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Posts Tagged ‘double century’

Saturday, March 23 in Solvang, California:

Before the ride:
I left Fremont at 11 on Friday morning after putting in a half day of work. Since I had plenty of time, I decided to drive down Highway 1 instead of 101. I hadn’t been on Highway 1 south of Monterey as an adult, and was hoping to get some good pictures of the coastline. Alas, the weather was not cooperating (it was drizzly/rainy), but I got a few decent pics.

It took a bit longer to get to Solvang than I’d anticipated, but I arrived at my hotel, the Inns of California, at 5:15, checked in and unloaded all of my bike stuff, and headed over to the Royal Coopenhagen hotel to check in for the ride. They were well-organized at the check-in, and I got some Planet Ultra decals for my bike. After wandering around town for a little while trying to find somewhere that had carb-loaded food (it seems that most Danish food isn’t!), I had a tasty meal at the Greenhouse Cafe, went back to my hotel, and got everything together. Its never a good idea to use untested equipment on a long ride like this, so I’d thoroughly checked out my new NiteRider lighting system before I left home, however, when I connected it at my hotel, all it would do is blink 6 times – ack! Thankfully I brought my backup light, a cheap-o 2AA-cell commuter light. Since I apparently would be using my backup light as my primary light, I went to the corner store and got 2 sets of spare batteries for it and then went to bed. I actually got almost 7 hours of sleep – the most I’ve ever gotten before a big ride! 🙂

Miles 1-38:
I woke up at 5:15, geared up, chugged down a bottle of Spiz, and headed over to the ride start at 5:45. The ride had a mass start at 6:00 (my first mass-start ride!). There were a couple hundred cyclists hanging out in the parking lot waiting for 6:00 to come, and once it did, after a brief safety & courtesy lecture, we all headed out.

It was misting/lightly raining as we rode out of town, but it wasn’t particularly cold, which was nice. Before long, folks had spread out a bit, and the next 7 miles went by quickly as it was impossible not to draft with so many folks on the road 🙂 A zig and a zag later, the route hit Foxen Canyon Rd, which the Solvang Century two weeks earlier went on in the opposite direction. There was a short little climb, then a looooong descent going past many vineyards. By this point it was intermittently raining rather heavily, but since the road was mostly downhill, and pretty straight for the most part, I was making pretty decent time anyways. There was a SAG vehicle & a police car at the bottom of one turn. I found out later that an unfortunate rider had hit a rock which blew out his tire, causing him to go off the road and break his collarbone – ouch! 😦

I was soaked through by now, and was wishing that I’d put on my shoe covers and my heavy, non-breathable (but waterproof) jacket, but it was just a few miles to the first rest stop, so I rode on. The Sisquoc rest stop (mile 38) was in a pretty, green valley, and was well-stocked with PB&Js, muffins, and other good eats. I mixed up a bottle of Spiz, had 1/2 a PB&J and a muffin, put on my shoe covers and waterproof jacket, and squeezed a bunch of water out of my long gloves, then hit the road again.

Miles 39-86:
It was still raining off and on, sometimes heavily, as I left Sisquoc and headed towards Santa Maria. I met a nice woman from Orange County and we rode together until … I flatted – argh! She was nice enough to stop while I changed my tire, but with cold fingers and wet tires, it took me a little while to change tubes, and she went on her way, understandably not wanting to stay still for long! After a bit more mussing about, I was back on my way. The route skirted Santa Maria and then headed out on Thompson Rd for a good long ways. A little bit before I hit the tiny town of Nipomo, I noticed that my tire felt a bit low again – oh no! Before long, I had to pull off and top it off. I resolved to take the time to properly fix my tire at the next rest stop where they’d hopefully have a floor pump.

In Nipomo, a fellow rider got on my wheel and stayed there for the next 10+ miles. I don’t mind folks drafting me (heaven knows I draft whenever the opportunity presents itself!), but this guy didn’t ask if I minded, didn’t tell me he was there, didn’t talk to me at all, nor did he thank me when he stopped to shed layers. Harrumph. After a bit more meandering, the route headed into San Luis Obispo (one of my favorite towns in California) on Orcutt Rd, a very pretty rural road that wound its way along some rolling hills. My tire was again getting low on air, and after stopping twice to pump it up, I got fed up and pulled over to fix it for good this time. After poking around with a penknife, I found a piece of glass that was the likely culprit. I removed it and put in my second (and last) spare inner tube and got back on the road.

There was supposedly a rest stop on Orcutt Rd. at a “small park on the left”, but I soon came to an intersection that was shown as being a few miles past rest stop #2 on the cue sheet! Planet Ultra did a great job of setting expectations for the ride (no food at the ride end, no markings on the road, etc), but it would have been awfully useful to have had a cone, sign, or something pointing out where the rest stop was! Several other riders near me also missed the rest stop, but fortunately I’m moderately familiar with San Luis Obispo as my sister lives there, and I knew we’d be going by a 7-11 before too long.

I met Kristin, a rider from Berkeley, and we rode with another fellow until we came to the 7-11. We stopped there for a few, while Kristin went in and got some food & water. I didn’t have any cash on me, not expecting to need any (though I had a credit card as always), so Kristin paid for a liter of water – thanks! 🙂 There were several other riders at this little strip-mall, some of whom were making use of the nearby laundromat to dry off their clothes – not a bad idea! They were not too pleased with the weather, and decided to shortcut the route, skip the Morro Bay loop, and head directly through SLO to the 3rd rest stop. Kristin and I had no such desires, as we wanted to do the whole ride, it wasn’t raining at the moment, and it’d be a shame to miss out on riding through beautiful Morro Bay. I mixed up another bottle of Spiz and ate a Clif Bar, then we headed out.

Miles 87-115:
The route went right past my sister’s apartment, but I didn’t see her car, or I’d have stopped by. Then we headed northwest on Hwy 1 out to Morro Bay. This is a lovely stretch of highway with wide shoulders and lovely rolling hills dotted with the occasional volcanic plug (Morro Rock is the west-most of these). It was sprinking off and on again here, but not irritatingly so.

