Informal Century Turns Epic

Coach Ben thought that Athlete Sherie and Athlete Ben were in need of a full 100-mile day on the bikes in preparation for the long day of the Maratona.  And because we both love riding to and from home, we decided to do a self-supported century from our own garage. The route planned only has three big climbs, with lots of flats between. So comparatively, it was to a an “easy” century. From Albany, north on San Pablo Ave (quiet early on a Saturday morning), then SPDR to Pig Farm Hill, by Pleasant Hill BART to Ygnacio Valley Road. Then Morgan Territory Rd to the Livermore Valley, through Danville, Lafayette and Orinda back home.

We had a nice time riding very early, smelling the bacon cooking in cafe’s as we rode by. Nothing like the smell of bacon cooking and coffee brewing to wake you up, even if you aren’t stopping to imbibe! We felt great spinning easy up our favorite: Alhambra Valley Rd.

We had to dig a bit deeper up Pig Farm Hill, but stayed at an easy pace through the Pleasant Hill area and out Ygnacio Valley. Nearing Pleasant Hill we saw the GPC group led by Estella going on some mysterious route, waving as we passed in the opposite direction. We took breaks at the golf course on Grayson (people are always so nice there even though we are not golfers, as we use the restrooms and sit at the picnic tables) and on the square in Clayton.

Morgan Territory Road really is a cyclist’s paradise, especially since it was repaved a few years ago. After some miles next to fast traffic on Marsh Creek Rd, one turns up a small valley with horse ranchettes, cattle spreads, and McMansions. The further one goes, the quieter it gets until the houses are very sparse, the road is a one lane winding lane, and the sounds of the babbling brook tumbling under the oaks caress your ears. You start climbing gently, and only the top is really steep. (Actually, years ago it seemed a lot steeper to Sherie and I before we increased our strength and lowered our gears this spring.)

At the summit we took a quick break, where we felt the wind growing in strength. Little did we know that:

  • 30 mph crosswinds would make the downhill through the grasslands on the south slopes tricky and nerve wracking.
  • 15 mph headwinds through the pastures of the Livermore Valley would sap our strength
  • A rain squall would blow through before we had the shelter of lunch, but we did not get too wet.

We really were ready for lunch, both low on energy, when we made it to Blackhawk. We each had a full sized burrito, and amazed the 19-year old cashier when we said we had ridden from Berkeley. After that, and a 2-dollar tip, she was very helpful. And a full stomach was great for both of us, although we took it a bit easy digesting for a few miles before we were back in rhythm.

Since the day’s goal was miles and saddle time, and not killer hills, we chose to return westward on something close to flat. More life lessons:

  • The library in Lafayette has very nice public bathrooms.
  • The “downtown bypass” route through Lafayette is well signed, but wanders up and down and all around to miss one mile of the busy Mt Diablo Blvd. Not worth getting off the main drag there.
  • There is no flat route from the east to Orinda.

As we approached Wildcat Canyon Rd heading home, the clouds gathered. Looking up, Ben feared rain but didn’t say as much to Sherie, only “I am not stopping on top. I will see you at home.” Well, it sprinkled at El Toyonal, rained steadily by Inspiration Point, and poured going down Spruce. No way Ben was stopping to wait for Sherie in a downpour! Ben had to remove his eye glasses to see, and even then blinked repeatedly to function. Hard to wipe your eyes when you are squeezing both brakes to keep the rims dry enough to have some friction for stopping!

Ben arrived home soaked to the bone and shivering from the chill of the last three downhill miles. He quickly stripped and warmed up in the shower. Glad I wasn’t waiting at some BART station.

It made Sherie’s day when Ben greeted her in the garage with a large towel, then made dinner quickly while she showered and warmed up. The big rain shower sure put an exclamation to the long day in the saddle!

154.64 km, 1821 vert meters, 7 hours 22 minutes moving, 9 hours 20 minutes total, 20.9 kph ave, max grade 15%

Or 96.09 miles, 5974 vert feet, 13.04 mph ave

A very bouncy video of Ben’s descent on the east side of Pig Farm Hill (passes Sherie at the 3:50 mark), plus a few slides, is posted on Vimeo here:

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