Sunday, May 4, 2014

2014 Mt Hamilton Challenge

131 total miles, 8300 feet total elevation, 13:40 hours total (12:05 on the bicycle)

I wanted to try this ride for the fifth time.  I did not try it last year because I did not feel like I was in shape.  Well, I also did not feel in shape this year either.  This winter had only sporadic riding, and my spring training did not ramp up. But I am planning on doing Seattle-to-Portland again this year – this time in one day.  I need to increase my training to be able to do my first double century in nearly 6 years.

As usual I got up early, got ready, and got dropped off in time to make the earliest start time of 6:00am.  However, a quick inspection found that I had a loose headset.  A mechanic was on hand to tighten it for me, but it delayed my start.

6:20am, 0 miles, 0 feet  (start)

I kept a moderate pace to start, knowing that my energy level would not be as good as previous years.  It was relatively cold at the start – upper 40s.  The initial stretch was a familiar route through some of the more industrial part of Silicon Valley.  One new sight for me this year was seeing the nearly completed Levi's Stadium, which did not exist the last time I rode this event two years ago.

After riding the flat approach to the mountain and beginning the ascent, I warmed up enough to where I took off my jacket and switched to open finger gloves.  But before the halfway point of the climb,  we entered the mist of the cloud layer.  I expected to ascend out of this layer and see clear sky, so I kept the warmer clothes off for a while.  I overheard another rider state that his thermometer was reading lower 40s.  That combined with the mist and wind meant it was definitely cold.

I could not take the cold anymore so I switched back to full finger gloves and put my jacket back on.  I was surprised to find that we never left the cloud layer.  I did not see the observatory at the summit until we reached it.  I was even more surprised to see small patches of snow at the summit.  We have been having consistent Spring weather throughout the Bay Area.  We had a light rain a couple days ago, but the colder temperatures up here meant it fell as snow and stuck.

10:20am, 35 miles, 4300 feet  (rest stop 1)

I ate my snack quickly and continued on.  I did not want to linger since I was getting colder just sitting idle.

The start of the descent was cold, due to it being still foggy and windy.  I noticed that my left foot had gone completely numb.  However, after about 2 miles of the descent, I was back under the cloud layer where it was much warmer.

The route through the valley on this side of the mountains was as scenic as ever.  The recent rain had filled several roadside ponds.  Some of the meadows were seas of yellow wild flowers, while some others were a mix of yellow, orange, and purple.  The wind was a constant presence, often an annoying head-wind or side-wind.  But sometimes it was a pleasant tail-wind.

1:30pm, 62 miles, 6300 feet  (rest stop 2)

I reached the second rest stop and found it to be emptier than usual.  I asked the staff about the main pack and they said that the majority of riders had left a significant time earlier.  I tried to eat quickly and stretch.

The next route section is usually an easy gradual downhill, but here is where I experienced the most significant wind of the day.  What is usually a zero-effort, fast descent was this year a mild-effort, medium speed descent.  By the time I reached the valley floor in Livermore, the usually flat route to the next stop again turned into the wind and required more energy that I would have liked.  However, this stretch usually has a headwind, so it was no surprise.  It was, in fact, less effort than I expected considering how strong the wind was on the previous section.

4:00pm, 92 miles, 6300 feet  (rest stop 3)

Again as I reached the next stop, the crowd was thinner than I usually experience.  I noticed I had arrived only about 30 minutes before the stop closes.  This meant I really need to conserve time to be sure to finish before the cutoff.  This was the first time I had been so far behind.

I ate quickly, then gave a call home to report my status.  I headed out, knowing I should be monitoring my pace to ensure I return on time.  There was less wind on the rest of the route, and my energy level never dropped too low, so I made better time than I expected to.

6:25pm, 115 miles, 8000 feet  (unofficial rest stop)

As usual, I made a stop at Ed Levin Park.  Somehow, the distance between the Pleasanton stop and the finish is too long for me to go without a bathroom break.  The unofficial stop at Levin park is convenient since the facilities are just off the road.  It was a very brief stop.  The ride back through Silicon Valley was easy and familiar.

7:15pm, 129 miles, 8000 feet  (finish)
I arrived back at the finish and checked in.  A few riders arrived after me, and I heard one of the staff announce, "that's the last of them."  It was the first time I was among the last finishers.  Although, it was my latest finish time, it was not significantly later than previous years.  As usual, I decided to ride home rather than have someone pick me up.

7:50pm, 133 miles, 8000 feet   (home)

The ride seems to be a much-needed precursor to my later ride plans.  My legs had soreness for about a week afterwards.  That is much longer than what I usually experience, and indicates that they still need to be built up.  If felt good to do this one, but I probably need to do some more centuries to prepare for the double century.

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