Tag Archives: hill climbing

LKHC #2 Sierra Road


Second on the calendar is Sierra Road.  I ride to the start from home, and that gives me a nice 13 mile flat warm up.  When I left the house, it was actually a bit chilly, so I had to come with light vest and arm warmers.  Just as I thought, the sun would come out when the actual ride starts.  Oh well, off with the vest and arm warmers.


Sierra starts off with a visually insane road.  It just has the illusion of the road going vertically to the heavens.  It actually is not that bad, but it is a tough way to start the climb.  Everyone was really eager to attack, and I know I’m not going to keep up with that, so I just let them all go on ahead of me.


Once you get to a left turn bend, then road actually pitches up more (believe it or not).  That’s when even more people pass me up.  This is one of those climbs where you don’t care what’s around you, and you just concentrate on turning the crank and it’s just your own personal journey.


I thought I was the last in the pack, but then I heard someone yell out “car back!”. I was eventually able to muster enough energy to pass a few people (how the heck did that happen?)


I got the sense that I was feeling pretty good at this point.  Sometimes it’s just hard to tell, but you know when you feel good, you might be putting in a good time.  I didn’t want to think about it, but that adrenaline does feel good.  I also seem to put in better times when I know a inch of people are climbing the same hill as me.

Being a LKHC ride, it’s great to hear the support folks on the side of the road cheering you on and giving you words of encouragement.  I also get to do mug shots … I wonder how they turned out.

Photo Courtesy Christine Holmes

Montebello LKHC 2014

Thanks to Alexander Komlik

It’s that time of year again … start of the Low Key Hill Climb series.  It was a hot one for this ride … usually, you’ll want to carry a jacket for the descent, but not today.  At least I didn’t have to worry about stuffing extra clothes in my pocket.

This year, they’re using EventBrite, so we could sign up, pay donation, all from the comfort of our home and our PC and Internet.  Take care of all of that signing, payment stuff before hand, so that all we need to do is check our name on the sign up sheet.  Much nicer, and smoother.

I was realistic, I’m not going to be able to keep up with most of the climbers here, so I deliberately positioned myself in the back.  I also didn’t get too much climbing in before this weekend, so I wasn’t expecting too much.

Pretty quickly, the pack separated, and I was riding solo most of the way, which is fine by me.  However, I still had the edge in me, to avoid being the last person to finish the climb.  I think that kept motivating me to push forward.  What’s great about LKHC is that even though faster climbers will finish must sooner than me, I would see them come down the mountain, encouraging those still coming up the hill.  I heard a bunch of “you got it” and “good job, almost there”.  That did help.

The combination of the heat and the climb took a lot out of me, and by the time I got to the top, I just wanted to curl up.  I wasn’t expecting any water at the top, and there wasn’t.  Usually, on these climbs, when it’s hot, water is usually gone (mostly because some are filling up both water bottles).  But really, for this ride, it’s not really needed too much.  We’re completely descending from here anyways (no uphill climb, like on Hamilton).  However, it would have been nice to be able to top off my water bottle.  At least they had bananas, and peanut butter filled pretzels .. mmm

The shots from my Shimano Sports Camera came out pretty well.  I think it’s because I’m climbing, and not really going at any real pace, while if I was descending, I think these images would have been more blurry.

I looked at my Strava data, and found I did better than I thought I did.  My time was 49 minutes … although not my best, but at least I made it under that 50 minute mark.  I’m pretty happy with that.


Preparing For Another Organized Ride But Not Routine

Well it’s a day before Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge, and I’m still questioning my sanity.  This is a really hard century/double metric, with majorly difficult climbs, and I’ve only really been climbing again for the past 3 weeks.  But this is a special ride.  Karen and as bunch of other riders from Southern California are coming up to do this, so I cannot disappoint by not riding   As Karen says, it’s an annual event, must do.

