Category Archives: road

Day in the Life 4; Professional Cyclist Cara Gillis, Part Two: Intervals

Last week, in part of one of our episode with pro cyclist Cara Gillis we learned about her background in veganism, philosophy and pro cycling. Today, we ride! And boy do we ride. One thing that immediately impresses you about Cara is her diligence in following a training plan and her intelligent use of intervals. It has shown me the importance of having a good plan and following it closely.
In Part 2 we head to Mt Washington, a famed climb in Northeast Los Angeles as I try to keep up with Cara on 1-minute intervals. One minute, that’s all, but it’s easier said than done!  We also speak with her coach Jeff Lawler about the importance of intervals and the most common mistake new cyclists make.
Enjoy!

How amazing is Cara? I’m almost embarrassed at how quickly she dropped me. Almost. But not, because she is such a bad-ass.  Though I now know that I need to start doing better intervals! To recap Jeff, here are some tips to smartly introduce intervals.

Smart Intervals

-Hold the same pace for the entire length of the interval. A one-minute interval is not a 20 second sprint with 40 seconds of barely holding on…

-Give yourself a proper recovery time. Today we had a 3-minute rest for a 1-minute interval. You need enough time for your cardiovascular system and muscles to recover in order for them to push as hard in the subsequent intervals.

-Do at least four. If you are totally spent after two, you may need to adjust your pace or analyze if you are ready for intervals.

-Include a variety of lengths and intensities of intervals. Cara calls 20-minutes intervals the bread and (vegan) butter workout for fast cyclists. It’s a skill to figure out your pace and hold it for 20 minutes in itself. But learning that skill has huge payoffs.

-Intervals should happen a few times per week, max.

Thank you Cara and Jeff for spending your day with us. Cara would like to thank her team Missing Link Coaching Systems/Specialized, especially the directors who go out of their way to make sure she gets vegan food at races. That’s super cool. Even though she is not sponsored by them,  she wants me to mention Hammer Nutrition products because most of their stuff is vegan. When her team has sponsors that don’t make anything vegan she buys Hammer stuff on her own.

What did you learn from today’s episode? As always, thanks for watching and we’ll see you next time!

[If you enjoy these episodes please use the share button below. A lot of work goes into making these and we have no money or sponsors and only our friends and readers to spread the message that you can be vegan and an athlete. Help out if you can! Thank you.]

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Filed under Day in the Life, road, vegan

Day in the Life 2; Endurance Athlete Brian Davidson, Part Two: Death Valley Double Century

How fun was our first Day in the Life episode with Brian Davidson? Even as a vegan and an athlete myself, I learned a lot. Which is why we are doing this series- veganism works in different ways for different people and seeing this makes it more accessible. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback; there’s a desire out there to know more about vegans and how they do what they do!

Last week we caught a glimpse of how Brian eats and trains as he prepared for the Death Valley Double Century- a 200-mile time cycling event. Today’s show goes into Death Valley and follows the race. And have we got a treat for you!  When we approached Brian about this project he was worried that his training and competing was too unstructured. We assured him that his style is just one of many and we want people to see that. He expressed that he wanted to do well in the 200-mile event because veganism is so important to him. He didn’t want to let us down. I’ll let the video speak for him and just say that he definitely didn’t let us down!

There you have it! Brian with his dates and liquid food was the first across the line after 200 miles, with the next racer more than 30 minutes behind! Check out the unbelievable results. So how does Brian do it? Here are his recommendations for riding or racing your first ultra-cycling, 100+ mile event.

Brian Davidson’s Tips for Your First 100+ Mile Bike Event

-Have a plan, but know it is okay to deviate from it. If we learned one thing from Brian it is this: Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s not going to make or break your success.

-Start slow and build a base! Not only with slower speeds, but less frequency. Brian thinks cyclists start too fast and get burned out before they build a good base.

-Build up to longer, unsupported rides. Brian suggests you be comfortable with 100 miles on your own before doing a supported 200-mile event.

