Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Big Birds

Quickly upon the commencement of my ride this morning, I saw a cool Red-Tailed Hawk dive down and grab a mouse out of a field.  Then, on Magnolia, another hawk/falcon jumped out of the brush with a talon-full of grass, presumably to build a nest.  It became clear that this morning’s ride would be the ‘bird’ commute.  Having seen turkeys almost every day this week on Camino Alto, I mentally committed to stopping to snap a few pictures if I bumped into them again today.  Predictably, I saw a group of three turkeys as the downhill portion began.  They were a bit high on the hill but I was able to get a few pics.

Disappointed by the zoom on my iPhone, I rolled slowly down the hill looking for another group of birds.  As I picked up speed, I passed a lone bird within a foot of the white line.  I doubled back to get a better shot.  Unfortunately, I had put my phone back in my backpack after the first group of turkeys.  In my rustling around in the backpack, the turkey hightailed it up the hill.  Still, I got a good picture and also practiced my ‘gobble-gobble call’, yelling back and forth with him (her?) a few times.

Satisfied with the turkeys, I continued the normal commute.  I snapped a shot of the Snow Geese that are traveling through Marin.  Large groups of these guys are standard Mill Valley Bike Trail (as are lots of ducks).

Having ridden pretty slowly up through Sausalito, I was doubly pleased to pass a guy riding up the Alexander climb.  Then just as I was cresting the first hill, I was joined by BryanB hammering up to meet/pass me (he doesn’t really have to try that hard).  Bryan used me as an excuse to not work in a Headlands Loop (he is training for The Death Ride,, in July) and we rode together into Fort Mason.  We decided to stop and send a picture to StravaMo who has not been riding much due to an injury.

Then Bryan dropped the bomb on me.  Since we skipped the Headlands, he insisted that we do the Hyde Street hill up to Lombard and then finish on Columbus Avenue through North Beach.  Noting my eye-roll, Bryan said, “Don’t worry.  You have the Cross bike.  Those gears will get you there.”  I took the bait and we headed up.  The Hyde Street hill is about one-fifth of a mile at an average of 17.8% grade (compared to the “stupid” Wildomar climb in Mill Valley on 5/11/12 which is half the length but a slightly steeper grade, 19.8%).  The hill is divided into two sections.  I did pretty well on the first two-thirds as the hill flattened for 30 feet at Chestnut Street.  Then the ride continued straight up to Lombard Street.  At the mid-point of the last third, the bike was literally stopping between each revolution of the pedals.  My lungs were hanging there, but my legs simply could go no further.  It took all the effort that I had just to unclip out of the pedals and catch myself from falling into the Cable Car tracks.  I walked the last 50 feet to a panting Bryan waiting for me at the top.

Hyde Street was not to be for me this morning.  But I will conquer her one of these days.  And closing the loop on the Big Bird theme … Being unable to finish the Hyde Street hill, I, obviously, was the biggest turkey of the day.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Not According to Plan

It all started pretty standard.  Amy wanted to run in the AM, so I slept in until 6.15am and got off to a 6.50-some departure.  This was my fourth ride in this week, with two round trips, so I was feeling pretty beat.  As I got on the bike, I decided to spin super-easy with the goal of hammering for a single five-minute section of the entire ride.  Rather than take Camino Alto, I wanted to take Meadowsweet and destroy StravaMo’s PR going up that hill.  Keep in mind, this is not an easy task for me.  StravaMo had dozens of runs up that hill, some slow and some fast.  And he is a much stronger climber than I am and weighs at least 50 pounds less than I do.  But, hey, it would be fun trying.

To give myself an unfair advantage, I started hitting the pedals well before I got to Peet’s coffee.  I figured that Mo and crew start the Meadowsweet hill from a standstill.  I could gain a few seconds by giving myself a running start.  By mid-hill, however, it was pretty clear that I did not have it in me.  Sadly, I bonked and cruised the rest of the way.  Whether it was the dead legs from the weekly commute or the old bike … I just didn’t have it in me.  I did beat my own PR by 9 seconds (from 5 minutes 1 second to 4 minutes 52 seconds) but Strava Mo is safely 25 seconds ahead of me at 4.27.

