Wednesday, February 23, 2011

If you ride your bike enough....

If you ride someone rides a bike almost everyday they are going to encounter all sorts of things during their travels.  Some of the things encountered will be awesome and some of them terrifying or death defying.  The wide range of scenery one can see during a bike ride and the different terrain faced are aspects of cycling that make it so awesome.  But over the past few weeks I have had way too many of those death defying experiences; today was perhaps the worst of them.

My string of crazy things happening on a bike without crashing started a few weeks ago during the second early bird crit.  They continued when I did the Geyser ride up in Healdsburg, CA.  During the fast and wet descent I came across a cattle grate that was hidden by the fog.  Crossing the grate at 40+ mph had my front end slide out and I was lucky enough to be relaxed to coax my bike back to control.  Sadly, that was the easiest and least scary of my string of weird luck.

Two weeks ago I was descending from Mt. Tam/ Muir woods with great control and comfort on my bike when all of a sudden.... my rear wheel popped out of the drops!!!!!  My rear wheel did nothing to balance my bike at that point as it was flopping like a fish out of water while still stuck in the chain.  I shifted my weight forward, didn't panic and gently feathered the front brake.  While my bike was skidding down the steep hill I was able to unclip and safely skid to a stop.  3 bikers behind me stopped and said "holly f*ck what just happened, are you ok?" and then said "I cannot believe you stayed up."  Apparently my uni-cycle skills are top notch.

Then this morning after weeks of staying up in situations where I almost certainly should have gone down it happened.... I finally went down.  No this wasn't during a morning training ride or even an all out hammer fest with a cycling club, it was on my freaking commute.  Nothing makes crashing worse than doing it on a crowded street looking like a turtle on its back as you try and stay up.  I'm fighting off a bit of a cold so my mental focus isn't as sharp as usual.  Normally I try and avoid Market Street at all costs as I think it is one of the most dangerous streets to bike on in the world (although the hundreds of bikers who take it daily may disagree). 

One of the things that makes Market so dangerous are the trolly tracks in the middle of the street - which oh by the way are the exact width of a 700c road bike wheel (smart city planning).  I've succesfully avoided said tracks for my 5 months living in San Francisco but today was a different story.  As I looped around a bus pulling to the curb my mind forgot about the tracks for a moment, next thing I know my rear wheel is being grabbed by the iron from hell and I'm gyrating my body to try and set it free.  Next thing I know I shoulder check the bus I was trying to get around, bang my knee and do a  side roll that would have gotten negative points from the Russian judge to avoid flipping my bike over.  As I go to pick my bike up and wheel it to the curb it won't move.  Once safely on the sidewalk I realized I had totally bent my wheel's rim!

So not only do I have a bruised knee and just crashed into a bus I had to load my bike onto my shoulder and carry it for a 1/4 mile to my office!  Not the best way to start off a Wednesday; thankfully was able to find a replacement rear wheel for $40 online for my single speed.  As I sit here with a bruised knee and elbow which could have been far worse I ponder how I crash on a commute but can stay up when my rear wheel pops out going down a steep descent.  The mysterious of biking continue.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Representing InsulinDependence at TCOYD

Saturday morning I had the privilege of representing InsulinDependence and Triabetes at the Taking Charge of Your Diabetes (TCOYD) event in Santa Rosa.  Given my recent schedule I haven't been as active with Triabetes as I would like.  I had to bail on the Carlsbad Half-Marathon weekend because of work and haven't been able to advice the 2011 captains to the degree I would have hoped for.  When Nate contacted me to man the table at the conference I was 100% game.  Plus it was a way for me to work on my BD skills without a suit on!

I introduced ID to each person who walked by the booth with a smile and the simple statement, "we're a national non-profit that promotes active lifestyles for people with diabetes."  What was really special about the event was the number of people who had a light bulb go off with that simple sentence.  Whether they were diabetics themselves or parents of diabetics the knowledge that there is a social network of people who face the same challenges made their daily struggles seem somehow less ardent.  Through my role at Keas I'm learning how important social networks can be in behavior change.  Diabetics know how important it is to live a healthy lifestyle but sometimes there isn't a ton of guidance on what a healthy lifestyle is when you're working with artificial insulin.  The things that work for Joe Smith down the street may be entirely different for Debbie Diabetes.  The collective wisdom in ID and on Phrendo makes it a bit easier to figure out what will work and what might not.

One particular story made the hour drive more than worth it.  I met a woman whose 11-year-old son was diagnosed with type 1 sometime in December.  Her son as she described him was a "super tough kid," with an untamable adventurous spirit who would be the "first to jump out of a plane," on a skydiving trip.  Her eyes totally lit up when I told her about the triabuddies program and the support network that is so important to ID.  In speaking with her I was reminded 1,000 times over how incredible the non-profit I'm a part of is and how influential Peter's vision is in the diabetic community.  As always I'm just psyched to be a small part of the mission and the growth of the organization.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

These legs were made for climbing

One of the things I did not fully appreciate before moving to California was how incredible the cycling would be.  Sure I had heard that Marin County was a cyclist playground but I assumed that just meant a quick spin over the Golden Gate Bridge would let one ride any number of routes.  I failed to understand that any one of those routes could be the best ride a given cyclist had ever been on.

