Jacque Anquetil's 1962 Tour de France Winning Bike

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

80 More

On Monday, I did a 60-minute class in 65.  Today, I did a 90-minute class in 80.  It was 80 minutes of pedaling, with 48 minutes of that devoted to intervals of varying intensity, with 8 minutes of warming up, which is often harder than the intervals themselves.  Today's warm-up was on par with the hard efforts.  Riding with focus, which means concentrating on breathing and pedal stroke, I'd say nothing today exceeded 7 on 1-10 perceived exertion scale.  Riding absent-mindedly, the high cadence, mid-zone 3 efforts would have reached 8 on PE scale.  I was focused most of the time.  Skipped the last 153-minute interval, as I had to return to work.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

80 Minutes

I managed to sneak out late this afternoon.  It was sunny, calm, high 50s, great views of SF, the bay, and Marin.  I rode spasmodically, going hard and easy when the mood struck, without any planned reason to do either.  Enjoyed the hell out of it, even the 152 hard parts.


Monday, November 28, 2011

He Shoots, He Soars!

Maybe not.  On Sunday, I barely snuck it under the midnight deadline, getting off the bike at 11:40 p.m.  Mixing sport metaphors, I either snuck it in just below the crossbar or high jumped over it, grazing the bar, leaving it shaking, but with it not falling.  It's a legal jump and a legal ride.

Today, I did a 60-minute Velo class in 65 minutes.  I went hard the whole time.  The shin held up very well.  Right knee is feeling dodgy, so I'm continuing on the Advil regimen for the knee more than the shin now.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

P.S. Where Was I?

Tuesday and Wednesday I just rode the trainer, riding a bit harder on Tuesday.  On Wednesday, I got up at 6:30 and did 30 minutes before we took off for Palm Springs, fearing that we'd sit in traffic all day and I'd have to no time for a ride after we arrived.  I was right.  We sat in awful traffic from Magic Mountain to Ontario.  The drive took over nine hours, hours five through eight utterly exasperating 80 miles.

In Palm Springs, I took three outdoor rides.  The first was mostly flat, with a three-mile climb in the middle.  Still protecting the shin, I resolved to pedal slowly, still in the big ring.  So, I spent all day in the big ring in 52x17 and bigger gears.  Geometry of Palm Springs desert riding is boring: straight roads and 90-degree turns.  The three-mile climb was at the start of Highway 74, a three-mile ramp to the climb up San Jacinto Mountains.  After the ramp, the road becomes a typical twisty and spectacular mountain climb that tops out 11 miles later.  I had neither time nor legs to do the whole thing, so I turned around at the end of the ramp.  Another interesting feature of PS landscape is that though the desert is flat, it's not completely flat.  There are numerous uphill (1-2%) drags that last up to half a mile and provide a good opportunity for higher intensity training.  I took advantage of the terrain and rode hard for most of the 105-minute ride.

That was Thanksgiving Day.  On Friday, I did an hour and a half over most of the same roads, eschewing the climb, and making intermittent hard efforts.  Riding the same gears as the previous day was more difficult.  Oddly, the shin felt better than the day before.

Saturday, was another early, pre-drive ride.  After two hard days, I needed a rest day, but I'd thought that the long flat drags would make it difficult to take it easy.  I solved the problem by riding almost entirely in residential neighborhoods, checking out architecture, and really managing my 149th effort well.

The drive back was initially OK.  We made it out of LA basin and up the grapevine easily.  But driving in fairly dense traffic on a four-lane road through the mountains, it occurred to me that all these cars would have to fit into two lanes once we got to Central Valley.  Sure enough, they didn't fit well.  We came to numerous full and complete stops at random and unexplained places.  It eased a bit after Highway 46, where many drivers left I-5 to try their luck on 101, and again, after the Pacheco Pass turn-off, but traffic remained steady all the way home.  I'm never going on big driving Thanksgiving trips again.  I think I said that several years ago.  This time, I hope I mean it.


