Sunday, June 28, 2009

New and Improved free MT. TAM CENTURY REDUX

(June 27, 2009) New, Improved, Cheep** and Hot Mt. Tam Century, 105 miles, 8500’ climbing 15 mph***, 9-@5:15 w/Ward and Jack (** SIC for you grandma nitpicks, ***includes DOWNHILL traffic jam off of Mt Tam. )(*190 ride rating*) Thanks to Ward for elevation profile--he has the electron microscope out looking for the Seven Sisters on top of Mt. Tam.

Real crappy week for the psyche. Knees hurting all week, used work elevators until Friday—I usually just see them when our outdoor stairs are being pelted by rain. Though finally hot I cut the Tuesday and Wednesday ride short and Thursday nite would have been a good fixed gear ride but nothing doing. Still po’d at myself for cutting 40 minutes off my Terrible Two but dropping down @20 places—I should have tried much harder and not been so laid back preoccupied by the climbs. Would have been a good week to diet in prep for the Death Ride but was garbage eating (late nite) instead, and instantly gained 5 pounds when my ti/carbon bike had to go in for servicing so I’d be riding my steel bike instead with regular chainrings instead of compacts. Usually not a problem but my legs hadn’t yet recovered from the week before.

Weather forecast for the weekend predicted heat—high 90’s for Contra Costa County and high 70’s for Marin---so it seemed that a trip to Marin in lieu of the weekend Club ride might make sense. Ward and Jack were instantly in and we decided to try our century again, though hitting Mt. Tam early. And with California going down the budget craphole, one of the ridiculous options is closing the state parks, so Mt. Tam may be shut down soon. Every day the forecast for the area went up a few degrees, which made cool Marin a nicer option but no one else came aboard. In short the ride and weather was great, and best we avoided the East Bay.

East Bay VS Marin
Walnut Creek High 102 -VS- Olema Valley High 80
Livermore High 104 -VS-
Mt Tam High 90 (762')

Ward’s turn to have brain freeze when he left his bottles at home, reminiscent of my leaving food in car for our Mt-Hammy-Sierra Road Century—I think everyone gets to screw up ONCE and then you hopefully don’t make the same mistake for five years. Luckily Jack had extra water bottles and I had extra drink mix. Then we get a mile from the car and Jack forgot his Hammergel—which you definitely want on a self supported century. So inauspicious beginning.

We followed the Mt. Tam Double route—series of short steep climbs to Big Rock (21 curves in the road) and Redwood lined run down to Nicasio. Short of Nicasio we turn to loop to Fairfax via a few attention getting climbs—and the from Fairfax go up Tam.

Loads of cyclists out—maybe because it’s a nice day, maybe because of the Death Ride in two weeks, so last week to train before “tapering.” Loads of Team in Training folks out with support cars setting up impromptu rest stops—hope these folks are getting $4,000 of support. More important, hope their trainers are teaching them how to ride on the road, as this is usually the three abreast crowd. They were actually on good behavior until the end of the ride when one TiT didn’t know how to move over on a road shoulder.

At the end of the last Climb before Fairfax a few guys shot past—I tried to get on their wheel but couldn’t with legs feeling shot and with heavy bike. I figured that for the rest of the day I’d just yell out—“Mt Tam Double Race in a month—still plenty of time to sign up.” I was also wondering how I'd do 100 miles today.

