Wednesday, November 5, 2014

San Francisco: E and L both lose

Well, the voting is done, and the results came out largely the same as I had hoped.

In California, 47 passed, as I'd hoped, but so did both 1 and 2. 1 was a water bond, which focused on building dams which don't do anything to either create more water or conserve what we have, the obvious approach the latter in a state which does little to reduce water consumption by either agriculture or individuals. 2 was for a "budget stabilization" account for California. Maybe it will help. 47 helped reduce sentencing on minor theft (<$950) and drug possession. That's a good thing, and I supported it.

Locally, things also were generally good, except I was disappointed that Proposition E, the "sugary drink tax", got "only" 55% of the vote and for new taxes 2/3 is required. This is a bit silly. Consider the case where I have two measures, one which raises revenue via taxes, the other which spends the same amount. The People, being fiscally responsible, vote for either both or neither. 60% vote yes, 40% no. The result? Deficit, since the spending measure passes and the revenue fails. This is a result nobody wanted. So as a result we end up funding everything from bonds, which require only a simple majority, and on those we need to pay interest. It's really a bit of a joke.

So no soda tax, but no change in transportation policy either, something which measure L would have endorsed. It looks like L got less than 38% of the vote. That's a resounding reinforcement for Transit First, and should be the nail in the coffin of pro-car policies like free Sunday Parking or low car registration fees, both policies endorsed by our fine Mayor Ed Lee, who was perversely endorsed in the 2011 election by the San Francisco Bike Coalition. The victory for sanity was even greater if you consider what was written on the ballot was a highly misleading representation of the content of the measure: whether the city should "change" its policy on parking and streets. Had this been all I'd seen I'd have voted yes -- I want to see a change, a change back to metered parking on Sundays, a change to bus rapid transit, a change toward pedestrian malls, a change toward a more aggressive expansion of the bike network. Despite this obviously intentional deception, The People have spoken: it's time to stop pandering to the whiners and move forward with a complete streets agenda.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Nov 2014 election: San Francisco ballot measures


San Francisco virtually always has a complicated ballot on election day. This year holds its own in that regard, with 12 ballot measures as well as local offices. Here's some of my picks for the Tue election.

Here's a guide to San Francisco ballot measures.

District 8 Supervisor

Scott Weiner's my choice. He's had an excellent record so far, including solid positions on transportation.

Proposition A

This is a bond to fund transportation costs in San Francisco, including road repair. Well, for one thing we just recently passed a bond to fund road repair. against my support. Funding ongoing repairs with debt is a bad idea because it incurs interest on top of principle costs, and since paving the roads is a steady expense, there's no reason it shouldn't be allocated out of the annual budget. The main reason, though, I'm against this is that Mayor Lee recently ended sunday street parking metering (every other day is metered). This was going to funding MUNI, so in effect the MUNI component of this bond is going for free parking, not MUNI. I vote no until Sunday parking fees are re-instituted. Ed Lee further killed a restoration of the vehicle license fee in San Francisco. There's no reason to make it cheap to own a car in San Francisco, and giving away parking is bad in every way.


Proposition B

This is Scott Weiner's proposal that MUNI funding be proportional to population.

I have mixed feelings about MUNI because I think it is largely a money pit. On the other hand, I support robust public transit. Early in San Francisco's history, pre-1906, public transit was largely a free-enterprise deal, with private companies providing street car service, which was generally excellent. Now transit is provided publicly, and by any reasonable estimate, it's both terrible in quality and high in cost. I personally get very little out of MUNI service, as I avoid it if there's any other reasonable alternative. And in the free market, alternatives have emerged where they've been able to given the highly regulated market of transportation services. For example, Uber and Lyft and ZipCar are all services which have been enabled by the internet. These are small vehicle services: for large vehicles there's the tech shuttles and IT buses which serve commuters. MUNI, in contrast, is amazingly inefficient, with convoluted routes and stop schedules overburdened by NIMBY "every stop is sacred" politics because if you eliminate even one stop, despite the availability of stops one short block both up and down the street, then some grandma with her walker is going to have a hard time getting to the bus. So the service becomes virtually useless.

So it's chicken and egg. Do you throw more money at the problem, since without money it won't improve? Or do you embrace the far more efficient free-enterprise solutions?

With this amendment MUNI's budget will go to $256 million by 2015, up from $245. This is close to $300/person, or $1/day/person in the city.

So I'm on the fence here. Honestly I can't see more money making any difference to MUNI. I'd much rather see money go instead, for example, to the bike share program which is currently crippled by lack of scale. I really need to see a sign MUNI is going to lift itself from the present morass. The contrast to what I saw in Basel recently couldn't be more striking, and it wasn't just a budget issue.

I'll vote no.


Proposition C

This is to continue funding children's services for the next 25 years, since the similar proposition funding the past 25 years is expiring. The definition of "children" for this purpose is being extended from 18 to 24 years old.

With a 25 year record to stand on, you'd think there'd be more facts available in the campaign material about how effective the last proposition was. Of course educating children is important, but I don't see where these funds are going. Despite this, however, I can't find anyone except Starchild making an argument against, and Starchild's main argument is you can't trust government generally and that the extension to age 24 is unjustified. These are valid points, of course, but I'll vote yes. This is the first ballot measured I've considered so far, state or local, where I'll vote yes.


Proposition D

I have no idea why this is on the ballot and wasn't resolved directly by the Board of Supervisors. Do Board of Redevelopment members deserve retirement benefits? I don't know. I'll vote no.


