Sunday Jul 18, 2010

Team Salty Dawgs Did It!!!!!!

Wow! In one of the most amazing experiences of my life, I completed over 100 miles with my fabulous teammates in the American Lung Association's Breathe Easy Ride. I raised $4300 and the team raised $7656 (before any corporate matching) to help make lung disease walk the plank!

Since January, I had ridden over 1600 miles on my road bike, but still nothing could've prepared me for this. It was intense, exhilarating, heart breaking, exhausting, difficult and full of joy, laughter and unexpected camaraderie. My team was my pack. I could not have done it without their physical and emotional support, and the amazing support of all of you who donated to my ride and sent me inspiring letters.

A misfit team of current Oracle and former Sun employees, all with different abilities and skills, started leaving the parking lot at the Sonoma Mountain Village about 5:40AM on June 26th onto the foggy and desolate roads of Rhonert Park. I left first, as I am the slowest rider on the team, and found myself riding amazingly fast accompanied only by horses and cows, trying to get as many miles under my belt before my team caught up with me. The air was thick with fog and quite cool, and I quickly warmed up as I was maintaining speeds over 15 mph.

Mark, Richard & John caught up with me after nearly a half an hour, apparently wondering where I'd gotten off to as they were not expecting that sort of speed from me... and warned me not to spend all my energy too soon. :-) Mike & Bryn were the last group to leave the parking lot, and inadvertently followed some 66 mile riders and started off on the wrong path - bypassing the rest of the team completely...until later.

As per my plan, I spent only the minimal amount of time at the first two rest stops - just stuffing my face with potatoes (YUM! roasted with rosemary!) and fruit, reloading my Cytomax and topping up my water. At the third rest stop, we had a surprise: Mike! Poor Mike was getting over a bad cold and just couldn't keep Bryn's pace, but this was good for us as we now had 5 people in our pack!

The weather stayed on our side, remaining cool, foggy and overcast until about 10 AM when the Sun just started to peak through. The five of us maintained time trial positions (single file line, each rider right on the back wheel of the one in front), taking turns at the front. While I am used to drafting with one or two people, the formation with this group of 5 riders had us moving like the wind! At our 4th rest stop (55 miles in), we were still maintaining an average speed over 15mph, even with several moderate climbs past us. We were cool, fresh and all felt great!

Then came Coleman Road. As we started the climb, John & Mike got out ahead of us, missed a turn and went 5 miles out of the way before realizing their mistake. Richard, Mark and I slowly climbed up this steep and soul crushing road, when lo-and-behold, down came Bryn! Curious as to why he was going the wrong way, we stopped only to discover that when he finished his descent to the coast and reached HWY1, it was so impassible with fog, his only option was to turn around and climb back up Coleman Road.

Bryn regaled us with tales of rough road and cattle grates before continuing onto his own personal journey, but not even his warnings could prepare us for what lay ahead. I could've used my mountain bike, the roads were so rough and twisty (and why on earth were there so many cattle grates?!?! WHY!?!)... heck, I could've used a car. It was brutal, desolate, frightening and beautiful.

When we reached HWY1 about 70 miles in, it was foggy, but we had at least a quarter mile of visibility, so Mark, Richard and I persevered ahead - little did we know poor John was back on track and doing that terrible climb alone, even though he'd already done an extra 500 feet/10 miles on his detour. It was noon, and I foolishly thought that I could do 30 miles in just under 2 more hours....

The climb out of the coast and back to the valley was unbearable. My legs were tired. I was hungry & thirsty. Fortunately, Mark had been carrying around extra food & water all day - as there were more than 30 miles of intense climbing and scary descents between rest stops! Mark was happy to lose the extra weight, and Richard & I were happy to have food and water :-)

For those of you who are curious, we were following (in reverse) the Tour de California route - yes, serious climbs for professional riders. The pavement was graffiti'd with ALLEZ, ALLEZ, ALLEZ and various rider's names.

After finishing our descent into the valley, we found Mike, who had backtracked on the route in order to skip the Coleman climb (since he'd done that bonus 10 miles with John), yet still get 100 miles in.

