Bonny Doon Plans Thwarted by Flats

My co-worker Al, and I, had this lofty plans of doing a killer loop, with about 105 miles, and over 10,000 feet of climbing.  This was definitely going to be an epic ride, something Al has wanted, in preparation for his Death Ride training.

Those were good plans, but plans are not set in stone.  It all started fine, getting a nice warm up by climbing Page Mill (including those 12-16% pitches).  I felt ok climbing Page Mill, despite having some lower back “irritations”.  Al was faster up the hill than me, but I wasn’t too far behind.

All good there .. then we descended West Alpine, along with another faster group, which was going in the same direction as us.  However, during the descent, I heard some other noise coming from my bike, other than the freewheel … I had to slow down, and just as I feared, it was a leak.  My front tire got a flat.  Luckily this was just a slow leak, and I was able to hear it on my descent.  This was just before the right turn to continue onto West Alpine.

So we stop to fix the flat, and as I inspect the tire, I notice a sidewall gash.  It’s one of those, where once you pump up the tire, part of the tube will bleed out through a hole in the tire, and pow, there goes your tube.  Al had those tire boots, so we installed that, and we’re ready to go.

I think Al is ready for Death Ride, as every climb, he was definitely much stronger, and he was just flying up Haskins Hill, and didn’t see  him until I got to the corner of Stage and Pescadero Creek.  Good for him, but lot more work for me.  I was lucky enough to catch a few guys in a mini-paceline going to the coast.  One guy even had a DSLR, and was even able to take a few shots, without stopping!  Wow!

VIRB Picture

Paceline to the coast!

I re-grouped with Al at Stage Road.  We had to make a decision here .. do we continue on to the original plan of doing Bonny Doon loop, or do we alter it and do the obligatory Tunitas Creek loop.  With the tire situation, I was leaning more towards Tunitas, but Al had his sights on Bonny Doon, so we are continuing on.

We continued down to Hwy 1, with a scenic stop at Pescadero State Beach.  I mean come on, you gotta take a few pictures here (although we would be riding parallel to this anyways).


Off we go and the winds were going in a southerly direction, and guess what .. we’re going south.  We have a tailwind, and that means kick it up to high gear, and just spin.  Al wanted to just charge on so he passed me, and he was flying.  However, there’s a lot of crap on Hwy 1, and one of those pieces of crap was a stray wire, that caught my front tire.  It was stuck to the tire, and it kept rolling it with.  I think I rolled with that in there for a good mile before it dislodged itself, and now it’s just a matter of time before it does go flat.  It finally went flat a little after Gazos Creek.

So this is where the day turned sour.  I have no more tubes available, and Al is at least a mile ahead of me.  Hmm … cell phone … no bars … damn, can’t even text him.  I was close enough to a gas station, but they had no tubes to sell .. damn.  A couple guys were fixing a flat by the station, but no extra tubes.  Damn.  Eventually, I flag another rider, who happens to have an extra tube.  A lifesaver!  I’m all excited, replace the tube, pump it up, and as I take the pump out, it strips the valve.

Arghhhh!!!!  It is just not my day.  Another good samaritan comes by, who happened to be a SAG support guy for years.  He doesn’t have any tubes, but he tries to help.  Took part of the tape on my handle bar, and I was wondering what he was trying to do.  He was trying to use the tape as a patch, but I’m thinking that’s not going to hold.  Surprisingly, we pump it up, and it seems to be holding.  He takes off, then I put everything together, then I feel the tire, and it is not holding … damn.  So I pump it up some more, ride as much as I can, and I go maybe 1/4 mile, before it’s deflated again.

I guess I’ll just walk south for a while, until I see Al come back.  I’m not sure how much time we lost, from both the tube change back up on West Alpine, and my adventures on Hwy 1, waiting for Al, but we had to find the quickest way back.  I decided we should just head back up Gazos Creek, then double back up Haskings, then West Alpine.  I figure that should still be an epic climb, but at least it will be more familiar territory.

The wind is still blowing in a southerly direction, and we are going northbound … headwinds!  Oh well, this is kind of expected, but we charged on through it.  I think when Al u-turned back on Hwy 1, it may have taken a bit out of him, because on our way back on Pescadero Creek, we was behind me.  I guess he’s conserving energy for the W. Alpine climb, so that makes sense.  Maybe part of it was I had rested awhile, so I was more refreshed?

