Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bet you can't eat just one...

Dear readers -- Yes, I am a slacker.  This space has been woefully neglected for quite a while.  I promise a CX season wrap-up post soon, as well as a year-in-review.  But right now I can't sleep because I just rode my bike at tempo on the trainer for a little over an hour to make up for not going for a run this morning.  Only one thing left to do...

Despite being obsessed with their weight, there is one thing that most endurance athletes I know really love to do: eat.  And have I got a good one for you today... I've mentioned this recipe to a couple of friends, who subsequently expressed great interest (perhaps because I described it as "f***ing awesome"), and my temporary bout of insomnia makes for a great opportunity to transcribe it into web-browsable form for their, and your, enjoyment.  Also, I happen to know that I'm going to be enjoying this for dinner some night this week.  Oh man, I can hardly wait.

Do not read further if you don't like beef.  If you don't currently own a slow cooker, let's hope this inspires you to go out and buy one.

Adapted from Cuisine At Home: Slow Cooker Menus.

Laquered Short Ribs with Spicy Ginger Sauce
Makes 4 servings
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 4-6 hours (high heat), 7-9 hours (low heat)

For the short ribs:
3 lbs. beef short ribs, trimmed and seasoned with course sea salt and black pepper
1 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil (or more, as necessary)

For the ginger sauce:
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup Sriracha
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 tsp. fennel seed
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and brown all sides of the short ribs, working in batches if necessary.  Make sure the ribs aren't crowded in the pan so that you get a nice crispiness to the outside.

Transfer the browned ribs to the slow cooker (4-6 quart capacity).

Combine all of the ingredients for the sauce in a suitable container (I use a 1-quart Pyrex spouted measuring cup).  Pour the sauce over over the ribs.

Cover and cook until the ribs are tender (falling off the bone, etc.).  4-6 hours on high-heat, or 7-9 hours on low-heat.

We like to serve these with rice (soak up that sauce!!) and sautéd greens (kale, etc.) sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.


Monday, September 12, 2011

So you think you wanna race cyclocross...

Dear readers: No, I'm not completely lazy, but I do recognize that it's been a long time since I've posted.  You see, I work at a certain high-tech company that shares the name of a particularly tasty fruit, and we have been working really hard on a couple of really big products.  Between that, family, riding my bike, running, eating, and sleeping, there wasn't a lot of time left over for blogging.  I promise a catch-up post in the near future.

So, cyclocross season is upon us.  For those of you not familiar with cyclocross (a.k.a. CX), then you should just read Slonie's CX Comic.  Short version: it's kind of like a criterium with lots of technical turns raced on dirt / mud / grass / sand / whatever, plus barriers that you have to hop (on or off the bike) over, hills too steep to ride up (so you have to carry your bike and run), and, if you're lucky, some puking and a fair amount of beer drinking.  In other words: FUN!

I decided to start familiarizing myself with cyclocross last year.  Took the kids to watch a couple of races nearby our house, talked to a bunch of guys (and gals!) who race, and thought hey, that looks like something I'd like to try!  So in the spring, I built myself a cross bike on the cheap figuring that even if I don't like racing, I know I like riding on dirt so it won't be a wasted investment (I think I almost have my wife convinced of this).

I'm lucky to have the Fremont Older Open Space Preserve near my office, which allows me to get out and ride on some varying terrain during lunch one or two days a week.  A couple of months ago I started doing this, and I'm loving it.  I am fully jazzed for CX season, hooray!

...except CX is a whole lot more than just pedaling and successfully navigating technical terrain.  You've gotta get off the bike and back on while moving.  This is kind of counter-intuitive if you come from other cycling disciplines.  I mean, usually when you get off the bike while moving it's called "crashing".  Cyclocross's version is a little more controlled, however.  Here's a great demo video:

These guys, of course, make it look really easy.  Having not been able to make it to any CX skills clinics (family comes first, yo!), I got to thinking I'd better start practicing this on my own.  So, that's what I went out and did today:

Yup, I went around and around the dirt track that surrounds the Golden Gate Park Polo Fields, practicing dismounts and remounts.  Exciting stuff.  But I learned a very valuable lesson: I suck.  I need a crap-ton more practice, so I'm going to be out there next Monday morning, and the Monday morning after that, doing dismount / remount drills while waiting for it to be light enough to ride on some of the dirt trails that criss cross the park.  Hopefully, as I improve, I will not crash stupidly (lightly skinning my knee, putting a small hole in my Castelli bib knickers, and scraping up my 9-sp Dura Ace shifter in the process) as I did today.

