It all began quite well. We camped at a nice, clean CG called Pinezanita. www.pinezanita.com Gave us a good place to base out of being 5 minutes from downtown Julian. The drive up from home was easy enough, but it sure was going to be a hot weekend. It looked like I would not need the long sleeve stuff for this event. We set up camp, had a nice grilled salmon dinner and hit the sleeping bags looking to an early morning start.
The next morning we awoke to the sound of high winds in the tops of the pine trees. Hmmm. Could be interesting after all. Warm though.
Julian is pretty sleepy pre-tourist hours. Not much there besides pie shops and a few arts and antique shops. Nice history, though.
Registration began in a nice, low key way. I did not know what to expect for a turnout. It had a very grass roots feel to it and that was nice. Looks like a pretty varied crowd ranging from old to not so old, gears, SS, even one cross bike belong to the eventual winner, Brent Prenzlow.
I parked right next to one of the Siren team folks, Todd Carpenter. Great guy. I asked him about the Siren softail, the Song, and he is expecting his any day now. Still, his Fifty Five was sweet.
The wind was howling. I expected a warm day eventually, but this added a bit of an unknown. How cold might it be? I ended up dressing a bit too warm for the start and it cost me a bit of time un-layering later. Still, I hate being cold. I was talking to Todd Carpenter about that and he agreed. I could actually see him shivering. All us great atheletes are alike in some ways. I get cold easy and I am slow. Todd gets cold easy and he is fast. Sympatico. Practically brothers.
I had decided early on not to run a granny gear and stay 1x9 with the KM. That would prove to be an error, but at this point I was blissfully ignorant.
Off we went with a mass start, down the street, and out of Julian on some really nice paved roads. Soon enough, we were in the dirt. I also erred in not getting a cyclometer installed, so I was a bit reluctant to go fast and miss a turn. That slowed me down quite a bit in the beginning. Another error.
I also brought too much stuff with me. I am so used to being self supported, that I had everything but a blender with me. Error number three.
I would have liked to have seen this area pre-fires. It must have been beautiful, and even now, the views and the wildflowers were good to go.
Along the way to Cedar Creek I came upon this little guy and shooed him off the trail lest he get trammeled.
The climbing up to Boulder Creek Rd was fairly hard and I did get off and push more than I woud have liked to save energy. Still, I have been getting used to riding bigger gears and I was feeling pretty good.
Topping out at Boulder Creek Road was heinous. The wind, which had been annoying to this point, turned outright ugly. Steady, punishing gusts of wind just made it waaaaay harder than it would have been. Here the decision to have no granny gear really hurt me and standing was like becoming a human sailboard. One time the wind moved me all the way across the road and into the ditch on the other side before I could stop and turn. Amazing. I do not know how the SS guys do this.
I did come across another little reptile who did his best to convince me he was a rattler. Naw, just a friendly gopher snake. Good thing he is low to the ground or the wind would have carried him away.
Somewhere near the top, wherever THAT was, I spied a wild turkey, but she was moving faster than I was (by that time, most anything was) so no pics.
At the check point one of the support workers said that some of the ladies had been blown off their bikes. Good lord. Worse than that, I was beginning to feel my old nemesis, leg cramps, rising up to say hello.
By the 4 hour mark I was totally involved in 4 alarm cramps from my crotch to my knees. Oh joy. I have been there before, so I just alternated from pedaling to pushing and when one activity led to cramping, the other style would help alleviate things a bit. But that wind and the seemingly never ending hills were nasty right about then.
Finally I hit the Kelly Ditch Trail turnoff and I thought, "Oh joy!", now I can get off this open fireroad/paved road stuff and get onto a trail where I can rest my legs and make up some time on the others. I am a so so climber at best, but I descend well. Well, Kelly Ditch Trail was well named. I have seen ditches that were better trails. Full of loose rocks, square edged the size of softballs, uphill, and brushed over, it was worse than the past few miles had been. Funny thing is, the only pic I have of the trail is from one of the 100 foot sections of open area and it looks really nice to ride. Trust me, I would not go across the street to ride this trail.
Actually, it was not that hard/steep of a trail, it just was un-fun, but the leg cramps prevented me from pushing any kind of real gear and I had no little gears to spin. I would cramp during pedaling, get off, begin to push, my right inner thigh would cramp from crotch to inner knee and I would push that way unti I could pedal again and then the inner thigh cramp would go away only to be replaced by the quads. Sigh.
Finally, we went downhill, over fallen trees, and the trail did open up and become more fun to ride.....finally. The last few miles of pavement were just a head down pedal thing and any thoughts of a second loop were waay out the door. Bummer.
I hit the park at just under the cutoff time. I figure I could have cut quite of bit of time if I had better route finding ability and less reasons to stop and change clothes, etc. A grannygear would have helped take the load off my legs early on and possibly delayed the cramping. I have fought leg cramps my entire cycling life. Still am.
So, I need to:
Train more on longer rides
Bring lower gears
Find a buffer for the cramps
Then, watch out. I will be awesome, just like my shivering twin brother Todd.
Meanwhile, after a lunch back at camp and a shower, we cruised back into Julian and walked around a bit, stopping for a pie and a talk to the race promoter. The two top finishers were already back in town and loading up their bikes. Unreal. Brent P did ALL THREE LOOPS in 1 hour and 27 minutes longer than I did one. Amazing, How do you do that? I asked him how and he said he had not been racing much lately, just training the last three months....no biggie I guess. Sheese. the dude is like what 40 years old? In fact I dont think any of the top ten finishers were under 30. More than that, I was nearly beaten by a 60 year old guy. I like the endurance racing crowd much better than the NORBA mentality from way back when.
So to all the guys and gals that finished, and most all of you were ahead of me, bully to you. Bully, I say.