Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Weekend Memories

We spent Thanksgiving weekend as far away from shopping malls and Christmas tree lots as possible this year. Not a single gift has been procured, but that's OK, because how often do you get 4 days to spend undivided time with the one you love?

Thursday started out with one of my famous "exploring" rides. This is when we go a general direction into the Los Altos Hills looking for itty-bitty connector roads. We were trying to find an alternate route between Moody and Page Mill that we saw on Google maps. Unfortunately, first stab dead ended into a dirt road (that was probably it). But, we decided to try to go up the other road, which was one of those gnarly, 20% grade jobs - only to end at a dead end about 1/2 mile up. So, back down to Moody to do the proper Moody climb, which felt pretty easy after the prior climb. We descended to Via Ventana and then made the connector over to Altamont and down Taffe and back home. We'd earned our turkey dinner at that point.

Thursday afternoon was spent welcoming Claire Elizabeth, born to friends Ann and Stephen. Hooray! Then, we were off to dine with Stephen and friends while Ann enjoyed turkey loaf at the hospital. They have much to be thankful for this weekend.

Friday, we set out early for our Wine Country adventure. Unfortunately, it was raining, so we opted for the non-cycling activity. We stopped just outside Santa Rosa to explore Annadel state park on foot. What a great spot! We hiked for 2.5 hours, exploring the oak/madrone forest, fir forest, and open meadows. There were some great bits of single track there that make me want to go back with knobby tires some day.

After the hike, it was on to Healdsburg - our home for the weekend. We had a nice rest before our 8:15 dinner reservation at Scopa. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend it. We discovered it last winter during the Tour of California. It's run by a young couple and is just a really nice, seasonal, rustic menu in the Mediterranean style.

Saturday, we started off with a lovely ride around the Dry Creek and Alexander valleys. We were hoping to squeak back before the wine tasting got going - especially as there was a passport in Alexander Valley this weekend. We mostly accomplished our goal. The only rough patch was being passed by buses headed up to the casino. Dang casinos!

We headed back and cleaned up and then had lunch at the Dry Creek General Store - another nice spot. We had staked out Peterson Winery on our ride. I had a bottle of their wine (zin) in Burlingame about 4 years ago that knocked my socks off. But, you cannot find it ANYWHERE. Turns out that they do 90% direct sales and about 10% to restaurants. Anyway, with the long weekend, the vintner himself was there and poured about a gazillion tastes for us and talked all about his wine. He seemed pretty stoked that we had sought out the winery specifically. He opened a bottle of what I'd had in Burlingame, even though they weren't pouring it this weekend. And, we walked out with half a case of stuff. Highly recommended if you are in the area. No charge tastings, a very knowledgeable vintner, and wines that taste great to my palette. They even had a $12 bottle, which I know is an endangered species in Sonoma Valley these days.

We checked out a few other family vineyards who were sharing the complex along with an olive oil maker. We bought two more bottles and then sobered up on the Adirondack chairs on the porch before heading back to town. We dined Saturday evening at the Bear Republic Brewing company - great beer and decent pub food. I had the Racer 5 IPA and Rick had some sort of lager - both excellent.

This morning, we got up early and headed out for the "Eastside/Westside" ride, as we wanted to get back and shower before checking out. It was a gorgeous, clear morning. The cold sinks around the Russian River were pretty cold, but we were plenty bundled. We hardly saw a car all morning. We pulled off on Sweetwater Springs Road so I could do some hill repeats that were in the plan. Man, that is one gnarly climb - reminds me of the climb at Kern - too steep to spin and lots of cattle guards. And, it apparently goes on for 10 miles. We only made it about 3 miles in because of the repeats. However, the views are absolutely fantastic -  soft green hills up close and sweeping views of the valley. Once done climbing, I was pushing to get back so I could eat. I was HUNGRY. And, we'd made the strategic error of forgetting our pocket snacks for the weekend. So, both rides were done on the fat and glycogen stores.

We had a quick lunch at the deli across from our hotel, gassed up the car and headed south. We were absolutely thrilled to make it home in 2.5 hours. What luck! What a weekend! I am so thankful for the time spent with my hubby and all the wonderful memories we share.

Friday, September 25, 2009

An Itty Bitty Trip Report - Adventure Cycling's "Washington Parks" Section 1 route (more or less)

I don't really have time to do a real trip report right now. At some point this will become a full-fledged article. But, for now, a brief synopsis with a few photos.

Day 1 - Saturday September 12, 2009 - Shelton, WA to Brinnon, WA - 41-ish Miles

-Sparkling waters of the Hood Canal
-Sliced/blew out my rear tire at mile 20 and had to switch to spare resulting in dirty state champion kit
-No major climbs
-The Bayshore Inn (aka "Motel 1.5") with mottled shag carpet, Naugahyde chairs and stale tobacco scent
-The Halfway House Restaurant with giant Hood Canal Oysters and Marionberry "Crumble" pie
-Very sore back, which led me to "nose up" the Brooks saddle a bit more

Day 2 - Sunday September 13, 2009 - Brinnon, WA to Port Townsend/Diamond Point, WA - 38-ish miles

-Breakfast with the locals at the Halfway House Restaurant
-First "climb" up Walker Grade - about 3 miles of 5% average
-First espresso stop in the middle of nowhere in Quinlene
-Blackberry eatin' on the side of the road
-Dinner with Cousin Cathy, husband Kent and daughter Holly at the casino in Sequim
-Lodging at the Diamond Point B&B

Day 3 - Monday September 14, 2009 - Port Townsend/Diamond Point, WA to Port Angeles, WA - 33-ish miles

-Breakfast at the Diamond Point B&B
-Riding the Discovery Trail most of the day
-Bike shop stop for new tire in Sequim
-Meeting Astrid, a mid-40s Brittish woman who was almost done riding around the world longitudinally
-Mom's 60h birthday!

Day 4 - Tuesday September 15, 2009 - Rest day in Port Angeles, WA

-Internet access
-Laundry (but in the bathtub, since the fancy hotel did not have facilities)
-Getting an ad-hoc "Twilight" tour of Port Angeles from the local bus driver lady

Day 5 - Wednesday September 16, 2009 - Port Angeles, WA to Lake Crescent, WA - 28-ish miles

-Downpour of Biblical proportions around 11 am
-Diving into Granny's Cafe during the downpour for some of the best food of the trip
-Pushing the button as we headed into Lake Crescent to alert motorists to our presence
-Having one way traffic controls to give us a peaceful ride around the lake
-Hiking to Marymere Falls
-Dinner at one of the prettiest lodges I've stayed at

Day 6 - Thursday September 17, 2009 - Lake Crescent, WA to Forks, WA - 38-ish miles

-Biggest climb of the trip from the end of Lake Crescent through Fairholm
-More one-way traffic controls giving us breaks all day
-The slowest short-order lunch ever at the Hungry Bear Cafe
-Real laundry at the Pacific Inn in Forks
-Dinner at the Chicago-style pizza place in Forks

Day 7 - Friday September 18, 2009 - Forks, WA to Kalaloch, WA - 42-ish miles

-Cheapest breakfast of the trip in Forks
-Narrowest road of the trip, but quietest traffic, which helped
-First view of the ocean
-Kalaloch Lodge, which must be the best-kept secret of the area
-The beach at Kalaloch, strewn with driftwood and very scenic

Day 8 - Saturday September 19, 2009 - Kalaloch, WA to Amanda Park/Lake Quinault, WA - 37-ish miles

-The storm that came through overnight cleared for us to make it out for an early start
-Quiet roads with no logging trucks (good because the shoulder was still small)
-Changing my parents crappy/bumped tires for the 5th time
-The worst hotel/eating arrangements of the trip at the Quinault Rainforest Resort

Day 9 - Sunday September 20, 2009 - Amanda Park/Lake Quinault, WA to Montesano, WA - 51-ish miles

-A very scenic and memorable ride on the backroads through Wiskah and Winochee Valleys
-Lunch stop where we saw a cougar in the road
-A very gravely, dirt descent near mile 45
-The cute town of Montesano
-A satisfying dinner at the Bee Hive cafe

Day 10 - Monday September 21, 2009 - Montesano, WA - Shelton, WA - 42-ish miles

-The quiet Cloquallam back road we were on most of the day
-Seeing a clear cut in action :(
-Bumping into Astrid again during our lunch stop
-A hairy last few miles crossing the town of Shelton
-Arriving safely back at the start

Friday, September 11, 2009

Growing Up and Reversing Roles

I sit here on the eve of the long-awaited 60th birthday bike tour that we planned for my mom. We are also celebrating my dad's 65th this year. Originally, the plan was for Rick, me and my mom to ride and my dad to drive SAG. That was about 4 years ago when we first cooked up this whole thing. Then, my mom got a recumbent trike, and my dad followed a few months later. Pretty soon, we were thinking of a bike tour where we all would ride.

