Great day on Palomar Mountain!


Lori and I rode the tandem from Kit Carson Park in Escondido to Palomar Mountain Observatory round trip – 74 miles 9,000 feet of gain.   Before we get too far the name of the mountain is PALOMAR MOUNTAIN.  It is not Mt Palomar or Mount Palomar it is PALOMAR MOUNTAIN.   The ride was organized by my friend, Ken Mathis, who now lives in Michigan and this was sort of homecoming ride on Memorial Day weekend.

The weather was incredible – moderate all day with no rain, no high temperatures or low temperatures and just the typical afternoon winds.  Lori and I commented several times how this was the most perfect day we have experienced on Palomar Mountain while riding the tandem.

The ride has 5 climbs – Lake Wohlford Rd, Palomar Mountain South Grade, Mother’s Restaurant to the Observatory, Observatory to Mother’s, and Cole Grade.  The featured climb of the day is Palomar Mountain South Grade an HC hard climb – it is 11.6 miles average of 7% and gains about 4,200 feet.

For me the hardest climb of the day is Cole Grade.  It is a good 2 miles of double digit climbing.  It’s short, steep and usually over 95F in the summer.  By the time we hit Cole Grade yesterday we already had 8,000 feet on our legs in 60 miles.  Cole Grade on the tandem is really hard and we were barely moving at 4 mph – typical for our tandem on 12% grades.

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After 35 miles and almost 7,000 feet of climbing we reach the end of the road!

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The last climb of the day is Cole Grade.  It much steeper than the 7% average grade it shows below.  There are lots of double digit stretches in a 1.9 mile stretch of road.  Here is a cool picture to show the steepness of the grade.

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Just for fun I thought I would add the Palomar South Grade descent data for the year.  I am currently 5th fastest descender of the 11.7 mile descent for the year and it is the end of May 2017.  Unfortunately, on my descent that day I had to slow down and eventually pass five cars to get down the mountain.  I would have easily been KOM for the year with the 24 seconds of time I lost slowing down for the cars. You can watch my Youtube video of my descent here 

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Also for even more fun I have included my Everest of Palomar Mountain South Grade 7+ repeats of the 11.7 climb for a total of 29,062 feet. This was my first Everest July 2015.  Since then I have done three more.

 

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Photo credit: Julie Stokes and others

My 10 tips for a Successful Everest


As a four-time successful Everester I often field questions from riders aspiring to complete their first Everest.  I thought it would be a good time to create a series of posts to help riders prepare, ride and complete their first Everest.  It is my belief that even an experienced Everest rider may glean something for their next event.   Below is a quick summary of my four successful Everests.  I think it is important for me to mention that I am 4 for 4 on my Everests.  I owe this to my meticulous planning, training and extensive reconnaissance.

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Here are my top 10 tips for a successful Everest

  1.  Believe you can do it
  2.  Preparation
  3.  Reconnaissance
  4.  Location location location
  5.  Nutrition
  6.  Gearing
  7.  Support system
  8.  Equipment
  9.  Redundancy Backup
  10.  Believe you can do it

Let’s take a little time to dig into each of these 10 bullet points.

BELIEVE YOU CAN DO IT 

The single most important thing you can do is get your head prepared for the tough journey ahead.  There is planning and preparation and most likely additional costs to acquire Everest specific gear.  But those things while appearing exigent a much higher priority is to begin the positive inner monologue.  It should begin with something like this, “I am going to complete an Everest — no matter what it takes”

You may derive your mental toughness from various sources.  One of which may be your prior experiences.  It helps to have suffered during previous hard endurance events in any other sport and it would be a bonus if it were in cycling.  During your training you develop mental toughness as your training rides get harder and harder.

PREPARATION

Training is key.  Train often, and train with a purpose and pay attention to not overtrain.  No need to complete a 20,000 foot day of climbing to feel prepared for your Everest.  While that seems obvious I purposely wanted it to sound ridiculous.