Having worked up a pretty good head of steam going up Meadowsweet, I somehow got comfortable in a particular gear in the big ring and sorta just kept it going – contrary to my original intention of a slow roll.  I caught my breath and beat the lactic acid out of my legs going down the hill passed the school and the Post Office. And by the time I got to the Mill Valley Bike Trail, I was feeling pretty strong.  Not really paying attention, I looked down at the Garmin and noticed that I was going around 20 miles per hour, well faster than my usual pace.  There was no wind to speak of (neither tail nor head), but I somehow got to that speed and kept it there.

I then recalled the Strava Segment ‘Blithedale to Financial District’.  Despite my riding from Blithedale to San Francisco every day, I don’t trigger this segment.  I turn off the Embarcadero down Battery Street to go to work where this segment wraps around the Embarcadero to Market Street.  My 2 percent digression from the route disqualifies me from ranking.  So, while still in Mill Valley, I decided to keep up the pace and continue on the Embarcadero to get a good time on this segment.  I felt OK going up to the Bridge (I did that segment in 6.32, 22 seconds off my PR).  But I really got in the groove on all the flat sections of the ride – the Bike Trail, Bridgeway, the Bridge, Chrissy Field, etc.  Once I put the effort to get up to speed, it takes pretty little energy to maintain that speed.  But the initial push can often be more work than I am willing to exert.

Parking my bike in the garage, my Garmin read 22.6 miles versus the typical 21.5ish and the clock read 1 hour and 19 minutes of elapsed time.  On my usual route, anything south of 1 hour 20 minutes is a good pace for me, so I knew that I had put in some good times this morning.  Downloading the data, I put in my third fastest time ever on the ‘Commute TT’ from the Bike Trail to Chrissy Field.  And as for the ‘Blithedale to Financial District’ segment, I destroyed my old time, cutting almost 7 ½ minutes off of my previous record – 47 minutes 59 seconds down from 55.25 (and taking the lead from Jeff C in the Muy Buenos Dias crowd by nearly 3 minutes).

As I reflect on this morning’s ride (cue soft music and birds chirping), it dawned on me that I did all of this ON MY OLD CROSS BIKE.  Yup, the same bike that I complained on Wednesday, “… it is also a slug going up hills (even harder than normal) and a significant effort to keep the bike moving at the same speeds that the road bike can achieve.”  And I did this totally solo, with not a single second of drafting throughout the ride.  The solo part makes sense, as I tend to be a chatty Cathy on group rides.  But the cross bike thing baffles me.  I guess my quick pace mostly depends on my mood.  But if that is true, then why spend thousands of dollars on fancy bike equipment?  I should just sell my new carbon bike (which should be built by the end of next week) and buy a $300 Cruiser.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cross Bike, A Moron and a Douche Bag

"Cross Bike, A Moron and a Douche Bag".  Isn't that the title of a Tom Wolfe novel?  Or maybe Hemingway.

This morning’s ride could not have been more pleasant.  The sun is up by 5.50am so the need for bike lights is almost gone.  I have been braving Downtown San Anselmo without a front light simply for the ease of not worrying that the lights will get stole off my bike in the new garage.  It is not quite regular short-sleeves weather yet.  But I can feel it around the corner.  The winds are crazy at this time of year.  But that just gets me a little more exertion and exercise.

The Cross bike is holding up as a fantastic replacement bike while the new bike gets built up.  It is amazing how comfortable this cross bike is compared to the old race/road bike.  I don’t know enough about bike geometry to tell you whether it is the wheel base or the angle of the fork or the 28mm tires or whatever.  But I can tell you that I am flying downhill these days.  For some reason, it is just feels safer to go faster downhill.  That said, it is also a slug going up hills (even harder than normal) and a significant effort to keep the bike moving at the same speeds that the road bike can achieve.

