Friday, December 15, 2017

The Most Ridiculous Day

Remember that crazy 200 mile ride I did 6 weeks ago, the solo death march from Orange County to Palomar mtn and then up through Temecula to Santiago Peak? The reason I did that ride was because SuperDave, a local legend and employee of 3T made it a goal to ride both Palomar and Santiago peaks in one day back in Sept, and the date of his attempt became sort of a big event in Orange County. 

Dec 9 was the date set aside for the ride, and despite concern about the route, a ridiculous backwards version of what I did complete with unreasonable amounts of super rough dirt roads on cross bikes, i threw caution to the wind and jumped on my bike Saturday morning to join the shenanigans.  

A very bad picture of the group at Tucker, pre-Harding.

Dave's ride started from 3T, but I rolled from home to get a few more minutes of sleep and avoid doing my bike commute on a weekend day. I met the crowd at Tucker Wildlife sanctuary in Modjeska canyon and soon the group of about 30 was climbing Harding truck trail towards Santiago peak.  

I've done this first climb on a Felt VR before (that's the adventure ready road bike I raced BWR on, remember) so the first climb at least was NBD. Sadly I am a slow learner, and despite Brendan telling me over and over that low tire pressure is better, I had aired up my tires to the upper limit the sidewall info indicated was acceptable, which was much too high for the mtb rims I was riding. My logic was that I would be on the road en route TO Harding, but I never let air out of the tires and 2/3 of the way up Harding my rear tire rolled off the rim. I was super bummed to have to put a tube in my rear tire (although in retrospect there was plenty of Orange Seal in there, I could prob have shot it with C02 and re-seated the tire), and came to grips with the fact that I was going to have to ride super conservative to not pinch flat now.  
Not long after we turned onto Main Divide to finish the ascent to Santiago Peak I felt that dreaded squish under me, looked down and realized that I have ANOTHER rear flat. Fortunately the Spandex Stampede guy was there and let me use his tube instead of digging through my saddlebag for the very hard to get second tube I had. I promised I would hit him with a fresh tube at the lunch stop, threw in tube #2 and we were off again. I was super bummed to be the girl getting all the flats, and started wondering if it was a sign I should bail and avoid getting 1,000 more flats and becoming a hassle.  

Alone, on MD, loving life.

When I reached the peak the group was taking pictures and what not, but I rolled through without stopping to get a head start, fearing I needed to be crazy conservative to avoid more flats. I spent the next hour-ish alone, expecting to get caught, literally reminding myself out loud NOT to ride fast on every downhill, which was so so so frustrating, I just wanted to bomb down the chunky, rocky roads I know so well. By the time I reached the end of the dirt I still hadn't gotten caught, and started to fear the group was ahead of me, or that they had decided to turn somewhere and take a different route. I didn't have much choice though, but to keep going, and was relieved to meet up with Collin, the SAG vehicle driver at Ortega HWY and hear that no one else had been through.  
I sat down and ate some snacks, chatted with Collin, ate more snacks, and waited. I waited so long I was able to patch the flat tube fro earlier (a thorn, not a pinch flat like we thought). After eating MORE snacks I decided to ride the route backwards to find the group. I figured sitting around was a waste of time and it was a beautiful day. About a mile back up the road I ran into the group, who apparently had so many flats they had run out of tubes and C02 and had resorted to patching tubes as more flats occurred. Although I was relieved that i wasn't the only one to get so many flats, the delay set us back more than an hour behind schedule, and over lunch the decision was made to descend Ortega and ride Grand Ave to Temecula, which is ore similar to my previous route than what had been planned.  .
The following 3 hours were pretty uneventful. The 6 of us who continued towards Palomar took turns pulling at what was to me a pretty hard pace. We Made short work of Grand Ave though, amazing how much faster it was with a group, and soon we were in Temecula headed to Hwy 79. We picked up some fresh meat in Temecula, Richard, who helped out with the pulling as our group was starting to fade. I continued to eat more calories than I was burning, and felt stoked to feel strong, fresh despite the savage pace across Grand and 7,000 ft we had already climbed.  
Hwy 79 was sketchy as heck, like expected, but we had the car behind us, alerting other vehicles that we were there, so it was a bit safer than when I rode it alone in the other direction, and we only got 1 middle finger!  

Eno, me and Sean at the beginning of the climb.
By the time we got to the base of our ascent up Palomar it was 3pm, and half the group was cracked. I ate some more un-necessary snacks and then Eno, Sean and I promptly rode away from the others up the steep, sandy climb. I knew how heinous the next 2 hours would be, so I settled into my own pace and was suprised overall that the whole thing was much less terrible than I imagined climbing it would be the two times I had descended it. The wind had stripped much of the sand off the fire road, and at a moderate pace it was hard, but not the worst thing ever, until the last mile! On the way up we were treated to an amazing sunset over the desert, and we reached the top as a bright pink/orange blaze lit the western horizon through the pine trees that crown Palomar.  

In the last mile Sean fell apart and ended up walking, but Richard caught up and joined Eno and I for the short traverse to the pavement. Our little group kept moving as it was getting colder and colder, and the sun had completely set before we got off the dirt. Since I was familiar with the route we had no trouble navigating turns and what not, and we figured the others would see our deep, narrow tire tracks (and honestly I thought these hooligans would have a map of some sort, since, you know, I didn't commit to doing this ride until the night before!), so we didn't wait at intersections. The three of us arrived at Mother's Kitchen, a little restaurant at the false summit of Palomar at 5:30ish, and were so so glad to be welcomed inside by locals setting up for their holiday party. We sat and chatted and waited and waited and waited. We discussed descending to tacos at the base of the mountain, but kept deciding to wait just a bit longer for the rest of our group. At one point Richard drove off with a nice mountain woman who offered to take him to her house where there is cell service so he could phone his wife, and we figured he was getting kidnapped and wasn't coming back.  
Eventually, after what felt like an hour, Dave and Dan showed up, and then the question was, where is Sean? Sean from Michigan who didn't have a light nor winter clothes nor a map... Sean had been between our two groups so his absence definitely meant he took a wrong turn. This development meant we had to send out a search party, which meant loading the group in cars and the thought of finishing the ride basically died at that point. At this point in the evening, with nice mountain lady off with Richard, the other local folk turned on us and kicked us out of their 'private event' forcing us to go stand outside in the cold. It was also getting more and more frigid by the minute, Palomar is above 5,000ft, so like almost real elevation, and none of us were dressed appropriately. As we struggled to load bikes and people on the two cars we had to go find him, miracle of all miracle, Sean rolled in! Somehow he had found his way to Mothers by using his cell phone flash light and dumb luck for direction. And then, another Christmas miracle, Richard returned, not kidnapped after all!  
No one had any interest in continuing to ride at this point, and despite being very bummed to have climbed so far and to not get to descend, I reluctantly agreed to drive back as well since riding in the cold and dark alone didn't seem too fun or safe. In the end though, I'm pretty pumped on that decision as the car was warm, and the dudes I had been riding with turned out to know all the guys I raced with in college, so we had a solid reminiscing sesh on the 1.5 hour drive back to Orange County.  
Overall I only got 105 miles and 13,000ft elevation gain, but it was a fun and ridiculous and eventful day doing things a bit different than my usual hammer all the time, no stopping, solo pace. Not sure I want to do too many more big ridiculous group rides, but there is a second attempt planned for March... and I don't know if I can turn down a bad idea ride :) But maybe I'll just go do it alone instead, just to prove the thing is possible in both directions! 

