September 10, 2011

The Long and Windy Road

Having just climbed some 27,375 feet over 287 miles during ten days in Italy, climbing 6,260 feet over 100 miles down the California coast should be no problem. Piece of cake, right?

Two days to recover from jet lag were almost enough. Almost.

An Audi R8 led us out at a brisk pace—I averaged 19.7 mph over the first 10 miles, which is a personal best. Of course, that is also not a sustainable pace for me and once the hills started rolling, I started crawling. [I must note that the R8 driver failed to rev the engine in the tunnel under Robinson Canyon Road, an offense for which the key to that vehicle should be summarily confiscated.]

The day was cool and foggy, but not as intensely so as last year. The sun began to break through near the Bixby Bridge, which was a fine place to peel off a layer. I rounded the bend on the other side and ... when did they install a wind tunnel here? It was blowing a gale—headwind, crosswind. This is completely unnatural; in the morning, the air should be still. In the afternoon, there should be tailwind.

Twice, I was nearly blown over—the bike tilted violently to my left each time. I actually contemplated getting off and walking. This was the most extreme wind I have ever faced on a bicycle. Ever. How far would I have to walk? How much would that slow me down?

Being the stubborn sort, with less common sense than I need, I kept pedaling. One thing about wearing one of those ultralight jackets: the material snaps loudly in the wind, and it was snapping furiously. This is the perfect accessory for fine-tuning your aerodynamics: streamline yourself and be rewarded with the sound of silence. Streamline yourself to stay upright.

Further south, a presumptuous passenger in a passing Prius with Utah plates shouted
Get on the other side of the line!
Wrong. I don't know what your vehicle code specifies, but the California vehicle code does not require me to ride on the shoulder [which was vestigial, at that particular point]. I may choose to ride on the shoulder, but I am only required to ride as far to the right of the road as practicable. The white line is the "fog line" that marks the edge of the road.

At our lunch stop, I assured a weary rider that he could make it. I told him what to expect of the two hills ahead. Two riders recognized me from our Woodside training ride. Passing me a short time later, one called out "I hope this is the second hill!" Cruel, isn't it, at mile 80?

The sky was growing darker [and not because I was running out of daylight, I am not that slow]. Ten miles outside of San Simeon, the first big raindrops plopped down. I am not made of sugar, I will not dissolve in the rain. [A chemist told me so.]

I crossed the finish line a full hour behind my best pace [in 2009]. It was the headwind, I tell you!

A local band from San Jose rocked out at the post-ride barbecue (Smash Mouth). Well-fortified with caffeine, I was still awake at 8:30 p.m. The best was yet to come.

The Neptune Pool. What if this is my last chance? Cold, tired, foggy ... none of it matters.

To everyone who supported my fund-raising for Best Buddies this year: thanks for throwing me in the pool!

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