Proposition E

Tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

This bill isn't perfect but few bills ever are. A similar tax has been highly effective in Mexico City, and the campaigning against this one has been misleading and cynical. Proposition E is a resounding yes.


Proposition F

This is a proposed increase in the height limit for development in the Pier 70 region of Bayview-Hunters Point. Obviously with an increasing Bay are population and a drive towards more centralized, less sprawl-oriented housing model, this proposal makes a lot of sense, as well as providing needed economic stimulus to a traditionally undesirable, crime-intensive area of the city. The list of supporters is impressive. Opposition is dominated by the anti-density, pro-parking crowd. I vote yes.


Proposition G

This would provide a surcharge on the transfer taxes paid on certain multi-unit buildings sold within 5 years of prior purchase. It's designed to discourage "flipping", which is perceived to be a negative influence on the housing market. But often "flipping" means buildings in poor condition are improved, then sold for a profit, which improves the general quality of the housing stock in San Francisco, as well as the general quality and attractiveness of the neighborhoods in which the buildings belong. And the amount of these surcharges is extraordinarily high -- over 20% in some cases. What's the economic effect of this? Suppose I have a near-vacant building for 3 years and I want out for whatever reason. Should I sell it to someone willing to make a long-term investment in the building, increasing the benefit to the housing market? No -- I'll sit on it for 2 years until I'm clear of the surcharge period, so it sits underutilized during that period assuming I lack the resources to properly renovate it. Any abrupt tax like this is distortionary, and while I support an incentive towards longer-term ownership, as this provides more stability, I fear that this one goes too far into the zone of stifling renovation. I vote no.


Proposition H

This would require certain fields in Golden Gate Park be kept natural grass without artificial lighting. This sounds good in principle but the reality is that the net benefit may be higher with an artificial field, and artificial lighting vastly increases the time window during fall and winter when the parks can be used. So I'm voting against this one. In any case the argument that grass fields are environmentally friendly, with their heavy requirement for water and fertilizer not to mention gas-powered mowers, is extremely simple-minded.


Proposition I

This would facilitate the city's ability to renovate fields, including the use of artificial turf. It's a direct contrast to H. I vote yes. It is not a bond nor does it directly increase taxes or spending.


Proposition J

This would increase the minimum wage in San Francisco to $15/hour. Obviously this provides a barrier to hiring entry-level workers. At some point the decision is made that I will not hire someone rather than hire them because the cost of hiring is increased. Minimum wages and their impact on hiring and the economy has been a favorite subject for economic debate for many decades. If the price competition is primarily from local businesses, for example a coffee house, and if demand is relatively inelastic, for example people are addicted to coffee and will not switch to making their own, then businesses will not appreciably suffer by paying their employees more and passing on the cost. It can be argued that the free market has resulted in the cost of labor being higher than this minimum wage anyway, and if that's the case, this isn't needed. I'm a bit on the fence on this, so will vote no.


Proposition K

Prop K will make it city policy to increase housing supply, including "affordable housing". This is a complex subject, including the effectiveness of "affordable housing" policies, but I in general support more, denser housing, so I'll support this. Really it doesn't do anything other than state a priority.


Proposition L

How many times can I say no? This is the initiative to reinforce the emphasis on private automobiles for transportation policy, calling it "balance". Prop L would be a disaster. It's the antithesis of the "transit first" policy which at least nominally has set San Francisco apart from other West Coast cities since the 1970's. Every step of the way toward support of pedestrian-cycling-transit friendliness versus parking-and-driving focus has been fought. If you vote for no other reason, if you vote on no other measures, go to the polls a and vote against Proposition L.



I'm friendlier to the San Francisco propositions than I was to the state propositions. I was against all of those except for 47. Here, I'm for C, E, F, I, and K (5) while I'm against A, B, D, G, H, J, and especially L (7). I'm big pro-E and big anti-L. San Francisco Bike Coalition is for A and B: they're for all propositions spending more on transportation. So I disagree with them there. The one I'm closest to supporting which I am against is J. But when I'm not sure I tend to vote no, unless the opinion for is overwhelming.



Sunday, November 2, 2014

California Propositions


Election time, so time to make my choices on ballot measures.

Proposition 1

The arguments against this bill are compelling. First, a focus on surface water storage via the construction of dams doesn't create any more water: it allows more water to be drained from our otherwise overtaxed rivers. Second, the cost of the bond come from the general fund. Costs of water storage should be paid through water use fees. The real issue is water consumption needs to be reduced, and it's simple economics that be incentivized via increased costs. Subsidizing water use doesn't accomplish this at all. So I am a skeptic about this bond justifying it's in excess of $7 billion cost. California needs to reduce it's excessive rate of water use, and this doesn't address that.


Proposition 2

This is supposed to be a "rainy day fund" for the state. Unfortunately, when there's "rainy day funds" there's the incentive to conclude a lot more days are rainy than sunny. A similar "rainy day fund" was passed in 2004, and it resulted in a general defunding of public schools. I don't trust that this one will be any more successful at keeping the state education system sufficiently funded. I'll vote no.


Proposition 45

This would require the state insurance commissioner to approve changes in insurance rates. It would also forbid credit history or history of insurance coverage from being used to determine eligibility or rates. I certainly agree with that, and I think the argument that this creates "costly new bureaucracy" is likely over-stated, but I fail to see an adequate case presented to the voters that this measure is effective in reducing health care costs. It's really too complex for the amount of time most voters can deliver to it. I vote no by default: the burden of proof is on the initiative to prove its worth. In this case, health care is already highly regulated, with existing programs and reviews, and the implications of voting for this are insufficiently clear.


