Sunday, April 29, 2012

Wildflower Century (4/29/12)

Wildflower Century with a bit of Wildcat

Chico Wildflower Century seems to be a popular event amongst cyclists.  So, I signed up along to do the century.  Seemed like a nice area.  I have heard it was a fun event.  Well, I finished and not sure I would do the event again.  Some nice parts but overall but not the best ride I have been on.  Perhaps the worst organized event I have participated in.   

The evening before 

During check in, Craig asked the guy if they had a cue sheet.  The guy looked genuinely confused as to what Craig meant.  Do you have a route sheet?  The bandana in your swag bag has a map on it.  This was nice but not the most convenient thing to be riding around with.  He later tells us where we can get maps on paper.  Still not route sheets.  Kind of odd to not have a route sheet on an organized ride.  But, they said the roads were well marked.

We then go look at the map of the Wildflower Century and Wildcat 125 route.  We had been told that the last part of the century is flat, flat, flat.  And, often times, windy.  I am not a flat rider.  We heard some people cut out the flat part at the end but we wanted to ride a century still.  This year, they had a Wildcat 125 mile option.  Craig was not too interested in riding 125 miles.  But, we checked out where the route went.  Look to be a nice loop with some good climbing.  So, we thought we can maybe do the extra Wildcat Loop and then cut out the flat part at the end and still end up with a little over 100 miles.  Sounded like a good plan. . . .

The Ride

Craig and I get to the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds sometime after 6 a.m.  We get our bikes together and off we go, ready for a fun day of riding.  The weather seems rather nice and sunny!   Off we go.  

Horrid Humboldt Road

We ride a few miles and then we cross this street and start riding on Humbolt Road.  The road is really rough with tons of potholes.  This is a rather annoying road to be riding on.  We bounce away on this rough road and then I notice that we are going uphill.  The grade is not steep but it is definitely not fun to be riding on this road, much less climbing on such a poor quality road.  And, there are all kinds of people around cutting this way and that way in front and around me.  I am getting mighty irritated.  What a horrible start to this ride!

At mile 7 or so, I reach the top.  I fly down a more smoother road.  We loop back around to where we had originally crossed the road.  I see a number of cyclists who opted to just turn right rather than ride up Humbolt Road.  Wish I had known what a crappy road that was.  I would have just turned and avoided the stupid climb. 

Honey Run Road

After that, we ride along for a bit.  Craig comments as to how the roads are not the smoothest.  Not nearly as bad as Humbodlt Road but a little rough in some spots.  We ride along and get into some nicer looking sections. 

We eventually get to Honey Run Road.  We start riding along.  It is pretty crowded so we ride mostly to the left of the road in order to pass some of the slower folks.  We are in a crowd at one point and this lady is pushing herself up the middle of the road and crowd saying loudly, in a snarky tone, "on your left, on your left!!" and has the demeanor that she is some hot shot cyclists (which she does not look like one).  A small group of us pass her to her left, much more quieter than she does.  At some point, Craig shifts a little to the right and the lady yells at him "hey, you're cutting me off!"   Craig tells her something about she should not be crossing tires and she gives him some attitude.  I scurry along away from crazy lady and hope Craig does not get into it too much with crazy lady.  

We easily get away from crazy lady and continue riding along.  The grade starts increasing a bit and Craig disappears into the crowd ahead of me.  I continue trekking my way up the hill.  Along the way, I see some poor lady laying on the side of the road (tended by a couple other folks).  She seems to be okay.  But, shortly later, an emergency vehicle and ambulance come down the hill.  Mind you, this road is pretty narrow and filled with cyclists so a bit tricky to slide over for a couple emergency vehicles to come down.

This climb is pretty nice though.  Nice and shaded with lovely trees but it does go on for a bit.  My friend Kallie has talked about how this hill got her the first time she tried riding this (back before she got stronger on hills).  Now, as I am climbing on the hill, I could see how this hill is a bit of a challenge.  I like hills though so liking it.  Though, there are a lot of people around so I have to watch the people around me.  A lot just like to cut across in front of you in a not so safe, slightly careless manner.

I observe one guy riding so far to the left that he falls over into the ditch and his bike nearly went flying down the side of the hill.  Shortly later, I see a lady riding to the far right and her bike slides a little on some gravel and she has to stop before she falls.  I decide I should ride closer to the middle.  The edges seem dangerous!

I eventually get to the top, where Craig is waiting for me.  Shortly pass this is the rest stop.  We hit that up.  We snack a little (the food choices are okay, not great).  But, I do get to drink a bottle of Coke, the only Coke I would have on this ride.

From Paradise to Stirling City

After the rest stop, we ride through Paradise.  We hit the Wildflower/Wildcat split.  We turn left to go onto the Wildcat route.   As we ride along, it is a lot less crowded.  Much more peaceful.  Nice smoother roads too.  Craig jokes that we must no longer be in the same county as these roads are much nicer.  The scenery is just beautiful.  Lovely trees all around us.  We really enjoy this ride now.

We hit some good climbs too.  I had looked the evening before and saw it is nearly 2000 feet of climbing from Paradise to Stirling City.  Both Craig and I are climbing pretty well here.  We just plug along, enjoying ourselves.  I think we are both glad we opted to do the Wildcat loop rather than stick to the regular century route. 

We eventually arrive to Stirling City and stop at the rest stop for a bit.  We refill on water.  They have little by way of snack choices but that's okay.  I think the next stop should be lunch.

On the way out of this rest stop, I have a stupid clipless fall and scrape my knee.  Craig then has some issues with his front brakes so we ride back so he can fix it.  Good thing he noticed before we started descending.

Stirling City to the Bottom of Table Mountain

We leave Stirling City and enjoy some super fun descents hitting around 40mph.  Whee!  We rock and roll back down and pass Paradise.  As we hit around mile 70ish, both of us are starting to feel ready for lunch.  It is also starting to get a little warm out.  But, we trek along thinking lunch should be at the next rest stop.

We come out of the forest looking areas and into the countryside.  Craig does not like this so much but I still think it's nice out.  We pass what I believe to be Table Mountain.  I am feeling hungry.  These miles seem to be taking forever.  Where is the rest stop?!  We keep riding, riding, riding.  The roads are also not the smoothest to ride on.  I sometimes cannot tell whether it is easier to ride in the bike lane or just on the road.  Both surfaces are equally bad.  Craig says we are spoiled back at home with nicely paved roads.  These roads are pretty cruddy! 

Finally, close to mile 80ish, we reach this park near the bottom of Table Mountain.  And, it is NOT the lunch stop!  I remember people saying that you have lunch and then climb Table Mountain.  We are pretty disappointed that this is not a lunch stop.  And, the pastries they have here have been sitting out in the sun far too long.   I find some almonds to munch on.  The drinks are all warm too.  There are no power drinks either (i.e. Gatorade).  I just want to get going but Craig is starting to bonk a bit.  We share some fruit drink and then get back on our bikes.

Table Mountain

We head to Table Mountain.  My friend had told me they have cold coke at the top of this climb.  I am really looking forward to it.  I need some Coke.  My legs are starting to get tired and the heat is not helping.

We hit the hill.  I eat my one and only GU, which I had saved for the last climb.   And, we climb away.  It is warm but I am thinking this is not nearly as bad as climbing Mix Canyon in the heat last Saturday.  So, I just pedal away up the hill.

Partway up the hill, I see this girl starting to walk her bike.  She had made such a show in passing me at the bottom of the hill, I feel a little pleased that I am climbing better than her.  =P  No way am I going to walk up this hill! 

At one point, I see Craig stop.  I pass him and ask if he's okay.  He seems rather spent.  Poor guy.  I climb a little more and see Kane & Tammy with their tandem. They are standing under the shade of a tree.  They look spent too.  I ride a little further and see a guy with his son sitting in the shade of another tree.  Their bikes are on the other side of the road.  I continue on thinking of the Coke at the top of the hill.  It should not be too much longer.

I finally make it to the top.  Craig is not too far behind me.  This rest stop looks rather barren.  There is hardly anything here.  I see empty bottles of Coke.  I ask the guy if there is any Coke left, he says there are out.  I am not pleased.  He does find me some root beer and gives me a bottle.  I am a bit cranky since I am in need of a Coke fix.  Craig seems frustrated too as he wants some real food and probably a Coke as well.

