Monday, April 19, 2010

A New Record as an Old Man

Nine years ago, when I was a young man of 38 and before my daughter was born, I set a personal record for climbing from home to the Skyline/Grizzly intersection in Oakland hills of 22:23 or 22:27 (13.3 mph), I can't remember which, honestly.  Since I've become a father, I've broken 25 minutes only two or three times, not because I've gotten that much slower, but because I haven't been trying.  Though I remember the last time when I broke 25 was pretty darn painful.

The climb starts with a very steep (~14%) block up Dulwich Street, then relents somewhat up Hermosa and Florence, then pitches up a bit on Broadway Terrace, before flattening and running mostly downhill through Lake Temescal Park for half a mile, then climbing Broadway along Highway 24 to Tunnel Road, which starts mellowly at ~2%, then steepens to 4-5% and continues as Skyline from halfway up the hill to the crest, where it intersects with Grizzly Peak Drive about 5.2 miles from my house.

On Saturday, April 17, after climbing Dulwich I looked at my rear wheel and realized that I climbed Dulwich in my 4th gear (normally I am in 1st or 2d) and the legs felt OK, so it was game on -- hamma' time!  The Dulwich and Hermosa blocks got the legs nice and tight, but I was able to spin out the lactic acid on Florence and through Lake Temescal.  I had tailwind going up Broadway, but where during my record effort I could gradually accelerate to 12 mph toward the top of the hill, I could only manage a steady and discouraging 10.6 from the park to the overpass at the top.  Spun quickly along the flat Old Tunnel to the "new" Tunnel, turning right and going past the Firestorm Memorial, aka The 'Henge, standing up and riding aggressively in the big ring.  I reached the 'Henge in 8 minutes, which compared well with my 7:40 pace during the 2001 record attempt.

With a 50-tooth big ring on my compact crank, the plan was to big ring it all the way to the top.  On the lower and flatter parts of Tunnel I tried to keep my speed above 14 mph and go in 50x21.  I was turning that gear pretty well without bogging down or hurting too much.  I was on the right edge of muscular and cardiovascular discomfort to carry the effort to the top.  I thought that with the 8-minute time to the 'Henge and my 14 mph pace I had a good shot at breaking 25 and began hoping cautiously to break 24.

After Tunnel became Skyline and the road pitched up, I shifted into the 23, but kept the gear going, then I seemed to stall just before Broadway Terrace intersection and the effort turned from a "time trial" into a "hard ride".  I went at "hard ride" pace for about two-thirds of a mile, until the road pitched up again near the newly-cleared eucalyptus grove, where I got mad, stood up, and rode more aggressively.  In this frame of mind I reached the last, false-flattish part of the course.  I looked at my computer and it read "22:00!"  There was about a quarter mile left and I had a legitimate shot at unexpectedly breaking 23:00.  I turned it up as much as I could, but only managed a 1:07 the rest of the way, finishing in 23:07, with average speed of 13.1.

I'm both happy and bummed.  Without the "hard pace" walkabout I would have broken 23:00, but hell, I haven't done a low 23 in nine years, so overall I'm happy with my time.  I ended up riding another 11 miles, first along the ridge and then back down to go home, and ended up with a 16-mile ride with 16.8 mph average speed.  I don't remember the last time I did a hilly local ride with that kind of average speed.  Icing on the 23:07 cake.

P.S. On this ride, I wore a pair of knee-high white compression socks my father had given me a day earlier.  I think the socks made little to no difference on this ride other than make me giggle internally about passing numerous cyclists while riding dressed dorky.


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