Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Back to the Coast

My training schedule was interrupted by a surprise party. I was able to ride this past weekend, but for the one before, I was in Illinois. A bunch of relatives went there to attend a surprise birthday party for my mother in law. Although I could not train, I had a great time.

I have not mentioned it so far, but I actually have a specific goal for all this training. The main century I want to do this year is scheduled for July 12. It called the Death Ride. It is in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and it is 129 miles long with 15,000 feet total elevation gain. Although most people focus on the distance, it is really the total climbing plus the fact that it is at elevation (between 4000 and 9000 feet) that give it its name.

Nothing I have done so far is as difficult as this, so that is why I am determined to improve my conditioning so quickly. I will write more about the Death Ride in future entries.

Click for interactive map.

So this weekend I wanted to be sure to do a challenging ride. Last week, I was able to do Page Mill Road to Skyline Blvd after work as a warmup. My goal for this weekend was to ride to the ocean and back (which requires going over the mountains in each direction). The total distance for this route would be 71 miles.

The first ride up the mountains was on Old La Honda Road because I wanted something only moderately difficult. Since I have not done a ride this long for a while, I wanted to make sure to pace myself accordingly. Strangely, I saw very few cyclists. This is one of the more popular roads for weekend cycling. It was a beautiful day, but it was unusually cold (probably 40's and 50's) which is what kept the roads empty.

I crossed Skyline Blvd and descended Old La Honda Road on the other side of the mountains. From here there are fantastic views of the ocean side of the mountains. This connects to Highway 84 which continues (at a relatively gradual grade) to the coast. The last few miles before the ocean are mostly flat, but a strong headwind made it more challenging than it should be.

Just before the coast, there is a small general store which is a popular bicycle destination. This area is relatively remote so there are few services. But since it is part of several popular bicycle routes, cyclist often break there. They have a bicycle rack outside in expectation of the visitors. I decided to eat an egg salad sandwich here since it had been 3 hours since I started, and about four hours since I had last eaten (a peanut butter jelly sandwich and a boiled egg).

I took the sandwich with me to the beach, which was one mile away. There were quite a few people here, as one would expect on a sunny spring Sunday, but a very cold breeze was blowing in from the ocean so most needed to bundle up.

I rode up the coast a few miles to connect to Tunitas Creek Road, which was my route back over the mountains. I had been on this road last fall with my friends Andy and Sarah, but we only went down. This would be my first time up. I expected it to be difficult, but it was less of a struggle than I thought it would be. By the time I reached the top, I was tired but not exhausted, which was a good sign.

I crossed Skyline Blvd and descended on Kings Mountain Road, which was the coldest part of the route today. From there it was the usual, mostly flat stretch back home. The total time for the ride was 7 hours. Minus all the breaks (I had to take on/off my jacket several times, took pictures, ate) the time was 6 hours. I need to be able to do this faster if I want to do the Death Ride.

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