Monday, November 21, 2011

... Tied Behind My Back

Since it seems I'm favoring my left leg and overloading the right, I decided to do go back to one-legged pedaling.  As much as I enjoy riding outdoors, it impractical, shall we say, to ride one-legged outside.  So, it was back on the trainer again for the past two days.  Yesterday, I rode for about 45 minutes, watching the Niners-Cardinals game, riding fairly hard during the play and riding left-legged during commercials.  Today, I did the same thing during "Summer of George" episode of Seinfeld, though today the "fairly hard" part was fairly easy.

A dozen squared.

P.S. Today, I replaced my MBZ wagon's 18-year old factory AM/FM tape deck with an unremarkable Pioneer AM/FM CD player with a USB port.  I never figured out pre-set buttons (of which there were just 10 -- 6 FM and 4 AM) on the old stereo, the left speaker was dead and the volume lever was temperamental.  I love changing stations at will and can't tell you how much I look forward to playing my CDs in the car.  Somehow, the car feels less authentic now, but the stereo sounds great and I'll get over it, I promise.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sneaking Out and Mucking Around

1. On Thursday, in a throwback event, I went out at 4:35 a.m. to meet Brian and Howie at Solano Peet's.  Mornings have been clear, so I used a helmet light.  Helmet lights work much better for me because I can point the light in the direction I want to go rather than in the direction the bike is pointed at the moment.  Coming around a turn, I can point the light at the turn's arc, rather than have a handlebar-mounted light point at a tangent.  So, a helmet light works better, but not in the fog.  You know how cars' fog lights are mounted really low?  They are there to light up the road.  A light mounted higher -- on a helmet, say -- lights up tiny drops of water around the rider's head, with the drops reflecting the light back at the rider's face and creating a conical halo.  In the fog, a helmet light is remarkably ineffective.

As I said, mornings have been clear.  Not Thursday morning, however.  So, as we rode through the fog, I turned off my light and relied on Brian and Howie's Magicshines.  That was fine.  Then, my glasses started fogging up and I ended up trying to see better by peering over them.  I did see better without looking through the lenses, so I simply took off my PRESCRIPTION glasses.   Luckily, my prescription is quite mild and I coped just fine.  As the sun rose and we turned off our lights, I continued riding without the glasses.  I could see well enough.  I also discovered that I descend better without my glasses.  I can see the white line on the right and the yellow line on the left just fine and simply aim between them.  Without the glasses I can't see rocks, twigs, or potholes, so nothing distracts me and the road looks perfectly safe... at least until I find myself on the ground.

I did not find myself on the ground on my eastbound descent of south Pinehurst and Thornhill/Colton and was quite encouraged by my glasses-free ride.

Also, to save the shin, I pedaled slowly and in the big ring.  The shin liked it.  The knees -- not so much.  But Brian suggested an aggressive course of Advil treatment for the shin, which I undertook.  Coincidentally, Advil helps the knees as well, so things are looking a bit better.

3.  Today, I continued my outdoor big ring riding with a two-and-half-hour ride to Moraga and back, not as the crow flies.  An important development for "the more things change... " file, I went back to 190mm cranks with oval chainrings, which made turning big gears easier.  On today's ride, the shin felt the best it's been in a couple of weeks.

It got damned cold overnight.  Todd and Brian and I rode downhill through the town of Canyon, where it was 36 degrees.  Just east of Moraga it was 35.  I dress for the worst, figuring that I can always remove clothes.  If I'm not wearing enough and am not carrying additional clothes with me and it's colder than I like, I'm screwed.  For weather in the mid-30s, I put on thick wool socks, toe warmers, wool leg warmers, long-sleeve wool base layer, a long-sleeve jersey, a softshell jacket, and a hat under the helmet.  I have a pair of gloves with a finger cover in a pouch.  Pull the cover out of the pouch and over the fingers and, voila, you have mittens.  The covered parts of my body felt fine, the face didn't like it.

On Redwood, on the way back from Moraga, temps were in high 30s.  I was grateful I was riding uphill, generating my own heat and minimizing wind chill thanks to the gravity's effect on my speed.  Downhill came a man, wearing a windbreaker, a balaklava, and shorts.  He had nothing on his legs, which were bright, bright red.  His legs were quite hairy, but inadequately so for the weather.  I think his fashion choices were impractical.