At almost exactly the 100mi point, we exited Hwy 1 and entered Morro Bay. The route went along the waterfront, affording great views of Morro Rock, the Harbor, and the cute stores in this seaside village. We stopped for a few near the aquarium and ate a gel, then continued through Morro Bay State Park out to Los Osos Valley Rd. Los Osos was a great road to cruise on, and I went ahead at my own pace, since there weren’t any turns before the next rest stop, so I didn’t have to worry about losing Kristin. Before too long, I arrived at rest stop #3 at Laguna Lake Golf Club (116mi). I chowed on a Subway sandwich, mixed up some more Spiz, ate an energy bar, and hung for a little while as there was only 74 miles to go 🙂 After we’d sated ourselves, Kristin & I hit the road again.

Miles 116-145:
The course headed south’ish, passing Avila Hot Springs, and continuing on the same route that the AIDS Ride went on. We went through Pismo Beach and Shell Beach on PCH (AKA Hwy 1), a really lovely route along the very-southern-Californian coastline. After leaving the little coastal towns, Hwy 1 went through some farmlands and climbed up a lovely little hill overlooking the ocean. It was starting to get twilight’ish by now, but we weren’t too far from the next rest stop, where Kristin had her night gear. Before too long, we arrived in Guadalupe at the rest stop (145mi) and hung out for a little bit, me mixing up yet another bottle of Spiz (and my last), and Kristin getting her nighttime gear. She was extremely well-prepared, with glove warmers, extra layers, and the whole nine yards! It was getting cold’ish, so I put on both my lightweight breathable windbreaker and my heavy non-breathable one along with my not-quite-dry-yet long gloves.

Miles 146-172:
From Guadalupe, we continued on Hwy 1 south for a while under the setting sun until it was completely dark, and we rode on in the magical silence of the night. The traffic was very light on Hwy 1, and it was very peaceful riding along under the slight moonlight. 16 miles later we turned off on Hwy 135 to Los Alamos, and the route was even more rural for the next 11mi until we rolled into the last rest stop (172mi) at an abandoned old gas station.

The staff at the rest stop took a picture of us, we ate yummy cup-o-noodles, energy bars, etc., relaxed for a while, then headed out.

Miles 173-190:
The staff at Los Alamos said that there was a big climb awaiting us that would take an hour or so to finish. It was only supposed to be about 800′ of climbing over 3.5 miles, so I was wondering why they thought it would take so long. The climb up Centennial St. was gorgeous (I assume, since it was dark ;-), and not that difficult at all. There were markings on the road evidencing the passage of many cyclists. My favorite was the writing on the road that said, “You’re almost there!” 15 minutes and some steep’ish switchbacks later, the writing continued, “We lied!” 🙂 Before too terribly long, we reached the top of the climb and tentatively headed downwards.

At this point my headlight started flickering and then went out. This was well before it should have gone out, but it was using the lame-o no-name batteries that came with it, and I’d brought 2 spare sets, so I replaced the batteries and went on my merry way. 5 minutes later my light flickered and died again – eek! And I replaced the batteries again, and it died again. Hmmmmm. I can only assume that my batteries and/or light didn’t appreciate getting soaked earlier in the day. Fortuntaely Kristin’s light was holding up just fine, so I followed her the rest of the way down Centennial to Hwy 246. There was a van signalling the final turn on the course, and we continued for the last 9 miles to Solvang and the finish!

Finished!
We arrived at the finish at 10:22 and checked in. Turned out there were only 4 people behind us on the course! The organizers snapped a pic of us, we ate a bowl of split-pea soup they generously provided (the ride claimed to not have any food at the finish line), and I went back to my hotel and took a nice 10 hour nap 🙂

I wandered around Solvang for a while on Sunday morning, taking pictures and generally enjoying the quaintness of this strange little town. After a yummy lunch at A Taste of Denmark, I headed homeward.

Ride Stats:

Distance: 190.5mi
Total Time: 16h 22m
On-bike Time: 13h 49m
Average Speed: 13.8mph
Average Speed (including stops): 11.6mph
Maximum Speed: 45.1mph
Total Climbing: ~7,000 ft

Ride Rating:

Difficulty: 3 (relative to other double centuries – as far as rides in general go, any double is pretty darned hard!)
Support: 4 – overall very good… except for my missing checkpoint #2!
Food: 4
Route: 5 – gorgeous!
Overall: 4

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Saturday, September 29 in Vacaville, California:

This ride was to be my third double century for 2001 (and my third double century ever, for that matter), the other two being Davis and the Grand Tour, and, if I finished it, completion of the California Triple Crown, and all of the bragging rights that confers 🙂 I was pretty anxious about this ride, as 1) I really wanted to get the triple crown this year, 2) at 200 miles and 12,000 feet of climbing, this would be by far the hardest ride I’ve ever done, and 3) I hadn’t been riding very much at all since the Holstein Hundred on August 19th.

Before the ride:
I took a half day on Friday and drove up to Vacaville at 1. I arrived in Vacaville at about 2:40 and met several other cyclists doing the ride at the Motel 6. After checking in and putting my stuff in my room (a nasty, smelly room – $45/night gets you what you pay for!), I headed to the pre-ride checkin at Pena Adobe Park. It took a couple of tries to find the park (the directions said “veer left” when they meant “turn left”), but I found it quickly enough, signed in, and got my goodie bag, T-shirt (for once, a polo shirt – cool!), and jersey. I went back to town, had a delicious and nutritious dinner at Jack In The Box (yeah right :), then went back to my room filled up my water bottles, prepared a bottle of Spiz, and read for a while. I was up later than I’d intended to be (darn those engrossing books!), and wasn’t in bed until almost midnight. Some *expletive deleted* next door was singing loudly (and verypoorly) off and on for quite some time, and whenever any of the numerous people who asked him to shut up, he’d reply “its a free show – enjoy it!” Grrrrrrrr. My wakeup call never came, but fortunately I’d set the alarm clock in my cellphone as well, so at 3:45, I woke up (rather blearily!). I suited up and drove over to the ride start and got ready.

