Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Days 14 and 15: Hot fun!

Day 14: I did a short ride up Nichols Canyon to Mulholland Drive and down Sepulveda with Lauren S. on the warmest Sunday in recent memory. Lauren doesn't normally climb hills and considering the intensity and heat of this particular route (ahem... 15% grade on Woodrow Wilson Drive), I was impressed with her good attitude. At one point during the rolling hills on Mulholland, Lauren and I met some of the LA Wheelmen. What a good natured cycling club! I need to remember them when I want to have a good ride at a chill pace (or a crazy 400-miler... who does that?!). Good times! We also saw the Shifting Gears crew on Sepulveda. What a cruel climb to do in the heat since there is no shade... Poor gears! Total miles: 35.

Day 15: PCH / Latigo / the valley / Topanga Canyon
Chad and I had this crazy idea of doing a long, hill-intensive ride on Monday. What we didn't anticipate was that it would be a blazingly hot day. Even though we left Santa Monica at 7AM, it got really hot by 8:30AM (smack-dab in the middle of our 7-mile ascent on Latigo). It was so hot, in fact, that we decided to trim the route when we reached Kanan-Pt. Dume. Our trip to the valley was hot and uneventful. All of the major corridors between the valley and malibu always astound me. Cars move at such high speeds even though they often only get two lane roads. The temperatures in Agoura Hills and Calabasis were awful and made me wish we were back on Latigo Canyon... Our return ride up Topanga Canyon featured some very rude cars (why honk when the cyclist is as far to the right as possible?) and extremely warm gusts on our decent back to PCH. (Hint: cyclists are not supposed to work that hard on downhills.) Ironically, the riding was easy once we got to PCH and both of us felt fine. Wind is such a strange mistress... We ended our day with a lunch stop in Santa Monica. here's the route. Total miles: 66

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Day 13: ALC Day on the Ride

For today's training ride, I went out with hundreds of LA area ALC riders for the "Day on the Ride," a 65-mile simulation of the LifeCycle experience. I was determined to not get caught in the hoards of riders (I hate cycling crowds. Who knew?) so I rode out with the fast Training Ride Leader (TRL in these parts) who also happened to be ex-child star Chad Allen. BTW, he is really good humored about his past as a teeny bopper. I informed him that my sister used to have his picture on her wall and he laughed about it and said "it was an interesting way to grow up." So much fun! All of the faster riders (including Dario, David, Melissa, Tom, Chad and the other members of the team "Funky Monkey") played cycle-tag throughout the day and traded off who was in the lead. I felt completely challenged by riding with such great athletes. Also, Dario had a minor spill (complete with bike flip) when he hit a crack in the road just was we were turning onto Westmont from Gaffey. It was an elegant spill yielding only minor scratches on his arms and legs. If you are going to fall, that's how you want to do it... I was afraid that we was really hurt, but he did just fine.

Day on the Ride is never an "easy" ride. The ALC planners always try to set us up with a challenging, yet doable, route through the South Bay area. We had the big climb up the north side of the peninsula early on and another slow climb after lunch. Predictably, I had some difficulty on those rollers. They are a challenging set of hills. And with the temperature edging up to the high 80s and sand all along the beach bike path (NO!), it was a challenging day. I rolled across the finish line around 1:30.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Days 11 and 12

As part of my preparations for a long weekend of riding, I have limited my riding for the last couple of days to the closest imaginable neighborhoods.

Day 11: I rolled out of my apartment at 5:50 AM to meet up with riding buddy Chad for a morning spin down to the Marina. It was somewhat celebratory as I recently heard some good news. We also stopped by Groundworks Coffee on Main Street for some hot morning beverages. It was fabulous. Also, I made it to work with plenty of time to prepare for my TA duties. 6AM it is! For those interested, here's my (abbreviated) morning route to the Marina. Total miles (with commute): just shy of 32.

