Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I Hate Bananas

Well, I don't (not like bananas), but "I Like Bananas" is hardly a compelling headline, is it? Read on...

Many of you reading this will know Lori Terada. I could gush on and on about her, but let it just be said that she's a fabulous human being - the sort of person who instinctively gravitates towards Team In Training and shouldn't, under any circumstance, have to associate with people like me.

But, on a cool and damp Saturday morning this weekend past, there she was. Deep, deep in the Eisengard Woods^W^WTilden Park, where the sun can't shine on account of the thick thatch of overhead Redwoods (1). This angel of mercy, garbed as she was in an understated, stylish collection of natural fibers (wool scarf and overcoat to you vizigoths and huns out there) was waiting for us at the corner of PineHurst & Canyon - and if you think I'm joking how deep & dark it is take a look at the image below:

Lori was one of our Stationary SAG people - Support and Gear - and she gave freely of her time - probably 6 hours when all said and done - to be there for us to stop, slake our thirst, quench at least some of our hunger: in a word, refuel.

The team was delighted with the food she'd brought us - roast potatoes, oranges, crisps (potato chips), chex mix, red vines and so on: in a nutshell, exactly the sort of food that hungry and tired cyclists would want. She's a Death Ride alumnus, so she knows from road food.

There was just one jarring note in the whole event. "No bananas" she said, as she introduced us to the food and vice versa(3). "I don't like bananas."

Lori, as I've mentioned, is a wonderful human being - think of her and me as being on the opposite sides of the Human Condition Bell Curve when it comes to niceness and so on. But the way she said "I don't like bananas" spoke of generations of pain and suffering; a weeping and a gnashing of teeth more traditionally associated with dodgy cousins in the bible. It wasn't quite "Bananas=Being Turned to Salt" but it wasn't far off either. What on earth could she possibly have experienced that caused her to have such a loathing for what I had always believed to be a relatively benign fruit? Or herb, or whatever it is(4) , (5). She refused to be drawn on the subject, so this mystery will pass into yore, or wherever it is that mysteries go.

It was a strange old ride for sure - apart from the banana-apartheid (try to say that with your inside-the-head voice and see where you end up) the team was bedevilled with no fewer than 5 punctures, one blown tire (beyond even bootable - roving SAG to the rescue there) and 4 involuntary dismounts (I-Ds). The curious thing about it all was that this figure 8 ride confined its punctures to the first part (Pinehurst/Redwood) and its I-Ds to the second. In fact, all the I-Ds happened on the foot of Mama Bear (yup, we were back there) in the space of about 6 minutes. Fortunately no-one was hurt: they were the sort of embarrassing falls that happen when you're stopped and trying to start riding on a hill and you lack enough horsepower to get going before your balance leaves you.

Most poignantly of all, I saw a 4 YO girl sufer the same indignity outside my local store at 9am on Sunday morning - but in her case it was because her wee small 4YO legs couldn't propel her Barbie-bike off the curb and up to the crown of the road. Other than a boo-boo on her knee she was fine.

The net of it all is, I suppose this: my team, who dropped me like a thing that's easily droppable on the last climb, appear to have the motive power of a 4 year old girl. And I'm slower and weaker than that. AWESOOOOOME! We Rock It Hard.

For those of you who care about such things, the SQ on this ride was a respectable 80. Not quite as nasty as last week - and neither did we have EOS nor LRA. In fact, it was a great ride. One to repeat whenever the weather obliges.

And, if you'd like to play around with the Garmin recording of all this, check out the link here

This tale has it all - beautiful women,kind hearted souls, dire suffering, sweet small children, an abundance of alliteration. How could your hearts be as of stone, icy proof against this stirring story of endeavor and the best aspects of the human condition? Of course they're not. Good news: http://pages.teamintraining.org/sf/solvang10/dhk lets you indulge the best of your appetites thanks to the Interwebs of YouFace or whatever it's called.(6)

One final comment: if, like me, you're curious as to why half of this blog entry is in grey font, well, so am I. To round things out, here's a picture of the Small Brown Dog at the Louie Bonpua Memorial Triathlon. I'll write about that in a week or two.

(1) As opposed to the underhead sort, more usually found in these climes, right?

(3) She's nothing if not well mannered

(4) Apes (and whatnot) open bananas from the opposite end to us. Go ahead and try and open one (a banana, not an ape). You'll see that it's so much easier. What did our parents teach us?

(5) Yup. Bananas are, entomologically speaking, herbs. It's because of the lack of wood in the stems. (Believe it or not, that link is TSFW. [But if you're still reading, you're either in the comfort and privacy of your own home, safe from prying eyes, or Sufficiently Awesome at your job that you're immune to blandishment and recrimination. Good for you!])

(6) Did you know that the Internet is not actually a system of tubes? It is in fact made of cats. (In a dose of no small irony it's *this* link which is the teensiest Not Totally Safe For Work)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Three Bears and the Big Bad Wolf

Today's ride was a wonderful sufferfest - our first real hill climbing event.

Those of you who ride regularly will know the Three Bears. For those of you who don't, it's a stretch of road in the East Bay which has, approximately(1) 3 hills of varying sizes. It's a good ride; and, for novice riders, it can be quite challenging.

