Archive for May, 2009

Cycling at Laguna-Seca Raceway

| May 19, 2009 12:27 pm
Cycling at Laguna-Seca Raceway

By Brian Birkeland

I stumbled upon a short article in the Salinas Californian newspaper that Mazda Laguna-Seca Raceway has started a Twighlight Cycling Series on the track and that for a $10 entry fee anyone can ride their bike on the 2.2mile track.

So I showed up on Friday May 15th from 6:30 – 7:30pm. Rode hard and managed to complete 6 full laps in one hour with a 15mph average. Was surprised how difficult the climbing was but was thrilled by the fast descents and very smooth road surface.

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Brian Birkeland

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Actor Patrick Dempsey at Specialized Tent

Did get to talk very briefly with the actor Patrick Dempsey about his cancer survivor crusade in Maine after seeing the article in Bicycling Magazine. I’ve included a few snapshots from the evening.

For those who would like to ride on the track this year there are more dates:  The link is http://mazdaraceway.com/pages/bike_ride and the dates are 5/20, 6/17, 7/22, 8/19, 9/16 ,and 10/14.

I spoke with the track PR Manager, Jennifer Capasso (jenniferc@laguna-seca.com) and she said the $10 per rider goes to the Monterey County SPCA during race weekends like this one and the Wednesday night proceeds go to local county bicycling clubs and/or the SPCA.

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Actor Patrick Dempsey

Hope to see ACTC members on the track,

Salt Lake City Century

| May 18, 2009 3:25 pm
Salt Lake City Century

by Franz and Anne Kelsch

It has been a few weeks off from cycling, starting with Franz breaking his hand in a cycling accident and then us traveling across the US from the Northwest corner to the Southeast corner. We tried to get in some exercise most days, but mostly it was running with some time on an exercise bike. When we returned from Atlanta to our Utah home on Tuesday, Franz’s younger brother called and asked if we would join his team to do the Salt Lake Century ride on that Saturday.

Normally we would not be too concerned with that since we had been on club rides this year already over 100 miles and Franz had already finished two double centuries. But during the past 6 weeks we felt we had lost a lot of conditioning and so far Franz had not attempted to get back on the road bike with the splint on his left hand, keeping to riding only the mountain bike on pavement.

But with 3 days left to get in some training, and one day to rest, we felt why not? So our “getting back in shape” training was 25 miles on Tuesday, 35 on Wednesday and 55 on Thursday, with taking Friday off, before the Century ride on Saturday. It is not the training program we would ever recommend, any more than cramming for final exams is very helpful. But we needed to get some confidence and Franz needed to learn how to ride the road bike with the splint on. We did not have our tandem, so that meant single bikes.

The Salt Lake Century is an interesting century. It gets about the same number of riders as the Tierra Bella and also offers short options of 35 and 70 miles. The proceeds go to assist the Salt Lake City Bicycle Advocacy Committee to build and maintain bicycle routes and trails and promote cycling in Utah. Unlike the Tierra Bella, it has one mass start at 7:30 am with police escort blocking all the traffic so this massive peleton could cruse through the streets through the stop signs and traffic lights. We kept our pace up during that stretch, going over 20 mph with a slight tail wind, but keeping plenty of space between us and the riders ahead, especially since Franz was mostly limited to using the rear brake with his right (and good) hand.

After about 6 miles, the riders were much more stretched out and we were no longer with a police escort. The first rest stop was at 17 miles, but we thought that was a bit too soon so we blew by that rest stop and eventually reached the 2nd rest stop at 35 miles. This was the point where we were going to decide to turn around or go on. We both felt fine so decided to do the entire 105 miles.

whiterock_bayThat extra portion was an interesting one because it takes you out to Antelope Island State Park, an island in the Great Salt Lake. The largest of the Great Salt Lake’s 10 islands, Antelope Island is part of the Utah State Park System. Visitors can reach the park by boat or as we did over a 7 mile long causeway.