All the cyclists are tired and probably cranky.  It is a bit annoying that those of us here are those that opted to go for the longer route.  We are the people who need the support but these rest stops are not doing a very good job in supporting us.  And, now that the day is getting warmer, everyone looks rather spent. 

Down Table Mountain to the Worst Rest Stop Ever!

We continue on our way.   We hit some rollers before we finally hit the real descent down Table Mountain.  The descent is rather fun.  Went flying down it and I am glad I am less anxious cornering now (had gotten a bit anxious on turns after my bike crash in November but I seem to have gotten mostly over that anxiety).  We fly down to what has to be the lunch rest stop.  We are nearly 90 miles into the ride.  There must be lunch at this next rest stop. . . .

We go into a rather barren rest stop.  There are some sad looking sandwiches that have been sitting out a bit too long.  I eat some of one.  Craig does not like mayo so does not eat a sandwich (all of them have mayo on them).   The volunteers are starting to pack things up. 

I go to where the drinks used to be and see a bottle of juice of some sort, a V8 can, and a cup.  I ask the lady is this all you have for drinks?   She says yes.  No Coke, no Gatorade, etc. . . .I do not see water even.  WTF?!!?

I meander around trying to find some real food that Craig may want to eat.  I see a box of cliff bars.  Rather than have individually packaged Cliff Bars, they opened them all and dumped them into the box exposed.  This isn't very smart I think.  What if riders want to carry the Cliff Bars.  I spy a bag of Cheese-Its and nab it.

I bring it over to a picnic table where Craig, Kevin, and another fellow are sitting.  We are all complaining as to how bad the support is for the Wildcat 125 riders.  We discuss how to cut out the last part to get back to the end the fastest.  It still looks like we have a ways to go.  

The Final Flat Stretch

We leave the rest stop and ride along Durham-Pentz Road.   It is long and flat.  Craig keeps saying how done he is with this ride.  He seems to be riding okay though.  Craig sometimes picks up the pace.  I think he wants to get this over with as fast as possible.  We are both tired and ready for this ride to be over with.   My Garmin says we have crossed the 100 mile mark.  I am thinking I am on my second longest ride.  Though, it feels longer than my double century.  Definitely, the worst support ride I have ever been on. 

We eventually cross Highway 99 and I think the turn is coming up soon.  The road keeps going and going and going.  We finally see Midway Road and turn.  We are not even going to try going to the rest stop knowing it will be barren as well, if not all packed up and closed down.  Again, I am irritated that they set up a longer route option but did not bother to provide support for those that opted to do the longer ride option.

 We join a few others on the bike trail.  Others that opted to cut out some of the ending to get this ride over with.  Craig talks to one guy and they both agree that they were SO done with this ride awhile ago. 

We eventually get off the bike trail and hit a street.  We look around to figure out where we are.  I see Fair Street.  Yes, we are just around the corner from the fairgrounds.  This ride is nearly over!  We ride by a convenience store and agree we will hit that store up for Coke after we get done.

We finally reach the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds.  We do not bother staying for dinner as it will probably be barren with food and drinks like the rest stops.  We are done and ready to head back home.  We do stop at the convenience store and buy a couple cokes, which taste oh so refreshing after that ride!

Final Remarks
So, 112ish miles for the day, 7400+ feet of climbing.  It was enjoyable until about mile 70-80ish.  I am happy that my climbing legs were doing well today.  My endurance for long distance rides held out pretty well.   Made me want to get back to doing another double century soon!  I was tired but never felt like I was bonking.   The lack of Coke just made me cranky.  The rest stops all annoyed me.   I felt the planning for this whole event was poorly done.   I am glad we did do the extra Wildcat 125 loop as that was one of the nicest parts of the ride.  I had enjoyed the extra climbing.  But if I had known the end was going to suck so badly, we might have cut more of the end out.  As much hype as Wildflower had, I was disappointed with it.  Not sure this is an event I want to do ever again.  But, I did enjoy spending the day riding with Craig though.  That was nice.  :)

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