Miles 0-37:
Since it is fully dark at 4:40am this time of year, I waited around for some other cyclists before starting, as my light, a 2C cell Cateye, isn’t all that bright. Before long, a group of 5 or so folks formed up and we headed out at about 4:50. We headed out at a good pace, with a fellow who had a nice, bright light leading the way 🙂 He was kind enough to pull us along for a good many miles before pulling to the back of the group. The route headed east on a frontage road to I-80 towards Fairfield. We went through Fairfield at a very good clip, as there were enough streetlights to see very clearly, and the roads were good. This was the last urban riding we would do for a very, very long time! We went along Wooden Valley Cross Rd. and Wooden Valley Rd. for 5’ish miles then came to the foot of Mt. George on Highway 121.

I wasn’t having any trouble hanging with the group so far, but now that the road turned upwards, I was struggling to keep up. I decided there was no sense at all in blowing out this early in the ride, so I dropped off the back of the group and rode alone for a while. Unfortunately, my batteries in my headlight were fading and flickering, so I couldn’t keep a very good pace on the descent of Mt. George. It was very beautiful and peaceful riding alone in the darkness with the bright stars above. I haven’t done very much night riding at all previously, but I was really enjoying this! As I descended Mt. George, the sun started to rise over the Napa valley – this was abosultely gorgeous! After descending into the Napa valley and jogging on a couple of streets along the foot of Atlas Peak, I headed northwest on Silverado Trail. 6.7 miles later, I pulled into rest stop #1 at the Napa Valley Ecological Preserve (37 miles). This rest stop was very well-stocked with coffee (which I passed on, wanting to save caffeine kicks for later!), bagels, muffins, and other good eats. I hung for a few, had a muffin, and filled a water bottle with another serving of Spiz.

Miles 38-71:
It was still pretty chilly (low 40s), so I left my kneewarmers and windbreaker on when I headed back out. The route jogged around back to Silverado Trail and continued northwest for a while until I came to the foot of Howell Mountain. The climb up Howell Mountain was gorgeous! I looked back to a lovely view of the sun over the Napa hills, and a bunch of hot air balloons taking slowly rising from the valley floor. I met a nice fellow and rode with him for much of the climb. He’d done the Davis Brevet series (whose culmination is the 1200km Gold Rush brevet – oww!), and we talked of various rides we’d done. He was good company, and we settled into a comfortable (ie. not fast 🙂 pace. A short ways up the climb, I stopped to remove my windbreaker and knee warmers, as it was warming up quickly as the sun rose higher in the sky. Howell Mountain Rd. turned into White Cottage Rd. and continued climbing for another 4 miles, but it wasn’t too steep, and was very scenic. At the end of White Cottage, we rejoined Howell Mountain Rd. and enjoyed a 2 mile, technical descent into Pope Valley. This descent was a lot of fun, with good pavement, and a good mix of fast sweeping turns and tight squirrely turns. From the bottom of Howell Mountain, we went east along Pope Canyon for 10 miles to rest stop #2 at Lake Berryessa (71 miles). Like the first rest stop, this one was well-stocked with V8, PB&Js, bagels, chips, etc. I snacked a bit (OK, quite a bit :), stretched, and crammed my headlight and kneewarmers into my saddle bag.

Miles 72-108:
I’d heard that the next stretch, along Knoxville Rd., was 37 miles and 4000′ of climbing – not too bad at all (on paper, assuming an even grade. You know what they say about assuming…). The first 15 or so miles on Knoxville Rd. were lovely, gentle rolling hills. There was a seasonal river along the road, which it frequently crossed on very bumpy ramps. The riverbed itself was the road on these crossings, so the road is impassable during high water as a sign warned. There was virtually no traffic at all on this stretch, and I was making good time, and feeling pretty decent, passing many people. I played leapfrog with several riders, passing them when it was flat’ish, and being passed by them on the larger rollers. Alas, this was not to last, and the road turned sharply upwards as did the temperature (low to mid 90s). This first climb didn’t appear to be all that steep, but it was really putting the hurt on me! I was no longer passing anybody (but not many folks were passing me either!) as I slowly crawled upwards at 4-5mph, baking in the heat, and not at all appreciating the rather brisk headwind that remained with us for the whole climb up Knoxville Rd. After what seemed an eternity, I arrived at a very welcome water stop (94 miles).

I stayed a little while, filling up my water bottles and having some energy drink. Discouragingly, I was getting fairly fatigued by this point – not a good sign as I wasn’t even halfway done! I realized then that there was no way I was going to finish the ride before sunset, so decided to take it easier for the remainder. After coaxing myself to leave the water stop, I continued on Knoxville Rd. to another fairly nasty climb. These climbs were puzzling me, as they didn’t look all that steep, but I was having a tough time getting up them! I appeared to be in good company, though, as nobody was exactly blasting past me up the hills 🙂 Finally, the climb was over, and I was treated to two really fun, fast downhills – woo hoo! This descent, though not too long, was a screamer. If I knew the road at all, no brakes would have been required, and as it was, they were barely needed. I hit 50mph on the first downhill, and most of both of them were spent at well over 40mph – you gotta love that! In no time at all, I pulled into the lunch stop at Lower Lake County Park (108 miles).

The lunch stop was very well-equipped, with delicious tuna sandwiches with apple and grapes in them, turkey sandwiches, chips, soda, etc. I wasn’t feeling great (again, worrysome since there were 90 miles to go!), so I stayed quite a while at lunch, being sure to drink a lot, and eat a lot. I had originally hoped to make the cut-off for the optional 5 mile loop near the end that would bring the mileage to exactly 200, but this was out of my grasp too. “Just as well,” I thought, as it entailed a pretty nasty-sounding climb 180 miles into the ride! At lunch I ran into Galen, whom I’d met on the Grand Tour. I hadn’t yet seen Felix, though, and he hadn’t checked in on the sheet at lunch, so I figured either he didn’t show up, or was behind me. After spending about an hour at the lunch stop, I (somewhat reluctantly) hit the road again. This was proving to be a much harder ride than I had anticipated!

