Final rest stop and Jamison Creek – 4:32pm, 80 mi
We rolled into the rest stop and were amused to see a stack of bikes on the ground. Evidently, most riders were choosing to abandon at this point and headed over to the golf club bar to drink their pain away!
This was very, very tempting but feeling rejuvenated by our Big Basin stop, we were ok to go on. ZT, in particular, was planning to go on no matter what we decided. Why not, thought? I’ll be slow up Jamison, and it’s going to hurt without my usual road climbing gears, but I felt that taken slowly and deliberately, I could get up there and then it would be fairly easy riding down to Santa Cruz.
And imagine being able to say that we finished when so many abandoned?
This rest stop featured one of the best, most appropriate refreshments ever – large shots of whiskey! So, so, so good.. immediate internal warmth and strength of resolve
Our new friend decided he would join us up Jamison so we had a trio to finish the ride!
We spent 6 mins at this stop, eating and mentally preparing. I didn’t take any extra water which reminded me that I had not been drinking much during the previous cold section (I don’t think my hands were capable of holding a bottle!)
Rolling out with the excitement of one of my favorite climbs ahead was fun and at 4:42pm, we turned onto Jamison Creek Rd. ZT immediately took off ahead! Knowing that it starts out easy before turning up to the sky, I took it easy. I had already said that I was going for a personal worst time with the goal being simple survival.
Since my legs were feeling ok, I added a goal of riding the whole climb. The walking up Butano was discouraging (I don’t like to push) and above all I wanted to ride this beast.
My Garmin had somehow come back to life but was beeping away annoyingly and uselessly. I usually rely on it on these climbs to know when the summit is coming and it was quite unpleasant to climb without that knowledge.
Our friend was clearly very strong, although complained of being very slow, but often leap-frogged up ahead of us, then stopped and waited for us to pass.
The climb was painful. But I was actually feeling pretty good at this pace. No PR or KOM for me, for sure, but I felt that riding the whole thing was definitely possible.
And I was slowly reeling in ZT. After his initial burst, he slowed to his sustainable pace and began, I believe, to suffer a bit of cramping. He and our friend walked sections but I was resolved to ride, so slowed my pace and “delivered the mail” to stay with them.
Eventually, the stop sign came into view and we rode to the end letting out several shouts of accomplishment.
ZT let the road know exactly what it could do with its steep grade!
Empire Grade – 5:16pm, 83.3 mi
Of course, the reward for climbing Jamison is more climbing on Empire Grade, but it’s relatively easy in comparison. I had stopped at the top of Jamison to also pay my respects to the sign, and eat something, so fell behind as the other two took off up the road.
They were fortunately soft-pedaling so I was able to reel them in by the time of the Calfire station which marks the summit.
ZT had said that he was going to take it easy on the descent of Empire Grade being worried about his brakes. I was hoping that would allow me to suck his wheel on the descent as I had during the Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge last year.
But it was not to be.. he sprang to life and disappeared off in the distance. I’m not sure if it was the food, but I eventually found some strength and began to reel them in, particularly on the short climbs. I knew I had a chance to catch them on the tight twisty parts of the descent as I was confident to carry more speed there.
I did catch them right there, passing ZT figuring he’ll catch me on the climb above Smith Grade and I can suck his wheel to the end. But he powered up that 10% climb with more speed than I could muster and was gone.
No matter – it was still downhill and I was feeling pretty strong so I pushed hard, knowing I had nothing left to save energy for and there was beer, food and dry clothes waiting!
At the Empire Grade/Bay St intersection, I wasn’t 100% sure which way we should go but Bay St seemed right so we turned down there. We were a little worried, as our friend had fallen way behind on the descent, worried about his brakes. We hovered a minute or so and decided to continue on.
Eventually, we hit Mission St and a few flat miles to Ibis!
The End – 6:20pm, 103 mi
As we approached, we were encouraged to ride right into the warehouse to the cheers of many and a high five from Lambert and Peter, who looked incredibly warm and clean compared to us!
Done.. unbelievably, done. 103 miles, 10,000′ of painful climbing. I’ve done some epic rides and some epic suffering rides and this one was right up there with the best of them.
Immediately once I stopped, the shivering began again. I grabbed a beer but that didn’t help So I went to clean and change into warm clothes, only to find that I had forgotten to pack a jacket. I figured I could hang under the heat lamps until the bus and I’d be fine, but ZT took pity and gave me one of his layers.. thanks!
I expected to sleep, exhausted, on the bus trip back to San Francisco, but found that I was wide awake. Very unusual. I tried to find sleep but couldn’t. In fact, I didn’t manage to get to sleep until about 1:30am. I guess it’s something to do with the hypothermia!
Fantastic ride.. just the right amount of organization and self-sufficiency. It would probably be much more fun without the cold weather, although the rain and mud actually made it feel very authentic.
Apparently, of the 140 starters, only 20 completed the full course!
Big thanks to Murphy for making it happen and Zen Turtle for inviting me and dragging me around the course!
San Francisco Spring Classic Gallery