Tuesday, October 16, 2007


the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live...
- jack kerouac

what a long, strange trip it's been.
- the grateful dead

Monday, October 15, 2007

what's the 508?

trust me, the furnace creek 508 is a lunatic bicycling adventure, a 508-mile race through the mojave desert and death valley. i can't even do it justice. just check out http://www.the508.com. for sure, we're barking mad doing it as a four-person relay team. i don't even know how to diagnose the ones who ride it solo...

why the capybara?

the 508 doesn't assign numbers to racers. each team is identified by an animal totem. we chose the capybara, the world's largest rodent, the most athletic of the fat-ass water rats, a natural choice to represent a cycling team on a 500-mile race through the desert...

stage one – santa clarita to california city

82.3 miles, 6176' vertical

we watched the solo riders start at 7 am from the comfort of the coffee shop, then began our own final preparations. sunny morning for the 9 am team sendoff, very cool breeze but warm in the sun. mindy shed her jacket for the start, and the rest of us took off for the first support point.

since she doesn't carry any y-chromosome baggage, mindy knows better than to start out hammering at 25 mph like the rest of us goons. (of course, some of those guys took off at 25 mph and didn't look back.) she just warmed up before the long climb up san francisquito canyon, then caught a bunch of the fast starters on the climb, a phenomenon we witnessed often this year. we call it 'being chicked.' mindy's far too nice to rub it in, though. she just spins past at high cadence, smiling, probably even chatting. you can't hate that girl, no matter how many times she beats you to jelly on a climb.

san francisquito canyon is narrow and crowded with bicycles, so support vehicles would absolutely clog it. crew support is not permitted until mile 25, where there's a wide and long shoulder for crews to park and wait. at the single bush taller than twelve inches, fifty guys peeing. on some unspoken signal, it became the women's room. civilized, these 508 crews... we repacked the van and chatted with rocky mountain goat and some other teams – lots of bike talk, stories of past rides, mostly lies, i'm sure – while mindy carried her own tubes and other support gear up the canyon. at the turn, chad practiced the bottle hand-off like we were briefed. it worked – mindy barely had to slow down. we cheered – the rocky mountain goat crew called her by name, so she knows we were talking about her with them – and she was off again.

over the crest of the hill and after a long descent, we started playing leapfrog support, spending most of our time behind our rider. mindy would breeze past, we'd hang in the car for ten or fifteen minutes, then we'd go find her again, see what she needed, 'vitamin I and sunscreen,' and get it ready for the next stop.

the day was almost perfect, clear skies, hot sun but cool air, temps in the 80s – a little warm for cycling, but come on, this is the mojave desert – and a cooling but drying breeze. hydrate. you can see approximately forever in the spare landscape, so the windmills climb (imagine an uphill section of road through an extended windfarm...what else would you call it?) loomed many miles before the grade ramped up. distances deceive: since you can see it, you think it's close. not so... dusty red mountains fading up into grey, brush cover near the top at elevations high enough to coax the little water out of the wind...

chad was quiet in the back of the van, still an hour or so left in mindy's shift. wait for it...

a few more leapfrogs brought us down from the windmills and into time station 1 in california city around 2:30pm. mindy kicked butt.

stage two – california city to trona

70.3 miles, 4212' vertical

chad was off in no time, riding into no-fence land. mindy asked the race officials at the time station about our position in the 4x relay team standings. 'seven minutes behind smoking loons.' accurate as far as it went, but we heard that to mean we were riding in second place. easy to latch onto mistakes you want to believe... we decided not to tell chad right away, we knew he'd ride plenty hard anyway, no sense having him blow a gasket chasing somebody down, him with two little kids and all.

until he began the climb to randsburg at mile 25, there wasn't much place to pass the boy a water bottle. there was plenty of shoulder, but that part of the course is faast. i did manage one high-speed handoff with my best thirty-yard dash, but understand, running is not my gift. better to look for a slightly uphill stretch...

on the climb to johannesburg, chad began catching the solo riders. then we spotted smoking loon just ahead and finally broke our news: that rider was leading. over the next few miles, our boy caught him and opened a time gap before the long descent to the trona turn. at the turn, we fitted his lights at a quick stop and he asked, 'leading what?' we told him what we believed, 'leading the 4x relay teams.' so holy shit, we thought, we're freakin' winning the furnace creek 508. chad echoed our team motto: if ya got it, leave it on the road. don't bring anything back...

by that time, chad was cramping pretty bad, asking us to mix extra electrolytes into his fuel bottles. but now that he 'knew' he was in first place, it was going to take une force majeure to get by him. we pulled into trona about twenty past six, a minute ahead of smoking loons, which put us in the division lead, if only in our own small minds. we didn't bother to look any farther up the standings. we'd never heard of, let alone seen, team sphinx or team prairie falcon, forget the millipedes (right name for a four-tandem team, ya think?). but we also had never considered that we'd do any more than finish, possibly even last. contending was a rush.

stage three – trona to furnace creek

99.2 miles, 7538' vertical

tom was ready to go pretty quick, but we promptly blew our 'lead' when team smoking loon showed their experience with a quick rider change and a crew that was ready to travel. they hit the road as we shuffled bikes on the roof, fueled up the car, bought supplies, and stood in line for the restrooms.

chad tried to recover from his balls-out run to trona, but instead started feeling carsick in the back of the van. we stopped tom on his way up the trona bump to switch drivers. mindy drove as darkness fell, and chad rode shotgun long enough to find his barfaerobic threshold. apologies to basenji, the 2x tandem team keeping their distance behind us... but chad felt a lot better.

after the descent from the trona bump, tom rolled through the panamint valley in the early darkness and set up for the monster climb of the race: 3800' vertical in thirteen miles up townes pass, with grades up to 13% in places. that's a grind, i don't care who you are. i can't even imagine doing it after riding a double century like those solo riders. we are SO not in their league. over the steepest stretch, tom spent, in his words, two hours doing three to five miles per hour... he just kept it turning strong. amazing to watch from the van. mindy complained that she couldn't sleep with the two of us up front muttering, 'wow, look at him go' every now and then. a race is exciting, even in slow motion.

as tom climbed, we caught glimpses of the long line of blinking lights behind and below us. a long, long guardrail bending left suggested a huge panorama, but not for us. riding at night, tom said it's all about the blinking lights. just find the next set in front of you and catch them if you can...

the grade moderates near the top, but there's still a substantial climb ahead. finally, finally, we reached the summit sign and pulled off on the left side to get tom some more layers for the descent. i stepped outside the car into the wind and immediately flirted with hypothermia. it gets damn cold at altitude in the desert. gave tom all his clothes, and he put them all on...

