Monday, June 4, 2012

Wild Ride to Hell: The Auburn Century 110 (June 3, 2012)

Wild Ride to Hell: The Auburn Century 110
June 3, 2012

Some friends and I are training for the Death Ride.  It was recommended that the Auburn Century 110 ride would be a good training ride for the Death Ride.  Trying to figure out all my running training and cycling training, I didn't decide until just days before to sign up for the Auburn Century.  But, I signed up thinking it'd be a good training and fun to spend the day cycling with Craig and our other friends.  What a ride it was.  The most climbing I had done in a day.  I also encountered Iowa Hill for the first time.  It truly lives up to the reputation of being hell. . . .

The Auburn Century

Auburn to Colfax

Craig and I get to Auburn in the early hours of the morning.  My upper body is pretty sore from a fall while running yesterday.  My neck, back, and right shoulder are quite tight.  I took some Motrin and hope will be okay during the day.  I am looking forward to spending the day riding with Craig and our other friends.

Javier, Alex, Sarah, and Gil meet up with us.  We then roll out of Auburn together.  It takes only a few moments before Sarah leaves us all in the dust.  Typical Sarah.

The rest of us ride mostly together as we head out of Auburn.  There is nothing flat about Auburn.  You are either riding up or down.  We hit some roller hills as we ride out towards North Auburn.  The group rides a bit faster than me.  It also takes me a bit to get my legs warmed up.  In not too long, the group disappears ahead.  Craig circles back to check on me at one point but he disappears after a bit too.

I ride along pass Meadow Vista and finally hit a nice little downhill section before seeing the rest stop about 8.9 miles in.  I roll into the rest stop and rejoin the rest of my group (except for Sarah).  We roll out after everyone is ready.  Again, it doesn't take too long before I am just riding on my own as the group has taken off ahead.

At one point, I make a turn and find myself descending.  I have come to really enjoy descending having gotten faster at it in the past few months.  I fly down the hill, passing numerous folks along the way.  Whee!

After the descent, I ride along pass some campgrounds.  Then, I make a turn and find myself climbing again. I pedal, pedal, pedal away and in not too long, I spot Javier and Gil.

I catch up to them for a quick moment before my chain falls off.  I manage to unclip without falling.  I get my chain back on.  Clipping in on a hill is rather tricky so I opt to go back downhill for a bit and then u-turn back uphill.  A few cyclists pass me asking me if I am okay.  I just tell them I had to fix my chain but need to go down first before going up.

I clip in and u-turn my way back up the hill.  I pass a few cyclists who joke that I need to have my chain fall some more so they can get ahead.  I truck along up the hill and manage to catch back up to Javier and Gil again.  We ride together the rest of the hill.  The hill gets rather steep towards the top but my climbing legs seems to be doing okay.  Javier asks how I feel after my fall yesterday.  I tell him it is my upper body that is sore but fortunately, I don't need to move my upper body too much while cycling so it isn't bothering me so much.  It only bothers me to turn my head to look back or something.  But, I seem to be doing okay.  The three of us climb, climb, climb.  We chit chat a little bit during the climb so that helps us get up the hill.

In not too long, we arrive in Colfax for our second rest stop.  Sarah, Alex, and Craig are already there waiting for us.

Colfax to Dutch Flat and back to Colfax

At the rest stop, I wander around looking for Craig.  Someone hollers my name and I turn to see my friend Bill with his girlfriend Ingrid.  I spot Craig and wander to talk to him.

I go to the bathroom and there's quite a line of cyclists there.  Standing in line for a bit, I see a female cyclist exit out of one bathroom.  The male cyclist in front of me says I can go to that bathroom.  I didn't realize they were men & women's bathroom.  This is rather an amusing sight as there is a long line of guys going to the men's bathroom and no line to the women's bathroom.  I guess only in cycling events does this happen.

After going to the bathroom, I join the others and snack a little bit.

We then all head out towards Dutch Flat.  Craig and Sarah are joking around about the "scenery" (namely me & Alex ahead of them).  We then hit the descent and I start flying down with Craig.  The others catch up after we hit the bottom of the short hill.

The ride out here is peaceful and pretty.  Lots of tall trees and shade.  Shade is nice as I was a little worried it might get hot.  I ran a race yesterday and got roasted out there.  I am grateful for the shade now.  But, there is more climbing.  The group gets ahead of me during the climb.  I think I am the slowest climber of the group.

At one point, I see a few of them waiting for me at a turn.  I do not see Sarah (no surprise) nor do I see Alex.  Craig tells me how he had encountered some girl who worked for Apple and had started up a conversation with her.  This somehow led up to her maybe being able to help Alex find a job there.  So, Craig had made Alex continue riding and talking to this girl.  Craig seems rather excited for being a wing man or something.

We ride along for a bit towards Dutch Flat.  After a bit of climbing, I start descending another hill and nearly miss the rest stop as I fly past some of my friends.  

