16 August 2008

15-August-2008 Cuyamaca Night Ride with San Diego Mountain Bike Association

I had ridden in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park only a few times before. The first time was many years ago when I first started riding and my friend Alann took me up to ride some singletrack and fire road around Middle Peak. That was before Alann got heavily into his running addiction and dropped out of the MtB world. The second time was just a few months ago when I rode with the San Diego Mountain Biking Association (SDMBA) on a new moon night ride. On that ride I was joined by Claus and Dana and about 40 other riders. Last night, neither Claus or Dana could make it, so I was on my own along with 40 other riders.

In the run-up to the ride, I had helped the organizers by 'doing the paperwork' -- extracting names, lighting requirements, and ability levels from emails sent to the ride coordinator and entering them into a spreadsheet. Nothing flashy, but probably helpful. I had also been in touch with the organizer to discuss meal options -- being mostly vegan I was hoping to avoid the horrible feeling in my stomach that followed the previous ride's pizza dinner. Remarkably, a vegan option would be added to the menu which was well appreciated.

I had posted a car-pooling notice to the other riders who were scheduled to come on the ride. I figured there'd be more people coming from the Torrey Pines area where I work, but only one person responded that he would like to carpool. So, after a few email exchanges, we agreed to meet at my workplace, and leave from there.

My company had their "annual day at the races" so everyone had left around 3pm to go to the Del Mar track. I used the time between 3 and 4:30 (when my car-poolee was scheduled to show up) to get my bike cleaned up, aired up, and lubed up.

Last night's ride was on a different route than the previous SDMBA Cuyamaca ride. There were some elements of the ride that I liked better and some things that I didn't like as much, but that's to be expected. The route started out on some singletrack which was a lot of fun. But we quickly got onto a fire road the had us climbing for some distance. We were pretty much on fire road until we got to Granite Springs where we hit some singletrack for a short period of time. We eventually got to some fire road again, (East Mesa Fire Road) which was actually more like singletrack because of all the fallen trees. We road that trail to a stand of trees and then returned. When we got back to the turn off for Oakzanita Peak trail we met up with the Intermediate group who were just returning from their ascent. It was pleasant to see all the lights streaming down the trail coming toward us, but one thing I've noticed, and it's something I remember teaching my Scuba students to avoid, is that people with head lamps don't consider the brightness of their light as they look at people. So, once the blinding got too bad, several of us decided to take off. 

As we started the singletrack climb, I was second or third in the group. It was a fast and fun trail although it was a bit sketchy at times as there were lots of trail side branches and bushes. The guy in front of me caught a hold of a branch that snapped back toward me with considerable force and speed. I'm just glad I saw what was going to happen because I was able to duck rather than getting smacked in the head. At one point the trail had a slightly increased incline and I didn't notice that the edge of the trail was a bit sandy. Somehow I hit the sand and lost momentum so fast that the next thing I knew I was laying on the ground. Of course, the only rock anywhere to be found on this section of the trail was underneath my leg, giving me a nice scrape and pain that remains now, over a day later. I pulled myself out of the trail and allowed another rider to pass.
The switchback climb up to Oakzanita peak was difficult, especially with the pain in my leg. There were several sections with rock steps right in the switchbacks, so I had to dismount several times and do a few short hike-a-bikes. Even though I was significantly slowed in my ascent, the fellow who had passed me while I was down wasn't making very good time even on his hardtail. I caught up to him with ease and then rode right on his back wheel until he let me pass him, but then we were at the top already. The view from the 'peak' was pleasant, with the full moon mid-way up in the sky and the lights from several riders still making their way up the trail looking like fireflys zig zagging closer to us.

When the 'sweep' made it to the top he offered us all Oreo cookies, though they were a bit on the stale side. I grabbed one and started my descent. With my leg throbbing, I took the descent easy. It seemed like there were moments when the bike just didn't want to move regardless of how hard I was trying to push forward. I think I might have sabotaged myself slightly by grossly under inflating my tires. In the past I had been inflating them up to >3.5bar (>50psi), but after several suggestions, I dropped it to ~3.0bar (40-45psi), but this time I dropped it to 2.4bar (35psi). While the ride was much smoother, I felt like I lost a lot of momentum from the bouncy, squishy tires.

When I got back from the Oakzanita Peak singletrack to the East Mesa Fire Road, I met up with my carpoolee, Sol. We took off together and continued our way down the hill. I hadn't remembered the ascent being as long or steep as the descent seemed, but that could have been my leg, the general fatigue, the fact that now I had to watch my speed on the curves else I could end up in a ravine, or the large amount of dust in the air thanks to Sol's and another rider.

Just before East Mesa Fire Road meets up with highway 79, I took the single track that runs parallel. Again, at some point I felt like I was unable to maintain momentum and came to a complete stop. Fortunately, I didn't fall. But another rider passed me--it was the guy on the hard tail again. Once I got moving, I was again right on his rear wheel. We made it back to the parking lot fairly quickly.

Throughout the ride I was very glad that I had brought my 'Buff' because I was able to put it over my nose and mouth and avoid breathing all the dust. (I didn't bring it on the last SDMBA ride I went on and ended up coughing up dust for two days after the ride.)

We sat in the parking lot and ate dinner. I enjoyed some organic lentil soup with tortilla chips and some very tasty beer. I talked with some old acquaintances for a while and with some of the people I rode with. When we finally left for the drive home, it was around 11:30. By the time I  made it home it was 1:15.