Monday, June 25, 2012

Third Time's A Charm: Grand Tour Highland Double (June 23, 2012)

Third Time's A Charm
The Grand Tour Highland Double (June 23, 2012)

One of my crazy goals this year was to earn the California Triple Crown, to ride three double centuries (200 miles in one day on the bike) in a year.  In March, I completed the Solvang Double Century.  In May, I completed the Davis Double Century.  For my third double, I decided to sign up for the Grand Tour down in Malibu, California.  The Grand Tour has various ride options from a double metric (125 miles), a lowland double, a highland double, a triple (300 miles), and a quadruple (400 miles in day -- that's seriously crazy stuff!).  Preferring a hillier route, I opted for the Highland Double.

I talked Craig into going along with me and doing the double metric ride (he likes to cycle but has no desire for the long endurance stuff as I do).  We traveled with my friend Tawny (who was going to do the Highland Double) and our friend Todd (who was going to do the triple).

The Grand Tour


pre-ride dinner with Todd, Craig, Tracy, Tim and Tawny

Tweet: "got the van loaded with our bikes and bags...tawny, todd, craig and i are on our way to malibu!"

Tweet: "in Malibu!  checking in for our rides for tomorrow!"  

Tweet: "my number is #172...Craig got #187...awesome number! :D"

The night before, it takes me a bit to fall asleep.  I feel nervous.  I think I was just far too exhausted from riding in the NorCal Aids Cycle (NCAC) to feel any nervousness before the Davis Double.  I slept just fine the night before the Davis Double.  But here, it takes me awhile to fall asleep.  I also get a little extra anxious when I do events away from home.  I eventually fall asleep.  

In the wee hours of the morning, I wake up a couple times.  At 2:50 a.m., I give up trying to sleep anymore and get up to get my gear on.  Craig hears me and awakes.  He grumbles a bit about how early it is -- "This is not normal!"  But, he eventually gets up and helps me get ready.  He is just going to drive me, Todd, and Tawny to the ride start.  His ride does not start until later in the morning so he does not need get ready quite yet.  

Tweet: "up at 3 am...getting ready to roll..Craig is a wee bit cranky for having to get up so early but I feel lucky to have such a great boyfriend"

Craig drops us off at the ride start, Webster Elementary School, around 4 a.m..  He wishes me good luck and that he'll see me at the finish.  While I can tell he's sleepy having to be dragged up at 3 a.m., I am really glad he's here with me before I start.

Todd, Tawny, and I go check in, getting our wristbands scanned.  We each do our little things to get ready to start. Todd befriends some guy that is about to ride the quadruple.  He introduces me to him.  They plan to roll out together.  So, I decide to wait and roll out with them.

The Ride

The quadruple guy, Todd, and I roll out from the school.  About 1/2 mile out, Todd pulls over and stops.  He says his bike computer is not working.  The quadruple guy rides off.  I stop with Todd.  We play around with his wheel and the computer sensor trying to get it to read.  It does not seem to work.  Todd is concerned.

After a bit of playing around with it, another guy rolls up and asks what's wrong.  We tell him the bike computer isn't reading and he said he had the same problem but it started to work after a bit.  So, Todd decides to just start riding and hope the computer starts working again.  Tawny then rolls up near us and asks what's wrong.  We mention the bike computer problem Todd is having.  She says she thinks the light may affect the computer.  Todd turns off his head light and his bike computer starts to work.  He then opts to ride without his light on.  There is street lights and enough lights from other cyclists which should make it okay for him.  The sun should be up in an hour too.

We ride along for a bit.  Todd gets behind some guy for a bit.  I ride behind Todd.  The pace starts to slow so I ride around the guy, hoping Todd stays behind me.  I turn on my light to the brighter setting to see better and hope it helps Todd see too.  Todd stays mostly behind me as we ride along the Pacific Coast Highway.  

In my past two doubles, I had issues with my tail light (fortunately, my front light works wonderfully). For both, my own tail light had fallen off.  I had borrowed a tail light that ended up not working and another one that was just a teeny tiny red light.  So, I had to buy another one for this double.  I bought a nice one that wraps around the stem and is super bright.  And as I am riding along, my tail light is not falling off this time and it is flashing away brightly.  But unfortunately, the brightness is kind of blinding Todd.  He makes mention that he has to ride a little to the side of me because of my tail light.  

In not too long, the sky starts to lighten up as the sun begins to rise.  Todd and I join up with a small pack of three riders.  The group of us rolls along at a decent pace.  We come around a bend and I can see the ocean to the left of me.  It is a little breezy but not too windy. 

