3/A/80 – RECCE – 80-Miler BART Walnut Creek-Antioch-CCC Trail (Batwings Route)
Managed to finish, though environmental conditions were challenging. As usual, I believed the flatter course would suit my preference and I would be able to counter any heat or wind thrown my way through sheer persistence and my aero bars. I was only partially correct, because my mind briefly entertained the notion of bailing out at the Pittsburg Center BART station.
On the Bay side of the Oakland hills, the weather was overcast and hazy, quite cool in fact. After passing through the Coldecott Tunnel, it was cloudless and sunny, a harbinger of the temperatures to come, forecast at 81 degrees. I had calculated an effective high of 90 to 95 out in the open, but that was rather optimistic on my part.
It helped that the mayor climb of the day up Kirker Pass occurred at the beginning. I had started at 0900 and it was already warming up when I commenced climbing in a slow and deliberate way. Coming from Clayton on the southern approach is much easier, but I had not realized there was construction. The whole of the right shoulder was blocked by concrete barriers and I was obliged to go into the right lane. Thankfully I had no issues, as traffic would go into the left lane or swing around me in time. This construction had better be complete, before this 2-mile long climb is attempted again.
Hess Road at the top affords a 1-mile detour through quiet countryside and a beautiful horse farm where one can recover. I had a long way to go, so I stopped only briefly and started my very fast descent, reaching 45 mph. No barriers this time and the shoulder is fairly wide in most stretches. With a favorable wind, I was able to gather a few PRs, but as of Deer Valley Road heading back out to Marsh Creek Road, everything was unknown. I discovered that Deer Valley Road has a few hills as well, too tall to be called rollers.
Once heading north through Brentwood towards Antioch, the roads were flatter and remained so. A large portion was on bike paths, though I did encounter a fence at Mile 41, preventing me from clambering up an embankment as I had done before. Eventually the cross wind became a 20 mph headwind and the temperature pegged at 100 degrees. Under these conditions, my progress became a slog and my average speed dipped to a paltry 13 mph.
I was dehydrating quickly and so decided to stop at the Subway at Mile 58. I bought a bottle of Coke and drank the whole thing, though it was a bit too cold for my system, feeling like I was ingesting liquid ice. The caffeine saw me the rest of the way through and I had enough presence of mind to fill my large bottle with ice cubes from the soft drinks fountain. However, I had to decide whether to abandon this ride or to continue in a slow and deliberate fashion.
I figured the wind would swing back in my favor and since it was “only” 100 degrees, I should be able to manage. Yes, I did, but in a group, we would have surely bailed out. I reached the BART station in Walnut Creek at 1540 and after half an hour disembarked in Fruitvale, tired but with a sense of accomplishment.
Having Kirker Pass at the end, as I have done before, is a killer, so this route is a much better option. I must add 15 degrees to my calculations when looking at the forecast, since anything above 95 degrees can turn into a death march. If it had been just the heat or just the wind, I would have been fine, but both together add a whole new dimension. Feel great now though.
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