Day 12: Afternoon rides are never very fun, but today it was just downright irritating. Maybe I should shift my Friday strategy? It is a little tough to do otherwise since I teach in the morning, and I normally need those morning hours to prep for section. Today, it was windy as an added bonus, numerous things happened to me to make this ride less than pleasant. Much of this had to do with bad luck and poorly chosen route. I elaborate below:
• I got lost in the Palisades two times.
• I neglected to bring enough liquids for a warmer-weather ride and had to stop after 15 miles to get more.
• A truck knock a tree on Upper Mandeville Boulevard blocking traffic in both directions. I helped with its removal as much as I could in my cycling cleats.
• A fellow cyclist flagged me down to help him with his flat tire.

On the plus side, I had friendly conversation with everyone I encountered on my ride. Also, the actual riding was great. I felt really strong on Mandeville's slow ascent and had no trouble going full strength on the last, tough grade increase. Lesson learned: leave the house by 1PM on Fridays to avoid weekend traffic. Total miles: 31 (though it felt longer)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Day 10

For my first year on the ride, the Bel Air climbs route was one of the most intimidating rides we did. Wednesday morning, I did the most difficult parts of that ride by myself: Sarbonne / Stradella / Roscomare to Mulholland Drive. It was actually much easier than it used to be. (I distinctly remember feeling nauseated my first time attempting this ride.) The only difficult part was navigating a higher volume of traffic on Mulholland as I rode out to Encino Hills. Who knew so many people treated that road like a highway in the mornings?!
I finished off my day's riding by heading to UCLA to pick up my vegetables from our local CSA (complete with panniers and a rack). As part of a special event, the UCLA CSA hosted a screening of The Garden, the oscar nominated documentary about the closing of the South Central Community Gardens. As an aside, it turns out that UCLA CSA has noticed that some of us like to pick up our vegetables on our bikes. Check out this article. Note a certain familiar cyclist (not I!) in the second photo.
Total miles (including commute): 35

Days 8 and 9

Day 8
On Monday I decided to be nice to my body and do some casual climbs up Mandeville and Bundy – two of the most popular climbing spots in Brentwood. Something must be changing with my body because it felt really easy and painless (even the final push on Mandeville when the grade increases from six to ten percent). There is nothing like a low-intensity ride to make the training process doable.
In the afternoon, I made a trip to REI and finally obtained two very important items: Pearl Izumi's Sugar cycling knickers (with the world's best chamois), and full-fingered gloves. Spring is deceptive in Los Angeles, and on some occasions the morning temperatures in places like Mandeville can get dangerously cold. During Chad's 30-30, I rode dangerously underdressed and stopped being able to feel my fingers. This was grave news for my considering that cycling is a sport that depends on manual dexterity for safety. Eeek! So rest assured, dear readers, that I have no intention of freezing on my 6AM training rides around the west side of LA. Total Miles: 30.

Day 9
On Tuesday, I rolled out of the house at 6AM on the dot to do my morning training AND make it to work on time (that plan was successful). On my way up 26th, I saw all of the LaGrange morning riders preparing for their weekly spin down to the marina. I rode on without them down San Vicente. On my way back from the marina, I was overtaken by their pack. For just a second I understood why pack riding is so appealing: everyone was talking and pushing themselves and they were entirely visible to morning drivers. Chad was with them and we talked for all of 20 seconds.
I am not fast enough for LaGrange, but being around them in the middle of my 30-30 did raise an interesting thought for me. Over the last week or so I haven't suffered from any lethargy after a ride. The training has been working, but I worry that I have hit a plateau of sorts.
All of this means that my normal pace is no longer pushing me on a day-to-day basis and I need to change my gearing to get a better workout or I need to start switching things up. I suppose I can wait until the 30-30 (or even the LifeCycle) ends to really push my thresholds. But something needs to change if I'm going to see any improvements. Total miles (including commute): 34.


