Category Archives: Organized Ride

Finally a Weekend Off, and Doing the John Clare Memorial Solvang Double

For the first time in about 2 months, I finally was able to get a weekend off (not being on call, or attending to family related issues). This was the weekend to celebrate John Clare’s life (a highly popular double century rider among long distance cycling enthusiasts), with the Solvang Double renamed as his memorial ride. I just had to do it, so I begged and pleaded to get this weekend to do it (as I had been doing on call for just about every weekend). Because I was on call these weekends, I did not have the opportunity to do any real long distance rides. The last one I did was Devil’s Slide, back in mid-January (about 8 weeks ago). So I didn’t have any really good training in my legs, so if I was to do any of this ride, it would have to be the double metric century (200 km, not 200 miles).

The start time for the double metric century was 7 am, which was actually the same start time that the fast double riders (who could finish in less than 12 hours). I saw my friend TJ there, so I had to take this opportunity to take a selfie with him.


We let the fast double riders start first. It was forecast to be about 10% rain, so that was the only reason for bringing my Showers Pass jacket. Good thing I brought it, because it started to drizzle around the 35 mile mark (around the 1st checkpoint). The drizzle was constant, and then it became harder, and turned into rain. You know you are drenched, when you tilt your helmet down, and you see a stream of water fall. I’m a little used to this, as I have been on some short loops, where I did get caught out in the rain. However, my Showers Pass jacket didn’t keep my route slip dry though. I forgot to bring a ziplock bag to keep the route slip in … Wasn’t expecting the rain to be that hard.

The rain hit hardest when I had to make a right turn, and then saw a road closed sign. I was barely able to locate the ride organizer’s phone number on my route sheet, who then suggested I just ride right on through the road closed signs. I remember riding through this part of the route from previous double century rides, so at least this was confirmation that I am on the right path.

Of course, with all this rain, I was always second guessing if I was on the right path, since I was basically riding out solo. As it turned out, I read the route slip wrong, as I made a wrong turn at the next step of the route slip. I went left, instead of right. I had to double check on Google Map on my smart phone, before realizing I made the wrong turn.

The rain did eventually stop (after about 1.5 hours), so I was drenched. My Showers Pass jacket did hold up, so this investment already paid off. I eventually got to the part of the route slip, where the turn direction was unreadable … arghh! Luckily, I saw one of the metric double riders, who unfortunately got a flat, and was there fixing it. Unfortunate for him, his spare tube was bad, so he was repairing his original tube with a patch. This gave me opportunity to catch up with him, as he knew the next few turns for the ride. Whew!

The second rest stop was at Guadalupe, and we were the last of the double metric riders. None of the double century riders had gotten there yet (much to my surprise, as I thought we were so far behind).

After leaving Guadalupe, I think my fitness started to falter. I could feel the back of my knee start to be in pain, but I persevered through it. However, by the time I started the last climb, up Alisos Canyon, my legs were feeling it, but was still able to crank it up the hill.

I started getting passed by some of the fast double riders (that I had mentioned early on, that started at 7 am). At least I had some company, even though they were ahead of me.

I was able to hang out with my double century friends from So Cal, even though I didn’t ride with them. We had a blast, and although the conditions of this ride were not ideal, I had a lot of fun.

Photo courtesy of Victor Cooper

Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge 2018

The 2018 edition of the Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge was this past Saturday.  It’s one of my favorite organized ride … this is the 4th time I’ve done it.  In years past, it used to start from Scotts Valley, and was set so that you do a base route, then if you wanted to, you can do optional “spurs”, or extra hill climbs.  A few years ago, they moved the start location to UCSC campus, and hence, different featured climbs, and a more traditional ride, with 4 lengths (with no “spurs”).  The latest design is kinda nice, as the later portions of the ride runs parallel to Hwy 1, and you ride along the Pacific Ocean coastline.

What I like about this, is that you can check-in the day prior, in Campbell (for those of us who live in Silicon Valley area, who intend to do the ride).  That’s smart of the organizers, knowing that a bunch of the participants are from the San Jose area.

I treated this a little bit like a double century, where I would wake up really early, and I basically left the house by 5 am, to get to the start by 6 am.  I made sure I spent a minimum amount of time at the rest stops.

Because I started so early, I rode along with the 135 mile riders.  That meant, after going to the first rest stop, as I climb Zayante, I was basically the only one on the road.  Eventually, I would get passed by some of the stronger, faster riders.  It’s different riding Zayante first, which is nice.  At least I didn’t have to do the long slog up the hill with tired legs.

The one obvious benefit of starting so early is that the sun would stay down until at least the first big climb was finished. Actually, last year, it stayed overcast most of the day, but on this day, it did peep out right before we got to Alba, the marquee climb of the day. They made Alba a time trial.

It was interesting, because there were quite a few people that did not treat this like a time trial. Most were taking breaks here and there, taking pictures, stopping at scenic points … I just continued on, even though I know my time would be twice as slow as the top finishers.

During the climb, my Garmin would keep beeping me, because it would lose a GPS signal.  Later, I found out my Garmin tracking was so off course, it didn’t even know I was riding the Alba segment … so my Strava didn’t have an Alba segment.  It’s not a big deal … not like I would be competing against anyone.

When I finally got to the top, I saw my friend Lorri there.  She had been there for a little bit, and I was just trying to catch my breath.  At least lunch was just a couple miles up the road, so there’s that to look forward to.


They had a pretty nice spread for lunch. I made pretty good time, as it was just after 11 am by the time I got there.


The ride then went down to the coast, and it was a screaming descent, with 30+ mph speeds going down Bonny Doon. We then hit Hwy 1 north to Swanton Road, where we had a nice little climb (nothing like Alba or Zayante) … then back south on Hwy 1. The next part of the 101 mile route would be to go back up Bonny Doon … the same stretch where we were descending 30+ mph. No way! That’s a little silly, so instead of doing that, I just followed the 76 mile route, where we go straight into Santa Cruz, and then cruise along the Santa Cruz shoreline.


From here, we made to final grinding hill climb back up to the UCSC campus, and onto the finish.  It’s always that last 5 mile grind to the finish that gets annoying, but glad I made it through.  It wasn’t a full century .. it turned into a 95 mile, 8500 foot climb ride.  It was a fun ride, and I’ll probably do it again next year.


A Laid Back Century – Grand Tour Lite


LA Wheelmen put together the Grand Tour Lite, which does part of the Grand Tour route, but in a shorter length.  On the century and metric route, they only had one stop, which makes it convenient to support (we actually looped around to hit it two times).

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It was great to see some old friends here, and typically those that did the full Grand Tour double went and did this, just to relive this route.


I did the lowland century route, which pretty much hugged along the coast, and it must have been the fastest century I’ve ever done. It was 2100 feet elevation, over 96 miles. I do rides that climb that much in 20 miles.


One group that came along were from Mattel, makers of Hot Wheels. I love their jersey.

It was warm enough that arm warmers were just right. I brought my windbreaker jacket with me, but that stayed in my jersey pocket. No wonder I had so much junk in my jersey pockets.

So the one drawback with limited stops … having to pee … yeah, I know, TMI.  That’s especially after getting the ride started by drinking a Latte at Starbucks.


After the 1st rest stop, it was a short 20-25 mile loop around Oxnard.  Someone told me one of the crops they grow here is … grass.  Grass??? Well, I guess they ship it to various stadiums … but really … grass as a crop?

What would have been nice was to extend this up to Ventura, and maybe turn it into a lowland double metric … but then again, there is the economizing of the rest stop … the entry fee for this was $30 … try to find an organized century ride for that price.


After coming back to the rest stop, a second time, and a second lunch, it’s time for the return trip.  This time, we stopped by Pt. Mugu, and a mini-Naval museum.  Usually, we pass through this on the double in the morning, with no time to stop … but since we are treating this as a social ride, and not really pressed on time, why not stop.  Hmm … stopping to enjoy the sights … what a concept.


The rest of the ride … ok, well if you we have to keep seeing the ocean view, I guess that will have to do.  We would get about 20 miles of this … wow, what torture … but we do have a bunch of rollies that we have to contend with, so I guess that does make the last 20-30 miles interesting … I mean, something has to make up for the cumulative 2000 feet of climbing over the century length.

This was a fun ride, great weather, and got to ride along the coast.  All this for only $30 … how could anyone complain about this combination?

Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge with a modified 3 Spur Option

Saturday, we did the Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge.  The original plan was to do the 200k, with 3 spurs (basically additional loops), which was supposed to have a total elevation gain of < 15,000 feet of climbing.  However, with lack of long rides leading up to this (2 weekends prior were shot), I didn’t have too much confidence that I would last.  I rode with Karen and Ramon, and we pretty much stayed together the whole ride.

Started the day leaving at 6:30 am, and on the way over, we drove through a bunch of fog, so it was still misty at the start, and a little chill in the air.  I only brought a vest and arm warmers, and that should be sufficient, since we are doing a bunch of climbing.

This is one of my favorite rides (can you tell?  I’ve only done it the last 4 years consecutively).  The views are spectacular, with lots of tall trees, but you pay the price with steep 15-20% grades.  Of course, with the fog bank, it was kinda hard to see much of a view.

Old Santa Cruz Hwy

The first spur was a loop out to Hwy 17, straddling Old Santa Cruz Highway, then up Summit Road.  We seemed to be the only ones doing the spurs, until a few of them came up and passed us a bit later on in the spur.  Then, we saw more come up … they must have been the 7 am starters.

