I left work this evening with every intention of taking it easy, since I'm thinking of riding up the backside of Mt. Hamilton this weekend. So I cruised down the Berkeley marina for a change, then back through the flat part of Marin Avenue, planning on coming home early.
Instead of turning towards home, though, I just kept going up Marin, and before I knew it I was gasping for air on the steepest road in Berkeley, my heart rate pinned to 100%. (Ironically, I was wearing the monitor to keep my effort low.)
Marin Avenue is the toughest of the Berkeley Hills Death Ride series. So tough, in fact, that I never thought to give it a go. The "easy" bits are around 14%, but it hits 30% towards the top. About 624 feet of elevation gain over one very narrow mile. I would never start a ride, planning on tackling Marin. Apparently, the only way to get up this thing was to fool myself into it.
The lower parts of Marin aren't actually that steep. I could maintain a comfortable standing pace. Each section lured me up a bit more, till I found myself halfway up the climb. At that point I wasn't going to stop, still feeling pretty strong.
About a third of the way up, though, my legs hit the anaerobic wall, and I had to unclip, lest I find myself staring at the bumper of an oncoming Prius while pinned under my bike. I walked up to the next cross street and let my heartrate come down. Looking up the road, I thought I could just gun it to the next resting point, then decide whether to go any further. So I got a little momentum and bumrushed the hill. Upon reaching the next cross street, I keeled over the bars, gasping, till the nausea subsided. Then I looked up and thought, "I can do that one more time." And so it went till the top.
I enjoyed the descent on Grizzly Peak, spinning lightly to keep from tightening up. Then, a nice hot shower, stretch, self-flagellation with The Stick, and dinner with my old friend, Costco Ravioli.
I'd actually try this again, next time stopping to gather myself at each cross street without getting off the bike. Definitely a great anaerobic workout. My legs still feel wobbly, though.