Miles 109-133:
Shortly after leaving lunch, the course went up Seigler Canyon. This climb took a lot out of me (not that there was much left in me to begin with at this point!)! I then went down Big Canyon Rd. I recognized Big Canyon from theDavis Double, which was heartening, as the Davis Double went the opposite direction and I remember the climb being long’ish, which meant we were in for a long’ish descent! Sure enough, before too long (but not quickly enough!), I enjoyed the descent on Big Canyon, which was followed by some gentle rolling hills into Middletown and onto Butts Canyon Rd. This went past Detert Reservoir, again the opposite direction of the Davis Double, but it looked very different this time of year with the hills browning, and the water low. It was still very pretty, though, and I (slowly) enjoyed the next few miles to rest stop #4 at the Guenoc Winery (133 miles). After a short climb up the winery’s gravel driveway, it was again time for some power relaxing 🙂 This was a nice stop, with shaded benches next to the winery’s main building. I thought it was very kind of the winery to let the ride have a rest stop here (especially since there isn’t anything else nearby). I’ll have to check out their wines sometime (and so should you :). Like the others, this stop was well-stocked, and I munched a bunch. I still wasn’t feeling very well, but a bit better than at lunch, and now there were “only” 64 miles to go!

Miles 134-166:
I went back down the gravel driveway of the winery and continued south on Butts Canyon Rd for another 11 miles. Much like the previous 6 miles on Butts Canyon, this was very scenic, with mostly gentle rolling hills (not that the “gentle” uphill rollers didn’t hurt, mind you!). Butts Canyon Rd. turned into Pope Valley Rd and went through Pope Valley again (we’d been here before in the morning), continuing on Pope Valley Rd for a number more miles, then turned on Highway 128, 7 miles from the second-to-last rest stop. By now, my primary concern was to get to the 5th rest stop before sundown so I could change the batteries in my headlight and find a group of riders to ride with. The sun was falling quickly, but I made it to the old Lakeside Market (mile 166) at around 7, before full darkness arrived. This stop was really well-stocked, with hot dogs, instant potato soup, and cup-o-noodles! I had 2 hot dogs, a cup of potato soup, 2 bags of chips, and a Mountain Dew here to ensure that my energy levels stayed high enough to finish the ride (though this far into it there was no way I was not going to finish!). A group of 3 other riders were preparing to leave, so I joined them (the ride (wisely) wouldn’t allow riders to leave rest stops alone after dark).

Miles 167-182:
The riders I left the rest stop with were a good match speed-wise, and we motored along Highway 128 at a pretty decent clip for the next 16 miles. One of the riders, who has done a number of other double centuries remarked on how difficult he was finding this one (I certainly didn’t argue!). There were some climbs on Hwy 128, mostly not _too_ bad, but very painful nonetheless (anything but downhill was painful at this point!). It was fully dark, with a bright moon and a clear view of the stars, as we did the last couple of larger climbs, including the reverse side of “Cardiac Hill”, which wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d imagined it would be. It was bright enough that we could have seen without our headlights (though other vehicles would have had a hard time seeing us!). A nice thing I discovered about climbing hills at night is you can’t see very far up them at all, so you don’t get psyched out by them 🙂 In short order, we arrived at the final rest stop at the Pardesha Store (mile 182). I was very happy that they put the last couple of rest stops relatively close together! They had really tasty chili, more instant soup, and various other eats, and we rested for a few before heading out for the final 13 mile leg of the ride. I was going to make it!

Miles 183-195:
We rode along Pleasant’s Valley Rd., enjoying the moonlit hills and almost total lack of cars. As we rode, my headlight started bouncing insanely around on my handlebars, and before I could do much about it, it ended its agony by jumping off of my bars, smashing into the road, and rolling into the bushes. Good thing it was a cheap light! I didn’t bother stopping, as it sounded like it broke rather un-fixably when it hit the road, and we were so close to the finish now. Of course this meant I couldn’t lead our group if I’d wanted to (and I didn’t, really 🙂 since I had no headlight, but we rode along at a good clip, energized by how close we were to the finish. After a couple of small rolling hills, we could see Highway 80 and knew it was only a matter of yards until we were done! We pulled into the finish at 10:15, signed in (apparently there were ~35 riders still on the course when we finished), and feasted on delicious bowtie pasta salad, rigatoni w/marinara sauce, salad, and BBQ chicken breasts. I’d completed my goal of finishing the California Triple Crown for 2001!

Epilogue:
I headed back to my hotel at around 10:45 and saw a recumbent pulling in. I wondered if it was my friend Felix (it was, as I’d later find out). I called my folks from the hotel and promptly passed out 🙂

The Knoxville website said this was a good course for beginners. What are they smoking!?!? I found this ride to be aLOT tougher than either the Davis or Grand Tour double centuries, and everybody I talked to thought it was quite difficult as well (though everybody also said they had a really good time – I surely did!). The website lists the ride at 12,000′ of climbing, Felix talked to one of the staffers who said it was 13,000′ of climbing, and my Cateye altimeter (which isn’t known for its accuracy) claimed it was 15,800′ of climbing. It sure felt like more than 12,000 to me, that’s for sure!

This ride was great overall! It was by far the hardest ride I’ve ever done, but also one of the most beautiful, and the almost complete lack of car traffic on most of the route only made it that much more enjoyable. The support was superb, the people friendly – what else can I say?

Ride Stats:

Distance: 194.4mi
Total Time: 17h 25m
On-bike Time: 13h 58m
Average Speed: 13.9mph
Average Speed
(including stops):
11.2mph
Maximum Speed: 50.0mph
Total Climbing: ~12,000 ft

Ride Rating:

Difficulty: 5
Support: 5
Food: 5
Route: 5
Overall: 5 – tough, but sweet!