There is one thing about doing the spur … the rest stop comes at mile 33 … that’s a pretty long stretch to go without a potty stop, especially at the beginning of the ride.  It might have been good to include a potty stop at Old Santa Cruz Highway, after making that long descent down Bear Creek Road.  It was easy for me to just pull over, but for Karen, that’s a little more of an issue.  We got to the corner of Bear Creek and Skyline, and saw a porta potty there … but unfortunately, it was locked.  Oh, how cruel.  Guess we’ll have to hold it, but there’s another 1000 feet to climb before we descend into Saratoga Gap for rest stop 1!

First Rest Stop

First Rest Stop

After a few rollies, we finally rolled into rest stop 1.  We probably spent a bit too much time at rest stop 1 … Looking back at Strava, we were there a good 20 minutes.  Dang .. we should have a rest stop timer, especially since the next 10 miles or so is a downhill descent.

Fresh faces before climbing China Grade

Fresh faces before climbing China Grade

We descent down Hwy 9, and we break off to the 2nd spur, while the rest of the group continue into Big Basin.  Actually, we end up taking a different route to the same rest stop, then doing the climb up China Grade, for the 2nd spur.  Karen kept urging me to do at least the 2nd spur, so I caved in, and said I would.

China Grade

Once again, we were the only ones out there, until we get passed by one big guy … and I mean big.  Later on, we find out he’s 250 pounds, and he was on a 58 or 62 cm frame.  I end up later passing him.  I was stuck trailing, and then I saw him, and that was my target.  He was a good uphill climbing target, and that kinda helped me up the hill.

Ok, back down the hill, back to the same rest stop before we started the climb.  However, we had a big wake up call.  They were starting to tear down the rest stop!  One of the support workers asked us “is there anyone behind you”?  Wow, are we that slow?  We started thinking about whether or not we should cut short the ride, should we do the last spur … but then I said, we still have to do Jameson!

Re-fuel, then get on the road, and do this Jameson climb.  Since I had done this as a training ride about 4 weeks ago, I figured I’m prepared.  It was all business, just concentrate on smooth pedaling, getting efficient power into my drivetrain.  I notice the switchback that every falters on, and just power from the heels.  I felt pretty good about this climb, and I was averaging around 5 mph, dipping at the lowest at 4 mph.  I still didn’t beat my PR from the 2011 SCMC, but at least finishing it felt good.

Lunch came after Jameson, and by the time we were about to leave the lunch stop, it was about 2:10 pm.  I noticed the sign saying lunch closes at 2:30 pm.  Wow, we are really behind.  Now if we went straight back on the 100k route, we would get in only 90 miles, so we decided to continue onto the 3rd spur, then finish off with the 100k once we got back to Felton.  Sounds like a good plan, right?

It was a long descent down before we hung a right onto Smith Grade.  I think Jameson plus lunch did me in, and my legs had no strength for Smith, which really is not that bad, if your legs are fresh … mine weren’t.  I was way behind Ramon and Karen, and when I finally re-grouped with them at Bonny Doon, “I’m all spurred out”.


Still a few climbs more before we get to Ice Cream Grade.  Before getting there, we cross over the charred remains of a fire from a few years ago, and the charred remains are still present.  Kind of eerie coming through here … reminds me a little of Yellowstone when I toured there after their big fires.

Ice Cream Grade is the last significant climb we do before we make the descent down Felton Empire into the town of Felton.  We did get the ire of a local, who didn’t like the idea of cyclist being on the road.  Just can’t please everyone.

We got into Felton, and it was about 4 pm.  At this point, we were at the 94 mile mark.  Now if we continued on the 200k route, we would climb up Zayante (a long 18-ish mile climb), going over to Summit, loop around on Soquel San Jose Rd, before coming back to the school.  That would be a hard climb, especially since my legs felt like jello, with no zip in them at all.  We decided to take a more direct route, climb Mt. Hermon Road, before getting onto Scotts Valley Road.  This was a direct route back to the start.  However, Karen’s Garmin had 1-2 miles less than mine, and she had to get at least 100 miles (because she was advertising to everyone she’s doing the 200k).  So we ended up doing a few extra miles, before I ran into some thorns, which flatted both my front and rear tires.  At that point, after fixing both flats, I just told them go on ahead, and I’ll just ride back to the school.  It turns out, I would end up with just over 100.

More importantly, we got back, just in time to take advantage of hand rolled burritos back at the school, and a couple scoops of ice cream too.  You can’t climb Ice Cream Grade without having ice cream at the end!

It was a long, hard, painful day, but it all felt good.  This is one reason why I prefer the long hard ride on a Saturday, instead of a Sunday.

