Sunday, June 27, 2010

Don Lundell at Western States 100

Western States 150Zombie Runner's retail store is across the street from my office. I often go in there for a pack of Clif Rocks, the occasional running supplies, just to look around, or a cup of their excellent cone-filtered decaf coffee. Don Lundell, a founder of the company, is usually the one handling the coffee orders, which he does while working on the web site, which is responsible for most of their business. Don is an accomplished ultra-runner, and always offers excellent advice when I chat with him. His perspective is interesting, as he views 50 km trail runs as just training events, the distance not a particular challenge. In fact, he encouraged me to run one at a time when I was feeling intimidated about 30 km.

"It just requires a change of attitude," he explained to me. Be willing to walk up hills, and be willing to take walk breaks down hills.

Zombie RunnerWell, I wasn't quite ready to make the leap to 50 km, let alone 30 km. But for the 20 km I had planned, I did follow his advice about walking up (if not down) the hills. To my amazement, not only did I not lose much time on the climb this way, I was actually passing people who were "running". In fact, the difference between me and them was they were bouncing up and down a lot more. I was able to shuffle-step by, listening to their labored breathing.

Finally I made the leap to 30 km and after, to the marathon distance at Skyline to the Sea. I know there's a 50 km in my future. But as I said, 50 km races aren't inspiring to Don. His goal is the Western States 100.

I was shocked when Don first described his training for the race: one run per week plus maybe a few visits to the gym for strength work. Okay, I figured.... he probably does some Pete Pensyres-like mega-fest each week. Hardly. His weekly runs were typically 50 km. One weekend, he said, he did a double run, running both Saturday and Sunday, neither of them particularly long.

So I was really interested to see how Don managed at the race, which ends this morning at 11 am. I was tracked him on the UltraLive webcast. Deep down, I still didn't believe he could do it.

True to his own advice, he started slowly. There's some nasty climbing from the start in Squaw Valley, California, over Emigrant Pass. I imagined him trudging up the hills, the altitude adding to the difficulty. But then he started passing people. Steadily his progress continued.

Here's a plot of his placings at checkpoints reporting data on-line (some checkpoints were out of communication range):

Don Lundell @ Western States 100

Steadily Don moved up through the field, passing close to 100 runners in the final 75 miles of the race. I was pleased to catch him finishing on the live video feed: he ran across the line, looking good. Super-inspiring.

The human body is an amazing thing, and confidence and strict adherence to a sustainable pace goes a long way to helping success in distance events. Good stuff to keep in mind, not just in running but in all pursuits.

If you're even near California Ave in Palo Alto, instead of stopping at nearby Starbucks, check out Zombie Runner if you want a good coffee in the morning. It's a bit more expensive and a bit slower, but worth it. And you get a chance to ask Don for some of his valuable running advice.

Friday, June 25, 2010

2010 Terrible Two: power data

I don't use my PowerTap on hillclimbs because it's too heavy, and I don't use my PowerTap in mass-start races because sometimes you've just got to dig deeper than you think you can. But for Terrible Two, I decided within the last few days I wanted it. Sure, hauling that 1020 gram wheel up 16 thousand feet of climbing was going to add work, and work equals time. But a double century for me isn't about minimizing work, but rather in minimizing work done over threshold. And to keep my enthusiasm in check on the early climbs the power numbers would be useful. Additionally, as a diagnostic tool it would be really valuable. I wanted to compare the power I could sustain on later climbs to those I was able to hold on the earlier climbs.

Now, I've already documented here my torque measurements suggest my Powertap reads low. The steeper the climb, the more low it reads. This error is on the order of 10 watts or so, so view numbers reported here with that sort of error bar.

Powertap calibrationMy PowerTap reads around 10 W low at Old La Honda climbing speeds.

Anyway, I'm glad I used it. At least I think I am. On the Bennett Valley climb I let the Webcor-led lead group go, as they would have pushed me well into the red zone. And while staying out of the red zone cost me contact with the leaders, I still found myself with very useful pacelines on the segments through lunch which are most critical on the ride for pacelining, and I was able to climb strongly on every single climb during the day. Could I have stayed with the lead group? I'll never know. But I consider it far more likely I would have run myself into the ground trying. I'm happy with how things went.

Whoops, jumping ahead.... here's the power data, which shows what I just described. Climbing in the low-200 W range @ my 56 kg mass isn't going to impress anyone at Low-Key Hillclimbs, but for efforts sustained over 3 vertical miles of climbing over 13 hours of riding, it's fairly solid.

click to expandPower data w/ 90 second smoothing

You can see a relatively broad peak at around 630 minutes followed soon after by a narrower peak. These are the Fort Ross climbs. On the second peak, I was clearly starting to fade a bit, but not too badly. It was on the descent I really lost it. I'd really emptied my tank on that climb, and with the pounding of the poor pavement on the descent, I was slipping into survival mode, barely able to crack 100 watts.

But then you can see a notch corresponding to the Rancho Rio rest stop. There, I had between 1/3 and 1/2 of a Coca Cola can. Leaving the stop, I was able to grab Bryan Kilgore's wheel (I am guessing it was Bryan's) as he passed, having not had the confidence to follow Ryan Spaulding when he'd passed not long before. Bryan kick-started my legs, and my power came up: a broad plateau sharing pulls with him on the flats, then a taller peak climbing the Bohemian Highway to Occidental. After that the descent, a notch where I caught Ryan at a red light where we both waited further, then the final "sprint" into the finish.