Proposition 46

This is labeled as a requirement on drug-testing doctors. It seems like a good idea: surgeons operate on your brain, you don't want them dosed out on painkillers or whatever. But this is just a front. Nobody really cares about drug-testing doctors. It's really about raising the pain and suffering cap from $250k to over $1M. That's where the money is. I'm all for reimbursements in the case of negligence but excessive pain and suffering awards have a distortionary and negative effect on the health care system and on health care costs. I vote no.


Proposition 47

This reduces certain crimes like drug possession on "petty theft" (theft of something which has a value of no more than $950) from felonies to misdemeanors. Obviously we put too many people in prison for too long for the wrong reasons. We need to retreat from the "throw away the key" mentality which led to the fiasco of "3 strikes". I vote for this one. Note my Trek 1500 was purchased for $800 but all of my other bikes are beyond the "petty theft" threshold, but this would include phones which are very commonly stolen unless the content of the phone is assigned a monetary value, which seems unlikely.


Proposition 48

This would allow an Indian casino near Mono Lake. I vote no.



I vote no on all state propositions except 47.

Old La Honda: Chasing Mark

After last week's Powertap snafu where I tried pacing myself off the power meter only to later realize it was substantially over-reporting power, I wasn't feeling super-warm-and-fuzzy today about following the same approach in what was essentially a mandatory new attempt at the Wednesday Noon Ride. Using the calibration cycle on the Garmin Edge 500 had appeared to restore the Powertap to the regime where it was able to stay in tune during coasting phases alone, and the numbers I typically saw in the display were more typical of the pre-Switzerland mediocre Dan than the "suddenly blessed with amazing fitness" Dan the Powertap had been assuring me had replaced it.

Chris Evans and Brian Schuster of Squadra SF were at the start, two very solid climbers, especially Chris who'd been putting in an impressive string of mid-16-minute Old La Hondas with his approach of starting each week with a leg-ripping effort which I can only imagine matching for more than a mercifully small number of seconds. So as far as I was concerned, Chris was of no relevance. More relevant was Mark Johnson, who'd been putting up some low-to-mid 18-minute times on a regular basis. I certainly hoped to be able to stick with him. A big stretch was to move into the high-17-minute range, which is my known record on the Ritchey Breakaway. I didn't want to think about that. But I certainly had hopes of an 18:30.

I'd been discussing pacing strategy with Chris, noting the exceptional nature of his starts. He said he'd experimented with more measured starts and they didn't allow him to recapture the time boost (or is it distance boost?) he got from going hard at the beginning and then tapering back to what he can sustain. My assertion, and he agreed with me, is riders with exceptional top end power (or work capacity) can do a harder start than those with more limited reserves above threshold. I agreed from my own experience that there is no recovery from a too-slow start. A large fraction of that time is gone for good.

We hit the base and boom! Chris was up the road, rapidly disappearing around a corner. At the front of the remaining crew, Mark and Bill Peucel were chatting. Bill's been riding very well lately, but I knew I didn't want to be climbing at my chatting pace, let alone his which was a bit slower. So I passed them and set off at a moderately aggressive tempo.

Last week I'd been in the 36/23 most of the climb and I wanted to stay out of that gear, shifting into the 36/21 instead. I set a PR in 2009 riding exclusively in the 36/18, with the Fuji, reaching the top in 16:49. I later broke that (in Dec 2011), but I certainly knew that I wasn't going to be spinning anything close to 2:1 today. But if 36:18 is 16:49, then at the same cadence a 36/21 is 19:37. I certainly expected to be considerably faster than that. But recently, since returning from Switzerland, I've found my desired climbing cadence has been higher. Maybe it's because my legs are tired from a relatively heavy load of riding and cycling and that forces me to seek refuge in higher cadences, which result in reduced muscular loading.

So in my 36/21, I surged past the two leaders. Mark followed. I basically ignored him, keeping the cadence on my gear. However, I started to feel this pace was becoming burdensome, especially during the steeper of the positive grade undulations. Eventually I was forced to relent, downshifting into the 36/23 I used last week. Glances at my power meter, which I was trying to ignore, weren't encouraging.

Mark took the lead here, simplifying my pacing task from this point. It was simple: stay with Mark. So I got onto his wheel and tried my best to not think about anything else. Eventually the top would arrive.

Mark does this climb almost every week, and he's a confident guy, so knows how to pace himself. The pace never dropped so far I felt as if I wasn't being inspired to go my best. Often, following others, I feel like when they move to the front they lose motivation and the effort drops too far. This wasn't the case with Mark. Sitting on his wheel had become a real challenge. I found myself letting little gaps open on the steeper bits, using the more gradual bits to reclose them. All that mattered to me here was his wheel.

Around a corner, a large truck approached, leaving us maybe a 1-meter ribbon of road, slowing but not stopping. Mark slowed a bit as he passed, but I slowed a bit more. So leaving the truck behind he'd opened a significant gap: maybe 5 meters, and he wasn't going to wait around for me to close it back up.

But the reduced pace passing the truck provided recovery, and as the top approached soon after, I accelerated in the low gear to try and pass him by the stop sign. I failed, but I had at least reclosed the gap which had opened passing that truck.

Here's the power data, comparing running average to previous climbs:


And here's smoothed power versus distance:


This was an exceptional week for pacing in that I spent much of the final half of the climb glued to Mark's wheel. Pacing strategy was thus nullified: I follow Mark. If Mark slowed too much, I'd have taken the lead, but I was at my limit just following him. So micro-analyzing my pacing from this point is meaningless. I was on Mark's pace, not mine, taking advantage of a few % power discount for drafting, depending on the wind speed and direction.

