Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Why Don't We Do It In The Road....

Yep, that's a Beatles song. Although for me, it was a celebration of getting out on the skinny-tired bike last week Tuesday.  What made it even better was that I hadn't planned on being able to ride and had planned on suffering on the bike that goes nowhere.

Turns out, we weren't going to be watching the grandkids this week after all and when I mentioned to my better half that I was thinking of riding Diablo with the Tuesday group she encouraged me to do so. (evidently my lack of riding has affected my attitude a bit)

I didn't have a lot of time though so I was only able to go to the junction and back and not all the way to the summit. Yes, time was my issue, not my fitness..(that's my story...) I actually felt surprisingly good considering how little I've been riding and although I know I was slow, I was able to get my heart rate up and keep it there without blowing up. I think it helped knowing I was only going to the junction and didn't need to keep anything in the tank. It's just under 7 miles to the junction and I was pretty sure I could go fairly hard and not die in that distance. The nice part is the second half is all down hill.

It was a really nice night not too breezy which allowed for shorts and short sleeves the entire way up and back. Usually at this time of the year, I need a jacket for the downhill and sometimes even the climb. Last week was the exception.

We didn't see many riders on the way up which with the nice weather was a bit of a surprise. Just as we were commenting on it at the junction, a large group of at least 50+ riders came up the hill. Evidently it was a memorial ride for someone that had passed away and the group, although large, was pretty subdued and quiet.

As with any trip up the mountain, the downhill is my favorite part. Lynn and Chris decided to head up a bit further and Xing, like me had places to be so was heading down. The nice part about being closer to 200lbs  than I am to 150, is that the downhills are an area I can shine. Xing and Chris had pretty much dropped me right outta the gate on the climb, but on the downhill portion, I was the one waiting....evidently when you combine a large body of mass with a small amount of brain cells, you get a fast descending rider.

All in all, it was a great ride and my time although not my fastest, was decent for me and it was a great chance to get out, do some climbing, blow out the cobwebs and push my heart rate up for a while....
15 miles almost 1800ft of climbing...beautiful evening!!!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Riding to Nowhere...

Once again, my post will start with excuses and lame attempts to justify my lack of fitness this year. Life continues to be busy and seems to either infringe on my riding opportunities or affect my attitude to the point that I don't want to ride.

I know a more determined or focused person would dig up the wherewithal to get the miles in somehow, but I've been struggling to find the time and when I do find the time, the motivation evades me. This week though, I'm recommitted. My buddy and his wife have been on some crazy cleansing diet and he's dropped enough weight over the last several weeks that I'm sincerely concerned about keeping up with him....evidently where my drive and focus fail, my competitiveness picks up.
Add to that another buddy's attempt this coming weekend to complete the Huracan 300 in FL and I've got enough peer pressure to pass for motivation. I'm determined to force myself to get some miles under my butt.

Still, life this week has prevented me from riding on the trails. Between work hours, evening meetings and babysitting the grandkids, the time just hasn't worked. Instead, I've been channeling this little sliver of motivation into the garage where I slave away on the spin bike, or as I refer to it the bike that goes nowhere.

I love riding my bike and the spin bike is a pretty decent workout when I can't get out. It provides a good sweat, you can crank up the tension to simulate hills or stand and hammer and you'd think with the music on and the sweat flowing I'd be happy to at least be doing this.....but the truth is, I hate it. I've had this thing for over a year and I can count on one hand the number of times I've ridden it. (Four times....and 3 of them are this week.)

I'm not sure what it is that drives me crazy on this thing, probably my inability to focus, or sit still (ADD much?) but every time I've ridden it, it's killed me. I figure it's been 30 minutes and look at the clock to find it's only been 10. I get bored easily and sitting in my garage, with no scenery and only the whirring of the pedals and flywheel providing a backbeat for whatever is playing on my ipod is more like torture than exercise. Granted I have some friends that would argue that exercise is more like torture than exercise no matter what form it takes.

