SV: Tri’s Successful First Season... in the Books

SV: Tri closed out its inaugural season this past weekend when we invaded the 2011 Marin County Triathlon, which is, yup, you guessed it, just a short hop from home base in Mill Valley. A total of 7 of us made the journey to San Rafael early Sunday morning for the Olympic distance race. We would leave the course behind carrying with us some pretty impressive results and satisfied that we could happily put the 2011 triathlon season behind us.

The day got off to an early start as we loaded into the van and departed from the shop in the dark. Not even the Starbucks in the parking lot was open yet. Justin was in desperate need of caffeine, but it would have to wait. How does he survive with a broken coffee machine?

But fear not, the old saying is indeed true and the early birds did get the worm. We found ourselves some of the first to arrive at the race venue at McNear’s Beach and were awarded with prime bike rack space in the transition area and time to hunt down some coffee and try to stay warm in the van.

After some heavy rain on Saturday and an iffy forecast for the weekend overall, much to our surprise, Sunday morning turned out to be sunny and clear, if not a touch on the chilly side. The thought of diving into the bay for a mile swim wasn’t terribly appetizing to any of us, but triathlon isn’t a sport for the faint of heart, and before we knew it the gun had gone off and we were off to the races in our various age group waves.

Cold water notwithstanding, the sun was shining and the temperature began to warm (ever so slightly) as we rode the prescribed 22 miles of the bike leg via three loops along San Pedro Ave. on the north side of China Camp State Park. Sure, it wasn’t exactly the sunny and warm California weather Hollywood always brags about and my East Coast friends think I live in every day, but it was far from cold.

But let’s be realistic, Fall is here, and adrenaline can do funny things. It wasn’t until I laced up my shoes and started the run leg that I noticed my feet were still numb from the swim. Oh well, something to take my mind off the pain in my legs, I guess. The 6 mile run does two loops along the water south of McNear’s beach, with some pretty incredible views of the east bay and SF in the distance. Hmm, now that I can feel my feet again, this would be an ideal time to drop that hammer I packed. If only I could remember where I put it…

When you travel in a pack like we at SV: Tri do, the laps in a course like this inadvertently provide an excellent opportunity for a little extra mid-race motivation. This would come in handy as the sight of that familiar SV: Tri kit on the backs of our friends out on the course kept us all honest, knowing a fellow competitor was just ahead of or behind us.

There’s nothing like a little friendly competition to keep you going when you’re deep into the run, your legs begin to feel a little wobbly and it’s time to dig for that last little bit of energy. It would prove well timed, as the run course cruelly ends with one last hill to climb back up and into the park. Oh, there’s that hammer, glad I didn’t leave it behind in the transition area. Might as well put it to good use here before we finish this thing…


We finished the day and managed some pretty outstanding results. Despite a few mechanicals on the bike, we had two first place age group finishers, two second place age group finishers, and a top ten overall finisher. Way to defend the home turf fellas!

Here are the results from our group and a few other PP & SV racers. Nice work everyone.



Age Group

Bryce Ritzel



Axel Redemann



Justin Curtis



David Lorsch



Karen Jeffrey



Peter Buck



Deanna Johnston




If you kept your eyes open this summer, you would have spotted SV: Tri at a number of local races. Whether it was Wildflower to start the season back in May, Vineman 70.3 in Sonoma, the SF Triathlon at Alcatraz, Silicon Valley International, Treasure Island or Marin County this weekend, I’m confident all of us all tried a new race or distance, got a little faster and, most importantly, had a blast along the way. Congratulations and thank you to all who participated and flew the red, white and black SV colors with us this season.

As we enter the offseason (let’s be honest, is there really an offseason here in California, where truly cold temperatures and snow are limited to stories from the mouths of those who call other, less desirable, places home), take some time to switch gears a little bit. But keep up the running, swimming and cycling and join us next year as we enter our sophomore season as a club and bring the competition (and Justin brings the party) to races near and far.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve already capitalized on my post-race high and signed up for two races next year. I know, I know, the 2011 season just ended, but really, shouldn’t you be asking is my 2012 race season shaping up??