We started planning over the Christmas holiday last year and eventually ended up with a route around the Olympic peninsula in Washington that met all our criteria - ability to drive to the start, not too hilly, hotels/restaurants every 40ish miles, and around 300 miles in distance for a loop. As we got down to it, job situations changed. Now, it's a tour for me, my mom and my dad. Rick is staying home. He took a wonderfully exciting new job during the summer - the only drawback being that a fall vacation would be impossible for him.

Now I find myself in a new position. I, the child, am now the one responsible for the safe delivery of this motley crew around the loop. I am the one who will mentor, navigate, and do roadside repairs, if necessary. Normally, I have my handsome prince to escort me on these little adventures. He is the one who does all the navigating and mentoring and protecting. I feel suddenly inadequate, vulnerable. I guess this is all part of the growing up process. And, yet, I feel totally out of sorts in this new role.

Maybe it's because I realize that I am not ultimately able to deliver that protection that I crave - that we are all at the whim of fate and must rely on the great Protector, but I cannot rely on myself. Maybe it's because I realize that the time of life is bounding quickly toward us where I will find myself more and more in this role as my parents age. I find myself screaming inside "I don't want to grow up! Who put me in charge? I have no idea what I am doing!" Maybe that's a part of growing up, too. The more you learn and the more capable you become, the more you realize how truly inadequate you are.

But, I'm sure all this discomfort is part of my process of becoming who I am meant to be. It's like fitness for the character. If you do not overreach beyond your comfort zone, you never grow and improve. So, I am stepping out of my comfort zone. I'm going to face my fears. We're going to have a wonderful adventure and all grow together in the process. Here's to a joyous, safe, and wonderful Birthday Tour 2009!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Well, I've been just chilling since the end of the season. I've been running and swimming and hiking and generally having a break from the bike. Last week I got back on the bike and started doing some weight training. I have only a short time to get my sit bones adjusted to sitting on the seat again, since I'll soon be escorting my parents soon on their grand tour of the Olympic peninsula in Washington state.

I'm looking forward to the trip and just doing some fun riding - no goals, no technique drills, no speed drills, no intervals - just get from one point to the next each day (and encourage the parents along in the process). It should be a grand 60th birthday celebration for my mom. I'll also be the official photographer for the trip, since cyclistrick will be home working on a product launch at his new job. I'll be doing my best to capture the trip in photos and writing to submit a follow-up article to "Adventure Cyclist".

My first story idea was accepted, now I'm just waiting to see if they take my manuscript (keep your fingers crossed). That is the first part of our adventure - the mini-tour we did in December as preparation for this upcoming tour.

Other than cycling, I've been up to my eyeballs in work. I decided over the summer that the librarian thing just didn't suit me as well as I'd hoped. So, I'm now back to being a software engineer - on the same team I left in December. I've been busily working on a big software release. I've also had a fair bit of freelance and volunteer work going lately. So, all of my bike hours have transitioned to desk hours. But, it's all good. It's a season of work. Now, a season of rest is coming soon. And, then a return to the bike will be soon to follow - with technique drills and speed drills and intervals. But, for now, I'm just along for the ride - following life where it takes me.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Capping off the season in style

I had two pursuit races at the track to end the season. The first one was a "Beat the Clock for Cancer" event, in which I was trying out the various distances and perfecting my starts. They ran the events over several hours. I did the 500m, 1km, 2km and 3km. Again, my 1km was the best of the 4, comparatively speaking. I think I was 2nd in that event. I was 5th in the 500 and last in the 2km. But, I was totally burned up by the time I got to 2km, as I'd been spinning for several hours on my trainer between events to keep warm. I still finished in 3:32, which was 15 seconds faster than last year, which was 3:48.

The next race was the state/district championship. I was guaranteed a win as I was the only entry in my age group. However, I was determined to do significantly better on the 2km distance, as it was the only race I was entering. I pretty much blew it out in 3:21, which is 27 seconds faster than last year and 11 seconds faster than the previous week. I seem to be in the massive improvement state right now, which is cool. I think as I work on starts and pacing, this event will become strong for me. And, I need about 30 seconds more of super-high-end endurance, which I'm sure will come over the next couple of seasons. Soon, I will be ordering my super-euro-trashy white and blue state champion kit!

This was a really positive way to end the season. I am satisfied. Now, it's time to chillax and have some fun before prepping for next year.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Benicia TT - Finding my groove

For the last road TT of the season, I decided to try out the new Benicia TT offered by the Taleo racing team.

I did not pre-ride the course, but had a good description from my team mate, Marsha. It was a 12 mile out and back course.

It was already at least in the 80s F at the start, if not into the 90s. I was sweating like a little piggy on the trainer, but the legs felt good as I warmed up, and I made sure I got enough effort before the start, so it didn't hurt too bad.

The start heads straight down a steep hill for about 1km. It was a little sketchy for the aero bars, so I just got up to speed and moved into the bars once I got to the bottom. There were a couple more descents in the first 3km, which didn't bode too well for the end of the race. But, the pavement was good, the road quiet, and there was a breeze that was neither head nor tail - all in all good conditions.

Since I didn't have a good grasp on the course, and it appeared to be all rolling and never completely flat, I decided to not think of it as 1st half and 2nd half, but rather a series of uphills and downhills. I would go as hard as I could without cracking on the uphills and then back off and try to recover on the downhills. It was definitely more climbing in the 2nd half than the first, so a reverse split would be hard. I got pretty close, though. I turned at 17:30ish and finished at 35:29. So, maybe about 40 seconds away from an even/reverse split. Basically, I'm riding 12 miles in the time it took me to do 10 at the beginning of the season.

I have been really pleased with my season - continually improving and taking time off my previous efforts for races. In my first TT of the season (a low-key 10 mile race), I was dead last. In my second TT, I took over 3 minutes off last year's time for a 10 mile course. The next TT was 10 miles, but hillier, and I took another 45 seconds off. I did a longer TT at almost 20 mph average, and the district championship TT at just over 21 mph average. Today, I was between 20-21, but with heat and significant terrain. But, the best thing was that I was 5th of 11. I've officially moved into the top half of the results. And, I'm getting closer to that podium each time. I'm really enjoying the TTs as they do not strike fear in my heart the way pack races do, and I can really judge my improvement objectively and not against an ever-changing group of competitors.

My last two races of the season will be pursuits on the track. And, I'm looking forward to 2010 and improving even more!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sattley Snot Fest

Saturday, Rick and I made our first venture out to Sattley for the NorCal/Nevada district championship time trial. I have been looking forward to this race for a while, since I haven't ever done an "official" 40k race (did a couple back in triathlon days, but that is totally different). We over-nighted in Truckee, but headed out Saturday afternoon to the course to check it out. There were thunderheads looming and a brisk wind. We saw most of the course, but turned around about 3 miles from the end after having a lightening strike less than 2 miles away (we were catching up with the biggest thunderhead). The headwind on the way back was brutal and the expansion cracks in the pavement demoralizing, which left me set to really hold back on the outbound leg for Sunday. By the way, the scenery out at the course is stunningly beautiful. I'm glad we pre-rode so I could appreciate it without the tunnel vision of racing.

I had my own storm brewing in my throat/sinuses. I had the horrible allergy thing coming on Friday afternoon that I had experienced in April. But, my best attempts to get it under control before the race failed. I think as a result, I had an over consumption of spicy salsa on Saturday night at dinner (ahhhhh), which left my stomach unhappy and my sleep restless. Needless to say, I was not feeling top of my game when we rolled up on Sunday for the race. But, we had traveled so far, and I had trained so much for this race, so there was no going back. I performed my listless one hour warmup and hoped for the best. I knew most of my competition in the W4, and knew they were fast. I was just hoping to lay down a decent benchmark for the 40k and start planning for next year.

I think I did pretty well overall, and proved to myself my ability to focus and turn myself inside out - even when I did feel not well. I held back on the way out - not sure what the winds would do. They were changing quite a bit during the morning. I ended up with a slight reverse split - even with a slight headwind on the return leg, so I guess I paced pretty well. My ending time was 1:10 and change - last place in my group (barely), but just over 21 mph average. My fastest average so far this year was around 20, so it seems I am getting stronger, and perhaps better over a longer distance.

On the way home, my throaty allergies moved on fully to my sinuses. And, by yesterday, I was feeling achy and listless. So, it seems my allergies had morphed into something else (perhaps the major teardown of my body was not helpful ;) ). Anyway, I'm looking forward to feeling better soon and getting ready for next year's race. I think with a little work, I should be able to go under 1:05, which would put me right in the mix.

A huge congrats goes out to my teammates Marsha, Liz, and Soni. Liz went just under one hour, and won her division. Marsha did very well for herself and ended up 3rd in her division. They are both an inspiration for me (and very generous with their knowledge of TT and the course). Soni and her hubby Jeff defended their tandem championship with the fastest tandem time of the day! Woo hoo!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Couple'a Race Reports

I actually have been racing lately. It's been really good and really fun overall. I am having a good season this year.

