Monday, May 26, 2014

Santa Cruz "Surf City" 2014 600K Brevet Ride Report, Santa Cruz Randonneurs

Long shadows, Long bike, Long ride. Photo: Sarah Schroer
On May 24, 2014, I participated in the Santa Cruz Randonneurs 600K Brevet, along with Sarah Schroer, on the tandem. We covered over 600 Kilometers on this ride, our total distance was 378 miles, for the metrically challenged. Our goal was to use our combined power to keep a good average speed on the bike, but then take adequate time to rest and refuel, such that the ride was less painful, and more "Civilized." Although we thought we could probably complete the ride in 24-26 hours, we set a more modest goal of 30-32 hours. We ended up completing the course in 30.5 hours, with a riding time of 21.5 hours. The route starts at the Lighthouse in Santa Cruz, heads North to Half Moon Bay via a circuitous route, then East on Hwy 84 to Skylonda, before returning to Santa Cruz at mile 139. After a re-supply at the car, the route continues South, beyond King City to San Ardo, before returning back to the finish in Santa Cruz. We were at least partially successful in making the ride less painful, but it certainly was a humbling experience. Here's how it went down:

The Start at the Lighthouse in Santa Cruz, 5:00 AM Sharp
Sarah and I arrive, and park near the finish at about 4:15 A.M., before riding the bike over to the Lighthouse for the official start. By placing the car near the finish, we'll be able to stop as we pass through for a re-supply. It's an odd scene at the Lighthouse. It's still dark, and all the riders are standing around in their reflective gear. We sign in, get our Brevet cards. then Bill Bryant, SCR RBA (Santa Cruz Randonneurs, Regional Brevet Administrator), gives final instructions and sends us off at 5 AM sharp. There are about 40 ambitious riders.

Picking up the Brevet card and chatting with the volunteer at the start. Note the reflective vest and ankle bands. Paul goes full Rando! Photo: Sarah Schroer

Bill Bryant, SCR RBA, gives excellent instructions just prior to lift off.
Sarah and I roll out mid pack, and as is my usual M.O. on the tandem, I refrain from going to the front right away. Good to size up the field and see what the pace is going to be if we don't influence it. The pack is moving along nicely, but once we get out on the open road on Hwy 1, Sarah and I feel the need for speed, so we go to the front, and set an easy tempo pace.

It isn't long before the entire field is shelled off our wheel, save for 3 riders. Over the rollers on Hwy 1, the tandem really flies on the downhills, so if riders are not attentive, and let a small gap form, it's like putting out a parachute, especially in a head wind situation, and there's no getting back. Our climbing pace is modest... we have a long way to go. As expected, we are pushing a 10 mph headwind all the way up the coast.

All smiles, rolling North on Hwy 1, noses in the wind, at 20 mph, on the big bike, the right tool for the job.
The weather is foggy, socked in, and there is just enough moisture in the air to fog the glasses and give us that lovely, wet, clammy feeling. We're hoping for some clearing... but it's otherwise good riding weather.

On our wheel are Peter Morrissey, Carlton Van Leuven, and one other. Carlton is a big, strong lad, riding with aero bars and a flat back. Carlton is an RBA in Phoenix, AZ, with a great deal of experience in long Brevet rides. With his position and power, he can plow through the headwind quite effectively. Carlton is perfectly willing to take some pulls at the front, but then quickly acknowledges how difficult it is in the wind as he takes a turn and gives up the tandem's draft for just a short spell! He asks if we want the help, and we tell him that we do appreciate any contribution, though Sarah wisely tells him to be sure to get the hell out of the way on the downhills, although not with that exact choice of words.

One rider succumbs to the pace, so we're rolling with just Peter and Carlton in tow. We take Gazos Creek and Cloverdale Rd en route to the first Control at Pescadero (mile 33.9). At a Control, we are required to buy something at the store to get a time stamped receipt. We have a somewhat leisurely stop here, taking longer than we should. Peter then rolls out solo, followed by the tandem. Carlton and a few others that arrive as we are leaving, are left behind. We figure they'll catch on the upcoming climbs, but are surprised when they don't.

