Century Prep Ride #4 Ride Report – “Three Small Walls”
(…or “who NAMED that thing, anyway???!!!…”)*
We had a good ride yesterday, 33 cyclists in our group, including the 5 of us ride leaders (me, Jessica J, Chris W, Estella, and Brian A).
I gave a briefing, letting folks know that this one is the ride during/after which some people “re-evaluate” their commitment to riding our Century, so people would not be too discouraged without warning on the “three” walls… also explaining that IMHO, the ride is really more like 6-7 small walls, with most of those happening before the first “official” wall.
Estella led out the first segment, with Jessica and Chris and I more or less in the middle and Brian acting as Sweep until the lunch break. I had planned on sweeping after lunch, however the group was strong, and largely comprised repeat riders from the first three Prep rides and the 2 warm-up rides (Thanks to all of the leaders for THOSE rides, too – who helped prepare our group for yesterday’s suffer-fest!).
A couple of seasoned, stronger riders joined in on the fun, including Mark A and Ken M, who were repeat offenders, having just done McEwen the day before with Eric Rydman’s sojourn into the hills for Coffee.
For co-leader Jessica and myself, we were also still glowing in the “joy” of a small but rather “wall-less” metric Century warm-up ride on Saturday… namely the Cinderella Classic…. so I definitely felt McEwen yesterday more acutely than I do normally.
Many riders were commenting on how green and luscious and pastoral our hillsides are right now. I can’t agree more.
I had recommended riders fetch their “to-go” picnic lunch provisions at either Valona Deli or J&L Market in Crockett. As it happened, we learned upon arrival in Crockett that Valona Deli is now closed on Sundays until evening.. but thanks to Estella’s diplomatic and graceful pleading, J&L Market in Crockett was very accommodating to our group for use of the restroom in exchange for folks contributing to the local commerce in the store. For my $4.38, i rode away quite happily with a packet of teriyaki beef jerky, a bag of delicious jalapeno-spiced potato chips, and an almond Snicker’s bar…. perfect sweet/hot/salty refreshments for a hot day.
Last one out of the restroom and store, i ended up lagging a bit – also visiting for a short minute with Vicki & John B who rolled in on their own ride just as i was preparing to leave….
McEwen was the usual climb-fest… and solitary as i was, i noted as usual – in the first 1/4 mile on the right-hand side of the road “wow, if tired or losing focus for a short second, or any number of other reasons….a person could just fall right down that cliff into the ravine” (which it turned out, a Grizzly had done the day before… i learned last night after my ride – YIKES! Be EVER careful and wary out there, my friends!)
Franklin Canyon has been recently chip-sealed, so bump bump bump the entire stretch and i rode in the edge of the regular traffic lane, avoiding the additional accumulated gravel in the “bike lane” (shoulder), so didn’t power it the way i normally like to do.
Arrived at “lunch” (Swett Elementary in Martinez) and most of the pack was finished with their lunch and ready to roll. Jessica, Estella and Brian led them out. Chris lagged a minute, then with my assurances i was fine and thinking even i *might* catch up, left me to finish my jerky and chips. Pounded the rest of my big water bottle, refilled then headed out.
The deal with Alhambra Valley Road is, it’s lovely and shaded the first 3/4’s or so, and then once you hit “Milagro” and the final, steeper section, it’s full, beating mid-day sun. I deliberately slow down under the two oak trees on the right side of the road, strategically located just when you need the shade… and then reveled in the glorious, zippy descent down the back (front???) side of Pig Farm hill.
Hills along Alhambra Valley Road so green and lush. Wildflowers in abundance. Thoroughly enjoyable… i con myself into memories of this while climbing Castro Ranch back toward El Sobrante.
At the turnoff from Olinda Way onto Valley View, then before the turn onto SPDR, I head into the Dino Mart & Gas station for my final restroom — er, ICE CREAM break (Helado – I put it on the cue sheet, after all – not sure whether others took my advice, but I did and decided to try a new flavor: cucumber and pepino chiles… wonderfully sweet/hot/spicy and cool at the same time). I steal some minutes under the shade of the filling pump shelter, then feeling refreshed and relaxed, head out again on San Pablo Dam Road.
Seems the light at Hillcrest has me standing in the sun for about 3 cycles, but a car finally comes into my lane to trigger the signal, and off i go up “small wall #3”. Legs yelling….me yelling silently back (and ignoring my cell phone chiming in which I figure — correctly, it turns out — is the other leaders calling to tell me they are all at BART/finish and ready to leave), but eventually i’m at the top and descending down Alpine to Amador, and back at BART.
Ken is wrapping up a phone call in the shade, we strategize a bit about the Century Staging & Inventory, then Estella comes around.. the three of us chat for a while and then make our way home through the streets of Richmond, El Cerrito, Albany and beyond.
I’m happy to report that our participants are doing great and right on the money in their training for our hilly Century! It seems we have a pretty steady and strong group this year in our “training” series. YAY!
Thanks also to my co-leaders (especially Estella assisting with rider sign-ins at the start, and leading much of the ride, and Brian who swept the first 1/2). I think this was a successful adventure yesterday! No flats, no mechanicals, no accidents… all added up to a FINE day on the bicycle…..Sunshine, technicolor views and legitimate accomplishment savored by all!!
(* – well, we know exactly who named it… Mr. Mike Briggs! He even got credit on the modified cue sheet i prepared)