Friday, May 10, 2013

SF2G Hamway

I've done 28 SF2G rides this year, commuting from home in San Francisco to work in eastern Mountain View at the Sunnyvale border. This ride typically covers around 43 miles up to 50 if I take a more scenic route. But Wednesday I went super-scenic. I finally did Hamway.

Technically Hamway isn't San Francisco to Mountain View, as the real riding starts in Dublin, at the end of the BART line there. Then we rode down to Livermore, stopping first at a small mall where some riders got coffee and/or bagels. Not long after, though, three of us suffered puncture vine flats. One of the riders had a particularly slow fix. We weren't off to a good start towards my goal of getting to work by 1:30 pm, since I'd taken the morning off but not the afternoon.

But we finally made it to Livermore and turned onto Mines Road, always a sobering sight. Mileage markers on Mines Road count up from 0 at this junction until they reach the Santa Clara County border at mile 20. Here the numbers start counting down from approximately 27. At mile 19 you reach the junction with San Antonio Valley Road and Del Puerto Canyon Road. San Antonio is the main way, and the numbers continue counting down here, reaching 0 at the turn-off for the small access road to the Livermore Observatory at the Mount Hamilton summit.

Starting Mines Road, another problem: Beckett's cable housing shredded to his rear derailleur. Fortunately Carl knew a trick of using a bottle cage bolt to tension the rear derailleur cable to gears inaccessible from the limit screw alone. This is one I'll need to remember. Beckett eventually got back on the road, but was stuck in his big ring for some reason. I am not sure what caused this, but he eventually figured out he could kick his chain to the little ring with his foot. So while he did the initial "5 mile climb" (referring to mile marker 5) of Mines Road in way too big a gear, by the steep climb of San Antonio Valley Road he was able to use his little ring. And with the bolt holding his rear cable, he could adjust his gear by stopping and changing the position. It was extremely old school, like 1890 Velocio old school, but it worked fine, and he rode a fairly strong commute.

But here's where things went a bit crazy for me. I was expecting a fairly steady ride with regroups. Certainly I didn't want to be digging myself into a hole today with the Berkeley Hills Road Race coming up on Sunday, and still in a two-week recovery phase from Devil Mountain Double. So when the bulk of the group surged, not too surprisingly, on the Mines Road 5-mile climb, I stuck to my power meter and let them go. Carl, a strong climber, was riding easily next to me and asked whether it was better to stick with me or go with the leaders. I couldn't answer that, it depended on the goals. My goal was to do a single hard effort on the final climb and not overextend myself. After all, we'd just regroup at the junction, if not sooner. Then we'd regroup again at Isabel Creek.

But off he went, quickly bridging up to the decently-sized lead group. Looking at my power, it was obvious ride leader Jason had abandoned his pre-ride promise to stick to a constant power, since I could scale his weight to mine and add a fixed offset for our bikes. There was the additional factor I was the only one wearing a backpack, and a fairly sizable one at that. I somewhat questioned this decision, perhaps my largest Camelbak with bladder removed would have been better, but pre-ride I'd not thought it was a big deal. The added weight of the pack would be offset by its comfort. And I thought I might want to stop at the store on my way home, so wanted a bit of carrying capacity in addition to the change of clothes and light running shoes I'd brought for work (I prefer using running shoes when I take Caltrain or BART to avoid wear on my Bont cycling shoes, which I was wearing this day, since I was on my Ritchey Breakaway with Speedplays, and my old Sidi shoes were just too worn out to provide good foot support, according to 3D Bike Fit).

(an aside: this began as a "quickie" ride report but as invariably occurs, it's already grown well beyond that stage)

I grinded along up the seemingly interminable climb of Mines for the third time in just a few months, the first during Murphy Mack's Spring Classic, the second during DMD 10 days earlier. I eventually reached the more gentle, net climbing but more rolling than climbing portion leading to the eventual two-part descent to the junction. Here I passed Ryan, who was fixing a flat. I made sure he was okay and he sent me ahead, so I continued to roll.

Along the way, I traded places with Marion and Andrew, both of whom passed me but then I subsequently re-passed. Ryan repassed me, his flat fixed. We weren't competing, just riding our own paces. I stopped a few times to pee or to rearrange the items in my pockets, which were hard to access because of the back-pack. And I had two sets of pockets: an outer set associated with my vest, and an inner one associated with my jersey. I try to keep the vest pockets clear for when I remove it, something I surprisingly hadn't done yet. Normally Mines Road is an exercise in heat tolerance, but today it was cool and damp.

Despite this I wasn't feeling so well. I had a recurring headache, which I'd chase away with some of the Endurolytes I'd brought along. This would solve it, perhaps more placebo than anything else, I'm not sure. I had my Garmin on a 20-minute time alert to remind me to drink. I think I was doing so on a regular schedule. Perhaps having awakened at 3:15 am, ahead of my 4 am alarm, meant I was a bit sleep-deprived.