-Make mistakes.  Brian has very little ego and was not scared to admit he had failed numerous times. More than once he was out on an all-day ride and hadn’t planned appropriately for the heat and needed to not only quit for the day, but find a ride home!

-Learn from your mistakes. Understanding yourself and what you need to do is a huge part of success in ultra-distance events.

-Aim for about 250 calories an hour. Many cyclists can go with very little food for the first few hours and may be unfamiliar with having to eat while riding. Aim for 250 calories an hour and adjust for heat and experience.

-Cross train. As we saw in part one with Brian, he does sit ups and push-ups and runs to cross train for cycling. With over 10 hours on the bike, non-cycling muscles get fatigued, so doing more than cycling in preparation makes you stronger and better suited for endurance.

-Do speed work only after spending many hours at a time on the bike. Brian said he only worked on getting faster after he was comfortable going for a long time. Then he does intervals and hill repeats to build strength and speed.

-Mentally prepare. In my own experience with ultra events, the brain wants to quit before the body needs to! Train your brain, while you train your body. Know that lows will come and be ready to work through them.

-Lastly, Brian uses some liquid foods in order to more easily process the thousands of calories he needs on a really long cycling day. There are commercially-available vegan options, but what Brian was using is a homemade version. More on that in an upcoming post.

And that concludes our time with Brian. Thank you Brian for being such a bad ass and letting us peek into your life. And for showing that you can be vegan and a damn fast cyclist! Thanks for reading and if you enjoyed this please share it with others!

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Filed under Day in the Life, double, race, road, vegan

The Big Parade Staircase Walk

Hey everyone! First off, thank you for all of the awesome feedback from our Day in the Life episode with Brian Davidson.  We are so excited about episode two, which should be done for tomorrow. Yay! Wait to you see Brian in Death Valley, it is truly amazing.
 
Today’s post is from an event I did in 2009, called The Big Parade Stair Walk. I am posting it now because 2011’s Big Parade is this weekend. If you are in the Los Angeles area I highly recommend you come out to some or all of this. Did you know there over 100 stairways in the City of Los Angeles that are maintained as travelways? This walk explores them over two days and is full of historical and cultural events within the walk. If you think you know LA well, you need to come to this and see an LA you had no idea existed. I’ll be out there one or both days, come say hello! See the schedule and make your plans.
 
 
 
On the Big Parade
Making the city our own
One stair at a time.
(thanks to Lisa for the haikus)

Photo galleries, thanks to Steve Matsuda, Day 1 and Day 2.

 

The Big Parade is a 45-mile, 2-day walk that covers over 100 staircases in multiple Los Angeles neighborhoods. Over 250 people walked varying lengths, while a core group of us walked the entire route and camped in the Music Box Steps Park Saturday night. We started in downtown Saturday morning at 7am and finished after 10pm at the Hollywood sign.
 
When I do an event like this, almost no matter how I describe it, the automatic interpretation is that is a purely physical endeavor. While completing this walk is no easy physical task, that is only a small component. Walking is so humanizing and seeing the sections of this beautiful city that are only accessible by foot was much more of a social and emotional experience.
 
When we got to the Hollywood sign after 10pm (had been walking since 7am), and looked down on the city we had traversed, I looked at my tired, worn-out friends and felt closer to them than I ever have. I’ve always said that times in our lives where you are fatigued, hungry and just plain worn-out is when you see most clearly. I felt such a love for the people I shared this experience with and for the possibilities available to us when we slow down and see what our environment has to offer us.
 
 
 
 
 

Is it political? Is there a campaign? Are we a group? These are some of the questions asked. But really, the whole idea stems from Dan Koeppel’s fascination with these stairs as public access ways. They are technically ‘streets’ and they are there to be used by people. The small budget came from Backpacker magazine, but almost all of the work and effort came from Dan and the people close to him. His love of staircases-and he has many reasons-drew other ambitious, interesting folks to him. No organization or group, board of directors, mission statement, official endorsements, etc, etc…just a love for what traveling by foot means to each of us. There are political, environmental, social and even historical ramifications from our walk, but none are ‘the’ reason we walked.  And that’s the beauty of this!  “Togetherness’ is so cliche and over-used, but this bringing people together- urbanites, explorers, athletes, artists, historians- is what this walk is about in my eyes.

