It’s Gran Fondo Time Baby!!

There are some very important differences between me as a swimmer and cyclist. Swimming isn’t a very social sport while you’re actually swimming as you have to stop to talk. One thing I really love about cycling is that you can talk the entire time if you’re riding with someone and well, they’re within earshot of you. I’m not as serious while cycling unless I’m dragging my sorry butt up some climb and trying to keep my heart from exploding and my lungs inside my rib cage. Otherwise the girls and I tend to talk about all sorts of crap..some serious and some not so serious. It’s like we’re just hanging out while our legs are moving.

The Healdsburg Century ride went past several wineries that I’ve been to so I was giving Diana the grand tour of which ones I like and don’t like. Doesn’t really matter since Diana doesn’t drink (may use her as a designated driver sometime!). I do “moo” at cows when riding past them or going across the cow grates in the middle of the road. I also will half-jokingly say something about stopping at any creamery or bakery while going past. We ride bikes long distances so we can eat, right? There’s just something oddly different about when I’m on a bike as I’m a lot looser and relaxed..maybe it’s because we’re playing in traffic? Organized rides all have alcohol served at the end of it? These aren’t events that you have to actually train for?

And really, when else can you do something like zip past a friend and smack him/her on the ass and totally get away with it? If they’re offended then well, they’ll have to speed up to catch you. 😉

As I was in pretty sad cycling shape going into the Levi’s Gran Fondo, I decided that I could probably drag myself through the Gran Fort Ross (85 miles, 6850′ climbing) as I had survived the Princess Challenge the Sunday before. Arianna and Liz weren’t interested in pushing themselves and were also signed up for the Gran category. I decided to treat it like just another Saturday ride with Liz and Arianna that just happens to be supported and we’re less likely to have to resort to Google Maps to figure out where we are.

Liz, me, Arianna, and Erika before the Coleman Valley Road death march.

Some people take Levi’s Gran Fondo to be a serious race as it’s a timed ride and if you’re interested in doing the badass Panzer route (117 miles, 10,503′ climbing), you need to do the full Gran (102 miles, 8,943′ climbing) in 7.5 hours or less the year before. I will never be able to do the Gran in 7.5 hours and not even going to try it. I do these rides just to do them (similar to swimming) and am not competitive. There are rides that I really do sign up for just because the kit looks really cool. We kind of ride from snack stop to snack stop too along with breaks inbetween to catch our breaths and wait for each other. Arianna and Liz looked like squirrels stocking up for winter with how many eats they had stuffed into their pockets. And my nickname for Diana is “SNACKS” in all caps since she gets so excited when she sees them. Where was I again?

My group all started together but Terrie wanted a good time for the full Gran (101 miles) and Erika is even faster. Diana is still faster than me right now although her days are numbered on that front once I get my legs and lungs back in cycling shape (and she knows it). Liz, Arianna, Samar, and I rode together until we had to split off as Samar and her cold germs were doing the Medio. I still wanted to make a go for the Gran Fort Ross so we said we’d see her at the finish.

Fort Ross really isn’t *that* bad. It could be worse. It’s just a long continuous climb with little relief. At least we hit it at 10:30 AM and with the trees it was pretty shady and reasonably comfortable. It was a dream compared to the hell of Coleman Valley Road coming up from the coast that resembled a death march as Panzer and Gran (and some really taking-sweet-time Medio) riders made their way up the last (or only for Medio) major climb of the day. I stopped just before the steepest part to stuff my heart back into my chest and then came to the horrible realization that I couldn’t get back on my bike. It was too steep for me to get started again. I had no shame though on this ride and walked my bike up those last 20 or 30 feet and got back on once I was back to being more perpendicular than parallel to the road. That climb would be easier when I’m in shape and/or not 60+ miles into a ride already. Next year.

Calculated Target Heart Rates say that my max should be 182 bpm. My heart should have exploded 5 times on Sunday. My max was 196 bpm!

The SAG guys were AWESOME on coverage as they were everywhere like Big Brother. We got off route once and a SAG motorcyclist reeled us back in within a mile. There were EMTs and Fire Department teams waiting at major potential crash points and every so often so they could respond quickly to crashes. Bike crashes have a greater affect on me than car crashes for some reason. I went past 3 crashes during the ride and missed the fatal crash (Cyclist killed in Levi’s GranFondo) that was on the full Gran route. I always figure that if I make it to the finish in one piece then it’s all good. I’ve already had two crashes, one that could have easily been fatal if a car was coming from the other way as I slid across the incoming lane. I’m still conservative when I descend. I use my Garmin 810 actually to help me see what the road looks like up ahead so I know how tight a curve really is and can make adjustments for it (aka help ease my nerves).

Gran Fort Ross route

Next year I want to do the full Gran route. I also am thinking about the Death Ride along with a bunch of other century rides to do with my friends. Yeah some of them involve really cool kits. 😛 I’ll still be doing long rides with them on the weekends anyway as after all, that helps burn off the baked goodies and wine that we drink when we’re not on our bikes. We’d have to do some training for the Death Ride but it wouldn’t be anything that we’d ever take seriously like what you see with guys out on the track. We’re really just there to have fun, ride, hang out, and load up on the snacks.

And still funny to think that I’ve only been riding for 10.5 months. Next month is finally my one year anniversary of being on the bike!

The finest cycling ladies

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