Saturday, October 25, 2003

Diablo Junction + South Gate Road – 33 miles

Odd ride today – it was chilly as I left the house at 7:40 but quite warm by the time I got to the Gate. There was a strong hot breeze blowing and I knew it would soon pose a fire danger for the open spaces; Southern California is already experiencing such problems.

At the Gate Peter and Martin were waiting. Their friend Gary showed up a little later and JB soon after that. Gary apologized ahead of time for not being able to keep up with us but we assured him that the season was over and the rides would be mostly social from now until Spring.

At the bump that strong hot wind was like a big hand pushing us up the 10% grade while easily spinning in the saddle. Around a few more switchbacks and it was like that same hand was trying to jerk the handlebars from our grip. There were some places I honestly thought I was going to get my ass blown into the ditch. Things were pretty broken up as we passed the Upper Ranch with me in the middle, JB and Peter ahead and Martin and Gary down below somewhere. I continue to have problems with my chain skipping on the 19 tooth... that cassette has got to go! I crossed the line to the Junction at 48m57s which reflects both the wind level and reduced effort of this time of year.

I’d be surprised if Peter and Gary ever made it to the Junction – we didn’t see them at any rate. Peter rode on to the Summit with two bananas in his pocket and JB and I went down South Gate Road to do “The Hole in the Fence” route to Danville before returning home. It was already over 80°F.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Well tonight was definitely the last Wednesday night ride until next April. We even got an early start to beat the sunset. I drove to the church and got prepped just as Adam, Leif, and JB rode up. The Diablo Cyclists were also getting ready to depart but we were ahead of them as we passed the Gate at just after 5pm. We started out quickly but keeping things social until the bump where Leif began to test JB's condition with some small attacks. JB joked with him saying "when are you going to pick it up a little bit?" I was already off the back by this time so I just sat back and watched.

I've been having terrible problems with my 19-tooth cog, especially in the small ring; it skips regularly and I can't believe it's worn out after only 1600 miles and I'm still on my first chain but Leif said those titanium cogs just don't last very long so maybe it is time for a new one. No more Dura Ace cassettes for me - I'm going Ultegra cassette and SRAM Power Link chains from now on - it was important to me to have an all DA bike when I first built it up, but I don't mind buying the more durable and slightly heavier stuff now as the DA parts wear out. The main components should last forever so I'll always have a mostly Dura Ace bike.

With about three miles to go I noticed one of the Diablo Cyclists catching up to me - I could do nothing and he passed me without difficulty and without saying a word. With about a mile and a half to go I noticed another rider closing in so I decided to play rabbit and not let him catch me. I actually put time on this rider after that point and finished well clear of …. JUNE from our unsupported century! I was even more self-satisfied at my accomplishment when I found out it was her. Junction time: 41m31s.

Wildlife Encounter: A racoon running across the road toward the garbage cans at the ranger house.

The other DCers ambled in and reassembled at the Junction where Adam and JB were discussing the relative merits of wool arm warmers vs lycra ones. On the way down we saw Nicole nearing the top but didn't wait. I was the first descender but Adam passed me handily at a wide spot with good visibility. He said he wanted to set a new max speed record at Moss Landing but some cars coming up at just the wrong time prevented him from winding it up at just the right spot and he only hit 42. I've hit 48 there several times but the conditions have to be perfect.

Tomorrow Brad is going to give a lunch talk about his cross-country bike trip he finished last month.

Saturday, October 18, 2003


The Route: Up North Gate Road, down to Blackhawk, southeast to Livermore via Highland Road and Manning, then on to Collier Canyon Road, backtracking to Blackhawk, Danville, Alamo, Walnut Creek, and Lafayette to Happy Valley Road, Bear Creek Road (The Bears), Alhambra Valley Road (Pig Farm Hill), back to the south side of Walnut Creek, and back on Rudgear and the Iron Horse Trail. This is the old route from Tour Diablo Valley which used to be organized by the Diablo Cyclists but hasn’t been held for about six years. I had intended to ride “Foxy’s Fall Century” this weekend but they stopped taking applications after they reached their maximum 1,200 rider limit so I decided to organize my own century. JB called it “Scotty’s Fall Century”.