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Saturday, June 24 in Malibu, California:

Before the ride:
I left Fremont at 9:45 on Friday and headed down 101 towards Malibu. At 4:15, I pulled into Webster Elementary School in Malibu, the start/finish of the ride. The early check-in wasn’t supposed to start until 5, so I hung around and talked to a few folks for a while. One fellow, who lives in Humboldt, rode his bike from Humboldt to Davis, then caught the train from Davis to Santa Barbara, then cycled from there to Malibu, and was planning on returning the same way starting on Sunday – yikes! I got some good route information from one of the members of the LA Wheelmen, the ride organizers. I checked in as soon as checkin opened, then had to wait for a while for the woman handling the dorm reservations to arrive. They had a ton of route options – 100mi, 200 lowland, 200 highland, 300 lowland, 300 highland, 400 lowland, and 400 highland (all with 24hr cutoffs!). I later found out only 2 people attempted the 400 mile route, and 18 tried the triple (I don’t know how many actually finished).

It was really great that they had a block of dorms at Pepperdine University’s Malibu campus, just across the street from Webster Elementary, and they were really cheap! $20/night plus a $11 one-time linen fee. Waaaay cheaper than one could ever hope for a hotel in Malibu 🙂 I met 3 nice folks from Fresno, and after we’d dropped our gear in our dorm rooms, we all went to dinner and loaded up on carbs (mmmmm, pasta!). After dinner, I got my gear together and went to bed around 9:30 and slept horribly, as my roommate (who I never did meet) snored, there were lots of loud cars going by all night, and I was suffering from the usual pre-ride jitters, as this would be my hardest one-day ride ever.

I had set my alarm for 3:30, but my roommate had his set for 3:00, and despite my best efforts to sleep through it, I was fully awake by 3:10. I geared up, filled my water bottles, ate a Clif Bar (the breakfast of champions – NOT! :), and hit the road at about 4:30.

Miles 0-45:
The route started out going north on the Pacific Coast Hwy, a really beautiful stretch of road that hugs the Pacific Ocean. As it was fully dark, however, I couldn’t really appreciate it 🙂 About 18 miles up the road, the sun started to rise over the Santa Monica mountains and I could switch off my headlight. Soon after, a large paceline passed me, and I hopped on their tail as we motored towards the first rest stop at Port Hueneme Community Center (35 miles). There were a bunch of very spirited folks in this paceline, hooting and hollering whenever the spirit moved them, which was fun. At the rest stop, I ate a bunch of yummy nutbread, filled up my water bottles, and proved that I am almost totally unfamiliar with Southern California by mis-pronouncing “Hueneme” (its correctly pronounced “wy-nee-mee” – yeah, that’s obvious!).

Miles 46-80:
From Port Hueneme I headed east to the first big climbs of the day on Potrero Rd. Potrero Rd. winds its way along the Santa Monica Mountains. This was a really beautiful road! The first climb, while only 1/2 mile long, was pretty darned steep. Soon thereafter I got to the second climb, which the route sheet described as “VERY DIFFICULT for 1 mile” and boy was it not kidding! This turned out to be by far the hardest climb of the day. I saw a couple of folks walking up this hill. The difficulty of the climb was nicely offset by the beauty of the surroundings, with a valley far below, and rocky mountains across it covered in interesting foliage. After several more climbs, Potrero Rd. curved around Lake Sherwood in Westlake Village, then headed into Thousand Oaks. This was a really nice town, but looked quite expensive. We headed north into Simi Valley, then west to rest stop #2 at Glenwood Park in Moorpark. I had a bottle of Spiz, grabbed some Hammer Gel (absolutely awful stuff, IMHO) and a few Powerbars, topped off my water bottles, and headed back on my way.

Miles 81-118:
The next leg of the route went north along Grimes Canyon, a pretty, desolate road with a nice climb in the middle, and a great descent at the end. The descent was full of sweeping turns, and there was very little traffic – whee! Grimes Canyon ended near the tiny town of Bardsdale in the middle of a ton of orange orchards. We turned west on South Mountain Rd., which, oddly enough, went along South Mountain (someone ran out of mountain names, I guess!). This too was really pretty, with South Mountain on one side, and the orchards on the other. Soon I arrived in Santa Paula, the halfway point of the ride. This was a boring, icky little town that I was glad I didn’t spend more than a mile or two in. After leaving Santa Paula, it was north onto Hwy 150/Ojai Rd. to lunch. I had been dreading Ojai Rd., as I’d heard horror stories about how difficult it is in the heat, but fortune was smiling on the ride, and it was pretty reasonable in the high 80s. At the bottom of the climb, I stopped at Steckel Park to refill my bottles, and met a nice fellow riding an old Schwinn Paramount who I’d been playing leapfrog with (he climbed faster than I did, but I was faster on the flats and downhills), and we rode together most of the way to Ojai. The climb itself was long (8 miles), but not particularly steep, and having company to chat with made the time go by quickly. Before I knew it we were at the top of the climb, and we enjoyed a 6 mile descent to Ojai.

For some reason, I had it in my head that Ojai would be a icky town like Santa Paula was, but nothing could have been further from the truth! It was a very lovely, green town, surrounded on all sides by rugged mountains. After a short, but pretty, ride on Grand Ave., I pulled into the lunch stop at Sarzotti Park. There weren’t a whole lot of people at lunch. I don’t know if this was because most had already gone through, or because most hadn’t yet arrived, but there were only about 25 folks around. Lunch was turkey sandwiches with pasta salad – yummy (of course after 117 miles, almost anything is yummy! :). I hung around for a bit and met a 75-year old man who was doing the ride for the umpteenth time – wow! I had another bottle of Spiz just to make sure I had enough nutrients in me, stretched for a while, then headed back out.