Peter Morrissey, a highly accomplished and strong brevet rider, climbs on Old Stage Road near Pescadero, CA.
Nice vista on Old Stage Road.
Sarah and I catch Peter, and carry on via Old Stage Rd, then back to Hwy 1 before doing the Purissima/Higgins loop. There is a sign Control at Purissima Creek. Here, we need to get a 3 digit code off of a sign. Fortunately, Peter remembers to get the code as Sarah and I miss it. The code is P3C. In an effort to remember the code, to be written down later on the brevet card, Peter comes up with the phrase, "Peter has 3 Complaints."

We make it to the Half Moon Bay Control (mile 61.1) a bit before 9 AM, and are just a few ticks behind our projected time. We then turn around, and head down the coast to Hwy 84, where we climb all the way up to Skylonda (mile 90.1). Peter had complained about a couple of things earlier, and I remind him that he's burned through two of his complaints, so he'd better use the third, and last one, wisely. Then, on Hwy 84, he says something like, "Boy, this climb sure is long." We're like, "Peter, how could you burn your final complaint so early in the ride, with such a trivial matter?" To his credit, he complained no more, despite the fact that there would be much more to complain about down the road!

We gain the summit and bomb back down Hwy 84. We see Carlton on his way up, followed by a fellow that Sarah refers to as, "an older gentleman." I point out he's probably my age, and wonder if Sarah refers to me as "an older gentleman" in conversations where I'm not present. I conclude she probably does, but substitutes something else for "gentleman." 

Hwy 84 is a perfect tandem descent. Peter knows he will likely get dropped and kindly tells us to forge ahead if that happens. He does drop off, and we work our way back to Santa Cruz solo, with a glorious tailwind down the coast after revisiting Cloverdale Rd. and Gazos Creek in the reverse direction. We know Peter will be fine in the tailwind, as he'll be just about as fast as the tandem. We've got 139 miles done now, and a good chunk of the climbing is out of the way. We finally feel like we've put a dent in this project.

Poppies along Cloverdale Rd. Photo: Sarah Schroer
Heading South on Hwy 1, a fast run with a tail wind. Photo: Sarah Schroer
We have a long stop at the car, probably too long. We attach a rear bag with extra gear, enjoy a nice lunch with cold drink from the cooler, pull on a fresh kit, and add a new layer of sun screen. The fog is gone, the sun is out, and things are looking good... except for one thing.

A nice, long break for lunch and a wardrobe change at mile 139.
On the Northern leg, my stomach began acting up rather seriously. Cramping, bloating, pain and general discomfort. I'm concerned that things could go south with my stomach as we head South to King City. It's pretty bad, but I try to suck it up and keep going, not wanting to alarm Sarah.

As we are about to leave, Peter rolls up after his brief stop, and we re-group. We head South through town, hitting every red light possible. After a bit, my condition worsens. I ask Sarah how far to the next Control in Marina, and it's still something like 30 miles away. Hmmm, I'm not going to make it. Not to go into too much graphic detail about my stomach problem, but suffice to say, I'm wasting probably an extra 5-10 Watts of precious muscle power just keeping the back door shut tightly.

I can't stand it any longer so we stop at a gas station and I make full use of the rest room facilities in Soquel. We carry on to Marina, but the problem isn't going away. At this point I fear if it gets any worse, our day could be over. Again, I keep it to myself and just keep going, taking care of myself as best I can. In Marina, it's another visit to the rest room. Uggghh. Probably some sort of food poisoning, and not a stomach flu bug fortunately. The problem continues to plague me — I'm really not sure I can continue...

Cruising the farm land on Molera Rd. Peter Morrissey in front.
After Marina, we enjoy good tailwinds and good company from Peter. He again tells us to continue without him should we drop him, and again we really appreciate Peter's "permission" to keep going should he fall off. He does, but we wait, as it's just a short distance he's back and it's still 50 miles to King City. In the end, we make it all the way to King City, mile 235, with Peter. Sarah and I plan to take a long break in King City, have a civilized sit down dinner, and pick up some supplies, before tackling the southernmost leg to the booming oil town of San Ardo, pop. 500. We're about 45 minutes behind our projected time, we arrive in King City at 7:45 P.M., but we are not at all worried about it. We've done well under the circumstances. Peter continues on, and plans to ride straight through. We wish him luck, and Sarah and I cannot imagine continuing at that point without a stop to refresh and refuel.

