Woke up on Sunday morning feeling good, not at all stiff from yesterday’s ride. Not too surprising since it had been a relatively short ride, less than fifty miles, but I had been a bit worried about soreness from yesterday’s brutal climbs. I was pretty exhausted, having just woken up at 4:30am, but a hot shower woke me up a bit. I ate half a loaf of chocolate cherry bread on the drive south to Los Altos, making sure I had a good breakfast.
I arrived late (again!), due mostly to leaving a bit late. I must remember that it takes me an hour, not half an hour, to get up and out the door in the mornings. I can’t figure out where the time goes, but that’s how long it takes. I made it out on the road by 6:30, however, so I wasn’t doing too badly.
Today’s route began (again!) with a serious climb, with a 4-8% grade for the first twenty minutes, followed by the ascent up Page Mill Road. Page Mill was nastier than I remembered – the steep portions in particular – and I had to pull over to rest once along the way. I wondered if I hadn’t lost some hill-climbing ability in the two weeks I’d been off the bike. But I remembered fondly the times, early on, when I’d had to pull over every six to eight minutes to rest while ascending, and the burst of triumph the first time I made it to the top without having to rest. I’ve definitely come a long way in my training.
At any rate, I made it to the top, and made my first-ever descent of the backside, a long curvy way down Alpine Rd. It was cool in the morning, and despite my legwarmers and windbreaker vest, I was still freezing by the time I made it down to Pescadero Road.
Afterwards we went down the coast on Hwy 1, a long, almost completely flat ride to Santa Cruz. AIDS Lifecycle was riding the same route that day (Sunday was Day 1 of AIDS Lifecycle 6), so I gazed with fondness on the route signs and actually stopped in at one of the rest stops to say hi. *sigh* I wish I were riding this year.
Through the rest of the day, I saw various signs from AIDS Lifecycle supporters, and it made me think of the Ride. I wished them luck and, although I saw only a few riders (we were ahead of the main pack), I wished I were riding with them. It seemed strange to be out on the route without a rider number on my helmet and an outrageous tutu-costume on my body. Ah well, next year. (I’m already registered for AIDS Lifecycle 7 – whee!!)
As I rolled into lunch and pulled up my bike, someone said, “Are you Tien?” I said, “Yes!” and he said, “I’m Brian! I’m the one who’s been commenting on your blog.” It was great to finally meet the face behind the encouraging comments and the many tips on the Death Ride – thanks again, Brian! (And what a coincidence that we should happen to meet amongst the hundreds of cyclists on Sequoia!)
At the lunch stop, mile 64, I looked at the route profile for Sequoia. It was slated to be 9,000 feet of climbing, but looking at the route profile, it was basically flat except for two big hills (read: “mountains”). After lunch started the second climb, a 30-mile ascent from sea level to 3200 feet, with a number of mini-summits along the way.
It was a hot day. I was sweating buckets as I climbed – especially on Mt. Charlie Road, another brutally steep climb like Page Mill – and soon was seriously worried about water. At my rate of climbing, 30 miles is 4-5 hours of climbing, and while I had a 70-oz Camelbak and a 16-oz emergency water bottle, that wasn’t going to last for long in the hot sun. I didn’t exactly ration the water, but I thought about it as I went up.
Up, and up, and up. Steep climbs, followed by short downhills (which I found disheartening since it meant more uphill as we went to the summit), followed by more uphill. At mile 75 I ran out of water in my Camelbak, and switched to my emergency water bottle. I was now seriously worried, and keeping an eye out to flag down a sweep – if I’d gone through 70 ounces of water in 15 miles, 16 ounces of water was not going to get me to mile 90, the next rest stop.
Finally, I reached the top of Mt. Charlie Road, and turned onto Bear Creek (?) Road. And, like the answer to a prayer, when I reached the top of Bear Creek, there was a water stop!! They had not only water, but ice and ice-cold sodas. I skipped the sodas, but guzzled down 16 ounces of ice water, refilled my Camelbak with a mix of ice and Cytomax, and refilled my emergency water bottle.
From there it was a relatively simple, easy ascent to the top of Saratoga Gap, where I went to the rest stop at mile 92. I was now running amongst the last riders, as I had expected – that’s just part of being a slow rider. I arrived just as the rest stop was closing, so ate a couple bananas and kept going. I was feeling pretty tired (especially after yesterday’s fifty-mile ride), but the rest of the ride was mostly descending, so I knew I would finish. Maybe not at 6pm (the official route closing time), but fairly shortly thereafter.
The rest of the ride was uneventful. The backside of Mt. Eden Road, while steep, wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I remembered (perhaps because I was comparing it with yesterday’s death-march), and I cruised down Stevens Creek Road, to Foothill, and along the rest of my usual haunts, to the Palo Alto VA and the end of the ride. I collected my patch, ate some snacks and some ice cream, and was done. I had completed 114 miles, with 10,000 feet of climbing, the day after a 50-mile ride with 5,000 feet of climbing.
I don’t know if I’ll be fast enough for the time cuts on the Death Ride, but I know I’m capable of riding it. I feel good.
The Sequoia Century: 114 miles, 9:48 riding time (12 hours total time), 10,409 feet of climbing. Avg speed: 11.6 mph.