Monday, August 3, 2009

(Not) Mt Tam Double Century

At Goat Rock before final descent

Ride time: 15:03
One bike time: 13:50
Distance: 200
Climbing: 16700'
Avg speed: 14.3

Let's get the title out of the way. This year, Mt Tam state park would not provide use permits for any organized event, due to state budget cutbacks, so the ride could not follow it's normal route that includes the summit of Mt Tam. Too bad but maybe they got some people's attention. This being America it will no doubt be solved next year by a new "user fee" (not a tax!).

As part of my budget cutbacks, I decided that it was possible to drive up and back to the start/finish in San Rafael from Palo Alto, so saving on hotel costs. The downside was having to get up at 2:45am and drive for over an hour before riding and, perhaps worse, drive back afterwards when dog-tired.

Big turn out for this double, the parking lot was pretty full already by the time I arrived at 4:15. Long line to check-in so I guess lots of people had the same idea of driving up on ride day. Several people, including me, wearing the Alpine Challenge finisher jersey. Didn't see hardly any at the Terrible Two. It's still somewhat of a rarity as only 42 finished the inaugural ride this year.

Since this was the final leg of the Triple Crown Stage Race the ride was being timed and there was a mass start at 5pm. You could leave earlier provided you handled the playing card with your number on to a volunteer when you started - I wonder if anyone had the Ace of Spades? I waited for the mass start looking for people I knew. Spotted Jay of Pumpkin Cycle fame looking very motivated. Introduced myself to friend of a friend, Joan Grant, who was fresh off the Race Across Oregon.

Dropped off the main pack shortly after the start as hit two red lights in succession (with traffic) but reeled a few people in on the climb up to Goat rock. Riding in the dark outside city lights is very weird as you have absolutely no reference points except the lights of the bikes in front. We finished the ride on the same road in the light but I didn't recognize any of it. A left turn and a run down to San Geronimo to Francis Drake, a road I've driven many times on the way to Point Reyes, but never ridden on the bike. Into Fairfax and onto the Bolinas-Fairfax road that climbs and descends to Alpine Lake before beginning the climb that would reach Mt Tam normally. Meet up with Debra who I rode some of the DMD with on this stretch and she tells me about her travels on the bike in Italy - much envy. See a tandem team I also recognize from then DMD making a pit stop on a hairpin, and climbing out a car comes down a bit too fast and then obviously pisses off the stoker who lets forth with a tremendous stream of invective! At the Ridgecrest junction to Mt Tam we continue on and descend to Bolinas and the first rest stop. Thankfully the road is dry and the descent is easy.

Lee "Fuzzy" Mitchell's SAG van climbing Bolinas-Fairfax Rd

An old guy I guess is in his 70's,but wearing a triple crown jersey, politely asks me if he can draft on the flat section past the lagoon into Stinson Beach. Then we turn up the Panoramic Highway and climb back to the ridge. Some way up it turns foggy and my glasses fog up on the descent down to Mill Valley. On the way up I met up with a guy who was about my pace, but whose name I somehow never learned, who I ride with all the way up to Point Reyes and beyond. There was a small rest stop on the coast ridge above Stinson and so we skip the Bolinas rest stop this time, as it requires turning off highway 1. With hindsight that was a mistake as the next rest is a long way and I really needed more food. After Point Reyes we turn inland heading towards Petaluma. This is a nostalgic section for me as it is where Jenny and I first rode a hired tandem, and ancient 1970's Schwinn with shifters on the down frame. As I recall we managed to drop the chain on this section downshifting the front chain ring. A short climb took us up to the Nicasio reservoir followed by a longer climb and then a left turn into the next rest stop at a local school in the middle of nowhere on Hicks Valley Rd.

I was seriously hungry by this stage and loaded up but keeping with my new plan of not wasting time at rest stops didn't hang around and left riding solo towards Marshall. Nice valley ride followed by a long climb before dropping back to Hwy 1 at Marshall. Somewhere on this climb I get passed by a group that includes the old guy who drafted me earlier!

Now back on familiar territory, riding the small rollers on 1, one of which my Garmin showed at 12%, past the Waves to Wine lunch stop and then turning inland to Tomales. I hadn't studied the route and though we just continued onto Valley Ford on 1, but no, a detour via Dillon Beach, involving more climbing. Good signage! Valley Ford was a familiar and welcome sight and the rest stop was at the school where we had met for the tandem rally ride the previous week. Coincidentally met one of the organizes, Nancy Wu, who was riding the 200K. Grabbed a quick lunch and as I'm leaving see Joan Grant coming in, not happy as her back is causing her grief. I must have passed her at the rest stop I skipped as she was definitely ahead of me at the start.

Lunch at Valley Ford

Fuzzy Mitchell at Valley Ford

Now we do the Coleman Valley loop which starts out with a series of big rollers on Hwy 1. After the last one I'm looking for the nice descent into Bodega Bay when there is a route turn onto Bay Hill, which climbs even higher but does skip the traffic in Bodega Bay. Back on Hwy 1 it's a short run to the right turn on Coleman Valley. Last time I rode this was in reverse on the very wet Wine Country 200K in May. Coleman Valley is the steepest climb on the ride, 14% by Garmin for a mile or so. A mini rest stop and checkpoint at the top and then a fast descent. Scariest moment of the ride as I can't bleed enough speed off for a sharp right turn and drift completely over to the wrong side of the road. Fortunately nothing coming, but shortly after four cars appear. Could have been nasty. Really should have been on the drops as I think part of the problem was that my tired hands couldn't apply enough brake pressure from the hoods. Another climb out from the base of the descent then onto Joy Road and then via Freestone back into Valley Ford. Picked up a paceline on the final stretch that was to stay together all the way to Petaluma. Kind of quiet at Valley Ford this time as the Century riders are mostly all long gone. Stuff my pockets with cherries! Great ride into Petaluma, tail wind for a lot of the ride, and a real pelaton, riding two abreast, due to the lack of traffic. Everyone is too tired to ride hard though, so it's mostly a social experience.

The pelaton riding towards Petaluma

No-one wants to spend too long at the Petaluma rest stop as the finish beckons. After the initial climb out of Petaluma, it's really an easy ride in. One more rest stop in Nicasio that a lot of people skip but I pull in for one final fuel up, not knowing quite what lies ahead. Easy climb up to Goat Rock, were signs and a volunteer are warning about the descent, where my friend Sue crashed and broke her collar bone last year. Fairly long flat section into San Rafael arriving just at 8pm, a little slower than I had hope for but still respectable. What is surprising to me is that my time is the same as for the Terrible Two which is considered a lot harder. Embarrassing moment as I fail to recognize Jay of PumpkinCycle in his street clothes so completely that I actually say "Do I know you?"! Decent meal and even better ice cream. Bad news is that the showers are being dismantled, so it's a sweaty drive home in the car. Good news is that I'm not so shattered that the drive will be a grind. Stop in at Starbucks for a Mocha with extra shot to help me stay awake.

Overall it's been a great ride through yet more spectacular scenery in this incredible state. No truly tough climbs but all those rollers certainly add up.

1 comment:

  1. Nice write up--good times!!! When you stood next to Lee Mitchell did you ask him to play better music??--I always put in a request for THE DOORS but he never listens to me.

    Hopefully we'll get the rollers on top of Mt. Tam next year.

    Ouch--an hour drive to the start, though I've never found an inexpensive & good motel in San Rafael. This year I stayed at $$$ hotel, after last year when I couldn't touch anything at the flea bag motel.