Mulholland Double became Mulholland Challenge

I signed up for the Mulholland Double Century, one of the stage in the California Triple Crown Stage Race. I wasn’t originally going to do this, but my friend Brenda asked if I would do it with her (to have a carpool partner, and a riding partner as well). I said yes, but in the back of my mind, I know I’m not as strong as her, so I had a little hesitancy in doing it. However, I figure what the heck .. if all else fails, I’ll be able to do the Mulholland Challenge, which is only 106 miles, 12,000 ft of climbing, instead of 192 miles and 18,000 ft climbing.

It turned out our friend Mark was going to be able to come along, so it was us three carpooling down.

Credit Mark William Calaway (aka Memo)

I originally signed up for the tourist option, which would not get Stage Race credit, but if completed by midnight, I would still get CTC credit. However, I wanted to ride together with Brenda and Mark, so instead of starting at 4:30 am, we started at 6:30 am, and didn’t need lights at the beginning of the ride. The double century riders, and the mountain challenge riders would start at the same time.

Right off the bat, a lot of the riders charged on ahead at a brisk pack riders pace (since it was a gradual descent). We decided to go at a warm up pace, not going to crazy. After all, we have 200 miles, and 18,000 feet of climbing to do.

The first 30 miles were a good warmup, with nothing too crazy, and we all pretty much stayed together.

The first water stop was at mile 26, because we had our first major test of the day, Stunt Road. Immediately after the first rest stop, on the first climb, I got distanced. After about 10 min of climbing by myself, I knew I wouldn’t be able to catch up with Mark and Brenda, so I just went at my own pace. It’s good that we had the century riders to ride with, just so I had some company while climbing.

Stunt Road is a good 4 mile climb, and about 1340 ft climbing, at an average grade of 6%. That’s not too bad. At the top, I see my friend Teresa, aka Tiger. It’s so nice to see old friends on a ride event, and it was good to see her out. She told me Mark and Brenda had just left 5 min ago, so I’m not too far behind.

After a short descent, and some climbs up Piuma, the next 30 miles were what I call lumpy, or with a bunch of rolling hills (nothing too dramatic as far as climbs were concerned, but still climbing). The route does take us back to the start, so that’s the first loop. I then see my friend Shelby back at the start, and she tells me Mark and Brenda left … you guessed it .. 5 min ago. This is encouraging, so I kept the stoppage time short, and continued on.

I did get swept up by a pack of ~ 20 riders, and hung in with them for a few miles. At least I got some momentum to take me up the next hill. The next hill … ooh, this is where the ride starts getting really tough. We climb up Westlake (Hwy 23), and it’s a 2 mile climb that averages at 7.2%, but the lower half had some really cruel steep pitches (in excess of 23% at times). Once we got through the hard part, we still have to climb 7-10% grades, and that takes a lot out of your legs. For some reason, Strava lists the segment as Decker wall. Little Sycamore was another hill that just burned my legs. That was only 8-10%, but all these hills add up.

Tiger’s boyfriend Chris, caught up with me, so I rode with him for awhile to the next rest stop to Circle X. I know the fatigue is really starting to hit me, so I spent a little longer at this rest stop, but still kept it at a minimum.

After the rest stop, we still climb some more, before we make the descent on Deer Creek to Hwy 1. At this point, my legs are jello, and I was really look for the descent, all knowing I’ll have to climb eventually. I just want to get the cool ocean breeze so my body can absorb the coolness.

Ah finally, the descent is coming. I didn’t bring my Go Pro, and I should have. It would have been good to take a video of the descent down Deer Creek. It is a steep descent, so I had to watch my speed coming down

At the bottom of the descent, another water stop, but this time, with ice. Hmm … I just had them fill my bottle with ice, as it would fill up the bottle. Now we get to enjoy a fairly flat 5 miles stretch of PCH. That is a much needed flat section, before we tackle a difficult Decker Canyon Road climb. If the hard climb wasn’t bad enough, we would have to negotiate a left turn on Hwy 1. Luckily, I caught a break, and didn’t have too many cars to wade through.

At this point, climbing Decker Canyon has the sun beating on your back, and more specifically, on your neck. Decker Canyon is a 3.6 mile, 1500 ft climb, with an average of 7.8% (but does have some 12-14%, and even some sections at 16%). With the sun beating down on me, and my legs are spent, I had to stop under a tree, and suffer the consequences of riders passing me while I let me heartrate down in the shade. I was okay, but just fatigued, spent, fried … I stopped probably for 7 min, as I didn’t want to wait too long, then off I go.

I did see another rider with an Everesting Jersey, and heard him complain “more hills. Where is the rest stop?” It’s kinda funny, an Everesting guy, complaining about so many hills?

I mustered enough energy to finally reach the fire station, which is my signal that it’s the top of Decker. I see that Planet Ultra tent, and I am relieved. My friend Steve, knows I need an ice towel, so her drapes it on my neck. Oooh that felt good … but this is a great candidate for the “slumped over the handle bars” FB group.