Biking along the causeway was interesting because you are surrounded by vast water on both sides of the road and where there is water there are bugs, and we mean a lot of bugs. We wanted to get through all those bugs as quick as we could so we kept the pace around 20 mph. One group we passed must have thought an older couple should not go by them, so they passed us but eventually they could not hold that pace so we ended up passing them again. This time they were content to draft behind as Franz pulled the rest of the miles to the island, with Anne right on his wheel.

Anne at finish of Salt Lake Century

Anne at finish of Salt Lake Century

Once we reached the island, the route took us several miles on a road that circled the island. This route served as a time trail course in the Nationals a couple of years ago that some members of ACTC participated in. The weather was now perfect cycling weather, in the low 70’s. On the far side there was a water stop where we made a brief stop. Then it was to continue around the island and then, yikes, we had to go back across that causeway with all the bugs. So we did the same thing again, keeping the pace over 20 mph to get through that section as soon as we could.

At mile 70 we stopped a the lunch stop where they had all the fixings to make a sandwich. We saw Franz’s younger brother there. His team was leap frogging us all day. They would go past us between rest stops but they were taking longer stops than we were, so we ended up seeing them at every single stop.

Franz after Salt Lake Century

Franz after Salt Lake Century

After resting for awhile, we headed back over the 35 mile course we had taken that morning. But unlike the morning we did not skip the rest stop at 17 miles from the start. But there the stop was brief and then we finished the 105 miles.

It was a great century ride and one we really enjoyed. We averaged 17.8 mph for the 105 miles. That was not as fast as we have done on the tandem, but a pace we were very happy with on single bikes.

Davis Double May 09

| 1:29 pm

by Vince Cummings

I rode my first double in Davis on Saturday. I was happy to finish and I really enjoyed it, even though the last 45 miles were painful
and slow.

My weekend started on Friday morning. I packed up everything I needed and was on the road by about 10:00 am. The drive to Davis was uneventful but the freeways were crowded even at this early hour so it wasn’t much fun.

I arrived at the Motel 6 ready for lunch and was pleased to see a Subway across the street. I got my sandwich and checked in. The lady at the desk was nice enough to give me a corner room as I was dreading being kept up at night by the all night crowd. I gave her a tip for the kind service and found my room, unloaded the car and ate lunch.

It was now about 1:00 pm and I called Dave and he was on his way as well. When Dave got to his room we talked about the strategy for the evening as well as the ride. Dave wanted to ride as soon as he got into town to acclimate to the heat. I felt I would be better served with a nap because if it was noisy in my room and I couldn’t sleep at least I would have a couple hours of sleep to spare.

After my nap I got up and rode my bike down to the check in. I was a bit early for dinner so I just checked in. I brought my bike in with me and I later learned that was against the rules. Well I guess I saved myself a possible 4000 dollars by not knowing about that rule.

Davis is a town divided by a big freeway and I didn’t bother to pick up a map at AAA so I had to stop and ask people where the over pass was as I couldn’t find the exact way back as I came to the check in.

When I got back Dave was ready to go check in. I hopped a ride to get my pasta fix.

My next errand was to get a thermos of coffee from Cindy’s next door to the Motel and a burrito at the Guadalajara Grill.  Dave and I were planning on meeting Steve at around 5:00 am. This meant an early rise even for myself as I get up early anyway. So I spent about 45 minutes getting everything ready to ride except the air in my tires.

Now it was about bed time but I was still dreading about who was going to be renting the next door room. So I watched “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” on HBO. I must have liked the movie since I watched the whole thing but looking back on it I’m not sure what made it watchable. Maybe it was Veronica Mars playing the bad girl.

After that it was 11:00 pm and I slept fairly well until 2:30 am when I decided to get up. I ate the burrito and drank the coffee and loaded the car and it was time to meet Dave to drive to the ride start. We got there a little early but Steve was already to go at 4:50 am.