the 17-mile descent from townes pass is an exercise in trust. chad tried to keep the car close enough to illuminate the road in front of tom while preserving an error margin. tough balancing act at 40 mph. and the road didn't help. it dips often, so that as tom reached the edge of a dip, the car behind wouldn't be pointed down enough to light the road, so tom had to drop into the blackness for a second. after a few times, you get used to it, rationalizing that we're not the first bicycle down this road this evening, it must be clear, right?

from the bottom of townes pass, tom still had a 25-mile pull to furnace creek, now into a huge headwind. good thing we had our most experienced double-century rider out there. he pounded it out at high cadence, clawing through stovepipe wells and on around to furnace creek just before 2 am. check the standings: 53 minutes behind smoking loons. even with our long rest stop at trona, they must have put a monster on the road for stage three. tom told me, 'you may feel some wind...' he got that right.

stage four – furnace creek to shoshone

73.6 miles, 6744' vertical

my turn. got on the bike just after 2 am in furnace creek, finally getting to stretch it out after seventeen hours in the car supporting the other riders. sleep? fugeddaboudit. relied on my alert crew to help me find the right turn out of furnace creek to head south toward badwater, warmed up a bit, then put up the spinnaker, baby, we're sailin'! rode the tailwind tom earned for us with his upwind run through stovepipe wells. then like tom said, 'it's all about the blinking lights.' i could see from a few to several sets of blinking lights ahead (some miles ahead) in the darkness.

i want to go back to death valley in the daylight. all we could see were stars (and stars and stars!) and mountain profiles (absence of stars). and of course a small bit of road. often in the turns, the headlights would pick out whiteness (alkali flats?) off the road, a spooky effect, especially when a pair of green eyes flashed me and a dim canine form instantly disappeared. coyote. we're not the only high-level predators out here...

but i mostly had my mind on the blinking lights, chasing them down one after another, passing with some speed differentials i've never experienced. i really can't take too much credit for it, i mean, my legs were fresh, and those solo riders had 253 miles in theirs. no way i could do what they do. it doesn't even seem fair that relay teams get the same finishers' jersey as the solo riders. they're in a completely different league, and i am in awe of them.

near the south end of the valley, a rider passed me: black panther, a 2x relay team. where the hell did he come from? i didn't know if he was one i had recently passed or if he had followed me all the way down the valley. but i could tell it was time to get serious: the climbs to jubilee pass (five miles, 1000' vertical) and salsberry pass (nine miles, 2300') were just ahead. i couldn't see my mileage so far, but the blinking lights began to appear above and to the left, up toward the turkish flag in the eastern sky: the late crescent moon next to venus morningstar.

(now that i think of it, i probably got that visual right with the wrong astronomy. i'll bet those flag symbols represent the new crescent moon at the end of ramadan, which could only be paired with venus eveningstar. just a guess...)

the blinking lights don't move fast on the climbs, but then neither do i. went by a few on the way up jubilee (including black panther near the top), but then the crew called a stop, which i welcomed, to fuel up. two or three teams went by at the summit, and i followed them down to the base of salsberry.

i had this climb in mind all summer. i understand distance and altitude, but this time the wind added a demoralizer. a headwind on a long climb just makes me grumpy, and this wind was naasty. it took a long uncomfortable time before my last fuel-up kicked in, so i started rewinding the tapes in my head: 'it's all about the blinking lights.' 'if ya got it, leave it on the road...'

the carbs started working their magic, and i started to chase the lights. at one point, i counted eight sets of them ahead somewhere in the darkness. when one came into steady view, i'd go deep to get by and open a gap for the van to follow. recover. repeat. i'd never ridden like that. this was my first race, the first time there'd ever been an official clock on my efforts. 'if ya got it...'

the conversations started in my head: can you catch that next one? maybe, but it'll hurt. a lot? yeah, a lot. ever hurt this much before? no. can you stand it? i guess so. so? ok, let's go.

and so on. i rode the climb of my life. caught five of the eight sets of lights. after about the thirteenth false summit, with calves and quads screaming, tom motioned me to stop at the sign for the pass. crunched to a stop in the gravel, he gave me a windbreaker for the descent. time to set sail.

caught the first hint of day on the horizon, nautical twilight outlined the mountains slightly better than the stars. my headlight was not made for high-speed descents, so i had to rely on the car headlights. but at speed, the van needed to keep a bit of distance, too much for me to see the black road well enough against the lightening sky, so i eased up. my left foot started pulling out of the pedal, and i understood the crunch i heard at the summit: broken cleat, front anchor. lost power from ten o'clock to one o'clock on my pedal stroke: the last bit of pull-up and the kick over the top. probably 15% of my power, since i'm nowhere near coordinated enough to have different pedal strokes on each foot: i matched my right foot as well to the broken left cleat.

missed the juice right away, because the road turned up for the last little incline, straight into a blistering wind. i couldn't crouch deep enough. it was relentless, the kind of wind that pulls the skin on your face tight, cheeks toward ears. i told tom later he was right about the wind.

the last of the descent was an exercise in core stability. flat aero spokes are not made for speed in strong crosswinds. just hold on, steady, nothing stupid...

at the turn onto CA 127, the wind became my friend again for the last mile and a half. blew past the speed limit 35 sign at the shoshone town line with a sly grin. my chp source tells me it's possible to get a speeding ticket on a bicycle. how cool would that be? pulled into time station #4 at 6:41 am, 4:45 for the stage (incuding stops). my computer read 4:21 ride time, putting my average speed on the bike just under 17 mph. with over 6700' of climbing, that was by far the best ride of my life. 'if ya got it, leave it on the road. don't bring anything back.' i had it, and i left it all on the road. i brought nothing, and i mean nothing, back. all i could do was wobble over to the car and sit as chad and tom got mindy ready to roll. check the time sheet...took 23 minutes out of smoking loons (later found i'd put nine into black panther). but then noticed team sphinx and team prairie falcon almost two hours ahead, and i think the millipedes rolled through sometime yesterday... ok, so we were never anywhere near the lead. best to let that delusion go...

stage five – shoshone to baker

56.3 miles, 2186' vertical

sun almost ready to peek over the mountains now, mindy took off with that big tailwind on her way up ibex pass. need directions? the MTNT column (miles to next turn) in the route book read 124.81. just go. and go she did.

i'm guessing ibex pass is where the solo champ and mayor of furnace creek, michael alpine ibex emde, got his totem. since i lost the election for kelso town clerk, we got the capybara...

at 7 am, when the van needn't more follow the rider closely, tom called a catnap. we made sure mindy was well supplied, then pulled over. i was riding shotgun, still in my kit, sucking down a recovery drink that i hoped would make me feel better. we both set cell-phone alarms for eight minutes, and i just sat still in the predawn light. before the alarms, i heard tom take a quick breath, looked over to the drivers' seat, and saw him bright-eyed and alert. did the trick. back on the road, another leapfrog up ibex pass.

