride!

Toshi

 

April 2, 2012

San Francisco Randonneurs 300k Ride Report

Filed under: Solo Adventures — ttoshi @ 6:24 am

Well, this is ride two (300k) of the San Francisco Randonneurs
Ride Series. I did the 200k last month and the 400k and 600k are to
follow if I dare. My work colleagues wonder why I do crazy stuff like
this. It’s mostly because I love to ride my bicycle, but I also like
to have tangible goals to work toward so I can keep motivated and do
some exercise. With two young kids and their activities like baseball
practice, violin practice, swimming lessons etc., and my normal work
and life routines, I have to work hard to fit in time for training and
riding.
I joked that after my 200k, in preparation for the 300k, I rode
zero miles on the road with my single bike. While that was true,what
I didn’t say is that I did ride with my son and daughter during the
weekends and put in a good 70 miles the last month on the tandem and
triplet, including an inaugural run up Wildcat Canyon with the kids,
where we saw Melarie and Mike et al as well as a bunch of Grizzlies on
the Century Prep Warm Up Ride. Other than that, I did do at least two
spin sessions a week on my bike trainer. Last year I did very high
intensity intervals and about 30-40 minute sessions. This year, my
legs didn’t feel up to those intervals because of a slight knee pain
here or there, I’m too tired that night or my dog ate my homework.
However, I had to do something, so I did longer workouts and watched
some movies. OK, so this form of training was great because I was able
to get some lengthy riding time in on the trainer and watch some good
movies that I got for free from the library.
(*Start digression)
I don’t have Netflix, but I did rediscover the library. San
Francisco Public Library allows you to reserve movies, which is
awesome. It also now allows 3 week rental terms and you can renew the
movies provided nobody else has reserved those movies (In contrast,
Oakland has 1 week rentals and no reservations). For which movies to
watch, I used a great site called criticker.com. Criticker lets you
rank some movies that you watched and it will make recommendations for
you based upon how you rated your watched movies. The more movies you
rate, the better the recommendations and it will match your taste to
other people with similar tastes and you can look at their favorite
lists for ideas. For the most part it is spot on in terms of
recommendations. Here are five of my recommendations from my Top ten
list before we go back to cycling: Seven Samurai (my best movie ever),
Princess Bride (offbeat classic), 12 Angry Men (Henry Fonda, wow a
great Criticker recommendation), GATTACA (Real science fiction–No
guns or aliens in this one), My Neighbor Totoro (my daughter Mei was
named after this perfect family movie, and in Japan there was a huge
spike in that name :) .
(*End digression)
Brevets are self-supported rides. You should carry enough stuff
to get by and know how to fix things should you break down. In order
to become more self-sufficient, I wanted to build up my own bike.
After the death of a fellow rider on Grizzly Peak road as his tire got
stuck in a crack and thrown into incoming traffic, I decided to buy a
frame that allows wider tires to at least help stabilize my ride and
decrease the odds of losing control by using wider, lower pressure
tires. As a side benefit, I get a super comfortable ride that
incidentally is not necessarily slower due to the wider tire. Anyhow,
I saw a Rivendell Rambouillet frame on sale on a bike list and I
purchased it. I had the headset installed by a bike shop and then
built up the rest of the bike myself. For the 300k, I put on my front
wheel with a generator hub that I hand built and used my hand-built
rear wheel as well. If something broke down, then I would have only
myself to blame!
For this ride, my good buddy Randy was not available and I had to
plan on doing it alone. My plan was to spend as little time as
possible off the bike and eat on the bike and stay on the go. My best
time on the Davis Double was 14:30, and this ride is a little shorter
and maybe similarly hilly, so I thought that 15:00 was pretty
reasonable if I managed to keep my rest stops short. I started the
day volunteering for the sign-in. I always try to give back to
volunteer organizations I participate in when I can. Sign-in is easy,
except for the fact you need to wake up a little earlier, but you get
primo parking, which is a perk! Anyhow, fellow GPC-er Bill Monson and
I checked in the riders for the N-Z group and I saw the usual crew of
GPC riders, including Mark A., Mark H., Nancy Yu, Andrew, Eric, Bruce
M. and Rob Hawks.
The ride went well and I took it easy on the hills and kept a
strong pace on the flats. Rich Fisher kindly volunteered at a secret
control and I continued on to Petaluma basically on my own. I stopped
in the Safeway and picked up a can of almonds which I stuffed into my
front bag and some water and continued on my way. With me, I brought 3
bottles of hammer gel and 2 water bottles with Perpetuem, along with 4
baggies full of Perpetuem to refill along the way. I also brought 5
emergency boiled eggs for extra protein and a big bag of Berkeley bowl
fig bars if I ran out of Hammer carbs. All I needed along the way was
additional protein and salt. After quickly leaving the Safeway, I met
Bubba from El Cerrito, who was also riding a Rivendell, and Mack from
Fairfield. Mack was super strong and pulled me most of the way to
Healdsburg. Along the way, I ran into two guys on carbon fiber bikes
and I think one didn’t even have a saddlebag! I was presciently
thinking, so much for self-supported! My bike and provisions probably
weighed 15 lbs more than his bike. Anyhow, they were super nice and
joking about their lack of provisions and one of them said they want a
nice touring bike like mine. We were riding for a little while and I
thought one of the guy’s rear derailleur might have broken, but what
ended up happening was his chain broke and put his derailleur in a
funny angle. Lucky for them, a guy riding with us had a 10-spd master
link and a huge pannier and lots of other stuff I’m sure (despite all
the extras, he was stronger and faster than me!). The carbon fiber guy
had an 11-spd bike, but I guess the master link still worked (It’s a
wonder that Campy didn’t force it to be incompatible :) . After this,
Roland, Mack and I cruised to the next Safeway stop where I got a
chicken breast, corn dog, V-8 and more water.
The corn dog tasted great and I kept the chicken for later. We
passed a bunch of wineries on our way to Guerneville and we held out
our arms wanting to get some wine passed to us, but they thought we
were waving to them. They probably knew it was a self-supported ride
and didn’t want to help us. Anyhow, there were quite a few little
rollers in this section, and a bunch of people including my new buddy
Mack passed me on this short hill. I had no intention of catching
them, but there was a big downhill and turn onto a road perfect for
pacelining and luckily joined the group. We held it mostly together
until we got to Highway 1. Luckily the wind wasn’t bad and I soloed it
to Bodega Bay where I got another corn dog, 2 V-8s and another water.
Every challenging ride will have a section where you feel like
you’re quite stupid and you’re wondering why you are out there and
unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) on this ride there are no sag
wagons to take you home. I felt this way on a relatively steep (my
computer said 11%) section on the way to Tomales Bay. I had a good 5
hours in the bank, and even if I walked up all the remaining hills on
the way home, I would probably still make it on time, but that thought
didn’t make me feel any better. What I’ve learned is that when I feel
like that, there’s nothing better than a bottle of hammer gel. I
probably downed a good 600-700 calories right there, and wow, in about
15-20 minutes, I felt like new.
I made it to Marshall, where the store was officially closed, but
still open for business and I bought a diet pepsi for caffeine for
later. I stuffed that in my handlebar bag and continued on. I didn’t
need any more water since I was close enough to home and had a good
full bottle (and diet pepsi) for liquid and probably another 1000
calories of hammer gel if needed. Life was good and I was thinking
that hey, things are going well, when all of a sudden I heard a pssst.
Yeah, a rear flat. Luckily it was easy to fix and although I didn’t
find the cause, it also didn’t repuncture, so that was good! I
navigated my way back to Sausalito on my own while downing my Pepsi
and teamed up in Sausalito with two others for the finish. I finished
at 8:53 PM, in 14:53 total time, which matched my goal, so things went
well. The bike did great and I was super comfortable in my $15 700x32c
Panaracer Pasela tires. Overall, it was a great ride thanks to the
volunteers and my new found friends. I ended the day with 3/4 of a
bottle of Hammer gel, 4/5 of a chicken breast, 4 boiled eggs, 3/4 of a
Perpetuem baggy and a full bag of fig bars. After this good
experience, I will try the 400k, and will probably continue to carry
the extra 3 lbs of food. Better safe than sorry right?—hmm…