So we took off. Steve had no light and Dave’s wasn’t a big spot light either. So it was nice to have my new Night Rider Mini Newt USB to spot the pot holes after we got out of town.

Steve was keeping a very nice 20 mph pace and I was parked on his left shoulder trying to give enough light for the three of us to see.

My strategy had changed because of the anticipated heat later in the day so 20 mph was fine with me. I wanted to cover as many miles as possible while it was under 90 degrees. I even took an occasional pull at the front. After awhile I looked back and saw what seemed to be about 50 lights behind us. None them wanted to work however so Steve and Dave and I did the majority of work up front until the first rest stop.

After the first rest stop our little peloton was gone and it was just the three of us again. That didn’t last long though as our now 17 mph pace was shattered by a 25 mph chain of about 6 bikes. We all hopped on for a ride and a guy with a Fresno Cycling shirt took over the pulling. He banged out a 30 mph pace for over a mile and Steve was next in line. Just at that moment the tandem cavalry showed up with three or four tandems leading a line of around 30 cyclists that included Paul Vlasfeld.

These three tandems bumped up the pace to 36 mph on flat ground with little wind behind them and I was really struggling just to grab a wheel. The pace slowed to the high twenties occasionally hitting 30 and I was quite happy when the road starting going up. Then we hit Cardiac Hill and the free ride was over. I kept my eye on the Fresno Cycling guy and kept my chain on the 50 tooth. Cardiac was a really fun climb. I know I went way too hard on it but it was fun to listen to the heavy breathing of faster riders knowing they too were probably hurting their chances to have a fast finish.

My party ended on top of Cardiac as I was not in the same class as the Fresno Cycling guy and two of the tandems had made it to the top near us as well. So on the downhill I was dusted and left to ride by myself to the next rest stop.

I used the bathroom at the next rest stop and grabbed some food and water and took off again with Dave and Steve who had chosen not to hit 180 bpm on Cardiac.

The next few miles were fun and beautiful as we met up with three guys from Ukiah one of whom was extremely fast. The six of us worked together quite well all the way to last rest stop before Cobb Mountain.

It was now getting quite hot and Rick McKaw who was working the rest stop suggested more sun screen and more fluids which we were all beginning to need.

I was starting to feel the pace of the morning but at the 99 mile mark I was quite proud of my 18.7 mph riding time pace. Of course all that speed work in the morning did nothing for my climbing legs and Cobb was the only climb above Cat 3 on the whole ride in my opinion.

I started out fast and ended up slow on Cobb. The rest stop was located about a mile and half from the top of the climb. I really didn’t need a rest and if I had known it wasn’t the top I would have kept going. On a day as hot as this though any chance to take on more fluids and electrolytes was advisable. So I stopped and Dave was right behind me.

The next climb was Resurrection. Once again I realized the recurring theme of this day was that I had barely enough fuel to make it to the rest stops. I started out climbing fast but started to slow and didn’t have much fuel left.  All three of us took a nice long break at the rest stop. Dave and Steve were ready to go before me so I let them go. As I was mounting my bike Barry Schwartz showed up and asked how I was doing. We both agreed that it was officially hot.

Resurrection has a very nice descent, at the bottom of which was a construction site, where I was forced to wait for about 10 minutes. I chatted with the flag man a bit and he was dismayed to learn that more of the same weather was predicted for the next few days. They are working seven 12 hour shifts so I can understand his dread.

After that I was on my own for the first time this ride. I met two riders, one of whom couldn’t keep pace on the rollers, and one who was faster than I was. I left them behind as the faster rider was trying to pull his friend to the next stop.
I was now officially soloing it and at about mile 160 I was starting to feel the heat and the miles. Once again I was running out of fuel before the rest stop which was at mile 164.

