April 2, 2005: Hey MTB boys, come git you an ass-whuppin'

Hooked up with Romulus today for an early morning assault on the mountainous fortress Tamalpais rising tall above the fabled forests of Marin. It was more like a heavyweight fight than a bike ride.

The monolith
Looking down on San Quentin
Lagunitas Lake

We parked near Mike's Bikes in Mill Valley and rode the bikepath to the ballfield, where we turned west and started to climb. The first few climbs were on pavement and knocked us a bit off-balance. Then came the dirt staircases up to Blithedale Summit. By the time we got to the Blithedale gate at mile 4, I was already semi-delirious, stumbling, and drooling. This usually doesn't happen until about mile 25 of an epic. Romulus was also rocked. These were serious Mike Tyson-motherfucker body blows to the ribs and kidneys. We absorbed them, but they wobbled us. I pretty much took a standing-eight count somewhere up there, looking down on San Quentin, as I grabbed my shorts to steady my wobbly legs.

It was a clear, sunny day today and that added the element of heat to the equation. To date this year, there has been no heat training in my regimen. There's not too much you can do about that during the winter months, but it did hit me a couple of times last year. The race in Angwin on April 24 could be very hot. At times today, the heat started to get uncomfortable, but it never crossed the line. High clouds and lots of shade kept us from ever getting overheated.

I was very disappointed that I did not make the entire set of three staircases just below the junction with the Eldridge Grade. This is the hardest ascent of Tam, by far, but it is doable. Romulus has made the whole thing without touching down before, but this was my third try without success. As with one of my previous efforts, I spun out in the middle of the heavily rutted second staircase. Blimey!

You know, it's good training to take an ass-whuppin' every once in a while. I got a double shot today. The mountain handed out some serious abuse, and Romulus was clearly the stronger rider today. During one painful climb, my cyclometer registered 2.8 MPH, which is the slowest speed I've ever seen it display before shutting off. 2.8 MPH is about the slowest you can move while remaining upright.

After topping out at Rifle Peak and conducting a righteous safety meeting in the middle of a sun-soaked meadow, we hungrily embraced the downhill portion of the ride. There were incredible views of Marin to be had in all directions, especially looking northeast towards Lagunitas Lake and Bon Tempe reservoir. Not that we had much time to notice. The entire way back, we playfully sparred, jockeying for position in turns, passing and being passed, engaging in all manner of race-condition maneuvering. Very good practice for the upcoming races, and damn fun.

Back on the flat land, Romulus and I worked together to hammer a couple of roadies on the bike path. Roadies always underestimate MTBers. We got blown out by a few really good roadies today, but short of that, we can usually hang pretty tight with the skinnies, which always surprises them.

Bloodied but unbowed, we returned to the City feeling good about the fact that we had been battered early, but held on through the middle rounds and finished strong. That bodes well for races; it's better to finish strong than fade at the end. But there was one last rabbit punch left. I went to load Blue Sugar into the Bronco, only to find out that I had left the lights on and the battery was dead, dead. Of course, I hadn't brought my AAA card, so I couldn't call them. What to do. I could see this developing into an all-afternoon fiasco, and I wanted to get home in time for the Louisville game. But Romulus to the rescue. He tracked down some cables from one of his neighbors, we jumped that bad boy, and I was on my way home in a euphoric cloud within 10 minutes.

Saw a couple of red-tailed hawks and some turkey vultures circling above us at we looked out over Bon Tempe. We also saw a couple of deer high up on a hillside as we struggled up toward Rifle Peak. Later, we came across another deer in the middle of the trail. It ran in front of us for about 50 yards, then darted into the bush. Apparently, it is deer season.


Mileage: 28.08 Time: 3:01:16 Avg: 9.3 Max: 30.5 Weight: 168

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