Tag Archives: West Alpine

Sequoia Century … lucked out without a spot of rain

Western Wheelers put on the Sequoia Century Sunday, and it is one of the tougher centuries around.  But the one thing about doing a hard ride, like a century, or double metric century on a Sunday, is the recovery.  You end up limping and walking like a handicapped in the office on Monday.  I guess this is one day where I won’t be riding into work.

Over the weekend, they were anticipating 1-2 inches of rain, in California, in June!  I mean summer is supposed to officially start at the end of the month, and we are talking rain like it’s January.  It was pouring heavy Saturday morning, and hopefully it will just dump all morning and clear by the afternoon … and that’s exactly what it did.  Whew!  But just to give you an idea, San Jose, which normally doesn’t see a lot of rain, got 0.78 inches on Saturday alone.

Saturday, I went out to buy a small light rain jacket (had to shop 4 different places till I found it).  Then, I put on fenders on the bike.  I also planned to ride with my fleece long sleeve Cervelo jersey, so I went ahead and pinned the bib number on that, and planned to wear weatherproof boot covers on my shoe.

When Sunday came around, there was no threat of rain, so I ditched the long sleeve jersey, and went instead with short sleeve, and arm warmers … removed the bib number from the long sleeve, and re-attach to my short sleeve … that’s quite an ordeal at 4:30 am.  I didn’t go with boot covers, and went with just toe warmers, and I didn’t bring the rain jacket that I shopped around all day Saturday for … and just used my normal jacket that I have been using for couple of years.  I also ended up removing the fenders.  So much for preparation, huh?

I got to the start at 6 am, but couldn’t find my other riding buddies, so I decided to just go on the ride.  I did receive a tweet from Ramon saying he is running late, but I couldn’t find Richard.  Oh well, maybe I’ll see them on the route.

I rode out at moderate pace, keeping my heart rate at 130-140 bpm.  Get to Redwood Gulch, and I felt good … but little did I know that I completed this in my fastest time ever.  I posted a personal best of 14:39, about 1:16 faster than my previous best.  How did that happen?

A right up on Hwy 9 to Saratoga Gap, and the sun does make one of few appearances through the rest of the day.  We have a rest stop at the firestation on Skyline.  That’s only 18 miles into the ride.  Well, I guess considering we have done Redwood Gulch and have about 2700 feet of climbing in already, that’s a pretty good clip.  I waited some more for my friends, but to no avail.  Time to move on.

This is not the high point of the climb, as we go southbound on Skyline, we climb just a wee bit more to the highest peak, a little past Castle Rock, at 3100 feet.

We get a really nice descent before passing Black Road, and into the christmas tree farm area.  This is nice, because that’s where the two line highway ends, and you feel like you are in the rural forests.  The descent here can be tricky, with sharp turns … and oh, by the way, a few more short climbs.

A right on Bear Creek Road, and after a little climbing, we get a nice fast descent before coming into Boulder Creek.  Now this would be ideal to get into a paceline to charge onto Hwy 9 again, either everyone was too fast for me, or they were too slow.  Oh well, I guess I’m time trialing this.

The climb on Hwy 9 is slow and lonely, but the grade is not too bad.  It averaged about 5-6%, so not too bad, but just long.  Then, we get to the top of Skyline, then make a left turn, back on the same route we were on before the first rest stop.  The rest stops were in abundance, and I didn’t feel the need to stop at this one, so I went on ahead.

We have a fast descent down Alpine en route to La Honda, where lunch is.  Now I’m considered a slow descender … but today, others treated me like I was a bomber on the descent.  But maybe it’s because this is my backyard, and others may not be used to the terrain.

I caught up with Ramon at lunch.  I wasn’t feeling up to the full double metric, so I decided to just go on the 100 miler, and head up Tunitas.  Once we got to Hwy 1, I noticed a lot of cyclists heading the opposite direction … they were the Aids riders … Oh, I forgot .. they start the same day Sequoia is put on.  Very colorful, and very flamboyant outfits they have.  I wish them luck … some of them didn’t look too good, and this was only their first day.

