Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Napa Gran Fondo

This weekend, I took the family on a road trip up to Napa, CA to participate in the Echelon Napa Gran Fondo. In Italian, gran fondo means "big ride". Big ride indeed at 100 miles and 4500+ ft. of climbing. I was joined by my college buddy Ryan Grenier, and his friend Chris.

We left LA on Friday and made pretty good time up to the Bay area. We stayed in SF Friday night so that we could have dinner over at Jeremy and Damara's house. It was great to visit with them and introduce them to Baby Scotty. After a great steak sandwich dinner, we headed back to the Airport Westin. Got up Saturday and had a light breakfast before heading into the city to do some shopping and meet up with Ryan. I had previously agreed to transport his bike to Napa, since he drives a very small sports car (he's a pretty small guy). As always, we had a lot of fun shopping in the Union Square area of SF. Alison, picking up some new clothes, and myself getting a new pair of Oakleys for riding and some new Livestrong apparel at Niketown. You'll see these awesome eye shields in the pics that follow.

In the afternoon, we headed up to Napa, and checked into the Westin Verasa. A fairly new property, it's located right on the Napa river, and just over the bridge from downtown. They set us up in a  two room suite, complete with a kitchenette! Since we had some time to kill before our 7:30 dinner reservations, we took the opportunity to enjoy happy hour in the hotel bar. We had a great carb loaded dinner that night at Bistro Don Giovanni with Ryan and his friends Chris, Gina, Brad and Mickey. It was a great evening, and despite the late hour (for us anyway), the kids were great! By the time we got back to the hotel, it was 11PM - much later than I had planned to go to bed. Oh well.

Woke up before my alarm at 5AM. Went through my ride prep ritual and headed downstairs to get the bikes set up. Grenier showed up at 6:45 and we made our way into town, where Ryan's friend Chris was staying. We met up with Chris and had his wife take the obligatory pre-ride photo. Surely you can see why it's been suggested that I offer my services to Trek as a male model. Since the Bumblebee (aka Ryan) drank so much coffee, he had to make a pitstop. Fortunately there was a large collection of Port-a-Potties at the start line, so we headed that direction.

The Ride

What perfect weather for a ride. It had rained the evening before, but today - no clouds in sight. The temp was a pleasantly cool 65 degrees with no wind. We took position in the starting chute and waited for the gun. We had lined up a bit early though, and wound up waiting for about 45min. Eventually they got around to it, and kicked things off with the national anthem. Shortly thereafter, the starting gun fired and off we went. Despite the intense rotor-wash of the helicopter that was on hand to take pictures, we crossed the 3rd street bridge under Police escort and made our way out onto the course. We rode the first 20 miles or so at a rather lively pace, averaging almost 25mph. Life's pretty easy when you're in the middle of the peloton! At the turn towards Lake Hennessey, I backed off my pace a bit and settled in for the first big climb of the day. It wasn't too bad, about 6% average and 2 miles long. Ryan and I caught up with Chris at the first checkpoint. After a quick bio break and water refill, we were back in motion. This was the starting point for the time trial. Another climb of about 4 miles, and we were at Lake Berryessa. Chris took off somewhere during the hill climb, and that was the last we saw of him for the rest of the ride. He ended up finishing about 45min ahead of us. The route paralleled the lake, with several rolling hill sections for about 15 miles. Ryan and I got separated during this section, but I ended up waiting for him at the next stop.

At Mile 60, the Howell Mtn. hill climb began. It was a 4 mile long climb up Ink grade, with the grade varying from 6%-14%. It was brutal. Thankfully, it was well shaded by trees. At the top was another rest stop where I had a sandwich and rested my rather sore ass. Filled up the water bottles, and back on the bike. The ride down the hill from there was pretty awesome. Speeds of 40+mph and some fun curves. The road made its way back down to Silverado Trail, where we turned north to Calistoga and the turn around point. This was a tough 10 mile section, as a strong wind was in our faces the whole way to Calistoga. We were only averaging about 14mph here. The final aid station was at the turn around, offering the last energy drinks and snacks of the ride. I downed a Coke, grabbed a handful of energy gels, and went to wait for Ryan who was frequenting another Port-a-Potty. With 25 miles to go, we got on the road heading back the way we came. This time with the wind at our backs, as evidenced by an average speed of about 24mph. This section was relatively flat, and was pretty much just a mindless spin back to town. The last few miles were kinda fun as the excitement of finishing got closer! We made it back to the Start/Finish line just barely over 6 hours after we started. My goal was 6:30, so I'm pretty pleased with that.

Will I do this ride again? Absolutely. It was a beautiful and challenging ride. I will certainly work on my training strategy though. Next year, sub 5:30 for sure!

Final Metrics from the ride:
Avg Speed 15.8
Max Speed 41.8
Calories 7933
Avg Heart Rate 153
Total Ascent 5075 ft.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The 100 Miles of Nowhere (a.k.a. 62 miles in my garage)

Over the past year, I have become a fan and regular reader of the Fat Cyclist blog, written by Elden "Fatty" Nelson. This year I decided to participate in his 100 Miles of Nowhere ride. Scheduled for May 8th, and intended to support Livestrong, it is a 100 mile ride that you do on a trainer, rollers, or in a very small area. Actually, you can do it wherever, or however you want. And make up some kind of ridiculous category that only you will win (or enter for that matter).

My ride got off to a slow start. I intended to get up early so that I would be able to finish by late morning and have the rest of the day for the wife and kids. I was going to be riding in my garage on the trainer. Since I just moved my home office out there, that meant that my new computer complete with Blue Ray drive was all ready to show me the complete 4th season of Magnum P.I. while I rode.

