Monday, May 06, 2013

Canadians in San Fran

Some Canadian friends from the cold and snowy Yukon have been in California all week, traveling in an RV and riding mountain bikes along the central coast. I'd been hoping to connect with them, but nothing worked out until they reached San Francisco on Sunday. By then, five of the six were tired and a little burnt out from the unseasonably-warm-even-for-us heat snap. But Sierra, always reliably "sharky" when she goes on bikecation, was raring to ride.

I mapped out a route starting from the girls' rental home in Noe Valley, warning Sierra that it might be a "little bit hilly." One block from the house, we made a left turn and churned up a wall that took us to nearly a level sightline with Twin Peaks, the highest point in San Francisco. We'd been climbing a 17 percent grade for a half mile. We caught our breath as I set my GPS and Sierra said something to the effect of "Is the whole ride going to be like this?" I shrugged. Well, kind of, yes. First city, then open hillsides, but the topography doesn't change much. A big grin spread across her face, indicating genuine excitement for the punishing nature of this ride. I remembered why, for all of our personality and geographical differences, Sierra and I make great partners in crime.

Sierra was most excited about crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. I tried to warn her that this mile-and-a-half-long span could be clogged with erratically weaving tourists on rental bicycles, loud and smelly from vehicular traffic, and even the bridge didn't have a level grade (it arches quite a bit.) But with a stiff wind and temperatures in the 60s, it wasn't a perfect weather day by San Francisco standards, and tourist traffic was mercifully light. As we rolled across the bridge, a giant cruise ship passed underneath, with many of the passengers standing on the deck and waving at us. It was a fun snapshot of city life that reminded me of the days when I would hike up Mount Roberts in Juneau and dangle my feet 1,800 feet over the cruise ship docks.

After we crossed into the Headlands, I led her on a familiar route that follows long the lines of "Climb 1,000 feet. Drop 1,000 feet. Climb 1,000 feet. Drop 1,000 feet." Sierra is more into all-mountain type riding than dirt touring, so I tried to pick out the best legal singletrack that we could access. Still, it was indicative of how limiting California riding can be compared to a much less populated and more inclusive place like the Yukon. In this photo, she is probably pointing to a trail that looks fun as I'm shaking my head. "Nope, no bikes allowed, sorry. If a ranger catches us we'd get a big ticket."

Those disappointments aside, we had a great ride and Sierra was leaving me in the dust on the last few climbs. After we dropped to the bottom of Tennessee Valley, I said, "Well, we can climb one more big hill, or we can turn around and go back now." Sierra looked at her watch, calculated the time and smiled. "One more big hill," she agreed. I love riding with someone who will always say yes to "one more hill." We do make great partners in crime.

Sunday night brought pre-birthday celebrations for Jenn, who turned 40 on Monday. We hiked up and down a series of steep pitches to reach the Mission, while Sierra commented that "this city is going to murder my calves." Sierra organized dinner at a dark and funky place called Kronnerburger, where only burgers and really salty sides graced the menu. My digestive system isn't great with this type of food (or meat in general), so I went soft with a grilled crab burger. Sierra, on the other hand, ordered the Kronnerburger extra rare ("tartare" she emphasized to us) with marrow on the side. It was actually served with a chunk of beef bone that she had to dig the gooey marrow out of, with a spoon, before spreading it on her burger. "That is some PhD-level meat eating right there," Monica said, and we all laughed at our own sophomoric efforts. Even my crab burger with a few bites of pickled green tomatoes, onion rings, and poutine (which we call fries with cheese and gravy around here), left me feeling ill. I don't deny it's delicious, though.

On the training front, I had a decent week. I went light on running and my sore shin seems to be improving, although I managed to burn my skin with an ice pack earlier this week. Beat asked me why I recently started tracking my training again and I told him that I want to better keep track of my patterns so I can interpret potential injury indicators. I also saw my doctor today for an annual physical and got a clean bill of health, which is encouraging.

Monday: Trail run, 9.1 miles, 1,611 feet of climbing
Tuesday: 0
Wednesday: Road bike, 31.1 miles, 3,442 feet of climbing
Thursday: Road bike, 17.8 miles, 2,504 feet of climbing
Friday: Mountain bike, 17.1 miles, 2,594 feet of climbing
Saturday: Trail run, 13.6 miles, 1,980 feet of climbing
Sunday: Mountain bike, 36.1 miles, 4,930 feet of climbing

Total: 22.6 miles run, 102.1 miles ride, 17,061 feet of climbing


  1. Why are a lot of trails illegal? I've never been to the west coast.

  2. Marin County is a relatively high-use area so area land managers (in this case, the National Park Service and state park regulations) made most trails hiker-only, limiting bike and equestrian use to some larger fire roads and a few singletrack trails. I don't necessarily disagree with the decision to separate trail users, but I think in this area it's overdone.

  3. Fun!!!

    Oh hey, I am considering a mountain bike race this Sunday. Cat 3. Because I will be in the area... (Helena)

  4. Danni, could be fun. I've actually never participated in an XC mountain bike race. You should enter and report back. :)

  5. Looks like you guys rode the steepest of SF terrain both dirt and paved!
    Just a quick comment on the trail access in the Bay Area: only by moving outside of California I realized how absurd the situation is. On one hand, no legal access to where hikers or equestrians go, on the other hand the whole "secret" club of people who ride illegal trails in Marin and Santa Cruz, that nobody who "knows" will ever utter a word to the outsiders. What's left: more and more gentrified and crowded trails on the Peninsula, or brutal places only a few hardcore care about (Coe). Still, there are trails, many miles of them, and I confess, I miss the place :-) But for real mountain biking, head up to Oregon and WA.

  6. We should think about doing the Colorado Trail together. I think it'd be a great ride and I can arrange some support.

  7. I waver on whether I'd rather ride the Colorado Trail or fastpack it, as my technical timidness can make me quite slow on a bike. But it would indeed be a beautiful ride and I'd be willing to give it a go. If we wanted to ride the whole thing, we'd have to make a pretty big time commitment. Even at sharky touring pace (meaning sleeping full nights and enjoying dinners and breakfasts, put pretty much riding every other waking minute of the day) I think averaging 50-60 miles a day is about the highest mileage we could realistically plan for. But let's definitely keep it in mind.


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