Sunday, April 21, 2013

Deep leg workout #10a

A ride on the Waterford doesn't sound that appealing right now. Hasn't all week.

It helps to have a friend with a tandem. An empty seat in back! And a new goal, the Davis Double Century. Over the next few weeks we'll work out the kinks. This might well be #5 Davis-with-Jeff-on-tandem, not sure. There are still kinks though.

It's been two years. Need to relearn where he wants the pedal after we stop. Listen to whether he's pushing or spinning. Monitor the mirror for traffic, signal turns. Let go of fear and the instinct to control whenever we head downhill. Let him drive.

This is our first training ride, a spring jaunt through the Amador, Livermore, and San Ramon Valleys. They lie to the east of San Francisco, over one ridge of hills. It's hotter and drier than home. Spring comes early, quickly turning the corner into summer.

We hit the road just after 8am; today the forecasted high is 88 degrees. By the time we ride Davis, the hillsides will be totally golden brown.

Jeff points the bike east and south toward Livermore. It takes some doing to wrest free of sprawling, affluent, gated Blackhawk. Finally we're out on country roads, passing the occasional farmhouse and barn. It feels quiet but not abandoned. Now that people are asking for pasture-raised beef and local produce, small farms and ranches are actually viable. Tanya, Jeff's wife, gets strawberries from a place out here. The strawberries are nowhere in sight but the air is heating up and you can definitely smell them!

There's a sweet old water tower where we turn right onto Corneal Road. We're going too fast for a photo. Thankfully the Google Maps car has been here too...

Jeff designed the route and after growing up around here he seems to knows his way around. All I have to do is pedal and admire the scenery. At least, that's what it looks like...

Truthfully on a tandem there's a lot of pushing. The total weight of riders and bike is greater and the whole system seems to absorb whatever force you give it. At one point on Camino Tassajara we're moving at what feels like 12 mph up a long gentle grade; Jeff says our actual speed is more like 19. You are constantly feeling drag and pushing against it and this dynamic is soon felt deep in my quad muscles.

Some of the roads are familiar; others I've never been on before. Like Altamont Pass Road, which is also the Lincoln Highway. The wind is all over the place; profiting from this are the windmills. Not to mention the rider in back! Tandems have the power of two and the wind resistance of one.  On flats and gentle inclines the physics work in our favor...

We pass Lawrence Livermore Lab, where Jeff's dad worked for many years. He points out a road that used to go through but was closed off after 9/11. Now double fences line the whole perimeter. In a sort of bizarre counterpoint, the road is full of friendly cyclists. Passing a rest stop we figure out they are riding the Primavera Century.

From here we quilt together roads from a long tradition of century rides: Hekaton Classic, Mt. Hamilton Challenge, Grizzly Peak. Along with the Davis Double, they all started in 1970-72. This is like the epicenter of road cycling. Feels like a lifetime since I rode them!

The final climbs up Redwood, Pinehurst, and Moraga Roads go...slowly. Plenty of scenery to take the mind off the hardest thing you can do with a bike: climb on a tandem. For clearing the mind nothing works better.

At the end of the day we've collected 93 gorgeous miles, 16.7 mph average. 4600 feet of elevation gain. We're both out of water. My stomach is fine but there's absolutely no more pop in my legs.

At the post-ride barbecue at Jeff & Tanya's a sense of deepest physical calm washes over me. I'm falling into it, like a general anesthetic. Blue and deep as the sky.

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