Another year has passed since my last ride in the El Tour de Tucson. This year is the 34th anniversary of this annual fund-raising event, and once again I signed up to ride the full distance - which was 106 miles this year. This year was thankfully warmer than previous years, but holy cow - the wind was terrible. But I'll get to that in a minute.
The night before the ride I packed up my bicycle gear, and I made sure that I wouldn't repeat last year's mistake and forget my helmet. As I was putting my things together, I discovered that my bicycle had a flat tire. It was no fun changing it, of course, but it was so much better to have fortuitously discovered that problem the night before rather than the morning of. After that issue was resolved I set my alarm for 4:30am climbed into bed around 10:30pm. However, for some reason I could not fall asleep, so I probably did not drift off until sometime around 2:30am, which meant that I was hauling my exhausted self out of bed after only two hours of sleep. (Would someone please remind me why I do this every year?)
Anyway, I was on the road by 5:00am, and after a brief stop at a McDonald's for some carb loading via an Egg McMuffin, I headed off to Armory Park in downtown Tucson where the ride was scheduled to begin. I had studied the map before the ride, and I noticed that the route had changed for this year. First of all, the long, uphill ride on La Cañada Drive was gone, but it appeared to be replaced by an even longer uphill ride on Oracle Road. In addition to that change, the end of the ride had been changed from the 20+ miles riding Tangerine Road and the Frontage Road along I-10 to Avra Valley Road and Silverbell Road. This was all new territory for me, so needless to say - I did not know what the the day would have in store for me when I would arrive at those sections of the route.
Sometime shortly after 5:30am I arrived at the Tucson Convention Center (TCC), which is where I always park my car for the day, and after a few minutes putting the last of my things together, I hopped on my bicycle and rode over to Armory Park to get in line for the ride. I arrived around 10 or 15 minutes before 6:00am, and there were perhaps a couple hundred riders in line before me. (That number includes the "Platinum Riders," who must have had a ride time of less than five hours during a previous year.)
|Arriving near the start line. |
|The group of cyclists in front of me. |
(The banner in the distance is the actual starting line.)
As I waited for the ride to begin, I talked with the cyclists around me, and I met a guy whose wife had inadvertently cheated on one of the shorter distances during the previous year's ride. It seems that she didn't want to deal with the large crowd at the start line, so she began her ride 1 hour earlier than the rest of the riders. This meant that she wouldn't have an official time for the ride, but she didn't care. However, she was the first woman to cross the finish line for her distance, so they erroneously listed her as the winner. This isn't an actual race, so it's not that big of a deal, but nevertheless she registered for this year's ride under a different name. ;-)
|A quick panorama of the crowd of cyclists around 6:30am. |
As I mentioned earlier, the temperature was a little warmer than in past years; it was somewhere in the low 50s while I was waiting. But I had learned from some more-experienced El Tour participants during my 2014 and 2015 rides to wear something disposable like pajama pants while waiting in line, and any clothes which are abandoned near the start line are donated to charity once the riders have left. With that in mind, I had bought a large set of black pajama pants to wear over my legs as I waited, and I had made sure to leave the tags on to show that they were new. As the start time drew near, I removed those, folded them nicely with the tags showing, and placed them on the side of the road. (Other cyclists simply threw jackets and pants over the barriers which lined the street.)
As has happened in previous years, in the last few minutes before the ride begins, all of the cyclists don the last of their equipment, and then all the riders bunch up toward the start line, thereby filling up all the gaps in the crowd.
|Cyclists pushing toward the start line in the last few minutes. |
Shortly before 7:00am we all sang the National Anthem, and after a few perfunctory words from local politicians, they sounded the horn which announced the start, and we were off. I will admit, it always fills me with a small amount of nervousness before arriving at the starting line when I think about heading out as a lone cyclist within a sea of thousands; I am always afraid that I will fall over and get hit, or someone else will fall over and I'll crash into them, but every year it is an orderly affair as the cyclists cautiously start out in unison. (It seems that everyone else is also concerned about avoiding an accident.)
|106-mile riders starting out for the day. |
30 minutes after the ride had started I found myself at the Santa Cruz River crossing, where all of the cyclists are required to dismount and hand-carry their bicycles across the dry river bed. Once again, a Mariachi Band was playing music for everyone as we arrived on the other side of the river.
Once across the river, I climbed back on my bicycle and headed off. However, this is where I need to mention the wind which I had alluded to in my opening paragraph; the first 35 miles of this ride is predominantly uphill as we rode south, and we had a great deal of wind blowing to the north, which meant that the first several hours were uphill into the wind. There were brief downhills and a few respites from the wind here and there, but for the most part the beginning of my day was spent tucking my head down and riding into the wind. One of the biggest sources of relief for everyone was around the 25-mile point when we turned north onto Kolb Road and had the wind behind us for a change. It was only for 2½ miles, but still - I heard dozens of other cyclists verbally reacting to the difference, and throughout the rest of the day I heard cyclists complaining about how awful that wind had been.
Of course, one of my personal demoralizers is when I hit the 30-mile mark; that is when the route passes Pima Community College, which is the start of the 75-mile route. I always think to myself, "If I had done that ride, I would be starting from here, rather than having just ridden 30 miles."
As we turned off Kolb Road onto Irvington Road, we entered my section of town, where I train all the time. In fact, I had ridden the northbound climb on Houghton Road and Escalante Road a couple of times that week, so I was quite used to that terrain and the climbs did not bother me. Shortly after reaching the end of Escalante Road, the route turned north onto Freeman Road, where we were all treated to several miles of fast-paced, downhill riding. (With no winds!)
