“Being awesome is a full time job. Now where do I collect my check?”

Today was my first time doing “back to back” rides.  After all, ALC is not like a regular century or something – it’s 7 days.  Not 1.  I need to get my body used to the idea of being on the saddle several days in a row.  I thought starting with two would be a good idea.  It just happens that we also have two days in the weekend.  Coincidence?  “I do not see coincidence, I see providence. I see purpose.”  (Oh wait.  This is a three day weekend.  Well, you get the idea.)

It so happens that my friend Bob runs a training ride series out of Sunnvyale that he’s named Awesome Ahead.  The first time I went riding with Bob he dragged my butt up Edgewood (which is a nice climb) and led me on what ended up being my longest ride to date.  So if Bob’s going to run a training series then I’m gonna have to check that out.  The fact that my friends Jim, Wendy, and Per are gonna be there is more extra bonus.
But no, that wasn’t enough, so I brought a friend.  Ryan had been a co-worker and eventually boss (briefly) at Inktomi.  He rides, and hadn’t ridden with me since I started riding, so I threw out the idea to him that he should come out for this training ride and he took me up on it.  A good idea, because the day was…wait for it…awesome.
One nice thing – the meeting spot is about 10 minutes away by car.  (I’ll start riding there, I think.)  So I was able to roll out of bed at 7:30 and be on the road at 9 with plenty of time to spare.  After some stretching Bob ran down the route and then we had the mandatory safety speech.  (I think by the end of the season I will be able to recite it from memory.)  Things were warm enough that I ditched the arms of my jacket (yay for convertible clothing!) before we even left.  
The ride going out to Mt. Eden was nice.  I rode Foothill Expressway for the first time.  A good thing to know it’s there – doing “laps” on Foothill would be a good way to get some intervals done.  The ride to the bottom of the climb was a bit odd, though.  I’m used to “false flats” – sections of road where you think you’re going flat but you’re actually slightly climbing.  (This becomes obvious on a bike because you’re sweating and only going 12mph.)  This one was rather odd because it didn’t just look flat, but looked like we were going downhill.  Bizzare!
The we started the climb.  It was actually not that bad.  I never ran out of breath, and didn’t get to my 170bpm “oh crap” heartrate.  Oh, and did I mention the spectacular views?  I had no idea that little park was back in there.  Easy riding distance from home and all of a sudden you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. Most excellent.
The climb wasn’t enough for some people – Bob, Wendy, and Per all did it twice.  Wendy said she “didn’t get it right the first time”.  They got extra badass points.  I suppose I could have done it twice – but after Rheem and Happy Valley yesterday I was good on the climbing.
Also on the way up this guy yelled at me from his car.  I was innocently pedaling along and I heard “Hey, pedal faster!” I looked over and it was Tom.  That was so cute!  And then he was waiting for me at the top of the hill.  He got to meet Ryan and we chatted a bit to relax after the climb.  Then it was back on the bikes for the descent which was much longer than the climb.  (Which, of course, means I will need to come back and try the route from the other direction.)
At the bottom of the hill I was greeted with deja vu – we were at the same shopping complex as last weekend!  Our one rest stop on this ride was the same as the second rest stop from my ride last Saturday.  I did my “usual”, grabbed some water and fruit, and then ended up being the last guy out of the stop, practically.  (I need to work on staying focused at rest stops.)  
On the ride back we hit EVERY FREAKING RED LIGHT, and so of course quickly lost touch with the main group.  Fortunately I was on familiar ground, and literally rode by where I live.  We finally made it back to our starting point and there was Tom waiting for me again.  Awww.  I loaded the bike back up and made it home fast enough to bother with stretching (yay foam roller and yoga strap) and have a recovery mocha shake.

Happy Valley is not happy

Today I visited the East Bay.  Greg, member of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Cycling Club (a.k.a. someone who rode Foxy’s Fall Century with last October) is a Training Ride Leader in the East Bay, home of the hills.  He suggested I come over for one of their Cat 1 rides.  Other than the 8:15 meeting time in Orinda (which is an hour away) it seemed like a great idea.

There were two “named” climbs this time – Rheem Boulevard and Happy Valley Road.  Rheem was very steep – I reached that point where I had to “cross-train” (a.k.a. walk) a little bit.  If a climb gets too steep it becomes a matter of protecting my knees, not actually cardio fitness.  Happy Valley was longer, but less steep so I handled it better.  I didn’t have to get off the bike, at least.  And oh yeah, Camino Diablo had a bit of a climb on it, but the walk they roll in the East Bay they didn’t think it was worth mentioning. 

