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Ride Report - 160 miles, 12k ft. Training Ride for Climb to Kaiser

Road Cycling It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle. -- Ernest Hemingway

Ride Report - 160 miles, 12k ft. Training Ride for Climb to Kaiser

Old 06-14-10, 10:34 PM
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Ride Report - 160 miles, 12k ft. Training Ride for Climb to Kaiser

Note, this is also posted in the SoCal forum.

I’ve been training to race the Climb to Kaiser (“C2K”, https://www.climbtokaiser.com/), a one-day non-sanctioned climbing event that is held every year in Fresno, CA. The event is ~155 miles and gains ~13,500 ft in elevation. It begins near Fresno and is an almost 78 mile out-and-back, with the ride out gaining ~9-10k feet (and descending ~2-3k) and ending at the Kaiser Pass in the Sierra National Forest near Yosemite National Park. The race is being held this year on 6/26/10, the weekend that is closest to the summer solstice. As part of my C2K training, I’ve been ramping up the mileage significantly and doing a lot of climbing. I rode the Mulholland Challenge (116 miles, 13.5k ft, 7:05) in April with umd and have also been doing a mixture of (i) very long training rides with a lot of climbing and (ii) shorter interval-like rides (including club rides). I’ve been averaging close to 200 miles a week, with a large majority of the hours on Saturday/Sunday.

My aim is not merely to finish, but to crush this monster. Prior to C2K, the longest I’ve ever raced is the Mulholland Challenge with umd. The Mulholland Challenge is a one-day climbing event in Malibu that traverses 116 miles and climbs 13,500ft. umd and I rode it together and my time was 7:14, including :09 of stops (umd- thanks again for waiting for me). My average speed including stops on the Mulholland Challenge was 16.04mph (16.38mph excluding stops). I ended up going out a little too hard and paid for it at the end by feeling like crap. As such, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do the C2K mileage and climbing prior to the race, so as to give me the confidence and experience to ride an event of this length and difficulty intelligently. My goal is to finish the entire race in under 10 hours. Why 10 hours? For two reasons: (i) something nice about finishing in single digits and (ii) requires average speed of ~16mph (very similar to my average on the MC of 16.04mph which was more climbing intensive – 116ft/mile vs. C2K at 87ft/mile). I may even be able to average 17mph, but that’s a long shot. As such, my projected finishing time at an average speed is 16-17mph is 9:07-9:41. Potential risks on achieving these averages are the temperatures (possibly 90s) and the need to rest/eat longer. Based on last year’s standings (https://www.climbtokaiser.com/2009.htm), a 16-17mph average would put me in anywhere from 3rd to 7th place out of ~250 riders. One other thing I’ll point out is that I was able to ride the Mulholland Challenge a little faster because I had the benefit of umd’s slipstream for a good portion of the ride (but he had mine too). However, the C2K has a mass start, so hopefully I can get some drafting in for a portion of the ride to conserve energy.

My idea was to simulate the C2K race two weeks prior to the event, but do the training ride a tad slow. I settled on a 160 mile ride with 12k feet of climbing with conditions that are somewhat similar to C2K (slightly longer, climbing front end loaded, arid and hot). I’ll bifurcate the route into two sections: (i) part 1 - out-and-back from Ojai to Lockwood Valley road on SR33 (74 miles, 7k ft), and (ii) part 2 - ride from Ojai to Santa Monica via Santa Paula/Camarillo/Thousand Oaks/Malibu (5k ft, 85 miles). I figured that the ride would take about 10 hours or an average speed of 16mph based on previous rides. The benefit of riding with my friend for part 1 is that he is slower than me, so I’d be able to resist the urge to push the first section. Plan was that my friend would pick me up at 6am, drive us to Ojai and we’d ride start part 1 at 7:30am and have lunch around 12:30 (5 hours) for 30 minutes. For Part 2, I’d leave Ojai solo at 1pm and arrive home around 6pm (5 hours).

