I've been trying to do this ride for the last couple of months. Unfortunately, every time I've started out to do it, time has been against me. the first time, I forgot my helmet and half way to the start, I had to turn around and go home to get it. The next time, I and my buddy were both having off days and by the time we got to the decision point we were already way behind schedule.
This time though, Jack and I met at the start on a Saturday morning and with nothing on the calendar for the day except chores, I was in no hurry to get back home. The morning started out cool, but the climb up Redwood Rd quickly gets the core temperatures up in to the "slightly warmer than comfortable" zone. This of course leads to a cool descent to the bottom of Pinehurst but by now the temps outside had gotten into the 60s and the sun made for a cool but comfortable ride. Of course the descent on the backside of Pinehurst is almost comletely in the shade of the redwoods and by the time we turned on to Canyon Rd and towards Moraga, I was ready for a climb.
Today's ride was shaping up differently than most of our group rides. With it jsut being Jack and I and with both of us at similar fitness levels, there was very little stopping and waiting and we ended up pushing each other pretty well for most of the route.
Life lately has been a challenge with my wife's health issues, balancing work and home and trying to maintain some semblance of balance when I'm habitually over committed with the various boards and committees I'm on. One of the best treatments for the chaos bouncing around in my head is to force myself into the red zone on every hill I can find. Putting my head down, pushing my heart to try to pump enough blood into oxygen starved muscles and forcing my lungs to expand beyond their normal daily limits allows my brain to check out for a while and focus on nothing more than getting my legs to make circles.
Invariably, at the top of the climb, as my heart rate and breathing start to return to normal, my brain slowly re-engages and a feeling of well being washes over me. Scientists say this is caused by the flood of endorphins into your system or the massive influx of serotonin into your brain and they're probably right. For me though, it's much simpler, it's like hitting the restart button on your computer when it hangs.
Eventually, we made it though Moraga, Lafayette, Alamo and into Danville where we had decided to stop for a snack and coffee. I really enjoy my coffee, some would say I'm addicted, and that may be true, but evidently I'm not the only cyclist that thinks coffee and riding go well. As we pulled in to Peet's in Danville,there were so many people walking around in spandex and so many high end bikes, that it looked like a stage of the Tour of California.
With a mocha freddo, a granola bar and a gel in my belly we began again. The next section along San Ramon Valley Blvd. from Danville to Dublin is good after lunch section. It's not really long and rolls up and down with a good shoulder.
Where climbing forces me to shut off my brain and check out, long grinds like SRV Blvd alow my legs to check out and my brain to work over some of the crap stored up there. It's on sections like this where my legs just keep spinning in higher cadence circles that I can work through some of the things at work, come up wiht ideas for the TurningWheels for Kids Foundation or update and clarify my mental to-do list for the upcoming week.
The really nice part about this section is that it heads mostly north/south as much as I'd love to say my fitness allowed me to maintain the 22-24mph per pace on this section, I'm pretty sure the tailwind had more to do with it than anything.
As is always the case, all good things must end and SRV is followed by Dublin Canyon which is a long, unshaded climb and while it's not brutal in terms of percentage grade, it ALWAYS has a headwind. Honestly, I don't think I've ever ridden this road when the wind wasn't in my face.
With the last major climb in our back pockets, we enjoyed the steep fast descent to Old Dublin Canyon where thanks to the headwind we had to work all the way back to Ccastro Valley even though it's almost all downhill.
As we rolled up to the truck, unclipped and congratulated each other on our awesomeness I felt good. A decently long ride with a respectable amount of climbing and we finished strong. More importantly though, my reset button worked, my brain was no longer hung up and I was ready to face yet another week.