Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Grand Tour

The Grand Tour, a double century put on by the L. A. Wheelmen begins in Malibu, CA, on the ocean. One of the most scenic places anywhere.

San Diego is a three hour drive away in reasonably good traffic. Going through Los Angeles, reasonably good doesn’t happen. So I left a little before noon on Friday, and got there a little after 4:00. Enjoyed a ride up the coast, back down, had some dinner, then got checked into the ride. I spent the night in my van at the start. Going to these events starts to add up the bucks, so if you can save a bit on motels, do it.

The alarm went off at 3:45 AM, as I was planning on a 4:30 start. I pulled out at 4:26, on the Lowland course. The Grand Tour offers lowland (about 5,500 feet of gain) and a highland (about 8,500 feet of gain). I chose the lowland only because I did it last year as my first double and wanted to see if I could better my time.

I pulled out, and felt pretty good heading out of Malibu. There are some rollers going up the coast to Port Hueneme, but I felt good on the way out. About 35 miles in, is the first rest stop. Fill the bottles, and we are heading to Moorpark. On the road to Moorpark. I was surprised at the lack of riders on the course. I remember getting into a pretty good pace line last year for a good 20 or 30 mile stretch. Finally a group goes by, at a pretty good clip, a jump in to see if I can hang with this group, and the speed is ideal. We are going about 20-21 MPH, which is faster than I go solo, but is still leaving energy in reserve. About 2-3 miles in, we make a turn. Someone asks if I am doing lowland, I say yes, and they say, you go straight. Darn it! I thought that turn was too soon, and it was the highland turn-off.

Back on the right road, and there is another solo rider, and we chatted off and on for a bunch of miles. He’d usually stay longer at the controls, but he always caught up to me, and then we’d chat some more. Thomas had crewed for the JDRF RAAM team, driving their R.V. After learning about his experience, as tough as it would be to ride RAAM, I thinking crewing is harder! Great talking to you, Thomas!

This route is pretty urban, with too many stoplights. I don’t remember as many last year. I’m sure they were there; maybe I just got lucky and hit more green ones? Maybe I was too focused on surviving since it was my first double? Anyway, it was pretty frustrating; I could never seem to get any momentum. Next year, the highland will be my route. I’ll trade some climbs for less traffic and lights any day!

In the end, it was a pretty good ride. My total time was 13:47, 14 minutes slower than last year. I attribute that to less pace line riding and not having anyone push me. Last year, my buddy Keith @cyclewarrior hung with me, and pushed me harder than I would push myself. Keith is MUCH faster than I am; he completed the route this year in just over 10 hours. I need to learn how to push myself a bit more and pick my speed up.

I have about 10 weeks before my next event, and that is what I will be training towards. More speed and power. I’m also putting my Sella AnAtomica seat on. I’m tired of my butt getting sore by mile 120. Time to see if the AnAtomica is all everyone says it is, and give it a good go.

Thanks to the LA Wheelmen for putting this even on for the 52nd year. This is the oldest Double Century in the country! For more information on the history (it’s a good story), follow go to the LA Wheelmen website.

The stats: 198.04 miles
Total Pedal Time 12:19
Average Pedal Speed 16.1
Total Time: 13:47
Max Speed 36.7 (no big climbs, no big downhills)
Elevation Gain: 5,279

The ride can be viewed on Garmin Connect.

I’m planning three more events this year.

White Mountain Double Century, September 11.
Santa Cruz Randos 600KM Sept 25
Solvang Fall Double Century October 16,

Thanks for reading, you can follow my musings and rides via Twitter, I am @stevecycles200.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Coronado 300K Brevet

The alarm goes off at 4:15 AM. Put on my kit, bike in the car and off to Coronado for the start of the SD Randos Coronado 300K brevet.

We were scheduled to start at 6:00. By 5:40 the riders were looking around for our Regional Brevet Administrator, Dennis. Jamie was there, who was volunteering for the event, but he did not have the brevet cards. About 5:50 Jamie called Dennis. Oops, Dennis thought we were starting at 7:00. He’s on his way.

Dennis arrives, goes over a few instructions and we are off at 6:15. South along the strand in Coronado. Coronado is an island, well really a peninsula since it is attached at the southern end, but they call it an island. Anyway, we head south, then around Chula Vista to Bonita, down to Otay Lakes, and then we head east.

Heading east in San Diego means heading toward the hills/mountains. Heading east on Otay Lakes road means making small gains in elevation for about 20 miles, a turn onto highway 94 for a nano second, then a turn onto Honey Spring Road where the fun begins!

Honey Springs Road is a 6 mile climb that gains about 1,600 feet. Prior to the climb was our first control, manned by Jamie. Water, bananas, grapes, and cookies! A well stocked control for a self-supported brevet. Thanks, Jamie! Then a quick one mile descent and a turn on Lyons Valley Road. Lyons Valley leads to Japatul Valley Road. Some up, some down, and eventually a lot more up than down, especially as Japatul Valley heads to Descanzo which is our second control. Greg is handling duties here with water, bananas, cliff bars, and bagels. I ran out of liquid about 5 miles prior to the stop, and started rationing about 12 miles out, so I’m a bit parched here. I go into the store for some Gatorade, a red bull, and a V8, and take a bit of a break to get replenished.

We are now on Highway 79 heading north, into Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. And we are climbing. And climbing. And climbing some more, before summiting between the Paso Picacho Campground and Lake Cuyamaca. Just about 5,000 feet. Finally a descent. Then more climbing, then a descent. We are now in historic Julian. Famous for its apple pie. There will be none of that today, I just want to start the downhills!

Previously anytime I have ridden through Julian, I just take 78 east to Santa Ysabel. This route had us go north on Farmers Road. Okay, pretty quiet, but all of the sudden we are climbing a bit, I’m in my 34x27, standing and really grinding. I look at my Garmin and see I am on a 20 percent gradient! Luckily it was a short pitch, but ouch. I guess this section was the rando tribute to the Giro. The treat to this was the super-technical downhill of Wynola Road back to the 78. Downhill to Ramona, and the next control.

A slight climb out of Ramona, then a bombing descent into Lakeside. Enjoy it, after Lakeside it’s a climb all the way to Alpine, the final control before the finish. After a chicken sandwich and Carl’s along with some chit chat with other riders, and realizing we had two Ironmen on this brevet, it was off for more climbing. About those two ironmen, I’m not just talking about guys that accomplished a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and running a full marathon in the same day. I’m talking about two guys that put up real impressive times. Mark did Louisville in 10:34 (apologies if I’m off a bit). I asked if that qualified for Kona, as I’m thinking that’s a great time. He said not even close, you generally have to break 10 hours. Jerald did Arizona in about 9:30 and did qualify for Kona. Okay, I’m beyond impressed.

Some more climbs and I finally return to Honey Springs Road, this time from the other side, which means a one mile climb, then a 6 mile descent. Yahoo! After peaking at 46 MPH, I’m back on Otay Lakes Road. We came back into Coronado a bit differently as we took Olympic Parkway, which means passing the Olympic Training Center. No matter how tired one is, seeing those rings, and the legs find a bit of juice. Mark had passed me on one of the climbs, but I see him, as he is finishing fixing a flat. We ride in together the last 15 or 20 miles.

Tim is handling the paperwork at the finish with some pizza, cookies, and coke. I don’t know why but a Coke tastes great after 190 miles.

Overall I was disappointed in my time for this ride. I took longer at the controls, but felt like I needed the recovery. I think I’m still a little fatigued and not 100 percent after my cold the previous week. The lungs were pretty good, but my legs seemed to tire much quicker. And the climbs seemed twice as challenging as they should have.

The stats: 190.82 miles. 12,313 feet of elevation gain. Highest elevation, 5,000 feet. Lowest: Sea Level. Top Speed: 46MPH.

Thank you to Dennis, Jamie, Greg, and Tim for volunteering and putting the event on. It was a good, albeit challenging route.

See the ride on Garmin Connect:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Eastern Sierra Double Century

I made the six hour drive from San Diego to Bishop for the Eastern Sierra Double Century. The ride is advertised as one of the most scenic and beautiful on the California Triple Crown Schedule.

We have two options for starting. 4:00 or 5:00 AM. The 4:00 option is only if you will take over 14 hours, and this gives you an additional hour to complete the ride. Since I expected to take 15 hours, I opted for the early start.

Yawn. That is an early start! Lights on, reflective gear on, GO!

The first 30 miles are pretty much flat and easy. As light began to come through you could see the mountains, almost as if to say, “Good morning, I’ll be here to put you in awe, to delight you, and of course to make you suffer.” After the first check point at mile 30, we quickly got into the suffer part. Old Sherwin Grade; a ten mile plus climb, with occasional double digit gradients. Oh, and a nice head wind to boot. And I LOVED the false summit, descent, only to have another three mile climb.

After another check point, the roads continued to point upward. Over half the climbing in the entire ride is between miles 30 and 75. We were now in Mammoth Lakes, summiting at over 8,000 feet of altitude. Just off the road, there is still snow on the ground, this despite the temperature being about 70 degrees. Awesome and stunning scenery, the ride is proving to be as billed. And we weren’t even to the good stuff yet.

No, the real beauty, in my opinion, was the June Lake loop. Wow! Three lakes, rolling terrain, and the mountain backdrops. Michelangelo, Picasso? No, when it comes to artists, God tops all of them, and its not even close.

From there it was up to Mono Lake for the lunch stop. Over half the mileage is done, but 75 percent of the climbing was in the bag. Should be easy from here. Yeah right.

A climb back to Highway 120, where you could go west and really do some climbing, or go east like we did, and enjoy a rip-roaring descent. I hit 48.4 MPH on this descent. Then the road goes back up. For 10 long miles, this climb was tough on me. The legs were already rubber. Finally the summit at over 8,200 feet. A check point at the summit. Another rider said, “Wow, turn around!” We did, and you could see the majestic snow capped mountain behind us rising out of the valley we just ascended from. Amazing.

From here on the ride was pretty easy, another rocket – like descent, this time I topped out at 51.1 MPH! Then a few rollers into Benton for our final check point. From Benton to Bishop it was hot, but mostly a 1 to 2 percent descent with a cross and occasional tail wind. Speeds from 18 to 35 MPH all the way in!

Back in Bishop, the Garmin showed 197 miles, 9,993 feet of ascen, 14 hours and 16 minutes total time. All the stats are here, on Garmin Connect. And a whole lot of great scenery. The ride was as advertised, and then some.

Thank you to Planet Ultra for putting on this great event, and especially to all the volunteers, especially adding a water stop on the Sagehen climb, it was most appreciated.

The Udder Tifosi were out!

June Lake Loop