Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Ride Report - Grizzly Peak Century with Teenager


Members of my bike club traditionally send out race reports, with a special focus on what was eaten before, during, and after the event.  I barely ever race, but decided to produce a report of the Grizzly Peak Century ride, a 73-mile effort I took on with my 13-year-old daughter Alexa.  This would be her longest and hardest ride ever, and also her best-fueled.  Read on if you’re interested in cycling, parenting, junk food, and/or a good laugh.

Short version

It was cold. The food was bountiful and tasty. Alexa rode like a boss. 73 miles; 5,770 feet of vertical gain; two pairs commemorative socks.  Post-ride BBQ was tasty, even the lentils. 

Long version

For breakfast, I served Alexa leftover homemade mac ‘n’ cheese.  I sneaked a few bites and man, it was good. But I didn’t dare take any for myself, for hell hath no fury like an Albert deprived of leftovers. The members of my household are like jackals.

We drove to the start, in Moraga, parked, unloaded, built up the bikes, and headed to Registration. As we approached the table the woman said, “You must be the Alberts.”  How did she know?  Well, Alexa’s name was flagged with “minor” and they don’t get many of those.  Huh.  Kids these days ... they have no time for exercise—they’re too busy playing “Grand Theft Auto XIII – Running Over Baby Pandas and Homeless People Edition.”

We met up with my teammate Craig and his wife Susanne and started the ride.  The plan was to ride together so long as we all enjoyed the same pace and I didn’t talk too much.  (I’ve ridden with Craig for years, and I actually had a Latin class with Susanne in like 1990.  She remembers it as being a really easy class and I found it really hard.  Story of my life.)

I don’t need to tell you it was brutally cold.  This Indian Winter is really getting old.  I’m tempted to complain about Global Warming but somebody out there would probably respond with a lame joke about “You call this warming?” so instead I’ll say this:  I’m really getting worried about Global Climate Fuckery.  Upper-80s on Thursday and every other day of spring is like living in an air-flavored Slurpee. I was glad to climb Pinehurst just to warm up a bit. I see one of you painted Alexa’s name on the road, but you spelled it “Alexis.” Thanks for the thought ... please try harder next time.

We cut the course a bit, taking Shasta down to Wildcat to the first rest stop rather than staying on Grizzly Peak the whole way. This is because so many residents on that road like to back out of their driveways without looking, and/or cut off cyclists and break their femurs.  I guess this isn’t exactly an epidemic but one time is enough for me.

I’d talked up the GPC food to Alexa, and she wasn’t disappointed.  Pound cake, banana bread, chocolate-chip/cranberry cookies, oatmeal cookies, crunchy ginger snaps, soft ginger snaps ... we tried it all.  I’m sure I’m forgetting some items.  I even had a cup of coffee, just so I could pee a gallon at every rest stop like I did at the first.

Did I mention it was cold?  I didn’t even have a jacket because I was leaving room for Alexa’s arm- and leg-warmers in the pocket of my Lycra bike racing shirt.  (I was about to type “jersey” and then I remember that there are pockets of hermitic sheepherders in Australasia who think “jersey” means “woolen sweater.”)

We descended Wildcat, hooked a left on San Pablo Dam Road, and went around the “Planet of the Apes” loop, a great little road threading along that piece of land sticking out (I can never remember what that’s called ... isthmus?) and giving a nice view of the Carquinez Strait and its dueling bridges.

There was a lot of ground to cover between the first rest stop and the second one.  As a veteran of century rides, I know to take extra cookies when I can get them.  Of course my daughter benefited from my savvy.

We descended to the second rest stop.  This stop didn’t have any baked goods unless you count bagels.  Craig asked for a sesame bagel; the volunteer picked up a bagel half, turned it over, silently registered that it had poppy seeds instead of sesame, and gave it to Craig anyway. I had a “nothing” bagel with Skippy peanut butter on it—a guilty pleasure if there ever was one.  The alternative was this health-food peanut butter product that looked like diarrhea mixed with gravel.  I think it might have been almond butter, which makes about as much sense as a strawberry newton (i.e., none at all).  I kind of wished there were a New Yorker around to launch into a diatribe about there being no actual bagels on the west coast.

