Tasty words

Well, I must eat some of my words at least — there actually are turn-by-turn directions for the W2W routes on the site. Of course, they’ve nicely spelled “bear” in “bear right” as “bare”. Naked rights? I hope not. And both days are listed as Saturday!

Several thoughtful people even put them into Bikely.

Day 1 with Cue Sheet, but last year’s route Looks the same as our route though.
Day 1 without Cue Sheet, but with slightly better road-following Unclear whether this is this year or last year.
Day 2, similar to previous

Definitely this year:
Day 1 But unfortunately this has a spurious bit that I can’t correlate to the cue sheet on the site, so I’m assuming it’s a Bikely road-follow mistake — unfortunately makes it pretty useless because all the distances and the profile are wrong.
Day 2 This one seems to be correct. Look at the climb in the last few miles….ugh!

At any rate, this looks like the 4500 ft quoted in the latest materials is close to correct, and the second day is actually a bit tougher than listed, close to the same.

I’m not feeling so well today (didn’t sleep well, not riding). Hoping I feel better in a day or two.

Shiny $1000 goal

I started out my Waves to Wine fundraising nervous, thinking I would probably barely meet the minimum $350 since I didn’t plan to be at all aggressive about it. I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the people I’ve spoken to about it. Some of you are my family and close friends, some of you are work colleagues and new friends, some of you are people I hardly know, and all of you are generous beyond belief.

I’ve upped my fundraising goal several times as I collected donations, finally setting it at $1000 a few weeks ago. Today I reached that goal. Thank you to everyone who has supported me. As the day approaches, I’m getting nervous, knowing that from here on all I can do is maintain, recharge, and hope my training has been adequate, and it’s a great comfort and inspiration to know that so many people are thinking of me.

If you were thinking of donating to me, but hadn’t got around to it yet, well, I’ve well-exceeded my original hopes: may I suggest one of my terrific teammates?

Quick Sunday RR

I broke my own rules today and set an alarm on a Sunday (normally the one day I sleep in), knowing that otherwise I would have to ride in the heat again.

This morning’s ride was Portola loop, the “easy way” (climb Alpine, descend Sand Hill). The only two reasons it merits a ride report are that:

1) I started out feeling horribly tired, and I was a bit slow overall (13.0 AVS), but by the end I was feeling good and was able to churn out the last Sand Hill climb at a respectable speed, even standing to climb the final piece of the hill after 280. I’m glad I went for Portola over the shorter Woodside-Atherton loop.

2) On the last uphill on Portola, some guys caught up with me, but only one of them managed to pass me before it turned downhill. I drafted off him and reached a speed of 35.5 mph…whoa. The others were, oddly, way behind.

Of course, they then passed me by on the uphill, but I actually caught up with them again at Santa Cruz and stayed up with them until they decided to blow a red light. I don’t know if they had bad luck on the lights or what (for once I had good luck with all the lights on the descending portion), but I thought it was funny because I was so clearly slower on uphills, yet not much slower overall.

Time for the farmer’s market! Maybe I’ll even be in time to get basil this week.

Final Saturday ride!

Today was the last long ride before Waves to Wine, something I’m very glad about. (Probably you are too — it means the end of regular ride reports, except for Waves to Wine itself!) Something I’m not at all glad about is that it’s over 90 degrees outside today (the high in Menlo Park was 94, and in Cupertino 99; it’s about 91 now; my bike computer at one point reported 104). The riding was okay until about noon, but after that it slowly ratcheted up from uncomfortable to nearly unbearable. I stopped frequently to rest, usually somewhere air-conditioned where I could wander around, let my body temperature normalize, use the restroom, and get some food and/or water (both Roberts Markets in the hills, Trader Joe’s, Bicycle Outfitters, Mike’s Bikes — bike shops are great for refilling water and restocking energy food if needed!).

This ride was a near-repeat of the Tour de Menlo route from three weeks ago, and it’s helpful to have a comparison. The ride was two miles shorter (and a tad easier since I opted out of Foothill at Page Mill to go to Mike’s Bikes, and did not climb Montebello — that would have been insanity given the heat; I also used Mountain Home instead of Whiskey Hill for shade, thus avoiding the evil part of Sand Hill), and my performance was nearly identical: the same ride time, and the same total time, with (given the missing miles) a slightly lower average speed). Given that it was ten or fifteen degrees hotter today, that’s not bad.