I have not mentioned one of my road girlfriends on this blog before.  But Johnny and I saw her this morning again.  We have bumped into this moron several times over the last 12 months, always in the same place ... Battery Street (the very end of our commute) between 6.50 and 7.10am.  She drives a white, older model Nissan Altima with the license plate starting with a 6 and ending with 567 (I’ll get the full plate one of these days).  Anyways, on our first memorable encounter with the moron, we were merging from the  Embarcadero onto Battery.  There is a bike lane that on the left of the car traffic on the Embarcadero which allows bikes to turn and ride on the left hand side of Battery..  As we start to turn, out of nowhere, this moron starts honking, yelling and revving her engine.  She got inches from our rear wheels and then sped off around us.  Johnny caught up to her to give her a talking-to and all I caught was the end of the exchange;  the woman screaming the F-Word and waving her coffee in one hand and cell phone and cigarette in the other.  After seeing her a few more times, Johnny and I vowed to get the better of her in future exchanges.  Another time, I was riding in the left-most lane with a lot of other car traffic when this moron sped up a bit too close to me.  I gave her a look that probably was not too nice, and before I could say a word, she busted out with some serious F-Bombs, and called me both the C-Word and the N-Word (I have been called a lot of things in my time, but never the N-Word.  I have been previously called the C-Word).  Note to self … this moron is crazy.  This morning, we saw her again.  Being the jerk that I am, I rode up past her as she was stopped at a red light (surprising that she even stopped) and got right in the middle of the lane in front of her. Johnny followed me to do the same.  As the light changed, I lead out and she blasted by us ON THE LEFT IN THE LANE FOR METERED PARKING.  As she swerved back into the correct driving lane, she jerked her wheel in our direction and would have hit us if we had not slowed down to avoid her aggressive move.  Catching up to her again at the next red light, the smoke from her marijuana joint was as obvious as day.  She threw out a few cuss words and we opted to let her go without further issue.  One of these days she is going to kill someone on Battery Street.  Even without my provocation, we've seen her fly at 50 miles per hour down that street.  She must do the same thing even on the days that we don’t see her.  So much for San Francisco’s finest.

And then the Douche Bag … As I was hanging up my clothes in the gym locker, preparing to get in the shower, cooling down from the moron interaction, a fellow bike rider walked up to the locker next to mine.  He was dressed in all black gear, full pants, jacket, bike hat under his helmet, all matching with Colnago labels everywhere.  But the thing that caught my fancy was the fact that he was still in his bike shoes and booties (booties also matching Colnago brand).  I couldn’t resist.  I said, “Booties in May?  That’s pretty aggressive.  Where are you coming in from”.  He response was classic.  He looks at me with his nose turned up and says, “Its pretty windy where I ride.  It gets cold.  Gotta protect myself.  I come in all the way from Sea Cliff.”  I just giggled and nodded having just ridden in five times the distance of his commute in a tornado ... wearing just a long sleeve under top and mountain bike shoes.  Douche Bag.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday MoMiles

StravaMo has an amazing talent.  He can turn my leisurely 21 mile commute into a hellish climbing extravaganza.  He can somehow get from Peets in Corte Madera to San Francisco via Alpine Dam, Muir Woods or even Stinson Beach.  I have previously shared a MoMiles rides with you; the Cliff House, Ocean Beach, Golden Gate Park, Twin Peaks ride of April 6th.

This past Friday, Mo had a special treat in mind for me, Mount Tam West Peak.  Bryan B. joined Mo and me for the adventure.  This made for even more personal torture as Bryan and Mo have a Strava game-within-the-game on every single incline , trying to outdo eachother and set PRs around every corner.  And, it goes without saying, that these two knuckleheads combined weigh less than I do, and they both climb like jackrabbits.