Living the life, one ridiculous adventure at a time :)

Monday, November 13, 2017

CTS Fig Fondo

The path to a happy life is paved with good friends, endless adventure, challenges, lots of coffee and tacos. At least for me it is. I've lost track of how many best weekends in a row I've had this fall, which is a very good thing following a best summer ever. 

This weekend's edition of adventure and pain centered around the Carmichael Training System Figueroa Mountain Gran Fondo, a 97 mile ride with a very challenging 10 mile KOM/QOM mountain climb in the first 20 miles. 
Team mates for life :)
As my school observed Veteran's day on Friday Nikki, her bf Nic and I were able to leave town Friday afternoon and kick off the weekend with the most perfect recovery paced spin along the ocean in Ventura. Then we sat in ALL THE TRAFFIC heading into Santa Barbara en route to dinner with friends in Solvang. 

Saturday morning we were up early, downed coffee and oats, and rolled out to the ride in a chilly central coast morning fog. 

The CTS office in Santa Ynez (where the fondo began and ended) always feels like home as everyone there treats you like family, and it was fun to run around saying hi to all the familiar faces before we headed to the start line. I think this is one of my favorite things about CTS as a coaching company, I feel like part of a big happy team, everyone cares about each other, coaches and athletes, it's pretty special. 

 All 600 of us riders rolled out of Santa Ynez at 8am, heading east towards Figueroa. The 'neutral' start meant us competitive types got a chance to chat with each other on the way to the impending suffering. I got to catch up with Alison Tetric, miss Gravel Queen herself, as well as a bunch of dudes who I don't remember their names (hahaha, sorry dudes, you all look alike in your kits and stuff!)

Around mile 10 we rode over some timing mats and the 'race' was on. I had never ascended Fig before so the whole climb was a mystery, one of those daunting challenges which you hear so much about, and build up a respect/fear of until the day comes that you get to see it for yourself. Menso came along for the adventure with the plan of riding with me all day rather than trying for the KOM himself. spending part of the week on the couch after our Tribute ride last week left him exactly fast enough to stay with me (well probably faster, but yeah), and to warn me a few times that we were going way too hard in the first 15 minutes based on his power numbers. I however was feeling invencible, and had a hard time reigning it in even after I was told by several dudes that it was an hour + long climb.

Few people realize that Santa Barbara county has real mountains, and Fig is the most westerly and smallest of the peaks that are accessible by cross or mountain bike from the beautiful, sleepy town. The route we took ascended for 3 miles, took us across some dirt and through three creek crossings and then shot us straight up the mountain side, to about 4,500ft in the remaining 5ish miles. The road wound around and through the mountainside, offering sweeping views to the left/west. but I saw none of it as I was solely focused on holding Menso's wheel/leaving every piece of my heart on the climb. As Menso put it, I wanted to be bleeding out my eyeballs from going so hard at the end. For most of the climb I could see Alison working hard to stay with us, about 30 seconds back. This obvi triggered my 'panic stricken' mode of racing, where I freaked out inside, talked myself out of getting to the top first and internally accepted loosing the QOM, all while continuing to gut myself to stay with the boys. Eventually Alison started to fade, and the gap got just big enough for me to relax a bit about 3km from the top, thank God because I thought I was going to puke from 10km to go all the way to the summit.

At the top I breathed a sigh of relief and rolled on towards the descent, not stopping for cookies or snacks at the aid station. We had been riding for about 2 hours but I couldn't stomach the idea of eating because I felt so sick from climbing, and maybe eating too much oatmeal before the ride. I was told that the only segment that mattered as a 'race' was the QOM, so I took my time descending, snapping a few pictures, and finally took in the incredible views of rolling central coast hills and ocean. It reminded me a lot of the views from King Ridge Road in Sonoma County, one of my favorite places in the world.

At the bottom of the descent Menso waited for me, and then we ran into my coach as we rolled into the teeny tiny wine tasting town of Los Olivos. I was told there were pastries at the rest stop, and although I didn't really want to stop, my calves were sore, and I knew I NEEDED food (even though I still didn't WANT any). Sadly we had mistaken 'pace groups' for pastries, a very very disappointing reality.

So we decided to wait until the next group was planning to roll out in order to have other riders to draft off of and work with for the 60 miles that remained of the day. Our group was decently large, about 15 guys and me, and eventually Menso got everyone to rotate and work together rather than attack the front over and over. I was already pretty shelled by the climb and the yo-yoing of the group, but because I didn't think the overall mattered I vacillated between doing work (rotating in the paceline with the guys), and sitting on the back recovering.

The cool thing about gran fondos is that average, non-racing cyclists get to ride alongside professionals, and I think that's part of why they are so popular in the US. It also means that you aren't necessarily always riding with people who a) know who you are, and b) know how to ride in a group. The consequence of a) was that a guy said something to the effect of 'nice work sweetie' to me, which I found very offensive, and b) I was destroying myself every time I went to the front because the goober who pulled off before me wouldn't fricken' slow down and drop back. So this situation made for an interesting 30 miles of flying through country roads under giant old oak trees and through beautiful vineyards.

At some point we picked up Alison who had passed us when we were all stopped looking for pastries. I was stoked because I had hoped to Fondo with her, but was mildly offended when she claimed she 'wasn't trying to get the QOM' on Fig... suuuurrrreeee. Anyway, that's just how us cyclists are, we can't always play our cards, ego and stuff gets in the way and you have to pretend you were sick, or on a recovery day, or had a loose cassette, haha.

