Wow — a really challenging training ride yesterday! I took my bike on BART to the Orinda station, where everyone was meeting in the parking lot. I heard an experienced rider say that there were two bike rides out of there — an easier one to the east, and a difficult run to the west. I silently made a wuss-like prayer for the eastward route. But we went west — over the hills that are known locally as the Three Bears. There’s Papa Bear (the biggest one), and so on. And I thought I heard someone say that the hills went from Papa to Mama to Baby — in other words, from hardest to easiest.
Things went pretty smoothly at the start of the ride. Eventually we hit a decent hill — and I asked the nearby cyclists if this was Papa Bear. Oh no, came the sad reply. Not even close.
Later we got to a much steeper hill. Was this Papa Bear, I wondered? Negative.
By the time we’d covered over 15 miles of what had been billed as a 25-mile ride, I started thinking that maybe we had already gone over Papa Bear — that maybe the other riders were just messing with the minds of us newbies. Then we really did hit Papa Bear. And oh, it was steep! And it seemed to last forever! I just stayed in my lowest gear and kept pedaling. The rest of my group was out of sight — some ahead, some behind (amazingly) — and for the longest time all I could hear was my own breathing. Every once it a while, a guy from our team named Mike would drive by in a truck and ask me how I was doing; my guess is that, besides getting my actual answer, he was listening to hear that I could still speak normally. (Indeed, my voice sounded strangely strong and cheerful to my own ears, considering how much I was exerting myself.)
Then — finally — there was a long, steep descent, thrillingly fast for me (though I kept tickling the brakes so I didn’t get out of control), and we were back at the Orinda BART station. A woman with a nice British accent was leading a few riders in stretches; I joined them, and was instantly glad I had, as my legs felt like petrified tree stumps. But I had made it over the Three Bears! Apparently, the order was actually Baby, Mama, then Papa. I felt like Goldilox, and I was ready to head home for some porridge (read: cheeseburger) and a nap in our just-the-right-sized bed.
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The map and data from yesterday’s training ride are below.