High-mileage week

I don’t think I’ve had a week with this much mileage since I moved to Portland, since so many of my rides now are in-city rides and I usually only ride a few days a week.

This week, after taking Monday off (horrid weather and luckily I didn’t need the bike), I rode about 10 miles on Tuesday, five miles on Wednesday, seven miles on Thursday, and five on Friday. Saturday I rode another ten. All of those days it rained at least some, although not always on me as I was riding.

Today I rode about 37. The fact that today totally wiped me out is on one level a little disappointing, considering that a day in the range of 35 miles with a chunk of climbing used to be totally do-able without creating that kind of exhaustion (the kind where I just want to climb into bed). One of my favorite long rides in the Bay Area was one I used to do for training that was 34 miles with almost 2000 ft total climbing.

On the other hand, I haven’t been riding much, so the fact that I was able to do today, after a week of regular mileage (37 miles), and still on the tail end of a cold, is pretty good.

My adventures this week were to a friends’ house in NE (~5 miles each way, up the Broadway Bridge and Williams to Dekum); to work and downtown for an appointment (~2 mi each way down to SW Stark and 3rd); to work, PSU, and SE Portland (1, 2, and 4 miles); back from SE Portland and to home (4 miles and 1 mile); to NE to have brunch (6 miles) and then down to SE (4 miles).

Then today, back from SE; downtown, back to SE, and way, way far out to Gresham, then north almost to I-84 (Halsey) and out on the Columbia River Highway to Dabney State Recreation Area. The return trip, we went up Stark, which I had no idea even existed way out there. Eventually in Gresham we picked up the MAX and took a shorter trip back, to the great relief of my tired legs. (The total climbing for today was 1800 ft just for the trip from home to Dabney and back to MAX, so really not too much different from my big old training ride back in the Bay Area.) The weather was chilly but cleared up after noon and the sun coming through the trees by the river was quite beautiful.

A stop at Vanh Hanh Vegetarian Restaurant (SE 82nd & Division, near the MAX Green Line Divison stop) yielded tasty Vietnamese vegetarian food to fuel me for the MAX trip and short ride back home. Yum!

Taking the new MAX Green Line was also fun. I was excited to get off at the new stop on Glisan and just roll up Glisan to get home (switching to Johnson at 14th).

Urban trails

Before I moved to Portland, I was fairly meh on bike paths/trails. I have no trouble cycling with car traffic, although on steep or windy roads, it makes me nervous if there is no shoulder or bike lane. Urban bike paths/trails are often poorly designed, especially when they are intended to be replacements for onroad facilities, or crowded with pedestrians when they are shared multi-use paths.

However, after two months here I am beginning to understand the purpose of such trails. It’s not that they don’t have the downsides that I listed above, it’s that they have a previously unforeseen advantage: fewer $#@%*#* stop signs.

If I want to go on a recreational ride out here, my options are different from Menlo Park. Back then, I could climb on my bike, ride less than a mile (encountering only three stop signs), and be on Sand Hill Road, a veritable freeway for bikes, and out into the hills (on shoulder-ful roads!) in less than three miles. What a paradise. And I recognized and fully enjoyed that paradise, knowing this was not the case for others, but not fully appreciating how annoying stop signs every other block (or more) are.

I am still exploring my options here and no doubt will eventually find some that work better for me, but at the moment I have to navigate a maze of stop signs, and then either 1) go straight up (okay, it’s only 6-8% grades, but that’s steep!); 2) (and) share the roads with heavier traffic than I’m used to, or 3) find a trail, which may be crowded, but, as previously noted, has no cars and many fewer $#@%*#* stop signs. And often is pretty as well.

Urban trails, how I have maligned thee, and how I repent, and thank the good works of previous Portland cyclists for the Waterfront, Springwater, Esplanade, and other trails that thread through Portland.

Ride report: Providence Bridge Pedal 2009

Today was the Providence Bridge Pedal.

I signed up not too long after I arrived in Portland, excited about the opportunity to ride so many of the bridges over the Willamette, especially those not ordinarily open or friendly to bike traffic, including the Fremont and Marquam bridges, which are freeways (I-405 and I-5 respectively).

I didn’t realize until much more recently that this is a huge, huge event. There is no cap on registration, and based on the numbers I heard this morning, more than 15,000 people were riding today. With that many people riding, it isn’t just the car-oriented bridges that are barricaded; virtually the entire route features blocked cross streets and at least one lane of traffic, sometimes more, reserved for ride participants.