Calavares TT

This was a new TT this year, and I decided to check it out, since it is so close to home. I did not pre-ride the course, but knew the general area. A teammate, Marcia, was kind enough to recon and provide some info. Basically, it was a stair-stepping out-and-back, with a little kick of .9 miles at the end of the out - about a 4-5% grade. I did the course in 31:49, which was a 45 second improvement over the same distance at Kern. Also, the hill was longer, though less steep. So, I felt good about the race. I was still a bit knackered from Kern, but felt like it was a strong race.

Dunlap TT

I've done this race, previously. However, the course was changed up from two years ago, so I didn't really know what to expect other than it would be pretty much completely flat. It is a 30km course, so a bit longer than what I've been doing most of the season so far. The course started into a cross-head wind. I think I went out a little too hard thinking I was in the head wind. Well, once I turned south, I knew I was in trouble, as I was then in the real head wind. Yikes! There were some markings on the road saying 10k to turn. I was thinking that 10k of the pain would never end. I had to try to minimize my blowing. Several riders passed me before the next turn. The next, fairly short leg, was a cross-tail wind. That was a relief, but it was hard to stay upright at times. As soon as I turned again, I knew it would be full guns a'blazing as I would pick up the tail wind. At that point, I was going 27 mph with little effort. My split at 15k was about 32:30. My split for the 2nd half was about 24 minutes - after I'd already blown and recovered. The winds were definitely howling. It reminded me of Bariani in the afternoon. Total time was 56:35-ish. My average speed was just about 19.7 mph - better than the previous two time trials. I was hoping to hit 54 minutes, but that was looking at last year's times, when the winds were definitely lighter. It was still a good race and good prep for Sattley this coming weekend.

On to Sattley!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Strange encounter with a driver

So, I was riding home last night from the train station and was headed eastbound on Evelyn toward Sunnyvale from Mountain View. As I approached an intersection - I think it was Moorpark, the light was red. I was slowing and coming to a stop. A car pulls up on my left side and starts pacing me. The window was rolled down, and the lady inside says politely, "I'm going to need to turn right here." (of course we were about 50 feet from the intersection at this point, so one would have to yield to the other for her to get around the corner safely). I said, "normally, you should pull in behind me to turn right in this situation" as I was putting my foot down, and giving over the right of way. As I said that, the light turned green. She said "go ahead". I said "It's OK, you go ahead" (since my foot was already down and she was in front of me). Then, she said "thank you". Kind of weird.

Part of me was pleased that she was so polite and considerate. And, part of me was thinking that these interactions would be so much simpler if folks just understand the designated right of ways and abide by them - both cyclists and drivers.

So, just to review this situation and the proper response for everyone....When approaching an intersection on a road with bike lanes, the bike lane becomes a dotted line. This indicates that the bike lane is a right turn lane. While approaching the signal, straight ahead cyclists can indicate their intentions by moving out of the bike lane and into the middle of the lane (if it is safe to do so). Right turning cars should enter the bike lane (yielding to bikes in the lane) and turn right from there. If there is any doubt whether the car can overtake the cyclist in time for the turn, the car should slow and move behind the cyclist.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A tale of two Kerns

I'm not sure why, but I signed up for Kern 2009 after an absolutely miserable Kern 2008. I think it was because it is such a big gathering for the Velo Bellas, and I wanted to be part of that fun energy. And, Rick comforted me with the fact that the average temperature for that weekend in May, in Bakersfield, is 84 degrees. And, I wanted to exorcise the demon of that hill climb that I let dominate me last year. I do not easily give up, and was quite upset with myself after that. So, I told myself that if the temps turned up again, I could just go and hand out water bottles. Ha!

This year, I was much more prepared. Kern was actually my first real race this year, so in that sense, I was less prepared. But, all around, I was more prepared. I did not over-train this year. I built hard all month leading to Kern and then REALLY backed off the last week to let my form come up. Every time it got hot in the Bay Area, I made sure to ride in the hottest part of the day - sometimes with extra clothing with climbs. I wanted my body to become one with that feeling of being in a roasting pan.

My goals this year were:
-Make a huge improvement in the TT (specific goal was to take 1:45-2:45 off the time)
-Hang longer in the circuit race
-Finish the hill climb
-Suffer less than last year

I'm happy to report that all goals were accomplished.

We rolled into town on Thursday and hit the TT course for a preview and to open up the legs a bit. I took a couple looks at the hill and how I could minimize damage there. I was pleased that it was significantly cooler on Thursday than last year at the same time.

Bena Road TT

Friday we assembled at Bena Rd. around 11:30 a.m. We all registered and tried to stay out of the sun. The start times came out and they were placing us at 1 minute intervals instead of 30 second intervals. That created the first challenge of the day - to stay cool and hydrated and manage nutrition for a start that would be over an hour later than expected. It was about 90 degrees out - so a good 10-15 degrees cooler than the 2008 version. I just had to get over the start time change and focus on the event, being happy for the cooler weather and better preparation. When I went off, I did the whole thing on perceived exertion. I did not look at speed, heart rate or power - just went by feel. In the end, I finished with 32:28 - a full 3:17 faster than last year. Wooo hooo! I blew out my goal. I do think I could have gone a bit harder in a couple places. But, I kept myself from blowing and suffered significantly less than last year. So, two goals met for the first race.

Walker Basin Circuit

After a lousy night of sleep (all night mini-golf next to hotel), we headed out to the lovely Walker Basin. It was cooler in the mountains, but actually a bit warmer than last year overall. That was not a good sign. I was nervous about my first pack race in a while. The W4 group did 4 laps this year instead of 5. I figured that was most of the mileage my legs needed for the hill climb. Yay! I let myself be pushed into a bad position because of my nerves. But, I did OK. There was a crash that took a couple riders down in the first sprint up the hill. I was actually feeling good getting up the hill, but got gapped avoiding the crash. I was able to chase back on and hang for a while, but I was eventually doomed by the effort of chasing back after the crash and was dropped. The W4 field was BLAZING. We did the first 3 laps in about 1 hour. Crazy. That's faster than crit speed. We passed the W3, W35+ and W45+ fields. Next year I will be joining the safety and refined tactics of the W35+ group.

Havilah Hill Climb

It was HOTTTT again at the hill climb, though perhaps 5 degrees cooler than last year. I focused heavily on hydration and cooling for this race. I also learned some lessons last year that would be valuable. I ended up wearing an ice-filled Camel Back bladder under my jersey as I had done at the TT. This gave me extra water and cooling of the core. When the whistle went, I just settled into my Zone 3 pace and let the pack go. I knew I had to stay in Zone 3, because it was going to take me more than 1 hour and I couldn't be in Zone 4/5 much, if at all.

Right off the bat, there was another rider behind me. I tried to stay with Kat from Velo Girls, but she wanted to go a bit faster on the approach. I passed another rider in the first 3 miles. Stragglers from other fields came past me. I just focused on my own effort. A couple miles into the climb, one of the W4s came back down the hill. So, I had 2 behind me and one pulled out. Not bad so far. I finally caught up with Kat and we rode together for a bit. She had let herself blow a bit and was dealing with nausea. I ended up going past her when she blew again after the slight slack section. I played cat and mouse with Marsha, a team mate in the 55+. She was alternately walking and riding much faster than me. I just kept plugging along at my snail's pace. She eventually finished a couple minutes ahead of me. I felt GREAT until the last 1K. I think I started feeling the altitude a bit at that point and was breathing shallow breaths. But, I made it! And, I wasn't last! Perhaps next year I will try staying with the pack at least until the turn.

Woody Road Race

This was the point in the race where I suffered as much or more than last year. I started the day in last place, as I hadn't made enough time on Kat in the hill climb to make up for the circuit (barely) and the rider behind me pulled out at the start of the race. It was just as hot as last year, plus there was some humidity. It was miserable. And, the structure of the start was different than last year. We started with the steep, 2km climb that was at the end last year. I stayed with the pack over the first couple bumps. Then, I realized I would not be able to push that kind of effort and still finish the 50 miles. I backed off an buddied up with Kat to ride out the race. We could see Lala and Lisa H. ahead of us and thought we might be able to catch at some point. As we finished the first lap, Kat was feeling nauseous again and decided to call it a day. I felt good, so kept going. The 2nd time up the steep section really took it out of me, though. I told myself to just get to the feed zone where Rick and Michael were, and I could pull out if I needed to. But, they patched me up and encouraged me, so I continued to the finish. I think that was the slowest 50 mile ride of my life. I was literally limping to the end and then had a little meltdown riding back to the car. Fortunately, Ryan came by and gave me enough encouragement to get to the parking area. Thanks, Ryan!