The numbers: 272.95 watts, 18:43.38. Meh. I was 274.0 watts on 11 June, albeit with a time 13.27 seconds slower. My other powers this year, last week excepted when my Powertap was high on life, were three out of four within 2.3 watts of this value. My time was best of the year by 8.31 seconds, the previous best on 18 June. I am maybe 1 kg lighter than I was then, explaining the quicker time in conjunction with the time I spent glued to Mark's wheel, but meh. I was hoping for more from my trip to Switzerland.

That said: I did a 20 mile run on Sunday, approximately double my typical "long run" distance these days, running only approximately once per week other than a few blocks of consecutive days in Switzerland. I was definitely still feeling this going into the ride, and had definitely felt on my quick-pace ride into work the day before.

One interesting aspect of the ride was cadence. Here's a plot of cadence on the climb:


I spent much of the time over 80 rpm, which is unusual for me: historically I'm more likely to be in the low-to-mid 70's.

Gear selection can be calculated as cadence / (speed × development), with units appropriately matched. I get good numbers assuming a development of 2.100 meters. Here's the result:


I started with a 36/21, which I'd normally feel comfortable in the whole way up, except half-way I retreated into the 36/23 for much of the time, except for a few times I upshifted on flatter bits. Gear selection stopped being an issue once I let Mark take the lead. I simply shifted into the gear in which I felt most comfortable riding on his wheel. It's different when doing the pace oneself, in which case you're picking a gear which maximizes speed. I think my preference for a low gear, high cadence, was due to fatigue.

So I have some headroom on Old La Honda. How much? I don't know. I need to avoid gaining back any of the mass I lost in Switzerland, for one thing. And I need to keep up the intensity and consistency in my riding, two factors which had been notably missing for much of this year, including the months preceding my trip in September and early October.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Low-Key Hillclimbs week 4: Berkeley Hills

As we descended back to the Peets Coffee which marked the start of the week 4 Low-Key Hillclimb route, Rich Hill said to me: "has Low-Key ever done a day with 4800 feet of climbing before?"

I paused. Hamilton? Not quite, only 4400. Diablo? Not close. Portola Valley Hills last year? No -- less than 3000 total feet. What about weeks with optional extra climbs, like the Diabolical Double or the Lomas-Marin Ave combo? No and no.

"I don't think so. No -- I'm pretty sure not," I replied.

I felt good about this, because after 6 intense efforts up climbs with vertical gain from 476 to 764 vertical feet, I was cooked.

Details of the route are here. Paul McKenzie designed a route of absolute brilliance, tying together a combination of classic and obscure climbs in the maze-like Berkeley-Oakland-Hills with a minimum of overhead. Of those 4800 vertical feet, 3825 were against the clock, 975 part of the untimed transitions (still timed, actually, but with a 1 hour + 3 min/km time limit which was plenty for relaxed regroups plus a dawdling recovery pace from one to the next). The goal was to have riders repeatedly pummel themselves with one hard effort after another, not stopping until 6 challenging "short climbs" were done. And while I call the climbs "short", that's "short" in comparison to Old La Honda, the canonical middle-length climb, but still long enough to earn a Tour de France cat 4 or even cat 3 designation.

Pacing in a route like this is an exercise in macro-versus-micro. There's pacing within each climb: go out super-hard at the start then try to hold on, or target a steady effort? I went for more of the latter, in deference to the macro-pacing aspect: the week wasn't just a single climb but six, and while there's recovery between them, that recovery is obviously only partial. Yet I had enough faith in my recovery, given my combined running and cycling volume over the past two months, that I wasn't going to hold back too much on the early climbs to save anything for the later ones. Better to push it hard, then again, then again, then again.

And this worked. I faded a bit on the fourth climb, not having started the ride with enough calories (oral surgery has me on a soft-food diet, and all I had was a half-pack of Sharky chews consistent with that, although I probably should have used some sugar solution in my bottles, which I generally avoid due to the difficulty getting the valve adequately clean). But then after climb 4, we reached Paul's parked car which he'd stocked with chews, gels, and cans of Coke. A 1/3 can of Coke mixed with water + a pack of Clif Blocks was a big boost, and I was able to make a good effort up Wildcat, climb 5.

After Wildcat, though, I felt done. If this was an interval session, at this point I would certainly have headed home, feeling I'd done an excellent day of work. But this wasn't an interval session. It was Low-Key. Stopping simply wasn't an option. We still had South Park...

So I recklessly threw myself at the South Park climb. There was no reason not to. This was it, the last climb of the day. And with Patrick Gordis (who had skipped two of the intermediate climbs and so was no longer officially part of the "event") dangling in front of me I had plenty of motivation. I wanted, waited for him to crack, even ever so slightly, and I'd have him. But although he slackened his effort just a bit when the road leveled out partially before the final kick to the top, allowing me to reduce the gap, I simply could not catch him. But it didn't matter, really. I'd given everything, drained the tank which I'd thought had already been drained. It was a good, solid effort when there'd been nothing left. Now I was truly, legitimately, done.

This feeling of digging deeper than I had thought I could was intoxicating. For me, the day was a success.