This, of course, doesn't help my confidence at all.  One of my little demons is that while I find racing thrilling and fun, it also scares the bejeezus out of me.  This past January I had a really bad crash in a racing clinic criterium -- front wheel got clipped and I went over the bars at 28mph.  I was lucky that I only sprained my neck, shredded my kit, and sustained a bunch of road rash / bruises.  One other guy that crashed with me separated his shoulder.  All of our injuries could have been a lot worse.  I haven't raced since then.

Now, the speeds with CX are a lot slower (unless you're this guy), but there are trees, barriers, and, perhaps most importantly, guys with handlebar mustaches and tall socks to contend with.

I know I should just suck it up, go out and race, and have a good time.  A successful outing for me will be: Stays upright, no mechanicals, doesn't get lapped, finishes, drinks a beer at the end.  Beyond that is just icing on the cake.  So hopefully I'll see you out there.  Don't forget your cowbell!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Out of the way, but so awesome.

Today, my pals Beckett and Brooks and I rode a somewhat out of the way, but seriously awesome, route to work.  It's a variant of the Calaveras Way, with a little more distance, and a lot more climbing.

I started out my morning by getting up at 4:45am, gobbling a waffle, putting on my kit, loading my backpack, and rolling out to the 24th and Mission BART station to catch the 5:45 Dublin/Pleasanton train.  Beckett joined me at 16th sporting a rather interesting coffee container.

...and check that classy Two Buck Chuck cork to contain spillage!

We discussed how awful it is to be up this early in the morning until Brooks joined us at the Embarcadero station, at which time the conversation turned to Brooks' weekend adventure riding in the Sierras.  Well, as much conversation as one can have on BART, anyway... damn, those trains are loud.

After disembarking at Castro Valley, we popped into the Peet's on Redwood Rd. to throw back some espresso and then hit the road.  The short climb out of Castro Valley is pleasant and a nice warm-up.  Not too much traffic at the time we were there, and we made our way to Dublin Canyon.  If you've ever driven on I-580 between Castro Valley and Livermore, you've gone through Dublin Canyon.  This time of year it's really pretty -- lush green hills on either side.  Dublin Canyon Rd. runs parallel to I-580, but you don't really notice the freeway because the scenery is so nice.  The road itself is about 5 miles, the first half being a gentle climb (2.7% average grade), the second half being a gentle, but deceptively fast, descent down to Pleasanton.

Once reaching Pleasanton, we turned south onto Foothill Rd.  This is a fun stretch of road that takes you past a high school, some swanky suburban housing developments, vineyards, horse ranches, and small farms.  It ends at Sunol, not far from the Sunol Water Temple.  From here, there is an annoying wiggle amongst CA-84 traffic, but eventually we make our way to Calaveras Rd. and head for the first real climb of the day.

I really like the main Calaveras climb.  It's 2.6 miles long with an average grade of just 4%, so it's not terribly difficult, and you feel like you can go pretty fast.  At the end of the main climb, there is a flat spot surrounded by cattle pasture (the cows love cyclists), followed by a series of rollers over another 6 miles that result in another 320 feet of net elevation gain before the descent.  The scenery here is great; you're riding above the Calaveras Reservoir, beyond which are green (this time of year, anyway) grassy hills.

After riding the rollers is a descent down the west side.  Normally, this is wicked fast all the way down to Milpitas.  But today we only descended about half way before turning our sights on the second climb of the day and the main attraction: Felter Rd.

