What: The LA Wheelmans Grand Tour. Metric Century and 100, 200, 300, and the big one 400 miles!
When: Saturday lasting into Sunday
Who: My friends, Brent, Suzy Degazon, Jose & Cynthia Seneriz, Lincoln and 400 crazy long distance riders.
Why: Who the hell really knows why we do this, some say the challenge others just say we're sick. I'll go with the later.
About 6 months ago, my bud,Brent started talking about the Grand Tour Triple Century. He had done this one before and after we finished the Davis Double he asked if we were interested. Cynthia and I said we were and more or less signed on weather we knew it or not. So we started to up the training and did some big hard climbing rides. The problem with this is there's not a lot of climbing in the triple. About 10K over 300 miles, we should have been looking at more distance but it still it worked out.
A few days before the ride I sent out an email to all my friends who were doing the ride with us. In order for this to be successful we would need everyone's co-operation. See the problem with a triple is you need to conserve energy and pace is now the most important factor along with diet. So after doing some calculations I come up with a time frame that should work. We have to allow for mechanicals or other problems. So I come up with a plan. We will go for a 15 mph average with a maximum of 10 minutes at the SAG's (Stop and Go's, where you get food water and use the restroom). Now this might seem a little tough but there are 8 stops plus a longer lunch break. With 10 minutes a stop and thirty minutes for lunch we use up over 2 hours Add any problems and with 3 centuries at 7 hours eah you are out of time. What they do is sweep the course and if you have 280 miles you'll only receive credit for a double. Can you imagine after doing all that tortuous work and then not getting recognition for it .
So Saturday morning the alarm goes off at 1:30 am and I'm up and out the door in 15 minutes. I had got everything ready the day before. Stressing and obsessing over what to take and what not to take and no matter what you plan for, you will not get it 100% right. So you do the best you can and over pack. So I get to Brents house and as usual he is ready and we load up his bike and are off to Suzy's house but now we are early. We get there and she's ready too. This is really working out great. Now we are off to Malibu!
We get to Malibu and give Jose a call. He is almost there. We get ready and go up to check our stuff. The folks give you bags to put your stuff in so it'll be at whatever SAG you want it to be. Soon Jose & Cynthia come in and we are all ready to go. They were letting us go early this year so we could of left anytime we wanted to but we didn't know as this policy changes from year to year. We are all experience double riders but this will be the first triple for all of us except Brent as he has done one before.
Okay it's 4:30 am and we all clock out. I'm informed that Jose is doing the double so his wife will go with him, so we lose them but we still have us 3 to work with and we will find others along the way to work with too. So as we almost always do we go out fast. The anticipation turns to speed and we take off. We get into the rollers leaving Malibu, traveling north up PCH and we lose Jose & Cynthia but we are aware that we may not be able to ride with them if they can't hold the pace. Both of them are strong riders but Jose has some difficulties on the climbs due to an injury so he is a little slower on the climbs.
Now as we are going along the pace backs off a little and we are maintaining a 20 mph and everyone is fine with it. We have a few pacelines fly by but we know better. Had this been a double we gladly would of jumped in but we have a plan and have to stick to it. The first SAG is 35 miles out and we make it with time to spare but I want to keep it that way. Some how we manage to burn up precious time here and don't get out until 22 minutes has passed. Now we have lost any advantage we had gained.
The next SAG is a little closer at 31 miles and our pace picks up and we are cruising now. Again we make it in great time but we run into delays and we are there 17 minutes. As we are leaving we see Lincoln coming in. He was signed up to do the double and has made great time getting this close to us. But he didn't have to pace himself like we did but he's fast anyways. We are now off to the next SAG which is also lunch, we stayed together and the pace was perfect. Not to much later Lincoln catches us and now we have another worker. Brent & Lincoln are brothers and they both love to pull. I'm a champion wheel sucker and I'm happy to let them pull until their legs fall off. Now with Lincoln in the group the pace gradually climbs and we start to put too much of a gap between us so we back it back down a little and all is good.
We ride on into the lunch break and again we are ahead of schedule but not by much. This is the SAG where they offer sandwiches so I get one and it's very difficult for me to eat. A great thing about this ride is they offer all the Hammer nutrition products. Perpetuem, Sustained Energy, Heed and Endurolytes caps and Hammer Gels. I basically live on a high caloric liquid diet of Perpetuem and try to keep my caloric intake to around 250 calories an hour or more. It doesn't sound like much but it takes a lot for me to keep this up. But you need to concentrate on this as you'll pay for it later if you don't.
Now we leave lunch and we are only a few minutes late getting out. Maybe because I have Lincoln pushing too. He's worse then I am in getting people up and going. So with Lincoln leading out we go a little strong and soon Brent and Suzy are gone. We get to the top of a climb and we wait for them. 10 minutes goes by and they're not there, so I ride back down the hill. Seems her cassette had come lose. The bigger rings are still on the spline and are useable. We call for help from the ride organizers but they tell us no one will be able to get there for a while. So we decide to ride on and hopefully find a bike store and less then two miles later I see one. So we go inside and they have her fixed up in no time. The name of the store is The MOB. Great guys and were really helpful, kudo's to them! So now we are leaving the store and Lincoln says, "Let's go" and I jump on his wheel. Brent and Suzy were still in the store talking.
And now we are off to the turn off point where the double riders and the triple riders separate. With Lincoln doing the work we run into the first head winds of the day and I'm happy to let him pull. He's only got 60 miles left to go once we reach the next SAG and I have 160. The pace was good and we still managed to maintain 17 mph into the wind. We get to talking and Lincoln is explaining to me how we have to ride in order to get done. He was talking about finishing in 22 hours and I thought he was talking about the whole 24. So when Brent and Suzy get in I tell them I don't think we are going to make it. I tell Brent and he thinks about it for a while and tells me my calculations are off. I start to think about it and realize what I was doing wrong. So now with the additrional 2 hours back on the clock I figure we can make it but it'll be close. But Suzy started having foot cramps after lunch and now they are really hurting her. But trooper that she is, she goes out with us.
We get to Goleta/Santa Barbara and on the way I spy another rider up ahead and go off to catch him. Not sure really what happened here but I got like a second wind. All day long I felt great and never really worked that hard. So not thinking I go hard and catch the rider. We work together for a while but I soon drop him and now I'm riding by myself and everyone knows how good I am at getting lost. So I back it back down and no one is in sight. I take out the route sheet and see it's really just one turn to where I go, so I continue to ride hard all the way. After I've been there for a while Clyde shows up ( the guy I'd chased down) and about 10 minutes later Brent and Suzy come in. Now Suzy tells us she is going to have to abandon as her pain is just not going to let her continue. Sad really because she's worked so hard all day and has 190 miles in already. The folks at the SAG tell her she'll only get credit for a century and if she wants credit for at least a double she'll have to ride the 30 miles back to the last SAG and as tough as she is, she say's she'll do it!
So as we are sitting there, Clyde gets up to leave. I tell them I'm going too but I'll wait at the next SAG where my change of clothes and lights are, soon it'll be dark. Brent and Suzy already had theirs. So Clyde takes off and I let him go but soon I catch him and we take turns pulling almost all the way. At about 5 miles left to go he falls off but I know the way from here so I just go ahead and get caught at a bunch of lights but so did everyone else. I get to the SAG and they don't have my bags with my lights. Seems I filled out two bags and someone just combined them and took them to the next stop Great! Now Suzy and Brent come in and Suzy lets me borrow her little light because she's done now at mile 220! Now Brent and I get going.