mindy was cruising, even on the climb. she was set to absolutely fly into baker. from the summit, you can see maybe thirty miles of road, almost dead straight, down the hill, across the plain, through baker, and up the hill on the other side, chad's upcoming stage. let 'er fly!

riding shotgun, i slipped in and out of full consciousness. but every time i came fully back, the picture was the same: mindy ahead of us in a crouch, sailing down the slope, the road straight down, across, and up like always. happened about six times. the picture didn't change.

with about five miles to go, we left her to get chad set up to take off from baker. she was smiling big! she averaged over 20 mph for her second stage, and rolled into baker uphill at 30 mph, on a high. boo-yah! pulling onto town, all of our phones buzzed or rang. the first cell service in probably half a day, and all the well-wishing text messages came pouring in. mindy alone got fifty. good to have friends. but now i was going to have to disabuse them of the notion we were winning...

stage six – baker to kelso

34.9 miles, 2920' vertical

again, chad hit the road fast and started his long climb out of baker, a 2+% grade for 20+ miles, the kind of grind that makes you start talking to yourself. the rest of us emptied, refilled, and fueled the car. bad sandwiches and ice cream from the gas station/convenience store on the corner. gotta get back to check out the mad greek, though. next time.

i took the wheel on the way out of baker and started looking for our rider. no sign of him, but you can only see about two hundred miles of road out there. wrong turn? no, tom saw him cross the I-15 overpass. but we'd already passed several teams we'd seen in baker. so where the hell is he? there's no place for him to go, nothing out here big enough to drag him off, and no place to hide him even if there was...

finally we caught him, pounding out his strong fast cadence, just running up that long grade. 'what do you need?' we asked on our way by. 'just pull over a mile or so ahead so i'll have something to shoot for. not much for landmarks out here.' so that's what we did, several iterations of jumping a mile or more ahead, texting more accurate race info to our fans, watching chad pound up that relentless grade. damn, that boy is riding strong...

next time by, chad called, 'can you fix this road? this chip seal is killing me...'

note to future 508 riders: never, ever complain about bad road. once you do, the road gods will soon show you truly bad road... near the top of chad's climb, the pavement lost the right to that name. what wasn't cracked or broken was weathered down to the aggregate, in this case, thumb-sized rock. chad slowed considerably, until he cracked the code. the painted lines were much smoother. he added about 3 mph riding the stripes. didn't complain when the chip seal returned on the descent into kelso, either...

pulled into time station #6 in kelso and checked the time sheet. still two hours behind prairie falcon, and an hour-and-a-half behind team sphinx, but only 16 minutes behind team smoking loon. chad took 17 minutes out of them on the baker grade. but we'd already given up chasing them, we didn't even jump ahead to set tom up to go, so they got it all back at our stop in kelso, plus they had their monster riding third.

stage seven – kelso to almost amboy

33.8 miles, 2280' vertical

you can't really call kelso a town, or even really a settlement. a railroad crossing, i guess. tom was itching to go, and immediately got on it for his climb: 2000' vertical in 12 miles, a couple of bottle passes, deep into the routine now, even though mindy and chad are feeling done with this...

sagebrush and cactus, loose sandy soil, rocks. low population density regardless of species. browns and tans and greys and pale pale grey-greens. dead quiet at midday except for the wind. lots and lots of very very little. not a fence. not a power line. cell phone service? soon, i'm sure. welcome to the desert.

tom's stage ended with a loong screaming descent into almost amboy, home of the amboy memorial gardens and lemonade stand, resting place of unclaimed totems. the capybara won't end up there, if we have anything to say about it. pulled into time station 7 at 1:30pm sunday, more than six hours ahead of where we thought we might be. been a good run, it has...

stage eight – almost amboy to twenty-nine palms

58.2 miles, 4170' vertical

seven times, our team put an enthusiastic rider on the bike. at the start of each stage, we were itching to go. that streak ended in almost amboy. had someone given me the choice between getting back on the bike and having root canal, i was going with dental surgery.

sunday afternoon, i learned the difference between an endurance event and an ultra-endurance event. i trained for two stages. i knew i could tear up either one of them. fifty-eight miles and four thousand feet vertical? i've done that before breakfast. but riding in a 4x relay team in the 508 is not about riding two stages, it's about riding one event: two stages with a seven-hour recovery. i had the best ride of my life on the graveyard shift out of furnace creek, probably a three- or even four-thousand calorie effort. over the last three stages, i probably managed to consume six or seven hundred calories. didn't think to eat, and didn't feel like it anyway. do the math. i was out of gas at the starting line. endurance athletes need water, salt, and calories... i got two out of three. i was set up for the worst ride of my life, bar none.

riding in a bonk sucks a mop. riding the last stage of the furnace creek 508 in a bonk sucks the mop that just cleaned the floor of the mens' room at the goddam bus station...

what do you want to hear about? the broken pavement and crushed glass on the shoulder of route 66? the high-speed traffic? the way the shoulder disappeared altogether every time the road crossed a dry wash? the railroad crossing gates in amboy that almost clonked me coming down in front of an approaching high speed freight? (my stupidest move, following my crew through the crossing. still, with the train covering my back, i had no traffic worries for a while.) the moonscape vistas? (the eighth is not the prettiest stage.) the way i could only find 60% of my maximum heart rate? how my crew, themselves eager to finish, was pulling their eyes out watching me? how they counseled me to puke? (i know it worked for you, but chad, look, i'm not barfing.) the not one not two but three false summits at the top of the sheephole climb? the passing car that pulled in within inches of my wheel on the 35-mph descent from sheephole summit? the twenty-mile uphill finish? the santa ana headwind? good thing the desert finally started to get hot...

i had nothing to leave on the road, and there was nothing to do about it. just keep it turning and eat as much as you can. at the approach to sheephole summit, forty or more miles to go, deep into counting pedal strokes...

just shoot me. now. please. really, i mean it...

the carbs kicked in. the body is amazing. it won't go without fuel, but when it's gassed up, it almost jumps at the chance. didn't really feel any better, but all of a sudden i could click up a gear. then another. speed went from 10 to 18 mph, began to think i'd finish before dark. there was never any doubt in my mind about finishing. as i told tom later, even at six miles per hour, that's only a ten hour stage, and we had eighteen to finish... the energy hit got me over sheephole summit, catching a few of the teams who had gone by earlier. if ya got it...

lost it again on the rough pavement on the last long gradual desert climb to the finish. just keep turning. my odometer mocked me, refusing to change, then registering distance only grudgingly. using every mental trick i knew by then.

