Friday, September 26, 2003

Sunday - Critical Mass San Francisco - 8 miles

Today's team included two ex-team members Ed and Tom, guest members Leaf and Paloma, as well as JB, Adam, and me. We all took BART into the City. Paloma had a flat tire that she didn't notice until she was ready to go so Leaf packed his floor pump(!) in a backpack and fixed it on the train. Leaf wore his UCDavis skin suit so he looked rather odd with racing kit and an overstuffed rucksack.

There was the usual crowd at Justin Herman Plaza - lots of kooks, drag queens, and other "alternative" people. We got there just after 6 so most of the soap boxing was over and we started whooping until some accidental tourist rode off and everyone followed her - she was quite surprised to find herself the leader of Critical Mass if only for a few blocks. We rode around the Financial District, past the Transamerica Pyramid and into Chinatown where I saw some old ladies rummaging through the garbage cans of a produce store that had just closed - lots of fruit that was just past its prime - yum. Then we headed for the tunnel on Stockton St and that was a big kick. There were at least three guys with steroid stereos - two of them had dedicated stereo trailers - I've seen these guys before… Critical Mass hardcore types. At a few intersections someone lit some smoke bombs but it was all in fun. We turned south again and passed up some culinary arts school where all the chef students were out on the sidewalk slapping us high fives. Then down Valencia into the Mission by which time it was getting pretty dark and things started to break up.

Got back on BART at a little after 8 and home just after 9 to keep myself in good graces with the girls at home.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Diablo Junction - 22 miles
Stayed home today so I rode my bike to the start. Found new guy Jeffrey unloading on Doncaster so I stopped and waited for him. I thought JB and Adam would be coming but I didn't confirm so Jeffrey and I started out together and rode at a pace that was comfortable for him. We saw our first coyote near the dumpster gate down in the tall grasses - Jeffrey asked me if it was a fox but I told him how common the coyotes were on the mountain. Shortly before the bump Mark passed us up but not going as fast as he usually does - he had one wheel sucker in his shadow but lost him in the 10% section. Just below the ranches we saw 4 more coyotes hunting for squirrels - one of them trotted along side us for a little while, he looked so friendly and completely comfortable being near us… a little unnerving. with about 3 miles to go the first of the Diablo Cyclist came up to us and Grant launched an attack in his inimitable style - it looked like he was really fighting the bike but he was making pretty good time. We made some jokes but everyone admires him. I decided it would be OK to ride with these guys and let Jeffrey finish by himself and we made good time the rest of the way to the Junction - elapsed time for me was 43m32s which isn't bad considering what an easy pace I rode at for the first three miles.

At the Junction I realized that Grant and Mark were riding secret prototype single speed Rivendells. They were actually two-speed since they were fitted with a double chainring, but the rear wheel had a single-speed freewheel mechanism and the rear dropouts were track style with long horizontal slots for adjusting chain tension. Mark and Grant both loosened their wheels and "shifted" to the big ring and then readjusted the chain tension by repositioning the wheel - it looked like something you wouldn't want to do more than once per ride but it does work. The bikes had Rivendell head tube badges, front brakes and a dummy brake lever for the right hand, and they were painted a deep forest green. Mark had his Time ATAC pedals on and Grant of course had big flat platform pedals - I think they're the BMX ones in his catalogue. Both of them had on very big diameter tires, Grant's were cushier than Mark's were though. Most of the conversation around the bike racks were about these two new bikes - one of the guys had already ordered one.

It got to be 6:30 and Jeffrey had to leave. I stuck around a few more minutes thinking JB might show up but started down myself shortly after. Then I ran into JB coming up about 1/2 mile below the Junction so I turned around and rode back with him. All the DCers had started down by that point too so we were the only ones left at the Junction. We didn't stay long and headed down before it got too dark. JB said something about logging his total heartbeats for each ride as some kind of fitness indicator - he multiplies his average HR times his elapsed time to get the figure. I'm not sure if there's any sense to that or not.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Diablo Summit - 32 miles.