If you watched the Amgen Tour of California this year, you're probably aware that stage 4 ended with a hilltop finish at the top of Sierra Rd. in San Jose.  Well, Felter Rd. is basically the back-side of Sierra Rd.  It starts at Calaveras Rd. and winds its way south-east up the hills until it intersects with Sierra Rd. near the summit.

Not done climbing yet!

Let me just state for the record right now that Felter Rd. was hard.  Much harder than I expected.  From the beginning of Felter to the summit of Sierra is 6.2 miles, gaining 1,162 ft of elevation, average grade 3.6%.  But that doesn't tell the whole story, not by a long shot.  There is plenty of that road that sits around 7-8%, and pitches up as high as 13% or more.  Right before the junction, there is some stair-step road, and as I got out of the saddle to attack it, my legs decided they'd had enough: cramps in both quadriceps.  I tried my best to pedal through it, but I was forced to stop, unclip, and massage out the cramps for about a minute or so, before finishing the last half mile to the junction.

Once you reach the junction, you're not finished climbing yet; You still have 2 miles until the summit, and there are some rollers, though thankfully nothing too difficult.

What makes all of this suffering worth it, of course, is the epic view.  We stopped for photos about half a mile from the summit.  Seriously, the photos don't do it justice; you really just need to get your ass up there and see for yourself.

San Jose off in the distance...

The descent of Sierra Rd. is entertaining.  It's not terribly technical, and the pavement is pretty good, but it is steep, especially so in a few select places.  Having never descended it before, I decided to take it easy and still averaged 29.0 mph, despite being on the brakes most of the way.  A few times I glanced down at the Garmin while braking pretty hard only to see that I was still exceeding 34 mph.  Definitely put some noticeable wear on my fairly new Dura Ace brake pads (enough to warrant backing out the barrel adjuster a fair bit before the next ride).

Rain was in the forecast, and we got some (though thankfully after descending Sierra).  From Milpitas through Cisco-land, we pretty much got soaked, and as I turned onto the San Thomas Aquino Creek trail  after bidding farewell to Brooks and Beckett, I had to ride into a nasty headwind.

Got to work, legs completely trashed, wanting to eat a horse (a scone had to suffice until lunch), excited to do it again.  But next time, with a 12-27 cassette!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Epic Commute - Mt. Ham Way

May is National Bike Month, and in the San Francisco Bay Area, May 12 is Bike To Work Day.  Of course, if I had my way, every day would be Bike To Work Day.  But if nothing else, the current arrangement gives us a good excuse to plan special events, like the one I participated in on Wednesday, May 11, where 8 of us got up at an ungodly hour, took a ridiculously early train out of the City, and rode our bikes 100 miles to work.

Murph was the instigator this year.  He had done it the previous year with Crosby and Ammon, and what with the Tour of California's Stage 4 going from Livermore to San Jose, it was impossible to resist.

So, there we were: Murph, Space, Brooks, Beckett, James, Bret, Xton, and me, arriving at the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station at 5:53am.  We clipped in and rolled out... only to realize we'd gone the wrong way out of the BART parking lot.  This is what happens when you haven't had your coffee yet.  Our navigational snafu corrected, we rolled through the quiet morning streets of Pleasanton in search of starch and caffeine.

After our quick fuel stop, we headed east towards Livermore, reaching the junction of Tesla Rd. and Mines Rd. at about 7:15am.  We turned south on Mines and set our pace.  We knew we had a long way to go with some good climbing ahead of us, so we decided to keep it to Zone 2.  Xton did a great job of setting the pace, and we all stayed together though the first Mines climb.

We continued to roll along at a brisk but measured pace until the second bump on Mines.  At this point, our group got separated a bit.  Brooks and Xton were crushing it up front, followed by Space, Beckett, Bret, and me more-or-less riding together about 50 yards back.  As we crested the bump for the rollers that followed, Murph and James failed to latch on and got dropped.  At some point, Bret dropped off, too, because the forward and backward photos I took along Mines show only Xton, Space, Brooks, and Beckett.