My vantage point for the majority of the ride
The ride started rather uneventfully with a 5.25am departure from Peets, and a spin over Meadowsweet and Horse Hill.  We made a right on Blythesdale and headed to Downtown Mill Valley.  As we started to climb Cascade, Mo made a comment about ‘saving myself’ and ‘preparing for a really steep but short pitch’ that they had wanted to climb but had never done before.  This ‘really steep pitch’ turned out to be akin to climbing a freaking ladder.  It seems that the forefathers of Mill Valley ran out of flat real estate and decided to build houses on cliffs.  This hill was only about 1,000 feet long, but it was well north of 20% of pitch the entire way.  The road was so ridiculous that the concrete was grated perpendicular to the curbs to help traction for the cars.  Bryan and Mo got ahead of me pretty quickly (shocker) while I did my best to keep the bike upright.  In the lowest gear, the bike came to a standstill after ever every revolution of my pedals.  I had to zig-zag from curb to curb just to keep the bike moving  and not falling over.  When I finally made it to the top, I made the proclamation, “That was fu&*ing stupid!”  That comment kept Mo entertained for the rest of the ride and week to come.

Sunrise from Four Corners
The rest of the ride was a ride that I had done previously, but we did it backwards.  After doing Alpine Dam and Seven Sisters from the Fairfax side, the bomb down through Mill Valley is a quick one.  All I remember from that descent was how badly my hands hurt from applying my brakes for 20 minutes straight.  That said, riding the hill upwards was especially brutal for this fatty.

Tam Valley and the Pacific Ocean

Downtown SF and Twin Peaks in the distance
One last funny tidbit … At about 6.40am, we passed Pan Toll and approached the entrance to the peaks.  However, the gate to the climb was locked – Park Open 7am to Sunset.  Mo and I lifted our bikes over the gate and squatted through the slats.  Bryan decided to go around the gate, traversing through the wild flowers.  As he grabbed his bike, Bryan quipped something about the ‘weeds’ and ‘ticks’.  And as we looked down, a huge tick was crawling up his leg.  Those little guys are super resourceful.  And it reminds us that as much as we think we are in charge, we really are just playing in their wilderness.     

Monday, May 14, 2012

I may need a bit more than a tune-up

Are you freaking kidding me?!?!?  I am obviously way too much man for the Scattante.  Before I bought the bike, I did all sorts of research.  But the main question that I could not get a clear answer was whether I should go for an aluminum bike or full carbon.  Everyone told me that the carbon technology was the better way to go and it was worth the extra bucks.  My bigger concern was whether the carbon frame could handle my weight and the tremendous power in my lower body (chuckle).  Based  upon everyone's assurances, I went for it and went all carbon.  After seven months and about 3,500 miles, I was super pleased with the bike frame.  My only issues with the bike were the fancy light-weight race wheels with which it came.  The wheels needed to be trued almost every week.  After less than 2,000 miles, I had completely destroyed the original wheels, breaking over a dozen spokes.  I replaced them with a fancy set of touring wheels which didn't do the trick either, then settled on some sweet Deep V Velocity wheels that have yet to come out of true in 500 miles.

I was pleased with the frame, that is, until this afternoons commute home.  About half way up Camino Alto, I stood up to try and catch Johnny.  As I torqued up, I felt a huge skip out of the cassette.  I couldn't quite figure out what had happened.  I tried to adjust the cables but just shrugged my shoulders and kept going with the casette skipping all over the place.  As I pulled onto my street, I really felt sluggish.  Upon dismounting the bike, I spun the wheels and noticed that the back wheel was rubbing against something.  I checked the brakes ... nope ... no issues.  I spun the wheel to check for true and the wheel didn't even make a full rotation.  Something was very wrong.

And there I found it.  The chain stay had literally cracked in half.  The outside of the stay was severed but the inside held enough that the bike didn't fall completely apart.  Thank god it held on the Camino Alto downhill section.  I could have been in for some major issues if the rear of the bike had fallen off at 30 miles per hour.

