Monday, May 19, 2008

Hopper Finale

Woke up on Sat less nervous than usual. I'll just ride my own ride and see how it goes...what a crock of shit! If it's a mountain bike race my old reflexes kick in and it's throw down and then damage control. Didn't work so well on Saturday. We saw a large crowd for this event, +/- 60 people, even a few super-sufferers on 1 speeds. A good showing of the ladies as well, including the dueling dynos Cathy and Sara. I knew this would be a memorable Grasshopper with much suffering; just hoped I would make up Bummer Peak. This loops always works me over once we head towards Liberty Glenn and Sat was no exception. Last years strategy worked well; get a good start on the single, climb in my granny to not blow too soon, and rip the rolling sections, so this was my game plan. Strangely I found myself attacking the group into the start of the trail when Glenn and Shane came by me. Okay, good company I thought, like the old days for me. Then I passed them on a rolling section and had hole shot, a romantic but short lived experience as they passed me again on the first climb. Soon to catch me was Roger who was apparently a little "pissed off"(pun intended) and ripping. Soon came Chris B. I settled in to cruise and it took about 10 minutes to get my heart rate under 1 million. George caught up for a while and gave me the traditional "I'm not feeling good today" disclaimer before passing me. Up and down and round and round...K.B. and later the Big Cheese came by as I fixed my stuck chain. I was carrying three bottles and a fourth in my jersey. Six GUs and two Luna Bars were my fuel source but I think I needed something special. With two short rides in my legs since the King Ridge Grasshopper I was at least well rested. I began feeling cold chills early on, not a good sign. I've always felt that the word "epic" should be saved for rides when you're not sure you going to make it home the same day you started, or have something happen like laying fetal position in a creek, desperately trying to lower the core temp. Sat was epic for me. I was alone all day, unless you count all the voices in my head. I knew everyone was suffering and I just hoped I could pull this off. The communication between the pilot and the engine room was full of static and every exposed section was a blow torch to my head, splothchy and blurred vision. Pedal, pedal, pedal. Middle ringing descents that I usually rip in my big ring was not a good sign. Finally Bummer Peak, only five riders ahead of me...Mount Everest without oxygen, food or water. 15 minutes of misery or 15 seconds to bliss? Sat down, drank, got passed by Cameron and Patrick. Into the lake it was! The crux was the boaters parked at the bottom, casually floating, looking relaxed. Man I must look stupid to them, not that I care. Took a soak but afraid to swim (drown by cramping) probably the most satisfying swim of my life. Cameron joined me, then Dan B, then Rick. Jason M tried to but was cramping too bad to walk down hill. Suited back up 2o minutes later to tackle the climb, a little rested, a 90 bottle of water to suckle. Climbed half way, cramped. Couldn't ride, couldn't walk. Luckily no one was chasing me, I would have been easy prey. Limped to the top to round out the top 20. One for the books.
Shane ripped up the men's field for the overall win over Chris B and Sara P. came from behind to beat Cathy. Great effort all and thanks to Kim for the water at the finish

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Lake Sonoma

I came out for exercise, gentle exercise, and to notice the scenery and to botanise. And no sooner do I get on that accursed machine than off I go hammer and tongs; I never look to right or left, never notice a flower, never see a view - get hot, juicy, red - like a grilled chop. Get me on that machine and I have to go. I go scorching along the road, and cursing aloud at myself for doing it.

-- H.G. Wells, The Wheels of Chance

This isn't a photo of the Lake Sonoma Trail and don't expect to find it on a Grasshopper, just a little local teaser. Perhaps you've ridden Lake Sonoma by yourself or with someone les fit than you and have stopped to enjoy the views or even soak in the seasonal pools nestled in the redwood cleavage. I did once but it was at night and I was avoiding four-legged rototillers and fixing my mangled rear deraileur. I have stopped to check out the flora, once while I fixed a flat on my single speed and another time when I slurped down some GU after being dropped by Rog. Saturday will be scenic but most will likely be riding "hammer and tongs" and all will finish with a "Bummer" of a climb. I laugh to myself each year when we post this course thinking about Bummer Peak. Reminds me of the last pitch on Pine Flat. I would never choose a course that I wouldn't don't worry! Besides, it's only a 2 1/2 hr ride...for the top pro men!
Shane leads the series ahead of Chris and Cathy leads the women ahead of Sarah. Anything could happen out there. Remember, double points for the finale. Party at Roger and Hilary's afterwards and some custom awards. I know, no prizes, but some of the riders/artists wanted to contribute this year. If you've never ridden Lake Sonoma it's advisable to study the map and use it. There are some wrong turns to take. My sister even manage to take a wrong turn before we hit the single track but I suppose wrong-way Rog' would never get lost on his home turf. Oh yeah, bring plenty of water.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Post Hopper Blues