When we arrived at the 5th rest stop at mile 82 a bedraggled mess, happily greeted by volunteers from the Salvation Army with warm roasted potatoes, nuts, and ice cold water. The sun was out by then and we were all getting tired. As the four of us pulled out of the rest stop, we spotted John pulling in. Knowing he'd catch up, we continued on. At this point, every little hill just killed me. I'd have to immediately drop into granny gear and just use every ounce of energy I had just to keep spinning my legs. My quadriceps were burning. My IT-bands were on fire. I could only think of all the support I had and I knew I had to finish. Mark, knowing how important this was to me, literally pushed me up the remaining hills, even though he was beyond exhausted himself.

Terrified of being removed by SAG for taking so long, as the ALA said would happen, I just kept spinning, making it to the 93 mile rest stop just as they were closing. They gave us some fig bars and cold water and we were on our way again - this time with John!

Somewhere on those last 10 miles, Mark, Richard and I got separated from the group when we had to wait an insanely long time to turn left at a T-intersection. As the three of us were on final approach, Richard ran over a small drill bit that managed to pierce the wheel and slide \*into\* the spoke. Mark & Richard weren't sure if they were going to get that drill bit out, so I pushed on ahead.... and missed a turn, getting lost with 103 miles completed.

In the end, I rode 105.5 miles, Average speed 13.2mph, 8 hours of riding, 10 hours total door-to-door, burned 4544 calories and climbed about 6500 feet.

The most difficult thing I've ever done. I'm still recovering. Thank you everyone! Thank you!

Tuesday Dec 15, 2009

Team Salty Dawgs Rides Again! Can you do it?

It may seem a bit early... but if you don't have plans for June 26, 2010, how about coming up to wine country with us and riding 30, 66, or 100 miles to raise money for the American Lung Association!? We'll make lung disease walk the plank! Argh, mateys! :)

Why am I bringing this up now? You can save $20 on the registration fee by registering before December 31, 2009. So, it's only $30 right now! The ride is wonderful and the support is great. Minimum fund raising is $150 - but you have more than 6 months to do it in, so it'll be easy!

This is my first year attempting 100 miles - I may end up only doing 66, but I'm going to train for the 100 and hopefully pull it off!  I'm a slow rider, though...but anyone that wants to join the team can know that you can ride faster with Mark :)

So, what do you say? Ready to ride?! Sign up on the team page!

Monday Sep 28, 2009

Lots of Fun East Bay Activities

While I'm normally a San Francisco Peninsula or South Bay kind of girl, I've spent the last two weekends in the East Bay.

Last weekend, we went with our friends visiting from Seattle to Niles to hop on the steam powered Niles Canyon Railway train!  What I loved about this train was that it made the \*exact\* noise that all trains make in cartoons... which, apparently, is unique to steam trains (and a sound guy was there recording it as it pulled into the station). And it had a great whistle, as well!  It didn't go very fast, but that was all the better to enjoy the beautiful rolling hills and other quaint scenery from the open top rail car.  The train took us to Sunol, where we had a picnic lunch in the park that is right across the street from the depot.

After lunch, we thought we'd get a cup of coffee in the Jazz Cafe. Unfortunately, a couple of lattes ended up being a complicated order. The barista had problems with the order... twice. The first time, she couldn't read her own hand writing, so we had to tell her the order again.  After about 30 minutes with no coffee, we checked again, and she'd forgotten to make them.  Fortunately for us, the train was running late so we had plenty of time to finish our coffees once we got them. The atmosphere was very cool, but not sure about the service.

We ran into some other women at the station that had such bad luck at the other restaurant in town that they'd missed their earlier return train. Apparently their waitress forgot that they ordered food, too. Strange little town, Sunol.  I think when we do this again, we'll start out in Sunol and take our chances in Niles for lunch and coffees, as their looked like there was a lot more options there.

The train ride itself was very cool and unforgettable - hard to believe it is totally staffed and run by volunteers! Many paid employees at other establishments could learn a thing or two about customer service from these friendly folks! I can't believe I've lived in this area for so many years and had never taken that train ride before!

This weekend, we ventured to the East Bay again with a different set of friends - this time for an even more rugged experience - camping! Okay, it's car camping, and we ate like kings, but still, we were roughing it!  We camped in Lake Chabot at a great campsite. The fire pit and picnic tables were well set up, bathrooms clean and well stocked and HOT showers!  The big pluses of this campground: close to the bay area so we only had a short drive, and mountain bike friendly!

