Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bonus photos from Foxy's Fall century

Tricia at Foxy's Fall Century 2013
Curtis at Foxy's Fall CenturyI am trying so hard to resist a "Fox at Foxy's Fall" line for Tricia's photo, but apparently I just can't. The photo of me, on the other hand, doesn't look nearly as cycle-pro. Or foxy. Oh well. Still, thanks to the Davis Bike Club and Captivating Photos for the free photos. They uploaded a ton right here.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Foxy's Fall Century, Davis 2013

Foxy's Fall Century 2013 Tricia Sunrise

"Plastics." That was the advice to Benjamin Braddock in 1967's "The Graduate." Maybe that was good advice, being as we're riding carbon fiber "plastic" bike these days. Still, Tricia's advice 26 years later is not "plastics, " but rather "layers."

When a simple bike ride has a temperature swing of around 40 degrees — 49 to 89 — there is a definite clothing challenge. Knee warmers, arm warmers, headgear and more are requirements for the sane, at least at the start. Sure, there are always a few folks that apparently have no cold-sensing nerves and roll with only shorts and sleeveless jerseys, but for the rest of us a bit of warmth is a requirement for being able to pedal.

But even with the cool start, the day eventually warmed up to near hot, and the clever Davis Bike Club provided "drop bag" service, delivering our bundles to the ride finish and sparing us from chipmunk-cheek jersey pockets.

Foxy's Fall Century 2013 Tricia Graffiti Bridge

This is a pretty darn flat Century, which makes for a nice fast start, but eventually becomes harder than one would think. Perhaps all that flatland fails to provide relief or variety. All I know is that I was very happy to get to the few hills that came after lunch. 

Foxy's Fall Century 2013 Best sign ever

Of course, even though I say I liked the hills, like every cyclist I'm always happy to reach the top of one. This sign for truckers may be one of my favorite signs ever as it announces the end of a climb and the upcoming pleasant downhill to follow.

The Foxy's Fall Century itself is the usual Davis Bike Club well-run affair, with traffic control, plenty of porta-potties, and well-stocked rest stops. They even have "rolling support" cyclists on the course. Tricia and I particularly enjoy the swap meet after the ride, where we pick up socks and, this year, a couple of wool jerseys at bargain prices. Our only complaint is, well, other people. As Charles Schultz said, "I love humanity, it's people I can't stand." 

We had the usual few crazy car drivers, but not many. We were more annoyed by our fellow cyclists. What part of "don't ride six abreast" is so hard to understand, or execute? Early in the ride we watched a very patient car driver get stuck behind a large, but oblivious (or perhaps just self-centered) group for way, way too long before the driver had a chance to pass. There was no reason the cyclists couldn't slide right, but they didn't. Thanks for being stereotypes, and encouraging drivers to hate us!

As long as I'm on my rant, let me also point this out to some riders on organized centuries: Hey Joe Cool, you aren't as skilled as you think. If you were a pro racer you wouldn't be on this ride. You may be strong, but your bike skills and judgement are suspect. That's fine, but don't zig-zag through the frightened folk starting their first thirty-mile efforts, or try to pull clever maneuvers on your one-foot-unclipped descents. Try being a responsible community member. Heck, maybe we can create more cyclists if we don't scare them to death or run over them. Like your Mom used to say, be nice.

Foxy's Fall Century 2013 shadows

Other than a few unannounced wheel suckers and general bad bike handling demonstrations, the ride, despite the rant, was really fun and I don't have as many complaints as it sounds like.

Foxy's Fall Century 2013 Grandpa himselfThe ride is named for Foxy Grandpa Delano, and there is always a nice display of memorabilia there commemorating his cycling career.  He must have been quite a guy. The Davis site has Delano's story, as well as the history of the ride.

Thanks Davis, we'll see you next year.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Veteran's Victory Velo ride 2013

SouthGate Vetern's Victory Velo ride

Tricia said she loves a ride that starts with a motorcycle escort. I think she not only liked the traffic control they provided, but liked those big ol' burley guys on their  big 'ol burley motorcycles. I was pretty sure cars were going to be respectful with these guys riding shotgun.

Tricia Vetern's Victory Velo ride

We'd chosen this ride because it's in our backyard, and we like the cause. I know I have mixed feeling about the military, and the USA involvement in war, but I believe very strongly in taking care of the people who put their lives at risk for the rest of us. Plus, when was the last time you started a bike ride with the Star Spangled Banner?

DiabloScott Vetern's Victory Velo ridedalameda  Vetern's Victory Velo ride

MarcoPolo Vetern's Victory Velo ride

We ran into famed blogger Diablo Scott, Bike Forums members Marco Polo (on his beautiful custom steel Kirk,) Dalameda (sporting the Bike Forums 50+ jersey I designed) Jonathan B from Bike Forums and the most excellent uber-mechanic Ryan, running the Sports Basement support booth at the the top of Morgan Territory.