Credit: Steve Meichtry

I am spent at this point, but I have to move on. If I want to beat the cut-off, and continue onto the double, I have to check in back at the start no later than 5 pm. It’s still another 20 miles, and there are still some more climbing left to do.

After I get through the climbing, we get to descent a section of Mulholland, that is closed to traffic, but bikes can descent down. We do pass the Rock Store, and I wanted to take a picture here, but I didn’t have time to waste.

I started having headgames … if I do make it by 5 pm, do I have anything left in me to do another 91 miles and 6000 feet? As I approached Agoura Hills, it’s looking more and more like I’m going to miss the cutoff. I finally get there, approximately 5:10, 10 minutes past the cutoff. Oh well, it looks like I finished the Mulholland Challenge, and that was it. I just wanted to take my shoes off, and have a seat.

About 10 minutes goes by, and I see Mark. I thought he had gone on ahead, but apparently, he suffered 3 flats, and had no more supplies, so it didn’t make sense for him to continue. So we both DNF’d the double, but made it through the Mulholland Challenge.

We then hopped in the car, and followed Brenda and the rest of the DC riders along the route, just to aid them if they needed help. Brenda eventually rode with Dennis, also of XDV, so they rode together, and finished by 11 pm, well within the cutoff.

So congrats to Brenda and Dennis, and a really difficult double century. I’ve gotten so many comments, that it was an accomplishment for me, just to even attempt this, and to complete the Mulholland Challenge. I heard some DNF’d, due to mechanical issues. One rider had to DNF, due to a broken chain. That sucks!

Look at that profile!

Solvang Double Century – Number 22

Solvang Double Century in March is probably my favorite double century. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that it is held in the same month as my birthday? It’s also one of the most popular, as it attracts riders from all over California, and it’s a nice reunion with all my DC friends.

I carpooled with my friend Dzung, who was going for his 99th DC. He did have an accident a month ago (tire blowout on a descent), so this would be one to dig deep down. As per tradition, we also met with a bunch of friends at Firestone Walker just down the road from the start of the ride.

We started out at 4:30 am, known as the “Tourist” option. That allows you more time, plus as long as you finish before midnight, you get credit for it. I probably didn’t need all that time, but I wanted to start with Dzung in the morning. It’s better to ride in numbers in the dark.

Tiger (aka Teresa Beck) messaged me the night before, as she met this kid, Quang, who was riding his first double, and wanted to ride with a group. So I agreed to look out for him, so he can ride with us. Quang is the one on the far left. It turns out he’s a friend of another young rider that I ride with, Nguyen. What a small world. It turns out he had no problem with the double, as he rode ahead about 15 miles into the ride.

There was 40% rain forecast for the area, but not till late in the afternoon/evening. By the time we climbed, then descended Foxen Canyon, it did get really misty. It was still a little dark at that time, just before sunrise, so we still needed our full lights. It got to the point I had to take my glasses off.

There was a group of cyclist, One Cycling, who is from Stockton, who volunteered to support Carmel Valley Double last year, and I saw them pass by us like we were standing still. I did catch up to them at the first rest stop.

They are such a fun group. I kept passing them, when they got a flat, and they would pass me after they fixed it. They had 4 flats on the day. Each time I passed them, I say “again?” They started on, and I wanted to see if I can catch their train. I was about 5 seconds behind, but they distanced me really fast, and no way I could keep up. Oh well.

The next rest stop was at mile 78, and at the home of Adam Bramwell (son of Chuck Bramwell, who runs the California Triple Crown, aka CTC). They were across the street from a park, so it made for a perfect venue, with ample bathrooms nearby.

From this point, we did a loop up to San Luis Obispo, passing Cuesta College, then back to the same spot, for lunch. There is one thing I have to improve upon … is the length that I stay at these stops. When I looked at the data afterwards, I had a total of 1.5 hours of stoppage time.

To this point it didn’t rain, so I decided to take my jacket off … would this be a bad decision? Uh … yeah … it started to sprinkle about 5 miles down, and had to put it back on. However, it was just sprinkles, and nothing really bad. We then encountered a new climb, Ormonde. Nice little climb, about 5-8%. There was one other cyclist, who was mentioning something about his Garmin being screwed up, and couldn’t read the map properly. However, I told him we are on the right course. Then we came up to a T, and we are supposed to go left, but he was ahead and turned right. Before I could tell him, he was already about 500 yards ahead, and I yelled out left turn, but he was gone. Hope he found his way back, because I never saw him again on the ride.

Further down, I bumped into my friend Kirsten (it’s actually pronounced sheer-sten). She was helping out another rider with a flat, who had no tools … what? On a double? Anyhow, we both continued to ride on, and she is so strong (who has ~ 140+ DC’s, done many endurance gravel rides) … i.e. She is a badass. I was actually able to ride with her for about 40 minutes (15 miles), although some of it was downhill. Hey, that’s an accomplishment for me!