October 24, 2011

Triple Crown Stage Race: Ride 3 Mt. Tam Double: You’re home early

Filed under: Solo Adventures — ttoshi @ 5:26 am

I wanted to include these rides in the family ride series blog because I did most of my training after my kids went to sleep on the bike trainer or quick 1-2 hour rides on weekends by myself, or on mini-adventures with the kids on the tandem/trailer.  Hopefully it can provide some inspiration for other parents who might want to take up some big challenges while not taking too much time away from the family.

These rides consist of three of among the hardest double centuries (200 mile rides) in California.

http://www.caltriplecrown.com/schedule.htm

Ride 3 report:

The Mt. Tam Double Century represents the third challenge in the Triple Crown Stage Race, which is comprised of three of among the hardest double centuries in California. The Mt. Tam ride is the easier of the three rides in the 2011 series, so Randy and I were hopeful that we could finish the series and retain our position as the last place finishers (Lanterne Rouge). My training time was limited as usual, so I simply hoped to maintain the fitness that I had from the Terrible Two and finish the Mt. Tam double. Honestly, I got a little lazy and instead of riding my trainer during the week, I just rode two weekend days and didn’t really ride the trainer at all until a couple weeks before the event. On the weekend I rode a hard 25 miler on Saturday and I took my kids on a family ride (Tomo on the tandem and Mei in the trailer) on Sunday (when I wasn’t out on vacation). Although I was lazy, I took my training time seriously and pushed the intensity high for what little I did do. Two weeks before the ride, I killed myself (in a good way) towing my kids around through the Oakland/Berkeley hills ~35 miles and crammed in an extra couple indoor spin sessions. All in all, I rode seven times on the road for 150 road miles and maybe 5 spin sessions over six weeks. Pretty minimal, but I still felt like I retained reasonable fitness from the previous two doubles. When I told Randy about my training, he shook his head and told me he didn’t want to hear that. What he left unsaid was that I better not be pathetic and ruin our chances to finish the stage race. One good thing about this ride is that Randy’s buddy Jim from San Luis Obispo was riding with us, so we’d be three strong on the flats, which would help a bunch since Jim is a strong rider.

The Marin bicycle club didn’t really treat the double like a serious race. For the Terrible Two, there were flasks of filled hammer gel and lots of powders and mixes for the riders. For the Mt. Tam, there weren’t even any Gatorade or water jugs there (there were some breakfast foods and coffee). I was expecting this, so I brought my own filled hammer gel flasks and two bottles filled with Perpetuem to fuel me to the second rest stop. I told Randy that I was already planning on skipping the first rest stop because I was stocked with my potions. I saw Mark H. and Mark A. before the ride, and the speed of the mass start was pretty tame as we cruised up Lucas Valley Rd. The descent, however, was treacherous. It was completely fogged out and my glasses were covered with mist. I managed to find a rider descending at a reasonable pace and had a solid (non-blinking) rear light (so I didn’t go epileptic following the light), and so I just kept watching the light and just hoped that the blind weren’t leading the blind off the edge of a cliff. The fog finally lightened up and we got going again at a reasonable pace. I’ve ridden many of the roads here before, but every time has been with me towing a trailer or a tandem and trailer (Marin 100k, GPC novice rides (Lucas Valley to Pt. Reyes Station), SFR Populaire 115k SF to Pt. Reyes Station). This was my first ride in the area without a trailer or tandem—the hills go by much quicker!