In other news, I have decided that I need to spend at least as much time on my research as I do on my bicycle saddle. It seems kind of obvious, but as the LifeCycle takes over my life in the coming weeks, this will prove to be quite a challenge. In other eco/community news, I plan to attend a screening of The Garden tonight at UCLA. I'll post my Day 10 entry once I ride home.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Days 3-7

Day 3: marina, mandeville, and wind. I am slowly learning that afternoon rides in the springtime in Los Angeles are a bad idea. Reason 1: more wind! I moved my tire size down to 23cm from 25 and every gust pushes my bike around like it's nothing. On days like last Wednesday it was SCARY!!
Reason 2: afternoon drivers don't like bicycles as much as early morning drivers. There was a lot of impatience on the road. Also there were an inordinate number of women who angrily honked at me that afternoon. What gives? I was in the right side of the lane near the shoulder. And, I was being perfectly safe and courteous. Some things in life I will never understand.
On the plus side, climbing mandeville (a 7 mile moderate hill) in the afternoon is great! There isn't much traffic and less traffic means fewer chances for accidents. When I got home I felt a strange compulsion to eat lotsa matzo. I made some matzo ball soup, charoset, and drank some wine. It was lovely day of riding and celebrating. Total mileage (including commute): 45.


Day 4: Almost immediately after my teaching responsibilities for the day ended, I left UCLA for Malibu with fellow graduate student CedarBough. It was a quick, fun spin and we even met up with some triathlon guys on San Vicente. Unfortunately, we made a bad decision when entering the VA on our way back to campus resulting in a pinched tire for my cycling buddy. Too bad because it was otherwise a perfect ride. Total mileage (including commute): 47.

Fundraising: My dollar count topped $1200 on Thursday which made me feel incredible! You guys are awesome!


Day 5: After teaching discussion section, I loaded up my panniers and rode straight down PCH to Laguna Beach for a family passover seder. Aside from the weather being really gloomy, it was a fun ride. Aside from an abnormally large number of phone calls, and the huge amount of extra weight I was carrying, I feel that I made pretty good time. When I was just south of Long Beach, I met another cyclist who was carrying the full touring gear. He showed me a beach path through Sunset Beach and Huntington Beach that avoided all of the cars. It was nice and we got to chat for quite some time. In Newport Beach, I met up with my mom for a late lunch. She insisted that I get in the car with her (mothers will do that), but the only problem was that my bike would not fit in the car as is along with 4 passengers. So, I dismantled my bike as quickly as I could (including the handlebars), and we drove the last 12 miles to the house in Laguna Beach. By the time we got to dinner, I ate like I truly earned it. Total mileage (including commute): 65.

Casualties: I realized 10 miles in that I had completely neglected to bring some bike water bottles with me (doh!), so I had to stop at a cycling shop to grab some more. Good bye $8...


Day 6: Yesterday's riding mostly consisted of getting to Occidental College and then getting home. I took the Amtrak from Orange County to Union Station, LA and hopped on the Gold-Line to South Pasadena. I then biked the 4 miles from the light-rail to Occidental College for some canvassing with Vote for Equality. After the canvass (around 3:30PM), I attempted to get myself home to Santa Monica. Unfortunately, I got a little lost once I hit the LA river. Who knew Los Angeles was so complicated?! I eventually found my way to Broadway, which got me to Olympic (my bicycle corridor of choice). The stretch from Chinatown to Downtown LA is simply amazing. I've been to both neighborhoods many times, but I normally don't get to look around at the scene on Broadway. I felt like I was in a real city for about 20 blocks. Unbelievable! And I was the only cyclist on that street!
Olympic was a good ride as is usual –- cracked gravel, rolling hills, and not very much traffic. I played a little tag with a Metro bus. The driver laughed each time I passed him in Koreatown. Somewhere near Highland, another cyclist (who enjoyed running stop lights) and I began to chat. Those two things made an otherwise unpleasant route bearable. You see, normally I ride my bike to get places or to get away. Doing a training ride along a commuting route was just... not fun. I will file this information away for future reference. Total mileage: 30 on the nose!!

Casualties of the day: a somewhat wasted training day (is my resentment too much?) and a lost set of panniers containing clothes on the Amtrak.


