– Ahh… what a beautiful morning! Earlier at Windy Hill OSP, I was able to get a view of most of the Bay Area to the East including San Fransisco. I couldn't help but imagine the hustle and bustle among those tall buildings in the SF Financial District on a typical Friday morning like this; yet, that seemed a world away. Now, at Skyline Ridge OSP, I can see, over the grassy rolling hills, the Pacific Ocean to the West. There is no where else I want to be at this moment, but I'd better keep rolling because I'm on a mission.
– Are those the same MidPen rangers I saw earlier working some heavy equipments on Skyline? Oh, yeah, and they waved at me again! Oh earlier, a young lady ranger I rode by at Russian Ridge said to me she wish she had been doing what I was doing. Friendly rangers like them make me smile. Life is good!
… A while later …
– Are these still my legs, or are they just wet noodles? I just got down from Kings Mountain Road and now I'm on a flat road, but there is no power coming from my legs. Weird sensation — it feels itchy deep inside, but there is no way for me to get relief. All I can do is shift to low gear and let the pedals take my feet around. 5mph on Canada Road. Good grief! Hey, did someone walking just pass me? Oh, a rollerblader. But, still… how pathetic I am!
– I felt hungry when I was climbing up Purisima Creek, but couldn't eat my last powerbar because it felt like too much effort. Now, I'm on Edgewood Rd, and my stomach is feeling funny. Am I going to vomit? Okay, take two sips of water, but no more. I hope these are not the last two sips in my Camelbak.
– I'm not holding a straight line. I can't! Thank god, Crestview Drive is an extremely wide street. What's happening with my vision? I'm having blackouts! Are my eyes closing on their own, like those of the drivers falling asleep behind their wheels? Shake my head, and now shake harder. Wake up, Mei!
– Still on Crestview Dr… Oh, there, someone just existed his house and is on his driveway. Should I just collapse right in front of him? I can't go on any longer. He'll see me, and then he'll come to my rescue. All the ordeals will be over. But how do I collapse? Just stop pedaling and fall to the side? On this pavement, that'll hurt and probably break some skin. Or, should I dismount, lay the bike down first, and then lie down? The technicalities are making my head ache. Rat, that driveway is behind me now and I have missed my best chance to collapse. But I have just reached the top of the crest.
– Yet still on Crestview Dr… I just summoned all I had to top out on this crest, and guess what I see? Another steep pitch and another crest in front of me! I want to cry, but without anybody seeing me cry, what's the point?
– Finally, I'm in Water Dog park, a place I'm familiar with. I'm on a flat section on Rambler. I should be cruising, but why is my bike bouncing from side to side? Did I leave my fork locked out? No. Why on earth can I not hold my line even on the flat trail? My arms are still with me, but have they turned into wet noodles too? Oh boy, something is wrong with me!
– This section of Rambler Trail in front of me is a steep chute. There is an easy way around it, but I think the Tour route goes down the chute. I can't modify the route to make it easier after having almost killed myself to follow 96% of the route. I've gotta go down it even if it means death. I will take it slow and I will concentrate. I will concentrate really really hard. Here I go… Whew, I'm at the bottom of the chute now, and I can hardly believe that I have survived!
– What a relief, I'm back at the car! Every part of my body is hurting now. I'm walking to the gym to wash up. Sheesh, I can't even walk a straight line. People must think I'm drunk!
– Meeting Erik for dinner in my favorite little Taiwanese restaurant, I'm having my usual order. Well, usually, I can finish my plate very fast, but today, after not having eaten a meal all day, I find myself full after eating only a third of the plate. That does not make sense at all! Did I lose my appetite somewhere on the trails? Okay, force feeding time…
– My head feels warm and my brain feels swollen. It reminds me the only time back in the college days when I finished a whole glass of beer. Am I drunk without having drunk anything?
You've guessed it — all those were what went through my mind at different times of the day. Erik told me at the dinner that many of those observations were signs of "bonking." I had heard the word and I thought I knew what it meant, but my appreciation for that word was taken to a whole new level after this ride.
It was a Friday, but I had to take the vacation day off because of the overflowing accrual. When I woke up to the birds singing outside of the window, I sensed that it would be a good day for some unfinished business of mine. It had been bugging me that I had to bail out of the MTB Tour de Peninsula because of bad timing. The only way to get it over with would be just do it. I had not been doing any long rides for a long while, but maybe that would change starting from this one.
The tour would take me through a few popular parks and Open Space Preserves on the Peninsula: Belmont Water Dog park, Windy Hill, Coal Creek , Monte Bello, Stevens Creek, Long Ridge, Skyline Ridge, Russian Ridge, El Corte de Madera aka Skeggs or ECdM, Purisima Creek, and back to Water Dog. 85.4 miles and 10hr 20min later, I could say this was by far my toughest ride — tougher than my Death Ride (125mi/15000') and tougher than the 8.5 hr non-stop pedaling on the dirt at last years Boggs IV (~72mi/8000').
And it was all of my own making…
When I started the ride, I had my small Camelbak water bladder (2L) filled with plain water and a small water bottle filled with sports drink. In contrary to my belief that real food is essential (for the rider's sanity at least) on long rides, I packed six Powerbars. Well, I did pack $20 because I knew I would be going through Skylonda (@ Hwy 84 & 35). There is a deli in the market. Erik and I ate there on the Valentine's Day and it was memorable. However, somewhere along the ride, I decided not to stop, not for food and not even for water. Obviously, I was already not thinking straight, but nobody was there to tell me that. I think it was partly because my lower back started hurting 20 miles into the ride, and almost at the same time, side stitches set in on the right side of my tummy. Due to the discomfort, I just wanted to get the ride done as soon as possible. I ate all my bars (except that last one which I didn't have the energy to eat) while pedaling. I sucked my water dry just after exiting Water Dog, but that was after having been seriously rationing my water intake the whole way.
I would like to argue that I was not completely insane though. For example, I would never consider pushing my limit like this risking dehydration and bonking at Henry Coe. I do feel lucky that I survived my experiment and walked away with some new knowledge. Regrettably, I had to cancel my plan to go to Henry Coe for trail work the next day because it required a long ride in and out, but my seat bones refused to reconcile with my saddle. Instead, I attended the trail work at Water Dog. Swinging McClouds and axes used different muscles, for the most part.
Event site: MTB Tour de Peninsula
MTBR thread: 1st annual MTB tour de Peninsula? (In the 1st year, it seems that besides the person who set this ride up, nobody finished the route — not counting my two solo rides. Not sure if that's still the case to this day or not. Would like to see others' experience with the ride.)
GPS tracking sites (each has its own winning points):
- Garmin connect (Playback feature, Send to Device )
- Plus3Network (Send to Device, Comments) — The ride earned $1.02 for the Breast Cancer Foundation
- MTBGuru (Photos positioned on the route, various file formats for downloading)
The bike lying down at her first short rest, at CM08 exiting Skeggs:
The beginning and the end: