Saturday, May 31, 2014

2014 MDR day 4: San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara

Day 4: the final stage of the Tour. And I was worried.

This was the longest day, with each leg delivering its own dose of pain. Leg 1: Strawberry Fields, a short but intense climb leading to a long run to the rest stop. Attacking here is a must, but then it's almost hopeless to hold a gap the rest of the way. Leg 2: Harris Grade. This is the most challenging climb on the whole official route. It winds up a hill, with multiple right-hand-turns presenting themselves as strong candidates for the summit, until eventually you hit the actual peak and it's a technical descent to the rest stop in Lompac. Then next is Gaviota Pass, a long, painful, windy grind ending in a final steeper pitch to the summit and a screaming-fast descent to US101 and the final rest stop. Then finally the long run to Galena along the Hwy 101 shoulder. From the exit it's still a considerable distance to the finish, but along scenic Cathedral Oaks and Foothill Ave, a purely enjoyable finish to the long day.

So I was scared.

At the start, as we were gathered in the parking lot of the Rose Garden Inn in San Luis Obispo, I mentioned to Dave Hover that I viewed the day as 3 big doses of pain. "Is that a prediction or a plan?" he responded. I admitted it was a plan. "Dan says he's going to win the KOM on Strawberry, Harris Grade, and Gaviota!" Dave shouted. It was funny, but really I hoped he was right.

Leg 1

I rode near the back of the group until the strawberry fields appeared on the right and left, then I moved up towards the front. Katherine shouted "Dan's moving up!" So much for stealth.

Then the tandem attacked. It was a bold acceleration, opening an impressive gap well before the right turn onto the climb. I thought this was useful: if the tandem had a gap going into the climb, fewer riders would be on its wheel by the top of the climb, and that was fewer riders dragged back to me when, as was inevitable, I was caught before the "sprint".

I didn't react immediately. Instead I waited for the turn and the climb. Immediately after the corner I moved up past the few riders ahead of me then accelerated hard. I quickly caught and passed the tandem, but at that point, I realized I'd overdone it for my present fitness and freshness. I started to fade. Fortunately nobody was with me, but I was breathing hard, struggling to keep my speed, as I crested the top with Eddie with his video camera capturing the view of me riding with snool dripping from my chin.

I crossed the summit and began the first, brief descent. It used to be the key on the descent was to not have any cross-traffic at the intersection at the bottom. Now it's to get a green light at the traffic signal which replaced the stop sign. Last year I got stopped. This year I got the green. I needed all the help I could, and I appreciated the good luck.

It's rollers from here. I felt a bike approaching from behind: this was the tandem, obviously. But it wasn't; it was Jeff. Cool. We traded pulls, I reminding myself when I slot onto a wheel I want to be in a lower gear to accelerate, not a higher one. Jeff was looking back frequently, but I didn't care about what was happening behind. This was all about sustaining the pain.

Jeff finally said the tandem was approaching. There was nothing much to do other than to keep going. The tandem is expert in "the catch": they pass with a huge speed differential, making it extremely difficult to get into their draft. And that's what they did here. We descended past another video cameraperson (I didn't catch who this was) and almost immediately after the tandem conclusively passed on our left.

But never give up, I told myself. Jeff kept at it as well. We briefly stabilized the gap, maybe even closed it a bit, but it was too little. Eventually, mercifully, we reached the sign marking the sprint. Jeff and I didn't contest it between us. The rest stop was soon after. We arrived seconds before the food van. Leg 1 was done.

It turned out Jeff had made the green light, but the others had all gotten red. Only the tandem was fast enough to cover the gap. We had a good time at the rest stop recounting the fun and so this stop was even longer than the typically long stops of the 2014 MDR. But it was all good, as we were enjoying each other's company.

Leg 2

After a long break finally a large group of us set off. I'd seen Pucci leave but I wasn't sure who'd gone with him. Our group were almost immediately split by one of the many red lights on the way out of Lompac. I was in the trailing group, and expressed frustration that we'd sat around for so long waiting for a large group to depart together, then we were going to be split up by stupid bad luck at a traffic light. But the front group missed a light 4 or 5 blocks later and we were back togther.

Since the tandem wasn't with us to take command of the front position, we had a nice, steady paceline with long, smooth pulls along the highway shoulder to the base of Harris Grade. First you resist the temptation to exit at Vandenberg, then the grassy hills appear on the right, then you take the right turn onto the very rural-looking Harris Grade. I was near the front.

First, there's a straight flat portion before the road does a right-angle right turn and begins to gently climb before turning left, disappearing from view. As we turned onto the flat portion I could see up ahead on that first climbing bit maybe 5 riders clumped together. That must have been Mike Pucci's group, I decided. I was a bit surprised it was that big. I wondered if I could catch them.

We crossed colored chalk marks on the road: "MDR 2014!" Janine had announced that she'd purchased colored chalk for road marking, but this is the first I'd seen it used. It's goofy, but it really does boost spirits.

When we took the right to start the climbing, I accelerated, getting a gap. Up that first climb, then a left, then a bit of a descent before beginning the climb proper.

I rode steadily, charting my progress by the group ahead, which was coming into clearer view. Finally I caught them, but as I did, so did one of the food vans, a motorcycle, and several other cars. It was a mess. I tried to be patient, waiting for the congestion to break up. Finally it did and I was on my way again.

Past the main group there were a few other riders from that group further up the hill. Finally I hit the "end game" of the climb, a series of right hand turns which appear to be the top, but then when you clear them, you see the road snaking further into the distance to the next right turn. There's around four of these.

Mike Pucci was ahead. I tried to focus on closing the gap to him, but it would be hard. Usually on this climb I'm hoping for top, but this time, the more road I had, the more chance I had to catch him. As I chased, Wes came descending the other way. He'd obviously reached the top and was returning to join one or more other riders. "200 meters!" he shouted. More chalk marks on the road here: "MDR" and other messages. Oof! I wasn't going to catch Mike.

A few riders were gathered at the summit. What was this, Team In Training? Hardly -- the game was on: the race was to the rest stop. Mike had slowed for the group, but I powered past, going straight into the descent. As I did so I could hear extremely heavy breathing well behind me. It was Peter Tapscott, who's asthma resulted in him making a disturbing sound, but which didn't seem to slow him down much.

My bike was fine on the descent, but Harris Grade has had an issue with gravel in corners, so I was cautous. Michael caught me, not surprisingly, and I followed his wheel the rest of the way. But we hadn't gotten far when we were joined by another rider. It was Peter! I was impressed. He'd closed a considerable gap in a relatively short descent. Peter's a superb descender, as I've long known, and he obviously had more confidence in his ability to react to uncertain road conditions than I did. But Peter's safety record descending is excellent. No excuses here.

Now it was three of us. Peter was the clear favorite for a sprint. But instead of a leg-ripping paceline to hold off a chase, Peter was actually chatty. He was talking about the climb, talking about late apexing corners, talking about all sorts of stuff. Meanwhile I was grimly focused on the serious competition in which we were engaged. Of course, if there was a sprint, Peter was going to take it, no matter who joined us excepting perhaps the tandem.

Like Strawberry Fields, the run-in to the rest stop after this descent was longer than I remembered. Yet there's no obvious sprint point: just a series of traffic lights in Lompoc. We rolled into the rest stop together.

Later, when I checked Strava, my Harris Grade time was a full minute slower than last year, when I'd been trying to hold off Paul and Kerry. They weren't here this year. A part of that time was the much heavier bike this year (heavy fork, rack, handlebar bag, tires, and the frame was likely heavier as well, although I didn't weight the stripped frame). Part was that traffic in which I'd been caught. But a part was fitness: Strawberry Fields took more out of me this year. Last year I'd gone into MDR with the Devil Mountain Double behind me. This year my longest ride had been an SF2G in the low-50's.

Leg 3

Leg 3 is probably the most painful of all. It's dominated by a long, slow grind to Gaviota Pass, then a raging descent to where Highway 1 finally terminates into US101. This, for me, is the last really competitive leg, the fourth including a long slog along the US101 shoulder, which for me is literally an excercise in survival rather than any concern about speed.

At the stop, I noted to Peter I'd eaten less the preceding 24 hours than I'd expected. I even had problems swallowing any food at the rest stops. He concurred, noting he'd ordered "his usual" breakfast but could eat only half of it. Maybe it was the heat: today certainly wasn't hot, but was warmer than the cool weather we'd had so far.

We rolled out in a big group. Sooner than I expected we reached the right turn onto what Google Maps calls Julien Road. From here, it was a long slog on the chipseal shoulder all the way to the pass. Very gentle uphills, a few gentle descents, until the last uphill grind. And the wind: there was a substantial cross-wind which turns this section into long, protracted suffering.

Soon after the turn a group of four or five had established a gap. I'm not sure how, I'm not sure why. It just appeared.

The route to Gaviota pass was a long, long effort, and I was tired. Burning a match to bridge a gap which was going to close anyway would have been a big mistake. So I looked around: there was the tandem to the left, Wes on the right. No problem: one or both of these riders would shut this down.

I noted this to Kathleen, who was riding next to me. "The tandem's here, Wes is here; no problem!"

"The tandem won't be here long," she replied.

Kathleen was right. The next time I looked up the tandem had bridged, and was powering the lead group away. Damn. And where was Wes? I felt like I was trapped in a dream, where people and bikes teleported hither and thither without warning, or in the case of Wes, simply self-annihilated.

