April 30, 2011

Angry Bird

It was a breezy day, but the ride was not a breeze. For such a short route, our leader packed in the climbs (2,255 feet uphill over 25.6 miles).

Grinding up the steep grade on Harwood Road, I talked myself out of pausing for a break. I made it. I knew I could make it.

The switchback on Sheldon Lane? Well, not so much. Prudence prevailed. The first visit is always the hardest, especially when you cannot see what lies around each bend. Next time, I will know.

Along the way, some small rocks suddenly cascaded down the slope next to me. Unstable hillside, pedal faster? Wild creature, pedal even faster? The joke was on me—nothing more than a mischievous scrub jay. In life as in art, the angry bird gets the last laugh.

April 23, 2011

Redwood Gulp

I can think of several ways to describe a 17% grade. Landslide, for one. Or lunacy—there's another L word. Our route for the day included Redwood Gulch, which gains 690 feet in altitude over 1.3 miles.

I will never forget the first time I tackled this climb. I felt like the proverbial lamb being led to the slaughter. My heart rate peaked at 199 beats per minute on the steepest pitch. Plug that into the common formula for estimating maximum heart rate:
199 = 220 - (age, in years)
Ah, if only that were true! It was no more true today, when I took a short break at 186 bpm. I could see that the brutal grade was about to relent, but I felt perilously close to stalling out. I should be less of a wimp; I could have made it.

After Redwood Gulch, the rest of the climb to Saratoga Gap felt like a piece of cake. Our reward was the sheer delight of descending Highway 9. The authorities recently reduced the speed limit to 30 mph, which was just as awkward for the silver F430 heading up as it was for my silver Trek heading down. I averaged 29.7 mph—close enough, okay?

Speaking of cake, we proceeded to The Prolific Oven for lunch ... where they serve not chips, but a wedge of cake (!) with each sandwich. Output, some 1400 kcal; intake, turkey sandwich on a fresh croissant and chocolate cake. Works for me.

April 9, 2011

Roue de Secours

There should have been a tailwind. Heading south on Santa Teresa, there is always a tailwind. My ride partner was having an off day; anticipating that tailwind could only help.

But no, the winds were cross today—huffing and puffing with sideways gusts that thrust me toward the traffic lane.
What happens if you get a flat tire?
I fix it, I replied. The question had come from an elderly uncle some time ago, though the answer made no more sense to him than anything else he can imagine about my time on a bicycle.
What happens if you get two flat tires?
The odds are low, unless you did a poor job fixing the first one.

Low, but not zero. At that point, you rely on your patch kit. [Or your ride buddy.] When he flatted a second time, I gladly proffered my spare tube. What are the odds of three flat tires? Even lower, provided your route is not strewn with sharp pointy things. My mind drifted back to a vintage game ... The Increvable card, that's what we need!

Next Saturday is the Tierra Bella; today, volunteers rode the course to look for trouble spots. [And, evidently, to collect sharp pointy things in our tires so our guests will have a better time.]

No mille bornes for us today; a mere 100 km, instead.

April 2, 2011

Whirring Wind Farm

On my last outing, the post-ride conversation turned to wind power and why it seems that the turbine blades are stationary more often than spinning on the hills outside Livermore.

Today, they were spinning. The headwind channeling through the Altamont Pass was not the worst I have faced, but it was substantial. This is, after all, why they planted a wind farm there.

The 35th annual Cinderella ride [my sixth] was arguably the best yet.

We were underway before 7:20 a.m., which is no mean feat given that sign-in opens precisely at 7:00 a.m. Coordinating a small group is always a challenge; invariably, someone needs to return to her car for some critical piece of forgotten gear, or someone can't be found. Three of us took off; rider number four gave up on our missing Cinderella and later caught up.

An early start is a good thing on this ride, to be well ahead of the main pack of less-experienced riders. Off the front of a small group, I missed a turn when I was distracted by a bad driver making a sloppy u-turn (into the bike lane) at that very intersection. That added an extra mile to my day, but the real penalty was the contingent of less-predictable riders into which I merged.

This being my longest ride (by far) in more than six months, I expected to suffer. I thought about not following the Challenge loop, but the Classic route alone is no longer interesting. With ten miles or so to go, I overheard a nearby rider:
Follow those two, they know what they're doing.
Now the gantlet was down—we had a reputation to uphold! We hammered along at the head of the pack for a few miles before we found an opportunity to back off gracefully.

Overall, I averaged 12.9 mph over 82 miles with a modest 3,545 feet of climbing. I can't think of anything good to say about riding into the wind, other than ... it builds character?