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Sunday, June 26, 2011


I've been tied up lately with multiplied concerns pulling me many directions. It's hard to stay consistent with a training regimen and continue to meet the familial, corporate, and social obligations with legitimate demands on my schedule.

My goal has been 1 medium length run, 1 short ride (ideally a commute ride from and to work), and 1 long ride per week.

The runs have taken a new twist now that our youngest is strong enough to endure the rigors of the jogging stroller at jogging speeds. I've been loading her up on a Tuesday or Thursday afternoon and running the 7 miles down to and around the Martinez marina and back. She's a great sport - as a matter of fact, as soon as I unfold the stroller, she is tripping her way over to get hoisted inside. - I'm ever amazed at that stroller. By our count it has well over 2000 miles on it, and if it actually had an odometer, I suspect we'd see double that. - At 19 months she has grown accustomed to the stroller with resigned dignity and is content to ride several times per week, hours at a time, on our long family walks and has now transitioned quite well into the jostle of slightly higher speeds.

My schedule must fall out perfectly in order for my commute rides to work. I must be in the general vicinity of the shop in the afternoon to lock up my truck and transition to the bike. And then I must not have early appointments the next morning so as to give myself time to return to the office and clean up. I manage to accommodate that sequence every few weeks or so.

The long rides have been going well over the last month or so, like yesterday's 56 mile ride around the Diablo Valley. After 120 miles and 5 summits of Mt. Diablo last Saturday, I figured I could focus on some speed work in the valley. I'm nearly as sore after the high intensity pulls and sprints in the valley as I was after 17,800' of climbing.

I have to put in a final note as a proud daddy.
My oldest (8) has now purchased her first bike with "brakes and gears." She has saved up her birthday money and with the help of Craigslist, a small bag of cables and such from the bike shop, and about 3 hours of work with her daddy is now the proud owner of a dual suspension 7 speed mountain bike. She's only a few more scrapes and bruises away from handling the bike like a pro.

Monday, June 20, 2011

5x Plus a Little

A friend I met on the way down the mountain

I've begun to perceive a tendency if not an actual theme - A look in a listener's eyes communicating something between "what for?" and "You poor fool." I've even begun to hold out and omit some of the enormity of an otherwise splendid tale if I see that the listener is bereft of an overaggressive sense of adventure.

But on Saturday I finally met a fellow who understood. Yes, he got it. He likewise had summited Mt. Diablo 5 times consecutively in 1 period of daylight. On my 4th ascent of the day - which happened to be up the South side of the mountain - I paced with a gentleman sporting a '99 Death Ride finisher's jersey. He commented that it was rather late in the day, on such a warm afternoon, to be climbing all the way to the top of the mountain. I tried desperately to achieve nonchalant as I let him know this was my 4th pass. He was unfazed and retorted with simple frankness that his record was 5. Today however, he was content to achieve the Ranger Station - half way to the top.

It was at that point that in spite of a fitful 4 hours of sleep the night before, temperatures 10 degrees warmer than expected, and a growing numbness of mind and body, I decided I must at least match my own 1 year old record of 5 summits again this day.

Indeed I succeeded, and was pleasantly surprised to find myself finishing in somewhat better shape than I had a year ago. I could see, spit, and walk straight - often 2 of them at the same time. Let's just say - last year I was dangerous driving home.

However, in the face of triumph there was also a conceptual defeat. I had been hoping for 6.
4 in 2009
5 in 2010,
and now in 2011...

My arithmetic proved to be superior to my resolve. At 120 miles, 17,800' of elevation gain, and 10 hours 30 minutes on the bike, I was tired. My friends were all gone, showered, cool, and sipping... sipping - yes sipping, not guzzling bottle after bottle of warm translucent agony lubricant. I entertained the hope of at least a half summit of number 6, but the arguments in opposition were increasing faster than I could keep up with them on that long slow ascent of Number 5. I was rapidly becoming incapable (more mentally and emotionally than physically) of a 6th pass. If 6 was victory, then I was destined for defeat.

The conceptual defeat was ameliorated only slightly by an early morning stroke of genius. Yet indeed the genius may have also been the demise of that half summit of number 6. I had arrived early and spent my first 30 minutes climbing to the 1000' marker - 8 miles round trip and 750' of elevation gain. On returning to the valley I met my friends and we then proceeded on our way up the first real ascent. I tucked that solo ride, a little piece of brilliance, away in a side jersey pocket for the outside chance I didn't make it past 5 - I would at least have bettered last year.

