NCCC Saturday regulars January '15

January 3 - #375 clockwise

This route is my version of an old route that was created by our previous ride leader. The main change is that I've reversed the routing, and created a second, shorter version. Both routes begin with the usual routing east out of San Marcos to make the run through Harmony Grove and Elfin Forest. Rancho Santa Fe, Levante, and El Camino to Batiquitos. North up the coast to Cannon, then we take in the views on Grand Pacific. Hidden Valley Road takes us to Poinsettia. At El Camino, the routes split. The A route makes a quick jog south to Alga, then climbs Alicante, down El Fuerte to Faraday, then returns to San Marcos on Lionshead and Linda Vista. The B route turns north on El Camino to return on Palomar Airport Road, for those that are not in the mood for double digit hills.

January 10 - Adventure to Revolution

This route is using bits and pieces of some lovely roads for and interesting ride over to Solana Beach for a stop at our sponsor shop, Revolution. The fun begins right off, as we take some hard pack dirt paths over to Discovery Lake and then through the Lake San Marcos neighborhood. Punchy hills on Business Park, Faraday, El Fuerte, and El Camino to La Coasta. Saxony takes us to Quail Gardens for a nice ride through Encinitas, then Coast Highway into Solana Beach. East on Lomas Santa Fe, then Highland to El Camino Real. After the forced right, we continue straight to take the Orilla - Rambla - Morros - Bajada run to Rancho Santa Fe. From here, it's full speed up the hill back to San Marcos for those with any legs left.

January  17 - Poway Loop

This route is something new I put together on a whim. Originally it was just filler, but it uses some nice open roads, so we'll have a chance to be social, work on pace lines, and have an easy time navigating. We'll use the usual routing to get south over Lake Hodges. East out of San Marcos and along south Escondido. Over the lake using the cycle path and pedestrian bridge, then south on Pomerado. Espola, Twin Peaks, and Camino Del Norte. North on West Bernardo take us back to the lake crossing to return the same way we came out.

January 24 - Bonsall via 395

A simple, enjoyable, and possibly challenging out & back to Bonsall via Highway 395. Mission, Woodland, and Country Club get us out of San Marcos to 395. After the high speed run down into the valley, the routes split at Camino Del Rey. The A route will continue north and suffer the long drag of a climb up to get West Lilac, which then gives us wonderful views and a lot of fun on the descents. The B route, for those that want a flatter option that cuts out a few miles, will turn off 395 to take Camino Del Rey, another lovely meandering road through the countryside.

January 31 - Valley Center & Wohlford

 Borden, Rock Springs, and El Norte take us east through Escondido to climb up "The Grade" to Valley Center. Lovely Woods Valley Road will take us out to Bates Nut farm for a nice break stop. We leave Valley Center on Lake Wohlford Road. After passing the lake, we get a twisty, high speed descent back down to Escondido. On the return, the route gos over Ash and Country Club, then down Woodland to Mission.


My legs are hungry!

Food. The one part of cycling I can't seem get completely right. I've finally found things I like to eat while riding that work well for me, so it's probably more a matter of working on my eating habits.

It's a learning Curve.

When I started cycling again, I tried all kinds of things. I knew that plain water would not cut it. First it was Cytomax, because that's what I knew. But that stuff is actually pretty awful. I tried Accelerade, and that stuffs does some pretty uncomfortable things to my guts. I never really liked Gatorade or the like, and that stuff isn't much more than soda pop anyhow. I stated using Nuun for an electrolyte drink. It's really good stuff actually. I've tried most of the popular bars. Cliff bars are all I can tolerate now. Hammer makes some good stuff. Their HEED drinks is pretty good actually, but I get tired of it pretty quick, so I found it was only good for club rides or a 200k at most. Like Accelerade, my body will have nothing to do with Hammer Perpetuem. I know guys that swear by that stuff. Either they have no taste buds or an iron stomach, I dunno. BonkBars are great (almond butter honey yumm!), but they have a low moisture content and weird texture, so they don't work out too well on long rides, especially in the summer. At one time I tried a mix that one of my mates recommended, which is a scoop or two of CarboPro with a Hammer Fizz tablet. It's actually a pretty good concoction. Electrolytes and good carbs and stuff. It does what it's suppoed to. Unfortunately, my body doesn't like the CarboPro.