The weather was much warmer this weekend.  I actually ended up first taking the sleeves off of my jacket, and then disposing of the jacket entirely.  The ride was pretty good, although we’re still tweaking the fit of my bike and I think the seat needs to come up (which we did).  Also, the last adjustments to the bike went too far and it was shifting funny, but that’s also been addressed for tomorrow.  This will be my first weekend of back-to-back “serious” rides.  I’m hoping that goes well.

French toast!

I was thinking – after Chris’ big ride, I could do another serious ride, or I could do the French Toast ride.  A short social ALC event in Newark with French Toast at the end.  A lot of folks I knew were there, and there were also going to be folks I wanted to meet.  The ride was short, and a lot of the roads were…sub-optimal.  But it gave me an appreciation for the pavĂ© of the famous Paris-Roubaix race for which my bike is named.

It was a good call – I got to meet my cyclist rep, see some good friends, ride my bike, and eat some French toast.  What could be better?  

Greetings from Hoth

The Bay Area is in a bit of a cold snap and we knew it was going to be bad this weekend.  During my Thursday afternoon workout it was about 45 degrees and when I got home the only reason I knew my butt was still attached was that I could see it.  I certainly couldn’t feel it.
After last weekend’s epic fail I went for a couple of my “usual” rides during the week.  That was a very good idea because it gave me a chance to get to know my bike a bit better.  So I wasn’t nearly as worried about this weekend’s ride as I was about last weekend’s. Also, Tom was going to be around, and since he’s familiarized himself with my truck he was going to be able to serve as a personal emergency SAG if need be.  However, one thing the rides did teach me is that I needed to add some bits to my arsenal of cold weather gear.
Going shopping last night I went to two shops – instead of doing what I should have done in the first place and going to my regular shop.  Pickings were slim.  I had hoped for some leg warmers or even tights (as opposed to knee warmers), shoe covers, warmer socks, and something to cover my ears.  Sports Basement only came up the last item – fortunately I found a pair of shoe covers at Mike’s Bikes and some socks.  
The morning was very clear and sunny, but of course very chilly.  I got out of the house a bit earlier this time which was great – the ride over to where the rides meet up is a nice little warm up, and I got there 15 minutes before meetup time.  I was able to say hello to folks and participate in all the stretching exercises.  Also, it turns out that Tom had followed me over.  That was good because I realized I had left my RoadID at home, so he ran back to get that.   
The ride started off quite nicely.  It was flat to lightly-inclined going to the first rest stop.  I had started off with some folks I know but ended up getting dropped pretty quickly.  Not a surprise – I’m barely fast enough for this group as it is.  I also made an emergency pit stop at a gas station and came out to find that the sweeps had caught up to me.  I made it to the first rest stop with a little bit of time, but I hurried a mocha and snack and got back on the road.
The next segment was the majority of the climbing.  Chris, the ride facilitator, is basically an evil man who loves hills.  I, being a mostly (but not completely) recovered fat person hate them.  The hills this week were not quite as evil as Farm Hill was last week, but they were evil enough.  There was one little segment where you are climbing through a hairpin and I just couldn’t keep enough speed.  I ended up walking a tiny bit, but not much because it wasn’t as steep as I thought after the hairpin.
After the two big hills it was a very nice decent.  I got in to the drops and felt all racy.  I also got to get a better feel for the brakes on the bike.  After that there were a few rollers into rest stop 2.  At rest stop 2 I was feeling fat (long story), so I just took a bathroom break, slammed a gel, and got going.  It was only 15 miles to home, and fairly uneventful at that.  A quick stop at my shop to see what kind of cold weather gear they have and I was back home.  I had an HMR shake (pretty good recovery drink), a shower, and decided what to do with the rest of my day.
For the official ride report from the man in charge, please click here.

Ride report – First training of the year

The training season has started.  No more holiday slacking, I’m afraid.  And I must admit, I have slacked.  Work went crazy out-of-control insane and killed all my weekends for a while, the weather was not good for my usual weekday riding, and then I got a cold that knocked me out for two weeks.  Oh, and I went on vacation.  I had backed off a little bit after Foxy’s, but this was a full on slack.  And while I have been fortunate not to gain any weight during this time (well, I gained a little and have dropped it) I have lost a LOT of conditioning.  Fortunately ALC has a very gentle (hah!) training program to get one ready for the event in June.
The problem was, that I wasn’t aware of how much conditioning I had lost.  Plus, I was overly optimistic about things.  I arrived home from my vacation on Thursday evening.  Friday afternoon I had my BG Fit with Vanessa at Cognition Cyclery in Mountain View – my bike shop of choice.  Vanessa is a cycling goddess and just a really cool person and we got my fit dialed in (for the moment – things may change as I adjust to it).  One cool thing – she did have to call in to Specialized for advice on how to deal with my tibial osteotomies and how they may change my fit.  
So Saturday morning arrives.  I’m all pumped up and nervous.  I’ve got my brand new bike, a snazzy new jersey, a great new baselayer from Craft (gotta be my new favorite clothing brand), and I’m all good to go, right?
First problem: Bike is making a moaning/rubbing noise.  The good news is that since the meeting point was about 10 minutes by bike from home I learned there was a problem on the way to ride.  And the meeting point was very near my shop.  My shop opened at 10 an they quickly diagnosed brake rub and we adjusted things.  I was on my way, but far enough behind that I never caught up.  So I pretty much did the ride alone.  I had the route in my Garmin, so that made following it much easier.
Second problem: I was in such a rush when leaving that I wasn’t sure I had fully closed the door at home.  And the new door sometimes pops open if not closed all the way.  I started having these horrible images of coming home to an open door and no cats.  Since that has actually happened before it was really freaking me out.  I couldn’t get ahold of anyone in the leasing office but finally I chickened out, called Leeann, and she went and checked on the boys.  *whew*
Third problem: I can’t climb to save my life.  Now Chris, the guy who planned the ride, had described the climb up Farm Hill Road as being like the climb out of Sausalito.  I’ve done that climb a few times, so I thought I was good.  Turns out he was rather inaccurate.  He even admitted as much on his blog.  Which was good to read, because I had to walk that hill.  I lost a cleat cover on the way up somewhere.  And I felt the shame of cross training.
Once past that it wasn’t *too* bad.  But being on my own did kinda suck.  There was a few parts that were familiar.  The segment after Robert’s Market and through Arastradero Preserve was familiar.  After that not so much.  Also, I think I was way underfed and didn’t stop nearly long enough at the rest stop – so I was tired, hungry, and kinda bonked.  Eventually, coming up Miramonte I realized that when I hit Castro I could go straight back to the shop and get the brakes looked at again and the cables adjusted.  From there I headed home and missed the rain – just a few drops landed on me.
All in all it wasn’t the awesome start to the training season I was hoping for.  I think part of my fail was the idea for this ride to be the first shakedown of the new bike.  I should have gone out on my old bike – something I was more confident in.  Also, I was very sore when I got home and cramped up.  I’m not such how much adjusting I’ll need to do to this new bike.  My hope is that the discomfort I had was related to the time off combined with adjust to the new positioning, rather than fit problems.  But if there are issues I’m confident we’ll address them.

Why I ride (and why I need your money).

My fat pants
As just about anyone who would read this blog would know I’ve worked pretty hard over the last couple of years and have dropped some serious weight.  I’m literally half the man I used to be.  It seems somewhat traditional for folks to pick a big physical challenge to train for when they are nearing or have reached their weight loss goals. Running isn’t my sort of thing, but I’ve always found cycling to be interesting.  It comes with interesting fashion choices (viva le spandex!) and any sport that consumes this much carbon fiber has to be awesome, right?
I decided to set a goal that would be a stretch goal – and the one I’ve picked is the AIDS/LifeCycle 12.  From June 2nd – 8th I will be riding from San Francisco to LA.  545 miles in 7 days.  It still sounds kind of crazy to me, but then I have to remind myself that I went from no bike to riding in an organized century in 5 months.  As long as I follow the training plan I’m sure I’ll be ready.
But being ready isn’t enough.  The most important part about ALC is that it raises money to provide life-saving treatment to folks living with HIV/AIDS.  So I also ride to raise awareness that this disease is still with us, to help remove stigma, and to do what I can in general for a very worthy cause.
If this is a cause you also believe in and would like to support me, then please consider heading over to my participant page and donating what you can.  It is all greatly appreciated!

My new bike

My new bike
Yeah, I finally got a road bike.  I got out and did some test riding – the Domane 5.2, the Ultegra version of the Synapse, and this.  This is the one that honestly felt the best.  And the looks don’t hurt one bit either.  It’s the Specialized Roubaix SL4 Expert Compact and it’s my new steed.  I’m sure it can take me all the way to LA.