Anyhow, I was feeling good, and Nicasio Valley was a mere blip. We were cruising along Sir Francis Drake at a moderate pace. Randy said he felt like a 7 because he was watching out for his knee to make sure it didn’t flare up, but I was feeling like a 9 or 10. I even pulled out a PB&J and was munching on that while I was riding. Amazing—this was the first time in five double centuries that I wasn’t going all out with barely enough energy to squeeze hammer gel into my mouth! I was hoping that this was not just a false sense of bravado. I guess I’d find out when Mt. Tam came up. After a bit of climbing we came to the first water stop at Pine Flats. I told Randy and Jim that I would continue on and soft pedal my way up as they filled up their water bottles. This was my first time up Mt. Tam (despite being a local!) and boy did I enjoy this section of road! I was absolutely elated because I was soft pedaling and enjoying the ride completely. The scent of pine was in the air. The redwoods were spectacular in the morning light. I thought to myself, “You big dummy! This is the first time in 2011 that you are riding your bike and not suffering like you are going to drop dead. You are finally enjoying the ride, the scenery and bicycling.” This was definitely a highlight of the year as I rode past the dam and up into the hills.

My reverie came to a halt as Randy and Jim caught up to me, and soon thereafter Mark A. caught us and we conversed about the degeneration of Lightspeed as a bicycle company as we rode up into the fog. Soon we were in the thick fog with my glasses misting over as before. We continued on the best we could and finally reached the turnoff towards the summit. We finally cleared the fog and got to look down on a sea of clouds as we continued to the top. The faster riders were plummeting down the road and Mark H. whizzed by us as well as Veronica and Zach later on. We got to the top and took a quick bio break and I continued on and told Jim and Randy that I’d softpedal again as they caught up. Once again I was elated that I had time to enjoy the ride and the scenery. I am a native plant enthusiast and I saw a ton of beautiful California natives that I had planted in my own yard. There were at least three varieties of Manzanitas, CA lilacs, sticky monkeyflowers as well as several annual wildflowers. Once again my leisurely touring came to an end as Randy and Jim caught up and we descended down Mt. Tam back into the fog.

At this point, I basically got lost in the fog and followed a nice rider who seemed to know where she was going (was this Gabrielle?). Boy was it cold and wet. After the rest stop near Muir Woods, Randy asked me what the temp was, and as I wiped the mist off the computer, it said that it was 56 degrees. Randy and Jim thought I was optimistic to put on sunblock before the ride, since they noticed the rain beading up and dripping off the sunblock on my face. We also saw Jack Joseph here and throughout the day as we were faster on the road but took long breaks, so we ping ponged multiple times. After the stop, Jim pounded the pedals as we cruised along highway 1 into Pt. Reyes Station. I was glad because we were approaching territory that I was familiar with, but I was feeling a little tired (probably a 5 or 6) and it was only mile70 or so—there was a long way to go. It could get ugly. Well unlike the Geysers, where I never recovered on the Terrible Two, after a short while the Hammer gel kicked in, and as Jim and Randy looked back for me, I was able to cruise past and we caught some riders who pulled us to Pt. Reyes Station.

This next section was completely familiar to me and boy did it fly by quickly! The weather was sunny now and it was 84 degrees on the road. It felt cool because of the strong breeze. I guess it was both a blessing and a curse. We pulled into the rest stop by the park, and during our extended stay, Mike, our buddy from the Terrible Two and DMD passed us by; we had 2 hours to reach the cutoff time at the next stop 25 miles away according to our route sheet. Randy had a little trouble out of the gates whenever he had a full belly, but we eventually got going and braved our way through the winds. Along this route, we ran into a herd of 20 or 30 cows walking along the road and we were at a standstill for a few minutes while the moo-moos were herded into their pasture. I had my excuse ready if they wanted to kick us off the course for being too slow: the cows made us late! It was better than the dog ate my route sheet excuse Randy tried at the Terrible Two. At this point we caught up to a guy and his riding partner (Was this the guy at the Terrible Two with the Death Ride jersey who pulled us to the monster paceline?). We traded pulls and happily reached the next rest stop at Valley Ford around 2:30. That gave us about 8 hours to complete an additional 80 or so miles, which was well within reach. I saw Ernesto volunteering at this stop and it was a welcome sight to see another friendly face. We completed the Coleman Valley loop—I went up at a nice and measured pace while Randy and Jim waited for me at the top, and we continued back to Valley Ford where we had about 6 hours and 60 miles to go. At this point I thanked Ernesto again and felt confident that we would finish.

Basically, the only real challenge that stood between us and completion was the Marshall Wall. The good thing about the wall was it isn’t relentless. There were steep pitches interspersed with breaks, so this went well with my interval training. We reached the final rest stop (that we stopped at) and we were very happy to see Scott Halversen from the Quackcyclists there. He lamented that he didn’t finish the Terrible Two—otherwise he would be taking home the Lanterne Rouge from us. Hopefully he’ll give it a try again when the stage race returns to N. California in two years. This stop was also great because my stomach was tired of hammer gel and the hot dogs there—I had two—tasted great! We had three hours for thirty more miles and no real challenges. I was feeling stronger as the night went on and we made our way to the final hill of the night (Lucas Valley Rd.) on the return with our buddy Mike and another rider. I tried to convince Randy to push through that last little pitch, but he didn’t seem to be buying it. In fact, I suspect that he was trying to steal the Lanterne Rouge from me and be the final finisher on the stage race without me. However, I couldn’t let him take that glory away from me and we finished the ride safely and happily together. Randy, Mike and I all celebrated our Triple Crown Stage Race anti-podium (as the final three finishers of the race) at the finishing festivities. We also were greeted by Jim and Randy’s faithful spouses who were hanging out after texting us all day about how their century was done and how they were relaxing and eating Haagen-Daas bars while we were suffering on the route. This stage race was certainly a great adventure and I am grateful for all of the support and friendships throughout the series, and Randy noted that he and I were the only riders with the same finishing time. We stuck it out together, and without his help, I would have probably given up the ride series after I flatted two miles into the first of three double centuries. We have to figure out what to do next. Randy thinks the PBP is calling in four years; I’m not so sure, but stay tuned for more adventures!