DST: 66.6 (Ride of Evil, heh)
AVS: 12.7
MXS: Don’t know because my sensor was messed up by a detector, but it was nothing exciting, around 31-32 mph
Ride time: 5:12
Total time: 6:45

I did have a lot of trouble coping with the heat; I’m not normalized for biking in heat because it’s so unusual here. I wanted to start earlier, but I was slow getting ready and also had to switch from Maia (recovered from Palo Alto Bikes early) to Meg because, riding alone, I realized I needed to carry a lock. I mostly was able to and chose to stop when I needed to, which is something I like about riding alone. I just stop when I want to and monitor how I feel, no worries about anyone else.

I also like the meditativeness of riding — rather like playing music, it fills my mind pretty much wholly so I don’t really have any thoughts per se other than “Ugh, uphill” and “Ooh, pretty” and “Gosh it’s hot” and “Dude, are you completely oblivious”, the last when a motorist did a u-turn in front of me, ended up in a driveway area, and tried to re-enter the roadway, all apparently without noticing my existence. Minus the last type of thing, it’s pretty mentally restful.

I stopped at the foot of Montebello because the heat was just oppressive coming up Stevens Canyon, even though I’d only gone 3 miles since I stopped at TJs. I should have stopped on Foothill before reaching Page Mill, because by the time I reached Mike’s Bikes, I was experiencing weird temperature sensations in my body (feeling sort of cold and shivery instead of hot), not a good sign. I seem to be okay, but it clearly wasn’t a wise decision on my part. I did well with reapplying sunscreen and eating, but my drinking was more erratic, though I was careful to fill up on water appropriately and didn’t run dry like I did on the coast ride. I also forgot my chapstick and found that in the sun and wind it was not comfortable without it, so I bought some at TJs when I was there.

With the lower gears on Meg, I was able to climb Edgewood without stopping and dispatched Elena with only one break. It’s hard to know if this was just the gears (going slower allows greater consistency), or if my climbing has improved. I think it’s some of both. I’m more able to sprint up short hills like Arastradero’s first evil section and Summerhill as well. Overall, though, I felt tireder, a bit short of resources. Every time the road turned uphill I thought “Ugh.” But my breathing was less strained and my legs survived, so it seems like I’ve improved.

Given my tiredness (even despite being off-bike yesterday because I felt tired then), it’s definitely time to start tapering. This last week is scheduled to be the same as the previous one up through Wednesday, but it’s my plan to axe five miles from every ride starting either tomorrow or Monday and take Thursday off (and Friday only ride commute because I have to take Maia with me to SF in the evening, which will be close to what’s scheduled). I think that’ll suit me better. But I’m glad I went full out today; it’s given me greater confidence in my abilities. I just hope it isn’t 100 degrees next weekend. The 10-day forecast suggests not — it says mid-eighties for the overnight location, so that means even cooler on the coast. That’s not perfect, but it’s not bad.

Waves to Wine, here I come…

An encouraging statistic

I was looking more closely at the W2W route profile and noticed that the peak elevation is only 600 ft. The first major climb of the route covers 600 ft in about 2.5 miles, which is only a bit more than half the grade of Old La Honda. Assuming the map is even slightly accurate (certainly in question given the fact that it reports 8000 ft of climbing for a route that has been variously quoted by the organizers at 4500-5500 and barely even looks like that much), this is a real relief to me because it means the hill climbing will look more like the kind of thing I do regularly and less like the really hilly rides I’ve done the last few weeks.

I’m really happy I did the coast ride (and the Grizzly Peak ride, which is probably more similar for most of its length to the climbs in the profile, but goes up consistently for a much longer distance) to challenge myself, but looking at the profile it reminds me much more of climbing Edgewood (which certainly is plenty challenging but no longer the bane of my existence — an amazing fact of training). You ascend to 500-600 ft three times (once starting from about 200-300 already), plus lots of other rollers.

But the little flier I received recently misleadingly says “Be sure you are prepared to climb Mt. Tam and the coastal hills of Marin…”

Unless their route is just way off, “climbing Mt. Tam” is a serious exaggeration. Mt. Tam’s peaks are around 2000 ft and it is quite possible to climb up there on a road bike (assuming you don’t bonk/end up with jelly for legs first), and there’s strong evidence from my quick Google that “to climb Mt. Tam” has a very specific meaning, referring to a particular road to a particular point. Our map does not go that direction, which requires going substantially inland. A better description would likely be “the lower slopes of Mt. Tam and the coastal hills of Marin”.