Peter and I waited until almost ten after eight and no one else showed up so we started off. I got way ahead of Peter and figured he must be having some kind of minor problem because I could see he was still riding but not very fast. By the bottom of the bump I realized that Rick was riding up to him and Peter must have slowed down for him. Around the lower ranches Peter dropped us and I was about 30 seconds behind Rick. Didn't feel like doing a hard effort today for some reason and I didn't try to catch up to Rick. By the ranger house though I realized Rick was having a pretty bad day and I kicked it up and passed him easily before the Junction. Elapsed time was 42m26s which is pretty good considering it was a very relaxed effort.

There were a lot of folks at the Junction and somehow JB sneaked in without my seeing him - I was surprised to look over on the bench and see him sitting there. Peter, Rick, and I all decided to do the Summit so I pulled out my Power Bar and Rick begged for a bite. He's been trying to lose a couple more pounds before the Diablo Challenge and he didn't eat any carbs last night. I also gave him a pack of Clif Shot and he slurped every microgram of the stuff out of the envelope.

JB turned around and went home. The Summit Road was getting very windy and I took it slowly. Rick and Peter set a much higher pace and I didn't see them again until the Summit. Summit time: 81 minutes. Again I was surprised at such a respectable time since I didn't seem to be pushing it at all. One of these days I'm going to have to make an assault on the Summit and see how fast I can do it when I'm really trying. Maybe next year's Challenge?

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Wednesday September 17 – Diablo Junction, 16 miles.

Well there’s a new guy at work, Jeff, who told us he rides a bike and was interested in coming with us up Mt. Diablo today. He said he’d been up from the south side and rode to the Summit once so he knows what he’s getting in to but wasn’t an experienced climber. He seems like he’ll fit in just fine and it’s been a long time since we’ve had any new riders come with us so we welcome him. He has a Giant road bike with a triple crank and a sensible selection of shoes, clothes, and equipment… he was a little slow getting it all together though and we got a bit of a late start.

Adam and Leif started off earlier than the rest of us so Me, JB, and Jeff start up at a comfortable pace and Jeff doesn’t have much trouble keeping up. Near the double dips the Diablo Cyclist peloton passed us up and we picked up our speed just for appearances, then slowed down after a respectable time. We pointed out all the locations with nicknames and told Jeff the story behind the names and he seemed to adopt the appropriate reverence for the whole idea.

Near the bump an old guy on a Merlin and his daughter (I’m guessing) passed us but the daughter (maybe 17 years old?) dropped pops so he started riding with us. I was 23m38s at the Upper Washout and I told Jeff that a good indicator of the Junction time was twice the Upper Washout time.

Up near the ranches Adam and Leif came back down from the Junction to ride with us. Leif and JB paired up and pushed it, Adam and I rode together and discussed La Vuelta a EspaƱa, and Jeff rode with the old guy on the Merlin. My Junction time was 45m37s and Jeff was a few minutes after that.

There were more riders at the Junction than last week but not nearly as many as earlier in the summer. Sarkis even showed up and chatted for a while before we all turned down. It was a windy descent and I took it carefully. Disappointing not to see any tarantulas tonight. It was really starting to get dark by 7:15 – we’re going to have to make these last few rides efficient.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Sunday September 14 - T-Mobile International Bike Race in San Francisco

My daughter and I took BART into the City at 8:30am. There was a Raiders game on today also so there were a few crazies in costume and face paint sharing the train with us… my daughter (3-1/2 years old) must have figured that's just how some people dress to ride BART because she didn't seem to find it odd.