I think I’m OK to do the climbs, but don’t think my endurance is quite there.  I’ll probably start with the first spur, then follow the rest of the metric century route.  I’d still have to do Jameson Creek, which is tough even when I’m 100%, and it’s just before lunch.  Man, what torture.  I think I’ll channel my Andrew Talansky in me, off in the back.

I was going to try hitting some hills a week before the ride, but when I got to Boulder Creek, I got a flat, and thought it best to come back along Hwy 9, so that in case I got another flat, I would be in range of help.  So no Jameson Creek prep ride .. I’ll just have to wing it.


The last prep I had was Montebello on Sunday, and Mira (which is only a short 0.5 mile climb but pitches to 20%).  I figure a couple if days rest off the bike is in order (not even commuting in).


Longest I’ve done since my accident was 65 miles, and I figure this will be close to a full century.  I’m actually pretty nervous about this …. About as nervous as I was for DMD, but for very different reasons.  But I’m also excited to ride with Karen, Ramon, and the rest of the gang making the trip from LA.

Wish me luck.

I’m Not Quite Ready for DMD Yet

I finally was able to get in a good training ride for DMD.  This was an 80 miler, starting from Fremont, then climbing Mt. Diablo, then back.  It’s actually a pretty flat ride, with one bump in the middle … that’s a huge bump. meetup-01262014-2We went out along Niles Canyon (Hwy 84).  This is a two lane road that can be pretty busy at times.  Since there is not a whole lot of shoulder room, we had to paceline it through Niles Canyon.  We kept up a pretty nice 18 mph average, and we kept that up for a good part of the flat stretch before getting to Danville.  A couple guys got flats along the way, but they had us go on ahead, thinking they would catch us on the climb.  Later on, I flatted as well close to the base of the climb.  I guess the good thing is I didn’t get the flat on the descent.  The bad thing is the hole in the tire was pretty sizable, and I had to “boot” the tire.  The one time I don’t bring a boot, is when I need it the most.  The only thing I had was a $5 bill … this is one expensive boot. After getting this flat, it deflated me … ok, I’ll stop with the bad puns.  But ever since then, my motivation and energy was not the same.  I think the off season affected me a bit more than I thought, because I just wasn’t climbing like I was before.  My back could feel it, that my core was not that strong, so I need a bit more work on climbing, as well as endurance riding. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miQYI93heho With the combination of the flat, and my general lack of climbing fitness, most of the group was there waiting at the top.  There were a few guys from the first flat that were still climbing (ones that I that would surely pass me, but they had valve problems with their flat). We all re-grouped after descending the mountain back at the base of the climb.  After that point though, my legs felt like jello, and it had no energy, so I rode the second half of the ride solo.  No paceline, just timetrial it back.  At least there were no stiff headwinds, so that’s good. It’s a good thing that DMD is still 3 months away.  I still have time to train, but at least I got a good long hill ride in.  You gotta start somewhere, right? http://www.strava.com/activities/109249407

Mt. Hamilton PR Shattered


Saturday, Bronwen led a meetup to go up Mt. Hamilton.  Funny that she thought only 1 or 2 people would show up.  We had about 16-20.  Uh, hello, this is one of the most iconic climbs, and it’s on a Saturday, and the weather is nice.  What were you expecting?

B Group Riders

B Group Riders

With so many riders, we split up the group into A, B, and C groups (A being the fastest).  A group started out first, as they were to do Kincaid option (another hill climb, out and back).  I rode with the B riders (because frankly, I cannot keep up with the A group).  I think the general criteria was completing the climb in 1:45.  I’d be lucky if I can make it in 2:00 (but more on that later).

Bronwen and I have this friendly competitive nature between us.  She was commenting that she was looking at Strava, and comparing her time with others, and noted that my personal best was just a hair above hers … but then again, that time was 2 years ago, and I haven’t come close to beating that yet.  Hmm, omen of things to come?

