Heat maps

February rolled around and it occurred to me that I only had two more weeks — just two weeks! — to finish up gear and food prep and cram in a big training block before the taper/constant low-level panic period commences ahead of the ITI. My main goal after Feb. 15 is to avoid even a whisper of respiratory illness, so I'm hoping a sharp taper, less time exposed to air pollution and rising pollen counts, and maybe all the Vitamin C will be enough to keep me healthy. Time will tell. I'm convinced if I head into Anchorage with even an allergy sniffle, I'm hosed.

That opened the first two weeks of February to spend some quality time with bikes, fortifying my endurance and testing my breathing capacity at hard efforts — at least, as hard as efforts can be in the friendly conditions of this climate in which I currently live. I really hoped to get out and find some cold temperatures during this time, but a trip wasn't feasible within driving range (even Yosemite and Donner Pass had forecasts for temperatures in the 50s and 60s this past weekend.) Also, shortly after I recovered from my Colorado cold, Beat caught a full-blown flu. He had a fever of 102 and was sick for most of the week, so traveling anywhere was out.

As I mulled a schedule, I realized that this two weeks is just about it for my adventures in the Bay Area. Sure, I'll get out for short rides until the end of the month, and I'll likely be back to visit a few times after we move to Colorado in April. But I'll be in Alaska for all of March and wrapped up with the move and work catch-up in April, so for long outings in California — this might be it. It's always bittersweet to generate all this excitement for something new, only to be reminded of everything you need to leave behind.

On Saturday I chose a route that was all about climbing as many steep hills as I could on the Eriksen, but for Sunday's ride, I just wanted to cover ground. A century is good for that, and Sunday seemed like an ideal day for a road outing — sunny, 65 to 70 degrees, and a Super Bowl vortex pulling a lot of the weekend traffic toward Santa Clara. It was one of those idyllic Sunday mornings that I remember imagining for my future when I was a child — dozens of people cycling and walking along the neighborhood streets, green grass and blooming flowers, a bright blue sky and sunshine cutting through frosty air. The scene left me beaming as I pedaled along roads I normally avoid because they're part of the crowded suburbs, and continued as I made my escape into the redwood-forested mountains and down to the sparkling coast. I've lived within pedaling distance of the Pacific for five years, and I don't visit nearly often enough. When I gaze out over that yawning blue horizon, my jaw still drops, every time. It's just so big.

I turned away from the coast on Bonny Doon Road, with the sun beating down in the late afternoon. I was nearly out of drinking water and licking salt off my lips as I crawled up the steep pavement. I thought my reward for this climb would be a chance to ride through a landscape I'd never before visited, but as I neared the crest of the road, I recognized these sandstone cliffs. I'd been here before. I took a short rest beneath a cedar grove and scoured my memory for when that might have been. Another road century? Maybe in the spring of 2014, when I was training for the Freedom Challenge? More happy memories flooded my thoughts, along with a tinge of sadness for the farewells. Would I ever return here, to the sand hills above Santa Cruz?

I'd told Beat the ride would take about eight hours, but I tend to overestimate my abilities, well, most of the time. With 10,000 feet of climbing and occasionally fierce coastal cross-winds — and fatigue from a 7-hour Saturday ride to follow up a big week — the route beat me down and I fought the climb up Zeyante Creek as the sun went down. Just as I reached Skyline Road, I encountered a long line of stopped cars. A sedan had careened off the narrow road and slid 100 feet down an embankment, and crews were blocking both sides of the road to pull it out. A cop gave me the okay to slip past, and after that, the road was utterly empty. For the next twelve miles I encountered only two cars, heard only the fierce wind howling through the redwoods, and saw only an ocean of city lights sparkling in the Santa Clara Valley below, where the Super Bowl was happening. It was a rare hour of utter solitude, eerie and invigorating. There's nowhere I would rather be, even after Beat called me to inform me I was missing a wonderful dinner with friends (I was nearly two hours late.)

There's so much in the Bay Area that I'm going to miss.

On Sunday night, I went on Strava to see all the places I've visited in the region, and which ones I managed to miss in five years of residency. Strava has these great heat maps that mark every ride I've ever uploaded. The heavily frequented routes are burned in red, the less frequented ones in shades of blue. Although I've been on Strava since 2010, I didn't use it regularly until 2013, so my heat maps miss a few spots, but it's fun representative of ground covered:

This is what my "running" heat map looks like in Southcentral Alaska:

The Alps:

And Boulder:

It's fun to look at adventures as squiggles on a map and consider all the places to fill them in. So many possibilities. 


  1. Those heat maps almost make me want to join Strava too. The weather has been especially nice lately (I'm in Ft. Bragg and it's SUNNY, so weird), soak it up! I'm sure you'll miss the occasional February outing in a t-shirt soon enough!

    1. I'm a big fan of Strava's log-keeping features — also, it's a social network for people doing fun things outside. It's really so much more than the KOM ridiculousness (which is also sort of fun and I don't deny that I get excited about QOM achievements even when they're 0.5-mile segments that 8 women have ridden.)

      I'm sure I'll miss the constantly perfect weather here. Boulder actually gets a surprising share of 60-degree days during the winter, but there are also blizzards and lots and lots of wind.

  2. I've been w/ Strava for a few years now, and had never heard of the "Heat maps"...is this for us freeloader Strava'ions, or just the paid folk? I'll have to go search around on my home page...I don't do near enough of that to find features of stuff I use...

    I too went for a Superbowl Sunday ride (I worked all day, but we got off early due to said game, so I was able to slip in a short afternoon ride...not many others on the trails as you have alluded).

    I still can't believe you're moving...all my trips up to the Sunnyvale area for work these last few years and I never managed to meet you and Beat (I always figured I'd see you atop Black Mt one day as it's one of my fav destinations too)...and now you are gone. Rats. You think you have all the time in the world, and then suddenly find you don't. That's the way life works tho...never take things for granted.

    1. I'm a premium member of Strava, but the heat maps might be available to all. Look under the Dashboard section next to the header. And let me know if you're up this way in April. We might cross paths just yet. :)

    2. I found the Heat maps...yep...Premium members only....rats. Oh well...still LOVE Strava!

      Doubt very much that I will have work up there before June sadly...odds are very (VERY) slim at this point. Rats AGAIN. Well...it's a small world...you never know...one day on some trail somewhere in the world I might just bump into you both yet.

  3. We can't let you guys go before you ride the Flow trail in Demo. Also, seems that you never rode Water Dog? I did not ride many places you did, but man, WD, I have like 700 rides there :) No worries,it's a 2 hr ride for April.
    PM me if you think about fat biking one of the next two weekends. With strong winds, it was not warm at Kirkwood at 9K ft on Sunday!

    1. I've actually never been to Water Dog. I've also only ridden Skeggs a handful of times — I guess I really am not much of a singletrack enthusiast. But I definitely need to visit Demo once more before we go. I'll be in touch about upcoming plans.

  4. Anonymous2:44 PM

    I tried to find you on Strava and it won't show you :( Would love to follow you.

    1. ah never mind, it found you. Good luck in the ITI - I'll be rooting for you!

  5. Welcome to Town. Good luck to you both on the ITI


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