We got to the Embarcadero in time to see the last two laps of the women's event. Nicole Cooke of course has been winning everything this year so it was no surprise to see her cross the line well ahead of anyone else. There was a LONG pause before the men's race started so we went to check out the booths in the expo. I got to see the 2004 Dura Ace gruppo up close at the Shimano booth, and there were dozens of bike and component manufacturer booths as well as booths for local bike shops, nutritional products, and everything else you can imagine. The Saturn display was probably the best - they had a virtual bike race thing where people would ride bikes on trainers that were hooked up to some kind of computer display and two-by-two they would race each other while the TVs showed their progress as animated characters. It was so crowded in the expo though that we didn't stay long and only scored some token schwagg.

We spend some time checking out the Mavic support cars - they had a motorcycle with about 10 extra wheels on it and the extra bikes had quill pedals with toe clips - so they wouldn't have to try and match pedal types. I'd heard that's what Mavic offers on all of the races they support but I needed to check it out to be sure. The wheels were all Ksyriums (mostly SSCs but some Elites too) with Mich Pro Race tires. I don't know what they did about Campy/Shimano compatibility on the cassettes. I should have checked to see how big their low gears were too but I didn't think of it.

The men's race finally started about 11:15 with a few parade laps around the Embarcadero. I was about 100 meters beyond the start line and after the huge field rode by there was one guy from Sierra Nevada/Clif Bar that had a mechanical problem and stopped. The Mavic car pulled up behind him to help but the Sierra Nevada car pulled up too so Mavic left. The Sierra Nevada mechanic ran out and changed the guy's rear wheel but had some problems with the chain. I don't think the rear wheel was even the problem but he gave the guy a push and ran back into the car and just after the car was gone the guy stopped again with the same problem. He stepped up on the curb into the crowd (across the street from me) and threw his bike to the ground in disgust. I understood his frustration but thought that was a pretty poor display for the sponsor. Anyway on the second parade lap the Sierra Nevada car got him going again and then had to "adjust his seatpost" from the moving vehicle… towing him back into the main field at about 60mph! Everybody was cheering for him to make contact… it was kind of cool. Postal guys were wearing their Champs Elysses jerseys - the gray ones that no one had seen before the final TdF stage. I got good looks at Lance and Eki, Gilberto Simoni, and Vinokourov. I was looking for Guerini and Garzelli but I couldn't pick them out. There were reports that Lance might not ride at all because he'd been sick so it was nice to see him suited up even if he wasn't going to do the whole ride (he didn't finish).

So after the parade laps around the start, the field took off up Broadway and then they had the celebrity race. The pack split up right from the start and Robin Williams was the second rider past my spot. I think I heard that he was first across the line though. His Honor Willie Brown was supposed to be doing the race but I'm sure he wasn't there. There was also a guy in a huge shark outfit - maybe the mascot for the San Jose Sharks - looked like it made riding very difficult but he was a crowd favorite - there was a report though that he took a shortcut and didn't complete the entire course.

The men's race splintered up pretty quickly after the start - as this race has always done. We walked up Broadway to see the riders from different vantage points but after the third lap my daughter decided she'd had enough and threatened to have a fit if we didn't head home. So we scored another free mini Clif Bar and a balloon and made our way back to the BART station.

Ken Papai is a great photographer who has hundreds of super photos on his site - I'll post the link here when he gets the bugs worked out, but here's one example:
(for some reason I can't make it link - please copy and paste to browser)

Friday, September 12, 2003

Product Review: DBase dB500 Heart Rate Monitor

I cashed in my Team Performance points and got this little toy last night. I was looking for about a $50 HRM so it was between a bare-bones Polar (A1) and this unit which has some cool functions like "calories burned", max HR and avg HR as well as usefull things like time of day and stopwatch which the Polar A1 didn't. Turned out someone at Performance had put the sale price for the dB300 on this box by mistake so the guy told me that was the price. Retail for the dB500 is $90, it was on sale for $70 and I got it for $30... SCORE!

