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It’s been over a week now since ToP ended. Oh how quickly we get back into our regular routine as vacation ends, and it writing this post was something I figured I would do sooner than later. Well, at least I’m writing it now, which is a good thing. My boost in fitness from ToP is setting me up nicely for a good summer and fall, so I don’t write this post now it won’t happen.

This is my second ToP, last year being my first. Last year I planned on attacking early on day 5, but never got the chance since everyone was attacking, and my plan turned into survival. About a mile of slow roll out of the hotel I decided to go for it. Ooops. A little too early since there was a stop light just a quarter mile ahead. I did learn from it though that Mike Brown wasn’t going to let me go. Not too surprising. Mike generally doesn’t let anyone get away. Another mile though and I went for it again. Mike was on me, and I think the whole train was, but every time I caught my breath I attacked from the front again, and again, and again. I generated a gap that gave me a little extra motivation, but unfortunately was caught a few miles down the road. It was untimely, as I eased off and rested on a wheel right past the next turn. If I had maintained the gap I certainly would have made the turn and there was a beautiful descent that would have been in my favor. Even if some people caught me, there wouldn’t have been many.

I had to play Andrew’s game for a while, as every time I started to move ahead he grabbed onto my jersey pocket and pulled me back. We eased down the descent, and through Petaluma. That’s right, the Petaluma that Snoopy always wanted to go to and become a world champion arm wrestler. At our first van stop was the rest of the group, the ones that didn’t take the wrong turn. I had actually forgot about the turn for a minute. We slow rolled out from the van stop and I got a flat. Curt and Scott, two of my team mates offered to help, but I really didn’t want to hold anyone up. After I fixed the flat my CO2 didn’t seem to fill my tire as much as I had expected. I’m not sure there was a full 16 grams of CO2 in there. I thought about starting my chase, but instead rolled back to the van which was just a couple blocks away and filled it with a pump. Yeah, only had 60 psi from the CO2. I was glad I stopped. I then started my solo chase, hoping that I would catch up at the next van stop before the climb up Mt. Tam. I knew they would stop there for sure.

What I didn’t know was that Marc, from the Orange County team, had instigated a chase by the Brown brothers by leaving the first van stop early, getting ahead, and then hiding behind a parked vehicle while the group rode past. Marc then jumped on the back. A couple people back there saw him, but the Browns were taking turns pulling, chasing the phantom Marc that they just could see. Marc reported that the pace was getting to be ridiculous, so he eventually went up to the front and said “do you want me to take a pull?” A classic move, but it certainly didn’t help me as I was chasing with no help.

I rolled up to the second van stop, where there were about six or eight riders, but my team wasn’t there, and the top guys weren’t there. I rolled in, and said “I need help!” I swear I heard crickets. Damn it. I grabbed a Coke and a handful of chips and rolled on. I rode up Mt. Tam hard. It was an awesome climb, and I was just amazed that I could never catch sight of anyone. There were a lot of false summits up the climb, which many epic climbs do have, but eventually I was riding along the top ridge of the mountain. The redwoods had vanished, and it was just grassland. I could see Stinson beach way down off my right. It was a beautiful day, and amazing. I wanted to take pictures, but just pushed on. The descent finally came, and I was ripping through the turns thinking “I’m sure I can make these turns faster than Tommy…where the hell is he?” I had been riding solo for hours. Finally near the bottom I saw Marc, Mike Armstrong, and Jerry Logan ahead. I got up to them, and they didn’t even jump on. Damn. Still solo. I pushed on. Unfortunately my route sheet had blown away early in the day, so I was navigating purely off my Garmin. Not a big deal when you’re in the country and there are very few roads, but when there are a lot of roads intersecting I took some crazy turns. There was a 20% (or more) descent that I was really unsure of, and worried because I didn’t want to go back up it. Fortunately it was the right way.

I kept hammering through Mill Valley and Sausalito, and somewhere just missed catching Tommy, Mike, and Jeff who stopped for a sandwich break. Fighting the crowds across the Golden Gate proved interesting. I ended up rolling into the hotel to see Molly there with a new camera to greet the first rider in.

I wasn’t the stage winner though. We had agreed pre-ride to end the race in Mill Valley so that we wouldn’t be racing in the city streets.

ToP ended with a chill get together at Carter’s buddy’s place, so it was a private venue and a great way for us to mingle and share war stories. The war stories became more and more interesting as the beer and wine inventory dwindled.

To my surprise I was awarded a new jersey for Most Aggressive Rider. The Tour recognizes a most aggressive rider, so I thought this was pretty cool. The award is also known as the Combativity Award, or “Le Prix de la combativité in French”. The jersey winners are shown below: Sprinter – Andrew Lee, KOM – Mike Brown, Best – Tommy Brown, Most Aggressive – Jerald Cook, Best New Rider – Jeff Tomaszewski.

Why is Mike so serious in that picture? It must be because he is thinking about winning the Texas sprint triathlon championship, earning himself a pro-license, which he managed to do 1 week after ToP.

My ride is loaded here on Strava.

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5/23/2012

Yesterday was supposed to be our recovery day, but with repeated attacks over and over and over, and then the relentless climb up Geyser Ridge it was anything but a rest day. Today’s ride was supposed to have the most climbing, but it is really how those miles are executed that make the difference.

After a poor night sleep, and a hearty breakfast I went back to the hotel room and lied down on the bed instead of getting ready. I was downright tired. I thought I was tired yesterday! The thought of skipping the day and staying in bed crossed my mind. For some reason I thought everyone would understand that and leave me alone, but I know that would never happen. Well, this is why I am here, so I got ready and headed down for the start. The pre-ride brief mentioned short cuts, and those sounded tempting too, but I knew that wasn’t really an option. Then Kevin presented the black jersey winners for yesterday’s feats, and I was awarded one for racing foolishly, not following the rules for my solo break by announcing “I am Thor, God of Thunder – All Mortal Men Weep in My Presence!” which is supposedly how I secured my fate to doing extra climbing and not coming anywhere close to KOM points or a stage win. I thought he was joking, but I just looked back at the rules, and he is right, it’s in the rules. Not that it matters anyway. There is no questioning Kevin because all judgments are arbitrary and final… and arbitrary.