Rolling along Metz Rd. near King City, in the early evening light.
All smiles as we roll into King City. Time to get off the bike and enjoy a nice sit down dinner.
After dinner, we drop by the Safeway for supplies. I guard the bike while Sarah shops. The Co-Motion Robusta ran absolutely flawlessly for the entire trip. No issues whatsoever, fast and smooth! Note the big seat bag, small custom adapted frame pack, lights, and bento box for auxiliary battery to keep the Garmins topped up. This would be a stealthy, super light set-up for credit card touring.
We spend an hour in King City with sit down dinner at the Taqueria, and the re-supply, then enjoy a stiff tailwind to San Ardo. It's dark now, with no moon. Riding South, a bunny or some such critter runs across just in front of our front wheel. Later an Owl swoops by just 15' or so over our heads. We're pretty certain we are not hallucinating, that usually happens after the 300 mile mark, so it couldn't happen at mile 250... or could it? It's odd traveling through this barren, remote landscape in the dark, with this level of fatigue.

We see Peter on the return leg, and realize we are not that far behind him. He's certainly slowed a bit as he goes into night mode, and plugs away at a comfort pace. We arrive in San Ardo, a tiny oil/cattle town. Of course nothing is open. It's 9:50 PM. Most riders will arrive at San Ardo during the 9:30 PM to about 5:30 A.M. window. To prove we've been there, the Control is actually to mail a supplied Post Card at the mailbox outside of the San Ardo Post Office. Doing this in the deserted, dark town, at night, is an absolutely surreal experience. I can't even describe it. But I did get some photos...

Our Brevet Card for the event. Note the Post Card that we are to fill out, and Send from the San Ardo Post Office.

Sarah mails the Post Card in San Ardo at 9:50 P.M. The scene is absolutely surreal.
The question we have to answer on the Post Card is, How many farm animals on the San Ardo Post Office sign. If you look closely, you can see 3 cows on the sign, far upper left. The scene is so absurd it doesn't even seem real, and if not for these photos, I'd have trouble believing this actually happened.
One final shot of the San Ardo Post Office. I will never forget this scene, as long as I live.
On the return leg from San Ardo to King City, the North winds are still howling. We are plowing slowly into the 20 mph wind. This is, without a doubt, the most painful, difficult, and demoralizing part of the ride, and one of the hardest stretches of road I can remember. We're going slow, pounding into the wind, our backsides are sore, and it takes forever to get back to King City, but we finally make it. What a relief!

We take a very long break in King City, eat a little more, clean up, and sleep for 4 hours. We had hoped for a bit more sleep, but in order to stay on schedule, we cut our sleep time. There is no messin' with the winds in the Salinas Valley. We need to make the "light wind" window. At 4 AM, we rise, put on a fresh kit for the 100 mile return to Santa Cruz, the last leg of the trip. I wisely leave the bib straps of my shorts down, such that I can drop 'em quickly if needed. Problem isn't fully solved yet... but on the bright side, it isn't getting any worse.

We hit Denny's for a full sit down breakfast a few ticks before 5 AM, remember, this is a "Civilized" 600K, so a proper breakfast is indicated! The Manager sees us and invites us to wheel the big tandem into the restaurant, and park it by our table. How cool is that? We thank him profusely. We order up pancakes, eggs, bacon, and coffee and tea. Seated next to us is Yogy Namara, fellow brevet rider, looking a bit worse for the wear, as it appears he hasn't taken any significant break until now. We talk to Yogy and he's asking for advice on hooking up with other riders, and how to approach the final leg. We're all cheery and smiley, and poor Yogy just wants to pass out. He's clearly fatigued, and even slumps down in his booth for a bit to try to catch a 5 min cat nap while his food is being prepared!

We finish our meal, and Sarah donates her extra pancakes to the Feed Yogy Cause, we settle our tab, bid Yogy farewell, tip the manager kindly, and we're on our way. Feeling as refreshed as we can be after 275 miles and 4 hours of sleep, we are back on the course at about 5:35 A.M., hoping to make it all the way up the Salinas Valley before the howling winds start. They don't typically die until around midnight, and begin to blow strong again by mid day.

We have an excellent run up the valley, averaging over 18 mph into the light headwind. We take a slightly different route on the return, passing over a Green Bridge. This is another Information Control. What is the clearance on the bridge? We note it's 13'8", and Sarah records this on our Brevet Cards.