Triple Crown Stage Race: Ride 2 Terrible Two for Dummies

Filed under: Solo Adventures — ttoshi @ 5:23 am

I wanted to include these rides in the family ride series blog because I did most of my training after my kids went to sleep on the bike trainer or quick 1-2 hour rides on weekends by myself, or on mini-adventures with the kids on the tandem/trailer. Hopefully it can provide some inspiration for other parents who might want to take up some big challenges while not taking too much time away from the family.

These rides consist of three of among the hardest double centuries (200 mile rides) in California.

http://www.caltriplecrown.com/schedule.htm

Ride 2 report:

Well I managed to survive the DMD with less than 200 miles of road riding this calendar year, and over the last two months since the DMD, I managed to log another one hundred miles on the road, so it’s seems I’m pretty lazy about getting the rubber on the asphalt. On one hand you could say, “Why mess with success?” However on the other hand, you can say, “The DMD was dumb, and now you are just being dumber.” I’m inclined to favor the latter interpretation.

Anyhow, the idea behind little riding is that I also ride on the trainer and what I miss in terms of time, I supposedly can make up for with intensity. This worked pretty well until about two weeks ago (when I peaked) and then I started to feel some twinges in my tendons when I pushed really hard, so I backed off. After that time my short and intense sessions became just short (i.e. practically worthless). I was hoping that my base fitness would be enough.

The Terrible Two is a different beast than the DMD. Once you make the DMD cutoff, you just keep going and survive the course. You can complete the ride in however long it takes. In our case, 22+ hours still made us happy finishers of the ride. In the case of the TT, the ride is all about the time cutoffs. You need to make it to the lunch cutoff by 1:30 PM and finish the course by 11 PM. That gives us 17.5 hours to finish. What this obviously means is that we need to ride much faster than we did on the DMD.

Randy and my game plan was to go fast on the flats and survive on the hills. If we could make up time on the flats and rolling hills, then we could make up for deficiencies in climbing. The TT starts out fast and goes over a small rise until it hits the first test–Trinity grade. From there, more fast flats until the big test before lunch: The Geysers. Our hope was to keep up with a good pack until we reach the Geysers and then survive until lunch. From there, we survive the hills and pound the pavement to the finish. Strangely enough, our plan was executed perfectly, but how fine the line was between success and failure, and oh the suffering!!!

We started the ride out with the pack as we went through Santa Rosa, and we were cruising along ~20 mph+. I met Mark from the San Francisco Randonneurs, and he mentioned that he mainly sticks to 200k and 300k rides. This was his first TT experience, and it just so happens that we crossed paths many times that day. I saw Ernesto early in the day before the ride, but I’m sure he was blazingly fast and I did not see him at all during the ride. I also saw Zach, Mark A., Mark H., Veronica and Jack. Randy and I managed to keep up with Mark A. through the beginning and up and over Trinity grade. I think Randy got caught up with the excitement of the first climb and we went up it pretty quickly.

After Trinity and another small grade, we hit the flats including the Silverado trail. It’s really important to make good time here, and we were just behind a big pack as it was forming, and thankfully this guy with a Death ride jersey bridged us to the main pack. This pack was probably 20 strong, and lucky for us, the rotation was going on way in front of us, so we got a free ride.

After the rest stop, we ran into Tyler, the 21 year old phenom who Randy saw at Solvang. He pulled a bunch of us to the base of Geysers without any rest. When I got to Geysers, there was no speeding up the hill like we did at Trinity. I was feeling tired and needed to recover my legs, so I slowed way down hoping for a second wind that never came on this climb. The Geysers is a 4 mile climb with an average gradient of 8.5%. Unfortunately my legs didn’t care if it was 8%, 15% or 3%. It all hurt badly and I couldn’t average much more than 4 mph, so it was an hour of pure torture. My legs wanted to go 2 mph, but I had to struggle and force myself to go 4. It was my 1 hour anti-power interval. I even asked a higher power for help finishing the hill–it helped. As I was struggling up the hill, all of the time we gained from the fast flats disappeared and 50 or more riders passed us as we went up the hill. Mark A., Mark H., Zach, and Veronica all screamed past me while I was practically standing still. Veronica had the kindness to say that I was doing great as words of encouragement (because I obviously wasn’t!). I’m sure everyone (including me) thought I was toast and a DNF was imminent. The rest stop finally came and we were basically the last ones on the road. I finally started to recover some legs on the initial descent and tried to push the pace a bit on the subsequent rollers, but Randy was still recovering, so we didn’t push too hard.

After we got back to the main road, it was our young phenom Tyler who saved our ride. He singlehandedly parted the winds and steamrolled to the rest stop at 20mph+. Even with his incredible effort we missed the lunch cutoff by 5 minutes, but the ride coordinator had mercy on us and let us continue. Well, at this point we executed the first part of our plan and came close enough and succeeded thanks to Bill’s mercy, but there was still a long way to go.

Skaggs was next, and even though it was a cool day, the road was 88 degrees and that felt pretty hot for the year we’ve been having so far. The Skaggs climbs are 5.4 miles long and average 7-8%. That doesn’t sound bad, but it’s deceptive because there are 15% pitches, followed by relatively flat portions to recover. This suited me well because it gave me discrete goals to work towards as I went up the hill, making the suffering more bearable. After Skaggs we kept the pace up on the flat to rolling terrain and went up the 1 mile 10% ramp known as the Rancheria wall. There are 20% sections on this hill, but all I had to tell myself is that it is only 15 minutes of suffering compared to the 1 hour sufferfests I had earlier in the day, so it was (relatively) nothing.