There is a warmup climb before West Alpine in this direction, and that is Haskins Hill.  It has some 10-12% grades, so it is no slouch.  At this point, I got my second wind, and I felt good climbing up Haskins, and as it turned out, I got a PR on this segment.

At this point, climbing up W. Alpine was not too bad … my legs were still pretty fresh.  Al and I traded leads up this hill.  By the time we got to Skyline, we had a sense of relief … we are in the home stretch.  Legs are tired, and we just want to get back to the cars.  By the time we got back, I had logged in 82 miles, and 7877 feet climbing.  Al wasn’t sure how far on Hwy 1 he got before he turned back, but I think he was by Davenport … he got in 99.4 miles.  We was too tired to take an extra loop around the block to even it out to 100.

That was a tough ride, even though we skipped on Bonny Doon and Zayante … not sure which way would have been tougher.  We didn’t get the 10,000 feet climb we were shooting for, but it was still one hard ride, so we still had a great workout, and a great day.

Finally Back in the Saddle Again

OMG, I finally got on my bike this weekend.  I can’t believe this is the first time I was able to ride this year.  I had to miss two weekends of great riding weather due to being on-call … and spent the entire time indoors.  So I was really excited to get on my bike, especially since Camino Real is 1 month away, and I fear I have lost a lot of fitness and endurance.

I was going to do a 100 mile ride today, just as my first step in preparation for the double century.  I was originally going to meet a few friends in Woodside, and in my mind, I was thinking of meeting at 8:30 am.  Well, I was thinking 1.5 hours to get there, but I was also thinking of meeting possibly Ramon at 7 am at Bicycle Outfitters (it turned out he had to go into the office, so that part of the plan was moot).  To meet up at Bicycle Outfitters by 7 am, I would have to leave the house by 6:30 am.  But wait … it only takes 1.5 hours to get to Woodside … why the heck am I leaving at 6:30 am to get to Bicycle Outfitters by 7 am.  With that schedule, I would get to Woodside by 8 am.  Oops … I guess not being able to ride the weekends has really screwed up my scheduling for rides.

Anyhow, Michael and Ramon had to bail, so I went solo.  At 8:30 am, it was still pretty cold out there.  I still had to have my jacket on, but the weather report said it would be pretty warm.  I hope they are right.

OLH was pretty busy today, so that meant I wouldn’t be by myself climbing this road.  With two weekends (actually three, since New Year’s was rainy weather), I knew I was not fit … and my time up OLH showed … only did it in 30 minutes.

I decided to take it pretty leisurely on this ride, so I stopped many many times.  One of the was at Hwy 84 and Hwy 35 intersection.  A lot of motorcyclists hang out at this corner, and Alice’s Restaurant is famous for catering to riders for brunch.  The line of motorcycles parked in front of the restaurant is prevalent, but not many cyclists.  One of these days, I gotta saddle up in there, to see what the big hub-bub is with this famous landmark.

Ok, onto Hwy 84, en route to San Gregorio.  On the way there, in La Honda, I was paramedic truck roll out.  Sirens were blasting, and the first thing that came to my mind was not a fire, but an accident on the road.  Hopefully it’s not a cyclist, and it wasn’t.  However, it was a motorcyclist.  I recall when I was riding down 84, I was buzzed by some speeding crotch-rockets … and whaddayaknow … the one down was one of those motorcyclists.  I saw that someone was holding their hands to the guy’s neck … that’s not a good sign.  I didn’t stick around there, so I went ahead and moved on.

By this time, the sun was out, and my jacket was off, and it felt really nice.  Normally, when heading towards the coast, I should be suffering through some headwinds, but I didn’t.  The ride out to San Gregorio was pretty easy actually.  I am just hoping that doesn’t translate to a headwind when I head back.

I proceeded to climb 2 of the 3 sisters on Stage Road.  For those unaware, usually, there are 3 hills when climbing Stage Road going northbound, and each of the hills represents one of the sisters.  I don’t know who came up with this, but this is a tradition within the cycling community in the Bay Area.

It was so clear out, I could even see a view of the ocean.

I got into Pescadero by around 11 am. It wasn’t too packed at that time. I guess it was still a little early, so I took my time chowing down on my turkey sandwich. Oh that felt good after a brisk 50 miles.

I was originally going to do a loop out to Pigeon Point Lighthouse but decided to skip it. So I went straight back on Pescadero Creek Rd, and as I feared, I am treated with headwinds, headind for Haskins Hill.

