Saturday, March 30, 2013

Altruism in cycling

I remember Lance Armstrong slowing down to wait for for Jan Ulric after Jan crashed off the side of the road during an intense stage of the Tour and I remember Tyler Hamilton slowing down when Lance was brought down by a spectator's musette bag. I remember comparing that to hearing that professional basketball players are fined for helping an opposing team member up off the floor. That's one of the things that attracts me to cycling. Despite the doping there is still respect and honor in the peleton.

Endurance events seem to bring out our charitable side even more than racing events. My experiences in endurance cycling have made me think this is so.

I remember my first 600k - I ignorantly chose one of the most difficult 600k routes on the West Coast - Kevin Main's Cayucos 600k. Fortunately Kevin Main is an incredibly strong rider and a nice guy too. I don't know anyone else who could and would have helped me complete this challenge. He drafted me into the headwind and he kept an eye on our time when I barely knew where I was. He gave me candy when I was bonking and recommended replacing my saddle with a Brooks when my backside was on fire.

My second 600k was Greg Jones' Mount Pinos which is an easier ride, but it's still a 600k. I remember on the second day being part of a group of six riders who were on time to finish, but without much of a time buffer. One of the riders was struggling and slowing the group down but instead of riding on without him we rallied around him and dragged him to the end in time, even though we jeopardized our own times to do it. Vickie Backman was instrumental in herding the group as it started to fragment.

I find myself accepting help from those stronger than me and offering help to those in need during endurance events. It's not uncommon for the person who helps me and the person I help to be the same person as our strength ebbs and flows during the event. Because it's not a race, it's easier to help other participants. There is strength in numbers - drafting, navigation, group cycling at night - these are all reasons to ride as a team even if the team as a whole rides slower than the fastest member. That slowest member of the team might be the one that prevents the group from making a navigational error and riding ten extra miles.

