Dec 13, 2010

Hiking, biking and counting miles

The Hike
It’s Saturday, my alarm rings at 7:00 a.m. – a rather luxurious wake up for a cyclist – on the menu is an 85-mile ride with the Colavita squad. Only one problem – I feel like crap: my body is tired, stomach isn’t feeling the best (I’ll spare you the details) and I feel like I need more sleep. I spend a while debating myself and finally shoot an “out” e-mail to the team. The only thing worse than not going for a ride in the morning is doing nothing all day and feeling like a total bum. I simply could not let that happen.
I knew that in addition to the bike ride, I had the option of joining some friends in South Bay for a birthday hike up Windy Hill. Now, this hill is not that windy, and it’s not much of a hill – only goes up to about 1900 feet – but it certainly beats feeling like a bum for having done nothing all day. So I got on my hiking clothes, dusted off my trail running shoes, got in my car and headed to South Bay.
The hike was actually a very pleasant walk up to 1900 feet on a trail that’s perfectly rideable on a cyclocross bike – I made sure to make a note of that. I was hiking with people of different ages and abilities (it was a birthday hike after all and weeding out invitees by physical ability is kind of a faux pas, I guess) so there were a few stops and the pace was less than strenuous, but I felt I was burning some calories and just kept telling myself – “this is still better than staying at home!”
As we got to the top, the group separated and while the majority decided to take the short way down (the same way we came up), three of us decided to take the long way (more than 2x as long). As we headed out, we had a tentative goal to reach the bottom before the other half of our party, but I can’t say that we were coming down the hill with blazing speed. First, we weren’t going too fast because parts of the trail were very wet and slippery and second, we just really didn’t feel the rush. And now, I’m realizing that this is my fourth paragraph describing a seemingly uneventful morning, so I guess I should get to the point.
Several hours after the hike, I developed an interesting sensation in my legs  – they were feeling tired in the gluteal and hamstring regions – “where’s this coming from?” – I wondered. Then, it hit me that perhaps the hike had a bit more of an effect on my legs – accustomed to moving in perfect circles – than I anticipated. That was confirmed on Sunday morning, as I woke up with some sore spots that were clearly not bike related. Moreover, I was very excited by the fact that my left knee – self-diagnosed with dormant tendonitis – wasn’t bothering me at all. Perhaps trail running is in my future as a cross-training activity? I guess I’ll find out.
What does every cyclist do when he bails on a ride? He tells himself that he’s going out the next day – rain or shine. This is exactly what I told myself when I got into my car to drive to South Bay on Saturday. Luckily, Zach sent an e-mail to the Mission Cycling group gauging interest in an excursion up to Alpine Dam Sunday morning. It has been very, very long since I’ve done that ride, so I shot a quick “in” response, looking forward to Sunday.
The Bike
My guess is whatever was plaguing me on Saturday, got a hold of Zach on Sunday (or maybe he was just hung over), since I saw an “out” e-mail just before I left the house. The meet-up was going to take place at the regular place and the regular time on Sunday, so I figured that at least someone will show up. Sure enough, by 10 a.m. we had  quorum in the Mission, and a few more waiting by the Golden Gate Bridge. However, no one really wanted to do the climby ride up to Alpine Dam, so I traded the harder effort for company (a luxury I can afford myself in this off-season time) and decided I would just ride the whole thing in my big ring. The choice of route was Paradise Loop, but we had talked about adding in some local climbs, which I’ve never done before, to make it a bit more fun.
The roll-out to Tiburon was fairly uneventful, and then we came upon our first climb. The first thing I did when I saw it was shift to my lower chainring because while there was a small chance that I could make it up that climb in 50x28, there was an equal likelihood of ripping my chain and I really didn’t feel like dealing with that. The climb came in two parts, first there was a very narrow (maybe 2 feet) 100-yard stretch of asphalt (about 13-15% grade) leading to a sharp 90 degree turn through a narrow (Rodeo Beach narrow, for those who’ve done it) gate over a speed bump. If you were successful in maneuvering your bike over that, you were greeted by a wider road – ribbed like a high-priced condom – leading to the top. Let’s just say the speed bump was where I stopped pedaling. I then hiked my bike a few yards up, where the grade subsided, and remounted to finish out the climb – I’ll definitely have to give that one another go. This crazy uphill does have one plus side, a very nice, twisty, but not too twisty, downhill. The downside of the downhill is it’s on a road barely wide enough for one car that has two-way traffic, so becoming a hood ornament is definitely a risk, but since I was third wheel out, I wasn’t too worried about myself on that one. I did, however, keep my distance.
The next climb started only a couple block post where the first one ended. It definitely looked less steep in the beginning and appeared to crest just about 200 yards up the road. I gunned it out of the saddle, and kept going, and going, and going. Then, I realized that my HR is at about 180 and the end of this climb is nowhere in sight. I ended up passing about three stop signs, thinking before each that this was the end of the climb. Then, after the last one, I decided that I’m just going to keep going until the road flattens or starts going down – Tiburon isn’t that high above sea level – there is only so far this road can climb. About .6 miles (1000 yards) later, I hit the top.
We all reunited at the top and zipped back down for a cup of coffee. After coffee and some chit-chat, it was time for a relaxed ride back to the city with a hard push out of Sausalito – I was still determined to keep as much of my ride in the big ring as possible, notwithstanding those two climbs.
This ride also marked a milestone, as at its end, I achieved my goal of cycling 6,000 miles this year. I know this isn’t a lot, and many amateur riders ride even more annually, not to mention it is dwarfed by the 20,000+ miles ridden by the top pros. However, it is almost double what I had ever ridden before, in part, due to a longer season, but also due to higher monthly totals. These 6000 miles also came with 450,000 feet of climb, and assuming an average of 15 miles/hour, with 400 hours on the bike. So before I start formally setting goals for next year, I’ll allow myself to bask in the glory of this accomplishment just momentarily.

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