Last night, in an attempt to distract myself I brought out my kindle. And that helped somewhat but even still, with the kindle, 45 minutes felt like hours. I've heard of spinervals and other dvd options and today on my lunch break I spent some time going through YouTube offerings. Maybe I'll give that a try and see if it helps.

I need to get out....see trees, suffer up climbs, enjoy some descents, blow out the cobwebs.....hopefully this weekend I can get some time in the saddle....

Friday, February 28, 2014

Proof That I Am A Cyclist....

As both of you, my readers, know....and as I tell anyone that will listen, I am a cyclist. And not just an ordinary cyclist, I'm a committed cyclist that has worked long and hard to train my body into the cycling machine that you now see before you.

Now, if by some chance you've met me and haven't had the pleasure of hearing me regale you to no end about my cycling adventures and accomplishments, I apologize. I fully realize this is a failure on my part and your life is considerably diminished because of this error.

So, being as I stated, a cyclist, I love to talk not just about my exploits on the bike, but all of the paraphernalia that surrounds said exploits. I can talk for hours and hours (and hours) on things such as single speed gear choices, the benefits and handicaps of one type of frame material over another, cable disc brakes versus hydraulic, the benefits of going tubeless, etc and all the while sounding very condescending and without even a smidgen of fact or knowledge about said topics.

This ability is mostly due to my years in sales but lately has been honed and refined by time spent in bike shops, scouring the various message boards and internet forums and finally reading every advertisement in every magazine known to man on the topic of cycling.

As a matter of fact, my ability to speak inaccurately on any topic even remotely cycling related, has been enhanced lately by not riding and instead spending my time refining my loquaciousness and my verbosity. (Don't worry if you had to look those previous words up, it's a major part of being a cyclist to use words and phrases that others don't understand, i.e bridging the gap, domestique, echelon and embrocation)

Lately though, I feel like my life as a cyclist has affected my friendships. Granted, you always hear that elite athletes have to sacrifice to achieve their goals, but I have to be honest, I never expected this type of anger and jealousy among my less experienced cyclist friends. It's almost as if my less experienced friends are trying to undermine my expertise by throwing out questions in the middle of my dissertations like, so how far do you usually ride? Or where have you ridden lately? or even more biting is the question, when was your last ride?

These types of inflammatory questions serve no purpose other than to create conflict and as everyone knows, being a cyclist really has nothing to do with cycling. Sort of like being a public servant has absolutely nothing to do with serving the public.

So, how does someone prove their a cyclist? I put forth the following as evidence that I am indeed a cyclist:
 - I own bikes - so many bikes in fact that many people that mistakenly believe I own a bike shop
 - I own (and am willing to wear) bike clothes - yes, the simple fact that I'm willing to wear clothes that make me look like 10 lbs of sausage in a 5 lb casing is proof that I'm committed to my sport
 - I have several large bins of miscellaneous bike parts - if I wasn't so committed would I spend so much money upgrading and buying new parts to replace brand new, perfectly acceptable parts on bikes that never get ridden?
 - I know what GU is and have actually tasted several flavors of this product - (note, espresso love double caffeine GU goes really well with a chocolate old fashioned doughnut)
 - I can name (but not recognize) several pro-cyclists
 - I own, and can walk in, those silly clunky cycling shoes that make you walk like a duck

As you can see, even without actually riding a bike, there is incontrovertible proof that I am indeed a cyclist despite my body fat percentage and sure, I could actually get out and ride a bike, but since I'm already a member of this exclusive group....why would I need to?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Before the Storm....

The word best used to describe our winter so far here in northern California has been "dry".  As a matter of fact, according to the talking heads on TV, this is the driest winter ever since they started keeping records back in the 1840's.

And, while I'm definitely concerned about the pending drought, the effect on crops and all the ramifications of a lack of precipitation, I am enjoying the fact that my weekends have been spent outdoors and not cooped up in the house.
This past weekend, with the rumor of an actual storm in our near future, we had planned to ride up Mission Peak on the mountain bikes.  The amazing thing to me is that I've lived in the bay area my entire life and the east bay specifically for the majority of my 51 years and have never been up Mission Peak. I've driven by it hundreds of times and actually ridden my road bike around it on Calaveras Rd several times, but I've never hiked it our ridden it before.

