On May 22nd, I completed my first official brevet, the “Big Bear to the Beach” 200K organized by the PCH Randonneurs.
Route map and profile are here.
We started the ride just North of the finish line for the previous day’s stage race from Pomona to Big Bear Lake in the AMGEN Tour of California (which was a rush to see in person, by the way). After tracing a circituous path snaking around the residential neighborhoods of Big Bear, we eventually got on to HWY 38 and started a long gradual ascent up to Onyx Peak. I was glad to have spent the night before up in the higher elevation, so when we reached the thinner air of 8443 feet (up from ~7000), I was still in good spirits:
It was on the inital climb that I caught up to two riders who I would end up spending most of the first 95 miles with – Errin and Marcus, who immediately offered me a ride from the finish to a place I could catch the subway back to my house. Errin and I spent some time comparing our two Salsa Casserolls while Marcus created a nice draft for us on the extended descents through the San Bernardino mountains.
Today there is quite a bit of snow on the road where this photo was taken – hard to imagine considering how clear it was when we were there.
Bombing down the mountain, I passed my two new friends briefly as I tried to get on the draft of a tandem ridden by a team that is competing in RAAM this year. It was quite an effort to stay on them, and I eventually gave up, realizing I should conserve my energy for the flat portions of the route.
The descent was a real treat, with beautiful Spring alpine scenery, occasionally obscured by fog.
We stopped for the first official control of the day in Highland, where we re-fueled and stripped off some layers of clothing to prepare for the higher (albeit still very pleasant) temperatures here down below.
After numerous twists and turns we eventually entered the Santa Ana River Trail – catching up to Isabelle Drake (a strong, experienced, and encouraging rider who has completed the Furnace Creek 508 something like 5 years in a row so far). After some amusing moments spinning out in a sandy un-paved section that nearly sent me off the edge of the path, we re-grouped and rode along together all the way to the next control in Corona. At the In-N-Out, I ran into a rider from Studio City who was on my train and bus up to Big Bear the previous day (and staying in the same hotel no less). He said he was planning on slowing down to a “digestive pace” for the next 20-30 miles – and while we started off together I ended up going ahead, perhaps because I didn’t eat as much. Errin and Marcus stayed at the control for a bit longer and Isabelle took off earlier than me, so I didn’t see any of them again until after the finish.
As I made my way down the SART, the monotony of concrete was punctuated with stretches of actual water patrolled gracefully by numerous cranes, ducks, and other water-fowl – and short stretches of wooden bridges, flower covered fences, brief tunnels, and a few people-watching opportunities (e.g. I noticed a quinceañera in somebody’s back-yard). Over-all though, the last 30 miles were the most difficult for me, pedaling solo into a strong head-wind while becoming increasingly queasy.
I was surprised at my own elation when I finally saw the waves breaking on the horizon of the river indicating I was only a couple miles away from the end.
I rolled in to a ~9 hour finish with a big stupid grin on my face:
While I realize this was about as “easy” as a brevet can be, I’ve caught the bug enough to be considering a 300K for next month. In any case, I think I can promise more photos and more suffering for the next ride report…