You can find the route maps at the Bridge Pedal website, although perhaps not permanently. I signed up for the 11-bridge ride, 38 miles long and crossing eight bridges eleven times (crossing the Fremont, Marquam, and Broadway twice, and the St. Johns, Burnside, Ross Island, Hawthorne, and Sellwood bridges once each).

In addition to the 38 miles of the route I biked to the start via the Broadway bridge (so I crossed it three times today), about 3 miles, and home via SW Oak, SW Park, NW Couch, NW 14th, and NW Johnson (1.8 miles from the finish area at SW Ash and Naito Parkway), for a total mileage of 42.8.

Even with a lane or more of traffic blocked off and a staggered start, the ride was extremely crowded and speed was largely determined by the flow of traffic (and one’s skill at passing in crowds). I waited in a big pack to start (around 7:05 or 7:10), and it remained congested for most of the way, except a few times on long flats or downhills where I was able to go my desired pace. Because of the congestion, downhill speeds were generally limited, although I did get to 30 a few times when we had a whole road or freeway available.

The weather was cool and cloudy, which is fine for riding but less exciting for taking pictures. I mostly just rode but did snap a few pictures from the bridges — it was just too trippy to be riding my bike and seeing freeway exit signs, plus there were some nice views and interesting bikes (my favorite a tri-tandem with a child trailer). Even though I’m a little out of shape, the ride was well within my capacity, with only a few substantial climbs on the bridge approaches. I’m a little tired now and my legs and body feel well-used rather than exhausted. I could feel my W2W-acquired endurance kicking in after the first ten miles or so, as usual. I’m pleased my body has learned to respond that way, even though it makes me a little slow to start sometimes.

My favorite bridge was the Sellwood, where the approach went through a long stretch of neighborhood streets that were quiet and pleasant, and the view from the bridge was of the river, with downtown Portland rather far off. After crossing, the road wound through a more wooded area before returning to downtown. I also liked the St. Johns bridge for its attractive architecture, and a section of N Willamette Blvd for the best pavement of the entire ride.

In spite of the crowds, most everyone was careful and courteous, and I didn’t see any actual mishaps, though there were a few careless roadies and clueless slow people. I wish the organizers had done more to emphasize how to ride in large groups (slow to the right, shoulder checks before lateral movement, signaling stops), but aside from the lack of variety in the food and drink, that was really my only complaint.

I’m really glad I took the opportunity to do this even though biking in crowds is really not my thing. It was wonderful to have the chance to explore so much of Portland (even all the way down to Sellwood) without having to worry about car traffic, and fun to ride my bike on the freeway, thinking about how usually it’s so busy with cars. You can fit a lot of bikes on a freeway, is all I’m saying.

Ride report: Sequoia 50K 2009

Sunday morning was my third, and more than likely last, Sequoia 50K ride.

DST: 34.5
MXS: 34
AVS: ~10mph (overall), 12.5 (moving)
Time: 3:15 (overall)

My stats are a tad muddled because I checked my distance at the finish, but forgot to check my AVS and time, and then I rode home via Foothill. My total distance for the day was 43.4 miles. 1 mile from home to Palo Alto Caltrain, 1 mile from Arastradero and El Camino to the start, and 7 miles home.

I’m proud of myself for getting up and doing this ride — I was out in Oakland Saturday night and lost my phone, and I haven’t been training at all (except in that I’ve gone on a few other rides recently), so I was tired to start out with and not that well-prepared. Also, in the past they’ve had bagels and coffee at the start, so I didn’t eat breakfast, and when the food and drink did not materialize, I only had a few spoonfuls of the nutbutter/honey/chocolate mix I brought to start out on. Fortunately that stuff is awesome.

I still managed to do a respectable job at the climbing. Arastradero kicked my ass, leaving me exhausted and panting as usual, but I was able to do Arastradero, Alpine, and Whiskey Hill without stopping. A peloton passed me going the other way at about 35 mph in the preserve.

The organizers included a new loop on Alpine out past Portola this time, which was more climbing but a nice rural-neighborhoody excursion. The descent back to Portola (on Willowbrook) was nice and I hit 32 on one steep section.

After Whiskey Hill, it was a pretty straight shot down to the rest stop at Burgess Park, near my house. Once again I didn’t succumb to the temptation to go home in the middle, and instead had a lot of food and headed out through Menlo and Palo Alto with some acquired companions.

