Monday, April 21, 2014

The Queen Stage

Saturday's final training season ride was a great one. The ride was 87 miles long, which was my longest ride ever! I managed to get a pretty good average speed as well, 14.4 mph. I'm not too sure why the ride was called The Queen Stage, but that isn't really important. 

Last week I had forgotten my front wheel. So this time, since I was able to park my car in the garage, I packed up the night before. I made sure that I had everything and was all ready to go in the morning.

Since this was our last official training ride of the season we were encouraged to wear our South Bay Blaze kits for the team photo. This is the amazing team of individuals that I have been training with. They are my second family and the reason why I drive 80 miles for training rides.

The Queen Stage route had us doing two climbs, Alpine and Calaveras. I had never done either of these climbs before. I had missed the Calaveras ride last year because my friend was doing his first triathlon and he had asked me to go take photos for him. As for Alpine, when I did the guinea pig ride where were supposed to go up Alpine I wasn't doing so well with the heat so I decided to skip the climb. I'm glad that I finally got to do both of them this time.

First up was Alpine. The incline wasn't too steep so I managed to cruise along at about 9 to 10 mph which for me is a good pace. I'm not a fast climber so it is nice when I'm not going below 6 mph. Plus, it was a gorgeous place to be. Just look at the nicely paved road through the trees.

After our out and back on Alpine we headed over towards Palo Alto and stopped off at a Starbucks, of course. I think that Starbucks is like our unofficial sponsor. We seem to almost always have one rest stop at a Starbucks.

In order to get over to our next climb, we needed to cross the Dumbarton Bridge. I enjoy crossing the bridge because I always remember the first time I crossed it. I think that it was only a year and a half ago, but I did it on my mountain bike. A friend of mine had organized a ride for a small group of us. My husband and I struggled up and over the bridge. I can remember my friend standing at the top cheering us on as he took a video of us riding past. Now, as I easily ride over the bridge I always have that fun memory.

It was a clear day and you could actually see from end to end of the bay. I could actually see the skyline of San Francisco, but didn't take a photo because I know that it wouldn't show in the photo. This is looking south towards Milpitas.

Once we made our way across the bridge we only had about 10 miles to go before Lunch. This was earlier than usual for lunch, but because we were heading toward Sunol where there aren't really any places for lunch, we had to eat a little bit earlier when we were in Newark.

After eating some tasty Chipotle, a small group of us headed out toward Sunol. To get through Niles/Fremont we hopped on the Alameda Creek Trail. I used to ride this trail when I lived in Fremont. It was nice to get back on it and be rolling along at 19 mph. At the end of the trail we got onto Niles Canyon Road and headed up to Sunol. Our next water stop was near the train station in Sunol. I dropped behind the group on the climb up. I wish that I could ride a bit faster on hills, but I don't really know what to do to help with that. I know that all around I am getting stronger as a cyclist, but I still have a lot of room to grow in the area of climbing.

At the rest stop I took a little extra time to rest. I knew that the Calavares climb was coming up and I wanted to make sure I was ready for it. I told the group that I was riding with it was ok to go on ahead without me, I knew that I would get dropped anyway. I can easily keep up with them on flats, but there is no way I can keep their speed uphill. Before I was ready to head out I hit up the oh so lovely porta potty by the train station. I noticed that there was a 40 in there and though, 'you must be in a pretty crappy place in life if you are drinking a 40 in a porta potty'.

There were about four miles to go before the real climbing started on Calavares. I ended up riding the whole Calavares climb by myself. I don't really enjoy riding by myself especially when there is climbing involved after already having ridden several miles. When I find myself getting tired when i'm riding solo, I can easily slip into the mindset of wanting to give up. I don't know exactly how to explain it, but I get cranky, sometimes find it hard to breath, and almost on the verge of tears. I hate when I get that way, but luckily I have started to be aware of the onset and can channel my yoga practice to help calm myself down. I had to do this once on the Calavares climb as I was alone, tired and my back was starting to ache.

Eventually I came across another Blaze rider and it was nice to see a familiar face. I also came along our SAG car and it was almost like seeing a mirage. I pulled over and gladly accepted the red vines that were being handed to me. After filling my water bottle up with some cold water, I went on my way knowing that the majority of the climb was over and there was just a bit of rollers left before the downhill into Milpitas.

These are some of the photos I took on my 'catching my breath' breaks.

This was after the steep and way too short downhill on Calavares. From the hill you could see the bay and it was a beautiful view! I wish I could have gotten a better photo to show the view but I didn't want to walk back up the hill just to get the photo.

After Calaveras, there was one last rest stop in Milpitas, at a Starbucks of course. I met back up with the group there and road the rest of the route with them. Thankfully the last 17 or so miles were pretty flat, which helped me get my average speed back up.

I made it back to my car before 6:20 pm which was nice. I ended up with an average speed of 14.4 mph which isn't as good as last week, but still good. I'm happy to see that my overall average speed is getting better and better. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that only a year and a half ago I was at a 10 mph average. Also, I couldn't have even imagined going 20 mph let along hitting 43 mph. Amazing how much can change in a year.


  1. Love reading your blog! Don't beat yourself up about climbing. Try to compare yourself only to you, not to others. Find your motivation for climbing. Maybe it's those zippy descents? Or the feeling of doing something that seems impossible? I used to HATE climbing and it took a few years before I learned to embrace the pain.

    If you want to improve your climbing, climb more. Climb every opportunity you get. Improve your power-to-weight ratio (increase power through training, reduce weight). Improve your technique. Dig deep and find your motivation to climb.

    One tool I use with groups is the handicap climb. This means folks start a climb based on the slower climbers starting first and the faster climbers following. This gives you motivation (as a slower climber) to work hard not to get caught. It also motivates the faster climbers to catch you. If you start a climb at the back (as you do), once you're off the back, there's little motivation to work hard. You know you won't catch the other climbers. So, get a head start on the climbs and make it your goal not to get caught.

    You're gonna kill it on ALC. Congratulations on a great training season.


    1. Thanks for the support! Glad to know that others are enjoying my blog, which started just as a way for me to keep track of all my training rides.

      I love that I can see my own progress and I try to remember all that I learned from your Bike Skills 101 while I'm out there on the road. I know that climbing isn't necessarily my strong point and I'm coming to terms with that. I've been fortunate enough to ride with some amazing people who are always willing to wait for me at the top or the somewhere along the way. I'll have to try out the handicap climb at some point. Thanks for all of your tips and suggestions!