So all these randos, Alison, Menso and me rolled on and on, and at mile 65 a short, steep climb started which had all the dudes and Alison out of the saddle sprinting full boar up the hill. I didn't really understand what was going on, as I thought it wasn't a race anymore, and after a minute or two of thinking everyone would regroup I realized that I was going to get dropped by the group, and decided to try and stay with them. Sadly, it was too little too late, as I was never able to close the 20 second gap they all got on me and the back end of the group, and I rolled over the top both shell shocked and weary from having to try and close a gap I was dumb enough to let form. After that I just decided to keep my HR in check and finish the fondo at my own speed, not trying to stay with any yahoos or anything. I rode alone for a while until an aid station reunited me with the dudes I would finish the day with. At said aid station I forced down 1 pretzel and half a coke, and grabbed a bunch of gels for 'later' (but I was too dumb to actually eat them).

We rode and talked and climbed to the finish, in what I would call the most perfect Fondo pace ever. I took pictures, and looked around, and enjoyed the sensations of the warm sun on my back and sting in my legs as I climbed the final hills.

At the finish we made a bee line for the lunch, and devoured as much chili, tacos and corn bread as my stomach would allow. Apparently Menso burned north of 6,000 calories on the day, and my Strava said I knocked out 4,200, or about 20 tacos, haha :) The rest of the day was like a party, talking to other CTS athletes, some non-coached yahoos (Nic...) and coaches. There was indeed a podium, and I learned at the podium that there was an overall award after all (guess I shouldn't have started Fondo-ing) but I was happy to claim the QOM and two beers for my efforts.

Overall it was an outstanding day. I can't say enough good things about my coach, CTS, and the Fig Fondo, all of which embodied the best of SoCal cycling to me. I am lucky, proud, stoked, and humbled to be part of this organization. I even got to meet Olympian and multi time Giro Rosa winner Mara Abbot after the ride, how freaking cool is that!?

This was the last 'event' I had on the calendar for 2017. Wouldn't have wanted such a fun filled, intense, long, challenging season to end in any other way. Thanks friends, for making it the best day full of laughs, and CTS for making me the athlete I am.
Me, Nikki, Nic and Menso, 4 happy mountain bikers 'wasting time' on road bikes :) 

We rounded out the weekend with nonstop food, bikes and fun, Sat. night I ate the most amazing tacos and churros with Menso and his wife, followed by two intense games of Settlers of Catan (in which Menso did not win).

And Sunday some local pro-fondoers, gave me a road bike tour of fancy places which blew my mind, and in which I popped my first 'successful' road bike wheelie (haha, it lasted one pedal stroke... I got my wheel 2 inches off the ground). We followed that up with a coffee ride with Menso and Jacquline on the tandem + Nikki and Nic which resulted in more laugh-till-I-can't-pedal moments, and somehow more hunger than when the day stared. A final stop at a line-out-the-door Mexican place for MORE amazing tacos in SB, and Ancho Chili Mocahs in Ventura on the road capped off what surely was the best weekend of fall for me. I'm ready to do some hard core resting, and the memories made this year will keep me going until it's time to start training for sure.  

Larzy out. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Tribute Ride: In Which Larissa was The Weak Link

It's been a long time since I last rode with a group of people who are ALL considerably faster/fitter than me. I know there are tons of crazy talented, fast cyclists in SoCal, and any given day I could get my butt thoroughly kicked by any number them, but I tend to ride alone or with Carl a lot, which artificially inflates my ego, leaving me thinking I'm untouchable. the strongest endurance rider in the land... lies :)
So it was quite the experience Sunday, to limp along behind Menso DeJong and Dominik Cinka, dying to ask them to slow down, but keeping my lips tightly sealed as to preserve the last shred of ego I had left. 

Last year around this time Menso got the insane idea to put together the most epic shuttle ride we could imaging in Sequoia National Forest. For the first edition of what he deemed 'The tribute to the greatest ride in the world' we started at 10,000ft at Sherman Pass and rode mountain bikes all the way down to 2,000ft at the end of the Kern River Trail. The route threw in a cool 13,000ft of climbing in the 95 miles of some of the best singletrack in Southern Calif. and gave us a wooping 21,000ft of descent. 

Da boys, getting ready to shred sweet trails.
This year Menso updated the route to include some seldom ridden singletrack out past Portuguese Pass west of Kernville. Like last year, Menso stashed a box of Clif products, cokes (and rum... haha) and cookies at mile 47/75 and we roped Brendan and Allie into coming out to assist with the shuttling so we wouldn't have to drive back to Sherman pass after 10 hours of riding.
Unlike last year, we made the most of the weekend by riding Camp Nelson trail the day before the Tribute Ride, and had such a good time we did it twice. If you haven't been to Camp Nelson before this trail was well worth the drive, complete with tons of tech, flow, rocks, bridges, drops, jumps, everything that makes me giggle with glee while screaming 2,000 ft down a mountain in 5 miles. We even rode THROUGH A TREE... it was awesome, go there, do it!
We all gorged ourselves on pizza in Kernville Saturday night before heading up to the pass to sleep, and before I knew it we were bundling up with every article of clothing we had at 5:45 am to start the day in 30 degree weather surrounded by dense, cold fog. 
A terrible picture of our 'camp site' in the parking lot on Sherman Pass, the coldest place to sleep in all of socal :)
 There were multiple cold related mechanicals at the start of the day (think dropper posts refusing to stay up because they are frozen type mechanical) so we got a slow start. I also somehow forgot how much harder riding at 10,000 ft is, and rather than taking it easy, I just pushed harder, assuming my body was being weak and needed to be punished. Prehaps the biggest thing I still need to learn about riding bikes is that if it hurts, maybe you should slow down. Instead I often assume I'm being weak and try to beat myself into the ground... not sure why my brain thinks that's gonna help. Anyway, what I though was a slow first leg of the ride, the 25 miles of Canell trail, resulted in multiple QOM segments, meaning the pain was from going hard, not me being slow/tired/weak.

Canell trail drops 8,500 feet in elevation,with a cool 2,000 ft ascent thrown in for good fun. Halfway down, there is a breath taking view of Lake Isabella and although I was loving every minute of the delightfully technical, fast, flowy descent I had to stop to take a quick picture. Just look at that crappy iphone pic... wish I knew how to make that a Carl quality picture!

And then it was back to shredding :) At the bottom of Canell we were all pumped on mountain bikes, leaving me wondering why we bother with road bikes at all. There is something about flying down crazy scary/rocky trails that just makes me feel alive! haha, I wish I knew how to describe the glee I feel when I'm lofting my bike off drops and over steep/terrifying rock faces. 
Anyway, we rolled into the town of Kernville, stripped off our un-necessary warm clothes (as it was now 65 degrees... much too warm for a rain jacket and wool shirt over my jersey), and hit the coffee shop in town for a quick hit of caffeine and warm scones. I normally hate stopping on bike rides, but it's finally the season to slow down, enjoy the snacks and coffee stops, and just be in the moment, and that is exactly what we did. 