Then I started to figure things out.

People give me weird looks when I tell them, but one of my favorite things on a long ride is a cheeseburger. I mean it. On a brevet, it's great to pop in at a Jack in the Box or Carls Jr and grab a basic cheeseburger. Just a plain, basic cheeseburger, mustard and tomato only. And maybe a coke cut 40% with water. Depending on how I feel, I might eat half and finish it and hour later, especially if I'm about to get into some serious climbing. One of my mates likes chocolate shakes. The biggest you got, extra thick. I love milkshakes, but that's just too much. Fries make a great snack too. Salty fatty goodness. I always carry an extra sandwich baggie to make it easy to take leftovers with.

 As I find myself preferring real food over processed oddities, my current go-to food for any length of ride that is tasty and easy to eat while riding is an almond butter sandwich. I take a slice of good whole wheat bread, drizzle on a good amount of agave syrup, then a big spoon full of almond butter and fold it in half. It's the best. It works well very well for me. On a long brevet, I like to stop in at a sandwich shop when I need something substantial. During the last 600k I rode, I found a Subway near two controls. A foot long turkey and swiss on whole wheat with tomato, spinach, and mustard was perfect. Get it cut up in to smaller pieces, sit down for a few minutes to take a break and eat half, then take the rest to eat later. It will be fine for hours, even stuff in a jersey pocket.

For hydration, I've discovered that Scratch Labs hydration drink is the best. The. Best. I can drink this stuff for days and enjoy it. The raspberry and pineapple flavors are the best. It's easy to mix up, balanced and effective, and it tastes as great whether it's fresh and cold or ambient temperature. You know what I'm talking about. A later summer climbing ride and you go for bottle number two, knowing that the ice you packed in there would last about 5 minutes. Best part is they sell it in bulk bags or single serving packets. The little packets are nice, because now don't have to dick around with a ziploc baggie full of powder while trying to get in and out of a control ASAP because it's 40 degrees and raining. As I mentioned before, Hammer Fizz tabs are great too, and very easy to deal with, assuming you are not on rough roads and the tube isn't getting jostled and bounced around. In which case you now have powder. They tend to grind themselves up, kind of like bananas are suddenly over-ripe and gross the second you turn your back.

I always carry one or two Hammer gel packets for emergencies, but I actually can't tolerate gel. Again, I know some guys that guzzle that stuff all day long. Yes, it's easy and it's basically rocket fuel. But it's really not that good for you. I find it hard to digest, especially on hot days. It is great for emergencies. I was about to hit the wall one day, and it gave me the quick boost I needed to keep me going until real food could take over.

Of course I always like to make time for coffee if it's available. It's a comfort food for me, and a much needed mental boost when the day has been tough.

Don't forget the bananas!

Ride Report: Rainbow 200k

January 18th was our local brevet season opener for San Diego with the traditional Rainbow 200k route.

 This is a pretty fun route. It's mildly challenging, scenic, and a good mix of terrain. It's a great way to get a base level for ones fitness. It's also nice in that you can push yourself for a fast finishing time or just enjoy the day with your mates. I did both, though mostly the former, as was my plan.

The weather promised to be just wonderful, so I prepared myself for to go quick and light with minimal equipment. Thus I decided to use my carbon Masi Evo (normally my club bike) for this one, knowing that I would not need lights or be carrying much. I did use wedge type saddle bag (not normal for me, I'll explain another day), which was big enough to hold tools, a tube, a patch kit, packets of drink mix, my mobile, and arm warmers. Clothing was minimal - wool socks and base shirt, bibs, club jersey and arm warmers, and gloves. Yes, I was cold for the first two hours of the ride, to the point that my fingers became numb, but it wasn't all that bad.