Ben was there, taking pulls, as was Dan and I. But it was clear we weren't making progress. Dan went to the front and ramped up the effort. This popped Ben, leaving only me on Dan's wheel. Then Dave Hover bridged up.

The three of us rode well, taking steady, even pulls. We finally passed Michael Rowe, punctured on the right side of the road. There were a bunch of punctures on this stretch. I later learned Wes had indeed not self-annihilated, but rather had been one of the flat victims, right near the beginning. This is why we'd not seen him.

Then Hover flatted. I slowed to help. "Go on!" he shouted. I hesitated, but then continued. If he was missing anything he could always get help from the following group.

Finally we reached the last, steeper climb to the pass. I put in a hard effort here, dropping Dan. Over the top, the descent to Gaviota....

The cross-winds here were substantial. There's basically no curves: it's more or less straight down, so I hoped I'd be okay. Last year I remember Wes shimmying in the wind, while I was okay on my Ritchey Breakaway. I was very much not okay today. I suddenly lost control of the bike, drifting from the right side to the left of the shoulder. A large truck descended the road just ahead. Getting thrown into the path of overtaking traffic didn't seem like a solid plan.

So I slowed: a lot. I came almost to a stop, then slowly increased my speed. This was the third time on the tour I'd had to slow subtantially down to control my bike, after Laureles Grade on day 1 and the first KOM descent on day 2. After the tour, I realized my headset had gone slightly loose. The stem is clamped by a single bolt, and it wasn't tight enough, causing the front end to develop excess play. I don't know why I didn't realize this earlier. I have an amazing ability to not notice things. Was this the cause of my instabilities? I've not tested that yet.

Dan repassed me on the descent, but then slowed when he was uncertain of the way. The end of Highway 1 is counterintuitive, because to go south, you turn to the north. The road eventually loops around so you're pointing south again.

The old rest stop which we've all grown to love in a way due to what it signifies was gone: blocked off for construction to some untrusted purpose. Instead we had a dirt pull-out. A bunch of riders were there already, including a beaming Peter Tapscott, who'd won the KOM to the pass. I tried to share his joy, to admire the impressive views of the nearby hills, but honestly I was bitter, so very bitter, that I'd missed the opportunity to bridge that gap at the base of the climb.

Leg 4

Last time I'd missed a group roll-out from this stop, but this year we were in a nice group. I was mostly at or near the back, leaving a bit of a safety gap, since there were tire shreds and other debris littering the shoulder. To spice things up further there were for most of the distance rumble strips around 2 feet inside the fog line. The strips would come and go, disappearing near entrances, exits, and intersections. These gaps would typically induce people to use that part of the shoulder to avoid debris, until the strips would reappear, then riders would get caught in them. At one point a water bottle was lost, but I dodged it. I was getting good practice at dodging things, with all the tire shards, hub caps, random pieces of metal, and the odd tree branch.

Peter was pulling the whole way, which was quite nice. I thought back to my first MDR, when this was a paceline-from-hell death march, reaching the Goleta exit sprint completely spent. Not this year. It was a nice steady cruise over very un-nice roadway.

The exit finally, mercifully arrived, and we all tool the left for Cathedral Oaks. This used to be considered an "optional" route, but has been converted to the mainstream route when I helped convinced Janine of it's vast superiority. Yes, it's hillier, but it's so very much nicer than riding down the main road, which becomes State Street in Santa Barbara.

Cherries! (in the truck)

So we all went that way. I expressed how much I looked forward to buying cherries at the cherry vendor near San Marcos Road. It was the primary motivation for having bought this bike and handlebar bag, I said. Sure enough, when we arrived at the stand, I indicated my intent to go, and turned from the group. "Shouldn't we all buy cherries?" Peter asked. But the others were too close to the goal; they didn't want to stop. Several of them were after beer & pizza at a traditional stop near the Lemon Tree hotel, our ultimate destination. Peter described the pizza stop as a good place to wait for rooms to become ready. I think Peter was remembering a faster past for the ride. There wouldn't be much of a wait for rooms this year.

Wheelchair athlete on Cathedral Oaks/Foothill

So I was alone from here. It was still a considerable distance, over 10 miles. But I munched the occasional cherry, and it was nice. I made a few efforts on some of the gradual, short climbs. I passed an impressive wheel-chair athlete. It was all good.

The long-standing error in the route sheet, recommending Roque instead of Alamar, had been fixed. I arrived at the hotel. The tour was done.


Giant lasagna

The rest of the day was nice. Protein drink, snack, shower, hot tub, post-tour festivities in said hot-tub, ceremonial bike loading into the U-haul, awards dinner with my giant "vegetarian option" lasagna. I skipped the ice cream social afterwards (the lasagna had been plenty) as well as the crowd who went dancing in Santa Barbara and instead got a good night's sleep.

Mission Santa Barbara chalk art

The next morning I went to the Coffee Bean, and nearby coffee place I really like, and got an Odwalla. I also had some food left over from my SLO Trader Joe's run. I then walked over to Mission Santa Barbara for the annual display of chalk art, a wonderful event which Bob Stenz had introduced me to years before (Bob couldn't make the tour this year). Then it was time to load into the vans for the long drive home.

The highlight of that drive is the King City stop, where I got fresh tortillas (truly amazing) and some tacos in the nearby stand. The tacos are great because of the tortillas, baked the same day just down the street. The low point was clearly the one hour delay from a crash on Highway 101 just south of Gilroy. It's always a traffic choke-point, and the addition of the collision made it that much worse.

On the Baby Bullet

But I was in good company, so the 6 hour drive seemed a lot faster than that. We eventually got back to Dave and Michelle's. There I helped unload the bikes from the U-Haul which arrived around 20 minutes after us (I accidentally got a drivetrain on my pants... yuck). Then I fetched my rear rack and panniers, installed them on my bike, transferred my duffle bag and contents to the panniers and front bag, then rode back to San Jose where I arrived with 3 minutes to spare for the "weekend" Baby Bullet train. It was an exhausting day: more tiring than any of the four riding days But I was home.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

MDR 2014 day 3: San Simeon to San Luis Obispo


Day 3 of the MDR is the "recovery day". It's also the day of Gregg Ferry's descending contest. Janine the night before had declared the traditional 9:00 roll-out was to be replaced with a 9:30 roll-out to provide more time for rooms to be made ready at the destination hotel, which was this year to be the Rose Garden Inn in SLO. I was a bit disappointed, as I like SLO and preferred to spend the extra half hour there, but so it was. We rolled at 9:30 sharp.

To breakfast

I was with Peter, and had mentioned to him that tomorrow was quite hard enough, and had no interest in following Michael Rowe, who was doing an extra climb, up Highway 46. Highway 46 is a busy road with wide shoulder, so climbing it has only the attraction of training, and I was getting plenty of that already. So we rolled as a group to Cambria, the traditional breakfast place. As we got to the turn-off, David Hover continued straight with some others to ride further, to Pismo Beach perhaps, for an alternate breakfast spot.

I'd already eaten quite enough with the left-over Mexican food, so had only tea at breakfast, a tasty vanilla herbal blend. I was still off caffeine, having given it up at my injury last June, and was having no problem waking up in the morning. Good to keep caffeine tolerance low, then when you really need it, like at the end of a hard race, just a few sips of Coca-Cola will provide a huge boost. This was training, not a race, so except for a minior transgression at the tour start in Campbell where I had a sip of Peet's coffee, I was caffeine-free for this one.

My table, including Peter, Garrett, and Sherrie, was last to be served. Riders from other tables started rolling out when they were done eating. So Peter, Garrett, and I found ourselves rolling out together for the 20-something miles to the only rest stop for the day.

Leg 1: to the rest stop

Rolling in San Simeon: about the only time you'll find the tandem so far front on a flat road

The tailwind pushed us along over the rollers of Highway 1, much wider here than it is in Big Sur. There's more and more beach-side development the further south you go, more of a SoCal feel. Eventually we reached the rest stop, a highway rest stop with a traditional peeing tree.

I hungrier than most of the others, having eaten breakfast much earlier, and took advantage of the bananas, almond butter, and Gatorade at the stop. And, of course, the peeing tree.

Wes's group rolled out, then Gregg Ferry's. Peter and I lagged a bit behind but quickly caught Gregg. Wes was planning a scenic bike path route, while Gregg would stay on the highway longer. We'd meet at the descending contest location.

Leg 2: to SLO

There's a nice climb leading to the sight of the descending contest. I made a hard effort here, taking advantage of the tail-wind. Then I waited for the others.

The descending contest is an amazing and wonderful thing. You get a single pedal-stroke, one leg from 12 o'clock to 6 o'clock, and from there no more pedaling allowed. There's a gradual slope where you build up a bit of speed (not much), then a flat section where I always think I'm going to come to a halt but never do, then another downhill acceleration until a longer flat run to a stop sign. Riders finish amazingly close, typically reaching a bridge before the stop sign, but only Sherrie Smith in the history of the contest has reached the sign itself, some fluke of the wind since she's no bigger than I am.

I was really curious how this would go. Would my fatter tires @ relatively low pressure result in reduced vibrational losses, while my handlebar bag act like a fairing, propelling me well past the bridge and towards the stop sign in glorious victory? Well, it didn't go that way. Of those who didn't give up early, I was last, essentially at the bridge. Dead last. The winner, for the second year in a row, was Alan Armstrong. I was crushed... visibly crushed. I contemplated quitting the tour right there, maybe giving up cycling completely.

My view from where I rolled to a stop in the descending contest. Last place!

