Saturday, January 28, 2012

Two steep canyons

Today I got on the road ~11:30. I'd like to say this is not typical, but it is in my post-TBI world.

I was never a morning person but bicycle rides need to start in the morning, and I could deal with that. Larry, Danny's brother, would call the night before and say 'meet me at the corner of Alpine and Portola at 9:30'. I'd be out of the house at 8:30 or 8:35, that was that.

Events usually start at first light. The earliest event start for me was 5am. These are usually double centuries. You're never really glad to see that time on the entry form, but you show up.

Post-TBI, the pattern is different. It is a major mental negotiation to get on the bike at all. This is one of my major frustrations.

It also curtails my training. What kind of ride can be done starting at noon? Not the long, juicy ones. But to say this is not the norm would be untrue. It is the post-TBI norm. If the day comes when I do not have to struggle to get on the bike, I will throw a BIG party. Yes, you will be invited! And there will be hors d'oeuvres...

One thing that I've found helps is consolidating trips. This is a fancy way of saying 'find an excuse to get out of the house'. Today it was my dad's birthday card that had to be put in the mail. There's a less odious post office on Miramonte, on a bike route toward the hills. I got dressed, pumped my tires, pocketed the card and took off.

From the post office I headed through some very expensive real estate toward the hills. The route was not planned out, and there was not enough time to comfortably reach Pescadero. So, the closest way was El Monte/Moody to Page Mill.

Back issues notwithstanding, the reasoning was that if it was going to be a shorter ride, all the miles should be quality miles. Moody being the steepest route to Page Mill, which is pretty much the steepest and longest way to Skyline. I don't know. Maybe I'm punishing myself for getting a late start.

The lack of a gym membership is becoming an issue too. I feel like I'm riding slow and am bored with the roads around here. Perhaps a tour is in my future. Perhaps the Sierra Foothills tour I missed out on 2 weeks ago.

My back is OK on Moody because I'm in the triple. Still, it takes some pushing. Then Page Mill is not so bad. Until it is, because I expire from lack of food. The technical term is bonking. Well, this is another aspect of not getting out of the house in a timely manner. Breakfast wears off. I don't care and I ride anyway and refuse to open the bar in my back pocket because it doesn't sound good.

Did I mention I forgot the camera, again?

It's hard to pinpoint the exact moment of expiration, but it's about two-thirds of the way through what I call the balcony section of Page Mill. There's a lovely steep section with lovely views of the entire Santa Clara Valley (no air quality issues today). The weather could not be friendlier - it's mid-60's here in the last week of January. But I am climbing VERY slowly.

I talk myself through it using the road signs and paddle markers. The paddle markers say 3.5, then 2.7, then 2.3 miles. The signs have larger numbers. That's because Page Mill technically ends where dirt Alpine comes in (I say to myself). The smaller mileage number is the distance to the summit.

Finally I'm there and turn left on Skyline. It takes an incredibly long time to traverse this rolling 7 miles to Saratoga Gap. I tell myself about peanut butter and apricot jelly, no, orange marmalade, no, apricot jelly on toasted wheat.

At Saratoga Gap two cars are in some kind of detente at the crossroads. Often the casual tourists don't know where they are and need additional time. I look longingly at the hot dog vendor set up in the parking lot. Who knows what's in those hot dogs, I tell myself as I open the Kind bar that's been in my pocket this whole time. Hot dog, says my brain. Hot dog.

It's a 3-mile descent on Highway 9, to the turn onto Redwood Gulch. For some reason I'm just not feeling confident here, borderline scared. Maybe it's the new bike. Maybe the seat needs raising just a tad. It's very windy and I am trying to get a feeling for how the bike handles, how my body needs to move to make it do the right thing. Cars and a couple of other bikes pass me. It's not that pleasant learning in real time.

At Redwood Gulch there's another cyclist and a car bearing down so I just slow way down and teeter in the miniscule shoulder. This has never been my favorite descent, but today is down there on the experience scale.

Redwood Gulch is quiet but the grade requires constant attention. I think there are places where it's 23%. The brakes help you slow down but there's no stopping. Another cyclist is headed uphill, with gritted teeth. I yell some encouragement that he probably doesn't hear. Probably do need to raise that seat. The bike feels a little squirrely on the back half, with my weight a half-inch too low.

Like the lower part of Moody, Stevens Canyon is cold, really cold. It came pretty close to freezing here last night. I do a visual check for ice on the road. It's really unlikely to still be here, in the middle of the day. But it's cold enough to require all extra clothing: heavy wool arm and leg warmers, windbreaker. The red leaves piled on the shoulder look dark red, burnt by frost. The sound of Stevens Creek rushing is a good sound, after all these weeks of no rain.

On Foothill, I talk myself in. We're not breaking any speed records today. But I'll be darned if I stop at Starbucks 5 miles from home. It is really windy, from the north-east, straight in the face. Or is the real problem my empty stomach? Feels like I'll never make it home.

But I do, to a shower and Bella and a chicken shawerma wrap. And Danny, who listens as I tell him about the silver lining of bonking. It can make a 3-and-a-half hour ride feel like a whole day!



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