Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Camino Alto

By now you have come to understand that Camino Alto - the 1.1 mile, 400 foot climb between Larkspur and Mill Valley - is both my nemesis and my best friend.   I battle Camino Alto every day, often twice a day on my regular commute route.  Heading into work, at mile five, it is the first effort that gets me warmed up.  And heading home, at mile 17, it is the beast that prevents me from seeing my kids more quickly.

So speaking of kids, I enjoy riding bikes with mine quite a bit.  We have done the Skoot bike thing, graduated to training wheels, and I am working on getting my son onto two wheels.  But my buddy Mark has taken riding bikes with his son (almost 5 years old) to a whole new level.  Mark rides a trail-a-bike with his son, Grant, all over Marin.  Their normal routes include round trips from their home in Ross to Sausalito (for coffee and hot chocolate).  Or even a one-way trip to Stinson Beach.  Mighty aggressive.  It goes without saying that Mark is incredibly strong on the bike and regularly blows my doors off when we ride together.  Mark does not do the Strava thing for his own rides, but he did set up a Strava account for Grant to track the rides that they do together on the trail-a-bike.

So Monday morning, after a leisurely commute to work, I get a text from Mark.  "BTW, Grant beat your time up Camino Alto yesterday".  I looked and he was right.  My previous northbound record on Camino Alto was 7 minutes and 9 seconds.  Grant (and Mark) did it in 7.03.  As I mentioned above, I don't usually go that hard on Camino Alto, as I only ride it following a 22 mile commute to work, a full work day and 17 miles home in typically horrific wind.  But Mark's text send me on a mission.  That entire day at work, I obsessed about how I was going to attack the hill.  On the ride home, I bumped into my buddy Scotty who is one of the top climbers in all of Marin County.  He holds tons of Strava KOMs and is regularly at the top pf all my friends' segments.  Scott giggled at my predicament of breaking my PR, but it also added a level of competition to our generally slow and boring ride home.

Scott set the strategy that we should hit the bottom of the hill hard, keep our momentum at a high cadence through the Scott Valley spike, then shift into the big ring and hammer to the summit.  Scott would leisurely stay 10-20 feet in front of me to give me a pace and a target (and I refused to draft off of him to gain an advantage.  Our strategy worked well up to the spike.  But my gears did not cooperate when I tried to shift to the big ring.  I spent about 15 seconds having shifted my big ring, but the gears did not move over.  I up-shifted my little ring, back and forth maybe ten times, to try and pull the chain in the big ring.  Finally, the gears went and I was in teh big ring.  But I had lost a lot of momentum and was also stuck in a very high gear.  As we approached the summit, I knew that we had cut significant time off of 7 minutes, but I was not certain how much.  But when I got home, I was more than pleased with my new PR of 6.03, carving more than a minute from my old time.

Pleased, that is, until Wednesday morning ... It seems that StravaMo, having seen that I set a new PR on Monday afternoon, set his sights on my time on his ride home on Tuesday.  And when I got online on Wednesday morning, StravaMo had beat my time on Camino Alto by one freaking second, 6.02.  So, of course, I was on another mission on Wednesday afternoon.  Using the same strategy as Monday afternoon, I gave the hill everything I had.  Luckily, I did not have the the big ring issues that I did on Monday.  And upon reaching the top, I truly had nothing left in the tank.  The data does not lie ... 5 minutes 58 seconds!!  Take that, Mo.  I'll be ready when you come at me again,

This big body is built for powerful sprints on the flats and maybe 20 second bursts up hills.  Going 100% for six minutes is simply too much work for the FatGuy.  Anyone want to challenge me in the flats?

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