Dave and Steve were still at the stop and we took off with Andy but Steve stayed behind. My legs were now gone. I couldn’t keep up with Andy or Dave’s pulls so I told them to go on. I pulled over at a shady spot and rested.  Back on the bike my pace was still slow and Steve came by and pulled me for awhile. Now I couldn’t really put any power into the rollers and I fell back again. At a shady spot I told Steve to go on and I rested again.

The next rest stop featured cup of noodles and that seemed like the right fuel. I didn’t want to get up but when some ladies pulled up scouting for a place to sit I gave up the lawn chair for my Aliante.

I felt pretty good as I left the rest stop but then I started to cramp a bit. I found another shady spot and rested a bit more.  The last rest stop of the day had chili and grill cheese sandwiches but it was really too hot in the fire station to enjoy them much.

Back on the bike I was feeling a little better but also still pretty slow. Then, with 5 miles left in the ride I picked up the wheel of a guy on a CR1 and got back to a nice 18 plus mph pace. We soon met another group and we pulled into Davis with a pack of about 10 riders.

I heard there were showers at the start/finish but by the time I got to my car I really just wanted to get out of my sweaty bike stuff and have some recoverite and a stretch and go home. Fortunately I had some handiwipes to help get rid of some of the sweat and I used the blanket trick that Troy Stenstrom taught me long ago to change. Andy was parked near by and I said goodbye to him and Barry as well.

I was all ready to just hop in the car and go but I had to go in to the check in to use the bathroom. That’s when I remembered that I had ordered a t shirt so I picked that up and couldn’t resist the smell of barbequed chicken. After a quick barbeque fix I was finally ready to drive to San Jose.

The drive wasn’t really all that bad with all four windows open. I made great time all the way to the Monterey Ave. Denny’s where I had a Western Burger and a chocolate milk shake.

My final statistics for my first double are 4:50 am start time and a 7:40 pm finishing time. My riding time was 11 hours and 45 minutes for a 17.1 mph average for 201.5 miles. Yes I took nearly 3 hours of breaks, but the thing about the Davis Double is the support is so great it would be a shame not to take advantage of it. The heat made this ride hard but it also made me stop and enjoy the support of one of the best supported doubles in the world.

2009 Central Coast Double – Oh, the memories …

| May 15, 2009 6:44 am

by Barley Forsman

I’m a big fan of visualization before a big ride – I like to think through the ride the night before and image where I’ll be and how I’ll feel at certain key points in the ride. Usually I pick spots that have historically been hard for me and I try to visualize how good I’ll feel at that spot. Memory is an amazing thing – certain experiences are burned into your hard drive and those filed experiences bubble to the surface once you come upon a familiar location.

It’s been seven years since the last time I attempted the CCD and I couldn’t seem to pull any memory of the ride longer than 70 or 80 miles, even after examining the rout sheet over dinner the night before – there were big blocks that I couldn’t remember, and I couldn’t exactly remember the order of the events that I did remember.  So the anxiety of the impending 218 miles, and the fact that I could only put together a small fraction of that, led me to believe this could be a very long day.

I started the morning to the sound of a harp strumming on my cell phone, and had such a vivid (completely unrelated to cycling) dream that it took a few minutes to realize where I was and more importantly what I would be doing ALL day – hotels have a way of throwing me off my game.  So I do the normal scrambling around, trying to remember sunscreen, food, water, arm-warmers, sunglasses, oh, I can’t forget my drivers license for the security check – the amount of things to keep track of always amazes me!

I had carpooled to the ride and split a room with a good friend, Robert Choi, who just happens to be the defending champion for the last two years running – great!!  The added stress of knowing that someone is waiting for me to finish, so we can go home!  The very cool thing (or intimidating) about CCD is that you can tell who the top riders are by what number they have (for the first 10 numbers) – so Robert had the privilege of riding with number one.

