Cookie Monster Comin' For Ya: A Retrospective


I went on a pretty big ride this time last year.  I had been on a few big rides before, and I've been on a handful of big rides since, but this ride in particular still holds the top spot.  

A little over 8 hours in the saddle.  About 2 and a half hours of stoppage time comprised of coffee stops, bathroom breaks and lots of complaining.  I blame the Cookie Monster.  And Leo.  But damn, what a fun day that was.

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I started cycling toward the end of 2014, but didn't start doing regular club rides until June 2016.  Never having done any sort of structured training, the group rides helped me get quite a bit stronger.  I had unfortunately started out with this backwards perspective: I was going to get fit, then start doing club training.  That way I wouldn't have to worry about getting dropped!  If only that were the way the world worked...

After a few months of getting spat out the back, I decided it would be fun to try a fondo.  The Jensie was coming up and I had never ridden in Marin before, so I registered for it and started climbing even more.  (That was also an epic day.)

Finishing The Jensie gave me a tremendous confidence boost.  Who needed to recover?  I dove right back in with an 11 hour week, then followed that up with a 13 hour week (complete with a 70 mile, 8,000 foot day in 90 degree heat).

At this point, we were a month out from Phil's Cookie Fondo.  By we, I mean my friend Leo and I.  Leo was newer to cycling than I was, but he was already dropping me on every climb (and it wasn't close).  Leo is the sort of guy who refers to double centuries as "coffee rides" and claims to "taper" by riding in Zone 2 to the start of a race.  So, naturally, we were excited to hear about this 113 mile, 11,000 foot fondo put on by Phil Gaimon in our own backyard.

This is what I mean when I say I blame the Cookie Monster.

A month out - how would you structure those weeks?  Well, we hadn't ever done a ride with 10,000 feet of climbing, so why not throw one of those in the mix?  Perfect way to cap a 14 hour Week 1.

Week 2: never done the Donut ride?  Have fun trying to avoid getting dropped before the first climb!  The South Bay Cycling Awards that evening meant a gaggle of Pros were in town that morning to make a hard ride even harder.

At this point we're two weeks out from the Cookie Fondo.  Which option makes more sense?  

(a) a 15 hour, 17,500 foot week capped by the biggest ride you've ever done; or

(b) anything other than (a)

This is what I mean when I say I blame Leo.  

Up and over the first climb of the day: Encinal Canyon.   Photo courtesy of Liutauras Rusaitis // Instagram @liutaurasr

Up and over the first climb of the day: Encinal Canyon.  Photo courtesy of Liutauras Rusaitis // Instagram @liutaurasr


The week before the fondo, why the fondo?  It seemed to make sense at the time.  Plus, there were a few climbs in there we had never done before, so this way we'd know what we were getting ourselves into.

Needless to say, it was a long and lactic acid-filled day on the bike.  It really didn't make any sense.  We were fatigued (or at least I was) and probably would have been better served by an entirely different sort of ride.  But it was a hell of a lot of fun.  That day epitomized for me what cycling is all about: getting out and exploring the world.  We weren't entirely sure where we were going, and we weren't entirely sure if we'd make it home without having to call an Uber, but we kept going and made some great memories along the way.

Before it started to hurt.   Photo courtesy of Liutauras Rusaitis // Instagram @liutaurasr

Before it started to hurt.  Photo courtesy of Liutauras Rusaitis // Instagram @liutaurasr


What happened next, you may be wondering?

Easy rides, Tuesday through Saturday.  Sunday morning, the day of the Cookie Fondo, we rode 45 miles to the start (thanks Leo).  We stood around drinking coffee and laughing when people called us crazy.  Then the mass start - easy pace as we meandered out onto open roads.  The legs felt good.  Maybe I wasn't as fatigued as I feared!  Then the first climb, Potrero, and I was popped like a thousand corn kernels.

Potrero is unforgiving, with sections nearing 20%.

Potrero is unforgiving, with sections nearing 20%.


I haven't done any fondos this year, and I haven't really done any big rides recently.  I've been working on finding a better balance between time on the bike and time with family and friends (a balance I've really been enjoying).

But there are plenty of roads out there I haven't ridden, and sooner or later I'll get the itch to go spend 10 hours pedaling squares (probably with Leo).  It will hurt, and I'll wince every time someone claims "I'm pretty sure this is the last climb."

And it will be a hell of a lot of fun.

Photo courtesy of Liutauras Rusaitis // Instagram @liutaurasr

Photo courtesy of Liutauras Rusaitis // Instagram @liutaurasr

Latha Duncan