“This parrot is no more. He has ceased to be.”

Our fearless ride leader loves hills.  If the choice is “hills” or “more hills” he will always choose “more hills”.  So when he said he had found a new hill, one that most of us hadn’t been up, that was some interesting news.  (To be fair most hills are ones I haven’t been up.  I’m just learning all the classic climbs around here.)  I think that perhaps in response to his underselling of Farm Hill at the first ride of the season he felt the need to hype this hill up a bit.  Of course things like that go straight to my head, take up residence, and start playing mind games. 

The day started very clear but a bit cold.  We got up around 7 – both of us because Tom was not just going to be shadowing me for the day but he actually volunteered to be an official SAG driver for this ride.  Having a SAG wagon out there is great for psychological support – knowing that if something does go wrong you’re not completely stuck helps a lot.  Having the SAG wagon being driven by your partner is an extra special bonus.
We got to the meeting spot around 9:15 – enough time for a bit of chit-chat before the briefing started and enough time for Tom to get his bearings regarding his official duties.  After the usual pre-ride routine – stretching, going over the route, and safety briefing – we were off.  
The beginning of this ride started out very similar to my ill-fated first ride of the season.  Out to Sand Hill Rd, then to Alameda de las Pulgas.  I quickly lost touch with some of my friends but given the climbing coming up I didn’t feel like rushing myself in order to keep up.  I wanted to keep as much in reserve as I could.  One thing that was interesting – I went farther on Alameda de las Pulgas than I had before – so after that point there was plenty of new scenery.  I did my own pace until the first rest stop where I tried to be efficient.  A quick visit to the rest room, some water, some Shot Blocks, a quick hug from Tom, and I was off.
Then the climbing began.  The first thing after the rest stop was a hill they call “Alameda de las Steeps”.  It was a nice little wakeup call, and made me thankful for my big cassette in back.  After that Parrot Drive was up and the real fun began.  And by fun I mean not fun.
I will say this – it did match up with what Chris promised.  And I did climb it.  I had to walk a couple of spots near the top of the last hill (it’s really 3 hills), and at the stop signs I had some trouble getting going again.  Tom was waiting at the bottom of the hill so I got to proudly tell him that I didn’t walk it.  I scarfed down a gel (WTF is “Montana Huckleberry”?) and got back on with it.  It felt like a really long ride to get to the second rest stop and I was REALLY hungry.  A nice BLTA (BLT + avocado), a nice sized rice-krispie treat, and I was a happy camper.
After lunch it was some more familiar roads back home – except that there was one big hill left.  One completely unnecessary hill.  La Cresta.  I’m going to assume it means “the crest”.  But we had to get UP to the crest.  And there was only one way to do that – by going up.  Yay, more climbing.
After La Cresta we were pretty much done.  It was mostly flat/downhill all the way home.  And I’ve never been more glad for that!

The Mean Streets of the South Bay

Today was billed as an “urban cycling sampler”.  I liked the idea – after a fair bit of climbing yesterday I was all for a nice flat ride.  But just because it’s flat doesn’t mean that it has to be easy.  Today was a speed day and the numbers back it up.  A 14.5mph average!

I woke up an hour late (8am instead of 7am), so I was rushed going out the door.  I really hate that.  Especially since when that happens I tend to screw something up, which is how the kitties escaped that one time.  But today I took care to make sure I didn’t do anything stupid like that today.  And I also made sure I remembered locking the door so that I didn’t have to go back and check it.  I did end up getting away about 10 minutes later than I wanted to at, leaving at around 9:10am.
The ride to Fremont and Mary was pretty simple.  I don’t quite like the stretch of Mary between Central and El Camino.  It’s listed as a “bike route” but it’s not very comfortable.  I think I see why Google Maps wanted to send me a different route.  I felt a bit under pressure to get there on time…and I pulled in to the parking lot at exactly 9:29am.  That works out well.  For now I think I’ll ride there – the extra 6 miles didn’t hurt.
Now Terri, who plans the rides, seems to REALLY like to make me ride back home at the start.  This time it was EXACTLY the route I take home, going right by Whisman and Gladys (which is how I go home).  Then she made me go to work…as in riding right by Yahoo!.  Then around to Caribbean (which I hadn’t been on before on a bike).  After that it was a bike trail I hadn’t been on before and a lot of urban riding that isn’t really worth describing in detail.  It was a good route, but I couldn’t tell you where we went.  I just did what the Garmin told me.
I will talk about the pace, however.  I made sure to leave with the front group, and my hope was to stick with them until the rest stop at least – and I pretty much did that.  But I was spent.  I left it all on the road.  After the rest break I was much slower.  However, my resulting pace being at 14.5mph over 40 miles – I’ll take that.  

The Lonely Road

Due to the ALC Expo/Kick Off Party up in the city Saturday there weren’t many organized rides.  I felt the time had come for me to go out on my own.  I was a bit worried because Tom was out of town so I didn’t really have any backup.  I could always call my homegirl Leeann for help, but since she has 3 kids and a husband (so, like, 4 kids) I’d only do that if things really got bad.  For the most part I was on my own.

Using Ride With GPS I modified a training ride from a couple of weeks ago with a suggestion from the Cycling Goddess to add a few more miles.  The day was pretty grey.  Cloud cover was present the whole day – although it was looking at times like it might burn off.  It was cool, but not cold.  I had on knee warmers (like I probably almost always will) but I didn’t need full finger gloves, for example.
I started out from home and headed out Grant Road all the way to Foothill Expressway.  That was a good thing to do, because now I have an easy way to get out there.  Once they’re done tearing up the road I suspect I’ll be doing that quite a bit.  Foothill eventually became Stevens Canyon Rd and went through the lovely park as before.  And then I got to the stop sign where Mt. Eden Road is.  But unlike last time I turned right and continued on Stevens Canyon.
Even if the skies hadn’t been grey it was going to be pretty dark back in there.  Lots and lots of trees and lovely cover.  I came to the stop sign where Redwood Gulch is, and having researched that particular road (well aware that one of the TRLs wants to take us up it in 3 weeks), I shuddered.  And then I kept going until Stevens Canyon came to an end.  It was a very gentle climb, just enough to get the heart rate up a little.  Then I turned around and headed back down.  The road was rather bumpy which I felt more on the way down, vertical compliance or not.  But when I got back to the Mt. Eden stop sign I noticed something – I was VERY dirty. Parts of the bike were caked in mud.  Oh no, not my baby!
Well, nothing to do about it except keep going.  The ride up Mt. Eden seemed even easier this time than last.  Although I missed having company to distract me it was just a pretty simple and easy climb.  I stopped at the top, scarfed some food, and bombed down.  Since I had gotten a late start I wanted to try and keep things quick so I did not dilly dally.  I bombed down the descent and came back to Sunnyvale-Saratoga.
The thing I like about going back to Mtn. View after being up in the hills is that it’s all very gradually downhill.  So I can crank along and see myself doing 18 to 20 mph in the bike lane and feel like a cycling god.  I know I’m not but it is more fun to go fast than to go slow.  Especially when you know there is no more climbing to be done.  I made a brief stop at Leeann and Mike’s house to say hi and show off my bike.  I hadn’t expected it to be quite so dirty though.
After I got back from the Expo up in the city I did the only thing I could do.  I washed my bike.  No way I could let it stay that dirty!