But I had to get over it. I couldn't let my failure, as substantial as it was, drag me down. So when Gregg called the contest done, I clipped in again and set off with the group.

Several riders had flats on the ride in. Wes was among the riders who stopped to help, but I non-valiantly stuck with the pack. As I rode through one of the many intersections, I noted the street sign: Perfumo Canyon Road. It instantly clicked: last year I'd heard about the group that did this road, and I swore I'd do it my next opportunity. It was said to be quite scenic as well as a challenging climb.

Too late to turn immediately, I overshot the intersection, did a U-turn, and returned to Perfumo Canyon. The road started innocuously enough: just another overbuild suburban boulevard. But it quickly narrowed, developing a much more rural character, and I was hooked.

But the steady climbing didn't start immediately. It was more rolling: up a bit, flat a bit, maybe a short descent. But then it started to climb more steadily. I was gaining altitude, but still trees blocked any view of the valley.

Suddenly I heard an overtaking vehicle: obviously a motorbike. Sure enough, a small motorcycle came by on my left, into the next corner. As soon as it disappeared from view I heard the unmistakable plasticky sound of motorbike making violent contact with the pavement. I was to the corner quickly, and the motorcyclist, apparently unhurt, was trying to bring his bike upright.

"What happened? Are you okay?" I asked.

"Just being stupid," he responded. I didn't disagree. I did take advantage of the chance to ask him where the top was. He said the road continued to the beach, but there was a viewpoint which marked the top of the climb.

It wasn't long before the trees cleared and I indeed had a wonderful view of below, as promised. But the climbing continued. The wind was gusting and it was cool, as fog accumulated at the top of the hill.

More climbing... eventually I saw the unmistable David Hover descending on his Moots. I hadn't seen him since he zoomed past Cambria to his special breakfast site. He said the top was just ahead... and something about a false flat.

I continued until it was clear I had passed the top. I was fully in the light fog here. A ranch house was nearby. I could see the road descending ahead.

The top of Perfumo Canyon Road

I stopped to check my iPhone Google Maps app, checking the route for the Rose Garden Inn. It recommended I continue on the road to Sea Canyon Road which led to Avila Beach and from there up Highway 1 to my destination: 12 miles. This didn't make much sense to me, since I'd climbed around 5 miles and from the base it was only 2 miles to the hotel. So I decided to return the way I'd come.

Obligatory bike shot while I check Google Maps

As I descended, I saw multiple cyclists from our group climbing the other way. Wes was the first, but also Jeff was there, with others. Somehow Jeff had recruited a group to make the same decision I had.

The cows just crossed the road. Don't ask why.

Although I had to stop for cows crossing the road along the way, I finally made it back to Los Osos Valley Road, then from there it was a very short distance to the hotel, which I found with only a little problem.


I was fairly tired, this had hardly been much of a recovery day. But after doing my usual stuff (protein drink, a snack, shower, wash cycling clothes) I headed for the hot tub. Peter was there and he was angry, in a friendly way, for me doing Perfumo Canyon when previously I'd said I didn't want to do any extra today. I explained I'd forgotten about Perfumo Canyon, which was true. He said we had to do the full loop next year, stopping in Avilla Beach for lunch.

After most of the others had piled into vans to drive into downtown, I kicked myself out the door and in my street shoes rode the 4+ miles on my bike. Along the way I stopped at Wally's bike shop for a portable Rav-X bike lock, then went to my favorite chocolate shop to get dark chocolate for Cara, then to the Bliss Cafe for a delicious Rama smoothie. But by then it was getting chilly, and I had only my light jacket over my T-shirt, so I headed back to the Rose Gardin, stopping at Trader Joe's for some food for the evening and the following morning.

Chocolate for Cara

Creek Walk, outside Bliss Cafe

On the positive side, this was the first day I didn't have serious Garmin/Strava issues.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

MDR 2014 day 2: Carmel to San Simeon


Day 2 of the 2014 MDR was the highlight. I'd done MDR tour four times before, but three had been the "inland" route through King City. Only once before had I ridden the coastal route, and that year it was cold and damp through Big Sur. This year looked much more promising: some low-hanging clouds, but it looked to burn off if Friday was to be anything like Thursday, and indeed the forecast was for it to be warmer.

Last night had been interesting. After my regular roommate bailed out on me to get his own room, exploiting spots made available by cancelled riders and willing to pay the single-room rate, I ended up with Mike Morgenfeld as a partial roomate. He'd been in a room of 3 and slept in the free bed in my room, keeping his stuff in his original room. Roomates are more interesting: I have a lot of good conversations with them on MDR. The only real issue I fear is sleep incompatibility, as I very rarely sleep over 8.5 hours except when camping, but that's never been too much of an issue.

As we staged in the parking lot, I asked David Hover if he'd done Nacimiento Fergusson Road. The previous time I'd done this route, I'd been suffering, fixated on the wheel ahead, when Wes has suddenly peeled off the paceline, crossed to the left side of Hwy 1, and ridden over a cattle guard onto a minor-looking side road. I later learned he'd climbed Nacimento Fergusson, a climb John Summerson called the best off the Pacific Coast, and on which Jared Gruber did a photo essay in Peloton Magazine. I've wanted to climb it ever since that MDR, and this was my chance. But after yesterday, I was still tired.

David said he hadn't, but I could tell he was interested. Later, he told me that Steve was going to do it with us. I was committed, although I didn't admit so yet.

With the navigation today so trivial, I decided to use it as a test for my Garmin 800 navigation. Surely, riding along the coast with continual line of sight to satellites and not a single turn to be taken in over 90 miles of official route, the Garmin would indicate perpetually smiling approval of my navigational rigor. Heh.

Opening instructions

First Leg

We rolled out punctually at 8 am, and after a few pedal strokes were on Highway 1, which we'd follow all the way to San Simeon. Sure enough, the views were far better this year. We crossed several scenic bridges until we hit the most scenic and most famous of them all: Bixby. Bixby Bridge is an iconic photo every year of the Tour of California and a major landmark of the annual April Big Sur Marathon.

The group was in a long single file due to the lack of a major shoulder and the relatively heavy car traffic. This provided a good excuse to not be competitive: I'd bridge by obvious gaps, but I wasn't going to swarm the front in an effort to keep up with the tandem or anyone else. Sure enough, a group got away fairly early, and I was riding with David, Lauren, Dan, Jeff, Katherine, and some others: a nice, pleasant pace.

As we rode, I got quick results on my Garmin navigation experiment. I got multiple instructions to turn onto obscure side-roads, including one alley. By the second warning to take a U-turn, I turned to the course page and shut off the navigation. In fairness, some of these side roads are fairly close to the highway, and if this had been a century ride or brevet, there might have been a critical check-point on one of them. So the Garmin navigation algorithm faces a challenging task. But the programmed course included no side alleys and no obscure alternate roads. But they simply need to do better if it's going to be a useful function. For example, have a user-settable matching threshold associated with each course to limit how strict it is about trying to keep you on the official route. U-turn warnings while crusing down Highway 1 are simply failure.

At one point I passed a yellow Mustang convertable, which I suspected to be a rental car, parked on the right side of the road, the driver standing on the opposite side photographing it. Indeed, the view to the right was simply spectacular. I signaled my intent to pull over and take a photo. The others followed my example. This produced my best shot of the trip.

Photo opp

Eventually we continued. The distance passed quickly to the first rest stop. This is traditionally on the right side of the road, but Sherri Smith, the front-group sag driver, put it on the left by a gas station, based on the route sheet which clearly said left. Tradition or route sheet? Route sheet won.

I felt good at this point, no doubt to a large degree because I'd left the leaders go to avoid shenanegans. We hung out at the rest stop for a long time, as has been the pattern on this year's tour, before heading off for the second leg.

Second Leg

The highlight of the second leg was the 4th category climb from the Tour of California. The race had done a stage very similar to what we were riding, the primary difference being that they finished in Cambria, 4 miles south of San Simeon where we were stopping. The stage had three ranked climbs: a category 4 in our leg 2, then a category 4 followed quickly by a category 3 on the third leg. At this climb, I followed Wes's wheel as he set a steady tempo. Toward the top, he gapped me a bit, and I crossed the KOM line, still marked with yellow stickers, a few seconds after him. Grumblegrumble... He turned around to descend back to rejoin his group. After a pause, though, I decided to continue on, riding at a moderate pace.

fog at top of first ATOC KOM

After the descent and some rollers, I was rejoined by the group. We rolled together to the second rest stop.

Third Leg

At the second rest stop I noticed Dave Hover wasn't there. When we'd rolled out I'd not seen him and assumed he'd been up the road. But clearly not. I was slightly worried because I knew he was planning to climb Nacimiento Fergusson. The other surprise was that Janine and Mike of the tandem were here, since they'd rolled off with a front group early on. But David arrived not too long after, so we were good. I quickly realized there was more knowledge and interest in the climb than I'd expected. It had gone semi-viral. Dan and Lauren and Jeff and Mike Morganfeld in addition to Steve and David were all in. People were talking about "the optional climb", as if it were indicated on the route sheet as an option. Cool.

Jeff told me he was doing it in part because he'd signed to sag the final leg today. I was a bit worried about this, since obviously the climb would add a huge time increment, and we'd already dallied at both this and the preceding rest stop. Not a problem, he said: Garrett (with whom Jeff went way, way back) was sagging the third leg, and so Garrett knew to wait for him.

