Wednesday, January 27, 2010

2010 stretches out ahead

One of my favorite books of all time, one I've read and re-read many times, is David James Duncan's The River Why. The protagonist Gus is certainly a lot younger than I am. In the book, he is less than half my current age. In his youthful zeal, he set out to devise the 'Ideal Schedule', which was to focus his life as much as possible on the one thing he believed he loved to do above all else. Given many years and lots of time during which to contemplate the things I love, like the blind squirrel I've stumbled upon the nut of wisdom called moderation. I know now that I can't focus my life on one thing to the exclusion of all else. For one thing, my body can't handle it, and I have to find things to do during the down time. For another, I have to appear somewhat normal, and do things like hold down a job. And yet ...

And yet, I still can not resist the urge to look ahead to the coming year and first list out the things I want to do on a bike, and begin to commit to some of those things in big ways and small ways. So, what follows is a list with comments on the biking events I want to do this coming year. Not all of the items on the list will happen for me. Some events will conflict with others, some will be dependent on other, prior events and others still will maybe not hold the same appeal later that they do now. We'll have to see how it plays out.

Planned Ride Date Distance Comments
Jittery Jaunt 200km Permanent 1-30-2010 200km (124 mi) I missed doing the worker's ride for the SFR Lighthouse 200km and I want to keep my R-12 streak going, so instead of doing the worker's ride for the next item below, which would give me February credit, I'm doing this permanent. Like last year, I'm waiting kind of late in the month to get that 200km in. Never learn I guess.
SFR Two Rock Valley Ford 200km 2-6-2010 200km (124 mi) This route is based on Willy Nevin's Jittery Jaunt course, but differs in that we keep riders off of Sir Francis Drake Blvd as it goes through Samuel Taylor State Park. This is the first time SFR has held this as a brevet.
SFR Russian River 300km 2-27-2010 300km (186 mi) I missed this ride last year when I caught an ill-timed cold and had to scramble to get a 200km done in February on the last day of the month.
Santa Rosa Cyclists 200km 3-13-2010 200km (124 mi.) This is one of my favorite brevets. It is a fast course, and how can you beat ending the ride at a brew pub for dinner with the other riders? You can't!
SFR Hopland 400km 3-27-2010 400km (250 mi.) Go here for my write up of this ride from last year. It was great and I'm looking forward to it once again.
SFR NorCal Fleche 2010 4-3-2010 360 km minimum This would be my 4th fleche. All three previous were really great experiences, and I rate them in my top ten bike rides all time.
Quack Cyclists Devil Mountain Double 4-24-2010 Volunteer I've volunteered for this ride at the Mt. Diablo rest stop (the first one) for several years, and want to keep that streak going.
SFR Russian River 200km 4-25-2010 200km (124mi) SFR has held this ride three times and I've never gotten to ride the whole route with the group so this year I hope there are enough volunteers to allow me to pull it off and ride.
Davis Double Century 5-15-2010 200 miles I rode this Double for the first time in the year 2000, with Phil Morton. After finishing, I swore I'd never do another double again. Well, 22 double centuries later, this would be my 11th Davis Double in a row.
SFR Fort Bragg 600km 5-22-2010 600 km (378 mi.) I enjoyed the heck out of this ride in 2009 and I want to ride again, and put into action the things I learned last time out.
Santa Rosa Cyclists 600km 6-5-2010 Volunteer The Plan is to work the overnight Pope Valley control with fellow RBA Bob Redmond.
SFR Davis Overnight 230 km 6-12-2010 230 km. I had a blast last year doing this ride and really, really look forward to it again.
Santa Rosa Cyclists Terrible Two 6-19-2010 Volunteer Whether I ride this, or volunteer depends on if I commit to the next event below.
Santa Cruz Randonneurs 1000km 6-25-2010 1000km (600mi.) This 1000km is the favorite on the list of potential 1000kms if for no other reasons than it is hosted by Bill and Lois, and it is local.
SFR Point Reyes Populaire 7-17-2010 115im (75 mi.) It was so great to have so many riders new to brevets show up for this ride, and greater still when they became regulars on our full brevet series.
SCR Moss Beach 200km 7-24-2010 200km (124 mi.) Finally, finally time to drag my butt down to do a Santa Cruz Randonneurs brevet (other than their Fleche a few years back, which really doesn't count.)
SCR Skyline 200km 8-7-2010 200km (124mi) I hear this course is a butt kicker.
Unknown 200km Permanent 9-???-2010 200km (124mi) Gotta keep the streak going!
Quack Cyclists Knoxville Fall Classic 9-25-2010 200 mi. A lovely route, and one of these days I'll master that course and break 15 hours.
SFR Winters 200km 10-9-2010 200km (124mi) I've worked this ride the last two years and I really, really want to ride it with the group this year.
Mt. Tam Birthday Ride 10-21-2010 85 mi. I've done this ride on my birthday for at least 13 years. I've always done this with at least one friend coming along, and lately it's been a whole bunch. The mountain is great mid-week and being off work is great too. Usually, the weather is fabulous but any way it turns out is fine by me.
GPC Del Puerto Canyon ????-2010 106 miles This is one of my favorite rides. The canyon is just gorgeous, even as things turn brown after a long dry summer.
Unknown 200km Permanent 11-???-2010 200km (124mi) Gotta keep the streak going!
Unknown 200km Permanent 12-???-2010 200km (124mi) Gotta keep the streak going!

