Friday, June 11, 2010

My cycling buddies and I were only going to Montclair . . . ended up on Tunnel (Debi's 1st time)

I rode 22 - 32 miles a day pretty much the week of May 24th - 29th.   My two cycling buddies and I decided we should go to Montclair on Saturday (May 29th).  They know my goal is to participate in the Ride 2 Recovery Golden (R2R) State Challenge (Oct 3-9, 2010) and they were aware I had difficulty on my last trip up to Montclair. 

About my two cycling buddies:

Marc is my new neighbor and friend I refer to as my Trainer.   I was walking past his house shortly after I returned from visiting my family and friends in the Midwest and I saw his two bikes (a road and hybrid).  I stopped to talk to him because I had started cycling to train for the Ride 2 Recovery (R2R).  I tried to recruit him to be a Cyclefest Event Director for the R2R, but the Coast Guard keeps him busy.

In August 2009, Marc told me one day his plans had changed and he asked me if I'd like to go cycling.  We did and we started riding together when we didn't have other plans.  I dubbed him as my Trainer after I learned he had participated in the Face of America Ride.  That ride is similar to the Ride 2 Recovery Challenges except the Face of America Ride is a 2 day ride and the Ride 2 Recovery Challenges are 6 or 7 day rides, 350 - 450 miles..

David is my other friend and cycling buddy; he's the son of another neighbor and friend.  I'll refer to David with the nickname my Trainer gave him after he went riding with him in the Oakland Hills.  My Trainer said David is a Machine.  His stamina and strength for climbing is what earned him that nickname.  I got the idea of giving my friends nicknames from Fat Cyclist, a blog I enjoy reading.

The Machine has rebuilt and painted several antique road bikes; they are so beautiful and detailed.  He's so meticulous.  I asked him how he'd describe himself regarding his work on bikes and he said he considers himself a Tinkerer.  Referring to him as a Tinkerer doesn't give credit to his understanding of the engineering and mechanics of bicycles or his artistic talents so I personally like Machine better than Tinkerer. 

We started riding occasionally around September of 2009. It's usually after he wears himself out spinning and/or swimming at the gym and/or running and/or cycling in the Oakland Hills or he's just taking a day off and he wants to go on a more leisurely ride because I'm NOT a machine.  ;-)

David rode with me the first time I went to Montclair
.  Not only did I surprise myself on accomplishing that trip, but I think I surprised him, too.  Nonetheless, this fat chick is not to be confused with the Fit Chick.  ;-) 

I've learned a lot from both of my friends.  They've been a Godsend for my training.  They also make my training more fun.  I am one lucky gal.  However, I'm not sure they feel the same way; I've seen their eyes roll back in their head and a frustrated look on their faces a few times. ;-)  Let's just say they're good sports and good people.  I am very blessed to know them. 

Back to our current trip to Montclair

I made it to Montclair!  It was tougher than when I went up the first time with David.  David told me he could tell that I was stronger last year before my time off the bike for the arthroscopic knee surgery, rainy weather and a horrible cold.  

We stopped a couple times on the way up to allow me to catch my breath.  We took a major pit stop at the Montclair Playground to rest, nourish ourselves with the food of our choice, hydrate and refill our water bottles.

One of them asked me if I would like to go to Lake Temescal. I knew they really wanted to go and I was game, although deep down inside I was very nervous about going because of my lack of stamina.  Heck, I felt lucky to get to Montclair.

Before we left, I asked them to confirm my brakes were fine. I definitely understand the concept of checking the brake pads to ensure they're not worn and grip the wheel.  My Trainer and the Machine are both mechanically inclined.  I was confident if they said my brakes were OK, they would be OK. 

I was assured my brakes were fine and we were off.  Let me state anything could happen even if we checked my brakes thoroughly because "stuff happens;" however, checking my brakes lessens the likelihood anything would happen and I have peace of mind.

Next stop:  Lake Temescal

The ride from Montclair to Lake Temescal wasn't bad and consisted of a lot of down hill.  I was taking note of the fact I'd probably be going back up them and I was already dreading that.  At Lake Temescal we got on the bike path and stopped at Broadway.  We rested a bit and they encouraged me to go a little farther to Tunnel Road.   I was probably experiencing that endorphin high that makes you feel good, but maybe in my case not necessarily think clearly.  ;-)

There were a couple of brief stops and a lesson on how-to make it easier to start climbing on the way to Tunnel.  I sure hope I'll remember to do it when I need to.

