Sunday, June 29, 2008

On Gravel and Gravity
Have you ever noticed that the words gravel, gravity, and grave all have the same beginning. This thought crossed my mind as I was rapidly descending Mt. Hamilton last Saturday. I started thinking this as I navigated the endless hairpin turns and noticed that in every blind turn there seemed to be a line of gravel in the middle of the road. It takes a whole lot of concentration and quite a bit of luck to come around a corner, see the gravel and find a line that doesn't take you through the gravel or into the oncoming lane. Nothing quite gets your attention like going around a corner at 25 mph hitting bit of gravel and having your rear wheel hop a inch or two off track. Some people would call it exhilarating I don't. In fact I thought it was downright pee-your-pants scary. Thankfully I made it all the way down the mountain,with my pants unsoiled I might add.

This was on one of our more memorable rides. On top of the scary descents, it was 95 degrees in the shade. We climbed the toughest climbs in the Bay Area - Mines Road, the back side of Mt. Hamilton, Sierra Road and Calaveras Road. My heart rate monitor recorded a high temperature on the road of 116 degrees. That's tough sledding even without the gravel. We rode 110 miles, conquered the toughest climbs on one of the hottest days and we dodged some nasty boobytraps. All that was left to do is ride triumphantly back to the cars. One rider after another made the right turn into the parking lot. I was the last rider in the group. Did I mention it was a gravel parking lot? After all the near misses on Mt. Hamilton, I found a patch of gravel that was less forgiving. So like a dog running on a newly polished floor, my rear wheel slid out from under me and I hit the ground before I could even contemplate the gravity of the moment.

Unlike my previous crash where I had quite a bit of forward momentum along with gravity, I only had gravity to deal with. Fortunately I only had a scraped knee and arm along with a healthy dose of embarrassment. Death Ride is in two weeks. I must try to be more upright.

Can't Touch This
Speaking of Death Ride, I have to tell this story. Yesterday we were on our final difficult ride of our training, 93 miles, 7300 feet of climbing. We were riding in a group of 4. We were on a 15 mile stretch along Highway 1 heading north of Santa Cruz. We were maintaining a comfortable 23 mph paceline. Sue had just taken the lead when we saw about 300 yards ahead a triathlete rider. Let me say that in general, triathletes are pretty decent people. Most have been very courteous and cordial. However you occasionally come across tri-riders who have a very annoying habit. They are perfectly happy to hang on your wheel and let you do the pulling, but they never pull the paceline when it comes to their turn. This gentleman looked to be one of the latter types. Which brings me back to Sue. Sue is a middle-aged housewife. Most of her time is spent raising horses and helping with her husband's company. She probably weighs less than 100 pounds. She is just a very nice person. Well, Sue is in front of the group and we noticed that our pace is starting to pick up...23...24...25...26...27...27.5 mph. Sue smelled blood. Without any word from the rest of us she was bound and determined to reel the tri-guy in. The 300 yard gap was down to 100 yards in no time. Like a race horse that gets the bit in its teeth, Sue was flying, 50 yards and closing fast. At that point Sue realized that she couldn't pass him and maintain her speed. You see, you don't get any prestige points for passing someone and they subsequently pass you. If you pass someone, you have to let them know you're the badass on the bike that day. If you pass them only to have them pass you because you're spent, well then, you're just a dumbass. Sue recognized this and dropped off and said to me as I took over the lead, "Go get 'im". Of course, we got him. The group passed him with a courteous, "On your left" which is a roadie's equivalent to "Go find a bike trail, slow poke. " And you know what the tri-guy did next? He got onto the end of our paceline and let us pull him all the way to our turnoff miles down the road. He never took a pull...typical. Sue immediately earned the nickname "Hammer" because she showed when the time required it she could put the hammer down.

About the Raffle
Thank you to everyone that participated in the fundraising raffle. The big hits of the raffle were the autographed Team CSC jersey, the Chatom Vineyards chardonnay, (which got rave reviews from a winner) and a hand made quilt. These were among the 39 prizes given away. All-in-all the event was a big success. We raised close to $3000 for supporting Team in Training. To the people that read this update, Jill, Steve, Steve, Peggy, and Aunt Butch - you were all winners. I'll be contacting you with your prizes.

