Stretch Goals

One of the benefits of not having really gone anywhere in eighteen months is that I have continued to ride my bike steadily (even the weekend I was just away had a two-wheeled focus too!). Over the winter I was focusing on getting in steady hours, nothing too spectacular, but the arrival of spring – and a new rear cassette which had one gear that was easier than the previous one – got my attention back on hills. I tried a varied collection of them, San Bruno Mountain, Sweeney Ridge, the climbs in and out of Pacifica, and without my usual taster of going up Mount Tam a few times, decided that I might as well try Diablo before I went away, and lost that edge of fitness for a few months.

Last Saturday I ended up on the first BART out of the city, unexpecedly in the company of several women who were joining an AIDS Lifecycle training ride; one had never been up Diablo, and was asking for advice. They got off a couple of stops early to add in some more miles; I was just getting up and down the mountain. 

It was fresh along the valley, but a perfect temperature for climbing. I knew I hadn’t been since before the pandemic (in fact it was the summer before that even), but it felt intimately familiar in terms of the effort required, the turns that followed each other. About half way up the wind got a little stiffer, but I wasn’t going in the same direction long enough for it to be a problem. At the top, another cyclist and I shared that we would take it easy on the way down in case of unexpected gusts. 

It was so early still that there were very few cars out – even though people were preparing for a running event most of the way up. Only one person tried to pass on a blind corner – despite the numerous new signs warning against it – just as I was indicating that I would move over into the turnout, and I smiled to see a couple of rangers who were parked on the corner chase after the driver to give them a talking-to.

About half way down the north gate road (I had gone up the south gate road on the assumption I would do better having a break in the climbing), I decided that the experience was so great I would have to do it again this weekend. And then I saw the forecast. 

Like the first spring of the pandemic, when the rain seeped regularly back until May (hence my amateur conclusion that our weather seasons have been running a month late for a few years now), we went from eighty-plus degree weather last Thursday, when I rode to work in my thinnest shirt and shorts, to barely scraping fifty, with a couple of days of serious wind blowing me around on my bike in the city, and several bands of rain, with more to come over the next week.

There was another reminder of the past this week as well, as I went up to a nearby Kaiser clinic and got my second booster, a year to the week after my first jab at SF General. Luckily this time, though there was steady foot traffic, the safety waiting afterwards was the longest part of the process. This time, unlike my first booster, where I just had a nasty headache that reminded me of a day with a hangover, I woke up the following day after some very vivid and fast-moving dreams, feeling rather groggy, and called in for a sick day, probably my first in a couple of years. So perhaps even if the weather had been grand, I might not have had the energy for another crack at the mountain. Another goal to let go of.

In theory I will be leaving for Tassajara a week today, but, as with my trip to England in the summer, I confidently make plans while suspecting that something will cause things to be cancelled. My fingers have been crossed for some time.

About half way up the mountain, with a fair distance still to go.
The views from the top, including the road down (on the right) are always inspiring.

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