On Saturday the Death Ride team's training ride started from Steven Kent Winery in Livermore. From there we took Mines Road and rode up the backside of Mt. Hamilton to the summit. At the summit we turned around and retraced our route back to Livermore. All told it was about 93 miles and about 8000 ft of climbing.
I’ve ridden many centuries, and I’ve even done 5 or 6 double metric centuries (~125 miles). But I don’t think I’ve ever done 8000 ft of climbing on a ride, so I’ll venture to say that this was my Toughest. Ride. Ever.
I actually went back through my journal & blog to see if I've ridden anything comparable. The only ride I've done that comes even close to this in terms of climbing was the Calaveras-Mt Hamilton Whupfest I rode with Veronica a few years ago. I know the training rides are going to get steeper & longer, but this one is sort of a stake in the ground. As it were.
Here’s the trace from my gps – I forgot to start recording until a couple of miles into the ride, and the gps stopped recording partway up Mt Hamilton (it must have been reading my mind, heh heh), so it shows a few miles short. Oh well.
I’ve only ridden Mines Road once, many years ago, but never past the Del Puerto Junction. So after the Junction Cafe it was all new territory for me. Mines Road became San Antonio Valley Road which took us up the eastern side, also known as the “backside”, of Mt. Hamilton.
Well. Now I know what all the fuss is about that backside. It’s a much harder climb than the San Jose side. Presumably the road up the eastern side of the mountain was not built to accommodate horse-drawn wagons lugging telescopes to the observatory. Not to mention a middle aged slightly overweight woman on a bike equipped with a triple chainring and a dinner plate cassette. Oy. But I made it to the top, eventually – no small thanks to Coach Sarah who hung back with me. My pace still slows to a crawl when the grade goes above 6% or so, and the backside of Hamilton was at least 6%, often well above that, for over 5 miles. Gahhhhh.
But I made it to the top, eventually, and met up with the rest of my group at the summit for the return trip down. Soon after starting the descent we passed by my friends Veronica and Thom who were setting up their rest stop for DMD. I yelled out my hellos and kept going – great folks, they understood. More about DMD in a moment.
I'm (almost) never anxious on descents, at least I never used to be, but the descent down the backside of Hamilton put the fear in me. It was a combination of steep and curvy, with gravel & bumpy pavement in all the wrong places, and I needed to stop just before the cattle guard partway down to gather my wits. I even toyed with getting SAGed down the rest of the way. But after a little while I felt better and continued on.
Near the base of Hamilton, a great big jackrabbit ran alongside me for a ways. Maybe it was a jackalope. All I could think was “Pul-eeze don’t be darting into the road Mr. Jackalope!” If those big ears got tangled up in my spokes it could have been ugly.
And somewhere on Mines Rd, a deer bounded into the road in front of our paceline. It missed Susie by inches, inches I tell ya! :o
Two major organized rides were going on today along that same route – the Mt. Hamilton Challenge and the infamous Devil Mountain Double. The routes for these rides went in opposite directions; as we approached and climbed Mt Hamilton we passed the MHC riders descending and heading towards Livermore, and as we were heading back to Livermore we passed the DMD riders heading towards Mt Hamilton. Our group got lots of "go team" shoutouts, and occasionally we'd see someone we knew riding DMD or the MHC. Many of the riders were wearing jerseys from past epic studly rides -- I saw lots of DMD jerseys of course, but many Death Ride, CA Triple Crown, and TTwo jerseys (to name a few) were present & correct.
It was really lovely out on Saturday, clear and sunny, and not too warm -- especially by Mines Road standards! During the ride our group was trading stories about past rides we've done in this region when the temps were near or well into triple digits. Those of us who were on or witnessed last years' Mt. Hamilton-Sierra Road team ride (where, as Janet put it, Coach Sarah tried to kill off the entire team :D ) were especially grateful for the nice weather. The wildflowers were blooming, the streams were gurgling, the hills and pastures were a lovely green. Nice. I could have done without the bugs swarming around me as I was climbing, but hey.
The last few climbs on Mines past the junction heading back to Livermore really sucked. They don’t look like much on the elevation profile, but by the time we reached them I was pretty tired. Happily, they were over eventually, and then we reached a nice long stretch of slightly downhill grade which perked me up a lot. One thing I can say for myself, I seem to recover fairly quickly.
And the final descent into Livermore was wonderful - it helped me get my descending mojo back, and helped me forget how miserable I was about 20 miles back.
The ginormous Cadillac margarita I had afterwards at a taqueria in downtown Livermore helped even more ...