At the bottom of Freeman Road the course followed the familiar route of Speedway to Houghton to Snyder, which took about 30 minutes to negotiate, and then it was time for the second river crossing. By this time I had been riding for over 3½ hours with no breaks, and I was running low on water, so I stopped to refill my water bottles, eat a few snacks, and remove the last of my cold weather gear.
After a brief 20-minute rest stop, I was back on the road. My next obstacle was the steep climb up East Snyder Road near North Rockcliff Road. I have mentioned this hill in my other blogs about riding in the El Tour de Tucson, so I won't go into detail here, except to reiterate what I have said in the past - thankfully this climb is only a few hundred meters in length.
Once I had put the Snyder Road climb behind me, I had a short ride to Cowbell Crossing, where my wife, Kathleen, was cheering on passing cyclists around the 52-mile mark with a group of her coworkers and our dog, Boudicca. Kathleen had been watching my progress via my Garmin Live Track, although what she was seeing was a few seconds behind my actual location, so she barely had time to run to the side of the road with Boudicca and wave as I rode by. (I had thought about stopping, but their group was set up on the opposite side of the road so I chose not to stop. In hindsight, I probably should have at least stopped to say "Hi" to everyone.)
The route meandered west along Sunrise and Skyline Drives, then we climbed north on Oracle Road, which was a departure from previous years of climbing north on La Cañada Drive. This extended the length of the climb by a couple of miles, so I'm still not quite sure if I approve of the changed route.
Around the 60-mile point I ran into an interesting predicament; my Garmin Cycling GPS announced that it's battery was almost depleted and it was going to shut down. I had fully charged it the night before, and I had used my Garmin GPS on several 100-mile rides with no problems in the past, but this year I had more devices connected than in previous years. For example, my GPS was linked to my cell phone for Live Tracking (which was constantly updating my location for family members to watch), and my GPS was paired with a Garmin Varia Radar which helps me know when vehicles are approaching from behind. Fortunately I had planned ahead; my cell phone was already attached to a spare battery and was still fully charged, and I had brought a spare USB battery pack in case of emergency. With that in mind, I quickly pulled off to the side of the road, and then I attached a USB cable from the battery pack to my GPS. Once I had all of that connected, my GPS showed that it was charging and I hopped back on the road. (Note: By the end of my ride, the GPS was fully-charged once again and the battery pack was still half-charged.)
I was running low on water as I reached the 75-mile mark, so I pulled off the road with dozens of other cyclists. I quickly refilled my water bottles, and I also availed myself of the Girl Scout cookies which the volunteers had provided. (No Thin Mints, of course, because those would have melted in the heat.)
After a 15-minute break I was back on the road and heading west on Moore Road. Thankfully the worst of the climbs were behind me, and the next 10 to 15 miles were predominantly downhill, which was a welcome change after the miles of climbing earlier in the day.
As I rode by a family which was cheering on the riders, their boys were all holding out their hands for high fives; most riders passed them by without obliging, but I held out my hand and swatted them all - thankfully without losing my balance in the process.
As I have seen on other long rides, I encountered a variety of interesting bicycles throughout the day's ride; most cyclists were on road bikes, of course, but there were a lot of mountain bikes, several single-speeds, a bunch of tandems, a smattering of recumbent bikes, and a couple of complete novelties - someone was riding a an ElliptiGO for the full 106 miles, and another guy was riding a unicycle. (I have no idea what distance the unicyclist was riding, but it was before we had merged with the cyclists riding for 28 miles, so the unicyclist was riding at least 37 miles.)
The route headed down Avra Valley Road and then onto Silverbell Road, which I mentioned earlier was different than riding down the Frontage Road in previous years. There were a few things about this new route which were a welcome change; namely that the ride was nowhere near as boring as 20 miles of riding along a frontage road next to an Interstate. The biggest drawback was, however, that riding south meant facing into the wind - again.
Nevertheless, after an hour's ride south on Silverbell Road, the route turned east on Speedway, then shortly after that the route briefly turned onto Mission Road and then 22nd Street, thereby retracing the final miles of the route from previous years. After that we turned onto 6th Avenue for the final stretch to the finish.
|Turning onto 6th Avenue for the final mile. |
|Approaching the finish line. |
I crossed the finish line around 8½ hours after I had started, although my actual riding time was just shy of 8 hours. (The remaining half-hour was spent on my two stops and the several intersections where I had to wait for the street lights to change.) It should go without mentioning that I was exceedingly happy to be done with the ride, and after picking up my silver medal for my time category, I found a quiet place to stash my bicycle for a few minutes and I bought a slice of pizza with a bottle of Gatorade to celebrate my successful completion of another "Century Ride."
Looking over the miles that I rode, my ride began with 25 miles of riding uphill into the wind, and it ended with 20 miles of riding uphill into the wind; so just shy of 50% of the ride was spent riding uphill while enduring a steady wind in my face. That was subpar, to say the least, but there wasn't anything that could be done about it. I would estimate that the wind added at least an hour to my ride time, although it would probably be more accurate to say that it added 1½ hours to my ride time.
- Primary Statistics:
- Start Time: 6:58am
- Distance: 106 miles (105.6 miles on my GPS)
- Duration: 8 hours, 36 minutes (7 hours, 52 minutes on my GPS)
- Calories Burned: 3,074 kcal
- Altitude Gain: 4,259 feet
- Average Speed: 13.4 mph
- Peak Speed: 32.7 mph
- Average Cadence: 73.0 rpm
- Average: 72.1 F
- Minimum: 48.2 F
- Maximum: 86.0 F
- Heart Rate:
- Average: 147 bpm
- Maximum: 183 bpm
So, I went out for a late-night ride on my mountain bike last night... I left the house around midnight, and my route took me through some of the desert on the northeast side of Tucson.
