Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ride of Songs

With Solvang Spring Double looming on March 27, March 13 was the day for a long training ride.  I had until 1:00 p.m. (seven hours) to ride and would have David's company for 2.5 of them.  Unfortunately, we moved the clocks on March 13, so my body thought we started at 5:00 instead of 6:00.  Worse still, we wouldn't see daylight until 7:00.  At the start, temperatures were in high 30s with predicted highs for the day in high 60s-low 70s.  How the heck, do you dress for rides like that?  Many layers and deep-pocketed long-sleeve jersey to hold the shed garments would be the answer.

We met at 6:00 in North Berkeley, rode up and over Berkeley ridge to San Pablo Dam Road, where we promptly froze, especially David, who dressed for high 60s.  Having dressed for mid-40s, I didn't feel as bad.  I'd been listening obsessively to Leonard Cohen lately, so I started talking to David about it.  David was unfamiliar with LC, so I told him what I knew.  The conversation began a musical loop of Cohen's Everybody Knows in my brain.  The song would remain there for the entire ride.  Its rhythm worked well with my cadence and, happily, over and over again, I sang the two of its verses that I knew.  We rode the north loop of Grizzly Peak Century: Pinole, Hercules, Rodeo, Crockett, and on to Martinez over McEwen Road.  In Martinez, David turned right on Castro Ranch Rd. toward Pig Farm and I turned left to ride toward Lafayette.  Now, Everybody Knows that I rode up and over Reliez Valley Rd., where my legs began to feel the ride for the first time (McEwen doesn't count because you always feel it), down Pleasant Valley Road and left on Olympic to the former antique gas pump service station for rest/undress stop no. 1, 40 miles into the ride.  Bought Gatorade, peeled off a few items of clothing, and back on the road past Rossmoor to Walnut Creek.

The plan was to ride to Sunol then to take Palomares north toward Castro Valley, where I would meet my family at a party at 1:00.  I don't know how far exactly it is from Walnut Creek to Sunol, but the road parallels Interstate 680 through almost completely flat valley and, today, as on most days, into a headwind.  In Dublin, about half-way to Sunol, I spied a pair of cyclists perhaps half a mile ahead and began to chase, but ended up stuck at a very long traffic light and lost sight of them.  After the light changed at last, I began chasing harder, telling myself I'd catch them in 5-10 minutes.  I passed individual cyclists along the way, but didn't see the pair.  Finally, about two miles north of Sunol I saw them and soon caught them.  I sidled behind them for a rest -- I had 70 miles of riding and 12 miles of chasing in my legs.  They were fine with me back there and soon we were talking about Canadian National Anthem for some reason.  The discussion culminated with an off-tune rendition of Oh, Canada.  I surprised all of us by knowing about 60% of the lyrics.  Apropos, I suppose, with Leonard Cohen being Canadian, as Everybody Knows.

I stopped in Sunol for rest/undress stop no. 2 to take on fuel and gulp a few Endurolyte caps, while my companions turned around and rode north.  I rode west on Niles Canyon Road  into a headwind, again, then turned north onto Palomares.  Everybody Knows that on Palomares, birds were going crazy, the creek was raging, my legs felt OK, but I had little to no energy to turn them.  I rode at plod+ speed, going a bit harder as the grade relented.

Everybody Knows, I love going down Palomares.  The five miles from the top to Castro Valley begin with almost a dead straight 8% descent for nearly a mile, followed by 4 miles of 1-2% descent.  So you take it easy and go fast or hammer and go really fast.  It's nice to see hard effort rewarded with high speed, which happens when one is fresh.  I was feeling somewhere between stale and wilted, but still put out whatever effort I could muster and, as I arrived at the north end of Palomares, took stock:  11:45 a.m., 85 miles into the ride, and 10 minutes from my destination in Castro Valley.  Not far enough and too early.  Instead of turning left and going to the party I turned right to climb Dublin Grade.  WTF, I said nearly out loud, as I faced a headwind.  I had a head wind going west on Palomares and now a headwind going east on Dublin Grade.  Where's justice?!  I rode up the two miles of this dead straight 3-4% hill as fast and hard as my legs allowed, descended into Dublin and turned north to go to San Ramon, where I would take Norris Canyon Road back to Castro Valley.

Extremely disappointed I was to discover a ~20-mile an hour headwind in Dublin.  It was as if the headwinds followed me around most of the day.  Everybody Knows that this was a serious headwind, the kind that blows strong enough to discourage one into slowing down to a climbing pace even when riding on dead flat roads.  Tempted to concede and sit up, I resisted and got as low as I could to hide from the wind and rode hard.  This worked.  I was able to maintain 16-18 mph until the turn toward Norris Canyon.

Riding Norris, I discovered that I was nearly poopless, worse yet, with a light tailwind blowing I was getting no wind chill in my face, I was warmer than comfortable.  On Norris westbound one faces a short but steep climb just past Norris Canyon Estates (puke).  Armed with rubbery legs ("armed with legs?"), I needed something to keep me going so I broke into a silent rendition of 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, interrupting the Everybody Knows loop.  I could focus on something other than steepness of the road -- keeping track of my number of bottles on the wall.  It took 24 bottles to get to the top of the climb, surprisingly many considering the hill's meager length, but not so surprising considering its grade and my fried state.  A cool (temperature), straight, long, and fast descent to the intersection with Crow Canyon, where I made a left turn into a wind-aided (Yay!) three-mile ride to Castro Valley, then through three miles of suburban ugliness to my destination.

The numbers: 110 miles; 7 hours; 3 songs.


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