carbohydrate metabolism metaphors: maltodextrins are coal, high-fructose corn syrup is gunpowder. stopped for a coke at mile 490 or so. as soon as i got back on the bike, i had it again, heart rate back up in the 80% range, power in each pedal stroke, speed. ok, so leave it on the road. did for about fifteen minutes, or as long as the 150 calories lasted. then nothing again. gunpowder. i'll probably lay off that stuff in the future. no way animal metabolism evolved to deal with such concentrated energy. it can't be healthy.

mindy was right about the toothbrush. as any endurance athlete will tell you, the biochemical reaction between a sports drink and an energy gel creates wool. each of my teeth dressed up in its own little cardigan sweater...

my kmart buddhism teaches me that the journey is the destination. i confess my heart questioned that tenet, a crisis of faith in the face of ten more miles of 1% grade into a stiff headwind on shitty pavement with the sun in my eyes, sweat and sunscreen dripping in...did i mention the headwind? attitude check: i got your stinkin' journey, yeah, right here, man... it's true, i developed an attachment to the destination. the root of all suffering...

didn't i already ask you to shoot me?

finally on twenty-nine palms highway, only a few miles to go now, sun lower, completely blinding. i could see about fifteen feet ahead, but that was just about enough at six miles per hour...by then i couldn't even get 55% of my max heart rate. i did some mental math...two miles to go, at this speed, let's see, that's only...twenty minutes. be done in no time. at least my electrolytes are ok, i can still think...

a woman waited in her car for me to cross a driveway in front of her. as i passed, i turned to acknowledge and thank her for the courtesy. she made the index-finger-around-ear gesture: you're crazy. i laughed, hard to argue, given the evidence...

still sun-blind, i plowed straight through some pine branches hanging out over the road. blindsided by a plant. ok, people, we really need to finish up here, that tasted like a martini...

i think five teams passed me and stayed ahead on the last stage, and black panther would have caught me but the race was fifty yards too short. sure, this was a race, but no losers here. if you think i'm just blowing smoke, spouting cliches about how all that matters is doing your best, read empress penguin's blog. go ahead and tell me you don't believe she won by DNF at mile 400.

i can't wait to do it again.

Friday, October 12, 2007

free advice...

...for future furnace creek 508 4x relay teams.

and worth the price, i might add...

> the car to bring is a minivan with the middle seat removed and half the rear seat folded down. that makes for a cyclist on the road, a driver, a navigator/bottle passer, and gives a little slack to the team member in the back of the car to sleep, eat, change, clean up, whatever.

> even with that slack, there really isn't much down time for anybody on the team. sleep is a gift from the cycling gods, and they are fickle. two of us went straight through with zero sleep, and the others didn't get much. after 7am sunday, the driver should feel free to call for a ten-minute catnap.

> this is one event, not two separate stages. you must, and i mean ya GOTTA plan your recovery between stages. i didn't and rode my second stage completely in a bonk. that sucked a mop. plus it added an hour or more to the ordeal.

> the rider with the most civilized riding schedule should act like a crew chief and be responsible for most of the thinking.

> a step stool would be nice for getting bikes off the roof.

> you can save real time by planning the rider changes. think ahead, and talk about it in the car before you get to the time station.

> you can save twenty minutes by getting into time station 2 before the rules change at 6pm. if you don't have to follow your rider in, you can jump ahead, gas up, let everybody pee, and get your third rider ready to go. but that requires 17 mph for 2 stages totalling 153 miles with 10200' vertical. that's a stretch for me and the crowd i ride with.

> i'd only do this event with riders i know well and am comfortable with. two days in close quarters with people pushing themselves to physical extremes means you're going to get to know your teammates better than you might like to. leave your delicate sensibilities at the starting line. privacy is a luxury.

> more to come...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


team capybara finished the furnace creek 508 in 32:58.

30th place of the 117 starters (84 finishers)
7th place of the 14 4x relay teams
3rd place of the 9 4x mens' relay teams
1st place of the 1 4x mens' relay team in the 30+ age bracket.

i guess we won, then, if you define your terms properly.

hard to get too big-headed about it, though, finishing as we did almost three hours behind chesapeake bay retreiver, a dude my age riding solo on a fixed-gear...

it'll take me a couple days to write the story. right now, almost 48 hours after we finished, i'm still trying to recover from the deepest bonk of my life. i now understand the difference between an endurance event, which i prepared for, and an ultra-endurance event, which this was, and which i did not. but man, that was fun, in ways i can't even explain.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

old la honda. once. fast.

that was mindy's email description of what she and chad planned for wednesday's ride '5ish.' simple enough. i met the toms at tc's place at 2 pm to 'ride easy and flat' until we get over to old la honda to 'see what the sprinters are doing.' weird weather, changing seasons: hot sun, cold wind, patchy clouds. couldn't decide how to suit up. ended up skipping the base layer but keeping the wind vest, worked well for a couple hours until the clouds bunched up. skinny bald guys gotta carry their insulation...

the winds were funky, mostly from the north and northwest, but sometimes from due west, and gusty, the kind of crosswinds that move you sideways and headwinds that make you stand up to go downhill. tc wanted to get waay north to for the payback when we turned, so we went all the way out canada and skyline to crystal springs road before turning. even the uphills were easy on the way back. quiet, too, after that howling in our ears for the 20+ miles out there.

i felt like crap. again, plenty of cardio capacity but no legs and icky stomach. i could still go, but it hurt and i don't like that. bicycling is fun, right? it is, even when it feels like crap. beats workin'.

so we met mindy on time at the base of old la honda, chad was still workin' for the man. she was itchy to go; she'd caught the bug: she and chad had been setting prs on that road lately – both faster than my 24:52 from a couple weeks back – and hadn't been telling. but now she really wanted to push herself, see what she could do. tc felt the same. i didn't feel like pushing it, wasn't even sure i wanted to go up at all. we had over 40 miles on the clock, it's a good day already...

mindy took off like a rocket across the bridge timepoint. tc and tb followed, and i said fuck it, just follow them up. about a quarter-mile in, on the way up to the first big 180-left turn, i glimpsed mindy's yellow jacket scampering up the slope through the woods to the left like a rabbit. i looked down and saw myself daddling along in my triple chain ring, heart rate below 65% and thought, it's fun chasing rabbits...

ok, let's go, i thought. kicked into the middle chain ring and stood up. in the next half-mile, went by tb in a steep turn, then past tc in the steep esses below home road, then mindy's jacket came back into view. i'd gone to almost 85% to catch her, which is harder than i like to ride. no vomit-drool on the chin for me. so i sat a ways behind her for a minute and looked around.

