Despite all the compelling reasons local marathon runners share in a recent Palo Alto Weekly cover story as to why they run, I am completely confident that running a marathon is something I will never do. My excuse is that whatever willpower I might have once had for such an endurance event was depleted in multiple rounds of natural childbirth. But I embrace all the reasons the marathoners' cite for running: improving health, the joy of "moving the body in nature," training with a goal, and the benefits of longer exercise sessions for reflection and meditation. Fortunately there are alternative exercise opportunities that are considerably less strenuous than a marathon but can provide these benefits for the rest of us!
Two weeks ago on a gorgeous spring morning, air fresh and fields lush from recent rains, I had the pleasure, along with my friend, Lisa, and 2500 other women, of riding in the 38th Cinderella Classic, a bike tour hosted by the Valley Spokesmen Bicycle Touring Club every April. The 65-mile ride begins and ends at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, and winds its way counter clockwise through Livermore, Danville, and San Ramon. The route passes through residential neighborhoods and strip malls, but most of the route is rural with farmhouses, pastures, vineyards, and bucolic views of the surrounding green hills.
It is not a race, nor a fundraiser, just a wonderful opportunity to ride some distance with an enthusiastic, friendly and festive group of women while following a trail of painted pink arrows. Biking is the perfect pace at which to appreciate the landscape and wave at the cows and sheep.
There are women of all shapes, sizes and ages on the ride. We were inspired by a woman celebrating her 70th birthday on her bike, and a woman pedaling confidently with her artificial leg. Pink and purple are the colors of the day. One group in matching grape jelly-colored jerseys looked intent on besting their previous ride times, but most participants are decidedly more relaxed in demeanor and dress. Sequined helmets, tulle tutus and feather boas are popular choices for coordinating outfits. Lisa and I couldn't imagine biking that distance wearing flapping or itchy costumes, but next year we might at least wear some whacky socks so we do not feel so woefully underdressed! There were also bikes with bright pink tires, and one bike painted black and white like a Holstein dairy cow with a pink udder attached.
The route is mostly flat, although there are two gradual ascents with a total elevation gain of just over 1900 ft. An optional additional challenge loop over Altamont pass increases the mileage and elevation gain considerably. The challenge loop is also something I am pretty certain I will never do.
The $48 registration fee covers coffee and bagels at the start, hot soup at the finish, and three rest stops in between stocked with healthy snacks, drinks, and wraps for lunch, all served by smiling volunteers. There are plenty of port-a-potties, and SAG (support and gear) vehicles patrol the route to assist in minor repairs. Police are also a visible presence, one on a motorcycle got us laughing by kindly covering his eyes with his hands allowing us to cruise through a stop sign without losing our downhill momentum.
We finished the ride feeling elated and rejuvenated, but tired and sore enough to have earned the pleasure of a day spent pedaling under blue skies and fluffy clouds!