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  1. #1
    Eschew Obfuscation SesameCrunch's Avatar
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    My close encounter with Ultra-Distance riders

    So, two weeks ago, this guy who finished 2nd in the two-man team in this year's RAAM (Race Across America) invited me to join him and his ultra-distance friends on a century ride from Half Moon Bay, CA to Santa Cruz and back. I'm just a weekend rider and the thought of hanging out with riders of this caliber was just thrilling.

    When I got to the meeting point, the first indication that this was not going to be a business-as-usual ride was the type of vehicles this group drove to the meeting point. Usually, when I meet friends for a ride, we show in our cars with bike racks. When I rode up to the meeting point this morning, it was all vans/trucks full of bike gear and parts. One guy even had a large size trailer that he pulls around for all his bike stuff. I'm thinking my tools and spare parts fit in my saddle bag - they've got trailers full of parts ! These guys are serious bike people!

    Turns out people had come from all over Northern California to join my friend's ride. I guess the ultra-distance community is a very small and close-knit one. The folks there had done just about every ultra ride you can name - RAAM, Paris-Brest-Paris, Furnace Creek 508, 24 hours of Sebring, Race Across Oregon, etc. Double centuries are warm up rides for this group. Oh, and we had a SAG guy, of course. His credentials, you ask? He's only crewed on 21 RAAM rides over the years - think he's qualified? His van was loaded with gear and could handle 6 bikes on top. He had flashing lights, external speakers and a personalized license plate that said "BikeVan". Did I mention these guys are SERIOUS?

    OK, there were 11 of us, 4 on recumbents. Mean looking recumbents. We took off shortly after 8:30 in the fog. The warm up pace was about 22, 23 mph. After a few polite miles of hanging with the group, the recumbents took off. A couple of us upright riders tagged along for a few miles, but by mile 10, I knew it would not be smart to keep up that pace for 100 miles, so I dropped back. The other upright rider was faster than me, so I let him go as well. Now I was stuck behind the fast group and in front of the rest of the pack. So, it stayed this way for the whole ride down. I ended up with a nice solo ride down to Santa Cruz with a 17.4mph average all the way down.

    The fog never lifted and was actually quite heavy to whole way down. My glasses were completely fogged up and I just took them off and rode half blind down the coast. What the heck, I couldn't see the scenery for the fog anyway. My socks were wet from the fog and my toes were frozen the whole way down.

    We had lunch at a Pizzeria called Upper Crust Pizza (all time great name for a Pizza Joint). The racing recumbents were ready to leave as I arrived, having gotten there about 30 minutes before. I didn't feel too bad since I was the second upright to arrive. Lunch gave me an opportunity to chat with the gang and listen to some of their war stories. About riding 30 hours non-stop. About how 24 Hours of Sebring was not a big deal. About getting pulled over by cops while riding in the middle of the night. You know, everyday stuff .

    The wind kicked up for the ride home, so I stayed with a pack of 4 riders. What a drag knowing that we had 50 miles of this headwind and the FOG - Ugh!. But, we moved along well and it gave me a chance to talk with some of them. At mile 70, I hit a big pothole in the road and both tires flatted! I had one spare tube and patched the second one. My front wheel was a little whacked out, but rideable. We went along for a few more miles and I got another flat - the patch hadn't held up. At this point, I didn't want to slow down the group, so I told them to go ahead and I waited for the SAG van. When he pulled up, I was cold and it was getting late, so I ended up SAG-ing back. I didn't feel too bad about it. I had done 75 miles, kept up pretty well with the group.

    Had a nice conversation with the SAG guy - Lee Mitchell. Great guy. Used to ride himself, but now just crews for teams. Like I said, 21 years of RAAM. He's quite a legend in that community.

    I'm still buzzing over the day. What a treat it was to hang out with that group! Even though I hadn't finished the whole ride, I was feeling really strong and was glad to know that I held up for the 75 miles. Of course, the measly 100 miles we did today was just a warmup for this group, but I can tell my grandkids about how I rode with a bunch of ultra-riders and held my own - yeah, right!

    Great day today....

  2. #2
    RT
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    The Weird Beard RT's Avatar
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    I was raised in Santa Cruz, and have ridden my bike all over that crazy ol' town. Upper Crust is great pie, and your story was great! I can understand how trucks and vans can intimidate, but it's all in how you approach the miles, not the amount of equipment you bring :-)

  3. #3
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    i would have gone to gayles or tacqueria vallarta.
    ...

  4. #4
    Rail Trailer Kittydew's Avatar
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    What a great story, and a great day!
    Kitty
    "Insert cool pithy signature here."

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    i would have gone to gayles or tacqueria vallarta.
    by which i mean, i miss santa cruz.
    ...

  6. #6
    eternalvoyage
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    Thanks for a great write-up.

    ****
    (Please post some more of them -- you convey your experiences well.)

  7. #7
    Has opinion, will express
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    Top read!! Like Niles said, post more of your experiences as they happen. You write well.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  8. #8
    Senior Member
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    Great read. Thanks for posting!

  9. #9
    Dagger Boy Extort's Avatar
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    What an awesome recap of your day! Thanks for sharing.

    And yes, Lee is a great guy. I had the priviledge to follow his van up Hells Gate in Death Valley.... except that at mile 170 I was moving much slower than his van.
    Women think they're so clever because they can fake an orgasm for the sake of a relationship, but men can fake a whole relationship for the sake of an orgasm.

  10. #10
    Senior Member donrhummy's Avatar
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    Thanks for the story, sounds like a lot of fun! You'll have to press your friend to see if you can try again, this time for the full 100.

  11. #11
    Eschew Obfuscation SesameCrunch's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the kind words! I don't often post here because I'm more or less a weekend warrior and only do about 5 or 6 centuries a year.

    I did set a goal at the beginning of this year to do a double century. I even built up a recumbent bike (converting a folding bike into a recumbent) for the purpose. However, after some period of training, I had to admit to myself that I'm more of a go-fast, rather than go-far, kind of guy. Twelve or thirteen hours on a bike was just not in my genetic make-up .

    So, what happened to the bike, you ask? Well, it's now used to take my 4 yr old to school in style :


  12. #12
    Senior Member George's Avatar
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    I'm 67 years old and did a lot of different sports, but I wish I started this one earlier. I started when I was 65. I would love to go cross country, thanks for the great story.
    George

  13. #13
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    SesameCrunch,
    Cute kid and interesting bike mod. Great story.

    George,
    I would love to go cross country
    I say hook up with some friends andgo for it?

  14. #14
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SesameCrunch View Post
    I even built up a recumbent bike (converting a folding bike into a recumbent) for the purpose.
    This bike is made of pure awesome! Did you design that conversion yourself, or was this from plans you found somewhere?
    "I feel like my world was classier before I found cyclocross."
    - Mandi M.

  15. #15
    Eschew Obfuscation SesameCrunch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CliftonGK1 View Post
    This bike is made of pure awesome! Did you design that conversion yourself, or was this from plans you found somewhere?
    Thanks! The base bike was from www.Downtube.com , the recumbent conversion kit was from www.cruzbike.com . The bike folds in two sections: the front triangle, and the middle of the frame. I just have to take the seat off and can fold it into a small hatchback or trunk. Total cost was just under $1K.

  16. #16
    www.ocrebels.com Rick@OCRR's Avatar
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    True Sesame C.

    The long distance riding community is excellent, esp. (in my experience) in CA. Lee Mitchell is a great guy and has helped out countless riders over the years. Good that you had a chance to meet a Legend of his standing!

    I should also point out (as Chuck Bramwell says), If you can do a century, you can do a double century. Do some centuries for training, sure, but then take the plunge and sign up for a double. Several in your general area, so no worries there!

    Go to: www.CALTripleCrown.com for more details on double centuries. Try it, you'll like it!

    Rick / OCRR

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