Giro Di Peninsula

Kind of an interesting start for this organized ride, at the Bay Meadows racing track.  There was plenty of parking, so that was a plus.   Most of us actually got to park together since we arrived at the same time.  Here’s Dave and Paige in front of their trusty Volvo gearing up for the 100 miles to come.

We all met up at the registration tables just fine.  And although we were supposed to ride with Luis and his crew (who drove from Stockton!) when we saw him he was still wearing his slippers and having his coffee,  so since we had a long ride ahead of us, we had to get going!

The first climb of the morning was up Crystal Springs road.  In this sequence, you see our torrid pace up the grade, leaving strangers behind… (ok not really that torrid)


Going down Canada Road I busted out this “behind the back” shot of Dino, just chillin’ in the Peloton 

Kevin and Janine zooming down Canada rd.  If you cross your eyes you can create a 3d image with these two pictures. 


Dave here shows his group defiance by choosing not to wear his Wheely Cool jersey in favor of a much more successfull cycling organization such as Saeco.  Gilberto Simoni would be proud. They do make some great  coffee makers, though, so I can respect Dave’s choice of advertisement.

Steve and Dino horsing around.  I could say anything I want to right here, like he’s doing a little disco dance, or showing me that he can count to one, or perhaps just checking the wind speed.  But in reality, he’s saying “c’mon, hurry up and take the picture!”

Steve has this great sign hanging on the back of his saddle.  That’s custom, baby. 


We had to stop at Whiskey Hill Road because that was where the 100mile and 100km routes split, so our group would be dividing at this point.  An excellent time for photos.  Here we see Paige, who through months of hard work in training for the Death Ride, has become to be known as “The Hammer”.  You might even imagine her weilding two hammers in this very pose, but she wouldn’t like you to.  I think she’s really saying “Hutty up and take the picture!!”

Say goodbye to Dino and Kevin as we go our separate ways. 

Final group shot.  Kevin, Dave, Dino, Paige, Steve, Janine.  Everybody say “Cheeeeeeesey!”

Panorama of the Portola Valley Fire Dept rest stop.  The mistake in course design in my opinion is that this stop was right before our climb up Old La Honda Rd.  Not a good idea to load up on food before a hard effort.  But knowing that I had to ride 100 miles, it was important to eat at every possible opportunity.  Energy has to come from somewhere, and if you don’t eat enough, you really shut down. (bonking)

And the climb up OLH was just as hard as I thought it would be, after eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Luckily , it’s a shady road with little car traffic.  Although there were a few near misses as some residents honked at cyclists passing by.  I can understand their frustration since it is a very commonly used road by cyclists, but whatcha gonna do.  Here Dave is reaching the top, followed by Janine.  It’s quite a relief after climbing hard for 25-30 minutes to hit the top


While we were waiting for everyone at the top of OLH and Skyline, I saw a group of guys come up and they all had the same bike as I did, the Litespeed Ghisallo.  So there were four of us, and it felt like a convention.  Some had the compact gearing just like I had set up, so we got to talk tech for awhile and geek out.  The Ghisallo is not something you see on the road every day, unlike a TREK, so it was nice to be with my “people”.  I only regret not taking a photo of us all.


A quick jaunt down Skyline to Highway 84 and Alice’s restaurant.  No stopping for us, though.  Except to take pictures of everyone’s mailboxes all neatly lined up along the roadside.


Once we hit highway 84,  the fun really began.  It’s a slight downhill with gradual curves.  Dave is a big time speed freak on a descent, so he took off immediately on the descent.  I decided I would draft behind him as much as possible, since he probably wouldn’t mind.  We were really cruising, maybe 25-27 mph, when a small train of riders passed us, doing a really fast paceline.  I knew immediately that I had to get on the back of this, it was just too good of an opportunity to pass up.  So I accelerated past Dave and kinda motioned for him to join also.  We got on the back of the paceline and it was moving at about 29-30mph, swooping through the turns and really taking advantage of the slight descent.  It was an unbelievable pace that neither of us could have done alone.  The pull length would vary, as some rider stayed in front longer than others.  When it came my turn to pull I really didn’t want to disappoint everyone, so cranked down hard to keep the pace up.  When I broke off, one guy actually said “nice pull” so that was worth it.  I hadn’t noticed earlier, but Steve was with us too in the line.  When it was his turn to pull, oh man.  He took off so fast that Dave and I got dropped off the back. 


Dave and I both asked ourselves “What’s he doing!?”  as were looking at a 50 foot gap.  We were going about 25mph, but without the draft, we could not catch the paceline.  Basically, the train was leaving the station, and Steve was the conductor.


I told Dave, “Ok we can get up there in one burst” as I shifted up, stood up on the pedals, and surged as hard as I could forward, pulling Dave in the wake.  After about 30 revolutions, I was completely winded, and the paceline was still about 35 feet away.  I had to shift back down and catch my breath.


“Ok, maybe ONE MORE burst….” I said to Dave and again got out of the saddle.  This time with much more ambition, because after this attempt, there would be no more gas in the tank. 


It took about 60 revolutions but we got back to the end of the line, just as Steve was ending his pull.  Then the pace slowed a bit, thank goodness, for us to scold him.  I think his reply was “I was just trying to do my part”.  Yeah you mean the part where we get spanked?  is that the part you mean?


All was well again, once we hit the General store at San Gregorio.  A rest stop, with more peanut butter and jelly.  Here we see Steve, “doing his part” for all humankind, eating a cookie.

Yet another punishment from the course designers, as we have a small climb up Stage road, right after the cookie stop!   Even with the cookies, you might be able to beat the hill, but you can’t beat the view.


For the briefest of moments, we ride north on Highway 1, the Pacific Coast.  It is a glorious sense of accomplishment to ride down to the ocean.  But only for a minute, because then payment is due. Any cyclist knows that what goes down, must also come up.  And since I see the sea, we must be at sea level, so that means there is some 3000 foot mountian we have to climb back up, somewhere, to get home.

And here it is.  Doesn’t look like much, eh?  Tunitas Creek Rd. is deceptive in design.  if you break it into thirds, the first and last thirds are easy.  The middle third is tough.  As a whole though, it’s a real butt-kicker.

Here’s a Kodak moment if I ever saw one.  What looks like a tender moment between these two love birds, actually turned out to be Dave holding onto Paige as she pulled him.  Ah, the benefits of companionshp.

As usual, when the road goes up, my camera goes away, into hiding.  Sorry, but it just takes too much effort to take pictures when the road gets steep.  I don’t even like reaching for the water bottle sometimes.  But basically I was having a horrible climb up Tunitas at first.  My problem was the new compact gearing.  Since I knew I had some low gears to use, I immediately dropped to the lowest gear at the beginning of the climb.  This gear made me ride quite slower than my usual pace, and I just wasn’t moving at all. 


People were passing me left and right.  I hate those guys who pass you so fast and never look back.  I felt like I hadn’t ridden a bike in ages, or like I was a cigarette smoker, or just plain slow. Whatever reason, it just wasn’t working, and I was meant to suffer for ten miles of this.  As I wallowed in my lack of climbing spirit, this one woman passed me, as if I was standing still.  And something about the way she rode really inspired me.  She had this grace, a simple, light spin, and wasn’t breathing hard, mashing the pedals, or making any noise really.  She just kinda flew by. 

It wasn’t machismo that got me going, because I had no intention of matching her pace.  But I did ask myself what was wrong.  And the answer was that my heart rate was close to normal.  I should have known better, that on a climb, if I want to fly up it, my heart rate should be close to max.  The low gear was keeping my heart rate too low to turn the engine one or something. 


With this revelation, I began to spin at a about 100rpm.  The bike surged forward, and it felt good.  after about 30 seconds I could feel my heart rate coming up, and breathing rate increase.  This was the zone I’m supposed to be in to climb hills.  I could sustain this as long as I knew the hill had a peak.  I began to pass people, I became one of those guys that flew by people and never look back.  At one point, I had caught up to some of the guys who had previously flew by me, and we formed a small paceline.  Although since our speed did not necessitate a paceline, it was more like a bunch of guys trying to beat each other to the top of a hill.


I was pulling about four guys behind me for a good length of time, and I just kept feeling better and better.  My hear rate was close to max, but I was totally comfortable and in a rhythm of breathing and pedaling.  I even started to shift up in gears, to try to lose the guys behind me.  As the pitch of the road got a little easier, I would shift up another gear, further pulling away from my challengers.  I could still hear one guy behind me, breathing very loud.  I was on fire, and the summit was very near, so we could all talk about the great race once we reached the top together. 


We pulled up to a slower group who were blocking the road, and just as we get alongside them, this one guy says “Oh hell, now I’m going to have to work hard to keep up with you guys” and I ask him


“we’re almost there, right?” , thinking I can’ t keep up the pace for much longer than a half mile.


“Not quite, about 2 miles to go”


My whole body shut down at that statement, because I was going so hard, thinking it would be a short effort to finish, but what the guy told me would be asking too much.  My pace dropped, and the group left me in the dust at that point.  My legs may have kept going, but my brain said “no more”.  I just deflated.    I sat up and said out loud:


“forget it, I’m done.”


and one guy behind me must have heard me.  He swung around and said “c’mon, let’s go!” and I just shook my head and let him go.  After about a half mile of sulking,  the grade eased up quite a bit, so I caught a second wind and spun it the rest of the way to the top without further compaints from within.


Paige was waiting at the top, along with about fifty other people.  Everyone had friends to wait for.  That’s the thing about climbing a hill, you just have to go your own pace sometimes, and wait for your companions at the top.  So eventually Dave came up, and then Janine, and so we were just waiting for Steve.


One woman came up and said aloud “Hey are you guys the Wheely guys?” and we said “yeah sure” thinking she was going to make a comment about our cool jerseys.  But instead she said “Your friend is down there, he said to go ahead, he’s cramping up” .  The  evil of Tunitas Creek showing no mercy, there is nothing worse then getting leg cramps when you’re in the middle of nowhere on a bicycle.  So the rest went on, and as team leader, I went back down to find Steve to make sure he wasn’t being eaten by vultures.  Not that I would know how to save him from vultures, but at least I could get a picture of it.


He was about 2 miles down walking his bike, right about where I had thrown in my own towel.  He seemed ok except for the leg cramps.  Couldn’t turn the pedals at all without them locking up.  That was bad.  I tried to tell him it was only a mile or so left and an easy grade, but nothing can really save the muscles once they’re full of… whatever’s in cramp-juice… lactic acid?  And where was the sag wagon when we needed it?  He wouldn’t have taken it, but at least I wouldn’t have worried about leaving him to the vultures, once he told me to go on ahead.  He would end up taking a short cut back, but still riding 81 miles total – not a bad run for having leg cramps for the first time.  Once I left him, I passed a few people going back to the top, and since I knew how far it was, I became the bearer of good news,


 “It’s not much farther…”


“really?!?  thank god!”


Once I caught back up with Paige, Dave, and Janine, the ride just got too long for me.  We still had about 20 miles to go, and the course looped down to Palo Alto, a climb up part of Page Mill Road, and then headed  back up towards San Mateo, on some of the flattest, windiest roads around town.    Riding into a headwind on Canada Rd was just not fun.  We just basically drafted behind Paige the whole way back. 


The time had slipped by so quickly that we were worried about missing the food at the finish.  The final rest stops we saw were just about empty of other riders.  I just kept saying “Where IS everybody?” My stomach was growling and I had developed a huge appetite, which meant I hadn’t eaten enough during the ride, and that also meant that I did not have very much energy to burn. Peanut butter and Jelly can only take you so far, I suppose.


At the finish, some 7-8 hours after we had started, we were just about the last ones to arrive.  Luckily, they still had food, because I was starving. Next stop for Janine and Paige, The Tour of the California Alps.  (aka the Death Ride).  Good luck! 

Sequoia Century

I woke up this morning thinking I could definitely do 100 km, and maybe 100 miles, but only if someone talked me into it. And so my story goes.

The parking lots were crowded at the VA hospital and the good weather brought out a lot of cyclists. Waiting in line at the registration, the Wheely Cool jerseys made it easy to meet up with Paige and Janine. Paige is shown here looking way too cheery for 7:30am.

The course started out flat along Foothill Expressway, so here Janine and Paige are talking about the Death Ride (Janine rode it last year). It would turn out to be a popular topic throughout the course of the day, mostly due to faint similarities in difficulty of these two rides. (lots of hillclimbing)

The first climb was Steven’s Canyon Rd. Slight hillclimb, nothing major.

Then we turned onto Redwood Gulch Rd. This was a very nasty, steep, straight shot up a hill. People were stopping to walk their bikes. It got my heart rate up to max, and even though it was less than 2 miles of climbing, it was difficult because there were no switchbacks, just a steep grade. In my lowest gear I was still straining just to keep moving. No pictures of the hill, too busy holding on.
Once at the top, everyone waits for their friends to recollect. Here, Janine is either really happy to be done with that hill, or she’s checking out the Fremont Freewheeler (FFBC) guy’s tattoos.

At the first rest stop at Saratoga Gap, we were only 17 miles into the ride, so I felt fresh, but I knew I should eat to have energy for the longer haul, if I were to go that route. I still had a 10 more miles to decide. They were serving Peet’s coffee, and people were actually taking it! Whatever works for you, I guess.

At the decision point, I still felt good (only 27 miles into it) – so went with the 100mile. Paige and Janine decided the 100 mile would be “fine” with them (as opposed to the 200km) so it was nice that we could stick together. The road a got a little more interesting, as the course wound it’s way towards summit road and crossed over highway 17.

This was the fun part of the ride, on a small mountain road with no cars, slightly rolling hills, and several christmas tree farms.