Monday, March 25, 2013

600k staff ride

My daughter, Amber, and I rode the 600k staff ride over the weekend. We noticed several things that will be useful for other riders to know.
We started from the Motel6 at 5am and immediately picked up the pre-dawn offshore flow which was so strong we were flying along at 20-25mph. I was so happy that I overshot the turn onto Atlantic and we had to backtrack 100 yards.Traffic through Huntington beach was light and we made excellent time to the first control at 21.7 miles. Note the Starbucks is actually inside the Pavilions, but you can use anywhere in this shopping center. As we turned onto the San Gabriel bike path at mile 22.4 we were surprised by the number of early risers jogging and cycling on the path. We picked up a strong headwind (the same one that was so wonderful at the start of the ride) but it died down quicky after sunrise and became a light tailwind. The turn onto San Gabriel is a bit confusing and Amber tried to continue on Durfee instead of turning left onto San Gabriel. Now we've made one mistake each. They won't be the last. The line at McDonalds at mile 44.8 was out the door (weird) so we went to the Jack in the Box next door. Heading back on the Rio Hondo trail we had a light headwind which got stronger as we got closer to the beach. At Long Beach Marina we just kept the water on our right. You can't go wrong if you do that. At mile 74.7 I noticed the older routesheet turns the wrong way - make sure yours says to turn Left over the bridge to stay on Marina Dr. I think the newer routesheets are correct. We got back to the Motel6 at noon - right on schedule.
Loop two heads inland and has the first real hill of the ride - up to Green River road - Ugh! We had a roaring tailwind which got even stronger through the Corona pass. As we were slightly ahead of schedule we elected to eat at the Lucky Greek which is about 200yds past the Chevron. Feel free to do the same. There are also an IHOP and a In-n-Out burger nearby. Eating real food every now and again makes the ride so much more enjoyable. The gyro and fries are amazing and they have a Coke machine with 106 different flavors. I filled my water bottles up with diluted raspberry flavored coke. Then we rode through Norco and along the upper SART (now paved all the way!) with a moderate tailwind to the Shell gas station at mile 150.8. The guy who runs it knows me by sight and automatically prints out a receipt for all cyclists :-) Now the climbing starts. It's mainly 2% grade but Walnut and Overcrest are much steeper - up to 10% for short sections. It's a good idea to have a time buffer for this section because a lot of riders will have a hard time holding a 9.5mph average to the next control. We still had a light tailwind all the way to Yuciapa - that's 70 miles of tailwind, if you're counting. It looks like parts of Brookside have been repaved recently - possibly the road work that had it closed last year. We got to the Stater Bros. on Beamont and Oak Valley at 7pm - on schedule again. Turkey salad on croissant sandwiches with a Red Bull. Yummy. We left heading towards the last light of the setting sun. Last year I had four riders that continued south on Beamont. Please don't do that. You have to leave this control headed West - hence the reference to the setting sun. We had a mild headwind for the first 5-6 miles of San Timeteo Canyon but it died down around Fisherman's Retreat. Shortly after we heard barking to our left and a golden retriever came out of the dark. It wasn't aggressive but it was stupid and kept running in front of me and slowing down. We rode cautiously until it started lagging and then we kicked it up. Just be aware. We picked up the night tail wind about half way down San Timeteo which stayed with us most of the way back to the end of the second loop. The control at mile 204.6 is hosted by Ruth Cabre-Chacon and her family. Riders who are feeling sleepy can catch a few winks here but sleeping at the end of the second loop will get you more sleep. Please be considerate of her neighbors and be quiet while outside. Continuing on we had a mild tailwind down Victoria Ave. This used to be a jewel in Riverside's crown but lack of maintenance has made this a rough ride. There's a bike path and a bike lane but they're both rough. Even the main road is in poor condition. The control at mile 227 is an Arco but there's an In-n-Out burger just before it which is an acceptable alternative. We were surprised to see it was still open. It was tempting but we opted for the Arco this time. The last stretch is mainly flat or slightly downhill and we still had a light tailwind so we were able to hold 17-18 mph to get to the end of the second loop by 1am - right on schedule again. The second loop is designed so that if you can get to the Beamont control by sunset (about 7pm) you will have a tailwind in both directions. Plus there's only about 1000' of climbing in the 75 miles from Beaumont back to the Motel6.
We left the Motel6 around 8:00am Sunday which gave us time to shower, change, get 6 hours sleep, and eat. There's really no point in pushing hard on the last 200k. There's a fair amount of climbing to the next control (lots of ups and downs) but we got there around 10:45. I fancied eating at Roy's Fish Market but they weren't open so we just ate at the liquor store instead. Continuing South along PCH we had a strong tailwind. Climbing through San Clemente on the bike route was nice. The route is a bit fiddly but it's well marked. At Christianitos Rd we saw signs stating an Ironman is being run next week (30th) and the whole area would be shut down. You'd be amazed how hard it is to schedule a 600k without someone scheduling a marathon, 10k run, or triathlon along the same roads and closing them down. We got to Oceanside and decided to try Angelo's Burgers. I tried to eat a breakfast burrito half the size of my head - I wasn't man enough for the job and had to leave half of it. The service is fast, the portions are huge, the food is good and the prices are low. I'm making this the recommended control although you're welcome to use anywhere beyond Neptune Way as before. We turned around and rode through Camp Pendleton into a headwind. I prefer to avoid Interstate 5. For northbound cyclists there is a mandatory detour starting just after the security gate. It adds another mile. Although it's clearly marked you should be aware that at the end of the detour you need to continue straight. I don't know how I screwed up but I went right instead. We rode an extra 7 miles as a result of that mistake. So we deliberately added 3 miles through Camp Pendleton, then the detour added one more, and my mistake added seven more for a total of 11 bonus miles. What with the headwind, we barely got to the Carls' Junior control by the cutoff time. Continuing into the headwind we passed through San Clement on PCH. To be honest there are so many lights on this stretch of PCH I think taking the bike route back would have been faster. It adds about a mile, so I certainly have no problems if someone wants to do that. Finally we got to Dana Point where we headed inland and that headwind turned into a tailwind.
Now for some good news. The barriers on the San Juan bike trail have been removed and the trail continues uninterrupted. This removes two turns and a stop light but it doesn't change the climbing or distance at all. I have updated the routeslip and the gps file for the 3rd loop. As we turned more north the headwind came back and we started to have terrible luck with the lights. They were all red or turned red as we got to them. I started to get worried that we wouldn't get to the 350 mile control in time. Amber was stronger than me so I sent her on ahead to make sure she got credit even if I didn't and I noticed that she was making all the lights and they were all turning red for me. I felt so special. As it turned out I got to the control in time so there was no need to worry. Apparantly there are two Albertsons on this road within a couple of miles of each other. I don't really care which one you use. Almost home now. Be careful on Alton - the on ramp for the I5 is tricky.It's worth stopping and making sure you have a safe gap in traffic before you cross it. We had a tailwind again on the bike path which is very fast because cuts out ten or so stop lights. We exit onto Main (the second exit after the footbridge) and for some reason all the lights on Main are green and we have a tailwind. Before we know it we're on the SART. There were quite a few riders and runners and hardly any of them had lights. It would have sucked to be taken out by one of them just a few miles from the end. We finished at 8:33pm. That's our slowest 200k ever (12.5 hours).
Congratulations to Amber for completing her first 600k ever.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


