Well, I went up Congress Springs Road (aka California 9) to Skyline Boulevard on Saturday, which is a nice 5-mile climb at 6% grade (2000 feet of climbing). It took me nearly an hour to make the climb, during which I asked myself a lot of questions about why I was doing this ride and why I was doing the Ride. I’m not going to share all the conclusions I came to (partly uninteresting, partly my own private stuff), but a lot of it is simply about getting over my fear of cycling. Not so much of being back on the bike, but fear of having lost my joy in cycling—in tackling new challenges, enjoying the things I used to (plummeting downhill, pushing myself), and in my physical ability to cycle.
I’m glad to say that all three seem to be intact. I discovered on the way down Skyline that my joy in speed hasn’t changed a bit—it’s only that I’m a bit more cautious going down dangerous turns. I had a lot of fun rushing down Skyline at 38 mph, leaning into the curves, keeping up with (but not tailgating) the cars on the road. Fortunately, Skyline is banked for a 45-mph speed limit, meaning I could whiz downhill with no worries about hairpin turns.
I descended 84, too. This was important to me, because it’s where I crashed almost three years ago and took out the PCL in my left knee. (I’ve since had a PCL transplant operation, so I have a bit of someone else’s Achilles tendon holding my knee together. Thank you, organ donor, whoever you are/were. I appreciate your generosity profoundly.) I wanted to go back over that descent both to prove that I’ve conquered my fear of it, and to get a better look at the area. I’m glad to say that I have forgotten the place where I crashed, but after going down the tricky descent and ID’ing the place where I finally got help, I have to say that I am amazed that I managed (injured) to ride the entire distance, hairpin turns and all, plus the long flat/uphill area where I had to bike one-legged, to the place where I flagged down a driver and got help. (Thank you, person who rescued me.) I must have been in really good shape to do that, especially after taking out my knee.
I’ve since decided that 84 is a fairly tricky descent and I don’t intend to make a habit of it, but I didn’t feel particularly threatened by the switchbacks, and even felt confident enough to test out some of the mountaineering tricks my coach told me about, like braking hard and straight into the turns, shifting my weight back to avoid going over the handlebars. I didn’t go overboard with it, but I wasn’t riding on the brakes either, the way I have been. I’m pretty satisfied with that. It’ll take time and practice, but I’ll get better at descending. I’m already thinking of hiring a woman I know (who runs the local women’s cycling group, Velogirls) to teach me better ascending/descending skills.
So that’s that. It was a nice 5-hour ride, and I was a bit sore the next day, but nothing I couldn’t ride with. I’m happy about that.
Sunday my final training ride, a 3.5-hour ride that I was going to take up to Los Gatos for a celebratory cup of hot chocolate, got rained out. So I am now more or less done with my training for the Ride—I have 4.5 hours to ride this week (which is practically nothing next to the 13-14 hours/week I’ve been doing), and then an hour or two the week after, and that’s it until the Ride! I am so psyched about this. I’m still feeling a trifle undertrained, but I’ve also put in nearly twice the mileage of the other people I know who’ve been doing it, so I suspect I’m in better shape than I think.
Meanwhile, I have cut out the fabric for two tutus and one top, and am happily sewing the top. It’s going to be pretty—a Thai silk-type dupioni silk woven in bright fuschia and electric blue, to produce a blue-purple with fuschia highlights. I’m doing an off-the-shoulder top with ruffly shoulder-straps that looked REALLY striking in the pattern-book—hopefully this will come out looking equally good. I’ve put together the lining and the bodice, and am getting ready to attach the shoulder straps and sew the whole thing together. I plan to finish it tonight, and then start work on the tutus. I’m just hoping that this one, too, will turn out to be ride-able—I want to use this pattern for a couple of the tops, so as soon as this one’s done, I’m going to take a test-ride with it (on the trainer, of course), to see if it’s usable. If not, then I’ll make some modifications.
Went to Bay to Breakers with Mike yesterday. It was his 28th birthday, and he celebrated by running it in his birthday suit (i.e., naked). I just came by to spectate, so I saw him off at the start and then sat down, spun on my new Golding ring spindle, and finished knitting a pair of socks while waiting for him to return. I now have a pair of lovely, handspun angora-silk-merino wool socks, purple flecked with bright fuschia, royal blue, and dove grey. Nummy; I plan to wear them as bedsocks, or around-the-house socks. They’re too pretty to be locked into shoes!
I’m also psyched to say that I’ve gotten some last-minute donations for the Ride, bringing my total up to $4000. That brings my overall total (for the last three years) up to $14,500. People are being more generous than I’d expected—I owe some major thanks to people for supporting me. I plan to take tutu pix and send them to all my donors.