I have to say that this is one thing about the W2W experience so far that hasn’t impressed me. You’re asking people to ride a long, hilly course that may be unfamiliar to many of them and may stretch their capabilities substantially. It behooves you to: make good maps, go out there and ride the course yourself to get a reasonably accurate elevation gain and route profile, and carefully and clearly advertise the route, elevation gain, and profile and what method was used to get them. Don’t give a map that shows 8500 ft gain without a disclaimer when it’s really much less, don’t quote it as 5500 on the website if it’s really 4500, and don’t say “Be sure you are prepared to climb Mt. Tam…” if the route doesn’t. To quote the Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Entering week 9

I took a small detour from my normal route this morning to avoid construction and happened on a park in Palo Alto I didn’t know existed. My world felt a bit wider and brighter after that.

I’m getting to the point in training where I’m feeling pretty ambivalent about riding my bike so much. There are many mornings when I just want to get on the train and not hassle with traffic. I’m riding from an hour and a half to eight hours six days a week, and I feel like it’s eating my life. I’m not getting the heavy legs feeling, but my legs are nearly always feeling tired and sore, and I especially feel it when I start a new ride: I don’t feel fresh and rested, but rather still tired from the day before.

Because I’m almost always tired, everything seems like a struggle, and it’s easy for me to feel overwhelmed. After I got back from the coast on Saturday, I was doing some chores, and I felt like I do when I have the flu: like after every movement, I wanted to lie down and rest. (I slept for over ten hours that night, but still woke up tired.) Cooking seems like a hassle, even if it’s something really simple and quick, like muffins, cutting up a few tomatoes, or boiling pasta. Finding out that Mike’s Bikes is all booked up and can’t tune up my bike before the ride without some serious schedule convolutions on my part nearly undid me today.

But training has been rewarding in other ways. It’s reminded me that accomplishing things requires me to decide, commit, and follow through. It’s easy for me to decide that I’d like to do things, and it’s easy for me to follow through once I commit, but it’s the moment of commitment that I tend to have trouble with. If not for my riding buddy Michelle, I could have hemmed and hawed about W2W for quite a while. But with her quick decision, it became my commitment, and following through by finding a training plan and getting on the bike six of every seven days became surprisingly easy.

I’m hoping that I can apply this to accomplishing other things in the future, perhaps other athletic goals (I’ve already joked about running the SF half marathon next summer) but perhaps more importantly, other personal goals — the kind that are easy to think about doing, but hard to really commit to. Remembering that the moment of commitment is the hardest part for me may help me get over that hump. And knowing that I’ve managed to find the time and energy to do this vaporizes my excuses that I don’t have the time. Most of the goals that I’ve considered and failed to implement would take much less time than training for the MS 150.

One other way I cope, perhaps more practically, is that I know how close I am to being done. The ride is a week and a half away; this Saturday is the last time I have to ride 60+ miles before the event itself. Seeing the goal so close is that extra little bit of motivation I need to get up and ride 25 miles tomorrow. (And looking forward to my day off on Thursday helps too. Any little bit!)

Saturday ride #8: Coastal ride

Due to exhaustion I am lacking in my usual verbosity. Therefore, mostly you get statistics, nouns, and adjectives.

DST: 50.5 mi (my computer reported 55 but that is not correct, and I don’t know why — I’m thinking a detector in Palo Alto)
AVS: 11.8 (…oy)
MXS: ~32 (84 descent)
Ride time: 4:36
Total elevation gain: 5450 ft (per Bikely)
Total time: ~8 hrs (yes, we spent almost half the time resting…see previous stat)

Preparation: Brisk
Sand Hill: Okay -> Bleargh.
Old La Honda: Very Difficult (1 hour climbing time = AVS 3 mph…oy)
Skyline: Reward!
CA-84 (descent): amazingly pleasant!
CA-84 (coast approach): scenic, windy
Stage Rd: Ridiculous
Hwy 1: Cliffs! Ocean! AWESOME!
Tunitas Creek: Nice -> Difficult -> Hellish -> Challenging
Kings Mountain: Frightening
Woodside and return: Pleasant, but hot and windy.