the clouds had moved in, darker, made me glad i'd switched to amber sunglass lenses. winds swirling and blustery, dry but hinting of rain, pushed drifts of redwood trash across the road in places. and noisy. kind of creepy weather for the deeper parts of the forest. half-expected an ent to pick me up by the seatpost to examine this unusual, hasty creature.

so i find that once i push myself to threshold and recover a little, it's easier to hold that level of effort. so i tried it. hmm...not so bad. i went by mindy, then kept the monitor between 82% and 85% for the last mile-and-a-half. with about a half-mile to go, i started thinking, damn, i could have a good time on this climb, too bad i didn't bother to start my clock at the bridge. oh well. came up on another rider near the top and didn't want to go by on that narrow road with the blind curves, so i followed her. gave me a chance to have an idea, i'll bet mindy's got herself timed, i'll just time the gap. that's what i did, it read 1:08 when mindy crossed the stop line and announced 25:13. makes my time no more than 24:05, another personal best. i see mindy's point. once you start setting personal bests, ya just wants to do it again!
so after mt. hamilton last weekend and this showing today, i'd say the capybaras are in fine shape for the 508. if we don't finish, it won't be from lack of physical conditioning. that's good. one less thing.

two-and-a-half weeks...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

capybaras ride

ride report, sunday september 16

the capybaras rode in uniform for the first time today on a group run to the observatory. chad, mindy, and tc carpooled to my street and we hit the road at 8:00 sharp. flat light in the cloudy morning, cool and calm. we rolled through the san jose state campus and out the east side to the park at beryessa community center. bathrooms closed, try the convenience store across the street...

going that way, you get a real feel for the 'valley' in silicon valley – our road was nearly flat, but the hills came nearer and nearer. through alum rock park, the road turns up slightly, and the hills close in on both sides. this park set in a canyon, ya think? got our first taste of cyclocross through the construction site at the turn to start climbing the canyon wall out of the park. i ground through the sand and gravel in low gear, but the other three wisely chose to walk. up and over the low ridge and down to the park exit at crothers road. watch out for the unpaved fifty yards at the bottom...

i led them up through the closed and washed-out section of crothers. i've ridden that steep and broken pitch a few dozen times, and every time i think of how stupid it is. it was our last cyclocross chance for a while, anyway. once back on pavement, the directions for the next twenty miles became, 'left at the stop sign, stop at the telescope.' crothers offers a steep half-mile, past the 'house numbers on crothers road are not in numerical order' sign (like that idea?), followed by a short stretch almost flat, then a steep quarter-mile up to the veery steep quarter mile before the rolling up-and-mostly-down takes you to the stop sign at a familiar junction. left turn.

once on california state highway 130 a.k.a. mount hamilton road, the grade steadies out between 6% and 7%, the views open up back across the valley and the bay, and you can see the road cut into the hillsides for a mile or more ahead of you. going up. the clouds cleared off as the the oak forest closed in above grandview saddle. still another couple miles of climbing on rough road before crossing under the power lines to top out on the first ridge with a near/far view of the observatory dome. from there it's an easy mile-and-a-half descent to joseph grant park. time for a good stop at mile 20 in the full morning sun.

the air was cool enough to make the sun more comfortable, especially drenched in sweat like we were. chad asked for a route report, it being his first trip up this road: three miles up, half-mile down, then seven miles up, all at or near 6%. easy to say...

it's all ess-curves wrapping the hillsides from the park up to twin gates trailhead, where again you cross under power lines at the summit. the second descent is a straight chute to a tight blind down right - up left - down right with a little gravel and broken pavement for excitement. then a short rise and a bendy chute down to the big sweeping left turn across the bridge at the cdf station. lick observatory 7 miles.

i've described that last seven miles before (see aug 30): back-and-forth and up-and-up. and up. and back and forth, did i mention that? you go up some, too. the views are wide open and improve as you rise above each surrounding ridge. it's just hard to keep track of which direction you're looking. there's loma prieta and mount umunhum some forty miles away across silicon valley (still invisible behind the first ridge we crossed). wait a second, weren't they on the left before? just try to keep track of where the sun is. a few dozen bicycles, a dozen motorcycles, handful of cars. pretty quiet, mostly, a little wind, much cooler higher up.

the observatory was open, a telescope tour underway, the business end of those beautiful white domes visible from all over the bay area. dark and wooden inside, circles within circles of gears large and small and huge, the long metal cylinder aimed at the hemispherical ceiling, and a horizon-to-zenith quarter-circle slit door in the roof, the eyelid. i bought refrigerator magnets.

we found the sun-warmed bricks in the fountain courtyard out back. the shade was waay too cold with the wind. drink, eat, stretch, drink. no hurry, just another lazy sunday...

on the way down, i had to stop twice in the first mile. caught a wasp under my collar, then a moment later dropped my chain over my big ring so it just hung over the pedal. third time's a charm, right? didn't like that thought, since i noticed a bald spot on my rear tire, belt-threads showing through. nothing like a blowout on a long descent to get the adrenaline going...

we landed safely back at the park, but still had the mile-and-a-half climb back over the first ridge. chad said he had forgotten about that. mindy said that yesterday's 80-mile team in training ride was still in her legs. just turn the crank, i guess. on the way up, several buzzards circled low, as low as i've ever seen them, like right overhead, close enought to make me want to duck. ooh, smell? dinner's on, in a ravine below, probably the mature corpse of a deer. i'm thinking pizza instead...

from the grandview saddle, the road improves, and the valley floor seems close compared with the view from the observatory. below crothers where we came on, the road was repaved last year, smoooth and faast. the four of us dropped sequentially through that 10 mph hairpin right: downhill, decreasing radius, off-camber. wish i had it on video. damn, those team jerseys look good...

we threaded some east-side neighborhoods back, indulging my preference for residential streets where the hazards run more toward kids kicking a ball into the street in front of you and less toward getting sideswiped by a bus. finished with just under sixty miles and chad quoted us 5600' vertical.

pizza it was, and one slice wasn't going to do it. tc and i added ice cream.

three weeks to go...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

lazy sunday

ride report sunday, september 9

met chad and mindy at the page mill park & ride at 9am. for future reference, the time to meet there on a sunday is 8:45. we must have sat on our bikes, ready to go, for fifteen minutes just deciding on a route over to the coast and back. no excess ambition in this group. finally we decided to take old la honda and CA 84 to san gregorio, then turn left on stage to get over to duarte's in pescadero for lunch. so that's what we did...