FYI - It's a little unnerving when a whole pack of coyotes starts sounding off near you when you're by yourself with nothing but a single headlight to keep your bike on the narrow path. Just sayin'...
Perhaps a midnight ride wasn't my best idea.
PS - The coyote image is from Michael Frye, who has even more amazing artwork on his website.
As you may have seen from several of my earlier posts, I'm a big fan of recreational road cycling. Over the past few years I have ridden thousands of miles, and I have blogged about several of the "Century Rides" in which I have participated. During the average month I love climbing on my bicycle and riding through the surrounding desert three or four times per week.
Earlier this year I had shoulder surgery, and cycling became an important part of my recovery program. When my doctor and physical therapist both said that it was okay for me to start riding again, I spent several painful weeks working through the shoulder pain and slowly increasing my mileage, but it was ultimately worth the effort.
That being said, I also like to track my rides on the MapMyFitness website, and over time a playful competition developed between myself and a few of the other riders on some of my favorite desert courses. I am too old to be a serious competitor, so I was always a few minutes behind the fastest riders. But I usually rode more often than a few of the other riders, and therefore I was able to earn enough points to maintain my standing.
However, earlier this year someone moved to town who - for some inexplicable reason - decided that he needed to cheat.
On the one hand, this makes no sense to me: the MapMyFitness website is supposed to be about tracking your health, so why anyone would want to cheat seems beyond my comprehension.
On the other hand, some people like to compete with each other, as I mentioned earlier about myself and a few others on the MapMyFitness website. And where there's competition, some people like to win - regardless of what it takes to do so.
All of this leads me back to the cheater. What this guy likes to do is ride several of the courses with several cycling GPS devices and upload the results from all of his devices to the MapMyFitness website. I wasn't aware of this before, but the MapMyFitness website is poorly-designed in such a way that it allows people to do this, so it doesn't bother to check if a person is uploading multiple rides for the same course at the same time. This seems like a pretty trivial thing to check, so it was amazing to me just how easy the MapMyFitness website made cheating possible.
Needless to say, once this guy started uploading his fraudulent ride data, it became impossible to compete with him. I usually rode one of my favorite courses twice each time that I rode, and this guy would ride the same course two or three times. But since he was uploading the data from three GPS devices, the MapMyFitness website was giving him credit for six or nine rides. At that point it didn't matter how many times that I rode each course - there was no way that my honesty would be able to keep up with his dishonesty.
Now you would think that the folks at MapMyFitness would care about this, so a few months ago I decided to bring this to their attention. Here's what I sent them:
I have been a member of MapMyFitness for several years now, and an MVP member for some time. To be honest, from a workout tracking perspective, MapMyFitness has a lot of stiff competition from Strava, Ride With GPS, Garmin, etc. There is one reason why I chose MapMyFitness over its competitors - and that is for the friendly competition with other members. Over the past couple years, a few members have competed with me for Guru and Sprint King on a few of the MapMyFitness courses, and the opportunity to challenge or be challenged by someone else has created fun and attainable goals for me to strive for. This has been especially beneficial for me recently because I spent the latter part of last year and the early part of this year recuperating from surgery due to a series of cycling accidents last year, and the challenge of competition got me back on my bicycle again. As I mentioned earlier, this spirit of competition is specifically the reason why I chose MapMyFitness over its competition, and why I became an MVP member.
However, over the past few weeks I have realized just how easy it is for someone else to cheat, and as a result it has become apparent that honest behavior on my part will never achieve the numbers that someone who is being deliberately deceitful can attain. While I realize that MapMyFitness cannot actively police all of the activities that its users post, I think some things are easy enough to detect. Consider the following workouts from one person in question:
It is readily apparent that this user is uploading the same workout from three different Garmin devices, so each time that he completes a course his numbers are multiplied by three. With that in mind, on days when he has completed some of the courses in our area more than once, his numbers are simply unattainable by anyone who doesn't resort to his methods of dishonesty. Following my surgery I can barely make it 20-25 miles before I have to quit for the day, so there is no way that I could ride the 90-100 miles that I would need to ride in order to overcome this person's deceit.
As I mentioned earlier, I realize that MapMyFitness is more or less on an 'Honor System' and it cannot actively police all of the activities which are uploaded, but it would be easy to detect this specific user's behavior by simply checking if any user is in a course more than once at the same time; when that happens, do not count one of the courses.
Unfortunately, I also realize that my complaint will likely fall on deaf ears, and as a result I will probably cease using MapMyFitness in the near future. Since the one feature for which I chose your service is apparently suffering from unchecked fraudulent behavior, I feel that am left with little alternative. Thankfully, as I mentioned earlier, there are other choices available to me.
To be honest, I did not expect a response, so I was surprised to hear back from them. However, the banal substance of their response was ultimately worse than hearing nothing:
Kyle (Help & Support)
Thank you for writing in about this.
We have a system in place for identifying users that circumvent the rules on both challenges and courses. Sometimes, these are missed and certain users are able to manipulate the system, but we actively monitor and check leaderboards and challenges for cheating. We appreciate you reporting this to us and I have passed this along to the appropriate team.
Cheating participants will not be awarded prizes.
Let me know if you have any additional questions or concerns
It may sound like I'm being overly harsh to what seems like a polite response, but the truth is - the scammer rocketed to the top of the leaderboard on several courses, and MapMyFitness didn't do anything about it. The year is barely half over, and this fraudster has already amassed scores which cannot possibly be attained by anyone who refuses to stoop to his level of deception.
So I used to look forward to the friendly competition on the MapMyFitness website, but now that's something of an impossibility. No matter what any honest person does, they simply cannot compete with this schmuck. It's amazing how all it takes as one jerk to ruin something.