The stats I'd remembered for the climb were 10.5 km and 850 vertical meters from having hastily reviewed a Strava segment. That's 8.1%, a considerable average for a climb with a relatively flat section part way up.

The weather wasn't as clear as I'd hoped. Despute the gorgeous blue skies we'd had for part of the first leg, here low-lying clouds blocked the sky. We were clearly going to climb into this, but the the clouds were bright, not dark, so they were thin. Wes, at the rest stop, indicated he thought we'd be through them by 1000 vertical feet.

I tried to drink some at the rest stop before refilling my bottles with a one-scoop solution of Gatorade powder. This was a long distance between rest stops on the nominal route: 30 miles. We were adding, I expected, 13 more, for a total of 43. I had to do that with two bottles, which is all I had. I had three Lara bars, however. So I was good on food.

Eventually we rolled out. 3 miles from the rest stop, suddenly Jeff called out the left turn. I was caught by surprise, as I'd thought it was 2 miles further. But sure enough, there it was: a left into a fairly steep grade containing a cattle guard, the road sign announcing "Nacimiento Fergusson". I had to do a quick U-turn, hitting the right-hand button on my Garmin 800 to initiate a lap, hitting the cattle guard at way less speed than I'd have preferred (but it was an exceptionally smooth cattle guard, fortunately).

We climbed a short distance, then there was a descent, losing some of that altitude we'd just gained. But the climbing began again, steeply, soon after. I glanced down at the unit to check progress. Whoops. That right button I'd hit was "start/stop", not "lap/reset". It wasn't running. So I quickly restarted it, then hit lap. But this error meant I lost the critical beginning of the climb and so I wouldn't match a full-climb Strava segment. After the ride, I spent probably two hours trying to hack the data to get a match, but without luck. Finally I decided to limit my losses. I know I did the climb, and the ride data show I did the climb. I just don't show up on the full-climb segment.

But I'm jumping ahead of myself. Along the side of the road green signs indicated "0.5", "1.0", "1.5", etc. These were clearly mile markers. The finish of the climb should have been 6.5 miles, I calculated, given the 10.5 km distance I'd recalled.

The climb was steep, and was sustaining that. I had visions of the other riders, now behind me, cursing me for recommending this route, turning back, abandoning me to my self-inflicted fate. But I continued to ride.

Wes's prediction proved true, and it wasn't long before I burst through the cloud layer and faced warming sunshine. Not long after the grade leveled out: I was at the flattish section approximately half-way up.

The mileage had continued to uptick at a remarkable pace. At one point I saw a sign and was surprised to see it was already 3.5. Climbing steep roads is normally a painful grind, but this one was such a special experience, that I didn't want it to end. The road surface was chip-seal, so somewhat rough, but with the 32 mm wide Strada Bianca tires at approximately 65 psi, not an issue.

The flattish part passed, and the serious climbing began again. But this portion wasn't as steep as the initial portion. The reduced grades combined with the fantastic views made the effort a pure joy. The views were of a cloud layer rather than spectacular sea cliffs, but it was still very nice.

It was getting hot: I had a long-sleeve undershirt, my Low-Key jersey, shorts, knee warmers, calf sleeves, gloves, a cycling cap, and my helmet. I was drinking a lot. One bottle was empty, and I started on my second. It was clear I'd need to find water before the next stop, but with a campground at the base of the climb, I was confident I'd get some. Failing the campground, I figured there was probably a store along the way. I'd manage.

Mile 6.0 passed, and there was no sign of the climb ending. Then remarkably I hit 6.5. Still climbing... whoops; this was the distance at which I'd been telling people we'd hit the top. I began to suspect the Strava segment I'd seen had started after the initial climb-descent, rather than at Highway 1.

Mile 7.0 and I knew I was in the end-game. Before 7.5 hit, I was there: a 4-way intersection, the road itself, which continued to King City, and an intersecting dirt road, which the roadsign indicated to be of considerable length. Some campers had set up a tent. It wasn't clear to me if it was an official campsite. I searched it for water spigots, but saw none.

I finally climbed Nacimiento Fergusson!

A small truck drove by, the driver, in a cheery voice, shouting "do you know the way to Nacimeniento Station?" I had no idea, but told him if it had been on the climb I'd just done I'd likely have noticed it. He thanked me and headed down the eastern slope.

The flies hovered around me, as Wes had warned me they would. But they weren't that bad. No biting, not even any sweat-licking, They were at worst a minor annoyance. Overall, I was actually enjoying the heat, after two days of knee warmers and full-sleeve undershirts.

Not soon after, though, the driver was back. He waved hello and rumbled, 4-wheel-drive fashion, down the northern direction of the dirt road. I wondered what had changed his mind.

Lauren reaches the summit on her very cool Guru Photon

My fellow riders started to arrive, then, to my surprise, since I'd concluded surely they'd have turned back, blaming me for exposing them to this steep, long climb on what was already a challenging riding day. But rather anger, they greeted me universally with gratitude for challenging them to such a spectacular road. I was pleased.

We gathered for a group shot but there was the issue of who was going to take the shot. Just at that moment the truck reappeared, the driver as cheery as ever. Someone asked him if he'd take our photo. "Sure!" he responded, and began to get out of his truck. "Do you have any water?" someone else boldly asked. I wasn't the only one who had depleted his supply. The driver produced, to our astonishment, a 1 gallon jug which he declared to be excess. We each refilled our bottles. This elicited enormous gratitude from our crew. I offered him one or more of my Lara bars, but he refused. Jeff took advantage of the opportunity, however, and took my cashew bar.

Photo shoot over and bottles refilled, we headed down the descent. Not long after we started we saw Mike Morgenfeld climbing, almost to the top. We cheered him on and continued descending.

I followed Dave Hover, the others falling behind for various reasons. The descent was fine, but we were cautious due to the blind corners. I was a bit concerned about the handling on my bike, but without sharp cross-winds, it was good. I appreciated the relatively wide 32 mm rubber, providing a bit less concern about gravel and rocks. Finally we passed through the cloud layer and faced a spectacular view of the coastline. Dave stopped for the photo op, and I joined him.

Another photo opp

Looking down at Highway 1, most of the way down Nacimiento Fergusson

We waited he for the others, then waited some more to admire the view. Jeff clearly wasn't in a big hurry to get stop, so I wasn't going to worry about it. Finally David said we should be going, and I took the lead the rest of the way.

Back on 1, we continues south. Within a few miles we came to the next down, which had a store. I had gotten a gap on a climb to this point, and waited to see if the others wanted to stop. They did. The store became a virtual rest stop, which most of the crew buying food here. David bought a gallon jug of water which we shared. We were there for quite awhile.

At one point I asked Jeff if Garrett was going to kill him when we got to the rest stop.

The climbing was far from over. Along the way were the two ranked climbs from the Tour of California. The first, a cat 4, I rode with Jeff, with Dan not far behind. But on the descent things went bad for me: the gusting crosswinds off the coast made for very dicey handling on my front end, and I had to slow well below Jeff's speed. Jeff rides a Cervelo S5 with carbon rims, and excellent bike both in its aerodynamics and its handling, and while I could follow his draft without too much problem in good circumstances, after slowing for front-end instabilities he was long gone.

This is a big issue, because it's very disconcerting to suddenly feel front-end stability disappear with a wind gust when descending at speed. It would inhibit me the rest of the tour any time there was a descent with a significant wind. And while this obviously wasn't a race, obviously one likes to reap the awards of hard work going up.

The category 3 climb comes immediately after the descent. It's steeper but shorter. I put in a maximal effort to catch Jeff, but while I reduced to gap, I couldn't close it. Jeff took the points.

The third rest stop wasn't too far past here. To my surprise, I saw Gregg Ferry's group rolling out as we rolled in. It turned out we didn't cause the volunteer to wait so long after all.

Fourth Leg

Garrett had left, leaving the leg 4 driver to wait and watch both food vans, which were each here. This was was good, because the lead vehicle had delicious potatoes (not oily at all, my usual issue with potatoes). I'd not felt like eating these at stops 1 and 2, but at this point, with almond butter, they were excellent. So Jeff took over the lead vehicle here while the rest of us set off for the final leg of the day.

This fourth leg was substantially different from the first three, with the rugged coast gone, replaced with a flat tailwind-assisted run. It was easy to see how the break stayed away in the Tour of California stage: our little group, led by Mike "it was the Coke" Morgenfeld, maintained a considerable pace on the run into San Simeon. At one point we passed a beach packed with elephant seals. I pointed this out to the others, remembering the last time I'd done this route that I'd completely missed both the sight and the smell of them with my target fixation on the wheel ahead, to the amusement of Cara. I took a longish pull toward the end of the run, giving a maximum effort for the town line, but getting dusted by Mike, who like me is on Team Roaring Mouse. I could always claim I was giving him a lead-out. That's it: I was being the loyal team-mate.

And so we were done. This approach to San Simeon was in striking contrast to the 4-mile headwind-slog from Cambria to the south, the path followed by the inland route. It was also a strong contrast to my last time here, a paceline-death-march. The MDR has grown kindler and gentler since those days.

The Silver Surf Inn is a favorite, one of the two hotels which feature in both routes. I was disappointed to see they'd switched from their classic metal keys to electronic keys. Progress, I suppose. But the hot tub was the same as ever.