We ride out hard and fast. I even have to tell Brent to back off as I can't hang at that pace. I was wondering why all of a sudden I had lost so much energy and then it hit me. I had not taken a break at the last stop and had only filled my bottles without taking on any more nutrition. They didn't have any Perpetuem at the last stop, so I went without. Now I was paying for it but I'd refilled with Sustained Energy and started to drink up. Within a few more miles I was back on stream but was really starting to feel the miles. We hooked up with a couple other guys after we got lost and since they had lights we rode with them. One was going strong but his friend kept falling off. With Suzy's little light I was fine on the uphills and led the charge but on the descent I'd have to wait for someone with a good light and that's basically how we rode into the next stop which put us at mile 240! And now I find my bag with my light in it. I put on my light but had to cut off my Garmin GPS which I zip tied to my bars. My hands were not working right at all. I couldn't do anything I wanted but after fighting it for 5 minutes I was able to get it off and it took me another 5 minutes to put my light on and both of these chores only usually take a minute but my motor reflexes were shot. They had SAGGED Suzy forward and she was now at this stop with us. Brent had gone over and sat down next to her. Then he calls over to me and tells me he's done. He's got nothing left and can't go on. This is amazing to me and I thought he was kidding. I knew he had slowed on the way in and was struggling with the climbs but he's the strongest rider I know and he's in great shape right now so I couldn't believe it. Now Brent's not only my friend, he's our puller, navigator, entertainment, my eyes and general go to guy. He's always there to help and will always protect and bring up any of the slower riders. But when he tells you he's done, he's done. He asks if I'm going to go on and I start to panic. I really wonder if I could do it without him. I see some other people getting ready to go and I ask one rider if he's leaving and he say's he is. I ask what kind of pace he keeps and he says 8 to 9 mph. Well, we all know how bikers fib about their pace so I figured this guy is good for 15 to 17. Seems I was wrong. We pull out and he really is only going 9 mph! I pull back to him and I tell him that we'll be sagged in if we can't ride faster. He doesn't care and is happy to do his ride. So up ahead I see the two guys who had left a few minutes before us and they are the same two Brent and I had rode in with. Now they had about a mile gap on me but I decided to see if I could catch them as my route sheet was now in tatters and I couldn't read it anymore. It took me a half hour to catch them but I did. So we settle into a nice pace of 16 mph and I'm happy with this. Them my new friend takes it up a notch. I'm no longer sure how fast we are going but it felt fast. His buddy was hanging on and we were eating up some mileage. I took my turn up front but without a computer I had no idea how fast I was going. After a while he fell off and I slowed down and waited for him to catch up. He asked if I knew when his bud fell off and I honestly didn't know. So he tells me what the next couple of turns are and I set out to see if I could find my way. I ride only a short ways and find another rider reading a route sheet so I stop. I ask him what pace he goes at and he doesn't answer but takes off so I give chase and soon I'm on his wheel. He rides hard for about 10 miles and then I go up front to pull for a while, He's hanging on fine but when we get into Port Hueneme and I stop at a traffic light he's no where in sight! I have no idea when and where he got out??? Now I get to a turn I remembered and I see another rider coming in from the wrong direction, He asks if I know the way ( I know I'm not allowed to lead or give directions but what else could I do) So we head down the street and he tells me we've gone to far. So we turn around and head back to where we met up. He pulls out the route sheet and I see where he made his mistake. We had been within a 100 feet of the turn and had now wasted time and energy. His name is Ken and he came all the way from St Charles ,IL to do this ride! We make it into the last SAG together. I fill up my bottles and I have another bag here. I had my Camelback in it. I ask if there's a way to move this forward and they tell me no, I'll have to carry it. MY Camelback weighs 1 and half times as much as my bike. 30 pounds with water! so I put it on and Ken is waiting for me. I ask if he'd like to work together and get a definite, YES!
So now we are on the down home stretch. It's still 25 more miles but it's almost rollers the whole way. I pull us through the base at Point Mugu and then up to PCH. With the heavy pack and all those miles I'm really suffering now. We still have 12 miles to go and I so want to just throw in the towel. But then lights show up behind me. I pull over to the right as far as possible. It's a chase vehicle for one of the quad riders. I say hi to them and they are nice with words of encouragement. I then start thinking of the monumental feat this guy is about to accomplish. He had to average under a 5 hour century for 4 times in a row! That's an average of 20MPH! for 20 hours! I am so impressed with this that I decide to quit focusing on the pain and start thinking about the finish line. Then another comes by a few minutes later and he never sat down. Seems he hadn't sat down for an hour as it hurt to much. man, could I relate. These guys are super human. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for them.
Now with 10 miles left to go another car pulls up but it turns out to be Brent and Suzy in my car. Brent rides behind me to block cars and for the next 10 miles we ride/drive in. We get to the last turn and Brent tells me to turn. I tell him it's the wrong street but I'm wrong. Had he not been there I'd have ended up in Santa Monica and I don't think I'd have enough left in me to ride back. So I know I had an extra 15 miles on my Garmin from extra mileage we'd/I'd found during the long day so I finished with 315 miles in 22.5 hours.
Will I do another? Yeah, but now I know better how to prepare. My goal would be to finish in under 20 hours but that'll take a whole lot of training.