Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Calaveras - Mt. Hamilton Whupfest

Lee and I met up with Veronica and Thom in Sunol around 7 am on Saturday to ride over Calaveras, up Mt. Hamilton, and back.

I've learned over and over again that I really need about 10 miles of riding to warm up. It's the way I am. So I kept falling back behind the others along the rollery part of Calaveras. Eh.

Lee planned on riding with us a bit and then going off on his own. So as we passed Welch Creek Road, Lee decided to give that uber-stinker road a go. He made it up well into the 17% section before he decided that was enough fun and turned around, possibly about a mile before the top. Go Lee!

Meanwhile V, Thom & I reached the beginning of the climb up Calaveras, and I started my lap timer at the Geary Road sign. It was only about 5 miles from the start of the ride and I was still creakin' a bit. Usually when I do this ride I start from home, which is 15 flat miles to Sunol, a very nice warm up, so I generally have 20 miles in me when I start up Calaveras. I made it to the little KOM sign at the false summit in exactly 17 minutes, just a wee less than my current best of 16 min 40 sec. I'd really like to break 15 minutes soon.

Calaveras Road was chip-sealed a few weeks ago from the Santa Clara Co. border southward, and there was still a bit of gravel on the road. Not too bad, though, although I had to take the corners more cautiously than I ordinarily would. But I heard there were a couple of accidents amoung the TnT group that went through there a bit after us.

We continued down the Wall, hung a right and zoomed down Calaveras Road past Ed Levin park and took a left onto Piedmont Rd. for a nice flat cruise towards Alum Rock Park. We stopped at the 7-Eleven to top off our water bottles and Thom wolfed down a hotdog much to V's disgust. :D

We then went into Alum Rock Park and used the restrooms there, then went up Alum Rock Road where it's closed to traffic and emerged from the park still on Alum Rock Rd. (I think cutting through Alum Rock Park is a really nice way to approach Mt. Hamilton, you have the restrooms and you avoid the urban sprawl of Toyon and McGee roads which is the DMD route.)

After a nice smooth descent on Alum Road Road from the park (the other reason why I like this approach!) we turned left and began climbing up Mt. Hamilton Road. I wasn’t feeling great so I told V and Thom to just bomb on ahead and I’d meet them at Grant Ranch Park. I think I might not have eaten enough so I had a mini payday bar partway up (along with the Spiz and Hamer gel) and that seemed to help.

V and Thom were actually waiting for me at the start of the descent into Grant Ranch - V quipped “we didn’t want to have to climb out of Grant Ranch if we had to check up on you” - good point! - so we did the nice descent into Grant Ranch all together. We stopped off at the trailhead to use the porta-potty and refill bottles, then headed onward and upward. I was feeling better but still climbing slowly, so V and Thom left me in the dust soon again. I came upon them as they were waiting along the side of the road, Thom decided he had enough and was saying his goodbyes before turning around and heading back to Sunol.

So then there were the two of us. It was pretty uneventful for me the rest of the way up, V disappeared soon enough again but once we were in the final portion of the climb I spotted her from time to time on the switchbacks heading towards the observatory. Oh geeze, I was whupped those last two or three miles! I’m pretty sure I was eating and drinking enough, I was just tired. I had a brief stop about 2 miles from the top and that helped a bit. At least it was pretty up there, and while it was warming up it didn’t get oppressively hot.

I was soooo glad to finally reach the summit. V claims she was waiting for only about 10 minutes but I suspect it was more than that. :p We had a nice break and V shared half her turkey sandwich with me which was very tasty. She was very pleased with how good she felt. I just whimpered. :p

Then we headed back down. I seem to be descending a bit more tentatively than I used to, not sure why, but I was still tired from the climb so I didn’t want to take any chances.

We reached the bottom of the mountain and followed the DMD route thru the afforementioned stripmall spawl of McGee and Toyon roads (mainly because they were downhill) and cruised along Piedmont Road. We passed the turn for Sierra Road and V quipped that she felt so good she almost considered going up it. I just whimpered. :p

Then the fun began again. We reached Calaveras Road and turned right for the long, semi-steep slog leading up to the Wall. As I approached Ed Levin Park at about the 68 mile point, like a mirage in the distance there was Thom in their car, bringing us lovely cold bottled water.

I was gazing longingly at the empty spot on their bike rack, and whimpered pathetically to Thom asking if he wouldn’t mind giving me a ride the rest of the way to Sunol.

V just looked at me and asked "do you REALLY want to quit now???".

Errr. OK, the rest of the way up to the Wall would be a drag, the Wall would hurt, but then it would be over, and then it would be just a few rollers to the end.

"OK, OK, I'll keep riding, dammit."

Gawd I was pathetic going up that wall. Forward momentum was maintained, just. The lowest speed my computer registers is 2.4 mph. I may have gone under that, good grief.

V's a very smart girl. She waited for me waaay past the crest of the wall, at a point after a little downhill, so I didn't hate her quite so much by the time I reached her. :p

The rest of the ride was fine. I had a tiny skid going around one of the corners on the freshly chipsealed section of Calaveras but that was due to my own inattention (meaning, I fried and my coordination was a bit off). My lower back was starting to ache a bit and it actually started to feel worse during the final descent, but once we reached the bottom and the rollery section towards Sunol it felt a bit better.

We had told Thom back at Levin Park that we’d reach Sunol by 4 pm and we rolled in at 3:58. Thom and Lee were waiting patiently for us back at the school, and Thom quipped that we got in under the cutoff. Wizeazz. :D

Despite all the whimpering and whining, it was a really great ride!

We all headed off to Bosco’s for our after-ride feast. Very soon I had a pint of Sierra Nevada in front of me and all was quite well with my world.

Total climb was 7700 feet or so, a new max for me. So I guess I was entitled to feel whupped. :D

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