We ate dinner at the usual Mexican place across the street. I ordered my usual two tacos but the waitress over-ruled my order to a veggie tostada, which turned out to be a good choice but it was so large it provided not only dinner but most of my next morning's breakfast. They distributed pitchers of beer, refilled our salsa, served huge servings of food only the obese or the long-distance cyclist could come close to finishing, but wouldn't give us a water pitcher due to the drought. Water shortage, but clearly no beer shortage, no salsa shortage, no rice & beans shortage. Hard times. After dinner some of the others went out for ice cream as well. I went to bed.

Monday, May 26, 2014

MDR 2014 day 1: Campbell/San Jose to Carmel

Day 1 of the Memorial Day Ride...


The night before, after having bought food at the local Trader Joe's to eat for supper, after an invitation from my host I opted instead for the $20 meal option at the AirBNB and it was well worth it. Dinner was an excellent selection of vegetarian Indian food, and breakfast was hot almond milk, grains, and ripe peaches. Both were delicious, and excellent, nutritious food for the ride. The bed was super-comfortable, I slept well, and I awoke after a solid 8+ hours.

I packed my bike and headed over to the start, arriving precisely at the 7:00 recommended arrival time. Yet there was already a solid crowd there. There were plenty of familiar faces: MDR has a very high return-rider rate, and I think some occasional riders made a special point to be there for this 25th. There were only three first-timers.

I removed the panniers and rear rack from the Allaban, transferred the contents to the duffle bag I'd had in my handlebar bag for the ride from the train station but had instead just carried on my shoulder this morning, then put the rear rack in one pannier, that pannier in the other, and put it on a shelf in the garage. Hopefully it would still be there on Monday when we should return. For the tour my clothes were now packed into my duffle, my laptop was in my small backpack, and the backpack was also stuffed into the duffle.

I got a few comments about my bike which was clearly out of place among all the carbon race bikes. It was almost all top-level stuff, Cervelo, Trek, Willier, Felt, Guru, Teschner.... Dura-Ace (including a few Di2) and Red... plenty of carbon rims, including a pair of Lightweights. I've seen less on pro bikes. In contrast, here I was with my steel rig, 32 mm tires on steel rims, and a big handlebar bag. In all, there were approximately 56 riders. There were 2 steel (mine and Ben's very nice Colnago), two aluminum (Lyvia's Rock Lobster and the Co Motion tandem), 3 Ti (Moots, Serotta, Merlin), and 48 carbon fiber.

Lightweight rims

KNC cranks

My bike. Panniers are visible, stashed to upper left. Hopefully still there when I get back.

Eddie documenting the action

Janine issuing instructions to the unruly mob

After all the usual pre-ride activities and announcements, those of us who weren't driving one of the three support vehicles (two food vans + 1 luggage van) clipped in and rolled off. The first clip-in on a tour like this is always a bit surreal.

leg 1: to Watsonville Road

It was an uncharacteristically mellow roll out of the urban sprawl, mostly along Camden Ave. After a considerable distance of this massive investment in car addiction that is suburbia we reached Harry, marking the start the start of the "Uvas Reservoir" section of the route. Harry quickly leads to McKean and there the real fun begins.

There's two small bumps on McKean where for some reason the front riders put in a big effort. Peter, a front group mainstay, was immediately out of the saddle. It seemed reckless to be burning matches so early in a challenging 95 mile ride, so I cruised here. Last year this resulted in my missing a split at the following traffic light, not seeing the front group again until the first rest stop at mile 27 (Watsonville Road), but this time the light was red, so all the efforts were wasted.

Eventually I found myself following the wheel of a guy riding a gorgeous Felt AR0 who was leading the pack on his aero bars. I glanced back and there was a gap. I continued to follow as he happily pulled along as Peter, Mitch, another Los Gatos rider, Jeff (who was riding strong) and Pucci bridged. A few people I'm used to seeing in the front group, including the tandem of Mike and Janine, were missing (I later learned the Go Pro which had been mounted to their bike detached after drooping into the rear tire, getting ejected to the roadway). But we started trading pulls.

McKean turns into Uvas, and Uvas leads to Watsonville, the first rest stop @ the intersection. Uvas is a narrow road, with little shoulder. Traffic is only moderate, but the traffic there is is too frequently a heavy truck, making single file a must. A few times Pucci came by on my right rear, looking for a mini-echelon, which made me uncomfortable given the traffic issue. Once I overlapped wheels of the rider in front, which when he slowed caused me to slow suddenly, causing Pucci on my wheel (not overlapped at this point) some justifiable distress, but overall it was smooth. I don't do group rides as much as I did at one time, and I get rusty on little details.

End game approached and I started thinking about the sprint to Watsonville Road. I was leading, ready to peel off, when first one, then immediately another car passed. I looked back to make sure it was clear and saw a bike trailing us. What is a solo rider? The tandem? In any case they were too far back to be a concern.

But it wasn't more than a few seconds before I drifted to the back of the line and slotted into position, still recovering from my pull, when I got confirmation it was indeed the tandem. It came blasting by on the left, immediately getting a gap, and causing Peter and another rider to chase. But it was hopeless. The timing was perfect, because Watsonville was just ahead. The tandem took it.

I was gapped by the chase. I tried to limit the damage, but finished 4th (counting the tandem as one). I think two others were behind me.

leg 2: to Wastonville

After an uncharacteristically long stop, I rolled out in a lazy chase of the two Los Gatos riders (Mitch and Michael, I think), until I was joined again by the remaining riders from the first group from leg 1. The main feature of this leg was the climb of Hecker Pass. Hecker is a moderate-grade climb which peaks out at between 1300 and 1400 feet of elevation. Pucci took the lead here, setting a nice tempo, with Peter suffering a bit of asthma and breathing hard on my wheel. It was just the three of us. I expected Peter would drop off, but instead, approaching the summit (the county line, the distance to which is indicated with mileage markers on the roadside), he surged ahead. I moved from Pucci's wheel to his wheel, and followed him to the summit sign.

The were were in a cloud, a misty rain wetting the roads, creating cool and slippery conditions on the twisting descent westward. I stopped to put on my jacket, then rode very slowly on the upper portion of the descent, unhappy with the wet roads.

Further down, the roads dried a bit, and I increased my speed. The handling of the Allaban with the handlebar bag was slightly, only slightly uncomfortable. I reached the bottom at the first turn-off and the other 6, including the two Los Gatos riders we'd passed on the climb, were waiting along with the lead food van. I arrived just after Jeff, who'd been the sixth.

leg 2: to Watsonville

We set off on the flat roads from here to the second rest-stop. The pace was mellower than on Uvas. Our way passed Reservation Road, which is part of Ford Ord which has hosted several bike races I've done before, including Sea Otter Classic and the old district championship race. Following this, I didn't recognize some of the highways on which we generally rode here from the last time I did this route, and then I realized the last time I'd ridden with Wes, who does a longer, more scenic option. I was following the route sheet mounted in my map holder, shouting out instructions to whomever was leading. I vowed if I did this again I'd do Wes's route: riding on highway shoulders with traffic on the wrong side of 60 mph isn't fun.

At one point I stopped to remove my jacket, still on from the descent. I began to chase, and noticed my speed on the Edge 800 was stuck at 45.7 kph. Wow -- a pro level chase! But it quickly became obvious this wasn't my present speed, but rather the display was frozen from some point in the distant, faster past: probably on the descent. I power cycled the computer and ended up losing all of my data from the beginning of the ride as a result.

Finally, after two "wrong" turns on the leg, one keeping us on a busy road longer than planned (Lakeside), one taking us to a short dirt path after we stayed on Portola too long (which was fun), we eventually reached the second rest stop, at 55 miles. There wasn't any sprint for this one.

As I waited at the stop, I realized this was now the longest ride I'd done this year. And still 40 miles to go... I was feeling a bit grim.

leg 3: to Laureles Grade

The two Los Gatos guys stealthed away from the rest stop. Four of us: Peter, me, Pucci, and the guy on the Felt AR0 rolled out together somewhat later. My legs were definitely waning, and when Peter initiated a rotating paceline, I shouted "I'm done" and waved them on. But Peter and the others waited, and we returned to a mellower pace. I was then able to help take pulls.

This leg passed through Elkhorn Slough, a gorgeous section which is just as pretty when viewed from the Coastal Starlight Amtrak route, which I unfortunately won't be taking this year (it only really works if there's a critical mass of riders doing it, and the completely unreliable schedule leaves little margin for getting back to the Ritter's house in time on Monday). But I soaked it up during the ride.

After leaving the Slough, however, the rest of the leg is dull. We finally arrived at Laureles Grade, which was the site of the 3rd stop and the base of the most challenging climb of the day: shorter than Hecker, but much steeper.

leg 4: to Carmel

The tandem arrived, and she proposed doing an alternate route up Laureles. This was remarkable, a wonderfully scenic narrow, traffickless route ending in a gate, beyond which it turned into a semi-paved narrow path. The grade was never steep, and indeed it reduced the total climbing, cutting off a peak traversed by the main road.

I waited for the tandem and Peter, then we began the descent together. But here's where things went very bad. The gusting cross-winds interacted with my handlebar bag to create a very unstable feeling on the busy, high speed descent. I was forced to slow considerably, a bit spooked by the feeling of my front end exerting a will of its own, and lost the other two bikes.

The rest of the way was a long slow slog into the headwind on Carmel Valley Road, a highway by any definition, albeit with a bike path. I finally arrived at the hotel, exhausted, and set about getting ready for the next day: protein drink, snack, bike clean, etc. My room wasn't ready for several hours, until 4:15 pm. I took advantage of the delay to visit a nearby bike shop and buy some chain lube and a green (not black) Park spoke wrench for the wheels on the Allaban. The wheels were fine, but if I broke a spoke on the road, a spoke wrench is the difference between a successful day and hitchhiking.

