Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cold Reality

Back to work tomorrow.  Just the thought of it is making me sick.  Cough.

I rode three times over the four-day weekend, which was nice.  The weather kind of sucked, though.  I know people ride in places like Minnesota or North Dakota in freezing temperatures and live to tell about it.  Some even claim to LIKE it.  Great.  Good for them.  I rode in temperatures ranging from the high 30s to low 40s this weekend, and I could only handle it for 90 to 120 minutes per ride.  It's just not that much fun.

One nice thing about the Thanksgiving weekend is the lack of cars on the roads.  While others were eating, watching football, recovering from hangovers or shopping in crowds, I was enjoying quiet roads.

I thought this old tin-roofed barn would look good in sepia.

So I head back to work tomorrow with a few miles in my legs and a clearer head.  That makes it a little easier, I guess.

Later.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Day

I made it out for a ride today in an effort to offset the food I would later eat, but in hindsight I don't think I rode far enough. I am currently uncomfortably full, and I'm pretty sure I still ended up with a caloric surplus for the day.

It was clear and sunny but barely 40 degrees when I left. It was my first real foray into cold weather riding this year, and I certainly didn't enjoy it. Summer is how far off?  Even with thick wool socks my feet quickly became cold and remained that way for the entire ride.

The trails were in good shape since it hasn't rained in a couple days. The north wind also did it's part to dry things out.


After a few hills like this one I am about to descend, there's no getting warm again. I hit 40 miles per hour just coasting.


This is just a shortcut behind some houses. Nothing exciting, but anytime I can put tire to dirt it's a great thing. Whatever it takes to get away from the cars.


This is a trail I rarely ride on, but only because it leads to a tough climb that I usually avoid.


It was kind of miserable while I was out there, but I'm glad I got out. Hopefully tomorrow it will be a bit warmer.

Later.

Monday, November 15, 2010

All the Leaves Are Brown

But the sky isn't the least bit gray today. Sometimes living in California doesn't suck at all.



The weather has been pretty stellar lately. After four days of good rides, tomorrow I get a day off.

In other news, yesterday was the last day of Fall Ball. Spencer hit the ball well every at bat, and even hit one over the first baseman's head. When he came up again, it was really cool to hear the opposing coach say, "Look alive; this guy can hit."

Getting ready to launch one:

I like this shot of Spencer on first and me pitching. We're watching a pop-up to third base.

Love this stance.  Perfect weight distribution:

That's about it. Later.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Next Weekend

The forecast calls for rain next weekend.  After last weekend's great weather for the Folsom cyclocross race, it looks like we're in for some mud in Lodi.  Hopefully it won't be as bad as it was in Niel, Belgium last weekend:



When conditions get sloppy, look for Sven Nys to dominate, as he has for years.  He's one bad mudder.

Later.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Race Report: Sac CX #3

After the early racing season fell apart due to my health, I really enjoyed a summer of riding without any purpose. I rode for the sake of riding, with no regard for speed or mileage or heart rate. It was nice. Unfortunately, riding without a purpose can leave one somewhat . . . fat.

When the scale tipped 170 late in the summer, the alarm bells went off. That's the number that usually freaks me out enough to get back to work. As fall came I started riding a bit more and stretching out the miles. The weight is slowly dropping, and I'm feeling better on the bike. Still, I am the type of person who needs a carrot to chase.

Yesterday the third race in the Sacramento Cyclocross Series was held right down the road in Folsom. I figured getting my ass handed to me in a race would be the motivation I needed to get serious about riding again.  Although I hadn't raced cross in a while, I wanted to give it a go.

I signed up for the race on Friday morning even though I am between cross bikes right now.  I threw together my old Miyata, which has been used mostly as an errand bike.  Because it was originally designed for 27" rims, I found I could run pretty big tires if I use 700c wheels and long-reach brakes.  I hoped it would get the job done.