So, despite a miserable last day, I had a great Kern. What a contrast with last year! I am making baby steps in the right direction. If I improve my TT as much this year as last, I will be in the top 5 next year. :) I met my goals and even ended up with the lantern rouge for my efforts. Thanks to all the Bella team mates and to Rick, Tyler, Michael and Erika for being our support crew. And, thanks to all the other racers, Velo Bob, and officials who did the give and take of encouragement the whole weekend. That is something that makes Kern a truly unique experience.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Article Part 3

We rendezvoused at 8:00 am the next day for breakfast, with a goal of rolling out about 10:00 am. The hotel had a decent breakfast spread, and we were able to stock up on enough calories to see us through lunch. My husband and I headed over to the local grocery deli to procure four sandwiches for lunch – knowing that it would be too many hours before we could reach a lunch spot.

The four of us headed out from Lompoc together. My mom and dad were still feeling good. My dad was having some knee pain, so I suggested he check his cleat position to make sure his knee and foot were properly aligned. We took off at a mellow pace at the bottom of the grade headed to Gaviota pass on Highway 1. The morning was beautiful and calm. We previously had not traveled this section of road since we routed through Solvang on our last tour down the coast. About 5 miles up the road, we came across another cyclist heading out from his van with his wife and daughter running SAG. We chatted for about 10 minutes and then continued on. By the halfway point, we hadn’t seen my parents in a while, so we pulled off on the side of the road in a sunny patch with a guardrail and enjoyed a snack while waiting. About 20 minutes later, we were regrouped and headed up the pass again. We passed some pretty farmhouses and vineyards. There were cottonwoods filling the canyon – still golden in color, even though it was late December. And, the recent rains had painted the hills a rich green color – a rarity in the inland part of Santa Barbara County.

We had another regroup at 10 miles. My dad’s knee was feeling much better since adjusting his cleat. I was happy to hear that news. Just after we started up again, my husband ran over a huge tack that went through the tire and sidewall. Knowing we had a long, high-speed descent coming up, we were not happy about the sidewall puncture. But, we sent my parents on ahead and proceeded to fix the tire. We booted it with a couple layers of booting material (Tyvex left over from shipping envelopes or race numbers). It took about 30 minutes to do it right, but gave my parents a good head start on the last five miles to the pass.

We caught them with one mile to go. I could tell they were starting to bonk as we arrived at the top of the pass (our designated lunch stop) and waited nearly 15 minutes for them to arrive. It had been three hours since leaving Lompoc, and we’d only covered 15 miles. I knew we would need to push, as it was 1:00 pm, and we still had 30-35 miles to reach Santa Barbara before dark. We had a quick lunch and headed down the pass. We were leery of the junction of Highway 101 and Highway 1. But, we barreled ahead. It turned out my fears were unfounded, as there was little traffic. The descent was lovely, and we had a little headwind, so we could slow ourselves down nicely by sticking out our elbows.

It was a beautiful, clear day as we hit the long coastal run on Highway 101. I’d never ridden that particular section and was worried about noise and traffic. But, there were reasonable gaps in the traffic where we could talk. And, the shoulder was plenty wide to avoid the cars. Shortly after starting south, I got a flat tire on the rear, which again gave my parents a chance to catch up a little bit. After fixing the tire, we continued on with a clear view of the Channel Islands in the distance – what a beautiful day! It was one of those clear views you can only get after the rains wash away the California smog. Our tour could not have been timed better.

My husband and I were making excellent time with the help of coastal tailwinds. So, again, we were quite a bit faster. We stopped at Refugio State Beach for a snack break and a chance for them to catch us again. We regrouped and had approximately two hours to complete the last 20 miles to Santa Barbara. We decided we would not regroup again until the end. We put our heads down and headed quickly to the Goleta exit where bikes had to leave the freeway. We did not know the exact location of the restaurant where we were meeting. But, fortunately, we had a GPS unit that was able to guide us there. At about 4:30 pm, we arrived at the Elephant Bar next to the Santa Barbara airport.

I ran in to change clothes. When I emerged, my aunt and uncle (my dad’s brother and wife) pulled up with my dad’s truck and their car. I started loading stuff in the truck while my husband went in to change. We were just finishing up as my parents arrived – at 5:00 pm straight up. That could not have been planned closer to the minute. My aunt, mom, husband and I went in to put our name in for a table while my dad and uncle loaded the rest of the equipment in the truck and locked everything down.

We enjoyed a hearty meal in celebration of our accomplishment and toasted my parent’s success with big glasses of ice water (and diet cola, of course). During the short, one and a half hour ride home, we marveled over all that we miss while speeding down the road in a car, and how much we enjoyed passing slowly through familiar territory on quiet back roads.

My parents are currently in the midst of a nine-month training plan to ready themselves for their first long tour. We will cover approximately 300 miles in 8-9 days, and will love every minute of it. I rediscovered my love of cycle touring and shared the love with my parents. That was my Christmas gift to all of us.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Article Part 2

Just south of Guadalupe are rolling farmlands. We got a strong odor of broccoli harvest and enjoyed the views of the lush, green hills dotted with ancient outbuildings. This is the flattest part of the route, and we were zipping along with almost no vehicular accompaniment. There was a nice highway patrol man who pulled over three vehicles in 10 short miles of riding, and I only think we saw about five total vehicles. I guess everyone who passes through the area must take the speed limit as more of a suggestion.

We were approaching the outskirts of Old Orcutt (our designated lunch stop) when we received a call from my parents. They had just arrived at Jack’s – the restaurant where we were going to refuel. We told them we were about 10 minutes out.

When we arrived at Jack’s, they had already commandeered a table outside. It was just warm enough to enjoy the patio and sun. We made our drink orders while perusing the menu. My husband and I decided breakfast for lunch was the order of the day and had some of the most decadent homemade cinnamon bread French toast I’d ever seen. It was caramelized to perfection and struck me as somewhere between French toast and a cinnamon roll. Mom and Dad shared a burger that looked to be an entire side of beef with a diet cola, of course. We’re still teaching them the fine art of fueling for a long tour. I did inform them that there would not be a steak dinner that evening, as they needed to replenish their glycogen stores. After a hearty and delicious lunch, we were ready to start the climbing. The Orcutt grade was first up.

As you leave Old Orcutt, the climbing starts almost immediately. The good news is that Highway 1 widens out to have a 10’ shoulder at that point. So, the high-speed traffic is much less nerve wracking. The Orcutt grade is very gentle and typically has a tail wind, as it did on this particular day. So, we zipped right to the top with little effort. My parents took a bit longer as they do not have such a benefit from tail winds on their low-slung trikes (the flip side being that they do not suffer as much from head winds).

Instead of following the typical coastal route of turning off on Highway 135 to the Harris grade, we continued on Highway 1 toward Vandenberg Air Force Base. My parents had a fear of Harris Grade and thought the other route was easier. We’d never used that stretch of road before, so it was an opportunity to try something new. We had another grade on Highway 1 before a long descent into a tree-lined valley. It was quite beautiful, actually, and I was glad to have a chance to see this new stretch. After zipping through the valley, I could see a long and steeper climb of about a mile reaching in front of us. It was only about 5-7%, however. Near the bottom of the hill, we came across a gentleman pushing a 20 year old hard tail mountain bike, fully loaded, with a trailer behind piled about eight feet high with pots and pans and dog food and a dog. His shirt said “We’re from Everywhere”. He asked if we’d throw him a rope and give him a pull, which was funny, since we were only going about eight miles per hour at the time. But, I suppose to him, it seemed we were blazing with speed.

We had a brief break at the top of the grade where my dad cracked open a cold, refreshing diet cola and prepared for the final run into Lompoc. We turned off to roll past the federal prison – a stretch a cycling friend of my parents had recommended. I was happy it was a weekend day. That would be a pretty heavy stretch with freight during the mid-week.

In Lompoc, we secured accommodation at the Holiday Inn Express. Everyone had a shower and then we headed out for a hearty dinner at Burrito Loco. On our previous trip down the coastal route, we ate lunch there. It was one of those times that I was so hungry that it seemed like the best food I’d ever eaten. It was still good this time – especially the salsa. I love the feeling of a hearty meal at the end of a long day of cycling – eating when truly hungry and feeling truly satisfied. It is a joy.

We called it an early night and enjoyed a long sleep in the pillow-filled, over-stuffed bed.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Article Part 1

Below is the first part of my article that I wish to submit to Adventure Cyclist. It is a first draft. I'd love input from any aspiring editors!

Teaching my Parents to Tour

A holiday mini-tour of the California central coast

My husband and I are avid bicycle tourists. We fell in love with touring in 2002 on a guided tour in Tuscany. We had already been riding recreationally on the weekends and doing some bicycle commuting, but that was our first foray into bicycle travel. As we went from hill town to hill town, we looked at the prices on the back of hotel room doors and the great Michelin maps of Europe and decided we could plan a similar trip for much less money if we were willing to carry our own load. So, in 2003 we bought touring bikes and panniers.