Final Control, in Marina, CA, at mile 336... about 40 to go!
As we approach Marina, we see two riders, a man and woman, who obviously passed us during our long break in King City. We pass them, greet them, then get our Control receipt in Marina, then carry on to Moss Landing, where we do a somewhat ugly stretch on Hwy 1. Here we pass a recumbent rider, Roland Bevan, who also clearly passed us on our King City break. Then back into the farm lands, mostly Strawberries in this region.

Cruising past empty, barren fields in Strawberry country.
There are many pesky hills between Moss Landing and Santa Cruz. Hills that would be easy with fresh legs, but are quite noticeable with tired ones. We stand at EVERY opportunity, as both Captain and Stoker Bums are quite sore.

We have one more nature break along the side of the road, and we make a wardrobe adjustment as the morning fog is burned off, and the sun is shining again. I also pull up my bib straps, a final symbolic gesture acknowledging that my stomach problem has passed, plus, I must look right for the finish line photo!

We hit many of the traffic lights through Soquel and Santa Cruz surprisingly well, and make good time. Finally, we roll into the finish at 11:38 AM. We are told we are the second finishers, and that Peter Morrissey rolled in at 10:51 AM. We've done the final 100 miles into the wind, including all stops and traffic delays, in six hours flat.

The finish is at the home of Bill Bryant, and he has a lovely spread in the back yard with snacks and refreshments. He's also installed a light string for those who arrive later after dark. We spend some time chatting with Bill, and down a couple of sodas and some chips. Interestingly, Bill pointed out that some experienced long brevet riders tout sleeping a maximum of 4 hours, since the body begins to shut down after that. So perhaps some beginner's luck that we ended up at that number. As we wait, another rider arrives, it's Roland Bevan, the recumbent rider we saw at Moss landing. Then it's off for some lunch, followed by a short nap under a tree before the drive back to the East Bay.

At the finsh, all smiles, Paul McKenzie and Sarah Schroer. Riding time 21:35, Elapsed time 30:38 Average speed 17.5 mph, over 378 miles.
I can't say enough to thank Sarah for her great performance and fabulous company on this ride. She carried us through all my bad patches, and frankly, through my good patches as well. Our overall time was 30 hours 38 minutes, well within our 30-32 hour goal. Our moving time was 21 hours 35 minutes, including about 20-30 minutes of off course meandering for food and supplies. We plan to ride the Davis 600K in June for time, so this is a good tune up for that event.

Peter Morrissey was also a wonderful companion, and this humorous comment thread from my Strava upload, from Matt McHugh, sums up Peter's credentials:

"That man has some serious experience in these events.  I'm pretty sure I recall him telling tales of seeing dozens of giant red beach balls coming at him in the 1200k PBP and he navigated right through them :) on his way to an impressive finish.  Is Paris in your plans?" Matt McHugh

"Matt, Peter was good company, and a very tough rider. We'd sometimes drop him on the descents, but he'd always tell us to go ahead and not wait for him. He had no expectations from us, giving us "permission" to ride our own ride, which was nice. No plans for Paris, but we may see flying beach balls at Davis 600K. We're going for overall time on that one, so stops will be minimized." Paul McKenzie

This was truly a humbling experience for Sarah and me, our first 600K, and we learned a lot. A 600K isn't something to be taken lightly, and we hope we can take what we learned and improve on the next outing.

A big thank you and shout out to Bill Bryant and Lois Springsteen for putting on this well organized event. And major kudos to everyone who completed this tough course!

Strava File:

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Heartbreak Double Century 2014 Report - A true heartbreaker

At the finish at the Host Hotel. Boy, was I glad to be done with this one!
This past weekend, May 17, 2014, I participated in the Heartbreak Double Century, a difficult ride featuring 202 miles, about 16,000' of climbing, and this year, high winds and heat. It didn't go as planned — Paul Chuck and I were scheduled to do the Triple Crown Stage Race on the Tandem, and the Heartbreak is the #2 installment in the Three Event Stage Race Series. Paul had a bike accident mid week and had to pull out of the series. I decided to forge ahead alone, on the single bike, to duke it out with the rest of the crew. Unfortunately, I'm DQ'd from the series, as once you start the series on a tandem with a particular partner, you must complete the series on tandem with that same partner. seems a little harsh and unfair. Oh well, I paid my money, I'm mentally and physically prepared, so time to suck it up and go for it. I completed the ride in a time of 12 hours 24 minutes, which was good enough for 9th overall on the day. I had a top 10 goal, but mid-ride, it didn't look like it was going to happen, I'd set my sights too high! I wilted in the heat, but persevered. Here's how it went down:

After Paul C gives me the negative on his ability to ride, I'm devastated. We'd planned on this series being a focus event for the year. The particular events this year are somewhat tandem friendly. It may never happen again, and by the time it does, I'll likely be pushin' up daisies. We had a good run last week at Central Coast Double Century, round one, posting a decent time even with two flats, and we were ready to do even better at Heartbreak with a clean run. So I have to deal with the changes and disappointment. I contact my friend Carl Sanders (currently second place in the series) and arrange a carpool. We travel to Palmdale, CA on Friday afternoon, and check into the host hotel, the Holiday Inn Express.

Dinner, check in, pin numbers, prep bikes, socialize with riders, the usual stuff, and hit the rack early... But not before Carl and I discuss rest stop strategy. Where to stop, which ones to skip, etc. In morning, it's a frantic breakfast. I head to the lobby for 2 cups of coffee, and bring them back to the room. Carl has some cold cereal, and I have some bread pastries, with PB & J, some yoghurt, and a banana. More coffee from the room pot. Wheel the bikes down the hall, take the elevator down to the lobby, roll out the door to the start.

Me 'n Mister Sanders at the start. Good to get a shot now, since I won't be seeing him all day.

Gathering at the start, ready to go. Deborah Bowlin (red t-shirt) gives final instructions.
Game on, we start at 5:15 AM, in the pre-dawn light. The first task is about 20 miles of gradual uphill into a 10+ mph headwind. Anyone who thinks the top Double Century riders aren't legit, would be in for a good lesson here. The average speed for the first 20 miles, uphill, and into the wind, is near 21 mph. A select group of riders, about a half dozen, do the work at the front, while the rest of us just hang on. I'm just at the tail of this elite group, in good position. After the first few miles, the group is down to about two dozen. On the short, steeper rises, my power meter is reading 450 Watts. On a double century, I should never go over 300 Watts for short efforts, and on longer efforts, the number should be much lower. It's a time bomb.

The lead group, stretched out single file, plows into the wind, uphill, at 21 mph.
At about mile 25 there are a couple of stiff, but short climbs. I'm mid group, and there is a split. An elite group of 12 drops the other half. I'm at the tail of the lead group. I know these guys are faster than me, but my goal, which I now realize is optimistic with this crowd, is top 10. I know I should ease up and stay with the second group, but I forge ahead anyway, only to be dropped shortly, to be left in "no man's land."

Cal Erdman drops a water bottle, and circles back to retrieve as he knows he cannot continue with one bottle. The front group is drifting ahead, and as I watch Cal recover and try to chase down the lead group, I follow his wheel for a bit, then realize it's futile. Cal isn't going to catch those guys, and neither am I, so I let Cal go and watch him struggle to catch. He doesn't.

Prior to the ride, I thought about a plan to skip the Lebec rest stop, at mile 50, to save time, if I had enough fluid, since it was off course a bit and would consume too much time. But water consumption was too high during the hard early effort, so it would not be possible to skip that stop. However, since I'm dropped and alone, I decideto stop at the early 30 mile rest stop, top the fluids, then try to blow past Lebec, at 50 miles, without stopping. An alternate strategy that could work.

I stop, and Eric Hjort, a rider from Oakland, CA, also rolls up, we both top off and continue together. Eric is a big, strong rider, and we ride together for a bit, and try to help each other, but it seems there is a bit of a mismatch. I drop Eric on the climbs and descents, but he's much stronger on the flats. I decide to stay with Eric and work together. After we get over the "Old Ridge Route" with a shitload of climbing, we pass Quail Lake, with Eric doing most of the work.

Eric is a big, strong Lad, and tows me along Quail Lake before the climb to Gorman, CA.
As Eric and I climb to Gorman, along the Grapevine near Hwy 5, I look over my shoulder, and see the second group behind. Well, crap, I should have just stayed with this group and saved some matches. Eric and I ease up and let the group catch us. We latch on and forge ahead to Gorman.