So the pickup seems fine - no problems with the connection or the transmission. The chest belt is reasonably comfortable. There are 5 buttons to push so it's still a little clunky to use until I figure it out better. The belt batteries are user-replaceable but the watch battery has to be replaced by a jeweller. The extra function that I really like though is the "LAP" button which remembers your time and HR every time you push it so I can use it as a "SPLIT" timer on Diablo. I usually try to remember my split times at the 2-mile and 1-mile points but I sometimes forget them: now I'll be able to record even more split times - and be able to post even more boring data here on my blog for you all to read!

I had one of the very early Polar HRMs about 12 years ago and it helped me learn to pace myself while climbing (which I was REALLY no good at back then). It had only current pulse and no other functions and I think it was $110 - the watch face was about 2 inches square, looked kind of funky but it was fun.

The data in my Owner's Manual said that my maximum HR is probably about 160 - I distinctly remember getting it up to 192 on the old unit... this will be interesting.

UPDATE February 2006: The chest transmitter portion of the HRM wore out about six months ago and a new battery wouldn't bring it back to life. The dBase website said a new one would be $35 but I found a cheapie Polar HRM at Performance and the whole thing was $35 so I bought that and the chest strap works fine with the dBase watch part plus now I have an extra wrist unit (HR only, no other functions). Anyway if you found my blog by searching on the dBase 500 (one of the more popular search requests) then now you'll know that the Polar and dBase chest transmitters are interchangeable. One thing that still bugs me about the dBase display is that the LCDs are a dark gray and the background is a dark green so sometimes it's pretty hard to read. Also the position of the buttons around the circumference of the face makes you put your thumb on one button while you're trying to push another button with your index finger and sometimes you push the wrong one. I give the dBase 500 Heart Rate Monitor a DSPRS of 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Wednesday September 10: Mt. Diablo to Devil's Elbow 24 miles

Well the Wednesday night crowd is getting really thin on Mt. Diablo these days. Adam and Leif got an early start which is fine because no one can stay with them anyway. I drove out to the church and started riding just before 5:30 not really sure if JB was ahead or behind me. There were a few Diablo Cyclists in the parking lot but not nearly as many as just a few weeks ago.

I followed what now appears to be the best eating schedule for a Wednesdy night ride: two bagels for brekkie, no lunch, Pepsi at 3pm, Powerbar and coffee at 3:30, one bottle of Accelerade at 4:00, a bottle of Cytomax and a squirt of ClifShot in the car on the way out.

One of the things I really like about my Flight Deck computer is that there is a separate "stopwatch" function that is completely independent of the "ride distance" function so I can include the whole ride distance and ride time in my reading while still being able to watch just my time to the Junction while I'm on North Gate Road. I crossed the start line and went fast but not anything like a PB pace. It was perfect weather with little wind. No sign of JB yet but Mark passed me on the Bump - seemed like I was destined to do the whole thing solo. The first place I usually look for my time is at the Lower Washout and usually it's about half of my Junction time so when I looked down and saw 23 minutes I thought I was having a really crappy day, but then I realized I was looking at my total time and not my stopwatch time (the difference being the extra mile from the church to the Gate). A quick squeeze on my thumb button showed that I was actually at 19 minutes and suddenly I thought I was having a great day (the psychological effect of these numbers is astounding). But for the real test I had to get to the "2-mile" point under 26 minutes... and I did! I felt like I was working hard and not really having good speed so somehow my perception was off. At the 1-mile point I was a little over 33 minutes so I knew I would break 40 but I just couldn't motivate myself to really hammer. I got out of the saddle and pushed the big gears for a while but it wasn't a great effort. Crossed the line at 39m28s which is my third best time of the year - and yet it seemed like no great effort at all. Odd but definetly nice.

