Friday, October 5, 2007

Low-Key Hillclimb: Kings Mountain Road

[official results] [route map] [series description]

This week's ride was up Kings Mountain Road in Woodside. It is one of the easier rides (relatively) on this year's schedule. I have ridden it a couple times, but I have never tried to go up fast.

I decided to take the train to get there, so I had to leave a little earlier than I normally would (because on the weekend, the trains run only once an hour). I rode the train from Sunnyvale to Palo Alto. I brought a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with me to eat on the train. (I wanted to eat something at home before I left, but had NO appetite.) I then rode 6 miles from the station to the staging area in Portola Valley.

I arrived pretty early, so they were still in the process of setting up the registration. But there were a few others there already. I got registered pretty quickly, so I had 45 minutes to spend before we started. I chatted with a few different people and rode my bicycle around the strip mall where we were doing the registration.

photo by John Gale

Unlike last week where we did a single mass start for everyone, this week we sent out small groups (about a dozen) of riders at a time. They wanted the faster riders to go in the earlier groups, so I waited for the last group.

We left the registration area but had to pedal about three miles to get to the start line. We all did it at a moderate pace. When we reached the start line, we formed a single-file line on a side street. One of the volunteers started the clock and told us to go.

Because it was a small group, all the people dispersed quickly. A couple people passed me, and I passed a couple. At no point did I have a chance to pedal along with anyone.

I think I previously pedaled around 6 miles per hour up this route. Today I tried to maintain 7.5 to 8. Even though this seems negligible, it really wore me out. Because it was all uphill, this small increase in speed required a much larger energy output.

By the time I reached the top (only 4 miles), I was exhausted. I walked around for a minute or two to catch my breath. There was food there, but unfortunately no bananas. I ate a handful of small cookies, a handful of tortilla chips, and a handful of peanut butter filled mini-pretzels. Then I had a half bagel with cream cheese, and really enjoyed that.

The crowd had thinned out by the time I finished. I had seen several people returning down the road during the second half of my ride up. By the time I finished eating, there were not too many people left. I started cooling down, so I decided I should continue my ride before I lost too much body heat.

My plan was to ride back home all the way. The full route (picture below), including the ride from the train station, the race, and the ride home would be almost 60 miles. Specifically, I wanted to go downhill on the OTHER side of the mountain range and then come back up on Alpine Road. I have ridden down this road a couple times before, but have never ridden it up.

the full route (click for interactive map)

Although I had recovered my energy by the time I reached the next uphill ride, I started dragging about halfway up. But it never got so bad that I needed to stop. I did stop at one point to eat a snack bar. I wanted to go home without eating again, but I started feeling particularly hungry.

I reached the top, crossed over Skyline Blvd and then continued down the other side of the mountain range on Page Mill Road back home. On the way down, I recognized Bay Area bicycling legend Jobst Brandt riding uphill.

I had left home at 8:00am to catch the train, and I returned home just after 3:00pm. Of course, not all of that time was spent riding the bicycle. But it had been a while since I had ridden a route this long, so I really enjoyed it.

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