Links to more pics:

Strava data :

Epic Suffering on L’Etape du California, Mt.Diablo

It is the peak of the century riding season, and so far, I haven’t even begun getting into any events.  DMD was this weekend, Wildflower is also this weekend, so I decided to tackle L’Etape du California, which does the same route that ATOC Stage 7 will be doing.  I didn’t really decide until Friday night, and the ride was Sunday.


As part of the registration process, they required everyone to sit through a safety talk first, then register.  They wanted to stress that this is not a race, and to point out the danger areas.


Since I had to drive this far, I might as well bring my bike and do a quick Patterson Pass loop, and do part of tomorrow’s course. Good thing I did, acclimated my body to the heat. It was friggin hot out there, and no wind.


Okay, Sunday morning and it’s a mass start at 7 am. The turnout was a little less than they expected .. 300, and they were expecting 1000. I was up near the front with all sorts of racer types. We rolled out pretty quickly, with a brisk pace. I started wondering what did I get myself into. People were passing me left and right. Even more people past me going up Morgan Territory.

Morgan Territory is the first climb of the day. We normally descend down this road and we call it the plunge. However this time we’re climbing it. Epic. After we crest this, it’s down the hill on the other side. This is a rough surface, and I know others are hurting, because all the different bumps. My Volagi did just fine, absorbing then all, making it a bit more comfortable than if I brought the Seven. One thing that was annoying was a slow descender, and wouldn’t allow many to pass. Took me awhile, but I finally passed him. Sheesh!


At the bottom, rest stop #1. They need to learn how to support social rides as they only had 1 porta potty. This added time to the wait. This was also the only rest stop until the finish which had bread for pbj. Epic fail.

From here, the route to the next climb would be pretty flat, out Marsh Creek onto the city of Byron. There is nothing out here, and it’s brown. Nothing scenic about this, but at least it didn’t stink. I latched onto a pelaton of about 8 riders. Nice pace, not too fast so I didn’t blow myself up, but brisk enough to make some good time.


Rest stop 2 is at the base of the Patterson Pass climb. This is their second time doing this in two days. I conserved my energy in preparation for this. It was about 10 am when I started the climb, which is a lot better than 1 pm, which is when I started this yesterday. I did do a lot better. There still was not much wind. This is Patterson Pass, which usually had wind. For once I was wishing
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A Social Ride up Page Mill

Meetup Group at the start of the ride, before the climb up Page Mill

Is it even possible to have a social ride, climbing up Page Mill Road?  Well, after Sunday, I have to say, yes, it is possible.

It was a pretty good size group, and I think we were all around the same skill level, so that made the ride even more pleasant.

I normally would make my way to Arastradero and Page Mill, or even start from Foothill and Page Mill, but on this ride, we wound our way through residential neighborhoods, and a climb up Taaffe Road … nice alternative to Altimont.  We got onto Page Mill at Altimont, and that’s where the social conversations stopped, and the breathing began.

We did have a short water stop right before the ramp, and last hard climbing on this stretch.  It was surprising to hear a lot of people didn’t even know about this water spiggot.  Personally, I don’t really find it’s critical if all you are doing is just the Page Mill climb … the only climbing left is just the ramp after that, and the rest is fairly flat … but that’s just me.

Water Spiggot on Page Mill

We proceeded to head south on Skyline towards Hwy 9. Now there is chipseal on Skyline, but it is still rideable … a little rough but actually rideable.

I was trying to upload this to Strava, but it had problems.  I had previously, erroneously, exported a video file onto my Garmin … I had the Garmin loaded as an external drive, and I forgot that it filled up the flash drive on my Garmin.  As a result, it could not upload the data, as it could not write.  Oops … Oh well …. it would have been nice to see the data, but shit happens.

Climbfest Continues in NorCal at Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge

So if Baldy and Crystal Lake wasn’t enough, we had to continue with Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge.  Actually this was Karen’s idea … asking if I would do it … well, I’ve never done the ride before, and I knew it would be tough, but sure, why not.  Since Mt Tam Double is next week, and Ramon is out of town, I wasn’t expecting many other rides to come up.

I met with Karen and Mike (crazy fixie man).  I still had to check in so they went on ahead.

There wasn’t much of a warmup on this ride.  Mt. Charlie was the first climb, coming in after only a few miles in.  The weather, for the time being was cool, and fog was omnipresent.  We’ll see how long before the sun comes out.

Mt. Charlie is a stair step type of climb, where you do get some relief, then climbs again.  Because of the fog, there were some damp stretches, but nothing really hazardous.

After Mt. Charlie, we turn left onto Riva Ridge with grade up to 21%.  What a way to start a ride.  Near the top of this climb, I met up with Karen and Mike briefly, until I climbed on ahead.  We would be climbing at our own rate for the first half of the ride.