We kept leap frogging each other, until about 1/3 of the way, she slowed down, to take her jacket off (most likely while still riding/climbing) … in the meantime, I continued climbing at a good 8-9 mph pace.  I got ahead of her, but then I decided to take a quick pit stop a little past halfway, and that’s when she got ahead of me.  Damn … so now it’s catch up.


I didn’t try killing myself to catch up, but at least I had some motivation.  I remember having a chat with my friend Phoebe, who loves posting her suffer videos (known as freighttraininguphill on youtube).  She was saying how slowing her breathing down helped her gain time in hill climbing, so I think subconsciously, I may have been doing the same thing.

About 4 miles from the top, I suddenly see Bronwen, along with another rider, stopped at the side, taking a breather.  Ok, here’s my chance … I just needed to maintain my current pace, and just keep motoring.  The important thing is to not get overtaken and caught.  It’s that fear that kept me going.


Got up to the top, with the A group waiting.  I had no idea what my time was, since I didn’t start the timer at the bottom.  All I knew was it was 12:15 pm when I reached the observatory, but didn’t know what time we started.

Now it’s just a matter of enjoying the view, and recover before heading down the mountain.




After getting home, I found out I got a PR out of that, and by a whopping 4 minutes. Bronwen was saying I PR’d that, but I don’t know. I didn’t feel it at least. According to Strava, the time was 2:02:41. Sweet!

Check out this segment on Strava: http://app.strava.com/segments/340903 — Mt Hamilton – Official (to Gate)

Climbfest, Heatfest, Sufferfest … all just to get to Crystal Lake

We all know about the climbfest (Baldy, Crystal Lake, Dawson Saddle come to mind), but I just heard a newly coined term, heatfest.  I guess this all comes under the category of sufferfest.  I might as well add my 20 year old, Diamond Back, which weighs about 25-30 pounds, with harder gears (53-39, 11-26) … and this is a recipe for pain.  Maybe we should call this painfest?

1002899_694615203886966_870337405_nKaren sent an invite for another epic ride, up Hwy 39, to Crystal Lake, with various options to go along with it.  Since I am carrying an older, heavier bike, I let it all be known I will be doing the minimum … Crystal Lake only.  Last time I tried, we did Baldy Village, then attempted the climb … only to succumb to heat.  But we also had a lot of climbing and miles in our legs … this time, figuring that we’re heading straight for Crystal Lake first, my chances of success may be greater.

IMG_36319211811943Everything was fine up to East Fork Rd.  After we all re-grouped (water re-fill, bathroom), that was probably the last time I was actually riding with the group.  This is where the combination of climbing distance, climbing elevation gain, and heat got the best of me.  This road was very open … by that, I mean there is no break for coverage at all.  What little trees there were was few and far between.

G0060704As I started getting higher in elevation, fatigue really set in.  Cadence was slowing down, but since I didn’t have my Garmin on my bike mount, I couldn’t tell how slow my cadence was, nor did I know how slow I was going.  Additionally, I had no idea how hot it was … but the heat was intense, so I had some idea it was bad.  Each time I saw a tree, I wanted to stop, but I didn’t want to concede, as I kept remembering my motto “I’m in it to finish it”.

G0040450Finally, I succumbed to the heat, and stopped under not one, but two trees.  It did feel good, with a little faint breeze.  This was just enough to help me recover, and continue on.  Each time, a part of me was all ready to turn around, but being in a group trumped that, and made me continue on.  Water was not an issue, and I wasn’t dehydrated … It was just the heatfest!

20130817_123035I got a pleasant surprise, seeing my old friend John, who I used to ride with all the time back in my old Foothill Cycle Club days.  Been a really long time.  Seeing him come up behind me after making the right turn towards Crystal Lake was enough to get me going all the way to the Crystal Lake Cafe.  I finally made it … and low and behold, I see my friend Ken sitting there having a Fritos Pie.  Mmmmm.

While chowing down there, I saw some other strong riders, who had gone up further on Hwy 39, to Mt. Islip, then made their way down. Now they were on their way to go to East Fork, then over to Camp Williams, then onto little GMR.  Me, I’m just going straight down Hwy 39.  It was hot enough as it is … then, when I went back to the cars, it was showing 103 F.  What???  Later, I heard it was 114 F at Camp Williams.  Just thinking of it makes me hot.

I was trying to get a video of my descent going down, but I spend too much battery taking still shots and some video earlier on.  What was left is the video below:

Stats?  I ended up with 51.1 miles, 6791 feet climbing … nice clip, eh?  http://www.strava.com/activities/75446129

Enjoying The New Ride on My Volagi


This was the first weekend I had to give the Volagi a good test, so I decided to ride up Hicks and Mt. Umunhum on Saturday, and OLH and the chipsealed Skyline on Sunday.

I was actually quite worried about Hicks and Mt. Umunhum, because it is really steep (stupid steep) and before, I did this on a triple.  I’m riding a compact double on my Volagi.  On the low end, I’m losing 3 teeth, so it will be harder.

Riding a compact double, I almost had to re-learn how to ride, or how to shift.  I didn’t have the luxury of going into my middle chaining, so I guess it’s either all or nothing.  Getting to the base of the steep climb of Hicks, I was riding incredibly well, and I figured it’s just a matter of time before everyone starts passing me, but that didn’t happen.  I was in my lowest 34-28 gearing, and I seemed to be passing almost everyone in the group.  Wow, am I really that strong, or is the novelty of the new bike giving me extra adrenaline to go up the hill.

We re-grouped at the base of Mt. Umunhum, giving us a little time to catch our breath. That one stretch of Hicks was brutally tough and steep, and although the beginning of Umunhum looked tough, it wasn’t as bad as the tough part of Hicks. After the first few switchbacks, it seemed to either level off, or the legs just got used to the pain and torture.


We all kept going up to the no trespassing sign. I had forgotten how tough the last part after the gate was, and I ended up having to tack it. I still think I would have done the same thing if I had my triple.


Now the true test … the descent … the road is about as chopped up as you can possibly imagine. When we got to the bottom, we were all wincing from the jarring our hands, backs and legs felt. So this is what it’s like to ride cobbles? This Volagi performed well, and I could really appreciate the design after going through this ride. I’ve done this before on my Seven, but I think I felt better after riding this on my Volagi.

The next day, I took a ride up Old La Honda, and was able to put in a decent time, 28 minutes. I was impressed by that, since the last few times on it, I mustered 30 minutes. It still is 4 minutes off my PR, but it’s a time I feel good about. I then took this on Skyline, which has rough chipseal. Again, I didn’t feel as much suffrage on this, so I’ve gotta say kudos to the engineering and design of this bike. I think this will be less fatiguing for me on long rides.

With a Name Like On Orbit, it’s Gotta Be Tough

This weekend, my friend Karen came up for another Bay Area visit.  Ramon tweeted me earlier in the week, “Bohlman/On Orbit, Hicks” … oh boy!  You know what that means … climbfest!  NorCal style.  This will be a doozy.

DCIM100MEDIAWe started out with a few warm up hills, Mt. Eden, Saratoga Heights (with some sort but steep 16% grades), just to get our legs warmed up.  This was just a teaser.  This in itself would be a pretty tough ride, but at least the length of the climb is short.

It’s kind of funny, that the start of the climb on Bohlman is right where the cemetary is.  That’s a strange omen … something about taking it’s victims that attempt to climb this.

It’s hard to tell which is tougher, Bohlman or On Orbit, but I like to think of On Orbit as an extension of Bohlman. Climbs were sustained at 15-25% for about 1.5 miles.  I was pretty quickly riding from the back, but I was not in a hurry to finish this climb, especially with Hicks later on in the ride.  The switchbacks on Bohlman were incredibly steep, and there was not much relief, no matter if you were on the inside or outside of the curve of the switchback.  It’s a good thing this is a small residential street, with not a lot of traffic.