We knew there was a regroup at the Junction Cafe, so on we went.  For those of you who haven't been out there before, let me just say that the scenery on Mines Rd. is just amazing.  Rocky hills, canyons, streams (that occasionally flow across the road!), live oaks, pine, ranches, wildlife... it's just a spectacular California landscape that makes riding a bike a real treat.  Plus there's pretty much zero traffic (of course, there's no cell signal, either).

The lead group of 5 arrived at the Junction Cafe right around 9:00am.  This is pretty much the only thing around for miles, at the Junction of Mines Rd., San Antonio Valley Rd. (which continues south to Mt. Hamilton), and Del Puerto Canyon Rd. (which goes east to Patterson).  Unfortunately, the cafe is closed at this time of day, but luckily there is a porta-pottie and a large tank of potable water available, so we were able to take care of those basic human needs.  The regroup provided us with an opportunity to shed our arm and knee warmers and snap a few photos before continuing south.

There's a short climb on San Antonio Valley Rd. before crossing Isabella Creek, which is essentially the start of the Mt. Hamilton back-side climb.  We pulled off there for a regroup, another photo op, and to slather on sunscreen.  There was a little excitement as James quite nearly took a leak on a small rattlesnake sleeping near a fencepost.  But disaster was averted, an alternate bio break location found, and we made our final preparations for the suffering that lied ahead.

The Mt. Hamilton back-side climb is about 4.5 miles at an average of 8.5%.  It's a pretty steady grade that's just a little bit less (maybe 8.3%), with the occasional steeper pitch (like in the switchbacks, or for short straight sections).  So the key for this climb is to just find your rhythm, focus on breathing, and stay relaxed.  Xton once again did a great job of setting the pace, and 4 of us (Xton, Brooks, Beckett, and I) climbed together at a steady ~7.6 mph.  Pretty sure everybody was in their lowest gear (34x27 for me), and let me tell you, I am glad I had swapped out the 12-25!  Brooks was the hardman of the bunch, turning 39x25.

Once nice feature of the Mt. Hamilton back-side climb is the mile markers; they count down to 0 at the summit!  This provides a nice progress indicator.  Beckett scored a free effort-mile by glancing down to see "2" when he was expecting a "3".  At the "1" marker, it levels off a little.  Xton took this opportunity to let 'er rip and dropped us.  But it's kind of evil ... just about when you think "aaaah, sweet, sweet recovery", the road pitches up to 11-ish% for another 1/3 of a mile or so.  But for Beckett, the gauntlet had been thrown, and he had a oh-no-you-di'nt momemt - off he went after Xton.  Brooks kept his steady pace, because he is apparently incapable of showing pain.  I, on the other hand, was suffering serious beyond-LT delirium, fearing that I was going to yak the last Gu I ate 45 minutes ago all over the nice scenery.  It was at this point that I started to talk to myself.  It went a little something like this:
  • (Inside voice) "Holy f***, this is hard."
  • (Inside voice) "I wonder if there's any shame in unclipping and walking the last few hundred yards..."
  • (Inside voice) "WTF am I thinking??!"
  • (Yelling at the road) "DON'T STOP NOW, JASON!  MAN UP!  GO!  STUPID!  F***ING!  LEGS!"
I need to try this yelling at the road technique more often, because all of the sudden the grade leveled off and the urge to vomit all over my front wheel subsided.  Yay, I made it!  Brooks was about 20 yards ahead of me, and once I caught up to him I heard some evidence that he is indeed human as he uttered "Wow, that was hard!"

Turns out the effort was good enough to get the 4 of us on the Strava top-10 leaderboard for the climb (Xton 33:17, Beckett 34:00, Brooks 34:06, me 34:11).  Knowing it wouldn't last, I took a screenshot.

We took a nice rest at the top, invoking the Secret Code Of The Out Of Order Coke Machine to get some sugar while we waited for our pals.  Once we were all at the top, we snapped a few photos, stretched a little, and otherwise got ready for the descent.

