Sunday, July 25, 2010

Training Ride to Palomar Abbreviated

The Training Ride to Palomar is a 203 kilometer permanent route. It begins in Encinitas, CA, rides through Escondido, by Lake Wholford, and ascends Palomar Mountain. From there the ride goes to Santa Ysabel, and then returns to Encinitas via Ramona, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Santa Fe, San Marcos, and Carlsbad. There is about 9,000 feet of climbing, with 7000 of it coming in the first 70 miles.

We started with a group of about 12, and left Encinitas at 0600 under cloudy skies with a temperature of 62 degrees. We stopped at a dog park in Escondido to pick up an additional rider. I have to say I felt better than I did a week ago, and felt like I climbed Lake Wholford, part of the Amgen Tour of California Race in 2009, on the 8th stage, fairly well, at least for me. Most of the group passed me, but I kept many in sight, and arrived at the first control only a few minutes after they did, at mile 35.

This is where the climb up Palomar begins. We gain about 1000 feet on Hwy 76 over 5 miles, then turn onto South Grade Road, where we will gain another 3200 feet over the next 7 miles. The climb begins at just under 1000 feet of elevation, and the summit is 5200 feet. I have never gone all the way up Palomar, I have gone by South Grade several times via Hwy 76, and that 5 mile stretch is always tough for me, but felt like I did okay today. Again, the group had passed me, but I felt like I was hanging in there. The climb was getting warm, and tougher, when about 3 miles from the summit I heard a deafening BOOM! I knew immediately I had blown a tube. Stop. Checked my rear tire, and it was solid, but the front was beyond flat, as the blow out took the tire off the bead! That made removing the tire easy. I gave it a good inspection, as one other time on a blow out I damaged the sidewall. Not so this time, so insert a new tube, get the tire back on and go. Not so fast. If you read last week’s blog, you know I killed my front wheel, so I am on a loaner wheel. It is a Mavic Cosmic Elite, which is a bit of a deeper dish, and I had a hard time getting the tire over the bead. Back to basics, make sure the tube is drained of air after giving it some to help get it in the rim, push, push, push. Grrr. It’s getting real hot, I’m on the side of a mountain road, with little shoulder, and I’m getting frustrated. I set the wheel down for a minute to gain my composure. Pick it up, and I finally got it. What should have been a 5 minute change, took over 20 minutes. Back at it, but I am really warm, and I quickly drained my bottles. I did the last 2 plus miles with no fluids. By the time I reached the summit, I was cooked, and had some minor cramping. I hit the Palomar General Store, and drained two Gatorades, filled my bottles, and sat down drinking a Coke and eating a Hammer bar. I also had been hitting the endrolytes hard with the heat.

I took extra time trying to get feeling okay, which I hate doing, I like to get in and out of controls, its one way I make up for being a slower rider, especially on rides with an abundance of climbs. Finally I took off down the descent on East Grade, back to Hwy 76, and Eastward to Lake Henshaw. Past the lake, and to Hwy 79 which climbs, albeit, not drastically for about 4 miles or so. This is where I knew I was in trouble, as even one to two percent gradients were causing me to stop with cramping in the quads, shins, calves, and hamstrings. A note on cramping, I don’t often cramp on the bike, and when I do it is usually mild enough that I can spin easy, hit a gel and e-cap, and be okay in a short time. But this was different. I was stopping every half mile to mile, and a couple of times the cramps were intesnse. Last week Kelly had mentioned Tums helps cramping, and I had a couple of those too! It seemed like the more I did, the less effective anything was. With about four miles to go on 79 before the Santa Ysabel control, I called the Team Car, otherwise known as Wifey, and asked her to pick me up in Santa Ysabel. It wasn’t just the cramping, I also had intestinal issues, which I have not had on the bike either. Perhaps the heat got to me, perhaps I wasn’t 100 percent at the start, or maybe I dehydrated worse than I thought on the climb, and simply couldn’t recover from it.

The day was done. I have to say, in doing eight double centuries, plus exceeding 200 miles on two other occasions, I have never felt as cooked, as I did when I hit Santa Ysabel.

Hopefully the rest of the group had a good ride, I thoroughly enjoyed the views from Palomar, and am happy I completed my first summit of the legendary local climb. I will be back, and I will finish this ride.

Final stats: 70 miles, 7,333 feet of gain, temperature range per Garmin 62-107, 39 MPH top speed.

