(pics coming via Bruce)
Hey there...you...Flashblog readers....thanks for checking in to Flashblog. I'm Flash, resident blogger around here. Time flies, and it seems like forever since I last posted anything. Its not that I've not been riding. I have. Lots of good rides of distance and pace with mountain biking added for spice. I'd like to think I'm well on my way to peaking in 2 months. No, actually, I'm already there. Yeah, it took me by surprise as one day recently I had this thought: "That was a great ride. I might be peaking. Whoh! Really? Awesome!" Yes, I think like that sometimes. Simple thoughts, no...more feelings, really. One of the features of a good ride is it makes me not want to talk. Or think of anything other than being there in the ride.
What does peaking mean anyway? Cut through all the Bicycling Magazine crap about max watts output and training thresholds, and what you are left with is that "peaking" means you are riding at the level you aspire to, and maybe even a tad better than that. Its a great feeling, a feeling of the bike merging with your soul. You become one with the bike. The bike comes alive like an animal; it runs, it rests, it displays cat-like reflexes, it snarls and leaps, kills and devours raw flesh. You have realized your full potential in the way you best express it...through cycling. You bask in Life, other people, food and drink take on wonderful tastes, the weather expresses even more subtle moods. Colors are more vivid, the wind is no longer your enemy but rather the forceful caress of Mother Nature itself. Is this Zen? It is for me.
So I took a 9 and a half hour day on the bike today. I felt ordinary when I started out this morning, hoping that bike world would be the balm that restores me after a week out in the work world. The Team Alameda group of 7 guys and one gal had some of my favorite fellow veloists on board. MacGyver, Dr. Bruce, MadKow, Stacie, Tom, all veterans and accomplished distance and expedition level cyclists. Put Flash in the mix with these people and the others and good things are bound to happen. To Flash,anyway.
Riding through San Francisco in the morning, the day's weather was set with a cool wind and fog over the Golden Gate Bridge. But half way across this international icon, the fog lifted, the bright sun shone on the red bridge and the green waters far below. As many times as I've seen this, it always fills me with awe, but today was especially beautiful, and I again felt fortunate to live so near to this wonderful area.
We rode through Sausalito, Corte Madera, and Tiburon on a route called the Paradise Loop. Its a route around a peninsula surrounded by bay waters, featuring short rolling climbs, twisty mild downhills, oak forest, posh houses, and sailboats. Its a technical ride, when going at fast tempo, you find yourself shifting all the time as you go up, then down, turn, accelerate, climb, descend and so to keep up the momentum I find I have to ride it pretty hard. Not flat out, but pushing it at 90%, as I did today riding with Ted, a new rider and triathelete, who is strong and jumps impressively fast. The two of us got way ahead but spurred each other to keep up the pace. I felt really good after that 6 or 7 mile push, and Ted went off to ride solo to Alpine Dam.
At a cafe in Tiburon Bruce and MacGyver were talked into riding a loop of the Marin Headlands on the way back to the bridge. After lunch at a fabulous deli next to Mike's Bikes, we rode uphill and into the wind back to the bridge, but veered up Conzelman Road, a steep 12-14% grade for the first quarter mile, then it levels to about 4-5%, then goes back up to 8-10% before the top of Hawk hill. The winds were gusty and blowing us back to almost walking speed at times. The view of the bridge and SF were stunning, half sun lit, half gray fog, turquoise waters below, green hills. Oh man, totally worth it to get there. I felt great, almost euphoric, totally drinking in life experience. It might have been the endorphins talking.
Hawk Hill atop the Marin Headlands...click the pic
We completed a blustery downhill into Rodeo Valley, and visited the restored Nike missle base. Cold war history, very scary stuff. We almost came to nuking the Ruskies, it was that close. Fascinating glimpse into a lost time, but a time that still lives in the shadows of our minds, those of us who grew up with the spectre of nuclear annihilation hanging over us.
We had a super tailwind riding up the valley, uphill, then a ride throught the Sausalito Tunnel that I can only describe as Flashgastic. I LOVE THAT TUNNEL! Sooo much fun! Then a wind blasted jaunt back across the Golden Gate, with constant 20-30mph side gusts, and around the huge main towers, perhaps 40mph blasts, that on the second tower, nearly stopped me dead and blew me sideways, but I recovered with a deer caught in the headlights look, I might imagine if I could see me at that moment.
Golden Gate bridge on a less windy day
Back in SF, we went down to the shoreline where there is a very cool cafe run by the park service called The Warming Hut. Mac and I each got double cappuccinos, and they were really good. Bruce was really a good sport to hanging with the stops we were making, so heading out of there, I called for some dirt track riding to advantage his cyclocross bike, but which MacGyver opted out of. There is a wide path of tan very small compacted gravel and sand, it is a lot of fun to ride on, and today, with the tailwind, I was finding my skinny road tires drifting in patches, just kind of hydroplaning on the surface, and I do enjoy that loose feeling. I just relax and go with it, let it drift, be relaxed and the bike corrects itself.
Reunited with Mac, we made our way back to Fisherman's Wharf, then downtown, rode the train to Oakland, and put in an additional 6 miles from Oakland West BART station. Bruce's back was killing him, but he kept a stiff upper lip and rode with good form, as a solid Hardman would. I still felt like I had more in the tank when I got home. It was 5:30, 9 and a half hours and 62 miles from the start. As Flashette would say, "you gave it all to your bike", which, when she says it, is not a good thing, because that means I have nothing left. I gave my day to the bike, the bike gave me back a truly memorable ride and validated my cycling life. All the gear, the parts, the maintenance, the Ebay shopping, the ride leading, the Velominatus way of life came together today.
I feel restored. I feel alive. I have optimism. Life is good. Looking forward to the future. The bike gave this to me today. Tomorrow is my birthday, the day I was expelled from the womb and began to experience my world. So I gave myself a gift, a gift I sent myself 9 years ago when I started riding again but just today opened. I didn't know then what I was sending, but I can tell you now, its perfect. I don't want anything else.
Go out and make your dream ride happen,