Sunday, February 21, 2010

El Camino Real Double Century (and poker run)

This week was the first Double Century of the season. The El Camino Real DC. This ride is put on by Planet Ultra. They put on many double centuries as well as the famous Hoodoo 500 and other ultra events. This was my first Planet Ultra event. I give them two thumbs up, for a well run ride with great volunteers.

The ride started in Irvine and we did a bit of a loop on some roads I had never ridden. I was planning on rolling out at 5:30, but that was about the time I was finally ready, and got to the start as the ride director was giving final instructions and sending the riders out. I still needed to check in. I got checked in, and rolled out about 5:50. Less than a mile down the road it started to mist, then rain a bit harder. Here we go, I thought. It’s two weeks ago all over again.

As I continued on, the rain stopped, but the roads were soaked from heavy overnight rains. Then, much to my surprise I saw it. A big orange glow in the eastern sky. Could it be? The weather forecast called for rain through 10:00 AM, then a chance of rain, and even in periods without rain, it would be cloudy. Zero chance of sun, but there it was coming up over the horizon in all its glory.

The unexpected sun put some jump in my legs as I turned south on coast highway, only to turn back inland a short while later, more new roads for me. This is fun, as its part of the adventure, but also requires checking the queue sheet. Eventually we were back on coast highway heading south.

One of my goals is to spend less time at aid stations. Some riders enjoy taking their time there, chatting with the volunteers, or other riders. That’s great, if you want. I have noticed too much time off the bike, and I get stiff, plus, since I’m not super-speedy, I want to make sure I make time cut-offs. The first aid station was at mile 39. I filled my bottles, added Hammer Gel to my flask, and I was rolling within 3 minutes. Mission accomplished.

Continuing south, the next aid stations was also the first “control” where we got a playing card, as they had a poker run theme with this event. I drew a 5 of hearts. (This also verifies the riders hit the controls to get an official finish). Topped off my bottles, took about 4 extra minutes to adjust my clothing since the sun was out, and gone. Mission accomplished.

Cyclists know that in most cases they aren’t allowed on Interstate Highways. There is an exception on I-5 between Oceanside Harbor drive and Las Pulgas. This is because the only other way to get between those points is using Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton. Since the base may have needs to limit access, cyclists are allowed on this 8 mile stretch of interstate. I actually feel safe on the interstate with its huge shoulder. But man is it noisy with the traffic. You actually get a push from cars going by at 70 plus. Before I knew it, I was in Oceanside and heading east.

The next aid station, control, was at mile 87. Rainbow. This was the lunch stop, with Subway sandwiches available. I grabbed a turkey, ate about 2/3, filled my bottles and flask, and took off. Now for a bit of climbing, a fun descent, more climbing, and finally, heading back to Oceanside.

On the bike path heading back, I bonked. Not big time, but all of the sudden I went from 16 MPH into a headwind, to struggling to keep 13. The legs were heavy; I was in the pain cave. I grinded to the next aid station, and took a few minutes there. I drank a bit extra. I took off, feeling a bit better, but not great. Okay, I figured, I was way ahead of the pace I expected, so if I’m a bit slow coming in, no problem. Just keep turning the cranks. Back up I-5, and onto Old Hwy 101 which is a dedicated bike/pedestrian path. There is a point where the path goes under I-5. This tunnel was covered in dirt, which became mud after the overnight rains. It looked like a cyclocross mud pit. Makes a mess of the bike. Continue to the next aid station, control. My cards: 5, 6, and 9, mixed suit, but a chance at a straight! Yeah, right.

I pull out of this control, and shortly after another cyclist pulls along side. We start chatting, he is not doing our ride, but we are talking cycling. Turn out I am riding with Marty Jemison. Who, you ask? Marty is a two time Tour de France finisher, and former US National Champion, to name just a couple of accomplishments. A bonus for me, and chatting with him for 5 miles or so seemed to put some jump back into my legs. Thanks for the conversation, Marty!

Back in Orange County we turned off Coast Hwy, back to roads unknown to me. Eventually to Trabuco Canyon Road. This road would be blast to descend… the daytime, see darkness had fallen, and I don’t like to outride my headlights, which meant holding back on the fabulous technical descent. The final control was off a Trabuco Canyon. I drew a 10, killing my straight and any chance of a descent poker hand. No bonus prizes for me.

25 miles to go. A bit of climbing, a bit of descending, and a bit of flats. Hammered where I could, finishing at 8:20 (I think).

All in all a fun day. Again, kudos to Planet Ultra. Thank you Lord for the sunshine and keeping me safe. Thank you wifey for use of your vehicle.

Sorry for no pictures, with the expected rain, I had my phone in a zip lock bag making it a bit tough to break out for photos.


  1. Nice job. Hopefully you make it up to Northern CA sometime this year one of our Doubles...

    Good luck on the year

  2. Steve, I saw you as you exited I-5 at Las Pulgas rd. and entered the old Hwy 1. I was heading south. I did a double take but then convinced myself it wasn't you. It was around 3:00PM

    How did you like the tunnel of mud? That stuff sticks like glue.

    Are you riding the 400K

    Jaime Gurrola

  3. Jaime, Yup, that was the right time to be me. It took me 2 hours to clean my bike yesterday, removed both wheels I had mud caked on to the brake housing, seat stays. Don't think I'll take up cyclocross I don't want to spend that much time cleaning my bike!!

  4. Oh, and yes I signed up for the 400KM. Hit enter too quick.

  5. Hi Steve,

    It was fun to spend mile 55 through 120 with you. I think we parted paths at the aid station-- sorry I didn't know you were feeling bad! Anyways the power you generated was pure inspiration. Thanks for the draft and, how you say, "jump" in my legs. Hope to see you again out there sometime!

  6. Lisa, Nice to meet you and Ron. Yeah, that spot was weird, all of the sudden about 2 or 3 miles short of the aid station I couldn't hold a wheel. I think I mismanaged my nutrition out of the lunch stop a bit. Congrats to you, looks like this was your first double!