Thursday, September 29, 2011

Knoxville '11

Knoxville 2011

Dedication: To My Honorable Shepherd, Jeffrey W. Gould, who dragged my sorry corpse into the teeth of the wind up and down Napa Valley, Butts Valley, Pope Valley and who knows how many other dales and hills all day.  Without him I may still be somewhere in Lake County, among people who count their teeth on the fingers of one hand.

This was the first double since my triple ankle fracture and surgery six months ago, so having bagged a double, with considerable help from Jeff, was important.  It feels good to have completed a Comeback Ride.

Ride Preparation
Ride plan – and it was a good one – was to start early at 5:00 a.m., ride comfortably but quickly, spend as little time as possible at rest stops, and finish in decent shape and at a decent hour.  I had the same good plan last year, but we spent too much time dallying at early and late rest stops, then tending to cramps and heat and gastric distress at mid-ride rest stops, and finished at 8:45 p.m. or thereabouts, riding in the dark for an hour and a half, fearing light battery failure as we went.

This year, I had a fail-safe option for battery drainage – a dynamo hub light, which lasts forever.  I installed the light on my Spectrum.  In preparation for the forecasted heat, I installed a saddle-mounted gizmo for carrying two additional bottle cages.  Finally, I bought a 12-29 cassette that would allow me to spin, spin, spin, thereby preserving my legs for late miles and warding off cramps.  This cassette would replace the 12-27 that was on the bike.  The day before the ride, I took the cassette and the rear wheel to a bike shop, where the mechanic installed it.  I tested the shifting at 8:30 in the evening and discovered that with the new cassette chainline was way off and shifting was terrible.  Cursing, I pulled the cassette off and discovered that the 1mm aluminum spacer that had separated the 27-tooth cog from the spokes had been tossed or lost (thanks shop mechanic!).  I didn’t have another one, so this wheel would be of no use.

Cursing some more, I took the bike downstairs and brought out Goldie (not too stiff, not too flexible -- just right), my Colnago Monotitan.  Goldie had been on just one double – last year’s Knoxville, so at least it knew the course and Goldie's 11-28 cassette was close enough to the Spectrum’s.  On Goldie I’d have a higher big gear, allowing me to ride faster on pedalable downhills and a slightly bigger low gear, but I still should be able to spin up hills.  I pumped up the tires, moved the bottle cage gizmo from the Spectrum to Goldie and got on the bike for a 15-minute streak-preserving spin.  I got off the bike at 10:10 p.m. and, with all the pre-ride prep still to do, didn’t get to bed until nearly 11:00.  With the alarm set for 3:25, I’d have to do the ride on little sleep.

Rise and Shine
I woke up before the alarm at 3:07.  Feeling pretty awake, I got up and remembered that I’d forgotten to pack my lucky ice sock.  I went to the dresser and rummaged in the sock drawer in complete darkness.  Unable to find the sock quickly, I decided to search systematically by removing every piece of hosiery until I stumbled upon the right one.  This approach worked.  I put on a sleeveless base layer, a short sleeve 6ABC jersey, arm warmers, and knee warmers – there were predictions of a cooling trend and I wasn’t taking chances.  I had my usual pre-double meal of two bananas and three egg whites, put everything in the car, and left the house at 3:50.
Driving through Berkeley, I noticed that the car’s thermometer read 56 degrees and remembered that I planned to bring a vest.  Oops, no time to go back to get it, I guess I’ll have to suck it up until it warms up.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to suck it up for very long, as by the time I reached Fairfield and glanced at the thermometer again, it read 73.  I was glad again to have found the ice sock.
As I approached the ride’s start at Pena Adobe Park , I saw ghostly lights crossing the freeway and traveling alongside it toward Fairfield – early starting cyclists.  I parked, got out the bike and after a moment's indecision shed knee and arm warmers.  I traipsed to the starting area, where I got my number and met Jeff and Brian.  To my surprise, Ken, who led me through the second part of last year's, was there too.  A few minutes after 5:00 we were off.

