Category Archives: Cycling

Here’s a video from my ride.

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The ride is done and I did it! Tour de Foothills Century completed!

I did it! I completed the entire Tour de Foothills Century 2012!

http://app.strava.com/runs/27459483/embed/b604f3dddceff5211824147d3dc08b73ddbcb077

That’s my Strava post to prove it. I’m sure you, dear reader, believed me instantly. But, just in case someone less trusting is viewing. Plus, I think it’s pretty impressive to look at. One hundred and one miles. Seven thousand plus feet of climbing. Nearly 7 hours in the saddle. That’s a lot of bike riding!

It was a good ride. It was cold. Very very cold. I doubt that it got above 65 degrees all day. In fact, coming down from Glendora Mountain Road into East Fork, I believe it was in the thirties. There was ice on the sides of the road in the shadows! I was entirely grateful to be wearing a good base layer shirt that I bought the night before, and a wind vest, as well.

I like to give props to companies and products that are doing it right. Craft makes the base layer shirt, a long sleeve crew neck “Zero” layer, I think. And Showers Pass makes the wind vest, an excellent product. It blocks the wind on my front torso so that I’m not dealing with freezing sweat after climbing up and then going down a big hill.

Unfortunately, my Oakley Jawbones (Racing Jackets?) did not keep my right eye/contact lens from clouding up. I put in rewetting eye drops several times to no avail. By the time I was in the last five miles it was brutal dealing with poor vision in my right eye. It’s uncomfortable and makes it so much harder to ride. That, fortunately, was one of the only very bad things about the ride.

We began the ride early in Upland, a 7:00 a.m. start. Cold that makes your fingers ache. But, after a mile or so, I started to warm up and I found my friend, Mike. We rode through Claremont, then into Pomona and San Dimas. The first big climb was Via Verde, which, while steep, is short. A fast descent followed, then some flats into Covina and Glendora. We made our way up to Glendora Mountain Road. Mike went his own way to ride the Metric Century. But, I had a date with a mountain.

I had ridden this road many times, at least the way up. So, I knew what to expect. Most of it is about 5% – 6% grade, but there are sections that hit 8% and 9% with slightly steeper road in a couple parts. It’s about 8 or 9 miles of climbing and the grade makes it hurt. At the top was a rest stop where I availed myself of some Fig Newtons, some banana, and refilled my water bottle with an electrolyte beverage. Next was a very cold, fast descent, hitting speeds of 30 miles an hour into East Fork. Then, out San Gabriel Canyon. The wind was blowing into the canyon and I was lucky to find a few guys going my speed to help block the wind and pull me a ways down the road.

We made our way into Glendora again to another rest stop. I found some other people I knew and followed their wheels into Claremont for the next big climb, Mt. Baldy Road. This is some of the steepest road in the area. At one point, my Garmin indicated 13% grade. Ouch. At nearly 80 miles, this is a cruelty that is almost uncalled for. I paused at the foot of the climb because my right calf muscle was threatening to cramp and that was not something I wanted to deal with. I ate some energy gel blocks (Stinger) and took some Enduralytes, just in case, along with several drinks of water. Then, I began my assault on the climb. I put the bike into my lowest “granny gear” and went to work. I passed one guy walking his bike and another vomiting over the guard rail. Nice. My muscles complained but never cramped and I made it up the hill okay. Another rest stop at the top was welcomed. I refilled my bottles again and headed down.

Another fast descent down Mountain Avenue and then Euclid Avenue to 19th. Here began my existential bike ride. For some reason, I had ended up alone. Either I had left behind anyone I knew, or I had been passed by them. In any case, I rode alone down 19th Street through Upland. Yes, there was a bike rider here and there, but no one that stayed with me, or vice versa. I headed down Victoria Loop and to Baseline. The wind blew against me, mostly at about 10 miles an hour, but with gusts that were more fierce. I was riding into the teeth of the West wind and it was not fun. Ninety miles on my legs, vision impaired by a cloudy contact lens, and now, irritable because I hate riding in the wind. It takes your spirit and stomps it. See, you’re putting a lot of effort into the pedals. The wind hits you and you feel as if you should be going 20 mph but you’re only going 10 mph. It makes you feel weak and puny. Wind is a highly underrated weather event.

