Thursday, March 20, 2014

Night Riding - Tony's First Ride

This past weekend got to be a first. Tony, a friend I've known for a few years now, got his first road bike a week or so ago and we were finally able to make it out for a ride. See, any time another friend gets a bike things are good. This just increased the number of people you can ride with, which only increases the fun you can have on your bike. The more people the better.

Now, Tony isn't new to bikes. He used to ride mountain bikes for some time, and from what he says it sounds like he rode pretty consistently and pretty well. So when he mentioned coming out on Saturday with us on a ride I was excited. I was also glad that Tony was in good shape, had a spin machine at home (to which he would watch cycling workout videos in various locations around the world), and had just dropped some serious coin on a very nice Trek Domane set up with Dura-Ace.

Also joining Andrew and I would be Mike. Mike is still pretty new to riding, but is also in better shape than I am (not hard), so I figured our little jaunt out to Acton and back (~53 miles) would be challenging but doable. Besides, as Mike stated, he needed to a taste of reality to get him motivated to start prepping for Rockwell Relay.

Needless to say, when Andrew let me know he might not make it due to another commitment, better sense got a hold of me, and I knew we should keep in a bit more local so we could adjust the mileage and the ride based on how everyone was feeling. Also, I adjusted the ride time back 15 minutes to allow for a bit more sleep (it was getting late and the kids were going crazy).

Mike was at my house at 5:00 so we could make sure his lights were set, and Tony showed up at 5:15. Andrew, having a few extra minutes in the morning, and knowing that I changed the route to something closer, showed up as well and figured he would ride the first leg with us.

We were off and riding shortly thereafter and I knew we would have until around 7:00 to get to ride in the dark. We started us up Placerita Canyon (the start of the route Andrew and I did the week before), but at Sand Canyon we would head north going downhill back into town. As we started up Placerita Andrew and Mike were in good shape heading up the climbs. Tony was also moving steady, but at a bit slower of a pace. See the other thing to know about Tony is that he is built like a tank. The best way I could quickly describe Tony would be to have you think of Popeye, except switch out the huge forearms for biceps. They're the size of most guys' legs. Needless to say Tony had the muscle to climb the hills, but he also had the extra weight to carry with him as he ascended.

The weather was chilly but nice, and it was as I was riding along with Tony I realized that this riding in the dark was actually quite nice. I even had a chance to stop and take a pic of Tony making his way up one of the climbs.
(Moon on the left, Tony on the right.)
The thing I like about my pic of Tony above is that you can just how strong is 15 year old mountain biking light is. As he pointed out, it doesn't quite have same output as today's lights. We were both just amazed that his rechargeable batteries were still good after all these years.

We made it to the end of Placerita (passing Andrew on his way back home) and, Mike, Tony and myself headed down Sand Canyon and back into town. Once into town it wasn't long before we were back on the trails and relatively flat terrain. I wanted Tony to see some of the great trails Santa Clarita has to offer, and this also provided for an occasional smaller hill every so often that would be sure to get a little more of a challenge in our each of us. All-in-all we tackled just over 38 miles with just over 2600 feet of climbing. It was a good ride and maybe a bit of a stretch for Tony's first ride, but not once did he complain about a thing. Tony killed it for his first ride, and I was glad that he was excited to be able to do it again. Soon.

(Making our way back home.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

You Wanna Go Where!?


Today I went on a ride. In some ways this was just another ordinary ride. We would leave in the morning ride the familiar roads or trails in the area, hope that it was helping us get faster, stronger, cooler (you know, the usual for riding), and just enjoy being outside and on a bike. However, when I ride with Andrew (which is on most rides) some rides aren't so ordinary. Let me back up for a second and explain how our rides develop...

Andrew or myself, start the first text usually the day before the ride: "We riding tomorrow?"

"Sure, what time?"

[Insert some relatively earning morning time, depending on the various circumstances (weather, time the sun comes up, our schedules)]

Andrew: "Where we going?"

Me: "I was thinking [insert whatever I was thinking, which is usually some super cool ride that is right in line with what we both were thinking and just didn't say to each other yet, cuz I'm good like that.]"

Andrew: "Okay."

Then, on occasion Andrew will have some great idea of something fun we can do. This is usually a fun ride for him, and a punishing ride for me. SIDE NOTE: Andrew is very gracious to ride with and will ride either with me as I am killing it (or it's more likely killing me), or won't get too far ahead. SIDE SIDE NOTE: I will also admit, I am always glad he pushes me. Of course, this gladness is not during the ride, it comes after the ride and I am still alive. SIDE SIDE SIDE NOTE: Of course Andrew is a better rider than I am, but he usually doesn't have to wait too much for me (on road rides), so let's be sure I don't paint too miserable of a picture of myself.

So, this week Andrew actually texts me, that he's wanting to do some climbing around Santa Clarita, going beyond a summit called Bear Divide we have hit a couple times (okay, him a few times and me only once). This would drop us down into the LA area, from which we would circle back up to Santa Clarita via some side roads. I knew with his discreet text the route he would want to take, and I wasn't excited about it. But, as Friday night draws on I continue to get texts telling me I can do it, it will be fun, blah blah blah.