Interestingly the ranking on each of the climbs was virtually identical. People would move up a place or down a place, but with the exception of the Quarry-Volcanic climb #3, which ended in muddy dirt which some people handled better than others, taking any one of the climbs versus their sum would have produced very similar standings and very similar scores. So was the day a waste? You see this sort of argument all the time, for example related to Tour de France stages. "Short stages produce the same results, which are dominated by the final climb, so why waste the time, effort, and expense of longer stages?" This misses the point. It's not just the result, but how you get there where the value is. It's about the story. The story of week 4 of this year's Low-Key Hillclimbs was a relatively unique one, rivaled only by last year's Portola Hills route, which comprised much shorter efforts. Certainly no other week in the 2014 series will be the same.

Here's my VAM from the ride:


I've plotted VAM (rate of vertical ascent) versus time for portions where VAM exceeds 300 m/hr. Tunnel is a relatively gradual climb so VAM is relatively low due to power given up to wind and rolling resistance, with the exception of one surge. On this climb, I was riding with Bill Laddish and Robert Easley most of the way up, the last time on the day I'd be able to stick with them. The pace early was sluggish, so I took the lead, a step I knew was a tactical mistake, but I wanted to establish a solid pace to break the group up. This worked, with only Bill and Robert following, until they took over. I was following them until a glance at the altitude profile on the Edge 500 showed we were what appeared to be quite close to the summit, so I ramped up the effort (see the spike). Unfortunately there were still 2 km to go: the Edge had spontaneously zoomed out, as it likes to do, and without having given adequate attention to the axis scales I thought the summit was a lot closer than that. This surge, however, inspired Bill and Robert to keep up the pace, a pace I could not sustain, and I finished alone in 3rd. This was my best result of the day.

Thorndale was next. This one went very differently, as I'd had my jacket on for the descent from Tunnel and when I stopped at the base of Thorndale to remove it, nobody else paused. I was thus completely at the back. This wasn't too bad, though, as the climb was so steep, with essentially no car traffic, that I was able to pass through the group without much delay. You can see my VAM is nice and solid here, in part due to the steepness of the climb, but demonstrating I had no significant issues with bike traffic. With the grade, any advantage from drafting a rider who'd started in better position was negligible, especially since we had what should have been a tailwind at this point (although despite the weather forecast for high winds, I didn't feel much).

After Thorndale, some of the rain which had been forecast arrived, as as we waited at the top, a light cool rain fell. But it wasn't much, and none of us got wet, even those of us without jackets. Once again I put on my jacket, knowing for Quarry-Volcanic we'd be forced to pause at the start to cross the gate.

By the time we got to that gate, the rain had already abated. There was the question, though, about what the condition would be of the dirt section which finishes this climb.

We began on pavement, though. The start was ragged, with riders heading out one or two at a time, me close to last. It was another steep one, albeit without the sustained steepness of Thorndale, and I didn't see a disadvantage in starting relatively late. Soon, however, we reached the end of that. First there was gravel, but that didn't last, and then we were on dirt. The dirt had a thin layer of mud on the top, enough that my rear wheel would spin with any choppiness in my pedal stroke, or if I let my weight get too far forward. Between watching my pedal stroke, keeping my weight back, and picking a line through the mud I slowed considerably here, and two riders I'd passed early re-passed. This was to be my worst result of the day.

As we finished, riders ahead were unclipping to open a gate, through which they passed. This provided access to a lot from which one could admire the view, which with the low-hanging clouds was worthwhile. The foot-assisted passage through the gate clogged up my mud-intolerant Speedplay pedal-cleat combination, however. I missed the Bebops which now live on my Ritchey Breakaway: they have the float, low stack, and relatively light weight of a Speedplay (at least the Speedplay stainless steel spindle version: the Ti-spindled Al-bowtied spindles on my Fuji I was riding here are lighter), but have no issues with modest amounts of mud. As we descended I couldn't clip in, but we paused again at the gate at the bottom during which a combination of water remaining in my single bottle and scraping with a sharp rock cleared things out well enough for me to get my shoe into the pedal once again.

I was feeling a bit depleted here, as I noted, my pre-ride supply of Sharkies now long since gone. But I knew that Paul's aid station was after the next climb, so I figured I'd be okay. Running has taught me that the typical cyclist addiction to constant water + calories tends to be overdone.

Given that this climb wasn't particularly steep, 10% sustained on Fish Ranch, my VAM here is holding up fine, despite my lack of calories. When we emerged from Fish Ranch onto Grizzly Peak the grade leveled out considerably, to more like 7%. My VAM dropped here until a final effort where I got it back up to around 1450. On this climb I benefitted from using the Garmin course navigation feature where it provides a list of upcoming waypoints with the distance to each: it was the first climb of the day where I used this. Since I knew the finish was essentially at the intersection of Grizzly Peak and Lomas Cantadas, I knew at a glance how far that was. However, this would stop working before the next climb. I've had this mode fail several times before. If freezes, failing to progress. I really don't know why -- one of many little bugs in the otherwise very useful Garmin Edge 500 navigation feature.

After a much-needed break at Paul's excellent aid station, the Lomas Cantadas descent was taken slowly due to its steep turns and the wet foilage on the road from the recent rains, extending into the night before. A faster group had taken a slightly longer route than my group did, however, and we merged at the point where our paths converged.

Two more to go...

Our first climb of the day, Tunnel, is a very popular climb although I'd done it only once before. The next three were fairly obscure, such that even the local riders hadn't all done them. But Wildcat Canyon, our next climb, is one I'd done many times before. It starts steeply enough, nearly 8%, but then levels out substantially for the long run to Inspiration Point, where we were finishing. This made it probably the most tactical climb of the day, with only Tunnel close. It was very important to start in good position then to stick with a good group on the steep portion to assure a descent draft on the gradual section. A small gap at the top of the steeper bit could explode if one were to miss the train.