Sunday night we reached the Hollywood sign about 40 hours after the main group had started- the 9 of us who camped out at the Laurel and Hardy park and walked the entire 45-mile route. Literally hundreds of people walked some part of the route, but this core group had been together for the entire 40 hours. But then, as the only person walking home from the Hollywood sign, I had a solitary hour and a half walk. It was nearing midnight, I had pain in my legs, feet and shoulders which made the other pain I was feeling all the more sharp. So many automobiles-closed off metal boxes-hiding people from the joys of feet on the ground exploring and feeling.  It made more angry about our dependence on automobiles not because of the danger they presented to me, but because of what the drivers were missing out on by being trapped in a car so often.

Celebrate, rejoice!
Our feet get us anywhere
Why bother driving?
 

Physical pain is a pathway to the pain one feels inside. Physical pain brings clarity. And this internal pain that you feel makes its way to the surface. Many of us have set up our lives to avoid both of these pains, but pulling it to the surface can be pure motivation and energy for changing what we see is wrong in the world. It is power!  So I encourage you to explore this pain and use your human-power to change the world. And when it is exposed and you feel vulnerable, know that you are not alone.

Thanks to everyone, Dan Koeppel especially, who helped plan and organize the walk and to those who came out and walked part of it. We are changing this city one step at a time.

 The tech numbers for the nerds!

Mileage: 44.90
Time: 26:48:06
Ascent: 24,188 ft
Descent: 23,340 ft
Ave Pace, Day 1/2: 1.6/1.7 mph
 

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Filed under city, hike, political, road, travel

Transportation as training: riding from SLO to LA in one day

Just showing that it was cold enough to wear gloves!

Last Tuesday evening, as I sat in a coffee shop in San Luis Obispo (SLO) and wrote about my train ride and upcoming bike ride from SLO to LA, I could feel the sickness I had been fighting for days creeping up. I was in denial, but by the time I met up with Mike at the train station I knew it was upon me.  As mentioned, I ate vegan Thai and even though I brought him some, we were still hungry enough for post-dinner burritos. Carb loading? Not that it did any good because at 5am I awoke with a very unhappy stomach. Let’s just say there was no carb loading happening. Yeah. And my throat hurt! When the alarm went off at 6am I didn’t want to go anywhere! Lacy’s sister Taylor awesomely had let us crash on her couches and was up doing work while Mike and I hid under the covers talking about how cold it was out.

Back at my favorite coffee shop by 7am, we discussed Egypt and what to call the pumpkin chocolate chip baked good we were both eating (muffin? cupcake? does it matter?) while time passed.  How’s that saying go? A journey of a thousand miles begins with a questionable baked good and procrastination? Cool.

 

Mike 'Grip it and Rip it' Szerszunowicz stoked on dirt

 

We rolled out of SLO in sub-40 temps, under a clear sky. Mike’s longest ride to date was our 12-hour hangout fest, the OC 200k. He’s signed up for the Death Valley double century at the end of the month and thought a 210-mile ride would be good training. Outside of Oceano (aren’t we at war with them?) we were turned away from the normal route due to construction and instead of back-tracking (I hate back-tracking!!) we cut through a farm, pictured above. Fun.  The area is somewhat familiar to me because I rode SF-LA in Sept and also rode the Solvang double century out here six years ago (Matt Provost on fixed and naked mile!!).

 

Every town should have a mural of its place in the world. I wonder how many miss that the negative space is California!

 

We rolled into Guadalupe, a tiny little town that I love. I must really love it because I took 60% of my photos here and only one afterward. Ha. It’s at this point in the trip we are definitely having fun, but getting nervous about the time. See, we had hoped to leave at 7am. We left at 8am. I thought it would take about 14 hours and it took over 16. Three hours is a big deal because it’s the difference between home at 10pm and home at 1am. The latter ended up not being that bad.

 

Tortilla room in Guadalupe!

 

Most of the time we spent just chatting away about riding, life and some upcoming events we both have. We set tiny goals. A quick break in Lompoc at the Fresh and Easy (free coffee!) and then a meal in Santa Barbara.  In SB we swung by our friend Jim’s new shop, Cranky’s, which may be the first time I have seen FBM bikes next to Colnagos. Then we ate burritos. Then it got colder and we were getting a little worried. It was after 5pm and we were a hundred miles from home. My sickness wasn’t killing me, but it had me feeling colder than usual. Luckily Mike was on it! He took some big pulls and really kept us moving quickly.

 

I think this is the climb out of Lompoc.

 

The sun set and we rolled south. Ventura, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, familiar, but far-from-home places. I’ve ridden out here plenty, including the LA-SB-LA back-to-back ride I did a few summers ago. How does one ride all day? It’s not much different than existing. You are just on your bike and in someways it is comforting because with every passing minute you are closer to your goal. It’s more tangible than many goals in life! It’s not a secret that 9-5 work in an office is scary to me. When I’m asked, what do you think about on these long rides I respond with the same question about what people think about all week at work.

 

'Red? Where the fuck did you get that banana?' RIP, Mitch Hedberg. Chart from the store in Guadalupe.

 

There’s this part of the PCH in Ventura County where you are back on the coast after some inland riding. It’s so beautiful. By now it’s late at night and the pressure to get home has been replaced with a feeling of privilege to be out where we are.  The sky was full of stars, the waves were crashing against the beach and there wasn’t a car on the road to ruin it. Stoked.

The route down the PCH past Mulholland Drive, Leo Carillo, Decker Canyon and other familiar, often-ridden spots is usually accompanied by a southerly wind. Not this night. We had a slight headwind most of the time, but it wasn’t a killer. We just couldn’t stop too long because we’d get cold! Before too long we had turned inland and were on the 15-mile home stretch through urban Los Angeles.  Sasha had just gotten home from Pure Luck and made us burritos which were quickly devoured. I was too cold and tired to shower and fell asleep shivering. Apparently I was also too tired to realize that the window next to my bed was wide open.

I spent the next few days full-on sick, but am so glad this trip happened. I can’t recommend riding the California coast enough! Do it while you can. Before that California super storm comes and obliterates the whole state.

 

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Filed under public trans, road, tour, travel

Best of 2010: Party-Hustle-Pancakes-Zarathustra

I’m a little slow,  I admit it. While better bloggers were re-capping there ‘best of 2010′ I’m here doing it near mid-January. And, honestly, I hope to get them up before February! Such is life.  What I would like to re-cap here is how fantastically a few of us brought in Spring last year. It was a weekend that encompassed so many ideas and actions that are dear to me, that I look back and I cannot believe it all happened in a 24 hour period.  First I have to clarify that bicycling here in Los Angeles in amazing. I’m not just talking about the mountains and the beaches. While those are great, what makes bicycling here truly extraordinary is the potential of what can happen under the radar.  As cyclists in a car-oriented city we operate in the margins. And it’s great!

That weekend was the second annual Los Angeles Street Summit and I had been asked to be a part of it. I decided not to contribute directly, but how about the post-summit party? Most def. And we’ll call it the Party Summit!

What is a flier without an obscure reference? We poked fun at a certain LA DOT employee who used the term ‘infeasible’ to describe possible biking infrastructure on some LA roads in the LA Bike Plan.

 

We rented a space, organized food, set up Gold Sprints and started inviting folks. I’ve a foot in the advocacy world and also the social world here. I think they don’t know enough about each other, which is why we (the bike club Swarm!) organized the party. We also had already planned our bike race/stair-climb event (an AlleyCross CycloCat?), Thus Climbed Zarathustra (read about 2006 and 2008 races) for the following day. We knew it’d be a busy weekend.

 

 

But then a few weeks before these events our good friends from Wolf Pack Hustle told us about their insane idea for a bike race. So insane it was beautiful. See the Sunday after the summit was the LA Marathon. You know, where they close the roads so at 7am 25,000 runners can run through the streets (paying over $100 each!). They told us they were going to host an unofficial bike race on the course at 4am! No traffic. No lights. Unbelievable.

Our party ended about midnight. After cleaning the space we had only a few hours before the Wolf Pack Hustle race. Without anyone saying it, we knew our house would be a base. About a dozen of us rode from the party to our place thinking about how, in some ways, the night was just getting started. Some people slept a precious few hours. The rest of us ate tacos and drank coffee!

At about 4am we rolled the few miles to the start. The scene was unbelievable. The corner of Sunset Ave and Fountain Ave was filled with over 400 cyclists! Not just the corner, but the entire street. It was beautiful. Don from Wolf Pack Hustle had stayed at our house and was therefore late (hey, it’s how we roll!). We chat with people we know. Others had stayed up all night too. SO exciting. Kids are on carbon bikes with race kits and others  in cut-offs with no helmet on converted fixed gears.

 

I think this video really captures the race! And a few of us make appearances.

There’s no need to go into too many details of the race. I was in the front group with a few friends and about 12 other riders. We were the ones to alert the crews setting up that hundreds of cyclists would be descending on them. And to learn that not all the lights/roads were closed! It was fast. Really fast.  And SO fun.  The course was not easy to navigate and we ended up making some wrong turns and having to correct. We even opened a closed gate to get through the cemetery and stay on route. Near Santa Monica we caught a group that did not do this (I’m looking at you Mike Sz and Bryan Novelo!) and our pack doubled in size. It was foggy and cold as we neared the ocean.

How far to the finish? Which way do we turn? Working together was less readily happening as we approached the finish and everyone looked for an advantage. Metal hit metal and some folks went down hard at 25+ MPH (no one was hurt!). We were on edge.  At Ocean Ave the route was not marked and the way toward the finish was taped off. What to do?? A few went right through it, knocking down the traffic barriers and almost taking a few of us out. The group got split up and Jon the Roadie (a real Cat1 racer) easily won the sprint.

It almost seems silly that this was one of the best times I had in 2010.  But it had all the right factors: bikes, racing, diy, free, friends, illegal, fast, adventurous and close to home. What more could you ask for? It was an absolutely exhilarating time and whenever I hear anything about the LA Marathon I don’t think about the three times I’ve run it, but about this race.  We hung at the finish, with the strange sensation of dripping sweat in the cold fog, till all of our friends came in.  Everyone was so stoked. We re-grouped and started the ride back home before they did the awards.

By now the sun is coming up and the cops are enforcing the closed course, kicking us off whenever we try to utilize the empty roads. We were all smiling about our experiences and enjoying the early sun that warmed us and the quiet city. We got home and decided to make pancakes. I was the most awake and least cold so I took control of the stove while others huddled in blankets on the kitchen floor. I’d pass down each pancake as it came off the grill and some were topped with peanut butter while others may have been topped with leftover icing from the cupcakes the night before….

I slept a few hours before heading to the Silver Lake dog park for the high noon start of Thus Climbed Zarathustra. Steevo, who was visiting from PA and came to the party but not the Marathon Crash Race, headed over with us (he also wrote about the state of cycling and riding in the Santa Monica mountains while he was here). It was a small group, but a whopping 5 of us did all three races in 16 hours: Gold Sprints, Marathon Crash Race and Thus Climbed Zarathustra and were all given prizes.  I cannot say that I enjoyed racing to and carrying my bike up 10 stairways (many with over 100 steps!) as much as I would have on some actual sleep, but I still had fun. After the race we chilled in the park and decided that dinner at the all-vegan, all-you-can-eat Happy Family was in order.  The best ending to one of the best 24 hours periods of 2010!

Another video

http://vimeo.com/10343137

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Filed under bike, city, political, road

Mt. Laguna Bicycle Classic

In April I rode the Mt. Laguna Bicycle Classic in East SD County. Back in January I was part of the pre-ride so I was really looking forward to this! It just so happened that the Rosarita-Ensenada party ride was happening the same weekend and my good friend Matthew was heading down there from LA on his fancy Rivendell.
I had to work till 5pm and then I loaded up my two-shoulder messenger bag with my bivy sac, sleeping bag and pad and everything I’d need for the weekend. Made my way to coastal Orange County in time to watch the sun set and was near the SD border by 10pm.