Next rest stop at Guadalupe, I spent quite a bit of time there … probably 20 min … waaay too long. Of course, having the bathroom not next to the food probably took a bit of that time away. A lot of it was probably chit chatting with Shelby … awesome DC rider … such a hoot!

Onwards, and this stretch between Guadalupe and Los Alamos is always tough. Luckily there was no stiff headwind, but is going along Hwy 135, with cars speeding pass you. I was struggling to maintain a 10-11 mph pace, then came the tandem train, and Steve Meichtry was the captain of the tandem, and I proceeded to hop onto that train. My pace jumped from 11 to 18-20 mph .. nice.

Next rest stop is at Los Alamos, and little did I know it, but my friend Ron Tag, who I rode with at the end of Bass Lake, was on that same train. Great to see him. And of course, the best part on this rest stop is the cup o noodles. Ooh the salt!

From here, it’s the home stretch, last 20+ miles. I started the climb up Alisos Canyon with Q (who has over 85 DC’s in his belt). He’s quite a character. He’s a strong rider, but hadn’t ridden much lately. However, that didn’t stop him from charging ahead of me on the hill. It did started sprinkling again. By the time I crested Alisos, and made the right turn onto Foxen Canyon, the rain started getting harder. It was still light out, but that would not last. As luck would have it, when it did get dark, it started raining harder. I could see the stream of water come down, as it passed through my beam of headlights.

I recently bought a new headlight, Cygolite Ranger 1400 … that’s a really nice light … and I only had it on the low beam and it still lit up the road. That was much needed for this dark descent.

Another change in the route was to return climbing up Foxen Canyon, to follow the same route that the Solvang Century goes. It continues, where you cross Hwy 154, and takes you straight into Ballard Canyon, where you continue a short climb before descending. On the other side, the road is really rough, and that’s where the new light came in really handy. At least I was able to see where all the potholes I was about to hit.

I got back to the start around 8:20 pm, so it’s about 15:47 total time, with 14:23 moving time …. 1.5 hours stopping time. Kirsten says the only reason why I need to start so early is because of all the time I stop … that maybe partly true, but I’m not a badass endurance rider like she is.

Celebrating successful DC with my friends Shelby, Dee, and Tiger

Dzung made it back ~ 10:30 pm, so not too bad. He definitely made it within the midnight cutoff time. However, to my suprise, Q didn’t … he didn’t check in at the end, and had everyone worried. Many calls to him was unanswered (probably not in a place with cell reception). He was eventually found, and he ended up with 30 extra miles (220, instead of 193). He somehow got lost, and his Garmin got confused which direction he was going. That was strange, especially for a rider of his stature. It’s lucky he had extra supplies, like food, water … and he even left his water bottles at the last rest stop. All we cared about is that he is safe and accounted for.

This year’s Solvang DC was definitely one to remember. I’ll need to work on stoppage time, as my next DC is probably the toughest I’ll attempt … Mulholland (although DMD was right up there, which I DNF’d). Mulholland is also the first DC Stage Race … I signed up for the tourist option. I was convinced by my friend Brenda, that I should do it. We’ll have to see how I do on this one. That’s only in 3 weeks … I’ll need to do a lot of hill repeats to prepare for this.

https://www.relive.cc/view/vevWQNgYMG6

https://strava.app.link/RLvvtLVIBob

Camino Real Double Century … #21

The first California Double Century on the calendar is Camino Real, which was held February 19th. I’ve always liked this one, for a couple of reasons … First, of course it’s the first one of the year. Nice way to kick off a year. Second, it’s held on President’s Day weekend, so there’s an extra day to rest, recover, or damage my body even more.

I drove down Friday, and met up with my boys Robert (who brought along some of us Las Vegas buddies from Adobo Velo), along with Memo. I ended up riding with Memo and Monica for the whole DC.

Being in lowland, we got to start at 4 am (highland riders started at 5:30 am, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to finish in a respectable time starting that late).

The temperature at the start was 50 F, so it wasn’t too bad. That’s not to say it didn’t get chilly … it got as low as 39 F, and that was when we headed inland from Laguna Beach into the canyons. We did get an awesome sunrise view.

I somehow lost Memo and Monica when we started climbing through Laguna Nigel (and I even stopped at the first water stop). Eventually we re-grouped at the first CP at San Onofre.

One of the “non so pleasant” parts of the ride is riding along I-5, but at least we have shoulder room to work with. Normally when I ride this, there is bumper to bumper traffic, but it was moving pretty good today. When we got near our exit, the bumper to bumper traffic returned. It was nice to pass the traffic on our bikes past the cars … weehee!

When we got to Oceanside, we would then head inland towards lunch. When we got close by, I can just feel food coming, and like an idiot, I pushed the pace to get to lunch. I will never learn, but it was fun. Met up with long distance extraordinaire Steve .. always good to catch up with him.

After lunch, we do a climb up Old Castle Road, which I’ve never done before, but it’s not too bad. It’s longer than the climbs we did in the morning, but nothing too steep (maybe 5-8%). The only problem is it was right after lunch, at high noon. Luckily it was not in the 90s or 100s, but the sun was still beating down on us (although my Wahoo measured 106 F … don’t believe that!).

We then started to do some rollies, but my leg started to tighten up a little bit … it wasn’t cramping, but was on the verge of doing so. Memo had to remind me to drink .. egad, bottle is 3/4 full .. time to hydrate.

On the way back, Memo knows of this one street called Triple Crown Road, so it was a small little detour for us. That was definitely a Kodak moment, that we had to take. I’m surprised Planet Ultra didn’t have us go on this, just to say that we went on Triple Crown Road.

Back on the route, but to I-5, but this time, cars were speeding by at 70-90 mph (estimating 90 mph, based on how fast they were wizzing by us). The good thing is there was not too much junk and debree on the side of the road, so it was doable, but definitely not a pleasant experience.

By the time we got back to San Onofre CP again, we finally met up with Robert and the Las Vegas boys. However, they are going on the highland route, so that’s the last we would see of them. I thought it was odd we didn’t see them on the whole route, and yet, they were here at San Onofre before we got there … maybe it was a change in the route after lunch stop?

Anyhow, we return along the coast the same way we got here, and this is where the sun sets. With all the water I was drinking, to re-hydrate myself, I had to take bio breaks a lot more than this morning. That’s one thing I have to work on .. hydration. When it’s cold, it’s hard, because you don’t feel like hydrating, but you really should. Lesson learned for my next DC.

On the way back from San Juan Capistrano, we encountered pretty heavy urban traffic .. and in the dark! We saw another group of Adobo Velo riders come up, and we rode along with them to the next checkpoint. However, it was observed they had some personal SAG, as we could see them meet up with the group several times, and there was no SAG sign on the car. It’s a good thing no one from Planet Ultra saw them, otherwise, they would get disqualified.

The last 20 miles were a bit odd. It was all flat, but I was struggling to maintain pace. I had water, and I was drinking, and I had food, but somehow I didn’t have the energy. Memo kept warning me about the hill climb at the end … but then, when we got to the hill, I had this extra energy, and I powered up the hill. Maybe the flat junk miles were making me board, making me sleepy (I remember yawning quite a few times), and then when hill came, it woke me up.

We finished a little before 10 pm, with a moving time of 15:23:24, but a total time of 17:58. Too much stopping time .. will need to improve upon that. However, the more important part of this, is this double century is complete. This make number 21.

Total stats … 198 miles, 8104 feet climbing

So I’m a Randoneur

So with the year 2022, I set a goal to get to my 25th Double Century by the time I complete Carmel Valley Double, at the end of August. That means 5 Double Centuries, with my first one being Camino Real in February.

One great way is to ride brevets, which will build my base miles. I didn’t actually consider doing these, and then someone was surprised I wasn’t doing the upcoming 200k Dillon Beach Brevet. So I figured, this will be good training. Let’s do it!

First, I have to register for the ride. But before I could do that, I had to register with San Francisco Randonneurs. But before I could register with them, I had to register with RUSA (Randonneur USA). So I register with them, pay the $30, so that’s the first step. Next step, go and register with San Francisco Randonneur, but in order to do that, I need my RUSA number. But wait a minute … I paid, and I should have a RUSA number. Well, I had to message one contact, who knows a good contact with RUSA, and then the ball got rolling. Dang, they need to work on their customer service.

I found out the assigning of numbers is a manual process, so there is some lead time to get this. I was on a time crunch though, because I had to get my registration to the event by Wednesday, and it was Tuesday evening. I was eventually able to get my RUSA number Tuesday evening, which then allowed me to register with San Francisco Randonneur. After that, I was able to register for the event, Dillon Beach 200k. Whew, all done, right? Wrong … as part of the process, I have to sign a waiver for the event … online. So that was easy enough, but all through out this process, I had so many emails, I had to create a folder, just for this.

Ok, deep breath … now I am ready to just go on the ride! The one thing we have to do is to provide proof of passage (indication that you made it to 4 control points … beginning, 2 points on the ride, and the end). We had to download an app, which will imprint a Timestamp, and take a picture at the control point. This is in lieu of carrying a RUSA card, and filling it out.

The start of the ride is at Crissy Field, with a really nice view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The starting temperature was not too bad … probably in the mid 40’s, so felt pretty good about that.

First Control Point … start of the ride

I wanted to keep this at a steady pace, and have enough energy for the end of the ride. However, I found myself ahead of most of the group. I got to chat with a bunch of really cool riders, veterans of previous brevets, which includes Kitty, who has done 3 Paris-Brest-Paris brevets, which is really awesome. I rode with her for about the first quarter of the ride. I figured if I just keep at the same pace that she rides at, then I should be in good shape for the rest of the ride.

