Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Road Riding: 2008 Low-Key Hillclimbs

Three rides down. That should have made me a regular by now. For that reason, the series deserves a separate post on its own. Also, I met people on these rides and I'd like to make a note here so it will help me remember. I will be updating this post after every week's ride.

10/04/2008: Montebello (results)

We didn't do it. I was waken up by the rain pounding on our roof at around 7am. That was just perfect for sleeping in. Well, 86 men and women, not wusses like us, turned out for the ride.

10/11/2008: West Alpine (results)

The start of the climb is only 10 minutes away from our house on a bike, so we really did not have any excuse not to make this one. Plus, it is one of Erik's favorite climbs. But getting up early did not happen, which chain-reactioned into a late breakfast, a rush to the registration, and a cold start. At least, those are the excuses I came up with for Erik's stunning performance.  It seemed that the entire pelaton passed me on the flats at the start. I was too focused on staying out of people's way to remember the benefit of drafting. But once the hill picked up, I started passing people. I love hills!

I was happy to see my fellow dirt/road diva Janet at the start. She introduced me to Amy. Krishna is the guy who won PTB's time trial up Finch Trail in Water Dog park. This time, he showed up on his mountain bike, and he still was faster than many people. Rich from work was also on the ride.

(photo courtesy of Christine Holmes)

Click here to access a video of this ride.

10/18/2008: Quimby Road (results)

I felt anxious before the ride. The elevation profile shows a 13% average grade for the second half of the ride. In comparison, Old La Honda and Sierra Road look flat.  I still remember tipping over in our neighborhood last year when I first started riding simply because the bike came to a halt on an uphill and I couldn't unclip.  Thankfully, nobody saw me then. But it would be embarrassing if I did that in front of tens of people, or would it happen on Quimby?  Nervous, yet I was curious to find out.  Well, it was not bad at all. The second half was somewhat sustained, but I was able to spin my granny gear and that enabled me to trade positions with a few riders before the finish. I could see Erik a short distance in front of me most of the way. That was a sign that both of us were riding at our expected capacity.

I chatted with a guy in a MTBR jersey whose name was Mat.  I also chatted with Stephen a little bit.  As far as divas go, I met Judith, Helen, Janet Martinez (1st place woman), and Holly (3rd place woman).

(photos courtesy of Adam Tow)

The Brunners posted their video. Click on the link to see how everyone suffers.

10/25/2008: Bear Gulch (results)

I probably should not have done this one. For a few days prior to the ride, I was feeling very off — a dull stomach ache had been bugging me and every joint felt sore. However, I thought to myself "well, staying home ain't gonna make it better, so I might as well get out and ride."  Hmmm… staying home probably would not have made me feel better, but everything definitely went downhill after this ride. For the rest of the day, I walked around with a box of Kleenex in my hand and it was getting emptied fast. It seems certain now I have come down with a flu or a cold. Darn it!

After the ride, I hung out with Erik and our friend, Mike, who kindly joined our Mud 'N Crud team along with another guy, whose name I did not get. Everyone was coughing. Mike told us that it was because we breathed harder than our lungs could handle. I guess that immediate steep hill in the 1st mile was brutal. It took an hour for the burning sensation in the throat to fade and another hour for the cough to subside.  Now I just wish my flu bug would go away.

Note to myself: I chatted with Holly (4th place woman) on the way to the ride and with Oliver (the young guy who finished one second ahead of Erik) on the way from the ride.  I owe Dan $10 (registration fee) .

Edit on 10/26/2008: I definitely should not have done this one. Being hit by flu is not fun especially when the weather is so nice outside. And Erik had to drive down to Pinnacles by himself today.

    (Erik, Mei, and Mike. Photos courtesy of Eric Willis)

P.S. Wow, I'm amazed. After a very relaxing day on Sunday resting at home (making oatmeal pine nut cookies was pretty much all I did), when Monday came, it was almost like someone turned off the faucet.  My nose, for the most part, was not congested any more and I got  my voice back. I couldn't even call in sick! This is the fastest recovery I've ever had.

P.P.S. Jill, a fellow diva and a physiologist, has this information to share, "Moderate to light activity can boost your immune system. Hard exercise reduces your immune system for at least 3 hours after the activity, just enough time for a bug to really take hold. "

11/01/2008: Montivena (Canceled)

Rain.

11/08/2008: Jamison Creek (results)

This is another new climb to me. Actually, I just realize that having lived in the Bay Area for six years,I have never been to the west side of Skyline on Hwy 9. This series provides a good opportunity for me to ride in new areas.

It is a smaller turnout than usual due to its distance from the central part of the Bay Area. However, the strong female riders are all here: Jenny, Janet, and Holly and they are all in the team Sisters of No Mercy.  When we gear up at the parking lot, Janet kindly passes on to me a tiny sister sculpture. I think there are also sculptures of Jesus in her bag.

The start of the Jamison Creek is fairly flat, which is a big problem for me. Sure enough, I am abandoned by the pelaton who fly by me in no time as soon as the ride starts. I try to hang on, but I cannot. I have been used to spinning at a low gear and that does not help me stay behind others' wheels. When I shift up, immediately my legs feel the fatigue and my heart rate goes up. I don't know how other people do it. For a while, it feels like I am the very last rider when the pelaton pull away from me and I cannot see anyone behind me. After a little over one mile, the hill starts to get steeper. That's where I feel more at ease, spinning my granny gear as usual. The three sisters are out of sight. I figure I'll just do my best and even if I'm the last, I will have no regret. I manage to reel a couple of riders in as the hill climb continues. Before I know it, I'm at the top, where most other riders are already stopped and socializing. I am not the last one, but due to the small turnout, I am the second to last in women's category. Well, I think I have done my best, and I have done a climb I'd never been to before, so, this is another very good ride.

(Photo by J. Handley)

(photo by Garrett Lau)

There is a video taken by Denny Sahovic at the finish. As Dan the organizer said, "message from Denny's video: he who breathes hardest, goes fastest. " To access, click here.

11/15/2008: Metcalf Rd (results)

Not again!!! On this Saturday evening, my nose is stuffed, I'm on to my second hankie,  and I sneezed a dozen times already in the past couple of hours.  That's exactly what happened after Bear Gulch three weeks ago. At least last time, there were warning signs prior to the ride. This time, there was none. I was feeling perfectly fine this morning. Okay, I woke up with a slight headache, but it went away with the first cup of coffee.  Crap! Erik has already been sick for a few days. It's a pretty depressing scene in the Mud household right now with two sick people. *sigh*

Anyway, let me rewind to this morning when  the sun was bright and I was feeling healthy. Even though Erik could not go with me, I still decided to go alone. It's mainly because I fell in love with this climb when I saw this picture a few days ago:

(Click on the pic to access the source)

It's beautiful, but I should have realized that this was a photo looking down. When I was climbing up the road, I did not get that open panoramic view.  Now that I think about it, all I saw was the 2 foot square in front of my front wheel on my climb up.

It was another great turnout. I recognized a few regulars such as Jenny, Janet, and Holly, three of the Sisters of No Mercy. There were also some other female riders that I did not remember meeting before. There is a very brief flat section before the climb starts. By the time my right cleat found the correct side of my pedal to clip in, I was at the back of the pack again.  This climb is featured by one mile of steep climb followed by less than one mile of moderate gradient. But if you ask me, it felt steep all the way to almost the very end. I was able to shift out of my granny gear in maybe the last 0.2 miles only. I'm a wimp. What can I say? I thought I pushed myself hard, but I guess others pushed themselves harder — I think I was near the back the entire ride on this short climb.