The Five Riders: Sarkis, June, Rick, JB, and me. Sarkis and June are both Diablo Cyclists and classic climber types, Sarkis has done quite a few double centuries, has earned the California Triple Crown, and he rode the Marin century with June in August. Rick has done at least a dozen organized centuries with me, and JB is a regular riding buddy but hasn’t ridden a century in about four years. It was moderately cool but the weather report said it would get in the 80’s by early afternoon so I had on my regular century outfit with no arm or leg warmers. Others had various levels of cold weather gear including jackets and earmuffs, and our pockets were stuffed with riding stuff including bars, gels, and powders. Sarkis took some photos on his digital camera.

We all met at Countrywood Shopping Center and we started off at 7:15. After a nice warm up ride to the Gate we started our first climb, the ultra-familiar North Gate Road to the Junction. My plan was to do about a 45-minute ride and conserve as much energy as possible for the difficult climbs later in the course. We all stayed together until the bump when things started to split up. I maintained my own pace even though it meant dropping off the back. I was also hoping that this wasn’t a sign that the whole 100 miles would be at a speed that was just a little too fast for me, but I had the experience of three other centuries this year to assure me I knew how to go the distance. I checked our time differentials and noted that I was only 60 to 90 seconds behind the others as we got close to the top and I finished in 44 minutes and change. Rick and JB said they thought I must have flatted because every time they looked back for me I was out of sight… I must have just been behind some bushes at those times though since I never really lost sight of them. There were quite a few more riders on the mountain at this early hour than I would have expected. Sarkis took some more photos on his digicam.

Wildlife Encounter: Nothing out of the ordinary but a large buck deer a ways off the road, a large dead frog, a small snake, and a tarantula, all on the way to the Junction.

After a short rest at the Junction we started down South Gate Road and we re-grouped at the bottom before heading off to Blackhawk. Rick’s rear tire went soft a few miles later so we had another little rest (allowing Sarkis to take some more photos and me to put my pain patch on my neck) before we finished the ride to Blackhawk where we arrived about 15 minutes later. Up until now these were roads we’ve all ridden quite a few times, but this time we turned the other way on Camino Tassajara toward Livermore. Some of the road here is a bit dodgy with little shoulder space and fast traffic but then you turn on to Highland Road and you’re out in farmland again. Nicole met us at the intersection of Highland and Collier Canyon – she couldn’t do the whole ride but rode from her home in Dublin to this point to ride the 25-mile Livermore loop with us. There’s a little climb just after this intersection but mostly it’s flat for the next 15 miles and Nicole had no trouble keeping up so we had six riders for this part of our century.

We stopped at a gas station in Livermore just past the freeway overpass where June bought a big bottle of water and offered it to everyone to refill bike bottles. A few folks bought a little snack too, and I popped a couple more E-caps but we didn’t hang around too long. We had to go through town on a few city streets toward the airport where we crossed the freeway again but my map had the name of one street mislabeled so we took our only short detour when we missed the turn – good thing Rick was familiar enough with Livermore’s streets to notice the error quickly. In short time we were back in the boonies with ranches and farmland on Collier Canyon Road. A few miles into this part of the route we came across some of the Valley Spokesmen women's racing team including my neighbor and Diablo Cyclist Amy Abele doing a training ride.

Wildlife Encounter: Two BUFFALOES! Emus, llamas, and pygmy goats – all at different ranches but it was interesting to see such unusual animals in such ordinary territory.

