Monday, July 13, 2009

Musings from the Livestrong Ride

This past weekend San Jose hosted the Livestrong Challenge ride. I'm not typically a fundraiser type of guy, but for some reason I felt motivated to join in and do my part. Here are some interesting things I took note of during the 100 mile ride.

Kudos to those raising money for Susan over at
Fat Cyclist. They did a great job at raising a ton of money for the cause and they were duly rewarded with being up front for the neutralized rollout from downtown. Thankfully for them the day didn't get too hot since those black kits looked like they could have been pretty warm.

Now here's where things get interesting. While I support and respect everybody who was fundraising, I do have to question whether or not everybody was on board with Fat Cyclist. In my heart I hope they are on board for the right reasons. But here's where I deviate and let the skeptic in me take over.

I saw quite a few overweight cyclists sporting the Fat Cyclist jersey. I really should have approached some of these people at the rest stops, but didn't. I should have asked if they were supporting Susan's cause, and if they weren't, then I'd educate them and let them know the wonderful story behind the Fat Cyclist work. However, part of me thinks these riders realized that they were overweight, and found a jersey that mockingly made fun of their physical condition, so they decided to buy the jersey. Heck, I could be wrong, and I hope that I am, but it would be like me buying a jersey that said Tall Cyclist when I didn't know that the proceeds of the sale of the jersey went to help research for people who had lost their legs from amputations.

Hmm, what else caught my eye. Oh yeah, these rides are more dangerous than a Cat 5 crit at the early birds when everybody thinks they can corner like a pro. About three miles into the ride we're making a nice mellow right hand turn and I'm holding my line through the corner. Out of nowhere a guy on a hybrid bike comes sweeping across my front wheel and almost takes me out. I pedaled up next to him, looked over to see if he would at least acknowledge the fact that he nearly took me out, but his face was as stoic as an executioner. No reaction. None. He was completely oblivious to what he had done. From then on I made sure to be more aware of these kind of riders.

Soon after this incident we crossed the Hamilton Avenue/Leigh Avenue intersection. Somebody about 10 meters in front of me had a Powertap. Or at least they used to have a Powertap. The head unit on their stem came flying off and was ping-pong'ing between riders. The owner probably didn't know what happened because I didn't see anybody slowing down and turning around. Poor cyclist, they probably didn't realize they lost it until they were halfway through their ride.

Incidentally, having a full road closure and escort through San Jose, Saratoga, Los Gatos is nice, but it's a bit of a new experience for us who routinely ride these roads on our bikes. I for one know where all the potholes and hazards are on these roads...when I'm in the bike lane! Being out in the middle of the road was a bit nerve racking because I wasn't familiar with when and where I'd encounter a hole large enough to send me flying. I made it through safely, but I did hear some people hit some of these hazards head on.

Safety needs to be a given when riding in events like these, but please, and this goes out to the other riders, don't put yourself in a position of being unsafe when you think you're being "safe". What do I mean? I mean if we're coming up on a section of road that's bad, you don't need to call it to half the world by taking your hand off the handlebars and making obvious pointing gestures. On more than one occasion I saw a few riders to this, and then with only one hand on the bars they'd hit some road hazard and about lose it. I made sure not to follow these people as they were more of a harm to themselves.

When I showed my wife the route, her first reaction was how were all these people going to handle Metcalf. Well, it was ugly, just ugly. I don't know if the casual weekend rider is prepared for Metcalf, but somebody could have made a killing if they had a van and a bike rack. Probably 75% of the riders I saw on the hill were doing the following:
  1. Walking their bikes up the hill
  2. Searching for the lung they just coughed up on the side of the road
  3. Realizing that the pain cave is really does hurt
  4. Zig-zagging back and forth across the road
  5. Wishing they were like the smart lady who had a triple crank and a MTB cassette
The highlight of the hill was the guy in the devil suit. He first made his presence know on the climb up Shannon, and then motored over to Metcalf. He was gracious enough to cheer people on and pour cold water on our heads as we passed by. Now on the my favorite Metcalf story...

We're pacelining up Santa Teresa into the headwind. We probably snagged up 5-7 riders and I was on the front putting down a nice hard tempo. I wasn't expecting people to pull through and I didn't care. I wanted to get in some solid training. We turn onto Bailey and start to make our way towards Metcalf. At this point the crosswinds caused people to get gapped. As we came over the Hwy 101/Bailey intersection, one of the guys behind me comes ups next to me. He notices the climb immediately in front of us and asks, "Hey, is that Metcalf?". Oh, young Jedi, you have much to learn. I told him he'd know Metcalf well in about 2 miles and he'd know it when he saw it.

