Sunday, May 6 in Moraga, California:
The “Death Warmed Over” Ride
I was a tad trepidatious about this ride, as at 108 miles, it would be the longest ride I’ve ever done (by 1 mile :), and at 8500 ft of climbing, it would be one of the hilliest.
I awoke at 5:15 on Sunday morning (uggh!), suited up, did a tire pressure check, and found that two of my rear spokes had come almost completely unscrewed from the spoke nipple, yet my wheel was still perfectly true! How odd is that? After reattaching the spokes and loading up the car, I hit the road for Moraga, arriving at about 6:15, in plenty of time to meet my target start time of 6:30. I registered with no problem then thought I’d hit the bathrooms before starting riding – mistake! The situation was completely reversed from the usual – there was a HUGE line at the men’s room, with no line at all at the women’s! So I didn’t start riding until about 7 – oh well, no biggie.
The ride consists of two loops, one 70 mile, and one 38 mile, both starting and ending at a high school in Moraga (this was the lunch stop too). The first loop headed down Canyon Rd. up Pinehurst, and up Skyline to Grizzly Peak. A nice, but not too steep climb. I really like riding on Grizzly Peak – the views looking over downtown Oakland, across the Bay Bridge to SF, and over the Golden Gate are spectacular, and they continue for a number of miles! After Grizzly Peak, it was a short trip on Wildcat Canyon to the first rest stop. They had lattés! Yay! 🙂 Definitely a first for a bike rest stop for me. They also had lots of yummy nutbreads and such.
From there, we went east past San Pablo Res., through the Tosco petroleum processing plant in Martinez (very ugly, but sort of an interesting maze of pipes, tubes, and smokestacks), and out along the Carquinez Straits. By this point it was getting pretty warm, but not too terribly bad. I think there was a rest stop somewhere along here, but I’ll be darned if I remember it 🙂
Then the first real steep hill of the day – McEwin Road. Rather a nasty hill! It went on at I’d guess a 12-14% grade for about .7 miles. The ride organizers had a bunch of inspirational/funny signs dotted along the road, which took my mind off of the climb nicely. Once at the top, it was a nice fun descent back towards San Pablo and the “Three Bears”, a series of well-known hills that I’d never ridden on. Turns out they really weren’t too bad, especially with a rest stop at the top of Mamma Bear. It was getting very warm at this point, though – my Cateye was reading 95°, which was probably a few degrees high, since it was mostly in direct sun, but then again, so was I! There was a nice descent between Mamma Bear and Papa Bear which cooled me down somewhat. Alas, like Mamma, Papa Bear was completely exposed with no shade anywhere – ooof! If there was a “Baby Bear” climb, I didn’t notice it 🙂 From there it was a straightforward trip back to Moraga for the end of the 70 mile route, lunch, and the start of the 38 mile loop.
Lunch was great with some really yummy BBQ chicken and tabouli-like salad – mmmmm. After checking in and picking up the ride sheet for the final loop, I again hit the road. I found it a tad difficult to stay motivated to complete the whole ride, since after the 70, I was right back at my car and could very easily have called it quits then. But I figured I was making really good time, and still felt pretty good, so what the heck. I should have known that my unscrewed spokes, the unheard-of men’s bathroom wait, and my hesitation at doing the second loop were perhaps omens of things to come 😉
The second loop again went out Canyon Rd (not very creative, but AFAIK there really isn’t any other reasonable way to get west from Moraga) to Pinehurst (the other direction from the morning loop) and out to to Redwood Rd. On Pinehurst, I met a woman on the Lukemia Team In Training, Sigrida, and we rode together for pretty much the rest of the ride, as we were riding just about the same pace. There were a bunch of flares at the intersection of Pinehurst and Redwood blocking access to Redwood Rd. South. We were taking Redwood north, however the loop was supposed to return via south Redwood. Hmmmm. Sigrida said she’d seen smoke from the top of Pinehurst, and a bit later someone confirmed that there had been several fires in that area (that sounds a bit suspicious to me!). We continued on Redwood up to Skyline south of where we were earlier in the day. Along the way, we were passed by a very courteous motorist, who honked his horn at every single cyclist on the road, and flipped everyone the bird, even though everybody was riding single file and there was plenty of room to pass without even crossing into the other lane. I think he was just jealous of our bikes 🙂 After climbing Redwood, we went south on Skyline and “descended” (there were a lot of uphills!) into Oakland/San Leandro and entered the Oakland Zoo – a short, but pretty steep climb into the Zoo grounds, then a very, very steep descent back out. I don’t know if there was a better alternative, but some of the roads we were routed on in Oakland en route to Lake Chabot weren’t in very nice areas (Macarthur and 98th Ave), so we hurried through those.
