Posted by: Travis | September 20, 2009

Four and a half hours of epic-ness

Stevens Creek Road

Stevens Creek Road

Yesterday (Saturday) i went on a pretty awesome solo ride. Since it’s the off-season, on the weekends i’ve been trying to go out on really long rides to help build my endurance and simultaneously lose a few pounds. On these rides i usually head out without my heart rate monitor, without a specific work out in mind, sometimes without even a specific route in mind. I normally don’t push the pace too hard, don’t try to go into the red too much. Mostly i focus on having fun, enjoying the scenery, and just generally enjoy spending a few hours out on the bike. Rather than having to stay focused on staying  at some speed or heart rate, you can just let your mind wonder. So there i was Saturday morning, psyched to go out on a long fun ride. I loaded up the iPod with Bob Schneider, Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon, and Led Zeppelin, slathered some summer embrocation on my legs, grabbed the camera, and was on my way.

Stevens Creek Road

Stevens Creek Road

I started out going around Stanford and through Los Altos Hills. It never fails that when i ride through Los Altos alone, trying to retrace routes i’ve done with a group, i always get lost. I keep trying, mostly to prove that i’m not a complete idiot, but no matter what, i always get lost. Today was no exception. I rode by a baseball field where a little league game was going on, thrilled because i remembered riding passed the same field on a group ride through the area i did with some teammates last week. I took a few turns that looked familiar and felt right, then started seeing houses i hadn’t seen before. I came upon another baseball field and though to myself, “Man, they sure have a lot of baseball fields around here” only to realize after a few seconds that it was the same baseball field. Damn you suburbia and all your curvy streets! After a few more turns, i finally found a road that i recognized and was on my way again.

I followed Foothill Expressway (a very busy street as indicated by the whole ‘expressway’ thing) until it turned into Stevens Canyon Road, a less busy road popular with cyclists, and then continued as it turned into Stevens Creek road, a tiny little secluded road that follows a creek and most of the time is not separated into two lanes. I especially love this old wooden bridge that has been paved over and the way it rattles and creeks as you roll over it.

An old wodden bridge that someone tried to pave over. Love it.

An old wodden bridge that someone tried to pave over. Love it.

After doing a little out and back on Stevens Creek (it dead ends, but is so fun that it’s worth doing the out and back to add a few miles to the ride), i headed up Mt. Eden, which overlooks parts of Saratoga. There are some ridiculously gaudy houses out there (lest we forget that this is Silicon Valley), but the view ain’t half bad.

Not a bad view

Not a bad view

After a few miles of rollers i got to Highway 9, a road that climbs from Saratoga to Skyline (a beautiful mountain road along the tops of the Santa Cruz mountains that goes most of the length of the peninsula and offers incredible views of both the ocean and the bay) over the course of 7-8 miles. It’s a nice long climb with a steady gradient that never gets too steep, but the length can get you. If you don’t pace yourself the last mile or so can be pretty tough. You find yourself rounding every turn thinking “okay, the end has to be just around this bend”. Because of my escapades in Los Altos Hills, and the weather being warmer than the weatherman predicted (at some point i’m going to stop trusting that guy), i started the climb with about 2/3 of a bottle of water. About half way up i realized that i was going to run out of water and started slowing down on my consumption. Things were a little touch and go for a while, but i slowed my pace a little bit and hoped everything would be okay. I knew that there was a fire station on Skyline that had a water spigot that i had stopped at before to refill bottles. I knew if i could make it to the top of Hwy 9, i would be okay.

Highway 9

Highway 9

At the top of Hwy 9 is the Santa Cruz county line. If i had gone straight instead of turning right on Skyline, there’s a gorgeous road that drops down into Big Basin Redwoods State Park and then into Santa Cruz. I’ve driven the road and camped at Big Basin, but never ridden the road on a bike. It would be a hell of a lot of fun though. Hopefully i’ll get to it this off season.

Santa Cruz County Line

Santa Cruz County Line

After about a half hour of wondering if i was going to have to call Rachel to come pick up her dehydrated idiot of a boyfriend, i finally made it to the fire station. The water from the spigot runs underground, so if you let it run for a little bit the water starts to get pretty cold. Splashing cold water on my face covered in a gross mixture of sweat and road grime was a much more satisfying sensation than usual.

