Monday, April 29, 2013

Santa Cruz 400k

This weekend Amber and I drove up to Santa Cruz to ride their 400k. I rode it two years ago and had good memories of it, but this year turned out to be a complicated ride and threw just about everything it could at us.

We stayed at the Mission Inn which is 1.5 miles from the start and 1/4 mile from the end. The ride itself started at a lighthouse and sign in went smoothly. Lois and Bryan know how to organize a brevet. We headed north up PCH to Moss Beach in a big group. We managed to stay with the group for a while which was good because as soon as the sun came up we were riding into a headwind.

It's fifty miles before the first control at Moss Beach. Two years ago this caused me a problem but this year I was more prepared for it. Fifteen minutes later we were headed back south with a nice tailwind but soon we turned inland towards LaHonda for some climbing. The next control at LaHonda is a small country store but there are no rest-rooms. Fortunately the bar across the street 'Apple Jacks' was kind enough to let us use theirs.

After LaHonda we hit Haskills Hill - the hardest climb on the ride that takes you up 500' in less than two miles. While grunting up the hill we were passed by a semi-pro team with 'Mission' on their jerseys. They cruised past me while effortlessly holding a conversation. One of them saw the Pooh Bear on my Carradice bag and told me a joke. 'Why did piglet look in the toilet?' 'He was looking for Pooh'. Aha - I wish I had a sense of humor while climbing a 10% grade.

Near the top of the climb was a disaster. There were hundreds of glass bottles broken all across the road with hundreds more in the ditch to the side. Either someone deliberatly brought a truck load of bottles up this quiet country road and smashed them or they were being transported and fell off the truck. Either way the Mission team was all over the side of the road fixing flats. We saw the glass and avoided it because we were only moving at 4mph. There are advantages to being slow.

Los Gazos creek road must be one of the most beautiful roads I've ever ridden. It's smooth, narrow, winding, with rolling hills and overshadowed by trees. It is idyllic. We were back onto PCH again too soon but at least we had that tailwind again and returned to Santa Cruz in good time. We ate at the Safeway opposite our motel even though there's no official control here. What a fantastic loop!

I knew the eight miles from Santa Cruz to Aptos on Soquel Road was ugly so we rode through that as quickly as we could. Heavy traffic, parked cars, cross streets, lights - I get enough of that where I normally ride. Once past Aptos we get more country roads but they must be maintained by a different department because the road quality is noticeably worse. We had a constant headwind all the way to Marina where the fog set in and we started getting cold. I liked the bike path as you enter Marina.

We decided we wanted real food in Marina so we ate at the Taco Bell. I ate a personal pizza in ten bites and the staleness of the breadsticks didn't bother me at all. I was full for the first time today. I put Mountain Dew in my water bottles and meant to water it down but forgot. Leaving the Taco Bell it was cold so we put more layers on. My thermometer said 50F but the fog just sucked the heat right out of me.

Heading out of Marina we had a tailwind along River Road and Gonzales River Road. Now I remember these road were rough two years ago but they were dreadful this year. River Road was so rough it snapped Amber's mirror mount. This was a four month old Mirrcle mirror. I seriously considered taking my expensive light off and putting it in my bag to protect it. In the end I decided not to so that I would have the best lighting to allow me to avoid the worst of the potholls. I still don't have full grip strength in my left hand.

We got to Gonzales just before 9pm, in time to use the Chevron. My stomach was bugging me so I just got water. A couple of Tums helped for a while but I think the problem was too much sugar from the Mountain Dew. This control requires us to mail a postcard at the post office because Gonzales pretty much closes at 9pm except for the bars. Martins Zinbergs joined us at Gonzales which was much appreciated. We turned around back into the headwind and braved the wind, the rough road, and the sprinklers blowing water (I hope it was just water) across the road. The good news is that this entire stretch had taken us away from the fog of Marina.

Back in Marina (and the fog) we stopped at the 7-11 and pretty much camped out in the store while we ate and drank. All I wanted was an apple pie and a red bull. We left the 7-11 and turned right onto the bike path and with a tailwind. That's more like it. There was fog all the way now - not heavy but definitely cold. Soquel road seems better in this direction. Perhaps it was the lack of traffic. There's a couple of nasty little hills near the end of the ride and then we turned onto King St - more superb craftmanship from CalTrans. It's like riding on recently cooled lava flow. We finished the ride at 3am in 21 hours which was fine with me. Two years ago was more like 24 hours.

If I did this ride again I think I would switch to a mountain bike with aerobars for the second loop. It wouldn't have to be full suspension but those fat tires would be great on River Road and the aerobars would be better than bar-ends for dealing with the wind.

We were woken up at 8am by the screaming of a retarded girl in the next room. She kept it up, on and off, until the family left at 11am. Thanks Mission Inn!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"Disability" is a state of mind

I'm starting to understand at a deep level why people don't like the label 'disabled'. My wife suffers from a degenerative nerve disease that gives her constant pain and makes all forms of exercise painful. Nevertheless she has completed a fifty mile bike ride and a difficult 11 mile hike in the mountains within the past couple of months. Both of these achievements caused her considerable pain, yet she willingly undertook them because she refuses to be limited by her condition.

Every time I go for a bike ride, especially on the bike path, I see an overweight person on a bicycle and I make a point of giving them a sign of encouragement. I know that a thumbs-up from a stranger can go a long way towards motivating an inexperienced cyclist and making them feel less self-conscious.

I also see similarly overweight people parking in handicapped zones and using motorized wheelchairs or mobility scooters. When I think of my wife I can't help thinking that in a lot of cases the only difference between the bicycle and the mobility scooter is state of mind.

