3/T/50 ASSR – the long, fast way (Saturday – September 8, 2012)

… i’ve signed up to lead the 50 miler, and later asked if my buddy Ann might also co-lead if the number of participants warrant… as it has been historically chronicled that the 50 mile “T”-paced ASSR ride gets really spread out and tends to draw “all-comers.” Both Ann and our ASSR coordinator agree this is a good arrangement.

Friday evening, Ben is still on the fence whether he will ride or not, and on Saturday morning, it’s still “play it by ear” in the wee hours, but then I learn come breakfast-time that he does want to ride. Not yet sure whether he’ll take the flats to Rockridge (then BART) or drive… my “commute” to the start of the ASSR also hinges somewhat on what Ben decides for his ride.

About 7:30 a.m., he’s getting all ready to ride, but then informs me he’s probably just going to do his own ride rather than the extra schlepp out to Orinda for the short loop around the Bears. Okey-dokey, but this is information i might have wanted earlier, because i’m either going up and over Wildcat (and my knee is still hurting from Monday’s Mt. Tam effort) or maybe the flats to Rockridge then BART to Orinda, or … as a last choice, the longer, flattish route out to Richmond-El Sobrante-San Pablo Dam Road.

Now husband Ben also assumes his “Coach” Ben role, and when I tell him if i go up and over Wildcat, I’ll get 75 miles total, he tells me he wants me to do at least 80 miles….. so, Dam Road, here I come.

The thing is, between all this flex decision period, it’s now coming up on 8:00 a.m., and oops, it’s really time to GO!

Coach Ben wants to ride with me a little bit, but i’m pretty motivated to make it to the Orinda ASSR start on time, having volunteered to be the ride-leader. And I’m not exactly sure of the distance, although I know it’s LONGER than just going up and over Spruce/Wildcat, which takes me about an hour, 53 minutes if i’m really flying! And while one time I made it from home out through the El Cerrito/Richmond/San Pablo/El Sobrante flats to SPDR and then over Castro Ranch Road to Pinole Valley Park on Pinole Valley Road in less than 50 minutes, i’m also acutely aware that the distance between Castro Ranch Road and Orinda BART is somewhere around 6 or 7 miles, and about 1/2 of that section is sort of “rolling” (and mostly more in an “uphill” direction than not).

So, somewhere in along San Pablo Ave, not too many traffic signals from home, I totally leave Ben eating my dust. (oops, he wasn’t the happiest about that, i learned later). I’m making pretty good time until I reach San Pablo, and then the agonizingly long waits at several red lights begin (the worst one being right before the I-80 overpass immediately near the beginning of the commercial section of San Pablo Dam Road… where I learn if i’d just gone through the yellow light, I would have been completely safe from any oncoming, left-turning cars… which don’t get to come across the intersection until about 3 minutes later! (Duly noted!)

Pretty fluid for the flat, commercial section of Dam Road, and I actually luck into a green light as I’m slowing to stop at the Appian Way intersection… where my speed really picks up and I’m just sailing along at about 18-21 for the next few miles.

At Castro Ranch Road, another fortunate change-to-green light on my approach… my odometer reads 8:35, so I still need to step on the gas, but I think I’ll make it.

Then the rollers start…… aaarrgghhhh…..
Yet, i’m so motivated that I think my slowest is about twice what I normally ride this stretch in my lowest energy periods….

Got to go, got to get there, got to be responsible! Near Kennedy Grove a cross-wind about knocks me flat sideways. Then I’m head into the wind for a bit and gritting my teeth… but it’s all in a sort of euphoric, stoked kind of way.

The rollers continue and the “big hand” on the clock gets closer and closer to the 9:00 meeting time. I can feel i’m getting closer, but then another broad turn and i’m still not where i want to be.

8:55 and suddenly I round the last hill and the left-hand curve with the horse crossing marks and further along, the flashing yellow lights indicating the intersection at Bear Creek Rd (to the left) and Wildcat Cyn Rd (to the right). I have NEVER been so relieved to see those lights.. well, maybe two other times, once when I led one of my “middle years and mellow” rides that involved a wintery morning descent down Wildcat going into a “backwards Bears” with the grinding ascent up Pumphouse Grade… and this in the days I was still so fearful of the descent on Wildcat, so I chose to ride my heavy mountainbike instead of my road bike, and by the time I got to Mama (or what GPC terms “Baby”) bear, I was just worn out….. and when I finally reached Castro Ranch/San Pablo Dam Rd, that slog from Castro Ranch Rd up Dam Road back to Wildcat left me with the heaviest-feeling, leaden legs in the world; and the other time was went i’d gone out for a quick loop and ended up going “cross-country” on my road bike on the unpaved section of the “roadway” from Kennedy Grove access at San Pablo Reservoir back toward Wildcat… (ggggrrrrrrr!!!), neither all that rideable for road tires, nor all that “walkable” in road cleats. (thank goodness for cleat covers, though!).

