Monday, February 27, 2012

Easy Street

We rode by Easy Street on our "easy tapering ride" that  Lance Oldstrong put together. Except for being 70 miles with three lung-searing climbs, it was pretty relaxing. I only managed to find a new max heart rate a couple of times. I took advantage of the climb next to 580 on Dublin Bl to get a workout — and later on some semi-secret climb Oldstrong found (update: Palomares Hills) — to darn near kill myself. Tricia went along, and we tried to drop her all day, but she just wouldn't stay dropped.

It's impossible tp use an iPhone with fingered gloves on, so all my images are off the bike. The most amusing was this really really expensive time trial bike with a freakin' trailer. He carries ... dogs. I asked him not to go where we were as I wasn't in the mood to be passed by a trailer bike.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Barely bike related: Cuba!

posterThis may be my first non-bike post on this blog, but it's too big a deal to not post it.

I'm taking a study abroad class to Cuba and teaching photography for a week in summer of 2012. And guess what, you can come too! It's through Los Medanos College, so if you'd like to come, all you need to do is apply at LMC, and sign up for the class. You'll have to get your deposit in to the study abroad folks by mid-march too. My Photography in Cuba blog has more info, and a downloadable brochure with deposit info and an itinerary.

You can be sure I'll be posting some Cuban bicycle photos here, and if you come, I'll post yours too!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Stuff I think about when I ride

Sometimes a good ride helps me turn off my brain and just be. Sometimes not. Maybe it's the coffee, but I occasionally find myself in senseless contemplation of ideas and issues such as...

• It feels unfair that no matter how far I ride, it always fits on the screen at the same size in Strava, RideWithGPS or even my Ascent program. Two hundred miles looks just like a ride to the grocery store. That can't be right. Something here needs to be fixed.

• It seems that however hard I work on a climb or interval, coughing up a lung and crying, as soon as I stop, I think "I could have gone just a little harder. I should have gone just a little harder." I keep telling myself I'm going harder than the guys that are home on the couch, but right about then some other cyclist will roll past at looking calm and rested, confirming that indeed I should have worked just a bit more.

• Do Hammer products really work, or do they just make me focus more because I spent so darn much money on them? Mitocaps? Do they do anything? Phytomax? Really Curtis? And does Recoverite really help recovery, or is much-cheaper chocolate milk just as good, as some claim? I don't know, but right now I'm into voodoo and will give anything a shot. Well, maybe not the Dark Rage, or the Size On I saw in the weight lifting section of "The Vitamin Shop." That stuff is just scary. I think. Unless some cyclist tells me it works. I'd try it then. Unless it kills you after it makes you better. Then I'd only try it a little.

• The best thing about drinking wine is not that it tastes so wonderful. It's not even that it's so relaxing. It's that if you wake up not feeling well, a bit sore and grumpy and with an aching body you can think "Hey, I should have skipped that last glass of fine vino." Now that I've cut wine out of my diet (temporally, as a weight loose measure,) when I wake up hurting the only thing I can think of is "Damn, I'm getting old." I miss the wine.

• How much is a gram? How much is an ounce? I'm pretty sure that a lot of either added up makes a lot, which makes a difference. But how about one, or just a few? If I drop 100 grams from my bike, that's more than four ounces, which is a quarter pound, which starts to sound like it might matter. But then again I carry a 16 ounce water bottle (that's the water itself, not even the bottle weight) and sometimes even two of those. Are 180 gram tires worth their delicate nature, or are 225 gram tires really more appropriate for the riding I do? If I have two tubes in the tires and one spare, should I use 49 gram tubes, or are 100 gram tubes smarter even though there's that 150 gram difference slowing me down?  Should I stop carrying a pump and a spare tube? Do I really need bar tape?  How much does a Road ID weigh? Do I need a haircut? Should I trim my nails? Is it wrong to carry a phone? How about a camera? Should I weigh my clothes?

• And cassettes. Oh my.  My 11-28 Ultegra weighs 242 grams, but I'd really like a lower set of gears for an upcoming ride with lots of super-steep hills. There's a Tiagra 12-30 that might be perfect, but it weighs 329 grams. Do I trade lower weight for the lower gear?  It makes me crazy.

• Compression: Is it just more voodoo, or or a legit way to aid recovery? I feel both more silly, and more like a super hero, in my black compression tights and shirt. But do they do anything? Are they tight enough even if compression does work? And do I really work hard enough that I even need this "recovery" everyone speaks so highly of? Tricia asked me "How are those different than the sup-hose the oldsters wear?" and I didn't have an answer. Blacker? Pricier?I'm not sure. Maybe I should get some for her and she'll not ask such questions. Or ask more.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mt.Hamilton with Tricia and snow

hamilton required mirror photo
The required mirror photo at the Mt. Hamilton summit.

 We were so very proud of our Mt. Hamilton climb, right up until the couple on fixed-gear bikes rolled in behind us. It was Tricia's first time up, so we made sure to pick a nice cold morning so she could experience the maximum amount of suffering. Even though the sun was out a bit, the shadows were really cold, and there were still small piles of snow near the top.  Even with a cap and long gloves, the ride down was even colder. I tried to do some hard nine-minute efforts on the way up, and we both worked hard on the two uphills that come during the descent trying to warm up, but my biggest heart-rate spike was when a car came within inches of me on the way down.

Tricia, riding behind me, saw them swing out to pass her, then move back into our lane only to run up behind me as another car came in the opposite lane. It ended up as close to me as I've ever had a car come. We followed it on the descent for a mile or two, so clearly it was important that it pass us. It warmed us up, at least.

Other than a near death experience and losing feeling in my fingers, it was a grand day. Tricia is full of HTFU and just rocked the whole thing without even a trace of whimper or whine. I did almost as well. A good time was had by all.

curtis and Tricia Hamilton

Saturday, February 18, 2012

8,653 feet and then it got dark

It's really not all that lonely at the top. In fact, it's rather swell.
I ride with fear. Not terror, but an uneasy worry that I'll run out of energy and just fall over by the side of the road, unable to continue because I've burned all my matches hammering a hill or trying to hang with faster riders.

So when I took advantage of a rare Friday off by spending the day solo on my bike, I went out slow, and stayed slow. Really slow. I'd hoped to do 100 miles with a little climbing. Unfortunately, even though I started at 8:18 A.M., I ran out of daylight shortly before my goal. I did, however, manage 8,653 feet of climbing and 91 miles.

Riding out of Antioch to get anywhere interesting to ride is a pain that involves too many bike paths and a short jaunt down the freeway on Highway 4 next to the Concord Navel Weapon Station. But after that my ride was a lot more fun. Going up Pig Farm I was passed by a young woman with amazing boots. So amazing that when she stopped at the top I stopped too just to photograph them, or Tricia would never have believed my description. I went on to the Three Bears, rolled through Lafayette and out to Danville to catch South Gate Road and then up to the Diablo Junction. From there I had just enough time to get down North Gate Road to the Pleasant Hill BART station as it got dark. My sweet bride picked my tired ol' self up in Bay Point and drove me home.

What's crazy is that my heart rate was low all day, and even though my legs were tired by the time I got to the Diablo Summit, I still felt pretty good. This, for no good reason, got me thinking about the cutoff times for the Devil Mountain Double (eight hours for the first 100 miles, with similar climbing...) and wondering if... no, never mind. It was just a fleeting question.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Net loss, Strava

I hit a giant benchmark today. Though I weigh on my home digital scales, I can't help but think the balance-beam, doctor-style scales in my college locker room are the gold standard.

I usually set the big weight on 150 and slide the other over until it balances. Today, for the first time in forever, I had to start with the large weight on 100. This is big news (or should I say smaller news) for me as I was way  too far over 160 at the start of 2012. My doing without my much-enjoyed evening glass of wine, and forgoing many tasty morsels, seems to be paying off.

I'm still doing intervals. I'm hurting myself several times a week in addition to my 16 mile round-trip commute. That may be helping. I'm starting to think I'll be ready for the Solvang Double Century and I'm even contemplating (I have a notion that I'm working into an idea) doing some others. Feasibility testing will began shortly.