We decided to try self-supported credit card touring close to home as our first adventure. We roughly traveled the Pacific Coast route from our home in the Bay Area, California to my aunt and uncle’s home in Santa Barbara over one week, returning by train. We packed WAY too much stuff (4 panniers and a handle bar bag each), but that was part of the learning process. When we arrived at my parents’ home in Arroyo Grande for a rest day, we mailed about 16 pounds of stuff back home. It was a good thing, since we headed around Lake Cachuma and up over the old Stagecoach Road and Camino Cielo to eventually reach Santa Barbara. It was good being a little lighter for that part of the journey.

We subsequently did a tour in the Dolomites, Alps and Lake Country of Italy in 2004 followed by a tour from Bordeaux, France to Barcelona, Spain in 2005 and a tour in the Eastern Sierras in 2006. Each time we learn more things, have a grand adventure, and return refreshed and ready for the rhythms of everyday life to recommence. However, bicycle racing, job changes and injury have kept us away from touring for the last two years, and we are hungry for another adventure.

Recently, my parents became semi-retired and purchased two recumbent trikes with the idea of finding a recreational activity that was appealing to both of them. They expressed some curiosity and interest in our travel by bike and stated that they wanted us to plan a tour with them for my mother’s 60th birthday in late 2009. We are currently planning to take them on the Adventure Cycling “Washington Parks” small loop next fall.

Knowing there is a significant knowledge and fitness gap between recreational riding and touring, we decided to plan a little trial run before dragging them many miles from home to ride for 7-10 days. We had about a week off over the holidays this year, so we decided to plan a two day mini tour from their home – just to introduce them to the idea and feeling of touring.

As the time approached, I also felt that familiar mix of anxiety and excitement about heading out on another tour. There is always that small bit of apprehension – knowing how vulnerable we are on the road. However, I always tell myself that it must be overcome, that I will miss out on something truly special if I give in to the fear. And, this time, I really needed to fall in love with my bike again. Two long racing seasons had left cycling feeling a lot more like work and a lot less like adventure. While racing is fun and challenging, it is the adventure of travel that I love more than just about anything else about riding a bike. I love the tentative exploring of a new road and discovery of all the secret beauty along the way that you only see if you pass through slowly enough to notice. That is the great thing about traveling by bike – you can cover enough distance to reach a “destination” each day, yet you are moving slowly enough to enjoy the “journey” along the way.

We decided to make their first tour as easy and enjoyable as possible. For them, that meant keeping the terrain to a minimum, wide shoulders as much as possible, daily distance of less than 50 miles, a nice hotel room and hot meal in between the days, and a hassle free way to get home. We also decided that since we had a whole week available, we’d time the ride to good weather. We would not head out if rain were in the forecast. Being in central California afforded us that luxury. I know a lot of people who are able to just decide to tour, load up a bike, and head out on a fully loaded tour with no experience, minimal fitness and minimal planning. However, I believe a lot more people would discover and enjoy this form of travel if it is made more accessible at first and if they have mentors to show them the basics. That was the type of experience we wanted to provide for my parents. We decided to revisit a bit of our trip from 2003 and head down the Pacific coast route to Santa Barbara. However, with my parents’ needs in mind, we made some deviations from the route we’d previously taken.

The weather on Christmas Day was miserable with a lot of rain and wind. We just enjoyed Christmas dinner with friends and waited for the weather to pass. The next day, my parents were exhausted from the festivities of the prior day and it was still quite cold and windy. But, warmer temperatures and lighter winds were predicted for the following two days – the 27th and 28th of December – a Saturday and Sunday. We also figured truck traffic on the major highways would be lighter on the weekend days, so we decided to head out then. On the 26th, my Dad drove his Toyota Tacoma truck with crew cab down to Santa Barbara, which would serve as our transportation home. Fortunately, his sister had been down there visiting my aunt and uncle, so he was able to ride home with her. While he was doing that, my husband and I headed out on a tune-up ride to make sure all was well with our touring bikes that he’d just adjusted and lubed. We had a nice jaunt through the Edna valley and some lunch and headed home to pack.

We assisted my parents in packing – helping them decide which clothes were needed and also which supplies. We ensured they both had 2 spare tubes as well as 1 spare tire for the trip, as their tire size is a bit more eccentric. We also assisted them in minimizing their clothing selection for the weekend. In the end, my mom’s clothing selection was a bit too minimized as she only had one pair of pants, which became greasy the first day.

The following was our packing list:
1. Wallet (ID cards, medical cards, credit cards and some cash)
2. keys
3. cell phones and charger
4. GPS
5. Digital camera
6. 4 spare tubes and tire irons and patch kit
7. Multi tool with chain tool, hex wrenches and mini-pedal wrench
8. 2 pair cycling shorts (each)
9. 1 cycling jersey (each)
10. 1 wool base layer (each)
11. leg warmers (each)
12. 2 pair wool socks (each)
13. chemical toe warmers (It had been below freezing every night and morning for a couple weeks.)
14. cycling shoes
15. long-fingered cycling gloves
16. stocking cap
17. rain jacket
18. PJs and underwear
19. Lightweight street shoes
20. Jeans
21. T-shirt
22. Wool sweater (could be used with street clothes and as an extra layer on the bike)
23. Ziploc bag with approximately 2000 calories of portable snacks

All of the above items fit in 2 small panniers each – not even full. With all the winter clothing, we had about the same volume that we would have for a two-week tour in the summer, but fewer clothing items. In the summer, we would have two complete cycling kits, and two to three changes of street clothes. The summer clothes can be lightweight wools and technical fabrics that pack in a very small space.

Saturday morning, we arose around 7:00 am and eased ourselves into the tour. We switched from PJs to cycling clothes, put the PJs in the panniers, the panniers on the bikes and filled water bottles. All this was interspersed with breakfast and coffee. It was a beautiful, sunny morning. And, by 9:00 am, the temperatures had eased over 40 degrees. We were ready to roll!

As we headed out in the garage, we noticed something strange about my parents’ packing. A trunk bag had been situated on my mom’s trike, loaded with 6 diet colas for my Dad. In the end, he and my mom had a negotiation and she carried some of the cans, and he carried the others. Apparently, the trunk bag was selected for ease of access. We gave them a little head start via a friend’s pickup truck to Guadalupe, and we rolled out straight from their house.

We were using the Adventure Cycling Pacific coast route with a few modifications. Heading out of Arroyo Grande, we took the Los Berros Road option instead of heading directly up Highway 1 on to what is know as “the Mesa”. We’d taken Highway 1 on our previous tour. Los Berros Road was a nice, quiet option and also removed a bit of climbing, which was nice as we got warmed up. We rolled along the Mesa and eventually into the big descent to Guadalupe. We were joined by a large group of club cyclists as we descended and headed through the fields to the small town of Guadalupe.

In Guadalupe, we took a short break, removed jackets, and continued pedaling south. We passed the storefronts that were covered with colorful tile murals in October 2003. Today, they are more Spartan, thanks to the Paso Robles earthquake of December 22, 2003.

To be continued....

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cleaning up our own house

I've been holding off on writing about this, since I fear I will bring some hypocritical bad karma down on myself or something. But, I think it's got to be said.

As some of you know, I've recently changed jobs and am now working on the border of Atherton/Menlo Park. In previous years, I've been commuting a bit off the beaten path - riding from north Sunnyvale to Cupertino. I would run into other bicycle commuters here and there, but nothing like my current situation.

If I am doing a workout, I may take the longer route to work via the outskirts of Mountain View and Foothill Boulevard. However, at least 4 times a week, I am using the much more popular Bryant Street bicycle boulevard and either Middlefield through Mountain View or the new Mountain View bicycle boulevard. This has got to be one of the most traveled bicycle corridors in the state. During my commutes, I've experienced a fair bit of dangerous, bad behavior from motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. However, as the weather has improved and the days longer, I've noticed a huge uptick in close calls with other cyclists during my ride. I started to take mental statistics about the behavior of my own people - the cyclists. Well, let's just say - it ain't pretty. None of us are going to be nominated for sainthood or anything. In fact, if our good deeds around cycling are weighed against the bad, I fear we may be found lacking.

In the last 4 weeks, I have only observed *one* other cyclist (other than Rick and I) come to a complete stop (either trackstand or foot down) at a stop sign along the route. One of literally hundreds. Seriously. Just because it's a bike boulevard and we get preference does not mean we can disregard the law.

So, now we come to Friday night. Friday night on my ride home, I was nearly hit 4 times by cyclists who took my right of way and disobeyed the law at traffic control devices. Believe me, I don't think I'm perfect in this regard. I have made mistakes in judgment that have put myself and others in danger, too. The difference is that I'm really trying to be aware and work on my cycling citizenry. So, 4 out of about 10 cyclists I encountered endangered me. An additional 2 were also riding recklessly - one talking on a cell phone while riding on the sidewalk, and one riding on the wrong side of the road. Another one was observed riding in commute traffic with iPod buds in both ears. Seriously. So, ~70% of the cyclists I encountered were a danger to themselves, pedestrians and other cyclists. In the meantime, I encountered several hundred automobiles - 2 of which took my right of way, and only one of which endangered me in the process.

