Saturday, June 7, 2008

The first 20 Miles: 5000 feet elevation

It's fun to read the newspaper after your favorite sports team (let's say, the Los Angeles Lakers) has won a game, because it's human nature to want to reminisce accomplishments.

The impulse to replay the event is especially strong if the event were particularly difficult (like this Stage 2 of Tour de Francis 2008), and you actually rode on the course (as opposed to merely watching a Lakers game on TV).

So to all of you who were there, here's something to reminisce, the first 20 miles.

The first 20 miles is on Frazier Mountain Park Road (FMPR). By the time you reach Apache Saddle Station, the marker at Mile 20 (the first rest stop), you would have gained 5_000 feet of elevation.

No one needs to tell you now what tremendous energy you expended for that kind of effort. Your legs and lungs were telling you that. It's like TWICE climbing "GMR" (Glendora Mountain Road), one our "training hills". In round numbers it's a 10-mile climb with 2_500 feet of gained elevation at 5% grade. (To readers on the METRIC system, such as readers in the Philippines, it's 16 Kilometers long, 770 Meters gained elevation. I wonder how it compares to infamous climbs in the Philippines, like KENNON ROAD in Baguio, TAGAYTAY in Batangas, or BUGARIN in Antipolo.). The difference is that GMR has a constant 5% gradient, whereas FMPR has a mix of gentle slopes and steep slopes in the end. It starts with a gentle 3% slope, then increases to 7%, then in the final stretch it ratchets to 9% (with some sections at 14%). Aray.

At 6:30 AM riders and staffers started to get ready at the parking lot of the Best Rest Inn (Frazier Park, CA).

At 7:45 AM the riders (numbering about 50) gathered for a group photo.

They started rolling on Frazier Mountain Park Road (video here). Here they are at Mile 0. It's quite a beautiful sight to see a huge peloton still tightly packed, in colorful attire.

The first 12 miles consist of 3% to 5% gradient. The morning air was just crisp, clear. In other words, gorgeous.
Right away the peloton gets splintered. Here's a video at Mile 5 showing the breadth of the field, from last to first. About 2 - 3 miles of separation.

Mile 12 is an important marker, because the road splits into 2. Volunteers were set up there to steer cyclists the correct way (veer right, into Mil Potrero Hwy). If you go the wrong way (left to Mt Pinos Rd), it will be a miserable experience.
First to arrive (10:15AM) were the same familiar pair famous already to the TDF: Deo Asuncion (Adobo) and Raffy (MMCC). They did it in 2 hrs 30 mins. The last rider to arrive did so 55 minutes later.

The forest air was cool (65F), the trees were tall. The elevation at this location is over 6,000 feet. It was a great place to have the rest stop.

Volunteers and riders alike enjoyed the camaraderie and scenery. But the day is only beginning. There's 80 more miles to go. Over 3,500 feet of elevation still to conquer. The dreaded "heartbreak" is still to come.

But in the meantime, among the first-timers on this particular course, there's plenty of smiles and laughs to go around. They are still not sure of what's in store up ahead.

Now it was time to continue the course. Check back later.
Here they come, resuming the ride. 20 done (miles, that is). 80 to go.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Roster: TDF Stage 2 (5/31/08 Frazier Park)

Here's the Roster. There are some "blanks" because some of the riders did not get to sign the roster sheet at the start ( but they are in the photos. I see bib numbers that are not in the roster). I'm hoping I can complete the roster with the help of readers.

2 mistakes I hope to avoid next time: We lacked a sign-in sheet at the finish line (which would have been neat so we could get riders' times and finish order) because in the chaos I failed to hand off the sheets and clipboards to the lead SAG that went to the finish line. The other mistake was for the freshly-charged batteries on my 2 pocket cameras to RUN OUT OF STEAM on heartbreak hill. So I don't have everyone's photos on that signature hill. Sorry folks. The look on your faces would be priceless.

Many clubs were represented: MMCC, SFVBC, RiverVelo, Sta Clarita, SoCalBikeForums, and of course AdoboVelo. There were 53 riders and 18 volunteers. It takes a village to pull off this thing. Francis and volunteers donated 60 gallons of water (we purposely planned on one gallon per person, whether rider or staffer), 10 large bags of ice, 5 dozen sodas. Francis prepared 5 loaves worth of sandwiches, and lots of crackers, fig Newtons, etc. Rosalie lent her truck. Volunteers donated their time and gasoline (can you say $4.25, ouch). Egay and family drove in at 2:00PM to deliver the hot food for the finish line.