Another plot I like is the power histogram which shows how much time is spent near each power value. Here's my result from the Terrible Two, omitting zero power. Note the power axis is logarithmic, and power numbers are from unsmoothed 2-second samples.

click to expandPower histogram

You can see two clear segments annotated with line segments. The first is a relatively broad distribution corresponding to the power zone in which I spent a lot of time. After this, there is a zone of remarkably consistent exponential decay. I put a vertical line where these zones intersect. Coggan and Allen point out this sort of plot is useful for extracting a functional threshold from race data, where the body naturally avoids riding above threshold, yielding an exponential decay of duration with increased power above this power level. So from this I might conclude my threshold (at least as reported by my PowerTap) is 222 watts, right? Well, no. The issue here is I was riding to my power meter, intentionally avoiding powers higher than this. I wasn't relying on my body to refuse to ride at higher powers, it was part of an intentional plan. So in this case the 222 watts is a lower bound. Based on some limited climbing data, my present threshold estimate is 260 watts.

Anyway, that's that. Overall it was mostly a successful exercise in pacing. If I ride the Mt Tam Double Century on Aug 7, I'll repeat the process I followed at Terrible Two. Except this time I'll go to the Coca Cola slightly earlier.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

2010 Terrible Two pt. III

210 profile2010 profile from race-winner Bo Heberstrat

My last report ended as I left the lunch stop, one of my quickest stops on the route. It's easy to lose a lot of time at lunch, although skipping it means you need to be especially careful to stay on top of calories and hydration while on the bike, especially if (like me) you haven't been doing the big-mile rides you would have preferred to have done before this event.

Skaggs Springs
I passed a sign which said Camp Gualala was in 25 miles, Stewarts Point in 35. I remembered Gualala marked the beginning of the steepest climb on the Terrible Two, the Rancheria climb. But I forgot what came in those 25 miles to Gualala.

Of course I could have checked my route sheet. But it was jammed in a pocket of my vest, which was jammed in a pocket of my jersey. And what was the point? Whatever was there, I would ride.

And what was there was tough. First, the nine miles to the first water stop after lunch was an 1800 foot climb in two segments. The road was good and the temperature moderate. I'd finally pushed back my arm warmers, keeping them over the portion of my forearms burned at Diablo last weekend. Perfect riding weather.

At the water stop, I was almost empty, so refilled with water and Sustained Energy and popped two more Endurolytes. Next stop was in two more miles, with more climbing after the initial descent, I was told.

And what a descent! Excellent pavement, nice corners, virtually no car traffic. Perfect.

Then the climb: 1200 feet, again in two segments. But I was feeling surprisingly good. I reached the second water stop at Los Lomas quickly. More water, plus some "Anti-Fatigue caps". After taking a few of these, I was told they were designed to scavenge ammonia. I muttered something about not being ketonic, but maybe it was a good idea anyway. How far to the next stop? 17 miles..... the obvious conclusion was there was a lot of descending ahead.

And there was: this one more of the previous descent, just longer. I fell in with two other riders until an alarming screeching from my front tire had me contemplating various catastrophic ends. I tentatively braked again, and the horrific sound once again emitted from the front brake. I told the riders behind I was stopping, and rear-braked to a fault.

I checked if the pads were rubbing the tire. No. Was the front brake loose? No. Was there something on my rim? No. Everything seemed good enough....

The sound occurred a few more times but then was gone for good. Another unsolved mystery added to my life's collection.

With the brief delay, however, I'd lost the other two riders, and was caught by 3 more, including long-time endurance rider and Bikeaholic Craig Robertson. He seemed to be very fit today. Craig's done 11 Terrible Twos, which is hard to understand. On the ride I met another guy who's ridden 14, equal to his count for Devil Mountain Double, which may be even harder.

We weren't working so well, as I'd gap these other guys on the short climbs, but then we'd raggedly regroup on the short descents. This went on until we reached Gualala, former sight of a rest stop. This year the rest stop was moved to the top of the following climb, and what a climb!

It's by far the shortest of the three major climbs on Skagg's Springs Road: only 800 feet. But every one of those feet is steep: very steep. My 34/26 was enough but only enough. In 1999 I'd walked a stretch on this climb in my 39/28. There was no way I was going to allow myself to walk this time.

I made it to the top without fading, ready for the brief run to the coast and the tailwind relief I expected there. So another quick stop: water, Sustained Energy, and a Hammer Nutrition bar (which are really good, BTW: basically just fruit, oats, and nuts) for my pocket.

Before I left, I was warned someone had crashed on the cattle guard on the descent not far from the summit. The ambulence parked in the corner, with an emergency worked waving a warning, was a strong hint I'd reached the corner in question. Sure enough, 3/4 of the way through the corner and hidden from initial sight, was a cattle guard. I was surprised there was no paint on the road, but it's hard to cover every detail in a 200 mile course. I had no issues because I knew it was there, but easy to see how a hard banked turn could end in tears here.

No surprises the rest of the descent, although I was surprised at the climb which followed. I'd hoped for an effortless descent to the coast, only 5 miles from the summit. But Skaggs wasn't done with me yet: around 250 feet of steep climbing.

I cleared this without issue, then enjoyed the remaining few miles. It's funny how as you approach the coast the hints appear. The sounds, the light. Then there it was: fully revealed in spectacular beauty. The ragged Pacific coastline. Highway 1, an old friend.

A good thing I checked for traffic because a minivan would have ended my ride there had I not come to a complete stop. But I did, then checked for more traffic, and began the 16 miles to Fort Ross. My computer read 150 miles: my longest ride by a nice chunk since Climb to Kaiser two years ago.

The Coast
The forecast from the day before had been for 14 mile per hour winds out of the northwest: convenient since Highway one we were here going directly southeast. It was great: I was around 120 watts going 30 miles per hour. Later Webcor's Brian Buck told me he held 35 mph here.