After a bit, we pass a Naval Base and see some neat looking planes.  The group gets a little larger and since we have daylight now, Todd is no longer riding behind me.  We kind of reshuffle ourselves after every turn or stop.  But, I end up following Todd for a bit.  We pass by a number of fields.  Must be strawberries as I smell strawberries in the air.  

We then arrive at the first rest stop in Port Hueneme

Tweet: "at grand tour, rest stop #1.  mile 34.  nice along the coast.  rode with todd but we'll be splitting soon"

As I dismount my bike and take off my bike lights, a cyclist approaches me and asks me if I was at Solvang. I said yes.  He says he thinks he rode with me.  There was a group that was riding really fast and were the first to arrive to the first rest stop.  He thinks we were both in that group.  I remember being in that group.  I look at his bike to see if I recognize it but I cannot quite remember it.  I am wearing my pink rabbit kit, which I had also wore in Solvang, so I think I am easy to remember seeing.  We chit chat a little bit.

Shortly after the Solvang guy talks to me, another cyclist comes up to me.  He asks me if I was at the Davis Double.  I say yes.  He says he remembers seeing me and I have a particular style when I ride that looks familiar today.  Okay, interesting.  He tells me how he remembers seeing me come around to the front of the pace line and then bridge the gap to the group ahead.  He said when I was bridging that gap, he was right behind me.  That is nice to be remembered for riding well (as there were parts of the Davis Double where I was not riding so well).

This is kind of nice that some people are able to recognize me in these doubles.  And, such friendly people too.

I go inside the building to bag up my lights.  I do not want to carry them the rest of the day and today, I am determined to finish before sundown.  In the past two doubles, I raced the sun to the finish and the sun beat me both times, just barely.

I eat a couple strawberries and then get ready to ride again.  Todd looks about ready to roll so we start to roll out.  As we are getting ready to roll out, we see a pink recumbent bike.  Craig and I had seen this pink recumbent bike at the motel earlier.  The bike is all pink and has matching pink water bottles.  But now, I see the rider.  She has one hot pink cycling shoes and a hot pink aero helmet (aka sperm helmet).  It is quite the sight.  This makes me think of my friend Kallie, who really likes pink (though I don't think she'd ever get an aero helmet).

Todd and I roll out.  The Solvang guy and another guy start to roll out at the same time as us.  The pink recumbent bike gal zips pass us.  We leap frog her here and there as we roll out of town.  

I ride behind Todd for a few miles or so.  At one point, the Solvang guy yells at me to turn right since he knew I was riding the highland route.  The highland route is splitting apart from the lowland route.  I wish Todd good luck on his triple and I turn right.  The Solvang guy, another guy with red socks, and I start riding towards the hills.

As I ride behind the Solvang guy for a bit, I notice he's riding a steel road bike with regular sneakers, flat pedals and the toe cages.  I do not see very many cyclists ride with the old school toe cages so this is triggering a memory.  I then watch how he's riding and I start remember where I saw this guy before, down in Solvang.  I ask him if he was wearing a white shower cap over his helmet in Solvang, since it was forecasted to rain that day.  He said yes.  I tell him that I do remember him from Solvang.

We get closer to Portero, our first climbs of the day.  My route sheet says "Climb #1 - difficult but short.  0.5 mile" and "Climb #2 - Extremely difficult for 1 mile."  I see the hill ahead. Quite the hill.

I get up the first part okay, passing a few folks along the way.  I ride along and then start the extremely difficult part.  I am climbing okay.  I see the Solvang guy not too far behind me.  There is one switch back that makes the grade a bit steeper but I continue going up and up.

I make it to the top and enjoy a fun descent.  And, in not too long, I arrive at the next rest stop.

Tweet: "rest #2.  51 miles.  did one big steep climb up Potrero.  feeling strong on the climbs!"  

At the rest stop, a kind man parks my bike for me.   The volunteers are super friendly here.  I send a text to Craig telling him I hope his ride is going well.  I hope that he is not too sleepy this morning on his ride.  I eat some GU and refill my water before I get back on the bike again.  

As I am riding along through the countryside, I spot a couple cyclists riding towards me.  One looks like he has a Rio Strada kit on.  As the two get closer, I see that it is Craig!  I was told that the Highland Double route does intersect with the double metric route so I am happy to see Craig now.  I yell out to him and he looks up and seems pleasantly surprised to see me.

Seeing Craig peps me up a bit.  He looked like he was enjoying himself on his ride.  I am happy I got to catch a glimpse of him during the ride.

