Category Archives: cycling

Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge … Epic Ride

This year, for the first time in a couple of years, the Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge was delivered as an actual event. No virtual this time, but an actual event, with actual volunteers, sign up, food, and riders … actual riders. It’s as epic, and enjoyable as I remember it to be.

In years passed, some people referred to this as the local Death Ride. True, it did not have the altitude acclimation that you need for the Death Ride in Markleeville, but this included steep climbs.

I met up with my friends Amanda and Marshall, and we decided to do “just” the century option, which was just 101 miles, and 9800 ft of climbing. There was a double metric option, with 120 miles, and something like 12,000 ft of climbing … but if we did that, most likely, by the time I would finish, there would be no post ride meal. That’s no bueno!

I was hanging in with everyone, up until we did the long climb up Zayante. It’s a 10 mile, 1660 ft climb, but as with most long climbs, it kicks up at the end of the climb. I was definitely falling behind, but at least I wasn’t passed by too many people, which is always a positive sign. I was able to catch up to Amanda and Marshall just before reaching the next rest stop. All that work, and I probably could have just reunited with them at Bear Creek and Skyline. Oh well.

Was able to meet up with friends Shawnery and Yvonne (really strong riders). It was great just to say hi for a few minutes, because that’s the last we would see of them … until they passed us speeding through Ice Cream Grade near the end of the ride. Then I met up with my friend Cha Cha … and at first, I saw her face, and just couldn’t put my finger on it … I knew I’d seen her before on some other ride. Funny how that all works out … how could I forget Cha Cha … especially with a name like that! She’s a hoot! She saved me from going the wrong way later on in the ride. Cha cha hung in with us as we descended down Hwy 9 into Boulder Creek. While in Boulder Creek, we caught up with some Western Wheelers friends … Dang, we’re meeting up with everyone on this ride, that we haven’t seen in a while. Cool!

The marquee climb for this ride is Jameson Creek. Oy vey! This climb reminds me of the Decker Canyon climb on the Mulholland Challenge, that I did in April. Tough climb, with 15-17% grades … The strava segment shows it’s only 2.9 miles, but average grade is 9.8%. My friend Adam passes by me like I was standing still. I was wondering if he would be on this ride. He’s another really strong, good climber.

I finally get to the top, and my legs felt the same way when I got to the summit of Jameson Creek, as I did when I summitted Decker Canyon … like jello!

Ok, next is lunch. But lunch is all the way down in Bonny Doon, right? But Adam says it was just over the next hill. Well, Adam was wrong, it was down in Bonny Doon, but it’s mostly downhill, with a few rollies. I then saw Cha Cha, point me to a right turn. It’s a good thing, because I would have flown past that. So we ride together, looking forward to lunch, which should have been at the 77 mile mark. One problem … we get to the 80 mile mark on our Wahoo/Garmin … wait, did we past it? We then see a sign pointing us to go left for 100 mile … Lunch would have been good, but then, I started thinking .. lunch at 77 miles, and post-ride meal at 100 miles? Almost seems pointless. At this point, what I want more is water, because I have plenty of energy food to munch on.

We were a little worried that Amanda and Marshall might be wondering where we are, and start looking for us. We decided to just head over to the next rest stop, which is not that far away, and text them to tell them we went to the next rest stop. We get to the rest stop, and who do we find??? Amanda and Marshall. Apparently, they missed the lunch stop too. In fact, at least 6 riders missed it. Hmm … I wonder if the lunch stop is wondering why they have so much extra food!

The group is all in good spirits, despite missing lunch. We head down to Santa Cruz, and we could feel the nice ocean breeze from Santa Cruz.

From here, we head up the hill back to the start. We got back, and it’s only 9800′ (according to my Wahoo). We’ve done 101 miles, and we’re only 200′ from 10,000, so we gotta do an extra 200′ … There’s just something magical about a 5 digit elevation gain.

After doing some extra hills, we got back for the post ride meal. Hmm … burritos are so good after a hard ride.

The actual stats for what I rode was 103 miles, 10,300 ft climbing. Woohoo … that’s a nice ratio.

Eastern Sierra Double #24

This past weekend was Eastern Sierra Double Century, which starts in Bishop, Ca, just south of Mammoth Lakes. Before I go any further, this has got to be one of the most beautiful double centuries you could ride.

