Monday, September 11, 2006

Finally finished - 1st time up Monte Bello climb

So my buddy Augi keeps telling me to ride this semi-famous climb in the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve.

I had read about it here. The paved road was part of this longer mountain bike ride. 2.5 - 3 hours sounds pretty "epic" for a New Yorker who only did loops around Central Park. I used to ride my mountain bike in Forest Hills, and I think it's about 15 acres with VERY limited trails. I thought 1 hour was a pretty long time for a ride, but of course I'm a City boy.

Check out this map. (click for larger view)

I was up until 2am on Friday reading about it. Pretty intimidating especially if you consider the fact that I've tried to climb it twice and never made it up to the School. It's about 1/3 of the way up. Would I really be able to finish?

Drove to Rancho San Antonio with my wife and her friend. They would be doing a 2 hour hike, which sounds about right for me to do the ~22 mile RT ride to the mountain (yeah, I'm calling it a mountain!) top and back. 22 miles is pretty short, but it's got a big climb. I was worried I didn't have a big enough rear cog. I've got a block of 11-23 with a 39 front. I wish I had a triple!

So I suffer through the lower 3rd. I mean suffer. Finish one large water bottle. Think about walking. I had told myself I would get to the top, by any means necessary. Came to almost a dead stop a few times, the gearing was just too high, and my legs were just too dead.

But I kept going. Here's where I stopped the first time. Keep going. This is where I turned back the second time. Keep going. There's the school! I finally made it up to the school. Augi always said it gets easier from there, but I thought he was joking. It really did. I even shifted down a few gears. Got my legs going again. Almost made circles instead of just stomping down on the pedals so I don't fall over.

Next third was very cool. The tree cover and rolling terrain allowed me to cool down and catch my breath. I was actually starting to feel good! Then some dude goes cruising by like I'm standing still. Great. I try to hang on a bit but he's going pretty good. At that pace I know I would have blown up in about 2 minutes. It's not a race, I'm just trying to finish.

I did have a time in mind as well. The mountain biker said he tries to do it in an hour. The best riders do it in 25 minutes! I definitely had to be under 1 hour, even though I'm in horrible shape.

Final third of the mountain was very cool. Some of the best riding I've done in my life. You're just on the top of the mountain and the air is so clean. Every so often you get a break in the trees and there is this amazing view of the valley down below. You can actually see clouds! Okay, maybe it was just fog, but I felt like I had climbed up to 10,000 feet! It was really breathtaking. Or is that exhaustion?

Keep climbing, I can feel it. I must be getting close. There isn't much elevation left, but the road still continues onward. Then I see a rider coming down. I started the same time as he did, so I can't be that far off. But I was. Keep climbing. At least the legs were feeling good. Drop a gear. Climb out of the saddle. I'm wearing my Festina jersey and for a brief moment, I am the King (of the Mountains). Pre-drug scandal of course.

A few more rises and I power through them, out of the saddle, good rhythm, feeling good. Then I see it, the Gate. I'm at the end, I'm done. I finally did it. Take a few pictures, eat a Luna bar and check out the time. 50 minutes. Not too bad for an old out of shape wanna-be cyclist.

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