I've had a cold, been traveling or just generally busy lately - that's kept me out of the saddle for more than a month!  This weekend, I thought what better way to get back into shape than doing a long mountain bike ride! The trails in this park were totally my style: wide, shaded, not very technical, lots of good climbs.  I could ride them for hours - in fact, we did: 5 hours of riding! \*whew\* and that's when the nice, clean, hot showers came in very handy!

Thursday Apr 02, 2009

Riding my bike again!

The weather has warmed, the time change has gone into effect, and it's really spring here in the SF Bay Area!  That means getting back on my bicycle!  I'm coming off of a nasty cold (seems like everyone has had it), so it feels good to be breathing in the fresh morning air. I managed to commute into Menlo Park twice this week - my hubby is well on his way of biking in every day for a month... What is really cool about this ride in is just being so close to nature as we ride along the bay shore, through Shoreline park and the Palo Alto wetlands.  This week, we were surrounded by butterflies who are apparently in the area as they migrate from Mexico to Washington. We spotted many egrets, nesting geese, and crows.  Last night while riding home, a large hawk was pacing us, riding the wind just feet from our heads (in fact, he nearly accidentally swooped right into Mark's head at one point!) It was very cool and definitely something we could not have experienced from the car.

Oh, yes, the cars... we're actually getting problems starting these cars, just due to lack of driving. I had heard that there are supposed to be car insurance discounts if you commute by bicycle, I'll have to look into that to see if I can somehow cover the extra tune-ups we'll need to do due to lack of use ;-)

Now a side note on blogging - I'm going to update my blog roll tonight, as I realize that I haven't been very good with updating it with the blogs that I actually read every day.  Some are quite funny and others very interesting.  Speaking of blogs that I read, I met a friend of mine in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago that I hadn't seen in months - and we realized that since we both follow each other's blogs, that we didn't have to update each other on the big things in life - just the details and things we never got around to blogging. Very cool, if only a tiny bit nerdy. :-)

Now I'm going to try to get up all the entries that have been running through my head all week....

Sunday Oct 12, 2008

Fall harvest

This has been my first year trying my hand at gardening, and I've learned quite a lot! First, dwarf basil is a pain to harvest - it takes forever to pull off enough leaves for pasta!  I also discovered that I love fresh tomatoes and green beans, and fresh herbs are delightful.  For my first year I planted Better Boy tomatoes, carrots, beats, okra, broccoli, grean beans, red and yellow bell peppers, Serrano  chilies, jalapeƱo chillies, Anaheim peppers, "spring" onions, sage, basil, cilantro, rosemary, and thyme. Oh, and mint, but that is growing itself from the neighbors yard. :-)  The beans did fantastically well on the side of the house, and the carrots and beets thrived in a semi-shaded corner of the back yard (I'm thinking about doing a second planting this fall).  The tomatoes did well in the back, as did the Serrano chillies, but the other chillies and peppers suffered a bit - for two reasons I think, not enough afternoon sun and I didn't realize that I was supposed to fertilize them until after they were in the ground a couple of months.  I have \*one\* okra pod. One. Too much shade and planted a bit too late, I suspect. I'll try that again next year up front.

The broccoli... dear broccoli. One of my favorite vegetables, alas I've been disappointed by my home grown. After combating  a pesky caterpillar/moth with organic pesticide, I finally have florets, but they are flimsy and not firm at all. And they don't taste like what I'm used to getting from the store. They took so long to grow, planted in May in a semi-shaded spot, it's really disappointing.  I got the seed packet for free as a give-a-way at a conference, though, so maybe next year I should do some actual research into what seeds I choose. I didn't realize last spring that there were actual websites with seed reviews on them, but of course, though, there is a website for everything now.

Next year the peppers and chillies will get a sunnier spot. The tomatoes will probably go in the same place, I seem to recall it's not good to plant other things where tomatoes were, except maybe beets. Perhaps that's where I'll do my winter planting of beets (well, after the tomatoes have stopped producing). It is very nice living in a relatively mild climate, though I am hoping we will get a lot more rain this year.

Additionally, I grew my marigolds from seed this year. They are like giant marigold bushes now, getting a bit rangy so I'm not sure how much longer they'll get to stay. Oh, yeah, grew poppies, too. Now I think we'll always have poppies, as they had self seeded before I pulled them up.

My "spring" onions are well on their way to becoming full onions, I think. I was not expecting them to do that well! The chives I planted at the same time never even sprouted, but I have spring onions coming out my ears! 