The next significant climb is Bear Creek then Skyline.  This also happens to be when everyone decides to pass me on the hills.  Then, out of the blue, my friend Jim, from Stockton, says hi, and we proceed to speed on into the 2nd rest stop at Saratoga Gap (Hwy 9 and Skyline).  Just as we are ready to leave, I see Mike and Karen.  So it looks like we’re going to be on a schedule where I’m ready to leave just as Mike and Karen roll in.

I went on with Jim and proceed to hammer down Hwy 9 to Big Basin Park.  I forgot how fast Jim is.  I could descend fast enough to keep up, but somehow I ended up in front of him.  There weren’t any really significant climbs on this stretch … just some annoying rollies.  I decided to roll into the next rest stop to wait for anyone to show up.  I spent a bit of time there but I wanted to move on, and prevent my legs from freezing up, and also anxious to do Jamison Creek … yeah, right.

I reached the timing table, letting them know I really don’t expect to put on some killer time, but they timed me anyways.  What the heck …  ready set, go.

I kinda wonder, with this being 40 miles into a 100 mile ride, with at least 4000 feet climbing already in, how hard do they expect everyone to push it?  We still have 6000 more feet of climbing to do.

I don’t know what the official time was, but according to Strava, I got in 32 minutes.  Not bad.  I did pass a couple of people, as well as getting passed by several.

While waiting at the top, I met my friend Laura, from Western Wheelers.  She is one strong woman, but even she told me she wasn’t turning herself inside out for this.  We still have 6000 feet climbing left to go, and there’s still Zayante.

I rode into lunch with Laura and the group she was riding with.  Lunch is only 3 miles on Empire Grade … cool.

At the mid-way point, I’m not feeling too bad.  I kept hearing horror stories about Jamison Creek, and all in all, my feeling is … not bad.  It ranks up with the rest of the difficult climbs I’ve subjected my body to.

Just as I’m ready to leave the lunch stop, guess who I see rolling in … Mike and Karen.  They mention they may be opting for the metric instead of the century, but we’ll see.

We roll on, and meander through parts of Bonny Doon … we turn off from Pine Flat onto Bonny Doon, but it’s very easy to miss that … in fact, I missed it, and had to make a U-turn, just 100 feet past.  As soon as I get back on the route, I hear at least 5 or 6 others wizz on past it.  They did say it was easy to miss … they weren’t kidding about that.

We wind our way through Felton, then a left onto Zayante, and this is where the fatigue sets in.  Zayante is a long long climb … it is unrelenting, and it seems to go on forever.  This is one of those roads where you expect to be riding this solo, and you start to wonder if you are on the right road … then suddenly, you see the water stop, and there are other people there too.  About a mile after the water stop, I see Mike and Karen again.  Woohoo!!!  We are reunited again.

Zayante is a beast.  It lulls you to thinking that we just have a few rollies, then it kicks us in the ass with some 15% climbs, and we cannot wait till we get to the end … but where is the end?  This is almost like Mines Road, except with 15% climbs.  This sure tests your will.

Finally, we turn onto Summit Road, then onto the next rest stop.  This will be the last rest stop, aside from the water stop, 9 miles from the end.

There’s a lot of long descents in the last 20 miles of this, which makes it interesting for Mike, since he is riding this on a fixie … again, when is that guy going to get a normal bike???  Anyhow, we proceed onto Soquel-San Jose Road … wow, this has a long fast descent.  It’s a long way to get back to the start, but it’s a fun descent.  Only one problem … this is a fairly heavily traffic’d road, so we always have to be mindful of staying as far to the right as possible.  We are warned of a large pothole … actually it’s a ditch.  Now I mention this, because with the fast descent, we are going in excess of 35-45 mph … before I could alert myself to avoid it, I’m going right into it, and the only thought I have on my mind is to hold on tight.

Whew, survived that.  However, I do see some others off the side of the road, tending to flats.  They were not so lucky.  Mike and Karen made it through fine too, and on way go to Laurel Road to the home stretch.  Suddenly, I hear a familiar voice … well it’s Marco and Ruth.  Woohoo!  This is one hell of a ride, meeting up with so many friends.

The last 9 miles was not without hills.  One thing’s for sure on this ride … there are no junk miles.  One terrific sight to see was the Scotts Valley city limit sign, but I’m not rejoicing until I get to the finish.  I finally roll in, just before 5 pm, and luckily, they still have food at the end.

Totals:  101 miles, 10,802 feet of climbing.  This was one hell of a ride … a ride that yes, is 10,802 feet of climbing, but the climbs were intense, and no junk miles at all.

Sequoia Century … lucked out without a spot of rain

Western Wheelers put on the Sequoia Century Sunday, and it is one of the tougher centuries around.  But the one thing about doing a hard ride, like a century, or double metric century on a Sunday, is the recovery.  You end up limping and walking like a handicapped in the office on Monday.  I guess this is one day where I won’t be riding into work.

