Well, it's been nearly ten days since I completed my first double century ride and high time that I finally sit down and write my ride report. I don't know what has been keeping me from doing it, not in the writing mood I suppose, but I know that if I don't get all of this down, I'll start forgetting details and since it is my first 200 mile ride, I guess I should have some sort of record of it. <~~~enthusiasm about writing this is just oozing...can you tell? ;)
The morning started at 4:00 a.m. with me trying to figure out what to do first. Get dressed? Eat? What am I going to wear? Eeeeeeeeeeek! I settled on eating so I would have time to digest before the ride started. Two packets of instant (yuck) oatmeal would have to do at that time of morning, plus a fresh mango that hit the spot. On to clothing. Short sleeve? Long sleeve? Arm warmers and leg warmers? I decided to go with my Velo Sport kit, which is long sleeve, and some leg warmers. A quick weather check outside and I realized that it was already warm enough to make the decision to leave the leg warmers behind. Some last minute prep and I was out the door and at the 5:30 a.m. early start in front of the hotel. There was a large group gathered and after some pictures with M.E. and saying goodbye to George who was there to see us off, and was starting at 6:15 a.m., we were on our way.
I enjoyed a nice warm up pace riding along with M.E. and another rider, Doug. It was nice to chat with them and pace myself through the first twenty miles, knowing that I had a long day ahead of me. Once we hit Santiago Canyon I got a burst of energy and took off, feeling comfortable and at ease being in a familiar area. The wind had been with us from the start of the ride, but really picked up through the canyon. I remember hitting a spot where the air was finally calm and still and immediately, I heard the sighs of relief from the four other riders I had been following. We turned onto Live Oak Canyon Road and began our journey toward the first aid station, located at Trabuco Oaks General Store, 37.4 miles into the ride.
I had to wait a few minutes to use the restroom and then moved on to pondering the food offerings...plentiful, but nothing sounded appetizing at that point, so I took one of everything and stuffed my jersey pockets, figuring that I would need to eat at some point. I also took a risk here by filling my bottles with Hammer Nutrition's Sustained Energy, something that I have never tried before. Thankfully, I was able to use this fuel all day with no issues, though in retrospect and after tales from a friend, it definitely wasn't smart to use a new and unknown product on a long ride. As I was getting ready to leave, M.E. pulled into the aid station and I asked her if she was going to be in and out quickly, and if so, I'd wait for her and we could leave together. After her very quick stop, we made our way to our bikes and in pulls George. How the man caught us when he had left 45 minutes later, and on a fixed gear, no less...I don't know. When we left that morning he said that he was hoping to pass me by the second aid station, so I was very surprised to see him this early in the ride. He handed off a route sheet since I had forgotten mine, and I took off just after M.E. left.
Leaving the first aid station, there was an immediate steep climb out of the canyon and then we were on Plano Trabuco. I had told M.E. that I needed to stop and turn off my tail light and I noticed at that point that there were some encouraging messages written on my route sheet, that brought a smile to my face. :) One turn later George catches us again, not a huge surprise this time, since he is in and out of rest stops before I can get off of my bike. ;) He rode with us for a block or so and started speeding up, so I made the split second decision to take off with him. I figured that I'd hang on for as long as I could and that he would drop me when he needed to. The next section was "generally downhill" and took us toward the coast and the next aid station, located at San Onofre State Beach. We stopped about a mile ahead to use the restroom, hoping that we could avoid the lines at the rest stop. We made this a very quick stop, in and out after refilling our bottles with Sustained Energy and water.
