This section of my website used to be dedicated to triathlon training, personal race results and certification reviews, like Turbo Kick. I am expanding it to include more generic health & fitness topics. Also, I talk a lot about "D" -- he's my husband (Dave Liu)!

Saturday, May 22, 2004

iCare Classic 2004


My overall impression is that the iCare Classic is spectacular. This was my second metric century and I highly recommend it, especially for newer riders who are thinking about doing a metric. The path is not as well marked as say, Cinderella, and there isn't always somebody just ahead to follow so you should know how to read map directions and cycle with a buddy. The second part of the ride is much harder than the first due to tornado-like headwind and a short but steep climb. What makes this a great event is that it's a friendly route without much traffic, the SAG support is excellent, the schwag is cool and the food, especially the post-ride lunch, is delicious! I will definitely am considering do it again next year.

In case you're wondering about the change of heart, I received an email from fellow Velo Girl Colleen who lives in the area and cycles all of those roads. She "... never, ever, ever ride[s] North in the afternoon!" She says it's best to use the bike trail that goes from Morgan Hill to San Jose because it has more shelter than Santa Theresa Blvd. Also, she suggests doing the Tierra Bella metric century in April. "It's put on by the ACTC group who all live in the area and understand the winds. You get that headwind as a screaming tailwind the last 30 miles!"


I seem to be deathly ill for all paid organized rides I've signed up for. This time, it was the iCare Classic, which fellow Velo Girl Angie recommended because she said the hill profile was similar to Cinderella. I was really gung ho about iCare, and even talked famed hybrid rider Ema into doing it with me. Unfortunately, I developed a sore throat the week of the ride, which culminated into laryngitis by the day of the ride. I felt like crap, and debated skipping it altogether, but decided to at least try because D (hubby) was riding with me. Since I had a late start to the day, I called Ema to go on ahead without me in case I ended up turning back partway. With 90% of my voice gone, I felt rather silly whispering hoarsely at her through my cell phone. I also felt mucho guilty about bailing, but fortunately, she had company from Stephanie.

En route to the starting location, D & I stopped at Longs to buy some lozenges. I was so happy that they open bright and early at 7AM on Saturdays because the only ones I could find at home had expired in 2001. I bought two packs of 25 and stuck them in the back of my jersey so I could pop them in my mouth to keep my throat moist.


We initially had trouble finding the entrance to Santa Teresa High School. The directions on the website said it's on Snell, but it's actually on Santa Teresa Blvd. The car park was relatively full, but there weren't the hundreds of cyclists milling around that I had expected. I did notice three pink helium balloons tied to a chair -- probably the ones Ema said she'd bring so we could all find each other easily!

There were bagels, bananas and coffee provided at registration. We headed out after picking up our numbers and maps. Those of you who ride in San Francisco will appreciate what a luxury it is to have any sort of bike lane on the road. For the initial part of the ride, not only was there a bike lane, but TWO marked bike lanes side by side. And these were not skinny little things, but wide, sweeping bike lanes, each wide enough even for a humvee-bike.

We had a little trouble with the directions at the start. It looked like you were supposed to go along Santa Teresa for 0.1 miles before turning left on Tilton. After cycling for what seemed like much farther than 0.1 miles, there was no Tilton in sight, so we stopped to check our map. That's when we saw some cyclists whizzing by with iCare numbers on their backs. We decided to follow them since they seemed to know where they were going.

Since I'm not the most consistent cyclist (my bad, gotta work on that), every time I ride, I start out at what must be 8 miles an hour (I'm guessing, still have to buy a computer) and it takes me a few miles to convince myself that I'm not going to fall and speed it up. The riding conditions were perfect: plenty of light but a little overcast, so nice and cool. I had finally bought some cycling shades with the switchable lens, so I swapped my dark ones out for the yellow tinted ones. I finally realized why people buy this type of eyewear! My visibility was excellent.

I heard this "ruh ruh ruh" sound that seemed to be coming from D's bike. He said it was his chain rubbing against the derailleur. It was pretty annoying and persisted for the rest of the ride. It's been a while since he's ridden his bike. Yes, he did this ride on his MOUNTAIN BIKE with slicks. He considered purchasing a cheap road bike but the owner of bike store where I purchased my wheels was really rude and arrogant to him and pissed him off to no end.

We continued along Santa Teresa, and before long, the stop signs/lights became fewer and further between, and the road turned into Hale (no indication of that on the map). We were on Hale for a long time and I had a hunch we had traveled for at least 11 miles. Just as I was convinced that we were lost, and would have to make up our own route, we saw a sign for the first iCare rest stop. Ta da!

