Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013--A Shitty Year in Review

A dichotomy in 2013--the fn worst cycling year since 2002.  The best non cycling year with trip to Flanders.

Winter 2012-13 sucked.  Gaining weight enjoying the Giants World Series my back, hands, calves perpetually hurted through the winter which didn't allow any winter training.  "Fun" times when arthritis in hands had me straining to put on compression socks.   (Compression socks Kaiser dr prescribed in lieu of vein surgery--Kaiser non-medicine would be a theme throughout 2013.)  So I came in to 2013 the heaviest I've been in years.  Easy to lose weight in the winters when not stoking up on carbs for long rides and everyone in the office is pigging out on Holiday See's Candy--whatever weight I come in on February 1st is my base weight for the rest of the cycling year.

Going into 2013 most of my training buddies/ friends also had medical issues, so much so we sounded like we came out of a retirement community in Florida.  Christine had hip problems, Dave had neck problems--he'd give up much of his recumbent riding.  California Mike had a major immunity/ lung problem.   New rider Arizona Bill was healthy, so he decided to crash at the beginning of the year and break some ribs.   Luckily all their conditions became better.  Ward did his best Floyd Landis imitation and was killing rides on the bike but then could barely walk.     This became worse and by midyear couldn't do much of anything.   Big Jim's cancer suddenly returned at the beginning of the year and soon he was gone--the man we'd all cue up behind in the headwinds in Chico or up the Coast around Tunitas Creek.    We didn't know him but Lee Mitchell was an ever present sag master in Doubles and Brevets and he also succumbed to cancer.

Gone too were Toby and Rebecca; they moved to foreign countries England and Nevada.  So by mid year our bonus mile group was quite small.

Meanwhile Cisco Dave had a great year--he brought over two friends who were training for Devil Mountain Double.  Cisco Dave-Blinky Ray and Fredrick would eventually finish within the top 30 of DMD, and the gap between them and our old crippled group on training rides was huge.  Crap, ten years ago I could get to the Mt Diablo Ranger Station (NG) in 35 minutes easy--close to 33 minutes on a great day.  Every year since I got about 1/2 a minute slower.  During the 2012-13 winter I gained 3 minutes!  I often thought I was putting in 37 minute efforts and my cheap Timex said 41 minutes.

After my 16th place on the Mt. Tam Double in 2012, I had decided not to do any Doubles in 2013--which lead to Ms. Pumpkin and I planning a trip to Flanders.  Actually, after the Italy debacle in 2004 (where I was excluded from all planning) I got to do ALL the planning for the 2013 trip.   Who said "be careful what you wish for, as you may get it."  I started planning on January 1st and it was exhausting, though I learned a hell of a lot about Belgium and the trip came out great.   But it was strange--instead of my focus being the Alta Alpina 8 as it was in 2012, my focus was on trying to figure out what train to take from Gent to Gerrardsbergen.  Not easy when Belgium cities are spelled 3 different ways and the hotel is in Ghent, but the train station is in Gent.

We went on two memorable early season training rides, both straight out of the Wizard of Oz.   The first was on my favorite route---Patterson Pass--on Presidents day.  My favorite ride that I already had done 2x in 2013.   Trouble was that there was a little headwind on the ride

so much so Ray and Dave were holding their bikes up in the air with the wind pulling them straight out on top of Patterson Pass.

 More "be careful what you wish for.....:"   A Club ride to Pt. Reyes Lighthouse was cancelled due to drizzle by Ward and I still went on the ride--damp early but fine the rest of the day.  Our posse whined during the week "we wanted to go on the ride and see the lighthouse and dancing whales also."  So Ward and I decided we do "Century to Lighthouse Redux II."  Narrow road would be open to cars (closed the prior week during whale watching season)--so we'd have to be careful.  What we didn't count on was a STEADY minimal cross wind of 20mph coming off the ocean with gusts of 45-58mph which blew us almost off the road or into passing cars in the wide open Pt Reyes Recreation area.

Wind blowing through vests makes us all look phat
No Doubles this year but went on a series of double metric, aka 120+ miles,  with Ward, Christine, Dr. Dave and Cisco Dave.   Unfortunately, not everyone in the group was on the same ride.  First Dr. Dave and I did the new special edition of the Chico Wildflower that takes you into the hills above Paradise.   Cycling around Chico is always magical, only problem with the old course is that the last quarter was kind of pedestrian--flat into a head wind.  Well, the end of the ride is still flat and into a head wind but the portion in the hills more than makes up for any tedious portions.

Chico paid off in another big way.  I have to wear compression socks at work, after a ride, and they are a pain in the a$$.  I tried them once on a ride late last year ( Patterson Pass twice) and my legs seized up--which I was ready to blame on the compression socks.  So I didn't wear them on rides but without them my calves always ached on a ride.  At Chico I saw a guy riding with some brightly colored compression socks, not the old man knee hi's I had for recovery.  Asked him about it and was surprised to learn they were not socks but compression calf guards, which allowed him to wear any socks he wanted.   I wound up with 2XU brand and they work great.   They work wonderfully during rides and ride recovery.  Product of the year.

Chico was Jim's hometown and ride--he's watching over Dave and I on the Wildflower.

Santa Rosa Double Metric was next, with Ward and Christine.  Santa Rosa rest stops are first rate and an interesting ride that goes near the ocean and thru vineyards.  Always neck and neck with Chico for the #2 Century--but Santa Rosa went down the toilet a little when they ran out of all but rabbit food at the end of the ride.  Don’t mind cliff bar food on self supported 100 mile ride—but if paying big $$$$$ for the joy to get up early and riding thru crowds the rest stops and end o meal area best be well stocked.

The best was yet to come--the original Sierra Century.  By this time Ward, Christine and Dr. Dave were on the injured reserve list and it looked like I'd do this solo when Cisco Dave jumped in at the last minute.   Except for getting dropped on a young person paceline into Volcano and on the last climb of the day--two things that wouldn't have happened in prior years, it was a great day.



Trip to Flanders came up quickly as I was pouring over Google Earth for interesting long walks.  Ms. Pumpkin has been off the bike so we decided to make this a non-biking vacation, and we kept hitting home runs.   Didn't rent a car--took the train around with stays in Brussels> Gent (day trips to Gerrardsbergen and Oudengaaede)> Bruge> Amsterdam.  Amsterdam was nice but we were a little jaded by the time we got there as nicer canals in Gent and Bruge and Brussels is a less crowded city.

Loads of photos taken at the bottom of the page--these are the 3 "take away" photos from the trip--two from the famous Mur of Gerrardsbergen which was just like walking around the Polo Grounds, and the Manneken Pis which set a theme for fun loving Flanders..

Was planning to do the Mt Shasta Summit Century a few weeks after I returned from vacation--exchewing the Mt. Tam Double, my favorite 200 miler.  Two unanticipated events along the way.  First I got the "airplane cold" which meant few weeks of relatively little riding.  Then Ward's mystery problem took a turn for the worse--at the beginning of the year he walked like Gabby Hayes but was riding as fast as Bullet Bob Hayes.   Now he couldn't get on the bike--and this was an event he always wanted to do.

I did the ride with Cisco Dave, Dr. Dave and Jack.  Actually Dr. Dave and I did 97% of the ride.   About 3 miles from the top of the last climb I was falling apart in a big way and when Dr. Dave said  "we've now done as much climbing as the "Death Ride."   I was ripe for turning around on the spot and coasting down Mt. Shasta.  In prior years not finishing a ride would really burn my ass--this year I really didn't care.

Near the end of the summer our bike club went AWOL.  With Jim dead and Ward injured, and a small group doing cycle Oregon, for a couple of weeks 1-2 people would show up for rides during prime cycling weather.  Our Club, without ride leaders, was always hard for new riders to get into--conversely we used to have a half-dozen from our small club on a out of area Double because of the hard riding and bonus miles we do.  Ms. Pumpkin got back into cycling so I blew off most of the shorter Sunday rides to sleep late--stay local--and go out on my fixie with Ms. Pumpkin. This allowed for gardening/ home improvements and the other chores I neglected for 7-9 years of constant long rides on weekend.

A few old Club members who haven't ridden in awhile rode a few weeks with the group--including two of my favorites Sara and Rusty.  Ca. Mike was recovering from early season sickness nicely but marooned in San Mateo so different members of the bonus mile group joined him for the great hilly metric-Tunitas Creek.   By the end of the year the bonus mile group wasn't doing 100 milers--a metric century was fine.

Ward taught us how we should always be on the lookout for interesting photos, or at least ones that will benefit from Photoshoppe.

Big surprise toward the end of the summer--my best friend from college made it to California.  I hadn't seen Al in more than a dozen years but retelling the crap that happened to us in college seemed so vivid as if it happened last month.
Al was the quickest white point guard in the 'hood.   Was the pseudo radical teacher in the school bullshit intersession course--The Politics of Sports--really such an asshole?  Yep--we each remembered many of the same highlights.  

