My wife decided to take a vacation with a couple of girlfriends and the kids down to Seascape Resort in Aptos. I thought it would be a great idea to ride my bike down to Aptos to join them for the weekend. Accompanied by the husband of one of the other moms, Mark (see 7/17 post for more info), we went for it. We did very little pre-planning, agreeing only on the time and location of our departure. Otherwise, the route and even the location of the resort were left to chance. How hard could it be … head south to Aptos and then consult with Siri to get the final location of the resort. Right?!?
|My view of Mark from behind, for most of the day. Ocean Beach.|
We both stuffed down a solid breakfast, packed a ton of Cliff Shots, Gu, gels and other energy/nutrition products and hit the road. We both had extra tubes and CO2, a little cash, our credit cards and our cell phones in case of emergency. Mark talked me out of a backpack, so I dressed in short sleeves and a vest with the hopes of making it the entire way without a wardrobe change. And having grown up in Woodside, Mark knew many of the roads and we both had a few ideas for options on the routes.
|Careful of these sand swells on the highway. They are way deeper than they look and can take you out in a second.|
|Crystal Springs Reservior|
The first 15 miles basically followed my commute to work. Mark commented as we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge that he rarely rides on the Bridge any more, and what a treat is was to do so. I agreed with him and still feel lucky to be able to do this almost every way to work. After the Golden Gate Bridge we headed on Lincoln up towards the Legion of Honor. Mark noted that I was feeling peppy up that climb and suggested that I should slow down a bit as we had a long day ahead of us. That said, Mark, being 50% faster than me up any incline saw my being a half-wheel ahead of him as a sign of me feeling good. So he pushed the pace a little (note the Strava PRs going up this incline).
|Nope, not my Cervelo|
Mark and I agreed that we would we would not shy away from elevation and we should aim for the least trafficked route rather than the most direct. Safety first, right? Knowing that we would spend plenty of time on the Coast, we opted to skip the sketchy Devil’s Slide through Pacifica and Half Moon Bay and go for Skyline Drive. Skyline is basically a freeway with a bike lane. On Skyline, there were several spots where we had to cross an on-ramp or off-ramp to remain heading south. In the fog of Daly City, these were less than optimal paths. But we made it unscathed.
|Detour to Woodside|
We wanted to cross over to the Coast in through Sharp Park, but a road closure forced us to continue inland on Skyline to the Crystal Springs Reservoir. This route is an amazing trail which caters to walking, running, slow cycling. There were a ton of people out and it is clear that the trail is well used. Mark and I commented about the impossibility of building a trail like this (basically a six mile concrete pathway through a forest) in today’s planning environment. Despite the trail being enjoyed by tons of people, the trend nowadays is to protect nature by closing it off from people. The more sane planning would be to appreciate nature by allowing people to responsibly interact with it. I’ll get off of my soapbox, now.
|Bridge across 280|
At the end of the trail, we rode Polhemus Rd. which parallels 280 for a few miles, then crossed over 280 on a walking bridge. It was a cool sensation to be over the freeway with all the cars passing underneath. This turned into Canada Road which we took all the way to Woodside. In Woodside, we turned on Mountain Home Road and I was immediately impressed by the size of the homes and lots, and the obvious wealth in the area. Silicon Valley money is the real deal. Allegedly we passed Larry Ellison’s house somewhere on that street. I was hoping to stop for an open house, but there were none on a Friday. Mountain Home turned into Old La Honda Road. Mark warned me about this climb, and wanted to get his heartbeat up, so he went on this climb alone. There is nothing like a 3.7-mile, 1,311 foot climb at mile 55 to make my day. I took it slow, really slow (2,269/2,870 on the Strava segment) and enjoyed the pedaling. About ¾ of the way up, I noticed a guy behind me. At that point my ego wouldn’t let me back off. So I picked it up just to keep him behind me. Mark rode down and paced me to the top. What a guy. As an aside, some of the street names off of Old La Honda were hilarious. Keep in mind, this is a long climb, even in a car. Some of the last streets at the top were ‘Home’, as in “I am finally home” and ‘Upenuf’, as in “Up enough”. Get it? Pretty clever. Mark promised me that we were basically done with the climbing as we reached the top. 58 miles and over 5,500 feet of climbing. Nice start to the day.
