Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Midsummer Ride Dreams

When I started this blog at the beginning of the year I only meant to collect my favorite ride reports in one place such that my grandchildren will be able to find them later should they be interested (and should Google still be around). I also did it to stop spamming the Inboxes of friends and relatives with my e-mail ride reports while continuing to practice my writing in English - if only I could get the stiltedness out of it!

Now that I look at the collection so far and re-read some of it, I admit that I enjoy reviving the memories from my days out on the bike. Forgetfulness is ramping up disturbingly when you get in my age! So there is yet another reason to post something about my midsummer rides.


Recovery after the Gold Rush was unproblematic; after all, I had hedged my bets and avoided undue exhaustion. The only trouble was the tingling in the right thumb for some time (I knew what caused it: during the GRR I had used brand-new gloves of a different type than the ones I am used to). After two weeks, my legs were itching again and I put in a good series of intervals (a first for me!) after coaching Fabienne through her first cautious training ride on a drop bar bicycle with clipless pedals. This was a double-dream: for Fabienne to "officially" start her preparation for a special Century in 2010 (scroll down to the end of this for more background), and for me to dream of finally becoming faster (if only a little).

Everything went well, and so I was quite confident at the start of the Mount Tam Double Century on August 1st. Even though - or because - it's certainly the most difficult of the CTC doubles I have ridden so far, I feel strangely attracted to it. I managed to finish within the time limit (barely) in 2006 and 2007, after a first attempt in 2005 where I gave up after 170 miles. Last year I didn't start because it was only six days after the finish of the RM1200; I "worked it" instead at a water stop. Surely I would finally be able to finish it safely and in good form, this year. - Was I dreaming?

I did pretty well during the first three hours. But then, a funny thing happened half-way up the climb from Stinson Beach on Panoramic Hwy: I became slower and slower and didn't want to acknowledge it. This could not be! What was going on? I was supposed to be stronger than in the last years!

Subjectively, I didn't feel bad; I was still comfortable and confident enough to imagine riding to the finish without major trouble. But the slowdown was disturbing. I didn't waste any time and yet left the rest stop on Hicks Valley Rd barely before noon - the critical time for me to still make the Valley Ford 2:30 p.m. cut-off. I only made it because a friendly little group around Kerin Huber allowed me to draft them into the headwind towards the Marshall Wall; but my "lunch stop" was reduced to less than eight minutes. Finally, the Coleman climb (2 miles at 10% average) taught me the bitter lesson: I just didn't have it in me on that day. Not that I was the last on the road; but those around me either looked better and I would not be able to follow them for long, or they would not finish and I would end up being the last on the road anyway.

We had mostly a favorable wind on the way back from Valley Ford to Petaluma; so there was still hope that I could finish before the 10:30 p.m. cut-off. Unfortunately, I was so weak by now that I had to walk the last 10% portion on the Middle Road climb shortly after Valley Ford. And I was unable to take advantage of the tailwind to recover some of the lost time because the legs felt like cotton. It became apparent that it would be a struggle to get to the finish, even disregarding the time limit, and I was dismayed. The dream of being stronger than two or three years ago was shattered.

Still, I seemed to slowly reel in a rider far ahead of me which provided some new motivation. When I got within a quarter mile or less, a SAG van stopped next to him and I watched the rider climb into it. There goes the motivation! When I was about to slowly pass the van (the road went uphill there) the driver asked "And how about you?" - OK, I got the message. I let myself get sagged in as well.

The experience wasn't quite as bad as it sounds; I am always pretty good at finding lots of excuses and rationalizations. In this case, I did more soul-searching than ever and ended up particularly determined to take my training a little more seriously now. There had to be something positive at the end of that day! But despite all the excuses I could line up if I wanted to, I still don't know what really happened. Maybe it was just un jour sans. - Obviously, I didn't think about taking photos either. Instead, I recommend to look through this set from Campy Only.

Two weeks later, I combined a "transport stuff" weekend trip to Fabienne in Los Angeles with riding the 200k option of the Cool Breeze Century in Ventura on the way down, on Saturday. I had done it once before in 2006, and my comments from then read "Very nice ride - and pretty hard, too." I am not alone with this judgement: look e.g. here for more details and some pictures from a rider who is much stronger than I am.
This time, the severe training I inflicted on myself a week before (i.e. five "all out" laps on the Moody/Altamont loop; check out the profile in the Summary tab!) seemed to have paid off already. I had a good ride, never experienced any particular weakness, and finished about an hour faster than three years ago in well under ten hours.

The route brought back memories from this year's Spring brevets
(300k and 400k)

During the first hours of the ride, somewhere east of Ojai, a group of half a dozen younger people who had started later caught up with me. They were exceptionally good-natured and good-humored and invited me to join them, all the while joking with me in a friendly way when I had to breathe much harder than them on the uphills. Eventually, a hill felt more strenuous than the others and I motioned that I wanted the remaining riders to pass me so I didn't cause a break-up of the group. A young woman who was part of this bunch of friends passed me at that moment, glanced at me and shouted full of compassion in direction of the rider ahead who had so well joked with me: "Hey, give him a break, he is an old man!"
(That's how they shatter dreams, nowadays ...)


But I did find moral compensation the following day when I took Fabienne out on a very nice (and for her level quite demanding!) bike ride of 24 miles and over 1600 ft of elevation gain. I had found the Rock Store Loop on www.bikely.com, but then entered the precise route we took into my preferred BikeRouteToaster (the route goes clock-wise):

There was a serious 2.5-mile climb on Mulholland Hwy after Seminole Hot Springs. Fabienne started out on it as if she was flying; I was seriously worried she would drop me right away and I would get another (this time non-verbal) old man qualifier. But she did underestimate the length of 2.5 miles, and in the end we were both happy to arrive at the top and to enjoy the view down to where we came from:


And as if this was not enough, her elder sister Valerie had made me dig out our 18-year-old Santana tandem from deep down in the shed, this summer, and after an encouraging very first test ride decided to participate in the Tour de Menlo (35 mile option), last Saturday!

The route was very tandem-friendly, despite the steep climb to the lunch stop at the Picchetti Ranch turn-around on Montebello Road. We had a great time, and I believe Valerie enjoyed it quite thoroughly herself.

Look at the grade of Montebello Road in the background where we just came up!

John C. joined us for the special occasion

We followed Kate (left) for much of the ride - she rode like a pro.
The outfit of Larry (right) was a perfect match for his authentic Cinelli Super Corsa from the '60s.

And we got souvenir t-shirts, too!

1 comment:

  1. Salut "Old Man", ça fait toujours plaisir de te lire... un grand bravo à Fabienne et Valérie... qui suivent les traces de papa avec le sourire. Heureux homme! Cela me rappelle mes jeunes années, j'aimais tellement rouler avec mon père, et c'était réciproque!
    Tu dois avoir les yeux tournés vers les Endless Mountains maintenant?... je te souhaite plein de bonnes choses!