2006 Mt. Diablo Challenge – Part 2

Diablo on Cruise Control – by Jeff C.

Two days after the ride I was on a plane to the Philippines, the land of scooters, fresh-caught seafood, muddy streets, and San Miguel beer. More of my flight out to the tropics later.

I really needed to wear my heart monitor. During my training rides with Willis a few weeks before the Diablo Challenge, and with Don 2 weeks before the event, I didn’t think to wear it. I mean if I felt tired, I would slow down my pace right? I could gauge my own cardiac stress levels right? Maybe. It’s a big question mark and it’s not a question mark you want to have when you’re up on the Mount, especially when your cranking away up nearly 11 miles of uphill drudgery.

On race morning, I was behind schedule since I had printed out some Yahoo maps that turned out to be wrong directions. I started at the end of the last starting group (the over 1h15m finish I believe). My Bianchi road bike was not tuned at all (the brake system needed new pads etc.), but I lubed it just a week before. Two months prior, I trained about 3 times a week putting in about 12 miles on average on a mini-course that I had designated in San Francisco as a Diablo primer. Speicifcally it was just the hill above the Richmond area on Clement St. It’s an uphill stretch of a little more than 0.3 miles that simulated Mt. Diablo in grade, but not distance. So after going uphill, you have a brisk ride down back to the start (approximate 32nd Ave @ Clement) with only 2 stop signs to worry about. I fully realize now that this course was much too “mini” and I would have to look into a larger stretch of uphill – possibly the long beachside path up the Great Highway (northbound) off Ocean Beach.

During the beginning of the race I remember questioning myself, have I not trained more than last year? I trained differently. Last year, my training consisted of running on local San Francisco hills in addition to cycling. This last training season, I quit running and kept it just to cycling. I’ll just try and keep a relaxed pace, and try not to power up any slope or turn. I was able to keep a 6-8 mph for most of the race – and I thought, with this pace I should be able to beat my time from the year before. I remember having a good aerobic capacity thanks to running, and muscles trained for uphill climbs from cycling. This year, I kept the heart monitor off during rides, and kept a pace I felt most comfortable at – which I call cruising.

As the race continued, everything seemed just right. The temperature was bearable, and I believe there was a slight overcast as you got higher in elevation, so heat wasn’t a problem. However, I noticed that my pace seemed to be less frantic than last year. In other words, I felt I wasn’t pushing myself to my limits. Last year I didn’t own a heart monitor, but I really pushed myself up the mountain because I ignored my body signals because I did not know what my limits were. This year, if I got a little bit tired, I responded immediately by lightening up on the cadence. I believe I stayed in the 18th speed, my shortest gear, for all the uphill climbs (most of the race).

At the race finish, I met Don, who was with friends, new and old. We enjoyed a few minutes in the sunlight, and then proceeded to the reception area. A brisk breeze, turned into a chilling gale, and this year Jamba Juice didn’t seem like such a treat. I wished for a hot chocolate with Bailey’s. Cyclists and Diablo volunteers, and vendors kept warm with windbreakers, though a heavy winter parka would’ve been handy. Since I didn’t bring an insulating layer, I withstood the cold temperature for the entire duration – which involved waiting for the workers to let us down the summit while getting freeze-dried in the cold. The way down the summit and mountain to the foothills felt like I was falling from the Earth’s upper atmosphere, into warm ocean waters. I was glad to have finished, though my time was about 5-6 minutes slower than last year. I think I’ll push myself harder from now on, and make it a point to wear my heart monitor.