I have stickers in my butt!

14 09 2008

I didn’t do much riding this week. I decided to take a week off of the diet and training regimen to give myself a break before I start back up hard core on Monday the 15th (tomorrow). So it’s been a week since I got on my bike and yesterday we had our Academy ride, the first for BDII (Bike Driving 2). 

Last week and in an email this week, our new leader Steve told us many times how this weeks ride was one of his favorites and that it was a beautiful ride with only 6 stop signs and that it would be shorter than last week.

Um.. yeah.. it was shorter, 22 miles and we did 35 last week, but what he neglected to tell us that we would be doing almost 11 miles of climbing in the first half of the ride. UGH!

We met at the Lexington Dam and had a brief talk before we all started. Our group was a little smaller this time, only 10 students as opposed to 14, but we were all in relatively high spirits, ready to take on our next adventure. And then Steve told us about the climb…

I’m thinking that it can’t be too bad because nothing will compare to the BAO ride. I was right about that, but only because the BAO ride was 3 times as long and I was feeling stronger that day. I was not feeling at my best at the beginning of the ride. We started out and immediately as we turned out of the parking lot the road immediately started on an incline.

What a way to warm up! I think that set the pace for me for the rest of the day almost. It was a bear.. just hard work.. period. That being said there were also some pretty good rollers at the beginning of the ride where we were able to get some speed on a decent to carry us up the other side. As we climbed higher we were at times engulfed in shadows from the beautiful trees and plant life that surrounded us. At other times, we were launched out of the shadows into a gorgeous vista over looking the valley below. I so wish I had my camera with me. I need to invest in an inexpensive camera to keep on my bike.

I was with the lead group for the ride. Steve, his wife Karen and Marie Becker were the staff with us. About half way up, I was dragging behind the others. Marie took off with the 3 leading students and Steve and Karen stayed back with Sanjaya and I. Sanjaya was riding a pretty heavy mountain bike and feeling the weight of the bike I think for the first time. For me.. I just don’t think I had my rythm yet. I dropped my chain and that set me back quite a bit. I was having some serious issues with my gears yesterday. 

After a while, I found a pretty comfortable pace (that and the incline was at a lower grade) and Karen and I rode together for about 30 minutes and had some nice conversation. That’s one of my favorite parts of riding.. on a quiet beautiful rural road with good company.

anyway.. We regrouped at a store about 4 miles from the halfway point and Steve joked that it was easier from here on out.. ha ha Steve..  not so much.

Actually it was only like 3 more miles of climbing and then about the last mile to the store was pretty much downhill with one roller.

We stopped for lunch at Summit Market, a nice little store with tables and chairs out front to sit at. We had a short lecture on Bicycle Advocacy and Heart Rate Monitors and then we got back on the road.. oh yeah.. Thanks for the PB&J Merideth!

We were told that the rest of the ride was pretty much all downhill, but we had a mile or so of climbing and then at the very end a nasty hill before we were done. I took off with Gary and Charlie determined to stay in front on the climb out and I did pretty well because by the time we were decending I was still with them trading the lead with Charlie as we sped down the hills. 

It was so amazingly exhilarating to feel like I was cutting through the air with the wind rushing past me, leaning into the turns taking them as fast as I possibly could. What a rush! There were a couple times that the hairpin turns were a little tighter than I thought and I ended up in the other lane of traffic before completing the turn. That was a bit scary.

All the hours of climbing that road and it took like 20 minutes to decend.. but then we had the last climb back up to the parking lot. My legs had just about had it. I just didn’t feel like I had the strength to push up one more foot.. but of course.. I had to. I wasn’t going to walk. At one point about halfway up, I made a granny stop to get a breather and when I went to start out again, I dropped my chain, lost my balance and went off the side of the road into a small ditch filled with golf ball sized rocks and sticker bushes and crashed my noggin into the side of the hill. 

We’ve all seen the cartoons where the character gets hit on the head and you see stars circling the characters head and they shake their head to clear them away.. well I really felt like that. I remember thinking “Oh shit, not again” as I fell. I just can’t seem to get through a ride with this group without falling on my ass. Sanjaya asked if I was ok and I was too embarrassed to say anything other than “I’m fine”. I threw my bike off of me and scrambled to get up as quick as I could. 

