2021 Retrospective and Getting Back into Double Centuries

Well here it is … another year in the books, and yet another year under the environment with Covid-19. From a cycling perspective, at least some of the restrictions have been relaxed enough to allow us to do some of the things we used to do. For me, it was getting back into Double Century riding (although I had taken a 7 year hiatus, separate from all this Covid non-sense).

I think I got the bug to get back into Double Centuries due to all the Virtual Doubles that my friends have been doing. However, one thing that prevented me from doing doubles in years passed, was partly due to work. My group was down to 2 people (where it used to be 4). What that meant was every other weekend, I had to be on call, which really impacts how much training you can do for long distance riding. I was fortunate that this year, the schedule was laid out, such that I was on call once every 6 weeks or so, and I had more flexibility to change schedules.

The first virtual double I did was in April, and it was for the Mulholland Double. It wasn’t the actual double (I would never be able to make the time cutoff). Still, it was 200 miles, and 12,000 feet of climbing. It was basically doing a big loop up and over Mt. Hamilton, then down the other side and over to Livermore, then back to San Jose. Well, that was 130 miles of it … we then made up for it by doing a series of smaller 3-5 mile loops until we reached 200. I felt like a hamster, spinning my wheels.

One of the best things about these virtual doubles is being able to ride in your local neighborhood, and being able to have local support (whereas actual double events wouldn’t let you have your own local support). The other nice thing about this was having local friends hang out and serve you food on the course.

My favorite was Melissa’s rice porridge .. mmm, that hits the spot, after 150 miles, and especially if it was cold. It was so good, I went around a couple more laps, stopping each time for rice porridge, but I had to continue on.

With this being my first double coming back after 7 years, I did have some doubts in my mind. At mile 130, I was tired, I was exhausted, and I was ready to throw in the towel. But thanks to my friend Dzung, he convinced me to continue on. I needed that push, to get me over the edge, and I thank him greatly for that. The funny part was his comment, that the first double I do coming back, was one of the hardest. Yeah, I don’t like to do things easy.

After succeeding there, I decided I wanted to do a double solo. Oh, big mistake. Well, I did my own loop, of ~ 60 miles, and met up with a group ride. There was a bit of climbing on the group ride, but I figure I should be able to handle that. Unfortunately, the weather (in May) was a little more wet than expected. It was pretty foggy … it was almost like a misty rain, but it was enough to make us all wet. I was the only one who knew the route well, and being the local, the group begged me to lead them back to the start, as everyone was wet and cold. So I led them back, but I still needed to continue my double, as I had only 90 miles with 110 more to go. I continued on, and instead of doing multiple 5 mile loops, I had a great 20 mile loop, through bike paths, and I figured I would be able to keep doing this to get to 200. My care was parked along the route, so if I needed something, I would stop by the car. On one of the stops back to the car, I was really exhausted, and since it was solo, I didn’t have anyone to motivate me, and that’s what did me in. I stopped at mile 155, and since I was at my car, it was way too easy to just go on home. So that was a failed attempt.

To this point, I chalked this up as a training ride, but I kept thinking if only I had more mental toughness to continue on. Others were impressed I continued on, after the weather conditions. I can’t blame the weather on this, as by the time I got back to the car, it was all dry, and should have been able to continue on … but it is a learning opportunity.

I was able to complete one more virtual double, and that was Grand Tour, which I did in July. That was fun, but that hardest part had to be doing all those small 5 mile loops, but at least we did it, and that was the 2nd one of the year, and that would end up being the last. Again, my favorite part was stopping for rice porridge on those 5 mile laps. Eventually we shortened them to 3.5 mile loops, just so we wouldn’t get delayed by traffic lights.

In August, it was our club’s double century event, Carmel Valley Double. This was not virtual, and I think it was the first non-virtual double. This was a tough one, as it was 14,000 feet climbing. The most climbing I had ever done in one event was Devil Mountain Double, but I DNF’d that one. By the time I DNF’d, it was 159 miles, and 17,000 feet climbing. When I finished Carmel Valley Double, I was ecstatic. This was tough, and it was the first worker’s ride I had ever done (I volunteered, and supported the actual ride which was held on Saturday, two days later).

