Jim Ott's Blog

This blog is a collection of columns I've written for Bay Area News Group newspapers serving the East San Francisco Bay region.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pet the Goat and other cycling adventures

This column was published in the Tri-Valley Herald on April 28, 2009 and a few days later in the Valley Times.

Somewhere ahead of me a couple Saturdays ago, my cycling buddy Bryan Gillette was pedaling his bicycle toward the summit of Mt. Hamilton in 90 degree weather.
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I had dropped back.
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I knew he would finish the 206 mile Devil Mountain Double, but the question was, would I?
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I had an excuse for not keeping up. Two weeks earlier I’d run 50 miles mostly uphill along the American River from Sacramento to Auburn. My legs hadn’t fully recovered, I told myself, and the heat wasn’t helping.
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As I pedaled in pursuit of my friend and a distant finish line that would somehow accomplish something, I wondered how it is I manage to sign up for these ultra endurance events.
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After all, I'm an old guy at 52.
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And yet I’ve been running marathons for decades and going on long bikes rides since I was in high school. There’s something I enjoy in the physical and mental challenge, the often stunning views along marathon and bike routes, the absence of phones and email, the joy of having just one goal instead of the day-to-day multitasking that is my life.


Bryan Gillette (left) with me at the Mines Road aid station, approx 90 miles into the ride. Shortly after this rest stop, Bryan pulled ahead of me and I never caught up to him. Byan is an amazing cyclist, and on the day of this ride, he was feeling symptoms similar to the flu.

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Speaking of physical challenges, the Devil Mountain Double includes 20,000 feet of elevation gain. Approximately 200 riders from as far away as England signed up for this annual event that took place on April 18. The route starts in San Ramon and makes a giant circle, going up and over Mt. Diablo, over Morgan Territory Road, out to Tracy, back up Patterson Pass, out Tesla Road in Livermore to Mines Road, up to the top of Mt. Hamilton, down into San Jose and then back up into the foothills via Sierra Road, down Calaveras Road to Sunol, out Niles Canyon and up and over Palomares to Crow Canyon and Norris Canyon, and then to the finish at the San Ramon Marriott.
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Yes, it’s a long way to ride a bike in one day.
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The first place finisher, in 12 hours and 12 minutes, was Kevin Metcalf of Pleasant Hill.
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Along the route, Bryan and I were joined by fellow cyclists Steve and Jan Sherman and Jerry Pentin, who came out to ride with us for portions of the ride. Their moral support and companionship were invaluable, as was the support provided by more than 80 volunteers.
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As I rode, often alone for hour upon hour and mile after mile, I made mental notes of the various creatures I encountered. I knew I’d be spending the following day with my two teenaged daughters, and I wanted to recount for my 13-year-old the many animals I came upon.
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These included lizards, a snake, a bull in the road, horses, deer, birds, sheep, dogs, and cats.
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And then there was the goat. Our route maps showed a rest stop at mile 160 called “Pet the Goat.” I was never sure during the ride if the stop actually included a goat, let alone whether I would get to pet it.
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As I made my way up Sierra Road, as evening turned to night, I pulled into the rest stop, greeted by volunteers and a hot cup of cocoa. And there he was: the goat.
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“Welcome,” said a volunteer. “Congratulations on getting this far. You may pet the goat.”
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So I did. I petted the goat, took its picture, thanked the volunteers, mentioned that I was almost certain I wouldn’t finish the whole ride, and set off into the chilly darkness.
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Five miles later at 10 p.m., at the top of what we cyclists call the “wall” on Calaveras Road, the most wonderful woman in the world pulled up alongside me in her black Honda Pilot.
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As I climbed into the warm embrace of my wife’s car, I learned that Bryan was certain to finish the entire 206 miles, which he did 47 minutes later.
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For me, 17 hours and 165 miles in one day was enough.
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Then again, maybe next year I’ll make it the whole way.
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To learn more about the Devil Mountain Double, visit
http://www.quackcyclists.com/.
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2 comments:

she said...

you are amazing! that's all there is to it..

crazy and amazing.

another awesome accomplishment!

and i find myself very inspired reading about your marathons

you, your wife, your friends..

not inspired to join you

heavens no.

but inspired to keep going on in life; the ultimate marathon

with the invisible finish line.

"congratulations ren man!"

love, ~s.

Jim Ott said...

Good point, Sandra. The ultimate marathon IS life itself. So when I run a marathon, it's within a larger marathon. Sort of like swimming in a pool on a cruise ship. IT's hard to grasp the concept! Ahhh! :-)