Heart of Darkness
Everyone’s lights were on, there wasn’t a hint of dawn in the Eastern sky.  We rode around Pena Adobe Lake, through Fairfield and north to points unknown; unknown because I’ve never seen those places in daylight.  As usual, Jeff was pulling at slightly faster than comfortable speed and I was trying to slow him down.  Just as we rode through a subdivision, a trio of riders wearing PBP jerseys passed us.  I looked at the names on their numbers and realized these were some of the most accomplished Northern California randonneurs: Eric Norris (, Todd Teachout, and Rob Hawks (head of San Francisco Randonneurs).  We sped up a little, they slowed down a little, and the seven of us rode north out of Fairfield together.
The staying together ended when we hit rollers somewhere in north Solano County .  People began popping off – even Rob admitted the pace was a bit much for him – and soon there were just three of us: Jeff, Todd, and I.   We motored through nasty headwinds past single riders and small groups with all of them acting as moving targets for Jeff.  At this pace, it felt like my matchbook was out and I was ready to strike, and this was not a good thing so early in the ride.  Finally, we came to a T-intersection that led to a climb over Mt. George.
Dawn was barely breaking.  Jeff rode ahead and I shifted into climbing mode, trying my newfangled high cadence technique.  It took a few minutes to get used to it.  During that time, a few people came past me, but I passed them again once my cadence went back up.  The descent in improving daylight into Napa Valley was fun and chilly, as fog and ocean air had reached Napa , where temperatures were in the 50s.
Jeff was waiting at the bottom.  We rode past Silverado Resort amid a loose group of around 20 people, going past most of them except for a man and a woman who rode at our speed.  I thought they were together, as they seemed to be in matching kit, but later I found out they weren’t.  The man, Tim, was also remarkable for full leg-length tattoos that didn’t seem to match.  Visible parts of his upper body were tattoo-free.  Jeff resumed pulling at 23-25 mph, and these two slotted behind me.  We rode north on Silverado, past chateaux, vineyards, fancy restaurants, hills, passing many riders.  At one point, Tim pulled alongside me and said, referring to Jeff: "We suck him until he's dry?"  I responded: "He can go like this forever.  For him, this is a social ride."  Satisfied that he wouldn't have to work for a while, Tim returned to his place on my wheel.  The first rest stop was in Yountville, 6.7 flat miles ahead.  When we reached Yountville Cross Road and turned left toward the rest stop, I looked back for the first time since Silverado and realized, surprised, that Jeff had been towing at least 10 people.  Many thanked him for the pull, as we arrived at the rest stop.

There, we greeted Scott Halversen, the head Quackcyclist, and other volunteers, refilled bottles, emptied bladders, and set forth quickly before unauthorized wheelsuckers were ready to go.  I was an authorized wheelsucker :-).  (I say this in jest because Jeff was extremely generous with his draft, inviting rider after rider to get in the paceline with us.  Their problem was we were going too fast.)

Go Jump Into Lake County
We rode west toward Highway 29 and on it for just a bit before turning west on Oakville Cross Road, back toward Silverado.  We turned north on Silverado, for another 7.5 flat miles.  We saw more of the same picturesque dullness: vineyards, fancy houses, wineries.  All along Napa Valley we'd been riding in low to mid 20s.  All that faster than comfortable riding through Solano County in the dark and Napa Valley in daylight starting adding up -- I was beginning to feel tenderized.  Jeff told me repeatedly to let him know whether we were going too fast, even encouraging me to use profanity to slow him down.  And though I said several times, "too fast, motherfucker! :-)," inevitably, we'd speed up again.  I was reluctant to keep reining him in, so I sucked it up and rode.  Finally, we reached Deer Park Road, the first serious climb of the day.  Howell Mountain Road, the usual way Knoxville Double takes from Napa to Lake County was closed due to construction, so we detoured by riding extra couple of miles north on Silverado before turning up and heading east over Howell Mountain by a different route.

Unlike the Mt. George climb, I could see this one.  I also remembered this road somewhat, having descended it like a demon on Napa Century just over a month earlier.  I remembered a fast descent, which means a slow climb.  After 24 miles of flats we had 4.2 miles of uphill.  I shifted way down and spun.  It took a little while, but I found good spinning gears and decent spinning legs and went at it, almost at Jeff's speed.  I was working harder than he -- I think he was resting here after all the work he had done on the flat -- but I was just about keeping up on the easier, lower slopes.  After a couple of miles, the road kicked up, I shifted down, and slowed down.  Jeff pulled ahead, still riding comfortably.  I was working, but it felt OK and I thought I was riding pretty strongly.  I was more comfortable than on the flats, probably because I was in control of the pace now.  We passed a few more people.  By now, we'd passed at least 30 riders over the course of the morning and considering our fairly early start we had to be toward the front of the ride.  I told Jeff that if we keep going like this we -- well maybe he because I couldn't maintain this pace to the finish -- would "win" this ride.  He replied that if I thought we were going to win, I was suffering from delusions of grandeur.  To which I said, "maybe I'm deluded, but you're grand!"

Four miles up Deer Park and we turned left up White Cottage Road for more climbing.  At first the road rose steadily and steeply for a quarter mile, then mellowed and turned into rollers, frustratingly dipping and twisting, rising and meandering and slowly sucking strength from my legs for another three miles.  Finally, it leveled off and plunged toward Pope Valley.  Immediately, we were stuck behind a slow moving RV.  At one point, I tried to pass it in the opposite lane of traffic, but saw lights of an oncoming car, grabbed the brakes too hard, locking my rear wheel and fishtailing, and returned safely to the shelter of the RV.  A small adrenaline jolt is all that was.  The RV pulled over at a turnout half a mile down the hill and we proceeded down impeded only by potholes and wicked hairpins.