The awesome bike path before the military base or freeway dilemma

Our Swarm! jerseys say ‘Can’t Stop Won’t Stop’ which I took straight from Hip Hop slang as applied to long-distance cycling. Matthew likes to say, ‘Can stop, will stop!’ when riding. I had hustled to do the first 77 miles miles in 5 hours, which is fun in my own way, but the next day we were leisurely. To say the least. I asked if we should stop and get some bars or bananas and he replied, ‘If we get hungry we’ll just find a taco truck.’ Awesome.

Done.

We chilled all through SD County, taking the beach options whenever possible. We arrived at a friend’s house in Ocean Beach, which is the exact stereotype of everything you think about Southern California- in the good way. We had been texting and when I asked about food he said, ‘There’s a liquor store near me that has great vegan food.’ Whaaaaa? Ends up Liticker’s Liquor has a full-on vegan menu with carne asada and seitan burritos. One of each, please.

We ate our tacos on his roof and watched the sun set. California, bro.

My friend Jeff had driven down after work and met up with us and after some dessert from the local co-op we set our alarm for 4am to head out to Pine Valley (Matthew and Craig were riding to the border a few hours later to meet the start of their ride). We had some disagreement over what time to leave. I wanted to sleep as late as possible and get there right as the last wave was ready to go, but Jeff, being older and wiser, suggested we not do that. Okay, okay.
Ends up I was right! We flew out there with no traffic and then sat in the car, in the dark, waiting for it to warm up. Went with the last wave…

 

Jeff killing it. Fourth fastest time of the day.

We rode in a good pack till the first climb picked up and then Jeff and some Cat-1 guy were off. I settled in with a triathlete who I spent most of the time trying to convince that iron-distance is the only way to go (you get your money’s worth!). Paced with a quiet guy from Arizona for awhile who really pushed me on the climbs. the course is three loops, all with the same aid station at the top of Mt Laguna and the same fast, awesome descent. Ran into a friend I had met at the AdventureCORPS Shasta cycling/yoga camp last summer. We rode together for awhile on the insanely steep last climb discussing art, girls, work and making it all fit. He said something that really stood out: ‘Work expands to fit the time allotted.’ That aids my procrastination tendency and I love it.

I pushed on the steep stuff just to keep the pedals turning and passed about a half dozen folks walking. It was that steep! Keep in mind I’m still near the front third…

Post-ride meal included Filipino food again and vegan pizza!


Results and photos are up and worth perusing. Please note the 11 and 13 year old girls that did the same ride. For real. I also met Errin Vasquez, who I had chatted with on the internet previously. Also awesome.

We drove back to Ocean Beach in time for another Organic Athlete vegan potluck and decided to spend the night so I could go to the co-op for the 100th time on this trip. Breakfast!

When I was searching for something funny to link from Rivendell, I searched ‘Cult Bikes’ and it ends up that Robbie Morales, an old BMX friend, has a new company with this name. Here’s a great sampler video!

(maybe I should end all posts with a BMX or Hip Hop video?)

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Filed under road, tour, travel, vegan

Stairways to Heaven race Screening


Say what you will about ‘fixed gear culture’ and its obsession with filming itself. I agree. I read Bike Snob NYC too! But the kids behind this film are rather earnest and their intentions are good. I’ve seen parts of it and it’s definitely better than similar ones.
My bias may be that I won. I didn’t get most of the prizes (different kids put it on then made the film) because afterward was our annual Thanksgiving vegan potluck, Circle of Dead Pilgrims and I missed the drunken fixed gear freestyle fest where they were given out. Our dinner was Italian-themed, so it was probably worth it. Anyway, check out the screening if this sort of event interests you.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=7858283&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=ffffff&fullscreen=1

Stairways to Heaven-Preview from The Bicinity on Vimeo.

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Filed under city, race, road