Monday, May 11, 2009


Central Coast Double, May 9, 2009

The Central Coast Double is one of the more prestigious events on the CalTripleCrown calendar, both because of its difficulty and its fabulous scenery. Last year, when I participated for the first time, the conditions were rather favorable, and I still needed 18 hours for the 210 miles. This year, some unavoidable route changes pushed the distance up to nearly 220 miles, and the time limit was extended to 19 hours. On the paper (i.e. on the spreadsheet I used for estimating/calculating intermediate and total times on the route sheet) I could do it. All I had to do was to increase the expected average speed in one spreadsheet cell until the arrival time got close enough to what I wanted!

Right from the start at 5:40 a.m., the route goes slightly uphill for the first eight or ten miles. This provides a good indicator of one's condition for the day. Based on my experience since the beginning of the year, I had reasons to believe that I was in better form than last year. Unfortunately, the first hour already taught me otherwise. I should not have been surprised, given my trouble from seven days ago. I wish I could have given a more detailed answer when friends and acquaintances passed me and asked "Hi Joseph - how are you?", but I was too out of breath. All I could say was " ... ahh, I am happy to be here!" - which was completely true.

Still, I didn't stop as often as last year and kept the stops shorter, and I was lucky to draft Kitty and a strong (unnamed) rider into much of the very determined headwind on the way up the coast. 

(Would be even prettier without that headwind!)

As a result, I arrived not much later than last year on the most pittoresque rest stop of the year, Mill Creek (mile 87), only 200 yards from where the Nacimiento-Ferguson Road climbs up the mountain:

The Mill Creek rest stop lies just ahead, 
and the mountain is the one we will climb up to the right!

Still in good company: Renée, Kerin, ...

A deep breath before tackling the climb

On this 7-mile climb of 2500 ft, I should have been able to do better than last year when I lost quite some time due to bonking and overheating. This year, I had consciously hedged my bets (despite the headwind) on the preceding ups and downs along Highway 1, and I stubbornly maintained my confidence even though I should have known better already.

Looking down to the Mill Creek rest stop after the first two miles of climbing

What can I say? Even though there was a cooling tailwind coming in from the Pacific, the radiation from the sun made me overheat on the upper ranges anyway, in particular because the first steep miles at the bottom had already beaten the juice out of my legs. Last year, I didn't pay attention to how much time I spent on that climb; but now I know that the two hours from this year (which include several stops) were slower. For a while, I leapfrogged another rider about my age who suddenly dismounted, grumbling "if I cannot ride faster than walking, I might as well f***ing walk this climb!" and he continued to push his bike for miles.

At the water stop on top, I agreed with the volunteers there that I had already gotten my money's worth out of this ride. The following technical descent didn't allow to drink. By the time it was safe to pull a water bottle out of its cage, I was so dried out that I drank the whole bottle within minutes. The air temperature wasn't even extreme; but the dryness was.

Compared to last year, I felt a little better at the lunch stop, which was this time at a shaded picnic area behind the San Antonio mission

I met some of the riders there again (but for the last time in the day) who had passed me on the big climb. I kept my stop much shorter than last year; but they still left a couple of minutes before me, and I didn't feel like even trying to stay with them. I was now 45 minutes behind my own spreadsheet schedule, a fact that unconsciously started eroding my confidence. At the exit from the Fort Hunter Liggett military base, I still followed my route sheet and the red arrows to the left, but noted the white arrows which indicated a suggested shortcut to the right. On the next miles, slightly uphill into the dry headwind, I kept my mind busy checking the clock and the distances and remembering from last year all the remaining difficult climbs. I probably kept my mind a little too busy; because when a SAG vehicle passed and stopped ahead of me, and I talked with the driver, I had already made up my mind: I would turn around and take the shortcut. It had become unlikely that I could finish within the time limit; and regardless of whether I could or not, I would be too exhausted to benefit from the ride.

It was the right decision. I enjoyed seeing much of the route after Bradley in daylight (last year, I did it in complete darkness); I had time to chat with the volunteers at the last "in the middle of nowhere" rest stop (Indian Valley Road) 16 miles from the finish, just when darkness fell; and I arrived at 9:20 p.m. in good spirits at the finish in Paso Robles: it was a wonderful ride, and I was completely satisfied!

Just like last year, we stayed for this Mother's Day weekend with our friend Yolande at her house in Shell Beach. Just like last year, we celebrated with an excellent lunch at the restaurant Oasis in San Luis Obispo. And just like last year, everybody was happy ...

My plate is in front ...

... and now it's empty.

1 comment:

  1. Quel appétit!
    C'est toujours sympa et dépaysant de lire un reportage sur le cyclisme "longue distance" aux USA, bravo et merci, "Vélocio", et bonne route!