Sunday, March 16, 2014

The killer hills

Yesterday's ride was heavy on the climbing, hence the killer hills. The total ride was just about 59 miles with over 4000 ft of climbing. Unfortunately I didn't get my Garmin to start recording the route I was doing until I had already done about 13 miles. Oh well, maybe one of these days I will figure this Garmin out correctly. I think it is user error, not an issue with my Garmin.

Anyway, I was one of the first couple cyclists to head out on the route today. I was enjoying riding at a good pace (don't know my speed though since it didn't get recorded). Once I crossed over Foothill and started to make my way up the first hill I started to see several teammates that I knew left after I did. I was a little confused because I knew that none of them had passed me. I soon realized that they must have gone straight onto Foothill instead of taking the first turn. They didn't cut out many miles, but it was enough for them to get slightly ahead of me.

The first bit of climbing for the day wasn't very steep, but it was still tiring. We had a little bit of climbing on Elena, then some more on Natoma and then it leveled out on Altamont. This is the view from atop Altamont. The views around the bay area are gorgeous.

Shortly after getting on Altamont, we headed down Page Mill. This road is not my favorite because it can lead to a fast downhill, but with several sharp bends. I did OK this time. Last time I went down this road I held onto my brakes too long and they started to squeal. I'm learning how to mix in light braking with counter steering to help my downhill go more smoothly. Also, the more practice I get with these types of downhills the more confident I am getting, which in turn means the less scary they seem.

Not long after the downhill, I made it to the first rest stop. Today's goal was to get in and out of rest stops in less than 10 minutes. I didn't actually time myself, but I just made sure that I wasn't lingering around. My other goal was to focus on my nutrition/hydration. The day was supposed to be a hot one and with all the climbing I didn't want to bonk out or let my blood sugar level drop too much. I made sure to eat something at each rest stop and refill my water bottles as well. It worked out pretty well because I didn't feel like I was about to crash (not as in accident, as in blood sugar level plummeting) at any point throughout the ride.

Shortly after I left the rest stop I shifted down to help with the upcoming hill but unfortunately my chain dropped off the gear. Luckily I was able to clip out even though I basically came to a complete stop. That was a nice accomplishment, as small as it may have been. It is nice not to fall over because you couldn't slip out. I easily got my chain back on and was on my way. I headed down the road and made it to the next turn. Shortly after the turn I checked my Garmin to see how many miles I was at and noticed that it was showing that I had only gone 150 ft. Well, I knew that wasn't right. I realized that it wasn't recording my ride, it was just showing the turn by turn. I wasn't very happy, but there wasn't anything I could do now, but record the rest of the ride.

The next rest stop was only about ten miles away from the last one. I was hoping that I wouldn't need to stop and I could just keep going. But by the time I got there, the sun and the heat were starting to take their toll and I knew that I should stop. I didn't hang out for very long, just long enough to stretch a bit, eat a Cliff shot gel and refill my water bottles.

My old friend Cañada road was right after the rest stop. This was the road where I first got back on a bike (having not ridden since I was a kid). I remember how this road was tough and the hills seemed to really wear me out. Now, it isn't much of anything but nice rolling hills. I could barely keep a pace of 10 mph almost 2 years ago. Now I was cruising along at about 20 mph. Just CRAZY how much has changed. I love revisiting roads that I first struggled on only a year ago.

I've passed this mailbox on Cañada so many times, but yesterday I finally decided to stop and take a photo. This is on a nice gentle downhill, but it is still so tempting to just fly on by.

I stopped a little further up the road to take a photo of the reservoir as well. It was such a beautiful day out. This portion of Cañada is such a gorgeous ride, especially on a clear sunny day. 

There was one more large climb left between Cañada and the lunch stop. It was also the largest climb of the day. First up was Bunker Hill, then down to Polhemus. Polhemus leads up to Ralston. Right where the road changes names, there is a little parking lot. I pulled in to take a little breather and have a glucose tablet. As I mentioned earlier, I was really trying to keep an eye on my nutrition for the day. 

A few minutes later I headed back out and towards Hallmark Rd. I took the following shot of the hills along Hallmark. I wouldn't mind having that view everyday. 

Right before where Hallmark turns into Crestview, you get this view of the upcoming challenge. My friend, who took this photo, said this is the moment when the "oh hell no" thought often enters your mind.

The hill that precedes the name change was the steepest hill of the day. I just didn't have the power in me to pedal up the hill. So, I ended up doing a little cross training and walked my bike up the hill. The rider behind me jokingly shouted "hey, slow down, you're beating me." There was at least one more hill before the top. Even though I was extremely tired, I was all smiles at the top.

Luckily it was all downhill from there till lunch. I rolled into the deli and parked my bike along with the many other cyclists who were already there. I ordered a well deserved sandwich and relaxed for a while. 

There were only 18 more miles left on the route. I was able to roll out with our team captain and a couple other riders. They definitely helped me get through those last miles and not take any shortcuts. There was a little bit of climbing left in the day, but not much compared to what we had already done. Since they were strong riders I did my best to keep up with them. Even though I was very tired and ready for the ride to be over, I managed to get an average speed of 15 mph for those last 18 miles. It is so inspiring for me to ride with riders that I feel are stronger than myself. I can push myself harder than I would have if I completed the ride on my own.

Great ride on a beautiful day! I may be grumbling at all the climbing now, but I'm sure I will be so thankful for it in the long run.

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