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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

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Old 11-24-07, 08:17 AM   #1
SesameCrunch
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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....
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Old 11-24-07, 11:22 AM   #2
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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 :-)
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Old 11-24-07, 11:44 AM   #3
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i would have gone to gayles or tacqueria vallarta.
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Old 11-24-07, 12:05 PM   #4
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What a great story, and a great day!
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Old 11-24-07, 12:27 PM   #5
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i would have gone to gayles or tacqueria vallarta.
by which i mean, i miss santa cruz.
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Old 11-24-07, 01:17 PM   #6
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Thanks for a great write-up.

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(Please post some more of them -- you convey your experiences well.)
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Old 11-24-07, 02:52 PM   #7
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Top read!! Like Niles said, post more of your experiences as they happen. You write well.
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Old 11-24-07, 06:14 PM   #8
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Great read. Thanks for posting!
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Old 11-28-07, 10:58 AM   #9
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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.
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Old 11-28-07, 06:54 PM   #10
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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.
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Old 11-29-07, 08:10 AM   #11
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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 :

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Old 11-29-07, 08:53 AM   #12
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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.
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Old 11-29-07, 09:41 AM   #13
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SesameCrunch,
Cute kid and interesting bike mod. Great story.

George,
Quote:
I would love to go cross country
I say hook up with some friends andgo for it?
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Old 11-29-07, 10:02 AM   #14
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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?
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Old 11-29-07, 11:06 AM   #15
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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.
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Old 11-30-07, 09:41 AM   #16
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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!

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