Author: Bryce Ritzel

The Eastern Sierra Fall Adventure: Part 2 - The Queen Stage

When we last left our heroes, they were 15k of vert into a gravity slugfest.  Let's continue...

Day 3

This was to be the Queen Stage of the trip.  Horseshoe Meadows, Whitney Portal and Onion Valley.  3 of the toughest climbs in California.

We started in Lone Pine, which claims to be the movie capital of California.  Maybe they have not heard of Hollywood this far north.
We had this guy to guard the trailer.

Just looking at Horseshoe from a distance makes the quads tremble, and this is just the opening section.  The full climb is 6,234 vertical feet, tackled over 19 miles.  You can't get more vert in a single climb in California.

The stretches between the first switchbacks are 2 miles long.  It is like a classic alpine road blown up 10x by some insane surveyor.  That surveyor is pretty talented, though, because the grade through the main part of the climb is a very steady 7-8%.

Fortunately, we had a long, flat run in to the fun, and as usual, we enjoyed a social prelude to the real work of the day.

Brian had snuck up the road early, and Rann attacked before the first switchback.
I spent most of the climb by myself.  The Pain Cave is quite comfortable for long, lonely efforts, though, and the scenery was always interesting.
Amazing colors on the desert floor.
How did that tree get there?
We are not the only nutcases on the mountain.
Luke conquers the monster.
 As usual, it was a bit chilly up top.

A fast but bumpy trip down....
Mental note...cut it wide on the way down.
and then lunch.
Mike takes a nap.  Bill says, "Soft!"

We then tackled Whitney Portal, which, conveniently, is right next door to Horseshoe.  Whitney is a shorter climb at only 10 miles, but it starts with a 2 mile long section of double digit gradient that is tough on the mind and body.  And, it has bears.  So, no chatty intro to this beast.  It was On from the start.
At the bottom of Whitney Portal.
Gun Show!  Not very useful around here.

The views of the towering peaks as you snake between them are spectacular.

Scott attacked early, hoping the bears would take care of his pursuers.  I hung on to Brian's wheel for dear life.  I was careful to suffer silently, lest he realize I was there and accelerate.
Scott takes the Whitney Portal KOM.

Of course, with 20 meters to go, I sprinted by...what a prick.  But, Brian really deserved it for making me suffer for an hour without ever breathing hard himself.

10k of vert is just a snack for Bill.
The others arrived at varying intervals, but consistent states of distress.
Mike looks like he is doing his laundry.
Colin hits the top

Rann had melted his carbon wheel on the long descent off of Horseshoe, and had to switch to his backup wheels, which had flat racing gears on them.  Ask him how that worked out for him on Whitney Portal ;) .
Rann looks a bit spent.

Then of course, we had to bundle up for the ride down.
I think that is Bill under all that.

The ride down.......

We ended up too short on daylight to attempt Onion Valley, the toughest climb of them all according to the guidebook (though Colin and Scott think White Mountain is tougher, and I am going to agree so I can claim having done the toughest).  The full climb is 17 miles long and climbs over 5,000 feet.  I look forward to slaying that dragon on a future trip.  Here is an interesting report on doing the triple.

We had tacos at the sketchiest "restaurant" in Lone Pine.  A roach coach, set up in a dirt lot with a couple of picnic tables under a tarp.  It was delicious.

At least the wall furnishings were classy.

After we got back to Bishop, Ritchie whipped together another incredible dinner, and we celebrated his birthday (which he spent diligently attending to our needs--we're worth it).
No, we did not make the cake in the coffee maker.
Day 4

And how to finish off such a trip.  How about climbing the highest paved road in California?  Why not.  We rode out from Bishop to tackle Rock Creek.  This is technically accomplished via three separate climbs, separated by a few hundred meters of rest.  But, basically, you are climbing over 6,000 feet in a more or less steady go, finishing at 10,200 feet (a bit higher than White Mountain).