One advantage of ten years of Hoppers, haven't missed one yet, is that I know what to expect from my own body. This year I expected pain and suffering and very little glory. Amazing showing this year; Team NorCal ladies, DFL, Gianni, Organic Athlete, Whole Athlete and do we dare say BMC and Astana? Good thing I planned the Grasshopper around the Giro this year so Levi was able to make an appearance. Scott was there as well but suffered the fate of so many others, multiple punctures. I got my flat on the descent to Salt Point, raised my hand for a wheel change and nothing happened. I'll need to talk to the director about this! Matthias promised to wait for me but I wasn't surprised to find myself alone on Hwy 1. Sat up and waited for some riders to come from behind. Great company with Gabe, Drew, Dan, Jason and a couple of others, kinda like a hard ride with your buddies. I guess that's what this really is, only no waiting at the top of the climb. Having spent time at the front, back and now middle of the pack throughout the years I'm impressed by the depth of talent and ability to suffer. On a bad day anyone who drops back from the front will receive no sympathy for those battling for 20th or 30th. There is no "omnibus" of sprinters waiting for the flatter stages. It is the embodiment of "tough love". Saturday's race saw a unique attack on Austin Creek let by NorCal. Not a bad plan considering Levi and Scott were along for the ride. I like Roger's description of riding along King Ridge with Levi, "wheezing through his pie hole", looked over to see Levi poker-faced calmly breathing through his nose.Group was caught and I understand they worked successfully to put Shane in the lead (behind Levi of course). Thing is, Shane is battling for the victory with Chris and they're on the same team...guess it's up to them to figure it out. Should be a showdown at Lake Sonoma for double points. Anyways, survived Fort Ross climb and had a ripping decent down Meyers Grade and Russian Gulch, does it get any better than that on a road bike? Had a clear mind on the beginning of Willow Creek but there was some trouble in the engine room. As my foot pain began to intensify I felt my "legs" beginning to cramp. I spent the next 40 minutes avoiding total body failure. Stopping was not an option, for one, Josh and Jason who heckled me for walking the Twin Sisters (it was my recovery strategy) needed their dose of brotherly love and besides if I stopped it would take me longer to get to the finish. During this time I was experiencing, I think ,six cramps; thus "legs" is in quotes. Let's face it, we have multiple muscles in our legs and sometimes the whole freakin' thing feels like it's gonna' seize up. Like when your quads cramp so bad you slowly dismount and discover that your hammy was nearly as bad, seizes up an you find yourself in a fetus position suckling the last drops of your water bottle and slurpin' a GU, hoping to avoid convulsions. This only happened to me once in the Humbug Hurryup years ago on a single speed, still finished 3rd and nobody got to see it! Managed to finish the ride and avoid getting caught by Brett and Giampalo. Just as I predicted; much pain and very little glory as I rolled in at 27th, more than a half hour off the pace.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Price of Admisson

Beat from a week of being on stage. Telling kids what to do and helping them learn a language that most could care less about. Jesus or Buddha could be in the classroom exuding the knowledge of the ages and a student would raise their hand...."will this be on the final exam?"
Back to an old post, does it all matter? Yes. Does it all matter? No. Uncomfortable with this paradox? Remember an altered state conversation with myself in high school...if I didn't exist would the Universe exist? Never really got an answer for this one, was never on my Physics test either. Couldn't really be proved, doesn't really matter...does matter, gray matter pitter patter pancake batter! So what is the price of admission on an epic Grasshopper ride? King Ridge always brings up memory, reflection and introspection. I remember my first ride, solo in '92 on my mtn. bike. Remember sitting on top of Sea View and devouring a pbj sandwich, discovering the meaning of bonk like discovering acid when someone sneaks it into your tea before you head off to job interview. Remember having legs that wouldn't quit, attacking at Russian Gulch and riding solo down 1 and up Willow Creek for my first and only stage victory. Remember stopping on Fort Ross to take a crap, not sure what happened to that shammy. Remember coming to Jenner to find Emil spending 10 bucks on a hunk of smoked salmon. No Coke, no muffin, just salmon. Luckily someone else had bought a jug of Snapple. Snapple and smoked salmon. Wash it down with a GU and ready to go.
Last night at 9 heard Z fall off to deep sleep, out of bed and out to the shop. Just a few things to do. Pulled the cranks to my mtb, cleaned the chainrings and replaced the middle. Replaced the rear cassette and added grease to the rear hub and adjusted the bearings. Still need to rebuild the fork, next time. On to my road bike. Last week replaced the Dura Ace Cranks, chain and cassette. New front deraileur, cables and bar tap. Last night pulled the cassette hub body and cleaned and replace the bearings. Runs smoother. Replaced the tires. Shaved my legs last week. Made a trip to NorCal last week for parts and recovery drink. Rode Figueroa mtn. last Fri. Went to my grandma's funeral on Sat. Payed bills on line yesterday. Will ride tomorrow. Will ride tomorrow. And while I'm riding tomorrow I will ride tomorrow. That's the point of it all. To ride, but not tomorrow for we never ride tomorrow, we always ride in the moment and sometimes the moment lasts for several hours. I suppose the winning "moment" will be 3 hours an the "last place" moment will be about 5 hours. So how do we compare our moments? Next week we can write about our ride in the past but that's the future for now. See you tomorrow which is our future and will soon be the present.