Once, going into a tight corner reminiscent of Highway 1 south of Panoramic, three consecutive cars in the oncoming lane, the tail-to-cross wind caused me to drift outward. I braked to control the drift, perhaps not so skillfully, and avoided a head-on collision. This caused me to become a bit more careful on subsequent sharp corners.

But the rest of the ride was great. The miles passed quickly with minimal effort.

Along the way I passed another rider who appeared to drift into the dirt off the side of the road. That worried me a bit. But I passed him and was on my own again.

Fort Ross Road
Fort Ross Road intersects Highway 1, and here is where the penultimate rest stop of the Terrible Two is located. Fort Ross Road is called by John Summerson the most difficult climb from the coastal highway in the state, winning on quality over quantity with its 1500 vertical feet. I only remembered a single corner, a corner in which I'd walked 11 years ago. "Death before Dismount" was my mantra this time. No walking allowed.

So I made a quick stop at the rest stop: three fig bars in addition to my usual hydration + Enduralyte fix. Let the climb begin!

I was joined by two other racer-types. They started the climb hard: I let them have their gap, but it didn't last, and I passed one and caught the second. I chatted with him a bit, but he didn't want to chat, only wishing me a good climb. So I rode my own pace, dropping him.

And I did clean that corner, finally putting behind me another one of those little failures we accumulate over time. It felt good. But the rest of the considerable climb didn't feel quite so good. I was getting tired again.

It was funny: I'd gotten tired at mile 85, then here I was near mile 170 tired again. I'd recovered the first time, but this time? Hmm.... I wasn't confident.

I finally reached the top after a few false alarms. A guy in his parked truck at the side of the road confirmed that yes, this was in fact the summit. That left only a few climbs, neither challenging, in the 30 remaining miles. Yet 30 miles was seeming like a long, long way.

A short descent, then a 300 vertical foot climb, then the main descent of Fort Ross.

While the Fort Ross climb didn't beat me, the descent certainly did. Rough asphalt was pounding me, my back was aching, and my right foot hurt. I was feeling fuzzy-headed, unconfident I'd be able to react on the descent, so I was extra careful on the corners.

I heard a sound from behind.... first one then the other of the racer boyz passed, banking hard into a corner. A car appeared, so they modified their lines and went by it. I knew I was in no shape to ride like that, and my mood darkened.

Fort Ross Road went on and on and on. I was becoming increasingly paranoid of missing a turn. I finally retrieved my route sheet and checked the mileage points of the turns. My offset from the route numbers had apparently increased to 4 miles from the previous 3, so when the turn from Fort Ross Road to Austin Creek Road, I was becoming increasing confident I'd missed it.

More of the same. I soon passed a SAG truck which was offering water. I was fine on the water but wanted to know the distance to the next turn. What he told me was inconsistent with the route sheet, so I became worried again. Yet I continued on.

A rider from the side of the road offered words of encouragement. I didn't understand, so shouted "What?" in a voice tainted with desperation. This annoyed him, and he responded with a terse "I said `Way to go!'". I felt bad about this, and thanked him as I continued along.

I seemed to be able to sustain only 15 miles per hour at this point. I decided to put aside any time goals, and take as much time as it took to recover at the next and final rest stop. Honestly, I thought about dropping out instead. But such thoughts always leach into my brain on rides like this. I knew if I took some time off the bike, I'd feel good enough to get over the final, easy Occidental climb and from there to the finish.

Monte Rio
I was quite relieved when the rest stop finally appeared. A volunteer took my bike and I laid down in the grass. Another volunteer took my water bottles and filled them. I looked over and there was an open cooler. Then I saw it. It was calling to me....

A can of Coke. I asked if they had a cup, and one was fetched for me. The volunteers on the Terrible Two are fantastic. My stomach was becoming knotted, but Coke, as much as I hate the stuff normally, goes down smooth. And there's no denying the caffeine + sugar jolt it provides. I drank about a third of the can, and felt ready again for the road. A quick porta-stop, and I was on my way.

To the Finish
Initially I was moving at my previous 15 mph pace. A rider, his white jersey and black shorts torn by a previous crash, blew by. His jersey was soaked in red, which I later found out was due to a crushed V8 (gotta remember that trick: it looked epic).

Sigh: I wish I could feel that good. Then another: the guy I'd dropped on Highway 1 going to Fort Ross. Initially I resigned myself to this as well, but then I kicked myself out of my lethargy. "Hey! You're a racer. Racers get on wheels. Suck it up now and get on that wheel!"

So I did, to my amazement. We were zipping along at over 20 mph, and I was feeling a lot better than I expected. Sure, there was no way I was going to hold this pace.

Yet on we went, and I wasn't getting dropped. Eventually he pulled over and I took a pull. Wow..... the Coke was working.

We hit the climb and I didn't hear anything behind. I glanced back: he was gone. I set my sights to V8 guy up the road and focused on closing that gap.

And slowly the gap came down. But not fast enough -- this was a relatively short, gradual climb, only 500 vertical feet. I was pleased with the numbers I was getting from my Powertap: up close to threshold here, well over 190 miles in.

Into Occidental, a left, a bit more climbing, and we were at the summit. the gap started to open out on the descent. I lost sight of him at one point but after making a right turn for which I'd managed to pick up the road markings I saw him again. I wanted to keep him in sight as long as I could.

But it wasn't working: he simply went downhill faster. At the bottom of the descent, some rollers: good for me. But he was still out of sight as we approached Sebastapol. I'd started my usual trick of calculating the kilometers from the miles remaining, and I was down to 6.

And there he was: parked at a stop light. I remembered that light: very frustrating so close to the finish. There were no cars, and the light was holding read.

I pulled up and stopped, apologizing for catching him in this way, and promised to let him finish ahead of me if we finished together. I then noticed he, and also I, were outside the detector loop. Whoops. A car pulled up, though, solving that problem. It's about the only time I like seeing cars on the road.

