Friday, December 22, 2017

Winter solstice 200k

December 21st was the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, so Kerin Huber organized a 200k from Pasadena to Oceanside starting at the Sierra Madre Gold Line station at 7pm. For a late season 200k, we had a surprisingly large turnout of 12 riders.

Starting in Pasadena

We have had terrible Santa Ana winds for the past two weeks - so strong that Amber and I had to abandon last week's ride. Fortunately the wind was fairly calm, and the prevailing northerly winds had returned for our ride. On the other hand it was bitterly cold (for California) so I had the opportunity to try out some of my new cold weather gear. I had new silk undergloves, a long-sleeved woolen RUSA jersey that I had only worn once before, and a new Showers Pass jacket.

When we started the ride it was about 46F. We rode tempo around Pasadena before heading east to the San Gabriel river trail. Charlie was unable to hold our pace and dropped off. It turns out he was not feeling well and was unable to complete the ride within the allotted time. David Nakai started late and caught us after an hour or so, then quickly rode off the front because he needed to finish before we were likely to.

Dana Point

Once we got onto the San Gabriel bike path, around mile 30, the temperature dropped even lower - bottoming out at around 36F. Fortunately as we approached the coast, it rose back up to around 41F and stayed there for the rest of the ride. Even with four layers of clothes, standing around at the controls was very cold, so several times I left before others were ready so I could warm up a little.

At Seal Beach, the McDonalds had closed early so we rode on the the Harbor House Cafe which is open 24 hours. This is good to know. The service there was pretty chaotic, but they got the job done eventually. We spent an hour here in total but at least we were well fed when we left.

We rode south with a tailwind in one or two groups, coming together and splitting as people felt stronger or weaker. Riding through Laguna Beach at two in the morning is much better than during the day. Hardly any parked cars, traffic, or pedestrians. Dana Point was quiet and we stopped at the penultimate control at the Arco to use the rest room and get water.

I showed Mark Tagawa the bike path through San Clemente which is slightly shorter and has less climbing than the bike route or PCH but because it's hard packed dirt, it is slightly slower. As we finished climbing out we saw the group that had stayed on PCH pass about 30 seconds ahead of us so I chased to get back on. Mark didn't even know the bike path existed and he said it was cool. When it's not packed with pedestrians, it is a lot more fun.

I was with the lead group of five as we approached Las Pulgas Road but I had to stop to eat some GoCubes and ended up about 1/4 mile behind them. I think they stopped at the rest area off the I5 because I saw them go in but I got to the Oceanside Amtrak before them.

My total ride time was 10:03 and the whole group, except Charlie, rolled in within another twelve minutes at 05:15. We were lucky enough to catch the 05:42 Metrolink to Los Angeles and Terri and Kerin were kind enough to show me how to buy a Gold Line ticket (and pay for it) back to Pasadena. It turns out it's not enough to buy a ticket. You buy the physical, reusable ticket and then have to load a virtual ticket onto it, and scan it as you enter. Too much for my sleep addled brain to figure out.

Ending in Oceanside

Sunday, December 17, 2017


Southern California has been experiencing unprecedented Santa Ana winds for the past 10+ days. During this time of year we have normally had our first snow and started the rainy season. However, in 2017, we have had no snow and almost no rain. Instead, we have had continuous dry, warm, powerful winds blowing off the Mojave desert. The Thomas fire is wreaking havoc in Ventura County and is now the third largest fire California has ever experienced. And it's still going strong.

Amber and I were scheduled to ride from Anaheim to Oceanside, but the wind in Anaheim was very strong and would have been a side-wind on the descent of Santiago Canyon so we decided to abandon that idea and ride up the bike path to the Lucky Greek. At least the wind would have been a head-wind on the way up and a tail-wind on the way back.

I pulled 16 miles into a 20-30 mph head-wind until we reached the canyon, by which time the wind had increased to the point where it was unsafe even as a head-wind. We decided to turn around at that point and flew back. At one point we were riding at 26 mph and I could still feel a tail-wind on the back of my legs. Our average speed on the way out was 12.1 mph and on the way back was 21.2 mph.

This is what 30mph looks like on the bike.

Monday, December 4, 2017

When the lights suddenly go out

Twice in the past ten years or so, I have passed out while using the rest-room after abandoning a hard brevet. Both times were after the first 400km of a multi day ride that was much hotter than I expected.

I did some research on this to see if I could prevent it from happening again. I found this page to be very useful

I had suspected this was related to dehydration. When you stand up quickly, especially from a deep sleep, the blood pressure in your brain drops suddenly and the heart takes a while to catch up. If you are dehydrated, your blood pressure is low to start with.

In addition, if you have recently eaten - and this is common at the end of a 400k, your digestive system has more than its usual allocation of blood, making less available to the brain.

So the combination of exhaustion, suddenly standing up, dehydration, and a heavy meal all add up to a recipe for passing out. It's amazing it hasn't happened to me more often. So what can I do about it?

Normally there are warning signs. I feel dizzy or break out into a clammy sweat a few seconds before passing out. I could sit down and put my head between my knees (apparently this actually works). It also seems crossing your legs and squeezing your leg muscles helps pump blood up to your head.

I should also make a more concerted effort to re-hydrate after a ride and maybe try not to eat too much before going to bed.

Last time I went down I cracked my head and elbow pretty badly. I don't want to do that again.