Saturdays often are reserved for cycling with my sweetie but we hang out and exercise together A LOT so last weekend we decided to get our spin on separately. While he took off with some dudes to summit the Eureka Canyon climb, I joined the Santa Cruz Triathlon Association for the club's weekly group ride.
Technically, I'm an employee of the club because I serve as Race Director for the Santa Cruz Triathlon, a nonprofit Olympic-distance race that's in its 33rd year this year (it's just my second as RD). But even though I work hard to put on the race, I haven't spent a lot of time with club members. The group ride seemed like a good way to connect with my people and a nice change of pace from chasing the boys all over South County.
We met at Natural Bridge State Beach at 8:30. Instead of driving into town, I decided to ride the 11-ish miles from home. Serendipitously, so did a handful of other Aptosians in the club and they picked me up on the way in. We zoomed into Natural Bridges nice and warmed up for our Highway 1 ride.
About 30 people showed up for the ride, which even had pop-up bike support courtesy of Wade from the Spokesman (also a sponsor of the race!). Many of the cyclists are in Nu2Tri, a training support program for newbies to the sport. They were going up to Davenport on Highway 1, essentially the bike course for the race, while more experienced riders set their sights on Swanton Loop.
Unwittingly, I got in with a fast group right at the start and we flew up the highway at something like 20 mph. We took turns leading and I managed to stay with the pack until almost Davenport. By then, the front group had spaced out quite a bit, with people stopping for bathroom breaks or snacks, and others cruising in twos and threes. I rode solo through Swanton, an idyllic coastal valley dotted with herb (like rosemary) fields, apple orchards, farmhouses and timberland. It's one of my favorite stretches of rural road in the county and I was happy to have it to myself.
Swanton ends with a one-mile, 500-foot climb that feels awesome: enough to make you sweat but doesn't zap all of your energy for the ride back to town. I spotted a pack of guys in front of me and geared down to chase after them. Two of the club's badass guys had already made the climb and were circling back down to pick up the rest of us. They rode with me for bit and helped me reel in the other guys. I won't lie — it felt amazing to finish the hill with the lead pack.
We stopped at the top of the hill to snack and chat while others caught up with us. The women I had ridden out with arrived, along with a few other club members I had yet to meet. Then I floated down the other side of Swanton, toward Highway 1, with the guys for a quick turn-around and another climb to the top. The hill is actually easier from the highway side, and I'm all for avoiding the highway when possible. Plus doing the "Swanton Double" just sounds cool.
I'd like to say the ride home was just as enjoyable but man, was I whipped. I'm not sure if we hit a notorious Highway 1 headwind or if I just overdid it on the outbound ride (probably the later). I rode back with a girl in the club I had yet to meet and we hit it off, chatting about our jobs and Santa Cruz as we swapped leads the whole way to Natural Bridges. She shared some cookies with me and we traded phone numbers before I pedaled back toward Mid-County.
I logged about 57 miles on the ride and 3,100 feet of elevation (there was a little GPS snafu when I forgot to restart after the cookie stop and I lost a mile). The boyfriend was impressed — and got a little competitive. He had a great, fast, hill-climbing ride that totaled out at 50 miles, a little shy of my mileage.
So my weekend rides in January were 38 - 55 - 40 - 57 miles, with varying elevation gains. It's a good base to get fit for a metric century (100K) ride in April or early May, and then a century (100 miles) in late May. With some more work on hill climbing, I may even attempt the torturous Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge in the summer and get redemption on Jamison Creek Road.
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"So be prepared to quit. Do it willingly and with honest resolve. You'll be back. The marvelous thing about running is that you will never become jaded by it. Boredom, injury or anguish may overtake you from time to time, but the reward that first drew you to begin logging the miles remain untarnished and available -- always. Just put on your shoes and head out the door."