The Sacramento series was a bit different when I left it in 2005.  Most of the venues were state parks around Folsom Lake—Granite Bay, Negro Bar, Dyke 8.  The courses were mostly dirt trails with a bit of asphalt.  Grass features were nearly non-existent.  On rare occasions when the turf showed up on a course, I complained.  I was always very slow on grass.

It seems the organizers have abandoned the state parks in favor of regional parks.  My assumption is the state parks simply became too expensive.

Yesterday's race was held at Lembi Park in Folsom.  Upon my arrival I was thrilled to see that the course had grass.  A lot of grass.  In fact it was almost all grass.  Slow, energy-sapping, soul-crushing grass.

Doug and I rode a warmup lap and arrived at the line only a couple minutes before the start, which meant we were at the back of our respective groups.  The 35+ B group took off and I was bringing up the rear.  It didn't matter, because even if I were at the front, most of them would have passed me anyway.

The 45+ Bs started a minute after us, and the leaders quickly caught me.  Not long after that, Doug caught me. I would have been really depressed about it had I not been fighting the urge to vomit.

Ex-Mercury pro Doug powers through the grass:

The course was pretty flat and slow (did I mention the grass?), and not very technical—nothing geared toward my cycling strengths. Some elevation change would have been nice.

My dismounts were a bit rusty, but on a slow course like this one it wasn't much of a disadvantage:

By the middle of the 45-minute race I had settled into a good pace, and I began to start picking people off.  Not a lot of people, but one here and there, enough to keep me motivated.

A photog managed to catch me looking somewhat coordinated.  Once.

At the end of lap three I was dismayed to see the lap card saying three more.  THREE more laps.
 
By the end of lap four I was slowing a bit.  After a quick drink I felt a bit better and started going after more riders.
 
My last lap was probably my best, but it was too little too late. I placed a disappointing 25th out of 36. Doug scored an impressive 11th out of 28 in his first cyclocross race.

In the end the 30-year-old bike did fine; it was the 43-year-old pilot that was holding the team back. My threaded headset did loosen up on me, which was pretty annoying.  The threadless headset is my favorite advancement in bike technology from when I first started racing.

Even though I didn't do well, I had a good time.  I plan on doing the next race.  I have nowhere to go but up.

Parting thought: When you're fit and fast, like Curtis, cyclocross is fun.

When you're fat and slow, it just hurts.

Later.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Decisions

It was a bit cool when I left for my ride yesterday morning.  I'm not ready for winter to be here.  Ugh.


Yesterday was my regular day off. There were four things I wanted to do, but I could not do them all:  a long bike ride, watch game one of the World Series, watch the opening game of the Kings season, and race opening night of the local cyclocross series.

In the end, the choice was pretty easy.  As much as I wanted to race, it would preclude the three other things on my list.  When I was younger, my friend and I would sometimes do a mountain bike ride in the morning and race at night.  Now, that would be a little rough on the old legs.

With the Giants and Kings games both starting at 5 p.m. and racing starting at six, it would be tough to watch much of either game.  Also, the likelihood of hearing a score at the races made recording for later viewing less desirable.  If I am going to watch a game, I don't want to know the outcome.

I skipped the race, which allowed me to go on a nice ride on the Fargo.  Although it was cold, the sun was shining and I eventually warmed up by the end.  I put in a little over 40 miles, my longest ride in a while.

That night I was able to relax with a beer while watching the World Series, my legs burning a bit from the day's effort.  After that great win, I watched the Kings on the DVR, who also won.  Brilliant.  The day couldn't have been much better.

Later.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hangtown Tour

Wednesday I made it out for a ride in the hills.  The goat heads are so bad around my house right now that I can rarely get through a ride without a flat.  The only option is to drive somewhere.

I started at the parking lot on Missouri Flat and took the trail east towards Placerville.  This is the same ride I have done a couple times towing my son, but I would be alone this time—not towing an extra 75 pounds.  The plan was to take the El Dorado Trail all the way to the end in Camino.

The morning was cool and clear; for the first time in months I was a bit cold as I rolled away from the truck.

