Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Increasing the Effort

The weather is becoming ideal for bicycling. It is not too cold in the morning, and not too hot in the afternoon. This was the last weekend before daylight savings time starts, so hopefully I can very soon start doing mid-week rides.

I took advantage of the beautiful weekend to ride on both days. On Saturday, I met up with my friends Andy and Sarah. I have not ridden with them since last summer, because I was doing the Low Key Hillclimb series most weekends in the fall. We rode an abbreviated version of our usual route.

We took Kings Mountain Road in Woodside up to Skyline Blvd. The usual route is to continue down the other side of the range and then come back up to Skyline again before descending back to the valley. But we are all getting back into our summer conditioning still, so we did not take on any more climbing this day. We just headed back via Highway 84.

On Sunday, I rode by myself. I wanted to do something ambitious in order to work on my conditioning, so I decided to climb Mt Umunhum Road. I last tried this route on July 4 last year. That had been a bad choice of day, because the locals who live in the area close the road on that day (the only day of the year that they do it). This time, there should be no such obstacles.

But I did have one obstacle -- my legs were drained by the previous day's ride. I had to pedal 14 miles on mostly flat terrain to reach the interesting part of the route. I tried to keep a modest pace as the road started presenting hills. As I progressed on Hicks Road, I reach the section that is very steep, averaging about 11-12% grade. It continues like this until it intersects with Mt Umunhum Road. I did not have the energy to do this section without stopping. I needed to take about 3 breaks. I was not really out of breath, but rather my leg muscles were burning and completely out of strength.

Click to view an interactive map.

I rested for a few minutes at the intersection with Mt Umunhum Road before continuing. I shortly passed the point at which the locals set up their roadblock last year. The views were fantastic because the air was unusually clear. I reached the gate beyond which the road is closed to cars (point B on the map), but was able to continue since it is open to hikers and bikers. After a couple miles, the road reaches a point where it enters private property, so I ended my climb there.

After reaching back to Hicks Road, I decided to do a loop instead of returning the way I came. This only added distance, not any climbing. I thought that I should explore that route since I have not been in that area before. It was mostly uninteresting suburban San Jose, but I was glad I did it.

I was completely exhausted when I returned home. I had done 52 miles this day, and adding the 50 from yesterday, that was a good distance, and a lot of climbing. If I was at my peak condition, I would not have been totally drained. I know I have more room for improvement.

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