The ride itself was a beautiful climb up Diablo's South Gate, through Clayton, then up and over Morgan Territory. We bailed at the bottom, turned right and headed back to the start. I wan't in the mood for Livermore, and all the good climbs were over. We still ended up with 71 miles, and by getting back sooner were able to enjoy a delightful post-ride party, complete with food, a band, beer, wine and some interesting booths.

Blue Star Moms Vetern's Victory Velo rideA salute to the organizers, and the Blue Star Moms who staffed the rest stops. How often do you get home made treats on a ride? Any minor lack of bicycle savvy was more than made up for by the big smiles and enthusiasm of everyone involved in making this ride work. This whole event had a wonderful tone. I really enjoyed the family flavor of the after ride event, with kids playing on the lawn, and a good time being had by everyone.

Jersey Vetern's Victory Velo ride

This was their second year putting on the event. Tricia says she's looking forward to doing it next year.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Diablo Challenge 2013 results, comments and questions

The actual official results for the Diablo Challenge 2013 are in.

Read about my attempt here, in my previous blog entry.

My Results
I placed 302 out of 507 total riders
In my age division I was 13 out of 34, with 1:15:34
The fastest overall guy was Nathaniel English with 44:24
The fastest woman was Flavia Oliveira with 49:45
The fastest guy in my age division was Jim Fox with 1:00:44

I've also had a few more thoughts and items to post after my last entry.

Overkill things I did to get my bike ready
I installed lightweight latex tubes. I think I can feel a smoother ride, but it may just be placebo effect in action.
I took off my extra water bottle and cage
I took off my pump and small seat bag. I kept them in my backpack, so the only danger was flatting on the way up, which would have wrecked my day anyway.
I don't know if it mattered, but I did notice my bike felt lighter, and just as importantly, looked totally cool.

After my post on the ride I couldn't stop thinking about it, I have...
Stupid post ride questions
So, I managed 1:15. What would it take to hit an hour?
I can imagine two ways.
1: Less weight. I got my weight down to 139, and took stuff off my bike. How much weight would I have to drop to make the hour? Even if it isn't possible, there must be a number.
2. More power. How many more watts would I need to produce? I hit a 193 average for the entire ride. How many more watts to break an hour?
I'll bet there's a calculator somewhere...
11.1 miles
3261 feet of climbing
140 pound rider
18 pound bike
To reduce time by 15:36 one would (fill in blank)

I don't actually think this is possible, it's just a theoretical question...

So, in search of truth and justice, I posted my questions in the Road Section of right here. It's an good thread.

I got amazingly well thought out answers, especially considering the well known snark factor in the forum.

It looks like the answer is somewhere around 256 watts using and staying at my current weight.

Or I can get my weight down to 103 pounds...

I don't see either being possible, but it's fun to dream.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Diablo Challenge 2013

Diablo Challenge 2013 (iPhone) my number
Of course, I was early. My wave for the Save Mt. Diablo's "Diablo Challenge" wasn't set to launch until 8:50, but I arrived in the Monte Vista High School parking lot, three miles from the start, before 7am. It was not really a bad thing. I didn't have to hurry putting my stuff together, and I enjoyed chatting with the other cyclists in the near darkness. It would have been perfect if it hadn't been so darn cold. It was the coldest morning this season, but fortunately I was prepared with lots of warm clothes.

I also arrived at the start way too early. But again, it was interesting to see, and chat with, so many cyclists. Bike ogling is always enjoyable as well, and there were some very swell machines there.

I had no help with the ritual pinning on of the race number, but I wasn't alone as many fellow riders also had to take off their shirts in the shadowy cold and pin without help. We also were issued electronic timing chips on ankle bands that made us all look like we'd had some issue with the courts and law enforcement.

Diablo Challenge 2013 numbers and pins

Diablo Challenge 2013 search and rescue patchThere were tons of helper-bees there, among them the Search and Rescue volunteers, who walked over to where I had my bike and dumped all their stuff next to, and partly on top of, my Roubaix. As I moved my bike I commented to them "This is ironic, here you are the rescue folks, and yet I'm having to rescue my bike from you." I said it with a smile and a laugh, but they didn't seem amused. Still, I'm glad they were there for us, and my bike was, after all, unscathed.

Over near the start all the hyper-serious cyclists were warming up on portable trainers. It looked pretty funny as they were all facing away from the start. It was because that was uphill, and it feels better not to ride a trainer facing downhill. Still, I cracked up.

Diablo Challenge 2013 warmups

As we waited I sent Tricia a text with a photo of the mass of humanity lining up. She texted back "Aren't there any women there?" so I sent her this photo. Not only were there women, there were really fast women I never even saw until they were on the podium, collecting prizes for their stunningly fast times.