Dinner was the Trader Joe's food I'd purchased for the AirBNB but hadn't needed. That worked fine: rice cakes, rice tortillas, Guacamole with Greek Yogurt, Greek Cheese, and almond butter.

Here's the Strava record. Note the massive data loss between the beginning and Hecker Pass descent. Total distance should be around 154 km.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

MDR 2014 day 0, part 2: AirBNB

MDR is a 4-day tour, but my last two times the adventure for me has started day 0, as I've ventured southward to stay overnight near the tour start location.

Last year I shared a hotel room with Jeff. That went well, but Jeff now lives closer to the start, so he can just drive in day-of. I didn't get anyone else to share a room with, so I resigned myself to Motel 6, which is the cheapest option around here.

But then I thought of AirBNB. Maybe there was something close by. Sure enough, within virtual walking distance, I found a place. So I signed up.

Things weren't super-smooth, though, as Pam's (not her real name) policy was to only rent to people who had a history with AirBNB. This makes sense, because with a history you get reviews, and that serves as a filter for the undesirables. But I showed here my LinkedIn page, and she saw whom I knew. In particular, we both knew a women with whom I'd worked fairly extensively when I was at Stanford. Weird.

So I set off. After a frenzied day with a lot of stuff going on, I left work and caught the 6:17 southbound from Sunnyvale. That's direct to San Jose Diridon station. But then things went a bit awry.

On Caltrain
On Caltrain

I always find navigating from train stations a challenge. First, I try to figure out south or west, depending on the position of the sun. Getting bearings always take me a few minutes. Then I tried to use my Garmin 800's navigation function to follow a Strava route I'd downloaded. The Garmin is good at telling you where to turn if you are on a route, but it's not good at all about telling you how to get on a route if you're headed the wrong direction. And I was headed the wrong direction.

So ignoring the desperate beeps issuing from the Garmin, I pulled out my iPhone instead, and used the Google Map app. That has good route directions: almost as good as the Strava route. But it required I stop periodically and check the phone.

Eventually I found my way to the Los Gatos Creek Trail, which was my goal. Los Gatos Creek trail in the evening is a bit crazy, with walkers, cyclists, runners, and plenty of blind corners and narrow highway crossings. I got plenty of practice ringing the stem-mounted bell on the Winter Allaban.

Curiously, even though I was obviously back on the trail, the Garmin kept telling me to do a U-turn. This highlights an issue with course navigation. Is the goal to complete the whole course, or is the goal a transportation one, where one simply wants to reach the destination using the route for guidance? Garmin makes no distinction, and it's bias seems to be toward guiding you to complete the full route, whether that's by design or by accident.

So I got to Pam's place late: 7:30. But things got better from here on. She showed me my room, which was nice. She was making dinner. I'd not made any arrangements to eat here, so after unloading my stuff, I set off with empty panniers to the Trader Joe's, trying to beat the impending sunset.

When I returned, pannier empty no longer, Pam invited me to eat some of the food she'd made. $20 for dinner + breakfast, all organic, fresh cooked, and (lucky me) vegetarian on this particular day. That seemed way preferable to stale Trader Joe's rice cakes and pre-packaged guacamole. So I agreed. And it was very good. The Trader Joe's stuff will still be good tomorrow night.

So day 0 is complete. For the same price as Trader Joes, a quiet comfortable room, good food, and interesting conversation. Now all I need to do is get up in the morning, get my stuff together, and ride over to the start of the tour, not even a mile away. Then the real adventure begins.

ready for MDR

Time for the 20th edition of the MDR "Memorial Day Ride", 4 days from Campbell to San Jose. This year: the coastal route. I may indulge in the Wes-inspired detour up and down Nacamiento Fergusson Road on the Big Sur Day. But let's see.

The key right now is getting to the start. So I packed my stuff in the Winter Allaban and will take the train to San Jose, ride from there to an AirBNB in Campbell, then from there it's 1 km to the tour start. Perfect. This will be my first AirBNB experience. It took some work to convince the host I was trustworthy. She prefers repeat-users who have a review history. But it turns out we have a common friend, so I think that helped. Coincidences....


At the ride start, I'll ditch the rear rack and panniers, transfer my stuff to the duffle bag I have in the handlebar bag, and I'll be good to go. The tour is supported, so I don't actually need to bring even the handlebar bag, but I very much look forward to having some carrying capacity for the route, so I don't need to worry about stuffing clothing into overpacked jersey pockets.

Notable is the lack of fenders. After a fender clamp rattled use on SF2G, which served as a bit of a shake-down for MDR, I decided to leave the fenders off. I'll need to solve the screw loosening issue. Maybe some Loc-tite and cork washers. Box Dog Bikes will take care of it, I'm sure.

So fun days ahead, and the weather should be perfect. The tour always gives me a nice fitness boost as well, which will be great for the Diablo hill climb coming up on 21 June.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

more riding, less blogging: Double Diablo w/ Ramesh

Since the Woodside Ramble 50 km, my focus has shifted to cycling, and with that I've been riding to work more, riding home from work more, and if not riding full distance at least trying to ride to/from Palo Alto, Menlo Park, or even Redwood City rather than riding the train all the way between San Francisco and Mountain View.

Less time on the train = less blogging.

Here's a plot of riding distance per week since the Woodside race:


There's a steady upward progression except for a week where I suffered from cold and/or allergies. That was, coincidentally, the week leading up to the Diablo Time Trial, so a bit of a taper made sense then anyway. That race went rather well relative to my modest expectations (at least my legs felt good) so the reduced distance paid off.

Yesterday I did a double Diablo day. Riding that second Diablo is more a psychological barrier than a physical one. Diablo is a long effort, and it's easy to lose motivation during the long effort. I was the only one to respond to a ride call Ramesh, an extensive SF2G participant and ride leader, had put to the mailing list. Thanks to Ramesh for taking the initiative.

One issue in the Bay Area is that the number of Strava segments has gotten truly out of control. This ride has so many matches it's hard to find the few in which I'm interested. It highlights the need for Strava to develop a superior segment quality metric. Various ideas come to mind.

Anyway, it was a windy day and that meant two things: clear views and chilly descents. I was dressed more for the descents than the climbs and so was borderline hot climbing: I had a sleeveless undershirt, a long-sleeve base layer, my jersey, arm warmers, long finger gloves, my regular gloves, shorts, knee warmers, calf sleeves, socks, shoes, and a cycling cap. On top of this I had a long-sleeve windbreaker for the descents. Ramesh had his jersey and shorts. He obviously handles cold better than I do.

Some photos from the ride:

Looking west from summit after first ascent

Ramesh finishing the first time up

Summit parking lot, looking west, after 2nd ascent

Eastward view from the base of the steep final 300 meters

post-ride smoothie from Panara Bread

Friday, May 16, 2014

San Francisco June Primary ballot measures


I like to review the ballot measures here each election, and 03 June brings a primary to San Francisco. Here's measures on the ballot, the first two California-wide, the final two San Francisco county:

  1. Proposition 41: This is a bond to subsidize housing for veterans. I don't recall California declaring war since it was incorporated as a state. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan,... these ridiculous charades have all been the action of the federal, not the state governement. Therefore I think it's ridiculous to expect the states to pay the fully predictable costs of these tragedies. Let the federal government clean up its own mess. vote now.
  2. Proposition 42: Fairly technical, this seems like a good idea. I'll vote yes.
  3. Proposition A: This is a San Francisco bond to repair water systems for emergency response. I'm absolutely against. This is an ongoing expense, and should not be paid with bonds. The city government needs to allocate ongoing maintenance costs within the budget, rather than pay them, with interest, as part of a bond. This is a political crutch.
  4. Proposition B: This would require the city to go to voter approval to provide exceptions to the height limits for waterfront properties. I'm against this. I believe in representative government, not voter micromanagement. This is very much a matter for our elected representatives.

Monday, May 12, 2014

"Diablo Time Trial" race report

The "Diablo Time Trial" on Sunday was a new event, organized to raise money for the Children's Hospital and Research Center in Oakland. I viewed it not only as a good event on its own, but additionally excellent training for the NCNCA championships on 21 June, which covers the first 10 km of the course, from North Gate to near the junction.

The promotion had some interesting aspects. At sign-up, we wereinstructed that "elites" were those who could beat 50 min.... unstated was the intent was that was for the Diablo Challenge course, from South Gate, which has 200 fewer vertical feet. From North Gate only 3riders on Strava have beaten 50, and none in the times Low-KeyHillclimbs have ridden the route. My targets were 56-58-60 minutes,which put me deep in the "novice" category. So that's how I registed.

After achieving a long-time goal of running a 50 km trail race (my first ultra-marathon) in April, meeting my performance targets, my ramp-up in cycling training hit a barrier when I caught a cold a week ago. I was still blowing snot out of my nose in large globs, still had a bit of a sore throat, but in warm-up my legs felt surprisingly okay.

At the start I chatted with Carl Nielson, a Diablo park ranger, and recent winner of the Challenge. He rides Diablo like I ride the parking lot in the industrial park waste land where I work. But even he had virtually no chance of beating 50 minutes. I noted he should have been in "novice". He just smiled and said that 50 minute goal was obviously an error. Indeed there were 9 men in elite, 3 women. I later talked to the promoter and suggested 1 hour was a better time cut-off for expert (and obviously longer for women) rather than the cut-off between novice and beginner, which is what it was this year. He noted that with this year's results he'd revise the times for 2015.