I continue on and eventually pass through Thousand Oaks.  As I ride through the city, I feel like I hit every red light.  Stop, go, stop, go.  At one stop light, I encounter a fellow who is riding the triple.  He points to a cyclist ahead telling me that guy is doing the quadruple.  Crazy!

I ride along and eventually arrive at the next rest stop at some park.  The guy checking people in asks for my number and whether I am doing the double or the metric.  I tell him the double and it seems those doing the double metric go to this rest stop too.  Craig must have been here earlier before riding towards where I came from.

Tweet: "rest stop #3...mile 78...pretty day out!  though I seem to be hitting every red light...oh, I did see Craig a little bit ago...:)

I walk over to the food tables and all of a sudden, I see Craig roll up to my surprise!  He is just as surprised to see me.  I tell him how my ride is going.  He tells me how he has made a friend on the ride and they have been riding together so far.  He also tells me how he was just telling the guy about me when I rode past him earlier.

I snack on some watermelon while hanging out with Craig for a bit.  Getting to see him mid-ride really makes me happy.  :)

Eventually, I get back on the bike ready to roll out.  I see the Solvang guy and another guy waiting for me.  The three of us ride together out of whatever town we are in and head towards more hills.  In a bit, the two guys drift off ahead of me.

I ride along and as I am reading the route sheet, I see that it mentions that I must make sure I stay on a particular road and the double metric people would be splitting.  So, I might see Craig again as he will undoubtedly catch up to me.

Sure enough, in not too long, he and his new friend ride up behind me.  Craig makes a silly comment about how the view just got really nice.  Craig's new riding friend makes some nice comment to me.  And, off they go.

I continue on my way into the countryside now.  It is pretty and peaceful out here.  I ride along and then start climbing up Grimes Canyon.  Pedal, pedal, pedal.

I then reach the peak of this hill and the descent is amazingly fun.  Long, curvy roads in which I just fly down!         Whee!!

Then, I continue riding along through the countryside, pass some fields.  In a bit, I enter into a tiny little town. I see a few cyclists sitting outside a little store enjoying some cold Cokes.  Good idea.  The next rest stop is not until the lunch stop, which is after an 8-mile climb ahead.

I ride through the town thinking I might want a soda before I start the 8 mile climb.  This town though is kind of sketchy looking.  Looks a little run down.  I pass a guy with baggy clothes walking down the street.  He kind of leers at me and asks me where I am going.  I continue riding past him.  Maybe I won't stop in this town.

I then see a little store on a corner.  Outside the store, I spot a green Felt bike.  That bike had been leap frogging me earlier.  So, I head over to the store knowing that there is a cyclist there already.

I head into the store and buy a nice cold can of Coke.  The other cyclist buys a cold Gatorade.  We stand quietly outside the store drinking our cold drinks.  The green Felt guy then heads off towards the hill.

As I check my phone, I see Javier has texted me and Todd asking for a status update.  Todd has replied that he reached mile 107 lunch stop.  It is nice to know where Todd is and that he seems to be keeping good time.  I let them know that I am about halfway done.

Tweet: "halfway done.  100 miles in.  stopped at store for a cold coke!  :)"

After I finish the Coke, I take a GU and then start heading for the 8 mile climb.  The climb is not too bad.  The grade not so steep.  It is just long and steady.  I feel like this is good Death Ride training as the hills there will not be too steep.  Just like this one.  Long and steady.

My right foot burns slightly but not too badly.  I feel no burning or pain in my left foot.  I think my new cycling shoes are working mostly well.  I may do a few adjustments to my right cleat at the lunch stop.  So far so good.  

Eventually, I make it up to the top and start descending down towards Ojai.  As I am coming down a descent, I get stuck behind a truck.  I brake a little to not run into it.  Then, to my surprise, the truck pulls to the side to let me pass.  How nice!  I go around the truck and continue down the descent with ease!

And, in not too long, I make it to Ojai to the lunch stop.

Tweet: "had to do a long 8 mile climb.  good death ride training.  made it to the lunch stop!  mile 116!"

Lunch is rather nice.  I eat a really good bean burrito and some chips.  I sit at a table with a bunch of other cyclists that I do not know.  I end up befriending a few of them as we chit chat about some other doubles we have done.  We remember the misery of the horrible wind in Solvang.  We talk a little bit about the Davis Double too.  Everyone is friendly out here and I am really enjoying myself.

Tim and Tracy spot me and come over to join me.  We catch up on how our rides are going.  Tim and Tracy are doing the double on a tandem and seem to be enjoying themselves today.

After a bit, I get ready to roll out.  I see this group of cyclists rolling out too so I follow them.  The group turns out to be a Filipino cycling group.  A rather large cycling group too.  We weave our way out of town and then I hitch onto their fast pace line.  This might be a fun group to ride along with.  A guy in a green Death Ride jersey tags along the back with me too.

In not too long, the Filipino cycling group all make a left turn.  They are doing the lowland double apparently.  I have to continue riding straight.  Bummer.  It is just me and the guy in the green Death Ride jersey.  We ride along kind of together towards more hills.

We pass by Lake Casitas and begin some long(ish) steady climbs.  The views are pretty.  But, the climb seems to be a lot longer than described on the route sheet.  But, I keep pedaling away up and up and up, hoping at some point to reach the top.  Quite a number of cars pass me as I climb away.  Many pass a bit too close to me making me rather nervous.

At some point, I start descending but it does not take too long before I start climbing again.  The green Death Ride jersey guy passes at some point.  He comments about how he thinks the hills are longer than described on the route sheet.  I agree.

I continue riding along.  Then, I catch a glimpse of the top of a parachute/parasail.  I can feel that we are nearing the ocean.  I can smell the ocean now.  I am excited to be nearing the coast.  And, in not too long, I come to Carpinteria and can see the lovely blue Pacific Ocean.

Tweet: "after a few long steady climbs, made it to the rest stop at mile 137.  ride is pretty except for cars driving too close!"

At the rest stop, I check my messages.  Craig tells me he has finished his ride, feeling happy with his time.  He cheers me on in my ride.  Todd updated a bit ago that he got to mile 140 and about to have a chat with little Todd about what is to happen (that he's going to be doing the triple).  I update all the guys as to where I am.  Javier and Craig send encouraging replies. Just a metric century to go!

I eat some watermelon.  I spot some Krispy Kreme donuts here and listen to the volunteers talk about them.   I rather eat watermelon.  One volunteer tells me how cute my rabbit jersey is.  I tell him how I am nicknamed the Energizer Bunny so had searched for a pink bunny kit and this was the closest I could find.  He gave me props or something.  All the volunteers are so friendly.  Makes a ride quite enjoyable.

I then get back on the bike.  I roll onto Highway 101 for a bit.  Kind of scary trying to ride along the freeway with the cars passing by so close.  Fortunately, there is a nice tailwind so I just fly.

We don't have to ride Highway 101 too long before we exit and eventually get onto the Pacific Coast Highway, a less crazy highway.  I am enjoying riding along the coast with the beautiful ocean to my right.  There is a nice breeze and a most wonderful tailwind.

I ride behind the green Death Ride jersey guy for a bit.  I think about Javier and the upcoming Death Ride as I ride behind this guy.  At some point, the guy slows down so I come around him to work a little.  I intend to pull for a bit but when I look back, I see he has fallen way back.  I slow down a little hoping he'd catch up but he seems to be struggling so I continue on.

I catch a few other pace lines as we ride along the Coast.

In not too long, we get back to Port Hueneme.  As we ride through town, a little wind kicks up.  Nothing too crazy (apparently, it gets worse later on).  I am feeling a bit tired now so fall back from the pace lines.  I just pedal away, knowing I am near the next rest stop, the last rest stop.

Tweet: "just got to the last rest stop at mile 163...feeling tired now.  going to drink a coke and eat some chicken soup!"  

Tweet: "will say the other riders are so friendly today and the volunteers great!  makes for a fun ride! :)"

The last rest stop is the same as the first rest stop.  I see the bag with my lights I had left this morning are still here.  So, I take them and put them on the bike to haul back to Malibu.  I hope to not need the lights as I am determined to beat the sun this time!

I walk into the rest stop and a lady offers me chicken soup.  I say sure and the soup is fan-freaking-tastic.  The salty chicken broth along with the veggies really hit the spot.  Another cyclist at the table next to me enjoys his soup so much, he asks for another bowl.  So, I do the same.

I let Craig know where I am and when I expect to finish.  I tell him I am tired.  He sends me a nice messaging cheering me on and how he'll be there when I finish.  I can hardly wait to see him.  I see Todd had gotten to mile 190 and seems to be doing okay.  Looks like he is still making good time.  
A guy comes up to me and says I keep beating him to the rest stops.  Me in my pink rabbit kit.  It amuses me my pink rabbit kit always seems to attract attention when I am doing events.

After resting a bit, I decide it is time to finish this thing off.  My triple crown is near now.

