Saturday, June 28, 2008

Giro di Peninsula

147 miles, 7000 feet total elevation gain,
13 hours total (10 hours 30 minutes on the bicycle)

With exactly two weeks to go before the Death Ride, I thought I should do a long ride in preparation. I signed up to do the Giro di Peninsula (Italian for "Tour of the Peninsula"). Since this is a less intense (shorter, much less elevation gain) than the Death Ride, I decided to "supersize" it by riding to/from the start instead of driving.

The start/finish is at the Bay Meadows horse race track in San Mateo, which is 23 miles from home. To get there at the official registration time, I left home at 4:30am. Although it was before dawn, I did not put a headlight on my bike (I did have a flashing taillight). Because daybreak is around 5:00am, there was just enough light to see the road, and there was zero traffic. The only hazard I faced in the dark was a close encounter with a skunk. It was crossing the bike lane as I came by, but we saw each other at the last second and we avoided the collision. Thankfully it did not spray me.

Click to see an interactive map.

I reached the registration at 6:15am, ate some snacks, and them met Joel, my boss. He is a triathlete who was also interested in doing the Giro. Joel also brought along two other friends — Lawrence and his wife Michelle. We all left around 6:30am. We rode through the cold morning air up to the Crystal Springs Reservoir then along the mostly flat Canada Road to the town of Woodside. From there we started the first big climb of the day — up Highway 84 to Skyline Blvd. I had descended Hwy 84 several times, but had never climbed it. It may be the easiest ascent to Skyline, never too steep and with a smooth surface.

At Skyline, Michelle left since she was not planning on doing the full ride. The remaining three of us headed down the other side of Hwy 84 towards the coast to the next rest stop at San Gregorio. From there we headed north on Highway 1 for a short distance to reach our return route to Skyline — Tunitas Creek Road. This was the toughest climb of the route. It is moderately steep in many places, but was no problem for me since I am still in my best condition.

We reached Skyline again and continued across to descend on Kings Mountain Road back to Woodside. From here there were only a few short climb through the town of Portola Valley and into Palo Alto on Page Mill Road. From Page Mill, the route takes us back down on Altamont Road, which I had been on numerous times. Lawrence and Joel are alumni from Yahoo, and Lawrence pointed out the house on Altamont that belongs to Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang. I had noticed that house on my previous rides because it was under construction, but did not know that it was Yang's.

Joel, Lawrence, and Murali near the end of the ride. We pretended to have a sprint finish for the camera.

After that descent, the route retraces itself, taking us back through Portola Valley and Woodside. We skipped the last rest stop so that we could get to the finish sooner. We rolled back in at 3:30pm. Joel and Lawrence decided to leave right away, but I stayed to indulge in the food. They were done for the day, but I still had the ride home ahead of me. At the five rest stops we went to along the route, I ate cookies, peanut butter jelly sandwiches, boiled potatoes, and oranges. But at the finish they had hot food. I had pasta, salad and bread.

After a half hour break, I headed for home. My legs were just a bit tired, but it was an easy ride home. I arrived at 5:50pm. This is one of the less difficult centuries, and it was not a hot day, so I had absolutely no problems. The extra distance I added made it a good warm-up for the Death Ride. I will do my last training ride next weekend, but not something this long. I am getting pretty excited as the time approaches to do the event I have been training for for the last half year.

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