Does anyone remember last month’s piece entitled 59’31”? Did anyone actually figure it out? I should probably leave all y’all hangin’ but nah … I spent the time writing the answer, so I might as well share it.
On the foggy morning of September 15, 1996, I lined up for what would be the most satisfying race of my “career” … the 36th Annual Mt. Tamalpais Hill Climb, a 12.6-mile race gaining about 2031 feet of climbing. My goals for the race? To finish in under an hour, and to not be last in my category.
The race started at Stinson Beach and headed northwest on California Hwy 1 (the Shoreline Highway) alongside the Bolinas Lagoon for about 4.3 mostly flat miles to the right turn at Bolinas-Fairfax Road.
I’m not a climber. Never have been, not even when I only weighed 145 pounds or so. As such, I was pretty quickly dropped by my Cat 5 category racemates disappearing into the fog as the climb began. I just set a pace I could maintain and kept pedaling. About halfway up the first leg of the climb I caught another rider, whom I believe was another rider in my category, so we rode together to pace each other the rest of the way. We caught and passed another couple of riders from other categories on the fairly steep 4.4 mile climb up to the ridge, gaining about 1500-feet of elevation in the process.
Turning onto West Ridgecrest Blvd. meant that our next task was conquering the Seven Sisters, a series of rises and descents along the ridge that get gradually steeper and longer as you head 3.8 miles southeast towards the finish at the Pantoll/Rock Springs Trailhead parking lot.
On our way up Seventh Sister, I “attacked” the climb as hard as I could muster and opened a gap to my companion. By the time I finished that hump and the descent, I could no longer see the other rider due to the thick fog. I continued pushing as hard as I could and crossed the finish line in 59 minutes and 31 seconds, having raced 12.6 miles and gaining 2031 feet in the process. I was 21st of the 22 riders in my category, and 129th of the 151 combined starters. I was also the last rider to finish in under an hour.
I certainly was not the fastest rider by any measure; I finished 10 minutes and 50 seconds behind the winner of my category, but I achieved the racing goals I had set out for myself.
Having done so, I promptly “retired” from road racing.
[Editor’s Note: 59’31” is a word and visual art piece and puzzle by Steven Sheffield. It was in our Early Spring 2023 issue, and online: cyclingutah.com/bicycle-poetry/5931/]