8/7/06: A Mixed Day Up Old La Honda

After taking the weekend off I decided that I would try to climb Old La Honda. I’ve definitely been building up my leg strength over the last several weeks and with 2 days rest I was anticipating a good ride. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it all the way up to Skyline Blvd. but I felt it would be a good test of where I stood. That said, I was a little nervous that not making it up Old La Honda would expose just how out of shape I was in relative to my previous form.

As I was pumping up my tires I decided that I would go up Alpine Road in order to compare my average mph on fresh legs at the corner of Alpine & Portola against my recent best, which was 14.9 mph on the way 17.2 overall. I figured that even if didn’t make it up Old La Honda I could at least gauge progress and build confidence by beating 14.9 mph up Alpine. However, once I got on my bike my legs just didn’t have it.

I don’t know exactly how to explain what was going on. My legs didn’t feel tired so much as they did weak. It was very windy and that had something do with it but as I reached the intersection of Alpine and Portola wind couldn’t explain posting 13.2 mph. I was really disappointed and adding to my frustration, my heart rate monitor continued to intermittently read zero beats per minute. All of my progress thus far had been steadily increasing my average mph. How could it have fallen so dramatically after two full rest days?

I didn’t eat very well over the weekend. I had Chinese food and 4-5 beers on Friday night. On Saturday I overate at a BBQ for lunch and then had a hotdog and an ice cream sundae for dinner at the Giants game. I know that nutrition is important for cycling but I’d never been affected this much by it and besides while what I ate wasn’t healthy it was packed with calories. I also wondered if my legs actually needed more than 2 days rest. I had ridden 108 miles in the 3 days prior to resting and maybe my body just wasn’t ready for that kind of work load. I probably won’t ever know but it was clear that climbing Old La Honda would be a stretch so I decided to set a goal of climbing 1 mile up the road.

I checked my time and distance at the base of Old La Honda and set off. The hardest part for me of climbing sustained steeps is often accepting a slower speed rather than fighting the road. Knowing that I wasn’t riding well, I quickly shifted all the way down into my granny gear after just .3 miles. I felt okay at 1 mile so I decided to see if I could do 2. As I pushed ahead between mile 1 and 2 I really started to feel it but I was able to back off and let the road come to me. When I reached mile number 2 I knew that, while it was going to be difficult, I could make it to the top if I just kept peddling smoothly. After 30 minutes of climbing I found relief when I saw the famous mailbox cluster peeking around the corner and reached the stop sign at Skyline Blvd. for a total time of 30:10.

I was very happy to have climbed Old La Honda. Now that I know I can do it, I’m going to climb Old La Honda more regularly but I am perplexed at when Alpine caused me so much trouble. I certainly felt tired on my way back from Old La Honda but that was normal. However, adding more confusion to the day, I felt very strong climbing the back of Sand Hill. Despite getting stopped by traffic at the intersection of Whiskey Hill Rd. and Sand Hill Rd., I stood up and climbed from a standstill to over 15 mph on the short steep section before descending down to the Freeway.

This was my route:

I started up Alpine and made a right on Portola. Next I went up Old La Honda and made a right on Skyline Blvd. Then I came down Highway 84 through the town of Woodside and made a right on Whiskey Hill. Last I made a left on Sand Hill Road and then cruised back home through Palo Alto.

Here are my ride stats:

28.71 miles

13.4 average mph

44.8 max mph

2:08:01 ride time

131 average heart rate*

167 max heart rate

815 calories burned*


*These numbers are clearly low because of my heart rate monitor’s intermittent measurement of zero beats per minute during the ride. I suspect that my average heart rate was closer to 150 and that I burned 900 – 950 calories.

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