We drove to the start, and after the brief annoyance of finding my number and pinning it on (I’m not a big fan of this change – but I understand), we all gather at the front of the park in the Paso Robles square and get our last minute instructions from Brian Stark – the long time organizer of this great event.  He had a really bad accident several months ago where he was side-swiped by one car and hit by another – needless to say most of his mobility comes via a wheelchair, but it was really great to see him on crutches at the start of the ride.  I wish him all the best as he continues to recover – he’s a great guy!

Rolling through town was mostly a blur of carbon and lycra – everybody is anxious to stay near the front.  Luckily I was able to say “hi” to both Ken Emerson and Deborah Lefferts early on – it’s always comforting to see familiar faces out there.  I know there were more friends out there, but it’s tough to chat when its “go time!”  It is pretty common knowledge for this ride to be aware of a couple of short steep climbs, a rough winding decent, followed by about 45 miles of coastal riding on highway 1 – this section is also notorious for some pretty nasty headwinds, so it is definitely good to have friends!  So basically the front half of the pack feverishly attempt to stay near the front – redlining at 6 in the morning is not always the best plan!

Along some of the early rollers, Ken Holloway and Andreas Schultz come flying by on the tandem – way to go!  I love tandems!  After Craig Robertson goes by (I wasn’t going to try to muscle the tandem wheel away from him) I jump on and we’re off.  Unfortunately in our enthusiasm, we just overshot a gravelly right hand turn – luckily I was on the inside of the group, saw the orange arrows and was able to make the turn easily.  I could hear brakes screeching and pandemonium ensue – I thought I heard a bike go down, but I didn’t see anything when I looked back, so I though we were okay.  Turns out somebody did go down – I guess they endoed after locking the front brake, but from what I understand, he continued the ride (cyclists are a tough group!)

Well, remember what I said about not really remembering the ride??  In my world, there is only ONE short steep climb before the rest stop and the descent – but in reality there are TWO (separated by a couple of turns and a few rollers).  This threw me for a loop, but I was able to stay in close proximity to leaders by skipping the first stop (which everybody does anyway!)  I’m a pretty good descender, so in spite of a few hairpin turns I am able to get back on with the leaders – it’s good to have friends on the coast!

There is seven of us and we all trade pulls to the second rest stop at Ragged Point.  Again my memory has failed me – I am quite certain that these next climbs weren’t here the last time I did this ride (is it possible some seismic activity caused these new climbs?!)  Anyway, Robert and two other riders really start putting the hammer down (I find out later that this was “part of the strategy”!! – What?? To drop me??  The plan worked and I couldn’t keep the pace – I kept them in my sights for a good 10 miles.  Finally, I make it to Nacimento (really the only big climb in CCD), and I believe I am in 5th place on the road.

I start the climb feeling a little spunky – this ain’t so bad, I can take it.  My memory sucks!  About halfway into what turns out to be a 7 mile climb I hit the proverbial “wall”.  My calories are low and I’m getting dizzy – not good at all!  From behind me I hear a voice: “did you loose a bottle??”  It’s an inside joke – I’ve been testing a new bottle and a new cage, and did launch one at the Devil Mountain Double (for the record, the roads are far worse at the CCD, and I never came close to loosing any bottles!)  So, Graham Pollock and Jim Frink (riding with the number “2” and “3” respectively) go spinning past me as easy as can be – Graham can tell from my slurred sentences that I went a little too hard at the bottom.  Some lessons are never learned!

I’ve eaten, I’m just waiting for the “juice” to kick in – one foot in front of the other…  I’ve known both Jim and Graham for a long time, and have ridden a lot of miles with them both.  I know they will be good allies if I can just make it over this climb.  Slowly I start to feel better and I slowly start to reel them in – I catch them right as we roll over the top.  Graham stops for water and Jim and I cruise on down – he’ll catch us.  At the bottom, he still hasn’t caught back up so we start soft-pedaling.  Eventually, he shows up – him, his bike, and a slow leak.  We stop and fix the flat at the gate to the military base (that’s why we needed an ID).  After a few minutes, we’re off.