2. In between 1 and 3, I did 15 minutes on the trainer.  Yes, I'm supposed to do 30, but last night I realized I hadn't ridden until quite late in the evening and would much rather have been in bed that on the bike.  I didn't come close to breaking a sweat and managed to maintain the streak.  I viewed this ride grimly.  There was no good reason for it; the only reason for it was maintaining the streak and it's clear that the streak is running my life on some small level.  And this is the mucking around part of this post.

So, I'm doubly glad I rode outside today.  The ride was social and pretty and cold and provided a great mental break.

Waiter, make that 142, please.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Two on the Trainer and Once in Class -- and an unrelated event on the streets

November 14 and 15 were uneventful, late evening 40 and 30-minute trainer spins.  This ride every day for a year thing is starting to feel more like a chore than pleasure.  Getting off the bike at 10:30 also leaves me going to bed around midnight and unable to get up for early morning rides even when I plan on doing so.  My planning goes as far as laying out my clothes and breakfast bananas, charging my light's battery, and setting out my bike.  Everything is ready for my ride except for me.

To combat this, today I went to Velo and actually did the whole 60-minute class as prescribed.  Left shin hurt some, but no worse than when I ride easy, so I was encouraged to keep riding hard.  The shin also hurts when I walk moderately fast or faster and, again, after the gym it was no worse than when I don't ride.  Perhaps it's healing at last.  A change of scenery (the club) from my living and the shin feeling better left me in a better mood after ride number 139.

As I was leaving the club, I heard commotion outside.  Kate and Donald stood at the door, looking out, discussing.  I peeked out -- helicopters were hovering overhead.  Occupy San Francisco protesters were marching up Broadway a block away.  We discussed historical ramifications of the movement, then I declared that I had to get back to the office to occupy my desk and departed.

I walked south on Front, turned west on Pacific, crossed Battery, where I saw the marchers.  They had turned from Broadway onto Battery.  I walked a block up Pacific to a taco truck to get lunch (lengua burrito -- yum!).  The march turned up Pacific and was coming toward me.  Motorcycle cops were riding up and down the street and up both sidewalks, ahead of the marchers, whose chants consisted mostly of simple 99-1% math.  For a moment, I contemplated walking a block with the marchers just for the hell of but decided against it, feeling content with walking on the sidewalk half a block, then turning off.  As I walked up the sidewalk, a motocop bumped me lightly, as he passed.  Briefly, I felt kinship with victims of police brutality, but decided not to press charges.  I turned south on Sansome, away from the hubbub.  I walked back to my office, on Montgomery.  As I approached Montgomery, I saw the marchers massing at the intersection of Montgomery and Pacific, appearing ready to head down Montgomery toward my building.  It was almost 2:00 p.m. and traffic was light.  Two or three hours later and 200 people marching down Montgomery would lead to a traffic nightmare.

I went into my building.  The procession passed peacefully about half an hour later.  On my way home, I saw them massed in front of Wells Fargo building.  I didn't get close enough to find out what was going on there.

In the evening, I saw on the news that 100 protesters occupied a Bank of America branch on California and Davis, where I often go to drop off my mortgage payment, and were arrested.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Riding Better, Still Going Nowhere...

I've had a shop put together my randonneuring bike.  It's my second Spectrum, designed to ride the same as the first, but with fenders, a rack and a handlebar bag.  The rack and the bag are this week's addition and I haven't had the chance to ride it outside yet.  The bike has 190mm cranks with oval Rotor chainrings.  Having ridden round rings for the last few months, going back to oval rings was eye-opening.  It simply feels easier to pedal the bike in the same gears with oval rings and slightly longer cranks (190 vs 185mm).  Yes, I have two variables going.  I'm sure both are contributing to the perceived difference in pedaling, and I don't care which variable contributes how much to the benefit -- I'm just happy to be benefiting.  On this, 135th day, I benefited for an hour on the trainer while watching college football, riding in the big ring during the telecast and in the small ring during the commercials.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Move Along...

Nothing to read here...  Two more days of riding the trainer at home.  Which leads me the believe that I must be getting really good at 30-minute minimal effort riding.  I'm sure this is doing wonders for my fitness.  Still, I'm at...



Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Back on the Train (-er)

Yesterday I did 30 minutes at home, but I must have been feeling better because I pushed it hard enough that sweat was pouring off of me liberally.  Felt good.  Today, I went to the gym and, because the shin splints are still bothering me, decided to take it easy.  But, as we know, deciding to take it easy and taking it easy are two different things.  I did 35 minutes hard with the class, but modified the workout.  I did all the training zones but kept the cadence in the low 90s the entire time and not going into hyper-drive mode since that is what gives me the shin splints in the first place.  Then I cooled down for 5 minutes.  It was nice to work.  If I had to give my shin a grade, I'd give it a B-, but it's no worse than it was before the class, which is encouraging.



Monday, November 7, 2011


Two more days on the trainer.  My tendon pain has migrated up my leg and is now where one would expect to have shin splints.  A tiny blessing -- pain being higher up the leg, I don't have to reach as far to rub it.  For a change, this case of shin splints came on with no weight bearing exercise.  Two days later, it still aches.  The pain seems duller and a bit more widespread and I hope it'll abate soon.

Meanwhile, the streak must go on and in my lame state I'm reduced to easy pedaling on the trainer.  Yesterday I took it easy, today I rode a bit harder.  It felt fine for a while, but as I picked up the pace, I began feeling it.  It's never so debilitating that I have to stop or slow down on the bike, so I keep going.  Walking it's not so great.  It aches.  The pain doesn't affect my pace, but it definitely affects my gait.



Sunday, November 6, 2011


Ever have a mediocre-bad ride?  I did.

A bunch of guys organized a ride in West Sonoma county.  Starting in Monte Rio, on to Cazadero, up King Ridge, down Skaggs, south on Highway 1, up Ft. Ross, down Meyers Grade, then back to Monte Rio on River Road.  72 miles, 6,200 feet of climbing, most of the climbing in two hills -- King Ridge and Ft. Ross.  Both are steep.  King Ridge is longer, Ft. Ross is steeper.  Rain in the forecast starting at 1:00 p.m.

Brian, David, Howie, and I came up to ride together.  Mike G came up with Jules and Marius, a 20-something French whippet-like ex-racer.  There were 28 other cyclists there -- 27 men, one woman, all looking serious and fit.

The ride was to start at 8:30, but in spite of e-mailed promises and threats it wasn't starting at 8:30.  The four of us were circling the parking lot anxiously, ready to get going and to minimize our time in the rain.  Finally, after a few inconsequential announcements by chief ride organizer Theoren, aka "Buck Johnson," we started riding at 8:45 under gray skies in temperatures in high 30s.  Somehow, Brian and I found ourselves at the front, riding into the wind west on River Road toward Austin Creek.  We realized that we'd been pulling for eight minutes, agreed that we weren't so interested in pulling 31 riders and retreated into the shelter of the peloton (guffaw!).  Soon, we all turned onto Austin Creek Road, a badly surfaced, quiet road that parallels an eponymous creek.  A few drops fell, as we optimistically agreed that they were from redwood trees that are known for collecting moisture, except there were no trees overhead.  Well, even raindrops were OK, we were well prepared.  I was wearing two wool base layers -- a short and a long-sleeved, a long-sleeved jersey, a rain jacket, wool knee warmers, thick wool socks, and toe warmers.

Austin Creek took us onto Cazadero Highway, on which we rode through Cazadero and began climbing King Ridge and I discovered I wasn't climbing so well.  Quickly I found myself in my bottom gear -- an intentionally and embarrassingly low 30x29.  I was making progress, but had no energy to spin.  I was pushing it and, though only Marius, two guys I don't know and Brian and Mike were ahead of me, traveling lousy 5-6 miles an hour I was harboring no illusions about my climbing strength.  We had perfect climbing weather -- it was still and cool, so it was very frustrating that my legs weren't working.  Perhaps this was because I was sick a week ago and hadn't recovered completely.  Maybe it was because I've been riding very easy at nearly no intensity.  I could have been just having a lousy day.  Hell, I was having a lousy day, but it was just too early to be riding so weakly.  The tendon on top of the ankle was bugging me too and there I was, riding weakly.  Now that I think about it, no one was passing me, so maybe it was the road making me suffer, and I was suffering along with everyone else.  Mike and Brian were in view, they waited and when the grade eased, I picked up the pace and caught up with them.  A few more drops fell in King Ridge.  The road was damp, but not soaking, so descents were reasonably safe.