Next stop:  Fire Memorial Platform on Tunnel Road

I lost my momentum when I was taking the right off Caldecott Lane to Tunnel Road when a cyclist in front of me was going too slow, because he was climbing from the other direction.  My part of the street was flatter and I was going faster.  I ended up having to get off my bike (or fall off) and walk up to the platform.  I don't think I moved in to my climbing gears fast enough.  It didn't help that I was exhausted, too. 

I recall the previous week David and I went from Alameda to Montclair, around Lake Temescal and up Tunnel Road, to Skyline, down Snake, around Joaquin Miller Road, Redwood Road, and back to Alameda.  Oops, better not forget to mention we rode in his car.  That would be an impressive bike ride, eh?  David could do it, not me.

David pointed and said to me that's Tunnel Road.  I felt lightheaded and queasy for a second and then I said or maybe just thought I'll never get up that hill and I'm certainly not going down it.  He laughed and pointed to the right and said, No, not really; Tunnel is to your right.  I'm pretty sure I breathed a sigh of relief.  He was initially pointing to Hiller Drive.

I'm not using quotations because I don't recall anything verbatim.

At the Fire Memorial Platform on Tunnel Road

We're refueling (water and food) when my two cycling buddies inform me they're going up Hiller Drive and to wait here.  Did I hear them right?  Yep, and watching them go up made me queasy and watching them come down I got nauseous and my knees got weak.  They stopped and discussed their climb and descent and rested for a bit when Marc suggested we go up a mile or so on Tunnel.  I'm pretty well rested by then.  I said, OK. Again, I probably wasn't thinking clearly. ;-)

Tunnel Road

So, we're going up Tunnel, and I have no recollection of what possessed me to continue, but the decision was made that we'd move forward on Tunnel to Skyline and not return to Alameda via Lake Temescal.  My Trainer and the Machine were encouraging and they told me I could stop whenever I needed to.  My Trainer told me several times to slow down -- probably on the flats -- to preserve my energy for the climbing.  I doubt I was climbing fast.

My left calf cramped horribly at one point and I had to walk a bit. My Trainer estimated with his bike computer that it was about a tenth of a mile or so.

On Sunday, my left cheek -- and I'm not referring to the one on my face -- and my left calf were sore.  I suspect it's because my dominant side is my right side and the left side of my body is weaker.  Monday my whole body was aching and it wasn't necessarily from all the climbing.  I'll tell you a bit about my experience with clipless pedals in my next blog.  At this point, I don't feel confident I'll be able to become proficient in them.

Skyline Drive

I don't remember where Tunnel meets Skyline, but I sort of recall an area where my Trainer and I stopped the first time we rode Skyline past Grizzly Peak Blvd.   He drove to Skyline and Joaquin Miller Road and we cycled about 14 miles along Skyline (approximately 7 miles each way) a few days before my arthroscopic surgery in January.

My Trainer and the Machine had to stop several times for me.  I told other riders going past us that this was my first time up Tunnel. I recall one person told me it will get easier and another said you're more than halfway.  The cyclists I spoke to were very encouraging and nice.

While riding towards Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve, we saw a sign that told us to smile.  The sign's purpose was to let you know there is a security camera in the vicinity.  We all waved and smiled.  Of course, I was smiling because I knew we were coming up on Sibley.

As we were about to cross Grizzly Peak Blvd, I was asked if I wanted to ride up Grizzly.  I said no and probably rather emphatically.  The endorphin high was wearing off and the fatigue was coming on. I knew I wasn't ready, but I told them if they wanted to go, I'd be happy to wait for them at Sibley :-).

Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve

I was never so happy to see Sibley, a major rest stop for cyclists riding in the Oakland Hills.  We rested and refueled.  I talked to two gals just before they left out of Sibley about their experience with cleats.  I was hopeful.

We headed home after a nice break, but not the 30 minute nap I would have preferred. ;-)  I heard my Trainer and the Machine discussing that we'd be going down Snake Road.  I reflected back to the drive around the hills with David last week and I wasn't thrilled about it, but . . . I'm a trooper.  I wasn't going to rain on their parade.  For a second or two, I envisioned me panicking and walking down Snake Road.

Skyline to Snake Road

As we're leaving Sibley, I had a quick talk with God and one of the things I told him was I'm in your hands and if you're ready for me, PLEASE make it quick and not painful. 

