"Just can't wait to get on the road again. . . seeing places that I might never see again. . . I can't wait to get on the road again."
Saturday Morning, 4:45 AM. Shocking. Its 445 am and guess what I'm doing? Sleeping? NO. Of course not. Who needs sleep? I'm packing up my bike, getting the magic potions out of the refrigerator and hitting the road. The agenda for the day? Best of the Bay Century. I was headed to Orinda and would be retracing some (but not all) of the Tour of the East Bay Alps--you know, the ride where I cried almost the last 50 miles last year. You know, my favorite ride. There were 4 options: 83 miles, 99 miles, 106 miles, and 123 miles.
Why do I always have to make these choices? I got the Bart station and made my way over to the starting line. Now I admit, when I signed up for this thing, I was thinking about doing the 123 miles. I really was. . . and, I probably could have done all 123-- maybe. But, as I did more research on the ride and I factored in that my longest ride to date was 60--- I decided that maybe I shouldn't do the 123 miles. That left me with 3 options: 83, 99, and 106.
The 83 mile ride was a straight shot from Orinda t0 Fremont. The 99 was the straight shot from Orinda to Fremont and then added a loop that included a Category 1 climb up Sierra Road (I like to climb remember)? The 106 added a loop BEFORE the trek to Fremont-- the first loop visited Happy Valley Road and the 3 bears. The 99 and 106 milers both had the same elevation-- about 2000 feet more than the 83.
So what to do? I really couldn't make up my mind. I would feel like a wimp for the 83. I didn't know if I could do the 106. The 99 looked like a good distance but there was that CLIMB where you went up 2000 feet in 3 miles. . . .No idea what to do.
I decided I wasn't going to do the 106. I would have had to make my decision at mile 2 if I was going to do that and I wasn't ready to make the decision yet. So I took the route sheets for 83 and 99 and decided that I would make the decision at mile 66 whether to head for home or head up Sierra. . .
The route started off with a quick little flat through Orinda, but by mile 2 I was into the first climb of the day. Over the next 5 miles, I gained 1500 feet until I reached Inspiration Point. Now like most East Bay cycling, the views are unbelievable-- except for at 700 am. . . there was nothing but FOG as far as the eye can see. From there it was up to Grizzly Peak and onto Skyline Drive (both of these I was familiar with from TOEBA last year). I actually felt pretty good at this point as I rode along, imagining the vistas to my right-- the view is over the top of Oakland to San Francisco and is amazing-- if there is no fog. From the top of Grizzly it was down, down, down to the little town of Canyon and the cutest elementary school I've ever seen.
Let me say right now that these cyclists have got it figured out. Runners, we call our events races and our water stops serve. . . water and, if you are lucky, some version of Gatorade. Swimmers? Seriously, ever tried to eat while you are swimming? Didn't you mother tell you that you aren't supposed to swim after eating? Triathletes? Water stops on the bike; water stops on the run. Iron Distance-- admittedly there is a huge selection of food on the run. . .everything from cookies to fruit to Coke to chicken broth but for most of the day its been yucky carbohydrate drinks and, remember-- you are running a marathon after 112 miles on a bike and 2.4 miles in the water. . . There is always a start time, a start line, and you wear a chip to tell you your time.
A Century Ride-- note that its not called a race. The start time was anywhere between 6-8 am. There were no cut off times. The REST stops were amazing-- everything from deviled eggs to chocolate macaroons. THERE WAS A LUNCH STOP. The "ride' finished at a restaurant and your all you can eat buffet was included. Did I mention that these cyclists have got it figured out?
Unfortunately, I was using the ride as a prep for an Iron man. SO I ignored all that good food and stuck with my Infinite. . . (still not sure if I like it better than Carbo Pro by the way).
Rest stop #1 out of the way, it was time to climb again.
Now lets climb some rollers. I must admit-- I still don't know what rollers are. People use the term all the time-- little hills that come right after another? Here the "rollers" were twin gains of 500 feet. A wild turkey ran across my path causing me to hit the brakes hard. I didn't hit it-- which surprised me. . . seriously? A freaking wild turkey? Are you kidding me? For the next 10 miles or so I thought about all the funny things I was going to write about "hitting the wild turkey" but, lucky for you Gentle Reader, I don't remember any of them any more.
Came down into the second rest stop at mile 33 feeling pretty good and pretty strong. I also am happy to admit that I was able to pick up a dropped chain while rolling down hill!! I'd never don this before and I must give a big thank you to Mike Kyle for teaching me how to do it last year.
This was where the fun was to start-- I was about to venture off the course I'd done before and into new territory. So I no longer knew what to expect.