So, today's ride through Saguaro National Park was a little warm...
Of course, the highest temperatures were when I was climbing Riparian Ridge... That was no fun at all, believe me.
I saw a four-foot rattlesnake in the bicycle lane during one of my cycling laps around Saguaro National Park today, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about that.
On the one hand, he's not riding a bicycle; but on the other hand, he's not in a motorized vehicle.
I think he gets by on a technicality.
I was watching a video about last year's 104-mile El Tour de Tucson cycling event, when they interviewed the guy in this photo...
This cyclist is 86 years old, and he was riding the full 104 miles as he has done every year for the past 33 years.
I have officially lost every opportunity for whining about how hard that ride was for me...
PS - Bonus points for this guy's cycling jersey from the 160-mile Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day.
I posted the following to Facebook, but I thought that it would be good to repost here...
How I spent my Saturday - riding 104 miles around the city of Tucson with 9,000 other people from around the world. This year I abandoned my usual habit of riding for time and I tried to simply have fun with it. Sure, it took me a lot longer than last year, but this year I didn't want to sell my bike when I was done...
2015 El Tour de Tucson
A year has passed since my last adventure riding in the El Tour de Tucson, so it was time for this year's ride. 2015 marked the 33rd anniversary of this annual event, and once again I signed up to ride the full 104 miles. If I was going to subtitle this years ride, I would call it "The Ride Which Almost Wasn't," but I'll explain what I mean by that a little later.
This year there were a couple of big differences from my ride last year, the biggest of which was that I rode with my friend Kevin, with whom I had recently ridden the 100-mile Cool Breeze Century. Kevin and I had been discussing the ride over the past few weeks, and I have been riding with a different philosophy - ride to have fun.
This may sound strange, but for the longest time I had been hating my rides. Seriously - I hated all of them. Of course, that is an untenable situation for someone who wants to be a recreational cyclist, so I had to figure out what was wrong with the way that I was riding. After some self-examination, I determined that my problem was simply that I was always racing the clock on each ride, and I was always trying to outdo my previous time. So a couple of months ago I decided to stop racing the clock, and I discovered that I was enjoying [sic] my rides a little more.
With that in mind, Kevin and I agreed to ride at a comfortable pace, and to stop for more of the Support and Gear (SAG) stops along the way. That being said, the El Tour de Tucson is an extremely well-supported ride with SAG stops every 5 or 6 miles, so we had plenty of opportunities to rest and refuel.
One of the bright spots about this year's weather was that it promised to be warmer than last year, which was literally freezing before the race started.
The 104-mile race starts at 7:00am, but seeing as how neither Kevin nor I wanted to race the clock, we agreed to meet at the starting point at 6:15am. (That was a whole lot better than last year when I got in line around 5:00am.) I woke up early, double-checked my pre-race cycling checklist, packed the last of my gear into the car, and headed across town to meet Kevin. As I drove across town I could see that the weather seemed to be pretty close to predictions, which meant that I wasn't going to freeze this year. (That was great news.)
I made it across town in short order, and I pulled into the parking lot at the Tucson Convention Center (TCC) shortly after 6:00am. TCC is near the starting line and has ample parking for lots of participants, so several cyclists were getting their gear ready as I parked and started to prep my gear for the day. I had loaded all of my equipment onto my bicycle, and as I was putting on the last of my cycling clothing I made a horrific discovery: I was missing my cycling helmet. (This is why I referred to this day's race as "The Ride Which Almost Wasn't.")
Wearing a helmet is always a good idea, but in this specific instance it was imperative; the race mandates that all riders wear a helmet in order to participate. I mulled over my options, and I did a quick estimate to determine how long it would take me to drive home, pick up my helmet, and drive back. I might have been able to get home and back by the 7:00am start time, but as I was deliberating what to do, Kevin called me. I explained the situation, and after he had a good laugh at my expense, Kevin said that he could wait for me to get back before starting. I mentioned that the timing chips on our race placards do not start until we physically cross the start line, so starting a few minutes late might not be that big of a deal.
However, as the two of us talked, I saw that Kathleen was trying to call me, so I put Kevin on hold and answered Kathleen's incoming call. She found my helmet lying on the counter, and she was asking if she should bring it to me. Thankfully Kathleen already needed to be on that side of Tucson around 7:00am, so the two of us set up a place to meet somewhere near the start line. Once Kathleen and I hung up, I switched back to my call with Kevin, and I explained the arrangements to him. Kevin said that he would wait for me near the start line for me, then I locked up my car and pedaled over to Kevin's location.
After Kevin and I met, the two of us rode over to the place where Kathleen and I had agreed to meet, and she arrived around 6:40am. She quickly handed off my helmet, (see the following photo), then Kathleen headed off to her appointment while Kevin and I got in line for the race. (Note: I'm wearing a lot of cold weather gear in the following photo, but as the day grew warmer I slowly removed all of my cold weather gear.)
It was already 6:45am by the time that Kevin and I got in line, so we were understandably pretty far in the back. But still, neither Kevin nor I wanted to race, so our place in line meant little to either of us.
An unintended bonus from my earlier debacle meant that Kevin and I didn't have long to wait when we got back in line. (Which was a good thing since the temperature had dropped to 39 degrees.) After everyone had sung the National Anthem and a few kind words were spoken by the event dignitaries, the ride officially began at 7:00am. It took several minutes for the back of the line to start moving, but once we began to roll everything progressed in an orderly fashion, and we were on our way.
Here's a time-lapse video from the Arizona Daily Star of the race start; Kevin and I are in there somewhere... (We're on the far side of the street at 1:13, but good luck finding us!)