The next 10 miles was like riding in Vatican.  We went from Pope Valley Road to Pope Valley Cross Road, to Pope Canyon Road, which led us to the second rest stop at Lake Beryessa.  Pope Canyon Road lived up to its name with a few unpleasant hills, particularly unpleasant was the one immediately before the rest stop, which one (I) tends to climb harder than one should because one knows the rest stop is just on the bottom, where recovery awaits.  But it's all about burning matches and their number is limited and it's dumb to go hard 72 miles into the ride unless your ride is 75 miles long.  (Stop me if you've heard this before.)  I arrived at Beryessa rest stop tenderized further, my book a few matches lighter than at the start.

Kx 37
The 37-mile ride from the second rest stop to the lunch stop has one turn, a right into the park where we had lunch.  Before then, it was all straight on Knoxville Road.  Well, it's not all straight.  The road is quite three dimensional, as it climbs, descends and twists and turns many times, but you get the idea.  There's a flattish part that goes for quite a while along Lake Beryessa, where I was still feeling the efforts of the previous 70-some or 80-whatever miles, before the road leaves the lakeside, heading north toward Clear Lake's southern edge's imaginatively dubbed burgh of Lower Lake.  Again, as the road began to tilt up and its surface deteriorated, I began to feel better, spinning my small gears.  We passed a few more people on bikes and many more people with guns.  Knoxville Road is a popular hunting spot.  Some hunters wore camouflage gear, others wore bright orange.  Considering most of the game they were shooting is colorblind, I wondered why they wear camo.  Somewhere along here, my bike started making a rattling-jangling noise whose source I could not identify.  I worried that it came from the drivetrain, but when I reached for a bottle in my behind-the-saddle gizmo, I realized that David was right: those devices do come loose and mine was loose as a goose.  As I remembered, they required a hex wrench for tightening.  I didn't have one and neither did Jeff.  I began to look for the water stop, which was 22 miles into this leg.  I hoped to find the right tool there to fix my gizmo and hoped I wouldn't lose the nut that went with the bolt that needed tightening before I got there.

Well, around mile 90, I plain ran out of gas.  I don't now if it got hotter or I didn't eat or drink enough, but my legs felt empty.  My brain was OK, I wasn't cramping, but I had very little power.  Considering my two training rides for this double were only around 100 miles each, I suppose my body thought it was approaching the end of the ride and was behaving done and depleted.  As several times on other rides, I thought, "maybe I am in decent century shape, but I am not in double century shape."  Plodding was the only viable option, so I plodded.  Fortunately, most of the climbing of Knoxville Road was behind us, but some rollers remained.  If you are fresh and strong, most of them would be big-ring rollers, but I was neither, so I was in my 30x25 and 30x28 a lot.  On one of these rollers someone passed me after he sat on my wheel for a couple of minutes -- the first time that happened all day.  I would have been offended had I felt better, but I wasn't and, as he passed, I said to him, "not much draft at six miles an hour?"  He smiled, agreed, and rode away.  I was at peace with that, trying not to think about the fact that another 110 miles in 80-plus degree weather remained.

The water stop finally appeared as a tent in a turnout on top of another roller, competing for space with a Clif Bar tent, a rest stop for Clif's corporate ride that travels in the opposite direction.  Only two people were at our rest stop: Jeff and the guy who'd passed me.  I asked for a hex wrench, but volunteers said they didn't have one.  I examined the gizmo closer and discovered that I needed a 4mm Allen wrench, which I had.  Unwilling to rummage in my saddle bag, which was jammed behind the gizmo and access to the bag would be difficult, so I asked a volunteer for one.  He said he'd get one and went to the car, but either forgot or didn't have one.  With no tool forthcoming, however, I had to fish out mine.  Did that and tightened the correct screw as well as I could, topped off the bottles, filled the ice sock and set off again.

In spite of the stop, I still wasn't feeling great.  There was more groveling up rollers until the real descent began.  It was fairly long and fun and didn't require much braking, providing a nice rest.  Still, there were a few more small, stinging hills to climb, each taking a little more out of me.  The final flat drag to the lunch stop saw me gritting my teeth and hanging on to Jeff's wheel.  I was glad to have made it to mile 108.  The match book was quite depleted by now.

For lunch I had a very plain burrito, half a bag of potato chips, water, a coke, salt tablets, and Advil.  Refilled the ice sock and was ready to go.

