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.|
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.
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 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.