25 June 2005

Grand Tour Triple Century

Where did you go?
The ride started in Malibu (20 miles north of Santa Monica) and headed north on the PCH before turning inland through Ojai. At mile 143 we were back on the coast (Rincon Point) where the double riders headed south for the last 57. The triple riders went north to Gaviota for a 100-mile out and back before the last 57 miles from Rincon Point. Here’s a map.

How many people did the ride?
About 400 people did the 5 different rides; a double metric (126 miles), a lowland double, a highland double, a triple (after either the highland or the lowland doubles), and a quadruple (either triple with an extra 100-mile out and back at the end). It was put on by The LA Wheelman.

How far is 300 miles?
It is the same as riding from Philly to NYC back to Philly and then to NYC again. If you decided to head south from Philly you could make it to South Carolina. From LA you could ride to Mexico and back.

Why didn’t you do the quadruple?
All the rides had a 24-hour time limit. The 400-miler would require 4 back-to-back 6-hour centuries. That’s beyond my speed capabilities.

What did you eat?
Usually I eat a combination of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, fruit, Clif bars, Gatorade, pretzels, and random snack foods available at check points. Leading up to this ride I started using ‘liquid foods’ like Hammer Gel (a syrupy substance made up of various easily digestible carbohydrates) and Sustained Energy (SE). SE is a powder you add to your water bottles and supplies about 250 calories per two scoops. For this ride I ate about 75 f my calories from these two sources. My stomach did fine till about 2 hours before the end. At this point my caloric intake dropped and I think it affected my performance. After doing some research I think someone transferred a stomach virus to me via Ethiopian food Friday night.

How long did it take?
Amazingly I finished the first 100 and 200 miles in my fastest times ever: 5 hrs 45 min and 13 hrs respectively. My total time for the 300 was 20 hrs with a rolling average speed of 17.1 MPH.

What do you think about while you are riding?
Often boring stuff like my speed, how I am feeling, if I am eating enough, concentrating on staying smooth in the pace line, following the route, how much climbing is left and what I am going to eat when I am done. Beyond this tends to be very personal. When I am riding strong positivity and positive experiences fill my mind. With headwinds or on a particular difficult spot my emotions tend to dip and negative thoughts fill my head. I’ve experienced similar situations when touring alone. There have been times when I had to fight tears.

What’s next?
Morgan and I have been talking seriously for the last two months about The Furnace Creek 508. It is a non-stop, non-drafting 508-mile race through Death Valley. This is an overwhelming decision for me to make and the possibility of me training hard enough to complete it is questionable. It is constantly on my mind and I hope to make a decision in the next couple of weeks.

The Story Part:
Writing about these rides is becoming increasingly difficult. There is an obvious pattern: Go to sleep late in some sketchy place, start late, get dropped by fast riders, constantly pass slower riders, finish with a mediocre time.

This time one year ago I was contemplating the feasibility of riding a bicycle for 200 miles in one day. I had mentally committed to the Mt. Tam double century in August and started preparing for it. Nervously, I went out every weekend and rode a 100 plus miles. I finished that ride within 20 minutes of the cut-off, but was psyched on completing something that had previously been a far-off goal.

Riding the Grand Tour Triple Century has been on my calendar all year, but it did not hit me till about two weeks before when I told people what I was signed up for. It is a logical step to take after completing 8 doubles this year, but an increase in mileage of 50 s a lot of miles and a lot of time. Is this really something I want to do?

Friday night shaved my legs cramped into Morgan’s bathroom with 3 other people; one with a digital camera and one with a video camera. Rode over to Century city to crash at our friend Alex’s house. He’s a runner and the GT is his first double century. We set-up on the couch and are asleep by midnight or so. Up at 355am and we pile into Alex’s roommate’s car. 4 people and 3 bikes with no bike rack. Did our best to avoid cops on the way over. The church start point is bustling! We get our grab bags, hide our stuff, Morgan signs up to volunteer (his knee is bothering him), and Alex and I sign out by 545am. Many riders started around 430am and most had gone before us.

