My First DART!

Campfires *and camp stoves* being banned from the King Ridge area of the Lost Coast made it a relatively easy decision to cancel my Lost Coast backpacking trip from September 25 – 27 right around the time my friend Ken texted me asking if I wanted to join his DART team on 25 September. Like too many of my decisions, I said “Sure. What’s a ‘DART’?” It was a Randonneuring team event that our friend David was leading and organized by the Davis Randonneurs. I didn’t bother reading the rules until well, after the ride. All I knew was that it was a 200k ride, David had requested a 6 a.m. start time, and Ken was giving me a ride back to my car in Fremont. David planned the route from Fremont to Sacramento and I barely skimmed the emails talking about the route or any of the plans. I just knew where to meet and had the route on my Garmin.

I met up with David, Ken, Kitty, and David’s wife Julia at the Fremont BART station, our starting point at o’dark thirty. Julia was going to drive to Sacramento later to meet us at the finish and give David and Kitty a ride home. We waited for Brian C, our 5th team member, for about 10 minutes and then took off. I realize that I forgot one of the golden Rando requirements of reflective vests/ankle bands! I’m praying that Deb, the Davis RBA, doesn’t kill me when she sees me without these at the finish. It’s a little chilly, but I anticipate that it’ll get light and warm up soon. I’d never met Kitty before and while she talks a lot, it’s all very interesting. We stop after awhile to see if anyone can get a hold of Brian C, who was riding to the start in Fremont from his house in Palo Alto since what’s 16 more miles when you’re doing a 200K? No one has heard from Brian or can get a hold of him. Kitty keeps sending text messages to him of where to meet us further along the route.


Kitty leading a random trivia game / conversation during (second) breakfast.

We stop at Clementine’s in San Ramon for breakfast, which at this point I should have read more details of the ride as I really wasn’t hungry yet. We need to burn time though since we can’t leave our last control in Davis until 5:30 p.m. Taking your sweet time on a ride is going to be the biggest challenge today since even though I’m not any kind of racer, I don’t like stopping too much or for too long on rides. Kitty gets approval from the restaurant to leave our bikes in the waiting area by the front door. I don’t think I’ve ever eating inside anywhere during a ride minus the inside tables at the Fairfield Safeway. We order our food (just dry sourdough toast, fruit, and hot tea for me) and Kitty starts doing random trivia questions. She also is trying to get rid of her sunblock bottle so I happily strip my arm/leg warmers off to use some of hers instead of digging mine out of my saddlebag.

After (second) breakfast we start off again with me saying we’ve done 25 miles and have only 100 miles to go! Ken tells me to stop calling out numbers (Note: He kept calling out steepness grades the time I tried Umunum with him a few years ago!). I have little idea of where we’re going and just following them and my Garmin. We’re in Kitty’s backyard too so she knows this entire part of the route which is a lot on bike trails. I decide that I really like Kitty as she starts yelling at people who don’t have their dogs on leashes that it’s illegal. I’ve had too many times of seeing these situations where the dog won’t move out of the way leading to everything including the owner having to physically pick up their large dog to get them out of the path. Overall it’s a pleasant set of bike trails including wandering along the Conta Costa Canal up to Pleasant Hill.


Ken and me in front of the Contra Costa County Finance Building in Martinez.

We get to Martinez at about 10:45 a.m. which is too early for lunch and none of us are hungry either. We decide to wait until we get to Cordelia to find lunch. We come across a couple with a tandem bike looking for their DART Pop team, which we aren’t it. We stop to talk to them though for a bit and wish them luck on their ride. Lin takes a photo with us before we part ways. We continue on across the Benicia-Martinez Bridge, which I haven’t ridden across since the Winters 200k in October 2019. We relatively speed past all the cars stuck in traffic on 680 as we’re on Lopes Road that runs parallel to the freeway.

Kitty knows Cordelia as she’s tried various routes between her house in the East Bay and her mom’s in Sacramento. I’m not enjoying the list of fast food options in Cordelia that are making Denny’s sound great. Luckily we see a place called Two60 Kitchen & Bar right next to Denny’s and it’s open! Their menu has to be better than the other options no matter what it has on it. I’m actually hungry now and order some fresh veggie rolls and crispy brussel sprouts while the other 3 get fried food. I do help Ken with a few french fries just to be polite. So far it’s been a pretty mellow easy ride and we’re already 65 miles in. I reapply more sunblock from Kitty as I do not plan on making friends with melanoma. We make a wrong turn shortly after lunch that would put us heading back to Cordelia. Luckily David and Ken concur with me that we made a wrong turn, we get Kitty to finally turn around also, and start heading in the correct direction.


Everyone else gets fried food while I stuck to my relatively healthy veggie fresh rolls and crispy brussel sprouts.

We do a quick stop at the Fairfield Safeway so David can take a photo of us there since it’s one of the controls even though we don’t need to buy anything. Randonnesia is funny as I have to jog David’s memory that I’ve been there with him before on the Davis, Dunnigan, and the Delta 300k in 2019. The weather is starting to really warm up though which is starting to make me slightly uncomfortable as we make our way to Winters. My Garmin is reading the reflective temperature from the road to be 105F! I don’t care what the air temperature is, that’s the temperature that I’m experiencing in the saddle. I have a hot spot developing in my right foot and need to take a break to take my shoe off. David’s trying to find somewhere that we can sit down by a creek or something. I eventually bark that I don’t need a place to sit down or anything as the ground will do as long as I get my shoe off. We pull over in a tiny patch of shade from a tree as Pleasant Valley Road is a fairly sun exposed. Kitty needs to pee and doesn’t even try to be discreet about it. She just tells us to turn around as she pulls her shorts down and squats by the side of the road. OMG I love her! We stop at a bigger shade area as Ken’s starting to struggle and dropping behind.


Golden hills of California somewhere south of Winters

I’ve never approached Winters from the South so I’ve never seen the bridge on that side of it. I’ve also never seen Rotary Park with the gazebo and public bathrooms, which has a really awesome sunflower mosaic! We take an extended break since we’ve got plenty of time and can’t leave our last control in Davis until 5:30 p.m.. I take my shoes off and lay down on the grass staring at the sky and tree tops. This feels SO NICE. I’m not even paying much attention to what the guys are talking about as I’m off in my own little world. I hear some rude call to get up so we can continue though which pops me out of my daydream. I drag my carcass up and hop back on my bike. We’re going to stop at the Winters Store to get water and ice to refill our bottles. Excellent idea since the ice extends the amount of liquid water we need for all of our bottles. Kitty shoves extra ice down her sports bra and I follow. I squeal when a few ice cubes go straight down across my stomach. I think the guys are kind of jealous that they can’t do something similar, but make jokes about how there are some guys who need to wear sports bras.


Bridge entrance to Winters

We continue onto our last control in Davis, which I can’t recall what it’s like between Winters and Davis except that it’s probably pretty flat. I’m right about the flat part as we’re just plodding along on a very uninteresting stretch of straight country road. The ice has melted so quickly that it didn’t trickle down me first before evaporating. My sports bra is dry by the time we get to Davis too! We go to Dos Coyotes for the last control and find Brian C waiting for us! He had gone by Clementine’s earlier, but figured he missed us since he didn’t see our bikes outside. He got Kitty’s text to wait at Dos Coyotes though. I finally meet the 5th member of our team! Ken tells me a lot of the oddball stories about Brian C as he’s quite an interesting character. I’ve never heard of anyone carrying an entire rotisserie chicken on their bike’s luggage rack or seen anyone ride in thin little aqua shoes. Knowing the guy will also do a double century mixed terrain ride from Palo Alto to Tam and back on top of everything else makes me realize that I’m in the presence of not your average crazy Randonneur. We sit around chatting and David gets a “something small” to nibble on of an entire plate of nachos. It takes 4 of us to finish it. One of the nice things about hanging out here until 5:30 p.m. is that it’ll be cooler when we do the last stretch from Davis to Sacramento!


David and his “something small” nachos from Dos Coyotes.

5:30 p.m. finally comes around and we take off for the home stretch! We get onto 32A and then bike path that runs right next to 80 with no sound barrier. Ken doesn’t like to ride on concrete so insists on riding behind me on the asphalt, which I tease him that he just wants to draft off of me! It’s just the two of us in the front as the other 3 have fallen behind us. We decide to wait for them at the end of the bike path which is also the very edge of Sacramento. The sun is setting, but we can still clearly see where we are without lights. For some reason it’s always surreal to roll back into a major city on a ride after going through so many smaller ones even if it’s the same day. We cross the Tower Bridge and are definitely getting close now. A few more turns and we finish at CafΓ© Dantorels, where a bunch of other Randos are outside having dinner. Deb is excited to see us and enthusiastically hugs all of us. I’ve never been so happy to see her too! Funny how a pandemic makes you super excited to see people you haven’t seen in almost 2 years, even if you’re not that close to them. Lin is there too and offers to buy Ken a beer. Ken doesn’t drink and I say that I’ll take his beer! Lin actually went and bought me one! IPA is one of my least favorite beers, but hey, free beer. We order dinner which of course I have to eliminate some wayward french fries from Ken’s onion rings. Brian C is now the second person I’ve seen eat a hamburger with a fork and knife (my maternal grandmother being the first).


Inside of Ken’s Big Red van and the answer to my randoneurring sleep prayers!

We say goodbye to Julia, David, Kitty, and Deb as we head to Ken’s van. OMG he did bring Big Red!!! He had told me before that he couldn’t bring it and I wasn’t looking forward to having to sit upright all the way to Fremont. I’d been dreaming of getting to crawl into the back of Big Red and at least nap after a ride as it’s so comfortable. I squeal when Ken says the doors are unlocked so I can change clothes (and take my laying down position for the ride home). Ken even has a little pillow that his wife gave him for the van. I don’t even care that my legs are sticky from sweat, dirt, and sunblock as I slip my jeans on. We head off to Fremont after we get the bikes loaded up and all 3 of us inside. I happily fall asleep for the entire ride back!

Another rando adventure I’ve been roped into by Ken! Many thanks to him, David, Kitty, and Brian C for a fun day in the saddle!


Fremont to Sacramento

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Getting Back on that 300K Horse

I’d been looking forward to hiking Mt Whitney since I applied for the permit lottery back in February. I was awarded a one day permit for Wednesday, 23 June 2021 which was also a full moon. My friend Dan and I were going to do a midnight start so we could be done by mid/late afternoon and then go crash at my friend Amanda’s in Fresno. Dan had done the hike in a single day 2 years ago and I was comforted in the idea of going with someone experienced with the mountain. The 600 acre Inyo Creek Fire broke out the week before though and all Whitney permits were cancelled as the area was evacuated. Feeling restless, I already knew of another chance to try to kill my legs that week…the San Francisco Randonneurs’ first 300K brevet of the year was scheduled for Saturday, 26 June. I pinged some rando friends to see who was doing it and Ken was signed up for it and confirmed with me that Wednesday (ironically when I should have been on Whitney AND the last day to register for the ride) that he was definitely doing the ride that Saturday. So I quickly registered myself for my second 300K ride and my first 300K in 2 years. The Healdsburg 300K ride has three times as much climbing as the Davis Randonneurs’ Davis, Dunnigan, and the Delta 302K that I’d done in 2019. Quickly looking at the route though, there were no heinous long climbs like Faultline 200K’s Panoramic Highway climb out of Stinson Beach 109 miles into it. Healdsburg is a special place for me too as my really good friend Amanda Grindley and her family used to live there when her husband worked for Kendall Jackson, plus I’ve given my liver a lot of exercises up there for most of my adult life.

When Ken picked me up at 5:15 a.m., I told him that I had been hoping that he’d bail so I’d have an easy way out. I didn’t sleep really well the night before as I had a nightmare about the ride of losing him before the start and not being able to catch back up to him not knowing where he was. Being as this was only my second 300K, I wasn’t totally sure I could do it. I was trying to not think about the 14+ hours this would take. Ken offered to bail and go get breakfast instead, but I grumbled a bit on how I’d regret it later. I love riding with Ken as he’s usually saying that there’s no pressure for me to finish as he doesn’t care either way. “Usually” since during the Fall version of Del Puerto Canyon 200K in 2019, I was begging and whining to quit around 85 miles into it and he wouldn’t let me. However I did have a valid excuse to bail today (and if you’re easily queasy, skip to the next paragraph) as my period started in the middle of the night. Awesome. However I’d have skipped events like my Catalina Channel solo swim and my first 300K along with some other athletic feats if I let my unused reproductive cycle dictate my schedule. Ken said that was one excuse that he couldn’t use to get out of this ride.

This brevet started at the Golden Gate Bridge plaza on the SF side. There were already other randos around waiting for their check-in times since we have assigned staggered check-in times now to minimize contact. The weather is pretty cool and overcast. I’m so glad I brought a jacket! Ken and I checked in and then headed off across the Golden Gate Bridge at about 6:00 a.m.


Healdsburg or Bust!

We went through the usual route across the bridge, through Sausalito, and all the side streets to minimize time on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard that pretty much every cyclist knows and loves. Once in Fairfax it’s time to get back on SFD to go up and over White Hill. I’ll just be glad when we get back to Fairfax on the way back as then I know I’ll be able to finish this ride. Other faster randos catch up and pass me on the climb and then I catch up to them on the downhill. There are a couple of other guys on fixies like Ken and of course they all know each other. Ken chats with them a bit and they eventually pull ahead. Ken and I don’t see them again for the rest of the ride.

We turn onto Platform Bridge Road in Lagunitas, which I’m not sure if I’ve ever ridden on this road to get to Point Reyes-Petaluma Road. I usually go through Olema and Point Reyes Station. I stop at the intersection of Point Reyes-Petaluma Road for the first photo control, which I’m using as a backup in case my Garmin fails me. The climb up this road after the Nicasio Reservoir is usually one of my least favorite climbs since I usually hit in brilliant sun and there’s no tree coverage. It’s really not bad if it’s cool and overcast though! I need to hit this climb up more often in this condition. Also weird climbing this and NOT doing Wilson Hill or Marshall Wall after as we’re going straight to Petaluma. I’ve got this mentally broken down into hopping from Petaluma to Santa Rosa to Headlsburg, which even though that’s only 80 miles in, I’m telling myself that’s the halfway-ish point and we’re really on our way back after there. I’m familiar with most of the route except the parts between Petaluma and Healdsburg.

A few miles outside of Petaluma, I’m pleasantly surprised to see my friend Pat riding the opposite way! I crossed paths with him in Santa Rosa earlier this year, but he didn’t recognize me with a mask. This time he did recognize me! I find it a bit humorous that cycling friends in Santa Rosa never question seeing me riding up around there. I wish I could have stopped and chatted with him, but Ken and I still had a long way to go. We stop at the Safeway in Petaluma as Ken hasn’t had breakfast and I decide to have a snack (avocado spring roll and an energy waffle) too. Randonneuring can sometimes be thought of a Tour of Safeways since we tend to hit them up a lot on rides. I feel like I’ve got a lead brick in my lower abdomen, but I push on telling myself Healdsburg isn’t that much further.

We roll off again and I take a photo of the second photo control, which is a bus stop after Santa Rosa Junior College. I wish these photo controls were of something more interesting than street signs and bus stops. *sigh* I make a mental note to take photos of something more interesting on this ride. An issue though is that I’ve done so much of this route on other rides that I think I have photos of most of the interesting places already. Petaluma Hill Road and Old Redwood Highway from Petaluma to Healdsburg are pretty flat, but I’m enjoying the energy conservation. I also notice it’s getting a bit warmer too. We’re about an hour later than I wanted to be at this point in the ride, but still hoping to get through Healdsburg before it gets too hot. Accuweather predicted a high of 96F there and I want to be nowhere near Healdsburg when that happens.

I ask Ken where he wants to stop for lunch once we get to Healdsburg and he says Safeway (of course!). Mike is there finishing up his lunch outside and watches our bikes for us as we grab our food. The fast rando pod left a couple of partially used gallon water jugs that we use to refill our bottles. This is a standard and very appreciated courtesy among randos! I grab more Safeway veggie sushi and a rare non-vegan choice of an egg salad sandwich (should have just doubled the veggie sushi). One rando left a banana behind also which I happily accept the offering to help boost my potassium. I reapply sunblock as I have no intention of meeting melanoma if I can help it. I always hate having to touch my legs during a ride since the lower parts are always dirty and gritty and just feel gross, but again, it’s better than getting skin cancer. A third photo control is supposed to be by here of some beauty salon thing. I can see it on the map, but can’t find a sign matching the name. I take a photo of that corner’s shops in the parking lot and we head off onto Westside Road.

Westside Road is one of my favorite roads to be on. I really like and belong to some of the wineries on here so usually hit them up when I’m in the area. I also like riding it too as it’s fairly gentle climbs and generously shaded. I pass by Bucher wines/dairy farm and say “hi” to my friends’ Diane and John’s cows who are people watching from their pasture. Wish I could have gone in to say hi to Diane and John, but there’s no time for that! Ken’s somewhere up ahead of me too since I stopped to take a couple of vineyard photos along the road. Catch up to Ken right after I pass Thomas George Estates and tell him about the “on your honor” farm stand and chickens running around Porter Creek Vineyards when I had stopped there years ago. After all, how often do you have to shoo a chicken off of a toilet so you can use it? We pass by the Wohler Road junction which we’re now on a section that I’ve only rode with my friends June and Joe a few times earlier this year as June likes to ride up to the bridge and then head back to Santa Rosa.


