Category Archives: ride report

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.

Mulholland Double became Mulholland Challenge

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

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

Credit Mark William Calaway (aka Memo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit: Steve Meichtry

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look at that profile!

Solvang Double Century – Number 22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://strava.app.link/RLvvtLVIBob

Camino Real Double Century … #21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total stats … 198 miles, 8104 feet climbing

So I’m a Randoneur

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Control Point … start of the ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2021 Retrospective and Getting Back into Double Centuries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Either Heat or Fitness or Umunhum Did Me In

I’ve done Mt. Umunhum a number of times since the road had been been opened up to the top. However, this summer for some reason, I’ve had issues making it all the way to the top. The last few times was because I waited too long and by the time I started Umunhum, it was 12 noon, and it was already in the mid-90s. Since all these times, I was riding solo, I had the easy option of turning around.

This time, my friend Amanda, from ACTC, was co-leading the ride up Umunhum. So this would give me more motivation to finish it, knowing there is a group, and I didn’t want to let them down, but it was hard.

We first started with some warm up hills, Harwood (as if we didn’t have enough climbing to do). These were steep short pitches … Steep meaning 20+ %. While climbing, my immediate thought was, “I need to upgrade to a 12-30 or 12-32”.

It was cool, we stopped for 3 group pictures. Awesome way to keep everyone together.

This was in the middle of a residential street, so we had to make several attempts, and that was hilarious.

Earlier in the day Amanda made a comment that I looked slimmer. At that point, that seemed like a surprise, and maybe a curse?

I maybe it up Hicks fine (I wasn’t the last one), and yes, another group shot (but hopefully we won’t be baking too much making this shot).

On our climb up, I didn’t realize what little I had in the tank, as I quickly took my place in the back.

I didn’t bother to check what the temperature was, but I know I was suffering. I get past Bald Mountain, and after that, it just felt like the heat just ramped it up. I felt so weak, I couldn’t turn the crank. Since this so wide open, the shade was very few and far between. I ended up stopping 3 times, and each time was not just stopping … I ended up walking for a number of paces. I was so tempted to turn around, but I had to continue, with 10+ people waiting for me, and to take that group shot at the top.

Finally made it to the top, and was grateful for all the times this group re-grouped. It was awesome.

I’ve been in heat many times on other tough climbs, but never suffered like this. Maybe I need to upgrade my gearing? I did notice some others had lower gearing. Maybe I should have brought my triple and my Seven? Oh well, at least I made it once this summer.

Climbing the Queen’s Stage … That’s Painful!

 

Ok, the big day has come, the stage that everyone has been waiting for.  So obviously, us amateurs must do the same climb that the pro’s are doing.

Now I’ve done GMR to Baldy Ski Lifts before, just like what the men’s and women’s are doing, but this is different.  This time, there is the environment, adrenaline in the air.  You’ve got fans lining up along the route, some with cowbells, some with horns, some with tents, and a lot of loud classic rock songs blasting out.

We did Glendora Mountain Road, then Glendora Ridge Road (some call it little GMR … to me, it’s bigger, tougher, and has more pain points).  By the time I got to the end of little GMR, crowds were waiting at the Cow Saddle.  Got to see a lot of my old friends (that I typically ride with when I come to visit LA).  It was just one big party atmosphere.  I even saw the devil there, and took a picture with him.

The women’s route was going in the same direction that I was, and so we waited for them to come.  Coryn Rivera, a local girl, was leading the pack as they head down the hill, before climbing Baldy.  However, she couldn’t keep it up … instead, another California girl, Katie Hall took it (Bay Area hero).

Unfortunately, timing made it so that I couldn’t make it to the top in time to see the women finish.  It would have been cool to see Katie cross the finish line first.

We had to wait for the men to come by, before we can head up the ski lift.  When we finally go to the village, it was mayhem, a madhouse, a circus, as you would expect.

Climbing this today was different, most likely because you had hundreds of other riders doing the same climb.  There is just something about having a target of others, who are struggling the same amount as I am, and you get some adrenaline from that.

I was originally only going to go up to  Phil’s Cookie Corner, who hilariously entices riders with chocolate chip cookies.  Who am I to refuse … I grabbed a handful (about 5 cookies), and was munching them on my way up to the Ski Lift.  I think that gave me an extra boost to make it to the top.

 

After passing this switchback, I hear more classic rock, like the Stones, Allman Brothers Band … it helped me get through it.  Seeing others get off an walk for a little bit also gave me self confidence, and guided me up the hill.

Finally made it to the top.  A friend of ours had some VIP passes, so we were able to get into the tent, with some nice warm pastries, mash potatoes, coffee … at least it’s something to fill the stomach with.  We also got to see the broadcast on big screen tv, so we can get a sense of what was going on.

After finishing the ride, I did check my stats to compare with some of the pros … it’s laughable, really.

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That is just insane!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.