I went to get on my bike, the first thing I felt when I got on the saddle was stickers poking me in the ass. I scrambled to brush them out of my pants and got back on my bike, riding accross the road so that I could get a little momentum going before heading up the hill and I don’t know what the hell happened, but I ended up on the ground again, this time there were 2 more riders coming up the road. Ugh.. so bloody and bruised (ego and body) I headed up the last 200 yards to the top of the hill.

It was done. Another ride down and even with the pain and sweat, every time I get on my bike, I love it more.

Today I’m sore and tired, but looking forward to my next challenge.


ACTC Academy BD1 Graduation Ride

8 09 2008

Saturday was the graduation ride for the Almaden Cycling Touring Club Academy Bike Driving 1 class. I’ve been taking this class for the last 7 weeks (including the labor day holiday) gradually building up endurance and skills riding in traffic, with groups on different types of terrain.

Saturday we rode from South Milpitas to Lake Elizabeth in Fremont and back, total miles – 34. something.. my cyclometer isn’t working (piece of s**t!). There was a lot of debate with our instructors as to the ride. The heat has been intense the last few days, but Thursday night Harry sent out an email to all of us letting us know the ride was on.

We met behind a shopping center at 8:30.. did some pre-ride chat and refresh of topics from previous days and then took off. What was interesting to me is that this is the first ride I’ve done of this distance with only one rest stop. We paused a couple of times for regroups after hills, but no resting. 

The weather on the way to the lake was perfect. Warm, but with a nice breeze and the sun was not yet intense. Most of the ride was relatively flat with some rollers until about mile 12 (I think.. again broken f**cking cyclometer) we hit a pretty nasty long hill. It was by no means as bad or intense as tunnel rd. on the BAO. I tried to use what I learned at the beggining of BAO and not take off too fast up the hill and burn out before reaching the top.  Slow and steady wins the race. 

The first hill was the hardest. We had one other pretty nice hill before the lake, but the rest of the ride was pretty uneventful. We got to the lake and “rested”. Of course the nicely packed peanut butter sandwich and plum that I had packed the night before were nice and safe in my refridgerator at home. I’m such a dork.. I forgot to take it with me when I left.

Joann was nice enough to lend me a few bucks to get a hotdog (the best thing they had) at the snack bar at the lake. We all decided not to break too long because the temperature was rising quickly. We all finished our food, refilled water bottles and got on the road.

When we started out again, it was apparent that a lot of our group was very tired. We weren’t riding with the same speed or energy as earlier. However with the exception of one casualty (too much heat and exaustion), we all made it back to the shopping center where I proceeded to act like a 12 year old and try to swing my foot over the seat while I was still moving, forgetting I had metal cleats on the bottoms of my shoes, not so easy to stop with, I grabbed the brakes, lost my balance and ended up sliding to my car on my shoulder.

After the ride we all went to round table pizza for food and our last lesson of BD1 as well as our little “graduation” ceremony with certificates suitable for framing.. lol. 

Next week we start BD2 where we will continue to add to our mileage every week as well as learning more advanced skills. 

This week Joann and I start riding on Wed. evening and I will take a small ride on Friday evening.

I did it!

24 08 2008
Shawn and I at the end of Bike Against the Odds.

Shawn and I at the end of Bike Against the Odds.

Apparently I have to get used to this whole blogging thing. I meant to write Friday night before the ride.. and then I meant to write yesterday when I got home, but meaning to and doing are 2 different things.

So yesterday was the big day. My first real long distance ride, well.. long distance for me. I did the 31 mile route of the Bike Against the Odds.

I was nervous for the few days before the ride. I was nervous about the over 2600 feet of climbing on the ride in the Oakland Hills. I was afraid of not being able to make it and I was even more nervous because I was going to be doing the ride by myself.

Friday, the day before, I made a list of all the things I needed to do and pack for the next day. I had just gotten my bike out of the shop from having a tune up and new tires put on. So, I took it for a quick 10 mile ride Friday night. I hadn’t been on the bike in almost a week and I wanted to feel my legs and check the bike and make sure everything was good. It was.

I packed my food and clothes for the next day. I loaded my bike in the car and set aside what I was going to wear in the morning. I didn’t sleep so much that night.

Heather and I got up at 5:30 to get ready to leave. We left a little after 6:30 (we were late) and stopped at the bank and the store to get stuff to drink on the trip to Oakland. I had already had breakfast before we left, but I brought some fruit with me for the ride. I was so nervous that I didn’t touch the food on the way there.

We stopped and picked up our friend Bentrish at her house near where the ride started and went to the park. I got ready at the car and then nervously walked over to the registration area. I had no idea how I was going to be able to do this thing by myself, but I was determined to go through with it.

Thankfully, as I was registering, Bentrish ran into some friends of a friend of hers, Kath (not sure if it’s with a K or C) and Shawn. They told her that they were going to be taking it easy that day and that I was welcome to ride with them. She introduced me to them and they introduced me to the rest of the group that was riding with them. I was immediately relieved that I had someone to ride with, now I just hoped I could keep up with them.

We walked our bikes over to the starting area and got ready to take off. I’m not sure who started to lead us, but we started out, with Heather and Bentrish clapping, yelling and screaming for me, when someone yelled out, “You’re going the wrong way!”. We all laughed, made a u-turn and started off.. again to yelling and screaming by Heather and Bentrish.

We started off slow from Lake Merritt through Oakland towards the hills. I don’t know Oakland and I was just following them, so I have no idea what streets we took, but we started off easy and I thought this would be a peice of cake if this is the pace they ride.

The road through the city was at a slight incline, but not enough to really notice, it became noticeable just before we hit the freeway that runs below the hills. It was a long pretty steep climb and my legs started to burn. I started to wonder if I just hadn’t warmed up yet, or if I was going to already have issues doing the climb. I knew there was more to come, but wasn’t sure if it would be steep and short or slight and long.

We regrouped after the first climb and it was established who the faster riders were and that the slower riders should take off. We left only to hit another short hill before we passed over the freeway. It didn’t take long for the other riders to overtake me. As I passed over the freeway, I could see another of the slower riders of the group ahead about 150yds. I was a little nervous about losing them, but just couldn’t find the strength to push to go faster. I was really worried.

As I started to make the turn on to Tunnel Rd. I see Shawn coming towards me, going the wrong way.. lol.. I thought something was wrong, but soon realized she had come back for me. I was so grateful, but felt like I was holding her up. She said that it was no problem and that was how they rode. No one gets left behind.

Tunnel road.. ugh.. about 6 miles of a low slow climb. Not steep enough to kill you immediately, but the kind of hill that saps you slowly and just goes on forever. After about 10 minutes, I felt like I was in a groove. Using my 2 lowest gears, just chugging away.

Shawn rode with me for a while and we chatted a bit as we rode. All of a sudden things started to get a bit harder. My quads were burning, but worse than that.. I had to pee and every time my legs came up during a peddal rotation it pushed on my bladder more. We were on the side of a hill though with no place to even squat.

Then Margaret took a turn. swinging back with me about half way up the road. Come to find out during her time riding with me that this unassuming, 40 something woman was a triathelete. As I was doing my best to breathe rythmically and not gasp for air, she tells me about how she started doing triathalons and that she’s been doing them for over 10 years.

At some point not to long after that, Shawn came back for another turn. We rode together to the first rest stop. At this point we had been riding for about 2 hours. I would tell you the mileage, but my speedometer stopped working before we even started, so I have no idea.

At the rest stop there were at least 8 women working the table and cheering as each person came in. They had water and luna electrolyte mix to refill our bottles or packs. There were bagels, pastries, see’s candies, strawberries, luna bars and all kinds of goodies to load up with, but the best, what we all couldn’t get enough of, were the homemade chocolate chip cookies. Oh my God they were the best cookies I think I’ve had since I was a little kid.

After about 10 minutes we all got back on our bikes and the slow group took off again. Right as we pulled out of the rest stop, I saw a rest stop around the corner. Shawn told me that that one is for when you come up the other side of Pinehurst. She said you’ll be thankfull it’s there later.

I think this is the part of the ride that I don’t remember so much. I know there was another up hill section, and I know I had to stop a few times just to catch my breath. My heart rate through the first 2 to 3 hours of the ride hovered around 155 to 170.

All of a sudden, the road dropped away and we were cruising downhill through redwood trees under a canopy of shade. I have never gone so fast. The decent was so long that I actually got to practice countersteering, leaning and feathering my brakes. One time I hit my brakes a little hard before a turn and felt my body fly forward. After that I sat back almost off my seat so that I put more weight in the back of the bike.

