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.

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!

Saturday ride #6: Tour de Menlo (full ride report)

I’m feeling strangely awake even though exhausted, so, a report on today’s ride:

Stats: 68 mi (daily total — the ride was 66 and Menlo-Atherton HS is about 1 mi from my house).
AVS: 13.1mph
MXS: 34.1mph (Crystal Springs Rd, also the first time I have violated a set speed limit because one section has a 25 mph limit)
Ride time: 5:12
Total time: The total time engaged in riding activities was from around 8am to 3:45 pm, or 6:45. Some of that was going to the ride and registering and that sort of thing, some was lunch, some was the rest stops and minibreaks we took.

This ride was really, really tough. I didn’t expect anything else, knowing that the climbing included both Edgewood and Stevens Canyon (plus Montebello up to the lunch stop) as well as a variety of other smaller hills, and that the total distance was 20 more miles than I had ever ridden in one day before. But it was still tougher than I had really imagined.

You can see the route on the site, but they don’t seem to offer a route profile. The climbs included Edgewood, Polhemus, rolling hills on Canada and Portola, Arastradero, Purissima, Elena, Summerhill (short), Stevens Canyon, and Montebello.

I was quite annoyed to discover that the lunch stop was not until nearly mile 50 by my computer (we missed one turn and backtracked — the route was not terribly well marked, with missing route arrows and sometimes a confusion with route arrows from previous rides). Aside from the annoying lunch stop placement and the lack of signage, the route was well-designed, with a nice combination of looping and backtracking, and a reasonable amount of time to recover from most of the hills. It helped that between me and my riding partner we were familiar with most of the roads that we covered, with the exception of Stevens Canyon which I had only been up in a car before.

The climb up Monte Bello to lunch was only 1/2 mile, but it was terribly steep, well exceeding the critical threshold for me. I had to walk substantial portions of the climb in the end, but I got up under my own power. On the way down, my riding partner and I got a ride down to the intersection with Stevens Canyon. Both of us felt nervous about such a steep, curvy descent on wobbly legs, and also felt that failing to descend that very short segment did not in any way compromise our sense of completion of the ride, in a way that failing to ascend it would have.

Lunch was better than I’ve had at other rides, but nothing particularly special — sandwiches, fruit, cookies, etc., even though they advertise as an attraction of the ride that the food is good. So that was a bit of a disappointment as well. The winery place is nifty, though I didn’t have much chance to look around, being more focused on giving myself food, water, and rest. They had a real restroom there (not a portapotty), which was awesome.

One of the best moments was up on Elena (a route through Los Altos Hills) with a stunning and unexpected view of the whole enchilada, right over to the bay and the East Bay hills. It may be a brutal hill to climb but at least it brings rewards. Today was also my first time on 92, Skyline, and Crystal Springs, and I enjoyed those quite a bit. Cañada is always nice, of course.

In general, the ride was really pleasant in the earlier part of the day, up to about the end of Elena. Then it started to get hot and tiring. It was pretty boiling by the time we got to Stevens Canyon, and the ride back was just a long slog back up Foothill.

It was a LOT of climbing. A lot. I don’t think it’s even as much as Waves to Wine either. I just can’t comprehend what W2W is going to be like. But at least I can see that distance-wise I can do it (though I’m still wondering about the second day — I have no reserves left today and will not be on bike tomorrow). I was only seven miles from hitting 75 today — a distance that would have been almost incomprehensible to me a few short weeks ago when a weekend of a 34-mile ride and a 15-mile ride (with plenty of climbing, but still less than this) tired me out to the point of deep exhaustion that affected me negatively for the next three days.

I had a lot of funky feelings in my feet and seat, but avoided chafing with copious reapplication of chamois cream, and overall am feeling sore in a lot of muscles I knew I had and some I didn’t, but I’m definitely still functioning and am, quite frankly, extremely proud of myself.

Saturday ride #4: Exceeding the 40mi threshold

DST: 41 mi
AVS: 14.4 mph
MXS: ~30mph
Ride time: 3 hrs
Total time: 3 hrs 45 min

Route: Sand Hill > Foothill (down to Homestead and back) > Alpine > Portola > Mountain Home > Woodside > Valparaiso > Middlefield > Willow.

