Last week I did an entirely new ride starting with the Saratoga Gap trail. It's all part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail system, which is a huge network of trails that runs all the way up to San Francisco and then around and down the East bay, over 330 total miles I believe. The sections I rode here covered just a bit over 10 miles (and then I returned the same way I had come). I had thought this ride would be an easy day, considering that I drove to the top of Skyline Ridge where I picked up the trail. I was wrong, and for two primary reasons.
Number one: it was HOT. I'm not real good at hot. I can endure it, but as I pedaled my way along the singletrack, the shaded areas under the forest canopy were quite warm (in the mid 80's typically) and in some areas felt like a giant stagnant sauna. But it was still very nice.
When I started the ride, I had no agenda whatsoever as to how far I planned to ride. I was going to ride however far I felt like and then turn around. For some reason I like nice round numbers, and as I was riding along, each section you begin has signs posting the distance to the next section. My basic math skills showed that I would be reaching Alpine Pond just a bit past 10 miles, and that sounded pretty good to me.
I somehow made it past the hottest part of the ride, and somehow made it to Alpine Pond... and just after that the parking lot for the Russian Ridge Open Space preserve which was my turnaround point.
As I climbed and descended my way back the way I had come, realizing I was low on water, I had to laugh at my idea of an 'easy day'. It turns out riding a ridge trail means that you may not have any enormous climbs, buy you are however either going up or down the entire way. THIS is reason number two of my 'not an easy ride day' (thought I forgot to tell you #2, didn't you?)
There are just very few flat areas on a ridge. I forgot this point and paid for it. In the 20.5 total miles of my day, I ended up with over 3200' of climbing. That's a lot considering I never had any climbs much over 100'. There are very few places where you get any rest shy of stopping to take pictures (hint hint).
Even with all my pictures, I was EXHAUSTED when I finally finished and can't remember being OH-SO-HAPPY to make that last bend in the trail and see the car! Here's my polar file for the day...notice the conspicuous absence of ANY large climbs. It was a crushing (yet SUPER FUN) ride!
My ride on Friday was back to my old favorite Purisima Creek Open Space preserve. This is more like my 'usual' type of ride, where there are enormous climbs followed by enormous (and scintillating) downhills. Downhills are the reason we climb. The climb itself is payment, and the descent is the payback. This day I felt spunky and was going for the hat-trick. I consider it the hat-trick when I do all three climbs. I park in the village of Woodside and do the 4.2 mile road-ride climb up Kings Mt Rd (an awesome road ride btw), then turn right on Skyline Rd and .2 miles later I descend on Purisima Creek Trail. 4.5 miles down I hit the Purisima Higgins parking area, and there the climbing begins anew. I go left up the Whittemore Gulch trail which is all singletrack. The bottom mile of that climb consists of three leg-crushing pitches, one after another. After that the climb settles into a nice consistent grade that goes in and out of the canopy.
You can see why I love this ride...it has everything. And I never seem to get any pictures of the descents for some reason (GRIN!) By the time I get to the bottom of Harkins Ridge it would take surgical procedures to remove my smile. The day ended with over 5000' of climbing over 29 miles. Not a bad days work...I mean fun!
I woke up and went to breakfast already feeling BAD. The cold was in. At this point it was minor...just a head-cold...but there was no doubt. My joints ached, I was blowing mounds of goo....yep. A STUPID head-cold. DAMN!! I'm not going to waste an ENTIRE DAY when I don't have to work! And so... I loaded up my road bike and gear anyway and drove to my starting point, full speed ahead, damn the torpedo's and all that. As I pulled into the parking lot atop Skyline Rd (to start a probable 60 or 70 mile day including my target: Bonny Doon Rd outside of Santa Cruz) I realized that I was kidding myself. I felt like crap. My neck hurt. And I hadn't even put a leg over the bike. Full introspection told me that no good can come of this...so I begrudgingly turned around and went back to the hotel. Live to fight another day.
I HOPE to try again for this ride tomorrow, but time will tell how vicious this particular cold is. It was on the Bonny Doon climb that Levi launched his ultimately wining attack in the Tour of California in years past. I want to ride this climb. I WILL ride this climb! Mark my words.