Thursday, June 30, 2011

89 miles, 6,648 elevation gain, bugs flying off the teeth EPIC ride

Sunday I did my long bike ride. I have a friend training for the bike part of Vineman (112 miles) so he came down and we went on what was planned to be a 122 mile ride with over 11,000 ft of climbing. Now, to be honest, I didn't think we'd get the whole ride in before we ran of daylight and there was one part that I had no intention of doing but put in to be nice. But I still thought the ride was somewhat doable with maybe a little bit of walking up some of the Mount Hamilton part. I had seen many versions of this ride on ridewithgps.com so I know it can be done and is a semi-popular route.

My first  indication that it might not go as planned was when I put in my mileage for everything I'd done for the week into my training plan spreadsheet and realized I had already earned 136 activity points. That's almost as many as I earned for last week and doing this ride would add on another 122 points. Not good or realistic. I should probably have done a short 50-60 miler ride instead.

But my friend was coming down and was excited about doing the Tour de California Stage 4 part of the ride and I have really had this urge to do an epic ride lately so we set out.

The first part was pretty easy. We rode from Fremont BART to Livermore and that part was reasonably flat. We topped off our water bottles at a gas station in downtown Livermore and headed out for Mines. Right before Mines started climbing, Seht got a flat. That put us behind by about 30 minutes and now it was getting pretty hot. But the climb up Mines was okay, very doable. The only issue was that I ran out of water well before we got to The Junction which was not where I thought it was but at least 10 miles further down the road.

Luckily we found a fire station on the way. We drove in asking for hose water but they had a cooler with bottled water and Gatorade and wouldn't even take any money for it. We got to use the bathroom too. Then, it turned out The Junction was only 1 mile further along. D'oh.

We zoomed downhill passed The Junction and kept going until we got to the backside of Mount Hamilton. At this point, we hit a steep climb and I was mashing down on my gears and not feeling them give and not feeling like I had anything in my legs. I was convinced I was in the big ring in the front even though I should have been on the small ring and I looked down to check and that action caused me to come to a dead stop.

Now I was stopped on the side of a steep hill with rubber legs, plus, I was on the small ring after all. I decided to walk my bike until I came to a switchback where it was level enough to get back on and ride. Such a spot never happened on the first hill. I walked the whole thing. Seht rode it but with frequent stops, somewhat to wait for me but also to get his heart rate down.

Then we swooped downhill for a bit and when we got to the next up I decided I absolutely had to ride it. I did manage to ride up some of it but, when I thought I was near the top, I couldn't any more so I stopped to rest. Just before I stopped, I thought I heard a drum being practiced off in the distance. When I stopped the drum got louder and I realized it was my heart. My heart was trying to beat it's way out of my chest and I was so glad I stopped because, if I hadn't, I probably would have had a heart attack or passed out.

Nothing like that had ever happened to me before and it was somewhat scary.

Compounding our problems was the fact that it was hotter than heck out, no place to refuel our water bottles and not a lot of shade. I ended up walking my bike up most of the rest of the hill with frequent stops when some shade appeared to cool off. We both ran out of water at some point but some nice people in a pickup truck going the other way stopped and handed us some out the truck window. They said they do this all the time.

I was able to ride my bike for two other stretches which made me feel good, but Seht was having trouble with his feet and ended up walking a lot in his socks which was worrisome. Also, that hill was much longer than it looked. I thought I was mostly uphill when I got off to walk but it was more like half way maybe even less than half way. At some point, we got to where I couldn't really see any taller trees so I was sure we were near the top but we had at least five switchbacks from that point to the top. The way the road went through the hill, you just couldn't see them.

We got to the top and there was spigot so we were able to refill our water bottles, drink some, and refill again. No bathroom though and, by this point, I did have to go again. Luckily there was a park to stop at on the way down so we planned to stop there. Instead we found a port-a-potty and stopped there and skipped the park.

The downhill was awesome, of course. At one point, Seht came around a corner too fast and ended up in a ditch somewhat slammed into a hill, but he was okay as he didn't really fall. I tried to be more cautious after he did that so I didn't go down the hill as fast as I normally would have. Plus the sun was setting and I'd go around a corner, be blinded and not be able to see how sharp the turn was and would have to slow down until I could see again. But it was still a great descent and after that I felt better about my legs.

Unfortunately, we were running out of daylight and Seht's legs were toast, probably because he road up that one hill that I walked up. So we rode to a Starbucks, called Mr. Mac to come get us and then cleaned up in the Starbucks restroom and snacked until he showed up.

At home I took a shower and then sat in my 110% Play Harder compression gear with the ice packs until they weren't cold any more and watched Buffy, the Vampire Slayer on Netflix with Mini-Mac. I think that helped a lot with my recovery as far as my legs were concerned, but it didn't help with the exhaustion. I decided to make this week a recovery week and blew off my Monday and Tuesday workouts.

We also took stock at Starbucks and also I talked to people with more experience with that route later on. It turns out that when you do what we did (Mines Rd to Mount Hamilton) you are supposed to either be supported or to do something like wear a camelback. Duly noted.

The other issue is that going up the backside of Mount Hamilton is harder than starting in Alum Rock. I didn't realize that. Based on what I saw of other people's routes, I thought the way we went was the normal way.

Finally, we really needed to start two hours earlier. If we had and if we hadn't had to change a flat, we wouldn't have done all our climbing during the hottest part of the day. That didn't help matters at all.

Anyway, I still want to do that ride someday -- including the Calaveras Resevoir part that we skipped but not the Sierra Road part that we skipped. While our ride was epic, it wasn't really the epic bike ride I had in mind. I was thinking something longer without 10 miles of walking.

So I'm thinking about trying again this weekend. Another friend is going to do the Mines-Mount Hamilton part and then ride home and he'll have support so if I tag along, I'll have support too. Then again, maybe I should rest my legs this week and try this ride again in a month when I'm stronger and more recovered. Yeah, that sounds like a better idea.
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