The light eventually changed and we traded hard pulls to the finish. I was riding at around 90% of threshold here, feeling good if very tired, and we pulled in together. As I'd promised, I let him cross the line first.

13:05. Not bad at all.

Some very tasty polenta with tomato sauce, some fruit cup with guacamole (my personal combination), and a shower in the school gym, and the satisfaction of having met my goals. I chatted with the Webcor guys: Bo H had won, and Brian Buck had finished second. Bo is such a strong rider: made for this sort of thing. He rides too hard in road races, but in something like this, you can hammer the competition into the ground. He'd finished a half-hour up on second place.

Eventually Cara arrived, having finished a 16 mile ride along the Rails to Trails route to Forestville. She's only in the past month started riding outdoors again after her April 2009 mountain bike crash and October keee arthroscopy, so I was happy to see she got a good ride in.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

2010 Terrible Two, Part II

Chuck Bramwell data from slightly shorter 2003 route

The start of the Terrible Two is incredibly organized. How do you possibly open "reg" 20 minutes before it's mandatory for riders to be at the start line ready to go? Well, the answer is you lay out each rider's number in alphabetical order on tables so each can pick his up without waiting in a line. Then you have a separate table for pre-ride drinks, another for gel flasks from sponsor Hammer Nutrition, and a third table for bagels. And have a big box of pins.

It all went well, and I felt like I had plenty of time in hand having ridden the 1.5 miles from my hotel to the start to arrive at 4:55 am.

On the start line, I was slightly chilly but not too bad. I had on a mesh tank-top, a long-sleeve undershirt, arm warmers, a short-sleeve jersey, a vest, shorts, and knee warmers in addition to socks, shoes, and short-fingered gloves. This seems like overkill, but I really don't like the cold, and the forecast was for cool temperatures all day. Many of the riders had long-fingered gloves, but I usually do okay with short-fingered until it's below 50F as long as I keep my core warm.

The Pace Car
Considering I was in a peloton of 260 sleep-deprived double century riders, things were surprisingly smooth. I started too far back, so picked up positions as I went, hoping to stay ahead of any splits which might separate me from the pace-car as it led us to, and through Santa Rosa, tripping lights as it went. Having cleared the city, the car pulled over, and we were on our own.

I noticed Webcor riders at the front as we approached the first climb, out of Bennett Valley.

Bennett Valley
As soon as the climb began the Webcor guys turned up the gas. I felt fine, but a glance at my Powertap showed 340 watts, around 80 watts over my threshold, and surviving was all about staying under threshold. I let the group go, climbing my own pace.

Despite the modest nature of the 500 foot climb, things completely shattered behind that lead group. I wasn't climbing particularly fast relative to others, but I was able to converse easily, whereas most others I found myself near were breathing hard. They would pay for their hard effort later, I felt. I may have been only 7/15 in the Diablo E3, but I was confident of my climbing in this more endurance-oriented crowd.  Climbing wasn't my weakness here; endurance was.

The descent from the summit of the Bennett climb was unmemorable. Soon after, we hit Trinity, a climb tough enough to make John Sommerson. It's around 1400 vertical feet, somewhere between Old La Honda and Kings Mountain Road, but over much less distance.

Early on, I saw "El Grillo" written in faded paint on the asphalt. Good stuff: the Tour of California used to do this climb. I lamented the recent crackdown on road paint by organizers.

The day before, I'd swapped my 50/36 for a 50/34, giving me a low of 34/26. I'd want it, I figured, on Skaggs and later @ Fort Ross. But I was already parked on the bottom floor here. I told myself it wouldn' t wear out: my legs would appreciate the kind treatment later. The gear was rubbing a bit, so halfway up I stopped and turned the limit screw a quarter turn and things were good.

We'd been warned about the descent of Trinity. Every year, people go into corners too fast and don't come out. I was two spots behind a guy whose rear derailleur had been rubbing his spokes when he'd climbed. Up ahead the sign warned of a sharp right turn, 15 mph. He went in fairly hard, then boom and he was down. I skidded to a stop behind the rider ahead of me.

His tire was completely unwrapped from his rim. I and the other rider who'd stopped checked to see if the guy could move. He didn't want to. I retrieved his sunglasses, and warned descending riders of his presence in the road. I wanted to see if we could move himself out of the roadway, when a pick-up truck approached from above. We waved it down, and since things seemed under control, I continued on.

Napa Valley
A short climb over Oakville Grade and we descended into what is some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere: Napa Valley. Mist hung over the hills, obscuring some of the vibrancy the scene, but it was nevertheless still stunning.

I was in a good paceline with David Strong, an ex-Webcor rider now on the Santa Rosa Cycling club. He rode a blue steel bike with pink elephants decorating the entire frame. I asked him about it, and he answered something having to do with overcoming obstacles in life.

The group was very useful: each rider pulling. When my turn came, I gave it my usual 100 pedal strokes. One guy was ramping it up each time he pulled: not too bad, though, because he increased the pace gradually. David's pulls were a bit weaker than most, but it wasn't as if were in a race, trying to hold a gap or chase down a break. It was all fine. And quite valuable for me: free speed.

Eventually we hit the Geysers climb at mile 70. This is the first of three of the major challenges in the Terrible Two: 16 miles in three segments, the first substantially longer than the latter two, separated by short descents. It sustains around 8%, steep by most standards, but easier than most of the other climbs here.

I stopped to pee, then later to remove my long-sleeve undershirt which I wrapped around my waist. It was getting warm. A relief, as from the foggy forecast I'd feared it was going to be damp and cold on this exposed road.

Geysers gains only around 2600 feet, but given my increasing fatigue, it seemed even longer. Eventually, though, it ended, as all climbs do. I always seem to fade at around mile 80, and here I was at mile 86: 114 left to go.