When we left the rest stop, two things were bother me: I felt vaguely nauseous and my ice sock was giving me a brain freeze.  I figured that brain freeze would go away when I got used to the cold or when some of the ice directly on the back of my neck melted.  Or I could simply dump out all or some of the ice.  Nausea was more troubling because I couldn't figure out a way to get rid of it.  Running on fumes, I plodded along the false flat that is Siegler Canyon Road in my second and third lowest gears.  This was disheartening especially because double-digit grades of the climb to Loch Lomond loomed a couple of miles ahead, but I was ready to carry on.  I was willing to walk if I had to and was ready to barf if I had to.  In fact, on some level I wished I'd just barf and get whatever was bugging me out of my system.  Barfing wasn't happening, so I plodded on through this lovely, lush canyon with its rapidly flowing creek and happily chirping birds.  Jeff waited at the Loch Lomond Road intersection, but I was riding very slowly, so he rode ahead a bit.

The road tilted up and I shifted down, wishing for that 29-tooth cog.  No spinning for me now -- pushing and grinding.  I started cramping toward the top of this climb last year.  Mindful of that possibility, I rode carefully, trying not to over strain any muscle.  Trees line most of this climb and it's fairly shady in early afternoon.  Having shade helped, as did realizing that I was making decent progress even while feeling crappy.  Jeff was waiting half way up the climb and I announced that the climb was going better than I expected.  He offered words of encouragement, as he had done all through the day.  We crested at nearly 3000 feet, descended toward Cobb Mountain and climbed out of it.  I'd recovered substantially by then, but my climbing legs were pretty well gone.  I was still spinning well, but even on the tamest grades I found myself in the lowest two gears.  That was OK by me as long as I was making progress.

The Cobb climb from the north is mercifully short.  It is mercilessly steep from the south, but that was the side we descended, which was a blast.  What was not a blast was a feeling of shadeless heat from the valley, as we left what passes for cool mountainous climate in Lake County and approached Middletown.  We rode through Middletown and turned south into a nasty three-quarters side wind that blew me all over the road and must have been hell on Jeff, who pulled us manfully.  This was [kick my] Butts Canyon Road for 27 miles.  My computer died on Siegler Canyon, so I had no electronic way to tell where we were on the course, though I remembered terrain fairly well.  I remembered running low on legs and energy during these few miles that preceded the Pelican Lake rest stop and it was no different this year.

Valley Boy
Refilled the bottles at the rest stop, chatted with Jason, Bruce Carroll, Alfie, Lisa, and Bryan.  Bless Duck volunteers at all the rest stops.  They filled our bottles, took food orders, parked our bikes, dispensed pills, and applied sun screen with great cheer.  I had another coke and a bunch of gel and refilled the ice sock.  Not wanting to spend more time here than necessary, we set off.  Again, I didn't feel so great and wondered whether the not-so-great feeling was related to sock shock.  The sock had served me so well on a number of other rides that I wasn't going to blame it for anything that happened.  I was riding on autopilot, operating on what felt like a quarter tank.  Bless Jeff, again, for dragging me all over these roads.  At first, Butts is almost completely flat and beautiful, starting in a valley with a head-side wind, a valley that gradually narrows into a green and shaded canyon that provides shelter from the wind and the sun.  Twenty-some miles down the road, however, one has to climb out of the canyon and that is where I slowed again -- no drafting Jeff on slopes.  I was making decent headway up the hill when I heard a cyclist behind me.  I had enough energy and determination to refuse to let him pass me here, so I sucked it up and sped up.  I held him off comfortably, picking up Jeff's draft at the top and we sped away from the pursuer.  Just a few more mostly downhill miles to Lake Hennessey rest stop and we were there.

At the rest stop, they were serving hot soup and not finding any takers in the 80+ degree weather, but they also had hot dogs and I asked for one.  I sat down in a lawn chair, armed with a coke and a dog.  That dog was the tastiest thing in the world and I inhaled it in no time.  I had to use the bathroom, which meant that I was at least somewhat hydrated.  Upon using the port-a-potty I realized that I wasn't so well hydrated, but the guy who used it before me was in worse shape than I.  Others were in the same boat; I wasn't the only one suffering and was lucky to have a friend and a team leader in Jeff.

End in Sight

This is the point in the ride where it feels like we're on the way home, but the way home lies over a number of hills, including one immediately after the rest stop.  As I began climbing, a strange feeling came over me, a feeling of having eaten the hot dog too fast, not a good feeling.  Even if I had better legs, my stomach would not have let me use them.  Jeff was playing, riding on gravel surfaces along the road.  I didn't mind.  If I had a much weaker riding partner I'd be somewhat bored with the slow pace and look for diversions too, and it was fun watching him do it.