We missed the presence of some favorite riders: the comedians Dennis Evangelista, Jonas "Jojo Mayabang" & Abe "Kumander Agimat". Then of course our "role models " Mang El, Efren, Ramon, and Roy "Tisoy Viznok" Adeva. Don't forget the steady Kuya Abe. The reliable Albert and Dong. Climber Jesse A (and his wife Juliet who usually SAGs w/a videocam). And so on. We hope to see you next time. Hibernation is over. It's summer time.

One of our fave riders from another club, who gave us a thrilling show in December TDF, Keith Brodsky (SFVBC), wearing a red Barloworld kit this time, was seen pacing riders up heartbreak hill (he would pace a rider up, then go down and repeat with another rider). What a talented rider. (Mang El would be doing that too if he could come, but he was busy at work.)

Three riders did only part of the route. Cheers for their efforts: Jun Grape (the dad of "Pid" Grape) fell behind at the start, so Ricky convinced him to SAG the ride instead; He got in the truck at mile 12. Mike O'Connell had back problems and wisely took a lift at lunch. Lito (Mr Hibernation) Aralar, one of our strongest climbers, had been in hibernation for so long; He was very valiant on this ride: At mile 60, before the lunch stop, he wanted to ride the car; I said lunch is just around the corner, and just right then Rosalie's group rolled by, and Lito followed their wheel and did get to the lunch stop on his own. He took a ride at lunch. (Photo: Lito Aralar, head hanging, and on the verge of abandoning at Mile 60, instead decided to hang onto Louie Rivera's wheel in these rollers 4 miles before the lunch stop. Rosalie Kneebone was pacing in front.)

Tour de Francis Roster, May 31, 2008,
Frazier Park, California
100 miles, 8_500 feet of climbing
Organized by: Francis Marlon Ignacio (Tour Director) and AdoboVelo

# Last Name First Name Age Club Bib #
1 Nepumoceno Mike 43 MMCC 92
2 Guerrero Jerry 46 MMCC 99
3 Ignacio Reggie 47 MMCC 106
4 Daniel Al 37 MMCC 127
5 Tacloban "Agent Al" 46 MMCC 128
6 Soriano Raffy 36 MMCC 129
7 Phetsany Scott
8 De Leon Bong 47 River Velo 154
9 Robles Jose 45 River Velo 155
10 Brodsky Keith 44 SFVBC 15
11 Thomson Jim 51 SFVBC 31
12 Heinolz Steve 57 SFVBC 80
13 Stramat Cathy 56 SFVBC 89
14 Hallam John 54 SFVBC 90
15 Schuler Bill 60 SFVBC 102
16 Shprung Shai 41 SFVBC 103
18 O'Connel Mike 54 SoCal Bike Forum 133
19 Conrad John 38 SoCal Bike Forum 152
20 Rafferty M.E. 38 SoCal Bike Forum 153
21 Fusezi Edina 31 SoCal Bike Forum 151
22 Doplito Pete 41 SoCal Bike Forum 156
23 Shaker Andy 50
SoCal Bike Forum 125
24 x x
SoCal Bike Forum
25 x x
SoCal Bike Forum
26 x x
SoCal Bike Forum
27 Berdin Glen 38 Sta Clarita Velo 107
28 x Desi

29 Xavier Patrick 41
30 Barrera Thomas 46
31 Campued Victor 49
32 Baden Shawn 42
33 x x

34 Abad Rey 32 AdoboVelo 93
35 Aligue William 38
AdoboVelo 160
36 Amit Manny 49 AdoboVelo 149
37 Aragon Ben 39 AdoboVelo 124
38 Aralar Lito 45 AdoboVelo 131
39 Asuncion Deo 59 AdoboVelo 94
40 Claudio Tim 45 AdoboVelo 146
41 Dones Richard 34 AdoboVelo 148
42 Grape Jun 59 AdoboVelo 13
43 Grape Cupid 34 AdoboVelo 26
44 Ibasco Henry 40 AdoboVelo 159
45 Kneebone Rosalie 38 AdoboVelo 122
46 Morente Ed 44 AdoboVelo 105
47 Navalta Louie 53 AdoboVelo 123
48 Primavera Pete 47 AdoboVelo 126
49 Roldan Ryan 35 Adobovelo
50 Rivera Louie 55 AdoboVelo 100
51 Santamaria Jesse 48 AdoboVelo 147

53 Usi Jun 54 AdoboVelo 104
54 Santiago Manny
55 Messara Allan
AdoboVelo SAG
56 Genato Mandy
AdoboVelo SAG
57 Herrera Ricky
AdoboVelo SAG
58 Dakila Victor
AdoboVelo SAG
59 Rivera Mrs Louie
AdoboVelo SAG
60 Usi Mrs Jun
AdoboVelo SAG
61 Usi Daughter
AdoboVelo SAG
AdoboVelo SAG
63 Pacheco
AdoboVelo SAG
64 Udvarde Imre
AdoboVelo SAG
65 Uyan Egay
AdoboVelo SAG
66 Uyan

AdoboVelo SAG
67 Uyan

AdoboVelo SAG
68 Uyan

AdoboVelo SAG
69 Ignacio Daughter
AdoboVelo SAG
70 Ignacio MJ
AdoboVelo SAG
71 Ignacio Francis
AdoboVelo Tour DS

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Women of the Tour de Francis Stage 2 (May 2008)

Did we say this course was pretty, with great scenery?

Among the many reasons, is the presence of women cyclists.

(Above photo: OK, guilty, I shamelessly put this gratuitous and totally unnecessary photo. Credits:'s "Daily Distractions")

Road cycling seems to be a male-dominated activity. Having women on the course is a treat to the organizers and other riders.

(Photo: Regina and beau Gerald)

The boys like having them around, simple as that.

I don't know if you notice, but the boys get protective of the women cyclists. It's a primal instinct.

(Photo: Maria at Mile 20)

The TDF does not have the budget for "Porta-Potties" along the course.

Not having them is an inconvenience and disadvantage for the women (whether volunteers or riders). (The boys just do their business anytime anywhere.)

(Photo: That's me holding the door, and my breath, at the L.A. River Ride 2005)

But despite having to "rough it out", the women come to the TDF anyway. The boys are grateful.

Here are the WOMEN OF THE TDF. Six women. They all completed the entire course. Props to them.

Adobo's very own Rosalie (bib# 122) wearing the Hammer kit was all smiles from beginning to end. What else would you expect from this whirlpool of energy.

Cathy (bib # 89) wearing the knickers is not new to TDF. I think I remember her at the Big Bear and Castaic rides. She finished very strong, beating riders younger than her. Wow. She puts on the pressure.

Desi (bib # 108) wearing the MTB knickers and fanny pack is a dedicated mountain biker (and only an occasional roadie). She tagged along with coworker (and co-MTB'ers) Manny Amit and Shawn . We saw her in the last group going up at the last hill at mile # 85. She was spent, but never complained one bit. What a trooper.

Edina (bib # 151) wearing the seafoam green jersey is a student (not sure if college or masters), who was too busy with papers and exams to train properly for a hilly century. She seemed to have a lot on her mind. She did well on this ride anyway. Very admirable example for us all.

Maria (bib # 116) wearing the OC REBEL jersey (or mint green windbreaker) has the light physique of a roadie. She did quite well too.

Mary Elizabeth in the sky-blue Trek is a "frequent flier" on the TDF. She's done a few double-centuries. She'll cuss and rage at Francis's evil genius as she suffers up the hills, but it's all in jest. You can tell she enjoys these epic rides that challenge her limits. When she arrived at the finish all her biker friends from SoCalBikeForum and Adobo gave her a very warm reception at the parking lot. She has a lot of loyal friends in the cycling community. Way to go M.E. !
Mary Elizabeth (more popularly known as "M.E.")

Monday, June 2, 2008

Personal growth

We now have had several consistent TDF's. They have been "brutal". We did Castaic twice (Dec 2006 and Dec 2007), Balcom Cyn twice (Feb 2007 and Feb 2008), Big Bear in July 2007, and now Frazier Park in May 2008.

WHY DO WE DO THIS? It's a question my relatives and friends always ask. We all have our own personal reasons.

The beauty of the Tour de Francis is that it brings all levels of cyclists together in one epic ride. The Tour de Francis has a reputation of challenging (actually, "brutal" is a more apt description for us mere "weekend" athletes).

Nothing is more satisfying than a hard-fought "victory", whether it's (A) finishing among the front, or (B) being in the middle but besting someone else in a "mini-race", or (C) being in the back but besting your own personal record, or (D) the entire ride being on the brink of quitting, and simply just willing yourself to the finish line after utterly depleting your physical and mental reserves.

In that sentence we just described 4 kinds of accomplishments, 4 kinds of cyclists, all equally deserving of recognition.

There were riders way in the back who had big smiles, despite the suffering, because they knew the enormity of their accomplishment.

And in the middle, we witnessed riders in groups. Each group was its own mini-race. That was fun to watch too.

Then there were the top athletes. To make it simple, let's consider the 4 front runners we witnessed racing to the top of Heartbreak.

Deo and Raffy reached the top together, mano-a-mano.

Pete was next (1 min 10 sec gap).

Following him was Henry (45 secs, but my camera jammed, sorry Henry) and "Agent Al" 4 secs later (I think that's him. If I'm wrong someone will let me know), then Glen, Mike, Reggie.

Being a top athlete like those guys requires 2 things: "potential" and "training".

Potential is something you're born with, e.g., naturally high hemtocrit (red blood cell count), low resting heart rate, large lung capacity, etc. Training is your plain hard work. It is what separates you from another person with exactly the same natural potential; The one who trains more, wins. The one who trains less, does not reach full potential.

The photo below is the elite group on the way to heartbreak. Notice the "Orange Crush" (those MMCC jerseys, they always come out to play!). In this elite group were 4 MMCC (Raffy, Reggie, Al and Mike), 3 Adobo (Deo, Pete and Henry), and 1
Sta Clarita (Glen Berdin).

Here below, Pete was trying to put a time gap before reaching the hills. Deo and Raffy pulled him back. The rest in that lead pack were Henry, Al, Mike, and Glen.

Those riders who raced to to top of heartbreak were simply awe-inspiring to watch. They were born with "potential." But that's not enough. If you don't train, you don't achieve your destiny. These top athletes trained hard to acheive their full potential. We must give them props.

15 miles prior to hearbreak, at mile 54 (pistachhio store) the lead group took a break.

They's still laughing and joking. Not all of them joined the heartbreak breakaway.

For "edutainment" let's digress a little bit on the topic of hematocrit (red blood cell count). In case you were absent from biology class that day, Red blood cells carry oxygen. The more you got, the easier it is to deliver oxygen to your cells.
Reference range for hematocrit is 30 to 50, meaning, if you have 30 or lower, you are seriously anemic, and if you have 51 or more, you are automatically suspected of doping.

In truth, there are
people who naturally have 51 or higher hematocrit. My own brother Jordan has 51 hematocrit, smokes Marlboros. I train twice as much and don't smoke, and I'll still lose to him going up Glendora Mountain Road (10 miles, 5% avg gradient) because my hematocrit is a crummy 38, and my resting heart rate is too high at 80 BPM. That's really lousy "potential".

So you see, you need "potential". You also need training. Jan Ulrich (one of my fave cyclists even to this day) had greater potential than Lance (another fave). But when Jan was night-clubbing and getting fat in the winter, Lance was training in the Alps. The results speak for themselves.

If you don't have "potential", you can raise it artificially (illegally) by doping. As you all know, dopers can raise their hematocrit by either taking EPO (a wonder medicine for recovering cancer patients whose RBC is depleted from chemo), or taking blood transfusions.

Either way, if done improperly, it can result in your blood getting too THICK. Guess what happens when blood is too thick: It's harder to pass through the veins, so the heart has to pump extra harder. That's like your heart working as hard as if you were climbing GMR, while you are asleep. That can result in death while you're asleep.

Unsupervised dopers who overdose on EPO have to take HEPARIN ( a blood thinner) when they feel their blood getting too thick.

Anyway, back to the topic of the four kinds of cyclists at the TDF. So let's say you have only average potential (or crummy, like mine).

No problem.

We can still make it fun.
Whatever you are, whether it's top athlete, average, crummy, or barely making the cut-off time, you should carry on anyway. Train to reach your full potential, whatever that level is.

The TDF is there to TEST and CHALLENGE you. When the TDF is on the calendar, it makes you get up in the morning to train even in miserable weather. It makes you put in the miles.

It makes you pimp up your ride. It makes you come to the parking lot to join other cyclists for the camaraderie.

And in so doing, you achieve personal growth.

"The key to climbing a mountain, is to watch the pretty flowers along the way." Francis said that (in Tagalog) while we were climbing Angeles Crest Hwy in April. I wasn't sure what he was talking about. I didn't see any flowers. One of these days he will tell us what he means.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

When doing the TDF, best to say a prayer. Francis makes it tough (or should we say, tougher and tougher).

By now riders, organizers, and volunteers of the Tour de Francis (photos here & here) have gotten used to the idea of it being an epic event: a large cast of participants, covering lot of distance, over the entire day, and offering a full gamut of emotions, from joy to pain, from defeat to victory.

It will take a lot of story-telling to do it justice.

On the one hand, there are the awesome exploits of the natural (and trained) athletes who "ride in front". Below are Deo (Adobo) and Raffy (MMCC) climbing "heartbreak", putting in serious time gaps on the field.
That aerial shot is not from a chopper, but from the top of heartbreak, like where Vince is positioned in the photo below.

On the other end of the spectrum, there's the utter desperation of less-gifted riders who "hang way, way, in the back", but persevere for no other glory than to say "I finished the ride". Below is Desi arriving at Mile 20 over half an hour after the first rider. She's a mountain biker (and only occasional "roadie"). She finished the entire course, by the way.

Below, at Mile 50, are some of the front riders.

So here, I will tell their stories, little by little. But first, we should all agree it's a really very pretty route. For example, here at Mile 68 a clear and cool stream crosses the road.

Here's Mile 30, in the hills of Los Padres Nat'l Forest.

More to come