Monday, March 17, 2008

Training in Earnest

Now that we have officially entered Daylight Savings Time, we have an extra hour of daylight in the evening. This lets me do training rides after work during the week. This is a crucial component of my training schedule because just riding on weekends is not frequent enough to increase my conditioning.

This week I did my first mid-week ride in a few months. I did my usual ride up Page Mill Road. I did not go all the way to the top, mainly because my legs were not fully recovered from the two strenuous rides last weekend. I was also running out of daylight since I was not able to leave the office as early as I wanted. It ended up being a 26 mile ride, which was great to have done on a Wednesday.

This weekend, I only rode on Sunday. I rode up Soda Springs Road, which is a 6 mile, dead-end road that starts at the Lexington Reservoir in Los Gatos. To get there, I had to ride on the unpaved Los Gatos Creek trail, which I had also done a couple months ago to get to Bear Creek Road.

The creek ends at the dam, and I rode clockwise around the reservoir to get the the start of Soda Springs Road. This was my first time up Soda Springs. The road is not excessively steep, but is fairly challenging. After coming back down, I finished my clockwise loop around the reservoir. The road that rings the water has a good amount of elevation gain, so that part was also enjoyable.

I rode back mostly the same route that I came by, except I decided to go home via Stevens Creek Park so that I would have some more climbing. I usually have no problem on those smaller hills, but Soda Springs took most of my energy. I struggled on the hills near Stevens Canyon, but I enjoyed it because I knew it was making me stronger.

At this rate, it may take me only one more month to reach the peak condition I was at last year.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Increasing the Effort

The weather is becoming ideal for bicycling. It is not too cold in the morning, and not too hot in the afternoon. This was the last weekend before daylight savings time starts, so hopefully I can very soon start doing mid-week rides.

I took advantage of the beautiful weekend to ride on both days. On Saturday, I met up with my friends Andy and Sarah. I have not ridden with them since last summer, because I was doing the Low Key Hillclimb series most weekends in the fall. We rode an abbreviated version of our usual route.

We took Kings Mountain Road in Woodside up to Skyline Blvd. The usual route is to continue down the other side of the range and then come back up to Skyline again before descending back to the valley. But we are all getting back into our summer conditioning still, so we did not take on any more climbing this day. We just headed back via Highway 84.

On Sunday, I rode by myself. I wanted to do something ambitious in order to work on my conditioning, so I decided to climb Mt Umunhum Road. I last tried this route on July 4 last year. That had been a bad choice of day, because the locals who live in the area close the road on that day (the only day of the year that they do it). This time, there should be no such obstacles.

But I did have one obstacle -- my legs were drained by the previous day's ride. I had to pedal 14 miles on mostly flat terrain to reach the interesting part of the route. I tried to keep a modest pace as the road started presenting hills. As I progressed on Hicks Road, I reach the section that is very steep, averaging about 11-12% grade. It continues like this until it intersects with Mt Umunhum Road. I did not have the energy to do this section without stopping. I needed to take about 3 breaks. I was not really out of breath, but rather my leg muscles were burning and completely out of strength.

Click to view an interactive map.

I rested for a few minutes at the intersection with Mt Umunhum Road before continuing. I shortly passed the point at which the locals set up their roadblock last year. The views were fantastic because the air was unusually clear. I reached the gate beyond which the road is closed to cars (point B on the map), but was able to continue since it is open to hikers and bikers. After a couple miles, the road reaches a point where it enters private property, so I ended my climb there.

After reaching back to Hicks Road, I decided to do a loop instead of returning the way I came. This only added distance, not any climbing. I thought that I should explore that route since I have not been in that area before. It was mostly uninteresting suburban San Jose, but I was glad I did it.

I was completely exhausted when I returned home. I had done 52 miles this day, and adding the 50 from yesterday, that was a good distance, and a lot of climbing. If I was at my peak condition, I would not have been totally drained. I know I have more room for improvement.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Hills are Green Again

This weekend turned out to be great for cycling. The weather has warmed up. The rains that we have been having has turned the hills green again, and has replenished the creeks and streams that will go dry again in the summer.

I did a significant ride both days this weekend, the first time I was able to do that in a while. But there is nothing too interesting to say about them, so this report will be short.

On Saturday, I rode up Montebello Road and then followed that up with a ride up (the short but steep) Redwood Gulch Road. The ride ended up being 40 miles with more elevation that I have done in a long time.

Click to see a short video of this mini-waterfall near Stevens Creek.

On Sunday, I rode up Highway 9. This is only moderately steep, but a good 6 miles long. I ended up doing it in the usual 45 minutes, so it turns out I have not lost too much conditioning. In a couple weeks I should be back to doing some challenging rides with no concerns.