Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Three down, a million to go

I just completed my third hard training today. Up until now i have been doing lots of long slow rides only. They were lots of fun as i saw lots more of the sceneries than usual, and got to talk nonstop the whole time! They were also necessary since I was going through lots of therapy for my quads, neck, etc. But now that the therapy is solidly headed in the right direction, I was given the go-ahead to get some speedwork in.

Since i'd done nothing but a cookie-timetrial that Coach Elmo led us on in California, i was super nervous about the upcoming rides. The first was the Begijnendijk ride - the one whose usual participants include heroes like Sven Nys and Niels Albert. Jonas and i rode the 25km each way and joined them for the over-80kms of riding. They averaged 36kph, which is pretty fast considering there were stop signs, stop lights, turns, yielding for traffic, cobbles, etc. But for the most part it was steady riding, which is easier to do than the race-style riding of fast-slow-fast-slow.

Just when i was feeling really comfortable in the peloton, all hell broke loose. Jonas was first in the double-paceline and i was two rows behind when we missed a turn. We went straight where the peloton veered right. Ten of us had to timetrial the long way to catch back on. It was cookie-timetrial all over again! I never thought i would be thankful for the cookie-TT so at least the feeling of suffering was not completely unfamiliar. We joined back on but not without consequence. For the next ten minutes, i felt worked! But i stayed with the group till the end. Yippee! As a reward to ourselves, we detoured by Leuven on our way home for an iced tea and a sangria on a terrace in Oude Markt.

The next hard ride was two days later on a Saturday. We joined one of those organized rides for 130km (plus the 15km to get there and back.) When you attend a ride like this, you never know what to expect. You hope for a big fast group to pass so you can tag a ride, but it is never a guarantee. The first group to pass was going about 28kph which was great for a warmup, then soon after, a faster group avg 33-34kph came so we jumped in, and quickly after that our ultimate group, the FOXYs, came by. It was a group of about twenty five guys, mostly wearing blue FOXY jerseys and riding an average of 36kph - in the beginning...

It was a comfortable pace until the last hour or so where the guys started to race each other. I hid as much as possible and felt mainly ok. But just when it looked like i was in the clear since most of the guys had already killed themselves pushing the pace, we merged with another group that was clearly well rested. They reanimated the race and i was buried. It took three priceless nudges from one of the guys to help me keep my place in the paceline. Only about eight of the 25 guys (and girl) made it to the end. I think i shocked a few of them when they realized i was one of the eight.

The third, and fastest, ride was this evening. We got in a 1 1/2 hour warmup before joining the ride. They started off slowly which gave me hope that i may have a chance of staying with them to the end. But then the pace jumped and my legs burned. I looked to the front of the paceline to see who was killing me and it was the only other woman on the ride, Melina. What a powerhouse! I was so incredibly impressed. She spent quite some time at the front in the first kilometers, making me feel like a lazy bum hanging out in the back. Out of fear of embarassment, i started to make my way to the front. Bad move.

On one of those frontward moments, i was third in line behind some guy with jonas 2nd wheel. We were moving at 36kph, then the guy moved aside and jonas brought it up to 40 just like that. And just like that i was in pain. Then after a few minutes of suffering, he moved over to kindly let me through. Shit. I went through, died, and almost lost contact with the group. Coach elmo once told me that you cant get dropped from the front. I wonder if i just proved him wrong.

Second mistake was similar to the first. I found myself up front again, behind melina, in fourth wheel. The pace went up to 51kph and stayed there. As each person peeled off, the wind hit harder. Thankfully i didnt have to face the wind. While melina was at the front again, the guys rode by us. Again, directly from front to back. And if that wasnt enough of a mistake, i thought i could pull a superhero move and help a rider who was dropping off the pace. Eventually i dropped myself and crawled back thanks to a couple of turns that are easier to take fast when all alone.

Then just when i was feeling really strong again, the road went uphill and the group started to sprint each other. Afraid that i'd pull another stupid move again, i rode up it conservatively. but as the riders started to slow, i kept the speed up since jonas was up the road in a group of five and i didnt know the way back home. Turns out that the top of the hill was the sprint finish. I got top ten without realizing it! Not bad for dying three times. Of course i look forward to doing it again!!

Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Where have i been in California, you ask...

