Monday, August 30, 2010

Birthday Ride

This past Friday was my birthday, and I decided to celebrate by doing something I very rarely have the opportunity to do: ride south. The riding on the Peninsula south of San Francisco is at least as magnificent as the riding in Marin, to the north, but not as easy to get to. There are a bunch of great climbs - two of my favorites, actually - and I thought it'd be a perfect birthday treat to myself to climb them both.

As an added bonus, Alex was in town for a visit. He had originally planned to do a lot of riding during his two-week stay. Unfortunately, that never materialized and he found himself dealing with questionable fitness on a borrowed bike. I tried to warn him, but he would hear nothing of it. What followed may have been his worst-ever day in the saddle.

The ride started early as Alex, Keith and I set out from the Peet's on Broderick around seven. We cruised through Golden Gate Park and then down the Great Highway to Skyline. Traffic was horrendous and the fog was miserable, but we survived to meet up with Silas just before the bike path along San Andreas Lake. When we hit Canada Road, Alex started to flag. A quick stop in Woodside gave us a chance to refill our bottles and enjoy some much-needed sunlight.

Keith and Silas wrap up OLH

Then it was time to tackle Old La Honda. The climb itself wasn't bad. I haven't done a lot of climbing and certainly didn't try to redline my way up to the top, but damn... what a beautiful ascent. Silas, Keith and I regrouped at the top and waited for a while... and waited... and waited. Alex was suffering as much as one would expect. Imagine not riding a bike for four months and then trying to tackle one of the tallest climbs in the Bay Area?

Fortunately, he had a long descent on which to recover as Silas and I (well, mainly Silas) led the way to San Gregario. The trick was not dropping Alex on the light rollers out toward the coast. It required a bit of restraint. Stage Road up to Highway 1 was a bit more painful than I remembered, but that cliff-view descent to Tunitas Creek Road made it worth the effort.

Next up: Tunitas - also known as my favorite climb in the world. I felt like I was taking it a lot easier than usual, but my average heart rate (and total time) was just about on target. The wait at the top gave Silas and I plenty of time to shoot the breeze. If Alex thought he was suffering before, the word was redefined for him on Tunitas. The sheer look of joy on his face when he finally crested the top of the climb was absolutely priceless.

Happy to be alive

The only bad thing about Tunitas is the descent back to Palo Alto - a long, twisty affair that I could definitely do without. Hunger struck and we found a noodle house downtown where we refueled before hopping on the (hottest-ever) Caltrain home.

It was a nearly perfect ride - I hit both climbs I wanted to hit, got a little bit of sun, and managed to avoid bridge-related chaos. Best of all, my legs felt fresh at the end! For Alex, I imagine it was a whole different story...

Alex full-kit, post-ride fetal nap