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.

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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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.