Waves to Wine 2008

Waves to Wine 2008 is complete! September 13 and 14 I joined my Team Slowpoke teammates to ride 150 miles from San Francisco to Lake Sonoma. All of us rode all 150 miles (in one case 175!) without any major mishaps, just some (very) sore muscles and (hopefully soon to mend) joints. Not even a flat tire among us, though there was one case of a chain coming off.

The team raised a total of $2,997.50 (oh man…how did we miss $3000 by so little?!), with my total being $1000. I was really surprised and pleased by that because I didn’t expect so much generosity, but the world has a way of being awesome when you least expect it.

I wanted to make this into a “Page” instead of a post, so that it doesn’t get lost, but it doesn’t seem to work. If any WordPress geniuses know why, do let me know. Anyhow…

Ride Statistics

Both days of riding took about the same amount of time. All the statistics are somewhat approximate because the computer misbehaved a bit. I need to recalibrate it.

Day 1
Start: 7 AM
Finish: 3:45 PM
Ride time: 6 hrs
Total time: 8:45
AVS: 13.1 mph
MXS: 39 mi
DST: 77.0 mi

Day 2
Start: 7:20 AM
Finish: 3:50 PM
Ride time: 5:43
Total time: 8:30
AVS: 13.1
MXS: 35 mph
DST: 74.0 mi

Event Experience

The ride experience overall was interesting. I’ve done a few organized rides before (Sequoia and Tour de Menlo), but I’ve never done one so massive and comprehensive. I was impressed with some things, and less so with others, but overall it was a great experience. Luggage, route-finding, bathrooms, and other basic logistics were handled well. The CHP was even out to help manage traffic at some of the more difficult intersections, and the route was well-signed, with reminder signs along the route to warn drivers and remind cyclists to be courteous (most people were). The volunteers were really friendly and cheerful.

Food and drink, the most important ingredients of support on any ride, were less consistent. The food available at rest stops varied, which was somewhat nice, but also meant that I occasionally saw food that I thought I might want later, but couldn’t find it at the next stop. And the flavors of Gatorade varied as well, with sometimes only lemon-lime being available, which is the grossest flavor in my view. Lunch the first day was burritos (chicken or bean), which were tasty; they were a good size, not tiny but not giant (you don’t want to eat too much in the middle of a ride). But the second day, they only had ham or “vegetarian” Subway sandwiches, where by “vegetarian” I mean “lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles”. That’s not adequate food for the middle of a ride. I don’t understand why they didn’t at least have some with veggie patties, or with turkey, or even just split the veggie between cheese and no cheese. Protein pleeeease!

The placement of rest stops was variable. Some of them were at the bottom of hills, which made them unpleasant to start out after, and sometimes they were close together when that wasn’t necessary and far apart when you were wishing for one closer.

The food at the end of each day and breakfast the second was the other area in which I would give definitely low marks. The first day was all right, with pasta, salad, bread, and cookies. I had two helpings of dinner (the second pasta plus fruit, and a candy bar from some other stash), so it must have been pretty okay! They had a meat & red sauce pasta and a pesto pasta, so of course I chose the latter, but there was absolutely nothing without cheese should anyone have wanted that (and I did hear a guy asking about it), and the garlic bread was more like garlic hockey puck. The breakfast was eggs, sausage, English muffins, and hash browns. Eggs and sausage I don’t eat (I eat eggs in things, but not plain anymore), and the hash browns tasted of cinnamon or something — our team was unanimous on them being disgusting. The English muffins were also hockey pucks. It was really quite sad, and unfortunately it had a bad effect on my start to the second day — despite eating a bar at the hotel and trying to eat some muffin and potatoes, I hadn’t had enough calories, so I felt awful and cranky for the first sixteen miles. The second day, the final food was a barbeque, and the veggie option was lasagna. It was reasonably tasty, actually, but again, not much in the way of options.

Personal Experience

In retrospect, being finished is both amazing and anticlimactic. I can hardly believe I actually rode so far, except that the map says I did. I actually finished feeling really good, except for very stiff/sore/tired (mostly my thighs, back, and shoulders) and very much done with riding for a while. [Editing this after my return I find that I’m ready to ride again now, about two weeks later.] The very last few miles both days, though especially the second day, were mainly a mental battle not to just stop (it was hot by then and seemed just so close for a long time as the odometer ticked up). Having set this goal for myself, figured out pretty much on my own how to do it, and completed it (with much support from friends and teammates, but not a lot of direct help), I’m feeling confident about future goal-setting.

My mood went up a down a lot. The lowest point was undoubtedly the first 16 miles of the second day, when I was suffering from the cold and lack of fuel, and also hadn’t really slept enough considering the amount of activity the previous day. Staying adequately fueled for the rest of it, I found that my legs were even beginning to recharge and my mood stayed pretty high, except for a brief dip around the last rest stop when we had to go out of the way to get to the rest stop and I just got annoyed by that. The end of the first day wasn’t that pleasant either — we had come into the Cotati/Rohnert Park area, and there were some bad railroad tracks, lots of traffic, and the excess 2 miles of distance just seemed pointless. Also, some guy who was clearly oblivious nearly turned left into me.