Soon enough, we crested, rode over the plateau, and descended into a valley whose name I didn't know.  Cardiac and a few nameless climbs remained.  The road rolled and boat towing trucks rolled past us, but it wasn't even 5:00 p.m. yet, so we had plenty of daylight and were plenty visible.  I felt OK on the climbs, aided immensely by my grandmotherly gearing.  On descents, I discovered that the hot dog wanted us to become reacquainted when I got in the drops, so I stayed on top of the bars.

Just one climb to Putah Creek Dam remained.  We were at lake level.  I've climbed to a few dams and it takes at least half a mile to get up all of them.  This dam is weird, traveling eastbound, the road passes the dam at practically lake level, so the climb was barely a pimple.  We descended along Putah Creek into a valley, blown along by a howling tail wind.  This tail wind was stronger than the tailwind I had for the last leg of 2009 Central Coast Double, where I rode 25 mph alone for over an hour.  It was the first time I'd seen this part of the course in daylight and, as we were blown southward.  Yes, we were pedaling too, but pedaling was almost superfluous.

The last rest stop at Pardehsa Store (wtf is Pardehsa?) at Pleasants Valley Road intersection came into view about half an hour sooner than I expected.  Whether that was a result of wind, our riding, or low expectations I don't know, but I was thrilled to be there.  It was just 5:45 and with another 90 minutes of daylight and just 13 miles of flats and false flats before us, making it back in daylight should be a snap.  We left the rest stop quickly, climbed a roller, after which Pleasants Valley really feels like the final leg, and proceeded.  After spending significant time on state highways with their sometimes fairly heavy traffic, it was nice to ride on a quieter rural road.  For a change, we rode side by side, with Jeff entertaining me with stories from his junior tennis tournament playing days.  I found the story about his cowing of Malibu Cheater particularly entertaining.

We rode and rode.  The road is mostly straight.  We rode past ranches and ranch-like houses on large lots.  It was bucolic and scenic and looked like the residents were engaged in recreational agriculture.  After a while we started looking for Kx directional signs for the turn toward Pena Adobe.  The course was superbly marked and we hardly consulted our route sheets, but we just kept going south on Pleasants.  We passed a turn off toward Vacaville (literally, "cow town" in Spanglish) and it wasn't our turn.  Another mile or two later, a small yellow directional sign loomed in the distance and a car turned right from that intersection toward us.  I told Jeff that I thought that was our turn, from where less than a mile to the finish remained.  Jeff glanced back and looked just a little miffed.   He said there were a few riders behind.  "Close?" I asked.  "Pretty close," he replied.  "No way in hell," I said, and we went back to work, which means Jeff went back to work and I assumed my customary role of a caboose.  I turned around at the Cherry Glen intersection.  They group was about 100 yards back.  I told Jeff that we had a winning lead and were going at a winning speed.  That group had no chance.  Just to be safe, Jeff made sure that they really had none.  We arrived at Pena Adobe Park at a ridiculously early hour of 6:40.

Jeff nudged me toward the volunteer who was taking down arriving riders' numbers to announce my arrival first.  I told him that he deserved to be first, but he demurred.  So, to the volunteer, I said "207," Jeff's number, and then added "117," mine.

Just like that, my Comeback Ride was in the books.  I felt pretty spent, but in good spirits.  I hadn't cramped.  Considering that my two long training rides for this double were both around 100 miles, the huge jump in the distance on a hot day went surprisingly smoothly.  For the last time, I give a tremendous amount of credit and gratitude to Jeff for helping me not just finish this tough ride but to finish it in what for me was a fast time of 13:35.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Knoxville: T Minus Three Days

After a successful ride in Napa and a 6:38 unsupported solo ride to Morgan Territory and back over Dublin Grade and Redwood, I proclaimed myself ready for a double century and signed up for Knoxville Double, which will be run on September 24.  For the last few days I've ridden my Llewellyn and have really grown to appreciate its feather-light handling.  But for Knoxville, I'll use Spectrum 1.  It has a generator light, a computer (which I installed just this evening), and lower gears.  The last factor is most important.  I've gone as far as ordering a 12-29 cassette to give me even lower gears.  I haven't decided whether to put it on the Llewellyn or the Spectrum.  Putting it on the Llewellyn would give me the same gearing as on the Spectrum, which would make bike selection even harder (:-)), while putting it on the Spectrum would give that bike a preposterous low gear of 30x29 (not a typo), making it an ultimate climbing bike and allowing me to use the Llewellyn for slightly flatter rides.  This is still pretty silly because the Llewellyn's low gear is a relatively tiny 32x27, in which I climbed Hiller Drive last Sunday.  OK, so with aching arms, burning legs, and searing lungs that was not something I enjoyed and if I had a bigger low gear I would have been in real trouble, but it was still doable.  Glumly, I say that I need more training on super-steeps to get better at them, though I'll add that I managed Reliez Station Road seated on Saturday.  Reliez is almost as steep, though about two-thirds as long, as Hiller and is quite a test in its own right.

