Monday, December 16, 2013

Alpine Dam and Mount Tam

Yesterday I did a 37 mile ride up to Mount Tam via Alpine Dam and the Seven Sisters. I've been wanting to do this ride since a fellow Blazer did it a while ago. Also, I've been trying to do some of the big North Bay rides now that I live up here. Luckily, it was a beautiful day out, just perfect for a ride.

As you can see from the elevation chart, it was a crazy climb heavy ride. We climbed 3,810ft. I didn't make it all the way over to the East Peak of Mount Tam, but I got to the West Peak.

We started our ride out of Sausalito/Marin City. After a short stint on the bike path, we headed up Camino Alto, which is the first tiny (relative to Mt Tam) little bump in the elevation chart. I did the climb up this road a few weeks ago when I did a different ALC Marin ride. After that hill, it was pretty smooth sailing to our first rest stop in Fairfax. We stopped at a bakery called the Fat Angel. They had some amazing looking pastries, but I opted for a hot chocolate.

After warming up a little, resting, and refilling our water bottles, we headed out. Shortly after heading out of Fairfax we started our ascent up Bolinas Road. We passed the beautiful Meadow Club. I think I took this photo shortly after that. I just love seeing the landscape up here in the North Bay.

A little over a mile after taking this photo break I started the descent down to Alpine Dam. At the crest of the hill there was a beautiful glimpse of the lake below. During the 4 mile descent I hit a max speed of about 33 mph. Not to shabby since the road have several sharp bends. While at the dam, we took a breather, refilled our water bottles again and fueled up our bodies.

It was also a great time to get a group photo.  

The next 2 miles after the dam to where we turned onto Ridgecrest Blvd. were starting to get to me. My legs were getting tired but I never felt like giving up. I think that was my biggest accomplishment of the day. No matter how tired I was, no matter how much my legs felt like there was no way to keep pushing, I never had the thought of giving up. I don't know what fuelled me through all that climbing, but I was very thankful for whatever it was.

Check out how windy these roads were. Now that's a hair-pin turn!

Right after turning onto Ridgecrest Blvd. I had to stop to get a photo at the Mount Tamalpais sign. It was well deserved after all the climbing I had done. Little did I know how much more climbing was yet to come. Next up, the Seven Sisters (aka Seven Bitches).

The Seven Sisters is a 4 mile stretch that runs along the ridge heading towards the peak of Mt. Tam. It has an average grade of about 2.2% and an elevation gain of 900 feet. I know that that doesn't seem like much, but after you have already ridden about 21 miles and climbed 3,545 feet, that was tough. I averaged about 4 mph on this segment. I'm not to mad about that considering what all I had already accomplished for the day.

The view at the top was worth all of the pain getting there. It was AMAZING up there. I don't even think that my photos do the view justice. It is definitely something you have to experience yourself.

That is Stinson Beach in the background there along the coast. I haven't been there yet, but I think that I will change that very soon. It looks nice from up above, so i'm sure it is beautiful down there as well.

We climbed up another 370 feet over the next mile before we called it quits on the climbing for the day. It was getting late and we were going to start running out of good daylight. We pulled into a turnout along the road and took a little break. As we waited for our lovely SAG car, driven by one of the other riders wife, to come back to met us, I got a couple shots of the view.

San Francisco was way off in the distance. It is a little hard to see, so I tried to zoom in to prove that it was out there. Like I said, the photos don't really do the view justice, but you at least get the idea.

From where we were we could see the Observatory through the trees. Maybe next time I'll get all the way up there and even over to the East Peak.

Well, it was time to begin our descent. About 6 miles into our descent we stopped off to wait up for the rest of our group. Two of the guys had gone on ahead of us and actually made it all the way over to the East Peak. From where we stopped on Panoramic Highway we could see where we had just come from.

The last 5 miles back to the car went so fast. Cruising along at an average speed of 14 mph helped with that, along with gravity as we had a little bit more downhill to go.

It was an awesome ride and a gorgeous day. I'm so glad I decided to join this renegade ride. I didn't know if I was really prepared for this much climbing since I haven't really been on my bike much this past month or two. After doing this ride, I think I am definitely more prepared for ALC than I originally thought. I can't wait for the training season to start up the first weekend of January.

To sum up some things I learned from yesterday's ride:
  • I might just have beaten the mental breakdown/give-up attitude I used to get during difficult rides.
  • My legs are so much stronger than they were just a year ago.
  • I don't hate climbing as much as I used to.
  • It is possible to be hot and cold at the same time. 
  • I have pretty decent cold weather gear. (well, at least for the mid 50's)

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