The road crested, but these roads never seem to crest, there were quite a few rollers of varying length and grade.  Brian took the rollers aggressively, jumping at the bottom, usually making it to the top.  I took the tortoise approach, catching up just after each hill topped out.  After a few of these, we came to the intersection with Tin Barn Road.  There was a Honda Element with water and food.  We refilled, David and Howie rolled in, we remounted and took the high road to the Temple of Doom, a copper-domed Buddhist temple in the middle of nowhere, Sonoma County.  More climbing and descending ensued.  It seemed there was more climbing.  Soon after passing the temple, we found ourselves at the top of Rancheria Wall, the infamous Terrible Two climb, but we got there from the easier south side.  We turned left on Skaggs Springs Road, descended and climbed and descended to the coast at Stewart's Point.

We regrouped at Stewart's Point Store and rain started in earnest.  It wasn't heavy, but it was steady.  We weren't making rooster tails, but we were getting pelted.  Sonoma coastline is full of hills and little canyons with creeks that drain into the ocean.  Therefore, Highway 1 constantly turns, dips, swoops, and climbs.  These are short, big-ring climbs.  Today it was a little harder because the road was wet and we warily  slowed down before hitting the turns, so climbing was harder because we carried less speed into the ascent.  Somewhere in Salt Point, we went through one of these dippy turns and stood up to jam up the hill.  As I stood up, I glanced ahead and saw Brian just ahead of me, his rear wheel about three inches from my front wheel, riding in one o'clock direction just as I was riding in eleven o'clock direction.  Oops.  My front wheel hit his rear from the right.  Instead of bouncing off and going to the right, I did what almost every cyclist does and pushed back against Brian's wheel with predictable results.  Lucky thing we were climbing, so I just fell on my left side, bounced back up and, happy that the front wheel was pointing forward, jumped back on the bike.  I think all that delayed us only 30 seconds and I recon proudly this was the fastest post-crash remount.

Fueled by crash-induced adrenaline rush, I was feeling good and riding strongly.  After riding for close to an hour we came to our turn-off, Fort Ross Road.  Fort Ross is the last major climb on the Terrible Two -- two miles averaging 12%. I was glad I had a 29-tooth cog.  Almost immediately, I was in my 29, pushing and shoving pedals around.  No smooth, graceful circles for me -- colloquialism for good riding is pedaling circles and for poor riding is pedaling squares -- I was pedaling triangles.  I was not glad that when Merlin built my Spectrum they put the rear brake bridge about half a centimeter too low.  I run 25mm tires and there's just 2-3mm of clearance between the rear tire and the brake. When my tire picks up road junk it can get stuck in the brake and rub against the tire.  When roads are wet and road junk is wet, the junk is more prone to adhere to the tire and get stuck in the brake.  Fort Ross was a wet and messy road and stuff kept getting stuck in my brake.  Normally, I hear a piece of junk rubbing against the tire, but I don't feel.  On this ride, I learned that I feel it when I am riding four miles an hour.  Every time I heard something rubbing, I reached down and tried to rub the brake-tire juncture to de-junk it.  Sometimes that worked, sometimes it didn't.  Eventually, whatever it was came off, inevitably replaced by another redwood twiglet, a piece of gravel, a leaf.  Let me tell you, it's not easy to ride a 12% hill one-handed while repeatedly reaching behind your, fishing for the brake.  Crampy twinges began as I approached the top, but the top was close enough that I managed to ward them off long enough to reach the top.

The SAG Element was at the top of Fort Ross.  It felt good to get off the bike.  We refilled and remounted again, proceeding southwest on Seaview, a lovely road with predictable views of the Pacific.  Before the road becomes Meyers Grade and descends to the coast there are a few minor rollers.  I was feeling strong and fresh, standing in the big ring up the first roller.  The second roller was a bit longer and steeper and, wisely, I shifted into the small ring.  As I spun ahead, crampy feelings in both quads returned.  I tried to change my pedaling style, focusing on spinning, using my hip flexors and hamstrings more, and immediately spinning myself into a severe right hamstring cramp, which required immediate action.