Fall always arrives with mixed emotions.  It is my favorite time of year to ride, without question.  However, the onset of fall means winter is on the way, and that is my least favorite season.

I did the ride up to where we turned around last time and continued up the dirt trail, climbing gradually up the old railroad grade.  Although you aren't far from Highway 50, you wouldn't know it by the scenery.


Nope, no civilization out there:


After a couple miles, the trail stopped at this fence:


I backtracked to a spur trail and ended up in a neighborhood.  I headed north until I popped out on Highway 50.  I crossed the highway and took Carson Road east for a while until I noticed the road was completely lined with the very goat heads I was trying to avoid.  That was my cue telling me it was time to head back.

I rolled back down the hill for what seemed like forever.  Like I have mentioned before, it's quite a treat to have a ride end with a downhill.

After about 25 miles I needed a coffee break:

Old Placerville can be irritating to drive through, but on a bike the slow pace and narrow roads are quaint.

This is the old bell tower.  After much of the business district was leveled by three fires in 1856, the need for an alarm system was finally remedied in 1865 with the bell tower.  Tucked up under the hood is what looks like an air raid siren.

It was a nice ride.  I'm going to get on Google Earth and see what I can do next time to extend the ride farther to the east, preferable on dirt or quiet roads.

Later.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fall Ball

We signed the boy up for fall baseball.  He is only six years old, so some of the skills he needs aren't quite there yet.  You have to be seven to play in Little League, but they let six-year-olds in fall ball if they will be seven by spring.

He can hit and throw and field a grounder, but the ability to catch a ball thrown to him isn't there yet.

I think I made a mistake when I checked the little box on the form that said "assistant coach."  Being an assistant to me is showing up, throwing the ball around a little, hitting a few grounders, and leaving while the poor schlep who volunteered to be the manager herds children and gathers equipment.

Well, looks like our team has no manager.  So the three "assistants" have been promoted to "co-managers."  Now I have parents sending me e-mails explaining why they can't make practice, or asking if it's OK if I babysit their kid while they go wine tasting.  Ugh.  Not what I signed up for.

The first practice had five stations:  hitting, infield, outfield, pitching and catching.

Here Spencer demonstrates his pitching follow-through:


The wind-up:


Even though it's highly unlikely he will ever catch, being a lefty, all the kids got to strap on the gear.


There's one more practice this Sunday, then we go right into games after that.  Should be fun.

Later.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Snakes and a Plane!

It's not often you see a couple big rattlers and a B2 Stealth Bomber on the same ride (OK, never), but that's what happened on Saturday.

This one was big . . .


and this one was even bigger.


All the cool planes were in town for the air show.  This is a horrible picture, but it was the best I could do with the compact camera.  Still, seeing a B2 in flight makes up for it.


Lately I am not leaving the house without a camera.  Even a boring ride ride on the bike trail usually provides something to take a picture of.

Later.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Labor Day

We made it out for some kayaking on Lake Natoma yesterday.  It was a little hot.  I really worked up a sweat paddling around with 50 pounds of dead weight in the front.

This angle makes the lake look pretty serene, but there were quite a few kayakers behind me.


My navigator working hard . . .


Aside from a long rental line, it was a nice day on the water.

Later.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Weekend Ride

For the last month I have been doing rides between one and two hours long, and most them weren't interesting enough to talk about. I guess I'm just riding for fun at this point. I just can't seem to find the motivation to ride and train enough to race.

Sunday we went out for a family ride in the Placerville area. We started at the parking lot on Missouri Flat Road and headed east on the bike trail.

After a mostly downhill ride to the bridge over Weber Creek, it was pretty much all uphill to the turnaround point.


This old railroad tunnel is in Placerville.


There is a bit of dirt on the route.


Most of us enjoyed it.


Not sure how much Jen did.


This used to be where the old trestle bridge was.  I went over it once and it scared the hell out of me.  Now it's a beautiful foot bridge, and the chance of dying on it is much less likely.