Company: Terrific (thanks J, C, and D)
Food eaten: 2.5 energy bars, several of D’s dates, a veggie sandwich, two spring rolls
Liquids drunk: 1 27-oz bottle Vitamin Water, 1.25 Camelbaks water
Most awesome products: C’s Enlyten electrolyte strips (weirdly yum), chamois cream (would not have lived through this without it)
Pain points: butt (climbing), thighs (climbing), hands (descending KM)
Spiffy breathing techniques learned: 1
Sections walked: 1
Breaks taken: Too numerous to count!
Sense of accomplishment: Powerful.

Wednesday brisk ride: Foothill commute

Back when I was planning my mileage for training, I decided that for some of the weekday rides with higher mileage, I would try doing my commute on Foothill rather than Bryant. It increases the hilliness and the mileage substantially. I went for that option this morning and was pleasantly surprised by it. After you pass Stanford, it’s really no more crowded than Bryant, and except for a few tricky intersections, not much more challenging either, except for spending more time on Mary (where the right lane is exactly that annoying width that means you need to take the lane if there are parked cars, and cars are exactly infrequent enough that people are annoyed by you taking the lane).

AVS: 15.3 mph (!)
DST: 16.3 mi (a bit more than I thought)
MXS: 27.3 (downslope after Page Mill)
Ride time: 1:03
Total time: 1:20 (real AVS 12.2)

I did get a few typical annoyances: getting buzzed a few times — by both cyclists and motorists, people trying to turn right at stupid times, etc. There was a particular pair of cyclists on JS/Foothill that annoyed me greatly. One of them buzzed me, and then they failed to actually go much faster than I did until nearly Arastradero, because they were stopped by lights. And after the intersection of Page Mill where the bike lane narrows, they were still riding two abreast where there was really no room, resulting in a truck honking loudly and sustainedly right next to me. I don’t think the honking was appropriate, but neither is riding two abreast for no reason except your own pleasure on a road with a 45-mph speed limit in the travel lanes.

I do wish that more drivers knew that passing cyclists isn’t their God-given right though. I feel like the lives of most cyclists in the state or nation would improve greatly if every driver’s ed course and driving test asked two basic questions and required them to be answered correctly: do cyclists have a right to ride on the road (yes), and what should you do when you find a cyclist in your lane (slow down, be patient, and pass when safe, leaving a margin for error).

There’s a stretch of Foothill where I think the road must be uphill, but it looks really flat. But every time I’m on that stretch I’m going 13-14mph thinking “Why does this feel so hard?” And then once I pass it I start going 20mph, so I think it’s an invisible uphill/downhill thing.

The weirdest intersection is the one for Foothill/Fremont/Miramonte/Loyola. I had forgotten how awful it is to navigate (you can see from the map why, because there are all those roads coming together and you have to exit, turn left, turn right, and turn left in order to turn left), and waited there a long time, but people were courteous and I got through without incident.

I always find the South Bay a bit mind-bending because I imagine Mary and Mathilda as E-W but they actually are very much N-S, so I kept thinking, “Wait, I got off on Fremont and I’m going east because Foothill is N-S, so how am I going to turn onto Mary and still end up going east?” forgetting that Mary is only logically E-W (in that it’s perpendicular to the train tracks/Central, which go “south” to San Jose) and is actually N-S.

I’m feeling pretty good this morning, and thinking I might do this commute again in the future, and not just for training — it’s more fun than Bryant and Middlefield.

Tour de San Mateo

Much unlike the Tour de Menlo, today’s Tour de San Mateo was a ride thrown around as a concept by another member of SVBC a while back: just a small tour of the interesting bits of San Mateo. I was instantly in, since I used to live in San Mateo and am quite fond of it.

The ride was a relaxed meader through neighborhoods, parks, trails, and bridges. It was a thoughtfully-designed route and very enjoyable. The best parts were the neighborhoods in the southwest where I hadn’t been, which were classic, pretty San Mateo neighborhoods of the kind that I loved walking through when I lived there, and touring what I call “Secret San Mateo” because you can only get there from either Fashion Island or a freeway exit that exists in only one direction (Kehoe Ave on US-101 N). It was nice to see that they’ve been repaving some of the worst streets since I lived there, though there’s plenty left to do.