Immediate action consisted of screaming in pain, unclipping left foot, putting it down and trying -- with mixed results -- to straighten my right leg.  As I did this, most of my weight was on my left leg and my left quad was twitching threateningly.  Fortunately, I brought a licensed massage therapist -- Howie.  Howie grabbed my hamstring and squeezed.  This helped a lot, but I wasn't ready to ride yet, so I walked.  (Two years ago, I saw another rider walk up Rancheria Wall, explaining that walking is actually a good cramping remedy.)  I walked up the hill, escorted vigilantly by slow riding David and Howie.  I remounted at the top.  As we started, the rain intensified and the headwind picked up.  It was cold and I was getting pelted in the face by stinging rain.  Meyers Grade descent is 18%, it was wet and I felt my brakes almost bottoming out.  I focused on braking early and often to dry out the rims repeatedly, and to keep my speed down, so I wouldn't have to brake super-hard.  I made it to bottom uneventfully.  Brian and Jules waited for us at the Highway 1 intersection.  I explained and apologized for the delay and we set off on the last and easiest leg of the ride: south on 1, then west on River.  Highway 1 continued to dip and climb a bit.  Wary of more cramping, I took it really easy on the climbs.  Howie was feeling sympathetic and wanted to provide me with company and massage therapy, or emphathetic to the point of near-cramping, and he rode with me.  If it's the former, I'm grateful for the sentiment.  If it's the latter, I am just glad we were there for each other.

We rode into the wind and the rain, occasionally catching glimpses of David, Brian, and Jules in the distance.  After we turned onto River, it seemed they slowed down and I started pushing the pace.  We were probably within 50 yards of them, when we decided to back off a bit.  We sat up, they rode ahead.  Then we bore down again for a while and got almost within shouting distance, but backed off.  We kept making 3/4-hearted efforts, would get closer to them, then back off again.  Then I rode up next to Howie and said something to the effect that if we ride 17 mph than 20 we'd feel much better and arrive one minute later, so what's the point?  We backed off, but the whole smell-the-barn mentality kept re-rearing its head and we'd speed up, then slow down, then do it again and again.  We arrived soon enough; the River Road leg took about 25 minutes.

Just Brian, Mike, and Marius were in the parking lot.  I guess we were among the leading finishers of this non-race.  David and I got in the car as quickly as we could (the two us drove up together) and the rain really started coming down.  Glad we missed the dump.

In sum:  two and a half hours in the rain, road rash, cramps, a nasty case of tendon pain, and unhappiness with my legs.  Then we got stuck in traffic in the rain in Petaluma.  We drove nearly four hours round-trip for a five-hour ride, and when I got home my formerly cramped legs were stiff as hell and my tendon ached so much I could barely walk, hence the title of this post.



Friday, November 4, 2011

Trainer, Trainer

Not much to report: just two short trainer rides.  Tomorrow will be fun, though -- Monte Rio Fondo.  Seventy miles and two major climbs: King Ridge and Fort Ross.  King Ridge will be manageable.  It's early in the ride and steep and long.  But Fort Ross is two miles at double digit grades and there's rain in the forecast, so coming off Ft. Ross back to the coast could be eventful.  Glad I'm riding 32mm tires.  Stay tunes.



Thursday, November 3, 2011

Where Were We...?

I didn't mean for this post to have an alliterative title, but now that it does, I like it.

On Tuesday, I did 40 minutes in class.  I warmed up mellow-like on my own still nursing my vanishing cold, while the class worked up through progressively higher resistances and cadences, then I joined the class for 16 minutes of alternating high and low cadence Zone 3 intervals, after which my 40 minutes were up and I had to go.

Yesterday, I went out for 30 minutes in the evening darkness in the neighborhood, searching for the steepest hills -- and there are some damn steep ones: Alta, Proctor, Masonic, Florence, etc. -- and climbing them seated (32x27 helps with this) way back on the saddle, staying as low as possible, and keeping minimal pressure on my hands to avoid pulling up the front wheel, at which I succeeded.  Enjoyed this ride quite a bit.