Low-Key Hillclimbs 2008 #3: Quimby Road

Low-Key Hillclimbs: Quimby Road

When last I climbed up Quimby Road in San Jose, it was during training for the 2007 Death Ride. A very difficult climb it was, with 18% switchbacks! And, we still had yet to do Mt. Hamilton that day!

Today, the Low-Key Hillclimbers went up Quimby Road for race #3. I had missed last week’s climb up West Alpine because I was in San Diego for David and Audrey’s wedding. For Quimby, I had signed up to be a volunteer, as once up Quimby is enough for me!

I armed myself with my cameras and shot photos of the riders as they climbed up Quimby. Thanks to Christine’s nimble driving up the narrow roads, I was able to get some good photos of the action in the front. I wonder if I had a hybrid hub like one of the Week One riders if I could keep up with Tim, Clark, and the other top finishers. Somehow, I think I would still need a little more power to keep up with the big boys and girls!

Christine and I drove up to the top, where we waited for the cyclists to come to us. Similar to the finish at Mt. Diablo, I waited patiently in the same position, letting the cyclist come into my photographing firing zone. I’m pretty happy with the shots… out of 811 photos, I have posted 263 onto my SmugMug gallery for Quimby, a 32% hit rate. That’s out par for the course with regards to sports shooting.

Christine was protecting this cute tarantula which was trying to cross the street over and over again. We were afraid a car or cyclist would end its life! That tarantula really need to watch where it was going!

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Cycling, Exercise

Low-Key Hillclimbs 2008 #1: Montebello Road

Adam up Montebello Road

The 2008 Low-Key Hillclimbs started today with the usual climb up Montebello. Unlike the last two ascents up 5.3 mile road in Cupertino, the weather was decidedly cooler and wetter. Rain threatened the start of the race and only began to come down near the end of the ride for me.

While I have been running and swimming this summer, I have not been doing any cycling. As the weeks ticked down to the start of the LKHC series, I wondered how my fitness level on the bike would be after a steady diet of 3, 6, and 12 mile runs. Let me tell you right off the bat, running is no substitute for hill climbing on a bike!

I decided to take it “easy” up Montebello today, since I didn’t want to hurt myself seeing this was my first climb of the year. Other people, like Murali, Stephen, and Richard have been cycling throughout the year, so I knew they would do great. Murali completed the Death Ride this year and the California Triple Crown (three double-centuries). He certainly looked much fitter than last year, and I predicted a stellar time of 40:30 for him. Stephen, as always, looked very strong, and I calculated he would fly up Montebello in 37 minutes. Richard was humble about his training, but I knew the tiger was waiting to pounce on the hill; for him, I guessed 43 minutes.

As for me, I would be happy with 45 minutes, though I knew that would be difficult to accomplish. As the climb began and I saw Murali, Stephen, and Richard fading in the foreground, I knew I was in for a long, wet day in the saddle. I sat back and just chugged my way up Montebello. Once again, the false summits fooled me, as I continually thought I was closer to the end only to see another hill appear before my very eyes. As the clock ticked passed 45 minutes, I knew that a reasonable time would now be 50 minutes. Sure enough, according to my clock, I just made it under the 50-minute mark. I suspect the official time will be right at 50-minutes. That’s a far cry away from my personal best of 39:30, but hey… not bad for someone who hasn’t been riding all year!

As for Murali, Stephen, and Richard, they almost to the second hit the times that I predicted. I wish those skills would have come in handy last week before the whole stock market meltdown!

At the top, it was cold and very wet. Stephen and I took our dear time getting down to the base. My hands hurt so much as they were on the brakes nearly the entire time. I’ve never liked wet roads, and so the combination of the steep descent with the rain made for an unenjoyable descent. Before the ride, we paid our respects to the two cyclists who were killed very close to the start of the ride earlier this year. When we lived in Cupertino, Rae and I used to ride by the spot of the accident all the time. Life is precious… enjoy every second of it!

This year, I won’t be able to complete all of the climbs, breaking my two-year streak. I’m off to San Diego for a wedding next week, and I’ll be volunteering on Quimby Road the week thereafter. That said, there’s still the possibility that I can snatch the Endurance Award this year!

Photo of me finishing Montebello by Josh Hadley

Cycling, Rants

Bike Safety – Accident in Mexico

This photo really pissed me off when I saw it this morning after waking up in Providence, Rhode Island.

An American drunk driver, apparently asleep at the wheel, plowed into several cyclists during a race in Mexico, killing one and injuring the others. The photo is absolutely terrible, but this is the reality when cars collide with cyclists. I can imagine this is what happened when a similar accident occurred near our old house in Cupertino, when a California Highway Patrol officer killed two cyclists along Stevens Canyon Road.


RIP, Sheldon Brown

Cycling aficionados mourn the passing of Sheldon Brown. I never met the man, but I am very familiar with his website and his cycling tips and techniques. His online gear calculator helped me understand the mystery of my road bikes gears as I went from an 11-21 to a 12-25 to a 12-25 compact crankset. Without him, I would be huffing, puffing, and pushing my bike up the Low-Key Hillclimbs.

Rest in Peace, Sheldon. You’ll be missed.

Cycling, Journal

Low-Key Hillclimbs 2007 #6: Welch Creek

Welch Creek Climb - Genti Cuni

Weeks before, I signed up to coordinate Week 6 of the Low-Key Hillclimb Series up Welch Creek Road. Three weeks prior to the race, I drove up the climb with COBA member, David B., and remarked how glad I was that I wasn’t going to be riding this one. It’s a beast at 3.9 miles and 1923 feet of climbing! Some have said that this climb is tougher than Bohlman-On Orbit, which I found to be extremely challenging.

This was my first-time coordinating a race, and Welch Creek offered some challenges from the get-go. First off, there’s no parking alongside Calaveras Road. Permit parking is only available at Welch Creek, due to the fact that the first few miles is through parkland. Thus, my first task was to find a place to stage the race. Talking to other Low-Key members, I discovered the Sunol Glen School, located about 5 miles from the start. The school offered bathroom facilities and ample parking, and it turned out to be a perfect spot to stage. There was a little confusion getting permission to use the facilities, but the school staff and I eventually squared things away after a couple of back and forth trips. Thanks to Dan and Pat for getting me the proper insurance forms to give to the school!

Coordinating Welch Creek - Kwan Lo

The second challenge was photography and videography. Initially, I had wanted to have this climb well documented in the style of the epic climbing stages in the Tour de France. Unfortunately, the narrow roads and lack of adequate turnouts up Welch Creek made accomplishing this goal very difficult. In the end, I took one car up quickly to the top of the hill and Ron “Dick Demol” Brunner, took the another car filled with three photographers to follow the action. From what he said, it was difficult to follow the action because of the roads and because the leading pack of riders, led once again by Tim Clark, was going to darned fast!

We were first to the top in the Car Division, reaching the summit in 12 minutes. We barely had time to park the car and eat a snack before Tim arrived only 12 minutes later! I had originally thought that the winning time would be 34 minutes, but I must have been thinking about my time up the hill!

The top riders are certainly working for their fast times. I was heartened to see that at the finish, everyone was huffing and puffing. Usually when I get around to finishing 10-20 minutes later, everyone looks so relaxed, sipping on juice boxes, eating pretzels and cookies, and shooting the breeze. “Yes,” I thought to myself, “They suffer too! Muahaha!” Of course, they suffer much more quickly than I do :(

Coordinating a Low-Key race turned out to be pretty fun. I’ll probably do it again next year!

Next week’s it’s time to ride a mountain bike. We’re going up the Windy Hill trail in Portola Valley.

Thanks to all of the volunteers who helped make this ride possible: Marty, Howard, Helen, Genti, Kwan, Ron, Christine, and Pat! Also thanks to Genti who used my camera to take the photos in this gallery.

Welch Creek Gallery - Genti Cuni

Cycling, Journal

Low-Key Hillclimbs 2007 #5: Hwy 84/WOLH

Adam at the end of West Old La Honda

In Week 5 of the Low-Key Hillclimbs Series we did a time trial up the backside of Highway 84 and West Old Honda road. After volunteering for the previous week, I was eager to get back onto the saddle and test myself against the clock. Unfortunately, I almost pulled a Pedro Delgado and ended up putting it one of my worst efforts. Every year, misfortune seems to befall me on one of the Low-Key climbs!

The start was at the San Gregorio Store at the near Highway 1 and Highway 84. Since I was coordinating the following week’s ride up Welch Creek, I planned to park my car up at the finish on Skyline and West Old La Honda Road. An early ride and drive up to Skyline via Woodside gave me plenty of time to descend 15 miles to the start — a good warmup plan in my mind. I parked at the Windy Hill Preserve parking lot, unpacked my bike, and… inexplicably… went left. I had thought that the intersection of Old La Honda and Skyline was to my left, but in reality, it was less than one mile to the right. I rode… up and up Skyline for over five miles before I saw the signs for Page Mill Road. I realized at that point that I was seriously lost, thinking in my mind that I couldn’t have possibly have missed the turnoff to Old La Honda.