We had a large group as we met up at the base, just outside Ohlone College and with bikes tuned and legs and lungs ready, we headed out.  Almost immediately after hitting the dirt trail things pointed up and they never really stopped pointing up until we reached the top. Sure there were a few places where it was almost level, but for the most part, the entire 6 miles to the base of the summit is up....and parts of it are STEEP! Like sit on the nose of your saddle and push down on the bars to keep from popping a wheelie steep.

As I've maintained in this blog, my fitness level this year is not the best. Life has been too busy and I've had too many other priorities for it to be any different. But even so, I thought I was stronger than I felt doing this ride. Several times in fact, I had to stop and get my heart rate back under control because I couldn't hear my iPod over the sound of my heart pounding in my ears.

Eventually though, as all things do, the suffering came to an end and we were greeted with amazing views of the entire bay area. It had been a bit windy, so the skies were clear and you could literally see for miles....

Having never been up Mission Peak, but having heard its a popular local hike, I wasn't too surprised that we weren't alone on the trail. What I was surprised at, was just how popular the hike is. The entire ride was spent avoiding hikers, most of whom were polite and pleasant.  It seemed as if everyone out there knew the beautiful weather was going to end and winter would soon show up for real...well, as much as winter does show up in the bay area anyway.
Having done all the suffering in the first half of the ride, we took our pictures, enjoyed a quick snack or gel and prepared for our reward. The downhill. And it didn't disappoint. Where it had taken us over an hour and a half of riding time (not including rest stops) to get up there, the downhill portion passed by in about 40 minutes...and that included several stops to regroup.

Now that I've completed this ride I can now say I've been there and done that and don't really need to do it again. I'd like to go back with the dog for a nice hike and a good workout, but as a ride, it really wasn't that great. There were a lot of people, the trail other than one section of narrow single track is all fire road and other than the views at the end, it's just not that pretty....yes, it's a tough ride and a really good workout, but on my mountain bike, I really prefer my rides to be more fun.....(of course it could be that I'm just out of shape and not suffering the entire time would change my perspective)

Sunday, for once, the talking weather-heads were right and it rained which made for a perfect excuse to spend the entire day, after church of course, laying on the couch "recovering".

Monday, January 20, 2014


That pretty much sums up my riding lately. It's not that I don't enjoy the rides I've been on, it's just that I'm really having trouble getting motivated or excited to ride like I used to. And it's not just riding. I'm finding it hard to be motivated to do much of anything productive. Maybe its the season? Maybe its just life? Who knows...

This past weekend I had a free pass from the wife to ride if and when I wanted. I had a few chores/responsibilities that I had to get done, but other than that, there wasn't anything on the calendar that absolutely had to be done. In the past this would have led to not only riding, but possibly trying to fit a ride in on both Saturday and Sunday.

This weekend though, I struggled mightily to find the motivation to get out on the bike. My fitness is at an all time low and my weight, although not at an all time high, is definitely at a seasonal high....I really NEED to ride. Both for my physical well being as well as for my emotional balance.

I knew this and yet wasted the day Saturday puttering around, not doing much and accomplishing even less. And to be honest, when the sun went down on Saturday in addition to the feeling of discontent that comes from being so out of shape and lazy, there was the added guilt of an opportunity missed....Sunday I HAD to ride. Even if I didn't feel like it.

After church on Sunday, the feeling of general apathy towards riding continued. I wanted to lay on the couch and watch the football game, to do nothing productive, to generally just be a slug.  But I knew that was a self fulfilling cycle. I knew that to give in to the overwhelming desire to do nothing would lead to more days of doing nothing. That it would lead to guilt at having done nothing and that it would lead, as it always does to a general dissatisfaction in other areas of my life.

Knowing this, and not wanting to head down that road, as soon as I got home from church I put on my riding clothes, got on the bike and headed out before my laziness over-ruled the one remaining thread of motivation inside me.
The amazing part about riding is that often times I don't really want to ride, but there has never been a time when I wasn't really glad I had ridden.