Overall the route was quite beautiful, although for a while at the beginning of the second day I wondered if it shouldn’t be called Waves to Cows instead. The coastal hills of Marin yielded some great views (though I only took a few pictures) and the vineyard country was as scenic as promised. It was chilly and foggy in the mornings, but pleasant around midday and early afternoon; then hot in the later part of the afternoon.

I think training really did a lot for me in the area of endurance. Continuing to find enough fuel in my muscles and enough breath in my lungs to climb hills again and again couldn’t really have come from anywhere else but those rides where I thought I had climbed all the hills I could climb, and still climbed more. As I suspected from the profile, none of the climbing was as hard as Old La Honda or Tunitas Creek, but there was certainly plenty that was as bad as Edgewood and a bit worse (because it went on longer), and lots of shorter hills like the evil section of Arastradero. The second day, there were a lot of short spiky hills — though many of them could be improved by getting up some speed on the preceding downhill — as well as a lot of annoying long gradual variable climbs. The first day had major climbs early on, and then gradual tough climbs and smaller hills later. After the first day, imagining the second was incredibly intimidating, but I found some truth in a statement from Effective Cycling: I can keep going at around 13 mph for a long time without actually getting any ‘tireder’.

Some of the descents were a lot of fun. I hit a new MXS of 39 on one long, straight stretch. The next milestone is 40, I guess. I’m getting used to riding at speed, although there were a few places where the road was so rough I thought…gee, I really shouldn’t be going so fast! I was fairly conservative compared to many people; I assume they were more familiar with the road/experienced at going fast on curvy roads. On the other hand, there were quite a few people I outpaced on straightish downhills simply because I didn’t want to lose any momentum that might help me climb the next hill!

Ride Report

This is the longer part, which you may want to skip if you normally don’t read my ride reports. But this one has pictures (or will have eventually).

Day 1

The ride started in the parking lot of AT&T Park in San Francisco. I arrived around 6 AM, having dropped my bike off the previous day. It was dark, chilly, and windy, altogether unpleasant. Eventually, despite a slight lack of cell phones on some parts, I found all my teammates, and we did all our preparations and started off around 7:00. The route took us down the Embarcadero for a long way, riding in a big pack. There wasn’t much other traffic on the road at this point, so it wasn’t really a problem.

Then we were shunted up a few hills and over to Van Ness (through many annoyingly-timed stoplights) before ending up on the Marina/Crissy Fields bike path. The path took us up and over the Presidio and then up to the bridge. The approach to the bridge was very tight, as were parts of the path on the bridge itself, and I was feeling a bit nervous. Then finally we were up on the bridge. The vista of the coastal hills and Mt. Tam above and in front, and the cold gray water below, was beautiful and imposing.

On the other side, we had a long descent into Sausalito and then a quick ride through the city. The descent (as several others were) was labeled as “steep”. I never did quite figure out what steep meant. There were definitely places where I was glad for that warning, but there were others where I thought “What? This isn’t steep.” I guess it depends on what your experience with descending is. There definitely were people of all ability levels there, even some teenagers (mostly older teenagers, but at least one younger one).

Coastal Hills of Marin: We climbed them!
After the first rest stop, the hills begin, and I lost my team entirely as they sped up the hills. This was the point where people started to sort out by pace, and I saw people on this stretch that I continued to see for the rest of the ride. My team told me at the rest stop that they weren’t really that much faster than I was, having arrived only five or so minutes before, and I thought I did respectably, only stopping to rest a few times though it was several miles of fairly steep climbing. I discovered that I have a tendency to rest halfway up a hill, while many people rest at the bottom or more often the top. Interesting.

Flattish marshy section
After the second rest stop we had a flattish section that was just fun. This was where J’s chain came off, but I didn’t realize it and had sped past them, so I just spent a leisurely section riding alone until they caught up with me around halfway to the third rest stop. After a few miles, the hills started again, this time less spectacularly steep but still long and tough. Slow climb through Pt. Reyes

Tomales bay vista
Most of the rest of Day 1 was varied climbing and descending, with a few flat sections here and there. We continued up Hwy 1 to Tomales Bay, my favorite vistas of the day, and then to our lunch stop (at the bottom of a hill, unfortunately). By lunchtime it was clear and sunny and starting to warm up, and I took my jacket off — at last. After Tomales we had a few nice flat miles going through the hills rather than up them, which was fortunate because I was getting tired. We then turned inland toward Petaluma, and vistas of brownish grass and farms (which I evidently neglected to photograph). First encountering several miles of unfinished, gravelly pavement, we then proceeded to climb several evil hills, one of which was the only one in the whole ride that I walked up. I was a bit out of juice by then.