Just after leaving the aid station, George noticed that I was very flushed and looking overheated. He mentioned that we should find a place to splash my face with some water when we could. The next section took us onto the 5 freeway, and this was my first time riding it. When going from Orange County to San Diego, I normally go through Camp Pendelton, as I've always been slightly intimidated by the idea of riding on the freeway. I have to say that it wasn't nearly as bad as I had anticipated, but I was definitely glad that I wasn't alone! After exiting the freeway in Oceanside, we were on the bike path and I was hitting what would be the first of several lulls that I would experience through the day. Thankfully I had the reassurance from George that I would snap out of it and feel better soon and that I just had to ride it out. I managed to eat half of a peanut butter sandwich that I had picked up at the first aid station and stuffed in my pocket, but I was still feeling pretty bad. The heat was getting to me and 85+ miles into the ride, I was just hoping and hoping that it wouldn't heat up anymore than it already had. The bike path ended and we were able to make our way to Popeye's where I drenched my head under the faucet in an attempt to cool down. Ten minutes later with ice on my cheeks and in my helmet, we were on our way again. We rode alone for a long stretch until about three miles out from the lunch stop, when some riders caught up to us. Two passed us and the rest formed a paceline until the right turn and the climb to the lunch stop, where George and I took off. I think that the thought of sitting down, eating and shade got me up that hill with a little more speed than normal!
Pulling in to the third aid station I was happy to see a familiar face...my friend Lee from Bike Forums, who was volunteering for the ride! Again, I wasn't particularly hungry...but knew that I should have something to eat. I enjoyed the sandwich and a couple of V8's before heading to the bathroom to once again drench myself in an attempt to cool down. I sat in the shade for a few minutes and we were off again, where we immediately turned onto Circle R and started climbing. With full bellies. Hmmmmmmm...I thought to myself...how is this going to play out????? George advised me to just take it easy and ride at a digestive (SLOW) pace because really...we had no other choice! After a nice downhill we turned onto Reche where we were greeted by Bobbi and Kermit, two of the volunteers. Kermit noticed my empty bottle and offered to fill it with some water and I was THRILLED when he came back and it was full of ice water. What a guy, he certainly made me happy! After making our way through Live Oak Park we took on the very steep Gum Tree Lane, to which I am attributing all of the soreness in my glutes! I was starting to fall into another lull at this point and we decided to stop at Rainbow Valley Market for more fluids and more head drenching to cool me down. Back on the bike we made our way to the fourth aid station at mile 139.6 where we picked up our lights. I unzipped the light bag and there was another encouraging note for me. Obviously I wasn't planning on riding with George at all, let alone this far...still...the note was a huge pick me up!
We left the aid station and didn't make it far before I hit yet another lull. Now it's one thing when someone gives you a little push on a hill to help you, but at this point George was physically pushing me...on a flat road! Pride gone, I accepted the help and had a chance to recover and find my way out again. I rode the whole day expecting (and telling) George to leave me at some point, but I realized somewhere around this time that he wasn't going anywhere and I can't express how thankful I was. Part of my nervousness about doing this double century was knowing that I was going to have to do this alone and here I was, lucky enough to have an experienced ultra rider at my side...okay...in front of me ;) for the better part of the day. We made our way onto Temescal Canyon and I recall saying that it felt just like a summer night. The weather was unseasonably warm and it was just gorgeous out as the sun set and darkness fell.
The last aid station at mile 172.3 was at Tom's Farm. I grabbed another V8 at this point and then decided that I should hit the restroom before we headed out. Unfortunately it was in a crowded restaurant and the women's line just wasn't moving. I finally opted for the men's room, but still wasted a good ten minutes here. Next time I shall be one with nature. ;) Leaving this aid station, it was so nice to know that we were getting close to being done. George was pushing me and asking me to pick up the pace, but I was so exhausted. I remember him telling me about falling asleep on the bike during one of his brevets and thinking to myself...how does someone fall asleep on the bike?!?!?! Well...now I know! I was very close to doing just that. I was entering a stage of serious grumpiness and had nothing nice to say to poor George anymore, so I put my headphones on and turned my iPod up all the way, which also served as a nice wake-up. We made our way through Corona and finally a turn onto Green River Road...ahhhhhhhhhhh...familiar territory again! I regained my energy, knowing that we were very close, particularly when we hit the bike path and then La Palma. Before I knew it, we were there...I was done!
My official time for the ride was 14 hours and 25 minutes. Honestly, in the months leading up to this double century, I was worried about actually finishing under the time limit, so I was very happy with this time. A big thanks to George, who didn't have to stick with me all day. I definitely slowed him down, but I was so glad to have him there coaching me through my first double!