At the last rest stop we left at 6:10 (after the theoretical close of the stop), and we needed to leave the next rest stop by 7:30 (it was 20 miles away via rolling terrain along the coast via highway 1). Luckily there was a tailwind and Randy wanted to make sure we did not DNF at Ft. Ross again, so he went into caffeine hammer gel-induced time trial mode and we arrived at Ft. Ross around 7:20, passing 4 or 5 others along the way. Our plan for speeding in the flats was finally bearing some fruit late in the ride.

Now all we had to do was survive Ft. Ross (2.42 miles, 10% gradient) and ride like mad to the end. At the Ft. Ross rest stop we met with Rob Hawks and Jack Holmgren. They were both extremely supportive and told us that we had to continue. That welcoming was really great that late in the ride. Mark, who I met earlier in the ride was forced by Jack and Rob to continue too, and he also finished the ride with no time to spare. We also met up with Mike, from Fremont who we rode with through Morgan Territory on the DMD. All of us felt pretty good on the rolling flats, so we teamed up to finish the ride together. Later Igor joined us to make us 4 strong. It felt like it took us forever to get to the final rest stop, and we arrived there at 9:40, with 16 miles to go before the finish. We felt like we were in good shape and left at 9:50 to finish the last 16 miles. Apparently the ride coordinator was following our progress and didn’t like our odds to finish, but he wasn’t aware of our master plan to be strong on the flats, and we managed to finish with at least 5 minutes to spare. We escaped the day by the skin our our teeth with a finish, and I have all of the great volunteers and friends both new and old to thank for it.

Triple Crown Stage Race, Ride 1 Devil Mountain Double: How not to train for a double century

Filed under: Solo Adventures — ttoshi @ 5:13 am

I wanted to include these rides in the family ride series blog because I did most of my training after my kids went to sleep on the bike trainer or quick 1-2 hour rides on weekends by myself, or on mini-adventures with the kids on the tandem/trailer. Hopefully it can provide some inspiration for other parents who might want to take up some big challenges while not taking too much time away from the family.

These rides consist of three of among the hardest double centuries (200 mile rides) in California.

http://www.caltriplecrown.com/schedule.htm

Ride 1 report:

Well, I’ll start off by saying that my title has a “double” meaning. One would normally think that having less than 200 miles of road riding and trying a 206 mile ride is surely not the way to train for a double century. On the other hand, there is lots of research that would suggest that high-intensity training for short duration are equal to many times longer rides of lower intensity. For example, this NY Times article http://nyti.ms/ehjVV8 would suggest that 20 minutes of high intensity training are worth 10 hours of leisurely riding. Well, because of my personal situation with a house move and house sale, I had no time for long bike rides and I needed to make the best of my situation. My only choice was to hope that these research studies were correct and I would get enough endurance training from short hard bicycle rides.

The DMD is part of three very hard double centuries that are called the Triple Crown Stage Race. Well, I have no intention of racing unless I’m racing for last place, but to finish all three of these rides would be a great accomplishment for myself. This year, all three rides are in Northern California, whereas next year, they will all be in Southern California, so I wanted to try the series this year, instead of waiting another two years.

As I mentioned earlier, training time was extremely limited, so I would ride my trainer for forty minutes one or two times a week and have one two hour ride on Sunday morning–weather allowing (this year wasn’t too allowing). For my forty minute ride, I would have at least four hard intervals. This means I would shift into a high gear and pedal as hard as I could for 1 minute, or I would shift into a hard gear and pedal at maximum sustainable pedaling for 5 minutes, or I would stay in a lower gear and pedal as fast as I could for 1 minute (high cadence). I would vary my routine to try to keep it as interesting as possible (after all I was on a trainer–downright boring for the most part). One thing I did on the trainer is to vary the angle of my bicycle. I stuck my front wheel on a box to approximate at least a 10% grade to simulate riding on hills, and on other days, I would ride on the floor level to simulate riding on the flats. This helped get extra “hill time”, since I wasn’t really on a hill. Well, if I can ride “hills” like this, then perhaps this training made slogging up Mt. Hamilton more tolerable–but I am getting ahead of myself a bit.

On my two hour bicycle ride, I rode 3 or 4 gears higher than my comfortable “leisurely” gear. I would climb Snake Rd., go up Manzanita (short steep pitch–made Sierra Rd. tolerable), and descend Pinehurst to the gate where the steeper climbing begins and climb back up Pinehurst and down Shepherd Canyon back to Snake. Depending upon the Sunday, I would get 3 or 4 of these laps in. On Pinehurst, I would pass people climbing on the way down, and I would try to catch them on the way up. There were fast riders who would pass me on the way up, and I would try to keep up until I was near collapse. Between this effort and the higher gears, I got some good high intensity training.

Well, what is my ride strategy? I’ve done enough hard doubles to know that I need to find that pace that I can maintain “forever”. Of course that “forever” pace keeps slowing down as the ride goes on, but the engine doesn’t stop, it just gets slower. For fuel on the long rides, I have become a huge fan of Hammer products. I have two Hammer gel flasks and for my drink bottles, I put in 3 scoops of Perpetuem, HEED, or Sustained Energy. It doesn’t seem to matter which one I use. All of that stuff kept me fueled up for basically the whole ride. For sodium, I drank a lot of V-8 juices and later on the cup of noodles. I also needed something more substantial for my belly later in the ride, and hard boiled eggs and chicken sandwiches and chili dogs hit the spot. Luckily my stomach is very tolerant.

OK, for ride day I was very nervous and my wife called me crazy for trying the ride with my level of training, but she said that my determination would get me through. My friend Randy told me he would pull me in the morning and little did I know how much I would need it!