It was still foggy outside and under the trees it was very cool. My hands got so cold at one point that I couldn’t feel my fingers and got nervous that I wouldn’t be able to squeeze the brakes if I needed to.

All of a sudden the road flattened out and bamm we were in sunshine. I’m not sure how far after the decent we hit the crossroad where the 52 mile route and the 31 mile route split, but all of a sudden we were there. We had been decending so long that I think all of us felt good and strong. The group that was going on to the 52 mile route tried talking everyone in to continuing on. There was one point where I actually considered it, but then remembered how I felt climbing Tunnel Rd.

Turned out that 2 of the 4 of us that were doing the 31 mile ride decided to go with the other group. Shawn elected to stay with me, but I told her that I could follow the rest of the course by myself if she wanted to join her partner. She said no.. that she didn’t want to. I’m not sure if it was out of a sense of duty towards me or if she just really didn’t feel like it, but whatever it was that made her decide to come with me.. I was glad. At that point I thought I could do it myself, but looking back now, knowing what was to come, I’m not sure I could have.

So after a few minutes and a gel packet later, we took off, just Shawn and I. We chatted about what she does for a living, the bike shops we like and our bikes. She was ever patient with me when, after a while of false flat, we hit pinehurst.

Now, I know that a lot of cyclists that have been doing this a lot longer than I have think that this hill is tough. I’m also sure that there are many harder hills to climb, but as far as what I have experienced. This was a killer. I needed to stop to get my breath at one point. My legs were on fire and almost to the point that they wouldn’t move.

I told Shawn to keep going, that I would catch up. She went ahead, I’m sure it was harder for her to keep waiting for me than to just hit it, so I’m glad she did. This was something I needed to do on my own. She told me before she took off up the hill, “There’s no shame in walking Pinehurst”. I had almost resigned myself to walking, but I just couldn’t picture telling everyone “yeah, I busted my ass the whole time.. oh but I walked up Pinehurst”.

So a few minutes after Shawn rode away, I set off. At first my legs almost seemed new and the hill didn’t seem so steep. I thought, I CAN do this.. yeah.. I thought too soon. I probably rode about 100 yards and had to stop again. My heart rate was up at 173 and I just couldn’t push the peddals. First one rider passed, then another. I shook my legs out. I didn’t get off my bike.. just stood there for a minute.

I had to do this..

I took off again and 50 feet up around a corner, I saw a sign that said 100 yards to water stop. Oh the relief.. it was almost over! Right as I passed the sign, I looked up and saw Shawn coming down towards me. She had to have been up the hill for at least 10 minutes. I’m sure she was wondering if I was going to make it at all. She saw me and said.. “you’re almost there”. I could hear the cheers of the women at the rest stop when the last person that passed me made it up.

My legs got the last burst of strength they needed to make it to the top.

I pulled over right in front of the rest stop while all the women cheered. I wanted to say, “I don’t deserve it, I didn’t do it as well as everyone else”, but I didn’t because another part of me knew that I made it, where a lot of people wouldn’t have.. so I did deserve it.

We chatted with the women and I had a grahm cracker with peanut butter and jelley (YUM!). Shawn told me the rest of the way is all down hill. I had made it. The hard part was over.. the last 8 miles of the ride are all down hill, the fun part.

We took off and ripped down the hill.. going so fast my ears popped and I couldn’t hear anything but the wind rushing by me. As we rode into the city, I was trying to remember the race, trying to think back at the last 4 hours and remember every peice of the ride, but it just wasn’t there. I couldn’t think.. so I quit trying and just enjoyed the last of the ride.

I could feel excitement building in me as we pulled around the lake and up to the finish. I wondered if Heather and Bentrish would be there yet or still off talking somewhere. Then we crossed the finish line and I saw all kinds of people clapping and cheering for us. As they came into focus, at the beginning of the line I saw Heather.

It was the best feeling ever to know that I accomplished everything I set out to do, no matter how hard it was. I did it and there was my love waiting for me with love and pride in her eyes.

I am so thankful to the women that “babysat” me during the ride. I said that to Shawn and she said, “we didn’t babysit you, we rode together”. I told her that I didn’t mean it in a bad way, they took care of me and looked after me knowing this was my first big ride. Not everyone would do that. I’m proud of myself for making it through and I know that it took everything I had to do it, but I don’t think I would have been able to without them.

Next year.. I will at least do the 52 mile route.