The descent down the front side of Mt. Hamilton is long (19 miles!) and technical (365 turns, as legend has it), with 2 intermediate climbs.  The pavement at the very top is kind of crappy -- rough, some potholes, and the occasional patch of scattered gravel.  I started the descent first, with Brooks on my wheel.  At the first little bump, Brooks pulled along side and we switched positions through the second bump.  For the bottom third of the descent or so, the pavement is smooth and new-ish (must have something to do with the expensive houses); knowing that I like to descend, Brooks waved at me to pass him, which I did, shifting up to 50x12 and turning the cranks as hard as I could.  Let me tell you what, I had a BLAST.  At one point a car came up behind me.  Of course there was not much of a shoulder, so I was just taking the lane.  But the car would have never been able to pass me anyway, as I could take the corners much faster than he could.  Once I got to the bottom and crossed over to the regroup spot at the park, I looked back and the driver gave me a friendly wave, which I gladly returned.

We waited at the bottom for everyone else... we knew that Bret was taking it easy, as he was riding a dollar-bill-booted-tire after getting a sidewall blow-out on the way up the back-side.  After we all arrived at the bottom, Bret parted ways with us as he needed to catch a train back to the City.  The rest of us were headed to lunch.  After a brief navigational snafu that resulted in a couple hundred extra feed of climbing, we rode some junk miles through San Jose and Milpitas, making our way to Alviso for our reward: Mexican food at the amazing Maria Elena's.

After gobbling a metric ton of salty chips and our respective giant burritos, we got back on the road to head to our destinations: Beckett, Brooks, and Space to Mountain View, Murph and James to Santa Clara, Xton and me to Cupertino.

All told, 101 miles and a smidgeon over 7000 feet of climbing.  An awesome day on the bike, and I even made a 3:00pm meeting!

If you want to get an idea of how awesome this ride was, check out the Rapha Continental video of AToC Stage 4.  Can't wait to do it again next year!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Sunday Brunch, or, How To Completely Blow Your Cycling Weight Loss Goals

It's been quite a while since I posted here; April has been kind of a big month, leaving not a lot of time (usually due to falling asleep myself while putting the kids to bed) for blogging.  But I actually have a little time and a few topics to write about this week, so we'll start off with one related to the "Eat" part of this little publication.

We had some friends over for brunch on Easter Sunday and I was responsible for the menu.  Breakfast-y food is one of the things I like to cook the most, and I also really like cooking for special occasions.  This also gave me a good excuse to set the alarm and get up early to watch the live feed of Liège–Bastogne–Liège - another reason why cyclists should also list baking amongst their hobbies, especially in spring.

One of the kids attending our get-together is allergic to eggs (which is kind of ironic, since the morning's activities of course included an Easter egg hunt), which normally puts a crimp in breakfast.  But there are plenty of morning pastries that can be made egg-free, and brunch adds a certain freedom to incorporate items that aren't traditional breakfast food, while still retaining the feel of breakfast.

And so, without further ado, here is what I ate Sunday morning, completely blowing the day's calorie budget.
  1. Coffee - Three Africans from Blue Bottle Coffee.  I kept a pot of water hot on the stove and brewed this as a pour-over, one cup at a time as needed.
  2. Mimosas - My wife and son juiced a bunch of oranges, our friends brought over a couple of bottles of Prosecco, and we enjoyed these fresh bubbly flutes of joy all throughout the morning.  Oh, and yummy fresh-squeezed OJ for the kiddos.
  3. Oatmeal scones - These are adapted from the oat scones served every morning at Arizmendi Bakery.  The differences: I don't put currants in mine (though I sometimes add chopped pecans, but not this time), I don't add the egg wash for the shiny top (see above about guest allergic to eggs), and I make them smaller and as rounds, rather than the traditional wedge-shape (they fit great in a jersey pocket that way!).  These were served with nectarine conserve from Frog Hollow Farm (we host a pick-up site for their CSA).
  4. Roasted yukon gold potatoes, garlic, and red onions.  Cut the potatoes into small pieces, added 2 full bulbs worth of un-peeled whole garlic cloves, and 2 julienned red onions, tossed the lot in olive oil and Eatwell Farm's really great rosemary salt (we host their CSA, too), and roasted at 425F until epic.
  5. Young broccoli sautéed with chorizo, young garlic, and spring onions.  Yes, more garlic and onions, but these younger ones have a nice mild flavor that is really nothing like that of their more mature counterparts.
  6. Mixed salad greens dressed in olive oil, lemon juice, grey sea salt, and lavender.
  7. Salad greens were served over lightly-toasted pain levain from Boulange de Cole Valley.
  8. ...and then topped with a sunny-side up egg cooked in my cast iron skillet (with butter, duh), sprinkled with freshly-ground black pepper.  Well, except for the one served to the guest that's allergic to eggs.
I sure wish I'd taken some photographs, because it looked marvelous on the plate.  Actually, I wish I'd asked my wife to take some photographs, because she's a professional and does a lot of that sort of thing for her own blog, Eating Dirt (which, BTW, everyone who has any interest in food should read).  But I didn't.  Which means I'll have to make this again soon, because I really would like to show off how pretty it looked.

