Temperate triumph

What a difference a few degrees makes (temperature speaking, that is)! Two years ago, the Calaveras ride killed, maimed or at the very least disheartened what must have been a full half of our team. The weather then was so hot and the climbs were so long that multiple people SAG’d out with heat exhaustion. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you’ll remember that I suffered a near collapse myself only to rebound… and then crash out about 5 miles from the finish.  With such lovely memories to recommend it, you can imagine my level of excitement showing up for this season’s East Bay sojourn.

The morning started off promisingly overcast. Oh yes, when living in fear of heat stroke, “promising” and “overcast” can be used together in a positive manner… even at the perceived expense of pretty pictures. The newly-dubbed Dream Catchers rolled out from the parking lot (complete with our new group-mate Dan) and, after a few adjustments to paceline technique, quickly passed through the neighborhoods of Milpitas. We joked, laughed, sang (you haven’t lived until you’ve heard my on-bike rendition of “Some Kind of Wonderful”) and, despite a few nasty construction zones, had a good warmup.

There is definitely some advantage in experience. By the time we hit the “secret restroom stop,” I knew, not only that our first climb was coming up, but also roughly how long and how terrible it would be. I downed a few gummy sharks (Yep. Sharks. Remind me that I owe a new food review post soon!), and started to get mentally fired up for the Palomares climb. A couple miles and a few encouraging words from Coach George later, we were spinning our way skyward.

Now, I should probably mention at this point, that I’d gone out and bought new shoes and clips the night before. My old ones were starting to show their age (and by that I mean, they were well passed the point that anyone thought they should still be worn) and, in a desperate bid for their retirement, had decided to start squeaking with every pedal revolution. Knowing that I didn’t need one more source of annoyance on long climb rides, I made a last-minute dash to Palo Alto Bikes Friday night to procure their replacements. (For the record: the guy at the store actually told me “I’d definitely gotten my money’s worth out of ’em” on seeing the old pair. Doh! I didn’t think they were that bad!)

Why is this worth mentioning? To reiterate Important Cycling Pro Tip #24:  try your gear out at least once before a long ride. I quickly discovered that, for whatever reason, my left clip was too far forward. By a lot.  Every time I pushed with my left leg, I unconsciously tried to scoot my foot up so that I could push with the ball of my foot. Of course, that didn’t actually succeed in doing anything other than making my left toes go numb and my left calf ache. My left calf is having a bad season! Egos are a funny thing though (as is a lack of readily available hex-tool), and I decided to spin up to the first rest stop rather than trying to stop and adjust. Hey! No one wants to hold up the team, right?! I made it to the top, solid in the middle of the pack, and proactively pushed the potassium and salts (No sense tempting the Calf-god Fates). There wasn’t really a good spot to try and adjust my shoe, so I headed into the descent planning to make an adjustment at our next stop point.

Palomares has a kickass downhill. There are a small number of switchbacks early, followed by some lovely, sweeping sections. I pushed my speed up a good bit (ever conscious of the deer that tried to kill me last time), and topped out just a smidge under 40mph. Wahoo! The rest of the team made it downhill without incident, and we proceeded into my (second? third? depends on if you count the hills) least favorite part of the ride: the 580 parallel false flats. I just don’t have anything good to say about a hot exposed road, running adjacent to a major freeway, that tries to trick your brain into thinking that it should be easy. So rude! We were rewarded with another nice descent into Pleasanton… but really the nicest thing I can say about this stretch of the ride is thank goodness the weather stayed cool through there this year!

By the time our group stopped at the Marriot for a quick restroom break, my left calf and toes were really starting to complain. I took a chance on inconveniencing the group, borrowed a multi-tool and pushed that darn cleat back. And whoa was it out of place! The entire base was shifted a full notch forward compared to the right side and the whole thing was sitting at about 45-degree angle! I’m not sure if the cleat was just not secured well initially (and then slipped when I first clipped out) or what… but it was definitely utterly wrong. I saddled back up just about the time the boys were ready to roll, cleat in much better shape (but calf definitely still feeling the abuse). 