I've started running once a week to try to prepare for the Surf City half marathon next year. I've never done much running before so it's been quite an experience. Last week I ran my first 5k and it went pretty well - I ran the whole thing in a time of 34m18. Now I've increased my milage I find I need equipment - a sports watch and a runner's bottle. No matter what you do there's always someone willing to sell you something to do it better or faster. God bless America!

I rode my Lucky Greek populaire twice this week, posting sub four hour times both times. I love my Schmidt Son hub generator and Lumotec light but Peter White has an add in this quarter's American Randonneur magazine for a Luxos U light. I checked out the specs - it outputs 70 lux in a wide beam, has a backup battery, and a USB port for charging a cell phone or GPS system. I love the idea of the wide beam which makes turning tight corners so much safer.

Unfortunately my Garmin Edge will not operate while charging but I'm planning on buying a new smart phone in September and it would be cool to be able to use it as a GPS system and power it from the Luxos. The price on the light is $238 which is way too much. Perhaps the price will come down soon? I can only hope.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Orange Triple curse?

Each year I host a 400/600k brevet called the Orange Triple Loop. Because I host it I ride the staff ride one or two weeks before. Last year I had my worst bike accident in ten years just three weeks before the ride and took most of the skin off my knee. This made riding the 600k impossible so I rode the 400k version which was merely agony.

The staff ride this year is scheduled in three weeks. Yesterday I rode my 200k Santa Ana permanent and got stuck behind a group of slower riders. While I was waiting for an opportunity to pass them, the rider in front of me touched wheels with the rider in front of her and went down. I barely managed to stop before riding over her.

I'm starting to think the ride is cursed in some way. It seems that three weeks before the staff ride is a dangerous time to be me or around me.

Other than that the ride went well with a moderate headwind all the way to the beach and a moderate tailwind all the way back. I had animal fries at the In-n-Out despite the fact that they weren't supposed to be open for another 15 minutes. Note to self: don't start the 200k before 8:30 or you'll be at the first control before they open.

I had the usual crappy sandwich at the Beach Market in Newport Beach. They are remodelling and expanding the deli section. That'll be nice. Hopefully I'll be able to have their awesome deli sandwiches soon.

The return was nice with the tailwind and I ate at the Lucky Greek - soda and fries to go. As I got near the end of the ride I realized I might be able to manage a sub 9 hour ride which would be one of my best times. I pushed a little harder and finished in 8:51 which is a personal best for that route. I didn't even need lights.

I read this on the BBC website yesterday. Apparently in Scotland's second largest distillery some workers were supposed to drain some cleaning water out of a tank. They drained the wrong tank and released 600 gallons of whiskey into the drains. It ended up at the local water treatment plant. The management at the water treatment plant assured local residents that none of the whiskey had entered the drinking water. I very much doubt the local residents would have minded very much if it had.