With much hesitation I decided I would just hang back with Jeff who had just finished an Ironman on Saturday, and I would not attack or worry about anything that resembled competition. I’m not sure what I was thinking because even when I tried to take it easy I would end up near the front, or on the front. Our first climb up Mount St. Helena began just 10 miles into the ride. I wasn’t warmed up yet, and was gasping for air as I started the climb. “Why am I up front again?” Well, the group broke up quickly and I realized I was riding with the same guys again: Mike Armbruster, Mark, Mike Brown, Tommy, and Andrew. Uggghhh… I didn’t want to hang out with these guys anymore. Well, I also didn’t feel like drifting back down the hill to the next group. Oh yeah, Bobo was there too. He apparently found his legs today. Next thing I knew Kevin bridged up to us, and I chose to just sit back and relax. There came a point in the climb where there was a small dip and as the group started to ascend they slowed. I had generated enough momentum that I wanted to stick with it and surged past the group. Yes, of course it was interpreted as an attack that I would have to pay for later, but if I had allowed my wheels to slow before climbing again I risked being gapped.

I ended up finishing the climb with Andrew, who noted a 15% grade at one point. Overall I liked this climb much better than the climbs we did the last two days because I maintained some decent momentum through it. I earned 4th on the climb, but since KOM points only go to the top 3, 4th is essentially last.

An awesome descent into St. Helena and we met the van where Matty Matt had a box of awesome pastries. Donuts around cyclist are a dangerous thing. Imagine a piece of hamburger tossed into a pool full of starving piranhas. In fact we waited there so long, enjoying refined sugar and everything non-Paleo that everyone that did the climb rejoined us. It was a nice rollout from that van stop, but the single file pace line gradually became faster as we circled around a small lake. Gradually people started falling off. This was more what I was looking for today. There were no attacks, just a nice steady tempo pace, staying out of the red zone.

The next van stop was a nice casual stop. That’s right. I didn’t attack in the feed zone. Instead I enjoyed the break in Pope Valley, a rundown 4 corners town with a general store a market and a garage. There were a lot of tow trucks, tractor parts, and old tires. Our group at this point consisted of myself, Scott, Jeff, Andrew, Tommy, Mark, Bobo, Mike and Mike. We finally rolled on and our next climb was soon after. It was a long winding narrow road that went on and on, but I enjoy climbs like this. Although we weren’t near the KOM points, Jeff and I killed the awesome descent. We soft pedaled for quite a while before Mike, Mike, Tommy, and Bobo joined us. I wasn’t sure where Andrew and Scott were, but we were moving again. When we arrived in Calistoga we stopped on an earlier agreed upon lunch stop. What a great day! Tempo riding with breaks!

After we were done eating we started to become a little concerned about where Scott and Andrew were, but then they rolled up. Soon after, Kevin and Curt showed up. It was a long break, and then we found the van stop just a mile later. They were wondering where the heck we were. Nobody really thought to notify them, and I’m sure they would have like a sandwich too. Even though we had already eaten, we descended on the van as if we hadn’t eaten or drank anything for hours.

We only had about 30 miles left, but about 20 miles before the official finish since we didn’t want to be racing within Santa Rosa. The pace was swift, and became even swifter when the attacks began. Now we were down to myself, Andrew, Tommy, Mike Brown, Bobo and Jeff. So, yes, I did get to ride with Jeff today, but that was because he was killing it. Who would have thought multiple days of fast centuries would be a good recovery plan after an Ironman? Anyway, I joined in the attacks and tried to put the screws to Tommy. It was all done though when we hit the final climb. Even though it was short, I popped and was done. There was plenty of hard riding with Jeff, but the rest of the group was gone. We saw Mike Brown a little ahead with a flat, so we finished 4th and 5th. It was a great day, and I felt good enough after to get a short run in.

My ride here on Strava.


5/22/2012

Tight legs, tight back. What the hell? Let’s go for it, or as something Kevin Childre would say “do something heroic”.

I suppose I’ve finally adjusted to the time zone change, or I am just tired enough to actually sleep. After a solid 8.5 hours of shut eye I was up and ready for breakfast. I wasn’t particularly hungry, but I knew I was headed back to Omelet Express. After a solid meal it was time to prep for the ride. Today and yesterday when I brought my bike out I realized it was overcast and rather cold. But both days the sun started to come out and I knew I wouldn’t need my jacket or arm warmers. Not the case for most of the other riders. It was cool at the beginning, but I prefer to stay a little chilled.

After a neutral rollout the pace stayed casual until Mark from San Clemente made the first move. I almost went with him, but realized my legs were not warmed up enough for an attack yet so I settled in at the front of the peloton with Tommy. Andrew said “I’ll get him” and took off after him. Actually there was Tod off the front too, but he wasn’t really enticing a chase. Our pace started to pick up when Tommy decided to start closing the gap, and I started to feel warmed up. As soon as the gap was closed I saw the opportunity to attack. There was a series of attacks, over and over and over. Myself, Mark, Mike Armbruster, and Scott Duncan were leading all the attacks for about an hour, and then Scott Waterman jumped in the mix. When I saw him I was surprised because I hadn’t been riding with Scott and I didn’t recognize him. I was wondering who the hell it was at first, but then I saw the black jersey he had just been awarded.

The pace was swift enough that we only had eight with us. I heard Tommy and Andrew talking about Tommy’s brother, Mike, having a flat and Kenny was back with him. I also heard them talk about blocking to allow Mike and Kenny get back to the group. I was slightly amused because every time Andrew or Tommy moved to the front I surged right past them. None of their blocking worked. I figured if I couldn’t race smart, I could race stupid and burn the few matches I had in reserve. I knew I was not match against anyone in this group on the climb ahead, but certainly not against Tommy, Mike or Kenny.