At the intersection with Camino Tassajara Nicole bid us good-bye and headed back on the 12-mile ride to her house. Sarkis took the opportunity here to take a few digital photos. By now everyone had taken off their jackets, tights, and other concessions to the morning's chill and the sun started to be a factor in the ride; we were at mile 51 and all was well. We retraced our route through the hairy no shoulder section of the road and toward Danville. As we maneuvered our way though town JB got ahead of us and caught a green light that the rest of us missed. We lost contact with him and didn’t know if he had stopped somewhere for a snack or if he had gone on ahead. We waited for a while at the side of the road but then decided to proceed to Alamo where we stopped at another gas station. This station had a bathroom, which was important at this point. Sarkis bought a gallon of water and everyone filled up their bike bottles. I was hoping for a banana or something but they didn't have any. I thought about getting a cold Starbuck's Frapuccino but instead only got a bottle of Coke. Everyone questioned Rick’s choice of snack: a microwave burrito – we all told stories of eating something we shouldn’t have during a hard ride, but Rick wasn’t worried. We stood watch for JB but he never showed and we figured he was up ahead somewhere so off we pedaled.

Turns out JB had ridden all the way to Rudgear by himself and I was the only one who knew the route through Tice Valley so I led the way toward Lafayette. We had to stop at another gas station where JB filled his bottles from the hose faucet. We were all together for the entire route from Walnut Creek to the west side of Lafayette but one of the hardest climbs of the day was just ahead and I dropped off the back again to prepare for the infamous Happy Valley Road climb. This thing is brutal and I was out of the saddle in my 27-tooth gear for close to a mile on the verge of cramps and muscle fatigue. The only good part about my climb through here was that it was a little cooler from all the shade, and I didn’t get passed by a single vehicle so I could weave all over the road in safety. I crested the top with nothing left, the hill really took a lot out of me and I started to worry a little bit about the rest of the climbing still to come. But there was a nice descent down to Bear Creek Road and then we all regrouped and Sarkis took some photos. We rode the next couple miles to Briones Park for another rest stop where water and out houses were available. We were at mile 75. Rick called the climb “a real tongue-dragger”, I swallowed two more Excedrins (I take them only for the neck pain), and Sarkis took some more photos.

The last leg of our ride would include two of the three Bears and Pig Farm Hill, then some more climbing on Reliez Valley Road before we could finally take it easy. I started off by slowing down to make sure I wouldn’t bonk. I was the last one to start the descent down toward Alhambra Valley but I felt pretty good and caught up with the others. As we approached Pig Farm I again eased up quite a bit to start the tough part as rested as possible and it’s a good thing. At the bottom Rick was about 50 meters ahead of me but he must have been really hurting from the pace or the burrito or something because I passed him about 2/3 or the way up and stayed ahead until the top, where Sarkis was taking photos of us making our best suffering faces.

We were at mile 82 now and I broke out the Clif Shot gel. Usually on centuries I eat a gel pack with 15 or 20 miles to go and it really gives me a boost to finish strong. JB and Sarkis had a close call going down the other side of Pig Farm - a car tried to pass a pick-up truck coming up the hill and when the driver saw the bikes coming down he accelerated rather than abandon the move and he almost forced JB and Sarkis into the ditch. It was a fast trip into Martinez from here, but then there was a surprisingly long climb up Reliez Valley Road before we got back to Olympic Blvd in Walnut Creek. When we got to Rudgear we were at mile 95 and street crews had torn up part of the road so we decided just to take the Iron Horse Trail all the way back to Countrywood.

I found out that June has only been riding seriously for about three months which explains her lack of confidence on the fast descents but she rides uphill like someone who has been doing this for a long time - good position, good technique, and excellent conditioning from being a runner.

With our trip distance an even 100 miles Rick packed up his Explorer and headed home, he had some other commitment and couldn’t join the rest of us for the apr├Ęs ride meal. Sarkis, June, and I all got burritos at Una Mas and sat at an outside table. JB said he couldn’t eat anything but picked up a six pack of Anchor Steam at the deli a few shops away; when we realized we needed a bottle opener I figured out how to use the hinge part of a Look pedal to do the job - worked so well I wonder if it wasn't included in the design requirements! JB had carried two sandwiches for the whole ride and didn't eat them. He eschews commercial cycling food and is convinced that the low glycemic/high protein and fat thing is the perfect diet. Still, I can't believe he wasn't hungry after THIS ride. We sat there and ate our burritos and drank our beer and discussed the ride for about a half hour and then we all rode home. It was a very good experience for my first unsupported century.

Ride Statistics:
Ride distance: 100 miles
Elevation gain: 5,500 feet
Ride time: 6h 29m
Total time: 8h 15m
Average heart rate: 131 bpm (includes rest stops)
Consumption: Pre-ride oatmeal with brown sugar, two cups of coffee, two E-caps and a couple Excedrin Gel Caps. Two Clif Bars, one and a half PowerBars, three and a half servings of Hammergel, four bottles of Cytomax, three bottles of Accelerade, one bottle of Coke, two more E-caps, two more Excedrins, and one Clif Shot gel during the ride. Vegetarian Burrito, a Coke, and a beer for post ride meal, plus some left over lasagne when I got home.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Tonight might be the last Wednesday ride of the year. Sunset's at 6:21 next week and then Daylight Wasting Time begins.

I got to the Gate a little early and packed my arm warmers. JB was the only other one coming so I felt safe in getting a head start. Had my bottle of Coke earlier in the day today so stomach aches wouldn't be a problem. Right at the Gate a skinny guy with shaved legs in an Ofoto jersey passed me with a titanium bike - he looked like the real deal - for a nanosecond I thought about hopping on his wheel but in another nanosecond he had about a three minute gap on me (dude was fast).

So I just went into zone out aerobic mode and watched my heart rate monitor which I had on my wrist; I'm going to put it back on the bars because it's easier to see and operate the buttons there. Plus at one point my glove hit one of the buttons on the side and changed modes on me - yeah, it belongs on the bars.

Below the Bump I passed a guy on a mountain bike but he had a very smooth spin like he had done lots of road riding too. At the upper ranch I saw the Ofoto guy again stopped at a pull-out and talking to a guy in a Galaxy Granola jersey who also appeared to be the real thing. Both of them said hi to me as I went by and I liked that they weren't snobby.

Wildlife Encounter: Just past the upper ranch I heard heavy hoof prints around the switchback and as I came around the corner I saw a buck with a pretty good sized rack standing on the side of the road to my left. I figured I was pretty safe because he had already crossed the road but then he just stood there looking at me. As I came further around the corner I realized his mate deer was on my right so I was directly between the two of them. They both started trotting along their respective sides of the road with me in the middle and I slowed down to let them get ahead and suddenly the doe crossed the road also and they both disappeared down the slope. Definitely got the adrenaline pumping for about 30 seconds. Just then I saw some of the Diablo Cyclists coming down so I shouted out that there were deer in the road just so they'd be alert.

When I passed the 2-miles to go point I was at 27 minutes so I knew I wasn't going to go sub 40 and I relaxed a little bit. I saw JB down a few switchbacks below and I knew he wasn't going to catch me either so I just held a steady pace and enjoyed the rest of the ride. Time to Junction was 41m46s and that's not too shabby for a noncompetitive late in the season ride. As JB approached the line going hard the Ofoto guy came around him in a good sprint and kept on going up Summit Road. Never did see the mountain bike guy or the Galaxy Granola guy again. JB and I both put on our arm warmers and started the descent into the sunset.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Diablo Junction plus Southgate Road and Danville Blvd.

Rick and Nicole passed me up in their Explorer on North Gate Road so I waited for them even though I was a little bit late. Nicole was way overdressed with tights, long sleeves, and a jacket tied around her waist (for the descent). We told her it would warm up before the Junction but she didn't believe us. A short way up the mountain we saw Martin, Peter, and JB ahead so Rick and I took off to catch them. Seems there was a big disparity in how folks decided to dress today - Rick and I were pretty much in summer gear, Martin and Peter had windbreakers and tights, and JB had his wool jersey and tights. As soon as we grouped up Martin dropped back to ride with Nicole and then we got to the bump where I lost contact with the others. I finished about 2 minutes behind Rick, Peter, and JB at 44 minutes elapsed time. We talked about the upcoming unsupported century I've been planning; Rick is pretty sure he can come, and JB is even surer - that makes five of us plus Nicole who might park at Briones or somewhere and do part of the ride with us while providing a little sag service also.

So Nicole and Martin arrived after burning up the course at 65 minutes and we talked some more. JB went down, Rick and Peter went to Summit and Nicole said she'd go down Southgate with me, but then later reneged because she would be too hot with her jacket!