The ride had a couple of out and backs … each out was a control point. This also gave me a gauge of how far up I was, or how far back I was. It was good to know I was somewhere in the middle, and I also got to see the rest of my group (as I was heading back, they were heading up the hill).

From this point, I pretty much rode with Chris, Tracy, and PV. Before heading to Dillon Beach, we stopped by the General Store to load up on water, and it was a nice place to eat our lunch. Chris and Tracy had rando setups, with a nice big bag on the handlebar. What did they have in there? Well, of course, nice beef bowl to chow down for lunch. Oh so that’s how Randonneuring is done. 🙂

We were there long enough that the rest of the group caught up with us, and we headed up the hill over to Dillon Beach. This is where the chow down really is, and where Dzung and Chuck has a mid-ride IPA re-fueling.

Chris, Tracy, PV and I started heading back first. It was around 1:30 so we figure we should be back to the finish before dark, if all goes well.

At some point, I was wondering where everyone is, as normally, you would see some other randonneurs, but we didn’t see anyone. I thought we were supposed to do an out and back, but we were on Nicosia Valley Road … not a big deal, because I know this area well, and I know we make a left turn on Sir Francis Drake Road. Then, I saw some of our group pass on Sir Francis Drake Road. Oooh … we did make the wrong turn. It’s okay, as we would end up with the same mileage and same climbing. I guess this was the old route, and perhaps Chris was on auto-pilot follow the previous year’s route. Oh well.

By the time we got back to Crissy Fields, it was just turning dark, but at least we got through Sausalito and onto the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset. I made it just before 6 pm, which was kinda my target anyways, so it’s a win win.

That was a fun experience. I know the goal of most randonneur’s is to qualify to do Paris-Brest-Paris, but that’s not my goal. All I have in mind is to train for my doubles. I just haven’t committed to doing multi-day riding, all self-supported. A 200k, or even 300k would be fine, but any more than that is not my idea of fun. I guess it’s all a matter of what you want to get out of it.

2021 Retrospective and Getting Back into Double Centuries

Well here it is … another year in the books, and yet another year under the environment with Covid-19. From a cycling perspective, at least some of the restrictions have been relaxed enough to allow us to do some of the things we used to do. For me, it was getting back into Double Century riding (although I had taken a 7 year hiatus, separate from all this Covid non-sense).

I think I got the bug to get back into Double Centuries due to all the Virtual Doubles that my friends have been doing. However, one thing that prevented me from doing doubles in years passed, was partly due to work. My group was down to 2 people (where it used to be 4). What that meant was every other weekend, I had to be on call, which really impacts how much training you can do for long distance riding. I was fortunate that this year, the schedule was laid out, such that I was on call once every 6 weeks or so, and I had more flexibility to change schedules.

The first virtual double I did was in April, and it was for the Mulholland Double. It wasn’t the actual double (I would never be able to make the time cutoff). Still, it was 200 miles, and 12,000 feet of climbing. It was basically doing a big loop up and over Mt. Hamilton, then down the other side and over to Livermore, then back to San Jose. Well, that was 130 miles of it … we then made up for it by doing a series of smaller 3-5 mile loops until we reached 200. I felt like a hamster, spinning my wheels.

One of the best things about these virtual doubles is being able to ride in your local neighborhood, and being able to have local support (whereas actual double events wouldn’t let you have your own local support). The other nice thing about this was having local friends hang out and serve you food on the course.

My favorite was Melissa’s rice porridge .. mmm, that hits the spot, after 150 miles, and especially if it was cold. It was so good, I went around a couple more laps, stopping each time for rice porridge, but I had to continue on.

With this being my first double coming back after 7 years, I did have some doubts in my mind. At mile 130, I was tired, I was exhausted, and I was ready to throw in the towel. But thanks to my friend Dzung, he convinced me to continue on. I needed that push, to get me over the edge, and I thank him greatly for that. The funny part was his comment, that the first double I do coming back, was one of the hardest. Yeah, I don’t like to do things easy.

After succeeding there, I decided I wanted to do a double solo. Oh, big mistake. Well, I did my own loop, of ~ 60 miles, and met up with a group ride. There was a bit of climbing on the group ride, but I figure I should be able to handle that. Unfortunately, the weather (in May) was a little more wet than expected. It was pretty foggy … it was almost like a misty rain, but it was enough to make us all wet. I was the only one who knew the route well, and being the local, the group begged me to lead them back to the start, as everyone was wet and cold. So I led them back, but I still needed to continue my double, as I had only 90 miles with 110 more to go. I continued on, and instead of doing multiple 5 mile loops, I had a great 20 mile loop, through bike paths, and I figured I would be able to keep doing this to get to 200. My care was parked along the route, so if I needed something, I would stop by the car. On one of the stops back to the car, I was really exhausted, and since it was solo, I didn’t have anyone to motivate me, and that’s what did me in. I stopped at mile 155, and since I was at my car, it was way too easy to just go on home. So that was a failed attempt.

