As I was riding the Mt Tam Double, I thought I'd do a very short ride report, as I had little to say. Whoops.
The first quarter
Life felt surreal as I stepped into the taxi at 3:40 am, setting out for what I knew would be a day of hardship and fatigue. Why was I doing this? Why does anyone do this? It's the quest for the grim isolation of pushing up against physical limits, of suppressing rational self's vocal opposition, remaining distance creeping downward incomprehensively slowly, then alightly more rapidly, accelerating, and finally collapsing into the singularity of the finish.
But I enjoyed the 22 mile ride out to San Rafael. Traffic was extremely light as we zipped along, first riding the "green wave" of synchronized signals in San Francisco, then a congestion-free 101. I had him drop me off right off the freeway two miles from the start. There I got out my bike out to effortlessly spin the remaining distance, verifying everything was working.
I had plenty of time to collect myself before the 5 am mass-start. Riders gathered under the school's lights at the line, where I moved myself into a position near the front. Double Century packs are a curious thing. It's a self-selected group with a heavy dose of introversion yielding a very broad spectrum of bike-handling skills. It's best to be near the front.
"Is everyone ready?" The silly question makes me laugh every time. How can anyone be ready for this? Is anyone truly confronting what looms?
The pace car led us on our way through the city. In the past, we've gotten traffic lights triggered for us, so I was surprised when that wasn't the case this year and we were briefly delayed on our way. But the pause was merciful in its brevity: soon we'd turned onto Lucas Valley Road for the start of the real riding.
My goal was to keep my power capped at 240 w. This is what I'd done in 2010 at both Doubles I'd done that year and it had been successful. I was able to stay strong to the end. I couldn't easily monitor my Garmin in the darkness, but the lead group was clearly riding much faster than I wanted. I instead placed myself with a group going close to my pace, and followed wheels.
Suddenly, a rider mid-pack slowed, unclipping. Chaos. Riders left, riders right. Someone hit him from behind, knocking him down. I avoided contact, cursing at the stupidity of it all.
Progress was good on the climb to the rock marking the top of the climb. One rider led, setting a nice tempo, until a second took over at the crest and delivered us all the way to Nicasio Valley Road at mile 11.3. I noticed lights were clearly brighter than two years ago. At that time my 250 lumin Niterider was relatively bright, but now bright lights surrounded me. It was almost too much, as I had to avert my eyes from the blinding intensity of flashing red tail lights ahead.
From Nicasio Valley Road we turned southward onto normally busy, now deserted Sir Francis Drake Road. I continued to follow wheels as the skies brightened and lights were switched off. We climbed the White's Grade backside at a comfortable tempo, then blasted the rapid descent into Fairfax. There we turned onto Bolinas Road: we had finally entered the lower slopes of Mount Tam.
To now the pace had seems fine to me: close to what I wanted to sustain. I continued this pace on Bolinas Road out of Fairfax. But the enthusiasm of the early, short climbs seemed to have subsided, and I pulled away from the others.
Absorbed in moment, ignoring the enormity of what remained, the Pine Mountain rest stop quickly arrived. I'd planned to make a rapid strike: dropping off my lights the primary task. A search for a marker to write my name on the paper bag to store my light caused an unwanted delay. Other than that it was eat a few orange slices, fill my bottles, and go.
As I left, I noted I'd forgotten to drop off my rear flasher, and hadn't thought to remove the clamp of the headlamp instead of just the light body to which it attaches. Only a few extra grams, for sure, but every gram counts in a ride with 15 thousand feet of climbing. I chastised myself for my foolishness. Yet time lost preparing another paper bag at a subsequent spot wouldn't be justified. I could only push onward.
On the climb to Ridgecrest I overtook another rider. He commented something about being fast, but I didn't understand exactly what, or even if he was being sarcastic. In any case, I temporarily passed him until he caught me and then passed me again. It was strange: he would climb strongly, then slow, exactly what I did not want to do. I tried to ignore him and instead focus on the numbers my PowerTap was sending to my Garmin. I had little difficulty keeping it in my low-200 watt target range, which seemed a good sign.