As we were rolling up to the van stop around mile 40, near the start of our big climb for the day, Andrew was pulling me back by grabbing my jersey and asking me to stop at the van. Again, I was currently tied for first with Tommy for the KOM title, I am no match head to head against Tommy on a climb. I had to resort to other tactics. I chose to forgo food and water (but in all fairness announced to all that I was going for it).

The climb up Geyser Ridge started off awesome. It had some rollers that provided my legs enough rest to create some momentum and charge up the next section of the climb. I knew their break would be short, and I didn’t have much time to get to the top. I saw a fenced off area at one crest and I actually hoped that was the top. As I would soon learn, it wasn’t even near the top. My legs started to lose all their oomph, and I was out of water. I began to hear some talking before me and I was hoping I was hallucinating rather than being wrapped up. I knew what was coming, but I was still motivated and kept pushing. I wasn’t going to give it up. I kept hearing “don’t race to lose” in my head. It wasn’t much longer when Tommy and Scott Duncan flew by me as if they were charging downhill instead of climbing. Geeshh. It was time to go after third place since there are KOM points awarded three deep.

I wasn’t hallucinating, but not thinking clearly when I came upon a T intersection that wasn’t on the route sheet. Of course it would have made sense that the climb was probably where the road when UP. Maybe I was hoping the climb was over. Anyway, the sign said Geyser 2 miles left and Healdsburg 9 miles right. Well, I think we are riding to Geyser. I started the descent and my Garmin started beeping “Off Route”. Uggghhh. I don’t want to climb up when I am finally going down. I actually went all the way to the bottom where the road ended at a gate with a large truck at it. Crap! I had to turn and start climbing back to where I was. When I got back on track I saw Andrew and Jerry Logan up ahead of me. I had no steam left though, and I decided I was just going to cruise in. Little did I realize this was no cruise. The climb was steep enough that I was having front wheel lift off. My 39X25 gearing wasn’t helping the situation. It may have only been a ½ mile further, I don’t really know. It felt like many miles. As I was trudging along with a cadence of about 40, Kenny flew by me. Ok, so that is what a hill climber looks like. Kenny just won the Mt Baldy climb for 50+ a couple weeks ago.

The summit was awesome (they usually are) and the view of Sonoma Valley below was incredible. I thought about stopping to take some pictures, but really just wanted to move on and minimize the gap between myself and the ten riders ahead of me (I discovered later that Mike Brown had passed me too when I was on my wrong turn). The descent was awesome, even though there were gravel sections and washed out sections that kept it interesting. At the bottom was the final van stop. It was my first stop of the day, 72 miles in, and I needed it. I downed two Cokes, ate some cookies, and filled my water bottles. Twenty five miles to go, and I was just going to relax and enjoy them, unlike yesterday which was team time trial turned solo time trial.

Nine miles from the finish I rolled up on a couple cop cars, and all but the first two riders (Tommy and Scott) were on the side of the road. I wasn’t sure if I should join them if they were in trouble for something, but it ended up being an accident involving Kenny. The info I have is third hand, so I’ll let him tell you the story if he wants.

We chose to end the ride there, and slow roll into the hotel. Besides the accident it was a great day.

Here is my ride today on Strava.


5/21/2012

Today’s stage left and ended in Santa Rosa. See map below.

Overall the total elevation gain does not reflect the difficulty of today’s ride. The elevation chart below shows some steep climbs and descents, where there were several 18% grades. The first climb was steady and warmed up the peleton well. I led the first long descent, and we rolled right past the first van stop at mile 20. Matty Matt took our picture as we flew by, and I’m certain it is going to be a sweet print since I was driving the train. It’s Matt’s birthday, so he deserves that treat.

As we approached the base of King’s Ridge (I was still driving) people started asking where the van stop was and whining that they had to pee. I was good to go. I had driven the train for 10+ miles AND I was the KOM leader, having won both hill climbs yesterday. I know, I don’t look like much of a hill climber, but I was off the front and had stolen the climbs from the climbers. I figured my only chance to get in the top 3 for either of the two climbs that had points for KOM was to push on and make the people that ran out of water or had to pee suffer. I figured even if I pushed on it would be a challenge to get any points, but it would be my only chance. Well, I gave in. The pee break turned into an eating break, and people needing water. World and National Champ Jerry Logan and National Champ Mike Freeman turned and dashed back to town to get water. I thought this is getting ridiculous, so I said “let’s go” and started heading up. It wasn’t long before I realized I was settling in at 8th on the hill. About half way up Mike Freeman came flying by me as if there wasn’t even a hill. I couldn’t believe it, especially since Jerry told me how he was planning on just sitting back and riding with Mike today. Jerry was nowhere in sight. Now in 9th I saw Andrew Lee falling back and pushed to catch him. Every time he looked back I got a little more motivated. At the crest, as he was coasting in for the van stop, I pushed by him for my very small victory of the day. Mike Freeman, Tommy Brown, Mike Brown and Kenny Rodriguez had already left the van and pushed on for the next climb.

To me it was a much tougher day than yesterday. The climbs were brutal, the descent fast and sometimes sketchy, and the flats on the way in turned into super fast pace lines and chasing. I finished the day 5th overall. The Brown brothers and Kenny rolled in first. Andrew and I had been riding together, but I got gapped on a short climb and I never could catch back up. I was time trialling it and could tell that the gap was slowly becoming longer and longer. I was praying that he would miss a turn, or stop to look at his route sheet, but he was on it the whole way in.

After the finish I did a short stop at the pool and spa, then it was Chilli’s for dinner. About an hour after that I went out for pizza and had a pizza. Still hungry when I returned to the hotel I had a King Size peanut M&Ms. I’m spent, and now it’s time to hit the sack to get ready for day 3 of 5.


