The alarm went off this morning at 6am, but I was already awake. As I reached over the shut off the alarm, it was with a mixture of excitement and dread...
Mt Hamilton is actually one of my favorite rides. It’s a tough but not brutal climb. It provides some amazing views of the south bay and the weather today was supposed to be perfect. In addition, we were going to have a great group of people on the ride, some of whom I hadn’t seen in a while.
Today though, was to be the beginning of my actual training for the Death Ride and Tracy and I had decided that we were going to ride to and from Mt Hamilton and not just start at the base of the hill like we usually do. This would take what is a nice, fun, 40+ mile ride and turn it into a tough, 90+ mile ride with over 6000ft of climbing.
As I stood at the kitchen window, eating my bowl of cereal and staring out at the dark, I began to wonder just what I had gotten myself into. What was I thinking scheduling a 90+ mile ride when my longest ride so far this year had been 60 and left me sore and tired for 2 days? (evidently I wasn't thinking)
Eventually, the sky started to lighten and I filled my water bottles, loaded up my pockets with clif bars, electrolytes and e-gels and at 6:45 headed out the door to meet up with Tracy at his house down the road.
The ride to Mt Hamilton was pretty uneventful. It’s mostly flat and since it was early on a Saturday morning, we had very little traffic to deal with. My legs felt good and we kept a decent, but not too fast pace on the way there.
Jerry and the rest of the gang were supposed to be meeting up near Alum Rock at 8:00 and our goal was to catch them somewhere on the hill. Evidently it took them a little longer to get started than I thought since we caught them at the top of the first climb out of Alum Rock and before they got to the road up Hamilton.
After stopping to say hi to everyone we started out on the climb and people began to spread out...
Knowing I had a long day ahead of me, I picked a pace that would allow me to stay up with the group but wouldn’t push me too far into the red zone, and settled in for a nice long climb.
My pace pretty much kept me right in the middle of the group with the front group quickly leaving me behind and the following group a few turns behind me the whole way to the top.
As I stated, this is probably one of my favorite rides in the south bay. It’s a good climb but not ridiculously steep and there really isn’t much car traffic. In addition, it provides some amazing views of the south bay area.
Alone with my thoughts and the music from my iPod, I continued to alternate between sitting and spinning and standing and grinding. I actually felt pretty good for most of the climb, but towards the end, I could tell I was running out of gas.
It’s funny. I kept hoping to come around a corner and be able to see the observatory. I mistakenly thought this would be a motivator for me. The reality was, that when I finally did come around the corner and could see it, I was demoralized by just how far I still had to go...
Eventually though, I made it to the top. If you’ve never been to the Lick Observatory at the top of Mt Hamilton, you owe it to yourself to go. It’s a really cool place on it’s own, but on a clear day, the views from up top are spectacular!
Obligatory group shot from the top...sorry Gail, Bill said we didn’t need to wait for you so yell at him.
Obviously the best part of any mountain, is the downhill portion and Mt Hamilton doesn’t disappoint. It’s a fast, curvy, sometimes bumpy downhill that ends up being almost as much of a workout for your arms as the climb is for your legs.
One interesting note about this ride is that the climb isn’t always a climb. There are a couple of pretty good downhill sections on the climb which in turn end up being a couple of decent uphill sections on the descent. After these though, it’s a wide open, curvy downhill screamer all the way to Alum Rock Park.
From here, Troy and Patsiano headed back to the starting point and the van full of drinks. Tracy and I with +/-25miles yet to go went in search of fat, carbs and protein...and Jack in the Box fit the bill perfectly. Seeing as my Garmin was telling me I had already burned about 5000 calories, I did my best to replenish every last one of them.
I’m pretty sure one of the hardest parts of any ride is after lunch. And no, I don’t mean the first couple of miles while your legs warm back up, but the first few minutes after the last bite of your lunch...I was tired, full and having just consumed the biggest bacon cheese burger on Jack’s menu along with 27 pounds of curly fries, I was getting darned sleepy to boot. I was SEVERELY tempted to sit in that booth and call my wife to come get me right then and there at the Jack in the Box on McKee Rd...
Instead, we got back on the bikes and began the long (and thankfully FLAT) ride home. Of course it did seem like there was a headwind in whichever direction we went so it wasn’t a total cruise. I had to work a little bit.
All in all I ended up with 95.6 miles and 6295 ft of climbing...my longest ride to date and still a long way off from where I’ll need to be for the Death Ride in July.