284 Feet Above Sea Level. . . to 1207 Feet Above Sea Level-Really, do I have to say much more than that? Well, maybe I do. At the second rest stop I picked up someone to ride with. She was prepping for the Death Ride and this 83 mile ride was to be her shortest ride of the season so far (did I mention that 83 would be 23 miles greater than my longest ride of the season so far?) She was afraid of riding on Hicks Valley Road at the end of Palomares by herself-- apparently a number of cyclists have been hit on Hick's Valley but what she thought I was going to do about it I DON'T KNOW. . maybe just having the extra rider out there with her decreased her chances of getting hit by 50%? Anyway, after my multiple warnings that I was really slow--can't people take a hint-- she and I pulled out together.
At mile 33.1 we were at 284 feet---by 38.8 we had reached the top of that climb. I was in front of her-- but I was struggling. I was breathing hard and my legs were getting tired. I was looking forward to getting to the lunch stop-- even if I wasn't eating.
The backside there was one of those long "bomber" hills and of course my riding "partner" blew by me on the downhill. She was, however, kind enough to wait for me at the stop sign before the left turn onto the scary road. And it was a pretty scary road. That being said, I probably would have felt better alone since my "friend" decided that that would be a good place to chit chat about life.
At the lunch stop, I lost my partner. And I've got to admit, I wasn't unhappy about it. She stopped to eat-- I didn't. I headed out down Caliverdes Road. I was 49 miles in and a little tired but generally feeling good. I still hadn't made my decision about whether to do the 99 or the 83. . .
Caliverdes Road was where the rubber hit the road-- OK, not literally, that came later. . . Essentially a 15 mile climb. I kept seeing signs saying "curvy road" 10 miles and thinking. . . at least 5 must be the down hill portion of that -- right?? WRONG-- so very wrong. A deer jumped out in front of me. Not surprisingly I got around him pretty easily since its like the 5th time that has happened this season. At the top of the first hill-- where I was REALLY 12 miles in and REALLY REALLY ready to start going down, the ride organizers had set up a bare bones water stop-- and god bless them for it. I pulled over, filled up, and chit chatted. A few people caught up to me up at point. I asked if were were headed down yet?? The response. . Yep-- but its a working descent. . .
WTF is a working descent? I don't know what a working descent is. . . I still don't know what a working descent it . . . BUT I do know that there was another what felt like hour of climbing and VERY LITTLE descent. . . As in, all I could think was that I WAS STILL GOING UP and UP and I was really, really ready to not be going up anymore. It was about here I started seriously realizing that I was NOT climbing Category 1 Sierra. My legs were tiring. I was hitting my mileage top for the season. I was ready to be home. I wasn't hurting... my breathing was OK. . .but mentally I was done. I convinced myself that I was better off only increasing my mileage by 23 miles. I told myself that I was a beginning cyclist and probably wasn't ready to get to the top of Sierra. . .I told myself that I probably could get to the top (and, frankly, I probably could have) but that, with such a long season to go, I didn't want to take a chance of getting injured. I was also getting mentally fatigued as well as the physical fatigue.
Zipping into the last rest stop at Mile 66, I was fairly confident in my decision to skip Sierra. As I was pulling in, some guy commented "you look good on that bike." I'm still not sure if he was kidding. . . but I will admit that it made me uncomfortable. It also made me feel like I was being lazy. That feeling was only increased with the same guy pulled out with me. He again commented on how strong and muscular my legs looked on the bike and asked me if I was "doing Sierra." Shamefacedly, I admitted that I was not "doing Sierra" and blamed my relative novice status on the bike, my lack of preparation this season, the blue moon, and everything else I could think of. . .
I turned right, he turned left and I was alone again on my way home.
AND THAT IS WHEN IT HAPPENED. CLANK, PFFFT, POP. OK-- I have a flat. I can't believe that I have a flat. Did I mention it was a rear flat? On my new bike? I was in a pretty good place so I pulled over to the side and started the procedure. I took off my water bottles (having ended up with empty bottles in the past after setting my bike on its side); I took out my bike tools. . . they were all there thank goodness. . .; I took off my tire. I am happy to report that I was able to get the tire off the rim in about 2 minutes. I was able to get the old tube out and the new tube in about 2 more minutes. Another 2 minutes to get the tire back into the rim, make sure that there was no pinch (thanks coach dave) and get the darn thing inflated. . . NOW I HAD TO PUT IT BACK ON. I've got to admit-- I've changed rear flats before. BUT on my new bike the brake is in a weird place and it took me about 9 minutes to get that think back on and settled. . . I could not believe it. But, 1) I've had my flat for the year 2) I've changed a flat on the new bike; and most importantly 3) every time you change a flat is good practice-- or so I tell myself. In any event, it is always empowering to change a flat all by yourself.
After that, the little hills were just adding insult to injury. I was ready to be done. I was ready to be home. I was ready to see the restaurant. . . and eventually I got there. 83 miles; 7783 feet of climbing. All in all a good day. . . Now all that was left was to BART back home, pick up the car, and head to home.