Lunch was one of the more convoluted experiences I’ve had!  There were no signs and only one orange cone to denote the stop.  After a little investigation and a little yelling, we discovered lunch behind the mission, down a dirt hill, around some trees – got to test out our cyclo-cross skills!  We were at lunch a little longer than I would have liked, but it was good to be off the bike, and I really didn’t want to solo the second half.  Every time I’ve done this ride, I’ve soloed the second half – it is no fun!  After a crowd starts to accumulate, we get the hint that it’s time to go (one rider came in a left while we were eating).

We head out on our first detour of the day (about 5 extra miles) – unfortunately, much of it is into a direct headwind.  Did I mention that it’s good to have friends?  We take turns pulling and muscle through it.  We actually catch back up to the lone rider just before the water stop at an underpass.  Both Graham and Jim are starting to feel it, and our pace is starting to slow – I’m not sure what Jim’s training has been, but I do know that Graham has been putting on waaay too many miles (he did the Davis 12/24 the weekend before).  They indicate that they are both switching over to “survival mode” and that it’s not necessary to wait – am I really going to do this ride solo again??

There is a decent climb through a canyon (I can’t remember the name), but this is probably the hottest point in the ride (I heard some people say that it was at or near 100 degrees – all I know is that it was pretty warm!)  I inch away from Jim and Graham and now I’m solo!  I know there is a long slow grind for the next 75+ miles, but again, I can’t remember the details – it’s one thing to imagine details, it’s another to have to live them.  Trust me, this section is pretty boring!  I keep the other solo rider in my sights and make an attempt to catch him, and I do catch him at the next stop, but it is pretty obvious he is more interested in beating me than working with me – he is out of there before I can finish filling a bottle.  Oh well, solo it is…

I do manage to catch one other rider – strangely enough it is one of the guys who rode away with Robert on hwy 1.  He was really hurting – slumped over the handlebars, doing everything he could to keep the bike upright.  I hope he made it okay.

I pull into the Bradley school rest stop – it’s about 35+ miles from the finish, so I’m pretty sure this will be my last stop (there’s one more stop, but I don’t stop unless I have to!)  Just because I’m feeling too good about myself, I inquire about the first riders – turns out they checked in almost an hour before me!  Wow!  Thanks for the de-motivation!  After that, there’s about 10+ miles into a cross/head wind and I’m not enjoying my decision to do the ride – this is dumb!  Why do I do these things?

Eventually I recover – ironically, at about the same time I get a tailwind.  Hmmm, what a coincidence!  I suck it up, get in the big ring, put my head down and go.  This is one of the more twisty, turny roads I’ve been on – it just keeps going.  The good news is that I actually DO remember this part, and I have a different strategy:  I leave my computer on miles and force myself to do periodic “reality checks” as I ride – can’t get too excited with an hour and a half to go.  Still have to stay on top of the fluids and food.  This section isn’t too bad – not even the second detour that adds almost 4 extra miles (this comes right after you pass a sign that says 8 miles to Paso Robles, the finish).

As is protocol for this ride, you keep riding until you magically appear in Paso Robles – it always has a way of sneaking up on you and this year was no different.  I pull into the park to the sound of a cow bell and clapping – there is absolutely nothing like finishing a double!  Actually, I think that’s why I continue to do them – for a fraction of a second, you feel absolutely invincible, like you could do anything if you really wanted it bad enough.  It’s quite liberating.

And then reality sinks in – Robert came in first (again!) and managed to beat me by an hour (unofficially).  I guess being in “shape” is all relative.  Diner was good, but as usually, the company was even better.  There’s nothing more fun than sharing “war” stories of a shared “battle” – everybody suffers, that’s the common thread!!

So, if you’ve made it through the story – you too have made it through an endurance event!!  But seriously, hats off to all the great support, the organizers (especially Brian Stark who still manages to show up in spite of everything), and all the brave soldiers that made the 218 mile trek – more power to you!!