Sunday, January 24, 2010


JRA. (AKA Just Riding Along). That was me last Thursday after leaving work. One minute I'm riding along on may way to complete an errand, and the next minute I'm finishing up a close inspection of the pavement on Stanford Ave., just east of Market. This change in status was unplanned, and a huge surprise to me. Right in the middle of this event I do recall thinking "I'm not going to like how this turns out". Sometimes I am just soooo right. I didn't like how it turned out at all.

I know full well that a 53 year old body really doesn't do well in these circumstances, and I did a 10 count before I got up, first making sure that there were no serious alarm bells going off. I was able to sit up, and very shakily stand up, but walking was not going right. One big problem was that there was something on the bottom of my shoe. Turns out that only 99% of my bike was a couple yards away. The other 1% in the form of a pedal and a 2 inch long segment of the right crank arm was still locked to my shoe. I went and sat on the wet curb in the light drizzle and tried to take stock. As soon as I sat down, a man with a very concerned expression came up and asked if I was ok. Best I could say was that I thought I was going to be, eventually.

So my circumstances were these: My crank arm had snapped off clean and I tumbled to my right, taking the bike with me. I think I landed first, flipping the bike over and then I rolled. I have bruises in odd places now, and those places were not the first ones to report in as damaged. As I answered the questions of the gentleman who stopped to help, another driver pulled up with his truck and immediately offered to take me where I needed to go as soon as I knew what that might be. Nothing was broken on my body, and I only had a small cut on my knee. The rest were minor abrasions and bruises, most of which I wouldn't know about until the next morning. I thanked both men for helping out, and then got a lift to the nearest BART station, called my wife to tell her I needed to be picked up, and in 30 minutes I was home.

Judging from the markings, it looks like that crack existed for quite some time. The light area is the portion of the crank that failed thursday, the dark section suggests to me a portion of the crank that was cracked or flawed in the casting from the start. The cranks were vintage Campy NR cranks, with gold anodizing. They had very few miles on them, in terms of a life span of a set of cranks. I estimate between 3,000 and 5,000 miles. There was no visible damage to the cranks so the crack was not begun by some other impact.