5/20/2012

ToP is an annual 5 day club ride for the Canari-Navy cycling club. It is a race mostly because anytime you get two dozen “has-beens” that still want to prove something to themselves, or to their friends, it turns into a race. There are jerseys awarded, and there are teams, but both are quite arbitrary. Rules? Sure there are rules, but they frequently change depending on who you are talking too.

I did ToP last year for the first time, and it set me up well for my two key races of the year, Camp Pendleton Sprint Triathlon (3rd Overall), and Superfrog Triathlon (6th Overall). I wasn’t sure what to expect this year, but knew I wanted to do it because it’s a blast, but also because I knew the training camp part of it would pay off when by the time I get closer to my end of season races. Today’s route was from San Francisco to Santa Rosa. It was an awesome route with some sweet climbs with the first being up Mount Tamalpais and then several shorter climbs along the coast line, some with steep grades. The temperature was mostly mild, the highest being 82 degrees when we arrived in Santa Rosa. There were head winds that would rate as less than breezy by Chicago standards (~15 mph). Not a cloud in the sky all day long, and surprisingly mild traffic along the coast.

We started with a slow roll out, and we met at the base of the Golden Gate for a group photo. Then we were off for a leisurely roll across the bridge. The pace was very relaxed. It was going to be a long week. We had a long descent and I was near the back of the pack but even with a casual coast I managed to drift up to the front. Tod Neal and I were riding along, then Tod took a wrong turn. I yelled to him and he turned around, but at that point I looked back and no one was there. Hmmmm…. Where is everyone? Oh well, I started the climb up Mt. Tam, waiting for Tommy Brown to catch me. I kept it smooth, not knowing how my current fitness level would hold up. I summitted alone, and then on the descent I was again very cautious because I haven’t been doing any descents. I kept waiting for the bullet Andrew Lee to fly by, but he didn’t. It wasn’t until mile 45 when I was wrapped up by the Tommy and Mike Brown train, along with Kenny Rodriguez and Andrew. Hmmmm… Go figure. The four guys I went to dinner with. I was more spent than I wanted to be so I sat in, which fired up Andrew, so they punished me. The gap was significant, and it took me pushing 350+ watts for about 5 miles before I settled in. Then I got to hear their lectures about sitting in.

There was more painful climbs, but we ended up soft pedaling in together. Andrew is always up for a win though, so he let the rest of us take a wrong turn as he turned into the hotel parking lot first for the stage win.

Here is the Strava link of my ride. I highly recommend this route.

Tomorrow is more climbing, and steeper grades.


The R-12 award is given by Randonneurs USA for completing a 200K brevet or permanent every month for twelve consecutive months. This is a challenge that I was interested in when I started randonneuring just a few years ago. The goal of completing an R-12 seemed like a great way to stay in shape throughout the year. Initially I didn’t think it would be that difficult to do, but my first R-12 ended up being really tough. I was in my internship, occasionally having months with very few days free to do a ride that usually took 8-10 hours to do. There were a couple months where I wasn’t able to complete a ride, and questioned whether I would even complete the R-12 or not. After finishing that first R-12 (February 2009) I decided to take five months off from randonneuring. I did another brevet in August 2009, and on July 16, 2011 I finished 24 consecutive 200K+ rides, earning my third R-12.

Here are the brevets/permanents I’ve done in the past 12 month.

Date

Event

Distance

Time

8/8/2010

Sunset Beach Safari

227K

10:08

8/29/2010

Rainbow Prelude

200K

7:58

9/11/2010

PCH

400K

16:45

10/24/2010

Sunset Beach Safari

227K

10:56

11/7/2010

Rainbow Ramble

200K

9:10

12/5/2010

Rainbow Prelude

200K

8:25

1/15/2011

Rainbow

200K

6:37

2/5/2011

Orange County

300K

15:25

3/5/2011

Orange County

400K

22:00

4/27/2011

Rainbow Ramble

200K

8:40

5/11/2011

Rainbow Prelude

200K

8:55

6/18/11

Rainbow Prelude

200K

8:26

7/16/2011

San Clemente

200K

6:45

 

The last two R-12’s were much easier for me to complete than the first one. There were definitely challenges, but I’ve become much more used to the long rides. For now I plan on attempting a fourth R-12. The challenge for this one will be living in Illinois where I’ll probably have to travel during bad weather months, but the adventures should be awesome.

Thanks to all the permanent owners, RBAs and volunteers that have made these great routes available.


Saturdays I usually get my long ride in, and if I don’t have a race or brevet I’ll try to ride with the Canari-Navy Team. Today’s ride was a coastal 60 miles. I was really hoping for something with a lot of climbs where I knew there would be some hard efforts, but since it’s been so hot lately the cool coast was a great option. You never know who’s going to show up, but we had a good mix of strong riders with different strengths today. I took the opportunity to take many attacks, which just fired up Mike Brown ended up reacting to every attack of the day (there must have been at least 20), and he managed to crush them all too. I was pleased to discover that I set a new personal best for 30 second effort at 692 watts. My previous best was 671 watts set on 9/15/2009. Sure, I’ve probably ridden over 15,000 miles since then, but now I’ve finally set a new 30 second best. Yeah, I’m pretty stoked about that because I’ve had a lot of personal bests recently. I was commenting the other day to Dave Platfoot that at some time you are the best you’ve ever been, but you probably will never know it when you are there. I hope I keep setting new personal bests for some time.

Near the end of the ride (after climbing Torrey Pines) we met up with Navy Triathlon stud Cam Loos. He decided to join us for our traditional sprint down Santa Fe Dr. after going through Rose Creek Canyon bike path. Somehow I broke away and (maybe a light?) finished the challenge with at a tempo pace. I had no legs left anyway for any kind of sprint. Since I was there early I captured the sprint finish:

Mike Brown destroyed it, and that was pretty much how the entire ride went. I’ll admit, on the first attack downhill at Torrey I figured it was his TT bike that kept him up there, but he managed to destroy the hills just as easily. Josh and Brad (and occasionally Steve) were also formidable foes.

Also, Molly rode with us for the first time in a long time. She told us to not wait for her, but every time I looked back she had caught up to the group. I asked her what the two dozen guys that she passed along the coast did (they usually frown in disapproval when passed by a girl) but she never noticed because her focus was to stay within inches of the wheel ahead. This is a skill that a lot of people seem to have trouble learning, but with only a few years of cycling experience she is doing awesome.


Three weeks ago when we finished the Train of Pain, Zach Scheetz and I were discussing the 200K+ rides that I like to do. I confessed that not all triathlon coaches or Ironman triathletes agree with doing over distance training on the bike, but I didn’t tell him that I have yet to convince a single one of my triathlete buddies to join me on a 200K since I started doing them in December 2006. Actually, I sort of was able to get one friend, Matt Dixon, to join me on a 200K last summer as he was prepping for Ironman Arizona. Matt however ended up destroying his rear wheel about 40 miles into it, and I haven’t been able to get out for more than 100K since. The fact that Matt qualified for Kona at IMAZ with the same bike split and overall finish time as I did the year before may have proved to him that the 200K was unnecessary, but I still think that it is a great confidence builder and prepares me to come off the bike fresh enough to run well.

Anyway, Zach and his wife Maurin are about to do their first iron-distance race, the full Vineman. I was a secretly surprised when Zach finally told me that he thought he should do a 200K. I wasn’t very convinced, but then heard from Maurin that she wanted to do one too. We were going to shoot for the Kitchen Creek 200K Brevet put on by San Diego Randonneurs. Although this would have been ideal, it came at my son’s high school graduation weekend. Since that didn’t work out, we arranged to do Mike Berry’s Rainbow Prelude Permanent 200K . This route is the same as the Rainbow Brevet that the San Diego Randonneurs puts on in January.

The three of us met up at Doyle Park in La Jolla. I was wondering a bit if they were going to go through with it, but they rolled up in their sporty station wagon just in time for a 7 am start:

We headed out and as soon as we were into Sorrento Valley I saw a group of four riders within our reach. I didn’t want to push the pace too early, realizing that pacing would be important for Zach and Maurin to decide that they actually enjoy a ride this long, but also wanted to see if we could grab some other company along the way. We took our time, but did reach them eventually. They were three UCSD Tri Team guys and one Cal-Poly Tri Team rider that is from San Diego and on summer break. I knew one of the guys from races we’ve done together (TCSD club races, Tritonman, Desert Triathlon). I asked them “hey where is Tim Ray at?” Uggghhh…. How did I not know?? Tim had died about 5 weeks ago, supposedly from a heart attack the night after completing a 50 mile running race in prep for a 100 mile race. I was shocked! I saw some facebook posts about Tim being an inspirational person about a month ago, but hadn’t actually heard about this tragedy. Molly and I knew Tim, and I raced against him several times. Unfortunately Molly and I have had several friends die in the past year, and this was just one more. How do you make sense of it all? I don’t know if you can, but all we can think of is try to do what you can to take care of yourself, and get the most out of life while you can.

Anyway, we had a good roll with them, but they stopped in Rancho Santa Fe to get water so we rolled on. We then met up with several other riders going up Del Dios Highway and through Elfin Forrest. I wish I had my camera ready because watching the B then the A group from Swami’s roll through Elfin Forrest (opposite our direction) was quite impressive. From San Elijo Rd on we were pretty much on our own, but we saw a lot of cyclist out on this gorgeous day in San Diego County.

At about mile 96 on Pacific in Oceanside I saw Kelly Deboer (Kellyjay) rolling along in the opposite direction. Later along the coast I was talking to a guy on a tandem and found out it was Dennis Hearst, Paris-Brest-Paris record holder. He told me his stoker, Amber, hadn’t been on a bike since she was 12 before today and that she just bought her shoes and clothing today. I’m actually not sure how long it’s been since she’s been on a bike because she didn’t seem very old.

We did a short stop at mile 100 because this was the first time Maurin had completed a full century. Her previous longest distance was around 95 miles.

When we hit Leukadia, Molly was there waiting for us. Molly has not been on the bike for months, trying to deal with a shoulder and knee injury from an accident she had in October 2010 when we were cut off by a driver in Carlsbad. She left our house when I let her know that we were in Rainbow (around mile 67), and then met up with us to ride the last part of the course in.

 

Overall it was a great day, and we finished in a respectable 8:26. Time will tell, but I may have just recruited two more to Randonneuring and Ultracycling.


Date: Saturday, March 5, 2011

Distance: 251 miles (260 miles, including ‘bonus’ mileage)

Elevation: >10,000 Feet

Time Limit: 27 hours

Finish Time: 22 hours

beep beEP BEEP… beep beEP BEEP

Damn! Three o’clock already! There was no time to waste. Molly and I had packed the night before and neither of us had much sleep this week, so we planned on waking up as late as possible. It’s an hour drive to the start of the 400K in Foothill Ranch, so we figured if we got out the door by 3:30 we would arrive with just enough time to use the restroom, put our bikes together, get changed, and register. Molly dealt with the dog while I pumped our tires and loaded the bikes, checked the weather once more (looks great!), grabbed a cup of coffee (not on the WADA list!) and we were out the door.

On the drive, Molly is hacking away. She had caught a cold this week and was dealing with it. I was thinking how sore my legs were from my ride up Palomar on Friday. I’ve only been riding twice a week for the past couple months, and since I was planning on a long but low intensity ride on Saturday, I wanted to get some quality riding in. I managed a new personal best 90 minute power (Average: 302 Watts, CP: 302 Watts, NP: 306 Watts). I did South Grade and then East Grade, 50 miles total. The South Grade climb from the taco shop to the yield sign took me 1:21:22, slower than my best of 1:20:26, but with an average power of 307 Watts (NP 309 Watts, Avg HR 153). The second climb wasn’t as strong, especially when I bonked 2 hrs and 50 minutes into it. I had only 1 water bottle, and ate a Cliff Bar before the ride, but no food on the ride until that point.