Me: "Let me pull it up." I pull up the ride on RideWithGPS and notice a couple things. Yes, the ride is just as I would have thought in terms of its route. However, I also notice that after Bear Divide the road does in fact turn downhill, but this is followed by another turn back up with a similar ride to up a second summit called Dillon Divide. Only then do we descend down into Pacoima, and start a 17-18 mile ride back to Santa Clarita. This part of the ride, I figure, should be mostly a slight incline, but there will be at least one grinding stretch that I am dreading. But it will not be as hard as the other climbs.

The conversation then followed as such:

Andrew: "What do you think?"

Me: "I think you're crazy."

Andrew: "Just remember who got me into road riding..."

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, how could I refuse? I was in.


I'm up at 4:45 and gathering my stuff, and by 5:30 we're out in the dark and off to see what hills awaited us. It's good to get a second ride in that starts in the dark so I am able to use my light again. Besides, the roads are more open and if I'm being honest, I love seeing riders later in the day that are just starting their ride as the sun is coming up and they see our lights and can tell we've been out for a while. It makes us look a bit more hard core. Though I know that I am very far from that, for just a minute they don't.

Riding up Placerita Canyon to Sand Canyon I can see where the week's previous downpour has moved a significant amount of dirt and large rocks into the road that have since been pushed to the side. We are going up the few hills along Placerita, and I am a bit concerned as I feel out of tired and recognize the bigger climbs await.

"Just relax, take it a hill at a time," I think. Also entering my mind at this time are the encouraging sayings I that one of the instructors would shout out at spin class. I would laugh to myself during class as she would yell them, but I will admit, it probably helped in class. "YES YOU CAN," and "THIS IS WHY YOU CAME!" I am not sure it was really helping at that point in the ride, but at least the thought of the somewhat cheesy motivating cheers did help me forget about the hills.

We were through Placerita and started slowly up Sand Canyon as we were both getting into the chocolate and blueberry rice cakes Andrew had made the night before. We had not had them before and they were pretty tasty. (I have realized that my stomach isn't as tough as rocks, so I've got to be figuring out what will and won't work on longer rides.)

I am happy to say that the ride up to Bear Divide actually felt shorter than the time I rode it before. That's not to say it wasn't grueling, it just didn't seem as long. We stopped at the top long enough to visit for a minute, a for me to take a couple pics.

(Facing north from Bear Divide, towards Santa Clarita)

(Facing south from Bear Divide, LA is over the hills)
Somewhat dark still in the pictures as the sun had not reached over the top of the mountains at that point in the morning.

The drop down the south side of Bear Divide was fun, but I've still got as much work to do on my descending as I do on my climbing. I was held up a bit more than usual as I thought for a minute that one of my shifters was broken. Luckily, once we reached the bottom and we were started back up to Dillon Divide, I realized all was well. (I just didn't notice I was already in my highest gear...did I mention I was tired...)

The climb back up to Dillon Divide looked to be about the same difficulty as climbing up to Bear Divide. I will admit that is probably would have been about the same difficulty on its own, but having just done Bear Divide the inclines felt steeper and at least as long. Needless to say we made it to the top, and the ride down into the city was a blast.

Riding back up to Santa Clarita on the edge of town was so-so. It was good to have some easier riding, but annoying to get caught at most EVERY SINGLE stop light.

Riding between Sylmar and Newhall were the two hills that, while not overly big, I knew were coming and thought often about during the entire ride. The first came just out of Sylmar. Not overly long, but with a good amount of incline and no shoulder for such a busy road. This we managed to tackle fairly well, and it was a quick drop back down and under the freeway to get to The Old Road. This climb, again, probably wouldn't be the worst hill I had ridden in the day, but it came at the end of the others. Here was just over a mile's worth of straight, boring, steady uphill riding.

Fighting off the now growing desire to stop I turn to the main way thus far that I have found to trick myself into going "just that little bit further." I start counting down from 30. "Okay, once I get to zero I will reassess, and hope that somehow I am considerably further along my way up the hill." Then when I get to zero, I tell myself, "Okay, you're still alive, let's doing the counting thing again. Starting at 30, 29..." (This tactic is used almost every time I am out of the saddle.) Oddly enough, this sort of works for me. And on this hill, I had to count several times.

Once at the top, it was a nice downhill section and a pretty easy ride home. (Though at one point I thought Andrew was taking me up ANOTHER HILL to which I told him once I caught up with him, "I thought we were friends up until about 10 seconds ago." He laughed, and once I saw what the road was like that we were taking I was quick to forgive him.

In the end it was about a 41 mile ride with ~4800 feet of climbing. (Give or take a couple hundred feet, depending on whose devise you want to rely on. Personally I like mine, it showed just over 5000 feet.) It was a great ride to have completed, and I feel a bit better knowing that I was able to do it. It will serve as a reminder next time we've got more hills in front of us and my mind is screaming, "NO!!!" From smiling as I laugh of the cleshays "yes you can" and "this is why you came" running through my head, to the agonizing countdowns to get me over a hill, it's always good to accomplish a ride that you haven't done before and were weary of. Now on to find the next one.