Over the weekend, they were anticipating 1-2 inches of rain, in California, in June!  I mean summer is supposed to officially start at the end of the month, and we are talking rain like it’s January.  It was pouring heavy Saturday morning, and hopefully it will just dump all morning and clear by the afternoon … and that’s exactly what it did.  Whew!  But just to give you an idea, San Jose, which normally doesn’t see a lot of rain, got 0.78 inches on Saturday alone.

Saturday, I went out to buy a small light rain jacket (had to shop 4 different places till I found it).  Then, I put on fenders on the bike.  I also planned to ride with my fleece long sleeve Cervelo jersey, so I went ahead and pinned the bib number on that, and planned to wear weatherproof boot covers on my shoe.

When Sunday came around, there was no threat of rain, so I ditched the long sleeve jersey, and went instead with short sleeve, and arm warmers … removed the bib number from the long sleeve, and re-attach to my short sleeve … that’s quite an ordeal at 4:30 am.  I didn’t go with boot covers, and went with just toe warmers, and I didn’t bring the rain jacket that I shopped around all day Saturday for … and just used my normal jacket that I have been using for couple of years.  I also ended up removing the fenders.  So much for preparation, huh?

I got to the start at 6 am, but couldn’t find my other riding buddies, so I decided to just go on the ride.  I did receive a tweet from Ramon saying he is running late, but I couldn’t find Richard.  Oh well, maybe I’ll see them on the route.

I rode out at moderate pace, keeping my heart rate at 130-140 bpm.  Get to Redwood Gulch, and I felt good … but little did I know that I completed this in my fastest time ever.  I posted a personal best of 14:39, about 1:16 faster than my previous best.  How did that happen?

A right up on Hwy 9 to Saratoga Gap, and the sun does make one of few appearances through the rest of the day.  We have a rest stop at the firestation on Skyline.  That’s only 18 miles into the ride.  Well, I guess considering we have done Redwood Gulch and have about 2700 feet of climbing in already, that’s a pretty good clip.  I waited some more for my friends, but to no avail.  Time to move on.

This is not the high point of the climb, as we go southbound on Skyline, we climb just a wee bit more to the highest peak, a little past Castle Rock, at 3100 feet.

We get a really nice descent before passing Black Road, and into the christmas tree farm area.  This is nice, because that’s where the two line highway ends, and you feel like you are in the rural forests.  The descent here can be tricky, with sharp turns … and oh, by the way, a few more short climbs.

A right on Bear Creek Road, and after a little climbing, we get a nice fast descent before coming into Boulder Creek.  Now this would be ideal to get into a paceline to charge onto Hwy 9 again, either everyone was too fast for me, or they were too slow.  Oh well, I guess I’m time trialing this.

The climb on Hwy 9 is slow and lonely, but the grade is not too bad.  It averaged about 5-6%, so not too bad, but just long.  Then, we get to the top of Skyline, then make a left turn, back on the same route we were on before the first rest stop.  The rest stops were in abundance, and I didn’t feel the need to stop at this one, so I went on ahead.

We have a fast descent down Alpine en route to La Honda, where lunch is.  Now I’m considered a slow descender … but today, others treated me like I was a bomber on the descent.  But maybe it’s because this is my backyard, and others may not be used to the terrain.

I caught up with Ramon at lunch.  I wasn’t feeling up to the full double metric, so I decided to just go on the 100 miler, and head up Tunitas.  Once we got to Hwy 1, I noticed a lot of cyclists heading the opposite direction … they were the Aids riders … Oh, I forgot .. they start the same day Sequoia is put on.  Very colorful, and very flamboyant outfits they have.  I wish them luck … some of them didn’t look too good, and this was only their first day.

I really did try to go as hard as I could up Tunitas (but how hard can you really, at mile 81, and 8000+ feet of climbing).  It does help having done this climb so many times, but it still took me 1:12:00 from Hwy 1 to Skyline via Tunitas Creek.  Tough 9.4 mile, 2047 foot climb.

Totals … 102 miles, and 9375 feet of climbing, with a total time of 8:53:02.

Volunteering My First Ride

In an effort to fulfill my requirement for the gold triple crown jersey, it involves volunteering for one ride.  Devil Mountain Double (DMD) is the local double, and it is also, by far, the most difficult (with in excess of 18,000 feet of climbing).  This made my decision pretty easy to volunteer this ride, instead of riding it.

I was assigned the first rest stop, which is the summit of Mt. Diablo.  We had to get to the south gate by 5:20 am (with enough time to get to the summit before the first rider reaches the summit.  What dawned on me is I’m waking up around the same time the riders would (I had my alarm at 3 am).  But on the other hand, I knew that the last rider should be leaving the rest stop at 8:30 am, so we would be closing shop at that time.  I would then have the rest of the day to myself, and possibly a ride that day.