Ken riding along Westside Road in Healdsburg.

This time though Ken and I are continuing all the way to the end and turning West onto 116 in Guerneville. I want to stop at the Safeway in Monte Rio to top off on water since I don’t know when the next water opportunity is and I’m starting to get slight hot spots in my feet. The weather is still not blistering hot, but a bit warmer than I like. Ken notices everyone down on the little beaches along the Russian River. My friends Dan and Gina own 1/4 of a house in Monte Rio that I’ve been to a couple of times and wishing that our ride was ending there today. We get to the Monte Rio Safeway and I cry a little about us still having 80+ miles to go as we’re exactly 100 miles into the ride now. Ken says to not think about that and he’s turned the distance display on his device off. I think of how I know a slightly shorter and faster route back from Monte Rio and jealous that I can’t take it today. I begrudgingly get back on my bike and we continue West on 116. The part of 116 west of Monte Rio is completely foreign to me. Ken says that the flags pointing South is a good thing as we should get some tailwind along the coast. I hope he’s right! We meander down 116 West and get back into the overcast skies by the 1 junction. Yes! I managed to escape extreme heat on this ride! Now where the hell are we exactly? Jenner? I know Fort Ross is north of us so we are on part of 1 that I haven’t ridden in almost 6 years as this is part of the Levi’s Gran Fondo’s Gran route. My hazy memory knows there’s nothing bad here and we’re not going up Coleman Valley Road either after. πŸ™‚

I’m enjoying the coastal scenery of all the huge jagged rocks sticking out of the water. Even though it’s overcast and windy, there are still a significant amount of people at the beaches. I need to find a bathroom and we finally come across a rare one in a beach parking lot. The wind has picked up a bit so Ken and I put our jackets back on. I’m a bit disappointed in seeing on all the beach signs that we’re STILL in Sonoma County. I keep praying that the next beach sign will finally say that we’re back in Marin County as at least then I’ll feel like we’re getting somewhere and back in more familiar territory.


Somewhere along Highway 1 between Jenner and Bodega Bay

Ken had forgotten to charge his headlight and only got to charge it a little in the van on his way to the start of the ride. I text my friend Kevin in Ross to see if we can borrow a light from him since we’re passing within a couple of blocks of his house in the way back. We’re in Bodega Bay and it’s about 4 p.m. already. We’ll be cutting it really close to loss of any daylight so I’ll feel better if Ken had a headlight. There’s supposed to be a photo control of taking a picture of the Doghouse Restaurant neon sign, but the restaurant isn’t on 1. Ken stops outside of the market as that was the old control. I see the Doghouse Restaurant is on a parallel street and we’re looking at the back of it. Ken says he’ll wait for me if I want to ride around to take a photo of the sign. I decide not to as my Garmin is holding up on recording and I can always use Ken’s recording if mine craps out. Plus I’m just not that motivated to ride to the other side of the block and back. Onward to Valley Ford, which also means my veggie sandwich in Tomales Bay is near! Valley Ford also means that we’ll be back on roads that I’m very acquainted with. Ken wants us to stick within visual sight of each other in case one of us gets a flat or some mechanical issue. I can tell he’s getting tired too. Combined with my bike’s ability to descend faster than his fixie, I’m ahead of him for the first time on this ride. We roll through Valley Ford and I’m basically counting the seconds to Tomales. I wait at the top of the climb between the two for Ken to catch up. I then make a mad dash for Tomales and straight to the Tomales Deli & Cafe, which I had already researched is open until 7 p.m. πŸ™‚


For all the cows

I dismount to make the horrible discovery that my left calf has cramped up sometime during my descent into Tomales. Crap, I still have some 60 miles to ride too. Ken grabs some baked goodness from the Tomales Bakery as he just wants sugar. I get my sandwich from the deli and thank Ken for letting me take a much needed break. He said that he needed one also. It’s a bit chilly here, but nothing like how cold it was when Dan and I had lunch here in April on our Faultline 200K ride. I’m watching a couple drinking a bottle of rose and wonder how are they not cold? I wouldn’t be sitting out here if I didn’t have to!

We putter on and at least I can’t really feel the pain my calf when I’m on the bike. The usual massive wind gusts hit us going through Keys Creek, but at least I know Point Reyes Station, Olema, and getting back on SFD isn’t that far ahead. I’m thankful that we don’t have to do any of 1 between Olema and Stinson Beach or the climb out of Stinson Beach. I don’t have to worry about the climb out of Olema on SFD as it’s fairly gradual and not that long really. We stop in Point Reyes Station for a last bathroom break and water refill. Kevin texts me back that it’s cool for us to stop by and grab a headlight for Ken! Yah! I tell him that we’re in Point Reyes Station so will be there soon. One mile to Olema and we turn back onto SFD. Ken pulls ahead of me on the climb, but of course I pass him on the descent and my much deserved leg rest. He’s not too far behind me and witnesses my dumb move of not paying attention as I smack right into an overhanging branch in Lagunitas. I guess at least that helped wake me up a bit?

This part of SFD is my least favorite as it’s just a boring slog between Lagunitas and White Hill. The hill cannot come soon enough! It’s a shorter climb from this direction, but that means a longer fun descent into Fairfax. Ken beats me to the top, but I then blast right past him. Unlike during the Laguna Lake 200K, I didn’t quite get the speed monitoring signs to say “SLOW DOWN”, but I’m fairly close at about 38/39 mph. I wait for Ken at the bottom and am just glad to be back in Fairfax. I can basically auto-pilot from here. Ken follows me to Kevin’s house in Ross. Kevin’s left the headlight on his porch, but I rang the doorbell anyway to say hi. We chat for a bit and Kevin asks Ken about the 508 (as Ken usually rides with his 508 jersey and he’s done it a few times both solo and part of a team). We’re burning daylight though we bid Kevin farewell and I’ll return the light to him soon. Kevin’s got other lights of course so he says there’s no rush. I turn my headlight on as we depart towards the Golden Gate Bridge.

Shortly after we leave Kevin’s and turn back onto Shady Lane, I hear a high pitched squeal. Oh of course we run into more people that Ken knows! I forget her name, but the woman is a fellow fixie rider. They ask us what ride we’re doing and Ken tells them that we’re doing the same 300K they’re on. We ride as a foursome to Camino Alto. The other 2 stopped shortly after passing the top and I take off to catch up with Ken. A SUV that is basically riding its brakes all the way down Camino Alto is blocking from catching up to Ken sooner, but luckily he hit the red light and I catch up to him right when it turns green. We’re home free! One bike path and the climb up to the bridge. The West side for bikes closes at 9 p.m. and I declare that we’re going to ride on the East side regardless since I don’t like the dangerous amplified wind on the West side after the retrofitting was done earlier this year.

As soon as we hit the climb out of Sausalito, I notice that my headlight now is out. WTF? This thing was supposed to be fully charged via the battery indicator. I’m SO glad we got that light from Kevin as now that’s the only light we have aside from streetlights. Ken and I stick together up to the bridge. I always recall how this climb and Camino Alto were big climbs when I first started cycling and now they aren’t a big deal. No matter how tired I am on a ride, I know I can make it up these two with no difficulty. We’re up at the bridge and it’s now completely dark. The East side gates are closed and another cyclist has just activated the North one opening. I thank him as I pass through and proceed to pound my way across the bridge. There are only a few pedestrians who luckily respond to my approach even though I have no headlight. I get to the South gate, which opens as soon as Ken gets there. We stop at the bridge plaza and I text the Day of Ride Contact number that we’ve both finished. We forgot to do that after the Laguna Lake 200K which led to a poking email from Rob Hawks, our Regional Brevet Administrator and that ride’s DORC that several of us hadn’t checked in hours after we’d actually finished. I take the only selfie of us and Ken says it’s his only photo from the ride. I joke that it’s time to sprint to the car. I really have no room to complain about being tired since Ken has had to pedal every single bit of this 300K with the fixie. It’s about 9:15 p.m. which is when I should be rolling into bed, not just rolling up to Ken’s van at the end of a ride. My calf is freakin’ killing me and I’m hobbling around the van to get my bike onto the rack and myself into the passenger seat. I contemplate not showering when I get home and going straight to bed, but I know from experience that I hate waking up in my own bed still covered in street grime, dirt, and sweat.


Finished and so ready to head back to the van!

Ken drops me off at home and I proceed to hobble into my house. A neighbor asks if I need any help as he must have thought I was injured or handicapped. I tell him that I just have a leg cramp and thank him for his offer, but I’m okay. I park my bike, upload my ride off of my Garmin, shower, change into my pajamas, and hobble into bed. It wasn’t the 16-mile / 16-ish hour hike I’d planned for this week, but I found another way to exhaust myself in some 15+ hours. Second 300K done! I still would like to do a few more of these before feeling comfortable enough to try a 400K. I know I can do a 200K without a problem and even though I had jumped to a 300K after only a few 200Ks, mentally the 400K is a bigger jump for me since it will involve ending a ride at about 2 a.m.. I’m not even sure I could stay up that late without riding all day. I do know that I could still ride at the end of both 300Ks I’ve done, but don’t know (yet) how much further I can ride past that point.

The next day Rob points out that we missed the control in Bodega Bay as he’s reviewing my Strava ride as my Electronic Proof of Passage. Oops. I finally figure out what happened as the route alteration to pass in front of the Doghouse Restaurant was in the GPX link he emailed out. I had grabbed the GPX file from the Route Archive which had us going past the market on Highway 1. We still get credit for the ride though so I’m glad we didn’t get our ride disqualified for that!

Happy to report that unlike my first 300K, I recovered faster from this one even though it had almost triple the amount of climbing. My left calf cramp cleared up after a couple of days, some tiger balm, and a Linda Mar swim. I was able to run 10 miles / 1900′ in Purisima Creek Redwoods 3 days later (giving myself permission to hike up any climb I wanted, especially the really steep ones). Maybe I’m in better shape now? Or my body is just better adapted to recovering from the pain I put it through…


Healdsburg 300K Route doesn’t look that bad on paper.

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Return of the Brevet

All brevets were cancelled in March 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic was officially declared leaving many of us without our usual long rides scheduled. I didn’t even do a 100K for a long enough time that my legs felt sore after I finally did one again on my own. I was only doing short 20 – 30 mile rides several times a week, but that’s about it. In Summer 2020 I designed and rode a Monte Rio 200K and Mt Tam 200K with my friends Brian and Sandra. Brian was training for the Great Lakes Mac & Cheese 1200K last summer so Sandra and I were happy to “help” him train. Afterwards our schedules didn’t coordinate well enough for any more long rides, but I managed to get one 100K in every month after that which was better than nothing.

Randonneurs USA announced in February that they were restarting the Permanent program again along with adding in a couple of local brevets as permanents, the Dillon Beach 200K and Faultline 200K. I happily jumped at the chance to do both as Permanents as I’d never done Dillon Beach and Faultline has special meaning to me since that was my first 200K and my first Rando ride as a brevet (and also the hardest one for me to do). I rode Dillon Beach with my friend Ken and Faultline with my friend Dan. I regret that I didn’t write any blog posts about those 4 200Ks I’ve done so far during the pandemic as I like to remember my long rides. Faultline was especially noteworthy since we had a 20F temperature difference during the ride and we were so cold in and around the Tomales portion. I wish I had a photo of Dan during our lunch stop too since he was bundled up in probably every scrap of clothing he had, including 3 pairs of gloves! I had never looked into the Permanent program beforehand, but I was also getting really bored with the usual riding routes. I also did the Cupertino Scrambler 100K Permanent with Brian which wasn’t an interesting route, but I felt compelled to do it since it started in my hometown. Brian was a champ too of driving up to San Mateo just to go ride within 2 miles of his house in Cupertino and back to San Mateo then drive back home to Cupertino! (Actually I never wrote a blog post for the First Chance 200K in January 2020 either as that was an uneventful and boring mostly flat 200K)

Rob Hawks, the San Francisco Randonneurs’ Regional Brevet Administrator happily announced in April 2021 that they had decided how they can safely do brevets again while adhering to pandemic health guidelines. We’d do assigned staggered starts, no receipt controls, and different options for POP (“Proof of Passage” for successful route completion). Normally we had to fill out brevet cards that included the information for what we had to do at each control, whether an Information control (answer a question about something at that location), Open control (obtain receipt from any business in that location), or Manned control (someone’s there to sign your brevet card and has a list with riders’ names and puts times on both your card and the list which get checked afterwards to make sure they match). Now with the pandemic, the options were to either submit your Strava ride link, photos at each control with a timestamp on the image, or submit a digital copy of your brevet card to the Day of Ride Coordinator. Rob suggested doing at least two methods so you have a back-up if you pick at least one digital method (since you know Garmins *never* disappoint you..note sarcasm).


Ready to roll!

Rob seemed to be helping to make up for lost time with scheduling a brevet or populaire every weekend in May and June. I was busy with a technical terrain mountain biking clinic in Chico on the first weekend so had to miss the Lucas Valley 110K. I could make the Laguna Lake 200K on Saturday, 8 May and asked Ken if he’d do it with me. I love riding with Ken and don’t get to do it enough!

Rob assigned Ken and me to be in the first starting time slot at 6:45 a.m. or as Ken said “Rob put the troublemakers first!” Ken picked me up at 5:50 a.m. since he always likes to get to the start early. We got to Crissy Field by 6:25 a.m. and Rob wasn’t even there yet to check us in. We saw other Randos arrive also and were all wondering where Rob was. Rob finally got there at about 6:40 a.m. Ken and I checked in, signed our waivers, told Rob what our proposed POP methods would be for the ride, and we were off! I was using my Garmin Edge as my primary POP with timestamped photos as a back-up (and an excuse to take photos during the ride). Ken had also printed out a brevet card for me to use if I wanted as he’s thoughtful like that. πŸ™‚


Ken’s Fixie!

Ken’s on his fixie again which makes me happy! I did the Dillon Beach 200K Permanent with him on his geared bike as he wasn’t sure if he could ride a 200K. Both of us had been in the same boat on that ride since neither of us had done a long ride in several months. Funny thing is that during Dillon Beach, both of us would have jumped at bailing on the ride if the other wanted to quit at any point during it! We managed to complete it though despite all the wind that day.

Ken and I meander up and over the Golden Gate Bridge and through the usual route to get to China Camp. Since he’s on his fixie, he’s slower than I am on the descents. He calls out that he’s “old and slow” after we meet up after going over Camino Alto (btw he almost always beats me up ever climb, fixie or geared bike). Our first Control has the same Control question as Faultline of how many picnic tables are in that overview area. The photo requirement is of the historical marker at the parking lot entrance. I haven’t drank any water yet so I don’t need to top off my bottles, but use the opportunity to use the bathroom. We run into Phil, another Randonneur that we had done the last part of Faultline with in 2019. We become a little pod of 3 (and we’re all fully vaccinated). I rattle off that now we just need to do Lucas Valley Road, Wilson Hill, Chileno Valley Road, and then the slog to lunch in Tomales. Phil loves Chileno Valley Road, but I haven’t done it in so long that I’ve forgotten what it looks like. Ken and Phil aren’t looking forward to Wilson Hill, but I’m okay with it since I had just done a double of it a handful of weeks ago.


China Camp Historical Marker

I take my arm warmers off before climbing Lucas Valley Road. While descending Lucas Valley Road, I finally notice that Phil has bottom tube shifters! I’m not sure why I never noticed this before on other rides or even today. He’s riding a 1970s Raleigh with 38 mm tires! Really cool. And unbelievable that he’s riding that bike on a 200K.

In Nicasio, Phil is disappointed to find out that the Nicasio Creamery has turned off their water taps as the woman says she’s tired of having to clean them. I think other cyclists are also bummed to find out the hard way too. Phil only has one water bottle for some reason so this is going to be a challenge to make sure he doesn’t run out! We head towards and up Pt Reyes-Petaluma Road where Phil and Ken proceed to leave me behind on the climb. I yell out at Ken that “middle aged and slow” will catch up to him later. They wait for me at the Hicks Valley Road junction just long enough to get there and we make our way to Wilson Hill. I make a comment at the bottom of Wilson Hill that I thought I was going to have to do the whole ride by myself, which makes Ken feel bad about leaving me in his dust so he stays closer to me the rest of the ride. I have a Honey Stinger Gel, which is my first food on this ride.

As Phil and I are waiting for Ken at the bottom of the other side of Wilson Hill, one of the residents asks us if we need directions somewhere. Phil tells them that we’re just waiting for a friend. Ken gets there a few seconds later on his hamster wheel and we turn onto Chileno Valley Road. Here is where we pass by Laguna Lake which is what the route is named after. Laguna Lake is very low and we can only see about a quarter of it while riding past. I get one big bug clipping the left side of my mouth which luckily bounces to the outside! I do not enjoy free protein snacks.

From here my knowledge of the route to Tomales is kind of fuzzy as I didn’t really pay attention when looking at the route. I’m starting to get a hot spot on my right foot and decide that I can wait until we get to Tomales before ripping off my shoes. We’re on Fallen Two Rock Road much longer than I thought we’d be though. Another large flying insect almost lands in my mouth! WTF? I guess it’s good that I don’t really recall how far it is to Middle Road so I’m not counting the tenths of miles to Tomales.