Arriving at the start, there is the usual meet and greet banter. Familiar old faces and new comers. It was a great turn out. Andy from the Seattle group was there, as well as a a gentleman from the Great Lakes Randonneurs out to escape the snow for a few days. We rolled out at 0700. The morning was quite nice, but I knew from past years that in a couple miles when we drop down out of La Jolla, the temps will drop with us. Strangely, the first leg of the route turned out to be a very mellow, neutral start. I think we were all trying to wake up and warm up. I was up in the front group with 15+ riders in a pacel ine through the valley up into Rancho Santa Fe. Heading North East to Escondido on the first bit of climbing of the day, I settled into my rhythm and made quick work of Del Dios Highway. I then pulled a small group through Elfin Forest. I made the first control in good time and on schedule. Just a quick stop to get my card signed and find a toilet, then back on the road.

Out of the first control, it's up over San Elijo/Twin Oaks Pass for more climbing. Normally I come through here on rides with my club so I'm pushing hard, but today I had to be a bit more reserved. Not too reserved mind you, just a controlled pace that will not take too much out of me. I decided I would stay in my low gears just to help myself with that, although the lowest gear on this bike is a 36/27. On a climb like this, I can spin along seated while switching between the 21 and 24 cogs. Over the top and a high speed descent, it's then a long run out to Highway 395. Waiting at a traffic light, Dan and Bill roll up to join me. Dan says he may have hit a new personal best top speed coming down.

Soon we reach the second control point at the East end of Deer Springs. Sandy A is there to staff it. As I roll in my old mate Kelly is there by a few minutes, and ready to roll out, of course. I get my card signed, have something to eat and fill my bottles. Knowing what's ahead, I pull off my arm warmers and have a bit more to drink before heading out. After a high pace line with Dan and Bill Hwy 395, we turn onto Old Castle Road for another big climb. I know this road well enough to select my gear and settle into a good pace, ready to attack. I could see a couple riders up the road just before I went into the sweeping turn about half way up, so I had a bit of motivation to push on. After passing a couple guys and reaching the top, I let myself relax for a bit on the short descent to Lilac. On Lilac, I find myself trying to reach a balance in speed that will allow me to enjoy the the beautiful scenery yet keep a high average. I settle in and give myself time to eat and then catch up with Kelly and Mac.

At the turn onto Couser Canyon, RBA assistant Greg was there for a water stop. The temps were rising and it was dry, so for many it would be a blessing. I waved a quick thank you as I passed by, not needing anything. Now here comes the good stuff! Double-digit grades as the road points up during the next two miles. I select my lowest gear thinking it might not be enough. Quickly I find myself dancing out of the saddle just trying to get through it, all the while my eyes fixed on the gap ahead. I'm over the top and down in the drops for a nice descent down into the valley. The road is twisty but not too sharp, so it's no brakes coasting with big smiles all the way.

At mile 61.5, it's a quick left-right jog onto Rice Canyon for more climbing. This next section is a bit more mellow, but still long. I'm still feeling good and take in the scenery, thoroughly enjoying myself. Soon enough I reach the control in Rainbow. Mike Shaw is there with water and snacks. I get my card signed a fill my bottles, then take a few minutes to relax and chit chat with some riders that arrived ahead of me. Soon enough, here comes Kelly and a few others rolling in. Just about all the climbing is done now, so I know it's going to be fast from here out.

Out of Rainbow it's back onto Hwy 395 South to a kicker up Mission to Live Oak Park Road. It's a fast run now on a lovely scenic and shady road. Just watch out for pot holes! Then another quick kicker of a hill up Reche Road to Green Canyon. It's another high speed run down a twisty, shaded back road, onto South Mission and we're flying out to Hwy 76. Now that the construction is finished, Highway 76 is nice. A wide, smooth shoulder makes for smooth cruising. At this point, I still have something left, and a few guys I'm with drop away. Kelly falls back. Mac waits for him at the entrance to the SLR path. Now normally the head winds can be nasty here, but today it wasn't so bad. I was holding my pace well enough, and soon continued on my own, while Turner had to pull off and stop to massage out a cramp. It was now that I had to focus on my pace. I was feeling good, but had to be careful not to over do it. When the wind eased up a bit I would tend to up my pace. Then the wind would gust up and I could feel just how tired I actually was.