It is almost becoming a cliché that after each long ride I do from my new home I finish and say, “that was the best ride I’ve ever been on.”  Saturday, may truly take the cake; I can’t say my Saturday ride was the most fun I have ever had on a ride but was by far the most challenging, zone 5 inducing, suffer fest I have ever had the privilege of testing myself on.

Poised for a day of cycling and wine tasting my new partner in triathlon crime, Little Nemo, and I left SF for Healdsburg around 7:45 am.  After a quick stop at Philz coffee we were on the road and excited for the days pavement.  Once at the parking lot of the Healdsberg City Hall we headed our separate ways; she was off to tackle the flats and I was off, like my normal idiotic self, finding the hardest ride I could in the general area.
Prior to heading up for the weekend I had come across the Sanata Rossa Cycling Clubs website which boasted the 10 greatest rides on their websites.  I was up for that Pepsi Challenge and of course had to go with one of the 3 rides that was listed as extremely challenging.  It just happened that the ride they described as the “quintessential Sonoma ride,” also left from the Healdsberg Court House, so I was sold.

The Geyser ride was unlike any I had ever done before.  My trials and tribulations on Afton Mountain and the Blue Ridge parkway came early in the ride.  After the first 20 to 30 miles training in Virginia I’d reach easier terrain so I was freshest when the going was hardest.  Tackling the 7 sisters provided outlets of relief throughout the climbs and was met with some of the most majestic views I had ever seen.  The Geyser Ride was a different story entirely.

Geysers starts off through a beautiful path in wine country.  I passed by vineyard after vineyard, pig farms, wild turkeys and gorgeous rolling  terrain.  I averaged just about 20 mph for the first 20 miles and was feeling strong.  After mile 20ish I entered River Rd and the terrain took a dramatic turn.  While still beautiful I felt like I was scaling Caradhras trying to save Middle Earth.

I climbed deeper starring down into a beautiful valley pushing my quads as hard as they could go.  About 3 miles into the 12 mile climb I felt a bit woozy, checked the blood sugar and grabbed a snickers bar.  After a 5 minute pause my blood sugar started to climb and I was off again.  The next few miles rolled along gradually enough as I averaged about 14 mph (between 11 and 18 mph) for 6ish miles.  

As I climbed and climbed I could see what I thought was a smoke stack in the distance.  I later found out that there is an actual Geyser on Geyser road in Geyserville and that the Geyser provides geo-thermal energy to the region, pretty cool.  Once I finally got even with the geo-thermal smoke I thought I had reached the apex of my climb, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Taking a right hand turn at the end of River Rd. onto Geyser Rd, I was hit smack in the face with the steepest, hardest, most grueling climb I have ever encountered.  Over the next 3 miles I climbed a net of 890 feet, declining just 52 feet over that same stretch.  I averaged 3.6, 8.6 and 13.1 mph in those 3 miles and had never felt as deep a burn in my quads as I did during that stretch.  I had to stop twice for fear my heart was going to explode out of my chest and could do nothing but collapse on my aero bars as I tried to muster the leg strength to continue.

To make matters worse I picked up a new pair of training wheels for El Bastardo.  I put my old Mavics on the bike I’m using for crits and found a great deal on a Mavic Kysirium Elite on Craig’s List with a cassette.  Problem is the cassette’s largest rear sprockete was a 25, on my old wheels I had a 28.  With a 43 small ring up front my old gear ratio meant my bike was advancing 1.12 times for every pedal stroke in 43 x 28, with the new 43 x 25 gearing my bike advanced 1.72 times.  The best comparison is taking steps up a hill, it’s a lot easier to take little steps up a huge hill than lunge forward; essentially the new gearing made the climb 35% harder than what I was used to!

Regardless, I pushed forward and finally reached the top and was rewarded with a screaming descent through heavy fog and a light drizzle.  The road would break apart at times into loose gravel and I’d frequently be met with cattle grates.  Over one particular cattle grate that I didn’t see until I was on top of it I nearly lost total control of my bike as the front tire skidded to the side as I glided over it.  Thankfully the handseling skills learned at the early birds paid off as I was able to regain control and safely continue on.  Crashing at about 35 mph would not have been fun!

Finally I was done with the most hilariously satisfying ride of my life.  Each time I ride out here I’m reminded of how badly El Bastardo needs a step-brother.  Sadly those sponsors still haven’t knocked down my door so I’m going to continue to be the crazy guy doing climbs no sane person would do on a tri bike.  The rest of the weekend was spent tasting some fantastic cabs, points and petite sirahs; but for 50 miles I was reminded of why few things in the world bring me as much joy as mile after mile on my bike.  I had some diabetic issues on the ride, felt pain like I had never felt before and pushed over the hardest climb I’ve ever encountered – not a bad way to remind yourself that no matter where you live the simplest things can bring the greatest joy.