When it comes to preparing for a long-distance bikepacking event or tour, long days in the saddle are a requisite part of physical and mental training. I'm not sure anyone has figured out an effective way around this yet — at least, not without significant butt, back, and leg pain. No matter how meticulously fine-tuned your machine of a body is, it still needs to adjust to being all hunched over and turning pedals continuously hour after long hour. But ... I've found ... eventually they do. And the results are wonderfully freeing. You find yourself thinking increasingly about "where can I ride today?" The sky (and daylight hours) are the limit!
For obvious reasons of daylight hours ... and money ... relative proximity to where I reside is also a limit. But my goal for the next few weeks is to put in at least one, hopefully two longish rides every week, with a sub-goal to explore as many corners of the Santa Cruz Mountains as I can manage. I don't want to just ride the same two worn-out routes every week. I want to see new places. Enjoy some day tours. That's what bikes are for. The map shows the three routes I rode since last Monday — the left is my "Santa Cruz Century," the middle is a gut-buster of a gravel extravaganza that I called the "Quicksilver Grinder," and the right is a somewhat failed exploratory loop around Loma Prieta summit. I was able to cover quite a few new-to-me miles, not to mention a large cross-section of this little mountain range by the sea.
Liehann joined for the Quicksilver Grinder. I warned him that at our comfortable day pace, this 70-mile loop was going to take nine or ten hours. I'm not sure he believed me, but meanness sets in quick. Two 2,500- and 3,000-foot climbs are packed with 16-percent-plus grades, and the second is on loose gravel, exposed to the hot sun, with rapacious little flies hovering in an insanity cloud. Six miles up the Priest Rock Trail in Sierra Azul took two hours, and I only actually hiked about a hundred meters — most of the time I was pedaling at < 3 mph. I relish in this sort of thing — spun out on some hot dirt road, drenched in sweat, clawing at the flies buzzing my ears, only to arrive at the summit with a cool breeze wafting through the brush, look out over the valley, and think, "Ah, that was so worth it!" Why do I think it was so worth it? That's a bit more difficult to articulate than the reasons why I thought it was hard.
My accurate time estimate put us in Quicksilver in the late afternoon. I've been to Quicksilver once before and I remember the park having hills. Compared to El Sereno and Sierra Azul, Quicksilver is pancake flat, and Liehann and I thoroughly enjoyed our evening spin. We still had to ride 25 miles back through hilly suburban streets to get home, and that was admittedly less fun. We did, however, navigate the entire route solely with paper maps that had no street or trail names listed. I managed to keep the GPS turned off the entire time. It was a win on multiple levels.
On Sunday I went for a run with Beat. He is not so interested in long day rides or tours right now (I'm still working on him in this regard), but it's still nice to get outside together. I am still adjusting — I would say not well — to California heat. I suppose I could adjust my habit of working out in the late afternoon, but morning workouts have never gone well for me, regardless of temperature. Still, I struggle when the mercury climbs above 80, and Sunday's run kept me drenched. I managed to suck down two liters of water in two hours. Drinking lots of water is one of the things I do to cope with heat, and it's not necessarily a positive thing. My head feels better but my body has to slosh through a lot of liquid while shedding salt. I basically need to figure out a strategy of not carrying so much water that I drink too much, while still having enough to stay hydrated and not run dry (which tends to freak me out.) Still, it was a beautiful afternoon, and Beat was happy with a mellow pace.
I do love day touring. Exploring new places helps all of the hours and miles pass quickly, and before I know it, my butt is in excellent shape for some real distance.