Dylan Jackson // Grand Epic
As this was the longest and hardest ride I've ever attempted, I wanted to give myself plenty of time, so I stayed in an AirBnb in Morgan Hill the night before and got started dark and early at 4:45AM. It reminded me how long it has been since I've been on a bike in complete darkness, which was a bit unnerving, but I quickly acclimated and began to enjoy the silence. I missed out on a little scenery until it started to get lighter, but I was treated to some great jackrabbit sightings on the way out East. It was warmer than expected when I started and I almost left some layers behind, but by the time I got past the 2nd selfie location, my hands were freezing and my Garmin was reporting temps in the upper 30s, so I was very glad to have erred on the side of comfort. It was wild knowing that in just a few hours it would be so much hotter. The highlight of the whole ride came early for me when I passed a bobcat on the road and we just stared at each other in passing, only maybe 10 feet apart. Other notable sightings included yellow-billed magpies, quail, guinea hens, a tiny foal, possibly a wild boar (or at least a very large and boar-like domestic pig), and a host of other birds and farm cats. If it's not readily apparent, I'm a bit of a wildlife enthusiast, and those elements are usually what sticks with me on my rides.
By the time I passed my car again, I was a little ahead of my own target schedule. After changing, refilling food/water, and eating a large jar of overnight oats, I got going towards the Mayfair Ranch trail. This is basically where things went south for me. Although I paced myself early on, I must have filled up with too much food, because even grinding up the steepest parts of Mayfair Ranch trail, my heart rate wouldn't move much past 140. I hoped this would resolve after an hour or two, but it plagued me for the rest of the day and I just couldn't put down the power I wanted or needed. I did see a couple of bucks though, which is always welcome.
The Coyote Peak area was pretty rough for me. I had trained once on the "Big" route and knew what to expect, but my body was in a completely different state and it was just much harder. As my muscles didn't seem to be fully engaging, my knees took a lot of abuse, which made both climbing and descending tougher than usual (especially that one section... you know the one).
By the time I made it back to the rest area, I actually came very close to throwing in the towel. Instead I ate more, drank more, and got going again.
Things were slow going, but manageable up to Mt. Umunhum. Once I got on the paved climb I was all out of sorts and had to stop in the shade to cool down, but I made it the rest of the way without stopping. Morale started to turn around the tiniest bit once I got to the top. There was still a ways to go, but the hardest bits were over, and the rest was fairly familiar. I was pretty much in pain all over for the last 30 miles. I did see a tiny fawn on the Lisa Killough trail, which was nice bright spot.
All in all, I was a solid hour behind my "conservative" goal of 12 hours riding and 2 hours of stopped time. Fortunately for me, my main goal was to finish and I never had any expectations of posting a competitive time. It was a frustrating day in a lot of ways, but I'm glad I did it. I'm motivated to do more events like this and that bobcat alone was worth the 9 hours of suffering in the second part of the ride.