I got some Gu version of Shot Bloks, which were like Jujubes for grown-ups, and Alexa coveted them, so I told her to get her own.  Turns out I’d gotten the last bag, so I gave her mine.  Note to other parents:  this is how to get your kid to do century rides—just relax your normally stingy treat policies during long rides.  (Of course, this only works if you deprive your kids the rest of the time.)

Next on the docket was the fierce McEwen Road climb.  Craig and Susanne came up with a word game to make the riding go more quickly, and this was so effective they dropped Alexa and me.  Once we’d conquered that climb, I told Alexa the next climb would be Mama Bear.  Of course this was false.  The next climb was actually Pig Farm, which is by no means insignificant.  As it dragged on and on, Alexa remarked on how I hadn’t warned her about this one.  (I wouldn’t say she complained, per se, but her displeasure was evident.)  Poor kid.  It can’t be easy having an idiot savant for a father.  (For those of you questioning the “savant” part, I’ll remind you I have great facility with iambic pentameter, which has saved my ass ... well, okay, zero times.)

At the base of Mama Bear, we stopped so Alexa could take off her leg warmers.  She’s normally impervious to the cold, being the odd sort of person who would be perfectly happy pulling an Iditarod sled while wearing gym shorts.  That she waited this long should tell you how frigid the conditions were (even though the sun was doing its best).  While we were stopped, a worried-looking woman rolled up, stopped, and asked, in a quavering voice, “How long is this climb?”  Nobody said anything for a bit, not knowing how to answer.  I mean, it takes as long as it takes, which depends entirely on one’s fitness.  She rephrased her question:  “How far up does this road go?”  All I could think of was, “It goes on a right fur piece,” so that’s what I said.  Got a chuckle out of her, anyway.

Alexa had really suffered on Pig Farm, and when Craig offered her a sleeve of Clif Shot Bloks she happily accepted.  By the top of Mama Bear she’d consumed the whole lot of them.  I found this impressive because those Bloks have stymied me in the past.  Consider this passage from my Everest Challenge 2012 report
Hunting in my jersey pocket I came upon a sleeve of Clif Shot Bloks that Craig had given me.  My hand groped it, trying to figure out what it was.  Once I’d identified it, my brain tried to comprehend what Shot Bloks were and what they did.  You eat them, right?  But what are they?  And how do you get into the package?  Is it like Pez?  I gave up trying to fathom this great Shot Blok mystery and managed to find a gel.

I guess all that piano playing has really enhanced Alexa’s fine motor skills.

After Mama Bear, Craig uttered the word “kit” in reference to our bike costumes.  I glowered at him and said, “I can’t ride with you anymore.” So we parted ways.  Okay, that’s not actually how it happened.  He never said “kit.”  It’s just that Alexa descends more slowly than those guys, probably because she knows her mom would kill me if she crashed.  Moreover, Alexa and I wanted to stop at the last rest stop (I mean, free food—hello?!) and Craig and Susanne didn’t need anything.  So they rode off into the sunset.

The last rest stop had more baked goods, and we had one more of everything, except the chocolate-chip/cranberry cookies—we had two of those.  They also had Crystal Geezer juice drinks and we took two apiece.  “So, we just have Papa Bear and Baby Bear, and we’re done with the climbing?” Alexa asked hopefully.  I replied, “Right, though we also still have to climb Mama Bear.”  This was not me teasing my daughter—this was me being an idiot.  Again.  Poor kid.  “Wait, I thought we already did Mama Bear!” she said, distraught.  I assured her she was right.  From now on, I’ll give her the map and have her tell me what’s going on.

On Papa Bear, we passed this angry middle-aged woman wearing mostly black.  It was this weird long-sleeve costume, and under her helmet she had a thin head-scarf, tied in the back, like what a Ninja wears.  In a brittle voice she asked, “Are you two doing both loops?”  Had I known the kind of person I was dealing with, I’d have been tempted to reply, “Hells yeah, beyotch!” but instead I said, “Oh no, just the first one.”  To which she replied, “Oh, well I don’t feel so bad then.”  Like it’s some kind of disgrace being passed by us.  Sheesh.