Diablo Challenge 2013 (iPhone) women's wave

My wave was number five, so we waited (and waited) until the earlier waves took off. As we rolled away from the start I watched almost everyone ride away from me. At least being an uphill ride it was warm enough that leaving all my warm gear in my backpack and not wearing it turned out to be a good idea. The organizers had a pickup to deliver the warm clothes packs to the top, which is great as it can be cold coming down.

After about 10 minutes I was surprised to find I had caught a lot of riders and was passing them. This was a continuing theme the rest of the climb. I was amazed how many I passed and that only two passed me (Being in the last wave I shouldn't have been too surprised, but I was anyway.)

Passing all those people made me think I was having a good ride, and having someone constantly in front of me to catch helped keep me focused. I tried to make use of the whole road, something you can't normally do because of downhill traffic. But the closed road let me try to find the shortest lines between corners. At least when I remembered.

Normally when I ride with a group it isn't an all out effort to the top. There are regroups and chatting along the way, and often a stop at the junction. Because of that I don't have a feel for how long any section takes. Still, I was pleasantly surprised to hit the junction at 38:02. I didn't have any clue how to extrapolate a possible finishing time from that, I just kept pushing the pedals.

Diablo Challenge 2013 curtis and DiabloScott
Me with legend Diablo Scott, one of many volunteers who made this ride possible.
The famed DiabloScott (of the famous bike blog) had guessed my time would be 75 minutes. As I rode I found myself thinking "Yes, I've got that." and "No way can I hit that." I was surprised how long some sections were, and that some weren't as long as I remembered.

As I got close to the final push I was wondering if I'd have anything left. The normal "Wall" at the summit is on the right, and you come down the left side. To keep riders coming down to the festivities in the large parking lot just below the summit from having to cross the path of riders still on the course they route the Challenge up what is normally the down side. It's steep, and it's longer. I swear it's harder, and the normal side is plenty hard enough. DiabloScott had (perhaps jokingly) earlier suggested I toss my water bottle aside for the final bump. It sounded silly when he said it, but I got there I was up for any help I could get. I yelled to an onlooker, asking him to put my bottle by a signpost and tossed it, then started up.

I was at the end of my rope when I crossed the finish line. I'd had to slip though a traffic jam of a guy walking his bike and another rider wobbling badly as my lungs screamed at me to just stop the pain. But I made it. As soon as I stopped moving I almost tossed my cookies and thought my heart would pound out of my chest. I wanted to lay down, but couldn't find the energy to dismount the bike. In just a minute or two, though, I felt like I might live, and eventually even breath normally again.

As I rode to the party just down below I looked for my bottle and didn't see it. I'd resigned myself to it being gone when I saw it — on the top of the signpost, well out of reach for me. As I contemplated how I was going to get it, the nice guy who put it there just happened back by and retrieved it for me.

I joined the party below, and scored a water bottle and hat (but not a jersey, darn it.)

Diablo Challenge 2013 (iPhone) results
I have no idea what some of the columns mean. But my time was 1:15:34:9.
Tricia and I had a plan. She'd start up North Gate and I'd come down the North side, we'd meet and ride together. Unfortunately we didn't know they'd closed North Gate road. She couldn't get up, I couldn't go down. So she rode around Walnut Creek while I went back to Danville. We were able to meet for lunch at least, but I sure wish the organizers would have mentioned the North Gate closure in their info packs. We weren't alone in being surprised and having our plans screwed up. It was the only annoyance in an otherwise well run ride.

Philosophy and stupid stuff
I turned sixty freakin' years old on Friday. I never thought I'd be this old. It's very odd. In honor of my age fears I started preparing for this during the summer, and worked on losing 15 pounds since the school semester started. I'm still slow. I'll never break an hour, the benchmark for actual athletic riders. Still I did meet my goal of a Strava PR, and collected a ton of PRs on the way up. I met my goals of finishing, not running into anyone and wrecking their day, and getting a PR for the climb.  I managed to put out more power than I ever have before — 201 watts average to the junction, and 193 for the whole climb (and a 195 weighted average.)  I may well be in the best cycling shape of my life. At 139 pounds I'm certainly at the lightest. Does it matter? I guess not. But maybe it's better than drinking beer in front of the TV. Or maybe not, if the beer is really good.

Followup post here.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Getting a head

smooth stem

The new tubes I bought are labeled "pump friendly" because the have smooth stems. My pump was not impressed. My Topeak "TwinHead™ just blew right off. I had to, barefoot, hold it on with my toes while I used the pump. It was not fun.

I started looking for another head that wouldn't fly off. There's one that comes from Japan (you can't even buy it here) that costs over $70. That's just crazy. Other than that, there isn't much in the high-end department.

You might think I learned my Topeak lesson, but you'd be wrong. I bought a Topeak SmartHead. It's working really well. No leaks, and doesn't explode. The lever is a bit weird in that it flips up to close on the valve. It's a bit hard to jet a finger under it to flip it that direction; it seems like it would be easier to press it down, but that does seem to be how many pumps work these days.

Here's hoping it lasts a really long time.

topeak pump head