A little over a half-hour into the ride we hit our first adventure of the day - crossing the Santa Cruz River, which was thankfully dry this year. Nevertheless, it's always amusing to see hundreds of cyclists hand-carrying their bicycles across the dry riverbed. Although one of the best parts of this experience it is always the Mariachi band on the far side of the river.
Kevin and I rode through southeast Tucson along with the thousands of other cyclists who were participating in the 104-mile course, and yet we were able to ride close enough together to carry on a conversation as pedaled our way through the first several miles of the race. We met a lot of interesting people along the way, too. One of my favorites was a nice guy from the FBI who was riding his first century ride; we met up with him on the Houghton Road climb and East Escalante Road, (which are the last parts of a difficult climb to the highest point of elevation and we dropped him).
Thankfully I train on the east side of town all the time, so I ride Houghton Road and East Escalante Road several times a year. Another great part about hitting the highest point of the ride is that we get to ride downhill for several miles on Freeman Road.
About 3½ hours into our trek we reached the half-way point of the ride, which is also the second river crossing. We also took this as an opportunity for a short break, so we rested up, refilled our water bottles, and ate a few snacks. After that, we were back on our bicycles.
The next obstacle on our ride was the steepest climb of the day - East Snyder Road near North Rockcliff Road. Although it's the steepest part of the course, it is also thankfully one of the shortest climbs - perhaps only 200 meters or so. (But still, every year dozens of riders have to walk their bicycles up the hill. Neither Kevin nor me, though. Hehe.)
There's not much to say about the next couple hours of riding; we took advantage of a few rest stops, one of which was serving Eegee's frozen drinks. (Those were totally worth stopping for.) Once again - I hated the ride up La Cañada Drive, though.
When we were around 10 miles or so from the end, Kevin asked me how close we were to my time from last year, to which I replied, "Last year I had already finished the ride an hour and a half ago." (That seemed somewhat demoralizing for Kevin.) Nevertheless after 8¼ hours we rode across the finish line, and my second El Tour de Tucson was over.
| || |
|Kevin and I riding towards the finish line. |
- Primary Statistics:
- Start Time: 7:02am
- Distance: 104 miles (103.5 miles on my GPS)
- Duration: 8 hours, 17 minutes (6 hours, 58 minutes on my GPS)
- Calories Burned: 3,502 kcal
- Altitude Gain: 3,209 feet
- Average Speed: 14.8 mph
- Peak Speed: 31.8 mph
- Average Cadence: 78.0 rpm
- Average: 65.6 F
- Minimum: 35.6 F
- Maximum: 95.0 F
- Heart Rate:
- Average: 143 bpm
- Maximum: 175 bpm
When I arrived home, I posted the following synopsis to Facebook: "How I spent my Saturday - riding 104 miles around the city of Tucson with 9,000 other people from around the world. This year I abandoned my usual habit of riding for time and I tried to simply have fun with it. Sure, it took me a lot longer than last year, but this year I didn't want to sell my bike when I was done... "
UPDATE: A few months after the ride, one of our local television stations put together the following video. There's a bit too much advertising from several of the corporate sponsors, but apart from that it gives a good overview of the event.
My friend and fellow cycling enthusiast Keith shared the following security camera footage from the good folks at Woodinville Bicycle which captures the hilarious antics of a would-be thief attempting to steal a bicycle... I think we have a future Darwin Award recipient in the making.
Today I completed the Cool Breeze Century in Ventura, CA, which was organized by the Channel Islands Bicycle Club (CIBC). This century ride was billed by the CIBC as: "102 miles with about 4000 feet of climb - moderately challenging, [and] excellent for 1st time centurions." This was my fourth century ride within the past nine months, and despite its advertised status as an excellent ride for "first-time century riders," I think it was one of the more-difficult long distance rides that I have done.
I participated in this century ride with my good friend Kevin, who lives in the Los Angeles area. Kevin told me a few weeks ago that he had signed up for this ride, and at the last minute I invited myself along. Since I live in Arizona, however, this meant that I had to endure a ten-hour drive through the desert to LA on the day before the ride. Nevertheless I met up with Kevin in Ventura on the night before the ride, and we put together our plans for the next day.
We both got up early as planned, and I drove the two of us to the starting point near the Ventura Unified School District offices, where we arrived around 6:15am. (We were one of the last cars to get a great spot in the main parking lot.) We quickly pulled into a parking space, and then Kevin and I put together the last of our things for the day's ride. After a few minutes of deciding what to bring and what to leave, we headed off toward the starting line around 6:30am. In keeping with the spirit of this ride as a "non-race event," there was very little fanfare at the starting line - we simply rode past a set of banners with dozens of other cyclists and we were off.
|Prepping the last of our gear for the day. |
|Last-minute selfie before heading out. |
|Approaching the starting line. |
I should point out before I go any further that I immediately appreciated how well-marked the route was throughout the day; there were route signs everywhere for the duration of the ride. (This was a great improvement over some other rides where you periodically wondered if you had accidentally left the route.) All of the route signs were emblazoned with color-coded arrows which matched the cue sheet that cyclists were given when they registered, so as long as cyclists followed the correctly-colored arrows throughout the day, they were going the right way. One discrepancy that Kevin and I noticed was that the cue sheet which we had been given only listed 97 miles for the length, which was five miles shorter than the 102 miles which was advertised for the ride. I told Kevin not to worry - I had my Garmin GPS with me, and we could use it to verify the ride length when the time came.
|One of the many color-coded route signs |
which were scattered throughout the route.