DCIM100MEDIAThis is one of those climbs where you need to tack, and it’s no shame to get off your bike and rest, but the hard part is getting back on. I didn’t stop, but there were so many times where I was tempted to. Luckily, there was a flat spot where Bohlman and On Orbit intersects. That gives me a few moments to take deep breaths and compose myself, and ready to finish this damn climb.

I think On Orbit might be a little easier than Bohlman, but not by much … it’s still a sufferfest only because your legs have been under duress for some time.  I climbed pretty much seated, only because the grade was so steep, I was afraid if I stood too much, I’d tip over.  I did pass a couple of women who were walking on this road, and I can only imagine what their reaction was of me struggling up this hill.

Now we had to go down the same way we came up.  Now, keep in mind, these grades ranged from 15% to 30%, and we have to go down these hills.  It got so steep, Karen had to walk it down some of the steeper grades.  Now that’s a first.  We were not in a hurry to come down, and we broke up the descents multiple times.  This also helped cool our rims down, and save our brake pads.

DCIM100MEDIAAfter this we headed over through Los Gatos, en route to Hicks.  There was enough flat junk miles before hitting the hills that our legs, for the most part, had recovered.  I can’t really say that Hicks was as tough as Bohlman or On Orbit … it’s a notch below, but it was still tough.  16+% grade is still pretty tough, and I definitely wasn’t attacking Hicks.  I was still climbing from the back of my heels.  Strangely enough, we were the only ones climbing.  Either it’s not that popular, or people have more common sense than us.

20130330_123210It didn’t occur to me to climb Mt. Umunhum, as Ramon had specifically mentioned Hicks.  It would have been a great day for it, but we’ll have to save this for another day.  I think I had enough in my legs to climb to the gate on Mt. Umunhum, but Mt. Umunhum is not going away.  Next time, we’ll attack it without Bohlman … Hicks and Umunhum is tough enough without Bohlman and On Orbit.

More pics are at https://plus.google.com/photos/107775104280723216283/albums/5861508720868290513?utm_source=chrome_ntp_icon&utm_medium=chrome_app&utm_campaign=chrome&partnerid=gplp0&authkey=CMuEkonTuKSUAQ

And of course, the Strava data – http://app.strava.com/activities/46543599

Hill Climbing and Fast Rolling Hills Makes for a Tough Weekend

Saturday, I decided to do some hill repeats of Montebello, my local mountainous hill.  It’s a 5.2 mile, 2,000 foot climb.  I did this with the Meetup group, who were training for the Death Ride.  Their goal was to do 5 repeats … that’s a 10,000 foot day.  I wasn’t up for that much, but I did join them for climbs 2 and 3.  It was actually a pretty decent sized turnout.  I think there were about 12 of us when I went on the first climb.

I felt good going out, and I started out on my middle chainring.  However, that soon changed, as the grade pitched up to 15+%, and time to shift into the granny gear.  I could already see the strong riders pull away from me, and I’m not about to go chasing them (as if I could).  As soon as I reached the school, it leveled off a little bit, and was able to go back to my middle chain ring.  From that point on, I kept it there, and just powered it until the last mile of the climb.

I know this climb very well, and with that in mind, I just kept my head focused 10 feet in front of me, not tempting myself to look and see what slope I have ahead of me.  That kind of help me with my pacing and aggressive hill climbing.  As they always say, don’t look up, and just power through it.  I felt pretty good, but only found out afterwards, it was not a PR, but that was okay.  All that mattered was how good it felt.

Munchies await at the bottom of the hill

Down the hill, and to munch on snacks (cookies, nuts, smoked salmon …mmmm).  Kudos to Mark for coming up with this ride, and most importantly, the rewards at the bottom of the hill.  After munching on goodies, it’s back up the hill again.