Clouds hovered over the mountain as we approached Ridgecrest. Reaching the ridge, it was deja-vu from 2010: the fog-rain of the cloud we had entered condensing on the tall trees.
But we soon emerged from the cloud, clear sky above. The sun was low in the east, highlighting the scattered clouds inland. On the coast side, however, the ocean was fully occluded by a continuous cloud sheet. We would be descending into that all too soon. I tried to not think about it.
On the rollers, my companion and I joined two other riders. More surging. One of them rode with very stiff arms, his bike rocking back and forth. I thought he'd be faster if he didn't waste so much energy clenching his amrs. I climbed the seven sisters of Ridgecrest with my eyes still on my power meter, chatting a bit with our new companions.
Ridgecrest crosses Pan Toll Road, which would be our descending route to the coast, but first we had the out-and-back to eastern peak. First one, then other riders descended as I climbed. There were clearly fewer than in 2010: the Marin Cyclists seemed to be sticking to the rules on their website that starts earlier than 5 am would not be allowed. At least in 2010 they allowed earlier starters, but this created logistic complexity as they then needed to keep track of at what time people left. It's simpler and easier on early-morning volunteers to give everyone the same 5 am start time: if you need to leave earlier, they now say, you should consider doing the 200 km ride instead.
Several of us arrived at the turn-around at the peak close together. There was a bit of an issue as riders were generally filing behind and around the two volunteers counter-clockwise, while I had my number pinned racer-style to the right side of my jersey. I thus had to cross in front of the volunteers to display my number, which I couldn't remember. Another rider chastised me for this, but it was as it was. From that point I remembered my number, 266, the rest of the ride.
On the descent, I followed one of the two guys we'd met on Ridgecrest. My surging companion and the other Ridgecrest rider had fallen back: we saw them approaching the turn-around as we descended. Now would come what I had been dreading: entering the coastal clouds.
In 2010, as soon as we begun the Pan Toll Road descent, we plunged into a chilling mist which dropped the temperature precipitously. This year, though, the clouds were lower, and my long-sleeve jacket remained tucked away in my jersey pocket. I'd been wearing a wool undershirt, knee warmers, socks, compression sleeves on my calves, arm warmers, a cycling jersey, and long-fingered gloves. I would later remove the vest, replace it, then take it off again, but with this minor adjustment I was comfortable the rest of the ride. Had we experienced real inland heat the wool undershirt might have caused problems. With the limited carrying capacity of my jersey pockets major changes in clothing level are difficult.
As we approached the end of Pan Toll, however, we entered the mist. It wasn't so bad, though: no freezing coastal wind, just a bit damp. And while in 2005 Muir Woods had been icey cold, this year we dropped below cloud level here. What had been fog was now overcast clouds.
Passing the Dipsea Trail at the park entrance, the rider I was following shouted back to me for clarification on where to go. I confirmed we were to follow the main road around a hairpin, but then when I recollected my focus, he had gapped me. So the rest of the way to the rest stop I trailed behind, keeping him in sight but riding solo.
At the rest stop, I was pleased to see Jules, whom I'd met in a non-cycling context. He'd greeted me at the start, and greeted me again here. It's always nice to see a smiling face in situations like this. Indeed, volunteers at the Marin Century/Mt Tam Double are all absolutely incredible. They make the event a joy to be part of.
For me it was another quick stop. I'd just about finished the Spiz in my "nutrition bottle"... I was riding with two bottles, one focused on calories (which I initially filled with Spiz, the last of my supply of this stuff), the other on hydration (beginning the ride with black tea, but refilling mostly with water). I filled my hydration bottle with water, then almost filled the other before moving over the powder table. There a volunteer asked how many scoops of Sustained Energy I wanted. I said 3, which makes a good thick shake. It was a tight fit, and he handed back the bottle, a solid layer of powder floating atop the water.
The second quarter
Then I was off, ready to begin the second 50 miles of this adventure. It's easy to assume the trip north on the coastal Highway 1 is going to be flat, but that assumption would be woefully misled. There's a series of climbs, the first the longest. But with the traffic still extremely light in the early day, it is a total joy to ride. It's truly a world class road, with the ocean on one side as the road meanders along the side of the hills.
