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Climbing most of the way up Mt. Hamilton for the first time

Yellow flowers against a cloudy blue sky with trees and a fence, on Mt. Hamilton Road in Silicon Valley California

It turns out, at least out here in California, if you want to do anything truly interesting on the bike, you need to be able to deal with a lot of climbing. And climbing is actually kind of hard for me, because climbing is very much a power-to-weight sort of thing and, despite getting lighter recently, I've got a good amount of excess weight. So, while I can sprint up a short hill at 20mph, long hills present a problem.

Last weekend is a long weekend and the Tour of California is going on. Other cyclists are watching it. I am not. The weather's been quite interesting. Finally, after a winter drought, we've got some rain. So I can't really complain about the rain, because we need it. But I figured Saturday would be my best chance to go on a nice long ride and I decided to work on my mountain climbing.

Were I to have completed the planned course, I would have set all sorts of personal records, but they were turning people around at the top and I felt I had already accomplished enough and didn't feel like taking an extra-long-way home to add a few more miles to the trip. Also, huge chunks of one of my usual recreational trails were closed off, far more than I was expecting. So I mostly ended up setting a personal climb record -- I climbed 2782 feet and ended up at an altitude approaching 2000 feet up. I posted an approximate version of my route.

So I started the ride at home, headed towards the bay so that I could take a jaunt by the San Jose airport and see the jets landing, and then headed into Japantown so that I could stop by the new Roy's Station for munchies and tea before I started the hill climb.

Me on the mountain

I was following part of the route that the San Jose Classic Time Trial was taking, so I saw a lot of people coming off the mountain as I got closer. I reminded myself that I was nuts as I got started. Most of the hill climb, I was stuck in the granny gear... the smallest chainring and the biggest sprocket... and I got dropped by pretty much everybody, including an old guy in a full-suspension mountain bike. On the other hand, I did it, and I've come to realize that the best way to get better at something is to do it over and over and over again until it becomes easy. The Wirehead of 2 years ago would have bailed out after a few hundred feet of climbing.

I was pretty much biking all-out. A few points along the climb, I stopped to take pictures or get something from the back of the bike, and I was shaking. I kept telling myself that it was like eating an elephant. It looks like a lot, but if you eat the elephant once piece at a time....

Some of the cyclists who passed me on the way up cheered me on when they were heading downhill for sticking with it. I got the biggest boost when I realized I'd just reached Joseph D. Grant park and had officially climbed awful high up. The whole Mt. Hamilton climb, at least for me, is incredibly motivating because it's just the right level of steepness to not frustrate me and the scenery on the way up is grand.

Now, one important thing about my rides is that I think it's incredibly dumb to strap a bike on the back of your car and drive somewhere before you can bike. So after I went up the hill, I had to go home. Except that my biking muscles were fairly sore by that point. See, I can get started at a stoplight in pretty much any gear using my climbing muscles to force the bike forwards. But once those are hurting like hell, I have to be extra careful about downshifting far enough that I don't have to push as hard. The route home followed the VTA light rail, just in case I became unsafe, but I was able to go all the way home.

I brought a bag of oatmeal cookies and some jellied mutant sports food. I tried the e-Gels by Crank Sports. They've got electrolytes in ways that most of the other gels don't have, but they taste really funky. I pretty much ate everything, and I was starving when I went home to take Mrs. Wirehead to dinner and a movie for Valentine's Day.

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