So, with just a few minutes to spare, i hammered the last two miles between Wildcat and Orinda BART, and arrived just on time! 1:00:04; i checked my avg.speed: 16.7 mph; I then checked my distance: 16.67 miles…. I think that for a hour of sustained riding of an hour, that might just be a new record for me!

A bunch of riders already assembled. My co-leader, Ann, has also just arrived, pulling into a parking place about a minute after I’ve gotten there and checked my gauges. I get distracted w/ brief conversations with “the Marks” A & H, and then locate my yellow rider sign-in sheet. About 6 or 7 already on my sheet; i’m making introductions with a few new faces who are joining our 50-mile loop.
Mark A starts the ASSR briefing and ride-leader intros, then turns it over to Jim Scott for the special ASSR “social-ride” pace-setting guidelines for the section to our Castro Ranch Road regroup.

Then we’re off!

near the tail-end of the group, leaving Orinda BART….

I have a nice chat with Doug along Dam Road… I had met Doug on LisaMac’s Palomares Out-n-Back ride earlier in the year, and he’d led me on my first descent from the start/finish at Sibley down Tunnel Road (a leg i’ve repeated now on my own several times in preference to other options).

At the Castro Ranch Rd regroup, I decide that with a group of 12 or 13 riders, it’s a nice idea to gather everyone up and do our own little briefing and intros. We also had gained another rider (two, actually, but I didn’t realize that Andrew was going to come with us as well as Heike, until we were doing our small-group intro/briefing). Then we let the Prestos and TM-65-milers go before heading out ourselves. Ann asked if I wanted to lead or sweep, and I decided my energy, despite my race against the clock to arrive at the ride on time, was still incredibly high, so I opted to “lead.” Overall, I could tell our group was faster than the average “T-paced” group.

Just past the turnoff from Castro Ranch Road onto Alhambra Valley Road, I learn that Heike is of “Andrew & Heike”… she was on a homeland visit with family the first time I’d ridden with Andrew on one of Eric’s “Coffee in Port Costa” or some old town and old road favorite… I remember it so clearly because at Pinole Peet’s I learned from Eric that after our 40 or 47 mile ride, he and Andrew were going to drive over to Marin to “check out Coleman Valley Road” for the first time, since Andrew was scoping out his ride-plan for the then-upcoming Mt.Tam Double. (they did it, too!). I’m happy to put another face to the name with this extremely nice couple. Heike is really a strong rider… just doesn’t know it yet! (this 50-miler w/ Pig Farm hill and Reliez Valley Road on the front side and Happy Valley Road on the return is her first ride in about 3 months!). No small feat, i think….

Heike and the actual “farm stand” at the Ostrich and Llama farm on lower Pig Farm Hill

Mike, Heike and Morgan, lower Pig Farm Hill

This is one of my favorite roads, always. I relish the scenery and pastoral views, as the gentle curves bring new surprises around every corner.

our group in the lower, shadows of Pig Farm hill

lightening-struck fallen oak….

Heike reaching the first part of the “hilly” section of Pig Farm hill

… and NOW the fun begins!

At the summit we have our scheduled regroup.

Alan (TM group) now in view and Sandy (our group) arriving at the summit; Heike and Morgan resting

Sandy makes it! (Alan just cresting the hill in background)

Ann arriving as sweep…..

For several of our riders, this is not only their first experience with GPC, but it’s their first time out on these roads, so it’s gratifying to share our beautiful terrain with them.

Everyone in our group (plus a few from Jim O’Melia’s 32-mile TM group) arrives safely and without incident or mechanicals at the summit of Pig Farm hill.

We pause long enough to make sure everyone has a chance to catch their breath, and then we’re off again.

The descent down Alhambra Valley Road is zippy but not crazy fast. The group is relatively closely spaced, for an ASSR-T-50 ride. Nice! At Reliez Valley Road and Grayson, I call out to a couple of folks to join us at the Golf Club… apparently the words “Rest Room” gets their attention. Meanwhile, I see two of the faster riders on our list peeling off and away from the cemetery down Reliez Valley Road with “the Marks'” Presto and Jim Scott’s TM-65 packs.

Meanwhile, we officially gain Andrew, and unofficially Mike (who decides to ride with us the whole way). We take a leisurely break at the Golf club, many riders taking advantage of the open snack bar for refreshments, and a couple people taking information from Andrew and Heike about getting a cool-looking Deutschland cycling kit like Andrew wears, directly from the source.

Then we’re off, on the hillier section of Reliez Valley Road. Which today just seems to fly by and before I know it, we’re already at Pleasant Hill Road. At Olympic, the two new Marks report they both need to cut the ride short and get back to Orinda for afternoon plans, so now we are down to 11 riders (Mike S, Andrew, Simon, John, Heike, Mark S, Adele, Morgan, Sandy, Ann and myself) for the flat, zig-zaggy piece through Rossmor, Walnut Creek, Alamo and Danville.

For the first time, I’m feeling like i’m inclined to agree with Ralph Page in his common gripe that this is “the most boring road in the world” and in my mind i’m already plotting subversive alternatives through the southwestern portions of Walnut Creek to spice it up for future rides.