To this point, I chalked this up as a training ride, but I kept thinking if only I had more mental toughness to continue on. Others were impressed I continued on, after the weather conditions. I can’t blame the weather on this, as by the time I got back to the car, it was all dry, and should have been able to continue on … but it is a learning opportunity.

I was able to complete one more virtual double, and that was Grand Tour, which I did in July. That was fun, but that hardest part had to be doing all those small 5 mile loops, but at least we did it, and that was the 2nd one of the year, and that would end up being the last. Again, my favorite part was stopping for rice porridge on those 5 mile laps. Eventually we shortened them to 3.5 mile loops, just so we wouldn’t get delayed by traffic lights.

In August, it was our club’s double century event, Carmel Valley Double. This was not virtual, and I think it was the first non-virtual double. This was a tough one, as it was 14,000 feet climbing. The most climbing I had ever done in one event was Devil Mountain Double, but I DNF’d that one. By the time I DNF’d, it was 159 miles, and 17,000 feet climbing. When I finished Carmel Valley Double, I was ecstatic. This was tough, and it was the first worker’s ride I had ever done (I volunteered, and supported the actual ride which was held on Saturday, two days later).

There were 4 of us doing the volunteer ride, but I was the slowest. I was able to ride with Stefan for most of the ride, but by the time we climbed Carmel Valley on the way back, I was far behind. The difficulty was when I descended, it was pitch black (about 8 pm). Since this was rural, it had many turns, and I needed to put higher beams on. I definitely was not going as fast as I normally would down this road, and it would go on forever. One mishap on this ride, was that somehow, the screw on the mount for one of my lights was no longer there. So I couldn’t really use this light, so had to rely on my other one. Since I had to use my brighter beam, that meant using more battery, and I was running low on battery. I was able to finish before it went out, but that was a close one.

The best part on this ride was to actually cross the finish line. While riding this, I was worried I wouldn’t make it to the cutoff, thinking it would be after midnight before I finished. I underestimated myself, and I actually finished around 10:30 pm, so not too bad. That was one of the happiest moments of all the doubles I did. It also helped having so many friends to support me on this one.

I really had the double bug now, so I proceeded to do Bass Lake and Solvang Autumn Double. On Bass Lake, we had quite a few people from XDV drive out to Clovis (near Fresno) to do the ride. I wanted to do this as a group ride, but right off the bat, we got separated, as I rode with the lead group, but most of our group had a flat, which delayed them for about 40 minutes. I eventually waited for the rest of the group at the 2nd rest stop (at Bass Lake). I probably should have just continued on, but something tells me they would have caught up to me anyways (as Dominique and Ellen are so so strong).

Solvang Autumn Double was the week after Bass Lake. This would be my fifth of the year. It was a bit colder than I was anticipating, especially when we got into the canyons. This was a bit tougher than I thought, as we did Drum Canyon twice (once in each direction), and that road was really rough. Descending on a road bike felt like I was in a boxing match, getting my upper body taking body blows, with all the bumps the bike was taking. I think a gravel bike would have been more appropriate for these descents.

One thing I did observe was I did slow down quite a bit in the second half, while others took longer in the first half and finished stronger in the second half. Even after all the doubles I have done, I still have some things I have to improve upon (aside from the fitness).

The last double I was able to do was the Dead of Winter, which was held first weekend of December. It was a nice flat double, with a climb up Lake Casitas pass, which is always a lot of fun. This is the same as what we do on the actual Grand Tour Highland Double. What was nice about this was seeing a lot of double century friends that I know from the many trips I made down to So Cal. It was a blast seeing them, and was fun to complete my 6th double century of the year. I’ve never done 6 in a year before, so this was a first for me.

For 2022, I have a goal of completing my 25th double, and that will be for Carmel Valley Double. Melissa has said they will create a big banner for me for that one, so how could I not strive for that as a goal. So that’s my plan … that’s my new year’s resolution … I am currently at 20, so I will need 5 more to get to 25. Wish me luck!

I would also like to thank Dzung Dang for maintaining a group that encourages cycling and more importantly, keeps me motivated to keep riding. I was burnt out, and that’s why I had a 7 year hiatus from double century riding. It’s his emphasis on doubles and endurance riding that kept the double century bug in me. It also helps to have a group that has the motivation to do these rides (as these events are not for the normal every day bike riders). Thanks Dzung!

Getting Used to Quarantine Life

Ok, so it’s not a complete lockdown, but would quarantine be a correct word?  I mean it’s not like we’re stuck indoors with lock and chain.  We can go out and do things, but with restrictions.