I was in wave 3. They called it a "time trial" but it was mass-start, with riders within a wave all given the same start time, and a finish time based on chip time. It was unclear how riders were going to be ranked. I assumed all waves were going to be combined, ranked by time. That would be most consistent with the "time trail" label.

I was riding my Fuji SL/1 for the first time since San Bruno on New Year's. I had Vittoria Corsa time trial tires pumped to 150 psi the night before (overnight pressure loss), betting on smooth pavement rolling resistance over rough pavement suspension losses, as pavement on Diablo is generally quite good. I had my light wheels: an Edge 1.24 in the front, with an Enve 1.25 in the rear. Both original 1.24 rims had been warranteed by Enve after they warped at the seam. The replacement 1.24 looked on its way to the same fate, but the 1.25 is holding strong. It's a much better-made rim: the extra grams they added from the 1.24 were well invested, even if they pain me deeply.

At the start, the pace was fast: I needed to actually dig deep to catch a wheel after an attack up the left side of the road. We had full road closure all the way to the summit and, remarkably, back down again after the event was done. This was really an amazing opportunity to ride the full mountain with zero cars and, additionally, no bikes other than participants. After the first mile of rolling profile, however, the real climb began. When the smoke cleared I was following Andy Crews' wheel, Tanner Tingley of Danville was up the road. Don't panic, I told myself, and sure enough he didn't seem to be gaining much ground.

Andy was riding his Powertap. I didn't have any power: I don't think it makes me faster in racing, and my Powertap is heavy. I also have a Garmin Vector, but it's incompatible with the Lightning crankset on my racing bike. But I've found my best climbs have been w/o power data, and I can estimate power fairly well post-ride for pace analysis using a Perl program I wrote for that purpose, neglecting wind, which was a big factor today.

Anyway, Tanner was up the road. Andy, however, faded a bit, and I moved on, just riding my steady pace. I wondered if I'd be able to hold it, as I've often faded on Diablo, especially near Juniper Campground 2.0 miles from the top @ 3000 foot elevation. It's a long climb, but running has been good for my endurance if not my top-endpower, so I felt it was worth the risk pushing myself a bit outside my comfort zone.

Tanner seemed to fade as well, and I was able to bridge to his wheel. One thing that helped was I was apexing corners while he was sticking to the right side of the road. With full road, use fullroad! We were passing wave 2 riders in big chunks, and I almost wished I had my handlebar bell, but there were no issues.

I sat there a bit, but wanted a bit more, so on a left where he was stuck on the right side of the road I cut the inside and passed him. But he clearly had a decent surge, as from the sound of his heavy breathing, he got right on my wheel. Heavy breathing usually means a rider won't be sticking around and so I persisted in my pace, but he persisted back.

We hit the junction and continued onto Summit. Road-side volunteers, wearing orange vests, cheered us. The support for this event was really remarkable.

Finally I slowed a bit, letting him come past, and he put in a hard dig to gap me. That was fine: I knew I could catch him from last time, and I didn't feel like I was any weaker now. Remarkably, he returned to his right-the-right-side habit. On steep grades, this is arguably defensible, but he did it even on the occasional flat portions of the climb. Good for me. I was gaining every left turn.

As I trailed him, I finally finished my single water bottle, which had been full at the start. This was good: I didn't need water the restof the way, as it was cool and the remaining climbing time wasn't muchover 20 minutes. I contemplating tossing my bottle. Issues: 1. wind resistance might, or might not, be better with the bottle in the cage, 2. weight: 70 grams of water bottle would cost me around 1 seconds in the remaining elevation, 3. chance of being seen: if a ranger spotted the bottle on the road side he'd be pissed. Ah, well, I decided, go with the sure thing. I tossed the bottle. I then looked at my Garmin: 1 km from the junction. I wanted to make sure I knew where I was so I could fetch it on the way down.

I'm sure it wasn't the weight savings from the bottle toss, but soon after I caught Tanner again, getting on his wheel for a bit. Here's where strategy came in. Was the goal to finish with the fastest time, considering that I'd be competing against riders of different waves,or was the goal to maximize the placing within my wave? I didn't know: the web site hadn't said how scoring would be done. In any case, I was certainly racing against Tanner here. And given the impressive muscular definition on his legs, it looked as if it wan't going to be in my interest to drag him all the way to the 16% final 300 meters to the summit.

But things changed when suddently Chad Norris of Concord came blowing by on the left side of the road. He'd obviously started in wave 4, the "beginners". He was flying. I came off Tanner's wheel and tried to close the gap.

I was able to limit the damage, but the gap wasn't closing, and Tanner was back on my wheel again, breathing hard as before. I kept tempo, losing any hope of catching Chad, but maybe I could drop Tanner with a steadypace.

I passed Juniper Campground and still felt okay. I'd passed the endurance test: it looked like I'd be good all the way. From here, it gets steeper for a bit, generally goingstraight, then a left turn, straight, a right, then the final km opens with a reduced 5.3% grade before the final 300 meters.

I decided to pull into the first left because the wind was generally atailwind and so it would be mostly headwind on the stretch followingthat, where I could claim it was his turn. So in the corner I went wide and slowed. Tanner dutifully took the lead, once again slowing and breathing a bit easier. But at thispoint I was primarily focused on beating him up the steep final. Iwasn't particular confident and wanted to recover a bit.

I stuck to his wheel until the parking lot which marks the start ofthe steep bit. A group of orange-vested volunteers were there withflags and traffic cones. To my surprise they pointed left, rather than theusual right, where the road splits. This, I later learned, is the route taken by the Diablo Challenge, which I've never ridden. It's to allow finishers to descent to the parking lot without crossing the path of climbers.

We caught a triathlete from an earlier wave right at the base of thesteep bit, creating some congestion, but there was room to pass and I gave it everything, spinning my 34/23 better than I'd expected. No more breathing behind me: I'd finally managed to dropTanner.

The final 300 meters average 16%. Event photo.

"The finish is just around the corner, I promise!" a volunteer shouted atthe first corner. He was lying: there was a second corner, but atthis point there's no subtlety left: ride at max until hitting thetop or until you lose consciousness. I managed the former option,crossing the timing pad. It was done.

I'd managed to put adecent gap on Tanner, who finished 27 seconds later, and in the process ranking 10th overall for the segment, which is contested primarily during the Mount Diablo Challenge, since otherwise it's illegal. Andy, who'd been hovering behind us for much of the climb, faded further toward the topand was a minute later.

After collecting my clothing from the summit, I bundled up against the chill win at the summit parking area. Carl Nielson photo.

Results, it turned out, were by male/female, masters/sub-masters, elite/novice/beginner. So there were a lot of prizes. I won"master's novice", winning some coffee, socks, and a nice SportsBasement gift card. I was 6th overall. Chad Norris was 2nd overall,winning "beginners" in 52:02. Elites was won by Carl Nielson, in51:09 (3 seconds faster than Justin Lucke's Low-Key Hillclimb timefrom 2009), with Hanns Detlefsen 2nd at 53:50 and Eddie Santos 3rd (havingraced E4 @ BHRR the day before) at 57:23. Eddie was a regular at theLow-Key Hillclimbs last year, winning the "most improved award" for his remarkable 23 point increase in median score from 2012. I wondered if I'd have been able to follow him had I been in the elite category. Of course, none of the elites hit the claimed 50 minute cut-off for that category, and as one who organizes a climb series myself, I'm reluctant to ignore the instructions, even if they seem misguided. "If I want things done differently, I should put on my own event!"

Nice view from the podium! Official event photo.

The top woman's time was Jenny Slwata's 58:10. That would have been a Low-Key Hillclimb record by 4:45. She's listed fromTalent OR: I wondered what brought her here.

The descent was fun, with full road closure, although I lost the packwhen I stopped to fetch the bottle, which to my relief hadn't been collected by a ranger, and hadn't rolled into some unobservable nook.Additionally that Edge 1.24 rim with its bulge at the seam is a braking hazard.

Later, when I uploaded my data to Strava, I was surprised to see my time was not a PR. I'd done a minute faster in September 2011, when I was riding over 200 mile weeks. That ride I'd done with a focus on getting a solid time, but instead of carbon sew-ups with time trial tires pumped to 140 psi, I was riding aluminum clinchers. It was also around 19C warmer and less windy. I shouldn't fixate too strongly on that. My present fitness should in principle still have plenty of headroom.

Among Low-KeyHillclimbs results, my time would have been 27th. This ishonestly about what I'd expect given my lack of climbing to this point. But then that's exactly why I set my mid-range goal at 58 minutes. If I'd have magically spawned good climbing form, 56 minutes might have happened, but climbing form never appears by magic.

So overall it was a success. I wasn't sure how I'd do given my relative lack of riding and still being on the tail end of a cold. I think if anything I was too conservative. Given how hard Tanner was breathing, I should have had more confidence I could drop him with ahard effort. But then my failed bridge attempt to Chad failed to doso. So maybe getting to the top a few seconds faster would have succeeded only in giving Tanner a free ride to pass me in the end.

So given everything, I'm happy. But hopefully I can ramp up my fitness by championships. My standards go up for June.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Garmin Edge 500 and Mt Diablo: then and now

The Mount Diablo "Time Trial" was today. I felt I rode well, but recorded only my second best time on the relevant Strava segment. North Gate to Summit, which is erroneously named since it actually begins after a bump which follows the North Gate. But since the race today staged on the hot side of the gate, segments which begin at the gate itself included staging time. My previous best was a training ride in September 2011.

