What I think about when I am riding

Consecutive weekends filled with activities meant I had not done a really long ride for a while. I had run, and ridden a certain amount, but I had also been eating more heartily, hosting a lunch for some other people who have left Zen Center in the past year, going out to dinner several times last week; I don’t remember feeling hunger all week, and I felt sluggish. I am also looking at three weeks off the bike while I am in England; I will be taking my running shoes, and hope to get out in various locations while I am there, so my energy has been moving in that direction. The other day I realised that since I am renting a car for this visit – I usually do my traveling by train – I could head out while I am in Cornwall and attempt to run the cliffs west of Fowey, through Polridmouth and Gribbin Head. This is something I used to do on family holidays when I was a teenager, and I often refer to this as my favourite running experience – just me, the sky, the sea, and the narrow path up and down some very steep hills.

looking-down-to-polridmouth
This picture from a few years ago shows the hills around Polridmouth Cove, with the path visible going up the field.

Last Saturday, then, I could have taken a long ride to make up for the recent lack, something to leave me tired through and through and to burn up that heavy energy. I chose instead to return to Mount Diablo for perhaps the last time this year, to get some strength in my legs, and to enjoy some late summer heat. I chose the South Gate route again, to give myself a break in the middle of the climbing.
It was already warm by the time I was on the mountain, and there is only shade in a few gullies, but I loved every minute of it: the flash of woodpecker red among the oaks, a baby snake basking on the tarmac, the parched California colours under a deep blue sky. As usual, the camaraderie of everyone riding up was an extra boost – there were people faster than me, people slower than me, older riders, younger riders, but a shared sense that everyone who makes it to the top has done an amazing thing. As I set off on the long descent, looking out at the towns and the bay far below, I had that familiar mountain-top feeling: did I really just do all that?
I could not help but think of running the Tassajara Road. There is a certain similarity – the climb is around three thousand feet in each case, but at Tassajara the gradient is probably twice as harsh. I was counting off sections after the junction of the north and south roads on Diablo, just as I have done on the road between the bathtub and Ashes Corner (I call those the three Ls and the two Bs from the shape of the road going out and up) – the difference being that after the bathtub most of the elevation has been gained, and I always had the sense that I had done the hardest work and would make it the rest of the way. On Diablo, the hardest sections are not far below the summit, three curving Bs after the Juniper camp, where it is always just a question of seeing what is left in the legs (not to mention the lung-busting last few hundred yards at eighteen percent).
So I did not wear myself out in the way I would have on a longer ride, but I went home happy in the sense of accomplishment, and glad of the exertion. If I get to do the cliff run, I will report back on how that felt.

road-angling-down-copy
One time in 2012 I ran up to the top of the Tassajara Road with my camera, and took pictures on the way down. This is above Ashes Corner, looking south over the wilderness.

road-down-from-lime-point-corners-copy
This is closer to Tassajara, looking down the bends from Lime Point

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