The lowlight was, sadly, the Monte Diablo bike/ped bridge. There are no pavement cutouts to access it (not just bad for us — what about wheelchairs?!) and it’s incredibly narrow and twisty on the approaches. I don’t know if you’re supposed to walk your bike or what, but it was also full of glass and clearly being used as a camping spot by homeless people, meaning I’d never take it during questionable times of day even if I could get over the totally stupid design. This is really a pity because it’s by far the simplest route over the freeway in the northern area of the city. I don’t know how they managed to screw this up so badly (the bridge was only just completed earlier this year).

I took the North-South Route up and back, since I was supposed to be doing my long mileage day today. Old County has just turned into a washboard since the last time I was on it (for the N-S Route Ride about a year and a half ago). It’s in desperate need of a paving job. San Carlos, Belmont — I will contribute if you need to pass the collection plate to get this darn road fixed up.

Exhaustion caught up to me at the end and I terminated as I reached home, around 37 miles, shaky after hitting a bad bump on Middlefield and just totally worn out despite an average speed of only 11 mph. I just woke up from a nap forced on me by sheer exhaustion, so I’m still a bit wibbly. This is one of those “can’t complete mileage because too exhausted” days, which I haven’t had in a while.

So if I haven’t called/emailed you lately, it’s not because I don’t like you, it’s just because I’m running very low on reserves.

Ride report: Berkeley! Grizzly Peak!

This morning I went up to Berkeley to ride with my friends/team members up there, J & C (you guys let me know if you want full names or initials on the blog). We had planned to do a 38-mile route up Grizzly Peak that I found on Bikely (Downtown Berkeley – Grizzly Peak – Skyline – Pinehurst). The full route has 5000ish feet of climbing, so I figured if we could do that, we could do W2W (which it turns out likely has closer to 5500 and 3200 ft of climbing rather than the 8000/5000 listed on the topo map due to topo overestimation). So it would be a useful test, and an interesting challenge.

But in the end, we took a wrong turn on Skyline (possibly due to the cue sheet being left, with my book, back at their apartment) and did a 24-mile ride up Grizzly Peak and Skyline and down Tunnel, then out to the Marina for a quick lunch/snack (1700 ft climbing, instead of the 5000ish given for the full route) and back to their apartment.

The 1700 ft of climbing was mostly in the first 6 miles, with the next four being variably up and down, then down for the last part. Spruce was somewhat brutal and I was dripping sweat and had stopped to rest twice (briefly, just so my heart wouldn’t beat out of my chest) by the time we got to Grizzly Peak Blvd. But the rest of the climbing was relatively gentle, though I stopped to rest once more later on. The lower gears on my touring bike helped, though toting a rack pack probably didn’t. Descending was a challenge, but my brakes stood up to it, and I felt that on the long downhill I was practicing good technique in when I decelerated and when I coasted, so that was very useful.

We all remarked afterward that we didn’t feel too terrible and thought both that we could have gone on (though none of us wanted to climb back up in order to do so…so…who knows!) and that despite being cut short, it was a good prep ride because so much climbing is compacted into so little mileage. It turned out well in many ways, giving me time to meet someone for coffee afterward and J time to get to the airport. I also saw Berkeley Bowl for the first time (finally, you are all saying). What a great place, wow! I wish I lived near there. It’s like every grocery store I’ve ever been to, plus a farmer’s market, rolled into one, all on steroids. We saw Mt. Tam cheese there, which I’ve been led to believe is amazing. C and I joked about how expensive it was and said that it would be a treat for after Waves to Wine, rather than for today.

The picnic table we found at the Marina was just sheltered enough to be pleasant without being hot. To get there, we inadvertently missed the turn onto Addison down to the bike/ped bridge, and illegally crossed on University instead. People were surprisingly patient given the total silliness of our presence on that overpass. It must happen reasonably often since the sign that warns you away is small and placed just after you get on. (City of Berkeley, please note.) On the way back we enjoyed the peace on the bike/ped bridge.

I noticed that most drivers up on the hill, in contrast, were not at all patient and would pass too close and at awkward times. Another cyclist we saw reported he had a guy come up behind him rapidly and skim by so close he touched him (and on the downhill too). Augh! I wonder why the distinction in behavior.

My total mileage for today was around 28 miles (counting all the incidental mileage I did), so I’m just going to re-divide the weekend mileage and do around 50 tomorrow so it should equal out, more or less. Despite the intensity of the climbing, I am feeling restless and eager to do more tomorrow. I think I have reached the point of needing a certain amount of intense physical exercise to feel good — which at this point in training I think is a very good place to be!