The stretch of ride down through Pleasanton and into our next rest stop was fairly uneventful. I mentally celebrated my shoe-repair success and remained cautiously optimistic at the lack of rising temperatures in the area. I managed to climb the amazingly steep driveway into rest stop two (again, advance knowledge is your friend!) and was rewarded with a fantastic spread of goodies (including my personal favorite: fresh watermelon!).  After a quick break, George ushered us back onto bikes and out on the road. After a few short turns, we found ourselves winding through Sunol.

Now, Sunol is one of those love-hate sections of the ride. On the one hand, there is some absolutely gorgeous scenery to behold, and there are typically very few cars. Yay! On the other, the entire area consists of what should feel like manageable rollers… except for the persistent, high speed headwinds. We definitely put our pacelining skills to work through this stretch, trying to focus on keeping the pulls short as the heat plus wind combo was making people really notice their thirst (only drink at the back people!!). We did have one dropped bottle almost-incident (almost in that no one actually hit it), but otherwise hit the bottom of the second big climb, Calaveras, drama free.

I’m not gonna lie. I was dreading Calaveras. Think about it. My experience on this hill pretty much consists of struggling up the thing in 90+ degree heat, making the rest stop only to fall trying to leave, getting back up, nearly passing out, temporarily recovering, breaking my derailleur (through no fault of my own!) and then having to SAG out. Not exactly a friendly track record. I was absolutely determined to make it through this climb and set the record straight — bum calf be damned! So I GU’d up, dropped gears and sat back to spin.

It’s odd how you can build things up in your mind. You worry about flying gravel and stress about the heat, imagine a dozen ways to fall and vilify innocent landscape, only to discover… this hill isn’t so bad. In fact, when your eyes aren’t burning with the dripping chemicals of dissolving sunscreen… it’s actually kind of… pretty. Who knew? I chatted with Colin, kept my breathing fairly normal, and made the top without stopping. Well.. the almost top. The rest stop anyway, which you falsely believe is the top the first time you do this ride (haha! Didn’t fool me this time!). After a quick-ish SAG supported recovery, which may or may not have included me making out with a very cute puppy, we hit the road to burn out the last 10 miles.

Or so we thought. Apparently the area around Calaveras is absolutely covered in not-so-tiny, dried burrs which, upon encountering bike tires, throw a happy pokey party. Mike and I each dislodged four or so of these stabby bastards before we headed into the rest of our climb. Unfortunately for him, these burrs are nothing if not persistent in their desire to pierce all rubber through and through. Mike suffered no less than four flats on the 3-ish mile stretch that remained of the Calaveras climb. Seriously. To be fair to the puncture happy fauna, one of those was a pinch-flat. Thankfully our SAG car was never far behind (as we weren’t actually moving far), and each tube change was pretty quick… although definitely not fun for poor Mike!

Miraculously, my own tires never went flat ,despite initial hissing air noises to indicate that they would. One was, however, flat as a pancake come Monday morning. We finally finished the climb (ha! take that heat!), and hit the last descent of the day… down the backside of “the Wall.” I’ve gotta wonder… do all neighborhoods have something they call The Wall? I can think of at least three! Once everyone survived the “descending on your head” feeling of actually going down such a steep hill, the group was free to enjoy a swooping descent back to civilization. Well… most of us were. I’m pretty sure Mike’s enjoyment has faded in memory, as he found a fifth flat in his tire at the bottom of the road. Doh! 

Our newly-crowned Tube Swapping Expert made quick work of his last flat (for real this time), and we all easily finished the last tiny stretch of road. With yet another old demon conquered, 57 miles down and over 3000 calories burned, I headed to El Torito for some mexican refuel action… before heading home and hoping for a nap.

Calaveras ride


0 Responses to “Temperate triumph”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

What do we have here?

An often sarcastic, occasionally humorous journal of my training adventures in preparation for the Livestrong century ride. I took up cycling back in '07 in hopes of meeting new people, and, with the help of Team in Training, making my small positive difference in the world -- and haven't stopped spinning since. Follow along as my Trek road bike and I try and hash out our differences, hopefully with me upright and in the saddle.

Blog Archive


Twitter Updates

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

My Photos on Flickr


%d bloggers like this: