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Hell’s Gate Hundred 2011

A shot of me ascending Betty Cutoff. Photo credit AdventureCorps.


I just returned from the 2011 edition of the Hell’s Gate Hundred and for the second year it did not disappoint. What an incredible event. There is something about Death Valley that never fails to deliver.
Last year this ride really tore me up. It was partially due to bad nutrition but also a matter of bad training. This year I had a very keen understanding of what it took to ride this event, both with nutrition and with training. I am 6’3 and 210 pounds, not exactly a natural climber. That meant that I needed to focus a lot of my training on the hills. I knew going in to the event that my strategy was going to be to just survive in the hills and make up time on the limited flat roads and downhills. I also learned during the event that limited stopped time would be an important factor.
I started in the first group at 6:30am and I rode in the front of that group. We hammered it up to Artist’s Drive and I was quickly dropped as soon as the road turned upward. There is something about this climb that really epitomizes Death Valley for me. As you are climbing you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere on a road to nowhere (I guess you kind of are in this case). As you climb to Artist Pallet you look up and see the most amazing cliff sides that have been tirelessly carved throughout history, there are layers of different colors of rock and mineral. It really makes the climb something special. I blew through the Artist Pallet stop in about 30 seconds and was quickly on my way over to the Beatty Cutoff.
The flat land of Death Valley is such a strange and majestic place to ride. The valley is so big it is hard to really get a sense of it until you are coasting down hill or riding across it. It feels like the back drop is fixed and you are the only thing that is moving, the horizon never gets closer. The vastness of Death Valley also makes the grade of the road very deceptive. I found myself several times looking down at my tires to see if I was riding a flat. The road looked flat but I could barely pedal on my big ring. This is one of the things about Death Valley that makes it special, it plays tricks on you. If you want toughen up your mental edge, Death Valley is the place to do it.
The climb up to Hell’s Gate was interesting. I was in the top 20 people going in to the climb, but was probably passed by about 20 people on the way up to the water stop. This climb is really pretty fun. It is another one of those Death Valley specials that feels like a road to nowhere in the middle of nowhere. The weather on this portion of the ride was really working in my favor. It was about 75 degrees and had an occasional soft breeze that came through to cool my big ass down…sweet!
By the time I reached Hell’s Gate I was pretty well beat. I was so happy when I saw an ice chest with V8 in it. Exactly what I needed. The Adobo Velo boys were also shelling out Endurolytes so I took five of those and washed them down with the V8. Filled the bottles and off. As it turned out, about 15 of the people who passed me on the way to Hell’s Gate were still hanging out when I left.
The climb up to Daylight Pass was serious damage control. Sciatica was rocking my world by this point and my right hamstring was aching horribly. I spun my granny gear a good portion of the way to the top. Once again, I was passed by a ton of riders on the climb. I met up with a rider who was doing his first century with his wife who raced mountain bikes. When he told me about his wife I knew instantly who she was. She was the little one who was climbing like a mountain biker, riding off the back of her saddle, drop heeled and giving it hell. She rode by me like I was sitting still.
When I got to the pass I was planning on just rolling over the top, but I saw my friend George Vargas just hanging out so I decided to stop. I had been waiting for him to blow by me all day, but it turned out he was too sick to ride. Bummer. I blew down the other side of the hill and entered what I knew to be my strong suit…downhill and open flat ground. I passed probably six or seven riders on the way to Ryolite.
Upon arriving at Ryolite I knew it was just a matter of riding back to the pass and I was home free. I opted to just fill one bottle, pound down a handful of Endurolytes and get back on the road. Once again, a bunch of the riders who passed me on the previous climb were still hanging out when I left Ryolite. This time I had the upper hand. There was some flat ground and a gradual grade back up to the pass and it would be hard for too many of them to catch me here. As it happened, only one rider passed me on the way back. It goes against all logic, but this climb back up to Daylight Pass is one of my favorite parts of the ride. You see the climb from all the way across the valley, it looms there so far away. As you ride up to it you feel like it never gets closer and then suddenly you are upon it. The climb snakes up through a lot of rolling hills and desert scrub. This section is all about reflection for me. You think about how hard it has been to get here, you think about how awesome it is that you are only about one thousand feet below a long bombing downhill, you think about how absolutely insane it is that you can ride in a place like this, it is a very euphoric part of the ride for me, I love it.
Once over the top of Daylight Pass you get thirteen long miles of 40mph downhill. As I descended I passed a ton of riders who were still making their way up to the pass. That was me the year before and I felt happy that I had worked hard to get better this year. I also felt like it was cool that people were still out there giving it hell. In randonneuring I have learned that the people who are out there the longest are the ones who made the extra effort to finish, it made me feel proud for those people out there getting it done. Hopefully they will be back next year to apply what they learned.
Once I reached the highway that leads to Furnace Creek it was just a matter of eleven miles back to the ranch. Thankfully this year I have a better idea of the landmarks and can judge more accurately where I am and how far I have to go. I rolled in to Furnace Creek 7 hours and 57 minutes after I started that morning. There were people at the finish line cheering all the riders as they rolled through the finish. What the hell man, that is way to cool. This brand of cycling is one badass thing to do. The AdventureCorps people, the other riders and their families, the volunteers, all of them really make me proud to be part of this. Every part of it is a real class act. I will be back in one form or another next year. Part of me wants to volunteer for an aid station, it seems like time to offer some support rather than just take it. Next year, be there!

Where you been dude?

As things turn out, it has been an awfully long time since i’ve written anything on my blog. Anyone who knows me also knows how incredibly busy I am. Unfortunately, that means that some things have to give…one of those things has been the blog. It isn’t like I don’t have any stories to share, it is just that I don’t have the time to share them. I do, however, want to start sharing some of the more interesting stories. That means I will probably be posting once a month rather than several times a week like I was trying to do last year. That will make this more of an occasional journal rather than a blog. All that said, I just returned from the Hell’s Gate Hundred and am crafting a report.

Time For a Knee Break

I previously mentioned that I have been having some knee troubles. After some careful consideration (and a couple rides that were probably too long for my knee condition) I have decided that I need to take 2 weeks off the bike, and let things heal up. My friend Charlie wrote to me the other day and shared some sage advice with me “It is better to be off the bike for a couple weeks to let the injury heal, rather than continue to ride and risk a bigger injury that could keep you off the bike for months”. Sometimes, you just need simple logical advice to snap your head into the right place.
The question then becomes, what do I do in the mean time? Do I just sit around getting fat? I think not. The plan is this…

I know I can’t do anything to stress my knee, or I might as well be riding my bike. The goal for the next two weeks is to do a lot of core work. Lots of core work. Working on my core strength is often the thing that falls by the wayside. I have a great core strength training video from Carmichael Training Systems. Best of all, it involves very little that will mess with my knee.
The other thing I am planning is a lot of flexibility work. Just by looking at me, you could probably tell that I am about as flexible as an iron bank safe. Probably part of my knee problem is the result of poor flexibility. This is something I need to get in a rhythm to change.

I plan on doing a lot of walking as well. It is always hard for my wife to run with me because I am way faster than her. Walking is something we can do together and guess what, it is good for the knee. Low intensity, low impact walking helps move the blood through the area without stressing it too much.

The last, most important thing I will be doing on my cycling hiatus is, I will be dreaming about cycling. I have found that when I am forced of the bike for a period of time, I use that time to rekindle the thirst for the open road and the burn of a good hill. Cycling is a mental sport, and I aim to strengthen those muscles as well.

What is going on!

What is going on lately…well, unfortunately not that much.
I rode the LA River Ride in 6 hours and felt very proud of that accomplishment. I set a goal, shot for it, and hit the target. Great! The only thing about it is, I have been experiencing some knee troubles, and they were only exacerbated on the River Ride century.
I started experiencing knee pain out of the blue during the Big Bear 200k. I didn’t think much of it then, just thought it would go away; but it hasn’t. Every time I do a ride of about 30 miles or longer, I start feeling this pain right in the middle of my kneecap. The pain gets to a certain level and then just stays there. After the pain started on the River Ride, it held on to the end of the ride, and the entire following week. I felt very annoyed that I had this excellent ride, and felt a huge boost in the aerobic system, and had to just totally waste it by being off the bike for a whole week! I was tempted several times to go ride, but then thought about how much longer it would prolong the injury. I opted to stay in my house, gain 2 lbs and feel depressed. No good.
After sitting in the house all week, I felt like I needed to get out no matter what. I saddled up my Cannondale, and Jacob and I went out on a 55 mile ride last Saturday. We climbed up La Tuna Canyon on our way over to the Rose Bowl. We descended down the back side and my bike started making some crazy noise. I shifted around until it stopped, then riding along, my chain just leaped off the gear. WTF! I stopped, refixed the chain and proceeded down the road. About a mile later, I hear “SNAP!” and look down to see my chain roll off the gear. Link busted, chain no good. WTF! It is 9am, I am 25 miles from home and 1 mile from a bike shop. Luckily, Jake was kind enough to push me all the way back to the bike shop so I could get a new chain. The mechanic takes a look at my derailleur and says “It’s worn out man, this thing wiggles in a bad way”. Turns out this is what cause of the chain break is. My derailleur wiggles around and caught the chain and snapped it. To make a long story short, I tried to ride it home, but my derailleur wouldn’t shift. It was truly busted. I had to call my darling wife to come get me. “Drive down this random little street, turn left, turn right, and I will be the pissed off looking guy standing on the side of the road”. She came and got me and drove my sad ass home.
The lesson to be learned here. Shimano 105 components are not durable enough for me. My friend Kevin told me when I bought the bike “You are going to want Ultegra components. You will wear through this 105 stuff fast”. Well, Kevin, you were right. Next time, I am going to drop more coin and get exactly the thing I need. For now, I am buying a new Ultegra derailleur set.
Like I said to kick this post off, not much has been going on. I have an injury and a big mechanical I have to deal with. Annoying. I need to find my rhythm again. On a high note, I am considering riding the Death Valley Fall Century on my single speed bicycle. Stay tuned on that.

Ride Report – LA River Ride Century

Sometimes rides go horribly bad and sometimes rides go amazingly perfect. Yesterday fits into the latter category. I set out to achieve a specific result, and damned if I didn’t achieve it exactly.

The LA River Ride century was the very first century I ever rode, and it was exactly a year ago. Last year I had a less than stellar performance, and I was hell bent on redeeming my performance this year. When I rode the event in 2009, I finished it in 7 hours flat. This year I wanted to shave a full hour off of my time. I had a whole year’s worth of experience and riding to help me.

Just like with the last ride report I wrote, I want to highlight the key aspects of the ride rather than usher you through a blow by blow narrative.

I recently purchased myself a new single speed bike. A nice Molteni Orange frame with white wheels, 46×16 gearing and the most impractical handlebars ever created. I decided this was to be the bike I was going to ride. I haven’t gotten to ride her much, so I thought a century would give us a chance to bond properly. I showed up early to the ride and to my surprise, there were probably about 5 other people riding the century on single speed/fixed gear bicycles. One of them was my friend Shaun, whom I met at the 200k brevet a couple weeks earlier. Shaun and I ended up riding the entire route together.

My goal from the beginning was to ride a 6 hour century, no easy task. This meant hammering when I could, stopping only long enough to fill bottles and maintaining forward motion at all times.

This time around I took a gamble and decided to use Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem, which I have done zero training with prior to the event. Everyone always says “Don’t experiment with nutrition on the day of an event, experiment in training”. I threw caution to the wind and gave it a whirl. I will tell you right now, Perpetuem is a magic potion. This stuff is amazing. I think in the sport of cycling, there is a certain amount of suffering that you just expect to have to endure. This result of this expectation was that I thought that my problems in previous rides were the result of plain old cycling troubles that everyone experienced. After my experience using Perpetuem, I now realize my problems were nutritional. The immediate difference is subtle, but over the course of 100 miles, that subtle difference is amplified many times over. While cycling long distances, you are always going to hit low spots, but nutrition will be the determining factor in how low and how long those spots last. In previous events, I used exclusively HEED (a drink made for shorter efforts). When using just HEED I would hit a low spot and I would hang there for the remainder of the ride, both mentally and physically. With Perpetuem, I noticed that I hit one low spot but was able to snap out of it within a couple minutes. With the exception of the low spot, I felt like I do when I go out on little 20 mile coffee rides: Alert, cheery, happy, having a good time. This stuff is magic and I will be using it for all of my longer events from now on.

I want to include a little bit of bike snobbery ranting here, so please forgive. On the way back from Long Beach, we were riding in a group of other strong riders. I could sense that everyone wanted to get back in quick fashion, so we were charging like a good little pack should. I saw the front of the pack start to break apart, so I surged to the front and tried to hold it together. I took a pull of about 3 or 4 miles, maintaining a really good strong pace, taking one for the team. I was thinking to myself “It’s cool, you are suffering a bit, but it is for the good of the group. In a couple minutes someone else will come up and give you a break”. A couple minutes go by and I start to slow off to the side when all of a sudden, a couple guys who were enjoying my dump truck sized draft surged off of the side and dropped me, fractured the group into many pieces and totally obliterated the momentum we were all enjoying. Where did this leave me? Wasted without the protection of a pack. Gee, thanks guys. See you at the finish I guess. Luckily, Shaun was there to pace me back to life. He was a good buddy and helped me regain my former strength. The funny thing about this is, I saw these guys when I stopped at a rest stop to call my wife and they looked like 100 miles of bad road. They wasted themselves by acting like overzealous 16 year olds on prom night. I ended up beating them and their fancy bikes back to the finish and I felt vindicated.

At one point on the way back through downtown, I clicked into a gear that was absolutely incredible. There were a bunch of riders coming back from the 50 mile ride and I used them as rabbits to pace up to. I was catching up to them one at a time and they really helped me by turning on my chase mechanism. Shaun stopped to help someone with a flat and I (like a total jerk) continued on charging up the road. Karma struck a little while longer when my wallet flew out of my bag and I had to kill 15 minutes finding it in the streets of downtown. I found it, and had an enormous sense of urgency in continuing on to the finish.

In the end, I kicked ass and took no prisoners. I set out to ride the century in 6 hours and I did it. I feel so relieved to have set a goal and achieved it with very little specific training. The result of achieving this hallowed 6 hour century is, I have tasted blood and I want more. I want to ride one faster. I want to train specifically. Being that I don’t really have adequate time to train for a double century, I am setting my sights on perfecting the 100 mile distance. This goal, I feel, is entirely achievable given the time I have to train.

Here is Shaun and I at the finish. The lens had something on it, so it looks a little blurry.

This is me at the end of the ride. Standing proud. I need to treat myself to a fully matching kit.

What did I learn on this ride? Well, Perpetuem is awesome. Riding a bike is awesome. Over anxious wheel sucking riders aren’t awesome. Also, I love the new bike.

Velourettes

*Warning: This post contains some foul language, but I assure you it is necessary to tell the story. Shy eyes should, well…shy away*

When I was younger, I was a little bit of a rabble rouser, some would even say unpredictable. I fancied a scene, and wasn’t afraid to be loud. These days, I have a kid, a mortgage, a steady job…I have grown up and mellowed out. My daughter is two years old and is starting to repeat everything that my wife and I say, so I have been trying to eliminate my use of words I don’t want her to use.
This all explains why it is so strange that I find myself having a condition that has gone undiagnosed in most cyclists, but it very very common. That condition: Velourettes. It is a condition related to the widely known “Tourette” syndrome. Tourette syndrome is characterized by sudden uncontrollable vocalizations which sometimes include vulgar language. Let me share an anecdote with you to explain the closely related Velourettes syndrome:

I am riding home after a short 20 mile aerobic loop. I am pedaling at a nice smooth cadence thinking about my 200k over the weekend, thinking about how nice the weather is this time of year, thinking that I am excited to watch the season finale of The Biggest Loser with my wife. I approach an intersection, double check that my light is in fact flashing bright, and suddenly, the person in opposite left turn lane decides that they want to turn left and almost hit me. I went from riding very peacefully, thinking happy thoughts to a screaming sailor mouthed monster in less than a second. It was sudden and uncontrollable. I slam on my brakes as the driver slams on their brakes, and in an uncontrollable fit, I proceed with a string of cuss words that don’t even form a rational thought, “You fucking fuck ass! Fuck you, you fucking Shit Fuck Asshole! Watch where the fuck you are going!”. I made my point. He is a jerk and my Velourettes let him know it. I step on the pedals and get out of there just in case his hands force his car into a fit of Autourettes and run my profane ass over.

I suspect I am not the only cyclist in the world that can go from gentle pedaler of the night to hulkish beast in the turn of a steering wheel. Keep your eyes out for this condition to pop up at any moment, chances are, if you haven’t experienced it yet, you certainly will.

I Was There

The Amgen Tour of California just finished on Sunday in Westlake Village, after 8 crushing stages down the state of California. Michael Rogers (an aussie) was the winner, edging out Californian’s Dave Zabriskie and Levi Leipheimer (the 3 time champ). I was on hand for the stage 6 finish in Big Bear, and for the stage 8, 4 lap circuit in Thousand Oaks. I can tell you nothing that you can’t read online. There wasn’t anything I saw that you didn’t have a better angle of watching the tour on Versus. However, what I did get was some pictures from my static position during the race. I thought it might be nice to share those images with people. Some of them are pretty neato!

I was seated at the 150m line at the Stage 6 finish, but prior to the racers arriving, I walked around at the lifestyle fair and was able to grab a shot of the finish line.

Here is a shot of us sitting at the sideline waiting for the Versus satellite feed to start. ♪ We were just a couple of guys having a good time ♪

You could tell that the peleton was approaching before you could see them because of the big bird flying in the sky making all that racket. Unfortunately, all of the photos I tried to take of the racers actually finishing the race were blurry and unusable. They were going so fast it was hard to photograph them with my little point and shoot.

On Sunday (My Birthday) I went with some friends to the King of the Mountains (KOM) point on the route for stage 8 (the final stage of the tour). This is a view up the road to the KOM. We had a perfect seat. We could see the racers approaching, and we could see them race all the way to the KOM.

During the first couple laps, the peleton was fairly intact and the racers just screamed by us. This is a shot of the HTC boys pulling the train.

This is a shot of the racers on the second lap. Things were starting to heat up.

The peleton approaches for the third lap.

The guy on Team Bissell with the chops is awesome. I got a shot of them making a charge from way down low.

On our drive up to Big Bear, Errin was telling me about the Bike Snob’s new book in which he lists out classifications of riders. He goes into detail listing out the wardrobe and general attitude of all kinds of bike riders. I want to add one to his list with this picture. This is what I want to call the “Thrift Store Cyclist”. This guy was wearing every color and pattern that has ever adorned athletic clothing. As you can see, he is wearing a Hammer Nutrition cycling cap, a gold down vest, an american flag jersey, flame Moeben arm warmers, worn out old cycling shorts, blue leggings, wool socks, running shoes and a beard to top it off. This guy looked like a walking second hand store.

The breakaway included American champ, and everyone’s favorite racer, George Hincapie. He looked really strong going up this climb. His kit is by far the coolest in the professional peleton.

On the final lap, I got a shot of Chris Horner pacing Levi Leipheimer up the final KOM climb. They both looked really strong. Sadly Levi couldn’t drop Rogers. Next year Levi, next year.

All in all, it was an action packed weekend. 2 stages of the Tour with a 200k brevet in between. That makes a cycling sandwich with a sunburn. Fuck Yeah!

Big Bear 200k Brevet – Ride Report

The serious Randonneur (why so serious?)

I read a lot of ride reports, and I love them. People note helpful details and make you feel as though you are there. I myself have written reports of that tune, but this time I want to tell the story of the things that I thought were important, the memories I will take with me from this ride and leave the little details out. If you do want to read a complete narrative of this ride, my friends Errin and Ryan both wrote reports about it, and they can be read here and here. I would love feedback on this report style, love it or hate it, your thoughts are appreciated.

That said, on with the report:

One of my favorite things about Randonneur style cycling is that you get to nerd out big time. You are entirely self supported for long distances, so that means you need to bring stuff, and in order to bring stuff that means you need bags, bungee cords and clips of varying sizes and styles. I think one of the funnest things about the ride is preparing everything for it. You pack baggies of drink powder, buy travel size sunscreen and figure out how you are going to bungee cord your cold weather jacket to your handlebar bag once you take it off in the mid-day heat. It is almost like you are creating a mental procedure list in your mind, even if you never use half of it. I am a big planner so this aspect of the sport really appeals to me.

Gracie is all ready for her first brevet

This was my first brevet, first 200k and longest ride to date. I have been wanting to ride with the Pacific Coast Highway Randonneurs since I heard about them and my excitement about the ride was not unfounded.

The ride started in Big Bear and ended in Huntington Beach. To get the party started we rode up to Onyx summit for a long descent down the backside. The terrain, flora and fauna are in my opinion the best that California has to offer; absolutely breathtaking. Roads like these are why we own bikes. The climb up to the summit was my favorite part of the ride; the roads were very quiet, the air smelled clean, and I was in good company. The climb to the summit was only about 1500ft of elevation gain, and before I knew it we were there.

The air is a lot thinner up here

This photo is a lot more impressive when Breathless Agony riders take it

The descent down the backside of Onyx summit was equally as breathtaking as the ride up. What was unfortunate is that I didn’t get any pictures. We were descending at about 35mph so it was hard to snap meaningful pictures. We rode along highway 38 through forests, over short climbs and past waterfalls. At one point, after descending approximately 2500ft, we hit a fog layer. I rode around a corner and bam, fog was just hanging along the cliff sides. At this point, I thought it appropriate to apply a soundtrack. I squeezed the brakes, flipped on the ipod and continued down the road. I highly recommend Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros for descending long distances, something about it just works. After making the turn toward Redlands, I was able to gain about a minute on my riding buddies and I took the time to snap a photo of this beautiful place. This is a photo of the ugly section of the descent, so you can imagine what it was like further up the mountain.

I wish I had taken a better picture

Me, Bruce and Errin

My new buddy Ryan

After the first control, we made our way to the first stretch of river trail. Just as we approached, we ran into Isabelle Drake who had just finished getting in some bonus miles. She hoped into our group and we headed down the river trail. River trails aren’t the most beautiful scenery you have ever seen, but when you are riding on them with good company, the scenery hardly matters. At one point I found myself taking a pull (a slow one) at the front of the group with Isabelle to my left. I have heard and read her name many times and she lived up to her reputation. She is one of the most delightful riding partners, kind and pleasant. She and I chatted for a long time about cycling. She regaled me with wonderful stories of the Furnace Creek 508, Race Across Oregon, and other inspiring adventures. At one point we found ourselves on the dirt section of the river trail and we were riding in Rough Rider style, slick 23c gatorskins through sand and loose rock? Daring to be sure. Isabelle had enough sense to walk her full carbon bike up the hill while I thought it would be a good idea to skip my tires up the hill throwing rock and dust around like a madman. Eventually I ended up on my side and Ryan found himself off in the brush. Sadly no pictures were taken. We rode into the second control together and that was the last I saw of Isabelle until the finish.

I hit a strange wall at the second control. I still can’t figure out what it was, I suspect I was slightly dehydrated. I ate a 6 piece chicken mcnuggets and medium order of fries and a bottle of Heed and Muscle Milk protein mix and then we pushed on. I was feeling very dumpy at this point. My neck was hurting (a result of poor bike posture), my knee had been hurting since we started the ride and I didn’t have any plain water. All I wanted was to chug down some plain cold water. I normally wear a camelbak but I decided against it for this ride. Errin was kind enough to do all the pulling and I was just trying to keep my head in the game. I finally became all consumed with finding some water, I just couldn’t stand it anymore. There was a water stop about 8 miles up the road, but I couldn’t wait till then. I kept my eyes peeled for any place that I could get a fill. Finally, I spied a break in the fence and there it was…an oasis…a modern day garden of eden…a circle K. I filled my bottle, chugged it standing in front of the machine and refilled it again. I was so thirsty, and this was just what I needed.

Errin had continued down the road, so the remaining 25 or so miles was left for me to pedal alone. Even as worn out and feeling as bad as I was, I couldn’t help but feel like there was some sense of tradition I was experiencing here. I was riding into a constant headwind, dehydrated, low on calories and alone at the end of a ride…this is the randonneur experience. Toughing it out through way less than ideal circumstances just for the adventure of it all. I experienced the other side of adventure here. Some adventures involve beautiful landscapes with friends and campfires, but adventures like this involved being alone in the middle of a concrete river path with nothing but a headwind and sunburn to keep you company. Adventure comes in many flavors, and so far this one is my least favorite. At one point, I stopped to find another playlist on the ipod and I snapped a couple photos. I scrolled through my playlists and thought “I need something that is in perfect contrast to how I am feeling right now, I need something cheery, happy and relaxed”, Jack Johnson it is. I put on old Jack and rolled on.

Looking slightly unhappy

The long dark of Moria (for you Lord of the Rings fans)

After about 10 more miles of headwind, I could see the waves breaking in the distance and I knew I was almost home. I found the last remaining drops of optimism splashing around in my soul and I rode under the PCH. I rounded the bend and saw the other warriors looking as worn out as I felt. I came to a stop and there were cameras, friends and fresh water to greet me home. Isabelle rushed over to congratulate me and she held my bike as I signed my brevet card, expressing yet again the spirit and kindness of a fellow randonneur.

Alas!

When all was said and done I finished my first brevet in roughly 9 hours and 20 minutes. Not an astounding time by any stretch of the imagination, but it was an amazing adventure that I won’t soon forget. Thank you to Greg, Lisa, Terry and Amber for taking the time to make this brevet happen.

As is customary, look for the “Things I Learn at the Big Bear 200k” post.

Prepping for a birthday 200k

On Saturday, May 22nd I am going to be riding the PCH Randonneurs 200k (126 miles) brevet from Big Bear City out to Newport Beach. The plan is, head up on Friday morning to Big Bear City with Errin and a couple other folks, and watch the finish of the queen stage of the Tour of California, which finishes where we start the following day. Then we go to sleep, then we ride. My birthday is on May 23rd, so in a way, this is a pre-birthday celebration for me. Time with friends a long stretch of road is a hell of way to celebrate 28 years on the planet. Sadly I will have to spend the day away from my girls, but it should be a fun time any way.

Overall the route is a negative elevation gain ride, which is going to be interesting. Essentially, we leave Big Bear City, climb up to Onyx Summit and then descend for about an hour. Truth be told, I think all that descending might be exhausting.

I am not doing a great deal in the way of training for this ride, I am just plugging along as usual. As I discussed in my previous post, I have zero base miles so it is hard to train super specifically for rides. My goal here is just to ride it at a reasonable Randonneur pace and have a good time and probably eat a cheeseburger along the way. Even more importantly, completing this ride will earn me the right to call myself a Randonneur, and maybe even buy one of those fancy jerseys.

This Sunday, I am going to get one last climby day done before the ride the following weekend. I am going to climb up Big Tujunga (FINALLY FINALLY) with my good buddy Charlie M. He sent me an email the other day asking if I wanted to ride and I couldn’t respond fast enough with a “Heck yes, what time?”. I haven’t done that stretch of road, although I have intended to many times.

Somehow this week I was able to throttle back and just enjoy the journey. I am really calm and putting in some easy aerobic miles and really enjoying myself. I think last week was a serious low dip for me. After a weekend in San Diego with the family, I was able to clear my head, get some time off the bike and refocus and rededicate. Now I am just letting the good times roll and I have become determined to enjoy the journey.

I am going to take some pictures over the weekend, and my hope is to share some sights with you all on Monday. Here’s to hoping!

Cinco de Mayo bike build

Last night was quite possibly the best Cinco de Mayo evening ever. It all started out with leaving work a half hour early to stop by the bike shop to pick up my brand new Molteni Orange single speed frame with newly mounted headset and stem (Thanks Palms Cycle!). I got the frame and right off, was near tears it was so beautiful. Just a mass of orange paint and chrome, hells yes. On the drive home (roughly 45 mins) I kept stealing glances of it in the back seat…still gorgeous. I got home, Kesha had some festive fish tacos for us for dinner (Thanks Hun!), I ate those, did the dishes and stole away to the garage. This picture sums up the awesomeness of the evening.

Brand new white powdercoat crankset, 15mm wrench, Park Tool grease and a glass of white wine. Boom!

What unfolded was the single greatest time I have ever spent putting something together. It was a magical experience piecing together my new (still unnamed) bike, tightening bolts, wrapping handlebars, aligning everything to a T. There was a special bond created between me and the bike, something that I am sure will last forever. Wine, Grant Lee Phillips on the speakers, tools in hand, bike coming in to being…can you imagine anything more serene or touching? I surely cannot. Here is the proof:

This is the frame with just the stem, headset and bottom bracket installed. Breathtaking!

A shot of the beautiful fork crown on this baby

The installed Miche bottom bracket. Made in Italy!

Mid assembly

You will notice that I have cleverly omitted a shot of the final assembly. For that, you will have to wait. I don’t want to unveil her until I have had time to take some proper photos.