The second group catches Eric and me before Gorman, and we latch on.
Further up the road the group stretches out. Final rider is Peter Stark. I won't see him all day until the end, and we'll finish together.
As we pass through Gorman, one rider in the second group takes off. The rest seem to soft pedal, nobody wanting to chase. Then one rider goes, and I follow. We drop the rest of the group and catch the rider in front as we roll into Lebec. I make a major mistake here as I am not sure of the turn. I want to skip the Lebec rest stop, but I am not certain about how to do that. I stop and review my cue sheet, wasting precious seconds, as the rest of the second group catches and passes. Once again, I've gone off the front, wasting matches, then getting caught. May as well be banging my head against a light post.

I begin the climb up Frazier Park Mt. Road, leaving the second group at the Lebec rest stop. Cal had stopped at Lebec, and passes me part way up. I can't hang with him and I don't try. He's focused on trying to chase down the leaders, a big task.

Soon three riders from the Fremont Bike Team pass me at a pace I can manage, so I latch on. These are three good riders working well together, and I stay with them up the big climb toward the 3rd rest stop, Frazier Mt. Park Rd, that heads West from The Grapevine.

We come upon Cal, who is stopped at an intersection, doing some route finding, and we catch him as he is consulting the cue sheet. I can relate! Once he's back on track, he makes quick work of catching and dropping us. Considering how much time he's lost now, he does well to move up and finish 5th, making up much time on the latter half of the course.

Three riders from Fremont Bike Team set a good pace up the climb.
Next we have a wicked steep descent, up and over a bump, followed by another climb up to Rest Stop #3 at Apache Saddle. The Fremont boyz can all ride, and it's fun descending with them, but I let them go on the steep climb up to the rest stop. I arrive, and do my usual quick in 'n out. I leave ahead of the Fremont guys.

The next stretch is fabulous on Mil Potrero Hwy. Gorgeous, remote terrain, with vistas for miles. Just spectacular. I'm alone, but thoroughly enjoy rolling along the ridge, up and down, taking in the spectacular view of the valleys, plateaus, canyons, and flat lands thousands of feet below.

Fabulous riding along Mil Portrero Hwy

Vistas form Mil Portrero
The beautiful Mil Potrero Hwy
A long, fun descent to Hwy 33 follows, and I pass many of the Century riders.

Descending to Hwy 33. Photo courtesy Highway One Photos
Then continue West on 33, then turn South. Crosswind here, and I'm not going well. Fatigue is setting in. I'm just at 100 miles and fading badly. Uh-Oh. I remind myself that the first 100 miles has been into the wind and features nearly 10,000' of climbing... but it doesn't make me feel any better.

The Fremont boyz catch me, and make an obvious effort to blow past me such that I cannot get on. I respect that, so I don't jump and join them. They are doing their thing as teammates and don't want another rider. They disappear in the distance... I'm depressed and alone, fighting the wind, feeling like I am going backwards. I truly miss being on the tandem here, for its superior speed on the flats, and the guaranteed company of another rider!

I'd decided to skip the upcoming lunch stop, so I roll through, passing the Fremont Boyz, thinking I have enough water to make it up Heartbreak Hill. It doesn't occur to me at the time that Heartbreak Hill has earned its moniker for a reason. I continue on, and enter a gorgeous Arroyo.

In the beautiful Arroyo after blowing past the lunch stop I try to pretend all is good.
I turn left on Lockwood Valley road to begin the long ascent of Heartbreak Hill. Boy, did I misjudge the water. I've got maybe a half bottle, and I have this huge, scorching hot climb ahead! I'm f%$#ed! Well, as I roll ahead, I see a vehicle pulled over with what looks like a couple dudes with water jugs. Huh? Is that a mirage? Is it a miracle? Turns out Debbie Bowlin (event organizer) has placed a volunteer at the base of the big climb with some water jugs and ice! Halle-f'n-lujah! I top off and carry on. Nonetheless, the legs are done. I crawl up Heartbreak Hill, and it gets steeper and steeper. I'm still passing all the century riders, but I know the double century riders behind me are gaining ground. I'm hurting.

Heartbreak Hill. It goes up and up, steeper and steeper, switchbacks, through the notch on the upper right, then climbs more.
I finally get over the top of Heartbreak and cruise into the rest stop. One volunteer there, a cheery and very friendly woman, decides to take care of me. I get a soda, some food, fill my bottles, and whip out my "ice sock," fill it with ice, strap it around my neck, and I get under way. I cool down and feel some relief, though I still don't seem to have much power. It's really hot, and I'm really tired.

I slog along the rollers and descents, and now the Westerly winds start to become favorable. It's a long, fast descent to Lebec, with a few uphill rollers. We are intermingled with the Century riders at this point, so there are people to ride with, though I don't really get much help.

Once in Lebec, I again skip the stop and head up the climb to Gorman. Nothing in the legs. A triathlete dude, Colin Stokes, who was in the original fast 12 group passes me, as he'd apparently stopped in Lebec. I'm thinking, here we go, I'm going to get passed again and again, as I'm cooked and moving very slowly.

I continue on to Gorman, down along Hwy 5 at the Grapevine, then on to Old Ridge Road, where I face a big climb. I crawl up this thing, with no energy. I don't know my position, maybe top 10, maybe not. But one thing for sure... I will lose many places if I don't keep moving at a good clip.

Near the final rest stop with 30 miles to go, Alfredo Tadeo passes me on a climb. He does a huge sprint by me to make sure I can't get on, then nearly collapses over his handlebars. Kind of a bone head move, there is no way I'm going to to grab his wheel, even if he passes me gently. I arrive at the final stop, bummed about being caught. I fill up my ice sock again, fill bottles, and then I am devastated, as three more riders arrive at the stop. And I know there are many more coming! The hounds are on the chase, and I'm weakened prey.

I get my sorry ass out of there and get on the road. Peter Stark passes me convincingly on a climb, and I congratulate him on a strong finish. But I decide it's time I quit feeling sorry for myself and Harden the F^*% Up. I increase my speed and ignore the signals of pain from my body. I catch Peter, and figure if we work together, perhaps we can avoid being caught by the others. Peter is cooperative, and a good guy to ride with.

I take a wrong turn, trying not to miss the turn we were warned about, overcompensating. Immediately, I question myself, and consult the route sheet. Nope, wrong way, so I get back on the route with Peter and we forge ahead, unfortunately losing a couple of minutes, and making it easier for the chasers to catch.

Then Alex Berthillier catches us. Crap. But... turns out Alex is super strong. He gets out on the front and just drills it. He doesn't seem to care whether or not Peter and I contribute, and tows us along at nearly 30 mph on the slightly downhill, tailwind section. I somehow get my legs back, knowing I need to stay with this group and keep moving. We finally roll back into Palmdale, just a half mile from the finish, and we miss a stop light. As we wait for the green, Eric, who I rode with early in the day, catches us, demonstrating how fast he was rolling on the final section. In the last 20 miles, I do like two pulls, Peter does none. Alex carries us all the way in. A big shout of thanks to Alex!

Alex and Peter wait at a stoplight in Palmdale. Eric catches.

We roll into the finish together, check in, and discover we share a 9th place finish. I didn't think it possible, but I did preserve my goal of a top 10 finish.

Epic hard day.

Check in at the finish. Fast guys already cleaned up. Left in black shirt, Cal Erdman 5th, foreground red shirt, Max Mehech 3rd, right green shirt, Carl Sanders, 2nd. Colin Stokes, in blue in back, 7th. Julie Stokes in green top. Not pictured, Joel Sothern 1st, Brook Henderson shared 3rd with Max Mehech, Rod Palomino, 6th, Alfredo Tadeo, 8th Lori Hoechlin 1st F (14th overal), Kirsten McDaniel 2nd F 24th overall.
9th Place finishers, 12:24, (l to r) Peter Stark, Alex Berthillier, Paul McKenzie
After a good dinner, and some socializing, Carl and I hit the rack for some sleep. We head back Sunday morning to check out the trains on Tehachapi Loop where a train passes through a tunnel, then loops back around over itself. Look closely at the photo and you can see the train in the tunnel on the right side of the image, literally passing under itself. Incredible. We talk more about trains and geology on the ride home, than bike riding. Next up... Mt. Tam Double, on the home turf.