I knew the 400K was going to be a long day. We were going to cruise and enjoy it. I predicted we’d finish between midnight and 1, Molly’s guess was 3. I figured as long as Molly keeps smiling it doesn’t matter how long it takes.

We took off from Foothill Ranch while it was still dark. I like starting early and in the dark though because there is very little traffic, and you know that none of the daylight will be wasted. Molly was chatting and laughing, so although she wasn’t feeling great it looked like she was having a lot of fun. There were a few riders that took off quickly, and Molly tried to encourage me to ride with them, but I stuck to my plan of riding with her. We had a couple short stops to adjust items on our bikes, and soon found ourselves behind everyone. Our first control was in Oceanside, and I figured there would be a line at the bathroom so I decided to stop at the San Onofre Campground while Molly rode ahead. As I was taking my leg warmers and arm warmers off I saw Willie fly by on his recumbent. I thought I was in the back, but Willie had started late and was playing catch up. He was moving nicely too. It took me until the I-5 on ramp at Las Pulgas to catch him, and then I had to sit on his wheel to stay with him. Just before we were getting off I-5 we passed Molly and a couple other riders. We had also passed a few riders that were working on repairing a flat on the side of the freeway. Flats on the 5 seem to be a common occurrence.

There were a lot of riders at the first control still. Molly and I got through it pretty quickly, and joined Bruno on the 76 bike path going East. I don’t mind eating a Cliff bar on brevets, but candy, cookies, pastries, coffee with hot chocolate, and soda are the norm. My Oreo cookies not only provided me the calories I needed, but they were also damn good!

The day was warming quickly, and we had our first few climbs on Holly Rd and to the Old Highway 395. I really don’t mind pulling all day long, and it is part of my plan to pull Molly as often as possible. My pulling occasionally is enjoyed by others that are ready to ditch me as soon as they can, but Bruno jumped up and gave some good pulls which were appreciated. Once we hit some hills Molly couldn’t keep the pace and Bruno pulled ahead. It was nice that he was actually concerned enough to think about waiting for us but I told him to go on. Molly and I played leap frog with Bruno for another 100 miles or so. It was good to see that Bruno looked like he was having a good time out there. The second control was an information control, where you have to answer a question about the area on the control card as your proof of passage. There we met up with Peter, who decided to ride along with us for a while.

The long climbs on Old Highway 395 were also windy, and they were wearing Molly down. I was a bit concerned because we hadn’t even finished a third of the route yet. Peter was patient, and opted to ride with us for some sections. We ended up playing leap frog with him like we did with Bruno.

After the terrain mellowed a bit, Molly did better and was hanging onto my wheel. I felt that we were riding a lot slower than usual. Molly perceived the effort to be the same as usual, so her cold was definitely affecting her performance. We kept moving forward though, and Molly was smiling again, so I knew we’d be good. Our route took us through Temecula past some of wineries, bringing back memories of a tour Molly and I did with some friends last year.

After Temecula, we went into the Lake Skinner Recreation Area. It was a nice escape from urban areas. There was a $2 entrance fee per bike, which I find pretty annoying. I know the fee goes to support the park, but I feel that not enough is done to promote cycling (or to get people out of their cars) so I generally think that fees for cyclists is ridiculous. The camp store at Lake Skinner was the next control. Bruno and Peter were there already, and before we left Willie rolled up on his recumbent, transformed into a sleeveless white shirt and red shorts, enjoying the warmth of an early March day in Southern California. I guess I was hungry because I ate a Snickers bar, ½ a bag of barbeque Lays, a Starbuck’s Mocha Frappuccino, and ½ a Coke Classic. I also loaded up on water since I had run out, Chips Ahoy Cookies, and Peanut M&M’s to get me to the next control.

We left Lake Skinner, and had to go several miles on a road that with a bit more traffic than I like with no shoulder, but then the road opened up and seemed much safer. We rode through Nuevo, which really looked like (nice parts of) Mexico. We were at about the half-way point of the ride and I started to feel really tired. It had only been 30 miles from our last stop, and I had already eaten the cookies and candy I had. We were riding slow though, and I started to think that the slow riding was hurting me more than if I was riding at my regular cruising pace. I stopped at Valero and grabbed some coffee while Molly rode on ahead of me. There was good climb after this, leading into Lake Perris Recreation Area, and I got to chase Molly down. The combination of riding harder plus some caffeine and I felt great again.

Lake Perris was awesome. We rode on a bike path that was in great condition. I couldn’t believe it when I saw a bald eagle, and then I heard other people saying they saw it too! Molly missed it, quite possibly because she was stung by a bee on her head. The bee went through the vents on her helmet and she had to flick it out.

The next control was in Moreno Valley, where we met up with Peter and Bruno again. There was only about 15 miles until the next control, so I just grabbed a banana and a Coke. We had a great climb, to our highest elevation of the day, about 2100 feet, and then an awesome descent. Molly and I arrived in Loma Linda and saw Peter and Bruno at a gas station, but I couldn’t eat food from a gas station again. We saw a Quiznos so we shared a sandwich, which was awesome. We’ve never been fans of Quiznos, but after riding 145 miles it became a favorite.

A few miles of city streets in Loma Linda (where they have great bike lanes!) and we jumped on the Santa Ana River Trail. We found this trail to be awesome. In this area there is a lot of land surrounding the trail, so it was rather scenic. The sun was getting low, so I was pleased to be off the road. I get concerned that drivers are a bit blinded by the low sun less likely to see riding on the road. It was also nice that we didn’t need to use our lights when it was dusky. If we were on the road we would have mostly so that drivers would see us. We enjoyed the trail a lot, even the one dirt section. Molly almost made it through the dirt, but had unclipped when she rolled through a rut, and ended up having to walk the last part of the hill.

