Sunday, February 22, 2009

Best ride yet!

I wish I knew why Saturday's ride went so well. I'd like to recreate every action, every thought, every move that made this such a great ride. I'm hoping it's because I'm so well trained now (HA!).

We'd been watching the weather all week since a big storm was predicted. Another "storm of the year" was coming, forecast for later on Saturday. Torrential rains, high winds. We hoped it would stay clear enough to ride and we got our wish.

I got out of bed at 4:45 am to get ready for the longest ride I've done for 10 (or so) years. At 5:30 I was out the door headed to Bree's house. At 5:50 am I came to a dead stop on 580, right next to the Castro Valley BART station - traffic was halted while (I found out later) a shooting was cleaned up. I sat there on the freeway with my car parked, getting very nervous, and then saw two patrol cars exiting the freeway by going off the on-ramp. Cars resumed forward motion and I got to Bree's only a minute or two late.

We made good time to Half Moon Bay and unloaded our bikes in the chilly morning. Our group gathered and we set off at close to 8:00 am (only a half hour late ...). We headed south on Highway 1 in a nice little paceline. At least I think it was nice, I was near the front and didn't see what was going on behind me. It was cool and overcast, not much in the way of a breeze (yet) and the sun was lifting over the mountains to our left. The ocean vistas were spectacular with the intermittent reflected sun. Great to look at as we hit the rollers.

Here I again have to take exception to the term "rollers." In cycling terms a roller is a hill that you speed down, gathering enough momentum to get over the crest of the following hill without having to downshift or work on that uphill. With that explanation I've ridden very few rollers. I just ride up and down and up and down hills, trying my best to go fast and hard enough to cruise for part of it. I actually end up working harder than if I'd just coasted downhill and pedaled uphill.

We rode along, stopping once at a convenient beach outhouse, then took a left and headed away from the coast into the backroads. There were more "rollers" and some of the prettiest scenery that we've gone past on any of our rides (and that's saying something). The road felt like a remote little park lane (except when some jackass would come speeding through at too miles per hour in a car or on a motorcycle). There were small streams, fields, woods; a little of everything. Then we started to climb.

We knew that a hill, a real hill, was coming. We're now getting worried if the coaches call something a hill; they tend to say things are flatter than they really are ("rollers" my ass). The hill before us even had a name, never a good sign. When we stopped having any downhills, any relief, we knew we had reached Haskins Hill. This was, without a doubt, the worst bitch of a hill that I've ever had the displeasure to ride. I hated it. I was cursing, silently since I had no breath. I climbed, and rode, and climbed and finally had to pull over and stop. I caught my breath, continued on, and realized that my heart rate was still too freakin' high and I had to immediately stop once again. I paused, had a drink or two (unfortunately not vodka, it was just Ultima).

I finally kicked off again and continued climbing for another few hours. Or minutes. After a while I had to take one final break. I walked around a corner because I had stopped at a blind spot, then I waited while my breathing got back to normal and my heart stopped threatening to jump out of my throat. Did I mention that my ears kept popping while I was going up that hill? It was that steep. While I stood there looking forlorn (and probably pretty pissed off too) several cyclists passed me. Many of them spoke to me, telling me the top was right around the next corner (and the check's in the mail and there's a prince in Nigeria who wants to leave me money and Madoff has a great investment opportunity for me). I was quite impressed with how encouraging complete strangers, not just my teammates, were to me.

I took a great big breath, sat back down and pedaled my way the rest of the way to the top of that damn hill (and I was right, it wasn't around the next corner. Or the next). Our team had a rest stop and when I pulled in my teammates and coaches were worried about me, afraid that was where I'd have my weekly meltdown. But no problem, I was too angry to even talk with them. At what, I'm not sure. It's stupid to be mad at a hill, even stupider to be mad at our coaches for planning that route. But I was full of adrenaline and just wanted to finish the ride. We were told the worst was over.

The worst was over, but the hills weren't. The downhill wasn't bad at all, even for a downhill weenie like me. Sure, I did lots of braking and slowing but I had decided to push it, to see how fast I could go while maintaining control. I even passed a couple of people, which I've never done before. Still, I was happy when the steep downhill was over and the flatter area began.

After the last rest break our group decided to skip the last hill so we just ... climbed another hill? Huh? We took a detour out and back, then returned to the "rollers" on Highway 1. At one point ahead of me there was a long, open, straight downhill with a wide shoulder on the road. I decided to take that stretch without touching my brakes, passed the rider in front of me and started to fly. Then I saw ahead of me, waiting patiently on the other side of the road for traffic to clear, a big (really big) deer. I hit the brakes, called back to the rest of the riders that I was slowing, and watched first one, then another deer leap gracefully across the road and into the trees. Huh. So much for my sweet downhill.

Because I wanted to get 65 miles and we had taken the little hill-less shortcut, I rode around the neighborhood before going to the parking lot. My legs were tired, it started feeling like I was wading through tar, and I returned to the car just short of 65 miles. I was tired, achy, and strangely exhilarated. I felt ... good! How very ... strange!

As we started putting the bikes in the car I realized that my front tire was very soft. I had gotten a bit of a flat tire during the last few miles, a major reason I felt like I had to work so hard. I don't even know how long I was riding on it that way.

So. 64.8 miles (a metric century plus!). Close to 4500 feet of climbing. Five Pop-Tarts, 4 Gu's, 4 bottles of Ultima, and 7 hours from when we started (only 6 of that actually moving on the bike). No meltdowns, no screaming (where anyone could hear me), no crying. I hated Haskins Hill but enjoyed the rest of the day and couldn't understand why my mood was so improved from our previous rides. My hands hurt, my neck and shoulders were pained, my lungs were scratchy, my eyes itchy and my nose stuffed. But I felt great.

I'm telling myself this is a trend. The next three rides will be our 80 mile training ride in Mill Valley next week, a 50-ish mile training ride in the East Bay and the 104 mile event in Solvang. Just 3 weeks until it's all on the line.

I've always known I could ride the 104 miles. Now I think it's possible I just might have a good time while I'm doing it.


  1. I love the Half Moon Bay ride. Thanks for the recap. You sure know how to make me miss the cycle team.