At least here in California (depending if you call it shelter in place, or stay at home), we have a lot more liberties compared to what China, Italy, Spain had to go through.  We still can go out and do “essential activities”.  When I first heard this term, I thought perhaps we needed some “get out of jail” card or something like that.  No, it’s more of the honor system, and frankly, a lot of people do not have much honor.

I am fortunate enough to have the flexibility of working from home.  It’s actually what I do when I’m on call, so it’s like being on call every day.

One of the essential activities is recreation.  So the routine for me, is get on the road by 6 am, ride until about 9 am (which is when my shift starts.  That actually works out pretty well, as long as my body is in the mood, and can wake up that early.  By getting on the road that early, it assures that not many people are on the road, and it limits the likelihood of riding through a crowd.  Even if I do approach someone, I have my bandana face covering, that I can pull up when needed.  You may ask, what if someone comes up from behind me and passes me?  Well, that’s what the third eye mirror on my glasses is for.  It may not be cool looking, but it is functional.

My riding has gone way down, but that’s really to abide by the guidelines suggested by the CDC.  Technically, they want to restrict the area where the spread is, so I typically limit my ride to < 40 miles.  However, I know others don’t abide by that.  It starts getting political, and I just don’t want to go there, so I just stay local, and within my own county.  In San Mateo County, they did restrict cycling to 5 miles, and more recently, they bumped it up to 10 miles.  However, I know not many cyclists follow this.

Anyways, I know it has been awhile since I last blogged on here … I just didn’t feel in the mood for it, and I’m sure you’ve read tons of other blogs, and I just didn’t want to add to the fray.

Jumping from Garmin to Wahoo

Along with preparation for doubles is checking on my GPS recording device … in other words, if I do a double, I want proof.  This really didn’t become an issue until I did a training ride, a 100 mile ride from my house to the Cliff House in San Francisco.  By the time I finished, I had a low battery indicator for the last 20 miles.  When I finally sync’d it, I discovered it had 4% battery life left.  This was just short of 8 hours of run time.  Sure, I could just re-charge it, mid-way through, with one of those portable battery chargers, but that’s inconvenient, and a pain.

Now we’ve all had problems with Garmin before, like not recording sometimes, GPS being way off … I’ve heard many really positive things about Wahoo, so this is the perfect opportunity to buy one.  After evaluating reviews, I decided to go with Wahoo Element, for both price, features, and more importantly, battery life.  It does advertise on its spec up to 17 hours battery life.  I went with this, over Roam, only because I didn’t need the pretty color maps, and the turn-by-turn, I figure I could get with Element.  Besides, I’m used to just downloading a course.  The price was good, $239, as opposed to $380 for the Roam.

It’s a nice big display, and I like the fact that you can zoom in/out, to display larger fonts with less number of fields, and if you zoom out for smaller fonts, it will display more number of fields.

The turn-by-turn, is displayed while viewing the map, so that’s pretty nice.  Even if you are not in the map view, it will give you an overlayed dialog, telling you where you need to turn.  However, I haven’t figured out, if you suddenly want to abandon the course, how to turn off the turn-by-turn navigation.  Gotta play with that a little more.

Ok, now to the gripes I have, after only a week playing with this.  First, you download the Wahoo app, and you control the Element via the smartphone app.  However, in order to connect to it, you need to have it connect via bluetooth.  However, I’ve found you can’t connect, as long as you have an already existing bluetooth connection on your phone.  For example, if you have a fitness watch paired via bluetooth on it (I happen to have a Garmin Vivoactive paired up with it), the app won’t find the Element GPS unit.  I was able to connect to it, if I reboot my phone.  I think even that was just a lucky chance.

After many Google searches, and browsing through Wahoo web site, I found that you have to disable all bluetooth connections, then connect from the Wahoo app to the Wahoo GPS (and no, you cannot try to connect from the bluetooth control panel).  So I had to disable bluetooth connection from my Vivoactive watch, headset, and any other bluetooth connections, then have Wahoo connect.  This same process holds true when you sync the ride from your Wahoo GPS, to the Wahoo app on the smartphone, and then eventually upload it to Strava, or whatever fitness app you prefer.

When I first got the Wahoo Element, it kept wanting me to update the firmware.  Now Wahoo updates firmware via Wifi, so the Wahoo Element is a Wifi client.  I tried for a week to update the firmware, but I couldn’t, even though it does have a proper Wifi connection.  Again, after many Google searches, I finally found the Element Wifi client only supports 2.4 GHz channel, and my standard on my WiFi Access Point is 5G.  Wow, seems like we are re-gressing in technology.  I had to add 2.4 GHz on my AP, then after that, I was able to get it to update the firmware.

The bluetooth thing is stupid, and the Wifi 2.4 GHz thing, was just driving me nuts, especially since I do Tech Support for a living.  It’s not like it’s something that they clearly point out in the documentation that comes with the box, because all it has is a getting started leaflet, which doesn’t go into any detail at all.