Day 7: Rolling spin to Trancas Canyon and back with Shifting Gears. At the meet-up I ran into an old training buddy from last year's AIDS/LifeCycle. Although the official ride consisted of 3 options (cross-creek, Latigo, and Trancas), I opted for Trancas when said cycling buddy said that he wasn't interested in the 10-mile climb. Sometimes company means more than mileage... We averaged 17 miles per hour (a relatively quick pace) and beat most of the nasty traffic. What a fun Easter ride! Total miles: 50.

In other news, I decided that I will indeed be riding in the Shifting Gears Double Century on April 25-26. What's another 200 miles?!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Day 1 and Day 2

Day 1, 6 April 2009
Yesterday was my third day in a row of riding at least 50 miles. This isn't the healthiest way to train, but there they were – three glorious days of sun. Can you blame me? I don't have anywhere to be on Mondays, so Chad called me up to see if I would be interested in riding out to Zuma beach and back (40+ mile round trip). I went, but within the first 5 miles I got a flat tire. (That's my second day in a row!) Not fun! Flat tires are especially bad news on PCH where there is no safe place to pull over and remedy the situation. Chad let me use his CO2 cartridge (which saved us about 10 minutes), but he also made the entire ride possible. When we noticed that in addition to my rear tire being on its way out, my rim tape was folded (bad, bad, bad), he told me about the dollar bill trick. You place a folded up dollar bill in the offending area of the tire or wheel which theoretically should allow you to ride without consequence. And it worked! We rode all the way out to Point Dune and back without another problem. I would say that our only big mistake was not stopping to get more water. I'm still not used to it being spring... Add in my 10.5 mile commute my total miles for the day were just over 50. Along the way I bought some new armadillo tires and carried Tuesday's wardrobe to my locker at the campus gym.
This was a great way to start off my crazy fundraising/training plan.

Day 2, 7 April 2009
I woke up at 5:30 AM to have enough time to get dressed in my cycling kit, eat breakfast, check my tire-pressure and meet Chad for a quick recovery spin. We went up to San Vicente and 26th and then turned downhill to Ocean Ave. straight through to the Marina and back. We saw a bunch of other cycling teams and clubs along the way (included among them, Shifting Gears and La Grange).
About 10 miles in I noticed two things about my progress: I was really tired and really thirsty. I went through an entire bottle of water in just over an hour. Then, horror of horrors, my left achilles tendon started to "bother me." I think if I were to push my milage to 200 miles in 4 days I would seriously injure myself. I've met my daily minimum with a low intensity ride. Let's hope the issue takes care of itself with some well-deserved rest.

Funds Earned Report
Ever since I announced that I'm doing the 30-30, six people have donated $270 bringing me to the brink of the 25% mark. For the record, that's just in a 24-hour period! You guys are great!

Monday, April 6, 2009

30 in 30 AIDS/LifeCycle Extravaganza

As many of you are aware, I am raising money for AIDS services in Southern California as part of the California AIDS/LifeCycle, a 7-day, 545 mile event beginning on May 31. I am putting my body through this once again because it is a great cause. All funds raised go directly to the LA Gay & Lesbian Center's HIV and AIDS services. The LifeCycle is more needed than ever before because of funding cuts from the state and federal government. In addition, as many people are hurting financially, the services are in much higher demand. The center doesn't want to have to turn anyone away. And to make matters more pressing: if I don't raise enough funds, I will not be able to ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It is an amazing event: over 2000 cyclists and 500 support staff moving through California over a week to increase visibility for HIV/AIDS. There is nothing else like it and I don't want to miss it.

I recently decided that I need to do more than train and ask for money. Instead, I've decided to do something that illustrates the AIDS/LifeCycle on a smaller, more personal level. Starting today, I will ride my bike a minimum of 30 miles a day for 30 days in a row regardless of weather. Often, that number will be higher (today it is 50 miles), but there will be no days off. I do this for the people I have known and lost. It is a small gesture, but I think it is meaningful.

I am asking you to sponsor me for the next 30 days. Would you be willing to give me an amount per day on my bicycle? I will post updates on facebook/twitter and this blog. The AIDS/LifeCycle will allow you to make your donation in installments (as many people have already done). Here is my own personal fundraising page.

Thank you for your support and please spread the word!