This part of the ride has never been my favorite. I enjoy the winding trek along Woodland (which I rarely ride even though it’s nearby), but after you pass University the pavement quality goes from fine to terrible (almost nonexistent in places) and you bump along for quite a while before turning onto Newell in Palo Alto and finishing with a trek along Palo Alto’s badly paved but otherwise pleasant streets. One notable, and sad, sight this year was the memorials at E. Meadow and the train tracks, where two Gunn High School students committed suicide in May.

The final route this year went through the neighborhoods between Meadow and Arastradero before getting back on Arastradero, rather than using the Gunn High bike path. This was less confusing and more pleasant, and provided a better view of Juana Briones park between Maybell Ave and Arastradero, although it did mean overlapping the beginning of the route more.

The most fun part of the ride for me was the scenery and the slow lifting of the fog. As I was climbing Alpine, the nearby hills were green and the Skyline ridge hills were fainter and bluish. Along Whiskey Hill, the fog could be seen starting to lift, and the descent down Woodside provided a fantastic view across to the East Bay hills, partly golden and sunny, and partly blueish and dark. Traversing the familiar route was poignant for me because I’ll have only a few more rides before I leave. I’ll miss the unique Peninsula scenery.

Ride report: Spring!!! (first real ride of the season)


DST: 17.5 mi
MXS: 37.1
AVS: 14.2
Time: 1:14

Route: Route: Portola Loop “the easy way” (up Alpine, down Sand Hill).

I went riding last week and did the Sand Hill/Whiskey Hill/Woodside loop, but the weather was iffy and it was sprinkling by the time I got back, so it didn’t really feel like a spring ride. I also felt like I was really struggling with the climbing, while today, despite (or maybe because of) doing a long hike yesterday, I felt strong and steady. I can tell I’ve still got a ways to go to really be in shape again, though!

Today it was sunny, warm in the sun but with a cool (and strong) wind, and everything looked shiny and green and new. I saw swaths of California poppies and other wildflowers, great views of Windy Hill and the East Bay hills, a lizard, a big black beetle, and a deer. It was a really fantastic ride. I took Alpine up because it was windy and Alpine is less exposed and doesn’t have crazy steep parts. At the top I paused to take a picture (may post it later if I remember).

The other interesting thing about the ride was that because of the major tailwind I had on the way back (wind out of the northwest), I exceeded 30mph three times, and hit a max speed of 37.1mph on the steepest downhill section of Sand Hill. I then hit 34 on the approach to the 280 interchange and 31 on the top section of the final descent into Menlo Park. Fun!

Mt. Tam: cheesy edition

Back in August, training for Waves to Wine, I did a ride with J & C which ended with trip to Berkeley Bowl and the Berkeley Marina.

C & I looked at cheese while we were in Berkeley Bowl and saw Mt. Tam, which was a contestant in the Tomato Nation NCheeseAA (it made it to the final “fourmage”). The contest was the first time I’d heard of it, and Berkeley Bowl was the first place I saw it. It’s like Brie on crack — soft cheese, white rind. Triple cream. Mmmmm.

But it was $20 for a small wheel, so we decided it should be a treat for after W2W. Since then I think C has had it already herself (direct from the Creamery), but I hadn’t. Yesterday I finally picked some up at the Cowgirl Creamery shop in the Ferry Building, and today I ate half of it after getting home from donating blood (along with slices of a green apple).

Uhh….yeah. It’s the Best Cheese Ever. A robust but not overpowering flavor, slightly tangy, soft, rich, organic and vegetarian, and the milk comes from a farm where the cows are treated humanely and attention is given to sustainability and land management. This is a cheese I can get totally behind.*

A 10-oz round cost me $14, which is a hell of a lot for just any cheese, but doesn’t seem like that much for a piece of pure heaven in cheesy form.

*When I first became vegetarian I ate a lot of cheese — I’ve always liked cheese, so it was pretty much last on my list of things I wanted to worry about giving up. But over time I’ve worked on eating less of it because most cheese is produced under similar conditions to most meat, so to be consistent with my reasons for giving up meat, I would need to give up any cheese with similar production methods as well.

I don’t think I’ll ever give up cheese totally except for properly-produced stuff (for me, it’s just too hard), but I’ve greatly reduced my consumption of it and other dairy products, and tend to skew toward small amounts of high-qualty cheese. Finding a cheese that meets my criteria for production, like Mt. Tam, is very exciting. Finding out that it’s heaven on a plate is even more exciting.