OK, I'll address the super-steep business after Knoxville.  Stay tuned for more about the latter.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

At the end of last post I proclaimed myself ready-ish for a double, so today I sent in my registration for Knoxville Double, which takes place on September 24.   If cool weather persists, I am optimistic that it would be a successful ride.  If it's as warm as it was last year, I'll arm myself with an ice sock and think positive thoughts.  If the forecast is for hot as blazes temperatures, I may just stay home.  I promised Brian to be his regulator this year, so he is registering too.  Jeff is riding too -- it'll be like old home week.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Unorganized Discipline-fest or a Ride Around a Mountain

The plan was for a seven-hour ride to train for Knoxville Double, hopefully.  I wanted to do Morgan Territory Road, a road from eastern outskirts of Clayton, ending northeast of Livermore over a significant hill behind Mt. Diablo.  The road is on the route of Devil Mountain Double and is the second significant climb of that ride.  Gary and I agreed to meet somewhere en route.  He said he'd leave at 7:30, calling me just before he sets off, and ride counterclockwise.  I said I'd ride clockwise and hoped to be east of Clayton by then, so we'd try to meet somewhere on MorTer.

The MorTer loop from home contains just three significant climbs: Tunnel/Skyline, Morgan Territory, and Pinehurst.  I resolved to ride conservatively to make sure I had the legs to complete the ride.  Whenever I felt pressure on the legs, I shifted down, trying to reduce the pressure on the legs and keep up the cadence.  That was the plan.  I left early -- at 5:15 -- not sure just how long this nearly 100-mile ride would take and to make sure I'd get home at a decent hour.  Immediately, I rode into a cloud of torrential fog.  It was cold and the fog was preposterously thick.  Climbing Tunnel, I could barely see the road.  Not because of darkness, as my light was plenty bright, but because of fog.  Normally, I take off my prescription glasses to see better, as my prescription is pretty weak.  My eyeballs don't fog up the way glasses' lenses do, so I can see better.  Today, the difference was minimal.  Tree tops collected water and dumped it on my head in huge drops, as I rode underneath.  I rode almost by Braille, trying to follow the double yellow line in the center of the road.  When I couldn't see it, I looked for the white line on the right.  I nearly rode off the road several times, but managed to get to the top safely.  A few more anxious moments on top of Skyline and I found myself at the Skyline/Pinehurst intersection.

Descending north Pinehurst's sharp, gravel-strewn, off-camber turns is no picnic in dry daylight.  Daylight i did not have; I hoped for a dry road.  Dry road -- that I got.  I descended carefully and confidently.  At the bottom of Pinehurst, where it's straight, dark, and downhilly and you can't help but ride fast, I hoped to see no deer and saw none.  I rode through the town of Canyon, as usual, cutting off the Post Office curve and turned onto Canyon Road toward Moraga,  I put my glasses back on -- much better.  I looked at my watch and it seemed that my slow and cautious climbing and descending set me back at least 10 minutes already.  Normally, I reach Walnut Creek in 1:15 and today it looked to be an 1:30 ride, which was fine.  In the flats of Moraga, I looked down at me gears and found myself in a surprisingly big gear.  I looked at the grass and the trees and they were bending in favorable direction, explaining my gearing.  I continued spinning and taking advantage of the wind.

Moraga seems to be a blob of a city.  It's a fairly compact suburb, as suburbs go.  The next suburb on the route is Lafayette, which seems to resemble an octopus, with tentacles reaching into numerous canyons.  Since I had to ride from the westernmost end of a tentacle to the easternmost of of another, so getting through Lafayette seems to take longer than it should.  However long it needs to take to get through, I got through it fine, reaching Walnut Creek in surprisingly fast 1:15.

Nothing was going to slow me down, I resolved, so I ran my first red light at the formerly antique gas station on Olympic Blvd.  I ran red lights two and three in Walnut Creek as well.  All the subsequent traffic lights, intimidated by my threat to run them too, paled into green.  OK, some of the times, I slowed down to allow them to change to green, but I did not put my foot down again during this ride unless I wanted to.

In Walnut Creek, I joined the route of DMD, my favorite double, on Ygnacio Blvd.  It was good to see DMD directional arrows again, especially since I missed it this year due to my ankle fractures.  I happily spun my way up the hill just west of CSU East Bay Concord campus and descended to Pine Hollow Road, a shortcut through Concord neighborhood to Clayton that avoids the main drags of Ygnacio/Kirker Pass Road and Concord Blvd.  There are a couple of 2% uphill drags through the neighborhood and there I felt my legs for the first time.  I remembered to shift down, so that felt OK.