Death Ride in two weeks, France in four. July looks to be pretty busy.

Thanks for reading,
Steve

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The People Have Spoken
Okay, no more talk about the mid-life crisis, the votes are in. I'm not going to tour with Duran Duran, I do not want anything to do with Walt Disney's frozen head, I would very much like to drink tequila on a beach, but instead I'm going to do something ridonkulously hard. I, along with some friends from the Death Ride team, are going to France. Well the France part isn't that hard. I mean as long as you don't tell them you're an ugly American it's not. Not that they won't be able to spot me right off. Anyway, here's the deal. We will be riding 8 days in the Pyrenees from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. The Pyrenees are the mountains on the border between Spain and France. In the Tour de France the Pyrenees are known as the difficult mountains. They're steeper, higher and the weather tends to be hotter. Here's a quote from a professional cyclist Jonathan Vaughters:

"The Tourmalet and Hautacam are some of the toughest mountains ever paved. Conquered in a car, they are majestic and beautiful (as long as the engine doesn’t overheat), ridden on a bicycle, they are hell. Now maybe Rob will tell us he’s doing this precisely because those mountains are hell. You know, the ‘
just to see if I can….’ idea. Well, sure, I can try to shave a fully clawed, feral cat, just to see if I can , but the question here is WHY?!"

The Tourmalet and Hautacam are two mountains we climb on day 7. Check out the link to the ride description. So we won't actually be riding in the Tour de France but we will be riding the same routes. It's going to be like fantasy baseball camp for cyclists. Except instead of playing in pretend games that are akin to a beer league softball game, we'll ride the actual routes the pros ride. I realize that it looks like there are better ways to spend your vacation, but hey, when these opportunities come along you just have to step up and take advantage. Life's short, I don't want a eulogy about how I didn't grab opportunities and do something extraordinary. So this will be different. If anyone wants to go on this ride, there are still spots open. I'll work on the other items on my list and I am open to a few more suggestions.

After this year's Death Ride we'll take a couple weeks rest and then pack up the bikes and head to the real mountains. So we will be there July 27th through August 6th. If anybody who reads this blog happens to be somewhere in the Pyrenees, I will be happy to buy the wine at dinner.

Tales from the Road

We've been riding our butts off this training season. I haven't written enough about our riding exploits. To catch you up - I have shaved my legs yet again. It's an annual ritual, kind of like the molting of a chicken. Except most chickens don't live that long to have too many moltings. Anyway I've got that clean shaved professional wrestler look to my legs. (I did not shave any thing else) One of my team mates, a guy, shaved his beard, head, and legs. Of course it was a guy, we don't have many women that have beards. Strike that, none of the women on the team have beards. In fact, the biggest treat about riding on the Death Ride team is you get to ride with some fantastically fit women. And they're nice people too.

Alright, back to the guy who shaved his head...that's a little too extreme and frankly a tad bit unnecessary. I have enough trouble keeping my hair in my head that I'm not about to shave it off. I have one of those stretchy bandanas that I wear under my helmet. It effectively give me the appearance of being completely bald, that is not a look I want to aspire to. In fact when I take my helmet off I look like a 6 foot 2 inch Q-tip. Just when I thought the ultra-revealing bike pants were enough indignity, they create these goofy skull caps. Sure I get the form over function bit, but couldn't they have at least put a design on there like some type of animal. At least then when I take my helmet off it would look like I had an animal on my head. Now that would be cool. Can you imagine the look of surprise if I took my helmet off and it looked like I had a raccoon or snake on my head?

BTW if you happen to be in the vicinity of Markleeville CA on July 12th, you can see some fit women and some bald men, a couple hairy dudes, and maybe a guy with a raccoon on his head. That's the date of the Death Ride, only a month away - yikes!

More Raffle Tickets
I'm still selling raffle tickets. Anyone interested in tickets, drop me an email. I can get them to you. If you haven't received yours yet, they're on their way. The raffle is on June 25th. If you're in the vicinity of the Sports Basement in Walnut Creek we will be hosting our raffle. Food and drinks will be provided. Also if you've purchased a raffle ticket you're entitled to 20% off any merchandise in the store. That's a huge bargain.