After I'd gone for a bit, I decided it was time for a sip of the Sustained Energy. I shook the bottle as best I could then looked to see if I'd made progress. The thick solid layer remained at the top. Ah well, I figured it was probably just caked at the edges, so opened the spout and went for a drink. My mouth filled with pasty powder, a cement-like consistency with a chalky taste. Fortunately I was able to wash it down with my water, but my fingers had become a sticky mess which turned my brake hoods into a sticky mess. I tried to clean off as best I could, but it seems to be an inevitable part of "scientific nutrition" that at least some of it ends up on my bike.
I passed a few riders along the way and entered the coastal town of Stinson Beach alone. This marks the beginning of the Mount Tamalpais Hillclimb held most Septembers, a race which opens with 6 flat miles along Highway 1 before climbing to Ridgecrest from the western side, the opposite slope on the same road we'd climbed from the east. These 6 miles are typically into the wind, a real burden. I forged ahead as best I could, monitoring my progress, knowing then when I reached the northern end of Bolinas Lagoon to my left I'd have reached the point where the rollers begin again.
I was almost there when I was surprised by a paceline of riders passing on the left. "Hop on!" I was encouraged as the line, paced by a guy positioned low on his aero bars but paradoxically with an unzipped jacket flopping in the breeze, came by. I slotted in without too much trouble. I was glad to see riders were pulling off after turns of a few minutes. Eventually I reached the front, did my time, then pulled off for the next rider. For endurance riding, long pulls are good: rapidly rotating pace lines are mentally draining, and every time a rider pulls off the group loses a bike length. Unless the pace is super-high, with riders putting out unsustainably high power at the front, it makes sense to do turns of over a minute. So what I did was to count 100 full pedal strokes, then pull a bit more until a good opportunity to come off, then I'd pass the baton to the next guy. This made the miles pass much more quickly. With a single exception we even avoided the trap of the lead rider pulling hard up a hill. Better to keep a nice pace everyone can handle on the rises, then get back to business when it levels out and drafting riders can exploit the benefit of the line.
So the long run into Point Reyes Station concluded with considerably less drudgery than I'd feared. At the rest stop there I filled my hydration bottle, drank some of it down, filled it again, and then asked for Enduralytes. They had them, but I needed to wait while they were fetched from a car. It was a cool morning and one normally associates Enduralytes with the heat. But I'm sold on them: I always seem to feel better after I've popped four or so. I resolved to continue to take a few every stop from now on, at least as long as I felt that "depleted" feeling which occurs on long rides.
I was done and ready to go when I heard a comment about the porta-potty. I didn't want to appear ungrateful for the northbound companionship, but every second counts at rest stops, and I wanted to keep moving. I didn't want to wait for a potty stop. So I thanked the volunteers and rolled out. With more flat miles to come, I figured if they were fairly quick with their business they'd catch me soon enough anyway. But they never did.
I was 73 miles in, beginning the 20 mile leg to Petaluma which would merge me with 100 km, "century", and "double metric" routes. I really looked forward to this leg, since the high spirits of century riders is contagious. First, there was the stretch to the purple bridge, then a left turn onto Pt Reyes-Petaluma Road. From the opposite direction I saw several packs of riders, some dressed in matching kits of racing clubs, another mixed. Could that be the Roasters Ride, I wondered? I calculated it was probably too late for them.
Then I crossed the T at Nicasio Valley Road and I was on the century course. Almost immediately after the merge comes an iconic image of the Marin Century: the steep Cheese Factory climb, one lane closed to cars, riders struggling up the hill, in the other lane police directing motor vehicles. By this point it's mostly relatively late starting 100 km riders on the road, for many the hill alone a real challenge. So I plead guilty to wanting to show off a little, upping the effort here. It's a slightly dicey scene with riders occasionally swerving unpredictably, or not staying as far to the right as they probably should. But I tend to over-react at this sort of thing; there were no issues.
|Descending towards Petaluma.|
A fast descent on smooth pavement took me past the famous Cheese Factory, opening the remaining miles to Petaluma. The smooth pavement and lack of further climbs made for a fast run into the lunch stop.
Lunch was a crazy scene. After providing my number (266!) to volunteers assigned to the task of checking off double century participants (from hereon identifiably by our yellow numbers; others had white) I entered a field with tables on which a range of food had been laid out. What Marin Cyclists do very nicely is to provide a taped-off "double century" zone, which has the hammer products restricted to my event. This allows for a fast in, fast out approach. So after walking through some mud near the water jugs, I got my liquid and powder, moved on to some fruit which I quickly ate, then left for the porta-potties. They were slightly down the road, and after a brief moment of mud clogging my cleats, I was there. But after finishing with my business things slightly unraveled. I realized that (1) I had forgotten to get Enduralytes, (2) I'd forgotten to dump off my jacket and perhaps arm warmers for delivery back to the start. So I returned the 100 meters or so to lunch, walked back to the double century zone and asked first one, then another volunteer if they took bags back to the start from here. They didn't really know what I meant, so this created more delay. Finally I realized the answer was no, so thanked them, went back to my bike, and set off. As I was riding I realized I'd once again forgotten to ask for Enduralytes. This was all probably my biggest time-waste of the event.
I was approaching 100 miles in, half-way, always a hard part of a double. My longest ride of the year had been 115 two weeks before, so this was already a long ride for me, and I'd not yet reached half-way. Having wasted time without any gain at the rest stop really annoyed me. I started mumbling to myself that I should have gotten Enduralytes, I had to remember Enduralytes, at the next rest stop I must get Enduralytes. Why did I forget the Enduralytes? I was quite sure if I forgot Enduralytes the next rest stop I'd surely finally and totally mentally crack.
After leaving the Petaluma exurbs, the route tackles the rural resolution of Chileno Valley Road. This goes on and on, riders battling the wind, mile after mile. Fortunately, the road isn't straight, instead following the contours of the land, breaking the monotony of a sustained headwind. I passed riders from shorter routes as I went, still stewing about the freakin' Enduralytes, occasionally further chastising myself for not knowing which rest stops provided shuttle service, as I chiseled away at the distance to the next stop.
Chileno Valley Road T's into busy Tomales-Petalume, but soon after taking the left here we diverted onto the nicer Alexander Road, and soon after a left onto Fallon Road which took us to the vicinity of the Franklin School rest stop at Valley Ford.
The third quarter
Valley Ford is a nice, almost rural town, with people selling fresh cherries along the road-side. The course here attains its maximum complexity, with riders entering from the century course I was presently on, but then double century and double metric riders leaving for an extra loop, riders returning from that loop back to the Franklin School, then leaving Franklin School to begin the long return to San Rafael. It's amazing Marin Cyclists pull it off so smoothly, using a combination of staged road markings, road-side signs, and volunteers.
In the rest stop the first thing I did was to get Enduralytes. I then got my usual combo of water and Sustained Energy, ate some delicious peaches and cherries, and was off again to what is a real highlight of this course, the "200 km loop".
It begins with an unenjoyable trip north along the shoulder of Highway 1. Highway 1 here, mid-day, has a lot of traffic, too much of it heavy pick-ups pulling boat-laden trailers. I never understood the attraction of boat-trailers in large part because they so clearly flaunt any notion of resource conservation, but presumably a big part of it involves consuming large quantities of alcohol on the water, which makes these oversized rigs even more of a concern. But eventually I came to an amazing gem of roadway: Bay Hill Road.
And in so doing I saw something I hadn't seen since Pt Reyes Station: another double century rider. I expressed my enthusiasm for being off Highway 1. He warned the downside of Bay Hill was its rough surface. But the road surface didn't concern me: it was a small price to pay for the stunning beauty of the road, of liberation from traffic after the insanity of the boat trailers, and for the chance to get in some solid climbing again.
After a tree-lined beginning it climbs into open ranch land, rural isolation without a hint of the internal combustion hell of the highway. Bay is relatively brief, however: a fast but rough descent, with good sight lines and no cars during my time there, took me back to the highway at Bodega Bay.
But there was a palpable tempering in the boat traffic at this point. A lot of it may have been destined for the bay itself, which we'd bypassed. Highway 1 here was still busy, but with a wide shoulder and more normal-sized vehicles I no longer felt in peril. In any case we were just on the road for a brief interval until the next attraction: Coleman Valley Road.
Coleman Valley was a highlight of the course for me. I had targeted it as a spot where, if any, I wanted to make a solid effort to get a respectable Strava time, hopefully the best for the day.
And I came close: I ended up third, behind two double metric riders I know from SF2G. My power wasn't exceptional: never over my self-imposed limit of 240 watts. But it felt like a hard effort, especially as the climb went on longer than I'd recalled (funny how climbs never seem to be shorter than I recall). Along the way I passed a few 200 km riders, one of whom accused me of "showing off". I smiled because I knew, at least a little bit, he was right.
After the sustained climb, Coleman has some rollers along the top. I'd remembered James from the San Diego Christmas Tour had been here volunteering last time, but didn't see the check point/rest stop where I'd remembered it. Actually, this used to be formally just a check point, the rest stop aspect emergency-only perhaps for very hot days, but it's since become a formal rest stop, albeit lightly stocked compared to those serving more riders. I continued on, becoming progressively more worried a lack of volunteers had resulted in its omission. Finally I gave up and pulled to the side of the road, tapping into my so-far unused resource of food I'd started the ride with. I'd brought a small bag of dates, two Lara bars, and a flask of Hammer Gel. It was too much, given the fabulous support of the event, but I tend to be slightly paranoid. I ate two of the dates. The miles, 135 of them by this point, were taking their toll.
I set off again, and the very next corner I saw a sign for the rest stop. So I gave my number, filled my bottles, and stuffed a big oat bar/cookie/thing into my mouth. It tasted as if it had a lot of butter, which I don't like, but I wasn't being picky. I then remembered to ask for Enduralytes. "How many?" the volunteer asked.
"Two", I mumbled through my mouth of oat-thingie. I was still chewing.
She tried to pour two into my hand, but six came out. I couldn't give them back, of course, and didn't feel like dealing with putting them in my pocket only to have them dissolve there, so I popped them all into my mouth along with the oat stuff.
This created an interesting issue, as I didn't want to chew the Enduralytes, and still wanted to chew the oat thing (I'm into chewing food before swallowing it these days, on the theory it helps digestion). So as a compromise I decided to sort of gum the oats for a bit while keeping the Enduralytes to the side of my mouth. It didn't work: my mouth was assaulted with the mineral badness of fractured Enduralyte pills. Ah, well. I did my best to swallow the mess then drank some water to wash it out.
Coleman descended to aptly-named Joy, which is a true joy to descend. I was glad I had navigation on in my Garmin 500, because here I was able to check the rudimentary navigation map to see I was still following the course. Position errors cause some confusion, and the Garmin frequently reports "off course" in GPS-challenged regions when I know very well I am on-course, but it typically decides it's back on course again within a reasonable number of seconds.
Joy, Bodega, Freestone, and I was back to a section of Highway 1 I'd already ridden on the way out. Here I became confused, as for the first time I was at a turn where I didn't see route arrows. I was frozen in indecision: I was pretty sure I wanted to turn left, but didn't want to risk a mistake, and the Garmin was presently confused by the reentrant nature of the course here and thus provided no guidance.
A rider I'd recently passed caught up and went left, pausing only long enough to check for traffic. As he did so, I commented on the lack of arrows. There was a road-side sign, he said. I'd obviously had my eyes planted too firmly in the tarmac.
Here the course re-entered the knot which was the Valley Ford/Franklin School rest stop. I got to the stop fine, where the volunteer confirmed I didn't need to check in again, which I remembered from previous rides. However, I was clearly fading, and decided to tap into the secret weapon: Coca-Cola.
Normally I never drink soda. It's nasty stuff, causing massive public health problems, all fueled on by colossal marketing aimed to convince people that their life will be so much better if they snap open that can and drink the syrupy crap. But for endurance events, for double centuries and trail runs, it's magic. First the sugar may as well be injected straight into the blood. Second the caffeine perks up a flagging brain. And third, and not to be underestimated, the cola soothes a stomach which is on the verge of revolt over an unnatural assault of too many powders and gels. The key is to not tap into it too early (a mistake I made in 2010), because there's only so much of it I can take, and so it's important to use it at the right time. There were 50 miles to go, so it seemed a good time.
