January 29, 2005: Bandit country

I haven't been pushing very big gears this winter. Blue Sugar has been in drydock since the end of November and I haven't been on the Blade in at least a couple of weeks. I was intent on getting in a strong ride on the Blade today.

Bandit country
Bikes too, right?
Not blowing in my direction

Be careful what you ask for. Just noodling around EG at the beginning of the ride today, I really felt the bigger gears. I barely made it up some of the minor grades in the neighborhood. That didn't bode well for the upcoming ascent of Tunitas.

Cruising down the coastal bikepath, the windswept blufftops seemed particularly lonely and desolate. Nothing stirred. The perfect spot, I thought, for post-apocalyptic bicycle-borne footpads intent on robbing, harrassing, and kidnapping people along this isolated stretch of path in the aftermath of the total collapse of the rule of law. As I scanned the horizon, I envisioned the startling and sudden appearance of three or four raptor-like cycling rogues coming at me hard and fast from all directions. There was no way to outrun them on foot, as most people will be after the collapse. Graphic designers, construction workers, mobile handset salesman before, they now used their biking skills to prey upon the weaker for their daily bread as part of humanity's re-integration with the laws of nature. Even in contemporary society, bikepads might be able to operate along here. The could outrun the cops in areas where vehicles can't easily get to; they're not limited to roads, but can get up into the hills on trails that vehicles can't; and as MTB trail rats, they know the terrain better than anybody. Sounds like the beginning of a screenplay.

After I put the dark territory behind me, I had a chance to assess my confort level on the Blade. Not good today. Very wobbly and skittish. I haven't felt this wobbly on the Blade since last spring, if ever. I then started thinking about how wobbly I felt and how crappy it would feel to crash and all that tired old bullshit.

As if on cue, less than five minutes after my negative thought bomb, I came within a foot of being sideswiped by a weaving aluminum box on wheels. I forced my heart back down my throat and noticed, as car and driver careened up the road, that the driver was completely stretched across the passenger's seat trying to get something out the glovebox and could barely see the road.

As I've said before, to ride road, you have to be somewhat of a fatalist -- there is essentially nothing you can do to really protect yourself out on the pavement. If a motorist is not paying attention or is driving out of control, especially if they're coming up behind you, there is NOTHING you can do. I put my fate in the hands of my spirit guides: the bobcat, the owl, the redwood.

Though I wasn't pushing too hard and it's only rolling terrain down to Las Tunitas, my left hammy was really tight and painful. For whatever reason, it's always the left hammy that has the problem.

I turned on to Las Tunitas and got stronger as the climb progressed, which is nice, but I couldn't pull the whole 9.5-mile climb sitting down. Not on the Blade, not today. Near the top, I crushed a couple of decent riders, completely blew past them. Nothing personal, I just didn't feel like riding 2 MPH below my comfort zone. At the top, they didn't offer a word of acknowledgement, even though I did give them a nod and the three of us stood around refueling at the Skyline junction for about five minutes. Screw 'em.

The climb was fine, tough but fine. The descent was a whole 'nother ball of ice. It was freezing! My hands and feet were frozen solide I had my hands in the drops the whole way because I couldn't move them enough to clamp the brakes from the hoods position. The pain was extreme. As always, my neck and shoulders started to ache, but it was the intense cold then numbness of my hands that made this descent especially dicey. Complicating things further were the bottomless potholes littered the road, the wetness of the asphalt, and the constant threat of meeting someone coming the other way in one of the countless blind, hairpin turns. I did come across several good riders hammering their way up, including two guys in full Euskatel Euskati team kits working hard together against the hill. Where were these guys when I was on the way up?

Oh man did it feel good to get out of the shadows of dark, dank Tunitas canyon and break into the sunshine. My euphoria didn't last long. I had inadvertently worn the pair of shorts that start to chafe very badly around mile 30 of a ride, and guess what? Let the chafing begin. Ow, it burns!

All in all, I was not on my best game today. Between the wind in my face and the fatigue in my legs, I ended up crawling home the last few miles along the coastal bikepath. Even so, I added a 2.5-mile stitch into the Coral Sea neighborhood to get my day's total up to 50 miles -- the first 50-miler of the year. A couple of weeks ago, I boasted to Romulus that we could go out and do a century tomorrow with no problem. Rom disagreed. Looks like he was right. Not only did I bonk badly and struggle home for the last 10 miles, but as the evening wore on, I felt more and more tired. My legs were like lead and my entire body felt drained to the gills.

Again, no wild animals. Must be the off-season for them too. In the foothills section of the big Tuna, I passed the farm with the buffalo and saw one of the shaggy beasts layed out in the sun on a nest of woodchips just like my cat JKibbs. A huge, dreadlocked, roided out cat soaking up the sun.


Mileage: 50.04 Time: 3:37:33 Avg: 13.7 Max: 36.0 Weight: 171.5

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