Tuesday, February 25, 2014

1st Century of 2014--Calaveras and North Gate Mt Diablo

(February 22, 2014)  Walnut Creek to Calaveras & North gate Mt Diablo Junction Bonus, 106 miles, 5,381', 15mph, w/ CA Mike, Queen of the Mountain Christine, Arizona (soon to be Cowboy) Bill, Jeanne & Matt until he got lost

Great weather in mid 70's promised for the weekend.   Originally I thought of doing an organized metric in the valley run by great doubles and rest stop workers Doug and Joni--the Pedaling Path for Independence ride.  But traveled to Los Angeles last weekend and next weekend the first Davis brevet--so pooped and wanted to stay local.  Also wanted to do more than 60 miles to get ready for 120 mile brevet.

Diablo Cyclist ride wasn't much better--50 miles of East Bay Hills.  OK ride, nothing to get excited about and was too short--for training and especially for what promised to be a beautiful day. 

Early in the week Mike was in for changing the route and making it longer.  Christine has been on bicycle sabbatical for a couple of months so was game for changing the route but not adding many miles.  I said I'd do Calaveras--the second best ride on our schedule.  The middle section--from Sunol to the end of Calaveras, is a lightly traveled rustic road that becomes tree lined and gently climbs on the way out.  Mike and Christine would commit to Sunol.

Small group at the start of the Club ride when we proposed the alternate course.  Christine was real excited to see me--so she could show me her NEW stem bag discovery.   A few years back Christine got us all to attach small camera bags on our stems--which is great for getting drugs or an actual camera out of our pockets.  Now she had a new one--but I surprised her by showing off my new top tube bag for the same purpose.  Its tapered so I don't whack it with my knee when climbing and it generally stays out of the way.

Jeanne--who much rather be in a sprint any day than take a long ride (she still has Davis Double flashbacks) said she come along though a little apprehensive about the 80 mile distance as was Christine.  Climber Matt would ride out with us but then solo to points beyond--which usually meant the demonic Sierra Road.  OK--if everyone else turned around at Sunol I'd have some company at the end of Calaveras.  If I was going to solo I'd keep going to Ed Levin Park to get water and then have to reclimb back to Calaveras.

There was some morning chill but Christine shamed me into taking off the knee warmers--and as I probably wouldn't miss them in a 1/2 hour it was good she did.   Mike didn't have knee warmers--his reason was that he wanted to get his legs darker than his white shoes.
Sometimes our paceline looks good....

...and sometimes it goes to shit

Uneventful trip out to Sunol--except for a Cinderella training group learning how to stop on their bikes and totally block the bike lane.   Cowboy Bill took a few flyers off the front but we were riding to keep Christine and Jeanne comfortable.....so they;d continue to Calaveras, so the pace was steady but moderate.   From Zappa to Pink Floyd to the Kinks to the Killers it seems we spend a lot of time bs'ing about music.

First time in a long while we got to the Sunol hill and no one tried to shoot off--we just stayed in a nice pack as we had done for the whole run in from San Ramon/ Dublin (suburban ugly) to the 9 mile run in to Sunol which doesn't have lots of traffic or traffic controls.    I opened up my springtime nutrition campaign by having my first frozen fruit bar of the year--perfect riding food for warm weather.
Jeanne and Christine discussing strategy to podium the upcoming Cinderella All Girls Event

Lots of groups that had started closer to Calaveras were already coming back.  The beginning of the 15 miles is flat and we stayed in a nice paceline.  We passed a couple and shouted out friendly greetings--and then heard a voice "what, you don't recognize me??"  It was Diablo Cyclists Ex-President Trina (as the DC's don't have any officers I don't know how she became president.)   Hadn't been on a ride with her in a few years, we caught up on some news and she promised to ride with the Club.

Organized rides need to serve frozen fruit bars
We hit the hills--mostly a gentle climb on a narrow tree lined road, with a few grade kicks around sharp hairpins.  Cowboy Bill and Matt took off, Christine and I formed the 2nd group and Mike rode in support of Jeanne behind.   Coming from the other direction was a familiar sight--Cisco Dave and the Flying FU Boys.

The group pacelining towards the rustic part of Calaveras.  Wonder what Mike said to Matt to have him take off.

Christine and I stopped a few times for photos.  Fun about going at a moderate pace this time, is that the 2nd time you do a course on Strava you can KILL all of the same segments.  and get kudos galore.  When we got to the end of the road and an infamous driveway with the big tree that all cyclists pile into and block, Bill and I continued on for the half mile down and up "THE WALL"--the only real steep climb of the day.  We saw a few cyclists on it who didn't look happy.

Christine and I mugging for the camera with the reservoir in the background.   Note the new top tube bag--perfect for carrying a phone and drugs.

Its a fast return to Sunol on the slightly downhill, curvy course--I definitely have more fun on the uphill out portion.  On the return trip I'd get sawed off on a sudden downhill and have to make up ground on a roller.  Outside of Sunol we passed a small store and the FU Boys were there resting--Dave called out if I was going to stop for a fruit bar and I yelled back that I already had one.  But they had been 1 1/2 hours ahead of us--why were they here??  Oh crap, they must have done the sinister Welch Creek Road climb that is off to the side.  Its something I had never done.  Dave told me the next day that they indeed did it and it was the worse climb he has been on.

Christine and Mike on the return trip of the Calevares.
We got back to Sunol seemingly in no time, and there we ran into Kitty--past Triple Crown Stage Race champ and 1st woman to attempt RAAM.  Kitty usually has a lot more endurance than speed, but today she was pushing the pace.  She may have not liked all the talk of Christine and Jeanne being the upcoming Cinderella Champs.
If you ride 1000kms you can have real ice cream.

Cowboy Bill ready to hop the train

Was going to go up Diablo from the easy side--Southgate--if Mike rode home but he had parked his car close to our start, so I rode back with the group.   This meant that at mile@85, if I wanted to go up Diablo it would have to be from the hard Northgate side.    Well, with the moderate pace I still felt good--hell, no one really sprinted at the end of Danville Blvd into Walnut Creek--and that NEVER happens. 

Figured I had two hours before it got dark, and grabbed a wind breaker from the car, reflilling water, a chomping down a nut bar, it was off to Mt Diablo.  It was still beautiful and sunny out and lots of cyclists now coming down off of Mt. Diablo.  BEST thing I did was pull off t-shirt before I started climbing.

Some orange California poppies were out and the climb was enjoyable.  Till about the steep 1000' mark.  Then everything started to tighten up, my legs had nothing left, and it seemed like a good idea to go back down.  But though I'd be happier for the next hour I'd be po'd at myself for the next week, so the second half of the climb to the Junction was not the best.  It's the time that you are thirsty but the sports drink tastes like shit.
The Mt Diablo Junction late in the day.

Junction was deserted and the setting sun was throwing long shadows.   Being brain dead I hit the wrong button on my new Garmin which indicates ride over instead of lap reset (which I did every time pulling into a rest stop.)   So later Garmin congratulated me for my longest Garmin ride ever of 96 miles instead of the 106 done.   Yep, if Garmin doesn't record it--it doesn't count.

Next day's usually ez 40 mile fixed gear ride with Mrs. Pumpkin was torture.   Yes dead--let's go back and forth in the reservoir watershed to get some nice FLAT spinning miles instead of doing hill repeats up to the dam.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Hiking In Los Angles

(President's Day Weekend 2014)   Usually President's Day Weekend is a great chance to get in three major rides back to back to back.  A few years ago it was Patterson Pass Self Supported Centuries two days in a row.  Three day weekends are now great to visit my daughter so it was a bike free three day weekend (she did offer to take us on a cruiser bike ride on the Santa Monica Boardwalk.)

OK--here are the two great thing about LA.  The winter weather is nicer than the San Francisco Bay Area, easily 10 degrees warmer.   The place is filled with starlet wanna be's jogging around in yoga outfits.

This is all negated by the PARKING which is nonexistent and TRAFFIC which sucks.

In the 1970's Los Angeles was still the city of the future.  Remember that World Series where palm trees sprouted around short sleeve shirt wearing fans at Dodger Stadium while fans were bundled in winter jackets while the Bronx was burning outside Yankee Stadium.   Forget clunky mass transit--jump in your sports car and zip to your destination.

Forty years later.  Every street and highway in Los Angles is at a near standstill.  There are malls with mega garages that you have to pay to park in--oh, first hour is free but it takes 1/2 hour to find an open space.   Parking on the street is a joke---remember to move your car in two hours as only some two hour limit spots were open.   A big cheer lets out when we actually hit 20mph while stuck on another LA Freeway during off commute hours.

The Kalifornia Krazy urban planning ain' much better.  Multimillion dollar extravagant shopping plaza in the middle of Hollywood--two block later are rows of blood bank/ pawn shop stores covered by massive security gates.

In the stress of driving around a few too many "Home for the Holidays" moments interfered with all of us just relaxing, but we did get in a few nice activities.

Statues at the Staples Center.   One thing LA did correctly in the past decade is move their sports arena of the future--the Fabulous Forum (which looked great on TV but was actually a dump) from the edge of the LA Metro Area to downtown.   In the front of the Staples Center are a bunch of nicely done statues that give homage to the stars that have played for the local indoor teams.  And as the Lakers had 3 of the top 10 basketball players of all time and the Kings had one of the top 3 hockey players of all time, they are really honoring some all time greats.   I was a Lakers fan growing up and it was a kick seeing the Jerry West statue.  My only complaint about the artwork is that while most of the statues look kinetic, the one of Wayne Gretzy is kinda motionless--like the Orlando Cepeda statue at AT&T Park.   My other complaint is where is the Wilt Chamberlain statue?--Wilt was a Laker for the last 5 seasons of his career and winning the 1971-72 championship with that all time great Laker team.  Maybe Wilt is "overlooked" by the Lakers as he was a basketball nomad..if so what a shame.

OK--its nice that they have a statue for longtime announcer Chick Hearn, but before one of Wilt Chamberlain?

First time I gave the car Garmin a workout and it was great--much easier than trying to read MapQuest print outs while driving in traffic (which had been much better than navigating by Triple AAA road maps that somehow were always to the wring scale of what you needed.)

Hiking Above Santa Monica-Temescal Trail in Temescal Gateway Park-
I didn't think this hike would be too strenuous in an urban park but I was wrong.  Undulating hike on narrow dirt trails.   About 4-5 miles.   I didn't think twice when I forgot my hiking shoes in the car and did it in beat up loafers, until 1 mile into the hike.   Nice circular route with lots of good views.

Every view of downtown Los Angeles (background) has it deep in dark grey air.

Later we ate a funky Los Angeles institution--the Farmers Market.   A relic of an international food Court mixed with produce stands.  Unfortunately now attached to a mega mall which is made to look like main street Disney with a parking garage on steroids and 11 open spaces in the whole garage--have fun trying to find them.

Hike In the Hollywood Hills to Griffith Observatory-On getaway day we took a morning hike that was about half as long as the day before but climbing almost immediately.  Today the dirt trail was wide and hard packed.  The art deco Griffith Observatory loomed overhead.    Though the observatory was closed lots of people enjoying the hike.    Many good views of the LA basin.  After enjoying the surroundings at the top we took a different way back.  Going west we could have linked up with the much longer walk towards the HOLLYWOOD sign, instead we hit a path that followed the "old" cooling water runoff (no longer in use) from the observatory--lots of nature along with stone walls in the middle of nowhere.

Only blight on the day was 3 "cars" now waiting for my parking space, and one not letting me leave as he was blocking me while waiting for a parking space across the street.  So LA......

