Ryan Mullen // Grand Epic
The takeaway from last year's Epic ride was to find strength while alone on dark single track and the darkness of your own thoughts. This year I would recruit other riders to join me, in an effort to save me from the darkness. Plans changed.
I got one friend to pace my first 15-20 miles, through Fremont Older and up Stevens Canyon. He aborted the Epic, abandoned me at the beginning of Canyon Trail in Monte Bello Preserve, and boarded a plane (so he had a good excuse to turn around at the Steven Creek crossing). Alone, I attempted to cross the creek, which I had failed four days prior- riding home with wet shoes. Using different stepping stones, I crossed the creek staying dry and boosting my outlook on the day ahead.
Ascending Black Mountain is a beautiful experience through the rolling oak woods. No wonder a commune of a hundred free spirits lived off this land before they were evicted in the 1970s. I summited Black Mountain, which shares its moniker with over a hundred other peaks in California, and rested atop the Calera limestone outcroppings while taking in the views of the foggy Pacific Ocean and Peninsula towns below. I continued along the emerald Monte Bello Ridge before leaving the Santa Cruz Mountain by heading down Alpine Dirt, which had recently been cleared of downed trees and washouts from the relentless winter storms.
Now it was time to settle in a crank out some miles up the Peninsula along Cañada Road. My aim was to keep the power output steady and leave plenty in the tank for the remaining climbing.
The next several hours would be in the fog, which was appropriate when I crossed the fog line across the Sweeney Ridge Trail. This was the only part of the course that was new to me, although I was familiar with the surrounding area, which I found enjoyable. Next up, the infamous Planet of the Apes which took me from Pacifica through the historically impassable road crossings of Pedro Mountain and down into Montara. The roar overhead of a spectacular vintage WWI plane entertained me as I rode into the annual Pacific Coast Dream Machines in Princeton-by-the-Sea.
By the time I reached the decently luxe Ritz Carlton, I was starting to lose my sense of decency. Passing numerous outhouses, I settled on the best open air restroom adjacent to the 17th hole of the famous Half Moon Bay Ocean links course.
The Cowell-Purisima Coastal Trail dumped me out onto Highway 1 at Bob's Vegetable Stand. I contemplated their food offerings but settled on bottled water for the final climbs home. I was recharged before I started to climb Tunitas Creek Road which I took at a slow pace and kept my eyes ahead for the Porsches winding down the switchbacks.
I felt good at Mile 105 atop Skyline, but that quickly changed heading into El Corte Madera Creek OSP. I felt disconnected from reality and far from the finish as I cranked out hard miles of single track. I made it to Page Mill, freezing and counting the miles back to the developed world. With a final wind, I blasted past the finish line before dark enroute to my final destination just a mile away.
I had an amazing ride, already looking forward to finding a group of like minded riders that are gratified by pain.