The Mt. Shasta ride showed I couldn't motor thru long rides anymore (and I rode relatively easy for 120 miles?) so figured I needed to get a power meter.   They are expensive and I have one in the works now--but before getting one I needed a device that "reads" the power meter and I wound up getting a Garmin..  I am impressed with the Garmin--the heart rate monitor reads much better than my old clunky one that cut out and jumped around to make it a pain in the ass.   You can customize the read out--one I have on it is % grade which I always wanted to know during the ride.

I also went on Strava, which I've ripped in the past.    The competition against strangers is ridiculous but you can see the breakdown of a course you rode and see where you are slacking.   Do I fall off on the Mt. Diablo climb--mile 5, as compared to the first couple of miles?  What is the highest heart rate I can maintain without topping out?   For a social experiment I did create a goofy segment that had been contested recently.  More on that in a few months.

Meanwhile Kaiser can't figure out what's wrong with Ward except to send him for yoga.  And the rest of us also get older and older--with more and more club members doing less riding and more talking about the "good old days."  Well, I'm not aging gracefully and I'm getting older kicking and screaming.  I don't plan to do any Double next year but a few climbing double metrics which were too damn hard this year.  I'm making up for my lack of winter training last year by redoubling my effort this year.  On Festivus Day I was the lightest I was all year--OK 6 months too fn late for the 2013 cycling season but a good start going into 2014.  (I also pulled my sacroiliac back joint last week after thinking this is the first year in a while I didn't do it--crap.)

Of course I should mention that Lancy finally got his just deserts--maybe we wouldn't see scores of riders decked out in Discovery kits and yellow/ black Giro helmets on Century rides.  Usually I get no joy from someone else's misfortune but Armstrong was so fn smug for so long and was obviously running a personal vendetta against anyone who didn't get with "the program."  The Lance sycophants new mantra is that "well, everyone did it."  To that end read a good book from WSJ reporters--"The Wheelmen."   The book deals with the systematic doping, led by part owner Lance Armstrong, on US Postal/ DIscovery and how the team and cycling's governing body itself was organized to protect him.  Its deals with Lance's vendetta against anyone who wasn't 1000% behind him including a temporary head of the Lance Armstrong Foundation who had the audacity to also be friends with Greg LeMond (p.162)

To those who think that Lance's doping was just more of the usual:

A longtime mechanic talks about doping on 2000 US Postal --'it went beyond the occssional pill or injection.  The team bus was like a hospital.'  "This isn't cycling anymore," (Julien) de Vriese told (Greg) LeMond. (p. 155, Nook version page)

Ahead of the 199 season Armstrong felt the team doctor was too conservative in helping the team with their doping and Pedro Celaya was let go (p. 127)

Fifty blood samples from 1999 were tested in 2004 when a test to detect EPO was formulated.  A 12 of the 50 were positive (24%)--half of the positive tests belonged a rider with the same identification number--later discovered to be Armstrong. (p. 210-end)

In 2006 Floyd Landis left the Postal/ Discovery Team and signed with Phonak.  "Landis could barely walk.  The only physical activity he could do, actually, was ride a bike.  Of course he was doing that with the help of doping, and he would need to keep doping if he were to have a chance of winning the Tour.  But doping had become increasingly problematic for him as the Phonak team had no organized system for it. " (p224-225)

Nostalgic winter project.  Have a ton of music CDs. The sale of the year used to be the January Tower Clearance sale where the obscure labels went on sale.  Other times of the year dropped my daughter off at gymnastics next door and I had an hour to pick a CD among the labels on that weeks sale.  Last bad advice I gave her--don't buy singles, buy whole albums if you like an artist so you hear the obscure stuff they don't play on radio.  Now everything is a single, and electronically downloaded.  So slowly listening to two CD's a day during the commute, coming home and ripping select tracts onto USB stick, which my car and home stereo runs off of.  Eventually the CDs, now taking up bookcases, will wind up boxed in the garage.  CD's I forgot I had like Fleetwood Mac's 'Them Played On'--when they were a blues band before they became a pop band.

In 2014 Mike and Don may be doing longer brevets getting ready for another P-B-P run.  Hopefully Dr. Dave, Cisco Dave and Christine stay healthy and Kaiser stops fning around and gets Ward back on the active list.  Cycling is fun as its an excuse to talk about politics, sports, music and look out for Kodak moments, and that is why the bonus mile group is so great.    But a crappy 2013 followed the all time great 2012 year--so as usual, who the hell knows what 2014 is going to bring.






Diablo Scott said...

That photo of the cows and the windmills would make a really cool animation... time to upgrade.

Pumpkincycle said...

See the original post--this was a still from the animation from it.

Thanks for reading and to a great cycling season in 2014. Best-