Menso & Dom... sitting down on the job. 
After coffee and chain lube we rolled out of town towards Old State Rd, which took us up to the top of Just Outstanding trail. Rather than descend awesome singletrack though, we rolled across the highway towards Portuguese pass and the great unknown. The climb up Old State rd took a little over an hour, so we paused at the top to raid the stash of snacks Menso had left the day before. It was at this point that I realized all I had eaten in the first 4.5 hours of the ride was half a scone and 3 Clif bloks, I was WAY behind on nutrition. Menso had purchased those really crappy sugar cookies from Ralphs, the kind that are white hockey pucks with bright colorful frosting, and I made short work of one of those bad boys and a nutbutter filled Clif bar before we climbed up, up and away on a fire road out to what felt like oblivion.
Because the route was different from last year, and because I had been too busy with school and whatnot to read the planning emails in which the group discussed the route, the next 4 hours of my left were a complete unknown to me. As we rode away from the food stash Menso mentioned that it would take 4-5 hours to complete this part of the ride, which kinda scared the daylights out of me. 4 hours seemed like a long time, and I was hurting already. My anxiety about the state of my legs resulted in a very very quiet Larissa, which I know you don't believe is possible. But swear on my life I was quiet as a mouse as we climbed and climbed and climbed across a mountainside recently incinerated in forest fire. It was cold, and I was tired, but too proud to slow down or ask the boys to do so. The fog in the blackened skeletons of trees was spooky and unsettling, amplifying the dread I was feeling. We were only about 50 miles into what was supposed to be a 100 mile ride... and I was starting to fall apart. 

At mile 57 we reached Frog Meadow, a random camp ground out in the middle of nowhere. The entrance to the trail we were supposed had been bulldozed by loggers recently so we spent the larger part of the next 30 minutes looking for a trail we knew was there, but could not for the life of us find. When we finally gave up and decided to head back across the fire road... THERE it was! Of course, and we made short work of descending 1,500ft to the bottom, just to start the climb back out. 

The next few hours are a blur of pain for me. I remember climbing and climbing and climbing. When we got to the next trail on our route we decided to skip the 3 mile loop as we were pretty far behind on time from being lost for so long. Instead we continued up to the burn area and the fire road that had lead us out to Frog Meadow a few hours earlier. 

Menso's brilliant route planning brought us some rad singletrack on the way back, which was a welcome change to all the fire road, but what should have been 'downhill all the way home' turned into heinous hike a bike after back breaking climb in soft sand, followed by another hike. Fortunately the trail did eventually trend down hill, and we were rewarded with a beautiful ribbon of dirt etched into the side of a fire scarred mountain. At one point the boys dropped me on the descent, and the trees curled over the trail, most likely from the effects of the extreme heat in the fire, while dense cold fog wrapped around everything. It was so spooky, I've been kicking myself for days for not bringing the GoPro to capture this moment, but at least I wont soon forget it. 

As the day progressed and the sun started to descend towards the West we realized we would probably be doing some of the ride in the dark. After a second quick stop at the food stash, where Menso and Dom downed half a handle of rum in cokes (how do boys do stuff like that?!) and I sat on the ground like a hobo to inhale more nut butter filled Clif bars, we pushed on towards Just Outstanding.
JO is one of my all time favorite trails, and after all the pain and climbing, it was incredibly rewarding to tear down the flowy smooth trail. We even got tacky conditions, something I've never experienced in the Kernville area. 

After JO I was hurting pretty badly, and a 15 minute climb, followed by Wagy Ridge trail set me further back in the hurt locker, leaving me at the end of my ego, ready to ask for mercy. Sadly for me I had waited too long, as Menso informed me the 'shortcut' out on fire road was longer and had more climbing than finishing the ride. All I could do was suck it up, and continue to make steady forward progress to the end. 

Some good late afternoon Lake Isabella Views.
After half an hour riding in fading light post sunset we strapped lights to our helmets and finally arrived at the last climb which would deliver us to the final descent. Menso and Dom dropped me hard on the climb, and alone, in the dark, so tired and cracked, I fought back tears with every step. I was so over riding my bike that I walked almost the entire last climb, which took a good 10 to 15 minutes. 
And to cap off an excessive day of riding, in which the theme was 'none of what we are doing is necessary' we descended a very rutted, loose Dutch Flat trail, the same trail they use for the Keyesville Classic Down Hill race. You know what's not fun at all? Descending Dutch flat in the dark, and even more not fun is doing it when you are so cracked that you can't see straight. I don't really know how I stayed alive on the final descent, but having Dom volunteer to ride behind me helped loads, and eventually we were at the bottom, climbing into the van and devouring massive handfuls of Cheeze Its. 

This recap is already way longer than I meant for it to be, so I'm going to put this away for now and pick up where I left off another time, I had a lot of deep thoughts while I was pedaling around silently cracked, although maybe they just seemed deep because I was delusional. In any case, I'm still processing what happened to my body and brain on Sunday, but I do know that I am stoked to have friends like Dom and Menso who not only think this kind of thing is a good idea, but can kick my butt at it as well :) Thanks guys, that was one for the books!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Double Wammy but really lets talk about the Filthy Fifty

This past weekend was a doozy. A jamb packed two day fiesta of bikes and ice cream, tacos, friends, suffering and fun doozy. And to prove it was an excellent, over the top, not a second wasted weekend I felt like I got hit by a train this morning, and I'm sure I looked more than a little haggard at school today!

BUT, you guys! This freaking weekend! Wow.

I've been looking forward to this double header of a weekend for a long time now. The ridiculous plan was to 'race' the Circle of Doom in Pasadena on Saturday and then Filthy Fifty in San Diego on Sunday. There are not enough minutes to recap both before bedtime, so I'm just going to say that COD was 120 miles of gorgeous, harsh, brutal climbing and descending in the mountains just east of Pasadena. The 'race' had 5 times segments, of which 3 added up to the 3,000ft climb up hwy 39. It was painful, and glorious and everything I could want from a Saturday. And ice cream was consumed afterwards... 2 scoops of ice cream.

But the Filthy Fifty, a 50 mile out and back mountain bike race, was the main event this weekend. I've raced FF before, in 2013 and won, but that was a long freaking time ago and I wasn't even an endurance racer then! This time it looked to be an incredibly painful affair, just the way I like it.
So our alarms go off stupid early and we are in the van driving south by 6am Sunday. My body protested every thought of racing because I hadn't even begun to recover from COD, and I DEFINITELY didn't get enough sleep Sat night.