I reflected back to a conversation via personal message with an experienced cyclist on Team Alameda.  I recall telling him that when I went to Montclair for the first time, I forgot once I got to the top I had to come down.  I asked him something like how slow could I go down hills?  I was glad I couldn't see his eyes when he read that.  I bet his eyes rolled back in his head.  Duh!  I was struck by stupid.   He told me to use my brakes to go whatever speed I'm comfortable with.  Hence, I'm obsessed with knowing my brakes should work.

My cycling buddies told me the same thing; they've contributed immensely to my learning how-to use my gears. However, several times I've had a CRS (can't remember stuff) moment and moved my gears in the wrong direction and that can definitely complicate climbing.

During the ride to Snake Road I was working on calming myself and I reflected back to what Cathy Dana, a specialist in touch hypnotherapy, hypnomassage and trauma told me and a neuropsychologist told me.

I shared with my doctor friend my new love for cycling mixed with fears of another brain injury; he reminded me that "Life's a risk!"

As we're turning on to Snake Road, I'm thinking about my sessions with Cathy.  I learned about Cathy from Team Alameda's awesome Ride Captain, one of my favorite bloggers and her wonderful husband.  I mentioned on their forum my fears of having another TBI.  I met with Cathy and she was very helpful.  Cathy has worked to help me deal with my fears. I can't explain the concept, but it's working. 

For many months, I had nightmares where I was crashing in to a car.  I can't recall exactly right now what prompted them, and maybe it was just my fears of having another TBI while out riding.  The cars were usually red and I never hit them in the dream, but it would wake me up abruptly and I'd have difficulty going back to sleep.

I've only had one nightmare like that since the last time I saw Cathy and that was right after a young man was doored (driver opens car door in the path of  cyclist) and he was thrown in the path of a bus.  He died shortly thereafter. My heart goes out to the cyclist's family and the bus driver who has to live with this awful experience. You can access the article for a price here.  :-(  For Californian's who drive and/or cycle in CA there's valuable safety information on DMV's web site here.

Cathy loaned me her book titled, "Waking the Tiger:  Healing Trauma."  I'm struggling to read it because my concentration and comprehension sucks.  I keep having to start over.  It doesn't help that I usually start reading it when I'm laying down to go to sleep.  I need to get it back to her and buy my own book.

Snake Road

I got up to 20 miles per hour going down Snake Road and as I was going down I kept myself calm and alert with what was around me and the panic I envisioned never came to fruition.  Thank you Cathy! 

The death of the doored cyclist has reminded me I must be vigilant about monitoring how close I am to parked cars and check if there's a driver in the car if possible.  I know a driver in the car ups the ante the door could open and if the car is running it could be moved into your path.

My hands were quite numb by the time I got down to Mountain Boulevard, but I was in control of my speed.  Thank you TA "Got Gears" Guy, Trainer and Machine.

Back in Montclair

We stopped for a lunch.  I can't remember what I ate, but I enjoyed the lemonade and I felt good, but tired.

I don't know what possessed me to do that entire route because it wasn't planned, but I have no regrets.  That was the ride of my life!  Sure, I had to stop a lot, but I did it!  Thank you Trainer and Machine.  

Knowing I had two very supportive, skilled and rather patient gentlemen with me was very encouraging and I felt safe. I am grateful to have these two awesome friends to ride with and it's with their support and encouragement I will be ready for the Ride 2 Recovery Golden State Challenge.   THEY ARE THE BEST!

I know if I had planned to go to Montclair and back to Alameda via Lake Temescal, up Tunnel, across Skyline and down Snake, I would have taken off my U-bar lock, cable and lights.  Next time.

I am raising funds to benefit the R2R Program, and it includes building special bikes for our injured military.  If you haven't already, will you help me?  Please go here to find out how-to donate online or where to mail a check to sponsor Deborah Palmer.  

The next blog will answer the question:  Will Debi be able to use clipless pedals?  Hint:  Debi has skinned up elbows and lots of bruises on her legs and butt.

Until next time, I'll keep on TREKkin' and training.


AKA Deborah Palmer

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Debi, Thanks for the kind words. I admire your tennacity and the dedication to get yourself readied for the R2R Bike Trek. That is a huge event. I am confidant that, if you keep pushing yourself to new limits - each time you ride, you will be prepared for the week-long ride. Keep on Climbing! Marc (The Trainer)