There is something very rewarding about eating our own vegetables, fresh picked/pulled moments before cooking. Now, have I saved any money with all these home grown things? Once I take into account water, fertilizer and time, certainly not. I'll do it again next year all the same. :-)

Monday Aug 18, 2008

And a hush fell over the crowd....

I experienced something new this weekend - I was in the Opal Ultra Lounge in the MontBleu in Lake Tahoe.  Every TV in the casino and club was tuned into the Olympics, which people had been idly watching while waiting for drinks to be made. Then the men's 400m medley relay came on.  Suddenly, the crowd quieted. Bartenders stopped making drinks. People stopped talking. Dancers stopped moving on the dance floor. We all just stopped and watched, many holding their breath while others softly chanted "U S A. U S A."  Everyone was totally riveted until the race completed, America taking another gold - Michael Phelps receiving his 8th.  It was surreal.

I'm not a huge sports fan, but I do love watching the Olympics. These sports are just not normally aired, and this is my first time watching them in HD - an awesome experience  (I do love my TiVo!).

Tuesday Jul 08, 2008

Fireworks spoiled by nincompoops

We had a pretty great Fourth of July BBQ with friends, when we decided to walk to a nearby park and enjoy the fireworks being put on at the Shoreline Amphitheater. We thought we'd save ourselves some effort and watch from a nearby park (Whisman Sport's Complex) instead of walking all the way to the park (which would be much too crowded for driving) ... well, there was a group of idiots that thought the professional display was not enough, and they were letting off fireworks about 20 feet from a large group of people. Several of their fireworks misfired and exploded on the ground. Children were screaming and crying... yet they did not relent. They continued to let them off right near the main entrance of the park.  Some of our group had to leave early due how scared they were being so close - out of a nearly hidden back exit.  As far as I know, you're not supposed to let off fireworks in a park like that.  Who knows - but next year, we'll do the full walk to Shoreline, which is nicely policed, and enjoy the professional show without fear of injury from the amateurs. [Note: according to the Mountain View Voice, all fireworks are illegal in Mountain View]

Friday May 23, 2008

Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!!!!

We did the American Lung Association's Breathe Easy Lung Ride in San Luis Obispo last weekend, and it was WONDERFUL! Even though it was a very hot weekend, most of the ride was along the coast - which was beautiful and cool.  I didn't really get hot til the last 10-15 miles, particularly when I ran out of water (my fault for not filling up at the last rest stop! I totally forgot!)  Mark stopped often so I could have some water from his camel back, but the sun and the heat did get to me - I got a pounding headache behind my eyes and dizzy.  Nothing an air conditioned lobby, lots of cold water & some food couldn't fix.  I did finish the ride, but after the dizzy spell I did get a SAG wagon back to my hotel (3 miles from the ride start).  All the same, thank you all for your very generous donations! Your gifts, plus the very generous matching gifts from the Sun Microsystems Foundation, helped me raise $6884.02! WOW!

Thank you so much - the generosity of all of you is so humbling to me. Thank you.

Wednesday May 14, 2008

Biking to work & biking to save lives

This is a big week for bicycling and me, with Bike to Work Day coming up tomorrow (May 15) and my 65 mile ride for the American Lung Association on Saturday (May 17). I'm excited about Bike to Work Day, as I think this will be the first time I can actually ride in. It's always funny - I ride in all the time, but something like a doctors appointment will come up and I'll miss this one day. Well, I already rescheduled my dentist appointment so I can make it this year!  I expect to see the trails pretty packed, even though my route doesn't take me along any of the "power stations", because tomorrow is also a Spare The Air Day and my last day to train for the ALA ride on Saturday.

Unfortunately, my show schedule and cold I got after we opened kept me from biking for essentially all of April - so, training didn't start until April 30.  I've done this ride a few years in a row, now, so I know I can do it - I just know that my lack of training will result in being VERY tired and sore, but I will do it.  I do this ride for my mother, a lung cancer survivor and asthma sufferer and for all of the family friends and family members we have lost to lung disease. If you can support me, I'd appreciate it. If not, please do something friendly for the environment on Saturday to help support clean air - like combine any trips by car, or see if you can walk or ride a bicycle to do your errands, or just make sure your car is passing its smog requirements.  There's a lot of us in the Bay Area - small things we do can add up.