Route is here (note that I added a little extra credit to get to 160 miles and that the elevation on mapmyride is wrong): https://www.mapmyride.com/route/us/ca...27622004413294

Day started with the alarm clock at 5:30am. Sprung out of bed, put on the contacts and starting the preparations. Made two PB&Js (one for the drive up, one to eat at the halfway point of part 1). Lathered up the sun screen. Cleaned my sunglasses. Pumped the tires to 110psi. Got dressed. Filled my two 20oz water bottles with Gatorade. Drank about 30oz of water. Popped two ibuprofens. Headed downstairs at 6, and my friend was there. Loaded my bike into the back and headed off. Uneventful but beautiful ride up through the valley and toward Ojai. We got to Ojai around 7:45. Weather was low 70s, sunny, cloudless.

Ride began at 8am in beautiful low 70s and cloudless weather and ~745ft of elevation. Profile going out was 31 miles and 5,500ft of elevation gain to the summit of Pine Mountain (elevation: ~5150 ft) and then down 6 miles and 1500 ft to Lockwood Valley road. Endurance riding is about not listening to your body. At the beginning of a ride, your body wants to go fast and you tell it to go slow. At the end of the ride, your body is telling you to stop and you tell it otherwise. Fortunately, my friend set the pace nice and slow. The climbing started almost immediately. The grades were very tame (3-6%) and I coasted up effortlessly. My friend and I chatted nonchalantly for the first ~10 miles until we came upon another rider with a noticeably awkward pedalstroke. As we tried to pass him, he revved it up and stayed with us. Turns out this guy's name was Dave, he was a 57 year old retired utility company employee married for 7 years to a 26 year old wife with a 5 year old child. Dave was also a former Pro/1/2 rider who had won the Sea to Summit 7 times in a row. He had retired from his job and road racing, and now spends a lot of his time riding in and around Ventura county. We chatted for a while and I also described my route to him. As we rode on, the forested landscape slowly morphed into moonscape. Trees disappeared and scrabble and brush emerged. Colors changed from greens to browns and oranges. With a little bit of tact Dave told me my ride was just stupid and overkill. I politely nodded in agreement. Of course riding 160 miles in one go is stupid. Dave turned around about 20 miles into the climb, and my friend and I continued forward. We reached a biker/cyclist rest stop at around mile 28 which had been condemned but the proprietor was inside fixing the place up. Apparently the county inspector shut the place down for a few building code violations which were entirely technical in nature. The owner said there was a stage in the back where local "cowboys" and "cowgirls" come to sing and dance. The owner gave both me and my friend a 20oz bottle of water which I downed immediately along with a hammer bar.

Reached the Pine Mountain summit at mile 31 around 11am. Unbelievable views looking north. Mountain ridges, valleys, brush, scrabble and not much else. No signs of human life. No roads other than the tortuous path I would soon descend to Lockwood Valley road. Took some pics. It was getting HOT. My temperature gauge read 87F. My friend was low on water and said he wanted to turn around now rather than doing the 6 mile descent and returning ascent. I basically told him there was NFW I was turning around, so we agreed to split up and regroup in Ojai for lunch. We estimated that the 31 mile descent would take 75 minutes and the 12 mile descent and ascent for me would take 45 minutes. So he'd get to Ojai at 12:15 and I'd get in around 1pm. So we split. As soon as we split off, I instinctively began pushing harder. I hammered down the descent probably carrying too much speed through the corners given the risks associated with an accident (i.e., no water, no support, 90F temps). I made it to the junction of Lockwood Valley and quickly turned right back around to climb about ~1600 ft over 5.5 miles. The climb is easy and I cruise up lightly at 11-12mph. It's really hot. 87-90 on the temp gauge. No cloud cover. No breeze. I make it to the top at 11:43am (2 minutes ahead of schedule) with 43 miles on the odometer and pedal right through the summit and begin the 31 mile descent (actually 30 mile descent with a 1 mile, 300 ft climb in the middle). The grade never gets too steep and it's too long to tuck into an aero position so I'm cruising down the 3-6% grades at 30-35mph. The turns are long and swooping and I don't need the brakes. The short 1 mile climb in the middle is easy and I continue on down to Ojai. About one mile from the regroup point I almost crash when I begin daydreaming and wake up headed directly into the shoulder which is covered by 2 inches of loose sand. Miraculously I hit the sand at an angle but slow down and maintain balance while coming to a stop. I get back on and head to the regroup point which I hit at 12:59pm.