The climb up to Lake Chabot was very pleasant and was somewhat cooler since we’d returned from the inland east bay area. My legs were definitely feeling all of the riding and climbing by this point, though, and my uphill speed dropped considerably. After Chabot, it was east to Castro Valley and the final rest stop on south Redwood Rd. We saw a lot of riders with the neon wristbands of this ride going the other way and figured they’d probably been turned back due to the fires on Redwood Rd., but we hoped that it’d be cleared up by the time we got there.
No such luck! At the final rest stop at mile 93, we were told that the estimate was “1 hour to tomorrow” for reopening Redwood. We didn’t think much of the idea of waiting an hour only to find that the road would be closed all night, so Sigrida & I contemplated the options:
- bike to Castro Valley BART and take that to Orinda BART. We didn’t like that option because it wouldn’t have made for a 100mi ride, would have required at least one transfer, and its really hard to walk up and down the stairs at BART carrying a bicycle and wearing road cleats!
- Go back the way we had just arrived. We didn’t much like this idea either, as it was about 25 miles back the way we’d just been, it was not in the least bit flat (we especially didn’t relish the thought of climbing Golf Links Rd & Skyline again), and I, for one, don’t much like riding on the same roads in two directions.
- Head east to San Ramon, north to Walnut Creek, and west back to Moraga. This was an unknown distance, but definitely not very hilly at all.
A bunch of us decided we’d take option #3. Sigrida & I took off before the rest, as I knew the way to San Ramon, she knew the way to Moraga from San Ramon, and the other folks looked like hammerheads who would easily catch us anyways, which they did a few miles down the road 🙂
I was very glad that Sigrida was about my speed, as we traded pulls going north on San Ramon Rd (not one of my favorite roads to ride on, as its long and straight, but its a good direct way to get from A to B…). After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived in Lafayette and picked up the Lafayette/Moraga Bike Trail, which took us 6’ish miles back to Moraga and the finish. I was very, very tired by this point and my legs were starting to cramp. I’d been pacing myself for a 108mi ride, not a 128mi ride, so I had almost no legs left! Given the heat and the fact that it turned out to be exactly the length of the Markleeville Death Ride, we dubbed this ride the “Death Warmed Over ” Ride.
When we arrived, to our surprise, there were still a bunch of folks there (I guess lots of people got so many extra miles they felt the need to keep the course open longer (it was supposed to close at 5:30 – we arrived at about 6:40)). I signed in and got my patch & t-shirt. I had pretty much resigned myself to them being out of food and having to subsist on Clif Bars until I got home, but the wonderful folks at Grizzly Peak Cyclists saved a bunch of chicken and tabouli, so Sigrida & I devoured a platefull of that before parting ways and heading home.
Overall this was a great ride – more epic than I had anticipated, but hey, it was my first 200k ride! 🙂 The route was interesting and challenging, the support was very, very good.
|Distance:||128 mi (20 “bonus” miles due to fire detour!)|
|Total Time:||11h 51m|
|On-bike Time:||9h 39m|
|Total Climbing:||~8500 ft|