I choose not to warm up because you know I'm so good at making decisions, and after picking up some fresh new TASCO gloves and socks (all seasonal and orange and black!) rolled up to the line feeling pretty dull, like a butter knife.

After a nice intense discussion about staging and call ups and equity (more on that later because it was a LOADED convo, let me tell you!) we national anthemed and the gun went off.

Well you know me and my big ego wanted to ride with the lead guys, but less than 5 miles in and I was slipping off the back of that group. My legs didn't hurt, they just couldn't put out any power. This is where my usual endurance race panic began, at mile 5 of a 50 mile race.

So a bunch of dudes passed me, dudes who I DID NOT think should be beating me, and I had to swallow my pride and remind myself that I did indeed shell myself up Hwy 39 the day before because said ego wanted to take back the QOM on that climb which was stolen from me a month or two ago.

Well eventually I attached myself to the back of this group of 3 dudes who were hauling butt across the flat, sandy trails towards this random lake, and I did everything I could to stay behind them but not help them out at all (I couldn't have if I had wanted to...)

They aren't lying when they say Filthy. Photo: Phil Beckman
Then, miracle of all miracles, we caught the lead guys!!!! Hallelujah, a bigger group to draft off of! Sadly, soon after we caught the lead guys (a group about 15 strong), we came across a sketchy bridge and some rando dude in the middle of the group fell off the bridge causing everyone behind him to have to stop. As I was in the back trying to NOT do any work I was also stuck. But I was quick on my feet and I pulled a quick a-hole move, rode THROUGH the creek and around all the guys who were held up, and continued to chase those crazy fast lead dudes.

Alas the lead dudes were much faster than I could go on my own. So I had to settle for letting 3 guys catch me and sitting in on their group while I recovered from trying to be a hero and failing.

Well this group turned out to be pretty fantastic, and I sat on their wheels doing NO work all the way to the end of the out and back... and then some. Cool fact about this group, Johnny O'Mara was one of them, I hear that guy is pretty good at riding motorcycles or something... :)

So these guys let me follow them around for a while, or rather they had no choice since I had attached myself like a fly to fly paper. Eventually, on our return trip to the venue two other randos caught us, and we became 6 strong. On the way back we passed Wonder Woman, and a bunch of other people and I got to cheer and stuff so that was fun.

Well I think my group was getting tired of doing all the work, and they may have been catching onto the fact that I was starting to feel good, and then someone commented that they had me to pull them all back to the finish. My first reaction was 'HECK NO! I'm tired as crap, I cannot pull anyone anywhere. But eventually I did take the lead and do a nice long turn in which everyone learned that I cannot corner, nor can I follow course directions to save my life.

I tried to come off the front a few times, but the group slowed so much each time that I decided I may as well pull so no chicks would catch us (also I thought there was a girl up the road the whole time, so remember I was still panicking). So basically I pulled the whole group all the way to the last climb.

There was one sneaky jerk in our group who did the least work on the day (I'm pretty sure he was in the wind less than me), and halfway up the climb he passed me and proceeded to ride away from me never to be seen again. I don't have appropriate words for how a feel about this sneaky, slacky... I know I know, that's good tactics, but how do you let the GIRL in your group do all this work and then attack her on the climb?! That just seems... wrong. Anyway, I am proud of the work I did, so at least I have that :)
You're not dirty enough!
So we dropped everyone else in our group on that climb, and I do feel bad that Johnny and the other Baghouse dude did all the work on the way out just to get dropped by me, but what was I going to do? Wait for them?! Heck no! I drilled myself into the ground to get back, and crossed the line unsure of whether or not I had won. This is an awkward feeling, let me tell you. Do you put your arms in the air? Throw out a peace sign? Pop a wheelie? I had no idea so I half posted up, and then immediately ran into Nikki.

Photo: PB Creative

After rubbing dirt on Nikki's face (she was WAY too clean to have just finished a race named Filthy) a guy hosed me down, and then Nikki and I went for a cool down catch up spin. That was followed by some awesome Acai, eating half Brendan's tacos, drinking copious amounts of Badsea coffee and mingling with the common folk, hahaha, jk.

And THEN they gave me champagne to spray (none of which got on me so it wasn't really a champagne shower), and told me to life this huge, rad, eagle trophy over my head. Pretty sure they just brought that thing to emphasize how weak my upper body is, but after a struggle and a half it was over my head, and then we were off to ride more bikes and eat more tacos (at my favorite taco place which happens to be in San Diego).

The struggle is real. Photo: more PB creative magic.

<< Proof that I rode with Brendan once... I was even a good kid and didn't drop everyone :)

Below, best tacos of your life, Tacos Libertad, go there, eat the shrimp one, also the fried avocado... they are life changing. I even drank some avocado crema salsa while we waited for our food.

And that sums up day 2 of the best weekend ever. I had a great time, I hope you did to!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Bigger is Better?

I've said it before... riding my bike longer and longer just makes me want to ride my bike, well, longer. It's like the ceiling on my pain tolerance and the length of ride necessary to satisfy me keeps getting raised.

So when Dave Keosel threw out the Palomar/Santiago idea I couldn't resist. When Carl and I failed it was still the longest ride of my life, but I was taunted by a longer ride, the complete loop, conquering what seemed impossible.

Completing the ride last Saturday felt great... but you know that all the comments on Strava, Facebook and this blog meant. The suggestions of longer routes, the goading to ride from SF to LA... it all made me WANT TO RIDE LONGER! And now I'm itching for a new challenge.

But now my problem is the one person who has supported me the most in the past, Brendan.

I really like the SF to LA idea, especially considering we go to NorCal every year for Christmas. I want to complete the Hwy 1 1 route without stopping to sleep, in one shot, but Brendan is adamantly against this idea. He thinks it's too dangerous to ride that far on populated roads alone. He thinks I will get tired and fall asleep and get hit by a car. And while I understand that his opposition to this ride is based on the fact that he cares about me, I am frustrated by the presence of a great idea with no support. I cannot do something like this alone, I would need Brendan to meet me along the way, to check in, be around in case of the worst etc... but he refuses to be that support as he doesn't think the concept is a good idea in the first place.

So this brings me to another idea/question that I have been pondering lately. How much is enough, and to what extent do I continue to push my body to achieve outlandish things, and when do I call it 'good' and stop striving for more? It's exciting to have a new challenge, to look forward to/train for/anticipate a new ridiculously long and challenging physical feat, but there MUST be a place I should stop and feel content, right?