My First Century

 As I posted on Facebook: 2 years ago I weighed 460 pounds.  5 months ago I didn’t own a bike.  On the 20th of October I did this:

When deciding to do something like this, I decided I wanted to do it with some friends.  My friends Eric and Greg had suggested we might do this – they had done it in the past.  Greg had said that if I elected to do the full century (as opposed to the metric century) he would stick with me – and that he did, as did Eric.  Also along for the ride was my college roommate Ricardo and the 4 of us made a pretty fun group.
The Our Lady of Guadalupe Cycling Club
Eric and Greg headed to Davis directly from the Bay Area – I decided to come to Sacramento on Thursday night to cut down on the driving on Saturday morning.  But Friday night I was too amped up to sleep right away, so when the alarm went off at 4am I had only been asleep for 3 hours.  Not as rested as I wanted to be, but it would have to do.
I picked up Ricardo at around 6am and put his bike on the back of the Man Truck and headed off to Davis.  We got there right around 7, found parking, and picked up our packets.  Then we prepared our bikes and ourselves and headed out.  My Garmin says I hit “start” right at 7:24am.  The light was JUST coming out.
The 20 miles to the first rest stop were pretty easy and flat.  The morning was beautiful, and there were several hot air balloons to be seen.  I was feeling a bit of pressure – I had been worried from the start about being fast enough to finish.  The first rest stop was swamped and it took a while to hit the port-o-potties.  I did grab some of the tasty snacks (banana mini-muffins!), slammed a gel, refilled the water bottles, and then headed on.
The next section included our first little hill of the day.  As I said to Ricardo it was an amuse bouche of suffering.  A taste of things to come.  Seeing the heart rate get right up there to 160 was fun as always. After that little bit of fun there was a nice downhill and some easy riding to a water stop at mile 37.5  Greg and Eric had rushed ahead because they needed the port-o-pottie really bad.  There was a REALLY long at the water stop, but we got back on the road as quickly as we could.
After the water stop it was a short 13-ish miles to lunch.  I even spent some time leading a paceline which I hadn’t done before.  I was just grinding out the miles as usual.  After doing that I had my first mechanical challenge of the day – a dropped chain.  No problem, except that I was by myself at this point and I suck at doing it on my own.  (It helps to have someone to hold the bike.)  Another cyclist stopped by and asked if I needed help and he held the bike for me while I got the chain back on.  And yes, I used my plastic gloves.  No need to get dirty.
Lunch was at this little school.  Sandwiches and munchies and whatnot.  I didn’t want to eat too much because I was well aware – perhaps too aware – of what was coming up.  The vast majority of the climbing on this ride was doing to be in the 20 miles after lunch.  So I took my time resting, enjoying the music and the shade and getting fueled and hydrated to do some climbing.
The first hill up was the Circle Oaks Summit on Highway 128.  It was certainly the steepest hill of the day.  Three quarters of the way up I started hearing a strange sound from my rear wheel and notice that it had developed a couple of cracks.  As I was checking it out a SAG car stopped and asked if I needed help.  I told him I didn’t think so, but if I did I would call him on the radio.  (I had brought my mini-handheld ham radio with me.)  Once at the top I showed the cracks to Ricardo and he said yeah, I was gonna need a new wheel.  But at this point I decided to push on and see if I could make it – although fear of the wheel failing did color the rest of the trip.  Given this uncertainty about my rear wheel I was unable to enjoy the all-to-brief descent.  I tried to keep my speed pretty low just in case something went wrong.  
Heading on there were a couple of minor hills and a bigger descent before the other big climb of the day – Cardiac Hill.  Given the name I was worried it was going to be insane.  The reality was that while it was definitely much longer, with at least one false summit.  All there was to do was to gear down and spin it out.  I would stop when necessary (and did, several times).  But no hill goes up forever, so eventually I got to the top.  Once I did then I knew I’d be able to finish the ride – as long as the bike held out.  
After Cardiac Hill there was one minor bump at Monticello Dam, and then the last rest stop.  It was in a nice shady little park.  No waiting at the port-o-potties, nice cool water, and a good sense of accomplishment.  I had conquered the hills and now just had to get back to Davis.  The ride back in to town was nice and flat, and it went along Putah Creek.  It turns out that the little stream that runs through the UCD campus is not really Putah Creek – and it’s almost a river!  
Following the creek we ended back on roads we had been on earlier in the day.  This time, however, I was much more tired than I had been going out.  My knee started to bother me quite a bit and my quads were burning.  I knew what they meant about “the wall” at mile 80 for sure.  We stopped at one point at mile 90 just so I could stretch my back and it was a bad idea – my knee hurt a lot more than before we stopped.  One thing I knew for sure – no more stopping until I was back at my truck!
The last 10 miles were hard.  Covell Boulevard had felt nice and quiet in the morning, but was busy with trucks and cars now.  And I really just wanted to get back to my truck so that I could get off the bike (and out of my bike shoes).  Soon enough we returned to where we started.  I looped the bike around a bit to get the mileage over 100 since the official distance for Foxy’s was 98.5.  I wanted my first century to be an actual century, and sure enough it was.  I was pretty happy about being done.