At an rate, we reach Danville Peet’s without incident — nobody falling asleep and more importantly, nobody getting whacked by cars in Alamo or Danville in the strip mall/shopping center sections. Andrew and Heike detour into the Farmers’ Market in Danville, and Sandy follows. She’s in good hands and I already can tell she’s a smart cookie, so will be able to make her way to Peet’s, so I don’t call out or chase her down…. indeed, she does make it to Peet’s just a few minutes behind the rest of us.

We park our bikes in the various available racks and spaces against walls and trash cans, then several of us head off to Lunardi’s Market to its many and varied food choices. It’s not cold, but somehow my fond memories of their soups appeals to me, and I decide that the Turkey-Vegetable-Rice soup is gonna just hit the spot. Along with a juicy Bartlett pear, it DOES make for an extremely nutritious and satisfying lunch!!

While enjoying the mixed sun/shade (and for once, better than normal available seating), we see Lewis N (Luigi) who is out on his own ride that day. Mark S and Mike decide to go with Luigi and the rest of us (now 9) start the way back to Orinda BART.

Overall, I’m really astounded and pleased that for not explicitly “pace-lining”, our little group of 9 stays in a fairly close formation the entire way back to Orinda. Ann and I have consulted our mutual ride-oracle and jointly decided to avoid the icky freeway merging adventure of downtown Lafayette and detour from the “official” cue sheet by remaining on Moraga Blvd all the way to Moraga Road, where we turn right toward Mt. Diablo Blvd, stay for only a few blocks and then another right turn onto Happy Valley Road. This is the most pleasant, and safest way to Happy Valley Road for this course.

From the lunch break at Danville Peet’s, Ann and I have switched out “lead” and “sweep” roles. Andrew veers off through the back side of Lafayette at 2nd Street to get home via Pinehurst, and Heike stays with us. For several of the new riders, I offer some words of what to expect in the hilly turns up ahead, and we are still a reasonably evenly-paced group reaching the “Half-Happy” half-summit turn onto Sundown Terrace, and only a minute is required to catch a breather while I point out the upcoming minor “road furniture” attributes of that downhill and the little “speed bump” parklet which joins Sundown Terrace to Dalewood Drive. Ann checks her avgs and announces she’s at 12.6 mph. I have noted my average speed (over the entire day, to this point) is 13.4 mph.

Then the fun, rolling zig-zag through the neighborhoods of Orinda – Dalewood to Lombardy  Lane to Miner Road – like kids after school, back to Camino Diablo at Miner Road. Really fun!

I wave Ann through to go ahead with the others and wait just a short minute for Heike for that very last pump to Orinda BART. She’s a bit tired, and I’m very impressed she’s just kept up on her first ride after several months.

At Orinda BART, we take off in our various directions to cars or BART, and I double back along Camino Diablo for some more “bonus miles”… deciding back & forth in my brain whether I want 80 or 85 total….. and what was it exactly that Coach told me? At the intersection for Wildcat, I head uphill, not because it’s shorter (my other option is to continue down Dam Road to El Sobrante and then detour up Hillcrest for a final hill to get both hill and maximum miles), but I haven’t been up Wildcat for a few weeks, and didn’t take it this morning, either, and well… i just “miss it” a bit…..

I stop for the views at Inspiration Point, then make my way through the park and downhill along Spruce and then Los Angeles to Marin Circle and Marin.

view from Inspiration Point, “close-up” view of San Pablo Reservoir

why East Bay has “it”!!

Mt. Diablo to the right…

Briones Reservoir

From Inspiration Point along the canyon through Tilden I am happy and flyin’! Spruce/Grizzly Peak intersection comes around in a hurry, and the descent down Spruce is lovely.  Clear traffic through Marin Circle and I decide to take Marin all the way westward to my street.  A lot of traffic, but the “bike-lane” buzzes me past most of it, like a free pass through all the green lights.  Life is good!

Back down in the flats, on my own street, I see by my cyclometer that i’m about 1 mile short of 80 total, so I pass my house and loop around the neighborhood down to the Jr. High School and back. As I turn back onto Washington Ave from San Gabriel Ave and cross Masonic, I feel a small pinch in my upper thigh on the left leg… a mere hint of a cramp. But it goes away almost instantly… not before i am reminded that maybe two bottles of water (one w/ a fizzy) and a pint of soup aren’t really sufficient liquids for an 80-mile late-summer day…. so i make up for it once i’m home.

Feeling fine. Feeling strong. It’s a good day!

“Guess Who?”

Stats for the day:

Getting there:
Distance: 16.67 miles
Speed: 16.7 mph avg.
Max: 28.6 mph
Time: 1:00:04

Stats for entire ride:
Distance: 80.0 miles
Speed: 13.2 mph avg
Max Speed: 34.7 mph
Saddle time: 6:02.22

ciao, let’s ride again! Thanks again to all of our 3/50/T ASSR riders, including my great co-leader, Ann!

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