Monday Mar 10, 2008

Bike accident

I was so sad today to read about the fatal bike accident that occurred on Steven's Creek Canyon yesterday morning. We do that ride all the time, only missing yesterday because we were skiing. I love riding that road because I find that the cyclists and motorists are generally very courteous, with the exception of occasional yahoos in sports cars.  It's a nice, quiet road with a good steady climb.  My heart goes out to the families of Matt Peterson and Kristy Gough, and I'm sending as many good thoughts as possible toward Christopher Knapp - I hope he is able to recover from his injuries.

Monday Jan 28, 2008

Northstar skiing!

Finally made it skiing this weekend, up to Northstar, and it was AMAZING! Okay, my legs were not in the best shape, but on Saturday the sun was shining, the lift lines were short to non-existent, and the snow was perfect!  Nice and soft. Northstar left some of their runs partially ungroomed, which was a lot of fun - I could ski in the deep, cut up snow for awhile, and as I got tired - bail out to the nice, even groomed bits.  We decided to drive straight home on Sunday, after getting a look at the wind & snow starting to fall - which seems like a good decision, since the resorts got between 18" and 36" yesterday! It would've been fun to ski in, but not for long, and the drive home would've been a nightmare. I just hope we get more good snow like this - both for the skiing and to help stave off the drought!

Wednesday Sep 05, 2007

The great outdoors!

Had a fantastic trip to Yosemite this weekend - staying in Camp Curry. What a fun place! It's still very rustic, yet it's walking distance to clean bathrooms with running water, showers, buffet, pizza shop & bar.  The bartender, Ken, was very friendly as he explained that their wine list was out of date and that they no longer carried Foppiano wines, and promised to pass on my disappointment to the management.  As I'm not a huge jug wine fan, we decided to have beers on tap.  Not bad for the wilderness.

Deer were all over the campsite, cautious of the people, but not at all spooked.  We didn't see any bears, though some of the other campers' snoring could've easily been mistaken for a bear growl ;-)

Hiked up to Nevada Falls - using the John Muir trail this time. After my last experience attempting to climb up Half Dome, I'll never go up the Mist trail again! My calves are aching horribly - guess I'm still not in climbing shape!

Tuesday Aug 28, 2007

Lunar eclipse

This was pretty cool - I read about on the Internet yesterday, and my husband and I set the alarm for 3:30AM this morning, threw on some sweats and went outside to just look at the red moon in the sky for about 10 minutes.  The view was fantastic - I can only imagine how neat it would've been if we had a telescope or binoculars, but even with the naked eye it was an awesome sight.

Lunar eclipses aren't rare - it's just rare to get such a good and unobstructed view of a full lunar eclipse.

Unfortunately, had a hard time falling back to sleep after that (the cat expecting her breakfast didn't help), but I think it was worth being a bit tired today. 

Wednesday Mar 21, 2007

Calling all potential captains!

The campaign for this year's Breathe Easy ride is ramping up, and I will not be able to captain Team Salty Dawgs this year, due to the timing of my impending nuptials.  I may still do the ride for fun, but won't have the time to organize a team or do fund raising.  I haven't had much luck recruiting a captain for this two time top fund raising team - so thought I'd try to find folks via this blog.  Anyone available to do a GREAT ride on June 30, 2007, willing to find some teammates and raise some funds for lung disease?  I'll take things over again next year, but need a little help this year.

Any takers?

Friday Jan 19, 2007

Close call!

Riding our bicycles in today, we were nearly involved in what could have been a very nasty accident!  Mark & I were waiting at the red light at Middlefield and Shoreline, in the bicycle lane on eastbound Middlefield.  We were chatting away, and missed when the light turned green.  That slight, and unusual, delay saved our lives.  The car sitting next to us, a small Toyota, started driving just after the light turned green, but just before us.  Mark & I casually entered the intersection when suddenly a blue van came RUSHING southbound on Shoreline - running a very red light at about 40 mph.  Because of our minor delay at leaving the intersection when the light turned green, the small Toyota was hit by the van instead of us.  Even then, I was suddenly faced with two cars coming towards us - out of control. I screamed and totally froze - crashing metal at those speeds that close is too much for my little helmet to protect against.  We were very lucky that the little Toyota wasn't a bit further in the intersection, or the severity of the impact would've certainly sent the crashing cars just that much closer to us and I wouldn't be able to write this now.

Please, please, please drivers - don't run red lights. Is it worth nearly killing two cyclists to get to work on time?

Shaken and fortunately not stirred.


Valerie's former weblog. The new one can be found at


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