My performance aside, I had an unexpected gain today — one thing that had puzzled me for quite a while was finally explained by Bill, another Sisters of No Mercy team member. It seems that even though my heart rate is no where near my max (for example, on one recent ride on OLH when I wore my HR monitor, my heart rate stayed in Zone 4 despite my best effort), I don't seem to be able to push myself to go any faster.  That's how I felt on today's ride too. Bill explained to me that muscles are not all the same. There are fast and slow twitch muscle fibers. One person with more fast twitch muscle fibers can generate enormous amount of strength and speed over a short period of time compared to the next person. Remembering that I was always the slowest student in my PE classes throughout my school life, I found it very easy for me to accept the theory and accept the implication that I will always be a "mudworm" — never fast, but inch by inch, I will get to my destination.

On my way back down to my car, I did get a nice view of the valley. Oh, it was beautiful in the bright sunshine. Back at the car, I pondered what to do next. The Sisters of No Mercy along with some other riders are doing a 55 mile ride to Henry Coe. I was interested because I had never done the route before and it would be with a group of fun people. However, I was not prepared. I only had one small water bottle and no food. I also wanted to go to Erik's 3pm appointment with his orthodontist to go over his X-rays and photo images of his crooked teeth. The temptation that I would discover more of my husband's secrets was too much to resist. I had to give the ride a pass.  But I was not ready to drive back either. After all, I drove 50 miles to do this 2-mile climb. I had to do something. Equipped with a printout of Gary Griffin's route recommendation and no map, I did not seem to have a choice. However, that meant I needed to climb back up Metcalf again. Oh well, no choice means no choice. Up I went. This time, I set the split on my stopwatch at the intersection of Metcalf and Malech Road and again at the finish line.  I had 16 minutes and 15.08 seconds on my watch for the climb. It'll be interesting to compare it with the time Low Key had for me on my first time climbing up Metcalf only an hour earlier. (Edit: As the results show, my first time up Metcalf was 15'32".) Here is Gary's route suggestion: "If you want to extend your ride, you can go down the back side of Metcalf, turn left on San Felipe, left on Farnsworth, left on Silver Creek, and left on Hellyer. Hellyer turns into Basking Ridge Rd. which ends at a park service gate. Go around the gate and continue a quarter mile to Metaclf Rd. The loop is 17 miles with 2000 ft of climbing, 1000 of which you completed in the race."

I did manage to get lost (turning off San Felipe too soon on Silver Creek Rd, which was the wrong Silver Creek) and ended up in an upscale neighborhood. I was hoping that some rich old couple would find me and adopt me, but it didn't happen when I rode from one gate to another before retracing my route back to San Felipe.  I could almost hear Gary yell into my ear, "I told you to turn left on Farnsworth!"

Ah-chew! Ug. I think it was the AC in the orthodontist's office that took me down. I hope with EmergenC drinks and a good night of sleep, tomorrow I'll wake up as good as new. Ah-chew!

Here are some photos from the ride:

(Photo by Stephen Fong)

(Photo by Gary)

11/22/2008: Lomas Cantadas (skipped)

I'll have to skip this one because I'll be in China for my father's birthday this weekend.

11/27/2008: Mt Hamilton (Results)

Neither of us wanted to get out of bed in the morning.  It was warm under the blanket and it's the first day of our Thanksgiving long weekend.  But our friend Mike said he and Joan might be there, so it would be bad form if we flaked. Finally, I exclaimed, "we might as well go and get this over with!" At that prompt, we jumped out of the bed. Once out, it was not too bad.

Actually I'd been looking forward to his ride for a while. For one, I'd never been on this side of the observatory; and it would be a long ride (18+ miles of climbing), which I liked.  It rained the day before, but in the morning, the live condition report from the observatory looked promising.

On our way to the start, I felt drowsy, still a bit jet lagged after I returned from China less that two days ago. So, we stopped to get coffee. I brought my stainless steel mug with me. Big mistake. The coffee stayed too hot to drink all the way to the start.  With the long wait in the registration line, our warmup time gradually slipped away. But one nice thing is Mike and Joan showed up.  This is our first time meeting Joan, but I had seen her website on her great finish at Furnace Creek 508.  Mike joined our Mud 'n Crud team again and signed up for the ride.  Up we went.

It was a big group at the bottom, but it thinned out fast. For a long time, I could only see one or two riders in front of me and none behind me. I guessed most had gone ahead. I felt good on the ride, keeping my heart rate low as usual. Along the way, I made sure to turn my head to check out the view. At the bottom, we were under the clouds; gradually, we were in the clouds; and near the top we were in the sun. I was able to see the beautiful hill side and the valley below most of the way up, which made the ride even more worthwhile.

At the top, the sun went in and out of the clouds. It was very calm; however the temperature was still a little low. We got a bit chilled standing around and chatting with Mike and Joan. With the exertion behind him, Erik hacked away violently, which did not seem going to ever stop. We couldn't talk over his deafening coughs, so we watched him hack bending over the handle bar. Mike went from pleading "please live" sympathetically to asking "will you live?" while staring at Erik's Specialized bike. He has been battling a stubborn cold for almost two weeks. Poor guy.

I went through different climates descending the 18+ miles I just climbed going from bone chill at the top to comfortably warm near the bottom. The smooth surface and the friendly curves in the road at the lower half made descending surprisingly fun. Back at the car, both Erik and I agreed that we were happy that we got out of the bed this morning.

Following are photos taken by Josh Hadley on Mt Hamilton. I'm putting the thumbnail images here. For full sizes, click on any image to access the album.

The End for 2008

It's over. I'm having mixed emotions about it. I'm glad it's over because we won't have our next Saturday tied up to a distant 3-mile ride any more, or at least until next year, but we won't know what to do with our next Saturdays now (okay, I'm joking).  Erik and I both did well. In the oveall standings, he placed 31st out of 240 men and I stood 4th out of 39 women (note: many riders had the disadvantage of not having all three rides for the final scores). However, a few things probably contributed to our not having gotten faster times. For example:

  • The 3-mile rides these weekends were pretty much all the road riding we did this season, which was not enough of training by any standard.
  • Secondly, we both suffer from our weakness on flats. I, being an inexperienced rider, have never able to ride with a group.  On Mt. Hamilton, at one point on a fairly flat section, a peloton of four passed me and the one in the back gestured me to tuck in, so I tried. For a very brief moment, I was able to feel the benifit of drafting, but more often than not I found myself pedaling hard to try to keep up only to have to brake in order to avoid touching the wheel in front. Pretty soon, I was so worn out by just trying to figure out how to ride that I abandoned the free ride.  Erik had the same problem too because it was at the first descent on Mt Hamilton where he got dropped by the group he was in at the end of the first climb. The reason behind this is fairly straightforward. We do not do enough riding, especially on flats, and when we do ride, we usually ride by ourselves. In our group of two, we never draft. It's an unfamiliar skill for us to ride with a peloton.
  • Thirdly, we do not seem to know how to start. It's quite demoralizing when you see more than half of the group shoot ahead right at the start and you can't keep up, but it's not like we are weaker than all those riders because we do manage to reel some riders in later into the climb. We have not figured it out yet how we could improvement in this department.

I'd like to do better next year, but I won't be too stressed about it. After all, we have other hobbies, such as mountain biking and climbing, that seem to take higher priorities most of the time. But a year is a long time. We will see what happens. That is, until next October.

3 Responses

  1. Janeton 26 Oct 2008 at 3:17 pm

    Sorry you aren't feeling well. My asthma was affected by all the hot, dry air and I was coughing up a storm myself. Hope you have a speedy recovery and see you back in action next week.

    Janet

    mudworm

    Thanks Janet! Everyone around me was coughing like a heavy smoker after the ride. I can only imagine how hard that must have been on someone with asthma. I hope it goes away quickly for you! As always, go Janet, sister with no mercy!

    mudworm

    Oops, the correct team name is Sisters of no Mercy. They rock! As of week 4 (Bear Gulch), they rank the highest. I think Erik is pondering abandoning Mud 'n Crud team to join the Sisters.