Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mt. Diablo: One Hell of a Ride

This weekend sure was a busy one and the start of full and busy weekends for the next two months.  This must mean fall is right around the corner.  My fall weekends always seem to be jam packed with fun plans.

The weekend started with a birthday celebration for one of my best friends and consuming mass amounts of delicious homemade cupcakes!  They also proved to be the perfect 2:00 am snack.  Oh and breakfast. :)

With Big Kahuna less than 2 weeks away I wanted to get in one more open water swim.  Husband had been wanting to go kayaking so we headed over to Shadow Cliffs where I did my triathlon with the plan that he would kayak while I swam along side the boat.  Well, once we got there swimming was only allowed in a designated area so we both decided to kayak and then I would do my swim after.

After working up a sweat for an hour I dove in for a little over a half mile swim.  There was a lane dedicated to lap swimming that was 140 yards long.  I did eight laps for 1,120 yards.  A mile is 1760 yards.  Then I saw this sign combined with the terms "fecal matter" and went home and bathed in disinfectant.

I am still getting chills just thinking about how gross that is!!

Saturday night we were discussing our plans for our long ride Saturday.  We planned to go 40-50 miles and include a portion of Mt. Diablo in our ride.  The full ride from the base to the summit climbs 3,249 feet in 10.8 miles.  We planned to ride between 3-5 of those 10.8.

We got a bit of late start on Sunday morning and I was worried if we left the Diablo climb for the end of the ride as planned it might be too hot and thus decided to reverse our route starting at Diablo first.

We rode 7 miles prior to reaching the South gate entrance to the mountain.  South gate enters from Danville and North gate enters from Walnut Creek.

From this sign to the pay station (where cars must pay to continue on into the park) is about 2.9 miles with an average of a 6.1% grade.  The grade really fluctuates between 3% and 15%, although the 15% sections are so brief they aren't really noticeable.

Just before 2 miles you hit the 1000 ft elevation sign.  Here the road is at approx an 8 - 9% grade.

Despite the steepness, the views of the San Ramon/Dublin Valley are breathtaking.  (insert beautiful valley picture here)

At 3.71 miles we reached the pay station and were at approximately 1543 feet.  There was a great little area to pull over and fill up our bottles.  This was where we were originally thinking of turning around but we looked at each other and decided we both wanted to keep going and see how far we could make it.  We chatted with some other cyclists (I was amazed with how many there were) who said the majority of the ride was shaded and there were lots of places to fill up with water along the way.  This made it all the more enticing to press on. 

The next two miles were the easiest of the entire ride as the grade averaged right around 3%.  The road was nice and shady and actually went downhill in some parts which was a welcome break for the legs.  We passed through the area known as "Rock City" where massive boulders line the side of the road.  Fun flashback - Kevin took me to Rock City one Friday night in the fall of 1999.  I know it was a Friday night because I remember having my flag uniform on (flags was kinda like a drill/pep squad) and being nervous we wouldn't make it back before I had to be at school for the football game.  I was 17 and a senior in high school.  However, among the rocks, over looking the valley and over a picnic dinner, was when he first said "I love you."  My teenage self was in heaven. 

Anyway, right around 6 miles we saw this encouraging sign.

For the next mile it was a constant grade of about 7% - 9% but these views of Walnut Creek made it worth it.  (I actually have a picture this time)

At 6.9 miles, and at an elevation of 2180 we hit the ranger station.  Up until this point the ride had been tough but not unbearable and we were faced with the decision to turn around or try for the summit.

As I mentioned, we had not planned to summit the mountain, much less come the 6.9 miles we had already rode.  I was torn.  I was more than halfway to the top but from others I knew the last 4.5 miles were the hardest on the mountain.  Of course you know what I chose, I always let my stubbornness get the best of me.

Up until this point we had been on Mt. Diablo Scenic Road.  The road up to the summit is appropriately named "summit road" and begins with a bang with a grade of 6.5% - 7%.  About two miles the grade increases to about 9% to 10%.  At some point I passed this beauty. 

By mile 8 I wanted to quit.  I had been to the summit before (in a car), I went 8 miles when I had only planned on 3, and I was stopping every few feet it felt like to catch my breath.  But I could see the top and I only had 2 miles to go.  I couldn't turn around with 2 miles.  I hate to admit it but I did get off and walk a bit.  It provided much needed relief for my legs.  Right before mile 9, at a point appropriately named "devil's elbow," I climbed back on the bike determined to push myself to the summit.  I called out to a a group of women coming down "how much further?".  They shouted encouraging words that I was almost to the top.

As if you don't endure enough the mountain really sticks it to you for the last 100 yards where the road turns into a narrow, one lane road with grades of 17% - 20%.  (I wish I had taken a picture but I was too tired to even pull the camera out.)

Alas, I reached the summit!!

This was the toughest climb I have ever done but completely and totally worth it.  There is just something about being pushed to your limits and conquering them that is so satisfying.  It is like a weird adrenaline rush.  

What goes up must come down and the first 4 miles of downhill were quite a challenge due to the steep grade, however, once we hit the ranger station it was fun to fly down the final 6 miles to the base.

We decided to nix the rest of the ride (wasn't 4000 feet in 10 miles enough?) but we still had to ride the seven miles back home.  Even some of the smallest undulations in the road had my legs screaming. 

Final Stats
Miles: 34.15 
Overall Elevation Gain: 4152 feet
Total Time: 3:21:44/10.5 mph avg
Total Time to Climb Mountain: 2:27

Of course I plan to do it again.  Once again I was reminded just how lucky I was to have a ride like this right in my backyard. 
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  1. That ride up Mt. Diablo looks insane! Now a little part of me wants to try it...

  2. That's impressive. I used to be able to see Mt. Diablo from our house in Discovery Bay before we moved to Texas.

  3. Wow!

    That does look like a crazy ride! Great job for getting it done all those climbs will make the flat riding seem like cake.

  4. HOLY COW!! You are so inspiring -- that is awesome!

    Those cupcakes look fantastic by the way... and yeah, I hope you washed your hands from that filthy water before eating them. :)

  5. 17-20% grade???? I would have had to walk my bike up that! :P

    Way to good, Kristen!!!

  6. I have ridden that road more than once and never learned so much about it as I just did by reading this post. Awesome. Great job. It's no easy feat. Yeah, those last 300 feet are NO JOKE! I've never been able to ride up that part. Your next time up will be easier. ;)

  7. So awesome you went all the way to the top, but that's just how you do things. ;-)

    OMG that water sign! I would have freaked.

  8. what an amazing view. I've only hiked to the sub-summit, a ridiculously windy area. Is it crazy windy at the top too? EAST BAY RULES


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