took a while to warm up. had plenty of cardio capacity but no legs. couldn't stay with the two of them on the way up old la honda at mile 5. the last i saw of them was mindy's blinky taillight disappearing around a turn up ahead. no worries, it's a nice road. there was a chill, probably high 50s, perfect climbing weather. the sun cut through the redwoods and the patchy fog in places. hard to be hatin' life in those surroundings, even if your legs are screaming at you.

they waited for me at skyline, even though the temperature had dropped and heavier fog rolled in. i was cold in my three layers, chad must have been borderline hypothermic in his one. our original plan was to take the west old la honda shortcut down to 84, but mindy needed a stop, so we turned right on skyline for the quick (and c-c-cold) descent to alice's restaurant in skylonda. stood there in the sun for a few minutes before heading down 84 toward la honda.

no traffic at all for several miles, so we just danced down that smooth winding road through the coastal redwoods. that's one of my favorite descents. it's not steep enough to go stupid fast, there are a couple stretches where you can hit 40 mph, but most of it is between 25 and 35 mph, and you have to work some. there aren't any real technical turns, and the road is cambered nicely. just sail...

got to la honda too soon, because from there to san gregorio the grade moderates and the descent requires more work. we traded leads and pulled into the general store at the corner of 84 and stage, a mile up from the pch. mile 25, time for a good stop.

it was a pretty laid-back time. we just hung out there at the store, nobody really itching to get going. chad said he felt like just a lazy sunday, and mindy laughed at him, 'your idea of a lazy sunday...' finally we decided we were getting hungry, so pescadero beckoned. stage road is the route, and i'd never ridden it south from san gregorio. off we went. we knew about the two small climbs, and they gave us the excellent views. road cuts above, then from either of the two summits, ocean away to the right, and several loops of the road below. the second descent rolls through the pasture where you'll sometimes see the sheepdogs working the flocks. and the long avenue lined by the huge eucalyptus on both sides. try to ignore the farmhouse gate with the twenty-foot rusted rebar skeleton wielding the machine gun...

by pescadero, the sun had cleared off the fog, so we nixed duarte's restaurant in favor of a picnic in the shady orchard behind arcangeli's bakery and deli. we had to let the garlic herb artichoke bread cool so it didn't melt the flower-petal goat cheese into a gooey mess. tough duty we pulled today, but somebody's gotta do it...

there's not much for services between pescadero and palo alto, so we had to plan our water stops. filled up at the deli, then turned left on pescadero road and started up the west side of haskin's hill. that road busts out of the woods for the last mile, the steepest part of the climb, and by then it was quite warm. over the crest, slip on the vest, and wheel down the winding forest road. try not to miss the turn into sam macdonald park on the left. another water stop, then the last half-mile down to the junction with west alpine road. it's over 2000' up to the page mill gap from there, in two four-mile segments, one shady, one not. the fresh gravel has been mostly worked into the now much-improved road surface. no sign of sweatpants man today.

mindy left chad and me at the skyline junction to head home. the two of us then skated down page mill like she had done before we met in the morning. at the parking lot, chad's altimeter read 5700' vertical for the 61 miles. just a lazy sunday...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

old la honda pb

ride report wednesday, september 5

i'm covering the team in training hill repeats for coach don while he's on the dl, so i started from the voss avenue park this afternoon. stopped into velotech in palo alto to make a service appointment, then met tc to go uphill. got as far as portola and alpine on our way to old la honda when our phones rang sequentially. mindy was looking for us. back down alpine to find her on arastradero, then back up alpine and across portola to the left turn for old la honda road.

this is one gorgeous climb. shady redwood forest, one lane road, steady 7% - 8% grade, 1375' vertical in 3.3 miles. not too long, not too tough. my best time up that hill (25:08) was the year dave sat on my wheel and i drove myself stupid into the red. i'd been up it in 25:30 a couple times this year, but today i felt just great, so i went for it. kicked the heart rate into the 80%+ range right away and just kept turning the crank. rode most of the way at 83%, backed off a little with just over a half-mile to go, then stomped on it the last four-tenths through that crappy pavement near the top. blew past the mailboxes to the stop sign in 24:52, a new personal best, and not so stupidly anaerobic as the other time. mindy called me a beast. tc asked where that came from. easy. i overate this morning, got properly caffeinated at middday, then took 30 miles to completely warm up. i want to go again.

after that, i was ready to just take the easy route over to skylonda and down 84, but mindy told tc that we'd decided to head south on skyline and descend page mill. so that's what we did. i was tired, and did not descend well. tc pulled away in front, mindy was braking a lot behind me, and i left some rubber in the gate three hairpin. i've done better.

we took the altamont option, since i had to get over to hill repeats. left the two of them at foothill college, and hammered over to voss. caught three totally kitted-out club riders at grant road, then dropped them up the hill under 280. i am waay too ego-involved in that kind of shit. it's a growth area for me.

got back over to voss and took the team out to mt. eden. we chased daylight through three repeats, then called it a day. finished with 68 miles and probably 4000' vertical. over 3500 miles for the year now, it's a good run.

four=and-a-half weeks...

Monday, September 3, 2007


ride report, monday september 3

got out this morning for a quick spin with dave, my death ride partner this year. there's no slacking off when you're riding with that boy. from voss avenue over mt. eden and pierce and up route 9 to saratoga gap. it's a total mindfuck doing a big climb with him on my wheel: i can ride as hard as i want and he'll still be there, usually not even breathing hard. sticks like a booger you just can't shake off... it might help if he weighed more than a gerbil or rode a bike heavier than my socks, but that's just smoke. the guy's an erg monster, the strongest cyclist i've ever ridden with. good coach, too. once on route 9, i warmed up and ramped up the effort, getting faster on the way up. stood up with probably four-tenths of a mile to the gap, grabbed higher gears three or four times on the way, and redlined at the stop sign. wrung about a quart of sweat out of my bandanna before taking that loong sweet descent to saratoga for breakfast at the blue rock shoot. life is good, ya think?

twenty-six miles, close to 3000' vertical, finished in an hour fifty. less than two hours at fourteen miles an hour kicked me silly. i can't see riding that hard out in the desert.

less than five weeks...

