Sunday, October 26, 2008

Low-Key Hillclimb No. 4 - Bear Gulch

Much like the last post from Geoff, this one was inspired partly by chastisement from Dennis, who nevertheless was kind to decline setting a deadline for when I should have it posted.

This report also revolves around time-mismanagement. Dennis and I set out from San Gregorio to ride up Hwy 84. Half way into our easy warm-up, I realized I had miscalculated by 1 hour, and there was no way we could make it to the race on time. Registration was happening up on Skyline, and then the group was supposed to descend together down Bear Gulch to the start.

So, instead of continuing on to the registration area, we turned off on Bear Gulch, and were encouraged by some runners who said the pack of cyclists had just gone by moments before. The road snaked through redwoods, gently falling and curving for 2 miles, then burst out of the shade onto steep grassland where it plummeted the last mile, ending at a gate back in a grove of redwoods.

And there was the race, 80 or so folks staring up at us as we descended the last turn. I told the race organizer we had passed a guy fixing a flat, which gave us an extra minute to turn our bikes around, strip off extra clothes, and take an extra deep breath before we were off.

The start was tricky since it was steep right away. The guy leading us off had to start, clip in, go past a telephone pole, push start on his timer, and yell go. Took him about 4 tries to get clipped in, and I was right behind him, holding back because it looked like he was about to take everyone out. But finally he got it together, yelled go, and immediately I hear Clark Foy over my shoulder calmly say, "On your left." I keep the door open for him best as I can with people clipping and wobbling all around me, and right into the first curve Clark slips through like a silvery-blue fish on my left. A dozen other fish stream by, and one of the last is Jeff Farnsworth. Jeff and I have ridden together in other races and seem to have similar abilities on the bike. I'm thinking, "Damn, Jeff is going good. I don't think I could do that. Guess I'm not going to keep up with Jeff today."

The first mile is tough. The race description of 3 miles at 6% is misleading because most of the climb happens in the first mile. I'm wrestling with my 34/23, wishing I had a 25 cog to drop down to, and later I hear from Dennis that he was quite glad to be spinning in his 34/27.

I follow a few Pen-Velos, but then they're gone, 1 ahead, 1 behind. A tire on my left explodes. He's not going to catch me. The views here are amazing but I've got tunnel vision, black fuzz around the edges. Eventually I settle in just behind a Morgan-Stanley woman, a trim climber. Then finally, mercifully, the first mile is past us and I can start to recover. I pass the climber gal and say, "That's a rough way to start a race." She says nothing, and when I glance back a few moments later, she is no where in sight. Later I learned that she is Jennie Phillips, racing with the Sisters of No Mercy team, and top finisher on the women side of things.

But who is in sight is Jeff Farnsworth, and I realize he got a gap on me but now isn't moving away. The road becomes much more enjoyable...I'm in shade, pavement is good, and its more like rollers than climbing. I'm back and forth between big ring, small ring. Every time the road rolls up I stand to power through, and when I sit, Farnsworth is that much closer. My race becomes 3 things: me, Farnsworth, and the finish line. I catch him maybe a couple hundred yards before the line, stand and power past. As I go by he offers up a "way to go", sounding like he doesn't have much fight left.

I finished 14th. Foy took first by a minute. The other Matt was right behind Farnsworth, and Dennis was 20th. Overall Bike Trip took 4th. No one stood a chance against the all female Sisters of No Mercy team. Where are the Bike Trip women?

After the race we did interval work on both sides of Old La Honda before heading back to San Gregorio. A beautiful day on the bike.

(pics by Sonja Wieck)

1 comment:

Dennis the Mennis said...

Awesome report Matt! This hillclimb was pretty cool; the upper sections were so fast that I ended up drafting several guys, and being drafted in return. The guy ahead of me crashed just before the finish line (yes, it's possible to crash in a hillclimb, but you have to try pretty hard... and he was fine), so I had to swing around him and got passed by another guy in the bargain. Congrats on a strong finish!