The ride on Garmin Connect:

You can follow my cycling and other musings on Twitter. I am @stevecycles200

Sunday, July 18, 2010

San Luis Rey Revival Permanent

Last Saturday I flew out to Las Vegas for a business trip. I got back home Thursday, and when I finally got caught up on my cycling e-mails on Friday, one caught my eye. A group of the rando riders was going to do the San Luis Rey Revival Permanent route.

This route starts at the Oceanside pier, where RAAM starts, and follows the RAAM route to the first time station at Lake Henshaw. The difference is we then turned around and went back to Oceanside, as opposed to going another 2,950 miles to Annapolis.

We left Oceanside at 6:00 AM; it was myself, Kelly, Jaime, and John. We headed out the SLR bike path and were on our way. It was a pleasant morning with the temperature about 65 degrees according to my Garmin. That would soon change, as there was little or no marine layer, and the sun was out in full force early.

We cruised through Bonsall and headed toward Old 395, which meant the first climb of the day was near. A turn onto Old Castle Road, and up we go. I enjoy the Old Castle climb, mostly about 6% over about 3 miles. I also knew when I hit this climb today; I didn’t have my “A” game. While I am far from a strong climber, I was struggling on this one, being a Clydesdale, steep climbs usually kick my fanny, but 5-6 per centers, I can usually keep a descent cadence. Not so today. Summit Old Castle, a short downhill, and back up to Valley Center. The temperature is rising. Garmin shows 99.

Turn onto Valley Center and we are headed to Route 76. A nice fast descent on Valley Center. We are now 39 miles in, and hit the first control. Ultra Cyclist extraordinaire, George Vargas pulls in, he is going to climb Palomar Mountain. George has done 2 person RAAM, and will do the Furnace Creek 508 for the fifth time (I think) this year. With full bottles, we head east on 76 for a five mile climb to the base of Palomar Mountain. This climb has some 9 and 10 percent sections, so you can imagine if I was struggling with cadence on the 6 per centers, I was really grinding it out here. Route 76 takes us all the way to Lake Henshaw where we regroup, fill up and head back out. Garmin now shows 100 degrees.

Returning on 76, after passing the base of Palomar, we now get a rip-roaring descent. Light traffic made this a ton of fun today. We roll right by Valley Center Road, as the route has us return via Cole Grade Road. Cole Grade Road was part of the Tour of California route, stage 8 in 2009. It was rated as a category 1 climb. And its not real long, which means it is STEEP! 9-13 percent. Talk about grinding it out. Jaime, John, and Kelly all were way up the road, I just kept plugging along. Finally hitting the summit, we regrouped and took a short break. Garmin shows 113 degrees. John says his hit 118!

One more climb, this time up Lilac to the back side of Old Castle. I look back and don’t see the other three. Wondering if all is okay, Jaime catches me and said Kelly has a flat, but said is okay and will catch up. We pull into Bonsall to fill bottles, and Kelly and John are right behind. 14 miles to go.

This should be uneventful. An easy 14 miles or so to the finish. With less than 3 miles to go on the SLR bike path Jaime finds a second wind and takes it up to about 19 MPH, I decide I can’t hold his wheel any longer and pull up. I guess my brain pulled up too, and I drift off the path onto some jagged rocks, A strong jolt through the body, I’m back on the path, somehow I didn’t crash, but my left elbow is searing in pain, I look down and my front wheel is wobbling. Stop. Hold the elbow. John asks if I am okay, I say no and he stops. The elbow starts to calm down, so we look at the wheel. The rim is bent. Spin, in the brakes. John opens the brakes, pulls out a spoke wrench and works on the wheel a bit. While still wobbling, John gets the wheel so I can limp home the last 3 miles.

Thanks to Kelly, John, and Jaime for the company. John and Kelly are experienced randos, and great knowledge. I think Jaime has been doing this for about as long as I have, but really made some strong gains lately, he was riding great today. Props to you, Jaime.

Okay the stats: 114.99 miles. 6,526 feet of elevation gain. Max HR 162. Max speed 40.5. Temperature range per Garmin: 64-120. 12 bottles of fluids consumed. (Water, Heed, Gatorade). Equivalent of another 2 or 3 bottles of water poured over head on body.

You can see the ride on Garmin Connect:

Observations: I’ve lost 155 pounds over 4 years. It’s time to make another move. The only way I’m going to get up climbs faster is by loosing more weight. I’m tired of being way off the back on all the climbs. I’m also considering talking to my mechanic about a wider range cassette, maybe the SRAM 11-32? Whenever the grade is at or over 7 percent, I no longer spin, I just grind.

Thanks for reading! If you like you can follow my cycling exploits and other musings on Twitter, I am @stevecycles200.