I Finally Beat the Devil – DMD Completed

I finally did it, I finally beat the devil, and I completed Devil Mountain Double. This is the DMD worker’s ride, with the actual event to take place two weeks later.

My first attempt at this was 9 years ago, back when roads were not damaged by rain, and when it was run by Scott Halversen and Quackcyclists. This year, Dzung Dang, creator of XDV, has taken the reins. It is a different route, which starts in San Jose, instead of San Ramon, and does Hamilton first, then Sierra, before going to Diablo. Previously, Diablo was the first climb, which was always challenging, to get legal permits to do the event. My failed attempt is documented at https://sevencyclist.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/devils-mountain-double-was-epic-but-dnfd/

The ride started at 3 am, so alarm set at 1:30 am (takes about 30 min to get to Berryessa Community Center, where the ride starts). For once, it’s a local drive for me, but it happens one of the most difficult doubles you can do. There were a total of 11 riders, with two of them starting quite a bit later (i.e. faster riders).

The temps were in the high 40s, so not too bad, as long as we were climbing. What’s first? Quimby … Oh, the hard way, or as I like to say, the short cut up Hamilton to Grant Park. By the time I made it up to the top of Quimby, the group was spread out, and was already riding solo.

By the time I got to the top of Hamilton (not at the visitor’s center), it was already light. This meant descending in daylight … woohoo! We had to descend back into the clouds, and boy was that chilly. What’s worse, I left my balaclava at home. You always forget something, even if it’s a local event. The return was back to the start where we could stuff things we didn’t want to carry in a drop bag, and have it carried to Mines Road. It was still cold, so I just left my jacket on, and just left an extra light in my drop bag.

The next climb was either going up Sierra (highland route), or taking Calaveras (lowland route). The difference is about 1500 feet, but Sierra is pretty steep. Most riders went highland, but I figure if I finish this, I’ll get in < 18,000 feet in about 200 miles. That’s enough! I still had to climb Calaveras, and the wall!

Since I was the only one in the 3 am group to do the lowland, I was doing it solo. As it turned out, I was the first one to arrive, and waiting at Control 5 is my fellow DC’er Peggy (who will be doing the same thing in two weeks!)

I also happen to bump into some friends who were doing a club ride going through Sunol. See what fun you can have doing a double?

The next big climb is Diablo, at around mile 86 … 86 miles in, and whatever climbing at that point, and then doing Diablo? At least the ride organizer didn’t have to worry about getting permits to ride through (which was an issue when it started from San Ramon and it was the first climb). I started to feel the miles and the climbing starting to catch up to me, but I kept at a steady cadence to this point anyways. I was marveling at how green the hills are here. If I weren’t doing the double, I’d stop and admire it, but I must continue on.

When I got to the summit, my fellow Owl Be Back SS 508 teammate was there to greet me at Control 6. I had to take an extended breather here, before descending down the hill. I was there so long, that my friend Stefan caught up to me (who had done Sierra). I descended down, but I was slowed way down by 1 car, who was going 10 mph around the turn. I was riding my brakes, but I didn’t feel it wise to pass him descending Diablo. Then, I went down to North gate, then a different car, was doing the same thing. Eventually, just after I got passed North gate, Stefan passes me up. I guess I’ll be meeting him at lunch.

Riding on Ygnacio Valley Road is never fun, especially with cars going at 50-60 mph, but at least we had enough shoulder room to work with. The sun was starting to beat down, but I was not about to take off my knee warmers and long gloves. I only had a long sleeve jersey, so I had to just suffer with that on.

Lunch was awesome … adobo spare ribs, it just hit the spot. The group is still behind at least 20-30 minutes behind, so we continue on. Oh, and yes, I was grazing again. ūüôā

The next climb up is Morgan Territory, and the kicker with that is all the false flats. At least I’ve done it enough to not be fooled by the false flats … plus, my Garmin helps me cheat there, as it tells me how much more I have to climb. It has been > 1 year since I’ve done Morgan Territory, and the last 0.5 miles is a steep MF’er.

After a brief break for water at the top, time for the descent, aka “The Plunge”. Only thing about this is to watch out for bad drivers, so I kept my speed at a controlled pace. Lucky for me, because one car went way over to my side of the road (luckily I was still about 50 feet away from the car.

Next up is Mines Road (after passing through Livermore). We would then go 8 miles out on Mines Road, then turn around. Actually, the road is closed to cars at that point, so it was a perfect turnaround point. When we turned around, we had to turn on our lights. The good thing it was downhill back to Livermore. Stefan did have a bit of a problem, as his light was not as fully charged as he thought. I had extra lights, but unfortunately, his handlebar was shaped in such a way that I couldn’t mount the extra light on there. Luckily, Byron at Control 10 had an extra light with an adapter that would fit his handlebar, and we were all set.

We returned through the backside of Calaveras, but boy, it was dark. I had to use my other light, which was a 1000 lumen light (although I did have it on medium to low setting). It definitely looked much different at night than during the day. I couldn’t recognize where I was, even though I have done this route hundreds of times, but all in daylight. I was starting to get a little light headed. I was drinking, and I was eating bars, but for some reason, I was getting light headed. Then, all of a sudden, I approach what appears to be a bush in the middle of the road. No, that’s not a bush … it’s a tree that fell onto the road! D’oh! Luckily we were able to walk our way through the shoulder to get around that obstacle.

I had to stop for a minute and take some protein .. some beef jerky …Ah, that did the trick. I must have had some protein deficit at that point. Onwards, and we were on the home stretch. I looked at my clock, and it’s around midnight. Uh oh … I won’t make it before midnight. Oh well, the next goal is just to finish it … and boy we wanted this thing over.

We finally get back to the start at 12:30 am. I think we were the 6th or 7th to finish, but who’s counting. Now where’s my IPA, rice porridge and adobo?

I’ve gotta shout out to Stefan, who stuck with me from Mines Road all the way to the end. Having someone to ride with, in the dark, through Calaveras, definitely kept my mind at ease.

Final stats … 197 miles, 17,835 ft of climbing. Yeah, I did graze quite a bit … about 2:15:00 off the bike, but I don’t care … I completed DMD! I Beat the Devil!

Mulholland Double became Mulholland Challenge

I signed up for the Mulholland Double Century, one of the stage in the California Triple Crown Stage Race. I wasn’t originally going to do this, but my friend Brenda asked if I would do it with her (to have a carpool partner, and a riding partner as well). I said yes, but in the back of my mind, I know I’m not as strong as her, so I had a little hesitancy in doing it. However, I figure what the heck .. if all else fails, I’ll be able to do the Mulholland Challenge, which is only 106 miles, 12,000 ft of climbing, instead of 192 miles and 18,000 ft climbing.

It turned out our friend Mark was going to be able to come along, so it was us three carpooling down.

Credit Mark William Calaway (aka Memo)

I originally signed up for the tourist option, which would not get Stage Race credit, but if completed by midnight, I would still get CTC credit. However, I wanted to ride together with Brenda and Mark, so instead of starting at 4:30 am, we started at 6:30 am, and didn’t need lights at the beginning of the ride. The double century riders, and the mountain challenge riders would start at the same time.

Right off the bat, a lot of the riders charged on ahead at a brisk pack riders pace (since it was a gradual descent). We decided to go at a warm up pace, not going to crazy. After all, we have 200 miles, and 18,000 feet of climbing to do.

The first 30 miles were a good warmup, with nothing too crazy, and we all pretty much stayed together.

The first water stop was at mile 26, because we had our first major test of the day, Stunt Road. Immediately after the first rest stop, on the first climb, I got distanced. After about 10 min of climbing by myself, I knew I wouldn’t be able to catch up with Mark and Brenda, so I just went at my own pace. It’s good that we had the century riders to ride with, just so I had some company while climbing.

Stunt Road is a good 4 mile climb, and about 1340 ft climbing, at an average grade of 6%. That’s not too bad. At the top, I see my friend Teresa, aka Tiger. It’s so nice to see old friends on a ride event, and it was good to see her out. She told me Mark and Brenda had just left 5 min ago, so I’m not too far behind.

After a short descent, and some climbs up Piuma, the next 30 miles were what I call lumpy, or with a bunch of rolling hills (nothing too dramatic as far as climbs were concerned, but still climbing). The route does take us back to the start, so that’s the first loop. I then see my friend Shelby back at the start, and she tells me Mark and Brenda left … you guessed it .. 5 min ago. This is encouraging, so I kept the stoppage time short, and continued on.

I did get swept up by a pack of ~ 20 riders, and hung in with them for a few miles. At least I got some momentum to take me up the next hill. The next hill … ooh, this is where the ride starts getting really tough. We climb up Westlake (Hwy 23), and it’s a 2 mile climb that averages at 7.2%, but the lower half had some really cruel steep pitches (in excess of 23% at times). Once we got through the hard part, we still have to climb 7-10% grades, and that takes a lot out of your legs. For some reason, Strava lists the segment as Decker wall. Little Sycamore was another hill that just burned my legs. That was only 8-10%, but all these hills add up.

Tiger’s boyfriend Chris, caught up with me, so I rode with him for awhile to the next rest stop to Circle X. I know the fatigue is really starting to hit me, so I spent a little longer at this rest stop, but still kept it at a minimum.

After the rest stop, we still climb some more, before we make the descent on Deer Creek to Hwy 1. At this point, my legs are jello, and I was really look for the descent, all knowing I’ll have to climb eventually. I just want to get the cool ocean breeze so my body can absorb the coolness.

