Tuesday, July 14

La Ruta Loca Randonee

A Tale Of Love And Betrayal In Three Parts

I. Morning

When your day begins before sunrise and involves smearing a healthy schlock of homemade embrocation to your legs you know you are in for something interesting. Today, July 11, 2009, I ride La Ruta Loca Randonee (aka LRLR, aka “The Crazy Route” - http://bike.duque.net/invite-to-2009-200k-LRLR.htm). What began three years ago as a smidgen of riders tackling Marin’s toughest roads has grown into a smattering of riders still willing to tackle those same roads. As one described, “dedicated cycling enthusiasts with a nose for pain.” Perhaps one day the ride will equal D2R2 (see www.franklinlandtrust.org/randonee.htm see also www.rapha.cc/d2r2 ) in notoriety and rider participation, but for now it is only for a brave a few. Nevertheless, LRLR certainly shares the same pedigree = 126 miles, 15,000 feet of elevation gain. Oh, did I mention most of the climbing occurred on Marin fire roads. That’s dirt for you layman. My ride: Soulcraft, red. My kit: vertical panda, black. My story, simple:

The roll out was foggy and wet, the joints holding the Golden Gate Bridge together were slick. We climbed together as a group up Hawk Hill (Conzleman Road) and made a cautious descent into the valley below. However, the day’s second categorized climb up Bobcat Trail began the weeding out process: three strong - three stronger. After another cautious descent into Tennessee Valley, we turned our bikes toward the mighty Pacific and began the day’s work.

II. All Day Riding

Coastal Fire Road – it's dirty and steep and the reality of our day’s task set in. A climber’s tool box is equipped with different tools to help him or her up the climb. For a large majority of the day, we were without an essential tool – out of the saddle climbing. A combination of gearing, gradient and grit would cause a spin out if one attacked. As such, simply sit down and pound it out no matter how steep, how long or how loose. Easier said then done, but done nonetheless. Another cautious descent into Muir Beach with Ernesto taking the lead to take some pictures of Charles and I descending to the sands below. The fog was lifting and the Pacific called, “come, relax by my calming waves. Stick your toes in the surf and sand. Read a book, sip a cool drink. Ahhhhh, be happy, don’t worry.” No. Not for us, not today, we turned our back to this temptress and headed inland. And up.

Mount Tamalpais. We started our first ascent of Mount Tamalpais from the east, Deer Park Fire Road. The cue sheet said “loooong climb.” Although the gradient was more relaxed, the first real rays of sun saw a split in the three strongmen and the day’s order was decided before it really began. Charles rode away leaving Ernesto and me to fight for last place (“Onthouden als u niet eerst uw laatste” roughly translated “Remember if you are not first, you're last.” Ricky van de Bobke.) We arrived at the first “control” (Pantol Station) at 8:25, making the official unofficial cutoff time (8:32). Given the nature of the ride we were simply a few happy chappies satisfied with just riding our bikes.

Ernesto and I continued on and up Mt. Tam, turning onto Rock Spring Lagunitas Road. We would ride together, split, pass each other and ride together some more. Ernesto was kind enough to stop every so often to allow me to catch up as he picked up his water bottle that had shaken loose from the long descent to Lake Lagunitas. I felt like the turtle chasing the hare. We arrived at our next control at Five Corners intersection at 9:40 – off by four minutes that could easily been made up if we didn’t stop a couple of times to check the map (or pick up water bottles.) This was the only control that I did not make the time.

The rest of the morning provided a series of times and places - heading to Alpine Damn, passing all the roadies coming from Seven Sisters; struggling with the ups and downs of Bolinas Ridge Trail; working together on the smooth asphalt of Hwy 1 to motor into Point Reyes Station for lunch. At Black Mountain Cycles ( http://blackmountaincycles.blogspot.com/ )(59 miles) we checked in at 11:52 and learned that Charles was about 30 minutes ahead. Mike (from Black Mountain Cycling) was kind enough to offer a drink from his fridge, and happily I grabbed a Coca-Cola (though I really wanted to kick up my heals and help myself to a cold beer.) Instead, I had lunch at Bovine Bakery (www.savorcalifornia.com/template1.php?id=196&img=2 ) a well stocked carb shop for bikers in the need for that sort of thing. Eating right outside the bakery on the raised cement sidewalk with about 35 other bike riders I felt good. I looked around and realized how dirty I was compared to the other cyclists. Double fisting ice teas, a bite of cookie, a bite of pizza, a gulp of air, breathe and repeat.

It should be noted that Point Reyes Station provides a perfect turn around spot for San Francisco cyclists looking to put in some miles. There are a number or routes (out and back, loops) that will take you there and return. Aside from the refreshment factor (baked goods a plenty) the roads to and fro are choc full of cyclists. A nice 80ish mile loop. But for me, I had another sixty plus to go.

I pretty much rode solo back to civilization via the Cross Marin Bike trail and Sir Frances Drake. Chipping a way at a steady clip I rode up on a familiar kit – Team Ramuzzi! (When cycling near Greve, Italy I discovered Ramuzzi and my yellow cap was acquired. If you go, make sure you ride the bianca strada www.eroica.it/index_en.php ) Bidding him good cheer I tipped my yellow and blue chapeau, “Forza Ramuzzi!” And just like that he was gone. At Fairfax I made my way through the Marin hamlets – San Anselmo, Ross, Kentfield, Larkspur. And then a Paradise loop.

Yup – a full Paradise loop. Enough said about that.

I arrived at CafĂ© Acri in Tiburon at 14:30 (93 miles). I ordered a ham and cheese croissant and two Italian sodas – one orange and one lemon – and enjoyed the sidewalk seating (La dolce vita?) The tourists (or Marinites?) were stylishing sipping their afternoon coffees, nibbling on a little something sweet as I, sweaty and grimy, macked on a ham and cheese croissant while guzzling soda. As I was leaving, a lady visiting her son was nice enough to point out that I had a piece of napkin stuck to my face. Huh –I used a napkin? Fancy that. I thanked her, wiped my face with my dirty leather gloved hand thinking about the futility of the act. Pulling away I saw Ernesto, however on a ride of this length and difficulty there is no waiting. All I wanted to do was finish. Get on your bike and get your ass up the last two climbs of the day (I had purposely told myself that the last climb should not be counted because I would be so relieved once I got there.)

I rode onto Mill Valley and started the second ascent of Mt. Tam for the day – this time from the west. Around half way up Old Rail Road Grade I started to tire. That is to say, I struggled. Struggled with my hand position, struggled to keep a reasonable cadence, struggled to think about something other than my legs. But wasn’t this what the bike ride was all about? Struggling?

I passed West Point Inn at 16:13 (106 miles) and made my way home. The descent from Pantol is one of my favorites, not too technical and spectacular scenery. Despite my fatigue, the descent still did not fail to please. I passed Four Corners and continued down to the stop sign. A quick right and then a left back onto Miwok Trail.

III. Morte

Fuck. There I said it. Its one thing to grind your way up a mountain, its another thing to turn right into a dirt wall. I pushed, strained until I stopped. So I walked, no big deal. I have learned through cyclocross that whatever it takes, it takes – just keep moving. So I did, I kept on moving.

I rolled back through Miwok stables and up over Marichello Road to Tennessee Valley. Another climb, the Golden Gate Bridge and then ... Well then I stopped. 12 hours and twenty minutes after I started I stopped.


There is a certain mentality to racing and people seem to understand it. Being competitive is a characteristic trait that is accepted, and even admired by many. But when you are not “racing” your reasons for suffering begin to be questioned – both by yourself and others. I do not have the answer yet, but will keep asking and hope you will to. Keep riding, keep struggling and keep living.

RIDE DETAILS (per Strava - http://www.strava.com/rides/6273 )

Location San Francisco, CA
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Stats: 126.7 miles, 11:04:16 riding time, 14965 feet total climbing
Speed: (avg/max) 11.4 mph / 40.8mph
Performance: 134.3 watts, 144 bpm


Jim G said...

Nice riding and write-up! I started getting tired about 20 miles in, then kept getting slower and slower, hit a wall climbing back over White's Hill, and then I bailed halfway through the Paradise Loop, limping back home by 6pm, nearly exactly 12 hours after I left, with about 108 on the clock.

"We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard." -- JFK

Ben said...

Congrats again Q. Very impressive biking and riding.