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 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.