Play Hard or Go Home …

… I saw a guy with this on his T-shirt, and I thought it would be a perfect title for this blog.  Anyways, we decided to do a ride in honor of the guys doing Terrible Two (which by the way is a really hard, insanely hard long hilly ride … get my point … it’s HARD).  So we decided to charge up Mt. Hamilton.  You know, give it 150% effort.  Well, 150% effort to me is like a walk in the park to some that I ride with.

Anyhow, since this is 1 week before the Grand Tour Double, I decided to ride to the start (same place, the elementary school on Kirk Ave, about 1 mile from the start of the climb).  I found the most direct route over was going through downtown San Jose, and taking Julian St, which turns into McKee, which takes me right to the school.  Great plan, right?  Well, it would have been, if it weren’t for Julian St is a one way street for a good stretch.  This is a one way street in the opposite direction of where I wanted to go.

I actually totally missed the turn onto Julian, and wound up a couple blocks south on Santa Clara St (El Camino turned into Alameda, turned into Santa Clara).  Suddenly, I found myself lost.  Well, it’s not like I go to downtown San Jose very much.  Most of the time, I go there to watch the Sharks game, which is maybe once a year.  In fact, I’m probably more familiar with downtown San Francisco, than I am with San Jose (and San Jose is about a 15 min drive for me, as opposed to 1+ hour drive to San Francisco).  Speaking of Sharks, even though hockey season is over, you still see evidence of how loyal the city is to the Sharks.  Now it’s true that they only have two sports franchises, the Sharks, and the Earthquake (MLS soccer), but this sure shows deep loyalty to the Sharks and to hockey.

Anyhow, onto the ride.  Donald and Chris had some goals as far as time up to the top of Mt. Hamilton, of 1:30.  Now, no matter how hard I try, there is no way I would even get close to 1:30 going to the top of Mt. Hamilton.  My modest goal is to try to reach the 2 hour mark.

For non-cyclists reading this, or for those that are not from the area, Mt. Hamilton is roughly 19 miles, and about 4200 feet up.  In other words, it’s a long climb.  This means I can’t do an all out effort for 19 miles … I’d probably collapse within the first 5 miles.

For some reason, I wound up leading the group up Alum Rock … me, the non-Billy Goat, leading the mountain climbers to Mt. Hamilton.  This felt really strange.  I figured they would pass me, but they felt content on letting me pace them to the turn onto Mt. Hamilton Road.  About 500 yards on Mt. Hamilton, true to form, Chris powers past me, with Donald to follow.  Not only did they power past me, they were going at about 100 rpm cadence.  I wasn’t even going to try to hang onto their wheel.

Since I was trying to go for a personal best, I deliberately decided to stay away from my granny gear.  I had been commuting lately on my fixie, and have been concentrating on getting higher cadence, and higher power at the same time, so this was my chance to try that out.  Well, it was a good plan, but I think there was something else that may have played a bigger part … fitness.

I was doing fine at the midway point, so I felt optimistic.  However, after getting past Kinkaid (which is a great out and back, with smooth roads … but some of my past blogs discuss that), that’s when the climbing starts getting a bit tougher.

The hard effort earlier in the climb started to catch up with me.  I was starting to struggle to get power up, and I kept saying to myself “don’t give up, don’t give in, ignore the pain you are suffering on your lower back” … you know, the usual self motivation we tell our body when we are in a hard workout.  Meanwhile, I am still not in my granny gear.  I am climbing on my middle chainring, 39-25 (I still had one more cog to go on the back).

I probably could have shifted over to my granny gear, and given myself some relief … but I think I was just a bit too stubborn to give in.  Besides, I was on a mission to grind this out, and to beat that 2 hour barrier.  The 2 hour time came around, and I was still at least 2 miles from the top … damn it!  For a split second, I realized I wasn’t going to make my goal, but I had to charge on, and not let this disappointment decrease my motivation.  Then, just a little later, I see Donald, then Chris descend down.  Damn … I didn’t even come close to them.

I later found out Donald and Chris came in under the 90 minute mark.  Wow, that is clearly out of my league.  And how did I do?  I came in at 2:08, which was not even my personal best.  Damn, that’s 2 strikes on me.  My actual personal best time was 2:06, so 2 minutes behind.  Looks like I gotta do more Montebello hill climbs.

Results?  2:08:49 to the top, with an average speed of 8.6 mph, 151 bpm, and 153 watts.  Who knows how they calculate power output without a power meter?

For the whole ride, I got in 63.9 miles, 5404 feet climbing.

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