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  1. #1
    SSP
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    Summer Solstice Century - Ride Report

    Yesterday's Summer Solistice Century ride turned out to be one of the toughest I've ever done. Fortunately, it was also incredibly beautiful, and had much better roads than the Sierra Century I'd done earlier this month.

    I thought I was pretty well trained up for the double metric option, but it whipped me good. After the ride, I was so mentally and physically out of it I didn't feel safe behind the wheel...it took a shower, a chicken pasta dinner, an ice cream, 4 cans of Pepsi (I *never* drink sodas!), and a 45 minute nap before I felt safe enough to drive home!

    Here are some of the details:

    Distance: 135.9 miles (my longest ride ever)
    Elevation gain: 13,733 feet
    Avg. Speed: 14.2 mph (quite respectable..thanks more to my descending skills than my speed going up!)
    Max Speed: 51.3 mph (sorry, Mom!)
    Ride Time: 9 hr, 36 minutes
    Total Time: 10 hrs, 30 minutes (started at 6 am, finished at 4:30 pm)
    Temperature range: 40-96 degrees F
    Calories burned: 6,632

    Highlights:

    Wildflowers: saw dozens of different species, including sweet pea, lupine, bear grass, leopard lily, skunk cabbage, red columbine, and California lilac (aka, blueblossom), buck brush, and many more. It was surprising to see so many, this late in the season, but I think it was due to the heavily forested region we were riding through.

    Smooth, trash-free roads, with very little traffic.

    The 12-27 cassette I put on the bike on Wednesday really helped by giving me some lower gears to work with on those steep slopes...although I still spent a shocking amount of time in my lowest gear going 4-6 mph. The 39/25 would not have been low enough for some of those leg-breaking steep sections.

    Great support - sag vehicles out on course, plenty of rest stops, and friendly volunteers.


    Ride notes:

    I knew I was going to be in for a tough day when I checked my altimeter at the 17 mile mark...it showed that we had already done 3500 feet of climbing, with extended grades between 12 and 17 percent! And the "century" hadn't even started! Thankfully, the temperatures were still cool, and we had great views of the Feather River canyon.

    At the 75 mile mark, while climbing back over the Sierra crest from Lake Oroville (our low point), the temperature was 96 degrees, there was no shade, and heavier traffic due to the nearby lake. We'd been climbing for about 45 minutes, when I came upon rest stop 5a. Normally, I just fill my bottles, grab some food, thank the volunteers, and go. But, this rest stop was different - the organizers had set up a large swamp cooler, powered by a generator on a trailer! So, while the nice volunteer woman filled my water bottles and got me a slice of cold watermelon with salt, I put my head into the outlet of the swamp cooler and tried to drop my core temperature. What a treat that was!

    At the 92 mile mark we had 2 miles of dirt road due to construction. Uuugh!

    At the 100 mile mark: I was cursing like a sailor, as I tried to weave the bike back and forth, in an attempt to keep the bike moving on a lengthy section of 15% grade.

    It took over 30 minutes to go from mile 100 to mile 103...talk about discouraging!

    Thankfully, once we hit the crest, we had good roads and tail winds for the last 20 miles.


    Bottom line...a really great "first ride of summer", but I'm not sure I want to go back...that was one long hard day in the saddle!
    Last edited by SSP; 06-24-07 at 11:46 PM.
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  2. #2
    Don't mince words Red Rider's Avatar
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    Wow! Great report!

    The only missing elements are pictures...but I have a great mental picture, thanks to your vivid description.

    We had wanted to ride this one, but life & work interfered. Perhaps next year...

    Was it the altitude or the climbs that did you in?

    Congrats on completing the long ride, and ride on!
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  3. #3
    SSP
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Rider
    Wow! Great report!

    The only missing elements are pictures...but I have a great mental picture, thanks to your vivid description.

    We had wanted to ride this one, but life & work interfered. Perhaps next year...

    Was it the altitude or the climbs that did you in?
    I had a camera along, but only took a few pictures early in the morning...after that, I was just trying to survive and couldn't find the time to stop. Too bad, because the wildflowers were the best. I'll make the flower names into links shortly, so those who are interested can see them. There's also some really nice pictures on the Summer Solstice website.

    As for altitude or climbs - it was definitely the climbs (the ride topped out around the 7000 foot mark). Specifically the steep nature of many of those old 49'er wagon trails. The ride organizers had put up large green signs showing the grade on some of the switchbacks on the first big climb, and I sure got tired of seeing 16 and 17%!!

    In the last two years, I've completed all 5 passes of the legendary California Death Ride twice, and I found this ride a bit harder. This ride was longer (by 10 miles), plus I found it more psychologically challenging than the Death Ride. On the Death Ride, there's 5 big climbs and that's it...plus, due to the "out and back" nature of the course, you can easily bail out. On this ride, the climbs just kept coming and coming, and seemed like they would never end. And since it was a big loop, the only bail out option was a ride in the sag vehicle...and since my motto is "Death Before Sag", that was not an option I wanted to entertain.
    Last edited by SSP; 06-24-07 at 11:30 PM.
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  4. #4
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Very well done ride and report. I noticed from the elevation chart that you were above 5000 feet elevation for some of the climbs. I am sure that took its toll. Also, those large temperature swings are hard to dress for. The swamp cooler was a great idea.
    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Einstein

  5. #5
    SSP
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hermes
    Very well done ride and report. I noticed from the elevation chart that you were above 5000 feet elevation for some of the climbs. I am sure that took its toll. Also, those large temperature swings are hard to dress for. The swamp cooler was a great idea.
    I usually don't have much difficulty with elevation, until around 9,000 feet or so. I've done 5 week long tours in the high mountains of Colorado, and just last week led a self-supported century through Lassen National Park that topped out at 8,500 feet, so I'm pretty confident the elevation wasn't my primary problem.