Whenever I do Portola loop on my bike, I always pass the entrance to Windy Hill OSP, and I have thought many times about riding up there and hiking, but today I finally did it. I wasn’t sure if it would work well. I thought I might be too tired, but that turned out not to be the case. Again, my W2W-acquired endurance triumphs. I’m tired now though, and planning a nap soon.

Going up on the bike takes about 50 minutes, about 8.5 miles. Mostly it’s up Alpine, and then a little ways on Portola. There are no bike racks (that I could find), but there are plenty of nice-sized trees to lock up to. Bike parking was a lot easier than car parking; the preserve was quite busy.

I wasn’t sure if I would want to do this, but ultimately we did climb up to the summit, elevation approx. 1900 feet (the entrance is around 550 ft). The hiking took about three hours, so we were going pretty slowly to cover the 5 or so miles up and down Spring Ridge Trail and the Anniversary Trail. We saw several coyotes and a small brown lizard. The views were terrific, but the thick haze did make them a bit less exciting, so it would be better on a really clear day. But you can see all the way to the ocean and all the way to Mt. Diablo. Really amazing.

Coming down on the bike is faster — 35 minutes — and of course, a lot easier.

Overall, a challenging and enjoyable thing to do. I think I’m going to try biking+hiking for more of the nearby preserves, like Arastradero and the Dish area!

North SMC group ride

I had a nice ride today with some friends up in the hills above Millbrae/San Mateo. We started at Millbrae Caltrain and went up Trousdale, which just about killed me. I rode up most of it, but walked a bit and had to stop I think four times. The grade is about 9% — pretty brutal. The view down to the bay is amazing, though.

Then we did something I’ve always wanted to try — and I’m sure my mom will have kittens when I tell her I did this — ride on I-280 in the “bikes permitted” section. (It was built on top of the original path of Skyline Blvd., so they fought not to lose the bike access because the alternatives are much more complicated.) It was only for one exit, and isn’t all that dangerous, since you don’t have to worry about merging, except at the bottoms of the exit ramps, where there are stop signs.

The next leg was Sawyer Camp Trail. It was a little busy, requiring us to keep our speed down so as not to injure any pedestrians, but it was absolutely beautiful — two lakes (San Andreas and the Crystal Springs Reservoir), deer, and oak forest. Very nice.

Then a pleasant descent down Crystal Springs into San Mateo, pizza, and a jaunt through the town before Caltraining home. Total distance: 16 miles (including the legs to and from the Caltrain stations).

Back on bike: Crystal Springs-Cañada-Portola

Today was my first recreational ride since Waves to Wine. It ended up well, but I had a really hard time finding my legs for the first 10-12 miles. I finally found them somewhere on Cañada, when I noticed I was chatting and pedaling on auto-pilot, and felt better than I had. By the time we got to Woodside, I was feeling good and ready for Portola. It was nice to be back on the bike and just enjoying myself, no goal other than keeping up and enjoying the ride.

DST: 26.8 mi
MXS: 30 mph
AVS: 13.6 mph
Ride Time: 1:58 (total time 2.5ish hours)

Route: Started in San Mateo near 3rd and El Camino. 3rd > Crystal Springs > Skyline > 92 > Cañada > Mountain Home > Portola > Alpine > Sand Hill.

The northern part of the route I wasn’t so familiar with, and had never done going that direction (only going the other way, for the Tour de Menlo). It was a lot of climbing to start out with, and my legs just felt like they were missing. I joked that they went on vacation and never came back. The rest of the group was pushing the speed a bit harder than I normally do, so that made it even tougher. But the view of the reservoir as you come down Skyline is fantastic that way…it was so serene, and just hazy enough to produce the nice blue effect on the hills. I love that area so much.

The traffic on 92 was terrible because of the HMB Pumpkin Festival, so that wasn’t great, but it’s a short stretch. And the rest of the ride was wonderfully enjoyable. Just a nice fall day, warm but not hot, breezy but not unpleasantly so for most of the way. Having the rest of the group pushing the pace a little was good for me; I ended up tireder than usual after a recreational ride, but it’s good to know I can do a shortish one at a higher-than-normal pace and not crap out before the end.

I think of all the effects of Waves to Wine, other than confidence in goal-setting, the effect of the endurance training is the most significant. Instead of responding to challenging activity by crapping out, it feels like my body goes “Oh, you’re doing stuff…I should make more fuel” and supplies me with the energy I need, and I feel better rather than worse as time goes on. That’s a compelling inducement to do more endurance activity, so hopefully it’ll feed on itself and I’ll stay in good shape.

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…
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