I did ride to work the next day, and the ride helped alleviate the soreness and stiffness I felt first thing in the morning. I was sure to ride slowly, turning small gears (on a different bike). Big cogs, and little rings all the way to and from work. I did not get on a bike all weekend, and there was a long time saturday when the rain took a break so I could have slipped a ride in. I've got more rides planned soon so I'll catch up on the mileage.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My bane

Bane: That which causes ruin or woe. Well, to be sure, it causes me woe, and often. Back in an earlier geologic epoch, when I was in my late 30s, I got a case of bronchitis that my HMO refused at first to accept for what it was. Since that time, I have gotten colds at a rate that seemed unfair, certainly to me. Every few years for a while I would get a cold that stood above all the others in it's intensity and duration. I would be tempting fate no doubt to say that the 100 year respiratory storms that I would suffer more often than once every 100 years have lessened, but I am going to say that. However, I still get more colds than I think a person should get.

There have been some colds memorable if for nothing else than the timing, and the timing usually has ruined a ride that was weeks or months in the planning. I've had colds wreck riding the Terrible Two, The Death Ride, the Gold Rush (twice!), the 2004 version of the San Ramon to Malibu multi day ride, and countless club rides.

Am I unique in this among randonneurs? Are brevet riders, ultra distance cyclists, more prone to respiratory ailments? My guess is no, it's just me, but let me know.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The long way

It's nothing like Ole Doc Bradford's commute, and while so many, many things here fall far short of Bernard Moitessier's grand voyage (including that I dutifully continued on to my appointed destination instead of rerouting to warmer, sunnier climates), I still refer to this commute route to work as the long way. Last year I managed to take this route 35 times. I live in Richmond, CA, in The Annex neighborhood which is pretty near to the Richmond segment of the Bay Trail. I work in Emeryville, CA in one of the few buildings that hasn't (yet) been completely taken over by an increasingly famous, and ever growing entertainment factory now owned by a company most often represented by a mouse who has a friend that is a dog that talks and has a pet that is a dog that doesn't talk. The straight line that connects these two locales runs pretty much due north and south, and my 'long way' route doesn't use even a block of the path between them.

Many times the night before I've promised myself I'd ride the long way to work in the morning, and when morning comes I either reset the clock for 30 minutes more of sleep, or I linger way too long over the Sudoku puzzle, and I blow my chance to get to work on schedule and also get the extra miles in. When I don't cave into the excuses or the delaying behavior, I always enjoy the trip and always feel pretty good all day. Today was one of those days where I felt good all day long because of taking 'the long way'. Today was the first time this year I took the long way as well. I keep a record of when I've done that ride, and how long it takes me to get from my home, at about 65' above sea level, to the entrance to the Redwood Railway, which is just down hill from the highest point (~1600') on the route. I record the times from home to the Redwood Railway lot (about 9 miles), but I never race the route. My self imposed rule is that I have to ride a pace that I could maintain for more than twice as long as I'm riding that day. It would be a pace for which I could still carry on a conversation if I were to be riding with someone. And yet, it needs to be a purposeful pace. No dawdling, therefore.

Today I left the house in the dark, with clear skies above, and no wind. I caught all the traffic lights on red that I pass, but I only had to wait through a short red phase and never had to unclip. Above Marin Circle, on Los Angeles Ave. I always begin to slow down, it's just one of those inclines that always gets the better of me. Way back behind me I could see the headlight of another bike, but I managed to make the turn on to Spruce and climb all the way to the big loop around Michigan Park before the rider that was really two riders caught me. We exchanged hellos as they passed, and the rider with the lights seemed to lose his form just a little to match his riding partner, the latter rider being much smoother. On the longer straight sections of Grizzly Peak I could still see their tail lights for a while, and my guess was that by the time they reached the top of the climb I was almost a mile behind.

In 2009, my first half dozen trips on the long way would take me around 54 to 56 minutes to get to the Steam Trains lot. By early spring I was pretty regularly taking just under 53 minutes, with only one time over 55 minutes. At the end of April I nearly broke 50 minutes and finally in early May I clocked in at 49:59. I had a slow start to the year in 2009 all around, not just on the 'long way' climb, and my times on this route pretty much matched how I felt I improved on my riding overall. In short the climb on the 'long way' was a pretty good barometer of my riding fitness. Except for one trip with a flat tire both before and after reaching the Steam Trains lot, my times were no higher than 51:37 through June, with the lowest time being 48:19.