    You may be right about the temperature swings...it was pretty chilly early on (despite a jacket), and then got really hot on the lower slopes heading back over the Sierra crest (thankfully, it was cooler up high).

    As for the rest stop with the swamp cooler...that was freakin' brilliant!! And it could not have been better placed along the route...it broke up that long hot climb, and made it (barely) tolerable. Kudos to the ride organizers for that one...I've never seen anything like that at any other organized ride I've ever been on.
    Last edited by SSP; 06-25-07 at 07:08 AM.
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  6. #6
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Wow! That is one tough ride! I bet it did whip you good. Thanks for the report. Glad you made it home safely.
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  7. #7
    Let's do a Century jppe's Avatar
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    Insane ride!

  8. #8
    Senior Member George's Avatar
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    Man was that a ride or what. I feel like you did after 50 miles. Great ride and great report, thanks. It had to be some ride, if jippe said it was an insane ride, ha!
    George

  9. #9
    OnTheRoad or AtTheBeach stonecrd's Avatar
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    Really gives you an appreciation for the Pro rides. Imagine doing that 4 days a week for 3 weeks with a couple of TTs thrown in. It is hard to comprehend the effort needed to do a grand tour.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member ?? Beverly's Avatar
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    Fantastic ride report. Glad you were able to recover from it
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  11. #11
    Senior Member Terrierman's Avatar
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    Man, tough ride, way to hang tough with it.
    It's all downhill from here. Except the parts that are uphill.

  12. #12
    SSP
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    Quote Originally Posted by stonecrd
    Really gives you an appreciation for the Pro rides. Imagine doing that 4 days a week for 3 weeks with a couple of TTs thrown in. It is hard to comprehend the effort needed to do a grand tour.
    Absolutely...I was thinking about that towards the end of the ride.

    It was roughly equivalent to a hard climbing stage in the Tour de France...except, the pros would finish in about 6-7 hours (vs. my 9:30), and they would get up the next morning to do it again.

    And they wouldn't stop for any of the aid stations (or notice the variety of wildflowers).

    Perhaps if I had a team mechanic, a masseuse, and a coach who would hand me bottles from the team car.

    Wouldn't it be cool to be a sponsored, full-time rider? I've jokingly thought about putting together a proposal to seek sponsorship from age-appropriate companies like Ensure, Centruum, AARP, FloMax, etc. (but I absolutely draw the line at Depends ).
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  13. #13
    Senior Member ?? Beverly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SSP
    I've jokingly thought about putting together a proposal to seek sponsorship from age-appropriate companies like Ensure, Centruum, AARP, FloMax, etc. (but I absolutely draw the line at Depends ).
    I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss them as a possible sponsor. Many of us could probably use them after some scary downhills
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  14. #14
    SSP
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    Yeah, but I don't want anyone asking me, "Is that a chamois in your shorts, or are you wearing a diaper?"
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    Senior Member jazzy_cyclist's Avatar
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    Awesome. One to really be proud of.

  16. #16
    I need more cowbell. Digital Gee's Avatar
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    SSP, you and jppe and stapfam and a few others in here are in a class all your own. I'm in awe, I'm aware how insignificant my own long rides are in comparison (and no, I'm not putting myself down by comparing myself to others), and I can barely imagine being in the kind of shape you must be in. Hat's off to you and congrats!
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  17. #17
    Lincoln, CA Mojo Slim's Avatar
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    I did one of the "kiddie ride" versions of this event. It starts about 1/2 mile from my house. SSP, nice job. I attended a "survivor BBQ" last night with several of my friends, who are all animals, who did the big ride you did. They all has the same comments, especially about the swamp cooler and the comparison to the Death Ride.

    If you don't mind, SSP, I will post a couple of pictures from the parts of that course I have ridden. Riding here in Plumas County is always beautiful and I love it.

    These pictures are in no particular order, but show some of the scenes on SSP's route.







    SSP, if you want to return to Plumas to do some more sane rides, let me know.
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  18. #18
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    Wow, you did good!!

  19. #19
    SSP
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    Thanks for the pics, Mojo.

    I had done some camping and relic hunting back in that area many years ago (before those roads were paved), and had forgotten about how beautiful that area is.

    Even though I'm more a fan of "big walls of granite and snow", I found myself in awe of the scenery near Quincy. Your "big trees and deep canyons" were more spectacular, IMO, than the brush-covered slopes in Calaveras County that I saw on the Sierra Century. And your roadsides were *much* cleaner (I've heard there's just too many gap-toothed hillbillies living back in the woods around Angel's Camp).

    And, except for a small stretch in Yuba County(?), the road surfaces were all in much better shape than Calaveras County (where every downhill was a struggle just to survive).
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  20. #20
    Senior Member ?? Beverly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SSP
    Yeah, but I don't want anyone asking me, "Is that a chamois in your shorts, or are you wearing a diaper?"
    If they need to ask they evidently can't tell
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