As usual, we rolled out as a group and enjoyed a chatty prelude to the day's dénouement.
Performance enhancing donut

As it was the last day, things were sure to get frisky.  Brian dropped a big Soy Hammer on the first climb with a subtle but devastating attack that put Scott and I on the back foot.  Since he nevers breathes hard, it is really hard to tell whether Brian is attacking, or just accidentally upped the power by 100 watts.  Maddening.

On the second climb, he did it again, only this time, Scott mysteriously disappeared.

Scott hit the top a few minutes later, claiming to have been delayed by helping to fix a flat.  Of course, his hands looked pretty clean, and we all know he was just resting up for the final climb--Scott is sneaky like that.

Brian, Scott and I headed up Rock Creek together after a snack stop.  We left Mike, Rann and Colin behind, dealing with mechanical (tire change) and biological (chamois creme application) issues.  Call it a feed zone attack.

We climbed together for a few miles, gently increasing the pace from dawdling to highly uncomfortable.
Yes, Scott, we know.
Scott considers the comforts of the broom wagon.

Bill had put in an even better feed zone attack to go up the road, and it took us a while to reel him in.

As we passed the halfway point, I put in an attack to win the sprint to the county line sign….yeah!  It does not matter that no one else saw the sign…they should pay more attention.  Upon reaching the sign, I saw that I had a decent gap, and thought, what the hell, I'll just keep going.  A few minutes of intense suffering later, I was disappointed to find Scott back on my wheel. 

Near the top, right as we got into the snow, we passed Pie in the Sky, our post climb refueling stop.  I was more focused on Scott's rear wheel than pumpkin versus banana creme.

Scott attacked on a steep section and gapped me a bit as we came into the snow.  I saw a piece of wood a few hundred meters ahead that looked like it marked the end of the road.  Big Ring time.  Out of the saddle and I closed most of the gap before realizing that the piece of wood was just the railing of a bridge, and not the finish line.  And that was the end of my challenge.  With over 30,000 feet in the legs, I had no matches left, and the Dancing Hippo had to settle for 2nd place.
Brian at the top

A cold but quick run down to Pie in the Sky for some deliciousness.  I had a hot chocolate, more to warm my fingers than to drink.

Rann, Mike and I played tag on the way down. 

Phew!  Over 30,000 feet of climbing in the books (well, on the Internet).  Spirits were still high but legs were toast.  We headed off to "Hot Creek" for a soak.  When we got there, the signs were slightly discouraging.

And, nature's hot tub resembled a chemical dip.
The creek was closed for swimming, so we bundled back into the van and headed back to the Lee Vining Mobil for dinner.
typical gas station menu

The ride home was subdued, with tired bodies but satiated minds.  We rode well.  We ate well.  We had fun.  The riding was basically outstanding.  Great terrain and great company.

For me, the magic of the trip that was everyone was able to challenge themselves, without having to push harder than they felt comfortable with.  Ritchie was always nearby to offer up food--sorry, "nutritionals"-- or give exhausted legs a break.  No judgment was passed, except for the occasional jealous thought that sipping beers in the van might have been the better option to get to the top.

The experience of the climbs is seared into my memory.  One week later, my legs certainly still remember.  These are climbs that are at a scale (actually bigger) with the cathedrals of cycling--the Tourmalet, La Madeleine, Galibier, Alpe d'Huez.  It gives new context on the difficulties of a grand tour.

While the legs certainly benefited from all the climbing, the real strength gained is mental.  There are not any harder climbs to be faced.  When you hit the bottom of Bofax, you know that it is but a mere mortal in the Pantheon of climbs.  Of course, don't get too excited, because Ritchie is not going to come rescue you if you blow halfway up Bofax.

There were so many great moments and great vistas.  Below are links to all of the photos, in case you care.  It was hard to select just a few to represent the trip.  And, as usual, the Strava files to prove it all happened.