Friday, February 14, 2014

Winter Training and Gino Bartali

Not a lot of rides to write about.   Abnormally dry December-January so chances for lots of good hilly rides.  For various reasons they have just wound up a few miles more than a metric--so not self supported century rides.   Usually Dr. Dave and I are riding solo after the Diablo Cyclist club ride and our bonus miles are to go half way up Mt. Diablo--which seems like a good idea until we start up.
Dr. Dave dreams of starting a zorbing program on Mt. Diablo next month

The "team" is still scattered to all points of the witness protection program.   Ward is still on the Injured Reserve list from something undetermined. CA Mike and Christine had bad winter colds. Cisco is fixing up a house.  Only good thing is that I ran into Jerry, a friendly Mountain bike racer who who helped me get through the Sierra Century Double Metric in 2003, and now he's gone on a few rides with our Club.

The only constant on winter rides is newly retired Dr. Dave kicking my and everyone else's butt.    A few times we'd come back "on the Boulevard" which seems to bring out the sprinters (and recumbent that look like silver roaches")   and some young big guvs would squeeze ahead of our group.   I always thought of Dr. Dave as more of a climber than a sprinter but in retirement he must be on the Cipollini training program.  A few weeks in a row Dave judged the hi-jinx perfectly and he zipped in front of the young guys and stayed there.    He is now on vacation and threatens to lose all bits of fitness when he returns after setting a Strava best on the zorbing course.

I've been having a real good training winter.   I'm back to my weight pre Winter bloat of 2012-13, and have not strained anything where I can do weight and cardio training.   I'm not eyeing any doubles this year (I'm retired from them !!!--shit, the double metrics were hard enough last year), but look forward to the great Sierra (the best ride!!) Double Metric Century, the Mt Shasta Summit Double Metric (Maybe I'll finish it this year), the 5! pass Alta Alpina which is on the Death Ride course,  and the climbing Motherload Century which will be new for me but Dr. Dave has raved about in past years.

Suddenly, during the end of January into February weekend rides have been few and far between.  First visited family in Florida--of course I picked the WARMEST week in the Bay Area to go to the coldest week in Florida.  (I took cycling gear to hit the velodrome but it was closed to the public for the full week)  When I returned it started raining here which made me miserable but everyone else happy as we were in the midst of a drought.   This weekend going to off to Hollyweird to visit my daughter. Starting next week I should get back to long Saturday Self Supported Century rides and Sunday recovery rides on the fixed gear.

(top) My nieces at a crafts fair in Boca del Vista and  (bottom) my mom and I at "THE Pastrami CLUB" where I ate almost every night.    No Hammar products allowed.   

I've gone back to my wintertime "Alta Alpina" training loop.   A brief explanation--before doing the Alta Alpina 8 I knew I'd be riding downhill at night, and I dislike downhill and riding and night and cold and.......So the two winters before last I'd go out to a mile and a quarter neighborhood climb on my fixed gear a few nights a week.   The climb averages 3% though it is about 4-5% at the beginning, flattens out towards 1% in the middle, and goes back to 5-8% at the end.   The good thing about the Judsonville loop (now the Mur de Judsonvilleburg) is that there are NO cross streets on the loop, and on the 5-8% downhill there are no houses on the right so no worries about a car pulling out of a driveway.    At night there is a closed road leading to a popular mountain bike park, so if one drank to much beer.....
The Mur de Judsonville loop.   Yellow arrows indicates climbs, green is kinda flat, blue is downhill.  Luckily its open space on the right side of the downhill.

Arizona Bill says this elevation profile (about 1,800' in 25 miles) looks like waves.

There quite a few homes with Lion of Flanders statuary outside their home--a good sign.  They need to repave the climb with cobblestones--at least the end.
Where I start the Mur de Judsonville, a .3 mile uphill stretch on the main road (with a bike lane) until...

.....a right turn across ornamental cobblestones where there are alternating fairly flat to 3-5% sections
The last .3 miles the road kicks up to 5-8%.    Lion of Flanders statues appear .

Road kicks up even more for the final push.  More Lion of Flanders statues.
On downhill luckily open space on the right--especially at night.


I started doing the loop on the fixie, but my leg strength is good--I have to work on building up my aerobics so I switched to my race bike with heavy wheels.   I need to ride longer at a higher heart rate than I do "fixed gear weight lifting," so the switch has been good.  My breathing when it is cool and damp have always been a problem, but I am riding well now so I'm excited for when it gets hot and dry.   Then of course there is........Strava motivation..

The last .9 of the uphill is a popular local time trial course.   The climb, however, starts .3 miles before.  The climb grade is already a little too light so I liked the thought of adding the .3 mile.    My training routine is to do the 1.3 mile climb over and over--looping around back to the start is about 2.5 miles--and on select climbs I'd give a good effort.  Go easy on climbs 1, 3, 5 and hard on 2, 4, 6, and then do 7, 8 as cool down climbs.  When it warms up I hope to put in a good effort 6 times in a row.    

Oh yeah-Strava motivation on the hard efforts.    The first time I did the loop I was surprised to see I was in 2nd place.   The next time out I crept into 1st.   As I've said, if you don't like someone create a Strava segment in front of their house.  Once created their once quiet street will be filled with cyclists going back and forth trying to win the "Joe's Cul De Sac Hydrant to Driveway Sprint." 

On the Mur de Judsonvilleburg, within a week 2 guys riding together were up +18, +10 seconds faster than me (I got to get my Club out here so we can paceline some segments.)  I'd be lying if I said this wasn't a little extra motivation on my hard loops.  So the next time I went out--my best effort improved by 6 seconds leaving me +12, +4 seconds behind.  

The next night was a rest night where I am slowly converting my CD collection into tracks for a USB stick.  So two nights later I was ready for another 25 mile nighttime training ride.  I thought my three efforts were good but I have no clue until I plug in the Garmin for results.  My best improved by 16 seconds on run #2 (hell, I would have sworn that run #4 was better) and I took over 1st.  Yippie.

I'm sure I'll be knocked out from the leader board within a month--which is fine as it is nice motivation apart from my usual outlook that training should be hard so the Double Metrics will be become easier.  It is also additional motivation to keep me off the indoor trainer which I've grown to hate.


Another cycling local blogger took stock of cycling books during the damp weather.   Focusing on Lancy books, blogger Curtis writes "I'm keeping them to remind myself that having heroes is a childish fantasy and I need to be grown up."  I tipped him off to a book I just finished reading about a pro cyclist--Gino Bartolli--who might have been the MOST heroic of all 20th century athletes.

"Road to Valor--A True Story of WWII Italy, The Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired A Nation."   My friend John enthusiastically tipped me off about the book and loaned me his copy.  Now John is the most interesting man I know (he should be in those beer commercials), loves cycling, but usually isn't enthused about pro athletes.   Every time I ran into him he was raving about this book on Gino Bartali.  Gino who?  Gino won the Tour de France twice, holding the record of longest time span between victories.  Of course a little thing like WWII wiped out the peak of his career.  So did sage training/ medical advice from the middle of the 20th century.

"In 1946 Gino began to notice a change in how his heart was behaving at the beginning of races.  Specifically, he felt it was beating more regularly but less frequently that it had before the war.  "I was slow to get into gear, my body was numb," Gino explained, like a "racing car" with a cold motor. ...he visited a doctor.  Amazingly the doctor shared his concern and encouraged him to have a couple of cups of coffee and a few cigarettes before every race to speed up his heart." (p172-173)

The book is great as well written, and it puts everything into a historic context.   Living under Italian Fascists and then occupied by German Nazis made everything worse in Italy as time went on.  Gino actively worked for a few local church cells  that were manufacturing forged identity papers to help protect Jews and other enemies of the Fascist state--he'd transport the forged papers from the printer hidden in his bike tubes while going on long training rides, while trying to avoid Nazi checkpoints.

After the war, while a shell of his former self and entered in the Tour de France,  there was almost a civil war in Italy when there was an assassination attempt on the Italian opposition leader.   Unrest was swelling.  The leader of Italy phoned Gino--in the middle of a Tour de France where he was considered a has been and out of contention, and Gino was told that his winning a stage would help pacify the growing unrest.   Gino then went out and won the next mountain stage, and the next mountain stage, and emerged as the Tour de France leader.   Most of Italy joined together to celebrate his triumph.

Gino Bartali--a real  hero.