tldr: up mt. Hamilton, down mt. Hamilton – 48 miles 6500 ft climbing, then 52 flat miles to round out the 100.
Men’s 50+ Hybrid Riding Early Bird Division
So, it seems like quite a while ago that I registered for the 100 Miles of Nowhere (background info here), and I spent a lot of time thinking about what I might do – 222 laps around the block? 20 laps of my 5 miles hill repeat loop? Well, a few weeks went by and my riding buddy Rich suggested we try some of the Western Wheelers bike club ‘long distance training’ rides. May 11th was Mt. Diablo (hot, pretty painful). May 18th was Mt. Tamalpais (cool, beautiful, downright wonderful). And May 27th was Mt. Hamilton, so being the generally adaptable type I decided that I’d ride up and down mt. Hamilton and then ride laps in the neighborhood to get the mileage up to 100 miles. One of the neat things about the 100 MoN is that you get to name your own race category, as I have done, in such a way as to be sure to come out a winner. I picked my category thinking that surely no one else would go this early, only to be upstaged by Fatty himself. Also, no podium girls, but whatever. Certainly making the ride on Memorial day helped to put the effort in the proper perspective. The club actually stopped for a moment of silence and a show of hands and round of applause for the veterans in the group.
Mt Hamilton Uphill
Mt. Hamilton is an HC climb not because its amazingly steep, but because the total ascent is 18 miles. I’m told this is due to the road having been graded years ago so that horse drawn wagons could haul the material and supplies for the Observatory (120 inch telescope) safely. The climb comes at you in 3 stages, with a short downhill stretch between each stage. We headed out from Cataldi park in Milpitas with about 5 miles of riding before we started up the hill. This first stage is about 6 miles long and takes you to 1850 ft. It winds around the lower hills and has great scenic value, as apparently many home builders have discovered – its pretty built up. The differences in architectural styles are striking and enjoyable – no little pink boxes here. After this first climb there’s a bit of a descent, about 1.5 miles, where for the most part I was thinking ‘oh no, we’re giving up hard won elevation!’ which ends in a valley with a parking lot, water and a port-a-potty. We regrouped there and headed up the next climb. Also, the road surface had changed from ‘ok’ to ‘chip seal from hell’ – descending on this on my aluminum frame is somewhat similar to operating a jack hammer. Anyway, up we went, 3.5 miles, 650 ft. and over the top for the second descent. Somewhere down this stretch the road magically transforms into the newest smoothest asphalt I’ve ridden on anywhere recently. This stretch is behind the first range and with no suburban sprawl and lots of trees is really scenic. Down and across a bridge and then the real climb up to Mt. Hamilton starts: 6 miles, 2000 ft. a steady 6-7% all the way.
All the climbing lately has really paid off. That I could do this at all is pretty amazing given where I was a year ago. That said, I’m still learning to manage my effort / feeding during these longer challenging rides. Yesterday was pretty good, but I only carried one bottle of electrolyte drink and about 2 miles from the summit I started to fade. I pulled over and choked down a 1/2 a pbj sandwich because I couldn’t find the emergency roctane I’d put in my back pocket, and by the time I was at the top, I was feeling pretty good again. It was overcast and a bit cold at the top, but no rain and things were looking pretty good.
So, there I was at the top, but no one I knew from the ride was around (and I didn’t think I’d missed them starting down). I hung out, chatted with a CHP officer who was out supervising a new officer in developing
‘handling skills’ by driving up Mt. Ham (and yes he admitted it was a pretty cushy assignment). Found my missing roctane and slurped that down, and then just as I was starting to wonder where everyone had gotten to, Rich popped out the front door to say they’d been sitting in the back in the sheltered heated area but were now ready to go, and was I good to go? Well, I was recovered and starting to get cold (I think I said it wasn’t raining, I was wrong, it was starting to drizzle), so yes, I was ready to go. The sooner the better.
Descent and Ride Out
Down we went. The first stretch of road down from the summit isn’t in that good of shape, but it wasn’t wet yet and while we didn’t push it, we made good time. Eventually it did start to rain – not real heavy but enough to chill everyone thoroughly. I hadn’t noticed this before but rain drops that hit you at 25+ mph hurt a bit. After that first descent I was ready to bail out on the rest of the day. Fortunately (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) we hit the short climb after the first descent and warmed up a bit. Then onto the new pavement and that was great – smooth and fast, and then onto the Chip Seal and down to the water stop, where we encountered the ‘Guy Having a Really Bad Day’.
A Really Bad Day
Near the bottom of the second descent, I saw a guy off to the side of the road working on a flat tire. I asked if everything was OK and he said no – he had a CO2 canister, but no inflator. I pulled over, avoided crashing due to forgetting to unclip, and suggested he try my pump – which he did so vigorously that he blew out the tube when it wasn’t properly tucked inside the tire. By then Rich had stopped too, and gave him his spare tube, which for some reason he didn’t install and inflate, instead telling us to look for his friends at the upcoming water stop. So, we headed off, got to the stop in no time, but there weren’t any people there – his buddies hadn’t waited for him… I hope his day got better.
After that, it was one last climb and then mostly downhill back to Cataldi park. By this time the rain had come down enough that the road was getting wet, so we descended mostly carefully (I did manage to run off the road in slow motion on one curve – no harm no foul). As we came off the mountain the rain stopped and we had an easy run back to the park.
A great ride, and a great end to my day… oh, right, not done yet.
But Wait, There’s More
At this point, the trusty garmin was reading 47.5 miles. But, I had signed up for 100 miles of Nowhere. Everyone I mentioned this too looked at me like I was some sort of psycho. Why ruin a perfectly good hill climb by adding on 50 extra miles. Oh, and did I mention that its been 37 years since I last rode a century?
52.5 Miles of Really Nowhere
I had been planning to ride laps around the block, but this was looking like 110+ laps and at this point in the day that might have killed me, so I modified the plan on the fly to instead ride a 5.5 mile loop that went slightly further afield. It had some significant advantages: first, I only needed to do 9 laps to be close to 100 miles. Second, the slight uphill part had the wind at my back. So, 9 laps it was. I felt amazingly strong during this part of the ride – I’d really expected to fade and I did a bit at the end, but I was still hitting 20+ on the fast parts and the legs felt pretty good. One of the nice things about doing this crazy ride is that I could stop off at the house every couple of laps, grab a fig newton or two, refill my drinks, and head out again with minimal fuss.
There’s not much else to say. My darling wife was having serious doubts about my ability to finish when it was 5:00 pm and I still had 30 miles to go, but I finished by 7:00. Total riding time 7 hours, 29 minutes, and 28 seconds – 2:55 for the climb (24.5 miles) and 4:35 for the rest.
If I were on top of my game, I’d have pictures of the ride up Mt. Hamilton and such, but no, I didn’t take the camera with me… So rather than create and publish the world’s most boring ride video, I’m just linking a couple of pictures here:
It’s heavy, it’s not that comfortable – have I mentioned that I hate chip seal? But, its taken me to the top of Mt. Diablo, Mt. Tamalpais, and Mt. Hamilton in the last three weeks. I almost feel guilty about replacing it, but not really, and that’s a story for another day.
And finally, the Strava for the ride: http://app.strava.com/activities/56714475, I especially like the part where I teleport from Milpitas to Sunnyvale.