The car who endangered me dove into the bike lane to right-pass a left-turning car just as I was approaching on the right - one of the known dangers of passing other traffic on the right in a bike lane, and why I sometimes choose to merge into a long line of cars. However, in this circumstance I was approaching an intersection where I wanted to go straight through and cars approaching from the other direction have to yield their left turns and often don't. So, sometimes it's safer for me to approach that intersection in the bike lane where the sight lines are better - rather than behind large vehicles.

Close call #1:
I was riding East on Bryant street, just having come across the bike bridge from Menlo Park. A cyclist traveling perpendicular to me on Palo Alto Ave. ran the one-way stop control as she turned left on to Bryant nearly tagging me as I went straight through. She did not even slow down or observe. Cyclist appeared to be in her early 20s on a nice, hybrid bike, wearing a helmet, riding in jeans and a Stanford sweatshirt. She had reasonable bike handling skills.

Close call #2:
A whole 1-2 blocks later, I am continuing east on Bryant approaching either Hawthorne or Everett. Both streets have a two-way stop sign with Bryant having no stops and the right of way. A cyclist approaching on my left slowed at the stop sign and "observed", but obviously not observing enough to "see" and then proceeded to blow the stop sign. I had to tag my brakes pretty hard not to t-bone him. I was riding "in the lane" so as to create decent site lines. He just did not look carefully enough. He was a middle aged male cyclist in full cycling gear on a nice touring-style bike.

Close call #3:
I am at the light at Carlson waiting to turn left (northbound) on E Charleston. The light turns green. There is a pedestrian in the crosswalk to my left with a baby carriage coming the opposite direction. I ease into the intersection and wait for her to clear. As I start to make my turn, a cyclist coming northbound on E Charleston from my right side runs the red light. I have to turn extra sharp to avoid being broadsided by him as he comes around my right side. Middle-aged, male cyclist on a fully equipped touring bike. It appears he saw me, deemed I was not a threat and would avoid him, and came through anyway.

Close call #4:
I was on Central Ave. (Mountain View bike boulevard) waiting to cross straight through over Moffett. In the opposite direction are lined up a car and a cyclist. I was pretty sure the car was fixing to take the right of way from me. He was signaling a left turn, revving the engine and already had the wheels turned a bit. The cyclist was a mystery. Sure enough, when the light changed, the car peeled out. The cyclist behind him continued into the intersection without signaling. As I was about 2/3 of the way across headed straight through, the cyclist starts turning left into me. We both apply brakes and have a little standoff. It felt a bit like a slow match sprint. Finally, I stepped on it and gunned the rest of the way through the intersection. Cyclist was a late 20s - early 30s male on a well-equipped hybrid bike with one iPod earbud in while riding.

Anyway, I'm just hoping maybe some of us can do a little soul searching in this area and see if we can improve our cycling behavior - both for PR and for the safety of other cyclists and pedestrians we share the road with. All of us know we face many threats when on the road and need to continue to advocate for better behavior/education/prosecution of motorists that threaten us. But, do we really need to be a threat to each other? Can't we do better?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Next month I will be attending the Kern County Women's Stage Race, which always seems to be the hottest race of the year.

Some of my teammates have the "Kern Taper", which I think involves some combination of asceticism (lack of alcohol and sugar) along with a big fitness build and rest right before the race. This year, I am practicing "Kern Acclimation", which involves exerting while being uncomfortably hot, so that when I arrive at the fabled stage race, I will not suffer the same magnitude as last year.

Last year I noted that on average the southern California gals just plain old did better at the race than the northern California gals. Are they more fit? Doubtful. More disciplined? Doubtful. The only difference I can think of is that they spend more time training in the heat. And, I fondly remembered the days when I could go running in the hundred degree heat in Stockton and be slightly uncomfortable, but not panicky hot like I was at Kern last year.

So, instead of always riding first thing in the morning, I've purposefully put myself out in the hottest part of the day. Well, this week, the weather presented the perfect opportunity for Kern simulation. So, I took full advantage. When I tell normal people my regimen, they just think I am crazy. But, that's OK.

Sunday, the temps soared to over 90 degrees. So, I planned to ride leaving around 1-2:00 pm and then stay out until 4:00, putting me in the hottest part of the day. I also had a climbing workout on Sunday, so I was going to be pushing pretty hard. I threw on a wool base layer and knickers just to up the effect. I figure 90 degrees with warm clothes has to be close to 105 degrees with minimal clothes. I did a series of climbs. And, on the lower part of Page Mill managed to give myself that crazy, woozy, panicky, tunnel vision feeling I had throughout the hill climb at Kern last year. I told myself to relax. It was a mental game. I finished that climb and had 2 others of less steepness and felt fine on those. I just have to relax and keep going.

Yesterday, I continued my acclimation. The temps soared to the mid-90s yesterday. And, we have no air conditioning at work and old, no-insulation construction. So, I got to practice sitting all day in the heat sweating and then doing my workout at the end of the day - just like day 2 at Kern. Amazingly, I felt cooler once I was on the bike. The cooling effect of the wind was good - even though it was still in the mid-90s when I left work. I was pleased that my resting heart rate in the heat was slightly elevated, but not nearly as high as I experienced at Kern last year. And, when I got to doing my efforts during the ride, I had to push as hard as I do in the morning to achieve the desired heart rate - so no major effects of the heat. Granted, the sun was not high in the sky, but the temps were still very high. I was pleased with my body's ability to cope.

Now that I've prepared myself for the worst, it will likely be in the 60s and raining during the race. But, that is OK, too. :)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fits and Starts

Spring is coming to the Bay Area in fits and starts. Yesterday it was approaching 80 degrees and sunny. Today, it is 55 degrees with sheets of rain falling. I'm longing for Spring to take hold and usher in more predictable days. However, I know that in the end these rainy days will bring nourishment to the earth and other things that we need.

I did, however, take full advantage of our days in the sun. The Girls (aka the prayer and spiritual formation group I've been with for 13-ish years now) and I headed to Bodega Bay last weekend for a retreat. We have not been away together for a couple years. We rented this house that was constructed entirely of windows, it seemed. My friend Ann and I struggled up the windy roads in the dark on Friday night to arrive, only to awaken to spectacular views on Saturday morning. Out the front of the house was a 270 degree view of the ocean and out the back were rolling green hills dotted with cattle. What a treat! There was even a peaceful garden laden with honey bees doing their Spring thing. It was a perfect opportunity to relax, grow, and reflect. I can tell we are getting older, because the wine consumption was at an all-time low and the going to bed time much earlier than in the past. Much has changed for us over the past 13 years, but our reasons for struggling through life together are constant. It's been a spiritually difficult couple of years for me, but I find myself emerging, like Spring, in fits and starts.

One area that's been incredibly blessed for us is the financial aspect of life. Well, now that we've patched other things up, we have a little setback there. It's not that we are not OK. We are. But, certain goals will have to move to the back burner for now. I know this is all part of the rains that will nourish us and cause new growth when Spring finally takes hold. We just have to weather the storm. In the meantime, Rick's fitness and our garden will both enjoy a little tending while he looks for what he wants to do next.

Here's to the last fits of Winter and the promise of the start of Spring.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

TTrying to geTT inTTo a Groove

Well, I've been pretty silent on the blogosphere. I don't really know why, but I'm a little uninspired lately. Here's what's going on.

First Race of the Season
Well, my first race was supposed to be Bariani - a 30 mile road race. But, I'd had a lousy week starting with barfing. Then, the worst allergies I've had in my life crept up on me - to the point that I could barely breathe on Sunday and was blowing 3 tissues worth of snot every time I got off the couch. And, there was an unstable cold front moving through the area that morning, which made the whole thing unappealing. So, I bagged the race and registered for a TT this weekend instead. This is probably a good thing, since this entire season is focused on TT/pursuit. It is going to be good to work some kinks out with that before any races that I care about doing well in.

The New Jobby thing
It turns out I had a probation period that I wasn't aware of - which is probably a good thing, because I would have been stressing about it. Fortunately, I passed with flying colors.

I just finished up my big research project yesterday to support the web site redesign I'm working on. I'm still crunching the data and all, but have some good hints about where I should be going. The research included a heuristic evaluation, survey and usability study. I was thrilled to find two professors who would work with me on administering my survey during their classes. In the end, I was able to get surveys from about 15% of the student body, which is fantastic. I was also able to recruit an appropriate mix of students/faculty to participate in my usability study - amazing since I've only been here 3 months and barely know anyone. I am truly grateful to have gotten what I need to move forward. And, the cool thing is that one of the profs wants me to come back and speak to his classes about what I learned in the survey and how it will shape the redesign.

Other randoms
I finished up my article to submit to Adventure Cycling while I was on Spring Break. Maybe I'll post some of it here for critique. I'm sure it needs some spiffing to be palatable.