This is the first single ride I’ve done over 40 mi (also my first very long training ride where I had a ride partner), and it was surprisingly uneventful. It has less climbing than the other long ride routes I’ve done so far, and I’ve been feeling really good this week, continuing to see good effects from training: it’s easier to keep a higher average speed, climbing is less exhausting (!), sprinting is easier, and my leg muscles less worn out. So right now I’m feeling more optimistic about this whole endeavor. I’m hoping the slight interruptions that will be induced by my trip to Portland won’t have a negative effect. (I will be riding while there, on a rented road bike, but I won’t have the bike until Monday.)

The route for this ride was nice — in the early morning, sunny Foothill is pleasant, and as it heats up, Portola and Mountain Home save the day with their shadiness. The main highlight (aside from general awesomeness and feeling good) was a friendly gas station attendant in a station on Alpine where we were looking for a bathroom, who directed us right to it (it was clean!), didn’t complain when I only bought a package of Certs, and even would have taken my $1.48 in exact change instead of the $1.49 they cost (but fortunately my ride partner had a penny). Thank you, Mr. Gas Station Guy!

Midweek sunrise ride!

I wish I’d had a camera this morning that I could actually access while riding (not just my cell phone stuffed away in a bag). I went out for a ride before work, leaving the house at 6:30 and getting back just before 8. It was a beautiful morning, and a rather marvelous ride. I returned home feeling tired but invigorated and very awake. Usually at 8 I’m just stumbling out of bed and into the kitchen.

Highlights: sunrise and the gradual creep of the sun upward, the wisp of fog still lying on the hills, the three deer grazing in a meadow in Portola Valley. (I looked up from my bike and said aloud “Oh! Deer!” and then laughed at my inadvertent pun.) Realizing that my leg warmers didn’t fall down and it’s probably because I have muscles now.

Lowlights: Sun in my eyes/mirror, people violating traffic laws, that damn third climb on Sand Hill past Whiskey Hill. There’s some particular grade percentage where I hit my climbing limit, and that hill, the steepest part of Edgewood, and Arastradero right past the 280 underpass going north are it.

Still, I managed to push myself decently. Stats:
DST: 17.8 mi
AVS: 14.2 mph
MXS: Don’t know because my cyclocomputer got fooled by a detector, I would guess around 26-27 mph.
Ride time: 1:15 (total time 1:25)

Traffic wasn’t nonexistent, but it was light, especially on Portola where I saw about as many cyclists as cars, and not many of either. The worst spots were Alpine at 280 and Sand Hill between Santa Cruz and El Camino, but mostly even those were fine. 6:30 seems to be a good compromise between “ridiculously early” and “late enough to run into bad traffic issues”.

Reminder on W2W donations

I’ve had a few people at various points request reminders and a link pointer on Waves to Wine donations. As the time begins to approach (and my training ramps up, as you can see by the blog posts) I would really appreciate your support, and more importantly, so would the people the money will benefit, those living with Multiple Sclerosis.

Personal Page – Donate Here

There’s also a permanent link to my personal page in the upper right corner of the blog.

To quote Justin, who said it so well, “Charity rides sometimes seem a little cheesy because there is no obvious connection between the illness and bicycle riding, but they are amazingly effective.”

Ride report: Long Saturday ride #3

DST: ~34 mi (same)
AVS: 13.7 (+0.2!)
MXS: ~31 mph (-1)
Ride time: 2:29 (same)
Total time: 2:50 (+5 from last week)

I did a similar route this week to last, but in reverse and without the neighborhood options, and using Mountain Home instead of Whiskey Hill (it’s shadier and hilly in a less stupid way). The training calendar said 38 this week, but I’m going to be riding more tomorrow than it says (17 instead of 11 miles) so I didn’t add any distance to this ride. I also didn’t ride yesterday, which I think was a good decision, because I felt better today even though my legs were (ugh) still sore.

However, it seems to be true that the best thing for sore muscles is more of what made them sore. This was an encouraging ride because it’s the first sign I’ve really had that training isn’t just exhausting me but is actually working. Despite not having fresh legs (tired out from both overall riding and from the climbing on Alameda), and despite the heat, I was able to climb Edgewood a bit better than I did some weeks ago when I went with friends. (It was much hotter this morning than last week, and was sunny for the whole ride.) My climbing is still crap, but I think I actually rested one fewer time than I have previously on the way up, and I didn’t stop at the top or on the other side (at Cañada) but kept going. At one point I was feeling awful and I did look at my bracelet for the inspiration to keep going. It was nice to have that.

My hands and feet didn’t show any notable issues until closer to 30 miles this time, and my ankle was fine with the shoe straps closed tighter, though I did get a mild pain in my left knee around 30 miles (it’s gone now) and my right calf felt tense. I figured out the calf thing after a while — it’s something I do when I’m coasting where I don’t relax it fully, so that’s a good thing to work on. I got a second wind around 20 miles or so, which was a blessing, and I was able to push decently on some of the hills later on, even climbing Arastradero (which is easier going this direction in both cases).

In general I don’t know whether it makes much difference in the difficulty of the ride to reverse it. The Edgewood climb is hard (my mental joke is it comes in four sections: hard, sorta flat, awful, and plain evil), but so is the Arastradero climb. The rest of the ride is mostly rolling hills, and I don’t think the direction makes much difference, though Portola seems harder and Arastradero is definitely more fun — that’s where I hit my max speed, and I’m not sure if the speed limit inside the preserve is 25 or 35, but if it’s 25 I was actually going fast enough I could have been ticketed, which would be hilarious in a horrible way if it happened.

I feel pretty dead on my feet after this ride, but the fact that I made it through pretty well despite starting out tired is encouraging. On the other hand, the route for W2W is now posted and it is 8000 feet of climbing the first day and 5000 the second. That’s just insanity. Insanity, I say. I haven’t even contemplated Old La Honda or Page Mill yet (I’m still aiming for climbing Edgewood without stopping, for goodness’ sake), but given the final route, I’d say they pretty much have to be in my future. Yikes.

Training pondering

This is the second full week and third week of training for me. It didn’t start out so well. Sunday I was supposed to do a shortish 10 mile ride, but I miscalculated and did 15 mi. I felt fine afterward, though very tired, so I thought it was probably okay, but I woke up in the middle of the night with my legs feeling sore and heavy (a sign of having overdone things).

Monday and Tuesday I went very easy on the riding (I completed the suggested distances but at an AVS about 10mph), went to bed early, ate a lot and fairly healthfully (and drank a lot of water), and started feeling a lot better. Today was supposed to be a brisk ride, but I’m going with “compared to Monday and Tuesday, a slow normal is pretty darn brisk” (AVS 12.5 so far). My legs are still feeling overtired but not in the bad, heavy kind of way so far.

Pondering what happened, I realized that last week I consistently was over target for many of the distances because of my commute patterns. I also haven’t been eating or hydrating as well as I should or sleeping as much, and I’ve had a lot going on socially. The combination of those things, along with the five extra miles from Sunday, looks fairly lethal when you line it all up like that, and indeed it felt pretty lethal, both physically and mentally. Doubts about my fitness for this whole endeavor had started to crop up, but when I realized what was going on, I noticed that a lot of it was poor choices that I can change.

One thing I noticed is that I’ve been pushing myself on speed/effort, which isn’t desirable. Speed is very much negotiable; completion is less so. I’ve committed to do the ride, not to do it at a certain pace, and I need to remember that. Plus, riding slower during the commute has the nice side benefit that I feel more relaxed and safer because I have more reaction time and I’m going at a speed that doesn’t surprise drivers as much. It really doesn’t take much more time either, though the difference is not imperceptible.

And in fun tidbits, here is my route on Saturday:
34-mile training ride

Ride report: Saturday 2 — Longest ride without a long break

DST: 33.7 (target 34)
AVS: 13.5 (eh)
MXS: 32.4 (don’t know – on Cañada somewhere I think)
Ride time: 2:29
Total time: 2:45

My route today is really too long to describe because I did some squirrelly things to add distance and interest, but the main streets were:
Santa Cruz (via Menlo neighborhoods) > Junipero Serra/Foothill, Arastradero > Alpine > Portola > Whiskey Hill > Cañada > Edgewood > Alameda > Atherton neighborhoods > Valparaiso > Middlefield > Willow.
Update: Ride route

Highlights: watching the fog slowly lift off the hills, view from Edgwood and Cañada, not repeating my near-hyperventilation when climbing the annoying hill on Alameda, a kid waving to me on Alameda, not feeling like utter crap right now, no one doing anything notably stupid on the road.

Lowlights: practically hyperventilating on the way up Arastradero, having to stop for both stoplights on Edgewood.

The ride was hard, but nice. It’s the longest I’ve ever ridden without a substantial break (meal-length) between portions of a ride (previous was ~31), and definitely the longest ride I’ve ever done after riding seriously for six of the previous seven days. I could really feel that my energy level at start was not what it normally is for recreational riding.

Now off to the rest of my crazy day…