As I headed out of my neighborhood and down the road, I could feel the apathy and the laziness being replaced by something else....something that resembled motivation and at being out on my bike on a sunny day, joy at feeling the muscles in my legs working hard, joy at leaving the weight of doing nothing behind as I moved towards something else....something healthy, something positive. I began to look at the abnormally low speeds on my GPS as less of a conviction of my choices and more as motivation.

As the day continued so did the joy. I found myself smiling and although I continued to be pushed by the numbers on my GPS,  I found myself stopping to watch a family of ducks in the creek, or to watch a group of deer in a field by the road, or just to stand for a moment in the sun amazed at how blessed I was to be out on my bike on such a beautiful day.

As the route turned finally onto my street and I neared the house, I knew without a doubt that I had made the right choice.  My body, although tired was renewed and my mind was once again clear and free of all the junk that had piled up and weighed it down making it heavy and unmotivated....

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A nice easy 11 mile loop followed by a BBQ

Last week we had our annual New Year's Day Hangover ride. Actually, the name of the ride should probably change to reflect our aging group. We no longer party all night then spend the first portion of this ride hating ourselves for our actions....instead, most of us are happy to be able to stay awake until Midnight on New Year's eve. (rumor has it that there were even some in our group that watched the east coast celebration so they could go to bed earlier)

Every year for this ride we try to pick someplace we either haven't ridden at all or haven't ridden in a long time. This year, it's someplace that most of the group has never ridden before. Almaden Quicksilver Park in San Jose.  I had ridden this park once before with my buddy Chris and had done it on my SS. To be completely honest, I didn't remember it being very hard so I posted it to the group with above mentioned title. Turns out I may have undersold this ride just a bit.

Quicksilver park is the site of an old mercury mine and sits adjacent to the old mining town of New Almaden.  The loop wasn't technical as it's all fire roads, but there was some decent climbing and some very cool historic sites and some amazing views of Silicon Valley and surrounding areas.

The group that we had assembled for this ride was pretty diverse. We had friends from our road riding group that had never been mountain biking, friends from our Thursday night mountain bike group, friends from church,  children of friends and friends of friends.....19 in total with varying levels of fitness and skill. This was sure to be an interesting day.

The entrance that we had met at and would later be bbq-ing at offered a brutal climb at the beginning so we opted to start the ride at another entrance further down the road. This provided us with a nice mile or so section that gave us time to get our legs and lungs to warmed up without pushing everyone into the red zone right off the bat. (Turns out this was also helpful in that Nick, one of our riders was MIA and found us as we pedaled down the road)
Soon enough we gathered at the entrance, counted off to make sure everyone was there and started up the trail. Turns out the road section was the last semi flat section we would see for a while. The next 6 miles was pretty much all climbing and by the time we finally began the descent several of our newer riders were wondering what they had gotten themselves in to.

The sights on the way though were pretty cool. The park sits at the south end of Silicon Valley above Almaden, probably one of the higher income areas in San Jose, and next to several other open space areas. This provides a view that leads you to believe you're nowhere near anything at all.

As we continued to climb, we rode past an old mine building of some sort and further up the road came to what used to be an actual mine. It's closed off now, but you can go in about 30 ft and take pictures down into the gaping hole that people used to descend into daily for work. It was interesting that as you went further in, the temperatures went up pretty significantly. The outside temp was probably in the low 60's and I bet it was mid-70's inside.

 I used to work in an office that we referred to as the cube farm and it amazes me that we complained when there were people that headed into places like this every day to do their jobs.

After ooh'ing and ahh'ing and taking the obligatory group photo, we continued our climb. At this point there were a couple of our riders that were beginning to wonder if they probably should have either 1) ridden more last year or 2) ignored the email that promised a nice easy 11 mile loop to start the new year....oh well, too late're in up to your eyeballs at this point.
The next two miles should have helped them feel better about their decision as we lost about 700 ft on a nice fast fire road descent. Unfortunately for them, we still had almost 7 miles and some climbs still to go before we were done.