I took a bit of a break in July, and picked up in August right where I left off. I can see the slow down in times in September right after my crash and the separate, unrelated trip to the ER. Even with the return to standard time in November, the sun just didn't rise early enough to give me daylight on the last part of the route and I sort of struggled to get my butt on the bike and ride uphill in the dark.

Today, though, I refused to cave into excuses to take the flat route to work. By the time I reached the more serpentine portion of the route where the roadway circumnavigates the many peaks on the ridge, those two riders were probably racing downhill well ahead of me. Once clear of the residential section of Grizzly Peak Blvd. I could see out over the flat lands. In the time it took me to climb up to the ridge, the fog had begun to come in and cover a large portion of Berkeley. I love this when that happens because I can do the climb and get up above the fog which then forms a white blanket that only lets the tallest peaks pop up to be seen. It's still not yet after sunrise, but there is enough light to see my cycle computer and as I cross past the turn into the Steam Train lot the clock turns to 51:00 flat. In the increasing daylight I started downhill. A lot of the visual drama had yet to happen and I had to miss that. Grizzly Peak Blvd. intersects with Fish Ranch Road and Claremont, with Claremont being the route down to work. Claremont has a couple of tight turns up nearer to the top of the hill, and then straightens out a lot for most of it's run down hill. I can easily reach 40mph here and I know there are a number of rough spots, divots in the pavement and uneven patching so I try to focus on the roadway and also spot any cars pulling out. Down at the bottom after a snarl of intersections I pass by the Semifreddis outlet at The Uplands and I check and see that Owen is working there so I stop and say hello. I hadn't seen him for a few months since the Emeryville cafe had to close. Owen is as friendly as ever, and because it's always good to be around friendly people, I make a mental note to take this route a lot more often and to stop in again.

Morning traffic is picking up but the rest of the trip is just fine. Riding predictably, motorists let me blend in with them and we all get where we are going with little hassle or delay. By the time I turn on to 45th, the fog has gotten lower but it isn't at all like the weather on the 'long route' ride the last week of last year three weeks ago. That was pea soup.

It's a good feeling to know that I am not as far into a hole to start the new cycling year as I was last year. I'm five and a half minutes better off. I'm no lighter than last year, but at least I have my riding legs already, and it feels good to know that I could have pushed a wee bit more today and gone faster and yet still stay within the 'no racing' guideline for this test. Cool beans, eh?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Catching up on 2009

I was listening to some old broadcasts of This American Life recently and in one act of one of the episodes the correspondents from Planet Money (producers of a fabulous piece on the causes of the recession) interview an economic forecaster. Economic forecasting relies heavily on the output from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which issues not a set of results from previous fiscal quarters, but instead a three year series of estimates, each estimate revised since the previous one. In fact, results of what happened economically in this country back in the 1920s is still being revised today! Given that, I really don't feel quite so bad in waiting until January 8th to review my previous riding year.

A lot of people think reflecting on the last year is arbitrary in the segment of time being reviewed. Maybe so. I don't think it is so unreasonable really. Our year is a close but not exact measurement of the length of time it takes to travel once around the sun, one trip through all the seasons of a year. We re-adjust the tally when we have to and slip that re-adjustment into a part of the calendar where someone thought the rest of us might not mind so much. A lot of people, maybe some of the same people, don't think mileage is the best way to assess a riding year but it does provide starting place, and maybe it being a start and not an end to review makes it more palatable. In any case, here is the short form of the Executive Summary of last year: 8701 miles ridden. 8701 miles is not the most I've ridden in a year, nor is it the least, nor is it average. It is more than last year. My goal is to make it less than this year. I must admit something. Like the Bureau of Economic Analysis, I will likely be publishing a revision of that figure. I spent a couple hours last night updating my database, and doing some digging to find all the rides I forgot to record. I know there are some rides that are missing, and I'm pretty sure that what is there is honest and accurate, so the number is likely to go up once I finish searching.