In the meantime, the planning of our 2nd tour with the parents is going well. After we selected the route and dates, my dad has taken over the logistics planning, which he loves. It's kind of fun to see how each of us is contributing from our expertise and gifts to make this thing happen. I am really looking forward to it. Mom and Dad just completed a week of training camp in Palm Desert, so they are full of fitness and confidence for the journey ahead.

There is just so much to be grateful for right now in life. Hoooray!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Dog Days of Winter

Yep, it's that time of year. The time where I find it really hard to live in the present and really easy to focus on what lies ahead.

Normally I love training. However, there have been a few too many rain-soaked rides with flat tires or hours spent on the trainer lately to really be in love with the training. I do occasionally find a bright spot in the routine - the times I get to sneak in a weekend ride between storms with the Rickster are especially nice. So, mostly I'm looking forward - forward to the start of the season (Bariani to shake off the cobwebs) and to sunny days ahead.

Also, I can't help but look forward to longer days. One time recently, I was able to leave work around 5:30, and I got about 3 miles from home before the light completely disappeared. Very soon, I will be able to get all the way home in the light, which also means I can pull out the TT bike for some of the training/commuting rides (assuming rain is not around). The downside is that I will be departing in the morning twilight, but since I rarely go out before 7, it's not much of an issue. I have enjoyed being able to wake up on my own at 6:30 with the light peeking in the windows. I am looking forward to the long days of late spring when the alarm clock becomes merely an insurance policy. I love being truly awake when I get out of bed.

There are a bunch of things in life (work and personal) right now that are in the "just put your head down and get 'er done" category. I'm working through the list. I should be feeling free and breezy about the beginning of April. For now I am a bit stressed. But, I am grateful for a full life and good friends, family and co-workers who are relying on me. I have a sense of purpose. It is all good - just a little over-full right at the moment.

And, of course, there is the Wanderlust. It has been bugging, itching, prodding screaming I NEED AN ADVENTURE!!!! Watching Rick Steves marathons on PBS does not help with this issue. I'm watching the foreign currencies take a nose dive and wanting to pounce on that. Fortunately we have the Fall tour of the Olympic Peninsula already in the planning stages. This will likely curb my appetite for a bit longer. Next spring we will need, need, need to bust out of the USofA and find an adventure - maybe Argentina will be back on the table, maybe the Danube tour, maybe just go for somewhere we know we will like - Umbria, Dolomites, Provence. There is some part of my soul that needs to ride through the countryside on my bike and linger through 3 hour meals sipping wine, soaking in scenery and 24x7 Rick. That is just the best thing ever, as far as I'm concerned. But, for now I must work in anticipation of that future time when we will commence our next adventure. And, I must find a way to make an adventure out of every day!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fitness update

Since Twinkie asked, I will give a little fitness update. I am currently in week 2 of my quest to be less squishy in the upper body....meaning that I should be able to lift something weighing more than a Danish. However, this is possibly at odds with the general cyclist aim of having arms and shoulders that look like those of an emaciated prisoner of war while having legs that look like the dead lifters in the Olympics. If you want to read up more on the fitness plan, you can visit

Well, I'm happy to report things are going well. When I started, I could only do 3 consecutive pushups (man style). That means I am following the "wimp" plan in the far left column. Yesterday, I completed 24 pushups in my workout. I almost lost it on the last one, but teetered and wobbled my way back up from the brink. In between the push up sets, I did my normal stretching/foam roller/situps. I also did 30 situps with nothing/no one holding my feet down. We'll see if I can get back in the hundreds with that again soon, too. In the next 4 weeks I should be able to do 100 pushups in 5 sets. We shall see....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I am sooooo aero!

For the first time ever, I got a TT-specific bike fit. I am focusing my season around TT and pursuit, so it seemed I should have something better than "road bike fit with aero bars slapped on" for my TT setup - especially since I have a bike dedicated to the purpose. I think this will make a massive difference. If nothing else, I should finish races without tweakage in my back, which will be a good thing!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Commute Reconnaissance and Training Notes

Well, I finally have a rest week this week. Hooray for that! The great part about that is I don't have much structure and shorter morning rides, so I can go out and explore new ways of connecting Sunnyvale with Menlo Park (really Atherton).

Today, I decided to explore the new Mountain View Bike Boulevard. I've been pretty happy with the northern part of the route (Bryant through Palo Alto, over the bridge, left on Willow, right on Laurel, left on Encinal to campus). But, there have been many variants on the south end of the route (cross 101 immediately and use Middlefield or Evelyn) or take Moffett Park/Manilla up to Middlefield or continue on Fairchild to Moffett Blvd. to Central? All of these leading eventually back to Bryant street.

Today, I headed across Moffett Park/Manilla to Ellis to Fairchild to a left on Moffett Blvd. and then right on Montecito (the new Mountain View Bike Boulevard), which dropped me off nicely behind the old Mayfield Mall. That made for easy connection with the Bryant bicycle route to the north. Overall, it was a good, quiet route. It has some nice signage (5 minutes to Rengstorff, 10 minutes to San Antonio - assuming a 10mph average, I think). It is not as well calmed as the Bryant section south of downtown Palo Alto, but about as well calmed as the northern section of the Bryant route. There were a few more stop signs than I would have liked. The only bad part of the route was a veer left on Jane St., which had no controls, so it was unclear who had the right of way (needless to say, I did not assume right of way with speeding vehicles heading to nearby Monta Loma school). Once past the school, all was well with the world again. The route was a bit longer than the straight Middlefield shot, meaning a slightly longer riding time. However, the riding time vs. running time was much better, with only about 5 minutes lost to stopping, as opposed to the usual 10 minutes lost on the Middlefield/Bryant route.

Training Notes

Well, I've just come through my second build of the season. I'm getting pretty close to being ready to race. Unfortunately, this build started off about 2 days early after only 5 days of recovery. And, it started with 3 days of training camp, which put me into pain city right off the bat. I was happy that my body lasted as long as it did. I finally hit the wall on Sunday after 3 weeks of really high quality, progressive training. I had planned to ride 3.5 hours on Sunday, and after 1 hour, it was clear that was not going to happen. I limped back home and spent the last two hours of my workout sleeping. I followed that up with 9 hours of sleep on Sunday night and 10 hours of sleep on Monday night. Today, I finally feel human again. My legs are coming back. I am going to be really strong going into my last build before racing commences. Yay!

On another note, I've taken up Sabine's "100 Pushup" challenge. Oh my! I did the "test" and could only do 3 pushups. I felt a little better last night when one of my non-cycling/pilates-doing girlfriends could only complete 2. So, yesterday, I did the first "workout", which was 5 sets (2-3-2-2-3). Yikes. That was hard. Today, my chest and back are super-yeeeouch. This is either going to help my with my TT and sprinting, or it's going to broaden my already broad shoulders and increase my frontal mass. Time will tell. If nothing else, it should increase my core strength and pain tolerance, which are never bad.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Hallelujah! We have a tour!

Well, after reading journal after journal, perusing maps and photos and Google Earth, and many phone discussions, we've finally selected a route for Mom's 60th Birthday Tour Extraordinaire. We will be doing the Adventure Cycling "Washington Parks" loop. It is actually a double loop, and we will be doing the smaller one at about 300 miles.

The loop encircles the Olympic Peninsula in Washington and has very little terrain, but lots of views and fun. We're even hoping to throw in a day trip by ferry to Victoria, since Rick and I missed that when we were in Canada in 2007.

Thanks to all who gave suggestions and advice.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Nominate a Tour for us

So, we are in the research phase of planning a cycling tour with the parents. We can do this trip anytime between about June and October. We had originally planned to ride some of the Route Verte in Quebec. But, we've learned that moving their recumbent trikes via airplane or shipping is going to cost about $800 no matter how we slice and dice it. And, it appears there are more unpaved sections to the paths than we anticipated.

Soooooo.....we are looking at other options. We have 3 things on the table in addition to the Route Verte that might be good, but I thought I'd query the masses of cyclists and see if there is something totally great we are overlooking.

Here are the criteria:
-Driving distance of 2 days or less from the Bay Area
-Paved Class 1 paths and/or quiet roads with wide shoulder/bike lane (5' min) most of the way
-Starting and ending in the same place or "hub and spoke"
-Route distance between 200-350 miles
-Regular hotel/motel/b&b/dining accommodations available no more than about 50 miles apart if it is a loop ride.
-Less than 4,000 feet of climbing per 100 miles, and ideally no extended grades over 7%. The flatter, the better.
-Preferably routes are not at elevation, but this is not mandatory

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sometimes the truth hurts...

If y'all haven't been over to Fat Cyclist to see the 2 part (so far) series on "So you want to be a cyclist", I highly recommend it.