And as someone once said, all good things must come to an end. And for me it happened right here. We turned some corner and found ourselves in a residential neighborhood. This picture doesn’t justify the grade, it was straight up, like an Evil Kineival jump. Once again, people were walking their bikes. I barely had enough time to snap this photo before I had to put the camera away and start pulling on the cranks.

The cruelty of the course designers didn’t stop there. We snaked up three or four of those motorcyle jump ramps winding through the posh neighborhood. After already maxxing my hear rate once, I was somehow unable (or unwilling) to push as hard anymore, so my going was slow. It actually seemed more difficult to go slow up a hill and just push all of my leg force into each stroke. After the last “wall” I felt like my legs had no more power (ATP perhaps?) so I took a Clif shot (energy gel) so I wouldn’t fatigue later on. And when we thought it was over, the arrows pointed us onto a paved hiking path through a dense forest.

Strewn with pine needles and loose dirt, the dark, narrow pathway was not only scary, but difficult to ride on. Where the grade was steep on the path, A woman in front of me fell over from losing traction while climbing out of the saddle. Since the lunch stop was nearby, I kept making comments to myself about there being “no free lunch in this world”.

But there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and the path opened to the side of the mountain, and we came across a viewing bench, so it was fitting to stop and take a tourist photo.

The lunch stop was in Henry Cowell State park. Here we’re just leaving.

We passed through the little town of Felton, and it was mostly flat, which was definitely a good way to work off lunch. For little would I have imagined the ordeal waiting ahead. Evidenced by lack of photos from here on out, the major portion of climbing happened here. Approximately 4000 feet of up some, up some more. The fun was way over for me.

Paige was handling the hills fine, and was riding very strong, passing people. She would wander ahead, and frequently circle back for us. We hit grade after grade, some steeper than others, but always up, with little rest. I had already reached my fatigue limit and was getting pretty grouchy with each turn. Some of the really steep sections had me pedaling so slow, I felt like I was encased in clear jello. Not allowed to move freely. Pedaling slow with lots of force to get up a hill really put a strain on my joints, and I could feel my knee complaining. My toes were scrunched, I was hurting.

Even pulling up on the handlebars was becoming a chore, as I had forgotten my gloves at home. So every pull was bringing my hands closer to blistering. I had read somewhere that blisters are caused by heat, pressure, friction, and moisture. So I kept varying my grip and letting go of the bars to cool my hands off. Eventually, I realized I could use my arm warmers to cover my hands and

Here’s the one picture I took from the hillclimb. The true grade is not as apparent in the photo, but it is by far the steepest switchback I’ve ever ridden. I felt really stupid for not having a triple crankset (with a granny gear) as I struggled up each incline. More people walking their bikes here and there. Gravity was being quite the enemy. I took a second Clif shot around mile 75, and it did seem to help reduce my general fatigue, but I was still suffering in slow motion. Those things taste terrible.

We somehow made it to the top, and then rode down to the bottom, but it’s all a blur to me now.

Finally, at the finish, almost 8 hours later. We were content to sit on the concrete and not be climbing hills.

Palomares to Castro Valley and Foothill

Kevin and I did a 33 mile loop in Fremont, and for a change, Kevin brought his camera, instead of me taking all the pix. It was nice to have a break from doing the one-handed shooting/riding thing, but it’s also a little weird seeing myself on a bike. This ride starts off with a 2 mile warmup and wakeup through narrow-shouldered Niles Canyon Road, and then hits Palomares road, where you go straight up.

And even when the shoulder isn’t that narrow, and we’re safely within the shoulder, some drivers just like to dance the line and make the cyclists nervous.
Ever the maverick cyclographer, Kevin quickly gets comfortable shooting behind while riding. Good aim. And how about this over the shoulder shot…nice.

Naturally, in any cycle-ography situation, the camera gets put away when the hills start to get steep, and won’t come out again unless cycle-ographer takes a break or reaches the summit.

After a few miles, the summit was reached, and the heart rate allowed to stabilize, all was well again. And so the camera emerges for a no-hands-who’s-holding-the-bike shot. Oh and a “no hill, no problem” pose
With the help of a rail post and self-timer, we got a nice action shot, whoosh.

Here we’re trying to do panning shots, but the camera auto settings were not keeping the shutter open long enough to blur the background. Or maybe we just weren’t pedaling fast enough.

This group of photos may seem un-interesting, but what you have to realize is that Kevin is holding the camera and pointing it at himself while riding. I’m not saying this is rocket science, but you do get some interesting angles with this method.

Last, but not least – a picture of Kevin’s feet, a shot of his front wheel, and an artsy one through the spokes. Cycle-ography is fun, eh? Here we’re in the town of Niles, where you can ride a miniature steam train through the canyon.

Oh, and as for the rest of the ride, we got home just fine.