1st stop-Fairfax 7-11 for water. Lucky we topped off as it was the hottest I ever remember going up Mt. Tam. Quite a few riders going through the neighborhood at the beginning of the climb. Then Ward and I pulled off to take some photos of the summit peaking though a golf course—Jack was all business and kept going. After the golf course the neighborhood ends. We then chased Jack down before the sudden drop into Alpine Dam—which would have been good for more photos but didn’t want to put in a hard effort to catch up with Jack again. While the initial climb is real steady, after Alpine Dam the grade kicks up a notch with steep hairpins. It is also densely wooded—the exact opposite of Mt. Hamilton. Ward and I pushed each other—as we had to make sure to get to the top way before Jack so we could get his photo. Meanwhile we run into lots of other cyclists. (1) I'm in front of the golf course. after this the climb up Mt. Tam becomes more rustic. The Tam peak is behind me. (2) Jack turning onto the Mt. Tam summit and the start of the rollers, hope he didn't piss off the woman with the guns (3) Ward on one of the rollers, with the cloud cover over the Pacific Ocean off to the side.
On Mt. Tam once you get to the top you really aren’t at the top—there is about 5-6 miles of attention getting uphill rollers nicknamed the Seven Sisters. I LOVE ROLLERS where you can stand and fly over them without a long downhill to navigate, and here I open it up – we catch up to and pass a group that had gone by when we were fn around with the camera. Looking West—the Pacific is hidden by the usual thick cloud cover but luckily the cloud cover is low so we wouldn’t be descending into the fog (worst weather I’ve ever seen at nearby Pt Reyes Lighthouse has been in the summer.) Nice group of cyclists, one coed we passed yelled out encouragement when we flew by, while. Ward was encouraged by some of the coeds minimal cycling outfits.

It’s hot on the Seven Sisters and I have almost drained both bottles. I remember needing water years ago and finding a water fountain a rustic amphitheatre off the beaten path so we turn for the 2nd rest stop shortly after the Pan Toll--Panoramic Cutoff. Good that we stopped as I almost drained another full bottle by the time we got to the end of the road. Jack near the finish of Ridgeline Road at the top of Mt. Tam-San Francisco far in the background (Wardphoto)

Before getting to the end Ward and I stopped for some photos. Every year on the Mt Tam double we come around a curve and I wish that I had packed a camera and wasn’t racing—beautiful view of San Francisco usually rising through low cloud cover. Then Ward spots Mt. Diablo way past the Mt. Tam peak, so we look for a good place to get that photo. Then it is a few fast downhills ending in a semi-steep climb to a little rest area with a snackbar. Rest stop #3—it was after 1:15, we’ve been climbing all day, and we had ridden less than 40 miles. I had packed a PBJ sandwich and got a Diet Coke at the snack bar. (1) Hot day but still hazy/ foggy looking out to San Francisco. (2) Facing East it is real sunny and clear with Mt. Diablo peaking out.

Funny thing about heat. Last week the day started off cool—and my back was stiff, knee hurt and breathing not the greatest (cool damp air not great for exercise induced asthma.) But with cool weather the energy level stays high. Today knee and back felt great, breathing was great, and legs eventually felt good. Heat is wonderful for muscles. Conversely the heat is an energy zapper, and I felt a little drained by the heat, which is harder to recover from.

Three ways to go down Mt. Tam towards the Coast. The Mt Tam Double goes south to Muir Woods, which would be very crowded this time of day.. One goes north of the Beach area—which is probably what we should have taken We took the middle route to Stinson Beach, well paved, tree lined, not that many cars passing. When we were about half way down we hit a pocket of cool ocean air which felt refreshing enough to zip up ones jersey. Well it was nice until the last ½-1 mile when traffic came to a DEAD STOP before Highway 1—the two lane road had a massive traffic jam through town as this late in the day had no parking open. Ward rode on the right side—squeezing past cars but it seemed 1 out of every 10 cars had angled right and were blocking the narrow shoulder. I rode the double yellow line on the left which had much more room, but still had to ride downhill slower than I went up Ft, Ross last week and needed to stop many times.. (Finally beat Ward & Jack on a downhill.)

We get to Stinson which has so many people it looks a little like Midtown Manhattan. So no stop at the General Store. We get 10-15 blocks out of town and cars are still parking along Hwy 1—heck I can buy one of those 6 person bike-trams and cart folks from their parked car to the beach.