Now into Oceanside for the final run down the coast back to La Jolla. I stopped in at Pacific Coast Cycles to say hello and use the loo. I had considered a stop to get water soon, but realized I was doing well enough that I could continue to the finish with what I had. I caught up with a few guys just south of Carlsbad, then lost them again in traffic. Riding through Del Mar, I wasn't feeling too bad, but I knew I had to hold out to get up Torrey Pines. I decided to be conservative, so on the climb I shifter into my lowest gear and settled into a nice rhythm to spin on up the hill.I'm pretty sure this is where is realized I was getting tired. Getting through UCSD, I was doing well despite the confusing roads. Of course I then had to deal with some traffic and missed a turn, quickly finding myself off course. Not being familiar with La Jolla, I doubled back, not knowing I have a few streets that would take me directly back on course. So in the end I added 15 minutes and 3 miles to my ride.

Regardless, I made it in with a decent time of 8:28 hours. Not as fast as last year, but pretty good considering. Most importantly I had fun. I hydrated properly, though I could have been eating a bit better later in the ride. There were a few times when I had to back off the pace for a few minutes but I never felt bad. There were several time when I found myself wishing I was on my Soulcraft. Just because. I'm happy with my performance and was able to get a sense of where I'm at regarding my fitness level.


Ride report: OC Pendleton 200k

January 10, 2014, first brevet of the 2014 season. Pacific Coast Highway Randonneurs' OC Pendleton 200k. It's a pretty basic route in the grand scheme of things. Northwest out of Lakeforest through Santiago Canyon, bike paths down to Newport and south through Camp Pendleton, back North and up through Capistrano and Mission Viejo to finish. A very familiar route.

Not so bad right. It started off nicely. I felt great. It was cold, but tolerable. Per normal winter/spring brevet kit, I got out the wool stuff - base layer, jersey, arm warmers, and knee high compression socks. Top it off with a vest to keep my core warm and the wind out. There were a few times I wished for knee warmers or full finger gloves, but I was fine without. The 0630 start was nice. Lights were needed for until the sun was up. Riding my Soulcraft, I have a wonderful headlight whenever I need, no batteries required. After a few kilometers the climbing began. I attacked with my usual joy of going up hills. Making good time to the first control at 15 miles, I made it quick with an espresso and a stretch, then got moving. It's a fast 20 miles to Newport. First a long downhill run on Jamboree, then separated MUP's to Bayside Drive. I made the second control around kilometer 54 in pretty good time as well. I took a few minutes to eat and rearrange things in my bag so as to make room for my vest I no longer needed. Thus begins what I like to call "The Gauntlet". PCH from Newport to Dana Point is less than accommodating to cyclist. Which is strange because there are always plenty. Although it's not so much the road itself, but the attitudes and behavior of the local motorists. The roads are narrow, big rolling hills means your speed goes up and down, little to shoulder or bike lanes in most places, and the typical entitled drivers of OC with their large, expensive auotmobiles make for a fun mix. It was early enough in the morning, and winter time as well, that traffic was light and not problematic. Although there was an incident in Laguna that was just hilarious. Going through town, a motorist behind us follows, blaring his horn, for about a block. We stop at a light and the guy is yelling at us about how we don't own the road, have no business being here, get out of his way, etc. I'm with Matthew, and he looks back at the guy and says "No!" He goes on to explain that under CA law we have all the rights that motorist do (fact, look it up). The driver goes on to say no, we are wrong and full of shit and that we need to get off the road and out of his way. So Matt turns his bike sideways in front of the car and tells the guy "No! Tell us where we can ride then. Where go we go? Where is the bike lane. If you don't like it call the police. Now! Do it! Call the police!" The light changes and we continue on. The funny thing is, the motorist then passes us (which he could of done earlier as there are two lanes and almost no traffic) and his plate is from fucking Delaware or some place. Matt looks at me and says "He's not even from here, how stupid". Ya it was pretty funny. We continued on at a pretty good pace South. Past San Clemente, the camp grounds were nearly empty. Onto Old PCH and then on base. At the control on Camp Pendleton at 77 miles, we sat down at a Panda Express for an Americanese lunch. Mmm, steamed rice and orange chicken is exactly what my body needed. I tried not to take too long, but it was nice to sit down and be off the bike for 30 minutes. And then it's time to return North. Into the wind. Which was quickly building up. So I leave the control and get moving. About halfway through the base I realize I'm tired and the wind is going to take it's toll on me, so I try to settle in as best I can. Heading into San Clemente I realize I haven't been eating as much as I ought to for the pace I'm riding. Yes, lunch really gave me a needed refueling, but in the grand scheme of things, I was "feling it". And now it's time to climb back up to the finish. It really isn't too bad, except for all the stop lights. First comes that long drag up Antonio Parkway. Then the second. At mile 115 my body is protesting, so after the turn onto Banderas, I stop on the corner to sit in some grass to take a couple minutes to eat and stretch. Continuing on, another rider catches me and we chit chat before splitting up on the last few miles of rolling hills full of poorly sync'd stop lights. To the finish at Willie's house, there is hot soup and juice. Overall it was a nice ride and a way for me to see where I'm at right now. The bike functioned perfectly, and the new tires (Continental GP 4Season, 28mm) seem pretty nice.