These are just Thursday night thoughts. I feel pretty content now with the rides and races I've done this year, and the next three weekends are slated to be full of more incredible rides (while not as long as last weekend, they will be full of friends and fun). But just know that every day I'm daydreaming about the next big ride... and all ideas are welcome :)

Monday, October 23, 2017

Palomar/Santiago Peak Redemption Ride

I didn't plan my redemption attempt of the Palomar/Santiago peaks ride. With lots of stuff happening every weekend I had thought this past Saturday would be a Brendan day, when we would do Brendan things. But on Friday evening, when the boy offered to ride to Santiago peak the following evening to meet me (and descend Maple Springs with me in the dark) so I could conquer the biggest ride of my life I couldn't handle the temptation to just go get it done.

The route which Carl and I attempted two weekends ago, had been haunting me ever since the frustrating decision to pull the plug and take the shortcut home.
A very zoomed out version of the map of my route..

I was anxious about my lack of preparation though. For one, I took the long way home on Friday, and my legs stung a little from returning to my bike after a week off in NorCal. The Friday evening decision to do such a long ride meant going solo, as talking anyone into a 200 mile ride the night before is pretty much impossible. And most importantly I wasn't mentally prepared for the endeavor. I didn't get the right amount of sleep Thursday night, and all I ate for dinner was popcorn that night as well. It was a scramble to get the route dialed, upload it on my Garmin and pack the food and supplies I would need.
But the temptation was too great, and the excitement of potentially conquering this beast kept me awake late into Friday night (when I knew I should be sleeping), heart pounding and mind questioning if I could pull it off.

When the sun rose on Saturday I was just past the San Onofre nuclear power plant cruising down hwy 1 along the coast. My route was a little different from the last attempt, as I started form my house in Silverado this time, which meant getting 25 miles under my tires before I even hit the coast. The ride was uneventful through Penalton to the Oceanside bike path, where I calculated I was 40 minutes behind the last attempt (a result of stating from home, rather than Dana Point at Carl's house). I spent much of the time stressing about whether I should take the hilly back road Route that Carl and I took on the first attempt, or the slightly flatter hwy 76 option which Carl claimed had no shoulder. Eventually I decided to stop thinking because I needed to conserve every bit of energy to make it through the day, and stress is a potential source of lost energy. Not sure if this is a real thing, but my zen like relaxed mind held up pretty dang well over the 14 hours I was on my bike and I was surprised to be in really good spirits at the end of the day.

My first stop to refill bottles came at mile 60, 8 miles east of the ocean on the way out to Palomar. I felt good, and made the decision to ride hwy 76 all the way to the mountain. The hwy was surprisingly pleasant, with a massive shoulder for much of the way and no K-rails the entire distance to Pauma Valley. I rolled past Gilberto's Taco shop (the start of the ascent to Palomar) feeling tired, but hoped that was from 85 miles of flat pedaling, using the same muscles for so long.

Fortunately my climbing legs were stoked for the change of pace, and although I felt slow I somehow got a PR on the first half of the climb!

At the top of Palomar I filled bottles in the 'artisan spring' that comes out of the mountain side and bought a coke to wash down the pb&j in my pocket. There were a few other cyclists at the store/bakery that sits atop South Grade road, and as we talked we realized we had met before! I had to turn down their offer to join them for breakfast, since I had to keep moving to be done before midnight. I was at mile 100.8, just a smidge over half the distance I had to go, and interestingly it was 11:14, the exact same time we at lunch at the Palomar store two weeks ago, so I had made up 40 min on our last attempt.  Before rolling out I bought two cookies, inhaled 1 and stuffed the other in my pocket for the bottom of the dirt descent to the desert.

The descent off the back of Palomar was much faster than our previous attempt, as it was 10 degrees cooler and I didn't have to stop and look at the map at every intersection. Soon I was on hwy 79 pedaling towards Temecula.

Crooked helmet nerd. 
Just past Temecula I stopped at a gas station for cheap iced coffee (the small cup I had in the am wasn't enough) and a bottle refill. And then I rolled across the st to a bakery Jess Cerra introduced me to in order to purchase a rice crispy treat as big as my face. While I gnawed on the cinder block of a treat I got a text from Carl saying he was at the bottom of ITT, and that he would climb to the peak with me! Overjoyed I jumped back on my bike and absolutely crushed myself across Grand ave through the towns of  Murrieta, Wildomar, and Lake Elsinore, in the most epic headwind I did not expect ( I checked the forecast the night before and had been expecting a sweet tail wind on this heinously long, straight stretch of the ride).

As I approached the end of Grand I checked my phone, and my heart dropped when I read that Carl had changed him mind and decided to take another route home. I was pissed. The only reason I rode so hard into that damn headwind was because I felt bad Carl was waiting, and it turned out he wasn't waiting at all!? I still haven't forgiven him...

Anyway, I let myself seethe anger as I approached Indian Truck Trail, the climb that would take me to Santiago peak. I dreaded this climb all day, this was the portion of the ride that would make or break me. I had so been looking forward to having company, to the motivation of someone else doing the same strange road bikes on a rough, sandy fire road thing with me, and now all I had was solitary agony to look forward to.

The view back on ITT from the top of UHJ, wish this pic
was as pretty as real life.
Anyway, after one last stop at a gas station to update Brendan on my timeline (he was still going to meet me at the peak thank god) I embarked on the hardest, what felt like the longest, climb of my life. ITT is a sandpit in the summer and fall, so my 28mm tires just dug in and spun, and many many times I was pushing with all my strength just to stay upright. I pedaled and pedaled and pushed and grunted my way to Main Divide (the fire road which runs the ridge across the Saddleback mountains). I told myself the whole time 'you have SO much further to go' so I wouldn't get my hopes up, and actually sooner than I expected I was passing the gate at the top of ITT and turning right onto MD.

Then the cramps hit hard, at mile 177. My inner thighs tightened up really painfully really fast, and I had to concentrate on turning perfect circles and steady forward progress. When I got to the bottom of Upper Holy Jim trail (a crazy steep single track we only ever ride DOWN, ON MOUNTAIN BIKES) I got off my bike, pulled the cinderblock of a rice crispy treat out of my pocket and started slowly hiking and gnawing my way to the top of UHJ. I took a LOT of small breaks, fell, tripped and stumbled WAY more times than I care to admit. At one point I tried to shoulder my bike but could not handle the pain on my shoulder, so pushing was the only option.
UHJ from my nice little hike.

