Posted by: Sue D. Gelber | April 25, 2011

Biking Camp Continued: “Who is Dave Noda and Why Do I Have to do What He Says?”

After a fitful night’s sleep, I woke on Day 3 of biking camp ready for redemption. The schedule for the day called for a century ride, which is bike lingo for a 100-mile ride. I was only slightly fatigued from the massive climb the day before and looked forward to the challenge, never having done a full century. There would be no wimping out today; I was ready to go! Until, that is, I found out that the century ride had been shortened due to the weather. Apparently the forecast called for thunderstorms, complete with hail. I was a bit disappointed, but 100 miles in hail didn’t exactly sound like a party on wheels. So, we would only be riding 40 miles instead. We assembled in the parking lot and were divided up into groups with coaches. Today would be my day to ride with the one and only Dave Noda. Who, you ask? Precisely.

We rolled out of the parking lot with just a few minutes separating the various groups. We were doing a simple out and back ride, and by now the roads around Santa Rosa were starting to become familiar. The sky, although briefly threatening, cleared nicely for us. At various points our groups merged and re-emerged, and at one point, God only knows how or why, I found myself in a breakaway with three other riders, being urged on by Coach Dave. For some reason we (well, Dave) decided it would be fun to speed away from the group we were with and see if they could catch us. We picked up the pace and sped down the road feeling pretty darn good about ourselves. Of course, within a few minutes we were at the rest stop and we all bunched up again. Being in a breakaway is fine, but stopping for snacks is better.

We refilled our water bottles and busied ourselves with important things, like standing around chatting and taking pictures. The A group rolled out for the ride back to the hotel, and then Dave yelled for the people who had been with him on the way out to assemble and get ready to roll. We pulled out and Dave explained we were going to chase down the A group. Ha! Yee Haw! Git along little doggie! We pedaled hard, flying up and down the rolling hills. Just as my legs were starting to fatigue, however, I began to wonder why we were doing it. Why did we feel the need to catch this group before they got back to the hotel? Did we think those 8 women were going to eat all the food at the lunch buffet? Were they going to shut us out of that afternoon’s scheduled wine tasting? Was there some sort of secret cash bonus paid only to the first group to finish? Uh, no. We were just doing it because it was fun. And because Dave said to.

Well who the heck is Dave Noda and why should I listen to him? Over the past few days I’d determined he was a smart guy, because I generally find that funny people are smart people, and Dave is hysterical. But that doesn’t mean I have to do what he says out on the road, right? Yes, yes, I know, he’s president of Vision Quest Coaching and runs it right alongside Robbie Ventura. Yeah, yeah, he’s an experienced coach and all that. OK, yes, so he probably does know what he’s doing when it comes to coaching. But as I was pedaling along, busting my butt to chase down this group ahead of us, I had to wonder what the real motivation was. Maybe Dave just wanted to get back to the hotel quickly because he had a hot lunch date. Hmmm, there were all those people arriving at the hotel for the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember seminar, perhaps he had his eye on one of them? Heck, maybe he wanted to hit the spa and get a pedicure, I don’t know. But there he was, pushing us on, making us work substantially harder than we ever would have if left to our own devices. He had us take quick pulls at the front to conserve energy. He kept us in a small, tight paceline, flying along as fast as we possibly could. When we started to lag, he talked us through it and helped us find an inner resilience. And surprisingly enough, it seemed to be working. I guess in addition to being funny, that Noda guy knows what he’s doing when it comes to coaching.

We’d catch sight of the group ahead of us every now and then, but it was a tough challenge to chase them down. First of all, they were stronger cyclists than we were. Secondly, there were more of them so they had the advantage of being able to work together more efficiently. Of course, we had a secret weapon – they didn’t know we were coming. We also were joined by another secret weapon: Dan the big mechanic, who was out riding the roads with us that day. If you know anything about cycling, you know that having a big guy in your group offers a massive advantage. Just as I was fatiguing, Dan pedaled up next to us. I gratefully tucked in behind him and luxuriated in the drafting. We each took turns riding behind Dan to recover and get our legs back. Then soon enough we were off again, chasing down that elusive group ahead. For whatever reason.

As we came into Santa Rosa, we were on a long straightaway just a few miles from the hotel. We were getting closer, closer, closer and then finally….woohoo! We caught them! Ha ha! We eased up, pleased with ourselves. Of course, in that moment of self-satisfaction, the group pulled away from us again. Rats. We’d caught them, but that was no guarantee we’d be able to stay with them. Newsflash: they are all faster riders than us! So, we kept pushing ourselves, not just to catch the group but to somehow stay with them. We desperately clung on, and finally, thankfully, joyfully, the hotel appeared just ahead. We’d successfully chased the A group down and held on! Why? Well, really, I have no idea, but apparently because its fun, to the extent that making your legs burn can ever really be fun. I must admit that it was exhilarating. I might even be tempted to say it was a blast. Alas, there was no cash bonus for us, which I’m still a little disappointed about, but we got to be among the first ones at the lunch buffet. Now that’s what I call a reward! Dave Noda, however, suspiciously disappeared soon after we got back. He must have rushed off to that pedicure.

At the rest stop, doing what we do best: chatting.

Taking a little break.

What Robbie is thinking: "Managing these women is like herding cats."


  1. I am not an elite cyclist, but I do remember the joy of racing down the hills in my northern Californian town with the wind rushing through my hair, just for the pure joy of it.

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