More Saturday (mostly duplicates but too lazy to edit)
Even More Saturday (Scott's camera)
More Sunday (Scott's camera)
More Monday (Scott's camera)

Studio Velo's Eastern Sierra Adventure: 'An Orgy of Vert Lust'

I finally got the hall pass from my family to go on a cycling trip--the 4 day Sierras trip put on by Studio Velo.  It is based out of Bishop, and tackles the brutal climbs of the Eastern Sierras, which are some of the most fearsome on the planet.

This trip is basically an orgy of vert lust.  On the menu are 4 of the 5 hardest climbs in California, and a couple more in the top 10 just for good measure.  And yet, you don't have to be a mountain goat to enjoy the riding.  The trip is fully SAGed, meaning Chef Ritchie and the van are always nearby to provide food, water, or a lift to the top.

The scenery in the Owens Valley is desolate and spectacular.  This is the (very) high desert, and this trip we had the added attraction of snow at the higher elevations from a recent storm.

I am a good climber for a big guy.  Of course, a hippo is a fabulous dancer for a large water dwelling mammal, but they don't tend to do well on Dancing With The Stars.  There are limitations.  Tackling HC climbs every day of the trip is a good way to find them.

Day 1
Dawn in Fairfield

We left Mill Valley at 6am to drive to Bishop.  We stopped for lunch at the Mobil in Lee Vining, which happens to feature an outstanding restaurant.  By 330pm we were settled into our rooms in Bishop and ready to tackle the weekend's appetizer--the climb up to South Lake.

The first day is a chance to warm up the legs and see who the players are.  Our group had a range of abilities but consistent enthusiasm.  Based on the climb to South Lake, I was going to be in trouble, as there was some aggressive climbing going on.

This was our introduction to big gradients--both altitude and temperature.  Just getting from the valley floor to the base of the mountains proper is always a long climb in and of itself in the Owens Valley.  Once you get to the mountain, the real fun begins.  We climbed steadily for more than 4,000 feet before it started to get really cold and a bit dark.  I then realized why Bill and Chas, the cagey  veterans, were hauling packs up this climb.

They had lots of warm clothing and lights.  I turned around when I started to lose feeling my fingers--never a good sign when you are climbing.  I had a vest and arm warmers, but those were woefully inadequate for the descent, and I was very cold for the first 10 minutes.  Of course, descending at 40+ mph, you get back down to the warm zone pretty quickly, but I still did not regain full feeling in my fingers until after my shower.

The light was amazing on the way down, and there were quite a few photographers out to capture it.  They must have heard the Studio Velo boys were in town.

The view from the hotel on the first night.

We had dinner at a local restaurant, but not before Uncle Colin regaled us with stories from the back of the peloton (aw...snap!).

Bill seemed keenly interested.

Day 2

Yesterday's teaser left a bit of a mark on my legs.  Today we rolled out from Bishop to the South, to take on White Mountain and Death Valley Road.  White Mountain is a beast.  It climbs 6,204 feet over 20 miles.
Some hot chick must have just rolled by.

I started slowly, riding with Scott, chasing down the rabbits who had zoomed away with enthusiasm at the start of the climb.  By an hour into the climb, the order of the day had been established.  Myself, Scott, and trip revelation Brian--a quiet vegan who never seems to be working hard, but goes uphill like greased tofu.

After another hour, Scott attacked.  I hung on for a while before deciding that day 2 was not the time to go deep into the pain cave.  We climbed up into the snow at over 10,000 feet, to finish after 2:30 of climbing.  Ouch.
Okay, which one is the dancing hippo?

The metrics from Training Peaks and Strava fail to capture how tough it was.   Climbing a 9% pitch from 9,000 feet to 10,000 feet is not the same as doing it at sea level.
Bill and Chas stick it to the less mature members of the riding party.

We dropped back down to around 8,000 feet for lunch.

Almost everyone made it up the climb.  Luke was having some altitude sickness,  and had thrown up several times on the climb.  He gets the "Boot and Rally" award for continuing on almost until the lunch stop.

Not a bad view.
The descent was the fastest of the trip, with steep grades and mostly smooth roads.  50mph+ was the order of the day.  Of course, I forgot to put on the GoPro.
Why yes, I did descend like an out of control truck.

Death Valley Road was a mere digestif after White Mountain, climbing 4,000 feet in 14 miles.  It was an amazingly steady climb.  Almost always 6% for the first half, and steadily 7% for the second half.

We ran across this little fellow about halfway up.  Not sure if Stan's would seal a real snakebite, we moved on.
We are 10k of vert into the day at this point, and Bill is still going strong.  Yes, folks, 62 years old and he will rip your legs off.  Bill is happiest when pointed upwards.

We got back down right as the light was getting awesome again, so I had to take a glamour pic.  The bikes hanging on the front cost more than the van.

When we got back, Ritchie whipped up a feast out of the pathetic hotel kitchen.  As far as I know, the only thing even approaching a cooking appliance was the coffee maker.

Dinner was a time to share the adventures of the day, and to try to convince others that you could have gone faster, but you were just being social.

to be continued......

Home-made Waffles - Belgium Style

Today we were graced by a dozen sweet cross bikes from Ridley Bicycles. On the morning agenda was a cross ride on Mt. Tam & demo event day back at Studio Velo, and, most importantly, a nice post-ride meal prepared by our very own Chef Ritchie. The meal of the day was obvious : Belgium Waffles -- Brussels style (not Liege the other famed style of Belgian waffles).  

Josh killing the waffles

For any new, traditional dish, our chef does his research.  When we first asked Ritchie to prepare Belgian waffles, his first question: Which kind?  Belgian of course, it's a We are Belgium event.  But, as you pointed out, there are many types of Belgium waffles, the two most common being from  Brussels and Liege.  

Unlike our typical experience with oversized, pre-made Waffles found at fairs & farmers markets, a true Belgium waffle is thin, light, and yeasty (in a good way). Crispy on the outside, but hot and moist on the inside --- thanks to the excessive use of butter-- these road-side 'pastries' were seriously delicious and the perfect post-ride meal.

Evidence of a real cross ride

While there was not much mud to be found on the arid trails of Mt. Tam, Hobbs of course found some nice, mucky mud on our return via the 'passage du gois' -- our hidden (and many times under water) bike path through Tennessee Valley. The day's ride was shorter than usual, but after about 90 minutes of riding, we had a chance to try some dismounts and remounts.  Some of us, and I wont' name names, had a lengthy dismount on the way down Corte Madera Ridge.  

Studio Velo World Championships


One hopes Bill Keller doesn't bring his amazing fitness to this year's World Championships on Sunday. Above BK rockets ups to South Lake last weekend in the Eastern Sierras. Go Bill! 

Here is the point system for Sunday's Ride & the general rules & guidelines:

This is our annual, unofficial unsanctioned race (or ride).  The goal is to form key allies out on the ride to ensure the strong boys are at a disadvantage.  The unofficial favorites, TJ and CH, and a few others, can't attack or "drill" it until after Whites Hill. For any ride favorite, Whites Hill is neutral. After the top of Whites Hill, it's game on. We encourage all other riders to get some early points by attacking on Whites.  The total number of points gained over the course of the ride wins. 

Regroup Points:

-Easy Roll out to Whites Hill

-Re group at Point Reyes Bakery

-Re group at top of BoFax & neutral on Sisters

Route & Points:

Golf Course Hill (San Geronimo) 

1st = 3 points

2nd = 2 points

3rd = 1 point

Nicasio Valley School Sprint

1st = 3 points

2nd = 2 points

3rd = 1 point

    Bonus Points

    4th = 1 point

    5th = 1 point

Point Reyes Stop Sign Hill Sprint

1st = 3 points

2nd = 2 points

3rd = 1 point

Dog Town Sprint

1st = 3 points

2nd = 2 points

3rd = 1 point

BoFax Climb

1st = 3 points

2nd = 2 points

3rd = 1 point

    Bonus Points

    4th = 1 point

    5th = 1 point

7 Sisters Climb = Neutral (RockSpring Gate Sprint Points)

    Bonus Points

    4th = 1 point

    5th = 1 point