Well, it is a done deal, in the bag, finito. And so, in honor of the day, a bit of detail if you please.
First of all, it was a bit of a carnival getting it to happen. I sent out quite a few invites. Right up to the last minute folks were in, then out. Out, then in. A wedding waylaid the most serious guy out of the ride, so I was thinking it would just be me. No biggie. I figured I could ride a great pace and see how fast I could do the ride, looking for a 5 hour time. Then, Chris decided to give it a shot. Thing was, he had never ridden this far or this long before and this would be a tough day. There were a couple of bail out options where we crossed roads, so we made a plan. We would ride at a more relaxed pace and, if need be, Chris would cut it short at his ropes end and wait for the SAG wagon (my wifey in the family Suburban). I would welcome the company and Chris had never ridden up there, so I was looking forward to showing him the back country range.
It was gonna be hot, though. Record breaking heat wave in So Cal, so we began at 06:00. Looking back, we should have started at midnite.
OK, we got a plan.
Sunrise on the Old Ridge Route.
We began at the ruins of Sandberg's Resort on the Old Ridge Rte, just above Hwy 138. We rode a bit of historical pavement and turned up into the dirt to begin the 6 mile climb up onto Liebre Mtn.
The climb is very mellow, but longish, pretty much middle chainring if you feel good, and the top is really a special place in the forest. The oak trees, grassy slopes, and rolling fire road never cease to please me. This is right where the Golden Eagle trail runs.
Soon enough, we drop over the end of Liebre and climb up over Sawmill Mtn. The flora really shifts here on Sawmill, moving to a mix of Manzanita and evergreens. Here we begin to see over the Lake Elizabeth area. Our pace was constant but leisurely and Chris was pretty stoked at the countryside he was crossing. I was feeling pretty good and I was thinking all the riding I had done to prep for this had paid off. I did walk a few small sections where I wanted to save my legs (no small chainring on the KM 1X9). Chris was hanging and we had a big downhill coming up.
From Sawmill, we dropped about 12 miles down to Lake Hughes Rd where we connected with civilization and a water cache I had stashed the night before. It was getting hot. The 2000' elevation we had lost would be mostly gained back in 90+ degree temps.
Just where we hooked up again with dirt, we came upon a SAG stop for a road ride. We stopped and chatted and a blond lady with charity in her soul offered us a slice of cantaloupe and a GU packet. God bless you, sainted lady. Chris wanted to stay there. I asked a couple of roadies about the ride they were on, us being brothers of the wheel and all. All I got was a terse reply and a backside of his jersey. Guess I am too dirty or something. Jerk. True to the roadie/mtn biker stereotype.
It got hard from here. I felt really good, but it was getting hot. The climb up behind Grass Mtn past Tule Ridge and Portal Cyn is a bit steep and right in the sun. Chris had his first taste of leg cramps. We had stopped and his quad just cramped up solid. Been there done that. I had been telling him about the times I had battled leg cramps, always my achilles heel. Once at the Downieville race I cramped so badly I could not walk. I fell off my bike when I stopped and just layed there with riders passing me. To bend my leg I had to get over the saddle, hook my instep on my pedal and force my leg to bend. Then I could click in and ride, each stroke a cramp/un-cramp deal.
With the encouraging words of "pain is temporary, quitting is forever", Chris nodded, smiled and clicked in and began pedaling. Views into Portal Cyn and back over the direction we had come from.
It got hotter and Chris was really feeling it. We made a plan to ride to the crossing of San Francisquito Cyn Rd and see how he was doing. I was feeling amazing. I kept thinking how this 40 Something compared to past years. I am 10 years older, on a bike with one front chainring, and I feel like I could ride all day. Huh.
Chris made a good decision to stop here at 35 miles and over 5000' of elevation gain. We called for the SAG wagon. I knew we had 10 miles of riding left and it would be only getting hotter. I think if it was not for the heat, he would have made the whole ride, but once we began the next section of the ride, it would be a commitment and it would have been just as hard to keep going as to turn back. This was a smart move. I slammed a GU, ate another cookie, and bade Chris farewell. Now I could turn it up and see how fast I could finish.
Crossing at Green Valley.
I figured an average 8MPH pace would be right. I pedaled strong and took off. About 2 miles later, it began to unravel a bit. It was hot, but I had not really felt it until now. OK, maybe I will slow down a bit. I knew that I had 3 climbs and drops till the last 2 miles of downhill. It is never steep, but I was finding it increasingly harder to push any kind of a gear. I would pedal till I began to feel the strain, then dismount and walk to the next corner, remount and repeat, always keeping the top of the climb in sight. There were some nice views, but I was not too much into taking pics at this point. Last pic looking over Bouquet Reservoir.
The first climb was conquered, and I had about 8 miles to go. The next one was not too bad, about like the last, but I was slowing down even more. Each summit brought a breeze and a downhill to the next crucible. The last drop brought me into the final twisting uphill section. It was very, very hot now and the air was still. The knob on the thermostat was turned past hot, hotter, and hottest to the hell setting. I was reduced to pedaling until I was about to get nauseous, then I would push to the next shady patch of scrub and lean my head on my saddle, feeling the heat rise off my body, all tingly. I was a bit concerned. I knew my wife and Chris were waiting at the bottom of the hill and at some point would come get me, but that would not help if I passed out and died.
I had just a few corners to go, so I continued the death march, knowing that the top was close. If I had not been familiar with the ride remaining, I would have crawled into a shady spot and waited out the afternoon till evening. I had plenty of water and food. I will say that it was the closest I have been to being scared about my physical condition on a ride. Leg cramps are painful, bonking is humbling, but heat exhaustion or heat stroke is another thing all together. Quitting never really seriously entered my mind though. For some twisted reason, I find a peace in these moments of self torture and find them a bit defining. I would just as soon die here than in a Barcalounger with a remote in my hand.
Finally, the last climb was over. The breeze returned and I was moving along with gravity on my side, but oddly enough, I was going even slower, unable to push a gear. It came to me that the heat had masked the obvious fact that I needed to re-fuel and I was bonking. I was swallowed the last GU and pedaled on, a bit revived.
The downhill to the truck came none too soon. The wife and Chris were there, waiting with Gatorade and ice cold chocolate milk. Ohhhh man was that good, The temp in the shade was 103. I have no idea what it was back in that canyon. I don't want to know.
The last pic and one for the tally books. 45.2 miles, 6883' feet of climbing, 7hrs.
email me for a .gpx file of the ride iffn' ya want.
One last thought. I had fueled myself on water, two bottles of Accelerade, about 5 GUs, several oatmeal raisin cookies, some trail mix, and one slice of cantaloupe. I was worried about leg cramps, always an issue for me over 4 hours of hard riding, especially in the heat. I added one thing to the mix, S!Caps, an electrolyte replacement supplement that I took at a rate of one per hour. No cramps. Not even a hint of cramping. Thank you, thank you oh S!caps. I look forward to a long and happy relationship. www.succeedscaps.com