Some riders are just wired that way though — they feel they need to do 100 mile training rides to feel prepared to do a 112 mile Ironman bike leg.  But I contend that athletes should train less and rest more.  The reduced level of training volume should be performed at higher intensity.  I feel strongly that a hard 75 mile ride is all you need to train for a century.  For Everesting, I believe a really hard 10,000 foot climbing day or an easy paced 15,000 foot climbing day.

Training specificity is indispensable in your pursuit of a successful Everest.  In other words, climb, climb and climb some more.  If the potential Everest site is local then train on that hill or mountain.  While working on your physical preparation, run a parallel training program for your mental preparation.

RECONNAISSANCE

A vital and critical step in your preparation is to perform a recon of the climb.  Consider the following:

  1.  Traffic patterns
  2.  Traffic itself
  3.  Bike Lane or shoulder
  4.  Stationary SAG vehicle
  5.  Mobile SAG
  6.  The arc of the Sun during your Everest
  7.  Wind pattern
  8. National, State or City park
  9. Bathroom Facilities

1. Traffic Patterns – is the location effected by rush hour? Steady traffic throughout? Is there more traffic during the day or at night? Your typical Everest will be at least 12 hours and as much as 24 hours.  Being aware of the traffic patterns may help your strategy for your event.

2.  Traffic – Will you choose a remote climb or one in a residential area? Or ideally an area that completely eliminates traffic all together.

3.  Bike lane or shoulder – while I do believe that a bike lane can lull you into a false sense of security they do serve their purpose.  On my first Everest the nearly 12 mile mountain climb had a very narrow shoulder and that shoulder had a rumple strip which consumed more than 50% of it.  I will put it mildly by saying it sucked and it is poor planning by California Transportation Department.  Climbing this mountain in the middle of the night was nerve-wracking and sometimes terrifying.  Hence I know do my Everests in residential areas.

4.  Stationary SAG vehicle – Look where you can park your SAG vehicle close to the top or bottom of your chosen location.  For all four of my Everests I was able to park my car very close to the segment.  Three of the four times it was at the bottom of the climb and one time at the top.  Having your supplies really close by is a  huge comfort to pushing yourself to the limit.  Simple things like a place to keep your cooler, your clothing, your night and cold weather clothing and reflective equipment.  Your SAG vehicle can provide warmth, cooling or shelter from a rain storm.  It is key to have your SAG if/when the weather turns for the worst.  if you are able to jump in your vehicle for few minutes at a critical time it can save your ride.

5.  Mobile SAG – Let’s get one thing out in the open straightaway if you will have friends or family members SAG for you thank them profusely before, during and after.  You will need to consider their ease to support you without obstructing traffic flow.  Will they provide direct follow support during the evening or leap frog support?

6.  The arc of the sun can play a critical role to your success.  Will you be roasting under the sun the whole day or will you have shade?  Will you be climbing directly into the sun?  This is an obvious safety issue as motorists coming up behind you may be blinded by the setting sun and not see you on the road.

7. Wind Patterns – will you have head, cross or tailwinds on your segment?  What time during your Everest will these wind patterns appear and will they impact your ride?  A summer Everest gives you a lot of daylight to complete your Everest. However, here in San Diego a summer Everest in a remote area with low traffic means you may be in the foothills of the mountains or the mountains themselves. In the summer it can be 90-110F degrees in the middle of the day.  If you happen to have a tailwind in the middle of the day for several hours you will definitely feel much hotter and need to consider more hydration supplies for your event.  During my second Everest — Double Peak Summit it was July and it was really hot for several hours while I was climbing a 15% grade at 4 mph over and over again.

8.  National, State, County or City park – pay attention to park hours.   Most parks hours are sunrise to sunset.  Keep in mind those daylight hours when doing your recce.  Consider padding 1-2 hours to your total time because things can and will go wrong and you may need a little extra time to get this done.  Nothing is worse then riding an Everest under the pressure of a time constraint.

On the other hand, a park might be a good choice if you can incorporate it into your route.  Things like running water, parking for your vehicle and/or a good place to stash your supplies.

On my second Everest, Double Peak Park Road.   To date this was by far my best Everest location.  There was a bathroom and a water fountain at the top of a 11-15% hill.  My car was parked at the bottom. The climb was about 7-8  minutes the descent was about 90 seconds.  I had access to SAG on either end.