Ah finally, the descent is coming. I didn’t bring my Go Pro, and I should have. It would have been good to take a video of the descent down Deer Creek. It is a steep descent, so I had to watch my speed coming down

At the bottom of the descent, another water stop, but this time, with ice. Hmm … I just had them fill my bottle with ice, as it would fill up the bottle. Now we get to enjoy a fairly flat 5 miles stretch of PCH. That is a much needed flat section, before we tackle a difficult Decker Canyon Road climb. If the hard climb wasn’t bad enough, we would have to negotiate a left turn on Hwy 1. Luckily, I caught a break, and didn’t have too many cars to wade through.

At this point, climbing Decker Canyon has the sun beating on your back, and more specifically, on your neck. Decker Canyon is a 3.6 mile, 1500 ft climb, with an average of 7.8% (but does have some 12-14%, and even some sections at 16%). With the sun beating down on me, and my legs are spent, I had to stop under a tree, and suffer the consequences of riders passing me while I let me heartrate down in the shade. I was okay, but just fatigued, spent, fried … I stopped probably for 7 min, as I didn’t want to wait too long, then off I go.

I did see another rider with an Everesting Jersey, and heard him complain “more hills. Where is the rest stop?” It’s kinda funny, an Everesting guy, complaining about so many hills?

I mustered enough energy to finally reach the fire station, which is my signal that it’s the top of Decker. I see that Planet Ultra tent, and I am relieved. My friend Steve, knows I need an ice towel, so her drapes it on my neck. Oooh that felt good … but this is a great candidate for the “slumped over the handle bars” FB group.

Credit: Steve Meichtry

I am spent at this point, but I have to move on. If I want to beat the cut-off, and continue onto the double, I have to check in back at the start no later than 5 pm. It’s still another 20 miles, and there are still some more climbing left to do.

After I get through the climbing, we get to descent a section of Mulholland, that is closed to traffic, but bikes can descent down. We do pass the Rock Store, and I wanted to take a picture here, but I didn’t have time to waste.

I started having headgames … if I do make it by 5 pm, do I have anything left in me to do another 91 miles and 6000 feet? As I approached Agoura Hills, it’s looking more and more like I’m going to miss the cutoff. I finally get there, approximately 5:10, 10 minutes past the cutoff. Oh well, it looks like I finished the Mulholland Challenge, and that was it. I just wanted to take my shoes off, and have a seat.

About 10 minutes goes by, and I see Mark. I thought he had gone on ahead, but apparently, he suffered 3 flats, and had no more supplies, so it didn’t make sense for him to continue. So we both DNF’d the double, but made it through the Mulholland Challenge.

We then hopped in the car, and followed Brenda and the rest of the DC riders along the route, just to aid them if they needed help. Brenda eventually rode with Dennis, also of XDV, so they rode together, and finished by 11 pm, well within the cutoff.

So congrats to Brenda and Dennis, and a really difficult double century. I’ve gotten so many comments, that it was an accomplishment for me, just to even attempt this, and to complete the Mulholland Challenge. I heard some DNF’d, due to mechanical issues. One rider had to DNF, due to a broken chain. That sucks!

Look at that profile!


Bonny Doon Plans Thwarted by Flats

My co-worker Al, and I, had this lofty plans of doing a killer loop, with about 105 miles, and over 10,000 feet of climbing.  This was definitely going to be an epic ride, something Al has wanted, in preparation for his Death Ride training.

Those were good plans, but plans are not set in stone. ¬†It all started fine, getting a nice warm up by climbing Page Mill (including those 12-16% pitches). ¬†I felt ok climbing Page Mill, despite having some lower back “irritations”. ¬†Al was faster up the hill than me, but I wasn’t too far behind.

All good there .. then we descended West Alpine, along with another faster group, which was going in the same direction as us. ¬†However, during the descent, I heard some other noise coming from my bike, other than the freewheel … I had to slow down, and just as I feared, it was a leak. ¬†My front tire got a flat. ¬†Luckily this was just a slow leak, and I was able to hear it on my descent. ¬†This was just before the right turn to continue onto West Alpine.

So we stop to fix the flat, and as I inspect the tire, I notice a sidewall gash. ¬†It’s one of those, where once you pump up the tire, part of the tube will bleed out through a hole in the tire, and pow, there goes your tube. ¬†Al had those tire boots, so we installed that, and we’re ready to go.

I think Al is ready for Death Ride, as every climb, he was definitely much stronger, and he was just flying up Haskins Hill, and didn’t see ¬†him until I got to the corner of Stage and Pescadero Creek. ¬†Good for him, but lot more work for me. ¬†I was lucky enough to catch a few guys in a mini-paceline going to the coast. ¬†One guy even had a DSLR, and was even able to take a few shots, without stopping! ¬†Wow!

VIRB Picture

Paceline to the coast!

I re-grouped with Al at Stage Road.  We had to make a decision here .. do we continue on to the original plan of doing Bonny Doon loop, or do we alter it and do the obligatory Tunitas Creek loop.  With the tire situation, I was leaning more towards Tunitas, but Al had his sights on Bonny Doon, so we are continuing on.

We continued down to Hwy 1, with a scenic stop at Pescadero State Beach.  I mean come on, you gotta take a few pictures here (although we would be riding parallel to this anyways).


Off we go and the winds were going in a southerly direction, and guess what .. we’re going south. ¬†We have a tailwind, and that means kick it up to high gear, and just spin. ¬†Al wanted to just charge on so he passed me, and he was flying. ¬†However, there’s a lot of crap on Hwy 1, and one of those pieces of crap was a stray wire, that caught my front tire. ¬†It was stuck to the tire, and it kept rolling it with. ¬†I think I rolled with that in there for a good mile before it dislodged itself, and now it’s just a matter of time before it does go flat. ¬†It finally went flat a little after Gazos Creek.

So this is where the day turned sour. ¬†I have no more tubes available, and Al is at least a mile ahead of me. ¬†Hmm … cell phone … no bars … damn, can’t even text him. ¬†I was close enough to a gas station, but they had no tubes to sell .. damn. ¬†A couple guys were fixing a flat by the station, but no extra tubes. ¬†Damn. ¬†Eventually, I flag another rider, who happens to have an extra tube. ¬†A lifesaver! ¬†I’m all excited, replace the tube, pump it up, and as I take the pump out, it strips the valve.

Arghhhh!!!! ¬†It is just not my day. ¬†Another good samaritan comes by, who happened to be a SAG support guy for years. ¬†He doesn’t have any tubes, but he tries to help. ¬†Took part of the tape on my handle bar, and I was wondering what he was trying to do. ¬†He was trying to use the tape as a patch, but I’m thinking that’s not going to hold. ¬†Surprisingly, we pump it up, and it seems to be holding. ¬†He takes off, then I put everything together, then I feel the tire, and it is not holding … damn. ¬†So I pump it up some more, ride as much as I can, and I go maybe 1/4 mile, before it’s deflated again.

I guess I’ll just walk south for a while, until I see Al come back. ¬†I’m not sure how much time we lost, from both the tube change back up on West Alpine, and my adventures on Hwy 1, waiting for Al, but we had to find the quickest way back. ¬†I decided we should just head back up Gazos Creek, then double back up Haskings, then West Alpine. ¬†I figure that should still be an epic climb, but at least it will be more familiar territory.

The wind is still blowing in a southerly direction, and we are going northbound … headwinds! ¬†Oh well, this is kind of expected, but we charged on through it. ¬†I think when Al u-turned back on Hwy 1, it may have taken a bit out of him, because on our way back on Pescadero Creek, we was behind me. ¬†I guess he’s conserving energy for the W. Alpine climb, so that makes sense. ¬†Maybe part of it was I had rested awhile, so I was more refreshed?

There is a warmup climb before West Alpine in this direction, and that is Haskins Hill.  It has some 10-12% grades, so it is no slouch.  At this point, I got my second wind, and I felt good climbing up Haskins, and as it turned out, I got a PR on this segment.

At this point, climbing up W. Alpine was not too bad … my legs were still pretty fresh. ¬†Al and I traded leads up this hill. ¬†By the time we got to Skyline, we had a sense of relief … we are in the home stretch. ¬†Legs are tired, and we just want to get back to the cars. ¬†By the time we got back, I had logged in 82 miles, and 7877 feet climbing. ¬†Al wasn’t sure how far on Hwy 1 he got before he turned back, but I think he was by Davenport … he got in 99.4 miles. ¬†We was too tired to take an extra loop around the block to even it out to 100.

That was a tough ride, even though we skipped on Bonny Doon and Zayante … not sure which way would have been tougher. ¬†We didn’t get the 10,000 feet climb we were shooting for, but it was still one hard ride, so we still had a great workout, and a great day.

Got One Ride In During Christmas Holidays

Merry Christmas everyone. Hope everyone spent some quality time with family. This years routine was a little different, with Christmas being on a Thursday, which meant we had to work on Friday. I forgot to accommodate for this, and didn’t get that day off. Luckily, I was able to work from LA remotely.

What this meant was little time for cycling, but I was able to sneak in one ride, and boy what a day that was. However, it was a cold ride. I couldn’t really tell from my Garmin, as it was saying it was average temperature of 8 F. Uh, I don’t think so. If I was to guess, it was probably in the low 40s.

I couldn’t make this an all day ride, so this was an out and back to Clear Creek Junction. On a cold day like this, all I knew is I needed to climb, just to keep me warm. This was a straight climb up Hwy 2, from the beginning in La Canada, straight up until the Rangers Station, so very hard to get lost.


After climbing from the base (probably the hardest part of the climb) I turned off to the scenic overlooks, and boy what a view. I could see the LA skyline … Yes, you can see LA from here. Picture doesn’t show how clear you could see.

It was funny, while taking off layers there, a kid came up to me and asked me if they drove far enough, would they see snow? What’s funny is he asks me, the crazy dude on a bike, climbing Angeles Crest Highway, instead of asking dad, who is driving the family up. I mean, if we were heading for snow, would the guy on the bike be going up? Er, on second thought, don’t answer that. (I probably would)


I love climbing, especially when you pass elevation signs. It gives me some motivation, as mere mortals are down below worrying about a single hill, and here I am passing the 2000 foot level.

One guy passed me, pretty easily, and was going at a pretty good clip. I just wasn’t able to keep up with him. Unfortunately, I saw him pull over, 2/3 the way up, who had a flat. Oh that sucks. That meant he had to alter his original trip of going up to Red Box.


The roads were all clear … But I was only going to go as far as Clear Creek, as going any further would be a bit cold. I used the excuse of needing to be back home early, and not leaving dad alone by himself, as my excuse for not going to Red Box.

Its amazing how camaraderie of other climbers on the same route brings cyclists together. While at the junction, I had a nice chat with 3 other riders, who were riding solo, just like me, and just commenting on the climb, past rides, and experiences of riding the mountains in the cold.


Ok, now time for the descent back down, and yup, it’s cold. I had three layers on, so that made it not so bad. I had nice warm long fingered gloves, as well as toe warmers, so at least I wasn’t unprepared. I mean, who would expect this coming down to Southern California?

I often like comparing rides in Southern California to rides in the Bay Area. I would say this is very comparable to the Hwy 9 climb from Saratoga to Saratoga Gap, except this is just a little longer. So if you are asking what this rides compares to, well there you have it.

Tearing Myself Inside and Out up Mt. Umunhum to the White Line of Death

Profile for Mt. Umunhum LKHC Week 6, http://lowkeyhillclimbs.com/2014/week6/profile.png

I’ve done Mt. Umunhum many times before, so this LKHC shouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary. When I read the LKHC web site, it was claiming that this is the highest rated climb of any of the LKHC. Now I know it is tough, but I still think it’s doable … so reading that it is the toughest came as a real surprise to me. It is true that in the past, I usually take a rest after taking the right turn onto Mt. Umunhum, and in this ride there was no stopping … but damn!

Courtesy William von Kaenel

There was roughly 128 riders, and taking a look at all the riders, I thought “What have I gotten myself into?” Plus, when I stepped up to register, I saw this really young looking chap in USA jersey … I wasn’t sure if this was something someone had just bought at a bike shop … and then when he announced his name, Adrien … everyone then said “Oh, that Adrien” … for those that don’t know, this is Adrien Costa. Ok, we all know he will be the first one to finish.

Registration was at Venture Christian Church, which was 4 miles from the start of the climb.¬† The plan was to ride over to the start, and then start the climb.¬† But I know this road, and the run up to the start is not flat at all … there are rolling hills, and one section that is a bit steep, and it’s not even part of the LKHC.¬† So Sandra and I decided to just ride up ahead.¬† Never before did I ride this stretch of Hicks, just for a warm up ride.

When we did start, I made sure I was off the back.¬† This was a mass start, and eventually, everyone spread out after about 1/4 mile up the climb … and it was a steep climb.¬† I mean, 20 yards into it, we’re grinding it up a 15% grade.

As long as I had someone in my sights, it still gave me motivation to continue pushing up the hill.¬† In the 1.2+ mile section of Hicks, I was still in contact with the riders ahead of me.¬† We make the right turn on Mt. Umunhum, and then it continues on some more.¬† At this point, I usually stop off at the bathroom, and take a little breather, but not today.¬† I didn’t feel dead at this point, so I felt confident enough to continue up the hill.

Courtesy Mark King

Photo coutesy Bill Bushnell

Photo coutesy Bill Bushnell

After about a mile of 15%+, this was just the start, and more 15% climbs up ahead.¬† The fact that we’re able to sustain the steep part of Hicks seems to make the Umunhum part of the climb not so bad.¬† I figure, if I could make it up Hicks, my body is already used to the pain, so just continue it for another couple more miles! I guess that’s why stating this is the most difficult climb of the LKHC season seemed a little odd. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

As soon as I started thinking about how it’s not the most difficult, I sense others starting to pass me. I was thinking I was alone on the climb, and then I hear someone else’s gear grinding … Damn, I’m losing ground, and then I start ending up in the back.

I start seeing fast riders heading down the hill, and normally that would demoralize any rider, but on this ride, it’s expected. I just have to make sure I stay on my side of the road. Passing the gate at Bald Mountain, people are cheering us on, ringing their cowbells, it’s very motivating. I only wish I had a line of people ringing cowbells all the way to the end.

Courtesy Ryan PC Gibson

Courtesy Ryan PC Gibson

White Line of Death Courtesy Rich Hill

I finally made it to the finish, and I was sure I was the last one … But I forgot there was one other behind, who I saw as I descended down the hill. Major kudos to everyone who finished this epic climb. I can only imagine how epic this will be when it’s officially (and legally) opened to the top of the mountain. It will make other mountain challenges pale in comparison.

Here’s a portion of the climb I recorded on my Shimano Sports Camera

Chimbfest on Grizzly Peak

I had to skip this week’s LKHC up Welch Creek (maybe it was on purpose), because I lost my glasses on Thursday night, and I had to make an emergency appointment with the optometrist on Saturday.


So Sunday I went with my friends John and Ben riding around Grizzly Peak, 3 Bears, and Pinehurst.¬† I haven’t done this in a really long time.¬† I had forgotten how much good riding there is out here.


Ben was out there with a new saddle bag … This is going to make me hungry on the whole ride …


The route started out with a climb, right off the get go.  It basically starts by Tunnel Road, and we climb up to Skyline, which then gives a great view of the bay, overlooking the Bay Bridge.

We then went up Grizzly Peak Blvd, and headed over to Tilden Park, and then onto Wildcat Canyon. We descended South Park, which is the same road that killed one cyclist, trying to get a Strava descent segment KOM … something I wouldn’t even try to do.¬† That descent has some tricky sections on there, so I did not even try to get down into a tuck.¬† Better to be safe than sorry.


They have one stop called Inspiration Point.  Looking at this, does it give you inspiration?  I just consider it a nice scenic view.

We continued on Wildcat Canyon, which has a nice descent, not too technical, but enough where you have to pay attention.¬† I didn’t have cars breathing down my neck, which is nice.¬† Wildcat Canyon becomes Bear Creek, once you get to the bottom.¬† This is where the famous 3 bears climbs are … but when papa bear and mama bear begins, I have no idea.¬† Maybe someone from that area could tell me, but all I know is that it is a climb, and a descent.¬† It’s nice, because it is fairly wide road, and fairly straight, with just a few switch backs here and there.¬† Very little car traffic coming through, which means you can just concentrate on enjoying the ride.

We continue on to Happy Valley Road, which gives us a whole bunch of rollies.  Some are punchy, short steep climbs (~10%), and after a while, it can wear on you.

One stop by Orinda for lunch, and then we are on our way again.¬† We head south to get onto Pinehurst Road, then climb our way back to Skyline.¬† Pinehurst is one beautiful road to ride on.¬† It is covered by all sorts of Eucalyptus trees, and they form a canopy over the road, and keeps it cool.¬† Sometimes, it’s hard to tell it’s the middle of the day, due to the tree coverage.¬† The total climb is ~ 4 miles, with the meat of it being the last mile.¬† Once you get to the second hairpin, you know you are just near the top, and time to kick it into high gear.¬† The last stretch is a half mile sprint up to the top at Skyline.



From this point, it’s retracing our path from this morning, so it’s all downhill from here.¬† Once again, we have some nice views of the bay from here.

The rest of the ride was pretty much downhill from here. Great ride with great friends. At least it breaks the monotony of doing the same rides along the Peninsula all the time.

Stats: 42.1 miles, 5240 feet climbing


LKHC #2 Sierra Road


Second on the calendar is Sierra Road.  I ride to the start from home, and that gives me a nice 13 mile flat warm up.  When I left the house, it was actually a bit chilly, so I had to come with light vest and arm warmers.  Just as I thought, the sun would come out when the actual ride starts.  Oh well, off with the vest and arm warmers.


Sierra starts off with a visually insane road.¬† It just has the illusion of the road going vertically to the heavens.¬† It actually is not that bad, but it is a tough way to start the climb.¬† Everyone was really eager to attack, and I know I’m not going to keep up with that, so I just let them all go on ahead of me.


Once you get to a left turn bend, then road actually pitches up more (believe it or not).¬† That’s when even more people pass me up.¬† This is one of those climbs where you don’t care what’s around you, and you just concentrate on turning the crank and it’s just your own personal journey.


I thought I was the last in the pack, but then I heard someone yell out “car back!”. I was eventually able to muster enough energy to pass a few people (how the heck did that happen?)


I got the sense that I was feeling pretty good at this point.¬† Sometimes it’s just hard to tell, but you know when you feel good, you might be putting in a good time.¬† I didn’t want to think about it, but that adrenaline does feel good.¬† I also seem to put in better times when I know a inch of people are climbing the same hill as me.

Being a LKHC ride, it’s great to hear the support folks on the side of the road cheering you on and giving you words of encouragement.¬† I also get to do mug shots … I wonder how they turned out.

Photo Courtesy Christine Holmes

Montebello LKHC 2014

Thanks to Alexander Komlik

It’s that time of year again … start of the Low Key Hill Climb series. ¬†It was a hot one for this ride … usually, you’ll want to carry a jacket for the descent, but not today. ¬†At least I didn’t have to worry about stuffing extra clothes in my pocket.

This year, they’re using EventBrite, so we could sign up, pay donation, all from the comfort of our home and our PC and Internet. ¬†Take care of all of that signing, payment stuff before hand, so that all we need to do is check our name on the sign up sheet. ¬†Much nicer, and smoother.

I was realistic, I’m not going to be able to keep up with most of the climbers here, so I deliberately positioned myself in the back. ¬†I also didn’t get too much climbing in before this weekend, so I wasn’t expecting too much.

Pretty quickly, the pack separated, and I was riding solo most of the way, which is fine by me. ¬†However, I still had the edge in me, to avoid being the last person to finish the climb. ¬†I think that kept motivating me to push forward. ¬†What’s great about LKHC is that even though faster climbers will finish must sooner than me, I would see them come down the mountain, encouraging those still coming up the hill. ¬†I heard a bunch of “you got it” and “good job, almost there”. ¬†That did help.

The combination of the heat and the climb took a lot out of me, and by the time I got to the top, I just wanted to curl up. ¬†I wasn’t expecting any water at the top, and there wasn’t. ¬†Usually, on these climbs, when it’s hot, water is usually gone (mostly because some are filling up both water bottles). ¬†But really, for this ride, it’s not really needed too much. ¬†We’re completely descending from here anyways (no uphill climb, like on Hamilton). ¬†However, it would have been nice to be able to top off my water bottle. ¬†At least they had bananas, and peanut butter filled pretzels .. mmm

The shots from my Shimano Sports Camera came out pretty well. ¬†I think it’s because I’m climbing, and not really going at any real pace, while if I was descending, I think these images would have been more blurry.

I looked at my Strava data, and found I did better than I thought I did. ¬†My time was 49 minutes … although not my best, but at least I made it under that 50 minute mark. ¬†I’m pretty happy with that.


Devil’s Mountain Double was Epic, but DNF’d

I finally got the courage to enter and ride Devil’s Mountain Double, despite the advertised 206 mile, 18,600 feet total elevation.¬† However, the result was a DNF, but it’s not that I am disappointed at this.¬† I am pretty happy with my performance.


I got really good news on Thursday, that my co-worker, who lives 12 minutes from the start, was offering to let me stay overnight.¬† Cool.¬† I was originally going to drive over at 3:30 am (meaning I’d have to wait up by 2:30 am).¬† This meant getting at least an hour more sleep, and a much shorter drive, and a civilized start of the day.¬† This was better than a 5 star hotel.



We rolled out at 4:59 am, and started out with Curtis and Rick.¬† I made sure I took it easy at the start, as I knew we’d be heading straight up Mt. Diablo first.¬† I was amazed how many riders had the bad luck of having a mechanical, even before starting the climb.

This year, DMD is not one of the Triple Crown Stage races, and the organizers wanted to stress being able to enjoy the surroundings, and enjoy the scenery. ¬†Ok, I can do that … don’t have to twist my arm. ¬†One thing I’ll have to say … early morning Mt. Diablo climbs are spectacular, and even the best pictures, and best descriptions don’t do it justice.

Curtis and Rick ended up summiting Mt. Diablo before I did.  I was trying to stay within comfortable limits.


When I finally got up to the top, my friend Victor was helping support the ride, and he was taking pictures if everyone summiting Mt. Diablo. Funny, he didn’t realize it was me until I pass by him. Very cool.

OK, down the hill, and here I made up some time because for some reason, I acclimated to the cold better than others, which caused them to be a lot more cautious on the descent, and I eventually caught up with Curtis and Rick.

We continued ride together through Morgan Territory, then over to Livermore, but split up by the time we got to Paterson Pass. This was the defining moment of the ride, as this is what kicked us all in the ass. We had gale force winds, plus the Double digit grades we had to climb. This combination was brutal.

I descended down the other side, and the route merged with the Wente RR. ¬†As they pass me, I get a real cool kudos from the lead pack. ¬†“Is that DMD you’re riding? ¬†Awesome” … that’s pretty cool to get kudos from some hot shot racer.

One thing I have always feared was making the time cut off. We had to get to the Mines Road checkpoint and leave no later than 1:30 pm, then get to lunch at The Junction by 4:30 pm. It was pretty flat getting to Mines Road but I wasn’t sure how well I was doing on time. There were other riders near me, so that made me feel a lot better. We ended up getting there a little past 1 pm, so that’s one hurdle we crossed.

Now it’s onto Mines Rd., which Eye on the Bay called “the road that goes to nowhere”. That is such an appropriate adjective, as it just kept going on forever. I also had Scott in the SAG wagon, checking up on me just to see how well I’m doing. I started thinking if I’m the last rider, and will I make the cutoff for lunch? About 10 miles from lunch, we had a water stop and they confirmed I’m not the last one … It just felt like it, with no one behind me.


Finally, I get to lunch, and there are still people here .. Woohoo. Victor was there to greet me, along with Kermit and a few other Double Century notables. More importantly, they had food here … Mmm chicken sandwich never tasted so good.

Off to climb Mt. Hamilton. I didn’t climb from the Junction to the top of Hamilton in a while … Maybe I should have? I forgot about the double digit grades at mile 10-12. I thought it was all from mile 5 but they still have some kickers before that. At this stage, the climbing was all a matter of survival .. Just turn the crank and keep moving. I had just done this climb a week ago, so at least my body is used to this, except I only had 25 miles in my legs, as opposed to 120 miles. The one saving grace is at least there is still some sunlight left.

I get to the top and only one person passed me. I was a little surprised by that. I thought there were more behind me. There was no rest stop at the top, and I had to go down to Brothers, so time to layer up, and get ready for a cold descent. I had no toe covers so I just gotta suffer through it.

The sunset coming through the clouds was a cool and eerie sight. I was descending this but really enjoying the scenery (I guess you can say I’m taking Scott’s advise, and take in the beauty). I wasn’t cold either, and this was probably my favorite part of the ride, as I’ve never descended Hamilton at this time of the evening.

The rest stop is off of Crothers and in someone’s home. Now that’s the way to have a rest stop. Nice warm soup awaits. I caught up to Curtis here, not knowing he was ready to their in the towel, due to cold, and not being able to keep control. That’s too bad, as I finally was able to ride along with him.

Ok, continuing on, and Sierra Road awaits. Lucky for me it’s dark so I won’t have to see how steep the road is that I have to tackle. As I climb, a group of DMD volunteers were parked in the hill, cheering me on, ringing cowbells … I I’ve that enthusiasm and I really appreciated it. This was just awesome .. Now if only I can finish the climb. Well that’s easier said than done.

I was struggling to find leg strength and it just wasn’t there. I found myself stopping about 5 times. I even walked a few hundred steps, but I had to keep on going. Another push, then I see a car coming down thinking “I wonder if that’s a SAG wagon” … and it was. I officially throw in the towel at this point. Checking my Garmin, I’m at 159 miles and just under 17,000 feet climbing. Wow these stats are out if this world.


So I DNF’d … I still feel great about what I accomplished. Some couldn’t even fathom doing this. I started but I simply did not finish. As my friend Lynn says, consider it as a kick ass training ride.

I got to chat with some of the finishers at the end, and it was refreshing to find out Patterson Pass affected them as much it affected me. This was brutal. It wasn’t raining, it wasn’t hot, but the wind made it so tough. Now that we are off the road, we’re all smiles.


Zombie Raccoons Climbfest with WW

It’s been over a year being on Google+, and I’ve had such a blast connecting up with fellow cyclists on Google+, but never actually ride with any of them.¬† That all changed this weekend.

Zombie Raccoons Ride #bikecommutercabal

Zombie Raccoons Ride #bikecommutercabal

I finally got a chance to ride with my friends Lynne Watanabe and Chris Davies. In addition to this, we ride together with another hill chimbfest with Steve and Cheryl from WW.

Once again, we had short but very steep climbs and descents .. Ranging into 20% grades.  Yes, they were relentless.  These were a little like the hills of San Francisco.

Now I did warn Lynne and Chris that some of these climbs are really steep, but we still sent on ahead anyways.

It was still a little chilly, so I wore toe warmers on my shoes. When I wear toewarmers, sometimes it’s a little hard to feel where the pedal is with the shoe with the toewarmers on. One time, I missed, then hit the pedal on my leg. In the process, my left sit bone hit the saddle pretty hard. That was pretty painful, and I wound up riding with that pain for the whole ride. That pain still lingered with me the following day.

Then with all the hills climbed, it did catch up to a few of us, forcing some to skip the Ascension hill. Yes, this was a hard day. This was also historic. Finally getting to ride with some of my commutercabal peeps. Now if I can only ride with Jenny Oh, now that would be cool.