|My new best friend, Old La Honda|
|There is my view of Mark, again. Dropping me.|
What goes up must come down. Three miles of downhill led to 10+ miles of hammering along the steady decent to the Coast along Highway 84. Mark was pushing the pace pretty hard and we maintained north of 25 miles per hour for most of the way. Drafting behind Mark most of the way, I was oblivious to the headwind that was battering the front. Having ridden Mark pretty steadily for 7 miles, I decided to jump ahead and do some pulling. I immediately was a) blasted by the wind and b)of course, picked a spot which undulated into an uphill section. I pushed as hard as I could for a mile or two. Mark could tell that I was struggling to keep up the 25+ MPH pace and he came to my side. He then said something that he should have said, oh, 50 miles ago. He stated, “I don’t mind if we are going 10 MPH or 25 MPH, its just nice to get out of the wind for a little while.” Here I am killing myself to keep up the pace, not wanting to insult Mark with my inferiority, and all he wanted was a little rest. Didn’t he know that I provide one of the greatest drafts in all of California? If a rest is what you want, a rest is what you shall receive. We continued forward and, at mile 75ish, we hit the Coast.
|The California Coastline|
You will recall that neither Mark nor I knew exactly how far this ride was going to be. I had assumed that we would be somewhere between 90 and 110 miles. But I also realized that our detour into Woodside, rather than taking Highway 1 the entire way, probably added some mileage to the route. Hitting San Gregorio at mile 75 was an ominous sign. Add to that the fact that I had drunk all of my water on the Old La Honda climb and the Highway 84 sprint, the rolling hills of the Coastline were going to be interesting. Luckily, we encountered a gale force tailwind almost immediately as we headed south on Highway 1. This, again, made for a great pace as we headed onward. But almost immediately, by about mile 80, my hamstrings and calves started to cramp. I struggled for the next ten miles to keep up with Mark. And by mile 90, Ano Nuevo State Reserve, I got dropped. I kept Mark in my sights (a half mile to mile down the road), but I was struggling mightily with my leg cramps. I was begging to find a convenience store on the Highway, of which there were none. I basically soft pedaled up the rolling hills, losing ground on Mark, and then pushed on the down hills to catch up. I really didn’t think I could keep going due to the cramps. I didn’t want to complain to Mark, who was clearly taking it easy on me, but I truly had never experienced cramps like this ever before. And furthermore, stopping was not an option. There was no one to pick us up and, frankly, I had no idea where we were.
|Davenport strawberry stand. My savior. First water in 30+ miles. I was impressed by the do-it-yourself cash register.|
Finally, at mile 101, we hit a strawberry stand in the town of Davenport that had water. I was praying for some salt to help with the cramps. But there was none. I guzzled three bottles of water which did me a lot of good. We refilled our bottles, ate the rest of my egg burrito and headed off again. But five miles later, the cramps came back. Mark dropped me, again, and I was the loneliest guy on the planet. If it were not for the tail wind, I don’t think I could have kept my bike upright. Although I was going 18-20 miles per hour, the tailwind probably provided 85% of that speed.
At mile 110, we hit civilization in Santa Cruz. I was saved by the stop lights and traffic in both directions. We passed a convenience store and Mark insisted that I stop and buy a bag of potato chips to help with the cramps. Being frustrated, I whined, “Let’s just keep going. Let’s just get there”. That comment set Mark over the edge. He responded, “For god’s sake, eat something. You are going so fu&*ing slow. No need to be a hero”. And I got the point. We went into the Quickie Mart and I bought the saltiest thing I could find … a bag of Cheetos. My mouth rejected the taste, but the salt kept me from the edge. It was city streets and stop lights from this point on. We were a little lost and Siri did not do a very good job getting us to our destination. But some locals helped us find our way to the resort.
Starting in San Anselmo at 6.21am, after 122.8 miles, 7,826 feet of elevation and 5,531 calories consumed, we arrived at Seascape Resort in Aptos. It took 8 hours and 30 seconds of time in the saddle, with only 33 minutes of rest, but we made it. I jumped straight into the pool and immediately cramped up again. The cramps and soreness continued until Sunday night. But I was back into the normal commute come Monday morning.
|Sunset over Aptos. Crescent moon above the horizon. The picture doesn't even come close to doing justice.|
Oh, and Mark is such a stud, that he decided to get some climbing in on Sunday morning before the car ride home. He hit the hills and got picked up by his wife after another 60 miles and 4,000 feet. Animal.
The Marin Century in two weeks will be a piece of cake compared to this ride. Plenty of food and water will make for a leisurely 100 miles around The County. Looking forward to that, and introducing you all to the Near Naked Man. Stay tuned.