A couple of months of expectation and marginal planning, and it was all almost ruined by yours-truly setting the Monday-Friday alarm on his iPhone, rather than the ‘other’ alarm, set for the next day only. So, 5:25am, and Marc is waiting outside my house with the engine running, waiting for the Brit to emerge from slumber.
“We’ll have to go on without him…” (or more likely less polite words to that effect, and in German)
6:20am, I awoke, proud of the fact I tuned my body to wake before the alarm sounded – at least for all of ten seconds as I stare at the clock on the wall in horror. “SHIT!”
Throwing my things into the car (almost literally), I career off in the direction of Palo Alto, and screech to halt at the registration desk, apparently still with time to sign up. Frantic SMSs to Marc sent, new helmet purchased (yes, it was sitting on the kitchen table) and away I go up the hill, alone with my thoughts and Clif bars for quasi-breakfast.
Sounds of the forest waking up for the day were rudely interrupted by one panting British cyclist on his way up the first major climb of the day (“out of my way, scumbag trees!”). No souplesse, no elegance, just mashing the pedals on the way to the first food stop of the day. Check the phone for messages (Marc still 40 minutes ahead!), and off I go down the road, slip-streaming the first stragglers on the descent towards the Pacific.
Three quarters of an hour later I slide into the mid-morning fuel stop. More than half-way through the course, and with a crazed look on my face, I hear a ‘Jonny!’ and turn around to see Marc waiting with our other team member. In my exhaustion and jubilation at seeing them, I lifted my bike to turn around and dutifully knocked over both someone else’s bike, and my own in the effort to save the first one. “Hi guys…”. Further muffins crammed down my gullet, M&Ms poured mostly into my mouth, and we are away – I felt the relief washing over me, and could finally start enjoying the ride.
And so we did. Riding up Route 1 towards San Francisco, we took in deep sea cliffs, arid hills patch-worked with forested gullies and horses copulating by the side of the road. Some of the old stage towns around there were fascinating – I suppose there is no real reason why these ‘startups’ of the day weren’t successful against San Jose or Palo Alto, but at least we are left with the old buildings and odd general stores.
Turning inland, we began the climb back into the trees. At this point, we were both overtaking large numbers of slower participants, and being trounced by local cycling clubs – there is always someone faster than you. Twisting its way up through the hills, it was surprisingly steep, and suitably punished my 60-mile year-old legs.
One immense downhill and a puncture later, and we landed back in Menlo Park. Rolling past old-growth Silicon Valley stalwarts such as HP and Lockheed Martin was something special – especially when high on endorphins and adrenalin. Visions of barbecues guided the way for the final ten miles, and thus it came to be – we did it!
I’ll be back next time, but perhaps setting two alarm clocks. More importantly, we raised some good money for the American Diabetic Association – thanks to all those that reached into their pockets.