There were 4 of us doing the volunteer ride, but I was the slowest. I was able to ride with Stefan for most of the ride, but by the time we climbed Carmel Valley on the way back, I was far behind. The difficulty was when I descended, it was pitch black (about 8 pm). Since this was rural, it had many turns, and I needed to put higher beams on. I definitely was not going as fast as I normally would down this road, and it would go on forever. One mishap on this ride, was that somehow, the screw on the mount for one of my lights was no longer there. So I couldn’t really use this light, so had to rely on my other one. Since I had to use my brighter beam, that meant using more battery, and I was running low on battery. I was able to finish before it went out, but that was a close one.

The best part on this ride was to actually cross the finish line. While riding this, I was worried I wouldn’t make it to the cutoff, thinking it would be after midnight before I finished. I underestimated myself, and I actually finished around 10:30 pm, so not too bad. That was one of the happiest moments of all the doubles I did. It also helped having so many friends to support me on this one.

I really had the double bug now, so I proceeded to do Bass Lake and Solvang Autumn Double. On Bass Lake, we had quite a few people from XDV drive out to Clovis (near Fresno) to do the ride. I wanted to do this as a group ride, but right off the bat, we got separated, as I rode with the lead group, but most of our group had a flat, which delayed them for about 40 minutes. I eventually waited for the rest of the group at the 2nd rest stop (at Bass Lake). I probably should have just continued on, but something tells me they would have caught up to me anyways (as Dominique and Ellen are so so strong).

Solvang Autumn Double was the week after Bass Lake. This would be my fifth of the year. It was a bit colder than I was anticipating, especially when we got into the canyons. This was a bit tougher than I thought, as we did Drum Canyon twice (once in each direction), and that road was really rough. Descending on a road bike felt like I was in a boxing match, getting my upper body taking body blows, with all the bumps the bike was taking. I think a gravel bike would have been more appropriate for these descents.

One thing I did observe was I did slow down quite a bit in the second half, while others took longer in the first half and finished stronger in the second half. Even after all the doubles I have done, I still have some things I have to improve upon (aside from the fitness).

The last double I was able to do was the Dead of Winter, which was held first weekend of December. It was a nice flat double, with a climb up Lake Casitas pass, which is always a lot of fun. This is the same as what we do on the actual Grand Tour Highland Double. What was nice about this was seeing a lot of double century friends that I know from the many trips I made down to So Cal. It was a blast seeing them, and was fun to complete my 6th double century of the year. I’ve never done 6 in a year before, so this was a first for me.

For 2022, I have a goal of completing my 25th double, and that will be for Carmel Valley Double. Melissa has said they will create a big banner for me for that one, so how could I not strive for that as a goal. So that’s my plan … that’s my new year’s resolution … I am currently at 20, so I will need 5 more to get to 25. Wish me luck!

I would also like to thank Dzung Dang for maintaining a group that encourages cycling and more importantly, keeps me motivated to keep riding. I was burnt out, and that’s why I had a 7 year hiatus from double century riding. It’s his emphasis on doubles and endurance riding that kept the double century bug in me. It also helps to have a group that has the motivation to do these rides (as these events are not for the normal every day bike riders). Thanks Dzung!

Posted in cycling, double, Double Century, Review, ride report | Tagged | 1 Comment

Getting Used to Quarantine Life

Ok, so it’s not a complete lockdown, but would quarantine be a correct word?  I mean it’s not like we’re stuck indoors with lock and chain.  We can go out and do things, but with restrictions.

At least here in California (depending if you call it shelter in place, or stay at home), we have a lot more liberties compared to what China, Italy, Spain had to go through.  We still can go out and do “essential activities”.  When I first heard this term, I thought perhaps we needed some “get out of jail” card or something like that.  No, it’s more of the honor system, and frankly, a lot of people do not have much honor.

I am fortunate enough to have the flexibility of working from home.  It’s actually what I do when I’m on call, so it’s like being on call every day.