Went down Southgate solo all the way to Diablo Blvd and in to Danville. The California Pedaler was just opening up and they didn't have the blowout racks filled up so I kept on going. Kept a decent pace up Danville Blvd but never did hook up with any other riders.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Century Planner

Foxy's Fall Century on October 18 is sold out! My goal of riding four centuries this year was in danger of not being reached. So I decided to do my first ever unsupported century and I chose the old Tour Diablo Valley route that I did in 1997 and I decided to do it on the day of Foxy's. The ride goes up Diablo to The Junction, out to Blackhawk and Livermore, then to Lafayette, the Bears, and Pigfarm before returning to Walnut Creek. I'm suddenly very excited about the idea and have enlisted the possible companions of JB and Sarkis. I plan on starting at 6 am but the other two might want to start a little later and catch me up. I still have the original route map from 1997 so I'll make a few modifications on my map making program and distribute them to the other guys. Mostly I'll pack a bunch of PowerBars and ClifBars and some drink mixes and Hammergel, and plan on a few stops at 7-Elevens. This will certainly be an experience.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Diablo Junction - 16 miles.

Just me and JB today. I drank a can of Pepsi on the way to North Gate - big mistake. We started off pretty fast for a good but not great elapsed time. When we got to the bottom of the bump some dork in an SUV was coming down and riding the brakes hard; the air over the hardest part of the mountain was filthy with burning brake pad smell and it was truly hard to breathe at all, let alone breath at anaerobic levels. Then at the top of the bump I started to get a stomach ache from the Pepsi (when will I learn?) and I had to slow down until it passed.

Wildlife Encounter: Not wild at all actually, it was a Tabby cat about 9 months old, very domestic, at one of the turnouts near the ranches. Just sitting there looking like his family had let him loose in the park. No way this cute critter will survive up there, it was sad.

So somewhere around the upper ranch we went by the Diablo Cyclists on their way down. They must be starting up before 5 o'clock now and sunset was 6:40 today. JB and I stopped at the Junction long enough for him to put on his arm warmers and then we went out to Round Table for apres ride brew. They cater to softball and soccer teams so they're used to sweaty guys - and they have Red Hook and Sierra Nevada.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Diablo Junction after work - 16 miles.

Just JB, Jeffrey, and me tonight. The Diablo Cyclists moved their start time up so we actually met them as they were coming down. It's certainly getting dark earlier now and there are only a few Wednesdays left before Daylight Wasting Time begins.

All three of us rode at Jeffrey's pace and talked about work and tarantulas and coyotes. I noticed that I hadn't seen Jeffrey in the same jersey twice yet, he seems to have a good collection of good cycling clothes. I also complimented him on not using the granny gear of his triple crank. I think I can switch to the regular size bottles now because I hardly took a drink from my big one on the whole ride. I started a new procedure of hitting the lap button on my heart rate monitor at the 3, 2, and 1 miles to go points so I'll have the split times recorded as well as my heart rate - this could be a useful training tool for next year. Tonight though was just a leisurely ride UNTIL JB LAUNCHED A VICIOUS ATTACK WITH ONE MILE TO GO. I responded immediately and remained glued to his yellow rear tire until Chainbuster where he took the inside line in a low gear. I decided to go farther out in a bigger gear but he opened up a gap and maintained it until the finish. It was a fun bit of competition to end the ride and I came it at 44 minutes. Jeffrey came in a couple minutes later and said that it was his best time so far - I think he's getting hooked. We kept the socializing to a minimum and headed back down the mountain just a few minutes later.

I noticed on the descent that my tires weren't inspiring confidence on the hairpins. Seems like they're doing that microscopic slipping that just makes you want to take the corners a little more slowly. The rear tire has 1400 miles on it (Michelin Pro Race) but the front one (Michelin Hi-Lite Prestige) is only a couple months old. Maybe I'll get another Hi-Lite from Performance to get me through the winter months and then put on some Pro Races again in spring. Bike Tires Direct has them for $35 per and only $4 shipping for a pair.