Somehow I managed to hike all of UHJ and the remaining mile of MD to the peak before it was completely dark out, a minor miracle considering I began the climb up ITT at 4:11pm. I had made it my goal to at least get up UHJ before dark because I was scared of mountain lions, and achieving this goal made me quite happy. The view as I hiked had been quite stunning, a sunset my phone could not possibly capture the beauty of, and the last drops of light still glowed on the horizon when I got to the towers. I was pretty much stoked out of my mind at the top, simultaneously yelled for Brendan and sprinted to the look out point for a picture (which didn't turn out). I'm pretty sure the dudes in trucks at the peak thought I was deranged. Sadly Brendan's e-bike ran out of battery on his way up, so he wasn't at the peak, and upon seeing a text from him that read 'it's getting cold, hurry up' I ran back to my bike and started down the hill.
Last drop of light in the sky at the peak :)

Well, I could write a novel about how awful the next hour of my life was because you should NEVER ride a road bike down Main Divide towards Maple Springs, gloveless, at night, after 180 miles, ever, for any reason. I had to stop like 3 times to rest my hands they hurt so much from the bumpiness and the general fatigue of every muscle in my body didn't help. Adjusting my eyes from riding in bright day time all day to pitch blackness other than what my dinky headlight illuminated was a challenge and I'll spare you the details about the sensations in my nether regions, needless to say, it hurt.

Finally I ran into Brendan pushing his commuter/hybrid e-bike (yeah I know, I hate e-bikes, but Brendan uses his to commute and he never touched any single track, I promise. I would divorce him if he did). and I was so so happy. Somehow I was an great spirits, not crying, or broken, or bonked like I had imagined I would be the night before. Brendan brought me a wind vest and a teeny tiny bit of candy (which turns out I was not into because I ate a lot of sugar all day and really just wanted a steak), and together we began the descent down Maple Springs to home.

When we got to the road I realized I wasn't going to get 200 miles, so Brendan offered to let me coast down the hill and get all the miles while he stopped at home, grabbed clothes for both of us, and then we would meet at the Silverado Cafe. Well I got to the cafe and was starving to death so I aborted the mission at 195 miles (still conquered the route and complete loop) because the open sign in the window indicated to me that salty fries were in my near future. Maybe as disappointing as Carl bailing on ITT was the feeling of pulling on a locked door handle when I tried to walk into the cafe. I tried a few more times, before accepting my misfortune that they decided to close the cafe early (it was 8:30pm) for no good reason at all. I sad down outside, pulled the rice crispy treat out of my pocked and continued gnawing.

When your rice crispy treat is this big it takes 195 miles to eat it. 
A few minutes later Brendan pulled up, I threw my bike in the car and we were off to find steak burritos, fries and root beer. 

Mission Accomplished.

A few stray thoughts from the day:
Has anyone else ever attempted this ride, same route or not? I wonder if I am the first to do a thing... that would be cool.
I really really 100% now feel like an endurance athlete. I woke up a** early, set out alone to do a big thing, and all day just kept my eyes on the goal, engaged in positive self talk, and did the thing that I set out to do. I feel like my mental game is pretty dialed, and I'm kinda stoked to not only have finished, but finished happy.
I only took pictures at the end because I was worried my phone battery would die during the ride... there were many other pretty things to see, sadly they have to live in my mind :)
I still can't believe I didn't get any pinch flats, with tubes in my tires all day, WHAT!?!?
I only drank 8 bottles over 195 miles in 14 hours... probably still need to work on that.
Felt good enough to do the local Sunday hammer group ride the next day but spent all day Monday hobbling around like a granny as a result.

And a last side note: thanks Brendo for letting me do this silly thing, sorry Scott T that I didn't tell you I was attempting it again (I didn't even know until the night before), and I'll forgive you eventually Carl.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Not even really sure what to say, except that I have been off the grid almost completely for the past 7 days mostly due to the catastrophic events in Northern California. My hometown, Santa Rosa, caught fire a week ago Sunday night, and the tragedy that followed only got worse for days on end. My parents and sister are still living in Santa Rosa, and when my parents were evacuated from the home I grew up in on Tuesday afternoon I knew I couldn't keep teaching in SoCal. I was too distracted/distraught and needed to go be with them. The fear that a fire which only grew for the first three to four days would harm my family was too terrifying, and my parents didn't even have a place to stay from day to do as hotels were filling up with the 90,000 displaced residents of a town I hold so dear in my heart.
So I left school Thursday to drive north not exactly sure what to expect. The radio informed me on the drive that the disaster was still out of control, the fire spreading, more evacuations being ordered through the drive north. 
When I arrived in Rohnert Park (the town my parents were staying in) early Friday morning the sky was permanently dark with smoke, tanks rolled through Cotati as we sat down to coffee, and the mood was a mix of tense and caring with every stranger we encountered, from the people in line to the cashier in the cafe. 
From Friday morning through the weekend I witnessed the most amazing community come together to take care of one another. People offering others rooms in their not-yet evacuated homes, too many volunteers at the Fairgrounds for me to help out, a pages long list of free resources for evacuees. The beautiful mountains behind Santa Rosa continued to burn, but the people of my home town outshone the fear and destruction of the fires.
I've heard and read (in the newspaper) so many insane stories this week. Stories of families escaping in the nick of time, people surviving by jumping in swimming pools, residents saving their animals with a garden hose as their homes burned... I've seen the fire damaged portion of town myself, where the fire jumped the freeway and took out businesses and homes. My sister's school was burned badly on the first day, but somehow the hospital where my dad works, which was right in the path of the fire, is undamaged. 
I feel so fortunate that my family is safe, my parent's home somehow spared, and my friends all accounted for. My heart breaks for those who got out with seconds to spare though, who lost homes and memories, pets and even loved ones in some cases. This week has been an awesome reminder that at any minute you can loose all your earthly possessions, and of the value of your loved ones. I want to cherish and nurture your relationships with family and friends, every minute on earth with the people you love is irreplaceable, and so much more valuable than anything else. 
We return home tomorrow, and will be riding my bike to work Thursday... life will go on. But the things I've witnessed this week will stick with me forever. I'm proud to be from Santa Rosa, and even if there is heartache and pain now I know that the community will take care of each other. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

That Time We Failed

Laying in bed on Friday night, trying to fall asleep at 8:30pm but failing due to nerves I realized something: I'm addicted to that nervous feeling you get the night before a big race, when you don't know if you can do it, if your body can handle it. And when there is no big race, I get this feeling by planning bigger and bigger weekend rides, rides that I'm not sure my body can handle. I have joked a few times since school started and the race season began winding down that my ceiling has been raised this summer, as in the amount of riding I can do in one day, and the number of hours or miles it takes to wear me out is much higher than it used to be. So lately I've been searching for that bike ride high that comes from biting off something bigger than I can chew, and conquering it. Kinda like racing, but with no competitors, just my mind verses my body.