There's simple math (2) you can apply to a ride to create a statistic which I like to call the SQ (Suffer Quotient). Rides can be described by distance (in miles) and Elevation Gain(number of feet climbed). Divide Elevation Gain by Distance and you end up with the SQ. There are a number of considerations about this statistic:
  1. First, it can be wonderfully misleading. In a 50 mile ride, if you do all your climbing in 10 miles, it's obviously a stiffer ride than if you do the climbing in 25 miles of it.
  2. When the miles occur is important - too early and you're not warmed up; too late and you've already sucked all the glycogen out of your muscles so you're burning fat to fuel the climb (EOS and LRA, two statistics I'll describe below)
  3. The recovery time between hills is pretty important - the reason you can ride, 8, 10, 12 hours or more is because you refuel and recover on the ride - eat, drink and be merry.
So, the implication from all of this is that SQ can be kind of meaningless. It's not though, because in the long run (hah) it kind of makes sense.
  • My first ever century -- Tucson, 2005 -- was about 3,500 feet/100 miles - SQ= 35 feet/mile. It was a challenge for me but is a pretty easy ride.
  • The Marin Century (100 miles), with ~ 6,500 feet of climbing (SQ=65) is generally regarded as one of the hardest out there.
  • Death Ride, which is insanely hard, has an SQ of 105 feet (and that doesn't even come close to describing Just How Much It Hurts)
So, the ride today - a mere 39 miles but with an SQ of 86 was, in a word, a suffer fest. See below:

It wasn't just the feet climbed, but also:
  • where the miles were - we had some wonderful Early Onslaught Suffering (EOS) - look how we get to climb up the side of a cliff (colloquially known as Reliez Valley Road) at mile 2. I like about 40 minutes (10-12 miles) of warm-up before I start climbing. Today we had all of 10 minutes. To put it in layman's terms, it felt like I was hammering nails into my quads as we rode up
  • Late Ride Agony - notice how at the end of the ride we had Pig Farm Hill. It's also known, with no small passion, as Pig's Arse Hill, thank you Iron Wu!. There's a reason for that.
So now you know about LRA: but what's the deal with Pig Farm Hill? Well, one other statistic that the SQ doesn't talk about directly is the gradient of the individual climbs in the ride. A non-recreational cyclist will start to notice a rise of about 3% (475 feet in one mile) . Most sustained climbing takes place on 6-8% hills. Above a 10-12% grade and you're starting to really suffer; and anything over 14% is just heart popping (and not in the good way).

So, with Pig Farm Hill as you approach the climb it starts out at around 6% or so; and goes on like that for about 1/4 mile to draw down any spare glycogen you might have. Then, it jumps up to about 9-10% for about 1/4 mile to suck out any of the oxygen you might foolishly have attached to your red blood cells. That prepares you for the last 1/4 mile which is essentially vertical, and, actually, backwards in places.

Disappointingly, we only had time to climb Pig Farm Hill once.

So with an SQ of 86 (somewhere between Marin Century & Death Ride), a good heaping of EOS and some LRA thrown in to boot, you'd think this is a ride that would be consigned to the darkest areas of my mind, hopefully to be expunged through therapy or alcohol.

Of course not. It was a great ride. Aptly named too - because, after all, who needs to know about the fifth hill? No such thing as too much suffering!

Big shout out to Linda Mandolini who SAGGed for us!

Feel an overwhelming urge to donate? Visit my fundraising page at http://pages.teamintraining.org/sf/solvang10/dhk

Footnotes and whatnot
(1) Swear to god - Neither are the hills there bears (they're stretches of road, for god's sake) nor are there three.
(2) It's not really math now, is it. But it amuses me. And I'm foolish that way.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Let the suffering begin!

For the New Year, I decided to set a bunch of goals - don't usually do this, but there you go. Strangely, they're almost multiples of 5 - such as
  • Ride 5,000 miles
  • Climb 250,000 feet
  • Walk 500 miles
  • Trudge over each of San Francisco's 43 miles
That last one is a "just because" - after all, who ever does something like that. There's one more though, seemingly modest in the grand scheme of it all: run a 5K road race.

That seems like a small enough goal, especically in the context of all the others; but here's the thing: I haven't run in over 10 years, since I had surgery on my ankle. A whole bunch of stars will need to align to do this; and one of them is now shining brightly in my life: the ungentle mercies of the good folk at Chiro Medical who are rehabilitating both knee and ankle. They believe, it seems, in inflicting consensual pain upon willing patients.

The Physical Therapy is an exercise in concentrated suffering, each workout of which is designed to restore mobility, strength & sensation to my parts. And that's fun enough. But the high point of it all is the Graston Technique, which one of my friends describes as the Butter Knife of Evil. There is a hilarious video on the website which states that "some patients may experience mild discomfort." You might reasonably infer from this that "some patients may not". Which would be true. It's not mild discomfort you experience but horrible, searing pain - it feels as if the very skin is being flayed from your body by an evil, butter-knife wielding maniac.

And it's a wonderfully effective treatment and perks me right up for the day. The endorphin rush is nothing short of illegal. I heartily recommend it for professional, therapeutic or even, if you can swing it, recreational use!

Cancer's not going to cure itself, you know: help the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in its important work to cure blood diseases and improve the life of patients & their families: Donate at http://pages.teamintraining.org/sf/solvang10/dhk