Ken thinking of ditching his fixie for this new ride

We finally get to turn onto Middle Road a very long 5 miles after we’d turn onto Fallen Two Rock Road and quickly reach the next Control. The photo option is a photo of the “farming implement” at the side of the road and the brevet card option is what the KM distance is on the road marker (7.048 KM). Ken’s never been one for boring so he wants a photo of him sitting on top of the old rusty farm equipment. I’m happy as this also means that we’re close to lunch!

A quick descent down Dillon Beach Road and straight to The Deli 2 where I almost always get lunch in Tomales (exception was during the Faultine 200K Permanent with Dan last month when I opted to try the pizza at the bakery next door thinking it was faster than getting a sandwich made..it’s not..and the pizza is *really* heavy). There are other Randos there and of course Ken knows a bunch of them. Ken and I place our usual sandwich orders (tri tip for him and veggie sandwich on sourdough roll with no onions for me) and the deli cashier is extra nice and fills our water bottles for us! I get an oatmeal raisin cranberry cookie from the bakery for a post ride treat and ask Ken to carry it in his mini backpack for me. He says he’s going to charge me half for carrying it. I tell him that if he does that then I’m buying 2 as then I get a full cookie still. πŸ˜› We get our sandwiches and hear someone ask if they can join our table and he’s been fully vaccinated. I look up and it’s Mike Theriault! I used to ride with Mike’s wife years ago and haven’t seen her since then. I didn’t know that Mike was a Randonneur until the Del Puerto Canyon 200K in Fall 2019 that we both did. He had seen my name on the Laguna Lake 200K roster and wanted to say “hi” to me too. Ken and Mike know each other too of course.

Lunchtime over and now we have to go through the misery of Key Creek, which always has very strong wind for some reason. We pedal through with a few “WHOA!”s every time we get pushed around and have to pedal hard to get through it. Tomales no longer has an easy access bathroom option and Ken keeps talking about a place in Marshall that Phil and I have never been able to find. We pass all the oyster and seafood restaurants along Highway 1 en route to Point Reyes Station. I actually like going down Highway 1 from Marshall to PRS as it’s mostly shady with the hilly parts giving you just enough speed to almost make it up all the climbs, but none of them are that long anyway. We pass by Mike who had left Tomales before us as his chain popped off right at the start of the only real climb between Marshall and PRS.


Wisteria on the Olema House

We get to Point Reyes Station and stop by the roadside faucet to refill our water bottles. I’ve got my hot spot again so take my shoes off. Phil needs more to eat and I need to use the bathroom so Ken offers to watch our bikes (and probably socialize with whoever comes by whether or not he knows them). From here I can almost go on auto-pilot all the way back to Crissy Field since I know the route and am happy it doesn’t involve the Panoramic Highway climb. We get to Olema and the last Control. The required photo is of the Olema House sign and the Information Control is how many bike racks there are on the other side. Phil finds the bike racks while I’m busy taking photos of the poppies growing along the side of the highway.


Golden Poppies, the official state flower, growing on the side of the road

In my head I’m thinking that we only have 4 more climbs left in the ride. We climb out of Olema towards Lagunitas on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. My friend Frank has been housesitting a lot at his friend’s gorgeous house in Forest Knolls and I’ve been frequently staying there when he’s been there lately. A bonus of that arrangement has been that I’ve been having a better working memory of the area which also makes a lot of the distances seem shorter as I’ve ridden them more lately. My hot spot is manifesting again and tell Ken that I want to stop in Fairfax to take my shoes off again. We do some gentle coasting to White Hill, which is also a pretty quick climb. I keep thinking that I need to figure out where all the mountain bikers I see around White Hill are going as I may want to try it out with my mountain bike sometime.

We descend down into Fairfax, which I’m quite proud of my descent as I made the Your Speed signs say “SLOW DOWN” as I hit 40 mph on my descent. πŸ™‚ I wait for Ken at the bottom of the hill and he yells “Thank you! Thank you!” as he goes screaming past me into Fairfax. I catch up to him and we make our way through town. Ken doesn’t drink anymore and he didn’t know that Gestalt Haus was in Fairfax, let alone ever been to it. He thought it was in Mill Valley as he knew a lot of people went there after Tam rides. I tell him that we’ll have to arrange a Tam ride from Fairfax sometime and go to Gestalt Haus after so he can finally see it and say he’s been there. We stop at the Quick N Easy Market in San Anselmo for our last water stop. Ken and Phil get ice cream sandwiches. I down a Honey Stinger Gel and black sesame snack bar as otherwise I know I’ll be hungry by the time we get to Mill Valley. We’re enjoying sitting there a bit too much and decide it’s time to start rolling again.

Two more climbs left and both are ones that I used to do on my pre-pandemic regular Wednesday morning rides of Camino Alto and the climb to the Golden Gate Bridge. Both require some work, but they’re not an issue for me at the end of a 200K. The weather prediction was for strong winds on the bridge which is the bigger worry! Rob’s email the night before said to be prepared to walk your bike if you have to across the bridge. During the Faultline 200K Permanent last month, Dan and I were both riding at a noticeable angle across the bridge and I’m hoping to have conditions at least that good today. I think we all go on auto-pilot at this point as the route between Fairfax and Mill Valley is the same for pretty much all cyclists of staying off of Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Once past Camino Alto and Tam High School, we get back onto the bike path.


Always relieved to make it back to the GGB as it’s the top of the very last climb for all rando rides that start/end in SF

I finally notice what the construction outside of Mike’s Bikes of Sausalito was for as there’s now a wide sidewalk around the corner, which I’m guessing was done to help cyclists have an easier time getting into the turn lane to turn onto Bridgeway. A guy behind us at the intersection asks us if we’re on the 200K ride. It takes me a second to realize the guy recognized Phil’s San Francisco Randonneurs jersey and he’s probably a Randonneur also. I think his name was Patrick? He just started randonneuring with his first Rando ride being the Davis, Dunnigan, and the Delta 300K last month. He enjoyed it, but said it was really hot. I told him that’s why I don’t do any Davis Rando rides during the summer, but DDD is great in late October. He’s doing the Uvas Gold 200K the next weekend. He stays with us all the way to the bridge. I tell him the story of how the day I met Ken, he said he was going to get me to do a 300K within a year, which I’d told him “yeah right.” Of course I ended up doing it without him even pushing me that hard about it. I’m not sure where he’s heading, but we bid our farewell to him and say that we’ll probably see him on another Rando ride sooner or later.


Special treat when riding with Ken is that I get to lay down on his carpeted van floor after the ride!

We get across the bridge, which has minimal traffic and manageable wind! A quick descent down to Mason Street towards Crissy Field. Phil and I joke at Sports Basement that we don’t know if we can make it to Crissy Field and want to quit right there…half a mile from the end. πŸ˜› We end our ride at Ken’s van. Given the new brevet process, there’s no table to check-in at afterwards so your official end time is the time your GPS recorded ride ends, your last timestamp photo is taken (this one of the Golden Gate Bridge), or you write down on your brevet card. Phil says it’s pretty anti-climatic to end a Rando ride without the usual staffed check-in and snacks. Phil took BART from Oakland so heads back to BART to go home. I’d almost forgotten about my cookie and inhale it while putting my stuff away. I crawl into Ken’s van and lay down on the carpeted interior which feels like a heavenly cloud while Ken finishes wrapping up his stuff. I finally pick myself up off the back of Ken’s van and into the passenger seat to head home. Even though it’s a “new normal” for brevets, it’s great to have them back again and have the Rando community out there on the roads in an organized fashion! I’ve really missed these so much!


Laguna Lake 200K Route

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10 Years

Ten years ago today was the day that I had my first periacetabular osteotomy or as I call it, a “refurbishing” of my hip joints. A periacetabular osteotomy (aka “Ganz Osteotomy”) was invented by Dr. Reinhold Ganz at the University of Bern, Switzerland in 1984. To fix the dysplasia in a PAO, the pelvis is broken at the hip joint. The broken fragment is rotated to the correct angle and then screwed into place. The fragment then fuses back to the rest of the pelvic bone over several weeks. Correcting the dysplasia relieves the unnatural pressure that the joint was experiencing and stops arthritis from forming. Originally surgeons would just perform hip replacement surgery, which is much less invasive and a much faster recovery time. While a PAO is more complicated and months longer to recover from, it very eloquently preserves the hip joint. There is a video of the procedure linked here, which even though I had the open surgery version, the rest of the procedure is the same.

I spent a total of 16 days in the hospital for both surgeries, which was only a small fraction of what I hoped it would be like. I wanted to cry when I woke up in the recovery room after the first operation as I couldn’t feel anything. My mouth was so dry that I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t even focus enough to read the wall clock after the second surgery for almost an hour. Hospital staff were constantly coming in/out of my room, whether or not I was asleep. The IV bag would go empty and start beeping loudly, which the day nurses wouldn’t get around to changing for what seemed like hours. I got lucky with one of my night nurses who could slip in/out of my room without waking me and kept tabs on how much IV fluid I had left so she could change the bag before the alarm went off. She did the same ninja skills when I had blood transfusions at night. Other nurses had no qualms about flipping the lights on and then leaving the door wide open after so the hallway light flooded my room. Dr. Bellino was in my room at about 6 a.m. every morning to see how I was doing. Stanford’s pain management team was excellent in figuring out the correct combination of medication for me so I would be comfortable and coherent. They were also constantly making sure I still had feeling in my legs (as the incision area comes dangerous close to a nerve that if cut will cause leg numbness). I was on a fixed meal time after the first surgery, which typically didn’t line up with when I was actually hungry (or was having x-rays done during dinnertime). Unfortunately that led to my food being whisked away before I even had a chance to eat it. The solution was to have to hide my meal in the room! At least for the second surgery Stanford switched to “on demand” meals so I could call down and order my food when it was convenient for me. I also ordered extra food for my then-boyfriend since he was with me most of the time (and not like I could finish my meal anyway). A few friends and my parents visited me. My Aunt Julia (one of my grandma’s sisters) didn’t recognize me when she visited. I found out the hard way that I’m allergic to morphine. While there was minimal bleeding during the procedures, my red blood cell count dropped for unknown reasons afterwards requiring double unit transfusions. I spent most of the time just watching TV since I couldn’t concentrate enough to read any of the books I brought. Both discharges were postponed as I managed to wake up with a fever on the originally planned discharge date after both surgeries.

Frontal view of my pelvis.

I wish I had written more back when I had my surgeries, but I was constantly tired. Even 2 months after the surgeries I was falling asleep every few hours. Sleeping became uncomfortable since I was confined to sleeping on my back when I prefer sleeping on my stomach. We stacked pillows underneath me to minimize the bedsores. The blood thinner injections left welts all over my lower belly and hurt to the point of crying. I would wake up in the morning and look at the bedside commode wondering how badly did I have to pee. It would take me 15 minutes to get to the commode and I’d be out of breath and sweating by the time I got to it a mere 5 feet away. I’d drink Diet Coke with my first dose of oxycontin and oxycodone in the morning so the carbonation would help break down the pills faster. Tap water tasted like it had bleach in it so I drank bottled or filtered water only. I threw up constantly, frequently with little warning. The pain meds slowed my metabolism to a crawl so typically I was full after only a handful of bites of food. I lost so much weight that you could see the outline of my ribs and pelvic bone when I was lying down. At one point I didn’t even leave the bedroom for 9 days straight. I couldn’t even get onto my couch in the living room. I couldn’t go anywhere by myself as I was in a wheelchair for 3 months after each surgery and needed someone to push the wheelchair, open doors, and drive me everywhere. I couldn’t do some of the simplest things because I couldn’t twist or bend my torso that far. I was miserable.

I’d do it all over again though as it was also one of the best experiences in my life. I learned how valuable mobility is. Physically I’m happier than I have ever been in my life. People usually attribute my fitness level to “youth” whether or not they know that I’m 43 years old. I’ve spent the last 8.5 years working on it. I didn’t appreciate my portability. I’m in better shape now than I was in my 20s because I have a strong focus on my health and fitness now. I decided back then that I never wanted to take my body’s ability to move for granted again and have worked hard on honoring it. It started with swimming at a local gym where I felt great if I could swim 15 minutes. I stopped making excuses for why I couldn’t exercise. I learned to appreciate my body the hard way, but I’m grateful that I have had the opportunity and many more years to use it. My Great Aunt Marge told me once that one’s “golden years” was when you’re younger and could still move on your own and she was right. When I first started swimming again, I had to dig out an old high school team swimsuit and goggles as it had been about 15 years since I’d really swam in a pool. I started swimming 7 days a week. I still struggle with guilty feelings on “rest days” as part of me feels like I’m just being lazy. I never had any formulated fitness plan, I just fell into my current norm. Like a religion, I want to honor my mobility as often as I can.

Side view of my pelvis.

I don’t do physical activities unless I enjoy them though. It’s like why I work in a career at a company that I love as it doesn’t feel like work. Swimming in the ocean or any time on my bike doesn’t feel like a workout. Maybe that was the problem when I was struggling at the boring gym. I was just asked a few minutes ago by my friend Simon on how long would a 200k bike ride take me and I said about 10 hours. I don’t think about how many hours it’s going to be before I start. I just think that I’m riding that route with my friend Ken that day. Just one little pedal stroke at a time. It’s nurtured my love of being outside and during the pandemic has been the only time that I feel like I’m really alive and part of this world. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to continue going on my swims, rides, and runs outside while successfully avoiding a highly contagious and deadly virus. COVID-19 has been a reason why I’ve still been getting up early to start my trail runs with a headlamp as I know I will be able to do 2/3 – 3/4 of my trail runs without crossing paths with another person. Similar to when I started swimming again in a pool in 2012, the early start times also means I can get a couple of hours in before starting work for the day.

Now when I travel I want to see as much as I can of the natural world on my own power. When I was in Hong Kong a year ago, I hiked all 4 days that I was there, even though my legs were sore. A childhood friend and co-worker are from Hong Kong and neither knew there was any hiking there. There were some steep hikes (5 miles / 3000′) and not so steep, but I loved every minute of it. I was getting to see a side of Hong Kong that most tourists (and locals) don’t ever experience. I then went cycling and hiking in Singapore and onto swimming and running in Thailand. After 19 days I came home feeling more myself than I had felt before I left on holiday. I will probably never be happy with the holiday that just involves laying on a beach doing nothing all day. Being physically active on holiday isn’t about keeping a fitness level at a certain point, but instead of getting to marry physical activities I love with new environmental stimuli. I’m lucky that for running I can really only run on dirt trails (asphalt hurts my hip joints too much) so I have to get a little creative with where I can run when traveling. By default, that puts me on the paths literally less traveled.

Side view of my pelvis.

I get asked a lot on how my hips don’t bother me with all the long distance / endurance cycling and swimming. Those activities really don’t use my hip joints. I remember after reading my friend Catt Tapoli’s Conscious Fitness: Strength Training For The Evolution Of Body, Mind and Spirit book that I was on a stationary bike trying to focus on my hip joints and thank them for allowing me to be able to ride. I realized that I couldn’t feel them. I could feel my quads, glutes, hamstrings, etc. contracting and relaxing, but not the joints. Cycling doesn’t use the joints as they’re just along for the ride (pun intended) while the muscles are doing all the work. Catt was thrilled at my revelation as I understood her whole point on what conscious fitness really means. Neither cycling nor swimming have impact on my hips which is why I can do both of those activities for hours without any negative affect on them. Again, they don’t feel like exercise when I’m outside on a bike or in open water. I’ve laughed to myself some mornings when I’m over an hour into a bike ride and think about how I’d barely noticed that hour whereas an hour feels like forever in a spinning class or pool.

I don’t want to be defined by my hip dysplasia though. I’m not trying to make a career off of it or expect sympathy from people for it. I’m proud of what I went through and where it got me to today. The experience inspired me to re-evaluate how I wanted to live my life for myself. Many people go through surgeries to physically fix themselves, but I’m not sure if it alters their personal life view. I didn’t expect to come out of my surgeries the way that I did, but I’m happy that it was a life changing experience. I went into a whole new world that I didn’t imagine existed. I used to think that health freaks were the stereotypical gym junkies with all the powders and nonsense. I’ve carved out something that works for me every day and keeps me fulfilled. My life feels very natural and like it was waiting for me all this time.

Recently I had my 10 year check-up with Dr. Bellino. There is no sign of any further development of arthritis in my hips and everything looks perfect in the surgical areas. He’s impressed with how physically active I have been. He asked if I’d talk to some of his other patients who are apprehensive about being able to return to a full active lifestyle after a periacetabular osteotomy, which I happily accepted.

Today in honor of the 10 year anniversary of my first PAO, I ran 10 miles in Wunderlich County Park. I regularly do the route, but today’s was special. I spent a lot of the time reflecting on the last 10 years. I chose to run today since of all the activities I do, the 390 pounds of force that running exerts on my hip joints is the one thing that would have been physically impossible for me to do without the surgeries (along with the dirt cushion). Modern medicine and a very talented surgeon are why I can physically run now.