Miles 119-138:
After a confusing series of turns, it was back to Hwy 150 (which was AKA Baldwin Rd. at this point, and headed west). The next 15 miles were mostly along rolling hills. I came up on a group of riders, and we pacelined for a good ways. The road went along Lake Casitas for a ways, which was very pretty. I (foolishly) took a really long pull at the front of the paceline for about 15 minutes or so, and then we hit the last two big hills. These 2 climbs really put the hurt on me. It wasn’t so much that they were particularly steep, but I was getting a bit fatigued by this point (taking a long pull on the paceline certainly didn’t help!). After struggling to the top of the last climb, I was rewarded with a nice 5 mile downhill to rest stop #3 at Rincon Point, just south of Carpenteria. They had cup-o-noodles, pretzles, and various other snacks here. I decided it was too warm for cup-o-noodles (it was in the mid-to-high 80s) munched, had my last bottle of Spiz, stretched for a while again, and continued on to the last 60 miles.

Miles 139-166:
The route went south on Hwy 101 for 5 miles along the coast to Seacliff, along the old highway (now mostly lined with RVs), then onto a bike path. Much of the rest of the route was the same as the last 2 days of the AIDS Ride, but I wasn’t complaining, as its absolutely gorgeous! A tandem wearing Wildflower Century jerseys (OK, the captain & stoker were wearing the jerseys, not the tandem 🙂 passed me on the path, so I caught up to them (good draft plus twice the company!) and we wound up riding together for the remainder of the ride. Galen (captain) and Catherine (stoker) were from Sacramento, and this was Catherine’s first double century. They were doing the lowland route (a wise choice for one’s first double!), which was the same as the highland route in many places. We rode at a good clip (20mph or so) and in short order arrived back at the Port Hueneme Community Center, which served double duty as the first and last rest stops. They had really yummy homemade soup there, which I gladly devoured, as well as cheese and crackers, which were also great. I met a 12-year old girl who was doing her first solo double (she’d done the triple century option the previous year on a tandem with her father). I can’t imagine even being interested in doing this sort of thing at that age! After the usual stretching and briefly lying down in the grass (it was hard to get up from that!), we continued on the last leg of the ride.

Miles 167-201:
We were making great time, and I was now assured of making my goal of finishing before dark, as it was just over 30 miles to the finish, and it was only about 5:45 when I left Port Hueneme. This final leg was the reverse of the first leg, but it wasn’t dark out, so I could appreciate the beauty of the coastline which we rode along for the last 25 miles. As we got into Malibu, I remembered that there are some not-all-that-small rolling hills left to conquer before finishing – oh no! I had a heck of a time keeping up with Catherine & Galen on the flats & downhills, and it was hard even keeping up on the uphills, which are not tandems’ forte. I was very glad that we’d hooked up, as the miles melt away much faster when one has good company. We joked about the hills (“we’re going south so it must be all downhill, right?”) and generally had a fast and fun return trip. I nearly lost them entirely on the last two hills, but caught up just as we were making the second to last turn, 0.6 miles from the finish 🙂

I pulled into Webster Elementary at 7:40 – well before dark! I was very pleased that I’d shaved off a couple of hours from my time on the Davis Double, and maintained a much better average. I checked in and got my patch and goodie bag, then ate. They had really yummy beans ‘n rice with cheese and crackers at the finish – not particularly gourmet, but boy did it taste good! There was a good live blues band playing, and I chatted with Catherine and Galen for a while, then Galen went to get a massage (why I didn’t think to get one is beyond me!). Galen was so kind as to give me a lift back to Pepperdine (it would have been a pretty nasty climb otherwise, and I really didn’t want to get back on my bike just yet!). We parted ways at the dorms and I dropped my stuff off in my room, had a beer (Mmmm!), and called my folks, and was asleep by 10:30.

Epilogue:
I woke up on Sunday and started the long drive back up to Fremont. I stopped off in San Luis Obispo and had lunch in Morro Bay with my sister (who lives in SLO) and my folks (who were visiting her). It was an otherwise uneventful (but bloody long) drive back home.

What a wonderful ride this was! The scenery was the best of any ride I’ve done, with the possible exception of the Markleeville Death Ride, and the support was great. I can see why this is the oldest double century in the US (this was its 52nd year or something). It took a little getting used to having rest stops so far apart (most of the other organized rides I do have the stops 20’ish miles apart). I would recommend this ride to anyone considering a double in a heartbeat!

Ride Stats:

Distance: 201.1mi
Total Time: 15h 11m
On-bike Time: 12h 25m
Average Speed: 16.0mph
Maximum Speed: 44.5mph
Total Climbing: ~7300 ft

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Saturday, May 19 in Davis, California:

This was to be my first double century, so I was rather apprehensive about it. My longest ride so far was 128 miles on the Grizzly Peak Century, which was a little bit hillier, but 72 miles shorter!

Before ride day:

In the days before the ride, I was trying to force myself to get up early and go to bed early so I could have a chance of getting something approaching a reasonable amount of sleep the night before the ride. I woke up at 5am on Friday, put in a nearly full day of work, and headed out towards Davis at 1:30pm. I had (foolishly) thought that leaving at 1:30 would beat the traffic. Ha! 2 hours and 45 minutes later, I pulled into the Davis HoJo (this drive should have taken about 1hr 15min) and checked in. I think I had been lucky to get a room near the start in Davis, as I’ve been told the nearby rooms fill up early. At 5 I drove over to Davis High School to check in for the ride and do some more carbo-loading. The registration went very smoothly, and I sat down with a heaping plate of penne pasta and salad. The food wasn’t terrific, but I didn’t really care, as it would provide much-needed energy for the next day. While eating, I talked to a number of Davis Double veterans, and got some tips for the ride (the usual tips – drink lots, eat lots, pace yourself, all good advice!). I headed back to the hotel around 6:30 and milled around for a while before going to bed. I had trouble sleeping due to my excitement, but got to bed around 10pm.

Ride day – the beginning:

My wakeup call came at 3am as ordered, and I blearily rose, donned my bike clothes, drank some coffee, and mixed up a bottle of Spiz liquid food, my favorite pre-ride “meal” because its extremely easy to digest (even if it doesn’t taste particularly good). I packed my jersey pockets with 3 more ziplocs of Spiz, 4 double-caffeine Power Gels, my knee warmers and windbreaker, and my sunglasses & bike mirror, and headed out. The outside thermometer in my car was reading 65° – at 3:30am, this forecast a very warm day! After arriving at Davis High School, topping off my tires, and turning on my headlight and taillight, I hit the road at 4:10.