Now to figure out how to adjust the training plan to compensate for the extra, ahem, fuel.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

2011 Oakland Half Marathon Race Report

It was chilly and grey out this morning, i.e. perfect conditions for running.  A little bit of wind, but not too horrible.  The chilly temps had us shivering at the start a little, but I managed to resist the temptation to wear long sleeves or arm warmers.

Gun went off at 9am and we were off.  I lined up at the 8'00" pace marker, and so it took a little while to get across the timing mat.  Once through the arch, though, the field spread out a little, I found a line along the right side curb and zoomed off.  A combination of adrenaline + wanting to warm up contributed to a sub-7'00" first mile, but I managed to cool my jets and settle into a nice 7'26" pace.  Prior to the start, my intention was to aim for 7'45", but I was feeling good and HR was in the zone, so I decided to focus on stride and breathing and hold that pace for as long as I could.

Ran for a little while with a guy who was out from Utah visiting his family and decided to register, and that helped keep the pace nice and even.  I think he started to get a little gassed after we turned off Mandela Parkway, though, because I started to pull away form him once we got into some headwind.  The wind wasn't blowing hard, but it was annoying, slowing my pace down to about 7'36".

One difference from last year was our route around Lake Merritt.  Instead of running down Grand, we actually ran along the path that hugs the lake inside Lakeside Park.  I understand why they did it, but it had some drawbacks: 1) no spectators to cheer you on, 2) narrow pathway making for difficult passing, 3) more elevation change over the segment, 4) MUD!  Those factors contributed to a slightly slower pace through the park, but once out I got back up to 7'29".

Around mile 12, I was starting to feel my legs, but then I looked down at my watch and saw that not only was I totally on track for a PR time, but a sub-1:40:00 was within my reach, so I put my race face on and dug a little deeper.  Ran the final full mile at 7'23", and managed to eke out 7'13" for the final kick.  No sprinting across the finish, but man I felt good!

Just as I crossed the finish line, I saw the gun time clock tick over to 1:40:00, so I knew I had bested that.  My Garmin had me at 1:39:43 over 13.4 miles (because I think the Garmin counts all of your lateral movement across the road as distance, as well).

My official results:
  • Chip time: 1:39:38 (personal best Half Marathon time)
  • Gun time: 1:40:02
  • Overall placing: 180
  • Sex placing: 148
  • Division [M35-39] placing: 30
Splits from my Garmin (over 13.4 miles):
  1. 6:53
  2. 7:23
  3. 7:23
  4. 7:22
  5. 7:26
  6. 7:26
  7. 7:32
  8. 7:36
  9. 7:38
  10. 7:38
  11. 7:29
  12. 7:34
  13. 7:23
  14. 2:54 (7'12")

Thursday, March 24, 2011

One more great reason to ride with a GPS

Came across this great article by way of the Twitterverse today.  Needless to say, I agree 100%!  I've often thought that perhaps GPS data could be helpful in the event you have to fight a bogus ticket for running a stop sign, as well.

Here it is: Why Every Cyclist Should Ride With GPS

Thanks to @sfc750 for retweeting the reference to the article!