But I've been in this situation before, and I knew if I watched my calories and hydration, I'd be good.

I dropped my long-sleeve undershirt, my third water bottle, and my knee warmers off at the rest stop for delivery back to the start. I still had my mesh undershirt and arm warmers with my vest in my jersey pocket, so would be good even for the anticipated coastal cool air. Without further delay, I rolled out. David, whom I'd dropped on the descent, had made a quicker stop, and was ahead. He soon pulled out of sight, which was too bad given what happened next.

Wrong Turn
David had warned me of the poor conditions on the descent of the Geysers, and I was being a bit too careful in the corners. The road surface was excellent, actually.

I'd somehow forgotten this part of the course, even though I'd been here twice before. David hadn't been warning me of this road, but the one which follows.

I relaxed a bit and continued my descent. Until, that is, I came to the gate. I absolutely didn't remember the gate.

There was a station there with a guard. I asked him if other cyclists had been here and he said no. I asked if I could have taken a wrong turn and he said the previous turn was 15 miles back. That had to be wrong, I told myself. I was just on the course! I hadn't passed any turns coming down....

But the only thing to do was to turn back. I felt good, fully recovered from my earlier fatigue, as I climbed the gentle grade I'd already descended. Of course, I wasn't at all pleased about turning the Terrible 2 into a Terrible 2.x, no matter how small the x.

About a mile and a half along, my paranoia increasing, I came to the turn. There it was: road signs, "TT" marks painted on the road. How I had possibly missed it was a total mystery. Maybe because it was shaded.

Later I checked Google Maps and discovered I'd descended Geysers Resort Road, adding 2.6 miles to my day's journey.

I continued on this alternate road. This was the one David had warned of. It carried very little car traffic, and with good reason. It's got it all: cattle guards, unpaved segments, single-lane.... a real back-country road.

Soon I was joined by two other riders. We worked together fairly well, trading pulls.

As the descent ended, the road opened up a bit with consistently good pavement. We picked up some other riders along the way, until a longer paceline caught us and we were together again. A lot of the riders I'd dropped on the Geysers climb, or with my quick rest stop visits, were back. One I recognized from the 1999 Terrible Two, and he seemed surprised (and maybe embarrassed) I'd remembered him: 1999 seems like such a long, long time ago.

The paceline made quick work of the remaining miles to lunch. We were at mile 112 of the course, mile 115 for me. Sure, I was a bit tired, but so much better than in 2005, where going into the ride with a small cold, I'd suffered in the damp chilly conditions and collapsed at lunch until I was able to get a ride back to the start. That failure had been hovering over me ever since. And here I was, finally able to put that behind me. From here on, I was covering ground I'd only succeeded in covering in my first ride here, 11 years ago.

I treated lunch as a rest stop rather than a lunch stop: water and Endurolytes only. I'd been using water in one bottle, Sustained Energy in the other, much the occasional fig bar for something to chew. It was time to start adding the Enduralytes.

In and out was around 60 seconds. I rolled out knowing a considerable challenge was just ahead: the much-feared Skaggs Springs Road.

Monday, June 21, 2010

2010 Terrible Two pt. I

Terrible Two

The Terrible Two this year was held for the 35th time. The Terrible Two was without much doubt the most difficult double century in the United States until Scott Halversen introduced us to the Devil Mountain Double. Now it's a continual debate which is the tougher of the two. Terrible Two wins on the steepness of the climbs and on the potential for hot near-solstice weather, while the Devil Mountain Double has more sustained climbing and less daylight.

I first tried the Terrible Two in 1999, when I flew in from Austin for the pleasure. I'd participated in part of the Texas Hell Week that year, a March endurance training camp of eight days at close to 100 miles per day. I'd also been doing long weekend rides including Texas Randonneur Brevets. These long miles plus the near-daily exposure to Texas heat really gave me a lot of confidence I'd be able to handle what T2 had to offer. What I didn't expect it to offer, however, were flat tires. Two flats, plus the inability to deal with the tight tire-rim interface of whatever clinchers and rims I was using on the ride cost me around a half-hour relative to the field. I spent the rest of the day playing catch-up, managing to finish right before sundown in a group of six tied for 78th place. My time: 14:41. I knew I'd been capable of more, so vowed to return.

However, an issue with Terrible Two is it essentially conflicts with two other excellent events, the Climb to Kaiser out of Fresno (held too close to be competitive in both) and the Pescadero Road Race which is typically the same day. I love both of these as much as I respect Terrible Two, so years slipped by before I managed to return to Sebastopol.

2005, and I was ready to go again. Now I lived in San Francisco, so I had a lot more time training in the hills. On the other hand, I was doing a lot fewer long rides. So would the trade-off be a favorable one? I never really found out, as the lingering cold which affected me in my Santa Rosa motel room the night prior turned into deep chills in the uncharacteristically cool and foggy conditions on the course. I finally arrived at lunch near mile 110 exhausted. I lay on the ground, barely able to move, until Roxeanne Robinson, who was there supporting her husband Dick's attempt to realize his dream of finishing the ride, drove me back to the start. There I got to see Dick cross the finish line and accept congratulations from his several friends there waiting for him. I was glad to be there to see it, even though I was deeply disappointed to have not finished myself. Sure, I had the excuse of being sick, but there's always an excuse. Still, even today, I can't imagine how I could have finished the ride that day. I ended up being sick for the following six days, the clock on my "lingering cold" getting fully reset in the damp, cold air on the course.