One of the essential activities is recreation.  So the routine for me, is get on the road by 6 am, ride until about 9 am (which is when my shift starts.  That actually works out pretty well, as long as my body is in the mood, and can wake up that early.  By getting on the road that early, it assures that not many people are on the road, and it limits the likelihood of riding through a crowd.  Even if I do approach someone, I have my bandana face covering, that I can pull up when needed.  You may ask, what if someone comes up from behind me and passes me?  Well, that’s what the third eye mirror on my glasses is for.  It may not be cool looking, but it is functional.

My riding has gone way down, but that’s really to abide by the guidelines suggested by the CDC.  Technically, they want to restrict the area where the spread is, so I typically limit my ride to < 40 miles.  However, I know others don’t abide by that.  It starts getting political, and I just don’t want to go there, so I just stay local, and within my own county.  In San Mateo County, they did restrict cycling to 5 miles, and more recently, they bumped it up to 10 miles.  However, I know not many cyclists follow this.

Anyways, I know it has been awhile since I last blogged on here … I just didn’t feel in the mood for it, and I’m sure you’ve read tons of other blogs, and I just didn’t want to add to the fray.

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Jumping from Garmin to Wahoo

Along with preparation for doubles is checking on my GPS recording device … in other words, if I do a double, I want proof.  This really didn’t become an issue until I did a training ride, a 100 mile ride from my house to the Cliff House in San Francisco.  By the time I finished, I had a low battery indicator for the last 20 miles.  When I finally sync’d it, I discovered it had 4% battery life left.  This was just short of 8 hours of run time.  Sure, I could just re-charge it, mid-way through, with one of those portable battery chargers, but that’s inconvenient, and a pain.

Now we’ve all had problems with Garmin before, like not recording sometimes, GPS being way off … I’ve heard many really positive things about Wahoo, so this is the perfect opportunity to buy one.  After evaluating reviews, I decided to go with Wahoo Element, for both price, features, and more importantly, battery life.  It does advertise on its spec up to 17 hours battery life.  I went with this, over Roam, only because I didn’t need the pretty color maps, and the turn-by-turn, I figure I could get with Element.  Besides, I’m used to just downloading a course.  The price was good, $239, as opposed to $380 for the Roam.

It’s a nice big display, and I like the fact that you can zoom in/out, to display larger fonts with less number of fields, and if you zoom out for smaller fonts, it will display more number of fields.

The turn-by-turn, is displayed while viewing the map, so that’s pretty nice.  Even if you are not in the map view, it will give you an overlayed dialog, telling you where you need to turn.  However, I haven’t figured out, if you suddenly want to abandon the course, how to turn off the turn-by-turn navigation.  Gotta play with that a little more.

Ok, now to the gripes I have, after only a week playing with this.  First, you download the Wahoo app, and you control the Element via the smartphone app.  However, in order to connect to it, you need to have it connect via bluetooth.  However, I’ve found you can’t connect, as long as you have an already existing bluetooth connection on your phone.  For example, if you have a fitness watch paired via bluetooth on it (I happen to have a Garmin Vivoactive paired up with it), the app won’t find the Element GPS unit.  I was able to connect to it, if I reboot my phone.  I think even that was just a lucky chance.

After many Google searches, and browsing through Wahoo web site, I found that you have to disable all bluetooth connections, then connect from the Wahoo app to the Wahoo GPS (and no, you cannot try to connect from the bluetooth control panel).  So I had to disable bluetooth connection from my Vivoactive watch, headset, and any other bluetooth connections, then have Wahoo connect.  This same process holds true when you sync the ride from your Wahoo GPS, to the Wahoo app on the smartphone, and then eventually upload it to Strava, or whatever fitness app you prefer.

When I first got the Wahoo Element, it kept wanting me to update the firmware.  Now Wahoo updates firmware via Wifi, so the Wahoo Element is a Wifi client.  I tried for a week to update the firmware, but I couldn’t, even though it does have a proper Wifi connection.  Again, after many Google searches, I finally found the Element Wifi client only supports 2.4 GHz channel, and my standard on my WiFi Access Point is 5G.  Wow, seems like we are re-gressing in technology.  I had to add 2.4 GHz on my AP, then after that, I was able to get it to update the firmware.

