Archive | January, 2011

Rainbow 200

18 Jan

Sending mixed messages with my reflective gear and sunglasses...

The “Rainbow 200” is San Diego Randonneur’s first ACP brevet of the year. The course is a popular one, and the list of registered riders swelled from 40-something riders to (I think) nearly 80 by the time we rolled out of Doyle Park last Saturday morning.

I had warmed up by rolling over from my motel about 5 miles away, the morning was cool but I opted for just a SS light-weight wool jersey knowing temps would climb into the 80s later on. After signing in, I met Guy Laronche and we talked about bicycles as he was scrutinizing mine. Very nice of him to volunteer to be the SAG-wagon today, though hopefully no one required his services.

I chatted with Jack Twitchell (who was riding alone rather than on his tandem), Eric Anderson (who I’m happy to hear was engrossed in The Magic Mountain), and Jim Swarzman, and was introduced to a number of other riders as well:

Captain Jack makes ready to take sail...

Eric gettin' bent...

...brevets aren't races (or are they? 😉

I was off with the front of the group, using my usual lazy strategy of following people who know the route better than me to avoid having to do much navigation until I was out away from the city. It was a motley crew congregating at each stop-light with many Furnace Creek 508, RAAM, Hoodoo 500, and other ultra-racing veterans present. Jerald Cook was off right away, as if his time-trial bike had been shot out of a torpedo bay – nobody was trying to hold his pace at this point, and we had a large and (almost) leisurely group until somewhere around Rancho Santa Fe. Many of us were enjoying the draft provided by Adam Bickett and Anabelle Lau on their tandem (they put forward an excellent effort despite suffering a double-flat), so I think there was some initial reluctance to push the pace. Someone was calling out road hazards in Spanish: “Hoyo!” “Agua!” “Hoyo Negro (pero no agua negro…)”

Just as I was starting to settle in for a sanguine/convivial ride, George Vargas and Balvindar Singh (riding his first brevet!?) broke away. I tried to match their pace and realized there was no way I could sustain it for more than a few miles, so I dropped back to band together with a group of 3 riders (Marty Sedluk and another guy from Ohio I think, and Collin) who were trying to bridge the growing gap. This pace was an improvement, but when we hit some head-winds along the way up Del Dios Highway, my pitiful pulls weren’t helping any of these bigger guys…and after a few pauses to try to get some snapshots of the dam and Lake Hodges, I stopped trying to stay with them:

Bye guys...

Jim Swarzman, Chris Kostman, and a few other riders caught up and we spent several miles together before I went off again around Harmony Grove catching up to a guy named Keith who I rode with into the first control – a table with water, fig bars, and bagels – at the base of the long steady climb up San Elijo. He needed a pit stop, so I was on my own from here on out.

This part of the county is full of pastoral farmlands, miniature woods and ponds, and if the street names are any indication, while obviously affluent, the area seems inspired more by a story-book than a pocket-book: Elfin Forest, Windy Willow, Frog Hollow, etc.

Collin was a few minutes ahead of me at this point, as he too had dropped back from the blistering pace being set by the lead group. I watched him leave the Deer Springs control as I pulled in. Jaime was manning this one (no receipt needed at the AM/PM) – he had quite an eventful worker’s ride, breaking a chain and fighting off a dog among other things…we chatted briefly while I topped off my water and popped a Clif bar into my jersey pocket:

Control #2

Most of the climbing is concentrated into the next 25 miles, and the terrain and traffic patterns shift quite a bit as you roll by absurd tourist attractions (e.g. The Lawrence Welk resort), through “traffc calmed” Old Castle, by idealic organic pastures, citrus fields, and foliage shielded descents (Lilac Rd), and up steep avacado and razor-wire lined Couser Rd (the twisting double-digit grade rewards you with one of the best down-hills in the San Diego area…my fenders came in handy here as well, as parts of the valley floor were still flooded).

You can almost hear the treacle tinkling of "champagne music" in the distance...

...smell the automobile pheremones?

One more series of rollers and climbs along Rice Canyon (where you dodge a number of loose dogs) and you reach the heart of ride, the minute town of Rainbow – also the 3rd (and final, until the finish) control of the day. The Reynolds were volunteering and had brought a magnificent spread of hot soup, home-made bread, fresh fruit, tons of water, cytomax, and so on. Collin was here for a while, but I let him roll out without me, as I wanted to take a longer break and enjoy the food and conversation on offer (John Hilliard was here in his ’07 PBP jersey, having ridden some crazy distance without actually participating in the official event today). After 10 minutes Kelly pulled in behind me, with a larger group not long behind – I downed a chocolate milk from the store, washed my hands (which were covered in grease from dropping my chain on Couser), and carried on.

Help yourself to anything...

One more mild climb and I was back to the highway, with no shoulder and busy traffic, my urban commuting experience came in handy here – and I made my way to River Rd fairly quickly. From here, I knew my way, familiar with the ever-present headwinds of the bike path into Oceanside and the crush of traffic lights and pedestrians along the coast. I paused when I reached the place in Encinitas where I crashed on last year’s 400K, getting a better idea of what had gone wrong so as not to repeat it – the bike lane comes and goes throughout this area, so if you don’t keep your head up you can fly right into a parked car, a planted median, or a gaping pot-hole – I opted to take the lane instead of weaving back and forth, which got me buzzed a couple times, but that just made me pick up the pace further.

So many surfers and beach bunnies were out in Del Mar, Carlsbad, etc there was no hint of it being Winter – this must have been a surreal feeling for the riders visiting from Seattle or back East.

...click to enlarge

The final climb of the day is Torrey Pines which I grinded up at a slower cadence than I thought I should have – near the top I looked down and realized I was in my big ring (oops)! A series of stops and turns through UCSD and I was back at Doyle Park, finishing in ~7hrs 47min – more than an hour behind the first finisher(s), but I didn’t mind getting a bit more of my money’s worth. Very glad I came down for this ride!

Many more reports of this year’s ride are online. A sampling: Mark’s, George’s, Kevin‘s, and Steve’s.

Views of Anacapa 200K

11 Jan

Being somewhat new to cycling I wasn’t aware that traditionally New Year’s Day is not a day of rest, but rather a day of toil (and camaraderie). My buddies (some quite hung-over) tried to goad me into joining them on the 40th annual Mt. Wilson climb or the 10th+ annual PCH Ride or the Rose Parade Ride – all venerable traditions that draw between dozens and several hundred participants. I opted to start the decade off with the PCH Randonneurs, and begin whittling away at my Super-Randonneur series (200K+300K+400K+600K) at once.

I rode over to meet my buddy Marcus to hitch a ride with him to Moorpark – he was feeling a bit green, less from a late night and more from an excess of jalapeño poppers (not my first choice for carb-loading). We stopped by our RBA’s place, parking the car and unloading our bikes. We exchanged some friendly words (and some antacid) with the Twitchells who were mounting their tandem (which they put over 5,000 miles on last year) across the street from us. We headed down to the strip-mall parking lot meeting spot, forking over cash and waivers for brevet cards and coffee. I stopped into Vons and ate a doughnut and downed a bunch of carrot juice.

The turn-out was decent (25 – 30 riders I think), several of whom I didn’t recognize from last year’s Summer/Fall series. One of cycling’s most boisterous (and quietly accomplished) personalities was in attendance, David Nakai – whose banter (and heavily decorated bicycle) had everyone giggling. A few instructions regarding an info control and a “secret” control and we were off.

Jim Swarzman went flying off the front of the pack on his old Fuji time-trial bike, and a handful of riders chased after him. Out of breath and spinning rapidly to warm up, we caught up with him at a light. Marcus said, “Jim…just because you’re on a time trial bike doesn’t mean you’re in a time trial.” He zoomed off again complaining of the cold. I stayed on Jim’s wheel, thankful for the protective draught (I’d not brought my gloves, and it was 32F) as I clenched my numb hands. Shai was with us for a while, but disappeared on the first steady grade (he was on a fixed gear). Passing through the citrus groves, the roads were virtually empty, the sound of propellers (warming the air around the crops) was the only thing disturbing the calm.

