Saturday, January 31, 2009

Happy Birthday, John!

Today was John's birthday. John has been my riding buddy since we met in January 2006 at an info meeting for people who considered participating in Paris-Brest-Paris 2007. Since then, we rode many, many brevets together, including PBP 2007 and a Flèche in 2008. We rode three times the Knoxville Double, and then some more. It was only fitting that we arranged a nice ride (similar to the one we did two weeks ago already - it was that good!) to celebrate his birthday. 

John is eleven years younger than myself (his children are still teenagers, whereas mine have all drinking age), and much stronger. But this has never been a problem; he is extremely gracious with waiting at the top of hills.
He is also nearly twice as tall as myself. If this sounds unlikely, just look at our bikes:

There is not much risk that we ever inadvertently switch our bikes. However, I told him today that from now on, over the next eleven years, he is going to shrink down to my size. I am not sure he believed it.

Anyway, here is the route of his birthday ride:

This does not include our rides from opposite directions to the meeting point in Woodside. For me, it's a one-hour ride; his distance is 50% longer, meaning he needs about 20 minutes more. So far, we always arrived within a minute or two of each other. From there, we chat our way to the well-known local "benchmark climb" Old la Honda (1300' in 3.3 miles) up to Skyline Blvd. I seem to recall that some time in the early '90s, I did it once in 21:45. But nowadays, 30 minutes is the glass ceiling. Half-way up, John got the idea to make himself a birthday gift and to continue on his own pace, which made him wait two minutes for me at the top.
After a long, gentle downhill to La Honda, the East side of Haskins Hill makes for the next hard breather; but this one is only a little over 1.5 miles and quite pleasant. The whole stretch from La Honda via Loma Mar to Pescadero is one of my all-time favorites: smooth road surface, barely any traffic, gorgeous scenery all along - and mostly downhill (after Haskins Hill).
At noon sharp we arrived at our lunch place in Pescadero; and that's how it looks like:

Need I say anything else? - Oh yes: note John's bottle opener! His only piece of titanium ...
We spent a wonderful hour there, celebrating John's birthday in company of other riders who joined us at the table: Theresa, Terry, and Andrea (who was the first to ask if this was "real beer". She grew up in Austria - but I learned it only after I insisted that we Bavarians don't like the beer brewed in Austria).

Like nearly every other biker in the area, all of us headed out for the way back via Stage Road:

... to a short descent on Highway 1 (see below) to the Tunitas Creek Road, which we all knew from years past, but which became suddenly particularly attractive because the Amgen Tour of California leads up there on Stage 2. 

The Tunitas Creek Road climbs 2000' in 7 miles, and even though the steepest portions barely hit 11%, it always appears more difficult to me than it is on paper. For one, the legs are not so fresh any more by the time you get there; and then, the grade is never steady, and it is hard to find a good rhythm. They recently repaved a portion of the road, which has been necessary for several years already. But the material they used still is sticky and it feels as if the tires are being glued to the road. - No matter what, you get the idea: it's all excuses why I didn't go faster, and why John had to wait an unspecified (but substantial) amount of time at the top. We decided to say good-bye at this point, because for him, going north on Skyline (35) was the better option, whereas I needed to head down to Woodside on Kings Mountain and return home eastwards. We were both extremely pleased with this "Birthday Ride" of some 80 miles and over 7000'.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Season Opener

The San Francisco Randonneurs traditionally start the season in January with the 200km brevet route from the Golden Gate to the Point Reyes Lighthouse (well, close to it) and back. With well over 7000 ft of elevation gain and the likelyhood of adverse atmospheric conditions it is not among the easier brevets. Still, it "sold out" (the National Park Services limit the rider count to 100), with some participants even coming from out of state.
I won't go to great lengths describing how it all went. Just for the record (and I don't know how to put it politely): It was my first brevet where I had diarrhea before I left the house in the morning, and where I packed an extra roll of toilet paper. Call me lucky, because I didn't have to use it. On the other hand, I didn't feel like eating, all day long; and I thought it was a good idea not to drink very much either, to facilitate "drying out" the digestive tract. The latter was easy, because the air was humid (even though we were spared the announced rain showers) and very cool.
Also, I decided to really minimize my time off the bike, this time. I didn't stop (other than for red lights) until the first control at the turn-around point (mile 55 or so), and until then had only consumed less than half a bottle with Perpetuem, and less than half a bottle of water. The control volunteers offered snacks, and I helped myself to an Odwalla bar (which lasted for 20 miles - I could eat it in small bites only, very slowly) and a small pack of Clif Shot Bloks, knowing that I didn't like them, but anticipating that I would need them.
On the way back, I stopped at a grocery store in Inverness (around mile 75) to buy a bottle of water and a bottle of Gatorade - which I still hadn't finished when I arrived at home, nearly two hours after finishing the brevet. At the Marshall control, I bought a small bag of "Trail Mix" and ate two mouthfuls - and that's it for the whole day!
I am emphasizing all this so much because I would have never thought before that it was possible to do 200 not-so-easy kilometers on so little food and liquids - it's a new experience; but I better don't make a habit out of it: it doesn't sound right!
Of course, my performance on the bike was less than stellar; on several occasions, I felt that my legs would cramp up if I pushed harder. On the other hand, I still kept my ambition and decided to fight hard to the finish - going as fast as I could, in particular on the climbs. And so I checked in at the finish with a time of 10h14, which for me is not too shabby on this route, and which made me boast that now I am stronger on a bad day than two years ago on a good day. Who knows, maybe it's actually true!