This is like unfinished business for me. I last attempted this 10 years ago, but the weather conditions were quite ominous then. Back then, we re-routed the course, so that we would avoid the rain … well we ran into rain, and then it hailed, then snowed, so I DNF’d that year. This time, I’m determined to finish this.

This year has been really tough for ride organizers, as the participation is still not up where it was before Covid-19 lockdown, so I want to first shout out to Planet Ultra, for making all these efforts to plan and prepare this wonderful event.

Getting to the start was a challenge, before actually doing the ride. First, I couldn’t find anyone to carpool with (most people participating were driving up from Southern California). Then, I got a good tip from my friend Mark, who said the most direct route is through Tioga Pass, Hwy 120, through Yosemite National Park. However, to drive through you need a reservation. Okay, fine, so I went onto reservation.gov, to try to make a reservation for Friday and Sunday, but no option to even make a reservation. It didn’t even say it was full. Bogus! So what are my alternatives? Either go all the way down to Bakersfield, then go east, and take Hwy 395 north … but that’s a long detour. Then there’s going through Sonora Pass, Hwy 108. Okay, that’s not as long, but it is steep, and the peak is ~ 9800’ … Dang! Oh well, I guess I have no choice. However, the view did not suck!

I’m staying with my friend Victor, in his condo in Mammoth Lakes. This will be his 50th Double Century. That’s quite an accomplishment … Hall of Famer indeed

Victor Cooper, on his 50th DC

Most of the riders were starting at 5 am, and that’s when we would start. I know a couple of friends are starting at 4 am, but the condo we are staying at, in Mammoth Lakes, is 45 min drive away from the start. We would have to leave by 3:15 am, and wake up even earlier.

5 am Riders

The temperature at the start was comfortable, not chilly at all (I probably could have started without the jacket, but I’m staying on the conservative side). As you could see, Stefan, has no jacket, and not even leggings, like it’s a summer ride.

We only needed lights for about 45 minutes, and then it started getting warm. After the adrenaline of the start of the ride wears off, we got into a good group, to pace ourselves before the climbing started.

In this group, we had the very unique situation of having two Ron’s in the group. Actually, there is a third, but we didn’t get a chance to take a picture with all 3 Ron’s, so you’ll have to settle for two instead

Photo courtesy Victor Cooper

The climb on Sherwin Grade on paper didn’t look that bad … but doing it .. that’s a different story. The first section of it, from Lower Rock Creek to Gorge Rd is 7.2 miles, and average 5%, but I faded towards the back of the group.

Not only were we climbing at altitude (beginning at 4500 ft), but we were also battling headwinds from time to time. The climb itself was deceiving, as when you look at it from the side, it doesn’t look that steep, but looking at my power and speed, I can definitely see I am climbing.

The climb continued as we turned onto Hwy 395. I then bumped into my friend Bob (who has a last name, that is pronounced the same way as mine, except he has a vowel in his name). At least I got some company before the next stop.

I finally caught up with the group at the next rest stop (surprised that they were still there). And I finally got to meet Nora in person (who I have been Facebook friends for awhile).

We continued on where our next destination is the climb up to the Mammoth Lakes area. Again, I find myself stuck at the back.

Pic courtesy Victor Cooper

One of our other friends, Molly, was going to ride with us from Mammoth Lakes. However, I was so far behind, I didn’t catch up with her until much later in the ride. I pretty much was riding solo, with some of the 6 am riders passing me (which I expected). Soon after getting to Mammoth Lakes area, we have a descent where we go back to Hwy 395 (we basically did a loop around Mammoth Lakes area).

I know the next destination is June Lake, which is a gorgeous area, and pretty much the highlight of the ride. With all this in mind, I somehow missed the turn to the next rest stop. I only figured that, when I see the same people that passed me earlier on, is passing me again. Wait, what happened? Then one of my friends Chris, comes up along side of me, and ask if I missed the rest stop. Well, I guess I did. Luckily, my friends Teresa (aka Tiger) and Nora, were doing leapfrog support, and I saw them parked along the side, and I topped off water, got a few snacks, then headed on. I already saw Vic and Molly pass by, but there’s no way I’ll catch back onto them, so I just continued at my own pace.

Pictures don’t do it justice, but this is the highlight of the entire ride. With Carson Peak hovering over June Lake, it is definitely a destination that should be on every California cyclist bucket list (no matter if it’s a double or not).

Next destination .. lunch … and thankfully, I got there to reunite with the rest of my group. I also found out I am not the last one on the route … one other guy came in after me, and then Andy, from New York, was about 45 min behind me, but he’s gone through the hardest part of the ride, so I know he’ll be able to make it through.

After lunch, there is still a climb up Sage Hen, which is another gradual grind, but with over 8000 feet of climbing, and 110 miles, each hill will drain you … and it did to me.

Sage Hen does have some downhills where you could really pick up some speed. I overheard Chris say on the tandem, they reached 65 mph. The best I could muster is 51.5 mph. Although that sounds fast, I didn’t feel like my bike was unstable going at that speed. However, I wouldn’t really want to go any faster than that. However, it was not all downhill. We had what Victor calls “whoop de doo” .. I guess that’s an appropriate description for it

Adobe Valley whoop de doo courtesy Victor Cooper

I hate these, especially at the 150-160 mile mark … every little bump takes it out of you, and that’s definitely what happened to me. I was really laboring at this point, and just waiting for the next descent to come, where I can tuck down, and just coast back.

I did have one concern about the trip back … and that is if we were going to have a headwind on the way back. Well, we kind of lucked out, as we had a tailwind for the last 30 miles back from Benton to Bishop. That definitely made the ride back oh so enjoyable.

We got back just after dusk, where we barely had to use our lights. Once again, Memo is there to greet us as we finished … of course, he started an hour earlier, and finished an hour quicker than us. But thanks for greeting us Memo. It was very well appreciated.

I’d have to say this was one of my most enjoyable double centuries, despite the suffering, and the rest stop mishaps I had earlier in the day. The views are just spectacular, and I want to take this opportunity to thank Planet Ultra, Deb and Brian Bowling, Teresa (aka Tiger), Nora, and Evan, for the fantastic leap frog support. I wasn’t sure what to expect coming into this, especially with the thread of not being able to get this ride approved .. but I’m glad you all made the effort, and it made for one of the most enjoyable DC’s I have ever done. I think this may be my new favorite, despite how difficult it was to get here … it was all well worth it. I can’t wait to do this next year, although it would be hard to beat the weather conditions on this day.

I also have to give a huge shout out to Deb and Brian Bolling for continuing to push this ride through to reality. Despite the low turnout, and skeleton crew for support, this had to be one of the most enjoyable, and well supported ride I’ve ever done. The weather really cooperated with us, with only a few drops here and there, it was dry. We really lucked out, as it rained half the time on my drive back home to San Jose area, so this was almost the perfect ride.

Ok now for the stats … 190 miles with 10,526 ft climbing, and 1.5 hour stoppage time.

https://strava.app.link/4zVmJlUEFqb

Oh and congrats to my friend Victor Cooper, for completing his 50th Double Century. That is quite an accomplishment. Well done! Thanks for letting me stay at your condo for this. And this is my 24th DC. Next up, Carmel Valley in the end of August.

Davis Double #23

This past weekend was Davis Double, one the best supported double centuries. It had been on a two year hiatus due to Covid-19, but it’s back! It is also one of the most popular double centuries too. It is also the 23rd DC for me.

This year, I got a room right in downtown Davis, and was just a mile from the start. My friend Victor, from LA drove up, and we rode out together, starting at the wee hour of 4 am. This was more to beat the heat, rather than beating a time cut off. I don’t even know if there is a cut off … maybe just to finish before midnight?

You would think that riding at 4 am would attract those of us who are steady and not a speed demon, but there were several pack of fast riders, and I was passed left and right. I guess they wanted to finish in daylight, but they still needed lights to start the ride!

I’m not sure at what mile it was, but very soon after we started, I couldn’t keep up at the pace Victor was going at. One thing I remember about Davis … it’s always a sprint fest in the first 25 miles, so I decided to just keep within my own pace. I was able to see Vic at lunch, but only briefly.

One thing I live about doing DC is riding in the dark, and seeing the sunrise… it’s just an awesome sight, and photos just won’t do it justice.

Soon I caught up with my friend Dan, aka Lanceoldstrong, and my future SS 508 teammate Nancy. It’s so cool suddenly catching up with friends on an event like this.

First rest stop, and the sun is out. My two favorite supporters, Memo and Peggy are there to greet us all. They are so awesome.

Even though the sun is out, it is not ready to take the jacket off. It’s still cool, especially descending through the cool canyons. I’m still getting passed by some stronger riders (probably ones who started an hour after us). I couldn’t keep up with Nancy, so I just had to let her go, and just settle into my pace.