It was raining to the east, but we stayed dry.


We did a little over 17 miles with a fair bit of climbing, and everyone did great.  Good ride.

Later.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Follow Me

If you liked The Collective series of mountain biking films, then you might want to check out Follow Me, the next film in the progression by the reformed group Anthill Films.  It looks awesome.  The slow motion footage is amazing.


Follow Me - the Teaser from Anthill Films on Vimeo.
The official trailer for Anthill's new HD mountain bike film, Follow Me. Available now on DVD and iTunes.

Go to anthillfilms.com/buy to order.

Music: Emika, "Double Edge"

Friday, August 06, 2010

Post 100, Etc.

I just noticed that yesterday's post was number 100 in my illustrious blogging career.  I would like to thank my legion of followers, all three of you, for your support.  Without you, the faithful readers, none of the incredible fame and fortune I have achieved would have been possible.

Um, yeah.

So I woke up with a pair of very sore legs after running yesterday.  Only with the aid of both handrails was I able to descend our stairs this morning.  Still, I had planned all week to ride home from work today, so I went for it.

The soreness didn't actually bother me too much on the bike, especially during the first 20 miles, most of which are flat bike trail.  Once in Folsom, I chose to take the more difficult Serrano route through El Dorado Hills because the manicured grounds have no goat heads.  At this point in the summer, the more rural roads are lined with goat head weeds, which proliferate on gravel shoulders for some reason.

Once the serious climbing started, the pain in my quads became more intense, but I just tried to ignore it.  The last couple climbs were tough, and I slowed with each ascent, but I eventually arrived home with just over 40 miles on the computer.  It was a good ride despite the discomfort.

Tonight, however, I am dying.  I am hobbling around like a crippled old man, the result of running one whole mile.  Pathetic.

Later.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Round and Round

Ever since I took Spencer out for some hot laps at the local high school, he has been asking to go back. The guy who ran us off that day made it pretty clear that bikes were not allowed on the track, so I always had to say no. Yesterday, the boy asked if we could run there instead. Even though I am not a runner, I thought, "Why not?"

We went over there earlier this morning.  Keep in mind that I have not done much running—OK, any running—in years.  As a cyclist, I have pretty stringent rules against it.  I worry about my knees and ruining my pedal stroke.  I occasionally run toward free beer and away from armed assasins, but that's it.

I only ended up running a mile, which was plenty.  I walked another mile trying to get the kinks out, but it didn't work.  My quads and back are pretty sore already.  There will be hell to pay tomorrow for sure.

Spencer ran and walked for 2.75 miles, and appeared to enjoy himself:

The kid's got a nice stride.

On my last lap, I couldn't help but ask myself what the hell I was doing.  Then it occurred to me it might be a sign.  There is one cycling discipline that does require a little running:

Coincidence?  We'll see.

Later.

August and Everything After

Spring has come and gone, and half of summer now, too. The fitness I cultivated over the long winter now lies withering on the vine under the searing Sacramento sun. The promising spring racing campaign, derailed by vacations and illnesses, evolved into a lazy summer of sporadic rides without any real purpose.

The year started well. Knowing we had a vacation coming in late January, I rode hard the six weeks leading up to it. It was often cold and miserable, but I was focused on being fit when Boggs rolled around.

We had a great time on vacation, and I didn't exactly shy away from desserts and beer.

The time away from home was just what the doctor ordered.  I came back with a mild cold thanks to a taxi driver in Ixtapa, but my mind was clear and my legs were fresh.  I was surprised to find that I felt stronger due to the time off the bike.

I continued to build for the next six weeks and by mid-March I was flying.  I felt so strong.

We made a last-minute decision to visit my parents in Tucson during the kids' spring break in April.  Unfortunately, the trip forced me to sell my entry to Boggs.  No big deal, I thought.  I would just re-focus on Cool in May.

It was a great trip.  I fell in love with Tucson, and it helped me remember how much I enjoy hanging out with my parents.