Friday, August 31, 2007

capybaras in the nut house

the team met at the (well-named) nut house in palo alto wednesday night: chad, tc, mindy, and me. time for logistics. who's arranging for support vehicle, where do we meet, what do we need, who's bringing what, when are we traveling, etc., etc. there are probably ten thousand details to cover, and chad was on lots of them. we divvied up responsibilities, figured car logic, talked a little event riding strategy, got our team jerseys. they look good, but i'm now thinking that those black shoulders we chose are going to cause us some grief. mindy tried to talk us out of them, but would we listen to her? mad dogs and englishmen, as they say...

here's the deal. we're going to do the furnace creek 508 as a four-person relay. check out http://www.the508.com. in just five weeks, we'll ride our bikes through five hundred eight miles of mojave desert and death valley in less than 48 hours. did i mention the mountains? there's 35000' of vertical ahead. at any point in the race, the three other team members will serve as support crew for the rider currently on the bike, while resting up for our turn on the bike. the race is divided into eight stages, and the riders must go in order A-B-C-D-A-B-C-D so that the stage 1 rider also rides stage 5, and so on. there are tons of other rules, but really, the whole thing is just a lunatic bicycling adventure...

this will be unlike any bike ride i've ever known. i'm not worried about the physical challenge (like tc says, it's only 130 miles, how hard could it be? unfortunately, tc is insane.), but the monumental logistical concerns make me realize that there are only about a million things that could go wrong that would prevent us from finishing. i mean, i already won a california triple crown together this crowd this year, we've all already gotten plenty of that 'i am such a badass' satisfaction from riding those double centuries. i don't need to finish this event to prove anything, either to myself or to anyone else. or maybe that's just the kmart buddhist in me, practicing nonattachment to finishing... so why are we doing it? it's just there...

lunacy, i'm telling you. look it up. i'm sure our behavior meets seven of the nine diagnostic criteria. i mean, people, we organized the logistics in a bar called the NUT HOUSE, are you with me?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

both sides now

ride report, monday august 27

tom b had a big idea for today: attempt climbs on both sides of the bay. never done that before. it implies at least two major climbs, of course, but then a lot of distance since a 'bay' is a large body of water... so the plan was to climb mount hamilton in the east bay, cross the dumbarton, and get up to skyline boulevard somewhere on the peninsula.

met the boy at the train station at 8 am for another run to that siren, the white double dome of the lick observatory on mount hamilton. we reprised the route from two weeks ago, out the east side, through alum rock park, and up crothers to connect with mount hamilton road. crothers is the wake-up, steeper than anything to follow since we'd already let go of climbing sierra road. the inversion layer over silicon valley was quite a bit lower than two weeks ago, so soon we were riding in the clear above the smog. mt. umunhum (3400') and loma prieta (3800') stood out clearly across the valley.

we crossed the first ridge at about 2000' elevation and made the short descent to perfectly-positioned joseph grant park. there's really nothing else out there beyond that first ridge, so it's nice to have the water and bathrooms at mile 20. from there, the observatory is just over ten miles by road: the three-mile climb to twin gates trailhead, the nice relief of the half-mile or so descent to the cdf station, then the last seven miles of consistent but unrelenting grade to the observatory.

california state highway 130 lays on the mount hamilton slopes like a carelessly-tossed ribbon, back and forth across the contours through the open scrub oak, swinging to whatever compass point offers that steady 6% grade, throwing glimpses of the big white double dome at you, first on your right, then your left, always above and always tantalizingly near but deceptively distant. there are especially clear views from four, two-and-a-half, and one-and-a-half miles out. at the big right turn with just over a mile left, the larger dome looms almost directly overhead on the left, shining white and baking in the desert sun. i mean, it's RIGHT THERE for god's sake, how can it be over a mile away? two long traverses of the summit massif still ahead...

the observatory is closed mondays, but the views are still ok. we picked out mt. diablo peeking over a high shoulder to the north, and mount tamalpais above the golden gate fog blanket to the northwest. to the east, the central valley was hazy, unfortunately. on a clear day the sierra nevada snow pack comes into view. to the southwest, monterey bay was socked in. probably forty degrees cooler there...

just over 30 miles by then, but lots of vertical in our legs. back down that rough twisting road that makes you think about wearing a mouthguard. on the final slide back down into the smog, tom's big chain ring stopped cooperating, so we decided to stop for lunch at a chinese place on the east side. he adjusted his derailleur and we both ordered big plates of fried rice. carb me up.

good thing we decided to skip sierra road and just head for the bridge. no way more than a quarter of that fried rice would have made the summit. we stopped for cokes on mission in fremont, then took the alameda creek trail toward the dumbarton. it was a little cooler nearing the bay, and the wind picked up. the bridge was icky. traffic kicked up plenty of road grit, and that wind threw it right in our faces. from the peninsula side of the bridge, it's not far to tom's place in redwood city, where we regrouped at 4:30 pm, mile 90.

now we had to guage both our ambition and the remaining daylight. page mill had entered both our minds, but that was too far and too stupid anyway. kings mountain was closer but still more than we wanted. so we settled on old la honda, a thirty-mile loop from tom's place, with a half-hour climb and a photo op next to the skyline boulevard sign. that's the first time i'd ever ridden a century and THEN climbed that road. it's been easier.

over to alice's restaurant in skylonda, then down the smooth swooping highway 84 with no cars in sight. we hammered home down woodside road, the alameda, and atherton avenue. finished the day with 120 miles, and tom's garmin recorded over 10000' vertical before it hiccuped us in a beeline from somewhere on old la honda to halfway down 84. we took the less-direct route.

Friday, August 17, 2007

lactate threshold? found it.

met tc (another capybara, did i mention?) at his place in palo alto wednesday afternoon for a hillfest followup to monday's big fun. of course we lit straight out for page mill road, probably the only tdf category 1 climb around here. (sierra is plenty steep but not long enough, and mt. hamilton is plenty long but has those two half-mile descents in the middle. they'd probably both be rated as category 2.) oh, oh, oh, my legs were screaming. i couldn't keep up with tc, and really didn't want to try. he never left me for dead or anything, but was always two turns ahead. at the water fountain in the driveway just before the open space preserves, we tanked up and reassessed. the road above has recently been resurfaced, topped with loose gravel, so we decided not to try that steepest pitch up to the preserves and just head back down.

a word about that water fountain. it stands at the end of a driveway, like, at somebody's house. there's a fountain basin where you can get a drink, and a tap on the side for filling bottles. it's kept clean, too, with no leaf trash or anything. there is no other water source for miles around up on that ridge. i don't know who installed it or maintains it, but it is one of the nicest, most generous gestures. i know i speak for a whole lot of bay area cyclists when i thank the people responsible. they should put a donation box there, because there have been times climbing that hill when a water refill is priceless.

page mill's a sweet descent since the repaving last year, steep and technical, really no place to let it fly, but lots of practice countersteering through smooth downhill corners where bikes are way faster than cars. we took the altamont option, then turned right on moody to go back up. moody road is diagnosable: multiple personality disorder. two miles of jekyll and a half-mile of hyde. dr. jekyll takes you through the approach nicely enough, undulating up the box canyon averaging less than a 4% grade. mr. hyde shows up at the hairpin-right 10 mph sign at the top of the canyon, where the road grabs the canyon wall to get up to the page mill ridge. over 330' vertical in less than a half-mile: 13%. ouch.