When we reached Norco the trail ended. It was getting dark now, so we were putting our light on and I was putting my reflective vest on when Molly decided to take off ahead of me. We do this sometimes, because I’ll then chase her down, but since it was getting dark I had wished she waited for me. There were a lot of turns through this area, and it became very dark quickly. The streets had no lights and some of the street signs didn’t exist. I was trying to chase after Molly, but couldn’t find her. Sure enough, she was lost, but a couple phone calls between us we found each other and trekked on with about a 10 minute setback. The rest of the streets into Corona were pleasant, and then we had another control. It had been about 40 miles and 3 hours since our stop at Quiznos, and neither one of us had eaten anything since then, so we grabbed a bite to eat at McDonald’s. Molly hasn’t had McDonald’s in probably 8 years, so I told her this time doesn’t count. She wanted to go to In and Out, but it was packed and would have taken too long. It was starting to get a little cool, so Molly put on her arm warmers and her hat, the last of her cold gear (she already had thin long sleeve, knee warmers, wind breaker, long-fingered gloves and toe covers). I felt fine, but thought I might as well put on the arm warmers, and was glad I did. I don’t know if the temperature dropped after we had stopped, or if I had just cooled down, but it was getting rather chilly.

In Corona we jumped back on the Santa Ana River Trail, and took that all the way to PCH in Huntington Beach. We were cruising nicely with Molly on my wheel. We saw some police on both sides of the river at one point, and even inside the river bed looking for someone, which was interesting, but otherwise the trail was rather uneventful. After 3.6 miles on the PCH we hit our next control. It was about 10:15, and we were feeling good, just a bit tired. Only 34 miles to go! Woo hoo!! Yes, we were pretty excited. There were only two ¼ sheet sections of route left. I looked at the first one and thought ‘oh, you take the trail all the way to Barranca’. Molly had already learned that we should stay together at night, especially because navigation becomes much tougher in the dark. Apparently the night’s lessons were not over.

Since I ‘knew’ where we were going, and could get us to Barranca on the bike path, we both tossed that section of the route sheet in the trash, keeping only the last ¼ page. We knew there was going to be some climbing at the end, but the bike path would be fairly quick, and we were sure we’d finish before 1. He headed across PCH to where the bike path is, and I realized it was getting cold enough to wear my leg warmers. I had only brought leg warmers and arm warmers with me. After putting those on, we tried to get on the trail, but it is closed at night. Uggghh… ‘What did that route sheet say, exactly?’ We headed back across PCH to rummage through the trash and I found my piece of the route sheet. The way to the bike path was actually detailed out nicely by Willie, but several rights and lefts, a pedestrian bridge and a couple parking lots is confusing as hell in the dark after being on the bike for over 17 hours. We found the trail finally and were moving nicely again.

Now, about that route sheet I picked out of the trash… I should have looked at it again. Fatigue was not my friend, and Molly didn’t have the route sheet (hers was still in the trash) so she was relying on me. I found Barranca, but Harvard was nowhere near. I tried using my sense of direction (which I think was also in the trash) and went the wrong way down Barranca looking for Harvard. Finally, Molly pulled out her iPhone and searched for the intersection. I couldn’t believe how long we had to go down Barranca to find Harvard, and was dumbfounded by my error when I finally looked it up online today. We went nine miles out of our way. We were more tired at this point, and a little frustrated, but at least we were finally back on track and moving good and in the right direction.

We were about 20 miles from the finish, on Jamboree when I got a flat. It was late, I was definitely tired, and on the verge of getting grumpy. We had turned onto Jamboree from Portola, and I kept thinking ‘my truck is right around the corner on Portola’. This would have been a big big mistake had I tried to bail out and go that way. I looked at the map today and we were parked 9 miles down Portola, not just around the corner, and the road is not a straight shot. Not being familiar with the road I certainly would have become lost. Anyway, it was not a fast tire change. I had a new Lezyne frame pump that I had never used, and I couldn’t get it to work. If I can’t get it to work to my satisfaction when I’m rested it is going back to REI. Fortunately I had CO2 cartridges and fixed the flat. A driver stopped to see if we needed help. While I was fixing the flat, Molly sat there and became very chilled. The climb up Portola was very slow. Molly was barely moving. I was trying to move just enough to keep the bike upright and was still pulling away from her. The next control was another information control at the top of Santiago Canyon. At the control Molly told me she wasn’t doing well. She kept insisting that I just go and finish, but I insisted back that I was staying with her. There remained only about 14 miles to the finish.

We first had to do 12 miles down Santiago Canyon, and as we took the first descent we immediately became extremely cold. I knew that if I was cold, Molly certainly would be freezing as she does not tolerate the cold as well as I do. There was a lot of descending, with a few climbs. My Garmin battery had died, so I had no idea what our speed was, but I was trying to compare it to running. I figured if we were running a 6 minute pace (10 MPH) we should get to the turn in just over an hour. With the descents being much faster, I figured it should be less than an hour. Well, it took us about 1:45 to do the last 14 miles of this route. We were both so cold that we were experiencing massive body shakes. I had never experienced ‘shivering’ like this before. The trek down Santiago Canyon was so bad, I had thought of calling sag, calling 911, using the emergency Call Box, waving down a passing car for assistance, racing down to get the truck and pick Molly up off the side of the road, lying on the side of the road until another ride came by… None of the options were good. We were both concerned about our ability to finish. I kept thinking how foolish it is to not have a space blanket. How heavy can a space blanket be? Hell, I had a McDouble for a snack. Should I be concerned about carrying a 2 ounce space blanket? I was definitely worried about our safety in the cold, not being able to think well, and really having no way to warm up except to finish.

We had no idea how far we had left on Santiago Canyon, but when we finally turned and knew we only had a couple miles left we regained our faith in finishing.

We rolled up to Willie’s house, instantly feeling warmer knowing that we didn’t have to ride anymore.

beep beEP BEEP… beep beEP BEEP

My watch alarm went off. We’d been up for 24 hours, and finished our ride in 22 hours.