The bluetooth thing is stupid, and the Wifi 2.4 GHz thing, was just driving me nuts, especially since I do Tech Support for a living.  It’s not like it’s something that they clearly point out in the documentation that comes with the box, because all it has is a getting started leaflet, which doesn’t go into any detail at all.

I really wish they could add some notes, in the Getting Started leaflet, that updating firmware requires 2.4 GHz wireless, and that sync’ing requires all other bluetooth connections to be disabled.  For a product that is trying to claim they are technologically advanced, these two things brings it backwards.  I wonder if the same problem occurs on Roam or Bolt.

Posted in geek stuff, Review | Tagged , | 5 Comments

First Century of the Year … and Start of Double Training

So I unofficially came up with a New Year’s resolution … It’s been about 6 years since I last attempted a double century (and even more when I last completed the Triple Crown).  I decided that no matter what obstacles come my way with work, and interrupting my training schedule, I am just going to schedule the double century, and if I’m ready, I’m ready.  If I’m not in shape, and can’t finish it, so what … I’m not concerned with DNF’s any more.

With that in mind, I went out and did my first century of the year.  I actually surprised myself, thinking I would return in the dark … I actually finished by 4:40 pm.  I guess I’m not as out of shape as I thought I would be?  One thing that did help was having the Crystal Springs Dam road go through, without having to do the Ralston Bridge detour.

I was hoping to make it to the Cliff House, or Land’s End before noon … I had delays getting out of the house, and wanted to leave by 7:30 am, but didn’t leave till 8 am.  Oh well

Pressed for time, I scarfed down the sandwiches that I brought with me, then headed back the same way I came. I didn’t even want to look at the time … I just wanted to keep on moving.

I could feel the burn in my legs on the way back, by the time I reached Millbrae. At that point, I was sure I would be arriving in the dark. When I saw it was 4:40 pm when I got home, I was surprised. I made pretty good time. Time to keep it going.

Posted in Century, cycling | 1 Comment

A new decade starts

Really, we’re into a new decade?  I guess so … 2020 … wow, it was just yesterday when they were concerned that the world would end due to Y2K.  Now really, did anyone really think the world would end?  Nature finds a way … hmm … sounds like a quote from a movie … Oh, because it is … Jurassic Park.

Anyhow, in past years, I would refrain from doing any type of new year’s resolutions, but this year, I wanted to do something different.  Last year, I didn’t have time to train for any events (being on call every other weekend).  That sucked.  So this year, I said to myself, screw it.  I’m going to sign up for an event, and no matter if I’m ready or not, I’m going to do it.  So I signed up for Solvang Double Century in March.  I’ll have to make sacrifices, like ride into the darkness after work (and have no relax time at night), just so that I can have training time.  Who knows … maybe I’ll ask to work consecutive on calls, so that I can have consecutive weekends to train.

We’ll see how that goes.  I miss my double century friends, and the feeling of doing a double century … I gotta do it.  Wish me luck.  It’ll be one way to start off the decade.

Oh, and I didn’t do quite as bad as I thought for the year, even though my weekend suffered.  I still got over 6,000 miles for the year.

2019-veloviewer

Let’s see if we can improve upon this in 2020.

Posted in cycling, Double Century | Tagged | 2 Comments

2019 Was Rough … Let’s Look Forward to 2020

The year 2019 was a punch in the gut.  It was a year which saw the passing of my Dad, who was 94 (or 92, whichever record you believe in).  Dad was a paper son, so who knows when he was really born.  It doesn’t matter at this point … all that matters is he led a good life, and both he, and my mom, raised 3 excellent kids (myself included).  We had to spend couple of months, going back and forth from the Bay Area to LA for visits, until eventually he died of complications.  That was a really rough way to start the year.

Meanwhile, at work, I was punched in the gut again.  This time, my group suffered by having it downsized .. in other words, lay offs.  We had a staff of 5, and now it’s 2 .. and we morphed into another group.  We had 3 in California, but now it’s just me.  This is a big change, and instead of having a group, I know work like a remote person.  Now I know how hard it is to be working remotely (even though we are kind of corporate headquarters).