Here we cruise along Highway 1 on section that is featured on the Mt. Tam Double-roller after roller after roller. Did I mention I love rollers!!! What do you expect from someone with a shitty spin (though getting better) but I can stand on the bike for a long time over and over and over. We all are working together well and get a nice paceline going. When we get to Olema Ward “invents” a new loop (Bear Valley Road) that takes us off Highway 1 until our run into Pt. Reyes Station..

Rest stop #4--Late in the day at Pt. Reyes Station not overrun with cyclists as usual. Great Bovine Bakery had plenty of whole wheat vegan scones—and for once plenty of room to sit outside. Save the scone for tomorrow with coffee, now an ice fruit bar hits the spot. We sat near an elderly lady who was real interested in our cycling group dynamics, and was more politically hip than most 20 year olds. Think it was first time at bakery and NO COFFEE for anyone. Rest stop at a quiet Bovine Bakery-Pt Reyes Station
Back on Highway 1, with a long flat section until rollers again started. This time we got an inconsistent headwind—first we were getting help when the road turned to the right, and hindered when it turned to the left—but after a while this observation went down the toilet. Here we were no longer right on the ocean like at Stinson Beach nor sheltered by the Pt. Reyes National Seashore, but were next to Tomales Bay, a calm inlet speckled with funky oyster houses. We all took long pulls and suddenly were in Marshall where we’d head inland in the direction counter of what we usually do.

Sudden climb away from the Coast and it got warm—fast.. As we usually do Marshall Road in the other direction I was trying to recall what course should be like—after the initial climb course was relatively fast heading East with a few more rollers thrown in. Very isolated road but very little traffic. Pavement “Marin Choppy” (not terrible but never really smooth)—and it seemed we had ridden over the cobblestones today with all the uneven pavement. Just another thing combined with the heat to make us slightly drained.

Pass the antique school house that would be a historic treasure back east, and is a rest stop on the Mt. Tam Double, and just when water bottles drained again we pull into rest stop #5, the Cheese Factory picnic grounds. Nice shaded table by the lake provides a little heat relief. In the heat feet were swelling so time to loosen shoes.

After a pleasant rest stop, even Jack wasn’t in a rush to leave, we had the climb of the Cheese Factory hill and then the fast run in through Nicasio that ALWAYS gets an afternoon tail wind. I forgot how easy the Cheese Factory Hill is (it’s the one on this road closer to Petaluma that is difficult)—on the downhill stayed close to Ward and Jack, and I went to the front for one of my favorite stretches once we made the left turn to Nicasio.

Nice wide smooth shoulder along a road with minimal traffic but enough where you want to stay in the shoulder. Usual tailwind. Our three man is flying when we come across two Team needs more Training cyclists riding side by side. I call out “on your left,” woman on the left doesn’t move. We wind up passing very close—riding the shoulder/ road line, luckily no passing cars, as we hear woman say to significant other “I didn’t want to ride in the dirt.” Ride in the fn dirt???—you’re 3 feet away from any dirt. You don’t HAVE TO ride fn side to side, front and back would actually help you draft and allow others to pass. But this has been such a great ride I just thought this while laughing instead of stopping and yelling out.

Left turn and now “up” Lucas Valley Road—through the tall redwoods, aka dense shade which felt great. “Up” as you are actually climbing, but with the tailwind you can go at speed. Years ago, after knee surgery, I was shocked at hitting 20 mph on a climb, no matter how slight. We kept a nice paceline until we came close to Big Rock, where the grade kicks up. I’ll blame Jack for upping the pace, I stayed on his wheel, and the heat finally got to Ward. On the downhill with 21 curves, I stayed close enough to Jack that I could bridge up to him once the road flattened out. Ward, who flies down descents, was stuck behind some cars so he didn’t rejoin for the final fast flat run back to the cars.

105 miles in! I felt real good and figured we did 6,200’ climbing but I underestimated by a lot, Ward got 8,500.’ Route was great—rest stops were perfectly placed. I’d do this again on any hot day—only change might be coming off Tam on Bolinas Road instead of the Pantoll-Panoramic Highway that becomes the Panoramic Parking lot.

No comments: