I'm not sure which one. . . Actually, if the part of this ride that is called the "seven sisters" is the part that the other blogs say it is. . . its actually the easiest part of this stupid ride.
This really wasn't the ride I planned on doing this morning. I'd planned on doing the Marin Metric Century course that starts in San Rafael. It has some pretty big hills and is a fairly challenging 60 mile (ish) ride. I'd wanted to leave at 615-- or first light so that I could get home to the family before the kids spent the entire day playing video games, watching TV, and eating junk food. . . . But the more I thought about it, the more I started thinking that maybe a different ride. . one where I didn't have to drive to San Rafael and could leave right from home would be better. I decided to ride from Mill Valley to Ridgecrest to Fairfax-Bolinas Road to the Dam and then back to Mill Valley (detouring through Tiburon for a Paradise loop). Total anticipated mileage= 48. I mapped the route and knew, both on the map and in reality, that there was going to be a ridiculous amount of climbing on this ride. But I figured that it was all at the beginning and I'd be left with a pretty leisurely ride back home. . .
Well, best laid plans (or what was a hastily constructed thrown together hodge podge of last minute decisions) . . . I headed out at about 630. The first challenge occurred early in the ride. Montford to Molino. OH MY GOODNESS. I got about 1/2 way up the first stretch of that hill and had to turn around (thank god there were no cars coming). I got to the bottom, caught my breath, and headed back up again. This time I made it--but I will tell you. . . it wasn't easy. I was already chuffing like a freight train and I had about another 10 miles to climb before I found some somewhat level ground.
Grinding it out. One of the reasons people think I'm a good climber is that I'm generally able to get into a low gear and just grind it out. And grind it out I did. There wasn't a lot of traffic on the narrow, twisty road so I didn't have to worry about cars. There were also no other cyclists out there this morning. I was me, my bike and one really, really big hill.
My plan had been to pull into the Pan toll ranger station and take a little break. But when I got there I realized that I would have to make a left turn into the ranger station AND I was feeling pretty good. I was breathing hard but my freight train breath had subsided and I my legs were turning over fairly quickly. SO, I took the right hand turn and started up Pan Toll Road. This is another 1.3 mile hill. It isn't as steep as the Molino debacle but it is definitely a hill-- especially when you have been climbing for 9.2 miles (and 1500 feet). By mile 10.5 I'd gained another 500 feet. Here was the three way convergence of road that I'd been looking for. One way leads back down Pan Toll (effectively turning around); one road leads to the top of Mt. Tam; and the final road, Ridgecrest Boulevard, leads to my destination, Bolinas-Fairfax Road and the Alpine Dam.
I was feeling pretty good when what to my wandering eyes did appear but a great big orange barrier across Ridgecrest. SERIOUSLY?? I've climbed all the way up here-- done 10.5 miles and I'm going to have to turn around and be satisfied with a 22 mile bike ride??? How pathetic. I crept closer. . . hoping that I was mistaken. I wasn't-- BUT the sign said that Ridgecrest would open at 9:00 am.
Three Bad Choices:
I hit a few buttons on my Garmin and realized it was 8:06. I had 3 choices:
1) turn around and go home;
2) sit here and wait for 54 minutes until the road opened;
3) head on up to the top of Mt. Tam (3.2 miles away) and back. That should take about an hour. . .
And of course, guess which one I chose.
You guessed it-- I figured, "I'll just head out to the top of the mountain and back down. . . how bad can it be? I'm already almost there."
Yeah-- famous last words. At 11.8 miles I'd climbed to 2479 feet. By the time I reached the top (or in this case where the road ends and you must continue to the top on foot) I'd climbed and descended to 2341. I also had a long haired hare (ha ha) jump in front of my path. I love bunnies but the 2 ft tall version is a bit disturbing. This thing looked like what you'd envision the Easter Bunny looking like. I reached the parking lot and hopped off to use the port-a-potty. . .
In an only in Marin/only happens to those of us out at the crack of dawn moment, I caught a couple getting engaged as they walked down the mountain. AWWWWW. .
Enough sentimentality, I was back on my bike. And NOT feeling the love. This time it was up to 2500 feet before getting back to where I started. No cars, no more people, no more scary bunnies (I now know what Anya was talking about). I was thrilled to see that Ridgecrest was now open for business and I zipped on out to start riding the 7 sisters.
I've got to admit, I didn't really think that this part was all that bad today. Maybe because I was glad to be out of the mountain, maybe because I'd ridden this part before or maybe because I was delirious. . . your guess is as good as mine. Anyway, those 3.4 miles went pretty quickly and I was taking the right to head down Fairfax-Bolinas Road.
On the way down: Descending is not my thing. Never has been. Probably never will be. In fact, here I was passed by the only person who passed me all day long-- an Asian gentleman wearing a pink bike shirt and no helmet. On top of it all-- he passed my on the right. Some people. I arrived at the bottom (and the Dam) in one piece. I was glad to have made it down safely but I was not looking forward to the climb back out of the Dam. I was back down to 645 feet! But I had to climb back up to 1100 before I would be off the hills for good. I've got to admit-- I was over it. I was in that place where all I wanted to be was off my bike. But I was only about 26.4 miles in to the ride. ( you know, another 22 miles to go).
I made it to the top AND I survived the barking, charging dog as I finally entered the town of Fairfax. From there on it was all bike path all the time. Headed into town on the fairly flat, fast bike path was great-- except for all the stop signs. Trust me, when your legs feel like my did, the last thing you want to do is stop on put your foot down at the stop signs. BUT given that I was in Ross, Kentfield and Larkspur-- or, for those of you outside the Bay area, three communities where the cops have absolutely NOTHING better to do than ticket cyclists, stop and tap I did.
I had a decision to make. I'd planned on adding a Paradise Loop to the basic bike ride (about an extra 8 miles-- about 1.2 of them climbing miles). . . and I had plenty of time. . . so, I decided I'd head out that way. There was a bail out clause built in-- If I didn't think I'd make it, I could take Trestle Glen and head home effectively cutting out about 75% of the climbing. . . I hate to admit it, but I did. I'd been on the bike for 4 hours (which was about what I was planning on riding); my legs were tired and I was congratulating myself on getting to the top of Mt. Tam.
So was it a success?? Yes and no. I'm proud of the ride I did-- which ended up being 45 miles and 5900 feet of climbing (in my metric-- any time you climb more hundred feet than you rode in miles it is a pretty hard ride) I'm glad that I had a good ride and felt pretty strong but I'm also a little worried. I don't usually choose the bail out options. I also am worried that my longest (time not distance) ride of the season so far is only 4:45 (56 miles). I need to get back out on that bike soon and get a good ride in that will judge where I am. I've got to admit neither the 56 on the Wildflower course (into the wind and up those hills) nor the 45 today are good metrics.
Thanks for reading