I started out at the mass start at 5 AM, and things sped up a bit on some of the first rollers, and I kept up the pace because the wind was quite strong and I wanted the protection. Two miles into the ride, I hear and feel a kuthunk-thunk-thunk-thunk-thunk. Sure enough–I have barely started and I already had a rear flat tire. I feel this massive chunk–I thought it was a nail, but the friendly sag was able to pull it out and it was a large glass shard. This ride has a 1 PM time limit to leave the Mines Rd. rest stop, and I knew that I would be pushing the time limit without the flat, so it would be tough work to complete the ride.

My friend Randy decided not to abandon me, and stuck with me through the flat. I figured that the flat was a sign that the ride wasn’t meant to be, or maybe it was a good thing because I wouldn’t burn myself out trying to keep up with the pack through Mt. Diablo. Unfortunately for Randy, he kept his promise to pull me in the morning, but much sooner than he was counting on. Now the two of us were all alone, and it was extremely windy to and on Mt. Diablo. I tried to find what shelter I could, but it wasn’t great because of the gusty winds from many directions.

I should point out that my inspiration for this ride was my friends Nancy and Michael. They completed the DMD last year, and Nancy kept track of her times at the rest stops. They made the cutoffs to Mines Rd. with about 30 minutes to spare. I had to keep within 30 minutes of their time to have a chance to make the cutoff.

At the Mt. Diablo rest stop, I saw Rob Hawks, who kindly organizes the rest stop every year. I greatly appreciated his help and the other volunteer’s efforts. At this point in the ride, Randy and I were about 23 minutes behind Nancy and Michael’s time. I filled up my gel flasks and water bottles with Perpetuem and continued onward to Morgan Territory.

At the time we reached Clayton, we met up with a very nice rider Mike from the Fremont Freewheelers. He obviously knew where he was going, and we hooked up with him until the next rest stop. Morgan Territory is full of rolling hills, and we needed to be careful going up them because there is a tendency to power over the roller, and if this is done too many times, then your strength will be sapped. Mike was great and paced us carefully through the hills and we reached the Morgan Territory rest stop about 30 minutes behind Nancy and Michael’s time.

The next section has quite a bit of fairly flat riding to get through Altamont pass and the large windmill farms and to get to Patterson pass. Randy took some big pulls (although it felt like we were standing still as the Wente road racers passed us) and I started exchanging some pulls with Randy–I was feeling pretty good considering everything.

We made it to the Patterson pass rest stop about 25 minutes after Nancy and Michael’s time, so there was hope that we could make it to Mines Rd by 1 PM. Randy and I cranked down the hill and through the flats, and we exchanged some more pulls (and got passed yet again by blazing fast Wente riders). We made it to the rest stop with a couple minutes to spare. Michael and Nancy were volunteering at Mines this year (thank you, thank you, thank you!!!), and Michael tells me, “Gee, you’re cutting it close aren’t you?” We sure were cutting it close and I was truly lucky as you’ll see from the next bit.

We were not even 5 minutes out of the Mines rest stop and I hear a psssssssst. Uh-oh, another flat. It seems the hole in my tire caused by the glass shard got hit by something, and the tube inside got punctured. Luckily, I carry around my sticky Park boot–although this is the first time I actually used it. I know I can use a Cliff Bar wrapper or a dollar bill, but the sticky boot won’t slip and worked great. Thankfully no more flats the rest of the ride…

–Just think, if the flat happened 5 minutes before the Mines rest stop, then I could have missed the cutoff and my ride would have been over. I guess luck was on our side!

Mines Rd. can also be a slog with lots of ups and downs (many more ups than downs), but all of that suffering on Diablo translated into a good tailwind all the way on Mines to the lunch stop. We were worried that the tailwind on Mines would translate into more ugly headwinds later on. We talked to some rest stop workers and they said that Calaveras was a big problem earlier in the day, but it lightened up and the late riders were in luck.

We saw a bunch of Hamilton Challenge riders–several of Randy’s buddies, and I saw a couple of GPC riders–I think it was Ernesto and Kirk on Mines too. After the lunch stop was Hamilton. We would finish the ride as long as we kept churning the pedals. I had to repeat that mantra at least a thousand times.

Mt. Hamilton was downright nasty. It was really unrelenting and I really needed to save energy for Sierra. In addition, it was five miles long, and I was riding four miles per hour, so that meant one hour and fifteen minutes of suffering to the summit. I just looked down and stared at the white stripe by the side of the road and kept repeating to myself that if I keep pedaling I would finish. I didn’t really keep track of my time, so I would look at the clock and just say to myself just another thirty minutes. As it turned out, I was able to psych myself out for more suffering and we reached the summit just when I was preparing for another thirty minutes of torture, so I was really happy.

We descended to the Carothers rest stop where a kind gentleman opened his house to us crazy riders. We left there getting ready for our last crazy section–going up Sierra Rd. I honestly found Sierra Rd. much easier than Mt. Hamilton. For one thing, I didn’t have to save my energy for another crazy climb, but in between the nasty steep pitches, there were moderate steep pitches where I could recover.

Randy and I met up with Phil from Fremont and another nice woman from Fairfield–I’m sorry I didn’t get her name. After the Sierra descent and a short steep pitch up the Calaveras wall, we made our way to Sunol. The four of us left Sunol together and Randy and I climbed Palomares a little faster than the other two, but they descended quickly and caught up to us as we were going to our final climb up Norris canyon.

Randy and I pretty much ignored Norris canyon because it wasn’t Sierra and the end was so near, so we made our way back to San Ramon a short 21 hours and 20 minutes after our 5 AM departure. Surprisingly we weren’t the last ones out there and 6 more riders came in, the last ones around 3 AM.

At the end I saw Zach and Jack and enjoyed some lasagna and met up with another fellow from Santa Clara who we saw earlier in the ride. I decided to buy the DMD jersey after our grueling but satisfying experience. The jersey does lie though. It says, “I whipped the devil,” but that’s not true. The devil whipped me, but I kept churning the cranks and this time I made it to the end to tell the tale.

