After warming up for 4 to 5 miles on flat to mildly rolling hills, this is what greeted 67 riders as we began the 3.9-mile, 1923-foot vertical climb up Welch Creek Road last Saturday. "Well, here we go," I thought as I laughed a little at this first hill. I had been warned it would be steep. Fortunately, though, the road had been recently paved and we had sunny skies and warm weather.
I had tested my BG's right before the race began and measured in the low 70's. Hmm, not good. I ate a chocolate GU (so yummy!) and turned down my pump for 30 minutes and hoped that would cover it. Usually my blood sugar rises during intense rides like this, although I couldn't remember starting a ride with a blood sugar that low.
I was impressed to see a tandem bike there, and lots of other very fit-looking cyclists. I knew I would be secretly or openly mocked for my aerobars on such a climb, but with all the other stuff I have to lug around, what's another pound or so? It would make me stronger! Plus I just finally got them readjusted after my bike was disassembled for the JDRF ride. Anyway, at least I wasn't wearing an aero helmet or anything. Ha ha.
As you can see from the grade profile map (courtesy of Steve Rosen), the ride started out steep and just got steeper. Those little dips below 0% (all three of them) were oh-so-brief, but much-appreciated downhill sections. Somewhere around the 2nd mile (about 3.2 km on the plot above), I saw my new friend Murali K. stopped in the road. Looking around, I soon discovered why. To our right was a large brown and white cow, munching on some grass. No problem. But on the left side of the road were two calves, who seemed to belong to that cow. (Or at least one of them did.) I decided to try and pass, but as I approached, the cow gave me a nasty stare and started charging my way. I easily got some speed going back down the hill and she backed off, and went back to her task of eating. The two calves seemed unfazed and continued to munch on sticks and what-not. I tried a few more times with the same results. I asked Murali if the cow was heading towards the calves or us and he said she was heading right towards me! Well, we didn't know what we would do until we saw Sara G. come motoring by after fixing her flat. She didn't seem bothered and cruised right along, to our amazement. The cow gave a loud, very annoyed "Moo" as she went by, and Sara responded, "yeah yeah" and made her way. But the cow didn't even move from her spot. Huh! Well, we decided to get some speed and cruise by quickly and hope she would treat us so kindly. We went down a bit and started heading up, as quickly as possible. It seemed to be working... But after we had made some progress, I looked to my right and saw the cow running alongside and above us, approaching quickly. Would I be able to ride fast enough uphill? We finally got ahead of the calves and kept pedaling like mad and the cow backed off. (I guess she was more of the short sprinter type.) But my nicely calmed heart rate was back to its former, racing high state.
I had looked at my watch when we first stopped, and then when we had passed the cows, and we had lost 12 minutes there. I was quick to admit to Murali that I didn't mind being forced to take a break (and I was glad to give my blood sugar some more time to come up), but I was glad we were able to get by and finish the ride. After the first couple miles of this climb, I knew I would be happy to just finish. My finishing time was just barely under an hour at 59 minutes, which would be 47 minutes if I hadn't taken that long break. I had stopped a few other times, briefly, to check my blood sugar or let my heart come down from it's maxed-out rate of 193 beats per minute.
After the descent down, which was tough in its own way, Murali joined me for awhile on the Calaveras Road, and then I ventured up Felter Road, down Sierra, and through Milpitas and then on Tasman back to Sunnyvale. (Thanks for the tips, LKHC-ers!) I was careful to note how much braking was required on Sierra, since it is the site of an upcoming ride. And I also noted that I saw very little evidence of last week's earthquake, which was located just a short distance off of Felter. I saw a small landslide onto the road, but with the soft ground around here in many places, those are not uncommon sights. (The green below on the Google map shows the site of the earthquake, just off Felter, which is viewable if you zoom in. The red is the start of Welch Creek Road.)
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I was most happy to note that my arms, rather than my legs, were the most sore the next day. Um, maybe that means I should have ridden a bit faster?
(Picture taken by Genti Cuni, courtesy of Adam Tow, this week's coordinator. More can be seen on Adam's website and photo gallery.)