My Nemesis Mt. Tam

Three weeks ago I was able to start riding with the club again, and celebrated this occasion by joining the Evil Step Sisters ride up Mt. Tam to Alpine Dam. It being early in the season for me, I knew that this ride would present a challenge… but I seldom let such considerations stop me. (I am probably what you might call “headstrong”. Or perhaps, “foolish”. I prefer “willful”, which I’m sure will come as no surprise to those of you who know me. But I digress.)
Full of excitement and optimism I headed out with the club on my new bike, gradually remembering the proverbial lay of the land. The ride started out beautifully but, (skip to the point) I broke a spoke on the Marin bike path just past Mike’s Bikes. I said my teary goodbyes to the club and headed back to Mike’s to wait for them to open. Now, much to my surprise, as soon as Mike’s opened they were able to throw my bike on the rack and repair that busted spoke. And though I knew there was no way I could ever catch up to the club (now and hour ahead of me), I was determined to make the most of the day. After a bit of solo jockeying back on the bike path I fell in with a random group of people and decided that I would ride what they rode. (I’m a bit shy, you see… and have positively no sense of direction on a bicycle for some reason.)

After a while, this nice group of folks decided that they would say hello to me (since I seemed to be stalking them). I introduced myself and explained my situation, and of course they were entirely pleased to have a well groomed, well behaved, and entirely too handsome rider join their paceline. (Ok, I think their exact words were something like, “try to keep up”… but try to read between the lines and you’ll see what I mean.) And then, as if serendipity itself had shined down on me, they informed me that they were headed up to Alpine Dam. And, even better, they were riding the REVERSE loop of the club. I thought, “This might be my chance to re-join the ride!”
So, I followed and rode and made a bit of polite smalltalk like you do. (Ok, not like WE do… but like I’m sure you would do if you’re a bunch of sorta boring straight people riding bikes.) And, lo and behold, I met up with the club on my climb up to Alpine Dam. Hooray!

Now, pay attention to this part because this is a key detail for the rest of the story. I did quite a bit of climbing. In fact, I was sure I must have made almost all the way up to Alpine Dam… and of course that must be the peak elevation of the ride because otherwise you wouldn’t call the ride the “Alpine Damn” ride. (Hey! Stop laughing!)

Fast forward to today where I had the good fortune to join Jeremy for the “i hate my sisters” ride. Finally, I have another shot at this mysterious “Alpine Dam”. The riders included Jeremy, Eric, Topher, Wundersen, a brit we picked up at Cafe Vela Rouge, and me (aka Turbo). It was cold and cloudy, but dry. And we were all ready to ride. Ok spokers… let’s show this dam who’s boss!

The ride started well, and we were cranking along. Through Suasalito, then Larskpur, then into Bolinas and Fairfax… man are we making good time or what! Then the climb began and it was exactly as I remember. It felt great to stretch those legs. And surely the dam isn’t too far. Around the next bend I’m sure. Yep, not far now. Hmmm… where the hell is the dam? Ok, maybe I didn’t climb as much as I thought had on my first excursion. But I’m a trouper and through willful determination I finally made it to the damn. What a beautiful spot! Definitely worth the effort. And boy was I ready for the descent.

And that’s when I noticed something slightly amiss. You see, the road out of the dam goes up hill. Hmmm… that’s odd. So I asked innocently, “So, there’s a bit more climbing then?” And a very kind (and mildly amused) Wundersen clarified the situation: “Honey, the climb is just starting.”


Now, I’d like to believe that the color didn’t entirely drain from my quickly applied game face. But those who were there know the truth, and the rest of you will have to do that climb with me to find out.

And, with no further fanfare we were off like a shot. It got colder and foggier, and I relied increasingly on my willful nature. Slow and steady wins the race. One foot and the other… that’s what I always say. It’s not whether you win or lose… it’s how you finish the climb. And though I wasn’t winning any awards for fastest anything, I felt ok about how it was going. It is, after all, early in the season for me. And I’m not my strongest in the cold. And then… the unthinkable happened. And I’m ashamed even to tell you because this is something that has never, ever, ever happened to me before. I was focused intently on the road ahead (all three feet of visibility), and I was keeping my cadence even and smooth, and then I heard a most unusual sound. *pat* *pat* *pat* *pat*. And then I got passed. BY A RUNNER!

Yes, dear spokers, I got passed while riding up Mt. Tam by a man on foot. No bike. Just shoes. Passed.

In my defense, it was very close to the top.

Anyway, I stopped for a moment to have a very quick rest and bite to eat and to see if I had enough cell service to charter a helicopter to come and get my sorry self. Fortunately, no cell service… but the very kind ride leader Jeremy did pull up having turned around to come and check on me. One packet of Jeremy’s goo and one mile later, we were finally on our descent.

For the sake of brevity (as if I were capable of such a thing) I’ll spare you the details of my post-climb cramps, and my resorting to the ferry in sausalio to avoid the climb up to the bridge. Instead I’ll close by sharing with you all that I realized something today. Mt. Tam is my nemesis, and I shall conquer that little mound of a hill this summer. (n.b. I’m willful.) And, to the runner who passed me on the climb, wherever you are: thank you for not laughing… or even snickering. You’re a good egg.