I'm almost positive that the frame is still under warranty.  And I am certain that the guys at the bike shop will take care of me with a new frame and then some.  Should I go for the same frame?  Should I try out every frame for new geometry?  Aluminum but upgraded components?  Steel?  Titanium?  The options are limitless.  I guess I have to wait to see what the shop says.

But this is definitely going to put a crimp in my chase of StravaMo's all-time mile tally as he will be riding all week.  And what am I going to ride in the meantime?  God forbid I have to drive to work!!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

New Office - New Routine - New Stress

Yesterday was our first day in the new office.  We moved the office from 201 Cal to 425 Cal.  Being in the commercial real estate business, you would think that I am used to office relocations.  But the fact remains that moving stinks for all parties involved.  To make matters worse, my whole morning routine has to be re-jiggered to accommodate the new digs.  While only 2 blocks apart, 201 Cal (for all its shortcomings) has a couple major advantages over 425 Cal. 

First and foremost, the old building, 201 Cal, has a parking garage in the lower level of the building.  I could ride my bike straight into the garage, jump in the freight elevator, and be in my office in seconds.  I stored my bike in my cube and the world seemed safe.  425 Cal has no parking in the building.  Furthermore, it has a beautiful new lobby and new elevator cabs.  As such, the ownership does not allow any bikes whatsoever in the building.  This causes me great pains.  Rather than storing my bike in my office within my sight, I now have to lock it up at a neighboring building's garage.  Not only can I not keep track of my bike, but there is a sign clearly stating that bikes are left at the owner's risk and the building takes no responsibility ... blah, blah, blah.  In other words, if you leave your bike here, it is probably not safe.  So I bought a chain lock and a U-Lock and am praying every day when I go to get my bike for the ride home.  It makes matters worse that my bike is the only bike worth more than $100 bikes in the rack.  the rest of the bikes are 10+ year old beaters and cruiser bikes.  My bike stands out like a sore thumb screaming, "Please take me!"

The next bummer of the new building is that 425 Cal does not have a shower where 201 Cal does.  I was never impressed with the shower at 201 Cal, but at least it was there.  The room is maybe 12 x 12 feet with just a toilet, sink and shower.  The carpet was moldy and I am certain that the janitors have never cleaned the room.  I actually did an experiment a year or so ago where I left an old Band-Aid on the soap dispenser in the shower.  Over a period of months, that Band-Aid did not move or get cleaned but a layer of dust started to cover over it.  Gnarly.  But I was able to drop my bike in the office, grab my clothes and head back down the elevator to get cleaned up.  Now, after I park my bike, I have to walk a block to the office, grab my clothes and shower gear, walk back another block to the gym (which I obviously had to pay to join), shower up and then walk back to the office again.  It is not as bad as it sounds on a nice day like today.  But I expect it to be an absolute nightmare when the winter rains come. 

Thanks for listening to my rant this morning.  It is a small price to pay for the luxury of riding my bike to work.  And not only do I get to share my fat spandex body with everyone in my office, but I now get to share with Sansome and California Streets.  In two days, I have yet to bump into anyone that I know on the streets.  But it is inevitable that it will happen soon.  That will be a treat for both of us.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

First Century

I had done several organized metric centuries (62ish miles) and several weekend rides north of 60 miles.  This Sunday, however, was the first time I ever attempted a ride of 100 miles.  I rode with Team Schwab in its philanthropic effort to raise money for the American Diabetes Association in the Napa Valley Tour de Cure.  The team included two FOG Dwellers – Murray and Iron Mike.  Given my base of commute miles, my comfort riding with the FOGs and the 60+ miles that I had put in each of the  two weeks prior, felt pretty prepared and was excited for the ride.

We had a strong group of nine riders that set off for the 100 mile course.  There was this crazy goal of making the finish line by 1.30pm for team pictures (with the people that rode less than 100 miles), but no one was too concerned about making any specific time.  The general sense before departure was that everyone was out of racing shape and just looking to go along for the ride.  This was music to my ears as there had been some discussion about trying to finish south of 5 ½ hours. 

This leisurely attitude disappeared almost immediately out of the starting gate.  After a few miles of spinning through Yountville residential neighborhoods, we got into a lone on Highway 29 and just started passing people.  Before I knew it, we crossed the train tracks and were flying through St. Helena in a line well north of 20 mph.  I was safely sucking wheels as each guy did his pull on the front and maintained the peppy pace.  I hit the front at 15.1 miles (on my Garmin) and hammered for 2.7 miles.  I tried to do a full 3 miles, but I truly had nothing left after almost 9 minutes of pushing.  I actually pulled too hard and almost dropped off of the back of the line when I was finished.

The group was pretty disciplined, maintaining the line until the first climb at about 25 miles – a Camino Alto-like 400 foot hill at a reasonable pitch. The line dissipated as we all climbed at our own pace.  I am proud to say that I was not the slowest up the climbs but was usually 6th or 7th out of the nine guys.  At the top, we regrouped into our line for another 10 miles to the first rest stop.  I was shocked to see that we had ridden the first 36 miles in barely an hour and a half. 

My view for most of the ride
The second leg turned out to be the most painful of the ride.  Of the 9 guys, we were bound to have some sort of mechanical issue during the day.  One of our group flatted about mile 40.  We stopped for a pretty quick tube change and were back on the road.  But rather than use a CO2 cartridge, the guy insisted on using his hand pump to inflate his tube.  Unfortunately, about 2 miles in, he realized that he did not achieve enough pressure in his tire.  So we stopped again to CO2 up.  But this time, he over-inflated the tube and popped/exploded his tube.  So he has to pull the tire off again and re-do everything one more time.  We lost about 20 minutes in that whole exchange but were still in good spirits.  But with all the start and stop, the rest stop at 54 miles seemed kinda useless.  I was hoping for a quick stop for water but each guys seemed to have their own agenda and the rests were a bit too long for my taste.  I did my best to eat as little as possible but load up on fluids and salty calories.  I ate maybe three finger food sandwiches and a handful of trail mix all day.  But I drank 13 bottles of fluid (water, Gatorade, Cytomax, etc).

I have to say that the rest of the ride was pretty uneventful.  Scotty and Iron Mike spent more than their share of time pulling the pace line.  I did only one more turn at the front for about 2 more miles.  Daniel “The South African Kid” was also a beast at the head of the line.  I was a bit disappointed in the route that was selected.  Given the amazing beauty of the Napa Valley, they could have picked a bunch more routes than just Highway 29 and Silverado trail.  I am not complaining about the sub-3,000 feet of climbing but they could have beat us up a little bit more.  By mile 90, we turned off of Silverado Trail and headed towards 29 on some side streets.  I knew the race was almost over and, I must admit, by mile 90, I was ready to get off the bike.  The headwind (about which I was warned) was just insult to injury as we rode back towards Yountville.  I realized at mile 90 that, if we kept up a 20 mph pace, we would make it to the finish line right at 1.30pm – in time for pictures.  That kept me a little motivated to finish fast.

Scott and Iron Mike pre-race
In the end, the statistics are pretty impressive.  We did the whole ride in 6 hours 7 minutes of total time, 5 hours 14 minutes of riding time at an average pace of almost 19 miles per hour.  I actually felt strong at the finish line but, again, was ready to get off that bike.  The worst part of the day was realizing that my Garmin showed 99.2 total miles when I reset it.  If I was paying attention, I would have ridden around the parking lot and logged another mile to turn the odometer over the official 100 mile mark.  Another great ride ruined by the data (joking).  And to make matters worse, when I uploaded the data to Strava, I saw that StravaMo had done a moster 60+ mile ride that day, and I had only picked up 30-some miles on him towards our lifetime totals.  Damn, gotta get back on the bike soon. 

Valley floor and Napa Valley hills
Next century is the Marin Century on August 5th which is more than double the elevation gain.  Talk later.  I have some hill repeats to do.