Thursday, October 18, 2012

First (and only?) training ride

Dropping into the Big Blue
My friend Jan recently took a job at a small biotech company in Seattle, and is leaving the Bay area this Saturday (booo!) It's always a bummer to lose good riding partners, but the upside is that he wanted to squeeze in one last big ride during his last week in town. Great timing, because I needed to squeeze in a long training ride for the 25 Hours of Frog Hollow before taper time encroaches. I effectively haven't ridden a mountain bike more than a handful of times since mid-August. Training for a 25-hour solo that begins in seventeen days? No time to start like the present.

Coast View Trail
Jan mapped out a big loop of trails, fire roads, and pavement around the Marin Headlands. On paper, or original route looked ambitious — but even then I thought, "Yeah, we can knock this thing out in seven hours" and even made early dinner plans with a friend in San Francisco. Ha! I should know better by now. Of all of the regions where I've dabbled in longer distance riding, the California coastline has been, by far, the most deceptively difficult. I *think* the dirt is all smooth and the elevations are all small, but I'm wrong. Somehow, I'm always wrong. A thousand feet of altitude is a huge energy drain if you have to gain it in two miles or less, on freshly graded trails. And cow-trampled, sun-dried mud is more jarring than any rock garden I've ridden. And redwoods can roll out some surprisingly large drops with their well-camouflaged roots. The California coastline is also a place where temperatures can push into the high-80s in October, but any clear day in Marin is a beautiful day.

I think it was mile eight or so when Jan and I looked at each other and both silently wondered if we were really going to go through with this. His face was already streaked with white salt and my sit bones were sore. My sit bones haven't been sore in six years, but it isn't easy to reconcile months of relative inactivity with persistent hard pressing, while climbing, just to keep the rear wheel from spinning out. Still, it was intriguing to finally link up all of these trails I've ridden and run in shorter fragments. We started at the Golden Gate Bridge and climbed up and over the steep ridge into Rodeo Valley, then Tennessee Valley, then Muir Beach, then climbed a fire road to Mount Tam before dropping down the bone-rattling spine of Bolinas Ridge. After five and a half hours, my arms were completely numb and both Jan and I were deeply fatigued. We had traveled 38 miles, it was 4:30 p.m., there were only two hours until sunset, and were still at the furthest point on our loop.

Coyote Ridge Trail
In the interest of not riding until midnight, we decided to nix a few of the trails we were going to hit on the way back, and made a dash for home on the pavement. Marin County has a nice bike route system, but I am not a big fan of urban riding — the constant stop and go, the traffic, the knee-jarring tendency to sprint away from stop signs in the big ring, the wonderful smells emanating from all of the restaurants when I am so hungry. Still, it was nice to make good time for a change — thirty miles in 2:15 including a Gatorade stop when both Jan and I ran low on water. By the end of the ride, the restaurant smells had tempted me into eating three energy bars, my sit bones had gone numb, and I was feeling great. I could have gone out for another 67-mile lap. At least, that is what I will tell myself, so I don't feel as much dread about Frog Hollow in two weeks.

Alcatraz Island, the Bay Bridge, and San Francisco
We ended up with 66.4 miles and 8,083 feet of climbing (map here.) This likely will be my only big training ride before Frog Hollow, as I made a last-minute decision to purchase a cheap plane ticket and fly to Utah for yet another weekend. A bunch of my college friends have been planning a big reunion in Moab. I was originally not planning on going, because my fall travel schedule was already loaded, most of those trips involve Utah, and because I felt guilty about neglecting my work and spending less time with Beat, who also wanted to plan a long training ride this weekend. However, the Moab gathering really started to fill out, and now it looks like most of my good friends from college, as well as several people I haven't seen in eight-plus years, are going to be there. It should be a great reunion; it's always fun to reconnect with people who knew you when you were 20 years old.

Several of these friends are running a half marathon on Saturday, but biking isn't part of the plan. I'm sure I'll do some hiking with my friends and maybe grab a trail run or two, but yeah — here's to another weekend of not training for Frog Hollow. At least I got one good ride in.


  1. He's moving to Seattle in late October, eh? Tell him the sun will come back in May. Or July at the latest. :o)

  2. Hm, I was just packing my four pairs of biking sunglasses :-) trails under the canopy of trees doesn't sound too bad even in rain. Did not know people say "eh" south of the border. As a Czecho-Californian, I will have to work on my manners. Sorry Jill to hijack your blog for chatting but perhaps few Washington outdoor enthusiasts will advice on how to survive winters there? I plan to ski, too.

  3. I think I just spend too much time with Canadians.

    If you ski, you will be very happy here, especially if you do backcountry skiing. We've had two really heavy snow winters in a row, but this year looks like it'll be more normal (hopefully that means less lowland rain). I recommend if you want to meet ski partners/get ideas for trips/conditions.

    This really is a great place to live if you're into outdoor pursuits...and when the weather gets really dreary, we have the finest microbreweries in the world!

  4. LOVE the first picture!

  5. Good luck Jan! I hope your last ride in the Bay was spectacular.

  6. Cool pics - fantastic looking trails...


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