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Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Twice in as many "attempts" I've ridden up Mt. Diablo without summiting.

This is actually quite an achievement - not a failure. My poor beaten and burdened psyche is plagued with unreasonable and frequent obligations. Obligations self imposed. I'm often setting myself up with self directed phrases like "die trying" and "quitting is not an option." No doubt my wife could pontificate an opinion from her safe distance.

There was a point where I told myself I would never ride the mountain without forcing myself to go the distance. A rare occasion when I had a specific route planned and an extraordinarily good reason for skipping the summit, might be my only exception. Starting out with the thought of reaching the summit and not arriving was "not an option."

I've been commuting to and from work once a week for some time now after a sabbatical resulting from an overambitious schedule, the birth of our second daughter, and a myriad of additional excuses to stay off the bike at 5:30 am on a week day.

The route has been varied to add miles. Other opportunities to ride, run, or hike have been dwindling, so my return to commuting has become my singular athletic outlet. The score of miles each way isn't enough of an outlet, so I've been adding around 40 miles on the evening ride home to push the typical 20 closer to 60.

It's not really all that hard to accumulate 60 miles. There are great roads for cycling here in the Bay Area and a little creativity can map a route of just about any distance desired. From Richmond through Orinda and Moraga, and then over to Mt. Diablo and home makes a route almost exactly 60 miles. Well - if I don't summit and just ride to the Ranger Station and back down that is.

And so with some minor variation, that has been my route twice and may end up being thus again. I didn't push for the top the first time because of dwindling daylight, and the second time was nothing more than I just wanted to go home. I knew I would have 60 miles and I was ready to be done. After all, a 20 mile ride in the dark was waiting for me the next morning.

I consider my choice to abandon a victory. That works for me. However, I'm afraid if I allow such excesses too many times, I may be forced to bolster my bravado with some random adventurous excess.

I must use caution.

Monday, September 20, 2010

USA Cycling Pro Championships

Tyler Phinney and race winner Ben King - Both likely to put USA in cycling news for years to come.

Sunday afternoon I was sewing a new scarf, balaclava, bandanna "thing" on my wife's ancient sewing machine when my mother called to let me know there was a big cycling race going on in Greenville.

I pulled up CyclingNews and found the live report of the race. I had just missed the end by a few minutes, but enjoyed reading the report "as it happened" anyway.

How many times have I ridden past that plane in Cleveland Park?

I grew up in Greenville, SC, know the roads they were riding, and visualized the 4, 22 mile laps as if I was there beside them. Indeed by the end of the ride report I was ready to jump on my bike and take a few spins up Paris Mt. myself. I could hear the crowds screaming as practically amateur Ben King crossed the finish line minutes ahead of the pro peloton. What a day for a young 21 year old racer. Seems he had already earned himself a spot on the newly formed Team Radio Shack. Think - Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, and Chris Horner as ride companions at 21 years young.

When I was 21 and in Greenville, there was only one thing on my mind. Her. The bike was a distant and shrinking 2nd. And rightly so.

I wish him well and will live that part of my life vicariously through guys like him.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Caution - Rattlesnake Under Bench

I sat waiting for Chris and his friend Brandon to show up at the North Gate entrance to Mt. Diablo watching the horses through a rail fence.

I had been riding laps on Walnut Ave, and North Gate Rd. since quarter after 4. Now 30 minutes later and 45 minutes late, Chris called to say he was 6 minutes away. I found a place for him to pull off the road and sat. I had 30 some odd miles behind me.

I had texted Chris earlier in the day to let him know I was heading for the mountain around 4:00 for some extra miles on my way home. Chris was game. Brandon, who never rides bikes was obliged to come along on a borrowed bike.

Brandon did outstanding for a newbie, and gave me a fresh perspective on the hills. Chris and I took turns pushing him up the steeper sections... Yow. The slow pace also gave rise to a series of sprint challenges raised by Chris. I'm incapable of declining. Chris is a good sprinter.

But that snake...
I needed to refill my water, so we dropped Brandon between the 1000' marker and Diablo Ranch, and headed for the Ranger Station at the junction. As I refilled, there was a commotion about a snake on the other side of the building. I wanted to see.

Everyone was looking at this...

So I looked under the bench...


I think ...

if I was the Park Ranger ...

I might have found a long stick.
...Run along now little buddy.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bike - Hike - Bike

Saturday morning was supposed to be a Bridge to Bridge ride with "the old guys" who meet at 8am near Mt. Wanda. (They are all over 40 which is going to be "old" to me for at least 8 more years)

Other obligations loomed, so I ditched the old guys and biked to a hike along the Carquinez Strait at 6:00 am. I rode to our meeting spot with the lights on my mountain bike, since they were still mounted from my commute ride last week. (My previous ride home from work had taken me through some intense road construction on my usual route, so I wanted to avoid a spill while navigating back the next morning in the dark with 700 x 23 tires. Hence the lights on the MTB)

Matt passed me in his truck on the way there, but I believe I arrived right at 6:00am.
We hustled to the top of the ridge, so I could get some shots of the awakening delta and Diablo valley.

This shot seems to have jumped right out of the pages of a J. R. R. Tolkien novel.
I didn't realize Martinez looked so ominous in the early dawn.

I finished my morning by riding as hard as I could over the Benicia Bridge and back. Not much of a workout, but it burned. Home by 9:20am
12 miles on the bike - 8 miles hiking.

We might coordinate a similar adventure this Saturday, since I'm watching the girls while Bec has a ladies brunch. Briones at 6am anyone?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Taking it Slower

It's been pretty slow the last few weeks. At least when it comes to my cycling.

Spring and early summer were busy with training rides - getting in shape for the Death Ride, Santa Cruz Mts. Challenge, and just generally trying to get into the best shape I could. Since the end of the SCMC, I've laid off a little and focused on some other more domestic challenges.

Build shelves for Ella's school notebooks...

Clean up the flower beds, garden, and yard...

Remove everything from the laundry room in order to extricate the stacked washer and dryer. Washer had gone kaput and needed new struts and springs. Remove everything again when the washing machine leaked... Call me if you want to know an appliance repair company NOT to use...

I'm also well into a new gate for the back yard. So far it has been completely free (If you don't count the blisters on my hands from the digging bar as being a cost) - using scraps and salvage from other fences and construction sites around the Bay Area. My employees typically don't see me sorting through the stuff that they haul back to the yard from their job sites

I had to draw the gates first so that Bec and I could decide how it would be designed. Nothing is as simple as it would seem around here.

Here is the concept... Bec wanted the solar lights on the outside posts. Bought them at Home Depot - $40 for the pair. At least we are able to be content with the lower lighting of solar - I really don't want to do the whole underground wiring, new breaker, conduit, realize you short circuited the laundry room thing.

The gates will come along soon - when I either collect enough material or break down and purchase a few 2x4's and fence boards. Then I'll stain it to match the rest of the fences.

But I have been riding some...

Chris and a new guy Nick were riding in Briones on Friday, so Vince and I joined for a few hours.
Vince has gotten stronger in the last few weeks. Seems he has met a girl that is stronger than he is... She beats him to the top of Briones regularly... Well, now he's pushing me. Somehow I think the off season isn't going to be so off.

Chris had just ridden up Mt. Tamalpai from San Francisco and had sent some pictures. I've posted a sampling of them below because I thought they were definitely worth sharing.