Burnett School Rest Stop

The rest stop was packed with cookies and I munched on a yummy chocolate chip one. I also had half a banana and a cup of Glaceau Vitamin Water: Energy. Y'know, the brightly colored vitamin drinks that you see at Sports Basement. After taking a quick breather, we continued on our way.

At this point, we figured out how to read the map, which was a very good thing because you don't always see another cyclist ahead of you to follow, and I was worried about missing the road markings. The scenery was great, and there were hardly any cars.

[Morbid alert] As we cycled along, I noticed a massive, dead animal in the bike lane. On approach, I noticed that it was a recently killed raccoon. It wasn't crushed, so I assumed it was probably hit while crossing the road and got thrown to the side. There was quite a bit of road kill on this ride: different types of animals in various states of decay. The reason why I point this out is because I assume road kill = speeding cars so you should probably raise your alert levels when you see this. As I type this, D says I'm probably correct about the speeding thing because "Animals don't commit suicide".

I think of San Jose as being an industrial park, especially the heart of Silicon Valley where there are lots of office buildings. Imagine my surprise when I saw open land with trees and grass, and gigantic, gorgeous luxury homes. Granted, we were past Morgan Hill at this point, and en route to Gilroy, but I never thought of San Jose as being suburban.

D has a very steady wheel. I cycled behind him and got pretty darn close. This was one of the MANY things I learned to do at the Girls Got Skills clinic (I promise I will eventually write about that at some point). However, if you intend to draft, you must pay attention and avoid some of the things I did incorrectly. My mistakes nearly caused a nasty crash which we narrowly avoided.

Mushroom Farm Rest Stop

Here's the story: I was cycling behind D and he turned his head to say something. I couldn't hear him and shouted, "What?" and cycled up on his left to hear better [Mistake #1]. As he repeated himself, I realized he was saying "Rest stop on the left" because a rest stop was coming up. The sign was on the opposite side of the road and I didn't see it because I was focusing too much on looking at D as opposed to scanning beyond him on both sides [Mistake #2]. So I'm coming up on his left as he's turning left so I nearly cycle into him but I can't stop because my hands are on the tops and not the hoods [Mistake #3]. Very lucky for me, D saw me in time and swerved so I could continue going straight. There was also an oncoming vehicle involved so I couldn't turn left - I was just going to plough into D. Fortunately we both survived unscathed.

So that's my Mushroom Farm rest stop scary story. After that, D insisted on riding behind me.

Day Road/Santa Teresa Blvd Rest Stop

The next rest stop was really close, about 7 miles away. It was located at Day Road/Santa Teresa Blvd. We were very puzzled at the proximity because the following rest stop was 18 miles away. As we were wondering why the rest stops weren't more easily spaced, we realized that this was a common rest stop to the 50-mile ride and the century as well.

We chatted with some of the other cyclists at the rest stop as I munched on delicious cranberry nut mix. Some lady was asking me about my tires and I had to look at my bike to tell her they were made by Bontrager. Then her male riding buddy started telling her about how most/all Treks now have Bontrager tires. I know nothing about wheels, but it sounded like mine were pretty good. Cool. They also told us that we were 2/3 done with the metric century. That didn't sound right because the map said we had 2/3 TO GO. Unfortunately, we were right on that one. Just before they sped off, the guy said, "Time to face the wind". What wind?

The other interesting cyclist we saw at the rest stop was an older woman on a road bike who arrived after us. I swear she was at least 65 years old. D thinks she was over seventy. The only way you could tell was her face and grey hair. The rest of her looked about 20 since she was in remarkable shape. I had a feeling that she'd pass us further up.

We briefly considered taking the short cut detour for the 50-mile route because my throat was bothering me from shouting directions (stlil working on my hand signaling). Moreover, D was having issues with his Male Specific Body Parts, which from now on will be referred to as MSBP. We decided to suck it up and continue with the metric century by following the other cyclists north up Santa Teresa.

It took less than a minute for us to realize what that other cyclist was saying about facing the wind. There was headwind like you would not believe. I thought Canada Road headwind was bad before I did Cinderella. And then I thought Cinderella headwind was bad until I encountered these gale force conditions. It was so annoying because I had trouble keeping up a decent cadence even in my front middle ring. It was like being in a dream - the ones where you're trying to run as fast as you can, but you're not going anywhere. I expected the trees on the side of the street to be rocking back and forth madly, but only the bottom branches were swaying ever so slightly.