Lessons Learned:

  1. If you have someone to ride with in the dark, do so. Navigation while fatigued at night becomes more difficult.
  2. Don’t throw the route sheet away.
  3. Pack the minimum, and then think ‘what might I want if I’m stuck in the middle of nowhere by myself in the middle of the night after riding all day’ and pack that.
  4. Finishing is always a good thing.
  5. Don’t throw the route sheet away.

Thanks for reading. View more pictures here.


Date: Saturday February 5, 2011

An article posted by the Wall Street Journal on Feb 1 titled “A Workout Ate My Marriage” discussed the demands of Ironman training on a family. This article was brought to my attention by Joe Friel’s Blog and then by Tridigest.com, and was timely as Molly and I had out 19th anniversary on Feb 2. Molly and I have certainly experienced the combined demands of family, current job, the pursuing education and career changes, with some triathlon/marathon/ultracyling training thrown into the mix, we read that article with much familiarity.

Although I caught the endurance bug rather early (definitely in high school, but possibly even in grade school to a lesser degree), Molly is rather new to the endurance craze. She first started doing some running in 2003 when I had deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom, and since has done about (yes I am guessing) six marathons. She started doing triathlons in June 2008 when I signed her up for a sprint triathlon during our “vacation”. In December 2009 she did her first 200K with me on a tandem since I had decided to do Paris-Brest-Paris in 2011, and thought it would be much more fun if Molly went with me than if I just had to tell her about how awesome it was. Now she loves distance cycling, and has proved it not only by completing an R-12 award but she is insistent on doing PBP this August. I had a lot of options for racing and training this weekend, but Molly really wanted to do the Santiago Canyon 300K Brevet in preparation for PBP, and to secure our qualification by completing the series (200/300/400/600).

The Santiago Canyon 300K Brevet was by no means an easy brevet. A year ago Molly would complain about the smallest of hills, but now she is slowly turning “I hate hills” into “I love to hate hills”. She was well aware that this route had a ton of climbing, but was still excited about doing it. The route on ridewithgps stated that the total elevation gain was over 11,000 feet, but post ride my Garmin 800 had 9,100 feet of climbing. Still, there was a decent amount of climbing with some very steep climbs that were much more taxing than the usual long gradual climbs.

Three weeks ago at the Rainbow 200K I introduced my new time trial bike, Nautilus. Here are some photos of Nautilus:

Nautilus, a 2011 Felt B2. As shown (stock with DuraAce pedals and Garmin 800 mount added) weighs 20 lbs.

Featured on Nautilus is Di2, fully electronic derailleurs.

There are two sets of electronic shifters, bar end shifters on the aerobars and brake lever shifters on the base bar.

Cockpit view.

Even the brakes are color coordinated.

For the Santiago 300K, I introduced my newest bike, Sea Wolf. Sea Wolf is a 2011 Felt F2, similar color scheme as Nautilus, and also with electronic shifting.

Sea Wolf weighs in at a mere 15 lbs!

I had told Molly that I wanted to do the entire brevet with her. She fretted a little, feeling that she was keeping me from having fun riding hard “with the boys”, but eventually she got it. Besides riding on some unfamiliar roads, and into the night, this was our anniversary ride. Yes, we like to celebrate by eating (I look for any excuse to eat), but to spend every waking hour together completing a physically and emotionally demanding challenge, while experiencing new scenery is like none other. The ride started at 6 AM, with the temperature at 41F. After a few climbs, and some descents into canyons, the temperature dropped to 32F, and with descents up to 33 MPH at this temperature we became frozen rather quickly. First we experience pain and loss of sensation in our fingers, then toes, and then eventually Molly became hypothermic. We were cruising through Back Bay when Molly had become so cold she could barely move or think. Dion Dyer cruised up to us, and I don’t think he had any more success at trying to talk to Molly than I did. Fortunately, at the 3rd control the temperature quickly rose to 50F. It was still cold, but Molly became coherent and her spirits and positive attitude came back. Here is the graph of the temperature for the ride (start: 41, end: 46, low: 32, high: 84).

Randonneuring very frequently ends up with riding alone a lot. Some people prefer this, but even if you prefer to ride with other people you have to be prepared to spend many hours by yourself. Molly is rather social, and loves chatting it up with other riders, so I’ve always seen this as a potential problem as she does more randonneuring. So far she’s proven me wrong by often choosing to keep moving forward over waiting for the opportunity to ride with someone. I think ideally she’d prefer to ride with people, but not at the risk of finishing an hour or two later. We did have the opportunity to ride with several people during this brevet. From Newport Beach to Corona we rode with Dion and Marty. When we arrived at Corona we saw Kevin Foust there already, and we ended up spending the next 11 hours leap-frogging Kevin. The controls and rolling terrain somehow seemed to keep bringing us back together. Here is the elevation profile:

The most scenic area on the ride was from Lake Elsinore to Fallbrook. We didn’t take many pictures this time around, but here are a couple that Molly took with her iPhone.

Molly is always looking for happy cows.

 

There goes Kevin!

In Lake Elsinore we had the pleasure of running into some fellow randos that were doing a different route. They were doing the Toughrider 200K Permanent. We just happened to run into Kelly DeBoer and a couple other guys as we made an unscheduled stop at a Circle K to reload snacks and drinks. Of course Kevin happened to make the same stop and was there. A mile later I had a flat. I told Molly to continue on as I would catch her. As I was fixing my flat, Ed Sheppard rolled up to lend a hand, and then realized who I was. We chatted a little, and then he had to press on because he was also doing the Toughrider 200K and didn’t want to miss any control times. I thought I might see him again as I started rolling, but his route must have taken him a different way.

Our total time was 15:22, and my rolling time was 13:13. We had a great day together. Yes, Molly did (somewhat bitterly) spend a Mother’s day sitting in the rain watching me do a triathlon a few years ago, but now that she’s joined in the insanity we are enjoying truly memorable (and positive!) experiences together, even for our anniversary. Here is a map of our adventure:

We had an hour+ drive home, which was almost as tough as the last couple hours of the ride. Jacuzzi, pizza and beer ended up being a perfect ending for our day.

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