Next thing we know we are flying up the PCH in a paceline dominated by 5 racers. Within 20 miles we would pick up another 10 or so people trying to catch the draft. Alex, taking Morgan’s place as the person with the heaviest/shittiest bike, even held is own pulling for a while. First checkpoint and we are quick and head out with the racers. Petrero Rd. The same one from the Mulholland DC and the one we came down (and then went up for fun!) on the Different Spokes ride. First climb is moderate and I hang with the racers as we blow by people. At the steep climb I am blowing up. Heart monitor is showing some of the highest numbers I have ever seen. Legs are burning. At steep sections I have trouble turning the pedals as I pass people pushing their bikes. The racers edge over the top about 2 minutes ahead of me. I push over the top and change gears rapidly to catch them. Luckily checkpoint two appears and with them stopped I can regroup. We are quick and as we leave Alex rolls up. He swears about the insanity of the hills and we wish each other luck. I bounce with the five racers.

Morgan called Central Coast my first official roadie ride, but I think this one takes that claim. Pacing with the racers is incredible for my time, but is working my legs as I do my part in the front. First 80 miles with an average speed of 20.1 MPH. Occasionally they’d drop me on the hills and then I’d catch them again. At one point we catch a group and roll on with them to lunch. One guy is Eric Ostrich; we met him at the Fargo hill climb and have read his stories about The 508 (which he has won). I say what’s up to him and he asks me which ride I am doing. When I tell him the triple he asks if I am training for the 508. WTF? I mutter some response about how we don’t talk about that. He says, ‘Great I’ll see you there. Have you picked you totem yet?’ Fuck. Sometimes things are so obvious to other people that keeping it a secret is a joke.

I eat lunch in 20 minutes. Ready to head off on my own when the racers ask if I am ready. Acceptance? At mile 141 we turn south towards Rincon Point checkpoint two miles away. Some riders on the triple pass by heading North and someone asks, ‘Where the fuck are they going?’ This was their first double and the guy who suggested they do it explains that there is a triple option. One guy flips out about how he can’t believe people are doing that when he had been thinking how bad-ass he was for doing 200 miles. At the checkpoint I say bye and explain I am heading north. I feel more dumb-ass than bad-ass, but am thankful I was able to ride with them.

Headwinds and hills slowly destroy my positive mood. Two flat tires (one patch fail and one puncture) worsen the situation. Riding through Santa Barbara is beautiful and rather surreal in that I have been there three times now this year. I think about the kids we hung out with at Critical Mass and I imagine how odd it would be if I ran into one of them. Finally at mile 193 I exit the 101 and hit the checkpoint that is the turnaround point. They wish me well and I leave before two riders who had gotten there before me. Heading south I pick it up a bit to hit two hundred miles at 645pm.

Around dusk I get a little lost heading back through Santa Barbara. Read Carrillo St as Cabrillo St. I recognize that my mental status is slightly reduced. I love riding at dusk so I hammer on and end up passing another person. Back at Rincon Pt in the dark. I check my cell phone messages and have a conversation that does not quite make sense to me (sorry Carolanne! Happy Birthday!). My desire to eat is just about gone; even my intake of Sustained Energy has dipped. I eat a chocolate bar and feel sick to my stomach. The roads are surprisingly desolate and I am holding a pace strong enough to pass a couple of more people. At some point I end up with a guy I had passed early and we decide to ride together. He had started at 330am and did the lowland double, but at this point we are riding a similar pace. His wife is SAG-ing for him and is constantly leap frogging us.

At the mile 274 checkpoint I am a little delirious. I barely eat anything even though I know better. We leave together and I focus on our conversing to distract me from the slow pace. My heart rate, AVE speed, etc barely make any sense to me. When I hit a hill I go into my easiest gear and just spin. Legs are feeling the racer pace from the first 143. We stop so he can get a new battery for his light (I am already on my second which was already strapped to my top tube). Instantly I am freezing. Putting on my vest helps, but I am still seriously cold. This is when I question my sanity. Also a time when I must really focus on my safety. There is low traffic, but it is DARK. I stare out into the ocean and, of all the times I have looked at, it looks new to me. This image is forever frozen in my brain. The miles slowly tick away. Every hill feels like it should be the last one. Finally Pepperdine University appears on the mountainside and we see the stoplight where we turn towards the church. AS we turn someone calls out from a van wanting to know where the finish is. It’s Max! He’s there to pick me up and he follows up the hill to the end. My computer rolls over to 300. I check in and they give me my time. Morgan finds us and expects a full report. I tell him ‘hard’.