July 20, 2010

Terrible Two Double Century Ride Report

Filed under: Solo Adventures — ttoshi @ 4:53 am

This ride report is long overdue, but I learned that riding a difficult ride like this is at least 30% mental, and the motivation to finish the ride must be there every minute of the ride–unfortunately I didn’t have that motivation and ended up quitting after 170 miles.

To give some background, I wanted this ride to cap off the Triple Crown Stage Race Series, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to ride in the Devil Mountain Double, so I wasn’t sure if I had the motivation to even start the ride. However, my friends Randy and Chris wanted to try the ride for the first time, so I promised them I would keep them company in their attempt. They were worried about making the lunch stop cutoff, and so I made it my goal to try my best to get them to the lunch stop. After that I wasn’t too concerned if I finished the ride–that was my first mental mistake.

I continued my night-time training after the kids went to sleep, but unfortunately I had a tough cough that was hanging with me for at least a month and keeping me tired at night, so I didn’t get as many hill repetitions as I wanted to. I could have definitely used more hill training during the ride, and I didn’t get a single ride over thirty miles after the Mulholland Double Century (although the weekend rides I got in were with my son on the tandem and my daughter in tow).

Despite these issues, I still could have finished this ride if I had more mental stamina, so I will remember this for my future rides and keep going and keep strong.

In the morning of the ride, I ate two PB&Js, and got a Hammer gel flask and had gatorade in my two water bottles. As I found out later in the ride, it wasn’t enough fuel. Next year I’ll fill at least one water bottle with HEED.

The before lunch strategy was to ride hard from the start, climb Trinity, ride hard on the flats to the first rest stop, survive Geysers and then push to lunch. After lunch (if I made it)–just survive.

The start was uneventful and I let Chris and Randy choose a pace they were comfortable with. We climbed up Trinity and I felt strong on that hill. Going on the flats, I felt quite strong, so I pulled our paceline for a while and then I switched off with my friends and a couple of others we picked up along the way as we made our way down the Silverado trail. –I did notice it was quite windy, but we managed to do okay.

We had to fight some more winds before we got to Geysers, and we lost at least 5 minutes waiting for two stop lights as the traffic went to a single lane. All in all, I gauged that we were about 15 minutes slower reaching Geysers than I wanted to be.

My friends Randy and Chris were very strong on the hills and cruised up Geysers as I chased them as well as I could. I saw Jack Joseph along the way, and he was mentally strong and kept going all the way. Chris’s front tire blew out as she reached the top of Geysers and we had to spend some extra time to make sure her tire was seated correctly, since we had no idea why the tube busted and the tire blew out (good thing she wasn’t descending).

We were on the edge for time as far as making the lunch stop, and Nancy blew past us on the descent on Geysers. We tried our best to keep our pace, and when we made it back to civilization, we were fighting for our ride to make it to the lunch stop. The last time I did the ride, I made it to lunch with 15 minutes to spare. This time we needed every minute (and more). We caught Nancy on the way, and I had her join our group and we pushed onward. We made it to lunch just a couple of minutes late, and my buddy Randy convinced the ride coordinator to let us continue.

We fought our way up Skaggs, and as the rest of the ride went, I was a little stronger on the flats, and my buddies were strong on the hills. We were doing ok on time, although we were still on the edge. We made it to the Rancheria stop after the Wall, and Chris decided she didn’t want to suffer on the flats anymore, and I had it with the hills, so I decided that I wanted to go along the coast and stop before I had to suffer on Ft. Ross.

The thing was, the coast was really fast because the tail winds were really strong. We made it to Fort Ross just after 7 PM, and we probably could have gone on, but mentally I was pooped and was looking forward to the ride back to the start. Mentally, I was happy that my friends had an opportunity to continue after lunch and I was satisfied. –Looking back, we should have continued, and next time, I won’t even think about quitting–we have to keep pushing. This is especially true if we decide to do even longer rides in a brevet series…

I went back to the start and saw Mark A., Nancy and Michael, Rob and his son, Mark H. and Zach. GPC had a tough day as chronicled by others, but we all have agreed to come back and fight another day!

April 22, 2010

Mulholland Double Century Ride Report

Filed under: Solo Adventures — ttoshi @ 12:05 am

Part of family riding is balancing the time with the kids and personal time. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to ride with my family and ride with the kids at the same time for fun and training. What follows is my account of the training and riding in this tough double century.

The possibility of doing this ride all started when the day of this ride coincided within my son’s Spring break, since for Spring break we were going to visit grandma and grandpa in S. California.

The problem with doing this ride is that I really didn’t have much time to train for this event, so this limited time meant that I needed to make the best of my training.

Well, last May I did the Davis Double, and I trained a lot on my trainer, which was great because there are a lot of flat miles. I was ok on the flats, but I really suffered on Cobb mountain. Well, Mulholland is the opposite where there is a lot of climbing, so instead of riding on the trainer, I replaced that with hill climbs. Luckily I live on a hill in Oakland, so after the kids went to bed, I would ride down the hill and climb back up. A single lap took only twenty minutes, so I reasoned that I had no excuse not to do several laps a week. I started with single laps, and progressively increased the number as the ride date neared.

Other than this hill training, I tried to ride with my son and daughter on at least one weekend day. My son would ride on the tandem with me, while my daughter would ride in the trailer. My kids favorite ride is to Little Farm in Tilden park, so I would go along Skyline/Grizzly Peak to Little Farm. At first I just came back along the same route (after a nasty climb out of Little Farm to Grizzly Peak), but I gradually increased the mileage to a ride through Orinda/Moraga and back up Pinehurst. My max mileage ride before the Mulholland was 50 miles, but I hoped that the multiple tow-fests were good enough training.