JB showed up a few minutes later; Adam and Leif were already there of course. Grant Peterson rode in too (in sandals) and Adam had to explain to Leif why someone would "want" to be a retrogrouch… Leif couldn't relate. After a little socializing we all split up here to the three roads; A&L down SGR, JB down NGR, and me up Summit Road. I figured I'd ride to Juniper at least and then see how I felt. Well I felt good and decided to keep riding until 7pm wherever that would be. Turned out it was Devil's Elbow and it was a relaxed very enjoyable climb. The sun was getting very low and at times my shadow was like a hundred feet long - gliding over the road and up the embankment, changing shape all the time… it was really interesting to watch.

Wildlife Encounter - saw two tarantulas and a coyote on the way down. The coyote seemed to be just enjoying himself with playful trotting right down the middle of the road. I slowed down and just followed him until he darted off down into the brush. I'm going to miss these evening rides come autumn… usually the last one is in the middle of October when the daylight disappears too early.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Saturday, September 6: Diablo Summit 32miles

I met Will and Rick at the Gate - JB rode up shortly next to a guy with a super sweet bike and Ksyrium SSC wheels (very popular around here, despite their price) who kept going by himself. So we all started off at a pretty easy pace - it was cool but not uncomfortable, and there was a very light breeze. A couple miles up the road Peter caught up to us (we never wait for Peter - he's on his own schedule) and then we suddenly all started going faster. We passed the guy who had been riding with JB - he broke a spoke and couldn't finish the ride (at least we never saw him again, maybe he managed to ride home anyway). JB dropped off first but Rick and I rode with Peter. I hammered up the 3-mile bump in first place and then slowed down until Rick and Peter caught me. Peter then took the lead and accelerated slowly until he was up to 11 mph and I couldn't hold on anymore. JB caught me up around the ranches and my Junction time was 43 minutes which is OK given the slow start.

There were about a dozen guys in a group that showed up while we were waiting for Will - the fastest guy said he did a 34 and the slowest did 42 (his best time in 10 years he said). They all went down Southgate but I noticed one of the guys had a "Douglas" titanium bike from Colorado Cyclist - it looked a lot nicer than I had imagined - but that stigma of being a mail-order pseudo-brand is hard to overlook.

JB and Will didn't come but Peter and Rick and I went to the Summit. It was an uneventful ride except that it had started to warm up and there were nice tailwinds in many of the sections. My Summit time was 83 minutes so I was pretty satisfied with that. We talked to a guy on a triathlon bike and we all (except him) agreed that it would suck to try and ride this mountain on that kind of low-profile bike. Rick and Peter were planning on a second assault so I rode down toward home by myself - the tailwinds were much more noticeable on the way down... because they weren't tailwinds anymore - they were headwinds and crosswinds and the bike handling got a little tricky in some sections, but I've been doing this long enough to know how to ride in these conditions and it was no problem.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Wednesday September 3 Diablo Juniper

I got a late start and everyone had already gone. I rode solo and didn't pass anyone until I got up to the upper ranches where I passed Amy and another familiar DC woman whose name I don't know. I was 20 minutes flat at the upper washout so I had a chance of breaking 40 minutes but that Greek calzone thing I had for lunch was sitting hard in my gut and I couldn't muster up the motivation to go for it. I finished in 40m38s and I was reasonably happy with that. We never did see Adam and Leif - they must have gone down South Gate Road.

Somehow I forgot my gloves today - almost never ride without gloves. My hands got slippery with sweat which was more annoying than dangerous.

The bugs at the Junction were vicious. Most of the riders were lounging around but JB and I decided to go up (actually I twisted his arm a bit - he wanted to go get a beer). At Juniper we talked to a guy who was working a temporary electronics job at Bishop Ranch paying $65 an hour but he lived in Sonoma County so he was sleeping in his van in the campground. Last night there was a huge thunderstorm so he said he didn't sleep well. Seemed like a nice guy in a tough situation (unemployed for several months, away from his home and family).

Wildlife Encounter: Spotted my first tarantula of the season. They get pretty numerous in October and November and it's always fun to see them out on their mission.

There was also a guy parked along the side of the road planting flowers or something in the ditch - I'll be surprised if they take hold though.