By the time I got to Haskins Hill, my legs felt like lead. It just dis not want to move. On my way there, I saw my good friend Paula, who was just leaving for errands. That gave me a little boost but that didn’t last long. Finally, made it to the summit, and ready for a much needed breather and a nice descent, before climbing West Alpine, which I’m not looking forward to.

It was really slow going, but I knew I had at least 4 more hours of sunlight, so that kept me going.  I didn’t pass anyone, and yes, I did get passed by a few groups.  At this point, I just wanted the ride to be over.  The fantastic weather kind of kept me going but I was going really slow … I think I was hovering around 4 mph most of the way.  About 1/2 mile from the summit, Ramon passes me.  So we did hook up after all, even if it was just a short bit.  This was the last climb of the day, and I just wanted to get home, so I took the quickest, least climbing route back home.

By the time I got home, I had a whopping 84 miles, and 6400 feet of climbing.  That was one tough ride, and a tough day.  At least it gives me a gauge of where I am in preparation for the double.  I need more miles, and need to build up the endurance.  Three weekends without riding definitely has taken its toll on me.

Trying to Cool off in Pescadero

It’s one of the hottest weekends of the year, so it’s time to think about coastal routes.  Plus, it’s two weeks before the Grand Tour, so I had to get some miles in.  My lofty goal was to get in 100+, but you know how goals sometimes just to get done.

So most people were pre-occuppied with other stuff, so I did this ride solo.  I stuck arm warmers in my pocket, not thinking I’d need them … and I didn’t.  There was not a cloud in the sky, and even at 8 am, it was getting pretty warm.

I decided to take Arastradero to Alpine, then Portola over to Old La Honda for the first climb.  Normally, there is a water fountain at the corner of Alpine and Portola, so I was planning on filling up there before the OLH climb.  However, I get there, and there is no water fountain.  What the heck did they do?  Well, I probably have enough water to make it to the top of OLH, so I went with that.

Climbing OLH, I didn’t feel the freshest.  I spent a bit of energy concentrating on climbing those little bumps on Arastradero on the big chain ring.  So my expectation on OLH was not very high.  I immediately get passed by 4 riders, who just have so much energy.  I’m huffing and puffing and not getting as far.  They are huffing and puffing too, but they just seem to pass me as if I’m standing still.  I was able to pass a few people, but I had this one target rider in front of me, and for the life of me, I just could not pull him in.  In fact, he was distancing me.

I’m trying the best I could, and although I am not gasping for air, I felt like I did a lot of work, and it just felt like I had a slow climb.  Little did I know, after I downloaded my data to Strava, it was my personal best at 27 minutes (actually, that’s not true … I netted 25 minutes on the Low Key Hill Climb last year).

I refilled water at the store at 84 and 35, then headed down 84.  It was okay till we got some massive headwinds West on 84.  That made the ride a bit more challenging.  Hills, ok, but headwinds … and add to that the heat.

Not sure if many realize this, but 84 is a tsunami evacuation route.  I have proof.

Heading down 84, you eventually get to San Gregorio.  I then head south via Stage Road.  This is a nice, lightly traveled road, with some climbs, but not too tough.  It’s just enough to keep your legs honest.

It was such a clear day today, you could actually see the ocean from Stage Road (sometimes, that’s not possible due to fog conditions at the coast).

Got into Pescadero, and ate at the local store (they have some nice sandwiches).  Everyone flocks to the Country Bakery, and I can see all the bikes parked along the back of the store.  Now if they would only go down the street a little bit, the store is not as crowded, and in my opinion, serves better sandwiches.  I was sitting down, enjoying my sandwich, and seeing several group of cyclists pass by.  Every one of them goes right to the bakery.  I guess it’s personal preference, but if you don’t want to wait, there is another option.

The store also has a nice barbecue that it does at the patio of the store.  They also have live bands playing (mostly folk music, but hey, it’s entertainment).

Ok, I’ve spent long enough time in Pescadero … my original plan was to do a loop out to Pigeon Point, then back to Pescadero.  However, with all the headwinds, I decided to just skip that and head on the tsunami evacuation route on way to Haskins Hill and Alpine.  On the way over, I decided to stop by Paula (aka msincredible on bikeforums).