I was just over two hours into the ride when I decided to try to get to Morgan Territory Road within 2:15, by 7:30, when Gary would be leaving.  So, I sped up a bit, turning right onto Marsh Creek Road.  Marsh Creek runs through downtown Clayton and out of town, east toward Brentwood and Byron.  The intersection with MorTer comes after a stair-step climb of three, increasingly longer and steeper rollers.  I topped out at the third roller at 7:30.  Concerned that Gary may call while I descended and with wind in my ears wouldn't be able to hear the ring, I hoped to get down to MorTer as quickly as possible, where the road was flat and I'd be able to hear the phone.  No dice.  I pulled out my phone when I got to MorTerMorTer.  I could tell he left a message, but I had no way to access it, so I assumed he was riding in my direction -- not that I was going to change my route -- and kept going.

Just as I turned onto MorTer, the fog lifted.  It was clear and cool.  I kept drinking, with just half a bottle remaining until I reached the top, where there's a water fountain in a park parking lot.  Oh yeah, a few words about provisions.  I did this ride on two flasks of gel, four bottles of water, and a bunch of Endurolyte and Thermotab pills.  That was enough food for six hours, I found out...

I seemed to remember that MorTer crested around 9.5 miles, but the last time I rode it was a year and a half ago, so I wasn't so sure, but there was a "Winding Road Next 9 Miles" sign, so I was reasonably confident in my memory after I saw the sign.  MorTer is flat, slightly rolling for the first few miles.  At first, it's hard to tell for how few miles, probably four or so.  Then stair-steps start.  They looked short enough and not so steep, that its' easy to take them in the big ring.  After the drag up, the road would flatten or even roll down a bit.  I stayed in the big ring until 5.5 mile marker, when I saw what looked like a longer drag, so I shifted into the small ring.  Even this one -- and a few subsequent rolling sections really -- wasn't so tough that it's entirely feasible to stay in the big ring until about 6.5 mile mark, where the road becomes a true climb.  There's a really nasty 0.2 mile pitch at 7.1 marker, after which the legs feel so tenderized and further up-steps are long and steep enough that it's a small ring ride the rest of the way, for me at least.

It got warmer as I gained altitude.  I really wanted to stop and take off my leg warmers, but didn't.  About a mile from the top I passed a camper parked by the side of the road with empty beer cans.  There was a an unopened six-pack of Bud next to the rear door.  No signs of life emanated.  I smirked and rode past.  Fractional mileage markers kept going by.  8.5 mile marker looked familiar.  The following markers did too.  It really felt like the top was near.  Nine really felt close.  At 9.2, I knew that I wouldn't see 9.3 before the parking lot.  Sure enough, the lot was just around the corner.  No phone reception there either.  I used the bathroom, filled the bottles, took off knee warmers, and set off again.

There were an additional 50 of climbing before the road plateaued.  As I turned a corner, I saw an adolescent coyote trotting ahead of me on the opposite side of the road.  While we were going uphill, we traveled at the same speed, but as the grade relented, I began catching up and he looked back, worryingly.  As I got closer and closer, he continued trying to run faster, finally ducking under a hole in the fence.  It disappeared and pulled out the phone again.  Miraculously -- service!  I quickly dialed Gary, he picked up.  He'd just turned onto Morgan, so our plan worked, we'd meet in a matter of a few minutes.  I looked ahead.  The entire Livermore Valley was socked in fog.  Immediately, I remembered one of my favorite mantras: "Never undress on top of a hill."  I winced at the though of cold legs -- meh, I'll keep going.  As I descended, though it was still clear, I was at altitude where there were layers of fog, and there, humidity skyrocketed and temperature dropped.  As I rode into the cloud, visibility diminished and I turned on my light.  The descent is notoriously known as "The Plunge."  It's a one lane, very steep road.  having the light on gave me a feeling of a modicum of safety.  Toward the bottom, a truck was coming up the hill and it got out of the way when it saw me.  I think the light had a lot to do with that.  Gary was a vision in green coming through the mist.  I braked, he turned around and caught up with me.

It was only about 8:30, ridiculously early.  I had another four hours before I had to be home with two of the three major climbs already behind me.  The legs felt slightly tenderized, but with lots of miles still in them.  I resolved to have fun.  Instead of riding toward Danville, then homeward, which would take about two hours, possible a bit longer, we decided to ride southwest and then see about the time and the legs.

We rode the rest of Morgan, then turned west on Highland, then south on Carneal, a direction I've ridden only once before.  I'd forgotten what a nice stretch of road it is.  It's gently rolling downhill through lovely ranch country with cows, horses, and alpacas watching us as we rode past.  Alpaca sighting prompted a lengthy and lively discussion of Alpaca sweaters.  I wondered what had happened to mine?