Miles 0-22 – the dark hours:

I rode along the Davis streets for a few miles until the route went out of town. It was quite dark once we left Davis as there were no street lights illuminating the road, but I soon hooked up with 2 other folks, and we pacelined along (though cautiously, as we couldn’t see the irregularities in the road surface very well at all) maintaining a good speed, roughly 20mph. My light kept turning upwards whenever I’d hit even a small bump, which was annoying. Guess I need a more secure mount for it…

As we rolled into the first rest stop at Farnham Ranch, the sun was rising rapidly, so I took off my headlight, but left on the taillight for extra visibility. It was only then that I noticed what one of the fellows I was riding with was on – he was riding a Schwinn single-speed beach cruiser with coaster brakes and really wide tires! Wow! The folks I had been riding with stayed only a minute or two, but I stayed longer to use the facilities, eat some bread, and top off my water bottles. While there, I ran into Deb, who I’d met on the I Care Classic the weekend before, and her husband (whose name escapes me at the moment), but they were in and out of the rest stop in no time at all. I would see them many more times during the ride, though.

Miles 23-75:

After the first rest stop, the route went out to Winters and started to gently turn upwards. We went by the south shore of Lake Berryessa, which was very pretty. By this time, there were a lot of 4x4s towing boats out to the lake. I was glad to have my mirror so I could see them coming. I hooked up with a paceline of tandems and we motored along at 20+mph to rest stop #2 at Markley Cove. My strategy was to spend 5-10 minutes at most rest stops, with longer stops at miles 50, 100, and 150 to drink a bottle of Spiz and get a good stretch in, so I spent a little while at this stop, drank 2 cans of V8, chugged a bottle of Spiz (mmmm, thick and chocolatey), and headed back out. V8 isn’t really what one might expect on a ride like this, but it tasted really good, and provided much-needed sodium.

Then came the first climb of the day, “Cardiac Hill”. The name proved much scarier than the hill itself, which wasn’t particularly difficult at all (though it was very scenic). I just plunked it down into my granny gear and did an easy spin up the hill. I wanted to conserve energy on the hills, especially the early ones, so I could be assured of having enough energy for the afternoon.

After Cardiac Hill, there was a nice descent, followed by some rollers along the hills near Lake Berryessa. I picked up another tandem to draft, and were were again cruising at 20+mph. I was definitely liking this tandem drafting thing! The tandem though, missed the turnoff on Lower Chiles Valley Rd. despite my shouting at them from 2 feet back, and I didn’t see them again. Rest stop #3 was only 15mi after #2, so I spent very little time there, just topping off my bottles and grabbing a quick bite. I saw Deb again at this stop, and rode with her & her hubby for the next several miles. This was Deb’s first double century too, and her husband was making sure they didn’t spend too much time at rest stops. Deb dropped back on some rollers, and I rode a while with her hubby – he is an extremely strong rider, who finished the Davis Double with a rolling average of 19mph last year – yowwch! He was a nice fellow, and we rolled along chatting for a ways until he decided that in the interest of harmonious marital relations, he should probably wait up for Deb 🙂

At mile 75 I pulled into rest stop #4 in Pope Valley. I must not have spent very long there, as I don’t remember it at all 🙂 I did appreciate the frequency of the rest stops – it made it a lot easier to pace myself and gave ample opportunites to stretch out.

Miles 76-133:

The route continued onwards past Hubcap Heaven, a ranch with about a mile or so of fence that’s almost completely covered by hubcaps – a rather odd sight in the middle of nowhere! After a short climb, we passed by Detert Reservoir, a very pretty lake on Butts Canyon Rd. There weren’t really any pacelines around me at this point, and the few I saw were waaaay faster than I wanted to go, so I just chugged along at my own pace and enjoyed the view. I grabbed onto a tandem going by, but should have known from their Furnace Creek 508 jerseys that there was no way I was going to keep up with them, and in short order they rode me off their wheel 😉

Rest stop #5 at Middletown High School soon came along at 95 miles, and I took another longer break to stretch, drink another Spiz, some more water, and have a Power Gel (mmmm, caffeine!). Then it was on to the second big climb of the day on Big Canyon Rd. This climb wasn’t too terribly bad, though by this point it was getting pretty darned hot – somewhere in the low 90’s I’d guess. My Cateye was reading 95°, but it always reads a bit high. It was a very scenic climb up the side of a canyon (Big Canyon, I presume), and it wasn’t too exposed, which was nice!

Near the top of the climb at mile 105 was rest stop #6. They had a wading pool for folks to cool their feet off in, which sounded nice, but I was afraid that if I took off my cycling shoes, I wouldn’t be at all eager to put them on again, so I passed on that. I did chug a Mtn. Dew (I normally don’t like it at all, but hey, it has lots of sugar and caffeine!). I wasn’t having to use the bathrooms as often a I should have, so I drank a bunch of extra water at this stop to stay hydrated, then headed back out. At 106 miles, I was at the “Top of the DC” at 2175 feet. Just one more climb left, and I was feeling pretty good still!

The next 10 miles descended 1000 feet, and in no time I was at the lunch stop at Lower Lake High School. I didn’t really want to have lunch at this point, as the last major climb was just ahead, and a web page of tips for the DCsuggested that its best to put off lunch until the rest stop at mile 133, after which it was literally all downhill or flat, so I snacked, had another soda, drank a bunch more water, and stretched. I saw Deb and her hubby again, but again they left before I did.