I believe that everything happens for a reason and am grateful every day that I was born with hip dysplasia as I feel like that gave me a second chance of what to make with my life in terms of physical health. The physical health has tied into my mental and emotional health where I feel better overall when I’ve gotten in one of my various outdoor activities. No two swims, rides, hikes, runs, etc. on the same route are ever truly the same. They’re always different experiences and memories. You don’t get that from a gym or staying at home doing a home workout video for the billionth time. It isn’t about just burning calories so my clothes fit better, the reflection in the mirror is more appealing, collecting endorphins, providing anything to myself or anyone else, or so I can eat cake after dinner (which I rarely eat dessert anyway). It’s simply making good on a decision I made during a time in my life when I’d temporarily lost one of the most basic fundamental skills most of us learn when we’re toddlers. There are days that I don’t want to get on the bike and have to talk myself into it, but I also tell myself that I know I’ll feel really good in a couple of hours. I have yet to be wrong.

Dr. Michael Bellino and me at my 10 year check-up in 2021.

“When everything’s taken away from you, you appreciate those little peddle strokes.”
— Paul Gasagoita, former competitive mountain bike champion and spinal cord injury survivor

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What is Essential Is Invisible to the Eye

It was August 1996 and I was in the TV room of Akwe:kon, the Native American Residential House at Cornell University watching TV with a freshman named Beth. Beth was whiter than fresh snow from Michigan and had just arrived as a Freshman. She turned me to me and asked “What do you think of biracial marriages?” Shocked by such a question in a NATIVE AMERICAN RESIDENTIAL HOUSE, I looked at her lily white a** and simply said “As the product of one, I’d have to say that I’m okay with it.”

Seriously, WTF?


Me cross-country skiing in December 2019.

I may not look like it, to you, but I am ethnically half-Chinese. I’m neither an eighth nor a quarter, but a full 50% Chinese blood. My maternal great-grandparents and my grandfather were born in China. My maternal grandmother was born in Peru and spoke Chinese and Spanish. Her name was Rosalbina Mu Lok de Yi. My grandfather’s name was Humberto Yi Man. I do not know what their Chinese first names were. People are surprised when they see photos of them and say “[but] they look Chinese.” I hope they do since they were. It’s been a struggle though since I wasn’t entirely accepted as Chinese growing up since I didn’t speak the language and had never been there. My dad is of Slovenian and Croatian descent and I inherited his side of the family tree’s wavy brown hair and brown eyes. My mom was born and raised in Lima, Peru and speaks Spanish. I grew up going to Peru to visit my relatives, speaking Spanish, and learning Peruvian culture with a heavy Chinese influence. I guess it’s more common in Lima, which has the largest concentration of Chinese outside of China (5% of the Peru’s population, mostly in Lima). In San Francisco though, unless you looked 100% Chinese and spoke the language, it didn’t seem like you were accepted as Chinese. This was especially true if you were a mix, like I was.


Visiting my grandparents with my sister and mom in Lima, Peru. Grandpa is holding me.

My dad recalls being in San Francisco Chinatown with me as an infant. We were in a shop when the woman behind the counter said “her mother is Chinese, isn’t she?” and my dad said “How can you tell?” I had light skin, light brown hair, but slightly slanted eyes, the only clue that I had any Asian blood in me. I didn’t have a Chinese name, heck I didn’t even have a Latin name. I have enough yellow in my skin though that yellow clothing is not a good look on me, but blue looks fabulous.

I was lucky that my parents never emphasized race lines. I didn’t realize until years later that my Catholic grade school class only had 2 black kids, a handful of Asian kids, and then the rest of the 66 students in my class were white. I was embarrassed by the horrible annual “holiday” of “Grandparents Day” where you brought your grandparents to school with you for all these special activities with them because of course they live nearby! My paternal grandparents were in Lazy Acres, Arkansas (I dare you to try and find it on a map), and Lima, Peru. Eventually my mom started letting me take a “sick day” to save me from the embarrassment of being one of the only kids at school without a grandparent there. I wouldn’t have to sit there at my desk alone all day doing all these special activities by myself while everyone else got to indulge in the fact that their grandparents came to school with them that day. Catholic school could be cruel.


My parents’ wedding day in Lima, 1964.

I can’t even say that I wanted to see people to look up to who looked like me. I never thought about physical looks. I wasn’t conscious that I didn’t look like other kids. I don’t even look like I’m related to my maternal first cousins, who are half-Chinese and half-Japanese (born and raised in Peru). My parents, in particular my dad, didn’t make a big deal out of it. In fifth grade, my teacher had us write down on some homeroom assignment what our ethnicity was. I had no idea what mine was. I knew my maternal grandparents and a bunch of my family lived in Peru and my paternal family were in the Illinois and Minnesota. So I ended up putting down “Peruvian-American” after asking her for help on how to spell “Peruvian.” That was also the year that I first learned where Peru was on a map after going there twice a year my entire life.


Swimming with our first cousins was always a highlight of our annual Spring trip to Lima.

No one else in my class spoke Spanish. A couple of close friends were Chinese and spoke it at home, but I didn’t understand a word of it. We didn’t really celebrate Chinese New Year like they did except for my TΓ­a Julia giving us a red envelope when we’d see her around that time. My family would go to dim sum on the weekends and knew Chinese food. It’s always uncomfortable for me when in Chinese restaurants they’re explaining what the foods are to me like I didn’t grow up with it.

I have cousins in Boston who were born and raised in China and moved to Boston with their parents and grandmother (my maternal grandfather’s sister). They speak English and Chinese fluently. I’m sure people see us and think that we’re just friends, not cousins related that closely. Of course they look related to my maternal first cousins even though we have the same degrees of separation on the family tree.

I’ve been called “white girl” by some people which always rubbed me the wrong way. I’m proud of my heritage from my dad’s family, but it’s completely disregarding half my family tree that I grew up closely with. It was an ignorant dig of not being accepted as Asian that stung. Ironically I’m accepted as being Peruvian around other Latinos both in the US and in Peru. I was talking to a man in Trujillo, Peru once in Spanish telling him that my mom was a LimeΓ±a (woman from Lima) and he said he could see it in my face.

A friend in college once said that she was more Hispanic than me because some distant relative of hers was from Spain. She didn’t speak Spanish, didn’t know any of family there, didn’t know the culture, had never been there and had no real connection to it. Somehow she felt like she had some birth-given right to say that though which I didn’t understand. Yes my maternal family has Chinese blood, but to say that they’re not Peruvian would be like saying that us born and raised in the United States aren’t American since our families originated elsewhere. It’s a very narrow way of thinking.


My grandparents.

My mom was a bilingual education grade school teacher. At the graduation ceremony for her MS in Education at SFSU, the staff kept trying to make her sit with the “Chinese education” graduates instead of the “Spanish education” graduates. It took quite a bit of arguing with them to finally get to sit with her correct classmates. Even in the 1990s San Francisco, she was being cast based on her looks.

To this day though I don’t really feel like I belong to the Asian culture since I don’t speak the language and no one from it outside of my family ever made me feel like I was a part of it. It’s a difficult loss for me that I don’t know if I can recover from. The only people who ever accepted me as Chinese are my family Do I even need to overcome not being accepted as Chinese? I don’t know. A longtime friend told me once that it was important for me to go to China to see where my family came from even if I don’t know the language or anyone there. I would like to go even though I have this underlying feeling that everyone there will look at me as “White American woman.”

The Black Lives Matter movement has made me think more about the situation. I find it painful to read messages from friends saying that they can’t bear the thought of their children watching them killed by the police because they’re black or knowing that they are more likely to be killed by the cops than anything else because of the color of their skin. They’re not “my black friend” as they’re “my friend.” I’ll never refer to them by their skin color since it isn’t some demographic checkbox I’m trying to check off. It really bothers me when people talk about their friends even with phrases like “You know my [insert race or sexual orientation] friend [insert name here]” or similar like that’s the single most important characteristic that they and you should remember about their friend above all else. I have to consciously think about people’s demographics as I naturally focus more on if someone’s a good person with a good heart. I care about them immensely though because they’re good souls who positively contribute to the world every day. I have compassion for their situation that they’ve lived their entire lives and continue to endure. I want to help them out however I can. They don’t deserve to live in fear.


Small collection of my family at my TΓ­os Lydia and NaΓ±in’s wedding at my grandparents’ house in Lima.

My good friend Naji and I were talking the other day about the BLM movement. He flat out said this is a white people’s problem, not his, to fix. I whole-heartedly agreed with him. He doesn’t want to be the token black guy for any group that was severely lacking in blacks before today. People and organizations overall need to start doing more to include blacks who tend to be at social and economic disadvantages. We as individuals need to start treating each other without prejudices based on skin color. Like when people ridiculously aruged about if President Obama was really black and someone said “Put him in a hoodie in an alley and what do you think?” How many would have avoided Obama dressed up like that not realizing he was the U.S. President?

I’ve gotten countless emails from companies saying that they were standing with the BLM movement without any real specifics on what they’re doing to actually help make progress. However I got an email from my cross-country resort saying that they were changing their hiring policies to be based on abilities instead of years of experience and removing the bachelor degree requirement for job positions to be more fair to applicants. My employer, the California Academy of Sciences, also sent out an email to us saying that they realized they were part of the problem as their upper management and staff overall didn’t have enough minorities represented and are evaluating ways to correct it. THESE are constructive steps in the right direction!

Naji has worked on trying to teach more black children how to swim. He was told as a child by white people that it was impossible for blacks to learn how to swim. He didn’t learn for himself that this was a lie until he learned how to swim in his 40s. Blacks have the highest rate of drowning among any ethnic group. How many of them were told that they couldn’t learn? I felt pain hearing Naji’s story as white guys laughed at his request to learn how to swim and he just went along with it without understanding what was so funny. Now he knows that they were making fun of him and what they made him belief about himself was completely false and racist.

I may never be accepted as Chinese outside of my own family. Between being treated by my ethnicity and who I actually am as a person, I’d rather be treated based on my heart and mind. Stereotypes will continue to exist until we stop making assumptions about who people are based on their looks. There are so many mixed race people now in the world, but it isn’t going to automatically make racism go away. A cultural change needs to happen in order to make this go away. People need to change their attitudes. Many still see with their eyes and not their heart. The same as people need to start treating others, especially minorities, for who they really are as individuals and not based on some demographic or artificial idea that isn’t based on who the person really is.


My mom, TΓ­o NaΓ±in, and grandparents.

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
— The Little Price

Posted in Motivation | 6 Comments

0.0 : I Don’t Run — Or Do I?

I’m not a runner. I have never liked running. Running was a horrible punishment for my high school Women’s Swim Team when we still had 2 months left of the semester after the Fall sport season was over. Insult to injury was that they’d throw us out there to run around the track with the cross country team. Nothing like struggling to run a mile around a track with the cross country guys effortlessly lapping you without breaking a sweat. Back then I’d swear that my lungs crystallized over whenever I had to run. I considered myself lucky if I could run an entire .25 mile lap without having to stop to walk.

I have the lungs of a guppy too. Don’t think that I’ve got some massive lung capacity with my swimming and cycling resume. I can’t make it across a 25 yard pool in a single breath. If we’re ever stuck in a flooding chamber, you can bet that I’m going to drown first. Somehow the rest of my body seems to manage to compensate for the fact that I need to breathe at a higher rate than most people. Thanks to swimming and cycling, I have a well developed cardiovascular system with a max heart rate of a 23-year-old even though I’m 42 years old.

Fast forward about 25 years to when I’m on my semi-annual trip to visit my family in Lima, Peru. My normal routine in Lima involves visiting family, eating a bunch of food, and holding down an aunt’s couch with a book and tea. I am pretty much on complete vacation from even my fitness routine when in Lima since I don’t have access to a pool, gym, or road bike (and Heaven help you if you decide to try road cycling in Lima). My fitness level goes downhill there slowly turning me into a soft round shape. Unfortunately there was one obvious solution for getting a cardio workout in when there which was *running*. Ugh.

Do I need to remove the bottom sticker on my locker at South End Rowing Club now?

My friend Enrique has been trying to get me to run for years. He managed to drop me on a run around the block once years ago that was supposed to be a negative split on all 4 sides. I’m pretty sure grannies could have beat my last block length time. If anything, I hate having to do anything with a time pressure.

In November 2019 though I was down in Lima with a huge sense of dread that I was going to have to actually go on my first run in 25 years. Luckily my Tia Chito lives right on the coast so I’d at least have an ocean view while making the rest of me miserable. The first day I managed to run 2 miles, which tied the longest that I’d ever ran back in my obese high school physique days. For those who think I’m joking about obese, I weighed 165 pounds at my senior year physical and 180+ pounds by the time I *started* college. So not a huge surprise that I could run 2 miles when weighing 25 – 45 pounds less now. My calves were killing me the next morning and stretching didn’t help at all. I dragged myself out for another run though as I was going to get some cardio while on vacation even if it killed me. Interesting to think that those legs could ride a bike 200 miles and be taken down by a 2 mile run. I did another run on Day 3 even though my legs were begging me to not do it. I was feeling sore just walking around town now. I’d make a futile attempt to stretch my calves while waiting for the shower water to heat up. Only stubbornness was getting me out the door every morning. My last day of running was very joyous knowing that I wouldn’t have to run ever again, or at least for a long time since this was a quick trip so I’d be heading back home tonight. I was impressed that I managed to do 4 runs even though none of them were longer than half an hour.

4 days of running in Lima

Something horrible happened that last afternoon though when my right hip joint flared up and hurt with just weight on it along with walking. I needed to use my arms to help bend my leg at the joint. I had no doubt that my pelvis and hip joint were still in tact from the reconstructive in 2011. I was worried though on why I was feeling this pain. I don’t feel pain in my hip joints often and it’s usually random breakthrough pain that’s hard to pinpoint what caused it. This pain was more sustained though and I called my surgeon’s office at Stanford Hospital as soon as I got home. The pain went away after a few days, but I still wanted to see him to discuss what happened.

I met with Dr. Bellino for an emergency appointment on 20 December 2019. He said that the impact of running on the asphalt most likely caused the joint to hurt. He recommended only running every other day and/or on a softer surface like dirt. He likes that I’m cycling and swimming since that isn’t any pressure on the joints. πŸ™‚

Enrique was back in SF for a hot minute to get the rest of his stuff as he, his wife, and their cute puppy were moving to Puerto Rico, where he’s from, sooner than they’d planned. After discussing things with him, he suggested trail running also. I consider EJ to be a close friend and mentor so I take all of his words of advice with a lot of weight as I trust him. I at least wanted something that I could do when traveling and didn’t have reasonable access to swim or ride. Trail running could combine my love of being outdoors in nature with getting some cardio in. Sure, I’ll try this.

Enrique and me catching up over beers. We discussed my recent hip pain from running on sidewalks and he suggested to try trail running.

In January I was visiting friends in Grass Valley and decided to go for a quick 2.4 mile run around Empire Mine. This was my first real run on a dirt trail. Despite the air being cold, I was impressed that I was able to finish the run without feeling like I wanted to die by the end. I felt accomplished and glad it was over when I got back to my car, but I could have gone further. I was not feeling any pain in my calves or hip joints afterwards.

Over about the next several weeks I’d do a 2 – 3 mile run every so often if I needed a quick cardio workout, but it was hard to get me to do it. I had plans to run in Singapore and Thailand while on vacation, but decided Singapore was too humid and I’d only run in Thailand early in the morning (maybe). It still didn’t really feel like a workout though aside from my body hating me since each run was only about half an hour at the most compared to multiple hours that I can spend cycling, swimming, hiking, and cross-country skiing. My only plan though was to just do some “maintenance” of 2 – 3 miles so I could run with some relative ease when traveling away from home.

Wildflowers on San Bruno Mountain

23 February 2020 was the 27 year anniversary of my maternal grandmother’s death. I had piloted a RIB for a swim at South End that morning. I’d eyed the Summit Loop at San Bruno Mountain State and County Park for awhile to go for a trail run. I decided to go for it that day on my way home. The uphill part sucked and reminded me of cycling where I know I’ll be glad when I get to the top as there should be a nice descent shortly afterwards. I dragged my sorry butt up that climb and loved the views of the Peninsula. I knew that I could easily run along the ridge once I got to the top and then had the fun of the switchbacks all the way back down. I consider downhill mileage to be bonus mileage since it takes a lot less effort to go down them than up in both cycling and running. The balls of my feet hurt the next day from this run, but I’d managed to survive a 3.84 mile / 736′ run. I felt like I was finally starting to get into an area of these being real legit workouts. Maybe I could go further with this?

Panoramic view from Las Trampas Peak

A few days later I implemented a yearlong plan to surprise my friend Cathy at her work on her birthday, 26 February. The previous year all she did for her birthday was go to Masters swim practice, work, then a PB&J sandwich at home before going to bed early (BS in my book!). So I’d decided a year ago that I was surprising her at her work and at least take her out to dinner. I was excited that the day finally arrived and the birthday girl was not suspicious at all when I asked her if she was going to work that day. Since East Bay traffic originates from the 9th circle of Dante’s Inferno, I went over to San Ramon early. My horrible plan was to go run up Las Trampas Peak to kill time while waiting for Cathy to get off from work. This would have been a great time to know a) elevation profiles and b) not all hikes make good trail runs. I had figured I could do a 4.25 trail run, but I didn’t pay attention to the little fact that it was 1080′ with most of that being in the first 1.5 miles. That uphill was all “I hope it’ll level off after this upcoming turn/bush…Oh crap it keeps going up….” I’m still not sure how I didn’t die on that run since my legs were definitely not happy with me. I managed to finish it along with the equally steep descent past a bunch of cows that I’m sure were laughing at me. It was worth it though to see the surprised look on Cathy’s face when I walked into her office. πŸ™‚

Happy birthday Cathy!

