Lorri (my coach) suggested that I try a different climb this weekend, so I went out and tackled Mt. Hamilton, down in south San Jose. Mt. Hamilton maxes out at 4100′ but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually about 4500′ of climbing, since there are a few short downhills along the way. It’s a 19.4 mile climb.
Anyway, it took me almost exactly three hours to make it to the summit, at an average mph of 6.5. Coming down took an hour and fifteen minutes, and my overall average speed was 9.1 mph. That’s not too bad, but I still need to improve somewhat – if you think of Markleeville as up and down Mt. Hamilton 3.5 times, it would take me 15 hours to complete the course. That’s almost exactly the amount of time you’re allotted to complete the ride, so it would be cutting it really close. And presumably I’d slow down throughout the day as I got more and more tired.
However, the Death Ride is still a bit over three months away, which gives me a good chunk of training time left to go. Lorri has also given me a set of exercises to do on the trainer that should improve my speed.
Mt. Hamilton was GORGEOUS – fantastic views of rolling green hills, purple lupines, pretty pink and yellow flowers. Going up Page Mill Road you’re in forest more or less throughout, so it’s more like an hour and a half climb followed by a fun downhill. With Mt. Hamilton, you’re in rolling hills for a good chunk of the climb, meaning you get fantastic views along the way. (You also get plenty of time to appreciate the fact that you’re climbing an entire fucking mountain, and how crazy is that?)
I’m also pleased to find that turning corners is starting to feel natural again. Ever since my accident in 2003, I’ve been pretty stiff and cautious about cornering, which has more than once nearly wiped me out by going into corners wrong. The two-day training I did with Lorri covered how to corner, and I’ve been practicing since. I’m still pretty cautious going around corners, but at least I’m no longer stiffening up and panicking going into turns. I’m OK with being conservative about cornering, though – I don’t want another crash, $20K worth of surgery/rehab, and 3 year recovery. The knee has FINALLY gotten back to normal, and I don’t want to risk it again.
Anyway, Mt. Hamilton was easily twice as high as any other climb I’ve attempted (Page Mill , while difficult, is only about a 2000′ climb), so I’m pleased I managed it as well as I did. I’m a little stiff this morning, but not sore, which means it was more or less the perfect difficulty – challenging but not debilitating. I’m looking forward to a somewhat easier 3-hour ride today, though.
After going up Mt. Hamilton, I’m not as worried about the Primavera Century on the 22nd – if it’s only 6500′ of climbing in 65 miles, I think I’ll be ready.