Oh, this new group we morphed into … I have to train myself on a new product, and since I am the lead on my own product, I didn’t have the luxury to fly out for hands on training .. so I had to learn from videos and powerpoint slides.  This is extremely difficult, when you have a product that is extremely complex.  I don’t know how this will turn out for me … all I can say is, I seem to have respect from others in the company … I mean, I did spend 21 years of my life with this place.

This also means that I am on call every other weekend, because of the short staff, and the challenges of getting everyone up to speed, limits my flexibility with weekends off.  That also means I don’t get to go biking as much, and training for those long doubles are suffering.  I actually had to cancel two events, because of the on call rotation.  I just hope it gets better in 2020.  I’m not ready to look for another job yet, but I just hope the situation improves (not just from a work perspective, but from my own personal livelihood).

Despite not having time to train, I have decided to sign up for another double .. Solvang Double, in the 3rd week of March.  I will strive for this, and it will force me to squeeze whatever time I have to train (even if it means spending 3 hours riding in the dark till 11 pm then sleep.  I just need to do this.

Anyhow, here’s to a happy 2020, and let’s see what that brings us.  And I don’t even want to talk politics at all .. too depressing.

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Pour over Coffee

I’m not there biggest coffee enthusiasts, but I do like the aroma of good coffee. I probably can’t tell the difference in one blend to the other, like determining how fruity one is over the other. So recently, some friends had suggested a good coffee shop, called Big Mug Coffee, so I decided to try it out.

I read the reviews and it said there would long lines and the drinks took a while to get but I figured I’d still try it out. They have the usual latte but what was interesting was lack of just coffee. So I asked what type of coffee they have and they mentioned something called pour over coffee. I decided to try it out.

It must have taken about five minutes to get just a cup of coffee and a heated croissant. I tasted the coffee and it was ok, but later, I realized this cup of coffee was $5. That was a bit steep. I didn’t complain while I was at the coffee shop but I thought I’d give a Google search to find out exactly what is this pour over coffee.

I guess this is a different way of brewing coffee, where you pour boiling water over some filtered coffee grinds. I can see the benefit, where you have no residue, or no after taste of the coffee grind, but $5 vs. $1?

I just wanted a simple cup of coffee, you know, caffeine. I guess more trendy coffee shops are serving these, but sometimes you just want a plain cup of coffee. Maybe I’ll just stick with Starbucks or Peet’s, instead of these boutique trendy coffee shops.

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Sling Drops All Fox Networks from its Lineup

I’m one of those cord-cutters, who dropped their cable subscription for TV, and went with air antenna for local channels, and subscribed to streaming service.  I particularly chose Sling, mostly from word of mouth, and the subscription was pretty low.  Those also included a few local channels (just in case my air antenna cannot get a good signal, which can be common in the Bay Area).

For some odd reason, some channels are not reachable at all with my air antenna.  It seemed like most of those were stations based out of Oakland area, but not sure.  Luckily, the Fox affiliate was on Sling … until this past Thursday.  This seemed to be in the news of late:

From MSN’s web site:

The dispute stems from a carriage dispute between Fox and Dish. Both the satellite network and Sling, their over-the-top internet TV service, have not carried Fox regional sports networks for two months since their sale to the Sinclair Broadcast Group. That deal was brought upon by the Fox’s Corporation’s sale to The Walt Disney Company earlier this summer.

A Fox spokesperson expressed sympathy toward Dish’s 12 million satellite users:

“Dish/Sling is at it again, choosing to drop leading programming as a negotiating tactic regardless of the impact on its own customers. Dish/Sling elected to drop Fox networks in an effort to coerce us to agree to outrageous demands. While we regret this is Dish/Sling’s preferred approach to negotiating, we remind our loyal viewers that the Fox services are widely available through every other major television provider.”

The drop comes at an inopportune time for sports fans. Fox networks not only carry college and professional football (the NFL and the XFL starting February), but they will also feature a good portion of the MLB playoffs, including the World Series. The effects could be felt as soon as tonight, as the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package makes its 2019 debut in Green Bay for a game between the Packers and Philadelphia Eagles.

Yeah, I noticed that on Thursday night too!  Luckily, they also had it broadcast on Amazon Prime, of which I subscribe to already, so I didn’t miss that game.

So I started searching for alternative streaming services … YouTube TV!  I looked at it, and compared the pricing to Sling, and it was comparable.  Looking further, it actually had more variety, for a little more per month ($49 as opposed to $45).  Come to think of it, I did also have some add-ons to Sling (like on-demand DVR recordings), so the price actually may be equal.  YouTube TV also has a bunch of local TV offered too (other than the Fox affiliate).

I lucked out, because one of the channels YouTube TV had, but Sling didn’t have, was Olympic Channel.  They happen to be broadcasting UCI World Championships this week.  So I lucked out, and was able to watch the finals of the Men’s World Championship Road Race.  Nice!

So goodbye Sling, and hello YouTube TV.

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This is Why I Am a Morning Person

Recently, I had one of those nights where I woke up in the middle of the night (1 am) and could not go back to sleep. I went to sleep, only to wake up again at 3:30. I did the same thing and woke up again at 4:30. I just couldn’t go back to sleep.

Oh screw it. I have fully charged lights, so I went into my cycling clothes, and went for a ride … at 5:15 am.

One of my favorite night spots is the Mary Ave bridge (although it probably has some more official name to it).  I wanted it to be dark, just so I can take this picture.

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Mary Ave. Bridge (at least that’s what it says on Google Maps)

Off I went to climb Montebello Road. It’s so peaceful this time of day, as hardly anyone is out on the road. I was passed by 3 cars, and that was it. There was something about riding on a crisp morning, and I felt like I was climbing it pretty good (even though I didn’t get a PR out of it).

One of the main reasons for me to get out here was to see the views, and they were awesome.  No matter which angle I took, I couldn’t quite capture the beauty, and enormity of being up before sunrise … so peaceful

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View from Montebello Road, just passed Montebello School

As I continued climbing, sunrise came, and that just made the climb even better. I was the only one climbing Montebello at this hour. Where’s everyone? What’s the issue … are you sleeping? Oh, wait, I guess you are.

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Good morning from the top of Montebello, Vidovich Vineyards

As I descended down the hill, I saw a bunch of riders climbing. I guess I was an hour earlier than everyone wanted to start. Yes, I am a morning person!

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So Long Fitbit

I’ve had a couple of fitbits, so I know how the ecosystem for that product works.  I was about ready to go out for a ride, and I was wearing my Fitbit Surge.  Then all of a sudden, I felt the watch band slip … took a closer look, and I find the design of the watch band is … well stupid.  It looked like the glue holding the permanent band failed.

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So I did some research, and it looked like the Fitbit Charge 3 should be a good replacement.  Nice sleek design, and seemed to be the flagship of the Fitbit line, moving forward.  So I got it, and the interface looked pretty good, and pretty easy to use.  I try connecting to my phone, and I could never get it to sync up.  Sure, it detected the watch, but I could never get it to sync.

I did a whole bunch of Google searches, and I wasn’t the only one experiencing the problem.  If you do a Google search on Fitbit Charge 3 sync to Android, or even to iPhone, you will see many threads regarding the same problem.  To have your flagship product, unable to sync up to the phone?  I mean, that makes the whole fitness tracking thing useless.

So I decided to look to Garmin.  I know I’ve had some GPS and accuracy issues with Garmin on the bike computer, but maybe the fitness tracking watch will be different.  Based on dcrainmaker’s reviews, the Vivoactive 3 seemed to be a good overall value.  I didn’t need a watch with music, so I just went with the Vivactive 3.

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Since I already have a couple of Garmin Edge devices in Garmin Connect, adding the Vivoactive should be a breeze, and since I’m used to using the software, it is an easy transition.

So long Fitbit.  Good luck, and hope you fix your sync’ing issues.  All the great features you have doesn’t help a whole lot if you can’t sync to a phone, which has all the tracking features you need.

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