Our ride on Tuesday June 10 started as a typical MTB experience. Milt met me at the Briones staging area around 5:00. I had been in the park since 3:00 hiking / jogging with Pastor Brent, and it felt good. We were both strong and in good spirits, in spite of the nearby grass fire wafting smoke over the area.
When Milt arrived we headed up our typical route - straight up the mouth of the dragon - on Alhambra Creek Trail. That trail is among my favorite descents - so you can imagine the climb.
When we met Jeff at the top of the park (who had climbed up from the Bear Creek side), Milt explained that he had found a "new" trail, but I was skeptical. I thought I had finally learned most of the trails in the park. Upon leaving Old Briones Road, I realized why I had never seen the "new" trail before. It wasn't a trail, but rather a separation in the weeds. This particular separation had a magnetic feel to it, and as I followed my companions, the pull became increasingly stronger. The smell of smoking disc brakes initiated a chain reaction of instincts that rarely, but fortunately reliably, act to keep me conscious and reasonably alive. I stopped just short of a technical sequence of small rain washed canyons 12 - 18 inches deep. Milt had pulled up short, just before me, and was now situated just above me. I watched as Jeff flew pell mell through the maze and around a corner. Seconds later we gained audible cues that he had momentarily suffered from a distinct and sharp raise in blood pressure. Unwilling to let him get away with having all of the fun, I inched through a few feet of the washout, and clipped back into my pedals.
I successfully navigated the wash and rounded the corner to see a steep but tame descent through the trees. My blood pressure also spiked as I catapulted over the small but completely unexpected precipice and engaged a frustrated and confused group of cows and calves. We didn't bother to warn Milt... He made it.
From there we headed to Table Top Road.
The rest of the ride was uneventful as explained by Milt in an email he sent out...
Subject: Three Riders, Three Crashes
Hi Guys,Great ride today.....Scott, Jeff ,and I rode the new loop around the single track today. Scott biffed on the s.t. leading from Table Top Road to Alhambra Creek Rd. leaving only a little skin behind......I dropped my bike while turning fast onto the s.t. just off Toyon Rd ,with Jeff almost running over me. Jeff didn't make the turn at the bottom of Dead Cow Hill ( some of you know it as Nicks' crash site ) although his bike made it to the bottom of the hill without him.=) It was a fun ride.....
Like I said, Uneventful.
Now if you want to see "Eventful," just come over and watch me try to pull on a "T" shirt and not tear the scabs off my elbow.
Ride #2 June 13
This one was the best of the 3. Becky, Ella, and I set off for Trader Joe's in Concord with 2 bikes and a "trailer" bike (which is one wheel, a seat, handle bars, and a coupling to attach to my bike) on / in the back of the Pilot.
Our plan was to leave from the TJ's parking lot, ride several miles along the canal trail, then return to TJ's and do a little shopping. Amazingly, that is exactly what we did.
Events of the ride...
1. Seeing the "water fall" in the canal.
2. Seeing the geese in the canal.
3. Stopping at the Schweikerts to say "hi," but only getting to say "hi" to the goats. The Schweikerts weren't home.
4. Playing at the park.
5. Petting the doggy at the park.
6. Realizing that TJ's closed in 30 minutes, and we were 30 minutes away.
7. Massaging the cramps out of my wife's legs. (Ok, so that happened a little later)
8. Narrowly missing the skunk that felt it necessary to cross the trail just in front of us - who were going to be late to TJ's.
9. Not getting anointed by the skunk that felt it necessary to cross the trail just in front of us.
10. Making it to TJ's in time to buy Cliff Bars for Saturday's ride.
Ella's favorite part, "Going to the park and meeting a new dog friend."
Ride #3 June 14
I learned a whole lot on Saturday.
I learned that if you get hungry - it's too late - you're about to get wasted.
I learned that riding that fast for the first 20 miles isn't smart if you're planning on adding another 70.
I learned that a Starbucks mocha is worth about 15 miles.
I learned that Vince is ready for the Death Ride, and I'm not.
Vince and I were the only 2 to show up on Saturday morning. We discussed a route, and set off to "see what happens."
We left from Virginia Hills Shopping Center on Pleasant Hill Rd. (we both had miles under our belts already, just to get there), and headed toward Alhambra Rd and its intersection with Bear Creek Rd. From there we started up what is affectionately called the "Three Bears" by area cyclists. On the way up Bear number 1, which I think is Mama Bear - at least coming from that direction, we noted a cyclist near the top of the hill. Being the way we are, Vince and I both stepped it up a notch and attempted to overtake this other cyclist. And we did. I was very proud of our accomplishment until I noticed that he only had one good leg.