I really did try to go as hard as I could up Tunitas (but how hard can you really, at mile 81, and 8000+ feet of climbing).  It does help having done this climb so many times, but it still took me 1:12:00 from Hwy 1 to Skyline via Tunitas Creek.  Tough 9.4 mile, 2047 foot climb.

Totals … 102 miles, and 9375 feet of climbing, with a total time of 8:53:02.

Have I Found my Climbing Legs?

After focusing so much on double centuries, clearly my focus has been on endurance.  You’ve got to admit, being able to sustain 200 miles, no matter how hilly it is, is quite an accomplishment.  So recently, I have been noticing my climbing has not been what it used to be.  For example, on OLH, I just barely eeked out 30 minutes (and I was really going for it), and on Montebello, I was only able to muster 56 minutes (personal best was 44 minutes).  Granted, I was doing a bunch of DMD training rides, and some really hard rides.

This weekend, I decided to go back to my normal rides (not a DMD trainer ride).  Suddenly, I found myself getting PR (Personal Records) on Strava.  Saturday, I did Kings Mountain (36 minutes) and West Alpine (54 minutes).

Sunday, I did Redwood Gulch (16 minutes) and Hwy 9 to Saratoga Gap (54 minutes).

Granted, those times suck compared to the KOM’s on the climb, but still, the fact that I registered PB’s … are my climbing legs back?  I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Finally Back in the Saddle Again

OMG, I finally got on my bike this weekend.  I can’t believe this is the first time I was able to ride this year.  I had to miss two weekends of great riding weather due to being on-call … and spent the entire time indoors.  So I was really excited to get on my bike, especially since Camino Real is 1 month away, and I fear I have lost a lot of fitness and endurance.

I was going to do a 100 mile ride today, just as my first step in preparation for the double century.  I was originally going to meet a few friends in Woodside, and in my mind, I was thinking of meeting at 8:30 am.  Well, I was thinking 1.5 hours to get there, but I was also thinking of meeting possibly Ramon at 7 am at Bicycle Outfitters (it turned out he had to go into the office, so that part of the plan was moot).  To meet up at Bicycle Outfitters by 7 am, I would have to leave the house by 6:30 am.  But wait … it only takes 1.5 hours to get to Woodside … why the heck am I leaving at 6:30 am to get to Bicycle Outfitters by 7 am.  With that schedule, I would get to Woodside by 8 am.  Oops … I guess not being able to ride the weekends has really screwed up my scheduling for rides.

Anyhow, Michael and Ramon had to bail, so I went solo.  At 8:30 am, it was still pretty cold out there.  I still had to have my jacket on, but the weather report said it would be pretty warm.  I hope they are right.

OLH was pretty busy today, so that meant I wouldn’t be by myself climbing this road.  With two weekends (actually three, since New Year’s was rainy weather), I knew I was not fit … and my time up OLH showed … only did it in 30 minutes.

I decided to take it pretty leisurely on this ride, so I stopped many many times.  One of the was at Hwy 84 and Hwy 35 intersection.  A lot of motorcyclists hang out at this corner, and Alice’s Restaurant is famous for catering to riders for brunch.  The line of motorcycles parked in front of the restaurant is prevalent, but not many cyclists.  One of these days, I gotta saddle up in there, to see what the big hub-bub is with this famous landmark.

Ok, onto Hwy 84, en route to San Gregorio.  On the way there, in La Honda, I was paramedic truck roll out.  Sirens were blasting, and the first thing that came to my mind was not a fire, but an accident on the road.  Hopefully it’s not a cyclist, and it wasn’t.  However, it was a motorcyclist.  I recall when I was riding down 84, I was buzzed by some speeding crotch-rockets … and whaddayaknow … the one down was one of those motorcyclists.  I saw that someone was holding their hands to the guy’s neck … that’s not a good sign.  I didn’t stick around there, so I went ahead and moved on.

By this time, the sun was out, and my jacket was off, and it felt really nice.  Normally, when heading towards the coast, I should be suffering through some headwinds, but I didn’t.  The ride out to San Gregorio was pretty easy actually.  I am just hoping that doesn’t translate to a headwind when I head back.

I proceeded to climb 2 of the 3 sisters on Stage Road.  For those unaware, usually, there are 3 hills when climbing Stage Road going northbound, and each of the hills represents one of the sisters.  I don’t know who came up with this, but this is a tradition within the cycling community in the Bay Area.

It was so clear out, I could even see a view of the ocean.

I got into Pescadero by around 11 am. It wasn’t too packed at that time. I guess it was still a little early, so I took my time chowing down on my turkey sandwich. Oh that felt good after a brisk 50 miles.

I was originally going to do a loop out to Pigeon Point Lighthouse but decided to skip it. So I went straight back on Pescadero Creek Rd, and as I feared, I am treated with headwinds, headind for Haskins Hill.

By the time I got to Haskins Hill, my legs felt like lead. It just dis not want to move. On my way there, I saw my good friend Paula, who was just leaving for errands. That gave me a little boost but that didn’t last long. Finally, made it to the summit, and ready for a much needed breather and a nice descent, before climbing West Alpine, which I’m not looking forward to.

It was really slow going, but I knew I had at least 4 more hours of sunlight, so that kept me going.  I didn’t pass anyone, and yes, I did get passed by a few groups.  At this point, I just wanted the ride to be over.  The fantastic weather kind of kept me going but I was going really slow … I think I was hovering around 4 mph most of the way.  About 1/2 mile from the summit, Ramon passes me.  So we did hook up after all, even if it was just a short bit.  This was the last climb of the day, and I just wanted to get home, so I took the quickest, least climbing route back home.

By the time I got home, I had a whopping 84 miles, and 6400 feet of climbing.  That was one tough ride, and a tough day.  At least it gives me a gauge of where I am in preparation for the double.  I need more miles, and need to build up the endurance.  Three weekends without riding definitely has taken its toll on me.

Portola State Park LKHC – Not For the Weak and Timid


Start of LKHC ... Also entrance to the state park


This week’s LKHC was interesting.  It starts out at the entrance to Portola State Park, and it climbs up to West Alpine, and continues there to the summit.  They had us all check in at Montebello Open Space Preserve, just below the summit at Skyline on Page Mill.  Then, we rode down 2000 feet at the entrance of the state park, where we waited, and waited, and waited.

I decided to ride over, via Moody then Page Mill.  Just so that I would still have legs, I took it easy going up, and left really early (around 7:30 am from my house).  It was really foggy, but the sun was starting to come out.


View from Page Mill overlooking Silicon Valley


Once I got to some decent elevation (~ 1800 feet), I climbed above the clouds, and got some spectacular views.  Leaving so early, I could tell I would be a little early to registration, so that did give me some opportunity to take some pictures.

Knowing that everyone would want to hit the bathroom, as soon as I got myself registered, I immediately headed for Russian Ridge, where they have a bathroom.  Ahhh, that felt good.  Went back to meet up with Chris, Donald, Marco, Ruth, just to head back where I was, then head down to the start at the entrance of the park.  This was a long way down, and it takes a little while to get to.  We had pretty good representation of bikeforums on this LKHC.  We had 6 members of our team, pretty good representation.  It remains to be seen how high we place as a team.

They told us it would start around 10:15 am, but by that time, we still could only see a handful of cyclists.  My bet was they were waiting above the start, so they could get some sun (it was a bit cool in the shade where we were).  Some of the cyclists were hovering in front of the state park sign, so some of the cars who wanted to enter the park didn’t know if they were at the right place.  Ooops.


Pack of cyclists arriving at the start of the LKHC


From the start, we immediately have to climb, about a 15% grade.  So already, we have to make sure we are in our granny gear.  That caused a lot of cyclists to not being able to clip in, and not go off to the greatest starts (um, like me).

I was positioned near the front, which was not the best place, since I know people will be passing my left and right, and they were.  I was just fearing I would be DFL (dead fucking last).  But there were a few people I was able to pass, so that helped build my confidence a little bit.  Marco and Ruth were still just ahead of me, and they were in my sights, so that also helped me out a little bit.

Climbing out of the park would have to be the toughest part.  It had 15% stretches then down to 8 then back up to 15%.  But at least I descended this hill first, so I know what to expect and when the climbing gets easier … did I say climbing gets easier???


Climbing out of Portola State Park

Now that we’re out of the park, at least we will be a little warmed up by the sun.  I’m working really hard to close the gap with Marco and Ruth, but they are still at least 1000 yards ahead of me.  I gotta somehow dig down deeper, in the pit of my gut, to get those extra watts of power to get up this hill.  I guess that’s where the face of agony comes in as evidence in the picture below.


Face of Agony

Showing this agony seemed to have helped.  I could see my gap shorting now to Marco and Ruth.  I finally was able to catch them, but I was really dying.  There’s only so much energy a man can muster and only so hard he can be inhaling and exhaling our out of his lungs.

I finally am able to pass them, then eventually I pass another rider.  I’m very close to the finish, as I can see with the “200 paces to go” sign.  I have just enough energy to up shift a couple of gears, and gut it all out.


Approaching the summit/finish


Coming around the corner, one of the riders off to the side was yelling words of encouragement and motivation, and that really did help a lot.  It’s amazing how much support you’ll get from your fellow riders.  Finally, I see the finish, but stupid me … I let up just before the actual line, so I actually coasted the last 100 feet.  Doh!  Well, it probably didn’t lose too much time .. maybe 5 seconds or so.  I wound up in 101st place, with a time of 40:07 (which is still a little longer than what strava is saying … it indicates 39:53).  As a team, bikeforums.net came in 6th place (just 2 points behind Penn Velo … damn, it’s that last 100 feet of coasting that probably did it).

For the whole ride, I ended up with 53.3 miles, 5067 feet climbing.  It was a great day for this ride … not too hot, not cold, and no rain … plus, I got to finish my ride by 1 pm.  Woohoo!!!!

Trying to Cool off in Pescadero

It’s one of the hottest weekends of the year, so it’s time to think about coastal routes.  Plus, it’s two weeks before the Grand Tour, so I had to get some miles in.  My lofty goal was to get in 100+, but you know how goals sometimes just to get done.

So most people were pre-occuppied with other stuff, so I did this ride solo.  I stuck arm warmers in my pocket, not thinking I’d need them … and I didn’t.  There was not a cloud in the sky, and even at 8 am, it was getting pretty warm.

I decided to take Arastradero to Alpine, then Portola over to Old La Honda for the first climb.  Normally, there is a water fountain at the corner of Alpine and Portola, so I was planning on filling up there before the OLH climb.  However, I get there, and there is no water fountain.  What the heck did they do?  Well, I probably have enough water to make it to the top of OLH, so I went with that.

Climbing OLH, I didn’t feel the freshest.  I spent a bit of energy concentrating on climbing those little bumps on Arastradero on the big chain ring.  So my expectation on OLH was not very high.  I immediately get passed by 4 riders, who just have so much energy.  I’m huffing and puffing and not getting as far.  They are huffing and puffing too, but they just seem to pass me as if I’m standing still.  I was able to pass a few people, but I had this one target rider in front of me, and for the life of me, I just could not pull him in.  In fact, he was distancing me.

I’m trying the best I could, and although I am not gasping for air, I felt like I did a lot of work, and it just felt like I had a slow climb.  Little did I know, after I downloaded my data to Strava, it was my personal best at 27 minutes (actually, that’s not true … I netted 25 minutes on the Low Key Hill Climb last year).