So two Pescaderos and two Climb to Kaisers later, it was time to try again this year. I'd only been focusing on bike training for the preceding two months, since the Skyline to the Sea trail marathon in April. I'd wanted to do Davis Double in May as a training ride, but at the time it was obvious I was not ready for 200 miles: my running training wasn't translating as seamlessly into cycling endurance as I'd hoped. Davis is considered a flat double, definitely two notches below Terrible Two in difficulty, so is a good test to provide respect for the distance and test out hydration and nutrition policy. You don't want Terrible Two being your first double in 5 years, for sure. Or that's how I felt back in May.

So no Davis, no Terrible Two, right? Well, maybe. I had a pair of hard training rides, 210 km and 220 km, this past month. In each case, especially the second, I went hard on climbs, didn't pay particular attention to nutrition, and still came through okay. Add in a taper the week before, a pre-ride massage, a religious aversion to zones 4-7, and a regular water, carbohydrate, and electrolyte intake and I should be able to extend that distance out to 200 miles.... I hoped. Anyway, I had to try.

So on Friday off I went with Cara to Sebastopol, trying my best to ignore what lay in wait for me the following morning.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

granola recipe

I've been making granola a lot lately. Here's my recipe. Make sure to carefully follow each step exactly as written.
  1. mix the following in a bowl
    • some oata
    • a syrup source, for example one or a combination of honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave nectar, balsamic vinegar
    • a bit of oil, for example canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, or almond oil
    • some dried fruit, for example cranberries, dates, raisons, chopped mango
    • optionally some chopped nuts, for example cashews or almonds, or a nut butter like almond butter, peanut butter, cashew butter, or tahini (sesame butter). I prefer raw nut butters to toasted.
    • optionally, some egg or egg white to clump things, but not too much
    • some extra flavor, like vanilla, spices, soy sauce, Liquid Amino, or hot sauce (it's good, really!)
  2. distribute on pan
  3. cook @ 320F = 160C until done, but not too dry (15 minutes, or maybe less if had the vision to pre-heat your oven ). If feeling inspired, mix it part way through.
  4. cool it. It should have been a soft when removed from oven, but should get crunchy after cooled.

I have yet to fail following this recipe to the letter. Way better than bulk-bin, which tastes stale (because it is stale).

I'd post a photo but I already ate much of the batch I made this morning.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mount Diablo Hill Climb Time Trial

After my trail running adventures this spring, yesterday was my first bike race of the year. And after my race, I was tired, very tired.

First, I hadn't gotten enough sleep the night before. I went to bed later than I'd planned, engrossed by Dashiell Hammett's excellent Thin Man. Still not too bad: my 5:30 am alarm would still be good for almost seven hours. But I awoke 90 minutes earlier from a dream in which I'd missed my start time due to clumsily trying to inflate my tires (is there a Freudian connection to this? I've never read Freud). Then I couldn't get back to sleep because I realized shifting problems I'd experienced on Friday had been due to an incompatibility between the Recon aluminum cassette and the Wipperman Connex Chain. The Wipperman is almost 30 grams heavier than a SRAM 1090 or a KMC X10. 30 extra grams? That wouldn't do at all. So I got up, drank some tea, and replaced the chain with an old SRAM that was laying around. Okay, so that generation of SRAM 1090 had been recalled... they tended to break. But I figure it's guys 50 lb heavier and 200 watts higher who tend to snap chains, not small, weak me, so I put the SRAM on. The shifting was much better.

photo by Diablo ScottDiablo Scott photo

Second, I didn't drink enough. I'd brought only a single water bottle, forgetting to put my second into my back pack, and had barely drunk any of that during the 35 minute BART trip and brisk 8 miles from Lafayette BART with Sean Rhea. Race hydration begins before the race, and I forgot that in the early morning cool air. I had around 40% of a bottle for the race, but I drank that quickly. A 28-minute race doesn't really require water, but that's under the assumption of full hydration from the start, not a state of depletion. No cramps, no dizziness, but it probably affected how I felt afterwards.

Third, I paced myself well. The goal of a race of this distance is to start to really suffer within the last five minutes or so, time enough that you can really deplete yourself, but not so much time that power droops. I think I did that this time: something to feel good about.

Fourth: goal creep. I knew I lacked the fitness level I had last year. Just finish within 30 seconds of my last year's time, I told myself, and I'd be happy. As I approached the finish I looked at my watch and liked what I saw: I looked solid to not only achieve that goal, but to even match last year's time. I crossed the lime 20 seconds faster than last year. I should have been happy, right? Rationally I should have been. But I placed only 7/15 in the E3, lower than I would have liked.

Let's say I go ride Old La Honda. I'll typically have a time I'm shooting for. I don't expect to PR the thing every time. I consider the context: what's my fitness, how's my training been going, etc. But in a race, it's different. I'm there to compete. I want to win, or if not win, at least place highly. I was of course pleased to be in the top half of the E3. My overall ranking, 42/243 among the men, was decent. Among the women, only Katerina Nash, a professional mountain biker and 'cross racer, finished quicker, and she by only a few seconds. Not too bad, right?

But not good enough. It almost never is.

Looking back, I skipped the race in 2008 (in Italy). In 2007, I was 50 seconds faster. 2006: 13 seconds slower. But there was a nice tailwind at the bottom this year, perhaps the best conditions ever. I had no justification expecting to go faster, but I hold myself to that standard anyway. I wanted top three.

Ah, well. Move on, get past the failure. errible Two next Saturday. A very different game.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dauphine Libere 2010 stage 4 time gap analysis

In stage 4 of the Dauphine Libere today, Danny Pate (Garmin-Transitions) and Stephan Denifl (Cervelo) escaped 30 km into the stage and by km 78 they had an impressive gap of 6:10, according to the CyclingNews live report.

stage profile
They arrived together at the bottom of the terminal climb to Risoul, a "beyond category" climb. Watching Eurosport on my laptop, I tracked the time gaps to the main field. I subtracted reported distances by 200 meters based on the evidence of riders crossing under banners.