Me at Pine Mountain Summit

Lockwood Valley Junction

Lunch at Ojai at 1pm at mile 74. My friend is sitting down in the restaurant, having already eaten his lunch. I order an omelette (with cheddar, spinach and onions), crepes, a biscuit and a coke. The order was mostly wishful thinking as I smartly realize that this is too much to eat with another 85 miles of riding to go. The food is delicious and I eat about half. After lunch, I go to my friend's car to re-lather the sunscreen. My friend gives me a final chance offer to return via car but I instantly decline. It's pretty intimidating to have 74 miles and 7k ft in my legs and be 86 miles from home on my own with no support. I try not to focus on the what ifs of breaking down in an area without reception.

Lunch was omelette, crepes, hash browns and biscuit:

Disembark Ojai at 1:30pm at mile 74. I disembark Ojai and head east on the 150 toward Santa Paula. Make a quick stop at a gas station in downtown to add 32oz of gatorade (tried their strawberry for the first time - quite good). As I'm refilling my bottles outside the Chevron station, a moronic gas station employee asks me if I'd like to save 5c/gallon on my next gasoline purchase. I politely respond "yes, but don't exactly have the time given that I'm halfway through a 160 mile bike ride". The ride to Santa Paula is mostly flat, with a 1.5 mile ~500 ft climb toward the beginning and the rest a gentle descent. The temperatures have cooled to the mid 80s. The landscape is greener and the road is partially blanketed with tree cover. The road is shaded and I have a hard time discerning the cracks and potholes. All of a sudden I come around a corner and a coiled rattlesnake is in the middle of my lane. I quickly swerve into the oncoming lane (thankfully no traffic) to circumvent the snake, who begin to hiss but didn't strike as I passed. My heart rate for the entire ride probably peaked here. I ride through Santa Paula, which from what I gather is a relatively poor blue collar town. I turn left at the end of the road right before the 126 and then make a quick right which in a few more miles will lead me to BALCOM.

Balcom Canyon Road at mile 97. Balcom Canyon Road. Ah. This one is really tough. It's a 2.5 mile climb with 700 ft of elevation gain, of which 400 feet is in the last 4/10 of a mile! Temperature is 90 again and as I cruise on the 3% flattish sections I start getting nervous. I have 98 miles and 8500 ft in my legs. There is a slight headwind. I'm sweating. Balcom's difficult section doesn't look scary when you first see it. The grade goes from 4% to 9% and then steadily keeps getting steeper and steeper until you realize you're in trouble. I'm in my 34x27, grinding up. My cateye is telling me +13%, then +14%, then +15%....finally +22%. I'm off the saddle, trying to keep the heart rate low and just grinding at very low cadence, just trying to stay balanced. I pass the steep 22% section and then am relieved to see a gentle 14%. I get to the top and turn around to take a picture which I upload to facebook. Odometer reads 99.8. No time for rest, I want to get home.

Looking down on part of the Balcom Wall (hard to tell, but that's a 18% grade you're looking at)