The presence of that knowledge rapidly became a weight and a burden more than a crutch. I began to reason...
The half summit of number 6 was pointless if I didn't go all the way.
Was a half summit plus my early solo climb of 750' really any better than the 750' alone?
I had still fallen short of 6.
5 plus a little more, was only 5 plus a little more no matter how much more I chose to go, short of 6.
6 wasn't happening.
5.5 is pointless if 5.2 is already bagged.
Ok so it would actually be 5.7 - but I've already given up on 6.
If I give up on 6, is 5.7 really any better than 5.2?
I reasoned, No.

So this year I summitted 5.2 times. Though a marked disappointment, it reigns as my second greatest cycling achievement ever.

And at home, my Coca Cola was chilled perfectly for sipping.

The car struck by a cyclist (with broken driver's side window) and the helicopter that took the cyclist off the mountain. That's not the ride he had planned.

Vince - My companion of 3 Summits.

Me, waiting with the others for the helicopter to take a poor gentleman away for some TLC.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I Can Do All Things Through Christ

The lyrics to Mathew West's Strong Enough were going through my mind during an early Saturday morning training ride.

This particular ride was rife with little objectives:
  • Turn the corner in Walnut Creek on my first loop before 40 minutes had passed - Success
  • Meet Vince at his house by 7:00 AM, or at approx. 1hour 10 minutes - Success
  • Meet the larger group at Mt. Diablo North Gate by 8:00 - Abandoned
  • Establish an alternate route we could ride in 3 hours to be done by 10:00 AM - Success
  • Attempt a new 1 mile hill (known to Vince as the hill his work van can only go up in low gear) up Castle Crest Rd. in Walnut Creek with more than a 1/4 mile of it at over 20% - Success
  • Climb South Gate Rd. up to the Ranger station in under 30 minutes - Success
  • Get to our respective appointments by 10:00 AM - Fail
The highlight of our ride was the climb up Castle Crest. Vince challenged me to the climb - knowing I was incapable of refusing. He said he'd wait at the bottom, which I happened to know he likewise was incapable of. We met at the top soaked with sweat and hearts pounding. Smiles.

All day, up every hill, I was chanting "I can do all things, Through Christ who gives me strength." How encouraging to have such a positive message cycling through those inner eardrums with which only my spirit can listen. I must admit I tortured creation with my own rendition of West's song - out loud. Apologies.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Friday, June 3, 2011

50 Miles of Hills

Gray clouds skirted across the top of Mt. Diablo obscuring the twin peaks yet adding emphasis to its dramatic prominence amid the green hillsides slow to tan in a cool wet spring.

Briones hillside confused by lingering rains.

In June the Bay area hills glow golden brown under azure skies. The infrequent foggy dawn is dispatched early as the long days of late spring fairly burst over the eastern horizon. The rain ends in May so June in northern California is the beginning of carefree picnics, long bike rides, and explosive gardens.

Except when its raining - in June.

Today is the 3rd of June and it will rain again tomorrow, like it rained on the 1st.


So I pedaled away from the daily grind in the early afternoon and headed for the hills under lowering skies. With the Death Ride looming only a month away, my training rides are becoming a recognized though easily distracted priority. With only a few hours available I decided to pack them full of hills. In under 4 hours I managed at least 5000' of climbing in 48 miles.

Pig Farm, Bears, Wildcat Canyon, South Park, back to Happy Valley - up and over, and then back up and over, Bears, Pig Farm hill, home. These hills are so steep that the descents flash by and you're climbing again before you can gulp two bites of a Power Bar and a swallow of water.

I started out strong and fast, and paid for it at the end. With my route never more than 20 miles from home or a few miles from cell phone coverage, I pushed hard knowing I could blow up and call for SAG if necessary.

Just before blowing, I remembered the gorp (Good Old Raisins and Peanuts, or Gobs Of Raw Protein) in my jersey and downed the mix greedily. The recovery was obvious, and I remembered what I had learned about long rides. If you get hungry - you're toast.

Goats along Happy Valley Rd., with the long ascent of Papa Bear seen between the trees.

With any luck I won't have to work my long rides in around the weather much longer. My schedule is another story.