Climbing South Park with Rich Hill (Paul MacKenzie following us took this photo)

I started fairly well. Bill Laddish and Robert Easley, another rider who like Patrick Gordis hadn't done the full route, took off. I thought my position at the bottom had been descent but I missed this move and I wasn't going to get it back. That was fine, though, as I was in a group with Patrick, Bob Gade, and Robert Easley which was working together very well. Well, by "working well" I mean Patrick put in a killer pull up the whole bottom portion of the climb before the other two shot off together while I retreated to that special place we go when we're just trying to suppress unpleasant human body feedback. I ended up pulling Patrick over the first portion of the flatter section before he said "I'll take a pull", came past, and dropped me. From here to the end was just an exercise in perpetual suffering until I was reprieved by the arrival, at long last, of Inspiration Point and immediately prior of Paul's green line.

I was done, simply done. But being done wasn't an option, so I joined the others for a brief respite before South Park.

For South Park the plan was far simpler: start hard, stay hard, and hold it to the finish. I wasn't going to pay any attention to what others around me were doing. After a relatively late start, trying to postpone the inevitable, I supposed, I eventually caught and passed Rich Hill among other riders, then saw Patrick again just up the road.

I waited for Patrick to relent, just a bit, to open a crack I could exploit. But he simply would not relent. Finally the road leveled out a bit, the calm before the terminal storm, and there I saw my chance. Patrick didn't slow: his speed increased with the decreasing grade, but his effort was clearly off a bit here, and I was able to upshift and reduce the gap. But then the grade increased again and Patrick's focus returned. I couldn't reduce the gap any further and then we were done.

From the VAM plot I'm pleased to see I was able to hold a decent effort over this sixth and final climb of the day. My final surge on the last steep portion wasn't much of a surge, but finally a last effort to sustain the unsustainable pace I'd been holding. In the end, given what I had, I seem to have nailed the pacing on the day fairly well, even if tactically my performance may have been mixed.

But it was an excellent day, and an excellent course design by Paul. I'm not sure what we'll do next year but whatever it is will have a very difficult time living up to this one.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Dolphin South End Runners San Bruno Mountain "12 km"

On Wednesday morning I had oral surgery, getting an implant installed. Fun, fun. But the procedure was a lot easier than I had anticipated, so relatively easy I questioned my decision to get anesthetic, something I normally decline during fillings, for example. It hadn't even occurred to me to ask, as I expected such a scene of blood and gore that no rational human could survive the untempered pain and still maintain either consciousness or sanity. But I suspect it would have gone okay.

The worst part was at the end when I was strictly advised "don't do anything to raise your blood pressure for the next 5 days, including any vigorous exercise." No vigorous exercise for 5 days? But I was approaching the end of a recovery week after a solid block of work in Switzerland, and I was ready to get moving again. In particular, Saturday was the Low-Key Hillclimb up Welch Creek Road.

But that would be only 73 hours post-implant: too far short of the 120 hour recommendation for comfort. I really didn't want to compromise the success of the procedure, which given the lame nature of at least my dental insurance, was quite expensive as well as time-consuming.

So instead, I canceled my RSVP for Welch creek and volunteered instead, deciding I'd ride up relatively slowly ahead of the main field to help with results.

But I was extremely pleased when I got an email from the Dolphin South End Running Club of San Francisco informing me they'd be promoting a trail race in San Bruno Mountain State Park on Sunday morning (web page here). Perfect! DSE Running is sort of the "Low-Key Hillclimbs" of Bay area running, organizing a rich shedule of races year-round with low overhead (just a removable name tag you attach to your shorts) and a super-low entry fee ($5 for members, $7 for non-members like me). Most of their races are road, but they occasionally venture to the dirt. San Bruno Mountain offered some narrow, hilly trails which would be a great location for a short trail race. The distance was good, as well: 5 km nominal for the short race, 12 km nominal for the longer race. 5 km is too short, but 12 km would provde a nice quick opportunity to test my trail running legs for the first time since the Woodside Ramble 50 km.

course map

The day of the surgery I rode my bike to/from the train to get to work. This was fine. On Thursday, the next day, I did the same, adding a relatively easy lunch ride. When I got to a short but steep climb, Mora, I tried riding it at slowly, but I tasted some blood in my mouth, so concluded the surgery site was leaking. I turned around and rode back to work. The next day, Friday, I did a flat ride at lunch instead, and was fine. Saturday was the Low-Key.

All went well. Welch Creek begins rudely, with a steady 14% grade. This went fine. Then there's a fairly easy km before an 18% 500 meter section which wipes the smile right off your face. After a short break, there's a 500 meter section at around 13.5%, which feels utterly sustainable after the 18%. Another break, then a final 500 meters at 15% to finish you off.

Perhaps this was a bit reckless, and I tasted just a bit of blood on the 18% section, but I didn't feel as if I'd exerted myself that much. Given the huge difference between Welch Creek Road and the short section of Mora I'd climbed 2 days prior I figured I'd be okay for Sunday morning's race.

I set out for the start on my Ritchey Breakaway just as the skies lightened with dawn, around 7:10 am. I followed the SF2G "Dawn of the Dead" route to East Market, which becomes Guadalupe Canyon which climbs to the ranger station at the base of Radio Road which is where registration was scheduled. I arrived there at 7:50, 10 minutes before registration opened, and so I was the first one checked in and ready to go.