For the first 2.5 miles our route ran south along highway 33 in Ventura, but soon after that we were riding west along the beach trail by the ocean, which was great; this section of the course was what I thought a ride through California should be.
|Panorama of the ocean as we rode along the beach. |
(Note Rincon Island in the background.)
We were nine miles into the ride and cruising nicely along the beach when I suddenly heard a "Klank! Klank! Klank!" from immediately behind me. My initial thought was that something had fallen off my bicycle, but then I realized that the sound was coming from my rear wheel. I pulled to a stop, and after a quick examination I determined that my bike had broken a spoke. I have no idea how it happened; I didn't ride over anything like a branch which could get tangled up in my spokes - apparently it just snapped. It took me a few minutes of wrangling to bend the broken spoke into a position which would allow me to extricate it from my wheel, but I eventually managed to wrench it out and we quickly got back on the road. (Although I could hear the spoke nipple rattling around inside my rim for the rest of the ride.)
|Kevin and I passing a photographer at 7:30am. |
(Note that this single photo represents the only
time that we saw photographer during the ride.)
We were a little over an hour and 15 miles into the ride when we reached our first stop of the day, which was at Rincon Beach Park. After a quick ten-minute break to refill our water bottles, Kevin and I got back on the road.
|Kevin posing behind my bike. |
|Displaying my usual "hang ten" pose. |
Our route took us north and inland as we left Rincon Beach Park, which kept us away from the water for the next eight miles or so. Over the next mile or so we faced our first climbs of the day, which were relatively short and nothing too difficult to worry about. After a few climbs and descents, we were mostly riding downhill as we rode to the west for the next few miles.
That being said, before the ride I studied the profile on the Ride with GPS website, which the ride organizers were kind enough to share online. With that in mind, I knew that we were rapidly approaching the most-difficult climbs for the day. Apparently I was not the only cyclist to have studied the course in advance, because shortly after we passed the 25-mile mark we faced the first serious climb and several cyclists loudly remarked, "Oh - this is the hill."
|Route Map and Elevation Profile for the Century Ride. |
I'll be honest - this climb was moderately difficult, and thankfully it only lasted for a couple of miles or so. At one point or other, both Kevin's and my bicycles threw their chains when shifting from the large chain ring to the small chain ring, which was exceedingly frustrating. Thankfully each of us was wearing black shorts for the ride, because black shorts always afford a great place to wipe off all the bicycle grease from your hands once you have reseated your chain. (See #14 and #8 and in The Rules.) I should mention that one of the times when Kevin's bike threw its chain during a climb, Kevin did a masterful job of avoiding having to fall down with the bike. Many other people (including me) probably wouldn't have been able to prevent the fall, and several nearby riders remarked, "Nice save!"
After we had reached the summit for this set of climbs, we were treated to three miles or so of downhill riding, which was a great change of pace. Unfortunately, I knew that these few moments of physical respite would be brief; having studied the ride profile, I knew that the next part of the course was going to be the most-difficult segment of the ride.
One we had descended back to sea level and rode west along the ocean for a half-mile or so, we turned inland again and began a one-mile climb to the north and our second stop of the day at the 31-mile point around 9:00am in Manning Park. This stop is actually situated during the difficult part of the ride, so it's well-located for cyclists because it gives them a moment to rest up before tackling the really challenging climbs ahead.
|Scores of cyclists in Manning Park. |
|Resting my bike near the park fence. |
|Refueling and bicycle maintenance stations. |
While Kevin and I were taking a break, we both refilled our water bottles, and I quickly ate a half a banana (for the potassium), a half-sandwich (for the carbs and protein), and a cookie (for the sugar). After a little over a half hour, we were sufficiently rested and refueled, so we climbed back on our bicycles and rode off to the north and into the toughest part of the course.
For the next two miles we faced steep climbs which ascended several hundred feet into the hills above Santa Barbara, where we slogged our way through neighborhoods filled with luxurious mansions overlooking the city. I will freely admit, the climbs were often steep, and they seemed to keep going on forever. We turned west as we continued to climb, and for the next eight miles it seemed that whenever we thought that we were finally beginning our descent we would round a corner and discover another climb was waiting for us.
|This future site of somebody's mansion |
will have an awesome view.
|Posing for a useless photo. |
|Dozens of narrow, hairpin turns during the climbs. |
I wear a heart rate monitor while I ride which is paired with my Garmin GPS, and occasionally it beeps at me when my heart rate is too high; e.g. over 170bpm. Usually I ignore it, because it's generally just a momentary spike in my pulse during a difficult moment or two, so eventually the beeping will go away on its own. But during this part of the ride it began beeping at me, and it wouldn't stop. After a few minutes I decided that it was best not to ignore it, so I told Kevin that I needed to pull over for a couple of minutes. As we pulled to the side of the road, my GPS showed that my hear rate was a little over 170bpm, but after five minutes' rest it came back down to 140bpm and we got back on the road. One other thing, I found it a little difficult to breathe during a few of the climbs, which I attributed to a lack of proper time to acclimate before starting this ride. (I had only arrived the day before, and I'm used to riding at an altitude that is 3,000 feet higher. When I rode in the Seattle to Portland ride a few weeks ago, I had a week to acclimate and enough time to get in a training ride.)
There is an old adage which states, "All Good Things Must Come to an End," and thankfully the same can be said about bad things. With that in mind, somewhere before we hit the 40-mile mark we had finally made it through the truly-difficult sections of the ride and we began our descent into Goleta. We encountered small climbs here and there over the next ten miles or so, but nothing as difficult as the major climbs which we had just completed. As we passed the 50-mile point of the ride, both Kevin and I had to suffer through some lower leg cramps, but nothing unbearable.