For those who know the San Francisco area, namely Marin County, AND are curious to know where I've been while visiting a couple of weeks ago, here you go!
General concept of the rides
day 1: 2hr15min - paradise ride around tiburon total time
day 2: 3hr30min - reverse alpine loop - sausalito-mill valley-east peak (top of mt tam), rock springs parking lot, ridgecrest, bo-fax to fairfax and back to sausalito
day 3: 4hr45min - sausalito-mill valley downtown-basic instinct descent down shoreline to highway 1, up and over to stinson beach, along bolinas lagoon, up and over to olema - pt reyes to Bovine Bakery - got vegan oat cookie - olema - samuel p taylor park - local roads to fairfax, through towns to Sausalito
day 4: 1hr45min - through downtown sausalito towards Golden Gate Bridge, up scenic Conzelman to top, drop down backside, almost ride off cliff checking out views, circle around military barracks, various tiny scenic roads, past Cronkite Beach on dirt trails to watch surfers, up and out through wind tunnel, descend to Sausalito
day 5: 3hr15min - offroad CX bike - sausalito - tennessee valley parking lot - coastal fireroad trail - up walls, down to muir beach, up hwy 1 to Coast View Trail, pee'd behind rock, up trail to Pantoll, back down same way to muir beach, up Middle Green Gulch Trail to include gut-busting steepy section part way up, continue to top of Coyote, and down Miwok to parking lot, back to sausalito
day 6: 2hr30min - offroad CX bike - Sausalito- downtown mill Valley - up Tenderfoot, over to Railroad Grade to East Peak. Back down almost same way, minus Tenderfoot. One flat tire was enough (friggin Railroad!)
day 7: 3hr35min - offroad CX bike - Sausalito - tennessee Valley parking lot - rock springs climb, down miwok, explore a bit, then up bobcat, down marincello, back to parking lot, thaw out from last descent by climing up coastal walls, down to Muir Beach, along muir woods road to Deer Park fire road, up and up and up to top of Coast View trail, then back down Coast view to fruit stand (at least where it would have been had it been there), detour up Muir Beach Overlook to freeze our Beljum Budder cream off , down the hill to Green Gulch, up Middle Green Gulch trail fully clothed to top and back down to Tennessee Valley parking lot via Coastal Fire Road - Sausalito.
day 8: 5hr - sausalito-san rafael via San Quentin Prison, over to San Pedro Road to "Big Rock", up big rock singletrack to the top where you can see the valleys just in front of Sonoma and Napa, back down and home almost the same way with a detour through China Camp trails and for dinner at Sol Food in San Rafael.
day 9: off bike but on foot in Ess Eff through all the neighborhoods. Thrift shopping in Mission was the best.
day 10: 5hr30min - sausalito, through little towns (the back way though) to Fairfax, up and over white's hill, samuel P taylor park, up and over to olema, down the road to Limantour road, up and over Limantour to the beach, back the same way but twice as fast as the deadly winds died down a bit. I was only thrown across the road once thankfully. The rest of the way out though was spent riding sideways.
day 11: 4hr - sausalito - mill valley - pantoll - stinson where i had that god-awful Sobe Lizard drink that turned out to be a tall glass of friggin' milk that caused me to have the most extreme pain coupled with troubles breathing, eating, swallowing, digesting food. Two trips to on-call doctors and about seventeen medications later i am still suffering from it, bolinas downtown - detours around the little streets in bolinas - mesa road - up bo-fax - up ridgecrest - down to tam valley - sausalito
day 12: 4th - sausalito - over golden gate bridge - presidio park, chrissy field, marina for Pluto's salad, union st, got lost trying to get back to Scenic Drive in Presidio park and repeatedly took Jonas up about twelve super-steep blocks and one impossibly long staircase. (As we shouldered the cross bikes, this woman at the bottom of the stairs told her kid to move out of our way because we have our mojo on. I am still trying to figure out what that meant. And we wonder how we all grow up with the goofiest sense of reality.) finally past GG bridge, through presidio along the clif to Richmond, final destination Brewery on the water. but with sun going down, we timetrialed back to GG Bridge, up and over and down to Sausalito.
day 13: 5hr45min - marshall loop: Sausalito - through little towns to Nicasio, Petaluma's Cheese Factory, rolling roads to Marshall Wall, up wall, descend to the bay, along the water for the Cookie Timetrial to Bovine. Then over to Olema, up to Samuel P Taylor park, through small towns, over White's Hill to Fairfax, through tiny towns, up and over mill valley via Meadowsweet, sausalito.
day 14: off doing a bunch of stuff i cant remember, maybe because most of it included packing bikes and crap to send back to belgium. Ended with a pizza party hosted by don. Cool attendees included don juan, ledward, GQ, and the Lizzer.
day 15: off packing, eating, drinking, and goodbyes with Doug, Monet, and Karin.
day 16: off to Belgium
day 17: still flying until 10pm
day 18: swung by airport to retrieve lost luggage on way to Ardennes for the week.