The remainder of the ride pretty much followed the contour of the hills but in a slightly uphill direction. This isn't usually a problem and is actually a decent way to end a ride. Unless of course the first half has already drained your tank and you just want the ride to be over.

There were now a couple of our riders that were not enjoying themselves and one who was stopping at every climb due to leg cramps. We had broken into two groups with the faster/stronger guys up front and the slower group bringing up the rear. As ride hosts, Chris and I had stayed back to make sure everyone made it home.  Of course, by this point, I'm pretty sure the lead group had gotten back and were beginning the bbq, I was just hoping there would be a beer or two left for the rest of us.

As we rounded the last corner, I actually heard one of our riders swear out loud....there in front of us was a short, pretty steep climb.....this after I had been telling him we were done with the climbing for the last half hour.  It's only a tenth of a mile, but according to my garmin there were parts of it over 14%.
When you've been cramping up for the last hour, have no gas left in the tank and just want to be done, any climb sucks, even a short one. But a short one that looks like it's straight up is evidently enough to get a grown man to swear out loud and not care who is around to hear it.

With someone else pushing his bike up the hill, he eventually made it up and around the corner where we were greeted with cheers by the rest of the group who were already beginning to eat and had thankfully saved us some beer
All in all a great way to kick off the New Year! Final stats ended up at 14.7 miles - 2207ft of climbing.

Yep, definitely undersold this one....

Friday, December 27, 2013

No plan, no destination, no worries....

Weather in California right now is beautiful. Unseasonably and for some, worrisomely beautiful. It's been cool to cold at night but in the mid-60s, sunny and dry during the day. More like early Fall or Spring than winter.
The downside is that I still have new skis in the garage waiting for enough snow to take a day off work and go play. The upside is, it's perfect weather for a bike ride....which is what I tried to do on Saturday. Unfortunately I was too busy. (it is Christmas week after all) Sunday though, right after church, I went home, changed, loaded up the ipod and the water bottles and headed out.

I had no idea where I was headed other than a general direction, no deadline other than sunset and no plan other than get out, make circles and enjoy the afternoon.....and that's just what I did.

Most of my rides are either group rides where there's the whole dynamic of keeping up and not making other's wait, or on my solo rides where I have a limited amount of time or someplace to be afterwards which forces me to conform to some sort of schedule.
Very rarely do I get a day like Sunday. I rode as hard or as easy as I wanted letting my legs dictate the pace. I stopped and looked at the view a couple of times just because I could and there were several times where I wasn't quite sure where I was awesome.

The worst part of the ride is from my house south to the Dumbarton bridge. From there, traffic pretty much disappeared and although I continued heading south, the decision at every intersection was made by which road had less traffic. This continued with my mind on autopilot and my legs spinning along smoothly. My breathing was easy and the road continued to disappear beneath me until I found myself in a business park, somewhere south of where I started and north of wherever it was I was going.....

Eventually, as all things do, this mindless spinning came to a rather abrupt end with the sound of a pop followed by a whoosh and wrapping up with a wop, wop, wop as my rear wheel began wobbling. I coasted to a stop on the shoulder knowing immediately I had suffered a pinch flat going over the last set of railroad tracks.

Even this though couldn't ruin my mood. I sat for a moment on the nicely manicured lawn of some companies parking strip and enjoyed the sunshine, a gel and a nice long drink from my water bottle before beginning to address my flat tire. Evidently my relaxed state caused some concern for one of the few cars that drove by though as a lady stopped with a frightened look on her face and asked if I was ok.
It was only later, as I thought about it that I realized with my bike laying on it's side and me reclined on the lawn she must have thought I crashed.

Soon enough it was time to get my hands dirty, change my tube and start on my way home. As I turned around and began the trek home I again disappeared into my head, pedaled along making random lefts and rights until I got back to an area I recognized and worked my way back home.

It wasn't a long ride at only 26 miles and it wasn't a particularly hard ride having less than 400ft of climbing but even at what I thought was a nice easy pace, I was able to average almost 18mph. a decent pace on a beautiful day with nowhere to go and no place to be....California Dreamin, on such a winter's day...