I let him get a gap going up the hill and decide to suck his wheel for a while as we approach Metcalf. At the base of the climb as I unzip my jersey getting ready for the hard effort (average watts was 370), I let him go up the road. About 3 minutes into the climb I come by him. He glances over with pain written all over his face, and I say, "This is Metcalf. Pretty fun, huh?!?". He was having no fun. Sorry bud.


CyclistRick said...

I should have looked at the route. Metcalf? Not a good place for occasional riders, and not for large groups either. Did they close the road? ACTC is not using it for the Tierra Bella because of the problems with groups of folks not used to a climb like that not mixing well with all the traffic.

If I go into an event ride with unknown riders I am very cautious; you never know what bone-head moves folks will take that might spoil your day.

Fatty said...

i'm pretty sure there are people wearing fat cyclist jerseys ironically / self-deprecatingly, but i doubt many of them were at the LiveStrong event. Anyone wearing one of my jerseys at that event would have been on my team and would have raised at least $250 for the cause.

i'm guessing the reason you saw a lot of overweight riders in my jerseys at that event had to do with the fact that the selection criteria for the event doesn't have anything to do with weight / fitness, but only to do with caring about the cause enough to do something about it.

also, my blog does tend to bring in people who are interested in biking to lose weight, so i'd guess the average weight of my team members is higher than most.

this is a great writeup; i wish i could have been there. i would have loved to see metcalf rd.

Manley Man said...

Ironically about Metcalf, I learned something interesting the night before the ride from our babysitter. She was going to help with registration of a motocross event up at the dirt bike track at the top of Metcalf the next morning. That meant only one thing...tons of traffic w/ trailers.

There was plenty of that on the climb. Thankfully while I was on the hill most everybody (cyclists, drivers, motorcycles) were good to each other.

Pete - MellowYellowCJ7 said...

This was my first century and my first real fundraising event, so I had no yardstick. The start made me a bit nervous with some people being almost militant with their signals and changes of pace. I had a hard time in one of the pace-lines because one of the riders was breaking instead of soft peddling. There was one scary left with sand on the shoulder of Hicks road, which is funny because I ride that corner weekly, but I’ve never blown the stop sign at 20mph! That was hard to get used to.
I was one of the “young Jedi’s” following the two Jedi’s along the first 70 miles or so. That was the first time I’ve been called padawan by someone younger than myself, but in this case it fit! I had met Todd and Jonathan about 9 months ago at the SJBC winter series clinic, but this was the first time I’ve spoken to you two and the first ride. It was great meeting you both and you were very gratuitous in putting up with a little gnat clinging on for dear life hopping to not get blown away in the wind. Wow, Todd you are a strong rider! You two were very patient. Thank you both! I tried to pull once and the whole pace line slowed 3mph and I nearly blew up. Sorry, I tried.
It struck me how many people commented on your height and I felt a little bad that I too had talked to you about your height after I heard 90% of the riders go by and ask the same thing. I suppose that is a lifelong thing for you even outside of the cycling world, but you were very polite about it every time! I was pretty impressed by your demeanor over the whole ride. Todd often looked like a momma goose with a bunch of little hatchlings trying very hard to keep up. lol
Thanks also to Jonathan for pulling me around all day too and putting up with all my questions. Why oh why didn’t I listen to you about your heart rate? My heart was doing the same thing, but I didn’t have the sense to slow down and recover. You guys even said that. I have a thick skull.
I knew how steep Metcalf would be, so in my not too wise judgment, I didn’t stop at the bottom to give me more time to the top. I needed the time to stay up with the other SJBC riders, but I probably needed a rest too. Let the cramping begin! lol I was very slow on the climb and that was the only time I’ve been thankful for the devil. ahahha
Thanks to all the SJBC group I had a great time and YES I’m going for a bike fit soon!
-Pete Howarth

SJBC Rider said...

I had a rather different experience yesterday. I was riding with a friend of mine who is a cancer survivor and our pace was much slower than the SJBC train would push. This meant that we had time to react to road hazards and avoid somebody swerving. My mental mode yesterday was totally different from almost any other ride I do. Never have I been so happy to be on my bike and healthy enough to ride 100 miles. This is a truly unique and special century ride. There are countless others if you're trying to set a personal best time or get in some good training miles.

Manley Man said...

SJBC Rider, don't get me wrong, I had a blast on the ride as well. Glad you had a great time too.

Ryan's Blog said...

That powertap took a couple of bounces between my wheels. Poor Guy. Great write-up