It was extremely windy up top.  You could see the trees waving from left to right, and also hear the howling wind.  I would not be one riding up this hill with this much wind.  We had to strategize where to set up the table for refreshments, water, snacks, etc … we ended up finding a corner that was not gusting quite as much.  I can only imagine how cold and miserable it is climbing up, and to battle with the gale force winds?

We had a good crew of 10 people for this rest stop.  Melanie was our token cow bell lady, greeting and cheering on the riders as the complete the last few feet of the climb up the wall.  We had spotters right along side her, checking the name, and marking their times.  As you can see, she is all bundled up, so you can tell it is a bit cold up here (at 3850 feet of elevation).

The first rider who got to the top didn’t even stop.  He just went around and headed down the mountain (he got his name marked off, so he got his checkpoint credit).  Chris was the second one up, at 6:40:09 am.  Damn, he’s fast and he’s strong.  Good job Chris.

I was primarily manning the water, perpetuem, and hammergel refills.  We had 4 flavors of perpetuem available, and I was surprised how many people expected us to have Heed.  I guess they figured we would have all Hammer products … uh, no, just Perpetuem and Sustained Energy.  We had an issue with Hammergel, especially with Chocolate.  The viscosity of it was so thick, and rich, and it was hard to get them into the flask that they provided everyone.  Air bubbles would form at the entry of the flask, making it a challenge to refills those flasks.  Funny how I never had this problem when filling it at home, but then again, it wasn’t 38 F and windy when I was doing that at home.  The banana flavored hammergel flowed much smoother.  I also noticed some riders would mix multiple flavors into their drinks … 2 scoops of Perpetuem and 2 scoops of Sustained Energy … wow, that’s potent.  I gotta try that some time.

A little later, my friend Dan (aka Lanceoldstrong) showed up, along with Bassem.  Dan’s gotten really strong, and glad to see he made it up.  I also saw Donald, Ramon, and Marco earlier.  Ramon commented how strong the wind was, and he almost got thrown off his bike.  Marco had some mechanical problem, as his front derailleur broke, so he came up without a front derailleur.  Well, since it’s all climbing, I guess not shifting into the big gear shouldn’t be an issue, and it does save a little bit of weight.

Later on, my friend Steve, from Southern Cal, showed up.  He’s a strong rider, a veteran of many doubles, and this is the first time coming up and doing DMD.  Good for him.  It’s funny, we actually looked at each other for about 10 seconds before realizing we know each other.  I think it’s because he didn’t recognize me without my kit on.

I actually saw one guy show up in a fixie … damn, 206 miles, and 18,600 feet climbing on a fixed gear?  That’s just nuts.  I also saw a recumbent tandem.  Now that’s a bit odd.  I can’t imagine climbing Diablo on a recumbent, much less a recumbent tandem.  Good for them.

The last rider showed up a little after 8 am.  That’s awesome … so we went ahead and closed up shop, dismantled everything at that point.  We had to get rid of perishables, so what better way to get rid of them than to eat them.  LOL … that’s one nice perk of volunteering for a ride … not riding, and getting free food.

There were a total of 100 volunteers for the entire ride.  They had enough staffing for the other rest stops, so as soon as we closed up this rest stop, that was it for me.  Even though I had to get up at 3 am, I got finished and back home by around 9:30 am … enough time to get in a ride during the day … well except the wind was still howling, and the pollen was flying around like crazy, and made my eyes run and very watery.  Oh well.  This was a good experience, and it was about time I gave back, and volunteered for a ride.  Now I know what it’s like to support one of these things.  I got so many people thanking us for being out there.

Knoxville Double … Double #6 #30daysofbiking

I didn’t get much sleep the night before this ride.  Everything seemed to be in check … checked in before 6 pm, and finished dinner before 7 pm … so everything should be okay, right?  Well, for whatever reason, I just couldn’t sleep.  Perhaps it was due to all my excitement for doing this ride.

Curtis and Dan carbo-loading

I rode with Curtis and Daniel.  Here we are the night before, with a pre-ride carbo load.  We found a nice little mexican take-out place.  Note the happy faces are before the ride!

Ron and Curtis ... riding in patch black

We left Adobe Pena park at 3:45 am.  There were a few others that started before us, and I think we passed one of the groups … but most started around 4:30 am.  We wouldn’t see many riders till about 3-4 hours later, when they overtake us.

First climb was Mt. George.  We still didn’t get passed by anyone, so that was a good sign.  We started so early that they just barely had the first rest stop set up, so we just decided to bypass it.  Only one problem with that strategy … porter potties.  We’d have to go 62 miles before making a pit stop.  Well, as it turned out, we did an emergency road-side pit stop anyways, just before the rest stop.  Oh well.