This weekend's epic ride definitely falls under the category of 'bigger than anything I've done before'. Our plan was to ride from Carl's house to the summit of Palomar Mtn, down the backside to Temecula, then to Corona where we would climb Indian Truck Trail to Santiago Peak, and then loop it back to Carl's. The planned route had about 200 miles and 17,000ft ascent. We borrowed VR2's from Felt to handle the road/fire road combo, and also for the comfort of tall headtubes, compliance to bumps and disc brakes. 

Before I recap the ride I need to note that Carl is a freaking beast. Most people know this, but it's seriously impressive that he was even willing to try this ride with me. Carl does not race, does not have a coach and certainly does not train like I do, so the fact that he keeps up with me on most our adventure rides is freaking rad. I am stoked/lucky to have someone in SoCal as nutty as me to do these crazy rides with every weekend. Also Carl takes awesome pictures, almost all the pics below are courtesy of Carl's phone. 

We started at 5:30 in Dana Point, and cruised along the moonlit ocean on Hwy 1 to Camp Penalton. It was already warm, and we both wore just a jersey and shorts despite the early start. In the military base we watched a beautiful sunrise and hit a 'Camp Penalton traffic jam' pictured to the right. We made it to Oceanside just after sunrise, and headed east on the bike path that parallels Hwy 76.
SoCal has some great bike paths!
The ride out to Palomar was pretty uneventful, winding through beautiful northern San Diego county roads lined with avocado and pomegranate trees drooping under the weight of ripe fruit. I let Carl draft because we both knew my fitness was better after a season of endurance racing, and sooner than I expected we were at the taco shop at the base of Palomar. It helped that my Garmin was on 'battery saver' mode which means the screen was black all day, as in I have no idea how long it took to get there because I refused to look at it. 

Somewhere between the ocean and Palomar on one of the Lilac's :) 
After a quick water bottle refill we started climbing. Here I left Carl to ride at his own pace and I soaked in the scenery which is pretty gratifying on Palomar since you are rewarded with better and better views as you ascend. 

At the top we stopped for cokes and to eat the PB&J we had in our pockets. Here I looked at my Garmin for the first time, mile 85, 6,000ish feet of climbing. It was about 11:15am when we got to the Palomar General Store, and we had another 1,000ish feet to climb before we could descend the back side. We were mostly on time, but didn't know much about the dirt descent coming up.

Where the cashier is ALWAYS rude to cyclists even though we give him money... I discovered there is a much friendlier bakery next door... we will go there from now on. 
Our dirt route to the oven. 
 After lunch we rode out to the observatory on Palomar mountain, and found our dirt road that would deliver us to the desert. The dirt was MUCH sandier than we expected, and after MORE climbing, in sand, we finally started to go down hill maybe an hour after leaving our lunch spot. This, and the fact that we had to check the map a lot, set us back a fair amount time wise. The views of the desert were phenomenal though, and we had to stop at one point for a picture. It's pretty rad descending from 6,000ft to the desert in one shot.

Somewhere off the back of Palomar. 
Unfortunately for us this weekend had some unseasonably high temps (well Saturday did at least), so the desert at the bottom of the mountain was pretty warm. My Garmin read 100 degrees for 2 hours of our time in the desert. I pulled us to Temecula as Carl slowly started to unravel. Every pitch on Hwy 79 caused him to fall off my wheel. After fixing the only flat tire of the day in the heat of the full sun 10 miles outside of Temecula, me running out of water and a little more trying to be a good draft we rolled into town and found a gas station for water re-fills and snacks. I think we were at mile 119 at this point and I realized all I'd eaten was 2 gels, a sandwich, cookie and coke, a package of Clifbloks and a nutbutter filled cliff bar. I went back inside to buy a granola bar and sour gummy worms. The good people of Temecula probably thought we were a bit strange for sitting down on the ground right outside the Quickmart to eat our snacks and inhale bottle after bottle of ice water.

When we started rolling again I calculated the time and distance to ITT and knew things would be dicy. We had to be at the base of Indian Truck Trail by 3:30 at the latest to make the summit of Santiago by sunset. Carl was slowing down more and more, so we finally had the discussion about splitting up. I know that at my own pace I could get to the top of at least ITT by dusk, but my light wasn't fully charged and I would still be riding for 2-3 more hours after getting off the peak. My ego flexed it's muscle a bit and I decided to push on, I felt really good, and I really really wanted to finish the whole ride. Carl was going to regroup and try to make it over Hwy 74 and then coast home.

Before I left Carl asked me what Brendan would say about trying to finish the ride alone. I dismissed the comment thinking Brendan would never think of attempting this ride in the first place, but as I got closer to ITT I started thinking more about the situation. It would be dark by the time I got to the summit, that much was pretty certain. Even if I made it to Santiago Peak at sunset I would have to descend Main Divide and Harding Truck Trail in darkness. My light had about 30 minutes of power, and then I would be alone, in the wilderness, with mountain lions and sharp rocks, without a light. I was on a glorified road bike, about to descend fire roads with very sharp rocks, which means the chances of getting a flat were pretty high. I would need to SEE to be safe, and I had no suspension as back up for hitting a rock wrong. I wanted so badly to just go for it, but the idea that something terrible happen, leaving me with no cell reception alone, started to outweigh the ego wanting to conquer the ride. I thought about how terrible it would be for Brendan to learn that I died on Harding truck trail while he is in Italy, and even worse, in a preventable situation.

So when I got to I-15, ALMOST to ITT, I pulled the plug, turned around, and rode back towards Hwy 74, sad, frustrated, but knowing in my gut it was the right decision. I climbed El Cariso fire road to get off the street for a while, since the cars were starting to annoy me, and then descended Ortega Hwy with a heavy heart wishing I was on ITT instead.

Hwy 74, from Carl's perspective maybe 40 minutes behind me. 
By the time I got to San Juan Capistrano I was happy though. On Ortega hwy, as I wound down to Orange County through a gorgeous canyon, I had realized that the ultimate goal of any weekend ride is to have fun, ride bikes and see pretty places. On all accounts Carl and I did exactly that. We rode a new route, conquered one heck of a ride despite not finishing the planned loop, saw some stunning scenery and we both ended up getting a good serving of suffering. And most importantly I think for the first time ever, I didn't let my ego get in the way of my well being, and I made a good decision that I can be proud of.

But that doesn't mean this route wont be haunting me, until one day we come back for it :)