Portero at mile 115. I cruise down Bradley Road to Los Angeles Avenue to Lewis Road and head south to Camarillo. Make a quick rest stop at the Lewis/101 intersection to get some more coke, gatorade and peanut M&Ms. I've stopped here many times and I chat briefly with the owner of the store who I know quite well. Down the 20oz of coke zero and roll out, eating half of the peanut M&Ms before sticking the rest in my back pocket. I'm cruising down Lewis and am now in the fields. The terrain is very flat and wide open. Trees are only in the distance. No workers on the fields because it is Sunday. The wind is blowing east and I'm heading west so I'm grinding along at 15-17mph. Nice relief when I make the left turn onto Portero and cruise at 20-25mph before I get to the base of the climb. For those of you who don't know Portero, it's a quite easy climb, split into two sections. Section 1 is a 1000 ft climb over 5 miles with a 1-2 mile descent followed by a 2 mile climb which gains 500 ft (a portion of the second half of the climb is done on the famous "Simi Ride"). The only wrinkle here is that the last 1/3 of a mile of the first section climbs 290 ft for an average gradient of 17%. Thankfully the temperatures have dropped quite a bit and I employ the same strategy as I did on Balcom. Stay in the saddle, power up in the 34x27, keep the heart rate low. I grind up the wall all in the saddle and cruise down to the second part of the climb, cruise up the last 1 mile 6% section at 12mph. It's then a quick descent and flat ride through equestrian country. White picket fences line both sides of the road. Lots of trees canopying the road. Horses are galloping around. I turn into Sherwood Country club and do a quick one mile riding around part of the lake. It's then another quick descent into Westlake Village, where I make a left turn on 23 (and am very tempted to turn right to climb the back of Decker!). I take 23 to Agoura road, turn right and cruise on the rollers. My legs are feeling great and I can't believe I'm ~125 miles into my ride. I turn right on Kanan then a quick left on Cornell and head to the Mulholland Highway. Once I get to Mulholland, it's another 400 ft of climbing before I can enjoy the descent to Las Virgenes. The road has recently been repaved (cool!). I turn right on Las Virgenes and begin the 5 mile descent (with a little bit of climbing) on Malibu Canyon Road to PCH.

PCH at mile 148 at 6:25pm. I descended to PCH via Malibu Canyon Road into fog and the sun has finally taken a break from scorching me. I make the left turn onto PCH at Pepperdine and cruise down the descent, hitting 40mph. The sun isn't glistening as it usually is because of the fog. Hardscrabble, bush and browns have been replaced by cars, people, tan lines, ocean, blues and breeze. It's another 12 miles to home and there a few things crossing my mind: the food I'm going to eat, the shower I'm going to take, the bed that's waiting for me, etc. I cruise the flats at 22-24mph. Pass Las Flores, Big Rock, Topanga Canyon, Sunset, Temescal. Head into Santa Monica. It's almost 7pm. Beachgoers walking with their beachchairs headed toward their cars. Almost no one on the beach path. I head up Ocean to Santa Monica and hit home with 160 miles and 12k ft of elevation booked.

Home at mile 160 at 7pm. So I made it. 9:44 of riding time, for an average of 16.4mph, 11 hours of total time. I feel amazingly good. The easy pace on the Ojai section definitely was a good idea. Had very little stiffness. Not really that thirsty because I'd been drinking so much. I take off the gloves revealing deep tan lines, take off the helmet, take off my socks to find a blister I didn't feel at all, dump the residual gatorade into the sink and take a quick shower. Change and check the Lakers score. They're down a lot so I don't feel obligated to watch the 4th quarter. I get in the car and head over to Umami burger on 5th and b'way. I order the Umami burger (burger, shiitake mushrooms, parmesan crisp, sun dried tomato ketchup) medum and order a side of tempura onion rings. After I order, the waitress brings me the two waters I ordered and I tell her to bring the parmesan tater tots too. The food comes and I scarf it all down. Head home.


Conclusion. I'm ready for C2K. The 160 miles and 12k ft felt surprisingly easy despite the suboptimal weather conditions (heat and wind). I never felt strained and definitely left a lot in the tank. I feel super confident and ready to go for my race. Feels amazingly satisfying to cover 160 miles on my own power. While I want to post good numbers on C2K, I don't really feel like I have to prove anything after doing a ride like this. I'm still basking in the post-ride glow, over 24 hours after finishing.
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Old 06-14-10, 10:59 PM
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Quite a story Amazing job.
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Old 06-14-10, 11:25 PM
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Great report!

Good luck at C2K!
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