I really wish they could add some notes, in the Getting Started leaflet, that updating firmware requires 2.4 GHz wireless, and that sync’ing requires all other bluetooth connections to be disabled.  For a product that is trying to claim they are technologically advanced, these two things brings it backwards.  I wonder if the same problem occurs on Roam or Bolt.

First Century of the Year … and Start of Double Training

So I unofficially came up with a New Year’s resolution … It’s been about 6 years since I last attempted a double century (and even more when I last completed the Triple Crown).  I decided that no matter what obstacles come my way with work, and interrupting my training schedule, I am just going to schedule the double century, and if I’m ready, I’m ready.  If I’m not in shape, and can’t finish it, so what … I’m not concerned with DNF’s any more.

With that in mind, I went out and did my first century of the year.  I actually surprised myself, thinking I would return in the dark … I actually finished by 4:40 pm.  I guess I’m not as out of shape as I thought I would be?  One thing that did help was having the Crystal Springs Dam road go through, without having to do the Ralston Bridge detour.

I was hoping to make it to the Cliff House, or Land’s End before noon … I had delays getting out of the house, and wanted to leave by 7:30 am, but didn’t leave till 8 am.  Oh well

Pressed for time, I scarfed down the sandwiches that I brought with me, then headed back the same way I came. I didn’t even want to look at the time … I just wanted to keep on moving.

I could feel the burn in my legs on the way back, by the time I reached Millbrae. At that point, I was sure I would be arriving in the dark. When I saw it was 4:40 pm when I got home, I was surprised. I made pretty good time. Time to keep it going.

A new decade starts

Really, we’re into a new decade?  I guess so … 2020 … wow, it was just yesterday when they were concerned that the world would end due to Y2K.  Now really, did anyone really think the world would end?  Nature finds a way … hmm … sounds like a quote from a movie … Oh, because it is … Jurassic Park.

Anyhow, in past years, I would refrain from doing any type of new year’s resolutions, but this year, I wanted to do something different.  Last year, I didn’t have time to train for any events (being on call every other weekend).  That sucked.  So this year, I said to myself, screw it.  I’m going to sign up for an event, and no matter if I’m ready or not, I’m going to do it.  So I signed up for Solvang Double Century in March.  I’ll have to make sacrifices, like ride into the darkness after work (and have no relax time at night), just so that I can have training time.  Who knows … maybe I’ll ask to work consecutive on calls, so that I can have consecutive weekends to train.

We’ll see how that goes.  I miss my double century friends, and the feeling of doing a double century … I gotta do it.  Wish me luck.  It’ll be one way to start off the decade.

Oh, and I didn’t do quite as bad as I thought for the year, even though my weekend suffered.  I still got over 6,000 miles for the year.

2019-veloviewer

Let’s see if we can improve upon this in 2020.

2019 Was Rough … Let’s Look Forward to 2020

The year 2019 was a punch in the gut.  It was a year which saw the passing of my Dad, who was 94 (or 92, whichever record you believe in).  Dad was a paper son, so who knows when he was really born.  It doesn’t matter at this point … all that matters is he led a good life, and both he, and my mom, raised 3 excellent kids (myself included).  We had to spend couple of months, going back and forth from the Bay Area to LA for visits, until eventually he died of complications.  That was a really rough way to start the year.

Meanwhile, at work, I was punched in the gut again.  This time, my group suffered by having it downsized .. in other words, lay offs.  We had a staff of 5, and now it’s 2 .. and we morphed into another group.  We had 3 in California, but now it’s just me.  This is a big change, and instead of having a group, I know work like a remote person.  Now I know how hard it is to be working remotely (even though we are kind of corporate headquarters).

Oh, this new group we morphed into … I have to train myself on a new product, and since I am the lead on my own product, I didn’t have the luxury to fly out for hands on training .. so I had to learn from videos and powerpoint slides.  This is extremely difficult, when you have a product that is extremely complex.  I don’t know how this will turn out for me … all I can say is, I seem to have respect from others in the company … I mean, I did spend 21 years of my life with this place.

This also means that I am on call every other weekend, because of the short staff, and the challenges of getting everyone up to speed, limits my flexibility with weekends off.  That also means I don’t get to go biking as much, and training for those long doubles are suffering.  I actually had to cancel two events, because of the on call rotation.  I just hope it gets better in 2020.  I’m not ready to look for another job yet, but I just hope the situation improves (not just from a work perspective, but from my own personal livelihood).

Despite not having time to train, I have decided to sign up for another double .. Solvang Double, in the 3rd week of March.  I will strive for this, and it will force me to squeeze whatever time I have to train (even if it means spending 3 hours riding in the dark till 11 pm then sleep.  I just need to do this.

Anyhow, here’s to a happy 2020, and let’s see what that brings us.  And I don’t even want to talk politics at all .. too depressing.