Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Borrego Springs 400k

Last weekend I rode Willie's Borrego Springs 400k brevet.

I stayed at the Hilton Garden Hotel at 27082 Towne Center Drive, Lake Forest. I really liked the hotel and the price. I would definitely stay there again.

The ride started at 5:00am at Willie's house in Lake Forest. There were eight of us riding the 400k version and four riding the 600k. The route took us up to Sunset Beach, then inland through Riverside, Palm Springs, Indio, and the overnight was at Borrego Springs. The 600k riders continued up the glass elevator (a 3500' climb in 11 miles) and back to Willie's house. The 400k riders got a ride back in Willie's massively modified F250.

We started out headed down Laguna Canyon, which - amazingly - I have never ridden before. The temperature got down to 36F (someone said 31 but I don't think that's right). Brrrr. I alternately formed a fist with each hand and placed it under the opposite armpit. I remember listening to the other riders around me complaining about the cold and thinking "it will soon be a distant memory". Great way to start a ride.

We headed north on PCH through Laguna Beach in the pre-dawn light. Sublime. The first control was at the Mobil on PCH and Warner - the site of many brevet controls. I was really jonesing for something hot so I opted for the Jack-in-the-Box across the street. Looking out the window while inhaling my breakfast burrito I spotted Hector et. al. across the way so as they left I hooked up with them.

That was fun for a while but it was obvious I wasn't going to stay with them and the longer I tried to the more I would pay for it later so I dropped off the pace. There aren't many controls on this ride so I stopped at the 76 gas on Green River Road (thanks Stacey) at mile 74. I had brought some Perpetuum and Endurolites with me - enough for one bottle every 30 miles. By making sure I ate regularly and drank Perpetuum I hoped I wouldn't have the nutritional problems that DNFed my last 400k. Oddly we had a slight head wind from the coast to this point.

Soon after we hit the top half of the SART and enjoyed 20 miles of bike path with a gentle tail wind - go figure. The next control was our old stand-by the G&M gas on Hospitality and Waterman. I had an ice-cream and a tuna sandwich. Yummy. From there we headed over to San Timeteo canyon road and climbed for 16+ miles to Beaumont. To be honest we had been climbing from the beach so we climbed a total of 2600' in 80 miles with very few descents. It got to around 90F during the steep parts of the climb so I changed plans slightly and took a break near the top of the climb at the Mobil in Beaumont. I ate and drank and then took a "shade-nap" for 30 minutes waking up very refreshed.

Near the top of the climb Mark was waiting for us (thanks) and he topped up my water bottle. Now started the awesome downhill. The next sixty miles took us from 2600' to below sea-level with a roaring tailwind. What could be better? Smooth roads! I knew Johnson was bad but Main was pretty awful too. On the plus side they have repaved the shoulder of the 111 since I last rode it and I caught up with Jim and Jeff (uncle and nephew) on that stretch. They were riding a little slower than I would have, but I have always found that riding with other riders improves your chance of finishing strongly even if it means you finish later. I stayed with them for the next hundred miles or so.

We were riding on Easter weekend in the vicinity of Coachella during the Coachella music festival so even though we didn't go through downtown Palm Springs we still dealt with heavy traffic and lots of shuttle buses as we rode down Vista Chino. When you organize a ride this long it's really difficult to dodge all the marathons, fun-runs, triathlons, Grands Prix, etc. The road surface on Varner Road was spectacularly bad. I can't believe Palm Springs doesn't have the budget to do a better job of road maintenance.

Fortunately it got better and Jim, Jeff, and I made slow but constant progress at 12-14 mph on fairly flat roads with little wind. As we approached the info control at mile 183 I got a call from Stacey telling us there was a detour. Part of the route was fenced off (for the music festival?) so we had to make a two mile detour. Bummer.

At some point we stopped for pizza at a pre-arranged place that Jeff knew and shared a large Hawaiian. So good. Pizza was a brilliant idea - there's something about eating comfort food after cycling 200+ miles that really makes for good memories. At this point my fitbit watch registered 8500 calories expended. I only wanted two slices of pizza which makes me think the Perpetuum was doing its job.

It was a little further to the Arco at mile 221 which is the last food for 27 miles. I have no memory of eating anything, but I know I did. There's a sign there that says "Borrego Springs 27 miles". I knew we would start climbing (it was 1000' in 11 miles) but it seemed like a lot in the dark. Once again the road surface turned nasty for about four miles and I was amazed stuff wasn't flying off my bike. Even if I could have ridden up the hill faster, the road surface was too rough. When we entered San Diego county the road surface got really nice for a while, like they were trying to make a good impression, but they couldn't keep it up and it got a bit rough again. It took about three hours to cover the next 27 miles but I only had six cars pass me so that was nice.

According to my computer I rode 27 miles and then saw a sign that said "Borrego Springs 2 miles". WTF? "Bastard!" - I shouted at the sign like it was the sign's fault. Two miles later I found the Hacienda del Sol. It was 3am and I was two hours behind target, but very happy none the less. It took some effort to find the "suite" Willie had reserved for us. Fortunately he had placed a flashing tail light outside which finally worked through my sleep-deprived brain until I realized "Oh, that must be where I have to go."

Willie was waiting for me with food, which I didn't want, and a shower, which I did. He had brought my drop bag up from Lake Forest so I showered and changed into clean clothes then dropped onto the bed. Jim and Jeff showed up 15 minutes later and Greg and Stacey were about an hour behind.

I got three hours sleep and then up for breakfast and a ride back to the start. The ride was much tougher than the 6500' of climbing led me to believe it would be. The heat and the rough roads really beat me up. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.