Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Lean Legs & Ham – by the Numbers

I’m fond of saying “there’s always somebody crazier.” By pedestrian standards, I ride a lot of miles on my bike. By randonneur standards, I don’t ride very long distances. I've gained a fondness for 200km rides (about 125 miles) because I can complete it in the daylight hours. Randonneurs knock out 200km rides on the ladder up to 1200km rides which span four days. I’m not that crazy yet.
Saturday, I rode a specific 200km route called “Lean Legs and Ham”. The route owner is a woman named Kitty. She plotted it out years ago and submitted the details to the national randonneur organization (RUSA) and is responsible for verifying that I actually did it. There is some importance to this, but I won’t bore you with it.
The first time I saw the route online, I thought that I would never do this particular one. Too much climbing. Roughly 11,000 feet. It’s hard enough for me to do 125 miles and climb 5,000 feet total. This seemed ridiculous. But as with mountain climbers, I’ll do it because it’s there. Game on!


I ride far enough and often enough that I felt prepared for this massive undertaking. The actual training plan involved riding slightly less distance and with less intensity than normal for the few days prior to that particular Saturday. I planned out my wardrobe so that I had my favorite cycling kit to survive a 12-hour day in the saddle, if you know what I mean. I went to bed at a reasonable time the night before. And, I made sure I had appropriate cycling foods to carry.
More effort was spent working out the logistics with my friends who intended to join part or all of the ride.

The Route

The route includes most of the challenging hills in the East Bay where I usually ride. I’ve ridden them all before. They all have an easy side and a difficult side. It happens that if you do the loop clockwise, you hit almost all of the difficult sides. I opted to go counter-clockwise. Maybe some other day. So this was considered “the easy way” to do Lean Legs and Ham. There’s always someone crazier.

The Verdict

Since I had done all of these climbs before, separately, I had a certain comfort level with them. It helps to remember the climb so you know how much effort is involved under normal situations. So metering out the effort evenly was important, and for me, successful. I had good energy throughout. I had my time in front of my buddies, my time in the draft and no major suffering. I had no intention of setting a quick pace, merely surviving without pain.
Oh sure, there were times when I thought I had burned too many matches and would be dragging the last twenty miles. But frankly, the biggest risk assessment involved a pint of beer at the Junction. It was definitely worth it in the moment. It dehydrated me, but I recovered well. Heretic Shallow Grave - sounded appropriate.
Events such as these fall in the delayed gratification category. You do it so you can say you did it, not because it’s 12 hours of laugh riot. There are a few moments of macho endorphin rush during a climb, or the thrill of descending through hairpin turns. But there are too many more monotonous hours on flat roads into a headwind. I was plenty stiff and sore that evening and the next day, but overall I felt really proud of the accomplishment.

The Numbers

  • 142.2 miles overall, which includes home to/from the start; 125.6 miles for the ride itself.
  • 11,946 feet of elevation (my Garmin), which includes the negligible amount to/from home. The average from a sampling of my riding buddies: 11,865 feet. Ride with GPS: 10,851 feet.
  • Moving Time: 9:40:04, total elapsed time 12:49:20.
  • Watts per kilogram:
  • Calories expended: 5,312
  • Calories consumed: 2,270 (and probably something in excess of 5,500 afterwards - pizza; thank you!), gained two pounds. Two untapped (100 each), one Clif shot (100), two Clif bars (250 each), one fig bar (150), one peanut butter sandwich (300), veggie burger (500), sweet potato fries (150), Shallow Grave (210), two Skratch Labs (80 each).
  • Strava “Epic” suffer score of 271, with 55 points in the red.
  • Strava silliness: 33 kudos, 102 achievements including one suspect “2015 KOM”

The Surprises

  • That I estimated our arrival time at the first stop at the Sunol train station within 70 seconds.
  • That I missed my estimated arrival time at the second stop at the base of Mount Hamilton Road by two hours.
  • That I spotted, recognized and had the chance to talk to Kitty on top of Mount Hamilton.
  • That the core group didn't finish together. (I feel bad about leaving those to finished behind me; we soft-pedaled but were too cold and tired to stop and wait.)


  • I've had a few, but then again too few to mention.

The Conclusion

It's better to ride with a group of friends, which I did. The day was perfect, weather-wise. It was early enough in the year for everything to still be green - just beautiful. It was late enough in the year for sufficient daylight and reasonably warm temperatures - but not hot. Even though it was more distance than I had ever ridden in one day, and more climbing than I had ever done in one day, it wasn't too much. It was tough, tough enough to feel like it was hard work. I'll do it clockwise at some point. I'd say it was just right for today.  
Someday I'll be crazier.

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