We hang out here for a bit.  I eat quite a bit as I am hungry.  Potato chips and kit kat bars taste great.  They also have these tortillas with hummus and avocado on them.  Sounds odd but they taste yummy.  And, it really hits the spot.  I eat a few of those.

We then start rolling back to Colfax.   Alex apparently wasn't able to exchange information with the girl.  Aww.

As soon as we start hitting a hill, I just watch the rest of the group disappear ahead.  I just climb away at my own pace.  I ride along mostly by myself all the way back to Colfax.

To Hell and Back:  Iowa Hill

I arrive into Colfax and see Kallie there.  Kallie is riding the 40 mile route.  It is nice we get to see her during our ride.  We chit chat for a bit and my coworker Richard surprises me by walking up to me.  He says hi.  Kallie says Richard and her had been riding together for a bit.  I tell Kallie that Richard is my coworker.  Small world that my coworker Richard would happen to befriend one of my cycling friends Kallie on this ride.

After fueling up and bidding Kallie good bye, we start heading to Iowa Hill.   This would be my first encounter with Iowa Hill and I am nervous about it.  Craig has said if he went through life never having to go to Iowa Hill again, he would be happy.  Other friends have equated going to Iowa Hill as going to hell.

We start rolling towards there.  Now, with Iowa Hill, you go downhill before you start climbing.  Craig starts the descent and I stay right on his tail.  This is a fast descent with some sharp corners.  I think it is good Craig is ahead of me as I may have taken some of the corners faster than I should.  We fly to the bottom and then turn onto Iowa Hill.

Craig tells me the first part is 1.9 miles and it is tough, but doable.  Not as hard as Mix Canyon.  So, I shift into granny gear and up I go.  The first part of this road is rather steep but I am climbing okay.  I just pedal, pedal, pedal away.

At one point, I see this guy coming down slowly.  He passes me and he looks like he's turning.  I hear a crash. I look back to see that the guy that had been going down had tried to u-turn back up and toppled over on the side in the dirt.  I continue climbing and I hear someone ask the guy "are you okay?"  I know that voice.  It's Sarah.  She's close to me.

Alex and Sarah shortly pass me.  Both say good job as they pass me and disappear in the distance.

The hill has some switchbacks, which are quite tough.  I am dripping in sweat and I continue to climb away.  The grade seems to have gotten steeper.  It feels like it is over 20% now.  Oh boy.  It is too steep for me to reach down to grab my water bottle as I am gripping my handle bars and pedaling as hard as I can.  I weave a little towards the random little shady patches on the hill. I just stare at my bike computer watching each .10 mile pass by.  1.9 miles Craig said.  I am nearly halfway up the hill.

I glance back to see Javier is right behind me.  He eventually does a very slow pass of me.  We are going about 3-4 miles per hour each.  We trudge away up and up this hill.

After another switch back, we are exposed into the sun.  My sweat is dripping into my eyes.  I continue pedaling away.  I see some cyclists have stopped to catch their breath or just walk.  I am stubbornly doing what I can to not stop on this hill.  I climb, climb, climb away.

Finally, I see some people at the top.  The ones checking in those that opted to do the time trial.  I ride pass them and a lady says "Helen?  Good job!  I have a coke for you!"  I look to see it is Diana, a girl I met at the NCAC ride, and tell her thank you but I am okay.  I continue on for a short bit before hitting the water stop.

I drink a cold soda and refill on water.  That was a tough hill but I feel proud that I made it all the way up without stopping.  That wasn't so bad.  Tough but doable as Craig told me.

However, that initial steep climb is not the end of Iowa hill. . . .

After everyone is ready, we start rolling out again.  In mere moments, the group has mostly disappeared ahead leaving me to ride along.  This time I am a little annoyed as I barely had clipped in before everyone just took off.

I ride along.  Then, I see some roller hills.  As I hit one, I find this "roller" is rather steep.  I check my Garmin.  It says it is over 15%.  Then, another roller.  20+%.  Then, another roller.  I start to descend a little bit and think finally, this must be the descent only to encounter another steep roller.  This is quite frustrating.

I ride what seems like forever with no one around.  Roller after roller.  And not nice easy gentle rollers. Each roller is a climb into itself.  I am getting crankier the more I ride.  The initial climb is not what makes Iowa Hill hell.  It is all of this after it that makes it hell.  I am a bit frustrated with Craig at this point too. He had wanted me to come on this ride and I feel like he's riding with everyone else and hardly riding with me.  We had left the last stop and before I was clipped in, he was gone.  I had liked it when we had rode Wildflower together and he would wait for me after climbs or turns.   Where the heck is he now?  Why am I riding all alone out here.  This sucks.  I am so irritated right now.

After 10-11 hellish miles, I am highly cranky now.  I catch a glimpse of Gil.  I try to catch up to him but I can't quite get to him.  This is even more disheartening.

After what feels like forever, I finally arrive to the next rest stop, what I thought was to be the lunch stop.  Instead, I see a rather barren looking rest stop. I see my friends sitting in the shade on the side.  I do not want to interact with any of them as I am so pissed off right now.  I just roll pass to the corner of the parking lot where I park my bike.

Craig comes over to see how I am doing.  I unleash a bit of my frustration onto him.  We argue a little bit.  Not wanting to let things get too out of hand, I just tell him I am cranky to just let me be.

I go to try to get a soda and something to eat.  The guy tells me they are out of Coke.  But, he offers me a Sprite and is trying to be enthusiastic that I take the Sprite.  I snack a little bit but disappointed there is not lunch here.

To China Wall and the Best Rest Stop!

I then get ready to ride again.  I do not feel like hanging out anymore.  I just want to ride.  The group is waiting on someone.  I tell them they'll catch up to me and that I am just going to go ahead.  I do not want to be around anyone right now.  I just ride off.

Not too long after, the group catches up to me.  Some just pass me and continue on.  I see Craig is hanging back to stay with me.  My frustration is slowly fading the farther I get away from hell.

At one point, Craig excitedly tells me we should take a picture of us when we finish and say "we had a lot of 'ups' and 'downs' on this ride but we made it through it, get it?" (ups and downs because of all the hills).  So cheesy.

We ride along towards China Wall.  Craig gets a little ahead of me but never out of sight.  I know he wants to go faster but he's hanging back for me.  I appreciate this.  I think about how he always tries to do things to make me happy.  Most of the time, he's pretty good at it.  :)

Gil and I are riding about the same pace so we chit chat a bit.  He is getting tired so has slowed down a little bit.  We talk about how we are both doing Death Ride for the first time and how our training is going.  I talk to him a little bit about the doubles I have been doing.  My mood has gotten a lot better.  Though, I am pretty tired now.  And, my feet are starting to burn.

Gil tells me how he has not been able to get a Coke.  They have run out at every rest stop.  Someone always gets the last one right before me.  He hopes that there is Coke at the next rest stop.  Me too.

We finally arrive to the China Wall rest stop.  The volunteers here are highly peppy.  I park my bike and take my feet out of my shoes.  I pour a little water on my feet.  I then wander over to the food tables.  Craig has gotten two Cokes, one for me and one for him.  I give my can to Gil, making sure he gets one.  Fortunately, they have more cans of Coke so I get one for myself.

A gal offers to make me a sandwich.  Whatever I want.  I ask for a wrap with hummus and cheese.  Since I did not get lunch at the last stop, I am happy this one has some real food.  I eat the wrap and then get some pie and ice cream.  Yum!

I think all of us are in better spirits now that we are eating some real food!  the pie and ice cream helps too!  All of us tell the volunteers that this is the best rest stop in the ride!

China Wall back to Auburn

We roll out from the rest stop and start heading towards Foresthill.  Finally, we are descending.  I feel there has been far more climbing then descending.  We fly along down the hill towards Foresthill, all of eager to be done with this ride.

Craig and Javier fly down the hill.  Gil and I follow shortly.  We eventually catch up and latch on as the Craig and Javier pull us along.  As we are going down the hill, we spot Alex ahead of us.  We are narrowing in on him.  Craig and Javier decide to keep a gap between us and Alex just for fun.  We watch Alex soft pedal, waiting for us to get behind him.  But, we keep a few bike distances away from him.  Alex seems confused but Craig and Javier both are amused by this.

We continue this way all the way to Foresthill.

After a quick stop in Foresthill, we continue our way to Auburn.  We pace line for a bit but eventually, Alex, Craig, and Javier disappear ahead of Gil and I.  Gil and I ride along Foresthill Road.  The afternoon is getting warm and we both are pretty tired.  But, we stay mostly together as we trudge our way back to Auburn.

Finally, we reach Foresthill Bridge and have to do one steep climb back up to Auburn.  This climb, in the hot afternoon, is quite the grind.  As I climb up and up, I start to have trouble breathing.  I have been having breathing issues here and there lately.  Climbing in the heat does not help at all.  I am wheezing away as I grind my way up this hill.  I get to the top and sit at the stop light, gasping for air.  I look across the street at the Chevron gas station, where I had hope the group would wait to regroup.  But, I see no one has waited there for us and am quite disappointed.  My chest hurts as I am still trying to get my breathing back to normal.

Gil comes up shortly behind me and we start riding our way through Auburn back to where we started the day.  We hit various small roller hills but eventually get our way back to Recreation Park.  We ride into the parking lot relieved this rather long ride is over with.


The Auburn Century was probably one of the toughest rides I have done so far.  Definitely my most hilliest ride.

Most of the hills were fine but I think Iowa Hill really got to me and definitely put me in a bad mood for a bit.  I feel as Craig does that if I never ride Iowa Hill again in my lifetime, I would not be disappointed.  I am glad though that I managed to drag myself through all the climbing of the day without needing to stop or walk any hills.  So, I feel I will be ready for the Death Ride.

I think the ride support was mostly good on the ride and the course was well marked.  But, I am not sure I would be inclined to do this ride again anytime soon.   But, I did enjoy spending some of the day riding with my friends.

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