Saturday, February 4, 2012

commuting home on Potrero Hill

Since returning home from my wonderful New Zealand trip I've definitely been in a rut. The rut is a "go to work, work through lunch, come home in the evening, eat dinner and go to bed" rut. It's a "I don't have time or energy to go for a ride/run/gym/whatever" rut. A rut where I can't leave early enough to ride to work, where I need to get in too early to ride to work, and so I take the train instead.

It's a bit depressing. Being on vacation is being intensely alive: every minute of the day is one to be savored. "Normal life" is only a shadow of that, finding intensity in the fringes of our days.

But while I've not yet SF2G'ed this year, I've managed at least a few mid-say workouts. First last Friday I did a bit of a solo ride, hoping to catch the Apple lunch ride but unaware that it had been delayed. Then on Tuesday there was a group run from work, which was really nice. 17 km is a bit more than is justified from my recent activity, but a run I've handled many times before, and although it left me a bit tired on Wednesday I was fine. I was fine enough that I repeated it solo on Thursday: slow by historical standards but speed wasn't the priority. Running at lunch is interesting: it takes a big effort to get me going (too much to do, want to eat instead) but once I'm a block down the road all is good and I don't want to stop.

But even when I do "nothing", taking the train instead of riding in, I virtually always face the same thing when I get home in the evening. Motivation isn't an issue here: if I want to get home, I need to ride up Potrero Hill. Sure, I could walk. Sure, I could even take a taxi. (Bus? Dream on... a pogo stick would be faster). And sure, even riding there's a less direct route I could take with less total climbing. But the best route is the most direct, and that means every evening, there's going to be some pain. Pain is good.

Here's a profile taken from my new (purchased on eBay) Edge 500. As I've noted here, my previous one disappeared into the vapor of lost objects.

Potrero Hill commute

Back before I moved to San Francisco, so long ago, I used to seek out steep climbs to strengthen my legs. This is no longer necessary. Now the hills, or rather hill, seeks out me.

That penultimate climbing block, 20th from De Haro to Rhode Island, is the one where I know it's going to hurt a bit. I've got four gear options: 34/26 if I'm feeling lazy or want to go fast, 34/23 as my normal "stay honest" gear, 34/21 when I want to make it especially hard, and 34/19 for those special days. The block prior, 20th from Carolina to De Haro, is also tough, but that's quickly forgotten once I cross De Haro. Typically I take that earlier block one gear higher, although I don't think I've ever bothered doing it in bigger than that 34/19.

When going for a Strava time (here's the segment) I ride it differently: sprint on 20th, keep the sprint going past Wisconsin, upshift for the descent, then quickly downshift on the rise to De Haro. With good initial speed, momentum carries you most of the way up this climb. Then ride hard across De Haro (no slacking here!) before downshifting all the way to spin like a crazy guy to Rhode Island. It's all about minimizing lost time, about keeping the pressure on the pedals every second, about carrying as much kinetic energy into the segment as possible.

Ah, the lament. First Jonathan Withrington then Bret Lobree put that segment apparently beyond my reach. I've not made an attempt there in quite awhile. If I try again, I'll really need to hit that first intersection, with Wisconsin, with more speed than I've allowed. I'd want someone to watch for cars for me: I tend to err on the side of caution.

I defined the segment, one of several on Potrero Hill I've done. So why did I set it to start it where I did rather than at the Carolina intersection, at the bottom of the short descent? Because position errors would have a larger influence down there, where just a few meters of position error would take a nice chunk out of that first climbing block. On the other hand, position errors going into the descent have less influence, since the bike covers a given section of road quicker where it's going faster. Position errors may still play a large role at the finish of the segment, but what can you do? It would have been a mistake to extend the segment further, as that would have increased the luck requirement. The intersection with Carolina (bottom of the descent) is crossing a T so is relatively safe. The intersection with De Haro requires luck, but it's at least safe since the bike's going relatively slow here. Having the segment cross Rhode Island would add an additional intersection the rider needed to get across without delay. That didn't seem worth it to me.

Anyway, it's a good character-building commute... not that there ever passes a day I ride it that I don't contemplate the advantages of living lower (thoughts purged from my brain once I reach the top).

1 comment:

NadiaMac said...

Sorry you are in a funk. Wish you were here.