We pulled into our next stop at Stow Grove Park around 11:30am, which represented the mid-way point for the ride at 51-miles. Kevin and I refilled our water bottles, then we headed over to the dining area to grab some lunch. Once again I had a half-sandwich (for carbs and protein), a half a banana (for potassium), and few cookies (for sugar).
|Resting my bike against a railing. |
|Picking up lunch. |
|Simple fare for simple minds. |
|Cookies and fruit!!! |
|More cookies!!! |
During lunch Kevin and I were seated across a table from three ladies, and I made several jokes with everyone about classic songs that I had been rewriting in my head during the day's ride:
- Sung to the tune of "Safety Dance":
"We can pass if you want to,
We can leave your friends behind.
'Cause your friends can't climb, and if they can't climb -
Well they're no friends of mine."
- Sung to the tune of "Hotel California":
"Welcome to the Cool Breeze California,
Such a tiring race, such a grueling pace.
You'll question your mind at the Cool Breeze California:
I'm no competitor; why'd I register?"
- Sung to the tune of "Margaritaville":
"Climbing the hills again in California,
Wondering why I'm still here at all.
Some people say that there's a friend I can blame,
But I know - it's my own dang fault."
My re-written version of "Margaritaville" drew an especially large chuckle from everyone, because I followed that up by mentioning how the pain of endurance riding passes over time, and then next thing you know you're inviting people along with you for your next excursion by saying things like, "Hey - you should sign up for this century ride with me; it's going to be lots of fun." At which point two of the ladies quickly turned and pointed at the other member of their party, who responded, "Yup - I'm the guilty one in our group."
After a 50-minute break Kevin and I headed back to our bicycles. As we prepped our gear for the next half of the ride, I met a cyclist who was wearing a jersey from the Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) randonneuring ride, which is a 1200-kilometer (≈745-mile) endurance ride in France. (Which - by way of coincidence - was starting this same weekend.) The two of us chatted for a couple of minutes, and he admitted that he had ridden the PBP four times, but he was now too old to survive riding 250 miles a day for three days (with only four hours of sleep per day). I admitted that I was probably never young enough to have survived the ride.
As we left Stow Grove Park, our route had us backtrack to the east for three miles or so before zig-zagging for the next few miles in a mostly-southern direction through Hope Ranch towards the ocean.
|The view of the ocean from the southern end of Hope Ranch. |
For the next three or four miles we rode eastward and parallel to the beach, although much of that riding was through residential areas so we only saw the water occasionally. (That being said, a lot of the mansions which we were riding past were pretty amazing; it must be nice to be that rich, but couldn't that opulent wealth be better spent? [Deep sigh.])
As we rode into downtown Santa Barbara, we turned toward the ocean again, and we cycled along the water past a series of beaches, parks, and marinas. As we passed the entrance to Santa Barbara Harbor, Kevin suddenly had a flat. The two of us worked on the flat, and we managed to get it sorted out in a few minutes. (I was obviously taking photos at the time, but I actually helped Kevin fix his flat. Seriously. I really did. I promise.)
|Santa Barbara Harbor was pretty nice. |
|Fixing a flat. No fun. |
|The beach near Santa Barbara Harbor and Stearns Wharf. |
After we got back on the road, we passed the ladies with whom we had met during lunch earlier in the day. As we pulled up to a stoplight, I mentioned that we had stopped to fix a flat, and I asked why they hadn't stopped to help us out; to which one of them replied humorously that it was every man and woman for themselves. As we approached another stoplight a short time later, some @#$% motorist unnecessarily blocked the bicycle lane even though the light was green, thereby causing all of us cyclists to quickly pull to a stop in order to avoid an accident. One of the ladies issued an appropriate expletive at the clueless driver, and I remarked that I completely agreed with her assessment of the situation. She replied by asking if I had a song in mind which expressed that sentiment, and I said that I could put anything to music - even that.
We rode east along the water for another three miles before turning inland to the north. After another two miles of riding and a short climb we arrived back at Manning Park around 2:30pm. This park had been our second stop of the day, and I thought that it was pretty ingenious that the ride's organizers had managed to arrange the ride in order as to recycle some of the stops. (Great logistics.) We refilled our water bottles and ate a few snacks, and then Kevin took advantage of the bicycle repair facilities to make sure that his tube repair was sufficient for continuing the ride. (The guy was able to discover a couple of places where the bead for Kevin's tire had not been seated completely, and he was able to fix that.)
|Back at Manning Park. |
|Pausing to refuel for the next segment of the ride. |
|Kevin having his bike checked out. |
(That's just good sense.)
We got back on the road after the bike technician had signed off on Kevin's bike, where we continued to ride east and parallel to the beach for several miles. We started our final climb somewhere around the 80-mile mark, but to be honest it wasn't much of a climb. That being said, my bicycle decided to throw it's @#$% chain again, so we had to stop for me to fix it again.
|The accumulated filth on my fingers. |
(And this was after wiping them off on my shorts.)
Nevertheless, my chain was an easy fix, and we were quickly back on the road. After a couple of miles we ran into a brief moment of confusion with a small gaggle of cyclists about whether our route really meant to take us onto the highway, which it did. Once we had ridden a few hundred meters, we had arrived back at Rincon Beach Park around 3:50pm, which was our final stop for the day at mile 82. (You may recall that Rincon Beach Park had been our first stop of the day, so once again the ride's organizers had managed to recycle one of the stops.)
|The view from Rincon Beach Park. |
|Good to know. |
The main claim to fame for riders who make it to the final stop at Rincon Beach Park is - popsicles. I had heard about this feature before we started the ride, and I must admit - an ice-cold popsicle tastes pretty good after a long day of cycling.
|Popsicle Power! |
|Posing with our popsicles. |
After a 25-minute stop to rest and recharge, Kevin and I climbed back on our bicycles for the last segment of the ride. The next 12 miles had us riding along the beach again, which was great. At some point about ten miles from the end of the ride I changed cycling techniques so that I was only pulling up on the pedals. I do this occasionally in order to allow some of the muscles in my lower legs a brief respite from my normal riding, but on this occasion my change in technique was met with a sudden and sharp cramp in my inner right thigh. This was painful enough for me to loudly and angrily remark, "Oh crap!", and I drifted off to the right side of the bike lane as I desperately tried to stretch out the affected muscles while still riding. Kevin overhead my exclamation and asked if everything was okay, and I responded that I would be fine in a moment or two. I eventually managed to work my way through the pain, but still... that really hurt.