So there it is.  After 5 months of riding I went from doing 2 miles on my bike in jeans to being a spandex-wearing, bike-cleat using road warrior.  As I start shopping for a “proper” road bike I don’t think I need to worry about using it – clearly I’ve found my sport.

It’s gotta be the shoes.

After debating and debating I decided it was time to take my riding up a notch and the way to do that was to start using clipless pedals.
I find the whole terminology confusing (and broken).  They’re called “clipless” because they don’t have the old fashioned toe clips like on bikes in the 80s.  And yet they call using the “clipping in”.  Basically you have a fancy cycling shoe that has a mechanical attachment point on the bottom that connects to the pedal, basically attaching you to the bike.
There are many advantages to doing this.  To start with the shoes tend to be much stiffer than regular shoes, so it means that less of your energy is going into flexing the shoe and more is going into the pedals (and this the bike).  Secondly I found that after a certain point (about 85 rpm) I was having problems keeping my feet on the pedals.  Not a problem anymore. (My “comfortable” cadence is about 90 rpm now.)
There are a couple of downsides, mostly in the safety department.  You have to move your feet a certain way to get out of the pedals – and failure to do so will likely lead to a slow speed fall.  This has already happened to me once – I was practicing doing a panic stop and I didn’t get out in time.  A slow speed fall and nothing injured except for my pride.
I’ve been practicing on my regular daily ride for about a week and change now and this weekend I’ll be using them on a longer ride.  We’ll see what happens.
For those that are curious the shoes are 2012 Specialized Pro Road shoes:
(and I do kinda wish they weren’t quite so shiny)
The pedals are Speedplay Zero Stainless:

The yellow part is actually the cleat that goes on the shoe and the part that looks like the lollypop is the pedal.  
So far I’ve been enjoying using them.  Hopefully that will continue.

It’s not about the bike.

Except when it is.
First off: Here we are mid june and I’m at about 248.  That’s down about 30 from the start of the year.  Frustrating to say the least.  Yes, it is progress and yes it is over 250 pounds from where I started.  But no it is not the speed that I would like.  (Hint: it never is.)
On a more interesting note: this weekend I spent money (something I’m excellent at) and bought a bike.

It’s a Specialized Sirrus Comp.  It’s even got some carbon fiber bits!  Although they call it a hybrid it’s really more of a flat-bar road bike. Skinny tires, road gears, etc.  It’s a very nice dark dark grey (which they call “slate”) and black combination.  And to continue the theme I got a black/grey helmet: 
We’re going for a Johnny Cash theme here.   
So what brought this on, you ask?  I shall tell you.  I’ve been looking for ways to be more active.  Going to the gym is fine and whatnot, but it’s not fun.  It’s boring as hell.  Yes, it can be fun when I go late at night and there’s no one around to see my lip-synching to my Glee playlist (Hungry Like the Wolf and Rio mashup? Excellent!) but in general it’s just work.  Riding a bike in the real world seems more interesting than riding a fake bike in the gym.  
I thought I’d start off with a very simple goal – trying to ride my bike to Yahoo!.  It’s only 4.5 miles each way – an easy enough of a goal.  But I was concerned about the lack of flexibility that had built up in my knees so I started some physical therapy to restore flexibility and it seems to be working.  They let me start off with 5 minutes on a stationary bike at a time and then we added 5 minutes a week.  When I was up to 20 minutes they said I could go bike shopping.  (No need to tell me twice!)
I had initially looked at a Trek FX 7.5 but the lack of ability to put bar ends on it kind of killed it for me.  Plus, and I know this shouldn’t matter – I didn’t like the looks all that much.  I went to Cognition Cyclery and fell in love with the Sirrus Comp.  Their staff was amazing and I was able to get expertly fitted by Vanessa – she is VERY awesome.  Can’t recommend her highly enough.    I also went to REI and took advantage of their big sale to get a Thule Helium 3-bike rack for the truck, the aforementioned helmet, and a few other bits and pieces.  
I have quickly realized that my goal of riding to work isn’t much of a goal – it takes about half an hour.  Or about 10 minutes more than it takes to drive and park.  (Parking at Yahoo! is a PITA.)  But I also have a more long-term goal in mind – the AIDS LifeCycle in 2013.  A 575 mile ride from SF to LA.  That goal may seem crazy, but what is the point of losing all this weight if I can’t do crazy things?  If I enjoy road riding (and I think I might, since it involves machines and going fast-ish) then why not do something like this?  Nothing to motivate you to get out there like training for something.  
I’ll keep you posted.