A week later I needed to get in a quick workout so I decided to run at Pulgas Ridge. There was a 4.4 mile loop that I knew with a couple of other options to make it a bit longer. I loathed the uphill as always, but I enjoyed the quietness and being the only person out there at daybreak. It just amazes me that these preserves and parks are right next to city life, but you feel like you’re miles away especially when you can’t hear car traffic anymore. I did most of my run not seeing anyone. I decided at a junction to tack on another mile as I was feeling that I possibly had it in me to do a 5+ mile run that morning. I would have to try it to know if I’d regret it later. It ended up being a 5.5 mile / 1100′ run which the only part I really didn’t like was the part where I had to run on a paved path. Running on a paved path is like hiking on one to me where it kind of feels fake in a way. I’m a slow runner, but I seemed to have surprisingly good endurance. I’m not even sure where this endurance came from aside from having some cycling legs and a pretty regular cardio routine based on going distances for swimming and cycling.

A week later I decided that I could try running some more challenging routes in larger parks. I had mapped out a 10K distance at Wunderlich County Park. It was a bit daunting and I wasn’t entirely sure I could do it, but I wanted to try. For the most part to me Wunderlich was just a park that I passed by countless times on my bike between Old La Honda Road and Kings Mountain Road. I realized on this run that my “wall” is about the 2 – 3 mile mark where if I can get past that then I can keep going. Unfortunately on a lot of my runs, this is where I’m still going uphill and wondering why am I running. The foliage helps though and makes me feel like I’m more on a quick paced hike than a run as I easily get distracted by trees, leaves, squirrels, birds, etc.. I end up going too far up Skyline Trail which adds mileage to this run, but at least I know that I’ll run at least 10K today. I’m relieved when I know that it’s mostly downhill once I turn around on Skyline to head back down to the parking lot. I usually try to make my runs be a loop instead of an out-and-back so I can get different views and see more of where I am. Thanks to my extension this run ends up being a 7.3 mile / 1500′ run in 90 minutes, which I feel is finally a real workout and very respectable distance and climbing. My legs weren’t sore the next day. Could I run farther?

Of course now you know where this is going. The same part of my brain that made me push my swimming distance to 20 miles and cycling distance to 300K is now wondering if I can do a 10 mile run. After 7.3 miles, 10 miles actually seems within reach. I’d been hesitant too to sign up for the Strava 10K and Run Climbing (2000m) challenges since I wasn’t sure that I could complete either of them. Now they seemed within grasp, which completely baffled me.

Craig Britton Trail in Purisima Creek Redwoods

Less than a week later on St. Paddy’s Day 2020, I pick one of my favorites, Purisima Creek Redwoods, to do a 8/9/whatever mile run in. Honestly, I didn’t really calculate the distance when I was looking at the map and decided that the 8 mile mark towards the end of a loop was close enough for me. I was foolishly thinking of starting at the bottom and running up the 3 miles to the top and then take the easy gradient down the rest of the distance. Time constraints that morning made me start the top instead. I made a last minute decision to go down the steep 3 mile trail and take the long way to get back up as that would spread the climbing out over several miles instead of just 3 miles.

Purisima Creek Redwoods

A steep descent wasn’t fun, but it oddly left me feeling a bit warmed up to tackle the uphill. Once I got to the bottom, I immediately turned and started my way back up on the other side of the creek. I’m glad that I decided to run up this way and enjoy the scenery while running along the creek. I cut over onto Craig Britton Trail which is my kind of trail. It’s narrow and dense and I don’t see anyone else here the entire time. Sharp pain shoots out as my left ankle rolls outward about 7 miles into my run and I hobble a few feet. I know that I still have about 3 uphill miles to make it back to the car. I do a quick assessment and can still put weight on it without much pain. I’ve sprained that ankle several times in the past so it has so much scar tissue giving it a permanently swollen appearance. I have to feel to find any squishy inflammation. Life as an endurance athlete comes in handy here where I can figure out if I can reasonably carry on. The pain subsides quickly and I continue running with the thought in the back of my mind that it may hurt more later. I am pretty exhausted by the time I get back to the Harkins Ridge Trail. I make a deal with myself that I’ll walk all the steep parts and run the flatter parts of the trail. It seems weird otherwise to call it a “run” when I walked a bunch of it. One accidental wrong turn at the top leads the total distance to being 10.5 miles / 2400′! My left ankle wasn’t exactly happy when I got in the car. I was more elated and astonished that I actually ran 10 miles, let alone that it was far from being flat terrain. I immediately started treating the sprained ankle as soon as I got home. (Btw what’s it say when you’ve sprained your ankle so many times that you already have a brace, physical therapy bands/exercises, and ice packs for it?)

Fallen tree blocking the Skyline Trail at Wunderlich

A week later (aka a few days ago), my ankle was feeling okay after testing it out on a couple of hikes and a bike ride so I felt like I could do another run again. I wanted to go back to Wunderlich and do the full loop up Skyline Trail and back down Alambique Trail. This would be about another 10 miles / 2000′ run. Running ten miles just six days after a first degree sprain sounded a bit crazy to me too, but I also knew that most of the inflammation was gone. I would wear my ankle brace for extra support. I’d been wanting to see if I could get a faster overall time by starting up Bear Gulch Trail instead of Alambique Trail, but decided to just do the route that I knew going the opposite direction. A large tree had crashed down right across Skyline Trail blocking several feet of the trail. Against my better judgement, I decided to do a Class IV scramble around it while being careful not to dislodge any part of the tree. I’m rewarded with getting to see 2 barn owls fly across the trail right in front of me shortly after! It was foggy and significantly colder at the top of Skyline. I was glad that I was wearing gloves because the ligament damage in my left hand from a cycling accident last year renders most of my left hand pretty useless when it gets cold. I turn right from Skyline onto Alambique to start my descent down. I’m actually really enjoying this part since I feel pretty good and know the majority of climbing is over. My left ankle isn’t bothering me and I’m enjoying seeing the trees in the fog along with, of course, the solitude. I opt to not go down the super steep service road and unfortunately have to scramble around the fallen tree again. I catch glimpses of a few rabbits around the Meadows on my way back to the car. Somehow I’ve managed to pull off a 10 mile / 2000′ run again.

March 2020 Climbing Challenge of 2000 meters (6561.7 feet) completed! Wow!

I still don’t consider myself a runner. I’m still not entirely sure how I was able to pick up trail running so quickly either. If you had asked me in January if I could run 10 miles, I’d have laughed. The climbing challenge intimidated me also as I never would have guessed that I was capable of running 2000+ meters uphill in a single month. I can’t really explain how I was able to go from a 2.x mile run to a 10.x mile run in only 6 runs in a handful of weeks with increasing elevation gain also. Running isn’t natural for me. Some other friends agree with me since we feel prouder of finishing any run than we do a 60+ mile bike ride.

I have no desire to run a marathon or any other organized run event, especially not ultra-marathons (sorry Marcia, you’re on your own for those 100 – 400 mile runs!). I don’t like the competitive setting or running on pavement. I’m lucky that running on dirt doesn’t hurt my hip joints. I thought that I couldn’t run for the last 42 years so my small success with trail running has been a surprising experience. I like being able to get away from other people and like with hiking, just get out and enjoy nature while you happen to be getting in a cardio workout. Running isn’t my forte and is still a big challenge for me. It puts me out of my comfort zone, which is good to do that to yourself every once in a while. I’m not sure if it’ll ever get any easier for me. Trail running definitely reminds me of open water swimming where the terrain is always changing and no two runs are the exact same. I treat each run like riding up Tam with “just get to the next corner” and you’re at the top before you know it. I enjoy getting lost in the trees as I want the the sunrise, barn owls and bunnies scamper. I’m far away from the city alone with nature and my own thoughts at least for a couple of hours of the day which makes me happy.

Sunrise from Wunderlich County Park

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300K for A Buck

I woke up half an hour before my alarm on Saturday and immediately felt like not showing up to that day’s 300K. I’d been worried about it all week as I wasn’t sure if I could ride 300K let alone more after finding out that a route change made it 191 miles instead of 186 miles. The previous weekend’s 200K ended with the balls of my feet being painfully sore and I couldn’t imagine having 70+ miles more in that condition. I’ve spent many rides counting the tenths of miles until it was over (usually the last climb on one like Tunitas Creek at times). Ken had hooked me up with his friend David who was also doing the ride so I wanted to honor that. More importantly, I had found out the night before that my friend Buck was being taken off of life support at the exact same time that the ride was starting at. Buck was a fellow swimmer at South End who was also a cyclist, runner, and general athletic devotee who I related to completely. He rode to the club every morning rain or shine in the same outfit: black cycling shorts, fluorescent green puffy jacket (rarely his red orange one), fanny pack, headphones, and the biggest smile you ever saw. Somehow I always knew when he was walking up the stairs to the Day Room at the club and we’d talk for a bit before he went to head off on his swim. You could hear him from the Day Room loudly sniveling as he quickly walked backwards (since he wore fins) into the water. Later he’d come out from the end of his swim with an even bigger smile saying how that was the best way to start the day and the water was nice regardless of if it was 65F or 47F! A botched brain tumor biopsy surgery earlier that week left Buck in a coma with little chance of waking up again. His family had made the difficult decision to take him off of life support as Buck wouldn’t have wanted to have been kept alive artificially and already had a DNR on his medical record. The man’s philosophy was basically that if he couldn’t be physically active then life wasn’t worth living. The ride was starting at 7 a.m., which was the same time that Buck was being taken off of life support. I couldn’t take the opportunity to do this ride for granted. (Note: I found out the next day that Buck died around 9:00 a.m. Saturday).


Lots of windmill and sheep between Rio Vista and Clarksburg. Photo by Brian Feinberg.

I had stayed at my friend Kip’s in Folsom since we hadn’t seen each other in years and that put me 45 minutes closer to the start than coming from home. I figured too that I could use that extra sleep before the ride. I left Kip’s around 6:00 a.m. and got to the meeting place in Davis right on time. David found me immediately as its not hard to figure out who I am with my calling card of “really long brown braid/hair.” The air was warm enough that I didn’t wear my arm warmers or leg warmers, but did put my light jacket on. I packed the warmers in my saddlebag just in case. Deb of the Davis Randonneurs gave the briefing that didn’t include Rob (of SF Randonneurs) making us right our right hand and vow to “not do anything stupid.”

And we’re off! All of us stay more or less together for the first 10 miles as we head out of Davis and everyone is still warming their legs up. Shortly after is when the fast gazelles take off and leave the slow ones behind. David had taken off with the fast pack so I figured that I’d never see him again. I’m behind a man and woman gabbing as I stealthy draft off of them. It’s going to be a long day so I’m going to conserve my energy. There’s another cyclist just a bit further up from them and I eventually move around the couple to join the lone cyclist. We’re moving at a quicker pace and catch up to another cyclist who I recognize as David! He had decided that he didn’t want to push it that day as he was still tired from a 600K a couple of weeks ago.


Leaving Dunnigan and heading towards Winters. Photo by Brian Feinberg.

Our first control is about 28 miles into the ride in Dunnigan. It isn’t specific but says we need a receipt so we hit up the Chevron’s mart to buy something. I’ve never paid $1.00 for a banana until today. Bananas are my riding food of choice since I like how they taste and appreciate their potassium contribution to keeping my brain happy. After all, I did the Tour de Cure century a few years ago eating nothing but 7 bananas. Yum. Our little pod of 5 finally introduce ourselves. Sandra tells me that I’ve got blood all over my leg. I’m confused and then see that there’s dried blood behind my left knee. WTF? Ioannis said that he had seen it earlier and thought I crashed, but now I just look like a badass. Haha! I brush off the blood and see where the cut is, but still clueless on when and how I cut myself. But whatever..we still have 153 miles to go…


Sandra heading towards the Putah Creek State Wildlife Area. Photo by Brian Feinberg.

I find it interesting to think that our next control isn’t until Mile 80. I can’t even remember anything about it except that it’s an Information Control, which means that there’s some question we have to answer at that location. I just know that we’re heading from Dunnigan to Winters and then up and over the pass on Highway 128 that I hated just last week. We’re pacelining all the way to Winters which seems to work out very well and I’m impressed since we never discussed doing this. I feel dumb here as it finally clicks that I met Sandra on the Faultline 200K in June AND she was the other woman that in a loose pack from Hercules to Winters in last week’s Winters 200K. D’oh! We get to Winters quickly and make a quick pitstop before the 128 climb. I down a Honey Stinger energy gel and some dried fruit. It’s not a long or steep climb, just miserable if you’re fighting headwind the entire time like I was the week before. Sandra, Ioannis, and Brian took off 2 minutes before David and I resume the route. I see the golden mountains ahead and still want a picture of that view some day. Today I’m too busy keeping with David. We’re actually both looking forward to this climb after the last 70 miles of basically flat road.


Lake Berryessa on Highway 128

We start climbing at about the same pace and catch up to the rest of the pod. I stop briefly at one of the Lake Berryessa views to take a photo. David’s wife is doing the 100K route today and they’re passing us in the opposite direction on this road. He’s expecting to see her somewhere along here. David and I regroup at the top and start heading downhill. He sees his wife and her friend on the side of the road during our descent and stops to say hi to them for a minute. I figure that he’ll catch up to me soon and continue with my beautiful descent. David and I catch up to the rest of the pod and we continue on as we’re not quite out of the pass yet. The second descent turns into one of my scariest as a van has decided to wedge itself between Sandra and me. On a very twisty road, I am now descending without being able to see anything in front of me except a van’s butt with no margin for error. This van can’t even keep all 4 of its tires on the asphalt either! I finally get a small break and sneak past him to get behind Sandra and continue our descent with me finally being able to see every upcoming corner entrance and exit the rest of the way.


Shirley’s Tavern in Bird’s Landing

We turn onto Wooden Valley Road and our pod start pacelining again all the way to Fairfield. Our next control is at the Fairfield Safeway which happens to be the 100 mile mark too. I’m really hungry by this point and tell David that I’ve never looked forward to getting to a Safeway so badly in my life! I also have hot spots developing in my feet and plan on undoing my shoes as soon as we get there. David breaks from the fold and opts for the nearby Subway while the rest of us get different things at Safeway. We need a Safeway receipt most importantly as that’s what counts for this control’s requirement. I grab some water, veggie sushi roll, and seaweed salad. I’m actually really wanting a veggie burrito but the burrito/sandwich guy is taking WAY too long to make just 3 sandwiches for another customer. Brian is trying to eat two large pieces of fried chicken as quickly as possibly. I tell him that I’m not riding through his chicken after lunch! We get ready to head out again and Sandra makes it a point to note that we’re waiting on the men to finish using the bathroom and not the women. πŸ˜› (Note: the customer who was getting sandwiches just finally got them at this point!) We also pick up another Randonneur who caught up to us here and was ready to roll back out with us. Sadly, I never caught his name even though I would ride 60 miles with him in the pod!


One of the many fields we passed by. Photo by Brian Feinberg.

I lead the paceline out of Davis towards Travis and our next control at Mile 128 at Shirley’s Tavern in Bird’s Landing. You gotta love Rando rides for taking you to tiny towns that you’d have never even heard of otherwise! Bird’s Landing only has about a dozen houses, a fire department, a gun club, and Shirley’s Tavern. Shirley Paolini greets us and lets us fill up our water bottles from her sink. She offers us ice and makes one of her employees grab an ice hunk out of the freezer to start chipping off ice cubes for us. They don’t issue receipts there so we opt for the Information Control option (which is supposed to be what you do if Shirley’s was closed) and answer the question of when some dude named Clint was there (answer: July 1982). David’s looking pretty beat and grabs an 805 and Doritos at the bar. He tells us to head off without him as he’s not up for our pace today. I’m the last of the pod to roll out besides David and catch up to the other guys. I chat with Ioannis most of the way and it turns out he’s a hardware designer for Apple. I say more than once that I can’t wait to get to Rio Vista (Mile 132) as that means we’re more or less on flat roads the rest of the ride. Are we done yet?


Rio Vista Bakery & Cafe

Brian’s got a particular place in mind for the Open Control in Rio Vista to get a receipt at: the Rio Vista Bakery and Cafe (Baerbel! You just have to ride 132 miles to get to this bakery!). Brian wants ice cream though. I’m not really hungry so I opt for a water refill and a sparkling apple juice as I just want something carbonated. Sandra’s got a flat so we take extra time as Ioannis helps her as she’s unfamiliar with the CO2 cartridge method. I eat a Naked date bar stashed in my saddlebag along with a few more pieces of dried fruit. We’re about to embark crossing on the Rio Vista drawbridge, which is one of the most dangerous parts of the ride. Luckily the drawbridge is up so traffic is completely stopped and we manage to find a huge space between the first and second cars. We decide to take full advantage of it and fill up the space with all 6 bikes. It’s one lane both ways so not like any of the cars can go around us. The truck driver we’re in front of is very nice and gives us plenty of room to ride across the bridge without honking at us. We are actually perfectly lined up to turn left immediately after the bridge onto River Road to start making our way to Clarksburg for dinner (another control at Mile 161). I realize shortly after we get onto River Road that I forgot to plug my Garmin into my battery pack at the last control! Eek! I’m down to 18% battery. We’re pacelining for the most part or in a cluster, but either way I don’t want to drop the pace I’m going at or lose the pod. I’ve had hot spots again around the 150 mile mark so I’m really fantasizing about pulling over to unbuckle my shoes AND plug my Garmin in. I *think* I can make to Clarksburg and start trying to do the math that if we can make it there in 2 hours then I should be okay….right??? Brian tells me that he’s ridden farther on 2% battery so I should be able to make it just fine. I’m panicking though and even contemplate just pulling over once we get to Clarksburg’s town limit to plug my Garmin in as there is no way in hell that I’m losing this ride’s data.


Waiting for the drawbridge to lower so we can cross the Rio Vista Bridge

Our control point in Clarksburg is Husick’s Taphouse, which I completely forgot which place we were aiming for. The pod turns into Husick’s parking lot which I didn’t even realize was to my right as I sat at the stop sign right at its corner. I immediately plug in my Garmin and see that it was down to 4%. Brian apologizes for his comment earlier as he knows how long his Garmin’s battery lasts, but he doesn’t know how long mine lasts. I tell him no worries and I’m just glad that I managed to plug it in just in time. πŸ™‚ We head in and have dinner. It’s about 6:15 p.m. so we’re still making really good time and should be done around 9:00 p.m.! Some of the guys get beers which I can’t fathom drinking alcohol while riding, but Randonneurs are a different breed. Some swear that the alcohol metabolizes differently during these endurance rides where it’s actually an enhancer. I’ll take their word for it, but I’ll pass! The rest of the pod is ready to roll when I’m still halfway through my veggie panini (which I was the PITA ordering this with no red onions, pepperoncini, or cheese but YES to the extra avocado!). My quads are starting to get sore just from going for the last 12 hours. It’s a different soreness from when I have to do a lot of climbing though as this is just exhaustion instead of climbing soreness from squeezing the life out of them. Deb, the Davis Randonneurs’s official cat herder, is at Husick’s and tells us that David’s wife DNF’ed 2 miles short of the 100K route from cramps. 😦 This would have been her first 100K ride too! So disappointing, but the ride will always be there for her to do another year. Deb assures David that his wife is okay and resting up. David’s looking pretty beat and I decide to ride the last 29 miles with him. It’s really no fun riding these distances by yourself and that way both of us have company.


Pod en route from Bird’s Landing to Rio Vista. Photo by Brian Feinberg.

David and I get back on the bikes. It’s about 7:00 p.m. now and completely dark outside! I’m glad that I’ve got David with me as especially as there is really no street lights even in these remote areas. The other guys are only about 5 minutes ahead of us but we can’t even see their lights wherever they are. I’m not even sure where we are for most of this part since I can’t see any scenery or street signs. There’s a pair of headlights directly in our path but it’s too small to be a car. David slows down and we discover that it’s a security golf cart parked in the dark outside of some establishment. No idea why it’s parked there since that’s asking for a head-on collision with a car, but we just say good evening to the security guard (?) with a death wish and continue on our way. We come across a stranded motorcyclist elsewhere in the dark who at least had his hazard lights on. David asks if everything is okay and the guy says he’s just waiting for Triple A to come. That really sucks! One reason why I didn’t want to ride alone here was that getting a flat in completely darkness would really suck. I notice these roads have no shoulder either. I can tell that David and I are getting closer to civilization from the frequency of cars, car lights of what I think is a freeway off in the distance, and that we’re getting to the 170 mile mark. I know the hotel I’ve booked for the night is around Mile 177 and we’re going to go right past it. Sure enough, there it is on the left as we cross over I-80.


Our dinner stop at Husick’s Taphouse in Clarksburg

OMFG are we done yet? 14 miles to go. Stop whining as this is basically your distance straight home from work without any climbing. We should be done in an hour! We’re back on smooth paved road so I realize that we should be going faster now by default. I start noticing the street names and ticking off in my head the order that they’re on along 80 to help myself feel like we’re making progress. We’re on a bike trail running along 80 so at least we don’t have to worry about traffic. I get a little excited when we turn off the bike trail onto Mace Boulevard as now we’re going through a neighborhood area so we are definitely in the home stretch! I’m starting to be in a little bit of disbelief that I’m actually going to finish this ride. And I’ve got the data! David and I entertain ourselves with checking out the neighborhood Halloween decorations as some people really went all out on them. We’re calling out the distance left to go every now and then as we’re both obviously ready for this thing to be over with. David calls out that we have .4 miles to go at one point and I jokingly say that I’m going to call for a Lyft. He said that he used to joke about that too, but after finding out his wife DNF’ed so close to the finish, he’s never making that joke again. Totally understandable! We both almost miss the last turn into the parking lot for the ride’s finish at Dos Coyotes.


My completed brevet card at the end of the ride

I turn my brevet card in with all my receipts to Deb. Official finish time is at 9:02 p.m. Two hours earlier than we expected and well ahead of the 21.5 hour time cutoff (4:30 a.m.)! I could have technically just driven home at this point, but my hotel room was already paid for so may as well go use it for awhile. Also means my next shower is mere minutes away rather than 2+ hours away. Deb asks if I’m going to stay to eat or drink anything and I decline as I just want to get my bedtime routine going. I’m not really that hungry anyway!

There was still a disbelief that I’d just finished my first 300K. Actually, I didn’t just finish my first 300K, but there was an additional 5 miles (8 KM) because of a route change. I had thought that I could perhaps do a 400K, but I don’t think I’m ready for that yet. This 300K had minimal climbing, but the 11.5 hours in the saddle and cranking my legs around that long were taking its toll already. I couldn’t imagine having to put another 62 miles on the bike when I finished this ride. While some people assume that I’d be walking bow-legged after such a ride, that’s not the case. My legs are directly underneath me the entire time cranking my feet away in a circle. I felt like I was getting close to my limit of how long I could be on a bike. I probably could have kept going if I had to, but I didn’t have to that night. Every ride is different and this would have been much more difficult if I had to do a lot more climbing like my Marin Century’s double metric with 10,000′ of climbing. I didn’t hit the point where my legs were now numb and I felt like I could have kept going forever. I’m still not sure where the point is where I absolutely cannot ride anymore. I finished this ride with still being able to get back on the bike and ride across the parking lot back to my car. My legs felt very heavy the next day, but not so sore that I couldn’t get out of bed. I was just tired, but not to the point where I didn’t think I could have done something the next day if I had to. Cycling, as like open water swimming, is a sport where every ride is different as there are too many variables to compare. In many ways this ride was easier than the Marin Century double metric and in many ways it was harder. I can only be certain that regardless, I had traveled with my bike for 191 miles powered only by my legs and will power. There were no fancy staffed rest stops with food and water, road closures, police escorts or SAG vehicles. I had pushed my mental limit to 191 miles of knowing that if anything happened to me or my bike that it was fully my responsibility to get myself out of it. A true meaning of “self reliance.”


Me somewhere en route from Rio Vista to Clarksburg. Photo by Brian Feinberg.

Ken had vowed earlier this year that he’d get me to do a double century this year. While this ride was technically 9 miles short of that, he still considers me to have finished a double century. Funny thing is that he didn’t push me to do it or even mentioned this ride to me. I found out about this ride from my friend Dan and decided to do it in about a minute when I saw it fit into my schedule just to see if I could do a 300K. I now know that I’m comfortable doing a 200K (even with 10,000′ of climbing) and think I can get my body adapted to riding 300Ks.

Now the big question…do I dare try a 400K next year?

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Climb after climb after climb…repeat

My friend Ken said back in April to register for any route of the Marin Century ride and he’ll sign up for the same one so we could do it together. I’d always wanted to do the Mount Tam Double Century, but didn’t feel like I was ready for that kind of ride (yet). I decided to do the double metric century (200 KM / 124 miles) without looking at the ride profile (as usual). It sounded like a good idea at the time even though part of me was nervous about it for some reason.

I was feeling pretty good and prepared for this ride after the Rando Faultline 200K in June. My muscles weren’t sore after that ride and I surprisingly never got any hot spots in my feet either. I went to load the route onto my Garmin the week of the ride and then I finally saw that the double metric involved 10,631′ of climbing. WTF? Faultline was “only” 8,832′ climbing so this was almost 2000′ more climbing! Holy smokes! I looked up the route finally also to see what looked like hitting almost every single climb in Marin County except Marshall Wall and Coleman Valley Road. I was starting to think that this was a really bad idea, BUT I’d have Ken with me and he wouldn’t let me back out.

The morning of Saturday, 3 August rolled around and Ken picked me up at my friend Kat’s as I was puppysitting her cute labradoodle Gromit for a few days. We set off for San Rafael to get as early a start as possible. Ken said that he made a “dumb decision” on which bike he brought…aka his 51 x 17 fixie. We were discussing the route and he didn’t realize that we were going to the East peak of Tam after Seven Sisters. I’m not sure if he realized either how much climbing this ride was, but he’s also one of the strongest (if not THE strongest) cyclists I know.

Tagged and ready to roll.

We rolled out after Ken stopped talking to everyone he knew around Registration. I hadn’t paid attention that this was actually brand new routes for all of the rides. The air was crisp, but I’d refused to bring any arm / leg warmers knowing that I’d have to rip them off within a couple of hours and then be stuck carrying them around with me the rest of the day. I’d happily freeze for a brief period of time to save that real estate in my jersey pockets. We got a nice warm-up along Lucas Valley and Nicasio Valley Roads. We turned onto Sir Francis Drake Boulevard which I was starting to get a little bored with all this relatively flat road. I knew better though than to wish for more excitement since I knew that there’d be plenty of climbing coming up!

I felt odd rolling into Fairfax at the beginning of a ride instead of seeing this view coming back from a ride. I was more comfortable now 20-ish miles in and knowing that we were going to start getting to work! We starting the hill to Alpine Dam which always seems longer to me than I remember, even though I’d just been here two weeks ago with my NorCal Velo friends for the annual Tam ride. I made a comment to another rider of “almost there” and he started describing the route to Tam to me. I cut him off (just a little) saying that I knew exactly where I was since I was here two weeks ago and that’s just something I say to myself even though I know it’s not true. There was a rest stop before the dam that neither Ken nor I needed to stop at especially since we hadn’t really done anything significant yet. I was expecting the rest stop to be at the top of Tam or at least at the top of some climb section instead of on the way to Alpine Dam still. We roll right past Alpine Dam and everyone who stopped to take photos. I’ve got enough photos from here that I didn’t need any more! Seven Sisters had a better view than when it was heavy wet fog two weeks ago and at least it was dry, sunny, and cool today with (most important) a nice dry road. We finish the Seven Sisters and hang a left to the East Peak of Tam. I see some other cyclists already on their way back from the East Peak which always makes me think that I’m the slowest gazelle. I get to the East Peak a few minutes after Ken. We’re off again after just a minute to take a couple of quick photos. We can rest on the downhill portion of Pantoll Road! I see a bunch of other cyclists who were behind me which always helps reaffirm that I’m not the slow gazelle!

Top of Mount Tam.

I have to wait for Ken on the downhills since he’s on his fixie and I’ve got the route loaded onto my Garmin. We make our way to the 4 corners where there’s some confusion among riders on which way they’re supposed to go for the 3 routes. This is when I realized that it’s not just the double metric route that goes through here. I’m glad that I have the route on my Garmin since there’s not really any clear signage here on which direction. I know though that Ken and I have to turn right onto Muir Woods Road. I’m glad that we’re getting this hard climbing done early on in the ride!

I’m not entirely sure if I’ve ever been on Muir Woods Road and it doesn’t exactly look familiar. It’s still overcast which I’m not minding! My lower back is hurting. I’m starting to wonder if this route was a mistake and doubting if I can make it. Ken is somewhere up ahead of me. I finally pull over to take some ibuprofen and pray that it kicks in soon. I’m hoping this isn’t a bad indication of what the next 70 miles are going to be like. I catch up to Ken right before Muir Beach and we head north along Shoreline Highway. We stop at the rest stop around Stinson Beach where of course Ken runs into more people he knows! Some metric century riders are here and they’re starting to make their way back to Santa Rosa while Ken and I are only halfway through our ride (and we started a good 2+ hours earlier).

I finally get Ken back in the saddle and we head off to Olema. For some reason this stretch of road always makes me think “are we there yet?” It’s a bunch of short climbs and not-long-enough descents. Some pretty scenery and hard to believe that you’re not out in the middle of nowhere as there are long stretches inbetween towns that many local cyclists know and most Bay Area residents have probably never heard of.

Ken and me at the top of Mount Tam.

We turn right out of Olema towards Tocaloma. There’s a quick water stop around one corner that Ken wants to stop at to refill. As usual, there’s at least one person there who sees Ken’s fixie and starts talking to him about it (although I think mostly it’s a combination of “omg you’re crazy!” and “badass!”). I forget the details but Ken usually makes fun of himself being “the old guy” also when he’s talking about this subject. I’m secretly seething with jealousy of the metric riders turning onto Nicasio Valley Road as they’re in the home stretch for their route. Ken and I continue on Point Reyes-Petaluma Road on a very long and boring stretch of road. I groan at the sign for 12 miles to Petaluma as I look down the mostly straight road. I resisted the urge to cut the ride short here because damnit, I’m doing this double metric if it kills me. There’s too many cars going by for Ken and I to really talk much which means that this stretch is about as boring as it can get on a bike!

We turn onto Hicks Valley Road which I can never remember the name of even though I’ve taken it every time except once to get to Marshall Wall (aka the climb on Marshall-Petaluma Road which isn’t that steep or hard of a climb really). I’m hitting my typical mental block at 80-ish miles. At Mile 83, Ken asks to stop for a minute as his feet are hurting. Ironically we’re in front of a house that I actually recognize on this road too as I look at it every time I’m out here for some reason. I take the opportunity to have a quick snack and ask him if he wants to continue. Part of me is hoping that he says he’s in too much pain and wants to go back to Nicasio Valley Road instead of marching onto Petaluma. That part of me whimpers when he says he’s okay and we can continue on.

My legs cry a bit as we start pedaling again towards Wilson Hill Road. It’s now mid-afternoon and definitely getting warm out there. I don’t know where any of the rest stops are (of course) so don’t know there’s one just on the other side of the hill. I’m surprised that I’m feeling pretty good going up Wilson Hill and take a moment to enjoy the view while waiting for Ken. I’m a bit surprised at how long I’m waiting for Ken at the top of the hill. He finally shows up some minutes later saying that he had to pull over again to rest his feet. Ken’s the ultimate badass cyclist as despite his feet hurting this much, he says that he’s fine to continue riding. Remember too that he’s on a fixie for this 200K w/ 10,000′!

Enjoying the view from the top of Wilson Hill.

I take off down Wilson Hill and turn to the rest stop at the hill’s bottom. I run into my friend Kat Browne, who is doing the traditional century (and her first century!). She’s overheating a bit and looking pretty spent. I know her route is a big challenge for her and I’m glad that I got to see her during it! Ken hasn’t shown up yet and I start getting worried as he was right behind me when we went down Wilson Hill.

I give up waiting for Ken and continue on Chileno Valley Road towards Petaluma hoping that I run into him. I keep looking behind me to see if he’s behind me still for some reason. I catch up to a guy we’d talked to at the water stop and tell him that I’m looking for my friend (which the guy knows as “the old dude” of course). I text and call Ken and keep checking my phone to see if I’ve heard back from him. We know we’re in the same area, but it’s hard to say where we are exactly.

I get to Petaluma and still don’t see any sign of Ken. I turn onto D Street to start heading back South to Nicasio Valley Road and stop underneath some trees still trying to figure out where Ken is. I’m worried as he said that he’s out of water and he’s on some big climb. I’m clueless on where he is since I’m unfamiliar with where I am exactly or this way back to Nicasio Valley Road. After waiting for about 15 minutes, I figure I better get moving again. Kat just passed me while I was waiting and I quickly catch up to her. I try to ride with her and notice that she’s going slower than usual. I suspect she’s tired, but she seems okay. I’m also still trying to hunt for Ken so I can’t stay with Kat for too long and I start unintentionally pulling further and further ahead from her. I look back at one point and don’t see her anymore. Later on, I’ll feel bad about this moment as I found out that Kat mentally lost it on the next climb and 2 strangers comforted her. I regret not staying with her and being able to take care of her then. I know that I couldn’t have known that that was going to happen to her.

I start climbing up a hill on Point Reyes-Petaluma Road. I realize after several minutes that this isn’t just some bunny hill. This must be the big climb that Ken said he was on with no water. I’m feeling a bit miserable on this thing also and it’s full on afternoon sun now making it even more uncomfortable. I’m not sure how long this climb is, but it certainly feels like it’s going on for miles and miles. I finally get to the top and start fantasizing about a long descent all the way to Nicasio Valley Road, even though I know that’s not true. I remember there are several miles of just boring flat-ish straight road somewhere ahead too and no Ken to keep me company on it.

Ken and my bikes together again finally!

I do get excited though when I turn onto Nicasio Valley Road knowing that I’m finally on the home stretch. I’m developing hot spots on my feet though so need to pull over to let my toes cool off. I notice that I’m having a bit of trouble unclipping my right shoe, but don’t bother looking at it. I check my phone again and try calling Ken with no luck. We both know that we’re still in the general vicinity of each other, but just not sure where. I got the idea that he’s still in front of me so I get back on my bike and continue on. I turn into what I can safely assume is the last rest stop to refill on water. KEN! He gets there a couple of minutes after I do. Turns out he had stopped at the French Marin Cheese Factory to refill on water and rest so I’d passed him there. I’m SO happy that we’re finally together again! I’d felt so guilty on losing him at the bottom of Wilson Hill Road. He thought he had seen me keep going straight on Chileno Valley Road and never saw the sign or turn for the rest stop there. I get another surprise here too as my friend Angel’s dad walks up to me to say hi! I hadn’t really realized that he was a cyclist let alone liked to do any kind of distance. He’s finishing up the traditional century route. Ken and I get back on the road knowing that we’ve still got what’s really the hardest part of the ride left since you’re so close yet so far from the finish.

We turn onto Lucas Valley Road which always has more climbing than I remember. It’s mostly shaded luckily. We stick with each other on all the climbs, but I lose him on the big curvy descent. I try to pull over to wait for him, but I can’t unclip my right shoe without feeling like I’d really have to crank hard on twisting it. I mentally apologize to Ken as I continue on the finish. I’m afraid to unclip now as I may break something and not be able to clip back in again. My legs are feeling pretty good and we’re almost to the finish.

I turn onto Las Gallinas Avenue and talk to another cyclist about how this always feels like the longest part of the ride. It’s through a residential section and sometimes feels like they just tack it on to add a couple of more miles to the finish as we had to go through here also when the ride started from the Marin County Fairgrounds on the other side of 101.

I broke my cleat!

We turn onto Nova Albion Way to the finish at Terra Linda High School. I ride straight to Ken’s van and finally unclip. I look at my shoe and realize that I’d broken the cleat sometime during the ride! I’d just changed my cleats two months before so wonder why this one broke so quickly. Ken went straight to get food so I walk my bike back over there to join him. We head home after we’ve had our fill.

This was definitely one of my most challenging rides to date as I didn’t know if I could do 10,000′ of climbing in a single ride. I’m glad that I had Ken with me for support though, even if he didn’t realize that I had wanted to quit at Mile 80. My calves, quads, and glutes hurt for a good 3 days afterwards, which at least I know that I was using my entire leg on the pedal strokes. I felt like this was a really good route. I’m glad I picked it though and that Ken was game for doing whichever route I chose! I’ve done two double metric centuries now and Ken has been with me on both of them. I’m glad he encouraged me to push myself further and harder on the bike to see what’s really possible for me to do. I’m already looking forward to my next long ride with him!

Strava post of the ride.

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Going Rando

When my friend Ken said that it was his goal this year to get me to do a double century (200 miles), I thought he was crazy, but I was also up for the challenge. He introduced me to this group called the Randonneurs, whose shortest rides are 200 KM (130 miles) and up to 600 KM (390 miles) generally with the rare 1200 KM (OMG my body hurts just thinking about it). The longest I’d ever ridden was 107 miles and I didn’t know what it would feel like to go longer than that.

Going right in line with my past history of foolish decisions that look like I’m trying to find new ways to make my body hurt, I joined the Randonneurs this year. I was attracted to the Faultline 200K in June since it went within a few blocks of my friend Becca’s house and her mom’s house in San Rafael along with being roads I was already familiar with. Ken had to cancel on me for another ride, but offered to make it up to me by doing the Faultline with me. Sure, apology accepted! πŸ™‚

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed before the ride!

Ken picked me up on the morning of Saturday, 29 June to head to the start at Crissy Field. I’m not sure if it was nerves or what, but my stomach was very upset that morning. I was trying to push through it though and if anything, I wasn’t bailing on Ken. He’s well known in in the local Randonneurs community given his addiction to 400K and 600K rides, mostly on a fixie (aka fixed gear bike). He knows a lot of the guys here today and is proudly telling everyone that this is my first Rando ride and first 200K. Today he is using a geared bike, which I didn’t even know he owned one! Ken’s “lazy” mode is riding a geared bike for 200K apparently. He puts a piece of bright pink tape on my top tube with the mile that each checkpoint is at and what type of checkpoint it is. We have cards that list the checkpoints and what we need for them (e.g. answer a question about something there, take a photo from there, get a receipt from an establishment, ATM, etc. there). These are used to verify that we were there and then will be ratified later that we did indeed complete the ride. The ride organizers reserve the right to also have unannounced checkpoints along the route also. I was mostly nervous about this works, but knew that Ken would show me the way. πŸ™‚

These poor bastards have no idea what’s in store for them today!

There are more people for this ride (about 25) than I thought there would be and one in particular who looked kind of familiar. Turns out the guy is Tom Hughes, who I used to work with at Coupons.com until I was laid off in 2012. This is the first time I’d ever run into anyone from there! Neither of us were cycling when I was there nor did we work directly with each other (I don’t recall) so I didn’t really know him back then.

After a quick ride briefing at 7 AM, we all roll out towards the Golden Gate Bridge via the bike path up Crissy Field Avenue, which I’d never actually been on. My mind is still wondering WTF am I doing here and I assume everyone in this group is a faster and stronger cyclist than me. I’m expecting that I’ll be doing most, if not all, of this ride by myself or with Ken. Ken promised to not leave me behind I know that he won’t get too far ahead of me, if he does at all. I thought that this ride would be unlike the organized rides where even with the number of riders, we’d be stretched out all over the route. There is a generous time limit though of 13.5 hours that I’m not worried at all about.

Rob Hawk gives a quick briefing before the ride

We hit the first checkpoint at the end of Bunker Road, which I’m surprised to see most of the other riders there. There’s some confusion on where the sign is that the checkpoint is asking about (something like “Where are dogs not allowed according to the sign next to the last set of benches before the gate?” Answer: The lagoon.). Some finally find the sign that is at the second to last set of benches before the gate. Ken and I decide that we can write the answer down later and continue on. We zip our way up and around San Rafael by Becca’s mom’s house and along the Whole Foods that I stop at when going to either of their houses. We head out to do a loop around China Camp and the second checkpoint at a campsite (question was “How many picnic benches are there?”). I’m sure everyone else there was wondering why the hell a bunch of cyclists with little yellow cards are counting the benches! 13. Ken and I decide we can remember that also and press on. We buzz past Becca’s area of San Rafael and onto Lucas Valley Road to start making our way to the coast.

Ken’s method of keeping track of where the checkpoints are on a ride.

My stomach is still bothering me a bit and I contemplate on bailing. I reason though that I’m 45 miles into this ride and looking at about 45 miles back, which would be a total of 90 miles. It’d be foolish to quit now as then I’d end up being just 40 miles short of finishing my first Rando ride and first double metric. Did I really just say “just 40 miles short ..”? I joke about how it feels like I was just on these roads a week ago, which is exactly where I was with Dan on part of our Sonoma backroads century a mere 8 days ago. I’m with Tom and a woman named Sandra right now though. Ken’s pulled ahead so they’re joking that he’s not doing a very good job of liaison on this ride. I know he’s up there waiting for me somewhere though. I tell Sandra a bit about my doubts and she says “This ride is tough, but you’re stronger.” (a new favorite quote!). She’s telling me about Marshall Wall and asking if I’d ever done it before. I say yes, and actually just last week. This’ll be my 4th time climbing up it.

View from the top of Marshall Wall – a rare time of actually stopping to “enjoy the view”

Sure enough, Ken is waiting for me at the end of Nicasio Valley Road. I like riding with faster people like Ken and my friend Dan because even if they pull ahead, they know to be ready to roll again when they see me since I’m not going to need to stop. They’re good company too. πŸ™‚ We do stop at the intersection of Pt Reyes – Petaluma Road and Marshall – Petaluma Road for the third checkpoint (“At the first mileage marker on Marshall – Petaluma Road after the turn, what’s the distance in KM?”) Ken and I finally take out our cards to write this number down along with the answer to the other 2 questions. We take off towards Marshall Wall and the coast. The only issue I have is we’re downwind from a guy who has leaving a distinct Pepe Le Pew sweat stench in his wake. I don’t blame Ken for zipping past this guy and I would too if my legs could handle it. Instead I go a little bit slower to get some distance between Pepe and me. Ken’s waiting for me a top and I tell him to hold on as I want to take a photo. I’d told him before that I’d planned on documenting every single mile of my first double metric. πŸ˜› I knew that if I got to the top of Marshall Wall that I’d be okay the rest of the ride. After this we’ve got some short climbs and rollers all the way to Tomales and then I know the route back too isn’t too bad (minus Panoramic Highway). Also, at this point it’s really too late to quit since I’m too far into the ride.

I’m really glad that I did the Sonoma backroads with Dan the week before as all of these roads are still fresh in my memory. Ken and I roll on to Tomales. We see some guys on their way back from Tomales already which either they’re very fast riders or they skipped lunch. Tomales is the “open” checkpoint at mile 76, which means to just get a receipt from anywhere there. Ken wants to stop to eat at the Tomales Deli & Cafe, which I actually join him in ordering something. Neither of us usually eat much on rides, but today is a rare occurrence. I was ordering some veggie sandwich when the guy behind the counter says that they have a vegan burger (with cheese..???) that I could/should order instead. Sold! Minus the cheese. This is the longest I’ve spent at a lunch stop in who knows how long, but it’s worth the wait as this burger is delicious. Then again, 76 miles into a ride on an empty stomach and it could have really tasted like sawdust on a normal day for all I know. The Tomales Bakery is generous enough to have a water pitcher outside for cyclists to refill their water bottles. One of Ken’s many friends on this ride pulls up confused as he’d passed us miles ago yet somehow we got to Tomales first without him ever seeing us pass him. Wormhole? πŸ˜€

Lunch! So good that I’d come back just for the vegan burger here.

Ken and I depart Tomales with our lunch receipts and make our way to Stinson Beach. Along the way we meet a guy who is riding to SF from Portland. Ken says we’re heading to San Francisco too and the guy seems a little confused when we say that we started in San Francisco. πŸ™‚ We make a brief stop in Point Reyes (almost home!) as one of Ken’s water bottles successfully escaped somewhere after we left Tomales. Point Reyes reminds me of the time that Liz and I did the SF-Point Reyes-SF loop on a weekday where we were the only ones on several of the roads, had lunch in Pt Reyes, and then got the surprise “road closed” in Stinson Beach that resulted in us unexpectantly going up and over via Panoramic Highway to get back. At least this time I knew that I’d be doing Panoramic Highway!

I hear a woman’s voice behind me while cruising down Highway 1 through Olema. Danielle is doing her third double metric and it’s always nice to have someone to chat with, even if you can’t see them. Ken, Danielle, and I form a little pod which helps as I get very bored on the flat section of road around Bolinas Lagoon. We’re at our last checkpoint in Stinson Beach and most of us to go the Stinson Beach Market. I’m not really needing anything so I ask Ken to grab me a banana (my standard classic go-to for any ride…see “2017 Tour de Cure Sonoma Century’s diet of 7 bananas and nothing else for food”). I’m definitely sure that this cashier is confused as all hell that about 25 cyclists just came into his store asking for receipts! A couple of other riders have a gallon water bottle they bought and offer to share their water with us. Damn this group is hella cool! I finally see what Danielle looks like too now that we’re off of our bikes. All she’d seen of me for the last several miles is the back of my kit and a long braid too! I already like her a lot as she’s super positive without being cheesy. I realize that we’re at 109 miles so I’ve officially gone my furthest distance ever on a bike and every mile from here to the finish will be another mile further than ever.

Banana peel safely disposed of and Ken urges me to shove off. I know what’s coming up so start whining a little. Another rider Phil has come along who is covered completely in black! I ask him while we’re climbing on how he cannot be overheating. He’s wearing arm and leg warmers though still for sun protection and does admit that he’s (finally?) getting pretty hot. Like many people, he’s a faster climber than me and I lose him too on this climb. Cars and motorcycles are passing us and I wonder if they think we’re nuts to be climbing up this road. They don’t even realize that we’re 110 miles into a ride! I do stop a couple of times on this climb to drink as I’m so out of breath that I want to make sure I don’t choke while drinking. I see a few spots that I remember waiting for Liz on this road when we went up it two years ago. My Suunto watch’s battery dies, but at least I’ve got a backup of my Garmin going also. Yes, I was wearing two heartrate monitors on this ride.

Faultline 200K Brevet card. Each one already has your name printed on it and you turn it in at the end of the ride.

I get to the intersection of Panoramic Highway and Pantoll Road (aka the top of this climb). I tell Danielle and Ken that I’m going to refill my water bottle in the campground there. I probably won’t need two full ones for the rest of the ride, but you never know. Phil’s at the water fountains trying to figure out where to go from there to get back to Crissy Field. I tell him to just join our pod as that’ll be easier.

We fly down Panoramic Highway the 4 Corners. Once we regroup, our foursome head down Sequoia Valley Road to Mill Valley. Home free! We get onto the bike path where I bark at a group riding 5 ACROSS that we’re coming up on their left. They respond quickly and our foursome sail past them. I’m actually feeling pretty good and the legs aren’t showing any signs of giving up anytime soon. I tell myself (just in case) that the climb to the bridge is one that I usually do at least once a week so it’s nothing to be worried about. As usual, the climb isn’t a problem at all although I have to remind myself to get on the West side (only open on weekends and cyclists only) since I’m used to the East side (cyclist/pedestrian mix on weekdays). I can’t remember the last time I’ve been on the West side let alone having to deal with Blazing Saddle nitwits. I do my usual prayer of not running into anyone who is going to make me break my personal 40+ years of never setting foot on the Gate record. Success! We had to maneuver around a few groups, but I was able to reach the other side again seamlessly. πŸ™‚ My Garmin gives a low battery warning, but I know we’re less than 10 minutes from the finish so whatever…I’m not plugging in my battery pack right now.

My ride stats from my first 200K. Not too shabby. πŸ™‚

Ken and Phil are a little bit up ahead. Danielle thought we were dropping down the bike path to get back to Crissy Field, but the route says to go around and down McDowell Avenue. She follows me around and we coast into Crissy Field and the finish. I hand my brevet card and receipts in and grab some veggie soup with Ken, Phil, Danielle, and the others who are there. Total moving time of 9 hours 49 minutes with 9000′ of climbing (total time 11 hours 13 minutes). First metric century and first Rando ride done! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

I’m really surprised that my legs, back, and neck weren’t hurting at all at the end of this ride! I could have kept going if I had to actually. I wasn’t sure if I’d hit a wall between 100 and 130 miles where I wouldn’t be able to go anymore. This ride had 9000′ of climbing though so it definitely wasn’t an easy 200K. I’m glad that I had done three centuries recently, even if I wasn’t really training for this ride or had it in mind when I was doing those centuries. Like my Catalina and Anacapa swims, I didn’t know if I could ride this far. I was willing to give it a try though. Now that I know I can do 200K though, I’m wanting to try a 300K (and later a 400K! Eek!). Next double metric on my schedule is Marin Century’s 200K route in August, which I’m also doing with Ken. Mostly though I’m looking forward to my scheduled Pajama Day tomorrow. I loved my first Rando ride and looking forward to joining these guys again!

San Francisco Radonneurs Faultline 200K Route

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Return of the Century

Four days after I broke my thumb in March 2019, I signed up for the Grizzly Peak Century being held in just 2 months. I was pretty sure that I’d be able to do it one way or another and if anything, this’ll help motivate me to be able to do that ride. I’d never broken a bone on my own before and in this case, I didn’t know that I had broken anything until I went to the ER at St. Francis Memorial Hospital because my hand had swelled up to be a paw! On Friday, 1 March, I had been riding from work back to the club when I had to go around a double-parked FedEx delivery truck on Hyde Street. My back wheel went into the track on my way back around the truck and I broke my left thumb against my handlebar (I was in my drops) as I fell onto my right side. I really thought that the pain was just from the cut on the thumb as the glove had ripped too right there. I learned that I’d actually broken the thumb when I did my follow-up appointment with Dr. Victor Prieto, orthopedic surgeon at the Center for Sports Medicine at St. Francis Memorial Hospital, who is also a cyclist. Oddly enough, he asked if he’d seen me before and I told him briefly during one of my appointments with Dr. Stephen Van Pelt (my sports physician) 8 years ago when I started having my hip dysplasia issues. Good memory!

First non-surgically broken bone. Radiologist’s yellow arrow pointing to the clean break in the bone.

Dr. Prieto prescribed me a wrist brace to mostly provide 4 tourniquets to the thumb to primarily minimize the swelling and secondarily to immobilize and protect the thumb while the bone healed. The ligament holding my thumb in place was torn, but not completely ripped so no surgery was required. Luckily there was no offset either so it was as clean a break as you could get. He said the bone would take 4 – 6 weeks to heal and asked what I was taking for painkillers. Surprising to many, I was only taking a couple of ibuprofen every so often since I didn’t feel any pain as long as the thumb didn’t move.