Shortly after we hit the 94-mile point we turned northward into Ventura as we retraced the 2.5-mile route which had started the day's ride. As we approached the Ventura Unified School District offices where the finish line was located, a cycling couple quickly pulled off the bike path several hundred meters from the end of the route. As Kevin and I rode past I remarked, "You can't quit now!" However, after Kevin and I had ridden few hundred meters further, my Garmin GPS showed that we were going to reach the finish line after having ridden only 97 miles, so I told Kevin that we needed to pull to the side.
I mentioned that if we crossed the finish line, we weren't going to make 100 miles; however, we both wanted to officially claim this as a "Century Ride," which means that we needed to add three miles to the length. I proposed that we create a quick loop through Ventura and Kevin agreed, so we bypassed the finish line and headed off into areas of Ventura which weren't on the scheduled route. After a little over a mile we merged back onto the official course, and as we headed toward the finish line I remarked that we were still going to be short by a little less than half a mile, so we bypassed the finish line and rode off in a different direction. As we approached the point where I wanted us to turn around, we bumped into the cycling couple which we had seen earlier, and I remarked to them, "Oh - now I get it; you two wanted your official century ride, too!" They both laughed and said that yes - that's why they had bypassed the finish line, too.
As Kevin and I rode back toward the finish line, I could see that we were just going to make it, and as we pulled to a stop past the finish line my GPS showed that we had just crossed the century mark.
|One hundred miles! |
Once we had crossed the finish line, we rode over to my car, where we loaded all of our combined gear into the back and locked up our bikes on the bike carrier.
|Post-ride selfie before heading home. |
After we had all of our things stowed in the car, Kevin and I dropped by the registration area to take advantage of the dinner which was provided, then the two of us hopped in the car and drove back to Kevin's house for the night.
- Primary Statistics:
- Start Time: 6:35am
- Distance: 100 miles
- Duration: 7:09:34
- Calories Burned: 3,892 kcal
- Altitude Gain: 4,724 feet
- Average Speed: 14.0 mph
- Peak Speed: 30.3 mph
- Average Cadence: 80.0 rpm
- Average: 73.6 F
- Minimum: 55.4 F
- Maximum: 104.0 F
(This is according to my GPS, but I find that hard to believe.)
- Heart Rate:
- Average: 148 bpm
- Maximum: 181 bpm
Epilogue and Miscellaneous Parting Thoughts
As I had done for my Seattle to Portland ride notes, I had jotted several things down which didn't necessarily apply to any part of the ride, so I thought that I would add a special section to this blog in order to share them.
- Based on advertising, I thought this ride was going to be peaceful cruise along the water with the cool breeze at our backs, but it was seldom like that. I realized from looking at the ride profile that the climbs were going to take us inland for several miles so I expected that, but what was unexpected (and somewhat disappointing) was that we sometimes rode parallel to the ocean for several miles without actually being able to see the water.
- We rode through Santa Barbara for quite a while, yet I never saw Gus or Shawn. But then again, I guess that they live in San Francisco now. (Inside joke.)
- It was rather warm during parts of the ride; as a result, several of the locals and some others complained, but the temperature was not bad for me.
- We completed this ride at a considerably slower pace than my normal rides, and somewhat slower than my previous century rides. But Kevin and I had agreed to take this ride at a comfortable pace; I specifically did not want to feel like I was racing a clock (which I normally do), and as a result the ride was more enjoyable [sic] than normal.
- Despite the advertised length of 102 miles with 4,000 feet of climb, the Ride with GPS website lists the length of this ride at 97 miles with a little over 5,000 feet of climb. That being said, my GPS agreed that the length of the ride was 97 miles, although my GPS said that the final altitude gain was closer to 4,700 feet. In either case, I think the CIBC guys were pretty far off.
- The fact that almost all of the difficult climbs were relegated to one segment of the course was a mixed blessing; it was nice to ride for dozens of miles over long, flat stretches of road, but the hours of actual climbing were exceptionally arduous since the bulk of the elevation gains were all in one small segment.
- As I mentioned in the notes, my bike threw its chain a few times during this ride. However, I managed to catch it quickly each time, so I avoided wiping out. After some experimentation, I determined that the problem seems to be when I am shifting chain rings at a high RPM; when I consciously slowed my cadence I was able to avoid throwing my chain. (But still - my bicycle should not be throwing the chain like that.)
- I had overlooked one unfortunate side effect of driving ten hours on the day before the ride: I had predominately used my right arm while driving cross country, and it was hurting by the time that I arrived in Ventura. Even though I took some Advil and tried to relax my arm during the night before the ride, I could still feel my right arm hurting during the ride as a direct result of the previous day's drive.
- I purchased a new saddle a couple of weeks before this ride, and I had not completely broken it in; so my derriere was understandably a little sore by the end of the ride. It was fine by the next day as I drove home, but still - I can honestly say that this ride was literally a pain in the... butt.