One thing to understand on time gaps is the gaps obviously can't be calculated into the main field passes a fixed point on the course, but the gap is reported for the distance remaining for the leaders. Despite this asynchronicity, it's still interesting to track time gaps to see the chances the break has of staying away.

time gapsTime gaps for stage 4 of the Dauphine Libere for the two leaders

Initially it didn't look so good, as they were losing time pretty much at a rate which would have them caught around 3.5 km from the finish. They had to do better.

Instead, the rate the gap closed started to increase even faster. They were fading, and were doomed.

But it turned out only Danny Pate was fading, as Stephan Denifl was able to pull away, holding an approximate two minute gap to the field. The announcers declared Pate had dropped his pace, but from the time gaps alone there is no evidence for this. The few time gaps available for Pate once he'd been dropped show him continuing to lose ground at the rate he and Stephen had been losing when they'd been together. So Pate didn't slow relative to the field; Denifl increased his pace to match that of the field.

Finally, though, whether Denifl's pace slowed or because of attacks starting from the field, Denifl's gap began to implode. Finally Eurosport stopped reporting gaps at all, since the field began to shatter, removing the reference point of the "peloton".

Denifl was finally caught by a shredded field at 2.4 km to go (2.6 km on the screen). He lasted 1100 meters longer than that original projection.

Nice job by Danny Pate and Stephen Denifl being out ahead of the field for an amazing 185 kilometers.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Post-Election Day

smartvoterWell, The People have spoken. Smart Voter has some really nice results listings. A few comments on proposition results:
  1. 13 passed. I suspect a lot of remods are now going to be classified as "earthquake safety upgrades". Seems like an accounting nightmare. Oh, well.
  2. 14 passed. There is hope for the Republican Party! This may be the end of the socially radical wing of the "conservatives" (cough!). Katherine Roberts has pointed out there's nothing conservative about the right-wing. Moderate Republicans, like Tom Campbell (who polled ahead of Carly Fiorina only among "liberal" Republicans in California, but would have gotten my vote as a Democrat) will have a chance. And fiscally irresponsible Democrats like Barbara Boxer and Nancy Pelosi will face more competition. All good.

    But that in the primary that each voter gets only one vote brings up some interesting game theory questions. For example, consider the Senate race. Suppose I supported Boxer, which I did not. So I perceive Boxer, the incumbent, is a wasted vote, since she's a lock. Do I then vote for Campbell, because he might have been my second choice (instead of my first, which he was)? Or do I try to encourage support for Carly, because I know Boxer polls well against her, so Carly making it into the general gives Boxer the lock on the final result? In the end, I generally echew trying to game the system, and vote for the competitive candidate I most like. But a ranked voting scheme would have been superior to one person one vote.

    Another issue with 14 is it will make it much harder for secondary parties like the Greens or Peace and Freedom to get candidates onto the general ballot. These candidates would need to finish top-2 in the primary. You might argue this reduces the problem of vote-splitting in the general, but I suspect it simply shifts the vote-splitting problem to the primary instead.

    A nice article on Newsweek points out the splitting problem in primaries may lead to more "backroom bartering" to limit the intraparty competition on the primary ballot.
  3. 15 failed. I liked 15. But The People don't like public election financing.
  4. 16 failed! This had been ahead when I'd checked SmartVoter. What a relief. 16 was an attempt to stifle competition and sustain a monopoly, which reduces efficiency and inhibits innovation.
  5. 17 failed!. I am very pleased voters saw past the misrepresentation on what was a fine on those who choose to temporarily go carless.

Overall, a good day. I'm glad to see PG&E wasn't able to buy 16. And even more important, the insurance companies weren't able to buy 17. And 14 passed. Some days I'm less of a pessimist.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Democratic Central Committee, District 13

Finally, I'm almost ready to vote tomorrow. The Democratic Central Committee is the most complicated race I'll vote for, with thirty candidates for twelve positions, for which I can vote for up to twelve.

Here's the list of people who, whether through Smart Voter or through my conversations with others, have convinced me to vote for them:
  • Stuart Smith
  • Scott Wiesner
  • Hope Johnson
  • Rick Hauptman
  • Leslie Rachel Katz
  • Tom Taylor
  • Paul Currier
  • Chuck Hornbrook
Keith Baraka seems to be on the AIDS Lifecycle ride at the moment, which I consider super-cool, but he's got to give me more than that and being a firefighter for my vote.

There's also the school board, but I'll leave that one to parents of children. I figure they have a deeper vested interest there. My sister gets angry at me whenever childless I offer anything resembling an opinion on child-rearing. I couldn't possibly understand!

That leaves only the Board of Equalization and the Insurance Commissioner candidates to be decided. I've still got time...

Democratic Central Committee: no way, Aaron Peskin

Once again, tomorrow is election day, and with a low turn-out expected (30% or so), every vote is even more critical. Sample ballots and lots of info are available from SmartVoter.

Aaron Peskin
Aaron Peskin ready to run

One of the more obscure, but still very important elections is for members of the Democratic Central Committee. Aaron Peskin, who termed out of the Board of Supervisors, is running. But I'll vote for the cows when they come home way before I'll vote for Aaron. Aaron seems to be racking up the endorsements in this race, but no self-respecting fan of bike racing, or for that matter of public events in general, should ever support him.

To quote Wikipedia:

Peskin was instrumental in canceling the San Francisco Grand Prix, a world-class bicycle race held in the years 2001 to 2005, because the race's backers owed the city money. Critics of Peskin alleged that the race was cancelled because it inconvenienced his North Beach constituents.