Part 1 - Choosing Your Equipment

Part 2 - Lifestyle Changes

Some of my favorite excerpts:

"Shoes...If you are a man, you likely have never spent more than $75 on shoes before. Those days are over, my friend. To be a real cyclist, you need cycling-specific shoes. This may seem odd, since — unlike in most sports, where your shoes actually touch the ground — your shoes do nothing but get between your feet and the pedal."

"Clothes...And how much should these clothes cost? That’s easy: simply take the cost of an ordinary, comparable article of clothing, then imagine that article of clothing encrusted in diamonds. But still washer-safe."

"Training....To be a cyclist, you don’t ride your bike because it’s fun. That kind of riding is what we call 'junk miles' (I’m not making that up.) and is frowned upon by real cyclists....Oh, and there’s a side benefit, too. If you’re training, you're guaranteed to be slated to do a set of road hill intervals the day all your friends want to go on a group ride. Or you’ll be having an enforced rest day all your friends want to ride an epic stretch of singletrack."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

4 Days of Soaring High Followed by a Return to the Mundane

aka – My first training camp, an historic inauguration, and getting back to work.

This week I attended my first training camp ever with the Velo Bellas. They lured me in with promises of quiet roads that I like to ride on the Central Coast, lots of wine and good times. They conveniently omitted the part about the PAIN, but that’s OK, because it was a good kind of pain.

Rick and I drove down Friday night to stay in San Luis Obispo with the other girls at the lovely Sands Inn for the long weekend. I heard there were waffles at the breakfast buffet, so I was pretty sure it was my kind of place.

Saturday morning, we headed down to breakfast where I began meeting team mates I did not yet know – Suenago, LilyBella, Becky, Bethany and Raja from San Diego. All in all, there were about 30 Bellas for the weekend plus about 10-12 male companions, so we easily over crowded the breakfast room. To my pleasant surprise, the waffles were “real” – not toaster waffles. They had a batter dispenser and you poured it over the iron, closed and flipped, at which point a countdown would commence. Even the boys seemed capable of making their own waffles, so everyone was happy. Yum!

At 9:00, we met up in the parking lot ready to ride. Well, almost ready. After about 40 minutes of socialization and hugs and picture taking, we were ready. Ryan and Tyler and Tyler’s team mates were our escorts for the weekend, which was cool. We had route masters and sweepers! It was sunny and beautiful. We finally rolled out and only got about a mile before we realized we were missing the Fresno girls. Apparently, they were hung up in the fog belt. We waited about 10 minutes in a hospital parking lot (seemed like a bad omen) and then they rolled up. It was on! We rolled down Orcutt road through the vineyards. Everyone was focused and on-form. The pace was brisk but comfortable. It was pretty amazing seeing a 40 person double pace line snaking through the Edna valley. It felt like I want racing to feel – it was like the first 3 hours of a Tour de France stage where everyone just hums along at a good clip and chats, making a colorful rainbow through the countryside.

We turned left up Lopez Road toward Lopez Lake. I was pretty stoked to be stuck in the pack up the first real “grade” of the day – the grade up to Lopez Dam – and I felt pretty comfortable. Apparently some were already getting shelled out the back. Yay! After winding around the lake, we turned right on Hi Mountain Road – one of my favorite rides in the area. It is about a 6 mile out and back. It seems flat, but it’s really a constant 2-3% grade with a few kicks of 5-ish percent and the last half mile kicking up to 10% and finally about 15% for a final, short assault. The pace stayed really high as we started up the grade, and I finally got shelled about 1 mile from the end. But, I looked back and there were lots of folks behind me, so not so bad. I humped my way up the final assault and enjoyed an energy snack at the top. We started the descent. I was looking forward to some quality recovery. But, someone (I won’t name any names :) ) decided to “race” down the mountain. So, my heart rate was just as high going down as up. And, I wasn’t even able to catch on to the attacking group, not that I really tried too hard, since I wasn’t in that mode yet.

After the descent, a good chunk of riders decided to call it a day and head back. It would have been a 50 mile ride at that point. But, I decided to push on for the next out and back, which was Huasna Canyon – another lovely ride. I was feeling good after recovering and still hanging in with the pack. We took a cutoff, which introduced a steep little digger on School Road right before getting into the canyon. I stood to get over the digger with the pack, which turned out to be a bad idea. I pretty much burned my last match doing that and got shelled shortly after entering the canyon grade – I just could not recover. Huasna is structured much like Hi Mountain – a constant 2-3% grade for 10 miles with about a half mile 7% section at the end. Rick and I skipped the end of the canyon – pulling over about 5 miles in in a shady patch to eat and wait for the group to come back. We had a good view to see when they’d be coming. As soon as we saw the front of the pack, we started riding and easing into the pace. There was a splinter pack that caught and passed us before the end of the canyon and then stopped at the mouth where we also stopped to re-group with the main pack. We selected the “rolling” option to return to town rather than the “climb” option. The “rolling” option was on Corbett Canyon, a connector road we use a lot when visiting my parents. I was able to stick with the pack over the stair-stepping climbs of Corbett and back to town (barely). Thanks to Sabine for going to the front and slowing it down as I was starting to feel some pain as we slogged up the gentle grade. We ended with about 70 miles of hard tempo riding.

Saturday night, we all went out for dinner at a local pizza place called Village Host. Yeah, we pretty much took it over, except for two tables. It was a BYO wine dinner (oops. We didn’t get the message). Fortunately, there was plenty to go around. We later went to a martini bar/dessert lounge and had “lava cakes”, which as you can imagine were fabuloso. The best part of the night was riding 6-up in Marian’s Buick Roadmaster station wagon. I was having serious flash backs to junior high when my friend Katie’s mom would drive all of us to the mall in hers. That thing is just enormous.

Sunday was skills and race drills. But first, there were waffles, of course. We met again at 9:00 – and rolled out at a leisurely 9:40ish again. Love it! We rode for just over an hour as a pack – up Orcutt Road, across Tiffany Ranch to Corbett Canyon to Highway 227 back toward town. I rolled off the front on Corbett with the idea of sag climbing the stair step. But, I ended up being a dork and finishing with a gap. Sorry guys! That was lame. I should have just moved up in the pack. We arrived at an unfinished neighborhood off 227 by the airport that had complete streets, but no houses – a perfect crit course. I was a big block with a little uphill and corresponding downhill. We did some skills then headed on the course for some mock crits/bridging drills. Oof. I experienced feelings I haven’t had in a while. But, it was very race-like while still being safe, which made it so, so fun. There were even some unplanned counter-attacks, which really mixed things up in our group. We also had a pro-photographer, Carson Blume, along, who made us look really fast and furious. Some of the group headed out for an extended ride. Others of us rode back to chill by the pool and drink beer. I love the ride they were doing, but heeded the call of the recovery time.

Sunday night, we descended on Vallarta Restaurant with no reservations and 30 people, which kind of threw them, but they were very accommodating. My mom and dad were able to join for dinner, so that was cool. The restaurant was close to the hotel, allowing margaritas to be consumed and we could stagger back. Mom and Dad stuck with the requisite Diet Coke, since they were driving. It was a festive time, and Carson did a nice slideshow of the pics after dinner. Sweet! Again, we ended the evening fairly early.

Monday promised an “easy” ride along the coast to Cayucos. I was hoping that “easy” would be the case, since I was starting to feel like I was at a stage race. We did actually start at a nice, leisurely pace. Everyone seemed a little bleary-eyed and unfocused, so I left a bigger gap than normal in front of me. We had just gotten out of town on Highway 1 near the “Men’s Colony” when I saw some bad swerving going on a few rows up and a rider go down. Fortunately, everyone else was able to stop without going down or running her over. It was Susie. Apparently, she’d hit a HUGE rock, lost the bars, was almost able to steer out of it with her body above the top tube, but then lost it. I was so sad, since she was looking forward to seeing the ocean all weekend. It seemed like she probably had broken ribs, so a friend was called to take her to the hospital while we finished off the ride.

The rest of the ride was nice and mellow. Everyone got a little more focused after that. We enjoyed ample tail winds and another warm and beautiful day with salty air. After 45 miles, we ended back at the hotel, did a quick change and quick lunch at Firestone and headed home.

On Tuesday, it was the BIG DAY. The college had set up a viewing room with breakfast for us to enjoy the inauguration. Unfortunately, there was no heat, so it was a lifelike Washington, D.C. experience. It was a little weird sitting teary-eyed with co-workers that I don’t know well yet. But, we were all moved to some extent by the historic moment, so it wasn’t like I was an anomaly. Even those who didn’t vote for Barack seem pretty excited and moved by what the moment in our history represents. I feel like we are all pulling for him and rowing in the same direction – at least for the moment. I hope this sentiment lasts and we can work together (even where we differ) to make this a better nation for all of us.

After all the physical exhaustion, thrills and emotional highs, I felt like a deflated balloon yesterday afternoon. I was back to the mundane. At least I feel like the work I’m doing is making a difference and will contribute to that better society that I want to be a part of. So, time to put down the intervals and winervals and start with some bookervals!