I wanted to know why I was slower. Was it due to the tactical portion of the race, with reduced VAMs isolated to a particular portion of the course, or was it due to being generally overall slower? Of course I'm 2.5 years older now, and I've not been training on the bike more than a few weeks, and I'm recovering from a cold which isn't quite gone yet, and the weather was substantially cooler than it was that September day, and I'm presently 1 kg over my "race weight". Lots of possible issues. But I wanted to look at the numbers.

The Garmin I used in September 2011 was different than the one I used today. The older one had been returned when the plastic tabs broke off. This has happened multiple times to me, the most recent in April 2013. It may be a side-effect of taking my bikes on Caltrain, where the Edge is subject to lateral impact.

Here's profile data from the two climbs. The September 2011 profile is a single line, while today's profile is two curves, with the boundary near the junction between North Gate Road and Summit Road.


This is rather curious because the Garmin 500 is supposed to use the GPS signal to control barometic drift, yet there appears to be a systematic change in the altitude profile from the two rides.

Looking closer at some of the data, the profile on yesterday's ride demonstrates considerable irregularity. I'd noticed this before, where I had to apply extra smoothing to the data than I had expected:

Here's derivatives of the altitude with respect to distance traveled, taken from the same datasets. No smoothing is applied. The more recent dataset jumps between zero and a large value, while the 2011 dataset varies, but has none of the zero-slope behavior.


I wondered if perhaps the pressure ports had been plugged.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Mount Diablo from North Gate: previewing Sunday's course

Sunday is the first of three organized hillclimbs on Mount Diablo in the coming two months. The second of these races is the Tour of California stage 3, which ends with a climb up to the Summit via South Gate Road. But two days before there's a public event, The Diablo Time Trial (not actually a time trial) climbing North Gate Road to the junction before finishing the climb on the ATOC course up Summit Road. The third race is the NorCal-Nevada climbing champship race pn 21 June.

I pre-rode it last Sunday and generated a profile from my Garmin Edge 500 data. Net distance = 17.55 km, gross climbing = 1070 meters, gross descending = 10 meters, average grade = 6.05%. But obviously there's a lot more to the climb than that. The rating is 2.42 Old-La-Honda equivalents, less than the altitude ratio of 2.72 due to the lesser average grade (Old La Honda is 7.2%).

Here's the profile, in imperial units since it was prepared for Low-Key Hillclimbs (replacing the profile I'd done in 2009, which I discovered had the wrong start to the climb).


The climb starts from the north entrance gate to the park. There's a bit of rolling before the climb proper begins. 0.75 miles, but with the serious climbing grade not kicking in until 1.4 miles. On this section, it's important to treat the race as a time trial: get aero, nice steady effort, stay in a good spinnable gear.

Through mile 4, there's two sections of real climbing each followed by a false flat. Then the grade settles into a sustained 6.7%, which it holds with relatively minor deviation until close to Juniper Campground.

But before that, mile 6.2 is the ranger building which marks the finish line for the championship, which is restricted by the park to the North Gate Road since that event goes later in the day (being a time trial) and the park doesn't want to grant exclusive access to the Summit road. It's important to treat the full climb as something much longer: it's 10.8 miles, not 6.2, and ramping it up to this junction would be a big mistake.

The junction between the three public roads: North Gate, South Gate, and Summit, comes at mile 6.4, not long after. From here, it's technically a left onto Summit, although it's actually more of a straight line.

Throughout much of this first part, from the start at the entrance gate to the junction, numbers are painted on the road in faded paint across the centerline to indicate the number of feet in distance to the summit. These numbers are the hundreds portion to the left of the line, with a "00" to the right of the line which looks more like an "infinity" symbol. These are useful for pacing, although each year they become harder to see.

At the entrance to Summit, there's a sign showing "4.5 miles to summit, 2.5 miles to Juniper Campground". It's still 1700 vertical feet to the summit, a considerable climb, so smart pacing is still important here even though it's very tempting to ratchet up the pain.

There's a few campground entrances along the way, but I'm always looking ahead to Juniper, which to me marks the end game. You can see the sweeping right in the distance up the hillslide as the grade levels out a bit for around a quarter mile. Then it gets steeper again as the road turns the corner and the 3000 foot elevation sign comes into view.

Now it really is end game, with around 700 feet of climbing left in the remaining two miles. With tired legs it's a relatively steep grind just beyond Juniper. I'm looking for the sharp left, then the sharp right, then I now it's time to get really serious.

The grade levels out here to closer to 5% as the road approaches the large parking lot to the right before the crux. And then there it is, the road splits, and it's time to embrace the pain for the final grind to the finish.

The final km, this time in metric since that's my general preference, is shown in detail here. I smoothed data by approximately 20 meters, since the Garmin measures altitude in 1 meters steps.


The first 720 meters are quite gradual, leveling out at 5.3%, and if that were it I'd be riding close to my maximum at this point. But with the finale being what it is, I like to save just a bit extra in reserve.

Then the road splits and you're on the finishing stretch. 15.9% with sections at 17%. My best times here come when I shift into a relatively low gear here, keeping my cadence up, rather than try and power through the short distance. It's only 34 vertical meters, but even that's plenty that it can't be covered in a wreckless sprint. But the end is there, so it's going to hurt no matter what.

That's it: you arrive at the top, utterly wasted. My goal is to keep a fairly steady VAM the whole way, ramping it up maybe 30% for the final grade. I'm planning on using my 34-46 in front, 12-23 in back. The 23 is slightly suboptimal for the final steep bit, bit not too much so. I rode it in a 36-26 on Sunday. That gear is 6.3% smaller, but I expect to be at least 6.3% faster.

For time targets, the results of the 2009 Low-Key Hillclimb, which was an individual time trial, are posted here. Based on this, and my general lack of cycling-specific preparation, and the fact I am old and feeble, 55 minutes would be an excellent result, with 57 minutes a reasonable target, with a conservative goal of breaking the hour.

My preparation, as is usually the case, has been less than optimal, as I got sick Sunday and haven't done anything resembling training for three days now. Hopefully I'll get in a few brisk rides between now and Sunday to get my legs moving again.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Team Bike Challenge: transportation requirement

Buried in the FAQ of the Team Bike Challenge is the following restriction on trips. There's nothing else in the rules I can find.

What trips count for the competition

The competition is for promoting the use of the bicycle for everyday transportation. As such, the rules state that rides must have a different start and end point, thus training rides where you ride in a loop starting and ending in the same place do not count and stationary bike miles do not count. Bike rides to a store, restaurant, friend's house, or any destination do count.

So how do I interpret this? Basically any ride where a destination has value count. So, would any reasonable person make the same trip by means other than a bicycle or walking or mode which offered no explicit training benefit? If the answer is "yes", then the trip replaces a potential car trip, and it is a transportation trip.

Yesterday Cara and I rode to the top of Mount Diablo from Walnut Creek, then returned to Walnut Creek. I did the ride because I have a race there in a week, and I wanted to preview the climb. Training ride, right?

Well, every time you get on your bike it's "training". It induces specific stress which induces specific adaptations in response. The body doesn't know "why" the activity was undertaken. It's just historical experience that if the body does certain activities, those activities may be important for the continuation of the genome, and so adaptations to those activities are also beneficial.

In this case, we observed the traffic on the Summit Road was particularly heavy. A lot of drivers were out to admire the view from the summit. We also admired the view from the summit. Cara purchased an ice cream from the summit store. This represented commerce, which could be interpreted as a primary utilitarian purpose for the ride, but I view the exchange of currency for a physical good to be a relatively minor detail, almost a red herring. The real value was being present on the summit, which is a spectacular place (less spectacular for the cars, but that is what it is). If we hadn't ridden our bikes, we could have attained a comparable (but much diminished) value by driving there. The fact I personally would never have done so is irrelevant. The trip still replaced a car trip.

Another ride: I went out with co-workers for a lunch ride on Friday. We rode through Los Altos Hills. I ended the ride at the cafeteria, having started from my office a short walk away. I purchased soup there.

First, I did not end this ride where I started: I went to the cafeteria to purchase lunch. But additionally, I rode through the Los Altos Hills. While there, I looked at the houses and thought "would I like to purchase a house here?" The answer was clear: "no, this is suburbia, a broken model which breeds car addiction, congestion, overconsumption of energy and water resources, and squanders precious land." The fact I toured the area to look at the housing prospects was a primary utilitarian purpose. Had I not ridden, I would have had to drive to attain the same value. This trip therefore replaced a car trip, not even considering the fact it was my path to the cafeteria. Plenty of people at work drive to lunch in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, or even beyond. I chose to not drive to lunch, instead riding to the cafeteria. So on two grounds, this was a utilitarian ride.

The fact is the vast majority of rides have utility beyond the physical activity itself. That's what makes cycling so great. The standard of utility presented in the FAQ is a stationary trainer. That's an easy standard to meet. Next week is the race up Mount Diablo. Once again I will admire the view from the summit. Once again I will take advantage of the wonderful aspect of cycling that it provides transportation to wonderful places. Once again, this activity will count toward the Team Bike Challenge.

But maybe not every outdoor ride. Yesterday was the Cat's Hill Criterium in Los Gatos, a classic race, one of the best spectator events in local cycling. Would this count? Well, there I'm not so sure, since riders completed lap after lap on the relatively short loop. But I leave that analysis to people who actually raced there.