On Thursday, Floyd emailed 6ABC, proposing a long (96 miles), steady, and strictly aerobic -- heart rate under 150 -- ride for Saturday morning. Many eagerly accepted the invitation, agreeing to ride a portion of the circuit. Little did we know what we were agreeing to.
First, there was confusion about start time, but that all got sorted out and we gathered at the henge at 6:30 and off we went at a high aerobic pace that from time to time ranged into anaerobic. Almost immediately, we realized that Floyd was not wearing a heart monitor, so the 150 bpm limit was bogus -- for most of us at least. Floyd is a low beater. His resting heart rate is in high 30s-low 40s. Todd is a low beater too. Me, I'm a high beater. My resting rate is around 60, no matter how much I aerobic exercise I do. So, I was already in the 160s. It was strenuous, but not overly so. Todd was wearing a heart monitor, so he kept clamps on Floyd's aggression somewhat. We realized that long and steady would mean long, steady, and hard.
Sun rose, as we rode the ridge on Skyline and dived down Redwood. Brian remarked that whenever he rides Redwood it feels like he's going uphill (we were going uphill just then). Redwood is such a rolling road that there's plenty of uphill. Though there's as much downhill as uphill, because we go uphill slower, we spend more time climbing, so it feels like you go uphill all the time; and there's a bunch of false flats to mess up your rhythm and make it feel like a hill.
Todd kept tabs on Floyd, but it wasn't working really. We were going steady, but hard. We griped good-naturedly, but kept up. As we rode on Redwood, we swept up a guy on a mountain bike. He tucked in and rode with us. He was strong and he was from Pittsburgh. He was one of the guys who started the Dirty Dozen, a 12-climb ride in Pittsburgh that takes in the nastiest hills in the area. Something similar to our Nifty Ten Fifty. The mountain biker's heart monitor hit 170 when we crested Redwood just north of Castro Valley, and he peeled off. We entered a residential area and were slowed by stop signs, traffic lights, and Brian's shifting problems. Floyd was heading to Palomares, so the ride mellowed.
We rode east on Crow Canyon, then turned off on Norris Canyon, climbed that and descended into San Ramon, where we ran into Gary. Not literally. Gary turned around and rode with us. Gary and I pulled north into Danville at a healthy clip, then stopped at Peet's which absolutely teemed with cyclists. After 10-15 minutes, two large groups left and we were about the only people in lycra there. It was time to go, but Brian discovered a front flat. Compounded with his shifting problems, this was turning into a long day for him. He fixed the flat while we stood around, chatting. Flat repaired, we set off. By now, I had to ride straight home to get back on time. Alas, Brian front-flatted again before we reached Alamo. I told him I had to abandon him and rode home. Gary came with me.
Riding from Walnut Creek into Lafayette, we were faced with an unenviable decision: Reliez Station Road or Lafayette-Moraga bike path. Reliez is nasty steep for a couple of hundred yards. The bike path is flat and slow and full of walkers, joggers, dogs, and slow bicyclists. We went up Reliez. I managed to climb it seated in my 32x27 low gear and tried to spin. It hurt. The rest of the ride home was uneventful. There was plenty of accumulated fatigue from a ride that was promised to be mellow.
I was pretty sore the next day. Nothing of similar length or effort appealed. It was a lovely Indian Summer day, but I contemplated sitting on the trainer for 30 minutes of leg turning. But then, Jessica and Sophie went to Strawberry Canyon Pool in late afternoon, a place where a 15-20 mile ride easily and pleasantly culminates. They left, I put on my riding clothes and went out. I think this was the third time this year I was riding in short sleeves and without knee warmers.
It was meant to be an easy ride, but as I climbed Broadway, I decided to go up Hiller Drive (see Nifty Ten Fifty link above). I had a lower low gear (32x27) than the last time I'd done it (34x28) -- nah, it's about the same. I stood up in my 32x27 pretty much at the bottom and started counting pedal strokes to pass the time. Whatever the gearing, the climb was damn hard. It was harder than I remember it ever being. It was hard enough that about two-thirds of the way up I began contemplating escape routes: turning around (without getting hit by an overtaking car -- at 4 miles an hour it's hard to turn and look back for traffic), stopping (it's hard to stop and unclip on such a steep hill), and even possibly falling over from exhaustion. Legs ached, arms hurt, and lungs burned. I came to the right turn, which one thinks marks the end of the climb, but it doesn't. In fact, it's like being on the inside of a hairpin turn and the road actually steepens. By 200 pedal strokes, I was ready to be done and my cadence was slowing. It took another 40 to get to the top.
I slumped over the bars as the bike rolled on. After this climb it takes forever to recover. I rode on along Hiller. Can't remember whether my legs or lungs came back first. About a quarter mile later I came to the Charing Cross Road intersection. Charing Cross is famous for having all homes on the street completely destroyed in the 1991 Oakland Hills fire. Many homes have been rebuilt. Usually, I turn around and descend Hiller, then climb Tunnel, but that's because I hadn't known about Charing Cross option. I knew that Charing Cross runs into Tunnel somewhere, so it was a shortcut of sorts. I took it and came down on Tunnel, about half a mile from the bottom.
Legs somewhat recovered, I rode at medium rhythm in the small chainring and the fifth cog, whatever it is. A guy on an orange single speed, rode by, standing up, going good 3-4 miles an hour faster. I sighed, as the road tilted up -- I didn't want to chase him. I didn't have to chase him. But the grade demanded that I shift down. I went down two cogs into the third and started spinning. Either I sped up thereby, or the guy on the single-speed slowed down, or both, but I began reeling him in. This was not a good development because as the gap narrowed, I was more and more motivated to keep chasing. There was another rider up ahead and he was going slower than both of us.
Well, at least I was spinning, saving my legs somewhat. I passed the slower guy, then caught up with the orange single speed and started chatting with him. He was on a 1981 Nervex-lugged Schwinn Superior, in a 48x21 freewheel cog. The conversation wasn't that great. He seemed intent on keeping his legs moving and pulled ahead. I'd catch up on downhills, as he was limited by his gear; this happened several times. I pulled ahead on the descent to the Grizzly-Claremont intersection and spun up Grizzly, heading North. I was determined to spin energetically, fully expecting the single-speed guy to catch up with me. There were a couple of riders in matching kit some way up the hill. It seemed I was riding faster than they, so I focused on them and spun. The single-speed guy wasn't catching me and I wasn't looking back. I caught the matching pair just before we crested, pushed on over the false flat past Steam Trains and up the top of the road just after South Park Drive.
Descended Grizzly, turned left on Centennial Drive -- always a hair-raising descent -- then left into Strawberry Pool parking lot at the bottom of the hill, and went in to look for Jessica and Sophie by the pool. Found them, we hung around for a bit, then headed out. As we headed out, I ran into Bill Pratt, who was there with his kids. Had a great time catching up with him, then rode home. This easy ride wasn't easy.
On Monday, I really needed to take it easy and I did -- 30 minutes on a trainer, turning pedals, not even riding, really. That's 81 now.