Finally, with about a mile to go, I found some other riders and we made our way to the finish. Then, to my surprise, my wife and kids were waiting for me, my son handing me my “Finisher” medal. Very cool. I was exhausted. My back hurt, my knee hurt and I was bone tired in almost every muscle in my legs and arms. But, I was happy. I had done it.

As I think about it, I did it as much to lose weight and get in shape, plus enjoy bike riding, as I did it to do something impressive. I wanted to accomplish something. Maybe this is a kind of “mid-life” crisis where I feel like I need something to point to as an accomplishment. I don’t know. I know it makes me happy because my kids are proud of me. My wife is proud of me, too. And, I’m glad because she helped a lot by supporting and encouraging me. Plus, she dropped me off and picked me up that day, too. I did lose weight, about 20 pounds. I have dropped a few percentage points of body fat, too. I learned that I can endure pain and discomfort. And, I made some friends. It’s a pretty good deal, all in all. I’m glad I did it. And, I plan to continue riding. I’d like to do more centuries. Palm Springs has a nice ride, I hear, as does Solvang. One day, I’d like to complete the Death Valley century, too.

And, that’s the end. I guess, if you need a take away, it’s that setting goals can be very useful. I pushed myself to improve over time, and I persevered. I don’t know if riding bikes is for everyone. But, you can do it, if you decide to. I don’t think there’s anything terribly unusual about me versus anyone else. But, if nothing else, choose something you want to accomplish and then lay out an achievable plan to get it done. Thanks for coming along with me. Hope you enjoyed it.

Two days until the ride

I had written this days ago but forgot to hit “post.” Sorry about that. I will have an update soon.

I feel pretty good. My knee will probably hurt, but not bad enough to keep me from riding. My back, too, still isn’t 100% and I don’t know why. But, I know I will finish the ride, barring some kind of accident or something unknown. I feel ready, but I won’t set any course records on Saturday. I am hoping, at least, for some personal records, I guess. That’s what’s so cool about Strava and the Garmin computer. I will get a personalized analysis of my ride in a way that I never did before. It used to be that I could only get an average speed, a max speed, and a distance. But, now I can have all kinds of data. I will see my exact route, speed at any given point on the route, heart rate, too, and so on.

It’s pretty cool.

Anyway, I was thinking about how it’s going to hurt. I know that at many points on Saturday, my chest will heave, my quads will burn, my calves will ache, my knees will throb, and likely some other muscles or tendons in legs will feel tight and sore. My butt is going to hurt, I may even get sores. I will probably be too cold and too hot over the course of several hours, or even minutes. I will, at some point, look at my mileage and despair because I have so many miles left. I may be too hungry, lightheaded, nauseous, or just tired. My hands will likely go numb or tingle at times. My shoulders will hurt, my neck will ache, and my eyes will be dry.

All of that will probably happen and that’s the best case scenario. Worse case would be that I crash and and actually get injured. Or I get cramps. Or sick.

So much discomfort and even pain. Why do it? I often think about that. Sometimes I even try to figure it out during those times when it hurts so much. It is for the moments, I guess. There are moments when the surrounding are beautiful. I recall coming down Glendora Ridge Road and the sunlight sparkled through the maples and oaks on the mountainside. They were in the midst of changing colors (not the oaks, of course) and it was really cool. Sometimes it’s a moment where I feel good. My legs feel powerful, my body isn’t hurting unusually, and I am moving at a good pace. My pedaling is smooth, the bike tracks along the road and I feel the power transferring efficiently from my legs to the pedal, the chain, the cogs, the tires, and into the road. That’s a good moment, too.

I ride also because I can. I enjoy feeling like I did something that others can’t. It might be going up a steep climb, for example. Most people complain when the grade hits 2%. I like being able to climb four miles of 6-8% grade. I like getting to the top and knowing that I didn’t let the hill beat me. It also could be distances. Most people can’t even comprehend riding a bike for 100 miles, or even 50. It’s hard to do. It’s hard to be on the bike for hours at a time. So, there’s that.

I ride because it’s the most fun version of exercise I have found. I get injured running. Walking is too slow. I don’t want to use machines or lift weights. That seems pointless. Bike riding takes you places. You get to see things. I like the way the world looks from two wheels, and it does look different. Smells different too, good and bad. I love the smell of damp fields in the morning just beginning to warm in the sun. On the other hand, there’s the smell of a hot sewer or port-a-potty that has been cooking in the blazing Southern Californian sun. That’s every bit as bad as it sounds. Sucking in a lungful of car exhaust is no fun, either. But, a field of wild flowers is heavy with fragrance, or jasmine blooming in the later afternoon. Divine.

To some degree, cycling is about living with the pain, and sometimes enjoying it. Usually, it’s that the ride is better than the pain is bad. But, it can also be that the pain means you’re doing something worthwhile.

I’m looking forward to Saturday’s ride. It will be difficult. But, I have a feeling that I will get a little of everything from it. There will be pain, and beauty, loneliness (when I get dropped) and camaraderie. There will be ups and downs, good and bad.

One week until the Tour de Foothills century

Months ago, I made a commitment to get into shape to ride the Tour de Foothills century which is next week, November 10, 2012. At the time, in June, I weighed about 198 pounds, which is almost 40 pounds more than I should weigh. I wasn’t completely out of shape, just very overweight. Back in 2005/2006, I was an mountain biker and road cyclist. But, a divorce and several moves put that on hold. Enough was enough. I had tried to maintain but it wasn’t working. I had to change.

Step one was signing up for the ride. It cost me $70. I figured that if I spent the money, I would be more likely to follow through with the training. Step two was getting back on the bike. I was teaching summer school so I started riding my bike to work. That had been effective before. Even though I was only riding a little over 7 miles each way, I always pushed myself and tried to do “intervals” on the commutes. I also started going for longer rides on the weekends. When I got to where I could ride for at least 20 miles, I joined the Cycling Connection, a Ranch Cucamonga cycling club. Every Saturday, the club rides out to Claremont, up some hills and back, a ride of about 35 miles. I added ten to that by riding from home.

Finally, I added in much longer rides of 60 to 80 miles or so when I could. I even did the Amtrak Century in September, although we only rode about 95 miles that day. And, that century is probably one of the easiest around.

But, the Tour de Foothills is not. It is 100 miles with 8,000 feet of climbing. Even with all of my training, I am full of respect for this ride. I don’t fear it like I did, but I respect it.

Am I ready? Yes, I think I am. Today, I rode 66 miles with 5,500 feet of climbing. That took about 5 hours. Most of what we rode today will be in the TdF next week, as we rode the infamous Glendora Mountain Road and Glendora Ridge Road to Mount Baldy village.

My knee hurt but it was manageable. My asthma wasn’t too bad. Have I mentioned I have Exercise-Induced Asthma? It wasn’t bad today.

Here’s a few things I found made the ride better. Sidi Carbon Genius shoes. So good. I have tried for years to save money on cycling shoes by buying cheaper. I used the same pair of Specialized mountain bike shoes for years. Last year I bought a new pair of Shimano mountain bike shoes. But, they often made my left foot numb and felt lose. I gave in and bought the Sidis and a new pair of pedals. What a difference! They are much tighter but more comfortable, if you can believe it. I also love my Oakley Racing Jackets (aka Jawbones). They have helped considerably with my eyes getting dry. It still happens, but it’s a lot better. I just got a very nice wind vest by Showers Pass. It’s called the ProTech. It seems counterintuitive to me, but it makes a huge difference when it is chilly out. A couple weeks ago I did a similar ride and I was miserably cold most of the time. Any time I went downhill, it hurt because the cold air blew against my torso and made me ache with cold. Today, I wore knee warmers and the vest. Much better.

I also want to recommend DZ Nuts, a chamois cream. If you don’t know, long rides often lead to saddle sores. This product has helped with that quite a bit. I haven’t really had any serious sores but there was some discomfort. I can deal with sore knees and aching muscles. I can even deal with my butt hurting. But, sores are not something I want to mess with. This has seemed to clear that up completely. My friend Mike says it burns him but I felt nothing like that.

If you are any kind of enthusiastic about your cycling, I recommend getting a GPS computer. Expensive? Yeah. But, being able to precisely record my rides, analyze my performance, see any improvements, etc., has been so much fun. I know that I had an average heart rate of 134, I can see exactly where I rode, how much elevation, average speed (12 mph), top speed (41.4 mph), and I can use a service like Strava to see how I did on the various segments on my ride. Segments are portions of the route that are demarcated and then leaderboards are kept for them. This can give you a sense of how you are doing because you can look to see if you are getting faster on sections. It can be fun, too, to see how you rank against others. Or, depressing if you are far down in the rankings, as I am in some of them.

So, am I ready? Like I said, I believe I am. I have lost about 20 pounds. I can easily ride 50-60 miles and I can definitely ride up to 100 miles. The climbing will be tough, but I think I can get that done, too. I believe I have the right equipment to help me, too. (I don’t want to give the impression that you have to spend all that money to do this, though, because I don’t think you do. But, on the other hand, I can tell you that in my experience, the money is well spent.) Basically, it’s like any other kind of tool. Sure, you could use a cheaper hammer or screwdriver, say, but better tools make the job easier.

The training has been key. I rode every week, at least four times a week. Consistency is important. I added in longer rides when possible. I did long rides on the weekends but, about a month ago, I started riding my bike up into Lytle Creek a couple times a week after work. That gave me some more climbing training. For long rides like this, you have to have the muscle to do the climbing and the endurance to make it over the long miles. For me, part of the challenge was losing the weight. Shedding pounds has definitely made me faster and stronger.

Next week, I hope to have some positive news that I did it, I rode the Tour de Foothills century successfully. I think it’s going to be hard, for sure, but, I think I will get it done.

How to start getting fit

I’m not an expert. But, I think my experience is valid and useful. When I started cycling at first, back in 2005, I was way out of shape. I was 35 pounds overweight. I rode my bike uphill, about 3 miles, up a sleight grade, nothing crazy. But, I was slow, going 3.5 miles per hour. I thought I would die. But, it was a start.

Look, exercise is hard and it often hurts. But, if I am eating too much, I have to exercise. I have to burn calories. If I am overweight, I have to burn more than I take in. You can lower your caloric intake and eat less and lose weight without exercise, but that’s way harder.

Exercise is actually a natural appetite suppressant, at least for most of the time you are working out. Of course, working out make you hungry, too. But, if you work out hard, you can eat more. That is a great thing about taking a long bike ride. After three or four hours of riding, I have burned over 1,000 calories. It gives me a lot more room in my diet for the day.

Another thing that helps is that I enjoy cycling. So, I look forward to the exercise and that makes it easier to continue doing it.

So, my first suggestion is to pick a form of exercise that you like doing. The second suggestion is that you commit to a reasonable goal. At first, I committed to riding my bike 3 times a week, minimum, for 30 minutes each time. Eventually, I increased that to 4 to 5 times a week and 45 minutes to an hour each time. If I missed my goal, I just started over. I didn’t give up just because I missed the goal. That was key, I think.

Another thing that helped was that I met some people that cycled too. Initially, it was mountain biking, but I also met road bikers, too. And, they were faster and had more endurance so I wanted to train harder to be able to keep up with them. I did the same thing this year and signed up for the Tour de Foothills century so I would have a goal to shoot for. But, mostly, the people become a kind of support group.

For example, they told me about doing interval training as a way to get fit with shorter workouts. Or, when I started getting cramps during longer workouts, my friend Mike told me about eating Tums or drinking pickle juice to relieve them. (Mostly, today, I try to drink fluids with electrolytes while riding, or eating stuff like energy gels or Clif bars.) Mike has been an invaluable resource, actually. I have learned a lot about cycling in general from him. From bike fit, to good equipment, to good rides, he has a lot of information to share. It’s good to find someone who can help you out like that.

