Sunday, March 1, 2009

"Hammering" Hemet 400K

This brevet was the best 200K I've ridden so far! What?? The Title of the post is "Hammering" Hemet 400K. That means I DNF'd this brevet. More towards the end of the post.

A hardy group of randonneurs and randonneuses showed up for the event. We're all gathered at the start in La Costa, a small somewhat coastal suburb just north of San Diego.

Our nearly fearless RBA Mike - in the red/white/blue jacket - along with Greg - the tall guy right behind Mike, gives us some preride advice.

This is Nick, we partnered for the ride and is a plank owner of the 100 Watt Club.

Promptly at 7 AM PST, we're off!

Brief look at the San Dieguito Reservoir...

Our initial start of the 400 was a loop taking us toward the Pacific Ocean heading north. One of my favorite places to run and ride.

Cruising into Cardiff By The Sea. Nick had his 200 watt hammer out and it was down!

Pacific Coast Higway, or Historic 101. It's a great route to walk, run, bike and drive.

Spent many years buying my running shoes and just plain hanging out at Movin Shoes.

Making our way through Encinitas...

This building will look very familiar to my in-laws...

Oceanside Pier.

Making our way towards Fallbrook.

Nick still has his 200 watt hammer out! I didn't want to seem rude by not taking my turn at the front, but it was all I could do to stay with Nick. For the better part of 30 minutes, I was registering 20 MPH on the Surly. Normally going that fast on my bike is tough to do. The sweet spot for the Surly is about 17 MPH. Anything faster than than really takes a larger effort. We're riding through downtown Fallbrook.

This sign is at the top of the first climb on De Luz Rd. I work for Harris Corporation, so I thought a photo was warranted. De Luz Rd was a decent climb, a warm up for what was to come later in the day.

Nick informed me we had a bunch of small roller coaster type hills on the descent from the top of De Luz. He was correct. Being one of the larger riders on a heavy bike, I rode like mad on the downhills and used my massive amount of momentum due to my mass and used that kinetic energy to help me over the hills. That worked very well! Score one for the big guy! Thanks for the tip Nick!

Promptly at the bottom of De Luz Rd, we make a right turn onto De Luz Murietta Rd. As soon as I made the turn and started to down shift for a hill, I dropped my chain. Not sure how that happened, but I hopped off and fixed it. I use a dry lube on my chain so it was nice not to get a bunch of chain lube on my fingers. I snapped a photo of Nick flying around the corner, with absolutely no regard to personal safety!

There are a few water crossings on de Luz Murietta Rd. It was recommended we dismount and walk our bikes across the water. Well, I kinda forgot that and just rode through all of them! It wasn't so bad, the water was less than an inch deep and barely flowing. Not too much icky green stuff on the concrete either. We continue riding up our second climb of the day and it went very well for me. During the 300K I heard of other riders finding a rhythm when riding uphill. I'm not sure if pedalling madly for 30 seconds then coasting 10 seconds counts as a "rhythm", but that's how I would ride uphill. This time, I played with my gearing to find one where I could spin continuously and an even cadence. Boy, was that so much easier! I'm still rather new to this cycling stuff, I still have a lot to learn.

Once at the top of De Luz Murietta Rd, we turn on Rancho California Rd. It's our 3rd climb of the day and it's no slouch either. It's much warmer out and this hill is fully exposed, no shade. Same technique as De Luz Murietta, I just find a gear to keep spinning the cranks. Part way up, I stop for this photo. It's pretty warm, I'd say up in the mid eighties, and it's funny to see snow at the higher elevations.

Cresting the first part of the climb up Rancho California Rd, there's a small descent then yet another uphill.

At the summit, very nice view of the Temecula valley, snow in the mountains and warm, dry temps in the valley.

This is Antelope Road that runs alongside the 215 in Riverside County. I've driven past this sign numerous times in nearly 17 years of marriage. My wife's family lives in Las Vegas...

The ride to Hemet was mostly uneventful. After leaving the Temecula control at mile 77.5, I went through a bout of nausea and generally not feeling all that great. I know I've overfueled combined with the warmer temps, it's too much for my system. I know what to do. I take a few antacids and just drink plain water. The road between Temecula and Hemet is very flat, so I pick a good gear to pedal easy. About an hour later, I start feeling much better and pick up the pace arriving in Hemet. Here's a video taken by no other than the author of Ravages Of Aging blog, Herb Kimpel.

Herb and his lovely wife Sue drove up to meet me in Hemet. I've known Herb and Sue for over 20 years and Herb is the Godfather to our oldest son. Great shirt Herb! We'll be conquering the Grand Canyon again on 04/26.

I spent about 40 minutes in Hemet getting into my drop bag for more fuel and warm riding clothes for the long evening ahead. This is my first real break all day. I've been riding about 9.5 hours with minimal breaks. I drink up, Herb bought me a tasty turkey wrap from the market. I hit the facilities and get cleaned up ready to ride. The bad news is, Nick had to drop just prior to Hemet due to bad leg cramps. So, this meant riding the remainder of the brevet alone. I'm the last one to leave Hemet and there's some tough climbing still ahead. I bid Herb and Sue a goodbye, they take my drop bag with them. Thanks!

Like my other brevets, when the sun goes down, the camera goes away. The ride towards Sage Road is uneventful and the Surly starts to point uphill. The weather is still very nice out so I've not dressed in my cold weather gear. The sun quickly sets and I stop to put on my helmet headlamp. There's plenty of cars and trucks on Sage Road. I come around a corner into a wide swath of deep sand. The Surly starts to slide out from under me, but I keep pedaling, up out of the saddle and keep it upright. After my fall on the 300K, which took 3 weeks for my shoulder to become pain free, I don't want to go down again.