There were a few more hills after the last rest stop, but not so bad, and the last few miles were again flat, into Cotati and Rohnert Park. Cotati had a strange arrangement where for a while, a bike lane turned into a barrier-separated but still on-road path. It seemed totally unnecessary and poorly designed to me, given the road was two lanes, speed limit 35, nice wide lane, virtually no traffic, and the barrier did not allow for safe left or right turn merges. It also had a pair of very badly paved railroad tracks, and the oblivious dude who almost hit me. I tried to stay alert and eventually rolled into the overnight area around 3:45. It was basically just a giant parking lot and some grassy fields, nothing very scenic, which was disappointing but, I suppose, practical.

We ate and socialized, and regrettably failed to be in time to book massages, and eventually headed back to the hotels, which seemed to take ages. My room was right by the major road, but I was exhausted and in posession of earplugs, so I slept easily from 9:30 to 5 or so.

Day 2

Day 2 started with waking up feeling very unrested given the fairly reasonable amount of sleep I’d had, but my teammate D pointed out cleverly that sleeping for seven and a half hours may be adequate after a normal day, but not after a day of riding 75 miles. That this hadn’t occurred to me seems like evidence of its truth.

To return to the site, we had an annoying meander around Cotati/Rohnert Park in buses that were supposed to take us from the hotel. Finally we arrived and tried to eat the fairly inedible breakfast and otherwise prepare for the day. Our bikes had been kept in the corral overnight, so we picked them up, elected to skip the long line for pumps (I honestly don’t know why there weren’t 10+ pumps, but there seemed to be just 1 or 2), and started off about 7:20. The first 16 miles to the rest stop were dull — flat, where my teammates rapidly outpaced me, then some climbing, which my legs were just simply out of fuel for, so I ended up trying to climb with other muscles as best I could.

My knees, especially the right one, hurt, and I was very cranky and kept getting passed by everyone, which worried me. I did find my team at the rest stop eventually, and a packet of trail mix, several shot bloks of my own, and one Margarita-flavored shot blok from a very nice guy (who shared them with several of our team after my inquiry about their flavor) helped revive me. The next 13 or so miles were much better, though I was still quickly outpaced by my teammates. This was the point where I started wondering “Is this Waves to Cows or something?” as I meandered though farmland bordered by hills. At mile 23, we passed cows close to the road on both sides, clearly angry at us and mooing up a storm. I laughed and laughed because it reminded me of a similar MOOO moment on Hwy 1 in the dark of night. One of the cows looked so pissed off I was actually a bit surprised and concerned, but I couldn’t resist mooing back. Waves to Cows?

My favorite segment of Day 2 came not too long after, when we reached a series of short hills where momentum carried me easily down one side and up the other, several times, and the previous few miles of climbing paid off in a long descent toward the rest stop. There were a few more hills before I arrived at the rest stop, some re-treading the previous day’s descents, and this is where I found that my legs were beginning to recharge and I could stand to pedal. I tried to conserve this fuel, which turned out to be wise, as both the longest and spikiest hills were yet to come.

Between the third rest stop and lunch, we climbed a great deal, including one very substantial hill like Arastradero on crack that I managed to get up without stopping, though I was gasping toward the top. That descent was fun; then we had a gradual hill that seemed never to end, then more rolling hills, and finally, descent into lunch (this was one of the points where I thought I was going too fast for the road’s roughness). We stayed at lunch for nearly an hour, feeling tired, and I ate two sandwiches since they were so insubstantial. Each of us lay down for brief rests. Also at the lunch stop, Team Slowpoke finally met in its entirety, a reunion that had been put off by one member doing the 100-mile route the first day.

Vineyards Somewhat fortified and thoroughly sunscreened, we set out, and eventually arrived in Wine Country.

Russian River From there, it was pretty much just rolling hills and trying not to stop for wine…the Russian River provided a nice scenic break, as well as a rest stop where we heard that the climb in the last few miles was illusory, the result of a map mistake — o happy day! Bodies were getting sore and our pace slowed somewhat. I stopped to take some pictures, and was actually feeling pretty lively mood-wise and keeping up with the group.

150 miles, finished! Team Slowpoke

The aftermath was definitely an anticlimax in many ways. It seemed like most people only stayed long enough to eat or get a massage, and then piled into the buses to go home, so there was nothing like the revelry that the occasion deserved. C and I got massages, and then the rest of my team ate quickly and departed on the bus, while I ate at a more leisurely pace and got a ride home from a friend who was volunteering. I imagine that the organizers have probably found that once finished, most people do actually prefer to go home because they’re exhausted and have to work the next day, but it was still sad that there was so little revelry. I think this contributed to my feeling that finishing was anticlimactic rather than the exciting culmination of a goal that I worked very hard on for three months.

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