2012: Can we start over please?

I was pretty excited about this new year. Big plans, new equipment, highly motivated. Then suddenly... I dunno. Things don't always work out. January was full of expectations. I was looking forward to starting off the brevet season of a high note with one of my favorite 200k routes as our opener. I hadn't put in as much training time but I was feeling good and up to it. So I started and the weather quickly got bad. Long story short, I made a few errors and had to abandon. My first (and I'll do my best make it my only) DNF. Not letting it get to me, I kept my hopes up for February. Along comes the 300k and I'm sick as death. I take that back, death would have been much more pleasant. With things changing at my job and being busy, training time has been tough to squeeze in. It's March now and I'm back on track. We did another weekend of permanents by riding the newly certified Yuma Dawg 298k, to be reported on later. In one week is the Solana Beach 400k. I'm ready for it and confident I can better my time from last year. Same route. Weather should be nice. If all goes well I feel I'll be back to my old self. This year just seemed to start with a drag, but I'm motivated. After the Yuma permanents, I'm confident of success on the 600k in April. I know I'll have a chance later in the year to bag a 2 & 3 hundred kilometer brevet to make my SR series, which was my main goal for this year. I suppose as long as I keep my head up, this year will turn out well. I'd like to start riding more permanents. with 4 already this year, I'm doing well. Though the first two were populaires (under 200 km). I have plans, dear year of 2012, and as long as you leave me alone and my body will shut up and do what I tell it, everything will work out just fine.


My happy place, part 1

Palomar Mountain. Full of local history, and there's a very nice 200 inch reflecting telescope up top too. It's also close to home, and happens to be my favorite local climb. Ok, Kitchen Creek is my favorite, but sometimes I'm not in the mood nor have the time to ride all the way out there. As long as I've been riding up there, the "climb" up Palomar is referred to as "store-to-store". That is, after you turn right onto Highway 76 off of Valley Center Road, the climbing begins, and there is a taco shop and mini-mart. You continue on Highway 76 for 5 and something miles, then make a left turn onto South Grade Rd. The climbing ends at the top of South Grade when you pull into the parking lot at Mother's/Palomar General Store. The ascent actually begins about a mile west of VC Rd, but we never bother with that because it's more of a why bother, and if you start at the casino, you get a mile or so of climbing out of the valley anyways.

Ride with GPS is a website that I use to map routes. Sometimes the milage is not accurate, other times it is. I think the map it gives me above is a half mile or so shy. Regardless, it's 12-ish miles of climbing. Steep, beautiful climbing. It averages about 7%, but in the last few miles on South Grade, there are sections that ramp up around 10% or so.

Usually I start my ride from home, which means I get a good warm up on the climb up the grade into Valley Center. Sometimes I might catch the bus and start at the casino, especially if I'm doing the double (ride from the casino and climb South Grade, descend East Grade, turn around and return the way you came). After turning and beginning the climb, the section on Hwy 76 is pretty mellow. The gradients are pretty consistent, the turns are open and and most of the road has a decent shoulder. It's a nice climb. You get some lovely views, and in the spring and summer the wild flowers are in full bloom. Often times, much to my great amusement, there will be interesting items of refuse on the side of the road and in the drainages ditches. Once I saw two shoes, but not a matching pair, along with a baby doll with no head. Also found some nice sunglasses, though apparently smashed by a passing vehicle. Usually though, it's just beer bottles and fast food bags. Sad.

It takes me a half mile or so to get settled into my climbing rhythm. I like to take off my gloves if it's not cold out. I can't really give a good reason why I do that, I've just always liked to for long climbs. If it's cold weather, this is also where jackets and such come off. Depending on the bike I am riding that day, this is where I get settled into a gear and generally don't change it all the way up. My Soulcraft has low gearing, so I might down shift all the way then go back up a few gears to get my cadence, and I will often times shift up or down a few times as I have a wider range of gearing to use If I'm on the Viner, I drop all the way down and grind away in what is more or less race gearing. If I'm feeling good, I might upshift one cog, though often times 2 cogs when alternating between climbing in and out of the saddle. If I'm in the mood to Five and Dime it, I'm out of the saddle most of the way up.

At around mile 5, you top out and have a short downhill onto a flat section of a half mile or so before the left turn onto South Grade. This is where the gradients steepen and the turns tighten. 21 or so switchbacks. After the turn there is a big oak tree and little spot to pull off for a quick break. At this point, I should be halfway through one bottle (hydration is key here), and I might take a minute to stretch and eat a gel. Also, there are some boulders and bushes, for, er, ya. The road narrows now, with minimal shoulder. The trees are also very thick. If you are like me and try to ride Palomar only on weekdays, it will be very peaceful and little or no traffic. If it's a weekend and nice weather, it will be busy with BoyRacers™ on crotch rockets. Prepare to be harassed, irritated, and generally bothered by the sounds and smells of illegal exhaust systems. They also use the entire road, so if you happened to get buzzed it's your own fault for being on their road before they got there.

Continuing on, the roads weaves it's way up the mountain. Now and then you pop out of the trees to be treated with soaring views of the valley below. As I said, it's much better on week days. It's so peaceful. A very soothing type of quiet. The sounds of your bike are accompanied by the chips and calls of birds, the wind in the trees, and miscellaneous invisible critters rummaging about in the the under brush and fallen leaves. The nice part about days of little or no traffic is safety. I have had a few encounters, which I will go into in a moment. However, with no traffic, one is free to use the entire road. when going into a turn on a climb, the inside is always steeper if the road is banked properly. Therefore, I will move into the middle of the lane towards the center line as I go into the turn, and move back to the side of the lane as I exit out of the turn. It helps to even out the grade and keep a good rhythm. There are a few nice places to stop if you want, as well as a full turn out where people will often park to take photos. In the last two miles you start to get a peek of the summit, and of East Grade Road. But it's not as close as it seems. As fate would have it, this is also the steepest section. Once you pass the 5000' elevation sign, you're almost done, but don't let up. As you come out the final turn, the last quarter mile is a straight shot and the road sign comes into view. Left turn at the intersection to roll into the parking lot at the store. Mother's Cafe has good food if you're hungry.

So far my best time is 80 minutes.

Fill up your bottles and have a snack. Stretch and get relaxed, because it's time to go back down. Leave the bike in low gear and spin out of the parking lot. It's a a few meters uphill as you turn onto South Grade. Both of my road bikes have traditional down tube shifters, so with one hand I can actuate both levers, dumping the cassette into the smallest cog and hoping up onto the big ring. Your top gear is all you'll need for the next 12 miles. It's a two wheeled roller coaster. Please remain seated for the entire ride. Get into the drops, two fingers on each brake lever and get some speed on before you roll into the first turn. After a couple times to get to know the road, you can make quick work of the descent. Brake, lean in, hit the apex, exit, turn the cranks over to get your speed back, repeat. South Grade usually requires slower speeds than Highway 76. The switchbacks are tight, and many are decreasing radius right hand turns, with one turn in particular that seems to almost loop back around on itself. Stay focused but relaxed. Brake before the turn, lean in with the bike, look where you'll be, not where you are, and enjoy. Once you reach the end of South Grade there is a straight section before merging onto Highway 76. Keep and eye on traffic. You have a uphill flat section, and then the road opens up. This is where you can forget about the brakes and go all out. I regularly hit over 45 mph and often times end up pacing road traffic. Because you can travel at or above the posted speed limits, feel free to get out into the lane and take it.