I descended to the junction and not far before is the fire house. A few riders were there, waving me down. This was a surprise, as I'd expected a general regroup here, but the lead group hadn't waited. There was a hose there which could be used for filling bottles, but the Junction Cafe was a preferred option. The Cafe had an external tank with a tap, at least according to reports from last year, intended for drinking. I wasn't so sure about the fire station hose.

But the Cafe was closed and the tank was gone. Later I learned the lead group had been accused of trespassing for passing the closed gates blocking the parking area there. Whoever did so was gone when we arrived, though.

So it was back to the firehouse where we generally regouped. It was me, Andrew, Ryan, Marian, Serena, Beckett, and Ramesh (who'd been keeping Serena company, a good thing for him to do in any case since he's been piling on the miles this month for the May Bike To Work Challenge). We didn't wait long, though, just enough time to fill our bottles from the long hose with the questionably-tasting water and patch our spare tubes. After Serena and Ramesh arrived we were soon ready to roll.

Leaving the junction there's some rollers, including two decent climbs, the latter the most significant, before Isabel Creek at mile marker 5 which begins the final, challenging climb to the top. It was me, Ryan, and Ramesh trading places at the front, with Andrew not far back. Ramesh was pacing with a heart rate monitor and would surge with remarkable intensity until he'd notice his heart rate had gotten too high (for example, 190 beats per minute, a rate I've never been able to reliably reach) and slow way down. Finally, on the last climb before Isabel Creek, I recommended he try a power meter, since that provides much more rapid feedback about pacing.

Ryan was obviously also strong, with more top end than I had this day, and I was letting the competitive aspect get the better of me. I held a my highest power of the day to arrive solo to the beginning of the descent to Isabel Creek. I was still alone when I reached the bridge at the bottom.

I'd hoped for a regrouping at Isabel, and in fact one had been discussed, but the leaders hadn't waited here either. It had been my plan to ride my own pace from here to work so I could make my 1:30 pm goal, so stopping to wait here seemed sort of pointless. I kept going.

I'd never felt good on this climb and today didn't break that streak. On DMD, my power was hovering in the 170's here due to the heat, but today was cooler. Still, I was able to do only 220's for the climb. It's a long slog, the mileage markers counting down slower than expected. Finally at marker 1 the grade relents, the climb becoming more gradual and then eventually topping out. Mile marker 0 finally marked the "top", the turn-off to the short gradual climb to the observatory.

In DMD we kept going here, but I was out of water again, and didn't want to do the 19 mile descent empty. So I turned to ride up the observatory.

A few riders were waiting here including Peter, Carlin, and Jonathan. I wasn't so happy they had all left the weaker riders on their own by skipping all regroup options. I had no issue with it, I said, but Serena had expressed pre-ride concern about the difficulty, and Beckett was on a crippled bike.

Happy group at summit, after I'd left

But anyway, I didn't push the point too hard. I filled and consumed two bottles at the filtered water tap in the observatory, then refilled both bottles. I was surprised I was so thirsty. Food wasn't a problem: I'd started the ride with 5 bars and a full flask of Hammer gel, which corresponds to around 4 gel packs. I still had some food left but in combination with a large serving of oatmeal before leaving in the morning I wasn't calorie-deprived.

My total stop was only 11 minutes and then I began the descent. It started to rain, or rather I entered the rain: light, cool, misty rain which wasn't enough to get me wet but was just enough to make me worry a bit about traction. The two gradual but nontrivial climbs along the way to the bottom were atypically welcome, as they allowed me to dispel the chill of the cool descent.

From the bottom, it was an exercise in navigating the suburban hell which is Silicon Valley. The route I'd charted traversed a long section of Trimble Road. Trimble Road is a typical Silicon Valley disaster: too many lanes and too many traffic lights with interminably long red phases. I complain about these roads repeatedly, but will do so again. This area is a track-wreck of urban planning. It's what happens when you focus on only one thing: car-carrying capacity. The result is high-speed highway like roads where nevertheless the point-to-point progress is amazingly slow due to the long-phase traffic lights which become become necessary at every, frequent intersection due to the requirement that pedestrians with walkers be able to survive the crossing. I'd be fired if I designed electronic circuits the way these roads are designed. Next time, instead of Trimble, I'll take Guadalupe Trail to a trail which parallels a creek along Highway 237. This is longer but far more scenic and likely not much slower, if at all.

After many frustrating traffic light delays and a few stops to check the map on my phone, I arrived at work @ 1:34 pm, only slightly after target. I stopped for a PR-sized salad at the cafeteria and was able to work fairly productively until 6:20 pm, when I left to catch the last Caltrain Baby Bullet north. So I lived up to my goal of commuting for a half-day at work.

Now I had 3 days to recover for Berkeley Hills, which I could do without concern I was hurting my long-term fitness.

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