Paula has not been riding lately, because she is pregnant.  She still looks great, even being pregnant.  Some women are just like that … they look good no matter what the circumstance.  It was great catching up with her.  She happens to be right off of Pescadero Creek Road, just before the steep part of Haskins Hill starts.  What’s great is she is offering to provide food or drinks to any of her cycling friends if needed.  But since the park is nearby, you can also get water and bathroom stop there too.  Her place is pretty easy to spot … just look for the Orbea on the trainer, in the window of her living room.  I thought that was pretty funny.

Now the hard part is after leaving Paula’s place, we get immediately onto the climb.  We climb about 1000 feet on Haskins Hill, then a short downhill, before you get onto West Alpine for the real climb.  Haskins is sort of a warm up for Alpine.  However, I spent so much energy on Haskins, I didn’t have a whole lot left for Alpine.  It was a long journey, and unfortunately, the second half of the climb is completely exposed, so you have no shade to work with.

I think the combination of having Alpine come at 60 miles into the ride, and having to climb Haskins Hill right before it, makes this climb so tough.  I remember doing another ride, where I did OLH, then Alpine, and it wasn’t too bad.  There, Alpine came at mile 40 … that makes a big difference.

While riding on Pescadero, I noticed a large number of cyclists coming the other way.  In fact, I didn’t see too many motorcyclists, nor any fancy cars zooming up and down.  There were many local teams represented … I think they are probably training for the Pescadero Road Race, which is coming up later this month.

A couple things I forgot on this ride … first, I didn’t bring my e-pills.  That’s killer, especially on a hot day like today.  Second, I didn’t take my Claritin before the ride.  I heard that the pollen count was high, so that may have sucked some of the energy I was missing at the second half of the ride.

On the way home, I descended on Altamont.  This was the same stretch where I had my first accident, where it was a damp road, and I lost control, and took a spill.  This is also where they try to warn cyclist that this is a bad turn.  They put some interesting street signs here.  They also paint in chalk “caution”, but I don’t think it is as effective as the street sign.

All in all, it was a great ride.  My climbing fitness is starting to take shape.  My lower back is not straining like it used to, and I’m able to recover a little better.

Totals:  82.9 miles, 6214 feet climbing.  Quite a busy day, if I might so say so.

First Century of the Year … Lot Harder Than I Thought it Would Be

At the beginning of the year, I decided that I will go for another Triple Crown this year.  The California Triple Crown is 3 double centuries (200 mile ride) within one year.  I attempted the same thing last year, but I couldn’t finish one of them.  One reason is most likely due to fitness.  So I decided this time around, I’m going to train for long distance rides, so that my fitness level would be up there.

I led a ride, which I figured would be around 100+ miles, if I started from my house.  The ride basically went out Old La Honda, out to San Gregorio, then head southbound, climbing Stage Rd, then head out to Pigeon Point Lighthouse, then come inland via Gazos Creek and Cloverdale, then back on Pescadero Rd back through Alpine, then Page Mill, and then back into Palo Alto.  I figure this shouldn’t be a problem, just a longer ride.  I recall Ramon saying “Looks like a a good route and doable on paper”.  It turned out, for whatever reason, this ride was a lot tougher, not just for me, but for everyone in the group.  Was it because of the off season?  Perhaps.  Was it because we hammered too hard in the beginning?  That is a good possibility.  All I know is, as I am writing this, my legs are as sore as I can remember in recent memory.  This is just another in a line of classic Wrecking Crew rides … you know when you have been through a typical Wrecking Crew ride … your legs feel it.

Ok, on the ride itself, I met up with Ramon and Chris in Los Altos, at Bicycle Outfitters, and we decided to leave early enough, so we wouldn’t have to hammer it, pacelining at a brisk pace, just to get to the start in time.  We took an easy pace and got to Woodside 10 minutes early.  Few of the usuals got there a little late, but that’s okay.  It gave us time to chit chat and fool around.  However, the waiting around made us a bit cold.  According to my Garmin, it was around 44 F.  That’s cold.

From Left to Right, Michael, Donald, Chris, Ruth, and Marco.

When we finally started going, the only thing I can think of was hold ccc-cold it was.  Hmmm … I wasn’t nearly this cold when I got to the start.  Oh well … on we go to start the first climb, Old La Honda.  I didn’t want to time myself on this climb, but I still decided to employ the strategy of starting out in my big chainring, then slowly shift over to middle then small chainring.  I was not long before I got into the middle chainring, and I even got into my small chainring at about halfway point.

Chris was gung ho on wanting to check out his timing on OLH.  I didn’t want to find out what it was on the spot.  As it turned out, poor Chris got a flat almost after leaving the designated start of the climb (where everyone usually starts the timer).  In the end, my time wasn’t all that great … 29 minutes.  I was surprised that Chris didn’t catch up and pass me up, but I guess it took him a lot longer to change the flat than I thought.  The tandem even got to the top before he did.

We were all waiting for Ben, who was riding from home in Los Gatos, to meet us at the top of OLH.  He started out a little late, and he did catch up with Chris, and they both arrived at the same time.  This ride is starting to turn into a hot, cold, hot ride … warm up, get cold, warm up, get cold.

Off we descent to San Gregorio via 84.  I was having a hard time getting my speed up, and fell way behind.  Then, suddenly I see Donald and Ben off to the side.  We suffered another mechanical.  This time, it wasn’t a flat, but Ben’s rear freewheel had some issues.  The lock ring was a bit loose, and it prevented the wheel from moving.  The rear axle halves were loose too.  We were able to get it back in, and we were crossing our fingers it would stay put.  There wasn’t a bike shop close by … either climb back the way we came, for about 10-15 miles or so, or just keep on going.

Well, we kept going.  We got into a pretty good paceline, each taking turns pulling the lead, and that made the descent more enjoyable.  What I hate is going down that long stretch, all by yourself, and time trialing it all the way to the coast.  That gets demoralizing and you expend a lot more energy.

We caught up with the gang at the General Store in San Gregorio, then headed on to Stage.  I think my climbing legs were kicking in, as I was hanging in with Ramon, Donald, and Michael.  We normally take Stage Rd in the other direction, so this would be a little different.  The tandem was having problems at this point.  They hadn’t been riding very much lately, but we weren’t in a real hurry … since we were resting up at the store in Pescadero.  Wow, I’m not the last one on the regroups on this ride.  That’s a different feeling!

We continued on Hwy 1, and the pace was a real killer.  I hung in with the tandem for a little while, but the front pack started distancing themselves from us.

I passed the tandem to try to close in on the gap, but I didn’t want to kill myself.  I also want to help pull the tandem a little bit, but they just didn’t have the energy, which is shocking.  I guess that’s what happens when you have that much time off the bike.  Anyhow, I went on ahead, but I was out there solo.  But at least I got to see the waves crashing against the shore.

This is not the first time we’ve been out to Pigeon Point Lighthouse, but in the past, we always whip past it, without stopping by.  This time, we made it our stopping point, so we definitely we take a view of it.

We continued on Hwy 1, for about another 2 miles, before heading inland via Gazos Creek.  We had a few climbs here, and I took the lead up here (I figured I should, since this is my route, and I didn’t want to feel that I am freeloading off of everyone).  I felt like I was close to the same level as everyone on this ride.  The climbs were not terribly long, and they were gradual enough to keep everyone within reach.  In fact, we got into a bit of a paceline, climbing up the shallower section of Pescadero before reaching the steeper section of Haskins Hill.  When we did get to the steeper section, I did fall off the back.  However, for the first time, I was able to pass up Ben, and again, not the last one up the hill.  I’ve gotta tell you though, this is the first ride for Ben since coming back from his vacation of 3 weeks … that’s 3 weeks off the bike!

It started to get late, so Ben decided to go on ahead.  Chris and Donald went a little later, going on Hwy 84 then back home.  While we were waiting for Marco and Ruth, we were debating which way to head home.  Alpine would really suck at this point, as we were all very tired, and with no energy at all.  When Marco and Ruth showed up, they were absolutely not going to make it up Alpine, and preferred to go on 84.  In the back of my mind, I was hoping everyone else would do the same, and we did … yippee!!!  Alpine is one tough hill, especially after riding for 90 miles.

We eventually made it back, just before dark.  It’s a good thing I had my front blinkers on (I needed it, as I started at 6:45 am, and it was dark and foggy at that point).  However, even by the time I got home, it wasn’t dark enough for the lights to take effect.

I don’t know what it was about this ride.  As Ramon stated, on paper, it didn’t look that bad, but this really did in everyone.  After getting home, I was so tired, just simply walking around the house became a chore.  I thought maybe we all took a really fast pace, but it wasn’t all that much faster in my opinion … or maybe it’s because I am in better shape than before.  This “better shape” does not account for why everyone was feeling tired and weak by the time we reached the top of Haskins Hill.  Maybe we all needed solid food.  Perhaps we should have taken a short detour to Pescadero for solid food before going up Haskins Hill?  Maybe next time.

Photos posted at