Lifesaver

Lifesaver

Refreshed and with topped off bottles i continued on Skyline for a few miles and then descended Page Mill back into Palo Alto, cut through Stanford and arrived home thoroughly exhausted four and a half hours and 65 miles after leaving. Since the UT-Texas Tech game was about start i hopped in the shower (there’s nothing quite like taking a cold shower after a long bike ride on a hot day, or vice versa), and we went out to grab a pizza, an order of wings, and some beer to bring back home for the game.

Sleeping in, breakfast at a German bakery, long bike ride, college football (a longhorn win, no less), beer, and pizza? Now that is a great day.

Since my last race i’ve been doing a hard training push to try and lose some weight before going off the bike for a 7-10 day ‘transition’ period to avoid burnout and let the body recover a bit. This way, instead of starting my base training and wanting to lose 15-20lbs, i can start wanting to lose a much more doable 5-10lbs. For the last two weeks i’ve been trying to do ‘two-a-days’ mixing up long, low intensity bike rides, going running, and weights at the Stanford gym. Most mornings i’ll wake up at 5:30 and try to get a run or a bike ride in before work, then do something else after work. I’ve also switched my lunch during the week from a turkey sandwich to a salad. The point of this switch is not only to lower my caloric intake, but also to do a little experimentation. A few weeks ago my Dad found out that he has a gluten allergy. That’s a hereditary condition, so there’s some likelihood that i also have a gluten allergy. So for a few weeks i’m going to try cutting down my gluten intake (mostly pasta, bread, and other baked goods) and see if i feel any better. During the season i usually eat a piece of toast with almond butter and nutella (i think i have a dependency on that stuff) before a workout, and then follow a workout with a protein rich recovery smoothie. During this period i’m cutting both of those things out to lower my caloric intake and also help my body learn how to burn fat by not eating carbs before a workout. This plan isn’t sustainable, but hopefully it will help me shed 5-10 pounds over the course of 4-6 weeks, or until my body starts to wear down, whichever comes first. Then i can slide back into off season mode, keep the food portions from getting out of control, let it go a little bit for Christmas and Thanksgiving, and hopefully keep my sweet tooth in check during all those holiday parties.

So far things have been going well. Getting up at 5:30 to go run or ride isn’t nearly as hard as i thought it would be, although it certainly helps that it’s only late summer/autumn and temperatures in the mornings are usually in the 50’s. When they dip into the lower 40’s and 30’s, it becomes a lot more difficult.

Last week i got Rachel to come out and do the Coastal Classic ride with me. It’s a 45 mile ride to the coast and back that’s one of my favorite rides in the area. Except for a flat tire i had going 40mph on the descent back into Palo Alto that was a little scary, the ride was a lot of fun. The weather was just about perfect. Rachel did really well considering she hadn’t been on the bike since we were in Cayucos about a month ago.

Next Sunday is the Tour for Woodside Century (100 mile ride) that covers many of the same roads as the Coast Classic ride we did last week. It will be only my 3rd century, and it’s looking like it will be far and away the hardest one i’ve done. After we finish there’s a huge meal at the high school that this ride acts as a fundraiser for. It should be a really fun day, i’m looking forward to it.

In other news, i finally bit the bullet and ordered a power meter for my bike last week. I think it’s really going to help me to create and follow a more structured training plan, which should help me improve on this season’s lackluster results in races. I’m still having a hell of a lot of fun racing. I’ve been getting to know the guys on the team better, and have done some training rides with them, which are always fun. It’s amazing how much easier it is to traing with a group than by yourself. Hopefully we’ll keep the training sessions going through the winter. I’ve got a good feeling about next year. Bring it on!

In two weeks Rachel and i will be back in Texas for the Austin City Limits music festival. We’ll be there for four days, get to see some old friends, my family, and get to spend some time in Austin, one of my favorite cities. Somewhere in there we’re going to Kreuz Market for some real BBQ.  I can’t wait. I’m giddy right now just thinking about it.

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