Each ride ended with Jonas stopping off at the "skank store", a little convience store which looks more like a night shop located at the Sausalito end of the bike path. I forgot to tell Jonas that the official name of the store was not "Skank Store" so when we went in one night to get some wine, he announced in a loud voice "Oh, this is the skank store". The cashier didnt seem to thrilled with Jonas' insight but it made me and Karin howl.

When we werent riding our bikes or buying/drinking wine, our time was spent lounging by the swimming pool (ok, only once for ten minutes while trying to finish an article for Marin Independent Journal - i would have stayed longer if i could have seen the computer screen), dipping in the hot tub (which lasted three minutes since the water was too hot at about 105°F), visiting Karen in San Francisco, going to Pizza parties at Don's (thanks for all who showed, especially Liz H for driving a zillion miles to be there), hanging at Mill Valley's Mt Tam Bikes, and eating - lots of it.

We had Puerto Rican Sol Food (San Rafael), Avatar's Punjabi Burritos, Joe's Taco Lounge burritos, Lucinda's Zookie Burritos, Whole Foods salad bar (all in Mill Valley), Sartaj's Indian burritos, Arawan Thai (both in Sausalito), Herbivore's burrito and noodles, Club Waziema's Ethiopian, Pluto's salad, random Mission burrito, and the newest trendy San Francisco coffee Blue Bottle served out of a garage (all in San Francisco.) Every day also started off with a collection of bagels from Sausalito's Bridgeway Bagel. They have salt bagels, my favorite. I put some mustard on them and it reminds me of street pretzels in NYC.
Thanks for reading!!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Back from Sunny California

Yep. Sunny. The weather was superb! Jonas and i were there for about 15 days and for the first 12 or 13 we were treated to over 65°F (over 20°C) weather accompanied by real sun. I even have a suntan to prove it. It was also the first time i saw my bare legs, outdoors while not racing, in at least a year. There is nothing like the feeling of sun heating up the quads.

Speaking of quads, mine are finally growing back. After extensive therapy the past month, i followed it up with almost 1000km of hill/mountain riding in California. We stayed in Sausalito (thanks Lips for your generous hospitality), and rode directly north every day. Coach Elmo also joined us for a few rides (thanks E) so we got some speedwork in as well.

I think the most amusing ride of all was the "Marshall Loop" with Elmo. After we descended the backside of Marshall Wall and hit Highway 1 south, Elmo turned to me to ask if i wanted a cookie from Bovine. Of course i could never turn down a cookie, so i said if we make it in time I would want two. With theoretically not enough time to get there unless we drive 50kph over the hilly terrain, we wont make it. But in Elmo fashion, he had us buckle our seatbelts and off we went.

For the next minutes, my body was a bit surprised by the speed but eventually it started to get excited to move. Unfortunately, on the ultimate mini climb - the one that's always given me trouble mentally, if that can make sense - I blew up. Damn, no cookie. Elmo gapped us a little up the climb. And while he was away, Jonas bitched nonstop while on my wheel. "Damn cookie time trial. This cookie better be worth it. No cookie is worth this much pain. Fuckin' cookie. I dont even want a cookie. Fuckin' cookie time trial." His bitching was so amusing that i almost tipped over from laughter. Once i got myself solidly back on track, I picked up the speed again. But a little too late. We pulled up to the Bovine as the "CLOSED" sign swung in the doorway.

We just returned last night from a too-long trip home. And now we are packing to leave for the Ardennes for another week of training. But first we must do the regular swing by the airport to pick up the delayed luggage. Five hours layover should have given the handlers enough time to put a bag on the plane, but then again my bike chains may have given them cause for distress. It could make an effective weapon i suppose. Not sure how i could wield it if its in my check-in luggage though.

Thanks for reading!