(Fast?) SLO 300K

16 Jun

Last weekend, I completed my first 300K brevet with the PCH Randonneurs, a big loop heading South from San Luis Obispo. Here’s the map. Apologies for the lack of pictorial evidence – despite the many scenic landscapes and small-town scenes spread out before me, my camera never left my pocket.

I completed the ride feeling pretty good, finishing in 13:19 including a few “bonus miles” through Santa Maria when I missed a turn, for a total of 192.8.

There were a dozen controls on this ride, which at first annoyed me – but as the route wore on, I began to appreciate having a reasonable goal to focus on just up the road, rather than getting bogged down on how many miles were left for the day (a line of thinking not especially conducive to enjoyment – Errin talked about this a bit on the drive up, and likened it to having a kid in the back-seat of your brain repeating “are we there yet?” ad nauseam).

I had one small mechanical problem about 25 miles in, as we were approaching Guadalupe. I shifted my chain off the big ring and somehow managed to knot it around the crank-arm in the most diabolical manner imaginable. Shaun and Errin both stopped to help me out, but thankfully I managed to get going again quickly without deploying my chain-breaker (which I’ve never actually used before).

After a pit-stop in Guadalupe, I pushed on in order to catch Carl, a strong rider from Arizona who offered generous pulls and interesting conversation. Eventually the “Twitchell Train” (the same tandem I failed to latch on to on the long descent down from Big Bear back on the 200K) along with Jim (riding his cool Masi) caught up to us and we formed an efficient pace-line into Los Alamos. I had planned to stick with this group as long as I could manage as it would make the ride easier and decrease my chances of getting myself lost – but things turned out differently.

As we left Los Alamos, the route began climbing Drum Canyon. I saw Eric ahead on his recumbent and further up the hill, Wade Baker. I’d heard a lot of people praise Wade’s climbing, so I figured, what better time to observe and learn something then up a 2.8 mile 1000′ foot climb on a virtually car-less road? So, I upshifted, got out of the saddle and began to mimic his cadence if not his form. As I pushed my way to the summit, I was starting to nudge my heart-rate and breathing higher than I would have liked, so I figured I wouldn’t be able to catch up. Once the descent began though, I found my 33.3 Jack Brown tires were a real boon, eating up the rough and broken pavement and the bits of shattered rock spread out over the tight switch-backs. So once we were through the canyon I found myself sitting on Wade’s wheel.

It soon became clear that he treats these events as training for long-distance racing, as he was maintaining what for me was a furious pace along the 246, riding low in his aero-bars and sipping Perpetuem, liquid shots, and other liquid nutrients with great frequency. I wouldn’t be surprised if the 20 miles I rode with him were among the fastest I’ve pedaled on flats, rollers, and risers. So while, maybe I should be sharing a picture of La Purisima Mission, instead my memories of this stretch are mainly of staring at a rear wheel and cassette while leaning far into my handle-bar drops.

After a brief stop in Lompoc, we turned up a moderate grade along Santa Rosa Rd. As Wade began his climb, I realized it wasn’t wise to try to match his pace much longer. I slowed down just a bit, and took notice of the beautiful ranches, vineyards, and fields surrounding me. Passing through Solvang, an outdoor BBQ tempted me to stop for lunch, but I pushed on through the climbs and head-winds along Foxen Canyon Road before I finally reached Sisquoc where I saw Wade once again just as he was setting out. I bid him farewell, knowing I wouldn’t likely see him again. I spent the most time at this control, half-expecting to see the tandem/pace-line show up at any moment (wishful thinking as there was a bit more head-wind to contend with). I was flagging a bit at one point, and saw a vulture circling above me, which made me laugh enough to forget my fatigue.

In Nipomo I was excited to find a place that served up hand-made tacos and had a bunch of workers sitting around b.s.’ing while enjoying their Modelo tall-boys in paper bags – sadly they didn’t have any horchata, so I settled for some more chocolate milk (poor-man’s Perpetuem?).

There were some dusty and ugly sections around here, but they were punctuated by vivid aromas from wild fennel to strawberry fields.

It was a little after this that I got lost and had to back track through Santa Maria to figure out how to get back to the 166, by the time I reached the next control, Wade was nearly an hour ahead of me, but no one was close behind as far as I could tell.

Over the rollers on Orcutt, I kept comparing the distance left to the distance of my daily commute in an effort to motivate myself.

Finally I made the circuit of San Luis Obispo and arrived back at Vickie’s house (who graciously hosted this ride and many of its riders, myself included) before sunset.

For those readers hungry for stats, I am afraid I don’t yet have a cycling computer to pump out data for me. For those readers who are simply hungry, here’s a list of food I ate on the ride:

6-8 dried apricots
3 umeboshi onigiri
2 dried bananas
1 boiled salted fingerling potato (would have had more but these had spoiled in the heat).
1 small bag BBQ Kettle chips

3-4 bottles worth of First Endurance EFS
2-3 bottles water
2 bottles apple juice
2 pints chocolate milk (although I ended up wearing a substantial portion of one pint when I hit a bump with the carton open)
1 small can V8
1 small strawberry smoothie (Jamba Juice)

All in all, a great ride enlivened by a cast of friendly cyclists and volunteers, though it did take a couple days of dog-tiredness to recover. Next up I’m planning on riding my first permanent (on a rental bike no less), a 200K up in Santa Rosa in a couple days…

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4 Responses to “(Fast?) SLO 300K”

  1. Marcus June 16, 2010 at 9:57 PM #

    Great ride! These events are so hard to gauge your “fastness” or lack thereof. You have to stop, refill, get receipts, follow a route sheet. I have often wondered myself “Is that time fast? Is it slow?” Who knows. Sounds like it was a hell of a route to ride. I really wish I could have done this event with you guys, but my knee and overall fitness said otherwise. When are you riding that 200k?

    • cyclingasmetaphor June 16, 2010 at 10:23 PM #

      Thanks, wish you could have been out there too, but I’m sure you’ll hit the road again when you get things sorted.

      I’ll be riding the 200K on Friday. It is a loop around Sonoma County, without too much climbing – should be fun, although I think I’m doing the whole thing solo.

      I like that these events aren’t races, so it is entirely up to each individual to decide (within the time limits at least) what for them constitutes a “fast” time. There have been some informal efforts to codify this – for example the R60/R70/R80 honors established by the Cyclos Montagnards (http://cyclosmontagnards.org/R80Rules.html)- though such efforts have sparked some controversy in the randonneuring community.

      On the other hand, I can definitely see the appeal of fully supported rides that don’t require so much navigation/proof-of-passage/etc, and am thinking I’ll probably try to do the California Triple Crown next year.

      • Marcus June 16, 2010 at 11:27 PM #

        I know, right. It is so nice to be able to just ride into a water stop, fill up your bottles without even setting your bike against the wall and getting back on the road within minutes. Although, the appeal of Randonneuring is being out there, being self sufficient and toughing it out on your own.

  2. Errin June 17, 2010 at 4:29 PM #

    Great ride Ryan! It gives me another goal to shoot for. Next time I’ll try to shave off another hour. I’m looking forward to hearing about your permanent in Sonoma. Then after that, it’s just a 1000k right?

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