This gentleman, was likely in his 50's or 60's (riding a dated, but well loved 10 speed), with one HUGE right leg and a withered left leg seemingly attached to a prosthesis and a cycling shoe. As we passed, we exchanged formalities and commented on the weather, since the first things that come to my mind to say, far to often prove me a fool. This being near the top of the hill, Vince and I returned to the business at hand, and settled into a quick cadence and tucked for a short descent. Near the bottom of the hill I let up and allowed the momentum of the bike to carry me to the bottom. Surprised was I as the fellow we had left at the top of the hill pulled out of my draft and passed me on the way up the next hill. Though shortly we left him behind and never saw him again, I was genuinely impressed. I would love to know who he is and get his story. Anybody know this guy?
We finished the 3 bears and took a short break before ascending again, up into Tilden Park.
UP, UP, UP.
The first couple of miles is steep, but the 1 mile climb up South Park is brutal.
This is where I really started to fade. I had been consuming the Cliff bars from the previous night's adventure, and thought I was keeping up with my body's demand.
I'm confident that by that time I was nearly 1,000 calories in the red.
The ride across Grizzly Peak, Skyline, and eventually Redwood was grueling, and only got worse as we went. And, I'm not talking about the terrain, as it's pretty easy rolling hills and some wicked descents. I was well hydrated, but my energy level was plumeting. When we finally rolled into Castro Valley, our first opportunity to purchase more "fuel," I was completely spent, and was seriously considering calling Bec to come pick me up. Now that's notable. That would have been a nearly fatal blow to my ego.
This was at about 50 miles into the ride. I had been seriously praying for strength to finish the ride, and God sent an angel.
We pulled into a Safeway parking lot, and what should there be, but a Starbucks inside.
Like a fool, I had brought no money, so Vince graciously offered to buy. I ate another Cliff bar, and drank my water, while watching the bikes so Vince could shop. He came out with my grande mocha and some ice to cool it down - for chugging, a bottle of water, and 2 Payday candy bars.
He consumed one Payday and refilled his water, while I made very short work of the mocha.
Within minutes I was back to 75%. I was shocked. We got back on the bikes, and proceeded up Crow Canyon road. I felt so much better, and was amazed at what 10 minutes of rest and a Starbucks mocha could do. I was just beginning see what amazing creatures, God created us humans to be.
Through the next 10 - 15 miles I was able to nearly forget my exhaustion, and ride with notable ease. So much so, that when it came time to decide whether or not to ascend Mount Diablo for a final push, I voted to do it.
I do not regret this decision. Rather I regret not knowing enough about my body to realize how close to finished I was. I needed 2 or 3 more mochas, right then, but didn't know it. Instead Vince produced 2 Goo Shots - 1 of which I gratefully consumed.
Again, halfway up the ascent, I was completely spent. My skin was clammy, and I no longer felt ANY pain. We rested for a few minutes and I ate the second half of Vince's second Payday, and was thankful for the Goo Shot that he had given me at the bottom of the climb.
Again I revived, and was back in the saddle for the final few miles of climbing. The Ranger station could not come soon enough. We discussed making an attempt on the top of the mountain, which was within reach - only another 5 miles - but wisely decided that "we were pushed for time, and really shouldn't make the climb with other obligations that evening."
We were at approx. 75 miles.
I intended for the descent of Diablo to be relaxed, and told Vince as much.
I am incapable of riding that stretch of road relaxed. I love the downhill, the curves, the speed...
About halfway down we caught a pickup truck driven by a lady who didn't want to pull out. Amazingly she drove wild enough to keep me from being tempted to pass, but it was quite a trip.
At the bottom of the mountain, I was again completely spent, and we were both out of food.
Vince was doing great the whole time. He saved my self respect, and very possibly my life, by donating to a stubborn, but in my wife's opinion - worthy cause. I limped along behind as we coasted through the diablo foothills toward home. As we turned on to the canal trail, I recalled the previous night's failed attempt at visiting with the Schweikerts. I vowed that if I saw them in their back yard as we passed on the trail, that I would ride around and beg for food.
I begged for food.
You should have seen Nicki (Please check spelling) as she came out from the back yard. You would have thought I was a ghost. I'm not sure that it was the first thing she said, but the first thing I recall hearing was "are you alright?" I was not. I attempted a feeble reassurance, but basically all that came out was "can I have something to eat?" I don't recall all of the following events, but I was ushered to the bench at the front porch and Molly (or Heidi - I honestly don't remember. My sincerest apologies.) proceeded to make the most transcendant strawberry smoothies for both Vince and myself. I think Nicki was still trying to determine whether or not medical help should be called. If an ambulance had arrived - I would have gotten in at that point.
Nicki produced a bag of trail mix which I begrudgingly shared with Vince. (Starving people are the most selfish.) The entire bag of trail mix, and the smoothies were consumed. I'm pretty sure there were other Shweickert family members there, and I think I may have even spoken to some of them, but I was literally so fatigued, I could not make sense of their questions, and I'm afraid to ask what responses I may have given. All I really remember was a mother figure meeting my basic human needs.
Amazingly - again - I was refreshed following the 15 minute rest and calorie boost. I got back on my bike and finished the day with 94 miles.
It wasn't the distance that did me in.
It was my complete lack of understanding concerning how my body uses fuel, and how quickly.
Next time I'll...