With plenty of time before the start I decided to preview the course a bit. The race was only 12 km, and I knew I was good for at least 20 km based on my running in Basel, so I was willing to do a bit of light running to study the course.

This turned out to be an exceptionally good idea. The route consisted of two loops. The first was the 5 km course: Saddle Loop and back to the S/F area. Then there was a nominal 7 km second loop, a somewhat extended variation on the Summit Loop trail. I noted first how we exited the S/F area for the 2nd loop, then where we entered the trail. From there, I followed the well-marked route up the climb, which I noted was narrow and rocky. Passing in some sections would be a challenge. I ran slowly up to the intersection of the route with the actual Summit Loop Trail, which we'd follow up and to the left. I instead went down and to the right, to return to the S/F. Although I was now running a section of the trail which wasn't on the course, I figured this would be more representative of the actual descent, which was on an different portion. This turned out to be the case: it was still single-track but less rocky.

FInally I returned to Radio Road, which is where the course would also emerge. From here I was a bit confused. Did we cross the road and return on the trails or return on the road? I tried the trails, but it became clear this was just sending me on an unwanted second lap of loop 2. So it must be the road, I concluded.

Then back towards the S/F area, it wasn't clear to me how we reached the finish line, which was clear enough. Did we take the most direct route, or pass the aid station and loop around in the direction the 5 km runners would likely finish? I asked someone at the aid station, but she clearly didn't know. I decided to ask at the S/F line.

I had around 10 minutes until the race start, so I stopped my Forerunner 610 and hit reset, to lock in the warm-up as an activity. Then I'd hit "start" again on the S/F line itself so I'd have a good distance for the present activity. This was a big mistake. Later, I got a warning that it was going to enter power savings mode in 20 seconds... 19 .... 18 ... I hit a button to prevent this. But a later warning I must have missed.

One thing I discovered during this time was a text description of the course posted by sign-in. This was very useful: it pointed out that we'd be descending a bit on pavement at the summit, a section I'd not reached in my warm-up, and also that we'd be returning to the finish by the bike path along the road-side.

Another big win: I was idly chatting with another runner when he told me "the race begins in the canyon": the final climb in the last kilometers where Summit Loop trail emerges from a canyon into which it descends. I'd forgotten about this from my previous visits here, but recalled it when he mentioned it. Good for me, as it gave me a final chance to make up ground after the final descent, favoring both my relatively better climbing than descending but also my ratio of endurance to top-end speed.

But soon it was time to line up. The promoter corralled us, then gave us a description of the course. Notably missing from the description was the detail of the finish. So I asked about the finish: do we loop cut to the finish here or there? He repeated the entire description of the course, once again leaving out the description of the approach to the finish. I decided maybe it was good that everyone now knew the full course in such detail, but I'd need to figure out the finish stretch when the time came.

We then relocated to our actual start position where we reversed direction. I was maybe 3rd row. I don't like starting at the front due to the usual surge of enthusiasm, where I don't want to be in the way.

Countdown, then go.

As I noted already, I realized at this point my Garmin was clearly not acquiring GPS, with the timer ticking but the distance stuck at 0. I'd been here before, and the most straightforward approach is to shut it off, back on, and hope I get GPS signal on-the-run. This unwanted attention devoted to my Forerunner caused me to lose more places: I was in the middle of the herd.

But then we arrived at the decision point where we could turn left to bypass the finish and enter the Saddle Loop trail, or turn right to go to the road from where we'd hit the Summit Loop trail. To my astonishment the pack went right. Once I'd snapped out of my shock at this, enhanced by the fact we'd been given the full course description not once but twice, I shouted "wrong way" and turned back to do the correct route.

Normally I'm a navigational train-wreck but despite my lack of self-confidence, I was sure this was the correct way. And it was, of course. But as a result I found myself running at the front of the pack.

Up the first climb of Saddle Loop I rank, seeing just a few runners immediately behind me. Apparently there was some delay in people getting back-on-route. But approaching the top, I was caught by a group of 4. They extended their lead as we hit the first descent. Then I was passed by one then another solo runner.

A glance at my watch showed my pace was brisk by my standards, so I didn't worry. The race was short, around 12 km nominal, but with the hills I expected it to take close to an hour, a substantially longer effort than a road 10 km, for example. Still, one hour is short enough that I had to stay just out of my comfort zone. I had to be pushing the pace the whole way. I didn't want to slip into some sort of steady-state as if I were on a longer trail race or a training run.

The lead of the guys immediately ahead of me stabilized not long after, so their rapid pass was early-race surge, as I'd expected. I wasn't sure of the leaders but I never expected to follow them.

After Saddle Loop, we turned a surprising right at the bottom of the descent, toward Crocker Road. It quickly became obvious this was an out-and-back to add some distance. Distance is good for me. The surface is "paved", in theory, but is so heavily potholed it's far worse for both running and cycling than decent dirt. As I tried to adjust my form to deal with this, I saw the leaders returning from the turn-around. They weren't that far ahead, actually. Then came the two other guys. Then came the turn-around.

Now the roles were flipped: I was the one with the lead as I surveyed the runners behind me. But I had enough confidence in my ability to handle the upcoming singletrack climb that I wasn't too worried about the gap I had. It was good enough.

Another course feature I'd not caught: rather than stay on the main trail/road back to the S/F, we diverted for the far more scenic bog trail. This drops down to what isn't much of a bog right now approaching the end of dry season, then climbs back. This allowed me to gain on the runner ahead of me, who when we exited the trail was just a short distance ahead.

We now approached the aid station near the S/F. As I got closer I shouted "electrolyte!" since I knew from my pre-race inquiries had an electrolyte drink and water. This would be my only replenishment of any sort during the run, my breakfast having consisted only of espresso and decaf tea with plenty of honey or maple syrup. I like doing races without much in my stomach, and for races this short, it's never been a problem.

The volunteers were on top of their game, and they pointed me at a cup pre-filled with blue liquid. Good runners can drink in full stride, but after some messy experiments in this I decided walking is better for me. So I slowed to a brisk walk, grabbed the cup, drank it all, and deposited the cup on the side of the trail as I started running again. It didn't take much of a surge, a natural response to the recovery I got from the few steps of walking, to get back to where I'd been relative to my friend ahead of me.

We then hit the road from the left side. There was an immediate right turn. He followed the left edge of the road while I apexed the road to the inside. I didn't see anything that this was out of bounds of the course. This allowed me to pass him before we entered the trail. The turn to the trail was marked and since I'd previewed this part of the course before the race I was fully confident of what I was doing. After the race some runners reported having problems making this turn.

I extended my lead as the trail started climbing and soon I saw the next runner ahead: fifth place. I was a bit worried about passing him. First I had to catch him, then I had to get past which might be challenging with the tight singletrack. But then he started to walk. Deja-vu to the final kilometers of the Woodside Ramble 50 km where I passed a runner ahead of me who also started to walk. I had no interest in walking: my legs felt refreshed after the mental break of finishing the Saddle Loop, and I ran past, greeting him as I did so.

He followed me a bit but then when I glanced back he was gone.

The course here was well-marked with chalk, but I was glad anyway for having previewed it before-hand. Soon I was past the point I'd diverged from the race route on my warm-up, the summit in close sight. Another runner was visible on the slopes ahead. Could I catch him as well to move into 4th?

There was a long straight, then a turn, then a straight to the gate to the parking lot at the summit. This might have caused me some concern except I'd read the course description posted at registration, that we had to run down the road to get back to the course. I knew roughly where this juncture with Summit Loop was in any case.

But first the gate.... as I approached the gate it was clearly closed, as usual, leaving me the option of going to the right, going to the left, going over, under, or through one of the gaps. But then I saw there was a warn foot-path to the left, so that's how I went. Minimal time lost...

Through the lot, up theshort hill to the finish of the New Year's bike race, and then I was on the paved descent. I focused on using the whole road, cutting the tangents of the corners, an important optimization so few trail racers seem to do.

The turn to Summit Loop trail wasn't far along the descent. It was well marked, I thought, if you were looking for it as I was. There was a moment of confusion as there's a paved portion which is essentially a driveway for cars, the trail going to the left. This caused me to come to a complete stop to correct my course, but I didn't lose much.

Onto the descent... this was indeed like the portion of Summit Loop I'd previewed, not nearly as rocky as the Ridge Trail and Dairy Ravine trails which we'd climbed. Still, it wasn't trivial: I still had to watch my footsteps. I was worried about being caught from behind, but also thinking about catching the runner ahead.

Finally the descent ended as I entered the canyon. I'd long since lost sight of the runner ahead. It turns out he considers himself a strong descender and was busy gaining ground on 3rd place, leaving me further behind. And it wasn't until I later looked at the Strava Labs activity replay that I realized how close at this point was the pursuit from behind. The runner I'd caught to move into fifth had steadily made ground on me on the descent. Had this final portion been flat, he may well have closed the gap, but with the climb I was able to pull away for good.

I felt good here, keeping a good pace on the climb, knowing there was no need to hold back since the race was close to done.

Once it leveled, I was soon back to the road. There the optimization began once again. I saw no indication that we were to remain on one side or the other, so I used the full width, apexing the two principle corners before we passed under Guadalupe Road for the final few hundred meters. Then there it was: the finish, and I was across, under 1 hour on the clock.

After hanging out near the finish, eating some grapes and drinking some sports drink, changing into my cycling shorts, then finally collecting my 5th place ribbon, I was ready to head home. So I got back on the Ritchey Breakaway, rode back over Saddle Loop dirt trail, descended South Hill Road, and from there crossed Geneva to Italy, worked my way back to Mission, Valencia, and eventually back to Noe Valley.

Overall, I was very pleased with how the race went. My running has been ad hoc, basically running when cycling wasn't convenient. I got some solid run blocks in during my stay in Basel, feeling some decent speed kick in when I wanted it. But I'd done no trail running, in particular no serious descending. I was really happy my quads survived the descents on this race seemingly intact. Indeed, the next day I felt slightly tired, but only slightly.

Perhaps most importantly, despite a full race effort, my mouth was fine. So evidently the surgery site had essentially healed.

I don't know what my next trail run goal will be. Maybe a half-marathon will be a good test. If I focus on getting in 1-2 runs per week during Low-Key Hillclimb series, I think this is doable. Half-marathon is a great distance: more time to enjoy the trails than the 13 km distance I'd run today (according to GPS), but not far enough that I need to worry about the distance too much. I've bonked during 30 km races, but I've always handled half-marathons okay.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Dutch Lotto jersey, revisted

Back in July I designed a jersey for what is at present the Belkin team, but which will become the Dutch Lotto team. It was just a hack. I didn't expect the professionally designed one to actually look similar to any significance:


The actual jerseys of the team for the 2015 season were just revealed:



2015 jersey

Not too bad, I think...