The fourth quarter
And it did help. After leaving the rest stop, I asked one of the amazing volunteers how to go, and he instantly directed me the correct way. I was comforted by colored arrows indicating I'd rejoined the century course as well as continuing on the double metric and double century routes.
Middle Road took us to Tomales then to Highway 1 which brought us to Tomales Bay. There was wind here, but not so bad. The Bay was gorgeous, as expected. Highway 1 is just a fantastic road, and with the wide shoulder traffic wasn't much of a problem.
I heard cowbells and looked across the road to see a Hummer parked on the opposite shoulder. I hate Hummers, and by implication have a low opinion of those who choose to drive them. But this one had an open sun roof from which emerged two children, cheering me on. A woman, presumably their mother, sat behind the steering wheel. I assumed they were there to cheer on their father, but since he wasn't yet there, I seemed worthy of cheering as well. I felt a big guilty for my feelings about Hummer drivers, since I certainly appreciated the cheers!
I continued onward as Highway 1 developed more of the rolling character I was more familiar with further south. I knew what was coming: the Marshall Wall. I'd remembered its opening slopes from 2010.
The turn to the Wall involves a hard left across Highway 1. A dangerous situation on the face of it, but Marin Cyclists were all over it with CHP controlling traffic and volunteers with flags waving riders across the road when it was safe. The biggest danger was probably falling over from beginning the climb in the big ring left over from the highway run: the steep grade appears in front of your front wheel, presto-magico, making panicked shifting the norm. If I were to volunteer for this event, this would be an entertaining place to be stationed.
I'd once again underestimated a climb from 2010. Sure, I'd remembered the initial grade well, but it was the subsequent stair-case steps I'd forgotten. Finally as what turns out to have been the final one appeared in front of me I lamented, perhaps to the century rider near me or perhaps to nobody, "oh, no!" The little climbs of this event take a cumulative toll, one which wasn't assisted by my earlier riding Coleman "at tempo".
But the Walker Creek rest stop provided relief. There I topped off the Coke in my bottle (I was using my "calorie" bottle, creating a curious frothy blend of Sustained Energy and Coca-Cola), ate some more fruit, and took a few more Enduralytes. The volunteer at the Double Century table was responding to a century rider's questions about the hot dogs available there. "They're for double century riders", he said. Hot dog? I couldn't comprehend.
As I rolled out I noted that I'd added some Coke, but forgotten to get water. My hydration bottle was perhaps 1/3 gone. I'd not planned on stopping at the Nicasio stop, which I'd remembered from last time was not a check point. But maybe I could make the remaining distance with what I had.
I switched my Garmin to Navigation mode, as I wasn't worried about power (or lack thereof) at this point, and it told me the estimated remaining distance. Thus number was less than the Walker Creek volunteer had provided. I tended to agree the Garmin, since the roads were fairly flat at this point, and because frankly I preferred a smaller number to a bigger one.
At this point I was looking forward to Hicks Valley Road, from which I'd seen century riders returning way back in that former life of this morning when I'd passed the cheese factory. There it was. I'd remembered it had had a climb, and sure enough there it was. But for a change it was only what I'd remembered, no worse. I descended happily to Pt Reyes Petaluma. The end game clock had begun ticking.
Past the cheese factory again... then the short climb of the east side. Signs warned of single lane for vehicles to 10 am, so long ago. I crested the top and blasted down what so many riders clawing their way up then. Then the left onto Nicasio Valley Road: in 2005 I'd had a close brush with an RV there, but this year no problem. I could smell the coffee, so to speak.
Approaching Nicasio Valley I contemplated my plan to blast on by. What if I was wrong and it was in fact a check-point? I clumsily removed my map from my belt pouch. There it was: Nicasio Valley Road, red 6, implying a check point. I was glad I checked -- imagine the horror of being disqualified for having missed the final intermediate check. They must have added this one this year, because last time I clearly recall it not recording numbers: perhaps they valued redundancy, or were wanted a clue in case riders went astray on the route.
I pulled into the gravel entrance. "Checkpoint?!" I shouted to the volunteer there. He didn't know what I meant, and pointed me to one of the main tables. I rode through the dirt lot. "Where do we check-in?" I asked, pulling a food out of my pedals, still in my saddle.
"No checking in necessary!" she responded.
I clipped back in and pedaled out, wondering at the time loss. Would I regret having stopped here, getting passed by another rider, or worse, a group? Or perhaps I'd just avoid catching a rider ahead. I'd been sure I'd seen a red dot on the map but was I wrong about the red implying checkpoint? I later checked the map and verified I'd been correct: it was a map error.
Past the small town center of Nicasio Valley came a short jaunt to the south, then the left onto Lucas Valley Road. This was it: truly the final climb of the event (well, not quite, but close enough). I wanted to keep a solid tempo here as at this point it's all mental. Suddenly I saw a rider coming the other direction. It was Cara! She was looking very strong and perky: she'd nicely come out to meet me at the finish after getting in a short ride. I'd not looked at the time and didn't want to, but if I'd intercepted her still on her ride I obviously wasn't too far behind schedule. It felt like I was due for a close-to-6pm finish, but I didn't know.
I didn't pause to chat with her, instead trying the make the mileage markers of Lucas Valley tick down as quickly as possible. The first goal was the rock marking its peak. The initial miles are very gradual uphill, only at the end does it kick up at a significant climb, but I was able to stay in my big ring here (a nice thing about having a 46-tooth big ring is being able to stay in it on climbs like this).
Along the way I passed more riders with the white numbers marking shorter rides. Then there was the rock. A group of riders were gathered there, relishing the success of having finished all of the significant climbs of their rides. But there's no time for relishing anything in the double, as the clock is ticking.
As I was cresting the top, a pickup appeared from nowhere on my left and tucked in ahead. Noooo! What was he doing? Cyclists can descend this road much faster than drivers. But despite my gestures of the multi-finger variety he wouldn't pull over to let me by. Instead I had to follow him down, close enough that he realized he was blocking my progress, far enough if he braked I'd be able to avoid collision.
It was frustrating. In 2005 I'd been passed on this descent due to excessive safety, and in 2010 I'd again gone slower than I should have. But this year I was forced to follow the 25 mph pace of this driver who, despite the copious "cycling event signs" all over the side of the road, despite the "slower traffic use pull-out" sign, he felt he had to assert his mass dominance by blocking me.
But nobody caught me and as the grade leveled the truck pulled away. It was time to keep the pace high for the final 3 miles to the turn, marked with the decreasing mileage signs.
The turn-off to Los Galinas begins the anti-climax. Smooth, wide, fast suburban roads with just enough of a climb to let the legs know they're still on a bike should make for a raging finish, but multiple stop signs, and far worse, a traffic signal with suburban-typical light phases make the ride a striking contrast to the CHP-paced departure in the morning. Indeed, I had no luck on the traffic light, which provided a seeming endless delay. A century or double metric rider pulled up next to me; fortunately no yellow number here.
The remaining ride was shrinking precipitously now, every pedal stroke cutting another big fractional chunk of the remaining distance. The imperceptible progress of most of the day was long gone. The finish was there, just up the road.
I pulled into the school, rolled past the so-called finish line and through the crowd to the actual finish line, the check-in table near the gym. The singularity collapsed.
Eighth finisher, I was told. The same as 2010. But what about late starters, I asked? They also get a 5 am start time, I was told. So that simplified things: I was 8th, plain and simple, none of the post-race math of the last time.
After eating my double-century-rider half burrito, then joining Cara upon her return and getting a piece of the nice post-ride lasagna (this event the only time I eat, and enjoy, cheesy lasagna), chatting a bit with some other riders, it was time to go home. Only just before doing so I checked with the desk for what my time had been: I had no idea. 5:21, I was told, which turned out to be 6 minutes earlier than 2010. Wow -- that was totally unexpected.
Then I left for home.