Again, I came back refreshed and ready to keep training.  I felt good . . . for two weeks.

At that point I caught some sort of cold or infection that eventually became pneumonia.  I missed Cool and spent three weeks off the bike.

When I resumed riding, my fitness and motivation were long gone.  Even if I had wanted to train, my lung function would not have allowed it.  Even short rides left me very tired afterward.

Now it's August, and I'm starting to feel good again.  As the Euros say, "I have good sensations in the legs."

While riding simply for the sake of riding is nice, without some sort of carrot dangling in front of me, something is missing.

I am surveying the local racing calendar looking for something to focus on.  Cross-country racing?  Endurance?  Will I make a run at the cyclocross season this year?

I'm still trying to decide which carrot to chase.  Until then, I'll continue to ride hoping the answer will reveal itself.  Hopefully I can salvage something from this season.

Later.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Couple Videos

My friend Steve tipped me off to this cover of Metallica's Nothing Else Matters by someone named "Lissie." I like it much better than the original, but that's not saying a whole lot since it's my least favorite Metallica song.



This video, taped during the 2010 Tour de France, illustrates why Jens Voigt is one of my all-time favorite racers; he's tough as nails. To come back to the sport, at his advanced age, after the horrific crash in last year's Tour only adds to his legacy. It will be a sad day for cycling when he retires.



Later.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Big Adventure with the Little Guy

Yesterday the boy and I decided to go riding.  He wanted to do the usual route around Lake Natoma, but I thought we would try something new.

I had never ridden on the old bike trail above Placerville because it wasn't long enough for a decent ride.  With the recent additions of two new sections, and adding a little dirt in-between, I thought I could piece together something worthwhile.

We started in the town of El Dorado near Poor Red's.  According to Google Earth, we were right at 1600 feet.  After riding a bit through town and taking a gravel road to the trail head, we were on our way.

The first section of trail was "unimproved" according to the crude map I found online.  What this means, I learned, is you should really bring a machete, chainsaw and rope.  There were downed trees to navigate and overgrown berry bushes to scratch us up.  A couple times the trail was impassable, and we had to push the bikes up the steep rail embankment to get around.  It was rocky at times, with the occasional steep hill.  Nothing too difficult for a solo rider, but kind of tough towing the boy.

The first two miles were hot and slow, but it wasn't all bad.  There were a few sections, like this one, that were smooth and fun.  The railroad tracks are above the trail to the right:

The second section of trail starts right across the street from where the first one ends.  This is the newest piece of the El Dorado Trail to be built, and it's nice.  The highlight is the beautiful bridge crossing Weber Creek:

After the bridge the trail starts climbing.  Since the trail is built on the old railroad grade, it never gets too steep.  Still, towing 75 pounds of kid and trail-a-bike was tough.  Here my copilot sleeps while I grind up:


The trail spit us out on Forni road.  After a bit of searching, we found the unmarked trail head on Ray Lawyer where our third section would begin.  A smooth gravel road, it ran slightly downhill toward Placerville.  There's something about gravel roads and the Fargo—the bike seems to come alive and go faster than it does on asphalt.

The trail dumped us out on Main Street in Placerville.  We had to ride a little through downtown to pick up the next section on Clay Street.

This part of the trail was nice.  There was plenty of shade and few trail users.

Spencer liked it:


After climbing and climbing for miles, the trail turns to dirt.  It's easy to envision where the train tracks were:

It was pretty weird to find a magnolia tree in the middle of nowhere:


We turned around in Camino Heights at 2900 feet.  For over seven miles we coasted downhill at 20 to 22 miles per hour, rarely turning a pedal.  For someone who lives at the top of a hill, and finishes almost every ride with a tough climb, it was great to coast home.

The only difficult part was the last section before the car, but I remembered where most of the downed trees were and avoided them.

We made it back to the truck with 28.5 miles on the computer and almost four hours on the bike.  We had a good time, and I think next time I will go solo and see if I can make it up that far starting from the house.

Later.