I roll out of the rest stop and continue out of town and back onto the Pacific Coast Highway.  I have mostly a tailwind so that is nice.  However, I hit some rollers and my climbing legs are quite weary of climbing.  My pace drops quite dramatically with each little climb.  But, I reach the top and fly down the downhills and the flats.

At one point, this guy rides up next to me.  He asks me if I am riding the double century or the double metric.  I tell him the double century.  It's about 6pm now so I think the double metric people should be finished by now.  He tells me is doing the double metric.  He comments that he started a little late.

I then notice that he has bandages wrapping both his elbows.  I ask him if he had crashed and he said yes, earlier on a descent.  He comments that his jersey zipper broke so he duct taped himself.  I see a strip of duct tape wrapping around his torso.   Wow.  He says he is mostly okay and glad he did not break anything and that the bike is unscathed.

We ride together for a bit but we hit a little hill and he rides off ahead of me.  On the downhill and flats, I catch up to him.  He drafts behind me for a bit.  But, my legs are tired.  As soon as I slow down a little, he comes around and takes off.  I am a little annoyed by this that he did not offer to help pull me after I pulled him for a bit.

Moments later, I catch back up to the guy as he has blown himself up.  I pass him and again, he hitches onto my wheel for a bit.  And when I hit the hill, I slow down, he comes around and attacks me again.  This guy is really annoying me now.

At some point, I decide to stop for a little bit mainly to let annoying guy get ahead and no longer trying to ride my wheel.  I take the moment to send a message to Craig letting him know my ETA.  I then continue riding along, enjoying not having some guy try to attack me every few moments.

With a little more climbing, I ride back into Malibu and pass Pepperdine.  I am near the finish!  The sun is still out so I am happy that I am finally going to finish a double before dark.  I make the last few turns to get back to the Elementary School.  I spot Craig and roll up to him.

I am done. The LA Highland Double, finished.  And, that's three doubles for the year so a California Triple Crown Winner!  Woot!!  :D

Tweet: "grand tour highland double...DONE!!  AND, california triple crown winner here!! booyah!

Final Thoughts and Acknowledgments

The Grand Tour was the most enjoyable of the three double centuries I have completed so far.  I finished with my fastest average pace.  I think my overall time in Solvang was shorter as I took less time in the rest stops but I rode faster at the Grand Tour.  Of course, in Solvang, I had to deal with horrendous headwind for about 30 miles and in Davis, I had already ridden 200 miles the two days prior to the Davis Double.  I feel I had some struggling moments in my first two doubles but this one, things mostly went smoothly.  Got a little tired towards the end but that is to be expected after spending a day in the saddle. ;-)

The weather and scenery were absolutely lovely.  I remember last winter, I had gone on a ride with Triple Crown winners and had inquired with some cyclists about their double experience.  One guy told me doing the California Triple Crown will get you to see some of the most beautiful places in California.  This thought came to mind while I was riding out there.  In all three of my doubles, I rode through various areas of the state.  Today, I passed through lovely countrysides and rode along the beautiful coastline.

This event also had great support.  The volunteers were terrific.  Also, I found most of the other cyclists to be quite friendly today.  Friendly people around definitely makes for a more enjoyable experience.  :)


Thank you to the LA Wheelmen for putting on such a terrific event.  Most enjoyable double so far for me.  Great thanks to all the wonderful volunteers out there!  Thank you to all the friendly riders out there that I saw throughout the day.  You made for a pleasant experience!

Thank you to Joan for getting me into the doubles and recommending the Grand Tour to me.  I really enjoyed this double and congrats to you on your triple.

Thank you Tawny & Todd for traveling along with me to Malibu for the Grand Tour.  Big congrats to you Todd in finishing your triple and congrats Tawny in finishing the Highland double too.

Thanks Javier for your encouraging and amusing text messages throughout the day.  It really helps having the support when I am doing these crazy things.  Sorry I had accidentally blocked you from my twitter updates.

Thank you to my fellow WAV and HW friends for all you have done to help me become a better cyclist.  I could not have achieved my California Triple Crown without you all!  Also, thank you to my other crazy athletic friends for your support in all my crazy endeavors!

Lastly, I give a huge thank you to Craig.  Thank you for going on the long trip down to Malibu to be there for me and for having to wake up at 3 a.m. to take me to the ride start.  It really made me happy that I got to see you at the beginning, in the middle, and at the finish of this double.  Thanks also for taking care of the random things my bike needs in order to get through this kind of ride, i.e. putting new brake pads on my bike.  And, I am always grateful for you always taking such good care of me.  I also greatly appreciate that you are always so supportive in my crazy endeavors. 

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