Interestingly, it also has occurred to me that my circle of friends in cycling has given me a big boost in the sense that I have raised my expectations. I ride with people who regularly ride 50 to 100 miles without blinking an eye. They go up and down mountains. This is way different than hitting a bike path a couple times a week or riding around the block a few times. I ride 25 miles and then see that they rode 50 and I feel like I need to ride more. So, I think that is a good thing to have higher expectations.

And, then, there is Strava. I have way too much fun with that. I can see my ride on a map, see the numbers, and all of that. Strava is fun. And, segments give you a way to track your progress. If you ride or run, you should use Strava.

Summing it up, pick an activity you enjoy, set reasonable goals, and find some people to support your activity and/or participate with you so you will stick to your goals and raise the bar for yourself as you improve.

The training for the century ride

I feel nervous now. There are only 36 days until the Higlander Century. The route has been published and it shows 102 miles with 8,400 feet of climbing. The mileage doesn’t scare me as much as the climbing. That’s a lot of hill! I think I can do that, but I just don’t know for sure. I don’t want to be too slow. And, lately, I have been getting cramps in my calves when I push myself. I just don’t know if I’m getting enough training.

So, now I am riding my bike everyday, or nearly so, to work and back. That’s only 7.3 miles, though. Going home is uphill, so I try hard to keep my speed up and ride in intervals, alternating between going at 90% effort and 60% effort, for example. I think this is good, but it isn’t enough. I have tried to add in some extra miles here and there. So, now, on Wednesdays and Thursdays, I’m trying to ride an extra 20 miles with lots of hill work. I am riding up Cherry and into Lytle Creek. That’s a steady grade of about 2-3% with occassional 4-6% grades.

Another thing that, I hope, helps, is that I’m riding a heavier bike. It weighs ten pounds more than my racing bike, the one I will ride the Highlander Century on. In addition, I am carrying panniers on my back rack, which I would guess adds another 10 pounds. But, how much difference this will make, I’m not sure.

This Sunday I hope to put 80 miles on the bike.

More progress to note: I have lost at least 15 pounds and have dropped two inches around my waist, I think. I am hopeful that I will weigh about 170 by the time I ride the century. That should make things a little easier, too. My ideal weight is probably about 165, but I will settle for 170.

My knee still gets sore. It’s not so much painful as it is uncomfortable. I am trying to make sure my cleats and seat are adjusted properly so I can hurt less. It seems to be okay. I may pay for a bike fitting to see if that fixes it.

Update…

Today is Sunday, now. I rode 84 miles with 3500 feet of climbing. Not bad. I didn’t feel that tired at the end of it. After doing some reading, I think I am on track. Next weekend I will ride part of Glendora Mountain Road which will give me some very good climbing practice. As well, I am going to continue going up Lytle Creek a couple times a week.

A post for the Fall Equinox

Happy Fall Equinox! I thought I would check in. I haven’t been writing much, I know. I guess I haven’t been sure I had much of anything interesting to say. I have been keeping busy, though. I am trying hard to provide some quality education to my students as well as training on my bikes to be ready for the Highlander Century in November. Plus, the normal, everyday stuff going on: helping kids with homework, spending time with my honey, and fitting in some relaxation time, too.

So, when I started riding again, back in June, I think, I was weighing around 195 pounds. Today, I am weighing more like 180. I’ve dropped a couple inches around my waist. So, that’s very good. I completed a “Century” ride called the Amtrak Century a couple of weeks ago. That was 94 miles at once. (We took a shortcut at the beginning of the ride.) I did over 60 miles a week or so before that, as well. This weekend I rode 58 miles yesterday and 52 miles today with about 3,000 feet of climbing each day. That’s pretty decent.

That’s my friends and I after the Amtrak Century a few weeks ago. I’m the one in the middle with the Dark Side of the Moon jersey.

I got a couple awesome accessories. I got a Garmin Edge 500 that is a GPS unit for cycling. It can tell me how fast I’m going, how far, my average speed, my heartrate, my cadence (how many revolutions my pedals are making), and, of course, where I went. I hook it up to the computer and upload the ride data so I can see all of that. I am using Strava track my data. It says I have ridden 485 miles so far in September. I have been riding my bike to work and back most days, as well as longer rides on the weekends.

In November, I will ride the Highlander Century. This will be about 100 miles of cycling with about 7500 feet of climbing. Not an easy day. But, I feel sure that my training will have me ready, though I may suffer and be slow on all that climbing. My Garmin helps a lot with this. Not only can I precisely check my mileage but it also allows me to see when I am really working hard, or just riding at tempo, because I can see what my heartrate is. I can also ride better because I can see when my cadence is too high or low and shift gears accordingly. For fun, Strava has segments on lots of rides so I can record achievements like Personal Records, for example, on certain portions of a ride. I created a few along my ride to work and back so I can track my performance and abilities. This helps me also to ride intervals where I go really hard for a portion of time and then rest by pedaling more slowly other times. I am under the impressoin that this is a good way to train and lose weight.

My other favorite new toy are my Oakley Racing Jacket (neĆ© Jawbones) sunglasses. I have worn Oakleys for a long time. I know a lot of people think Oakleys are overpriced. Maybe they are, but my experience with them is that they are some of the finest sunglasses I have worn. My eyesight is fairly important to me. I want sunglasses that offer clarity and protect my eyes, particularly when cycling. I have gotten grit and dust in my eyes while riding and, as a contact lens wearer, this is very bad. Also, I have been hit by insects a lot. I’ve had had them hit my glasses, too. So, I think that eyewear is a very important piece of safety equipment.

I was wearing a pair of Oakley Half Jackets but I found I was getting cloudy eyes from riding. It was so frustrating! Every time I finished a ride I would have to take out my contacts. And, on the Amtrak Century, my lenses were uncomfortable and cloudy on the way home. Not fun. I went to Oakley and decided that the Racing Jackets were the solution. And, they have been! Maybe they look obnoxius (I don’t think so!)

That’s a picture I sent of a cheesy grin to my daugther and wife the other day while I was riding. Yeah, the glasses are big, but they work! I rode 53 miles today and my contacts are fine! So, to me, that’s money well-spent. The glasses have an odd little spoiler shape on the bottom frame and I sometimes wonder if that’s why my glasses keep the wind out so well. But, they don’t fog up too bad in the morning when it’s cool out, either, at least not so far. The lenses are great, too. They are made to create more contrast and I do think I can see better with them on. Also, the pros wear them so they kinda make me look more pro, I think. haha

One interesting development has been that I seem to have Exercise Induced Asthma. For years now, I would cough after riding. I thought, for a bit, that it was dusty out, or smoggy. I thought it was just a thing. Normal. But, it always happened and has still been happening. My chest feels tight and I cough after riding. Sometimes I cough at night, too. So, my doctor prescribed an inhaler with Albuterol to use prior to exercise and it seems to have had a positive effect. I still cough a little, but not nearly as much, if at all. I still get the tight chest feeling sometimes at night and I start coughing. But, I have a follow up appointment tomorrow so we will see what happens. I had an EKG, a chest xray, blood taken for testing, and a breathing test. Hopefully my doctor will be able to draw some conclusions from all of that.

My students this year are good. I like all five of my classes. I have three classes of Sophomores and two classes of Juniors. The vast majority are good natured and work in class. I have a couple kids who don’t work but they arent defiant about it. I am making a firm effort to always been up and about in the classroom. If the kids are working independently, I have to circulate to offer help and supervise, not sit at my desk. I think this helps a lot. I am using Class Dojo, a web app at http://www.classdojo.com that tracks student behavior and I like that, too. Overall, that has been goodd.

So, that’s where I’m at these days. Things are going well. Today is the Fall Equinox; the days will be getting longer now. The year is 3/4 over and the 1st quarter at work is almost done. Good time to check in with my four readers. Hope your time is going as well as mine, if not better.