As I said before, there can be traffic issues. Number one is the motorcycles. While I generally do just fine and not worry much, there will always be negative encounters. Sadly one should expect to be buzzed multiple times while climbing. I usually turn my tail light on to flashing mode, but I suppose it just helps them home in on me. Once I was passed by a motorcycle while descending, which is normal, except that I was in a right turn and he passed me on the inside. He then had the nerve to tell me I'm number one. One thing I notice, however, is that the motorcycles that are polite are usually people on Harley type cruisers and touring bikes, as well as rides that show a smooth and experienced driving manner. I have never had a negative experience with auto traffic. In fact, on two occasions, a car has pulled over to let me pass while descending. An example of a positive encounter I had was on South Grade while descending. Before going into a turn I checked back for traffic and then moved out to take the lane. I saw a motorcycle approaching, but saw that the rider then backed off and gave me room, waited for me to finish the turn and move to the side of the road, then passed me safely and gave a friendly wave. I would like to see that more often.

I call this climb one of my happy places for a few reasons. Firstly, I love the mountains and the forests. Secondly and most important of all - I'm a climber. I love it. I'm not always the fastest, and sometimes I might be in the mood for it, but I always enjoy it somehow.


Sunset Beach 300k, 08-06-11

I was apprehensive about this one in the weeks leading up to the actual event. Two years ago, this was my first official 300k event. With those memories, as well as the opinions of others, I was questioning whether I would enjoy it. A lot of people don't like to spend this much time on the coast, especially in the summer months (beach traffic). I decided to go for it. If I suffer, I suffer. If not, yay! It's not a particularly difficult route. Old Town San Diego to Sunset Beach, then return. Sure it's 187 miles, but there's only 6000 feet or so of climbing. Rolling hills, some big, some small, lots of flats. Torrey Pines is really the only climb, but that 15 miles between Dana Point and Newport Beach is like a roller coaster bombardment. That said, I went into it hoping for the best. Penny was set up perfect for this ride. I recently bought a small Berthoud front bag that fits nicely on the rack and has just enough space to hold all my gear and food.

It's 0530 and riders are gathering to check in with our RBA in front of the CalTrans building on Taylor Street in Old Down. It's a nice summer morning in SD - 61˚, overcast, humid. My bike and I were ready to go. 0600 and we're off. Out of Old Town and through Mission Bay. I was happy for the temps and no fog. Luckily, we would be fog-free this morning. As we started onto the path through Rose Canyon, I was in a group with fellow randonneurs Dion, Audrey, Elaine, and Osvaldo. We were moving at a nice pace, but something told me I wasn't in the mood to keep this up all day. Osvaldo left us in Del Mar, as he was just out for a morning ride and not actually taking part in the brevet. I dropped back from the group somewhere in Encinitas. I wanted to relax and settle in for the day ahead. Plus, I was enjoying the lovely morning.

South Carlsbad

So far, so good. I chose to make a quick stop in Oceanside at Pier View Coffee for an espresso. In the interest of being efficient, I ran to the loo while they were pulling my coffee. I walked out of the loo to be handed my espresso and downed it as I walked back to my bike. Moving again, I opted to follow the main route and go through Camp Pendleton, while I would select the optional use of Interstate 5 for the return trip. There was a triathlon happening on base. I had no ida and was suddenly surprise by the mass of people on bikes, until I saw what sort of bikes they were riding, as well as the numbers written in grease pen on arm and leg. It must have been an open comp with various classes, as I passed quite a bit of the "racers" with ease. Out of the base and on to Old PCH, the sun was starting show.

