Continuing in the “All miles are not created equal” series (basically a reaction to Strava.com claiming that yesterday’s ride in the rain was worth just 80 on their score of suffering), we have this from last July’s trip to France. About 85 miles into our 103 mile Glandon/Galibier loop, darkness approaching quickly, yes, getting a bit on the cold side, and a sign on the side of the road that says 2 kilometers to go. One of those cute little tombstone signs you see on all the climbs in France. You either embrace them or avoid looking because you don’t want to know.
Worthwhile clicking for the bigger picture showing tunnel location way below
The tunnel and, way up above, the top of the Galibier.
The trouble is, this one lies. 2k. How tough can that be? Barely over a mile! 6 times around the track! Except that it’s not, because the 2k the sign references is to the presently-closed tunnel that cuts off the top of the climb. True, you might not want to go through the tunnel, you might want to be able to say you climbed to the very top of the Galibier and didn’t wimp out. Or you might just want to get down off that mountain before the sun disappears. Good rationalization, but not available to us today.That final section is nasty, but the top is incredible, and you’re thankful the tunnel wasn’t open, giving you the opportunity to wimp out… because you just might have. But Strava tells the story; you would have missed out on about a kilometer at an average grade of just under 10%.
It does, however, suck that Strava says “There are no achievements on this ride.” With a “Suffer Score” of 367, I think the entire ride was something of an achievement!
My quest for Life, The Universe & Everything continues. But mostly my efforts to find a glove that is warm, waterproof, and relatively-easy to get on without thinking you’d have to resort to vaseline on your fingers to get them through the glove’s inside liner. This morning’s ride was a good test for this, as it was raining and relatively cold (40 degrees up on Skyline). Much nicer than the 35 degrees a couple weeks ago, but still not in the range that one would consider fun. Mid-50 degree rain? That’s a piece of cake. You can really enjoy getting out in a major rainstorm when it’s that nice out!
The video below shows my latest failure in finding a winter rain glove-
I’ve tried Pearl Izumi, Louis Garneau, Bontrager, Gore and a few others. Always the same result; after about an hour, they soak through. In every case the glove would have been easily made much better if the cuff was long enough to go under the rain jacket and not make of a material that wicks water. This is such a brain-dead obvious thing that I just can’t believe people put up with it. There’s also the issue, which could be just me, that it’s difficult to get most gloves on in the first place, because trying to get your fingers up into the liner is nearly impossible and feels like you should be using vaseline (or worse).
Even if they fix the cuff issue, after an hour of riding in steady rain I still have water coming through the glove’s outer surfaces. Yes, even the much-heralded Gore gloves (whose palm, by the way, wears away very quickly… not impressive for an $80 glove). Is what I want really so impossible? What do the Euro racers use in the early-season Classics, known for their wind, cold and rain?
OK, now for the ride. It’s dark (the downside of daylight saving time), it’s raining, and I’m really thinking others will be out there? Nope. Just myself and Kevin (my son, not the pilot). We rode at a moderate pace up Kings and across Skyline, being careful not to get overheated and subsequently way too cold for the descents. 40 degrees up on top so still a cold rain, and pretty comfortably dressed everywhere except the hands. Yes, I’m frustrated about that. We actually skipped the west-side Old LaHonda loop because we needed to get down off the mountain as quickly as possible. Hate that! But hate even more that Strava lists the ride as an easy “80″ on their “Suffer” score. Oh really? On our heavier rain bikes, with bigger tires & fenders and clothing made heavier by all the rain it had soaked up, and having to take great care descending and keeping out of the way of cars (because no way would we be descending at their speed today!). No, we weren’t “suffering” at all.
This was not an epic ride, but it was certainly worthy of more than an “80″ on any scale of suffering that goes past 250.
The plan, because there’s always a plan, was to do something really different. A mountain bike ride. But that didn’t work out when Kevin woke up feeling worse, not better, as his cold took hold and sapped his strength. Normally I’d then go out on my own, typically a run to the coast (I certainly wouldn’t do a mountain bike ride on my own, because there’d be nobody to get a laugh from watching me), but that didn’t work out either when the visit to my 102-year-old grandmother revealed that she’s getting really close to the end, so I spent my daughter (Becky) and I spent a few hours with her today.