The Resurrection: This was the final climb of the day, and from the route sheet it didn’t look too bad – a little under 1000 feet in 6 miles. By this point, however, it was getting very hot – my Cateye was reading 102°, and it was probably actually somewhere around 96°. This climb, unlike the previous ones, was completely exposed with no shade anywhere – uggh! I caught up to Deb and her husband and rode with them until her hubby went ahead, then I rode with Deb, as I was in no hurry at all! I was running very low on water even though I’d ridden less than 20 miles since filling up both of my bottles! I was getting a little worried as there were still a few miles to go, and 1/4 bottle surely wouldn’t be enough. Thankfully there were a ton of SAG wagons patrolling the hill, and one of them stopped to dispense water, which I gratefully accepted. After a while of grinding away at the hill, I was at rest stop #7, near the top of the Resurrection at mile 133! There were a bunch of kids here with spray bottles of ice water, which feltgreat. They had more iced V8, which really hit the spot, so I had a couple cans of that, and munched on a few handfulls of corn chips. From what I’d been told, it was literally all downhill or flat from here on out – I was feeling reasonably OK (though pretty overheated), and was now pretty sure I could do it! It probably helped me psychologically that from here on out, every mile would be a new personal record for me!

Miles 134-165:

The rest stop wasn’t quite at the top of the Resurrection, so I slogged onwards until I came to the summit and we dropped down into a really nice, fast descent. I’m sure this could have been a 50+mph descent, but I was getting a bit sore, so I didn’t feel like crouching into my best aero tuck and settled for going 45’ish for several miles 🙂 The road wound along the beautiful Cache Creek for a number of miles. If I hadn’t been getting so tired, I would have stopped to take a few pictures, but I just wanted to get to the next stop. In a bit, rest stop #8 came along. They had lots of chairs in the shade, which my butt was glad for, and more V8. I spent a little while here drinking water, as I was starting to feel kind of icky from some combination of the heat and not enough water (though I was drinking tons of it). It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I was probably way behind on my caloric intake as well. I saw Deb & her hubby here for the last time – they spent so little time at the stops that I’m sure they finished well before I did.

After that stop, there were some small rollers, which I found to be really painful, as it was still extremely hot, and I was starting to feel rather un-well from not drinking quite enough water, and not eating nearly enough. I was looking forward to rest stop #9 at mile 165, which finally arrived after what seemed like an eternity.

They had valet bike parking and more spray-bottle-bearing kids at this rest stop, a bunch of reclining lawn chairs, and most importantly, ice-cold towels to drape over one’s shoulders, and staff who were happy to bring the riders whatever they wanted. I mixed up my last batch of Spiz and choked that down (thick chocolatey liquid meal-stuff was definitely unappealing to me at this point!), sat down, and drank another few cans of V8, a soda, and a water bottle or two. This was my longest rest stop at about 30 minutes. There were several riders who looked like death warmed over. One of them was nearly unconscious and had to be helped to the SAG wagon! From this point on, all of the SAG wagons I saw were full of riders being taken back, and I heard on the radio that a few had to be taken to the hospital – no fun! By the time I left, though, I was feeling much better, as I’d caught up on my hydration, and the 500 calories, 98g carbo, 19g protein, and various amino acids and electrolytes from the Spiz were starting to kick in.

Miles 166-200:

With my newfound energy, I cruised along at a brisk (for me at least) 20mph clip and hooked up with a nice 7-person paceline, which pulled me all the way to rest stop #10 at Farnham Ranch (the same place as rest stop #1 was what seemed like an eternity before). I took a good long stretch here (and got a compliment from another rider on how flexible I was at this late point in the ride) and tanked up on more water. Thankfully it was getting cooler now – “only” in the high 80’s/low 90’s, I’d guess.

It was 15 miles to the next rest stop, and I was feeling really strong, so I tucked down on the aero bars and scooted along at 20-23mph, passing a great many people, including the folks I had been pacelining with previously. The sun was starting to set around this time, so I put a little more oomph into it, as I really didn’t want to be out when it was fully dark. A few people hopped on to draft me, but fell back after a mile or two. At mile 184, it was the last “hill” – the freeway overpass over Hwy 505 🙂 Rest stop #11 came along quickly. They had homemade chili there, which sounded really, really good, however I was concerned that it would upset my stomach, so I passed on that, and instead took a quick stretch, snacked a bit, and headed out to do the last 8 miles.

I had to put my headlight back on for the last stretch, as visibility was getting poor, but it wasn’t quite dark yet, so I figured that if I kept it at at least 20mph, I’d be done in 25’ish minutes. True enough, about 25 minutes later at 9:00, I rolled back into Davis High School, almost 17 hours after I’d left it. I had actually finished it! I was really, really happy about completing the ride, especially given the awful heat (my happiness was magnified by a small bit of delerium no doubt :-)!

Epilogue:

I parked my bike at the bike racks and noticed a large cordoned-off area of bicycles that had been SAG’d back. There must’ve been around 100 of them. I heard that the ride usually has about a 10% DNF rate, and no doubt the heat on this day increased that by a bit. I went into the multi-purpose room, checked in, got my patch and T-shirt, and got some grub – rice, beans, and chicken with salad – Yummmm! After relaxing for an hour or so, I went back to my car, loaded it up, and headed back to the hotel, where I called my folks to assure them that I’d survived the ride, then I had a beer and promptly fell asleep.

This ride was really amazing overall – the route was beautiful, the support amongst the best I’ve ever seen at a bike ride, the riders were very friendly, and it was a great challenge to complete it! Next time, I think I’ll bring more Spiz to keep up on calories, and maybe a 3rd water bottle holder just to make sure I don’t run out. This was an excellentfirst double century with 12 rest stops, many more than most other doubles, from what I understand. CamelBak isn’t kidding: Hydrate or die! On this ride, I went through about 15 bottles of water, 4 bottles of Spiz, 6-8 bottles of Gatorade, 8-10 cans of V8, and 4 sodas and still was a little bit dehydrated!

Ride Stats:

Distance: 200.6mi
Total Time: 16h 50m
On-bike Time: 12h 53m
Average Speed: 15.4mph
Average including rest stops: 11.8mph
Maximum Speed: 48mph
Total Cimbing: 7200 ft

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