Sage Road is the longest climb so far during this brevet. It's a relentless grade, with sharp turns. I keep having very close calls with cars and trucks, some trucks have wide towing mirrors and trailers. I get buzzed 3 times and there's no where to go. Some spots on Sage Road have almost zero shoulder, with ditches, ravines or if there's a shoulder, it's covered in sand.

I make it to the fire station and pull over to get my cold weather clothes on. Temperatures are starting to drop. The fire station has an outdoor speaker and I'm listening to the dispatcher announce car accidents. I'm done getting dressed and hit the road once again.

I'm about 2 miles from Wilson Valley Road and another truck/trailer combo starts to pass me. It's on older Ford diesel with those wide, steel tripod mirrors sticking waaay out. So far out I feel the breeze going by my left ear. There's no shoulder, nothing but a drainage ditch to my right. The kind of drainage ditch that's lined with big, pointy rocks. I do my best to hug the line as the trailer goes by me. As the tires of the trailer pass, I'm over just a tad too far and I feel my back wheel slip a few inches off the pavement. Somehow, I manage to keep the Surly upright, keep pedaling, and get the back tire up on the road. The truck goes by me and I pedal out into the lane. I get off the bike with my nerves totally shot - I've had enough. There's no cell service where I'm at, I'm alone, there's too much traffic and a narrow road with some sharp blind corners. I walk for a couple of minutes then get back on. I told myself, if I see the support vehicle, I'm done. About 10 minutes later, I see a vehicle going in the opposite direction and it had a distinctive silouette. Sure enough, the same vehicle passes me going uphill and I see a bike in the back and familiar license plates. It pulls over. It's our RBA! Good timing too, as I'm done. I still feel great actually and my riding has been the best I've done so far. I'm at 127.2 miles, so it's a great 200K, I'm about 200 yards short of turning on Wilson Valley Road.

We load my the Surly up and I jump in. I'm not disappointed that I'm going to DNF, it was still a great ride for this newbie randonneur. Mike informs me it's going to be some time before he can take me back to the start. Not a problem, I'll help support the riders that are ahead of me. We drive for about 20 mins and catch up to a pair of riders, one on a recumbant. It takes us another 45 minutes at 50 MPH to catch a group of riders. I'm totally amazed at how fast they are going! I think there was 5 or 6 in the group, and it was very easy to see them on the road. With all of them in a group, they look much larger than a car, they are easily spotted.

We pass them and continue on. We catch up to another solo rider and he's also flying along. It's amazing to watch.

Mike and I turn around and find a wide pull out on the 79. We set up a stove to make some hot chocolate, tea or noodles. The temperature is on the cool side, but not as cold as we were originally expecting. Mike and I hang out, hot water at the ready and the solo rider we passed stopped for some water. He sounds great and moves on. The larger group of riders are flying as we've parked on a downhill. They go right on by, thanking us for the offer. Mike and I decide to have some noodles and hot chocolate so as to not waist the hot water. We break up our roadside camp and drive on into Santa Ysabel. We make right onto 78 south heading towards Romona, then a left onto Old Julian Highway. Off in the distance we see a few riders on the side of the road. It looks like they are fixing a flat, but they are just doing a clothing change and taking a hit of Redbull. No problems, Mike and I drive on. This group splits and there are a few riders up the road. We pass them and head into Ramona. It's late and we grab some food at McDonalds.

We had down Highland Valley Rd and see another rider up the road. After checking with him if he needs anything, we pass and move on. Hopping on the 15 south, Mike takes me back to the start.

DNFs are normally a big bummer, but I'm not thinking this one is. I've learned a bunch more on how to ride. My time for the first 200K for this brevet is 90 minutes faster than the first brevet and it had 2 more climbs. I've learned I pack way too much fuel. I've used the Hammer Nutrional's Guide to Success. The one thing I've learned is I don't fit their profile for my weight. I seem to tolerate about half the amount of calories per hour than what they recommend. We're all an experiment of one.

The other thing is weight. The Surly is a heavy bike compared to what others ride. With an empty trunk bag, equipped with lights and cyclo computer, it weighs in at 37 pounds. Thing is, I bought this bike for daily commuting first, randonneuring second and I have no thoughts of getting a different bike. So, what will I do? First thing is, carry less stuff. On all my brevets this year, I've carried stuff I've not used. Too much fuel mainly. I'm going to look into a lighter trunk bag too. That could save a few pounds right there. Mike commented on riding a heavier bike, but what about the rider?

The odd thing is, I've gained 12 pounds since I quit training for marathons and started bike commuting. The really odd thing is I burn over twice the amount of calories going to and from work per day than I could ever burn running, with the exception of running 20 milers. I think I've figured out why this is happening and I've changed my diet to try to loose 10 pounds. It'll get me near my running weight, but 10 pounds is 10 pounds. Instead of getting a new 27 pound bike, how about a lighter rider? If my hunch is correct, I'll blog when I reach 10 pounds lost and explain what I did.

Thanks to Mike, Greg and the gentleman that was at the Hemet control for helping support this brevet. Much thanks too to Herb and Sue for coming out to Hemet, taking my stuff back home, and Herb's offer to come out and pick me up when I decided to DNF.

With this DNF, I won't be attempting to ride the 600K on 04/04. I think for this newbie randonneur, the best thing I can concentrate on is being able to ride a strong 200K. Once that base is accomplished, then move on to the longer brevets. I've only cycled for a year now, still plenty of training and learning to do!

-- Thanks for reading.