It was already well past 9:00 am, and my time trial had already begun. I had to go 21 miles to get to the start in under an hour. Could I make it? The initial five miles back to the car was fortunately downhill. The mile to the corner of Skyline and Old La Honda — I still don’t know how I missed it while driving — was slightly uphill. By the time I had gotten to the intersection, I had a little over 30 minutes to go the final 15 downhill miles. I estimated my average speed to get there exactly at 10:10 am would have to have been 28 mph. It’s windy, not straight, down West Old Honda, so I had to manage my speed properly so as not to spin out and crash. My legs were already tiring from the effort I had given up to this point; I was openly wondering how much energy would be left in the tank for the time trial. By the time I had passed the 10:10 am mark, I was even questioning whether or not I was on the right road to get to the San Gregorio Store, as I’m not very familiar with rides on the other side of Skyline.

Fortunately, the yellow stickers on the helmets of the riders going the other direction gave me solace. These were Low-Key Riders. I even recognized them as we passed each other: Kelly, Stephen, and Tim. After my little 11 mile detour, I was going to make it to the start!

I ended up being the third to last rider to leave the starting gate at roughly 10:30 am. With such little recovery time, I didn’t have much energy left for the hammer-on-the-flats initial portion of the ride. Looking at the split time results, I came in last place, covering the 7.5 miles in 25:51. My time up 84 and West Old La Honda was a little better, and I finished the remaining 6.5 miles in 34:17. Had I not taken a 25-mile warmup, I think I could have bested both of those times by a few minutes. Next year!

Cycling, Journal

Low-Key Hillclimbs 2007 #4: Mt. Diablo

Low-Key Hillclimbs Leader Tim Clark

Maybe I should stick with cycling photography instead of cycling itself.

Since I’ve been sick this week, I decided to trade in my bike for my camera for Week 4 of Low-Key Hillclimbs up the southern slopes of Mt. Diablo. Last year, we rode up the north side, where I experienced a spectacular collapse in blowing up after the first two miles. Completely unintentional, it was also a incredible and cagey move, seeing that I snatched the lead in the Endurance Category. Yes everyone, there is a competition in the back of the race… where loyalties are tested, injuries are faked, and fitness is a four-letter word.

By sitting out this week, I took advantage of the opportunity to see what fireworks were happening in the front. I keep seeing this name Tim Clark at the number one position week after week. Who is this man? What powers him? What motivates him to make everyone else feel like they’re riding for second place? Armed with my camera, I set off to discover the answer to these burning questions. Let’s check them off:

  • Zero body fat… check
  • Strong and defined musculature… check
  • Well-conditioned cardio-vascular system… check
  • Nice bike… check
  • Color-coordinated outfit… check

No wonder why I’m always competing for the Endurance Award. I lack all of what makes Tim Clark numero uno this year!

Thanks to Ron Brunner, I had a front-row seat at all of the action as we drove up Mt. Diablo in Ron’s car. He did his best impression of Dirk Demol, while I played the role of Graham Watson. I’d definitely like to try riding on the back of a motorcycle one day. How do those guys stay on the bike? Harness? Strong quad muscles to grip the side of the motorcycle?

It’s been some time since I’ve done any cycling photography. My panning skills were in sore need of a refresher course. Practice makes perfect, and I got better as the ride went up. It was a blast photographing the final 250 meters up to the summit of Mt. Diablo. Great expressions by everyone going up that final hill! I could get used to this cycling photography thing, but next week it’ll be back to our regular scheduled programming: me struggling to keep up with the gruppeto on Highway 84 and West Old La Honda!

Here are some of my favorite shots from yesterday’s ride. Ron has some more photos on his Flickr page, with HD video coming soon!

Jorge Chang up Mt. Diablo

Dan's supreme effort is written all over his face.

Low-Key Calendar Model: Stephen Fong

Jorge finishes strong at Mt. Diablo

Effort by Tim Clark

Hard core cycling

Check out the rest of the photos from Mt. Diablo on SmugMug. Hope you like them!

Cycling, Journal

Low Key Hillclimbs 2007 #3: Bohlman-On Orbit

Suffering on Bohlman-On Orbit

Bohlman-On Orbit. The name alone sounds daunting. I was dreading it last year when it was rained out, and I was dreading it last week. The climb certainly lived up to its reputation.