Around Edmondson, I heard D ask, "How much further?" I knew something was really wrong because he never asks questions like this. Ever. Apparently his MSBP were numb and he couldn't feel anything. I didn't know what that meant exactly but I knew it wasn't good, so we sat on a rock on the side of the road. As we rested, who came floating by but the gray-hair lady from the previous rest stop. She made it look effortless. It was awesome and inspiring.

A SAG truck came by and stopped to ask if we were okay. We said we were fine, and the guy said, "OK just looking for work. It's fine if we don't find any!" We laughed. It was really comforting to know that help was readily available in case we needed it.

Sycamore - Steep Hill!

After we got back on the road I braced myself for Sycamore. According to the directions, Sycamore is a "steep climb - relatively short". Steep? How steep? Relative to what? It was steep alright. Much steeper than Canada, which is the hardest thing I've done to date, i.e., I was woefully unprepared for this. I shifted into my lowest gear in no time. I don't yet have the balance to stand while cycling *grumble* so I had to sit and grind it out.

Sycamore winds upwards. I desperately hoped each corner I turned would signal the last part of the hill, but there always seemed to be a little bit more to go. Then I started noticing motivational phrases sprayed onto the road like "Sit and spin". I was sitting but definitely not spinning even though I was turning my little legs as fast as I could. The next phrase was "Keep it up! Almost there!" It was really nice to see those encouraging messages. The next one was my favorite, "Who's your daddy?!" It was a haul but I refused to give up. What kept me going was fear. I was afraid that if I stopped cycling, I would topple over. Worse still, it was highly unlikely that I could get back up on my bike on that gradient so I had no choice but to tough it out.

Finally, the last message came, "Up and over". That could only mean one thing: descents! The descents were steep (to me) but they were pretty short and there was great visibility with regards to what was up ahead, i.e., no blind turns. After the initial descent, there was a wee bit of a climb, followed by another descent, etc. It was a great opportunity to practice moving back and forth between the hood and the drops.

Lauren & D iCare Classic 5/22/04The last stretch before the next rest stop was 8 miles along Uvas. We passed a reservoir and a lovely Mediterranean home on top of a hill. I thought it was a museum of some sort until D asked, "Hey - want to buy Uvas Estates?" I thought he was joking but there really was a sign at the bottom of the hill "For Sale - Uvas Estates". It was also around here that we saw the event photographer: PhotoCrazy.

About 7 miles into Uvas, I heard D ask another "Are we there yet?" type of question so we stopped again on the side of the road. The numbness in his MSBP had graduated into constant pain. Holy crap. He never has problems when he goes mountain biking, and I think it's because he shifts a lot more in his saddle and also switches between sitting and standing a lot. Any tips would be much appreciated.

Another SAG truck checked on us while we rested. Some cyclists also asked how we were doing as they went by. What friendly people. I took the opportunity to take off my jacket and show off my new Velo Girls sleeveless jersey. Before long, we were off again and I started to get cold. I think my next investment will be armwarmers. Most stores only carry "S" as their smallest size, but since they are unisex, I'm worried that they'll be too big and slide down my arms. I just found some XS ones at Team Estrogen that I hope will fit.

Oak Glen Road Rest Stop

We arrived at the next rest stop in no time where I hastily put on my jacket again. It was quite a classy stop where they played music and provided camping chairs for weary cyclists. I overheard some people say that this event had the highest number of cyclists they've ever had: over 500 across all routes. As a comparison, I think there were ~2,300 for Cinderella. Like all the other rest stops, the volunteers here were very friendly and upbeat. They promised us that there was only one more teeny more uphill part and the rest was downhill.

They lied. There were more rollers. A lady who passed me jokingly complained, "Where did this hill come from?" and we both laughed. D & I made one last interim stop at Almaden. Not one, but two SAG trucks stopped to see if we needed any assistance. We were both highly impressed and thankful for the support provided on this ride.


My back was sore, there was a distinct possibility that D would never father children and his derailleur was driving him insane. Both of us were really quiet but we somehow got through the last 7 miles to arrive at the high school again. YAY!

We checked in and received a bag of great schwag: a water bottle, a lovely badge and a high quality event T-shirt. They served a delicious hot lunch of barbecue chicken, mouth-watering corn, juicy fruit and filling beans. It was heaven.

My complaints and whining aside, this was a great ride and I will definitely do it again next year... possibly even the century! Both D & I learned a lot on this ride. I am happy to report that he has fully recovered. I asked him whether he'll do another one with me, and he says that he first has to overhaul his bike (at least fix his derailleur) and figure out his saddle situation.

Hope to see you on the road soon!

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