Saturday’s ride was always going to be a fucking a nightmare. The length and the profile just didn’t look like fun. Add in a 40 minute drive down to San Jose for the start and a little heat wave and you’ve got the recipe for unmitigated masochism. Here’s how it went down.
We got a late start (big news). Dan was supposed to meet me at Lake Merritt for the ride down to Hellyer Park in San Jose, but when I texted to let him know I was on my way, I woke him up. It actually turned out to be a lucky break because another club rider, Lauren, showed up late and wouldn’t have the ride down to the start if we were on time.
The ride left at 8:20, as usual, and we pulled out of the Hellyer parking lot at about 8:40. It didn’t take us long to start reeling in riders, although there was only a handful, around 25 I later learned, who decided to take up the day’s challenge.
We first caught up with Ray, a club member and a grandfather. Since we had dropped Lauren way back, I suggested to Dan that we hang with Ray until Lauren caught up and then they could ride together. This both gave me a break and allowed me to talk to Ray who’s incredibly inspirational. It was tough for me to be out there in this heat. I can’t imagine how Ray who is closing in on 70 felt. But there he was chugging away at the pedals, not too fast, but fast enough. I hope that I have the strength to ride when I have a grandkids. Of course, the way things are going, I’ll be 90 when I have grandkids and will likely be closer to Ray’s age when I have kids of my own, but I digress. Lauren eventually caught up and Dan and I headed up the road.
I was carrying two water bottles in my cages and had my Camelbak (actually North Face) filled with 2 liters of ice water. It wasn’t nearly enough. Early on, it wasn’t that bad. There was a breeze and because the route was flat and we were cruising along at a good clip, you didn’t feel the heat. It wasn’t until we started the first climb up Metcalf Road that we felt the blast furnace.
At 9am, the temp was hovering around 100 degrees. The climb up Metcalf is steep enough that I could only maintain about 5 miles per hour, which is almost like standing still. The sun was beating down on my body and it was so hot it was hard to breathe.
I recovered somewhat on the harrowing descent—long, curvy and slick because all all the motorcycles and grease monkeys making their way to and from Motorcycle Country Park. I had to break so much my hands were cramping by the time I reached the bottom. I really need to get better at descending.
We had a little regroup at the bottom. There were about 8 of us assembled there, refueling with Cliff Bars, Power Gu and sports drinks. We rode together for all of about 5 minutes when my back tire started fishtailing. Flat as a fucking board. I dragged the bike forward into the shade and got to fixing it. Fortunately Dan was there to help because I don’t have that much experience fixing a flat in the field. I learned how to do it when I lived in Samoa, but that damn Chinese made Trek never did get a flat the whole time I lived there. It’s a good thing, because it’s really a pain in the ass—even worse when the temps are hovering around 105.
Flat fixed, we hit the road again. We caught up to the group a few miles down the road as they were pulling away from a roadside farm stand where they were taking a break. It’s straight and flat down Halve Rd., but, wow, was it hot, like a frying pan. Not much to look at, just farms on the side of the road and very dusty.
It was with great pleasure that we turned right on Willow Springs and headed back into the hills. Sure, it meant climbing, but at least there was some shade and the winding roads are always preferable to a seemingly endless and virtually straight highway.
I bonked just before the summit with about 10 meters to go and had to take a short break before I pushed myself up the last little bit. At the top was a little oasis—a strip of grass in front of someone’s gated house that become a makeshift rest stop/triage area.
A bout of extreme sensibility kicked in and we, in the interest of self-preservation, decided to cut the ride short and skip the massive climb up Hicks Road. If you see the part of the ride profile that looks like a needle sitting on its end, that’s the part we skipped and wisely so.
Tough to say how long we were there at the top of Willow Springs, but if I had to guess, I’d say at least 30 minutes. About a dozen riders rolled away together down the hill, but I wasn’t one of them. As soon I hit the road, I realized something was not quite right with the bike. I stopped, looked down and, and saw that I had another fucking flat. Fuck Fuck Fuck.
Lucky for me, Jenifer in the support vehicle pulled up at that moment, gave me a spare tube and a pump and I changed the flat, again. Without her, I don’t know what I would have done. Dan was there and had another tube, but we used his only CO2 cartridge to fix my first flat (mine turned out not to be enough). We were the last riders on the road since the light riders took off for home well before they could get to Willow Springs. It was damn lucky.
Again, bike in one piece, we hit the road down the hill. The ride was only about half way over and we had a long way to go. But the climbs and the worst of the ride were behind us. While we couldn’t exactly coast down to the finish line, at least we wouldn’t have to struggle too much to get there.
I needed a break about the time we hit the entrance to the Calero Reservoir. We stopped and bought ice cold Gatorade from some guy with a food cart. Then the most amazing thing happened. The skies opened up and it started to pour on us. Glorious fucking rain!
Clouds had been gathering all day in a very unCalifornia way. Big puffy clouds of the kind I was used to seeing in the tropics. When we arrived at Calero, the clouds had sort of gathered together into a critical mass of precipitation and for about 5 whole minutes, the rain came down, the temps dropped about 20 degrees and it was so damn refreshing. Just what we needed to keep us going to the finish line. Richard was there in the second SAG vehicle with more water and encouragement. I don’t know what we would have done without them.
We continued down the road and eventually caught up to the group we had been with at the top of Willow Springs. One more break at some gas station at the Alamaden Expressway to top off the water bottles and use the facilities and it was flat all the way home to Hellyer Park.
All in all, it was a fucking nightmare, something I never hope to repeat. I want my cycling to be challenging and fun. Not excruciating and miserable. The headwinds on Altamont were bad, but nothing compared to the heat of San Jose. It was just downright hellish.
Here’s a report from club member Royston:
Saturday, San Jose, What can I say, I was hotter than a cat on a hot tin roof. I could have been horrible. Last year, I had a gallon of water going out. This year, I had a gallon and a half and it was almost gone by Willow Springs. I want to thank Richard Reed, Jenifer Williams and her sister Audrey. They were like angels with cold water. I was at the top of Willow, recovering from the climb with fellow OYJs who had experienced their second flat. Jenifer was there with water and the call came in More Water at Calero Reservoir. She said Richard had emptied his fifth container of water. I am glad they were there to SAG.
Memorable mention. Kinda funny to get caught in a cloud burst rain in Cali for (5) minutes
All in all, I think I drank about 10 liters of water on the ride, but it wasn’t enough. I had a massive headache on the ride back to Oakland. I crashed when I got and slept the sleep of the dead.
Ride Time 3:41:19
Max Speed 37.5
Average Cadence –
Here’s the route map: