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It has been quiet a while since I was able to meet up with some great folks from SoCalRiders. Not officially a club, but clearly identifiable by the great cycling kit designed by our very own Jason. He and his wife Lisa just returned from a European vacation, in which Jason got to ride stage 8 of the 2009 Tour de France in the Pyrenees, a truly epic climb. Lisa, usually part of the group, did not join Saturday’s ride, because as I learned, Lisa is pregnant and they are having a baby boy in April – CONGRATULATIONS!!
Earlier in the week Herb sent out an invite to ride a Coastal Century for their CAM (Century A Month) and gave two ride options. Choice #1 was a 98 mile ride with about 1000 feet elevation change, or choice #2 a slightly different route adding miles and elevation to be about 108 miles and 3000 feet of elevation change. We met up at Neptun’s Nest on PCH (about 15 miles north of Malibu town center) and I had no clue which one of the routes I would join when I arrived at the meeting point. By the time it got close to roll time it was Mary, Herb, Jason, Andy, Kurt, Tom and I. We rolled out together and I said I would join Mary, Herb and Tom. However, they made fun of me and strongly suggested to get rid of the bike and just put my running shoes on if I were to ride with them, because that is all I would need to keep up with them. For the record, they are strong riders and have more centuries under their butts than I am likely to ever ride. They simply don’t enjoy the fast paced ‘hammer fest’ pace lines.
So, while we are debating all of this, Andy and Jason are pulling away. Jason is clearly the strongest rider in our group and Andy is not far behind. Besides, Andy only has one speed – FAST. For this ride Jason was worried about jet-lag because of his recent travel schedule, but I couldn’t tell a difference all day. After some more needling from Mary, Kurt and I decided to try and catch Jason and Andy. It took some real work to catch up to those guys but once there we settled in and it was agreed that we would take the longer climbing route as well as riding pace line with 2 minute pulls.
When we reached our first stop I couldn’t believe the pace: a solid 20 mph – I never went that fast for that long before – milestone #1. I have to admit that in the back of my mind I was a bit worried, I mean we still had some 80 miles to go and that was a fast start. Jason and Andy were all smiles and ‘nice pace’ and I am just thinking ‘oh, boy, what have I gotten myself into?”
Leaving the rest stop we agreed to dial it down a bit, which worked for most of the time but the pace was still several miles/hour above my usual riding pace. Somewhere along this leg in the city of Ventura, Jason had a toe cramp, not fun for him, but much appreciated by me because of the break. While giving time for the cramp to subside, Jim (a self proclaimed local beach bum and often part of our posse) was out riding and spotted our jerseys. He joined us all the way up to the bottom of Casitas pass.
Once we hit the hills our small group split into two. Jason and Andy always up front and Kurt and I, bringing up the rear. I could kick myself for not bringing a camera, because as much as I love my iPhone, taking pictures while riding with the iPhone is impossible. The climb up to Lake Casita and then up to Casita’s Pass kicked my butt. There was no doubt that I could feel the impact of the earlier fast pace. The climb is really not that bad, with an average grade of 6% and a handful of 8+ sections thrown in. What made it just a bit more difficult was the absence of a breeze (ocean breeze blocked by the mountain), the sun high above in a cloudless sky and no shade to be seen anywhere. Not much else to do but gear down and pedal. It seemed forever to get up and over the pass (the last climb actually offered some shade going through Avocado groves) and the view from the top is absolutely spectacular.
It was there that Jason received a text from Herb letting us know that Tom turned around a long time ago due to two flats and a broken spoke (that is some tough luck!) and that he and Mary are about to reach Carpenteria. With nothing but downhill in front of us we arranged to meet up in Carpenteria at McDonald’s for fries and Coke. It was Jason who turned us on to this ritual and after 60 miles the fries loaded with salt and fat and the sugar from the Coke did wonders. We compared notes with Herb and Mary, discussed for a while if we should form up as one group, but Mary decided that she didn’t want to ride the pace line and quiet eloquently stated her reasons as to why.
Well fed and hydrated the six of us set off to make our way out of Carpenteria as a group, and once outside the city line the four of us would pick up the pace again. It was not long after that, when Andy started to have issues with leg cramps, which as it turned out would haunt him for the rest of the ride. Kurt and Herb are walking medicine cabinets, so they carried just about every remedy you can imagine, and loaded Andy with all sorts of stuff. It is a testament to Andy’s strength and HTFU (harden the fuck up) attitude that made him grind through the remaining 46 miles despite frequent cramp attacks. I didn’t trust my eyes at first when my Garmin beeped at me at the 100 mile mark and I saw a sub 6 hour ride time – Milestone #2.
I quickly hit the lap button to record this joyous moment. In retrospect I believe that the faster ride time is probably a result of many breaks in between, but it is what it is and I’ll take it. The last 6 1/2 miles were a series of rollers and Jason took it upon himself to become my coach and started to push and challenge. I didn’t meet all of his challenges, but I sure gave it my best. I am not sure if I was more surprised by the fact that I took the challenges or that I actually had that much left in the tank. He had me go into the big ring and out of the saddle every incline and stay up, up, up…. My legs would just quiver and he goes “ah, that’s just lactic acid, it’ll go away!” – yeah, right – it did go away and I was so proud to finish the last 6 1/2 miles with an average of 18.7 mph. Thanks, coach! – milestone #3
We waited for Andy and Kurt, stowed our gear, said our good byes and moved off into different directions. I later learned that Mary had a tough ride back for the last 25 miles, but like all the others in this group, rode through the pain and made it home OK. I was also able to get rid of two ghosts on this ride, as the route we took crossed paths with two other rides that did not end well for me: the first was in June when Murphy’s Law was dead set against me, and the second in July when I went over the handle bar in a pace line. – milestone #4
Who can ask for more?