Wednesday, June 23, 2010

2010 Best of the Bay Century

104 miles traveled, 8000 feet total elevation gain, 8:40 hours total (8:00 on the bicycle)

Finally I can write a ride report without complaints. I had enough time to prepare for this ride, and I was fully healthy. The Best of the Bay Century is a ride I have not done before. It falls on an open time in my calendar, so I decided I should try it. Unlike my other centuries, this one is not a complete loop — it starts in one city and ends in another city 35 miles away. So the entry fee includes a train ticket from one city to the other.

I woke up at 4:00am, got ready, and ate some breakfast. I left home at 5:00am and drove 30 minutes to the terminus in Fremont. I met the staffer there who checked me in and gave me the one-way train ticket to the start in Orinda. After a short wait, I and about 10 other participants boarded the first train of the day. It was a 45 minute ride, which included one transfer in Oakland.

About 90% of the riders arrive in Orinda, ride the course to Fremont, then take the train back in the afternoon. These participants have the benefit of starting earlier. I was constrained because there was no earlier train than the one I took.

7:00am , 0 miles, 0 feet

There are several course options because there is a short loop at the beginning and another short loop at the end. Rider can choose to do both, skip one, or skip both. My goal was to do the first loop and probably (depending on time and strength) skip the second one. It seems most riders skipped the first loop. The second is the more interesting one because it includes a steep hill. Doing the route with just one loop still covers 100 miles. I definitely wanted to do the first loop because that part was all new for me.

The start is near the loop at the top, and the finish is the endpoint near the bottom.

There were only a few riders on the first loop, and I chatted briefly with one as we rode together for a few minutes. I asked some questions about the route, since he had done it before. I finished the loop without seeing too many other riders. I continued on the route and the steeper climbs of the Berkeley hills started.

I was surprised that I had not yet reached the first rest stop. Eventually, I sensed that something was off with the route so I stopped and examined the map closely. That is when I discovered that I had missed a turn near the end of the loop. This meant that I had cut a few miles from the route, and that I had missed the first rest stop.

Although I was a little hungry, the main reason I needed the first rest stop was for the bathroom break. Fortunately where I stopped was at a park entrance with a public restroom. I deemed this my unofficial first rest stop. I decided that I could wait for food until the second official rest stop. Fortunately I had eaten food at home before starting so that was sustaining me (plus I was carrying an emergency snack with me in case I could not last that long).

9:25am, 21 miles, 3200 feet

This part of the route was the ascent of the east side of the Berkeley hills. Here there was an option of taking a "shortcut" on a short road called South Park Drive. Although this option trims a couple miles from the route, it actually makes it harder because losing those miles of distance means it is much steeper in covering the same elevation. As I rode along I finally saw the sign for the road and decided to take it. I was puzzled because the road started downhill. I thought this was weird, but I guessed it may start downhill then suddenly turn into a steep uphill. But the road became an even steeper downhill. Then I realized that I was backtracking! I had somehow missed the road at the bottom, so I took it from the top and headed back downhill. By this time I was more than halfway to the bottom, so I decided to go all the way so I could where I missed it. I then turned around and headed back uphill. This time my route mistake resulted in adding a couple miles, so it mostly compensated for my first mistake, distance-wise.

Shortly after, I reached the summit of this part of the route. Normally there is a fantastic view of San Francisco including both the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. But at this time in the morning there was enough fog that the Golden Gate was barely visible. The route then plunged downhill into a undeveloped valley (via Pinehurst Road) where I reached the second rest stop.

10:45am, 40 miles, 3700 feet

The staffers here confirmed that the majority of riders had already passed through, because they had started earlier or skipped the first loop, or both. After some food and a bathroom break, I continued on. Although the whole morning had been colder than usual, I really felt the chill now. The valley was holding the cold air, the thick tree cover blocked out the sky, my 10 minutes off the bike made me lose some body heat, and the road pointed downhill for a couple miles (meaning I did not have the option of hard pedaling to warm me up). At this point I was noticeably shivering and my teeth were chattering. I was happy to see the road turn back uphill after a couple miles.

The road continued through an undeveloped valley (via Redwood Road) that felt more like the remote Sierra Nevada foothills than the edge of a major metropolitan center. Eventually the route led into the city of Castro Valley and the third rest stop.

11:45am, 58 miles, 5200 feet

Again, the route left the city and followed a valley on the undeveloped side of a mountain ridge (via Palomares Road). For the first time today, I no longer felt cold as sky fully cleared and the day's warmth finally built up. After not seeing many of my fellow riders for a long time, I managed to pass a couple. The miles and the hills were adding up and slowing me down, but I still had plenty of reserves. As I pulled into the lunch rest stop, I finished the part of the route that was new to me.

12:50pm, 72 miles, 6200 feet

The rest of the course was all on familiar roads, mainly Calaveras Road. As I passed the Calaveras Reservoir, I noticed the high water level that was the result of an extended, rainy winter this year. There were quite a few other cyclists on this stretch of road, most of whom were not part of this century ride. The uphill sections on this stretch were not steep, but they were taking their toll and draining me. I eventually made it to the final rest stop.

2:20pm, 89 miles, 7100 miles

Now I had to decide whether to do the final loop. I felt like I had enough energy left in reserve to do the steep slope of Sierra Road at a slow pace. But considering that I had done it many times before, I decided to save the hour and a half by skipping it. I could get a few things done at home with the extra time. The final part of the route was mostly flat and a mostly uninteresting roll through the town of Fremont.

3:35pm, 104 miles, 8000 feet

The ride ended at a buffet restaurant (Sweet Tomatoes) where the dinner was included with our ride. I indulged in the food and chatted with some other riders. The train station was only one mile from the restaurant, so I was able to quickly get there, pick up the car, and leave for home.

I was glad to have the chance to ride on some new roads. I am sure I will be doing a couple more centuries this season, but I have not decided exactly which ones. There are a couple challenging ones that I want to do, but I will need to improve my conditioning. We will see if I am able to do that.

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