Baby Bear was a cakewalk (cake-ride?) and then we hooked a left on Camino Pablo.  Rolling toward Orinda, the woman in black caught up to us—probably she pulled a lot of time back during the post-Papa-Bear descent—and she blew right by us by running a stop sign.  On her way past, she muttered, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.”  What a fascinating utterance!  Was she quoting Tolstoy’s epigraph, that opens Anna Karenina?  Or was she quoting Romans 12:19 as Tolstoy had?  Or am I paraphrasing her body language?

On that long, shallow climb just past Orinda, after Camino Pablo becomes Moraga Way, we passed the Ninja woman again.  As we rolled slowly by, she glared at Alexa and said, “You possess, in the highest degree, a quality that makes one forget all shortcomings; this quality is blood, that blood which tells, as the English say.”  So it was definitely Anna Karenina she’d quoted the first time, since this second utterance matched Tolstoy’s description of Vronsky’s horse, though I’ll confess it’s also possible that this strange woman said nothing at all.

About this time I became aware that we were being tailed.  This dude with a red jersey, white arm warmers, and a yellow helmet had been behind us, maybe 30 feet behind, for an awfully long time.  It’s not credible that his pace just so happened to be identical to ours.  No matter how many stop signs and stoplights we stopped at, he never got any closer.  I’m pretty sure he was with the Bureau.  Many a father/biker would have been spooked, but I’m pretty good with my fists.

We took a left on Moraga Road:  the home stretch!  There was a slight tailwind and we had a good head of steam, but that didn’t stop the Ninja woman in black from making her final move.  She came flying by, in her best approximation of an aerodynamic position.  Somebody should explain to this woman how to ride on the drops.  I guess she didn’t grasp what that part of the handlebar is for, because she had her hands on the hoods but her elbows bent way past 90 degrees, sticking down low.  It didn’t look very comfortable, nor very safe, but she could not have cared less.  Her face was stony with determination, her mouth a rictus of uncaged ferocity.  This time she didn’t say anything, but to my astonishment Alexa cried out, “She sucks nitro... with Phase 4 heads! 600 horsepower through the wheel!  She’s meanness set to music and the bitch is born to run!”  Okay, okay, Alexa didn’t really say that.  She hasn’t even seen “Mad Max” (yet).  What she really did say was something wistful, along these lines:  “Normally women that age are just waiting for the end, but she’s breaking new ground.  I think this was a big day for her.”  I should pay more attention to that child ... I think I could learn something. 

In case you’re wondering, the angry biker woman easily bested us in the end; she didn’t really even need to run that last stoplight in cold blood.  I wonder if she’s told her own glorious tale on the Internet somewhere, or at her book club, or on the wall of a public restroom.

Dinner was great.  I graciously accepted the  volunteers’ offers of roasted red potatoes, jeweled rice, and even lentil pottage, though I drew the line at the couscous salad.  To my surprise, Alexa also allowed all these things on her plate, though she then whispered to me, “I took the lentils to be polite, but you’re eatin’ ‘em.”  Then it was on to the barbecue station, for chicken and vegetables.  They had eggplant, peppers, onions, all kinds of groovy stuff.  Then, on principle, I covered my plate with corn chips and those glisteningly greasy no-name potato chips that come in the 5-pound bag. 

I was not going to be one of those guys hitting his forehead and saying, “I coulda had a V-8!” so I had one. 

I went back for more chicken.  The volunteers don’t give you that much, so I tried a new tactic:  instead of withdrawing my plate after the chicken was deposited, I just kept it there.  There was a brief stalemate before the volunteer divined my wishes and put more on the plate.  It was like a game of chicken.  (Get it?  Chicken?)

I’d have stuck around and eaten more, but Alexa wanted to get home before the library closed.  Can you believe this kid?!

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