Besides Jim, another accomplished cyclist, Jeff Dewey was soon up with our miniature break-away as well. In between mashing sessions he regaled us with tales of Paris-Brest-Paris in 1995, crazy DIY repairs he’d made to his (really cool custom) bicycle, etc. The three of us mostly stuck together, occasionally being passed by Greg Jones (our RBA) in his pick-up truck  as he drove ahead to take our photo, set up signs, and prepare controls.

We passed through Ventura, checking out the impressive city hall building briefly (too briefly to photograph, you’ll notice) before reaching the [Casitas?] Bike Path. This part of the ride was one of my favorites as it had a post-apocalyptic feel to it – we passed by enormous active oil derricks, but also huge rusting hulks of gas/oil storage buildings (some covered with evil looking graffiti), the ground nearby covered with vile muck or submerged in viscous panes of contaminated water. Abandoned vehicles and structures flanked us on both sides, rotted out to an impressive degree. We traded half-serious jokes about Superfund sites and holding our breath.  I kept expecting a zombie to leap from around every corner, and certainly some of the joggers we encountered did seem to be stumbling forward in a trance.

Once through this miasmic tunnel we began our gradual climb up to the [O…? Store] control where we paused for bathroom breaks, chocolate milk, water, granola bars, bananas, etc. The beer selection was surprisingly varied for a small outpost far from the city but I decided against cracking open a cold one in preparation for the ascent of Casitas Pass.

More and more cyclists appeared, from at least two large clubs, though nearly all of them had started from the other side of the hill. My haphazard attempts at photographing the lake resulted in frustration so I picked up the pace instead. Both Jim and Jeff are very nimble guys (Super Featherweight I think) – I was afraid of getting dropped for the day on the climb, so I pulled ahead here, hoping to catch them on the downhill. I thought they were right on my wheel, but when I finally peeked behind me there was no one there. It turns out they were chuckling at me for rushing ahead seeing how Casitas Pass has a dip in the middle, followed by a second climb before you are truly over the hill…something they let me learn on my own.

As I neared Carpinteria, things began to look familiar as I’d been on the same road at various times in the past. As I was leaving the control, Jim and Jeff were just getting in, separated by a minute or so. We wouldn’t see one another again until the end.

The route from this point was familiar as it was basically the same thing I did on the Malibu Coastal Cruise. Consequently I didn’t really scrutinize my route sheet until I was at the next control in Port Hueneme where I realized the route sheet I had printed had cut off well before the end (oops!). After re-fueling, I soft-pedaled a bit, expecting Jim to catch up any moment; actually, he had passed me while I was dawdling at the control (Jeff meanwhile was taking an extended lunch break).

I waited for a bit at the Naval Air station at Las Posas and PCH (the latter was closed which should have clued me in) and then called Greg and Lisa (RBA and wife) for summarized directions to their place (the finish).

I’d been dodging construction/road repair and facing a mild but persistent headwind (going the opposite direction than what is normal for the coast) up until this point, so it was nice to turn in-land and feel a boost from the tail-winds enable me to shift to my 50×12 and churn after my sub-8 hour goal. As I made my way up the final extended climb back towards Moorpark, a very polite woman with a British accent and a clipboard rolled down her window and asked my name and if I wanted something to drink. I wasn’t aware that anyone had volunteered to offer support on the brevet (and I couldn’t see Pete, the driver, who I would have recognized) – so I quickly (if not suspiciously) said no thanks and prepared for the final push.

I pulled into Greg and Lisa’s place after 7 hrs and 43 min – amused to see Jim lounging around like he’d been there for hours (well, he had been there for at least 30 minutes). I enjoyed a couple root beers, a wonderful bowl of soup, dark chocolate bars, and home-made pizza (honestly, their wood burning oven was the primary inducement for me doing this ride!) while congratulating the other riders as they trickled in over the next couple of hours. We chatted about how to improve the club, our plans for the coming year, ogling a couple custom bikes (one making its brevet debut I believe – again, I should have taken photos!), and enjoying the cozy outdoor fire

For the visual among you I can only apologize and direct you towards Dana’s post (which features some video footage), and a link to the map/elevation profile/etc.