Sabtu, 05 April 2008

Solvang Double Century 2008 Ride Report

After months of training in the rain and dreaming of sunshine I awoke on Saturday morning in Solvang. A hasty breakfast of instant oatmeal and fruit and some drink got me started. I showered and dressed in the clothes I had laid out the night before. There was a slight chance of rain on the north part of the course, and my memory of a chilly High Pass Challenge last year helped shape my clothing choices. Arm and knee warmers and a light vest were the right choices as were an earband and toe covers.

Making my way to the start I nearly departed without the requisite blue mark on my number, but once again my dumbfounded look told the tale and ultimately resulted in my getting the information and leaving around six thirty with the proper credentials.

I had mounted a small light I picked up from the REI Outlet for six bucks and it proved to be worthy of the task. Likewise a small tail light earned its keep. After about five minutes I had settled in with a group of about a dozen riders as we made our way toward the rising sun.

The temperature was in the mid forties, which for me was just fine. There had been a stiff wind the evening before, but now there was just a wisp of a breeze. The early pace was slow and I was tempted to pick it up, but I sure didn’t know the way so I was content to be a lemming for the present time. After a couple of turns, one a complete surprise, I determined my place was not near the front of this group. A steady climb up Foxen canyon and my group was cleanly split. I found myself among four other riders who were fit but wise (read old) enough to not burn out early. Most of the others had dropped back and I didn’t see them until the first food stop.

The climb warmed me up and I unzipped the vest and relished the warmth of the rising sun on my black lycra bib shorts. THIS was what I came for. On the downhill I ate a bar and caught a tandem FLYING down. Shifting into my highest gear we tooled along between 28 and 33 mph.

Soon we arrived at the first food stop where I topped off my Hammer gel (ok) and my Accelerade (orange – yum) and had some solid food. I removed my vest and put it in my second saddle bag. A quick squirt of Assos cream to supplement my chamois preparations and I was rolling again.

The course then follows some farms and is pretty exposed to sun and wind. I made my way alone and hooked up with two guys in matching jerseys only to have them slow with a mechanical issue. More solo and then I jumped on with a small group that seemed to know the way. By this time I was looking around and enjoying not just the scenery, but looking at the other riders. I was the ONLY rider wearing a plain jersey. They ALL either boasted of some he-man-woman-haters-tough-guy ride or were team jerseys.

I found myself riding among a larger group of riders outside Santa Maria including a fellow with a yellow and orange jersey and a snow white beard and ponytail. In my mind I nicknamed him Gandalf and later found out his name was Bob. We rolled into the 83 mile food stop together and I took a few minutes to call Hottie, eat and stretch. When I saw Bob and his group leaving I jumped on and joined in. By now it was in the low 60’s and the filtered sun was keeping it pleasant.

While I used a HRM to keep within myself, I noted a large percentage of riders with GPS and power output measuring devices. I am sure these guys got back and downloaded their heart rates, their altitude gains, watt outputs, speeds, farts and burps per hour and all kinds of other trivia that detracts from enjoying riding a bike. Guys, just get out a tape measure and be done with it !!

We made it through SLO with minimal trouble, although I can’t say the course was marked with great care. Following veterans proved smart here too. We left SLO on US Highway 1 and although there was a wide shoulder, we still had lots of road intimidation to keep you focused. By this time our train had swelled and another ten riders were latching on to our group of seven. There were two guys with Santa Clarita Velo jerseys and one of them was all over the place. This guy was side to side like he was sprinting and he speeded up and slowed down and wasn’t paying attention. Anyone who found themselves behind this impending train wreck left themselves lots of space. When the climb steepened I took the chance to move ahead of “crash” and held my spot. When things slowed suddenly I had to grab some brake to keep from going down and felt someone hit my rear wheel. I looked over my right shoulder and his mate was still there, so I am assuming he didn’t go down, but I can’t swear to it. After a long, but moderate climb we crested the pass and then exited the highway and dropped down to Morro Bay. There we stood in line to have dots added to our numbers to prove we made it out. 100 miles down and I still felt pretty good.

I ate a banana and started my homeward journey and waited for the legendary tailwind. After a long side wind I turned east and found the tailwind. I took a picture of my computer as I was sitting up and easily pedaling at 27 mph. Before too long I was at the food stop at 114 miles and just went with water as the hammer drink I got at mile 83 was horrid. I still ate fruit and gel and cookies. The bikes most riders were on were carbon or Ti or both. There were almost no older bikes and really very few bikes with second tier components.

I was expecting the portion from 114 to 144 to be rough so I kept my motivation high and, as I still felt pretty good, I was optimistic. The weather reports I had been reading leading up to the ride had indicated there was usually a good wind coming either north-northwest, or straight northwest. As the latter part of the course is a series of south, east and southeast roads, this is usually a Godsend. The wind today was totally from the west, so it was hard cross wind going south and wonderful tailwind heading east. The miles between 114 and 171 were a constant rotation of hard (south) and easy (east). The pavement on the ride also was constantly changing from good to bad to worse to glass.

Soon Gandalf was back and a new group had formed. I kept drifting back and having to claw my way up to the group. I guess I was just inattentive. At one point I was clearly off, but a steep hill allowed me to rejoin and hang for a few more miles. About mile 165 I lost contact and made it to the 171 mile stop all by myself. I checked in (cheaters beware) and ate and remounted quickly as I only had twenty miles to go. This rest stop was the most enjoyable for me as there was a better attitude in the air. The alpha male convention was recessed for a few brief moments and there was a mix of humility from being tired and optimism from knowing they were close to finishing.

The climb up Drum Canyon is steep. Surprisingly steep in places; and although it isn’t long by mountain pass standards, you can’t stand and push and hope to crest it before your pulse maxes out. So I settled into my climbing pace and just dreamed of a massage and turned over the pedals until I crossed the cattle grate signaling the top. I paused and talked for a minute before unleashing the Ti Flyer for the descent. It was horribly rough and the guys on carbon or Aluminum bikes I am sure had to slow way down. I let the TF go and she soaked up the bumps and kept me in control. Once down I put the hammer down and kept a high pace all the way to 246. My worn rear cogs reminded me they were due for retirement, and that I still had some horsepower.

The jarring had loosened my second saddlebag so I stopped and tightened everything. I also figured Hottie would take some pictures of me so I removed the reflective ankle straps that I had put on my handlebars after taking them off my ankles about sixty miles into the ride. This way if she used flash there wouldn’t be a huge reflection that would require explanation.

I crossed highway 101 and then got out of the saddle and attacked the climb into Solvang. I felt strong and my eating along the way had kept the bonk at bay. I finished before six with a ride time of 10:21 for 192.5 miles, or an 18.6 average.

I will detail comments about equipment, clothing and food choices in a later entry.

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