I've also been harassed by my cycling colleagues to sign onto Strava. I was reluctant because it, basically, confirms how slow I am, and then posts it in public so I can be suitably ridiculed (feel free to join in.) I have the free account, but the suffer-fest score feature almost has me ready to sign up for the paid version. Here's today's lunch interval ride using their embedded feature. I may be slow, but my heart rate was high...

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Mt Hamiltion. Both sides now.

hamilton both sides climb_Dan

Being as Lance Oldstrong (AKA Dan) is getting ready for the Death Valley Double and I'm working on being ready for the Solvang Double I suggested a 60 mile bike ride, with a little bit of climbing for Saturday. He countered with "Let's do Mt. Hamilton, then drop down the back and climb back up again."

My Mom used to say things like, "If Lance Oldstrong jumped off a roof, would you jump off a roof?" as a warning to be smart. Of course, being a smart ass, I always answered "Yes."  I did this time too.

We picked a beautiful day. It was cool, but the sun was shining and there were no clouds but for the mist hanging over San Jose.

I was a bit worried about the massive amount of climbing, but we took it easy on the ride up and it wasn't bad at all. Dan pointed out the road was graded at a constant six percent to make it possible for trucks to get building materials to the observatory at the top. I had fun talking to another cyclist about our backside plan. He seemed amazed and kept trying to talk me out of it. Ha!

On the back side of Hamilton the road builders had no grade constraints. It's double digits most of the five miles to the bridge where we turned around. I was glad I'd put on new brake pads, and even then it was a white-knuckle decent.

The ride back to the top was a grunt, but not as tough as I'd feared. We didn't hammer it, but it's still a lot of work. I surprised myself by feeling great when we got to the top. I usually think of a "climbing ride" as ascending 100 feet per mile (as in 30 miles, 3000 feet). At this point we'd done 30 miles and climbed 7100 feet. That's a lot of up.

The descent wasn't as much fun. The top is bumpy with a lot of switchbacks. When we got part way down we were passed by a guy on a beautiful white bike. Dan doesn't like that, and gave chase. I'd not a mad-cornering descender, and I found myself doing wind sprints between the corners trying in vain to hang on, and watching them pull away. It seems wrong that I had my highest heart rates for the day on the flippin' descent, but I did.

After Dan big-ringed him up the last little uphill section they sat up and waited for me. Mr. White-Bike offered a Mexican restaurant suggestion that we ended up taking for out post-ride protein reload session.

All in all, 50 miles, 7501 feet of climbing, and a darn swell day. I learned that I'm in better shape than I thought, and that I can't use my iPhone to make photos while wearing wool glove liners under my cycling gloves.

hamilton both sides climb_garmin
Garmin readout at our second summit.

No ride is really complete without a Lance Oldstrong song, so here, used without any permission whatsoever, is:

Bows and flows of yellow lines and science castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere, I've looked at Hammie that way.
But now they only block the sun, those domes that rise above everyone.
So many things I would have done but Hammie got in my way.

I've looked at Hammie from both sides now,
From up and down, and still somehow
It's Hammie’s illusions I recall.
I really don't know Hammie at all.

Moons and Junes and Williams wheels, the dizzy dancing way you feel
As another slow ascent comes real; I’ve looked at Hammie that way.
But now it's just another ride. you leave 'em laughing as you glide.
And if you crack, don't let them know, don't give yourself away.

I've looked at Hammie from both sides now,
From give and take, and still somehow
It's Hammie's illusions I recall.
I really don't know Hammie at all.

Tears and fears and feeling proud to say "Climb Hammie twice" right out loud,
Dreams and schemes and Alpe d'Huez crowds, I’ve looked at Hammie that way.
But now old friends are acting strange,

They shake their heads, they say I've changed.
Something's lost but something's gained in riding every day.

I've looked at Hammie from both sides now,
From win and lose, and still somehow
It's Hammie's illusions I recall.
I really don't know Hammie at all.