I see cyclists with two legs, one leg, no legs, fat, thin, young and old. God bless us all!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Advantages of being a cyclist

Amber and I had a fun ride today riding from Yorba Linda regional park to The Crema and back for a total of 70 miles. As usual the food was excellent. This is an extension of our usual The Crema ride because this was our last training ride for the Santa Cruz 400k. The weather was overcast with a persistent on shore flow. It even sprinkled on us a little.

My bottom bracket is making a creaking sound still so on the way back I drove over to Don's in Redlands to have them check it out and maybe replace the forks too. I was low on gas but the gas gauge still showed an 1/8th of a tank when I ran out of gas just as I was exiting the I-10 at University. I stopped on the shoulder of the off-ramp and started walking to try to find a gas station. After a few steps I realized I have a bike and a Garmin Edge. I jumped on the bike and used to Garmin to find the nearest gas station which turned out to be about a mile away.

As I rode to the gas station I passed an auto parts store and bought a one gallon gas container, rode on the gas station, filled it up (that must have looked odd), bungee corded the gas container to my aerobars, and rode back to the truck. It sure beat walking.

My long suffering bike is at Don's right now - I think I'm going to be spending some money on it.

I've been looking for an external power source for my Garmin Edge 705 for a while and I've not had any luck. It has a battery life of about 16 hours which is fine for up to a 300k but it dies on longer rides (yes, I know, I could ride faster). On the 600k I hosted last week one of the riders showed me is external battery pack made by Gomadic. I was so impressed I decided to buy one from Amazon the next day.

It's rare that a company makes a product that is exactly what you want, at a price less that you would expect, and delivers it faster than you would think possible. That's exactly what Gomadic did. I placed the order on Amazon on Monday morning, received a shipping notification on Monday afternoon, and the product was on my doorstep when I got home from work on Wednesday.

On my Saturday ride I put new batteries in and plugged in into my Garmin Edge 705. The backlight came on so I set it to the lowest setting (other than off) and started timing. It has been 22 hours and it is still going. I would have been happy at eight hours. I will update this blog when it finally dies.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Orange Triple Loop

The second annual Orange Triple Loop 400/600k brevet was held last weekend. I had about 25 riders sign up and four of them did not start. The Klines called me ahead of the ride and let me know that they wouldn't make it. They were sorely missed and they missed out on a perfect weekend of riding.

Moving the ride forward three weeks from last year's date was a good move and I'm planning to keep it as close to the beginning of April as I can. Despite dire predictions of gale force winds there was just the normal amount of wind and it behaved as expected so riders had much more tailwind than headwind. Unlike last year, the temps barely reached 80F and didn't drop below 50F. If you recall, last year the temp range was 38F-85F.

Reversing the first loop made it even faster than last year and all the riders completed the first 100 miles in less than eight hours. Jim Harris crashed on the San Gabriel trail somehow but managed to keep going strong.Sherry and I even managed to get in a quick 30 mile ride to Kokomo's and back. It was her first time there and we'll be going back.

Riders set off on the second loop with a strong tailwind but ran afoul of the Redlands Classic being run in downtown Redlands. Fortunately there was only a short detour and no-one was seriously inconvenienced. The climb from Redlands to Beaumont was hard as usual but at least it wasn't too hot this year. The route change that substituted Brookside for Cherry Valley was popular - it's a much quieter road and in good condition too. Returning on San Timoteo is always fun especially if you time it so you get a tailwind. The 200 mile control was at Ruth Cabre's house and was the highlight of the ride. Many riders commented on Ruth and Kevin's hospitality and on Ruth's cooking skills. Pete and Charlie took a power nap before continuing at 12:30am.

Back at the end of the second loop all the 400k riders arrived in good shape and in good time. Pete and Charlie decided they could not safely continue on the 600k which is a shame but nothing to be ashamed of. I hope I can ride a 400k when I'm in my 70's. Mike Sturgill also stopped at the 400k mark because he had to drive back to AZ to meet Sunday commitments.

Many people rode right through, which is not something I've seen too often before. The AZ group was super strong and actually covered over 300 miles in 24 hours. That's not easy to do on a brevet. The mortals slept, most of them leaving around 7am. Some of them got only three hours sleep, others got as much as six. The third loop is a bit lumpy and tends to have a headwind on the return section which makes it a tough 200k.

Several riders found a 'weakness' in the routesheet. It turns out that Main St crosses MacArthur twice. I did not realize this. That means there are two opportunities to make a left on MacArthur. Some riders took the first opportunity and others took the second opportunity. Those that took the first turn ended up calling me as they realized things didn't look right. It took some effort to get them back on track because none of us had had much sleep lately. Because this was my mistake, I gave everyone who went astray some bonus time to ensure they got credit.

I will alter the end of the ride to use Sunflower (like last year).

I want to congratulate everyone who finished and even those who started. Many riders completed their first 400k or 600k. I want to especially congratulate Lisa Nicholson and Debbie Protho who both set personal best distances.

Until next year.....

Here is the list of riders in alphabetical order
Sanford Aniya, 600k, First 600k!
Mel Cutler, 400k
Pete Eade, 600k, DNF
Jim Harris, 400k
Kerin Huber, 600k, Fastest 600k!
Jeff Karotkin, 400k, First 400k!
Charles Lotte, 600k, DNF
Brian McGuire, 600k, Fastest 600k!
Peg Miller, 600k
Lisa Nicholson, 400k, First 400k!
Elaine Perry, 400k,
Debbie Protho, 600k, First 600k!
Bruce Shank, 600k, First 600k!
Mike Shaw, 600k, First 600k!
Mike Sturgill, 600k, DNF
Tim Sullivan, 600k, Fastest 600k!
Alan Tolkoff, 600k, First 600k
Jack Twitchell, 600k,
Kathy Twitchell, 600k
Carlton van Leuven, 400k
Dick Wiss, 600k