tc left me behind with my burning quads and hams. he waited at the stop sign at page mill, time for another reassessment. do it again? sure, why not? down page mill and altamont, then once more right on moody. surprisingly, this time it felt better. the body's amazing. even when you think it's done all it can, it keeps going.

it was time to get out of the hills for a while, so we took page mill and arastradero down to lactate threshold boulevard, otherwise known as foothill expressway. we've spent a lot of time on that road, with its wide smooth clean shoulder, perfect for hammerheads. we acted the part. tom took a long uphill pull at 25 mph, then we stopped into shoup park in los altos to refill. south from there, foothill's got a nice long slight downhill. i took my long pull first at 30 mph, then cranked it up to 35. there's a lot of air to push out of the way at those speeds. whoosh.

we pulled into the voss avenue parking lot for a break, still a little early to meet the team in training crowd for hill repeats. tc couldn't stay, so he headed back to palo alto. i hooked up with the team for a few repeats on mt. eden, then hammered back to the parking lot. for the day it was 65 miles, probably 5000' vertical, and lots of lactate burn. after monday, that hurt.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

mount hamilton century

time to get serious.

ride report, monday august 13
met tom b at the train station at 8 yesterday morning with an ambitious plan: a mount hamilton century featuring sierra road. we'd been up each of those hills before, but never on the same day.

we threaded our way through san jose like bike messengers: dodging buses, skirting a capsized fedex truck, watching a construction crane lift two porta-potties to the 20th floor directly overhead. lots of stop-and-go interval training, not the best way to begin a long ride. we finally got a smooth warmup through alum rock park, then completely woke up on crothers road with its 17% grades on the back way up to mt. hamilton road. the first ridge tops out just under 2000' before dropping a few hundred feet to joseph grant park, where we tanked up. then it's a five-mile climb to twin gates trailhead, about a half-mile down to the cdf station, then that seven miles of steady 6% up to the lick observatory. seemed like it would never end. mile 31, elevation 4217'.

the views are always incredible on that climb, but it was especially clear toward the west, at least above the silicon valley smog. it's neat to see all the familiar mountains from that angle; from mt. tamalpais in the north to monterey bay and pacific grove in the south, you're even looking down on mt. diablo and loma prieta. just incredible.

i prefer the climb to the descent. it's not super-steep, but the rough pavement beats the crap out of you. a couple of the worst turns have been repaved, and they were sweet: countersteering steep smooth and tight. but the other seventy or so turns rattle your fillings...

back toward san jose, the road improved greatly. you can just let it fly on the lower stretches. there are only a couple guys i'll follow at 30 mph into a downhill decreasing radius off-camber turn, and tom's one of them... what a rush.

back through alum rock park, tom's fancy-pants carbon-fiber seatpost gave out on him, so we stopped for a sandwich and located a bike shop only a couple miles off course. jose, the wrench at the shop, called tom's seatpost a 'whacked design,' and sold him some (reliable) heavy-guage steel. i think his seatpost now weighs more than his wheels...

back on course, we found the right turn marking for the devil mountain double at sierra road. we pulled off for a second just to admire that wall. the first half-mile is arrow-straight, undulating over 300' up the hill with grades approaching 20%. i told tom we'd been out in the sun too long.

sierra road is a monster. also a beast, bitch kitty, piece of shit, and motherfucker. over 1800' vertical in only three-and-a-half miles. i love that road. it even beats the shit out of the pros who ride it in the tour of california. i've owned several cars that couldn't make that climb. tom said he rode the last half-mile with his eyes closed... from the crest, we could pick out crothers road waaay down there across alum rock canyon below, and mount hamilton above and across the hills to the right. there's some topography around here.

the descent out the back side down sierra, felter, and calaveras roads is faast. i hit 50 mph; the pros do 65 through there. we stopped at the park on the left about a half-mile below the calaveras wall at mile 71 with over six hours of ride time. good thing we'd had that fast descent to boost our average to almost 12 mph... did the hydration test: at least my pee wasn't the color of guinness stout. more of a nut-brown ale. tom said his was looking like strawberry daquiri... drink, boys. water and salt.

at the bottom of calaveras, turned right to find a route to the dumbarton bridge and finish at tom's in redwood city. north through milpitas into fremont on park victoria, scott creek, warm springs, warren, and mission. our legs were shot, so any hill at that point was reeeaaly annoying. stopped at a mcdonald's of all places, and downed fries and cokes. we guessed it was still thirty miles home, and by then we were burning daylight, so we got on it and hammered into the wind on mission, then down the alameda creek trail. tom's electronics gave out at mile 92 after recording almost 9500' vertical. it was mostly flat from there, though, except for the bridge. but the wind was seriously in our faces. and so was the sun. plus that baylands trail goes through terrain that looks like the moon but smells like an abandoned fish cannery. whatever, we were almost done. 106 miles, 8:10 ride time, harder than any single furnace creek stage, but easier than any two...

less than eight weeks to go...

Thursday, August 9, 2007

eight weeks

if i accept the diagnosis, and i do, i really gotta do some training...

at least i'm not starting from scratch. this year i've ridden some 2700 miles, including three mostly flat double centuries and the mostly not flat death ride. but yesterday's ride should be a wake-up.

ride report, wednesday august 8
from foothill and voss. stevens' canyon warmup, montebello without blowing up, then met tc to take mt. eden, pierce, and congress springs. by that time, 38 miles and over 5000' vertical. i hurt. then we hammered on foothill expressway, stopped for cofffee, and met the team in training crowd for hill repeats on mt. eden. for the day, 76 miles and over 7000' of climbing. basically half a death ride, but it knocked me out.

bring it? well, bring it or not, it'll be here soon...

Monday, August 6, 2007

dementia's a possibility

i mean, i'm not a young man. it could be the long, slow, incremental deterioration of the myelin sheathing of nerves in my brain caused by free radicals acting on carbon-hydrogen bonds that has led me to sign up for the gnarliest bicycle race going. maybe forty years of higher levels of antioxidants in my diet would have prevented this...

whatever, i'm doing it. five hundred eight miles through the desert in less than forty-eight hours. at least i'm part of a team of four. some idiots do it solo, some of them even do it on a fixed-gear bike, like the homicidal/suicidal big city bike messengers ride. unicycle, anyone? with six billion humans, even a serious weirdo living five standard deviations from the mean has plenty of company, and lots of uber-weirdos out past six. i'm guessing our z-score is above 4, though. lunacy? dementia? like it matters. we're nuts.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

i mean, lunacy

the furnace creek 508. that's furnace creek, as in death valley. and 508, as in 508 miles. on a bike. lunacy. tell me i'm wrong.