Following a late night at my Stanford Class of 1997 10-Year Reunion party, I woke up on Saturday morning bright and early. Earlier in the week, I had made the decision to swap pedals from Rae’s bike to mine. Her Trek has the magical triple chainring and two extra gears that I felt I need to ascend Bohlman. Sadly, even before I could get started riding, I had an accident! While working the pedal wrench, I slipped and cut my right hand on the chainrings. You know when you’ve cut deep when the wound starts out white and quickly turns red. I walked briskly to the bathroom for some band-aids. Despite the band-aids, my fingers continued to bleed throughout the day, a result of lengthy periods of gripping the handlebars.

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Cycling, Death Ride, Exercise, Journal

Low-Key Hillclimbs 2007 #2: King's Mountain

Adam on King's Mountain - Photo by John Gale

For the second week, the Low-Key Hillclimb Series tackled King’s Mountain. In all of my years of cycling, I’ve only climbed King’s Mountain four times, and all of them were done this year. People typically have a favorite between Old La Honda and King’s, and it’s been clear over the years that OLH has been my choice.

Earlier this year, Jorge, Richard, Derek, and I double-dipped on King’s, climbing the 4.3 mile, 1540 foot ascent twice in one day to prepare for the Death Ride. We took it relatively easy back in March, and I didn’t bother to time each ascents. Fortunately, I had the results of Jorge and Stephen’s ride up King’s last Tuesday. Jorge mentioned that it took them about 32 minutes riding at 90% capacity. 90% is 100% for me, so I figured my finishing time would be about 32 minutes.

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Cycling, Journal

Low-Key Hillclimbs 2007 #1: Montebello Road

Montebello Road Low-Key Hillclimb - photo by Ron

Now that was much better.

The Low-Key Hillclimbs are back for 2007! Once again, the series began with a return visit to the slopes of Montebello Road last Saturday.

In last year’s ride, I suffered greatly, having went out too fast in the beginning with the misguided intent of wanting to keep up with the main pack. I finished in 48:54, a far cry from my previous best of 39:30. I hadn’t cycled that much during the year, and my poor form allowed me to runaway with the Low-Key Endurance Award.

This year, I’m aiming for the Most Improved From Last Year Award. In the first half of 2007, I was cycling more often. I did a number of long rides with significant climbs, culminating with my triumph at the Death Ride in July. Fellow Low-Key riders, Jorge and Stephen, also succeeded in completing all five ascents of up the passes of Monitor, Ebbetts and Carson.

Following the conclusion of the Death Ride, I’ve been running and swimming more than cycling. Whenever I have gotten on the bike, however, I’ve been riding with solid AirFree tires. After several hundred miles, I’ve come to the conclusion that my AirFree Tires are good for training but not racing. My average speed was 2-3mph slower with the AirFree tires than with my a standard clincher. This wouldn’t cut it for me if I wanted to have a good showing at Low-Key, so the night before Montebello, I peeled off the AirFree tires and put on a brand new pair of Michelin Pro Races and tubes.

The new tires definitely made a notable difference yesterday, as I felt much better while climbing. Although my heart rate jumped up quickly beyond my LT, I never felt completely wasted on the ride. Montebello is a climb that features a really tough initial two miles (to the school), followed by a flat section of one mile and a finishing climb of another two miles. By going too fast in the beginning last year, I was too cooked to push it on the flats. This time, I resisted the urge to speed up at the beginning and was thus able to conserve some strength by the time we reached the school. I hammered as best as I could before the finishing climb. I was very happy with my time of 42.45, a good six minutes faster than last year and only three minutes and change from my personal best!

Now, if I could only lose a few more pounds, I could seriously challenge my goal of breaking 39 minutes! I’d still have a ways to go before I am riding with the big boys though. The fastest time up Montebello was posted by Chris Phipps. He shattered the previous course record by last year’s Low-Key Champion, Tracy Collwell, finishing in 26:05!

Next Up: King’s Mountain

This year’s Low-Key features nine climbs instead of seven. We actually only did six climbs last year, as the fearsome Bohlman-On-Orbit was cancelled due to rain. Tomorrow’s ride will take us up King’s Mountain Road. In training for the Death Ride, Jorge, Richard, and I did the Double King’s Mountain. I’m happy that we’ll just do it once this time around!

Photos and Week 6 Photography

I forgot to bring my camera, but John and Ron have posted their photos up on Flickr. The photo above of Jorge, JT, Stephen, Jeff, Sean, and me was taken by Ron.

This year, I’m coordinating the Week 6 ride up Welch Creek. I’ve organizing the members at my camera user group to help document the ride. I don’t know if we’ll have motorcycle pace vehicles, but I promise we’ll have some unique footage from the event to share!