I pulled up to The Bagel Shack, the first control in San Clemente, around 09:40 or so. At that point I was doing well and on schedule as far as my plan went. I got my card signed and bought a giant asiago bagel. I think it had dried tomato and maybe olive in it as well as the cheese. Yummy! Also, the sun was waiting for us.

I'm sure I pay for this somehow

After Dana Point, leaving San Clemente means the big rolling hills begin. Aslo, the traffic. Oh yeah, the traffic. Hills: fun. Traffic: not so much. People drive like crap in Orange County. These roads are not exactly bicycle friendly, so if a few drivers got miffed when I was taking the lane, well, good for me. I put some speed on through Laguna and caught Elaine. After the last of the hills we drop down into Newport Beach. Along the marina you ride pass the dealerships peddling cars that cost more than my house and boats that are bigger than my house. Then you pass over the Santa Ana River channel.

Now we're in Huntington Beach. It goes on forever. Today it seemed like an eternity. There was some sort of big deal surfing competition going on. Which meant only one thing: way more beach traffic than usual. Although it also meant way more eye candy than usual. Yep. After battling it out and avoiding one to many near misses with doors and crap drivers, we're nearly there. Since she was having a rough morning, I pulled Elaine all the way through. Even with the usual head winds, I was feeling strong and was happy to help. It's always nice to ride with another person or two at times.

It's about flippin' time!

Elaine and I arrive at the control point in Sunset beach about 12:35, only to find that particular Chevron was just closed down. We thought about going across the road to something in the strip mall, but in our state and a bit of confusion, we ended up a few miles north at a different Chevron. As Elaine put it, we may have added a few extra miles, but we have a receipt from Chevron! That made my official time check 1242. We then ran back to the location of the original control that has a wee little park next to it with nice public toilets. I got cleaned up and fresh sunblock on, and as we prepared to leave, Ed pulls in. He said other riders were getting time checks at businesses in the strip mall across the street. Elaine needed to find a pay phone and I required a cheeseburger, so we made one last stop at a Jack in the Box as we began out return south. Again, we're back into the traffic. By this time, people are getting aggro and grumpy that the lots are all full and closed. Well no kidding eh! It's 2 in the afternoon during the summer at a major beach with a surf comp going on, and people actually think they might get a spot to park. About 5 hours too late I'd say. It was quite a nice day to be at the beach, or so I'd imagine.

Drill baby, drill!
At this time I was feeling much better than I anticipated. Once we made it through Newport and into the hills, I decided to go and left Elaine. I made quick work of those hills again. For several miles, I got into the slow traffic and paced cars to get through the cities. A different kind of surfing. Once again, I'm back in San Clemente and arrive at a specific 7-11 store that is another control point, with 15:48 as my time check. Bottles filled, some juice and a snack, I check over the bike and get ready to go. Elaine comes rolling in as I'm leaving. Actually I should say walking in. Her front tire went flat a block away. It's her fault though, as she was riding on a damaged tire and was waiting for it to happen. Still, flats are no fun. As I left San Clemente and began the run down Old PCH, I made the choice to give it my all. With my time so far and my speed, I decided I would ramp it up and finish before dark, which meant a sub-14 hour time. That was not part of my plan. That we added a few miles up north, I decided to use the return option, via Interstate 5 rather than Camp Pendleton. It would be a bit faster and shorter, but should even out. Once into Carlsbad, the clouds were beginning their return, though it was still a nice afternoon.

At this point it's all familiar territory and I'm flying down the coast. With a good time surplus (I had 8 hours to make the cut-off), I though it would be great to stop at Pannikin for an espresso. I walked up at 2 minutes after 6. Piss. They were nice enough to fill one of my bottles before they locked up. Another time. I passed Jack and Kathy on their tandem in Del Mar, then it's the one actual climb before I finish.

Torrey Pines
Not a problem today. I'm flying along and before I know it I'm making the left onto Taylor Street. The sun is preparing to dip under the horizon as I roll into the finish at 19:36, for an official time of 13:36 hours. My fastest 300k to date. Conditions were good and I kept myself hydrated and fed. I'm quite happy with myself on this one. The bike deserve some credit too. She performed flawlessly and loved getting checked out all day.