Fillmore Street
2004 San Francisco Grand Prix, on Fillmore Street

Absolute insanity! The San Francisco Grand Prix was a race which had chiseled out a unique position in the international professional bike racing calendar. The scene at the Taylor and Fillmore street climbs was rivaled only by the Mur de Huy in Fleche Wallone, and riders who did both said the San Francisco climbs were steeper. The scene of Charles Dionne launching his winning attack in 2004 is etched forever in my mind. Epic stuff.

Public events like this shouldn't be placed under the burden of covering the City's inflated police rates. Why? Because the role of the police is to protect the people. If a disproportionate number of these people happen to be attracted to a particular bike race, then it makes sense a disproportionate number of police should be at that race, as well.

Fillmore Street
Another shot from Fillmore Street

Any well-functioning community has community events. Indeed, any rational community should be encouraging individuals to contribute to these events: they provide the vibrant character which differentiates cities from the sterile wasteland of that failed experiment called suburbia.

The San Francisco Grand Prix was like an international billboard for our happy community, especially in Europe. It takes a supernatural degree of myopia to not have realized that, or else super-natural cynicism to ignore it.

No, way, Aaron.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

2010 California Senate Primary

Here's the US senate candidates for the democratic party in the 2010 California Primary:
  • Barbara Boxer: No way I vote for her again. She's completely dropped the ball on reducing military spending. Consider her poor (for a democrat) 60% rating for 2009 from Peace Action West: their report is here. Most notably she voted against a proposal by John McCain to reduce purchases of the entirely useless F-22. National security is under way more threat from our appalling federal deficit than it is from a lack of overpriced fighter jets. She (along with Feinstein) gotta go.
  • Brian Quintana: Website is full of usual platitudes. "More funding for this", "more funding for that". Yadda yadda. "More funding" isn't something which is available when you're battling a $1.5T deficit. Let's see some 2010-compliant positions.
  • Micky Kaus: Gee, the guy doesn't even have his own dedicated URL. But he's willing to go against the party line, which I like. Kaus gets my vote.

And on the Republican side:
  • Carly Fiorina: After a failed career tenure at HP, she feels she's now qualified for a promotion to US Senate. She's way too Tea Party for me. She's for "cutting waste". Every candidate ever to run for office has been for cutting anonymous waste. But tell me what jobs are going to be cut, what incomes are going to be reduced, what services are going to be denied. I'm all for cutting waste: I'm a big supporter. But talk is cheap and worth the same as long as you refuse to take any hard positions. And a $1.5T deficit isn't going to come down without a serious look at the revenue side. Sorry.
  • Tom Campell: I have a lot of respect for Tom, who was an excellent representative from the San Francisco Bay area. He received tenure as a Law professor at Stanford, and before that received a PhD in economics. On top of that, I trust his integrity. He's got exactly the mindset we need to address the US deficit, and refuses to take these obscene "no new taxes" pledges the Tea Party gets in a froth about. He's also considered by his party to be a social liberal, which means he's a social moderate: for example, he supports gay marriage. One-up against Boxer or Quintana, I vote for Tom, despite his being too pro-military for my preference. The serious issue is he lacks the financial resources of Fiorina, who is polling ahead within the party. However, he polls better against Boxer than Fiorina does, so hopefully the Republicans will see the light and support the better candidate.
  • Chuck DeVore: I need look no further than these three words from his website: "common sense conservative". Next...

So as a registered Democrat, I vote for Kaus. But if he loses, I vote for Campbell in the general if he wins the nomination. Otherwise, in the general I vote for Kaus if he wins the Democratic primary, but otherwise in the general I support the Green candidate, Duane Roberts.

Boxer fails my "natural selection" rule for candidates. If you fail, you are out, independent who's going to replace you. Then if they fail, they're out, too. Eventually you get a good candidate. But if you compromise on this position, and vote in someone who clearly lacks integrity only because you don't like the opponent, you guarantee that corruption continues and money rules.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June San Francisco ballot propositions

Vote!Bicycling is fun and all, but it's time for me to do my duty as a voter and finish reviewing the propositions on the ballot of the June election.

I already reviewed California state ballot propositions. But wait, there's more! There's also San Francisco city & county ballot propositions.
  • Proposition A: A parcel tax for schools. I vote no, because parcel taxes are the most regressive tax on the books. A Pacific Heights mansion pays the same tax as a a humble cemetery plot. I'll always vote against parcel taxes.
  • Proposition B: A 400 million dollar bond? This looks like a bond with the title and summary carefully designed to include as many buzzwords as possible: "earthquate", "safety", "fire", "water". This seems like a boondoggle to me. Maybe it isn't. But the burden of proof is against expensive bonds in a debt-strapped economy.
  • Proposition C: This would give the Board of Supervisors a role in selecting the city Film Commission. The Mayor's office can handle it: the BOS has more important business to deal with. I vote no.
  • Proposition D: I vote yes: this makes it harder for city employees to blow out their pensions by loading up on overtime their last year. This bases the pension on the last two years. I'd make it five, but I'll take what I can get here.
  • Proposition E: This requires the police to disclose funds spent on security. I like this: hidden budget items tend towards abuse.
  • Proposition F: No way; this seems like yet another bureaucratic nightmare getting in the way of housing supply.
  • Proposition G: I vote against. I don't think the voters should be expressing an official position on engineering decisions: if Main and Beale works better from a cost and capacity standpoint than the Transbay Terminal for high-speed rail, then that's where it should go. This is an issue requiring far more than shoot-from-the-hip analysis.

So that's two yeses, five noes. That's about right. I think it's important voters put propositions up to a high standard, to discourage abuse of the process. Let legislators make the hard decisions they were elected by the people to make. That's how our system was designed: each individual voter has neither the time nor expertise to analyze complex legislation with the depth and sophistication it requires. This is a fundamental basis for representative governance.