I refilled water at the store at 84 and 35, then headed down 84.  It was okay till we got some massive headwinds West on 84.  That made the ride a bit more challenging.  Hills, ok, but headwinds … and add to that the heat.

Not sure if many realize this, but 84 is a tsunami evacuation route.  I have proof.

Heading down 84, you eventually get to San Gregorio.  I then head south via Stage Road.  This is a nice, lightly traveled road, with some climbs, but not too tough.  It’s just enough to keep your legs honest.

It was such a clear day today, you could actually see the ocean from Stage Road (sometimes, that’s not possible due to fog conditions at the coast).

Got into Pescadero, and ate at the local store (they have some nice sandwiches).  Everyone flocks to the Country Bakery, and I can see all the bikes parked along the back of the store.  Now if they would only go down the street a little bit, the store is not as crowded, and in my opinion, serves better sandwiches.  I was sitting down, enjoying my sandwich, and seeing several group of cyclists pass by.  Every one of them goes right to the bakery.  I guess it’s personal preference, but if you don’t want to wait, there is another option.

The store also has a nice barbecue that it does at the patio of the store.  They also have live bands playing (mostly folk music, but hey, it’s entertainment).

Ok, I’ve spent long enough time in Pescadero … my original plan was to do a loop out to Pigeon Point, then back to Pescadero.  However, with all the headwinds, I decided to just skip that and head on the tsunami evacuation route on way to Haskins Hill and Alpine.  On the way over, I decided to stop by Paula (aka msincredible on bikeforums).

Paula has not been riding lately, because she is pregnant.  She still looks great, even being pregnant.  Some women are just like that … they look good no matter what the circumstance.  It was great catching up with her.  She happens to be right off of Pescadero Creek Road, just before the steep part of Haskins Hill starts.  What’s great is she is offering to provide food or drinks to any of her cycling friends if needed.  But since the park is nearby, you can also get water and bathroom stop there too.  Her place is pretty easy to spot … just look for the Orbea on the trainer, in the window of her living room.  I thought that was pretty funny.

Now the hard part is after leaving Paula’s place, we get immediately onto the climb.  We climb about 1000 feet on Haskins Hill, then a short downhill, before you get onto West Alpine for the real climb.  Haskins is sort of a warm up for Alpine.  However, I spent so much energy on Haskins, I didn’t have a whole lot left for Alpine.  It was a long journey, and unfortunately, the second half of the climb is completely exposed, so you have no shade to work with.

I think the combination of having Alpine come at 60 miles into the ride, and having to climb Haskins Hill right before it, makes this climb so tough.  I remember doing another ride, where I did OLH, then Alpine, and it wasn’t too bad.  There, Alpine came at mile 40 … that makes a big difference.

While riding on Pescadero, I noticed a large number of cyclists coming the other way.  In fact, I didn’t see too many motorcyclists, nor any fancy cars zooming up and down.  There were many local teams represented … I think they are probably training for the Pescadero Road Race, which is coming up later this month.

A couple things I forgot on this ride … first, I didn’t bring my e-pills.  That’s killer, especially on a hot day like today.  Second, I didn’t take my Claritin before the ride.  I heard that the pollen count was high, so that may have sucked some of the energy I was missing at the second half of the ride.

On the way home, I descended on Altamont.  This was the same stretch where I had my first accident, where it was a damp road, and I lost control, and took a spill.  This is also where they try to warn cyclist that this is a bad turn.  They put some interesting street signs here.  They also paint in chalk “caution”, but I don’t think it is as effective as the street sign.

All in all, it was a great ride.  My climbing fitness is starting to take shape.  My lower back is not straining like it used to, and I’m able to recover a little better.

Totals:  82.9 miles, 6214 feet climbing.  Quite a busy day, if I might so say so.