A lot of the ride used the same roads, and in fact, same rest stop points as the Knoxville Double, so it kept thinking to myself, am I doing Davis, or am I doing Knoxville. We just did a bunch of them in reverse. Of course, that meant climbing over Pope Valley.

Pope Valley

I was able to ride with my buddies from One Cycling, out of Stockton. They are so much fun to ride with, as long as I can stay with them.

I still have to work on limiting my time at rest stops. At rest stop 3, I felt I spent too much time there (about 20 min), but there is that balance between having rest time, and not resting too much.

Leaving rest stop 3, we start the climb up Big Canyon, which BTW, includes a 4 mile stretch of gravel. The good thing is it wasn’t a steep grade on gravel, probably 4-5%, if that. However, I did notice my speed was not stellar .. ~ 7-8 mph. Even though it was fairly flat, it still felt like I was climbing. It had ridges, which went perpendicular to where my bike was going, which made the road all that much tougher. Once we got through with the gravel, the grade started to go up … it just gets better :).

Once we finish Big Canyon, it’s a screaming descent down Seigler Canyon, reverse direction of the same route on Knoxville (where we climbed after lunch). I get to lunch, and reunited with Vic, who rode with a strong fast group, but we was about to leave … so short reunion. Here, we get to enjoy the benefits of ice socks, and stick it in around my neck to cool myself off, as I prepare for the climb up Resurrection.

The climb up Resurrection is not bad. There is a short climb, then long descent, only to climb back up again. The rest stop is at the top of the hill, where traditionally, people are suffering up the climbs, as it is all exposed. Peggy was many rider’s savior, replenishing us with ice and water.

Photo courtesy Mark William Calaway
Rock stars of the Day
I got a sock on my neck 😀

The hard part was done, but by no means did the mean the end of climbing. However, the rest was a series of rolling hills, but there was still about 70 miles left to go.

Rest stop 6 was in Guinda, yet another shared rest stop with Knoxville. They had a much larger layout of food, including baked potatoes, and every DC’s favorite, Cup o Noodles. Something about that salt, but because there was all this food, I spent way too long here. Looking back at my stats, I probably spent 30 minutes here … that’s even longer than the lunch stop. I definitely need to improve in this area.

The rest of the ride was a matter of continuing through, ignoring the pain in your butt (from all the time in the saddle). I couldn’t quite make it back before dark … I think I had a good 30 min where it was completely dark, but was able to see the sun go down.

I finally finished a little before 9 pm, which seems to be my average. I really need to limit my time at rest stops. I say this every time I prepare for a double. I guess I just gotta keep practicing, and eventually, I’ll get it right. There’s always something to learn on these events.

Ok, total stats … 194.30 miles, 9098 ft climbing.

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.

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https://strava.app.link/RLvvtLVIBob

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!

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.

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

This is Why I Am a Morning Person

Recently, I had one of those nights where I woke up in the middle of the night (1 am) and could not go back to sleep. I went to sleep, only to wake up again at 3:30. I did the same thing and woke up again at 4:30. I just couldn’t go back to sleep.

Oh screw it. I have fully charged lights, so I went into my cycling clothes, and went for a ride … at 5:15 am.

One of my favorite night spots is the Mary Ave bridge (although it probably has some more official name to it).  I wanted it to be dark, just so I can take this picture.

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Mary Ave. Bridge (at least that’s what it says on Google Maps)

Off I went to climb Montebello Road. It’s so peaceful this time of day, as hardly anyone is out on the road. I was passed by 3 cars, and that was it. There was something about riding on a crisp morning, and I felt like I was climbing it pretty good (even though I didn’t get a PR out of it).

One of the main reasons for me to get out here was to see the views, and they were awesome.  No matter which angle I took, I couldn’t quite capture the beauty, and enormity of being up before sunrise … so peaceful

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View from Montebello Road, just passed Montebello School

As I continued climbing, sunrise came, and that just made the climb even better. I was the only one climbing Montebello at this hour. Where’s everyone? What’s the issue … are you sleeping? Oh, wait, I guess you are.

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Good morning from the top of Montebello, Vidovich Vineyards

As I descended down the hill, I saw a bunch of riders climbing. I guess I was an hour earlier than everyone wanted to start. Yes, I am a morning person!