We reached western outskirts of Livermore where the road ended with an freeway ramp, so we turned west onto a road neither of us had seen before.  That ended in another freeway ramp, so we turned south onto a road marked "Highway 84" that also prominently featured a "Road Closed" sign.  I don't believe in "Road Closed" signs and insisted we proceed.  We crossed over I-580, heading south.  More "Road Closed" signs, but several cars passed us, going faster than local golf course traffic.  A female cyclist rode in the opposite direction, advising us that the road was closed.  "Bah," I said, "there's 'Road Closed' and there's 'Road Closed.'"  We kept going.  A quarter mile up the road we could see the cars that had passed us turning around and returning.  We got closer.  There was definitely a way to get through the barriers.  We saw a roadway covered with large gravel, larger than I wanted to navigate, but there was a way to get around it off to the right and what lay beyond was a well packed dirt road.  Tractors had graded that section, so it had many good size bouncy holes, which was OK.  At first, we thought we'd have to dismount and jump a foot long  barrier, but as we looked to the right, we saw that there was an entrance onto the westbound roadway.  That's where we wanted to go and that's where we went without dismounting, exulting at our good fortune and sense of adventure.  It appears that the construction project is conversion of a T-intersection to a T-intersection with a right turn on-ramp.

The former tailwind became a headwind, as now we rode west toward Pleasanton.  We rode past a busy vineyards on the left and a busy quarry on the right, through a typical suburb, on through downtown and past Alameda County Fairgrounds, still without unclipping.  We reached Foothill Blvd. and turned north toward Dublin.  A discussion of the remainder of our route ensued.  Gary needed to be home by 11, so we agreed that he'd accompany me up Dublin Grade and turn around on top.  I'd ride on.

We climbed into a nasty headwind at a steady, conversational pace.  Gary turned around at the top, I descended.  Today, I concluded that westbound Dublin Grade is my least favorite descent.  It's straight, very gradual, and always has a headwind.  The wind negates the grade, so you always have to pedal and there's no end in sight.  A busy freeway is on the right and the canyon is boring.  Well, it gets you from point A to point
B in a straight line, at least we can be grateful for the topography getting it over with as quickly as possible.

I rode into Castro Valley, up Crow Canyon Road for a half, mile, where I saw a cyclist make a right and go uphill toward Redwood, where I was going too.  I waited -- without unclipping -- for the light to change, giving him even more of a head start.  OK, though tired, I felt like chasing.  I chased uphill, then down, then half-heartedly on he flat.  He turned onto Redwood.  With a quick "morning" I passed him, and kept spinning.  I climbed the hill out of Redwood faster than I would have liked, but my low gears at least allowed me to spin, saving my legs a bit.  It was barely 11:00.

I descended past the golf course and began climbing.  Redwood has two climbs: north, almost immediately after the golf course and again, after the Pinehurst intersection.  I bounced from gear to gear, depending on the wind and the grade, feeling reasonable comfortable, considering I'd been on the road for over five hours.  As I began descending, something whacked me in the right leg and stung and continued to sting.  I swiped at it.  When that didn't help, I glanced down, saw a wasp firmly attached to my quad, and swiped harder, succeeding in dislodging the wasp.  Apparently, just in time -- there was no stinger in my leg.  I had a bite and it bugged me, but it seems the wasp hadn't gotten the business end of the stinger into me, so I got off easily.  As there is no cell phone coverage on Redwood, calling for a ride would be futile.  Continuing to ride, however, promoted circulation in the leg, potentially carrying the toxin farther into the leg than it may gone.

I rode on.  Climbed the second part of Redwood to Skyline.  Instead of going home, I turned uphill toward Chabot Observatory.  As I climbed, I started running out of legs.  I was over six hours into this ride, subsisting only on gel, water, and salt pills, along with two bananas I ate at 5:00 a.m.  Yeah, I was on the verge of bonking, but I had enough energy to make it to the top, assisted, again, I am proud to say, by my wimpy gearing.  Once I got to the top, it was all flat before the descent home.

Instead of riding home, I rode to Montclair Peet's, where I had their biggest latte with lots of honey, a mango juice, and two pastries.  That hit the spot.  I pondered ride totals: I spent 6:38 on the road with about five minutes off the bike.  I didn't have a computer, so I estimate I rode somewhere around 105 miles with no drafting, riding sensibly, and drinking well.  I ate sufficiently for about five hours, then simply ran out of food.  It would have helped to have some variety in my diet.  I was pretty sure I may run out of steam on this ride on the little fuel I'd brought and I was wanted to see how far I could go on two flasks of gel.  Well, I found out -- 5:45 to 6:00.  With that, I am very happy.  I'm also happy with the fact that I'd planned to spend seven hours on a ride shorter than the one I did.  This means that I rode faster and farther than I'd planned.  I think I'm ready for a double.  If I'm not ready for it, I will be in three weeks with two more weeks of training and another of tapering.