The other thing I did for my ride is to change my setup on my road bike. I switched from the standard triple to 48-38-24 “compact triple” gearing, and I got some Salsa Woodchipper bars that have long drops that make it easier to climb for me. Finally, I raised my handlebar slightly to increase my comfort. I have a 12-27 rear cassette, and for those wondering, the 48-12 gear was comfortable going 32 mph chasing downhill during the Mulholland (a little over 100 rpm). I could have definitely gone faster without much difficulty, but it’s hard to say how much. Anyhow, I was happy with my gearing and for a climbing double century I actually save weight by having smaller chainrings :-) .

Speaking of saving weight, the one other preparation that I did that didn’t require bicycle time was to lose some weight. I dropped 8-9 lbs of weight before this event since the New Year, and I’m glad I didn’t have to carry that weight up the hill!

The best thing about dieting is when it’s over, and I ended my diet the night before the ride. I went to dinner with my sister-in-law and her husband, and I got to eat and eat. My sister-in-law commented that I was eating like I was 23 again, and it was great.

The morning of the ride, I ate 2 PBamp;J sandwiches and had a 400 calorie high protein Odwalla drink. I carried fig bars and Trio nut bars with me so I would at least have some food that I liked with me.

My goal in the morning was to stick with a pack of riders to at least Topanga Canyon, which is the first real climb of the ride. I was successful in this goal, and I rode a little ways along PCH with Jules. As I went up Topanga, Mark H and Mark A passed me, and since Topanga/Old Topanga were neither very long nor very sustained, I managed to stay in contact with them until the top of Old Topanga Canyon.

On my first stretch along Mulholland, I decided to take it easy on the hills and fuel up with some more food. I went along for a while until I drafted a tandem a few miles before the first rest stop. At this point, I had my first introduction to “HEED”. It has maltodextrin, which is a sugar polymer that digests slowly, and it has some fructose? or glucose to make it a little sweet. It’s actually great because it fills you up like a milkshake when you put 3 scoops in the water bottle. I also grabbed a couple of chocolate covered Kashi bars, which I ate much later, but turned out to be quite good.

On my way to the next rest stop, Nancy passed me, and Michael and I rode together to the next stop. After you cross the Ventura county line, the road turns into a cracked bumpy ride, and on one particularly nasty point, I hit a big pothole, one of my water bottles flew out, and I heard the unhappy hissing sound of a pinch flat.

No problem, I fixed the flat and continued on my way, but with PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) coming, I didn’t really have anyone to ride with, and the people passing me were the 6:15 starters who already caught up to me, even with my hour plus head start, so I didn’t feel like trying to ride with them.

Just as I was exiting PCH, two riders caught me, and I recognized one of them because I passed them on a steep hill (Cotharin), and he was riding a nice Independent Fabrications bike, but he was carrying some extra weight with a rear rack and top rack pack. His name is Kevin, and he was being pulled by his stepson Adam. I offered to help out with some pulls, but Adam said that he was feeling good and was helping Kevin along. I didn’t insist and I hung out with them.

We got to Potrero, and it has some nasty pitches that are pretty steep. Adam and I got to the top and I fueled up again while we waited for Kevin to arrive.

At this point, Kevin was pretty wasted and was having some problems with the smaller hills, so I told Adam that I would wait for them at the lunch stop. I joined up and chatted with Phil from Fremont for a bit, and as I got to the lunch stop, I saw Michael and Nancy and gave them a wave as they took off.

I sat down and ate some turkey sandwich, and as I was finishing, Adam and Kevin showed up. I was really happy to see them because there were a lot of flats coming ahead, and I could use some help there. I should point out that Adam and Kevin were no slouches on the bike. Kevin apparently finished the Furnace creek 508 twice, where he had to ride 508 miles in under 48 hours, and Adam had done that once before. I was kind of fortunate that Kevin was having an off day because we could ride together, and the two of them were great company.

After lunch, Kevin decided to continue on with us (although he admitted that he wanted to quit), and he recovered his legs quite well. We went through junk mile city as we fought headwinds and sidewinds and bad suburbia, and we were all pretty tired as we got to the top of Grimes canyon.

After another rest stop, Balcom canyon awaited, and it was short and easy to walk :) . After that it was more slogging through nasty winds to the PCH and back to Decker canyon. At this point, I knew that we would be pushing the 7 PM Decker time limit, and I was ready to accept a DNF. Adam and I managed to make it to Decker and they said that the rest stop was still open and we can continue. I think the two of us were a bit disappointed to make it there in time to continue. After we fueled up with some oreos and mountain dew, Kevin showed up and he decided to call it a day, while we continued on.

Adam and I continued and we both felt pretty good–much better than while we were slogging it out in the suburbs. We got to the last checkpoint with some hot food, and the chili really hit the spot. We passed Las Virgenes on Mulholland, and then I hear a clunk clunk clunk coming from my front wheel. I stop and somehow had a mystery flat, so I change my second flat and continue on to Piuma. At the last rest stop they promised that the final climbs weren’t steep, although it was somewhat long climbing at about 6 miles total. Thankfully they weren’t just saying that to make us feel better. Compared to Decker at the bottom and Potrero at the top, Piuma/Schuren were just a tired slog.

After the top of the climb, it was a cold descent back, and thankfully we made it with about 30 minutes to spare (~11:30 PM). Adam and I were the last finishers along with two others around the same time, but all of us were very happy to be finishers.

I had 16:15 riding time, with 2:15 minutes stopping time. I guess with the flats and the long lunch I was really enjoying my breaks! Avg speed 12.9 mph.

My final thought is that you can do a lot or a little preparation, but on a ride like this for a rider on the edge like me, there is luck involved. I was very lucky to have some great company on the ride, otherwise I doubt I would have had the motivation to complete the ride. I would have been happy with a DNF riding with good company than to finish the ride suffering on my own. Luckily I was able to finish the ride and have good company.

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