True to form, I asked him what I could do while the bone was healing. He said I could swim, but to bandage the thumb to the rest of my hand so it would stay protected and not get dragged by the water. I continued with my spinning classes with Enrique and Rob because hey, the legs still worked. I could also do modified TRX workouts with the brace on and limited it to ones that didn’t really involve my thumb being needed at all to grip. Duncan’s Row HIIT workouts were completely out of the question though. Spinning would help keep my legs in shape for cycling though with the added challenge of the thumb starting to swell during the workouts as fluid rushed to protect the fragmented bone.

Left photo is 3 days after the accident when I decided I should probably go to a doctor. Right photo is much closer to what my hand usually looks like!

Dr. Prieto confirmed that the bone had finished healing during my follow-up appointment 5 weeks later. The torn ligament would still take several more months to heal though. I got his blessing to get back on the bike again and he gave me some tips on how to adjust my riding style as he’s a cyclist also. He gave me some physical therapy exercises to help regain mobility and strength in my thumb and I also found a hand therapist’s methods for massaging the thumb to help soften the scar tissue. Needless to say, it’s been very frustrating still almost 4 months later that I can’t bend my thumb all the way and the ligament is definitely still healing. The ligament is slowly getting better though and at least I can do simple things like unscrew most bottles or lids though with my hand.

4-point tourniquet and reminder that I’ve got a broken bone / torn ligament.

I was eager to get back on the bike, yet terrified as I wasn’t sure what it was like. On 9 April I got on a bike for the first time to ride the 5 miles from the club to work to see how my thumb would hold up. Legs still worked fine like nothing ever happened, but I did notice that it took me longer to get into my drops as I had to focus on stretching out my left thumb to get into position. The reduced flexibility also meant that I had to shift with the tip of my left middle finger as the rest of my fingers couldn’t really reach my shifter. I had to use more of my core to support my upper body since I couldn’t put too much weight on my left hand. I also couldn’t wrap my thumb around the top of my handlebar for too long as the ligament would start hurting. Regardless though, I was back in the saddle! πŸ™‚

The next day I rode to and from the club and work with a detour of Hawk Hill (to work) and Twin Peaks (from work) to make it about 16 miles each way. My thumb continued holding up well and I kept up with my daily physical therapy exercises. I went to my sister’s in Delaware that weekend for my nieces’ birthdays and learned that I could finally touch my thumb and pinky together. I’m not sure if the cycling helped with anything physical, but it was certainly helping me with mental and emotional recovery.

After I got back home the following week, I went out for my typical midweek ride that includes Hawk Hill, a dash up to Larkspur, and Twin Peaks for a total of about 53 miles. That ride was one of the best rides of my life and restored my faith that I could definitely still ride at all and get back into my normal routine.

I signed up for the Wildflower Century’s 75-mile route as I wasn’t sure if I could handle the full century. I had the Grizzly Peak Century the following week and this would help asses my readiness for both my thumb and the rest of my body. Truthfully, I was a little worried about GPC since it was at least 1000′ more climbing in 100 miles than I’d ever done. This ride was actually a lot of fun and I rode about half of it with a guy from Salinas who was doing the 60-mile route (as he had to go back to Salinas to chaperone his daughter’s prom that night). He was a great cycling buddy that day since neither of us needed to stop at any of the rest stops. I’m always amazed that cyclists can just start talking to each other during rides like we know each other well even though we’ve never met and don’t even know each other’s names. It felt a little odd to me to be telling other riders that yeah I broke my thumb about 8 weeks ago and yes I’m doing the 75-mile (4200′ climbing) route. Like I said though, the legs still worked! I managed to finish that ride in 5 hours and was feeling pretty good.

Wildflower Century’s 75-mile route with 4200′ climbing just 2 months after the accident.

The next week was the Grizzly Peak Century that I was doing with my friends Ken and Baerbel (who said she was bailing on me after 70 miles and I had to do the rest on my own). Baerbel had texted me asking how my training was going and I responded with “What training?” While I was doing Wildflower, Ken was busy riding 600K to Santa Monica on a *fixed gear* bike. Shortly after Baerbel met Ken, she asked me where did I meet this guy and I said “Mount Hamilton. He was on a fixie then too.” (true story) I’m slower than both Ken and Baerbel, but at least they wait for me every now and then..especially Baerbel at rest stops. I got to the rest stop in Port Costa and told Baerbel to get going since she already had plenty of time there while waiting for me. πŸ˜‰ She decided that she loved the food at the rest stops and wanted to do the century route to see what the food at that rest stop was like. Ken was too tired still from his 600K ride the weekend before and wanted to cut it to the 76-mile route. I was a bit disappointed as I really wanted to do the century route, but I knew that Ken would do the same for me if the roles were reversed and the route would be there for another day. Ken was also my ride home too!

Me, Baerbel, and Ken before the GPC 76-mile ride.

I was still a little frustrated about not getting a century done as it was something I really wanted for myself in my thumb recovery. I had a brilliant idea though given that somehow I’d unconsciously taken on Ken’s characteristic of becoming a virtual camel on rides with not really eating or drinking much on rides. I didn’t drink or eat anything on Wildflower until about 60 miles in and didn’t eat anything during GPC. I didn’t finish an entire water bottle on either of those rides. I knew that I wouldn’t actually need a rest stop for doing the full GPC century route.

Century #1 – Grizzly Peak Century route
My friend Dan wasn’t really working full-time and said that he was up for riding with me even during the week. Dan is a very fast and strong cyclist who like Ken, does a lot of real long distance riding. Before I’d met him in person, I’d asked him over email during my Wildflower weekend if he was riding that weekend and then saw that he’d done a (self-supported) double century that day. We’re the Bay Area contingents of the NorCal Velo cycling club based in Santa Rosa. He was leading another Diablo ride and opened it up to NCV so I’d accepted the invitation.

A week later I met him to do the GPC route so I could finally get this out of my system. Black Ruby was in the shop so I was doing this on Sapphire, which has a smaller drivetrain and a composite frame (vs Black Ruby’s larger drivertrain and carbon frame). Doing my first post-break century on GPC was significant since it was the roads that I used to ride weekly with Liz when she lived in Berkeley. I haven’t gotten to ride there much since she left and hadn’t rode some of them in years. Given my history with many of these roads, I really wanted GPC to be my first post-break century. I was also wearing my 2015 Marin Century kit which (aside from one of my favorite kids) was the first century that I ever did.

I met Dan bright and early to roll out at 6:30 a.m.. It was foggy most of the morning and he stayed next to me the entire time even though he could have finished the ride on his own at least a couple of hours faster. Most of the roads were empty or very light traffic. The climb out of Port Costa was noticeably harder though on Sapphire than Black Ruby which I understood why people were whining about it during GPC. I did have to stop towards the top for a short break, but it still isn’t that horrible. We made a slight detour in Martinez for a very quick lunch break at Safeway (which he told me that Safeway sushi was the common Randoneeurs’ lunch of choice). I’m pretty sure it took us longer to figure out what to eat than to actually eat it. I actually ate a veggie burrito plus the Naked bar I munched on while waiting in line. Dan and I rolled off again. We had stopped just long enough that my quad muscles were crying that they thought we were done for good already. That was the hardest part during the ride as they took several miles to get warmed up again. I had to make a couple of short stops to take off my leg warmers and arm warmers though and then again during Three Bears to put on sunscreen as the sun was finally out. BTW Dan runs cold so he’s still bundled up like it’s January. We make our way back to Redwood Road, which Dan knows intimately as it’s his way home from a lot of his rides. We end up doing a few laps up and down a flat part of it by where my car is to get the last few KM that I need to make it a full century. Once my watch hit 162 KM, I knew I definitely had it and we made our way back to my car.

Sometimes you just gotta get it out of your system!

GPC century route done in 7:55 moving time with 8200′ climbing (total time 8:38). First century of the year, first century completed 11 weeks after breaking my thumb, and also the most climbing I’d ever done in a century ride by over 1000′.

Century #2 – America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride / Lake Tahoe Century
Two weeks later I did American’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride, a Tahoe century I’d done before while raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. LLS is the largest charity I support since my Uncle Bill died of leukemia. This year I raised over $3600 for LLS. Unlike 2 years ago, I did this ride by myself and never even met my TNT (Team In Training) team. I didn’t need the training schedule or the high school style cheerleading that they do in well, everything. TNT stops at every single rest stop including the one hour break at the lunch stop. Give the minimal food that I eat on rides, this adds up to a lost of wasted time for me. I wanted to just get the ride done and since I was solo, I’d have to drive myself afterwards. I was highly motivated to get an early start and get done quickly!

I was not alone that morning as there were several others who also started early to avoid the official 6:00 a.m. start with some 3000 other cyclists. It was a very brisk 40F air temperature! Most of the road between South Lake Tahoe and Emerald Bay was closed which was very nice to know that there wouldn’t be car traffic either way and, of course, a lot less noise between less riders and less cars. Most of the time I’m physically alone and I’m thinking that it’s just me and Uncle Bill’s spirit on that road. I’m imagining what it felt like for him to ride a bike with every pedal stroke. The last time I’d seen him, he told me that he enjoyed cycling as it was the only time his feet didn’t feel like they were on pins and needles. It would have been awesome to have been able to do this ride with him with him wearing a “Survivor” jersey, but that wasn’t meant to be. Instead it’s just me on this road solo and his remains are in a plot in Peoria, Illinois. My goal was to get through this century as quickly as possible so I didn’t take a lot of photos during it. I only stopped 3 times too: 1 rest stop for a bio break, once to strip layers / apply sunblock, and once at the top of the East climb to have a quick waffle snack and drink. I was done by about 12:30 p.m. and at Cold Water Brewery (a favorite stop on name alone) by 1:00 p.m.

Total moving time was 6:45 and total elapsed time was 6:55. This is really how I prefer to do long rides with minimal stopping. It’s really hard to get my muscles moving again if they have a chance to cool down so it’s optimal to just keep them warm. I saw one of my TNT team members on Strava did the ride in 6:05 BUT the total time was about 8:30. That’s almost 2.5 HOURS of standing around. I just can’t do that! I’ve set what I’ve come out to do though of finishing this ride and fulfilling my request to my generous donors that I’ll ride 100 miles if they donate to LLS.

America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride aka Lake Tahoe Century in memory of my Uncle Bill.

Century #3 – Sonoma County Backroads Challenge Route
I was supposed to do the Sonoma County Backroads Challenge’s Century on 25 May, but the pouring rain weather led my friend Annie and me to stay safely inside drinking wine instead. I reasoned that we can ride the route another day and need to given that I’ve already got the pint glass and t-shirt from the ride. My friend Pat had been giving me s*** that I’ve been riding with Dan and not him so we had worked out Friday, 7 June to ride together and I invited Dan. Pat had to work and I may have had to work so this got postponed to Friday, 21 June with just Dan and myself. I think Dan is a sucker for punishment for riding with me given that I average about 3 mph slower than him.

I let Dan dictate the start time of 8 a.m. which is also about 3 hours after most of my rides start. After a bit of heckling about how I’d have been almost halfway done by the time he showed up, we take off from a car park in Penngrove. We both know a lot of the roads but our memories are kinda fuzzy. Somehow we ended up with different routes too and decide to follow the one on my Garmin. This proves to be one of the greatest errors in human judgment.

Everything is going fine with the usual riding camadarie and even the East-West climb up Marshall Wall. I joking ask Dan if he can at least pretend that he’s putting some effort into this climb and he starts mockingly grunting. There’s a trio of guys who past us on the climb and then we pass them on the top as they’re taking photos. Were we supposed to stop and enjoy the view? Both of us have been up Marshal Wall enough that it’s a “been there, done that” scenario and we do the long semi-boring ride to Valley Ford.

We do a quick stop in Valley Ford for water and a snack at the Valley Ford Market. Dan’s a cyclist after my own heart with the mentality of “I’m done drinking / eating / peeing…can we go now?” I think I ate 2 bananas, a Naked bar, and a Stinger waffle along with a bottle of water for my “lunch.” Another slap of sunblock and we’re off again.

I had considered Bodega Bay for the lunch stop which I decide is cute enough as we roll through it that I’d like to go back and actually see it sometime (mental note: nieces visit in August). My muscles are still semi-warm so moving them isn’t a problem until we get to (No) Joy Road. I’m feeling very pathetic as I am having a helluva time cranking my way up a climb that isn’t that steep. I do the walk of shame for a few minutes until the road flattens out a bit. I then rightfully declare myself an idiot as I notice that my front gear is in the biggest ring so I was making this climb almost as hard as possible. ARG! I shift into the gear that I should have been on and magically everything is easier. However, I’ve also expended much more energy in my legs than I needed to so somewhere up the road I see a parked truck and tell Dan that I need to pull over there. He suggests adjusting my seat post then as the “Not Mike” mechanic who put the new cables on my bike obviously had adjusted the seat post and put it back WAY too low for me (my usual mechanic Mike would have never done this to me but he wasn’t at work when I dropped Black Ruby off).

I start climbing again with my seat post closer to where it should be and that made a HUGE difference. I can finally use my entire leg to ride with! I forgot to do this when we stopped for “lunch” and am very grateful that Dan suggested to do it now. We’re on an about 5 mile / 1000′ climb that he recognizes from some of his Rando rides and I’d never been on before. I seem to remember this was the second and last of the steep climbs on this route.

I was wrong.

Dan and I start doing a lot of snaking around the suburban backroads just West of 101 which is obviously just to add distance to make this route a century ride. We do one gnarly descent of tight hairpin turns with no shoulders. I realize one reason why I really like riding with Dan is that it’s helping me get over my crash trauma. I crashed 4 years ago on a descent so I’ve been apprehensive about fast descents since then. I trust Dan though and with some slight pressure to at least stay closer to him on the route combined with trusting that if he can do this descent as fast as he can then it must be safe, I’m slowly starting to get my descending confidence back. Slowly.

We’re stopping every now and then to check out the route map since we’re both feeling slightly lost and wondering when is this back and forth going to end and..where are we??? Then something horrible happens at about mile 80 as we turn from Barnett Valley Road onto Burnside Road…a 1 mile / 500′ climb this far into a ride. WTF? It hits about 17.5% at one point in this climb. Dan makes it up without a problem but I just mentally lose it about halfway up and walk the rest of the way. I was not expecting any more steep climbs like this! I’m feeling a bit defeated and Dan reassures me that I wasn’t mentally prepared for that climb as opposed to how I felt that I’m just a really weak cyclist. He gives me an out to cut the ride short and I decide to just continue on and see what the rest of this now hellish route provides.

Heaven really was just around the corner though as we FINALLY descend down Burnside Road! It’s about a 6 mile straight shot descent. The road is crappy with unevenly filled potholes left and right. I’m actually watching Dan’s movements and adjusting my line based on his adjustments. I hear the sound of my rim scraping on one of the filled potholes at once point, but I don’t slow down. I feel a huge sigh of relief that I’ve managed to get through the overwhelming desire to just somehow cut straight across the 101 line to get back to the cars and quit this ride.

We are finally done with any steep climbing on the ride as we start recognizing roads and know that we’re less than 4 turns from the finish. Seeing 101 in the distance is kind of like a mirage. Dan recognizes that I’m feeling better as he said that I looked pretty cooked back on Burnside Road. I was and am very grateful that he stuck with me through it and let me sort out whatever was going on in my head. He could have decided for me that the ride would end back then and I’m glad that he left it up to me since as he always said, it was my ride.

We get closer to Old Redwood Highway and start comparing our distances. Dan does his in imperial and mine is in metric. We have this unspoken agreement that we’re not going back to the cars until both of us have hit 100 miles in our respective units. I’m a bit short so we go past the cars until I’ve got 161 KM on my watch a short distance away. We turn around then to go back to the cars and end the ride.

In all we ended up doing 8000′ of climbing on a route that his version had 6000′ and mine had 7000′. We still don’t know how RWGPS had either route’s climbing amount wrong. This was probably the hardest century I’ve done as I was not expecting 8000′ of climbing, especially that last steep climb!

Sonoma Backroads Century route

I didn’t realize until a few days later that I’d done 3 centuries in 4 weeks. That wasn’t intentional, but I’m very proud of the accomplishment. Similar to when I’d had my pelvic surgeries to correct my hip dysplasia, it’s almost like my thumb breakage has reminded me of how lucky I am to be able to physically move and helped reinvigorate my love for cycling. Having friends who are always up for riding like Dan help also as if anything, the camadarie is a bonus. I may not have Liz or SheSpoke in my regular daily (cycling) life anymore but it’s evolved yet again. After a couple of years of not really riding much let alone centuries, I was back and starting to push my distance and climbing limits again.

Next up: my first double metric century (eek!) and my first ride with the Randonneurs.

Note: Working on this blog has been bittersweet as my close friend John died a few weeks ago and he’d read every single one of my previous blogs. This became a small challenge for me to write knowing that this would be my first entry that he’d never read. He was one of my biggest cheerleaders, unconditional supporters, and always there for me through thick and thin. He left the world too soon 19 days after being diagnosed with a rare form of mylemona, a blood cancer. I find comfort in knowing that he didn’t suffer for months or years. The world needs more people like him and I’m blessed to have had him in my life for 16 years.

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