But y’know, just because you can’t get in something significant doens’t mean you can’t get in a ride, and even a 1hr 20min 25 mile spin is a whole lot better than no ride at all! So that’s what I did, heading out on the ‘loop (Woodside/Portola Valley/Arastradero/Junipero Serra/Sand Hill/Woodside), chasing the sun and keeping my heart rate much, something not so easy for me to do on a ride without big climbs, but today, I was going to make every mile count, which meant making every mile hurt.
And this is what I do for fun?
Regarding Grandma, we’re pretty comfortable with things. There are some uncomfortable items to go over, the balancing of quality of life and what measures to prolong it, with cost that thing that you can’t hide from and making you feel a bit conflicted. There are interesting things you learn about medicare and how many ambulance trips they’ll cover (apparently one every 30 days) and hospice care and at some point you’ll deal with increasing pain and have to make a decision as to whether it’s time to switch to morphine, which will slow down respiration and gently speed up the process. Been through this before, with my father, 24 years ago. I can deal with my Grandmother fairly well, but re-living some of what I went through with my father is not fun at all. But overall I’m good.
Tuesday-morning’s ride was hopefully the low-point of my season. I wasn’t just slow, I was running on empty, not able to climb, not able to sprint, just barely holding onto the wheel in front of me when it should have been easy to do so. Today was entirely different! Sure, I still couldn’t climb very well, but my time up Kings was faster than Tuesday despite the fact that today we rode up through the park, which adds a couple minutes to the time.
Not a huge group, but high quality. The two Kevins (my son and the pilot), Eric and Karl. The pace up Kings was moderate, matching the temperature which had nicely warmed up to the mid-40s. It’s hard to believe there’s such a huge difference in how 44 degrees feels vs 37, but trust me, there is. 44 feels downright comfy. And dry roads. No hidden wet spots in dark corners!
Sure, I came unglued on west-side Old LaHonda and got to watch as the two Kevins & Karl rode off ahead of Eric & I, but we didn’t give up and eventually caught up with them just before Skyline. I still hung back a bit on the descents, but not so much that I couldn’t hold the rest off on the Skyline sprint, where I first felt like I actually had legs again. Even the section before the final sprint at the end of the ride was fun, as I told Kevin (my son, not the pilot) to watch Karl closely because he was likely to take off just after turning onto Manuella, and sure enough, he did, with Kevin right on his tail. That’s the way it has to be done, because if you give Karl any room, he’s just going to ride off the front and you can’t do anything about it.
So yes, finally, a fun ride again. Just one mistake. I asked my son tonight if he noticed I rode a lot better today than Tuesday. No, he hadn’t noticed, because he was up at the front and I was behind him. Sigh.
This afternoon at the shop, a guy was picking up some bike parts and his two kids, maybe 3 & 4 year old boy & girl, were playing around a bit on the bike floor. Not horsing around, just laughing and making fun of each other, being kids without being brats. The younger one, a girl, walked behind the bike stand I was working on and squeezed between it and the printer out the other side. Not really squeezed, as there was a fair amount of room, but she was quite pleased with herself for being able to get through. I asked her if she thought I could do that, and she shook her head and said no. I asked why, was it because I was too fat? She nodded silently, and then said “We don’t say the “F” word.” It was ridiculously cute.
If only I could describe this morning’s ride so affectionately! This seemed to be the ultimate “high gravity” day, as legs, lungs and mind just didn’t seem up to the task of climbing. The two Kevins, Karl, Ludo, Karen & Marcus just rode on ahead of me, and I finished the climb up Kings in an epic slow time of something over 31 minutes. And yes, it was pretty windy, but we’re pretty well protected on this ride, with the exception of the descent on 84 into Woodside. But it remained pretty cool, at 37 degrees across most of Skyline. What a change from the mid-70s on Sunday’s ride!
