I have had two bad weeks in a row. Work stuff and other things were occupying space in my head where fun stuff should be. The freaking cold summer we were having in Northern California complete with foggy mornings and not very warm afternoons weren't helping either.
When I am visiting one of these unavoidable downs I usually go on a long solo off road ride on my MTB to neutralize the effects off mental bugs. The goal was to do the first full run of the 200kms mixed terrain route, La Ruta Loca, I've been mapping this summer. The route has many miles of off-road terrain with some good climbs that would keep my eyes concentrated on the trail rather than the head on my troubles.
As it is usual the case with stress the body had been reacting the whole week before the ride, this time my back had been hurting right between the shoulder blades. It made taking deep breaths a little painful however it had been doing my regular daily ride without to much trouble, a little discomfort but that was all.
A bad night sleep had me up later than what I had wished. Many times I don't set up an alarm clock, just program my self before going to bed and, for the most part, get up at the desired time. After wresting with the sheets for 15 minutes the desire to ride wins and I am up; some coffee, a shower, a banana, some OJ, a cliffbar and I am set to go about 30 minutes later. By 8:30 am I rolling out the door.
A cloudy and foggy morning not to cold but not nice weather either. All those distracting thoughts still there in my head. I made it to the Golden Gate bridge where I zeroed my bike computer, I wanted to make sure my cue sheet was somewhat accurate so others can use it if they ever fell the need for a hard ride. On the other side of the bridge the first hill of the day, Conzelman. Not a steep or particularly long hill but this morning I notice I am climbing a good one mile per hour slower than my slower time, that is not a good sign. Just over the top I start the steep descent and then within minutes I am at the Miwok trail head where I stop to check the mileage on the cue sheet. A little off but I think I can live with the difference, you see I assembled this cue sheet from many different rides I've done. Sometimes the mileage varies as much as .5 mile at one point but some miles down the road things even out and everything starts matching again. I need to correct all those little mistakes.
My back was complaining again. The first off road climb of the day is gradual and has a short steeper section, very easy but today I felt it more than other times. By the time I made it to the Miwok Stables I know this is not an ordinary day on the bike. A mean hill is just ahead and I am not in the best shape to tackle it. Coastal Trail goes up at a sharp angle, my breathing gets harder and the back pain comes back with a vengeance. I made it all the way to the top controlling my heart rate but arrived very tired. This is only 14 miles into the 120 mile ride. I examine my choices... for a while. After a moment of clarity it is obvious I am not in condition to finish this ride, at least not the route I had planed. Instead of going down towards Muir Beach and continuing the original ride I take the bailout route, up a little more on Coyote Ridge trail and then down to the Miwok Stables. After a long coffee stop at Sausalito's waterfront I decide it is time to head home. Another stop at the Presidio beach in San Francisco and now I am on my way home, for real.
I know too well my engine must be in good rideable condition to attempt a difficult ride. When to push hard and when to let go are as important as a mechanically sound bike. The original plans where cut short but I live to write the story and battle the mountain alone another day. Oh yes I had even washed the bike the day before, I bet that made the off road gods angry and punished me for my vanity.
(First posted August-13-2007 at 08:30 pm)