Behind the number, in this case the number 8,701, are many details and memories. As 2008 came to a close and 2009 began, I really was not all that enthused about cycling. I still attempted to do the rides I had always done at that time of year, but without the preparation and foundation work, and as a result I struggled. I've no idea exactly what it was or exactly when it happened, but something fell solidly into place and I woke up from a cycling slumber. I was keen to plan rides again, keen to do them, and keen to photograph them and complete write ups. I followed through on this blog after a long layoff too. My intent was to document my thoughts on and memories of PBP 2007 and my preparation for PBP 2011. I did get a few write ups on the blog, but mainly I was pretty busy doing rides, paperwork for the San Francisco Randonneurs, and preparing for the next ride. Once in a while I would post updates on my progress on the RUSA R-12 award, but lately I sort of missed out on a few entries.

Below, I'll try to give a few thumbnail sketches of some of these rides, and perhaps do better in the near future with updating the blog on time.

Ride Date Distance Comments
SFR Lighthouse 200km 11-07-2009 200km We had a great turnout of over 60 riders for a late fall brevet. The weather was not so bad, and traffic was light. I rode much of the route with Bruce Berg, until he chose to stop in Point Reyes Station. Wind is always a factor on the Piont, but this trip it really didn't seem to be as troublesome as usual.
Oakland Hills to Willow Park 11-26-2009 60 miles This was an impromptu Grizzly Peak Cyclists ride and we had a pretty good turnout. I often combine this route with an early start so as to get a longish ride in and still be home by 11am or noon.
Mt. Tam via SF 11-28-2009 75 miles This route was a repeat of my annual birthday ride. This day though, only Bruce Marchant was riding with me. It was cool most of the day, but it was still worth it to ride. We stopped at Grilly's in Mill Valley and to my surprise, the burrito was much better than other recent meals there. Bikes and burritos. How can you beat that combo.
Del Puerto Canyon 12-05-2009 106 miles This is one of my favorite routes. While the Central Valley portion can be less fun, once the route hits Del Puerto Canyon road, you realize it is worth the prelude. We had a big turnout for the ride, much larger than normal for this club ride. 18 riders I think. I ended up being the de facto ride leader when someone, no names, forgot their riding shoes at home. I had a lot of trouble keeping up on the flats with a really fast group, but once we hit the hills I managed to catch and pass a few riders. Hot tea at the Junction Cafe braced me for the last 25 miles on Mines where the wind picked up and the temps dropped to the low 40s. More than one rider needed to be picked up at the Junction, which is pretty unusual.
Del Puerto Canyon 200km 12-19-2009 200km This was my last 200km needed to complete my R-12. A rough storm the week before split the group of 16 that was going to ride together on the 12th, and our group of five did the ride on the 19th, and without the high incidence of flat tires the early group suffered. We had wicked fog on Corral Hollow, low fog in the Valley and sunshine once we approached the big climb on Del Puerto Canyon. The sunshine lasted about 20 miles as we rode into the clouds once again on the Mines Road return. Our group had a nice post ride meal at the ale house in Pleasanton, to cap off a really nice day on the bike shared with a good group of riders.
Mt. Tam Again 12-26-2009 80 miles A repeat of the previous repeat, this time with Greg Merritt and Todd Teachout. Boy those guys made me work, but I'm happy I got out on this ride. The long weekend coming up for New Years turned out to be remarkably free of any rides I could do. Rain and a bout of poison oak kept me off the bike until January 3rd.

So there you go, a few of the rides that concluded 2009 and totalled 8,701 miles. Unlike last year at this time, I am now pretty excited about the possibilities of the coming year on the bike. I made a resolution that I'd ride more miles in 2010, but the reason behind those more miles was to ride more with riders I've never ridden with, and more with riders I haven't ridden with in way too long, and none of it would come at the expense of equaling the miles I rode with friends in 2009. Here's to 2010.