What a difference a few days makes. Both our Tuesday and Thursday-morning rides this week sported their own style of misery, with Thursday being the worst by far (37 degrees and rain on Skyline). Fast-forward to today. No leg warmers, no base layer, no long-fingered gloves. Mid-60s to mid-70s the entire ride.
It was a solo ride today, since Kevin (my son, not the pilot) was off in Disneyland with his sister. It’s not so bad to get out there on your own once in a while, ride at whatever pace you feel like, and let bits & pieces of songs from the wayback days go through your head and you push through the wind or up a steep hill. I originally thought I’d be able to ride a leisurely pace up the climbs, but it quickly became apparent that’s just not in my DNA.
The route is sometimes called the “Coastal Classic”- Woodside, Old LaHonda, Pescadero, San Gregorio, Tunitas Creek. I figured I could get it in at 4 hours total, including a quick stop at the Pescadero Bakery, and pretty much nailed it in exactly that time, thanks in no small part to trying to stay on the wheel of a guy named Tomas, who had done our Tuesday/Thursday morning ride some time ago, and was setting a pace a fair amount higher than I would have done on my own.
This ride was not the original plan. The North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show was in Sacramento this weekend, and I was really hoping to head up to it and see the cool eye-candy on display. I was hoping to take my bike on the train and get off in Fairfield and ride the rest of the way into Sacramento, but heard from our staff yesterday that they were doing trackwork and the trains wouldn’t be running all the way through. Darn! Driving was out of the question; I’ve been trying (and actually succeeding) in cutting way back on the amount of driving over the past year, and there was no way I was going to miss riding on a day this nice.
OK, now for an explanation. I first did this video to Supertramp’s “It’s Raining Again”, a ridiculously-cheerful and silly song. Trouble is, Youtube didn’t like it. I tried twice, the first time using audio from a Roger Hogdson concert (former lead writer for Supertramp). That video’s worth a look, if nothing for the chance to see someone looking happier at their job than imaginable. Got a stern warning from Youtube that using the audio in my file kept it from being seen in the US. OK, so much for that. Next, I tried the same track from the original studio album. This usually works, because Youtube pays royalties to ASCAP or whomever. But for some reason that video is in limbo-land, forever being “processed.” If it ever shows up, it will be here.
And then I remembered something from the way-back days. One of the most-touching pieces of bike-related sports ever on TV, ABC’s beginning-to-end coverage of the first Race Across America. The final 4 minutes, showing the absolute pain, suffering & triumph as the last contestant neared the finish line in the rain, has “I Made It Through The Rain” playing in the background. It’s so easy to hate Barry Manilow, yet it was perfect for that piece. So etched in my mind is that last few minutes of coverage I even remember the “Promotional consideration by United Airlines” splashed across the screen for the last 10 seconds or so, as the music reached it’s concluding peak.
Ah, Youtube has finally come through with the “It’s Raining Again” version of my video!
If sufficiently bored, watch both and tell me which works best. OK, maybe just a few random seconds of the Barry Manilow version will suffice.
Once again I woke up to streets almost dry, but by the time I made a bottle of Cytomax for our ride it was coming down at a moderate pace, strong enough that we had to start the ride in full rain gear… never a fun thing, and never quite as fast to get into as you’d like. As a result, we were two minutes late to the start, and, it appeared, my son and I were the only two who showed up. Later I got an email from Kevin (the pilot) asking where I was, and letting me know that the only reason he survived the cold was because he was wearing every single piece of clothing he owned. This I could definitely believe, as we saw 36 degrees and quite a bit of rain on top. It would have been nice to share the experience with Kevin (the pilot), Eric and Ludo, three other brave souls out on the road (in addition to a single cyclist we saw heading down Kings as we were going up).
Yes, it was cold, and yes, it became pretty miserable, miserable enough that we didn’t do the west-side Old LaHonda loop, dropping down 84 from Sky Londa directly into Woodside instead. My shame & humiliation will be complete when I hear back from Kevin (the pilot) and find out that his group did the whole ride! But we did have one accomplishment- Kevin (my son) stayed up on the descent. A definite improvement over Tuesday’s ride!