Ran into a bit of a problem at this point... A few weeks back, I dropped my Garmin Edge 305 while running out to the garage, late for a group ride. Still worked fine, with the exception of the Mode button. No big deal, since I only really use the Start/Stop and Reset buttons and it was on the screen I normally use. So as I mounted my bike to begin my ride, it occurred to me that I wasn't going to be able to access the menu to disable the GPS and use the wheel speed sensor to calculate distance. Crap. What to do? Crack open the Garmin and do electronic surgery, that's what. A brief search of the internet granted me instructions on how to crack open the case, and it was on!

So as you can see, those three small parts comprise a lever of sorts that press down on that gold button when you push the rubber side button in. Simple enough concept. Now, if I could just find a leprechaun or someone else with very small hands to reassemble this button... But then I remembered that I am a sales rep of retinal surgery equipment\instruments and have all the tools necessary to work in a very small space (like an eyeball or a Garmin GPS). Thanks Alcon!

So to make a long (and tedious) story short, I got the button reassembled, and put the Garmin back together (with superglue, so I hope nothing else in there breaks). Turned it on, and it actually worked! I could now begin my ride! But since I promised the family I'd be done by 11, I now was left with 2.5 hrs to ride my 100 miles. Which meant I was going to have to average 40mph. Couldn't think of any 100 mile long steep descents nearby, so I opted to ride as much as I could in that time, and come back later that night after the kids went to bed.

On to the Ride...

Despite the fact that it was an absolutely beautiful 72 degree Southern Cal day outside, I was happy to spend the morning in my garage for such a great cause. Especially since I had such a great chance of winning my Category 6 race. I ended up getting about 35 miles in before my time limit expired, so i hit pause (another benefit of being the only racer in your category) and reported for family duties. Had a great day, and made it back to the garage by 9PM to continue my ride. Cranked on, this time watching Iron Man (Thanks for the idea Fatty). By Midnight, I was beat. I decided to hang it up. Final Distance, 62 Miles. Looking forward to doing it again next year!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Post Ride - Long Beach Tour de Cure

I started my day at 4:45. Woke up with great excitement about the Tour de Cure. I've been looking forward to this for awhile, as it was my first organized long ride event and I'd be riding for a good cause. I selected my Cal Poly Wheelmen jersey and shorts for nostalgic purposes, and also to be easily recognized by my family and friends who were going to be on the course cheering me on. Grabbed a bowl of Wheaties Fuel - a new cereal that Alison picked up for me. Eating Grape Nuts all the time gets old - gotta mix it up, ya know?

The sun was rising as I headed down to Long Beach and the Queen Mary. A beautiful morning indeed.

I selected the longest available ride which was 60 miles. It was to start at 7AM at the ship and make its way over the two terminal island bridges (closed to bikes every other day of the year) and then up through San Pedro and around Palos Verdes.

Showed up at 6 and made my way over to registration, picked up my number (465), and headed back to the car to get ready. Put on the helmet and gloves, and pumped the tires up to the standard 120psi. I was ready!

I made my way over to the starting chute, and since there weren't a whole lot of people lining up yet, I ended up near the front. I noticed a guy wearing a Peninsula Cycle Club jersey (same club I belong to) and introduced myself. His name was Austin Oscar and we chatted for a bit.

The Start

After a nice rendition of our National Anthem, we were off... Passed under the baloon arch and was on my way. I started off in the lead group, which was about 30 riders. It was a fast pace, but not too fast. We rolled down Shoreline Dr. to Ocean, and made the left for the bridges. On the uphill side of the first bridge, the lead group splintered a bit, and I dropped back. By the time we got to the Vincent Thomas, I was about 1/4 mile back of the lead group. While climbing the VT, Austin caught up to me and offered some encouragement. I joined up with him, and ended up riding the entire ride with him. Little did I know that we would end up the #1 and #2 finishers!

We charged through San Pedro, and came to the Anchovy St. hill. My Garmin reported that it was a 16% grade for about 1/2 mile. It took all I had in my smallest gear to get up. I know it was all I had because my heart rate monitor read 185bpm... Right about my max! At the top of the hill was my family, all cheering for me! It is amazing what a little encouragement from your family members will do for you! We passed the lead group at this point, who had all stopped to help with a flat.

We pressed on, starting the loop of Palos Verdes. Pretty uneventful for the next 20 miles or so. This is my usual weekend ride route, so I felt comfortable and led the pace for awhile. About the time we hit Malaga Cove, the wind had picked up, and was unfortunately out of the east - the same direction we were heading. It made the next 10 miles pretty rough! By the time we reached the switchback climb of PV Dr. East, I was beginning to feel the burn. I powered through it and made it up to the top. From there, it was mostly downhill for the remaining 15 miles. Austin Oscar led the pace for most of the last part, which helped me to keep my speed up. I was tired, but I wanted to beat 3:30. We flew back along Anaheim and ended up back at the Queen Mary 3 hours and 28 mins after we began. Austin Oscar came in First, I was second.

It was a great ride, and I look forward to doing it next year!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Ready for Tomorrow

All set for the big ride tomorrow. Washed the bike, loaded it in the truck with the rest of my gear. Even laid out my Cal Poly Wheelmen jersey. I was especially good at dinner, limiting myself to one cocktail. Shocking, I know! I've added my realtime location to the map above so that you can follow my progress. The ride starts at 7AM, and I'm guessing I'll finish around 11AM. I will surely write about the whole experience later tomorrow! Have a great Sunday!