The 2nd big climb is Howell Mountain.  We saw a bunch of locals out climbing this (many of them faster climbers … although they didn’t have to ride 200 miles!).  I went on ahead, feeling pretty strong (hmm … maybe I was going out too strong?).  What’s nice is they had a porter potty in the middle of the climb.  Sweet!  I definitely took advantage of this opportunity.  This is the point where we started to see the later starters pass us up (oh, sorry, pass me up).

The ride organizers were giving us a stern admonishment regarding the descent on Howell Mountain.  So I figure I should be taking it easy here, but I found the descent to be smooth, and switchbacks were fairly gentle.  I mean, if they really want to see a scary descent, try Page Mill in Palo Alto.  Anyhow, from there, we drop into Pope Valley, which is where we started our pre-ride on Labor Day Weekend.  Suddenly, we are in familiar territory.

Next up, is the long climb starting at Lake Berryessa, on up Knoxville Road.  What also made this difficult was the hottest time of the day.  It starts off with some rollies, then it kicks up to 10-12%, but when you add mid-90 degree heat, that really depletes you.  What’s also freaky is you will see some hunters up and down this road.  I saw a few of them, with rifle straddling their shoulder.  Hopefully they won’t be shooting at cyclists.

Around the 88 mile mark is when the climbing on Knoxville Road starts.  Even though I know the hill, and when to prepare, there’s nothing that will prepare you for heat.  In fact, there was a SAG wagon offering ice socks … oh how can I resist that!  That felt good, but I was still struggling.

I finally made it to the tunnel, but I needed the water stop now.  Two hill climbs later, then came the water stop.  My legs were really spent at this point, and just wanted to soak my head into the ice chest.  Ramon was here manning the stop, and had a nice refreshing mist … this is one tough hill.  Later, I found out everyone suffers badly on this climb.  At least I’m not the only one.

There were still a couple more hills to climb, so I just had to grin and bear it.  Curtis and Daniel had much fresher legs than me (they took a slower pace on the bottom, so maybe that’s what I should have done).

We made a very quick lunch stop (I had a really quick burrito), but maybe I should have just let Curtis and Dan go ahead.  My legs were still shot.

We continued on to Siegler Canyon, then Loch Lomond.  We grinded it up Siegler Canyon, and by the time we made the turn onto Loch Lomond, I had to rest.  Curtis and Dan came by, but they wanted to continue .. I still needed to rest.  Even after the rest, I was still suffering up Loch Lomond.  I was not alone either … many riders were hopping from one shady spot to the next.  I got to the point where I could not turn the pedal anymore.  I flagged a SAG wagon, and got then to fill my bottle with ice … but even that didn’t help me.  I had to walk the last 500 feet or so.  Even though I was at the summit, the road continued flat for about a mile until it descended to a general store, where Curtis and Dan were there … Curtis had a flat.

I let Curtis and Dan go on ahead … I had to take in some cool fluids.  I proceeded to climb up Cobb Mountain, and was really glad to see the road sign, warning trucks to use low gear on descent.  I ended up catching up with Curtis and Dan near the bottom of the hill.  However, my legs still didn’t have life in them.  Luckily, after going through Middletown, it was fairly flat.

The bad news is, after leaving rest stop 4, I started to get leg cramps.  Ugh, everything was aching here.  Saddle sores, toes numb (and they still are), and now leg cramps.  I had to put this in my granny gear, in fear of my leg completely locking up due to cramps.  I eventually got rid of my cramps by the time we got to rest stop 5, at Lake Hennessey.

Lake Hennessey at Sunset

Ok, now 40 miles to go.  But is this all flat coming back?  Of course not … first, we have Sage Canyon, which wasn’t too bad.  We go through some flat stretches … and at that point, it got pitch black, which makes climbing and descending interesting.  The next climb we face is Cardiac Hill.  Now we have done Cardiac Hill from the other side on Davis, but this time, we are climbing it in reverse.  This is definitely much tougher.  This was just sheer cruelty, throwing in this climb at mile 180.  This is the point where you are breathing hard, stating all sorts of expletives, and in general, just wishing this ride was over.

We finally got back to Adobe Pena Park at 10 pm.  Dang, this was a really tough ride … yeah, I know, it’s a double century, but this is still a very epic ride.

I’d like to say a few things about the support.  It was just great!  All rest stops were fully stocked with just about everything an endurance rider could ask for … Heed, Perpetuem, Hammergel, e-pills, Ibuprofen.  Then, they had SAG wagons, driving up and down with ice and water.  In fact, I saw them coming into a general store, just to stock up on ice.  The food layout was second to none … I love those potatoes.

The highest temp of the day was 106 F (most likely when I was finishing on Knoxville Rd).  I don’t think it was nearly this hot when we did our re-con ride 3 weeks ago.

Ok, 2 down … do I go for my third?  If so which one?  Bass Lake is in a couple of weeks … then there’s Solvang Autumn, and later, Death Valley Double.