Obviously I am out of it. Obliterated. Having been up for nearly 24 hours with 20 of them riding my bike. We load the van and I mutter about how damn cold it is. They express concern because neither of them are cold. I fall asleep and wake up in a drive-thru. I ask what city we are in. Eat some burritos and mumble random details about the ride. Finally make it home and Megan had made me a cake! I apologize for not being able to eat it d/t stomach issues. Crawl into bed after a shower and try to make sense of it all. Can’t say I had any huge sense of accomplishment or machismo; just more of a smirk about what bikes can get you in to. Woke up in time on Sunday to ride to The Smell for my More Than Transportation workshop on touring by bike and to help with a checkpoint for the Serial Killer alley-cat style race by being a dead body (bike tube guts and all!) at Union Station. Yeah BikeSummer!

14 June 2005

Eastern Sierra double century staff ride

Friday night was the epic BikeSummer kick-off party at the Santa Monica pier. Over 350 people, many of which came on bikes. Hell yeah. Rode back at 2am and finally got to sleep around 345am. Up at 630am on Saturday for the Wheels of Steel DC training ride I had posted to the BikeSummer calendar. No one showed (surprise), so I did 20 miles alone and came home and went back to sleep. Up at 1pm, then to Tierra for vegan brunch before heading out on the 5 hour drive to Bishop in the Eastern Sierras.

Get to the hotel around 730pm to see the 14-15 hour crew of riders coming in. Exclamations of its difficulty abound. But it is only 10,000 feet of climbing. Most of the day is spent at 7-8000 ft high. Fuck. I don’t do well in high elevations and on Sunday’s ride I’d be feeling the elevation. We chill with the organizers and a guy I met at SF Critical Mass and then we go to eat. Taco Bell is the only thing open. Fuck it. Find a place to sleep in some bushes across the street next to a skate park. Sprinklers? None around. Asleep by 1130pm! Amazing. Almost 5 hours of sleep.

Crawl out of the bushes, go to the car, sort our bikes and roll over to the start. Everyone is ready and staring at us. Oh yeah, this is the staff ride we are doing for volunteering at The Heart Break DC . Only 8 peeps: 4 in the slow group (us) and 4 in the other. They leave cause they don’t want to ‘burn daylight’ (not that you are at risk of finishing in the dark when you do doubles in 12 hours). We leave 10 minutes late and catch the ‘slow’ group in about 15 miles. A big climb to start. Some tall dude takes off and we try to stick with him. It doesn’t happen. Our personal SAG vehicle greets us at the top of the climb and cheer us on. We’re in the front of the slow groups, kind of a weird feeling to be the fastest of the slow.

Scenery is unreal. Rolling right along GIANT snow covered mountains. Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 is in this range. We climb up to Mammoth Lakes. Despite the shitty suburban feel it is beautiful. Big, wonderful trees. Meanwhile I am feeling horrible. Lethargic. My breathing is feeling okay, but my ‘go’ is on pause. Could not get into the rhythm all day long. Morgan is feeling great and later would claim this was his best DC yet. We did a loop around these lakes that was unreal. Huge canyons with people skiing down! Love that shit. It is like a crazy resort town you would see in Colorado. California never ceases to amaze me. We end up back out on the main road (395) that runs between the Eastern Sierras and the Mountains that make up the Western side of Death Valley. Two very distinct regions and one road between them. It helped to distract from the fucking wind we dealt with all day. Got lost once and lost like 20 minutes. Two people DNF’d from our group. More wind after lunch then a left turn (East) into what looks more like a desert. The insane down hills begin! I topped 45 MPH on about half a dozen occasions. Top speed of the day, and in my life: 52.1 MPH. Holy shit. In the open desert it is so easy to pick up speed and not know it. Topped 50 three times. Unbelievable.

One more climb out of that valley and then, seriously, 36 miles of downhill to the end. I’m feeling better. Morgan is stoked and high on Hammer Gel. Finally I make the jump to consuming Sustained Energy (a liquid food that is luckily vegan). We end up with the last person in our group and we fly back to the end at an ave speed of close to 25 MPH. Our elapsed time is a very impressive (considering how I was feeling) 14 hours and 20 minutes. Better than 50%! Arguably we had worse conditions as well.

Change in the car, eat food at Amigos restaurant and chat with the waitress about all the long distance runners in Bishop (Are they training for the Badwater Ultra-marathon? Yep). Cruise around some more being big fish in a little pond then back to the skate park for bed. Not long after that the sprinklers kick on. Fuck it, I think, they can’t be on for that long. My sleeping bag is pretty water resistant. Back to sleep. Woken up with my feet wet. Morgan has already moved onto the concrete in the park (over the fence). I figure that if my feet are wet then they’ve been on for a long time and should go off any minute. Then some starts dripping on my face. I recognize the irony of my stubbornness that lets me finish DC’s but keeps me from moving to a dry spot to sleep….

On the drive back we turn around on the highway cause we see someone pushing a mountain bike up the road, heading north. We pull over and Mr. Jim Smith, age 71, was walking just cause he got tired. His $75 Huffy mountain bike was strapped with backpacks and had gallon water jugs hanging from it. The people you meet via bikes! He’s been traveling for 10 years by bike and has NOT BEEN INSIDE A HOUSE IN TEN YEARS. We swap some stories, give him a Clif Bar and say our good-byes. Whoa. Puts things in perspective as I drive the rental car back to Los Angeles to return to my job and my house (and laptop, cell phone,etc)…

13 June 2005

Central Coast double

Back up the coast for a ride! Central Coast DC is the last of the stage races and a beautiful route on top of that. Paso Robles, the starting point, is an odd town that is a mix of yuppies, rednecks and college kids. Not sure what to make of it. We find a construction site across the street from the park in the center of town starting point to sleep in. Wake up to the sounds of roadies clicking out of their shoes. We hop the fence in the back and carry our sleeping bags to the car discreetly. We have to sign ourselves in to leave on time with the main group. We stick with the ‘main’ lead group all the way to the first check point, after two decent climbs.

Heading north on the PCH is beautiful. Rolling hills, ocean views, all that stuff. The big climb is right off the coast, 8 miles up and over the mountain range to HWY 1. I take off my helmet and decide to push. Start passing people pretty consistently; but that is not as impressive as it sounds because we had taken too long at the checkpoints and were totally sandbagging it. After the downhill is lunch. Morgan shows up later than anticipated: he had flatted. We decide to split up.

Oh yeah I had bonked on the flat about 2 miles before lunch and had to get pulled in by some guy after a group I had passed on the hill overtook me. This was my first experience with truly bonking: just could not muster the energy to go a decent speed. After lunch I was still recovering and was not feeling so strong. I bunny hopped the cattle guard and a group behind me was quite impressed. We hit some headwinds and I was feeling stronger so I pushed on. When I’d pass people they’d jump on and ride in my draft. Pulled for about 5 miles and was a little annoyed that no one else jumped ahead. Even on the 49 MPH downhill people stayed right on my rear tire. Made a turn out of the wind and there is only one person behind me! He thanks me graciously and I am stoked he was appreciative. We chat for awhile as I recover.

Morgan claims this was my first ride at roadie speed. I’m very happy with my time and felt strong at the end of the 211 miles. Morgan gets in after me and I had already changed and found out that the meal did not have one vegetarian dish. Blah. We found a school to sleep at (my experience at the X-games in 1997 taught me not to sleep in the open, but Morgan did not and got caught in the sprinklers) and got a full 8 hours sleep. Stopped in San Luis Obispo at a rad coffee shop, promoted BikeSummer there and then again in Santa Barbara before heading back to LA.