Second time around, I could definitely feel slowness in my climb, as expected.  Now you would think that doing the same climb over and over again would be a little boring, but for some odd reason, it isn’t monotonous.  It had its own challenges.  Remember how I said I would just keep my head down and not look at what’s up ahead?  Well, I looked up … not sure if that impacted my climb time, but it was a little slower … 5 minutes slower.  Back at the bottom of the hill, munching for more goodies, and I do feel my legs are saying no more, so that’s it for me … only 2.

Sunday, it’s some rolling hills, with about 60 miles and 3000 feet of climbing, so doesn’t look too bad, right?  No long climbs like Montebello … only substantial one is Edgewood, but there are plenty of short bursty, punch in the gut climbs.  This group had some aggressive riders, but I was able to hold my own.  After the major climb of the day, it was mostly flat on the way back.  For some reason, I was struggling to hang in with the group.  I just started to think, is this how it’s like to ride in a multi-day race?  Mountainous terrain one day, aggressive, short, rolling hills the next day … and it had me gasping, reaching to grab onto any wheel in front of me.

Perhaps it’s the aggressive hill climbing in the morning, or maybe it was the intensity and amount of climbing I had the previous day … but I did feel the suffrage.  Good suffer points, I guess.  At least I’m not racing … but then again, anything’s possible.

Both Sides of Hamilton and with PRs

Sunday was a Meetup ride up Hamilton, and a small group wanting to do the backside as well.  I was determined to do this, after I failed to complete this when I arranged to get my friend Karen, Dan, and Ramon together for a ride.  From reports, it looked like it was a great ride, and I was sad to have missed it (due to a broken chain).

I was suffering through allergies the day before, so I made sure I took antihistimine, just so I wouldn’t be suffering while on the climb.


We had a great turnout, with ~ 7 of us heading out 5 minutes before everyone else.  I actually wanted to head out earlier, just because I know I’m not going to be one of the faster climbers.

The lead group was going at a pretty brisk pace, but not fast enough where I was not able to hang on to them.  Or could it be that they just wanted to keep the group together?  Well, whatever it was, I was able to climb the first half to Grant Park without feeling too fatigued.  Now, knowing that I’m planning to do both sides of Hamilton, you would think I would conserve my energy, right?  Well, think again.

I proceeded to start plucking away at riders in front of me.  I think I’ve come to the conclusion that climbing mountains, in a big group, gives me that much more adrenaline, and amps up my aggression.  I did notice that I was only in my middle chain ring … hmm, maybe that’s why I was climbing faster than I normally would on Hamilton.  What I didn’t understand was why I wasn’t all tired.  Maybe it’s because of the previous week’s hill climbing I’ve been doing?

I got up to the top, and much to my surprise, I wasn’t the last of the group wanting to do the backside.  I took a quick glance at my Garmin, and it seemed like I could come close to my PR, but since I didn’t look at what time I started, I couldn’t tell.


After chowing down, and getting our sugar high (coke), it’s time to head down the hill, on the other side of Hamilton, and ready for the steep climb back up.  Since I climbed the front side solely on my middle chain ring, I decided to climb the steeper side with my granny gear.


As usual, I found myself near the back of the pack, but I did have company in the back.  They kinda kept me on a good pace, not faultering at a slow pace, and not climbing beyond what my pace can handle.  This time, I didn’t stop for any breaks at all.  I just felt a bit stronger today, and by the time I got back up to the top, I wasn’t as exhausted as I thought I would be.  Yes, this was a lot of climbing, but I felt unusually good about the day.


I met up with everyone back at the observatory, for another refreshing stop, before heading down the hill again.  Now that the hard part is done, we could relax and do some sight seeing.  Yeah, I know, I’ve taken these pictures before … but every time I come up here, the feeling is different and refreshed.


Okay, now I’ve teased you long enough … final results … PR on both front and back sides.  Wow, this doesn’t happen every day.  Front side, 2:07:54, and previous PR was 2:08:04.  On the back side, my PR was 51:28, and previous best was 1:01:43.  Wow, I beat it by 10 minutes?  Wow, I have to admit, this is a good feeling.