9.  Bathroom Facilities – It would be very good and a nice bonus to have running water and bathroom facilities.  If this is not possible you can buy a camping style potty

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LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION 

I could spend an entire post on segment selection and I still might.   The old saying in real estate is even more true in Everesting The most significant thing you can do is choose the perfect hill.  Perfect is relative to each rider.  For example, my preference is a hill to be steeper than 8% grade preferably 10%.  This ensures a shorter time and distance which will reduce the overall wear and tear on your body.  Average grades of 4-6% are going to extend your time on the bike.  A 200 mile Everest is just not appealing to me.  Please do yourself a favor and find a good steady 7-8% grade hill.  You will be happy in you did so. In my humble opinion, a steeper grade with less repeats and less overall time spent on the bike is easier than a shallow grade and more repeats.

There is enormous physical fatigue in Everesting but one thing I have found that is very important to me is to see the rapid accumulation of total gain during the first 10,000 to 15,000 feet.  Subsequently, the rapid reduction of gain needed in the last 10,000 feet is also comforting.  When physical fatigue sets in nothing effects my mental edge more than anything when I’m climbing and climbing and I feel like I haven’t gotten any closer to my goal.

Having stores nearby can be a nice treat.  You may run out of supplies and can send a friend to run an errand for you.  I ran out of ice on a very hot day and a friend was able to fetch additional ice for my cooler.  You may have a craving for something other than what you packed for your event.

Bathroom facilities at a gas station, fast food or a public facility is also a nice treat.

The length of a climb is a crucial element for your success.  My first Everest was South Grade Palomar Mountain – the most iconic climb in San Diego County and arguably all of Southern California.  The climb is 11.6 miles with approximately 4,200 feet of gain here is the South Grade Palomar Strava Link  to the segment. screen-shot-2017-02-04-at-12-08-11-pm

One of the issues I had with this segment was that it was an epic climb.  Just one ascent up South Grade Palomar is an epic day on the bike.  For most locals there are two common departure points – A coastal departure from a beach city such as Encinitas, Solano Beach or Del Mar round trip is about 100 miles with 10,000 feet or Kit Carson Park in Escondido for a 60 ish mile and 6,000 foot day.

Seven repeats of an 11.6 mile climb turned out to just be too much by repeat number 7.  The 7th repeat took twice as long as the previous 6 repeats – from an average of 2 hours to over 4 hours.

Since my first Everest I have kept my preferences of Everest locations to distances of 3 miles or less with a focus of segments of 1 mile or less.  The shorter steeper segments allow for fast accumulation of gain and an shorter total time for your Everest.

Refer to the Reconnaissance section because many of the things that make an ideal location will encompass many of criteria I mentioned.

An odd thing to consider is will you cause suspicion being in the area you are performing your Everest?  For example, when I performed my 77.8 mile Everest with 29,203 feet I was in a residential neighborhood.  As I was loading up my bike and changing from cycling clothing to street clothes I was accosted by a local sheriff’s deputy.  He said he was responding to a call from a resident/s that some guy was going up and down the hill and swerving all over the place.  The grade was over 15% and anytime I reached for my water bottle my line wasn’t perfectly straight but to call it swerving all over the place would be a hyperbole.  Once I told him what I was doing and that I was done and leaving anyway he said he was just going to call it in and I was free to go.  Interestingly, I told him I was Everesting and he did an internet search in his squad car laptop lol!

NUTRITION

This topic is so personal and so polarizing that just the very mention of it will elicit 10 different responses from 10 different athletes.  I suffered from nutrition issues for years until about three years ago.  I then discovered a liquid nutrition product that is a complete meal replacement, packed with carbohydrates, protein, fat, electrolytes, vitamins and minerals.  If you would like a recommendation on the nutrition product I use you can contact me privately.  However, every nutrition plan should cover these basics:

  1.  I prefer liquid nutrition for an Everest.
  2.  Bare minimum of 250 calories per hour
  3.  Protein sources
  4.  Variety
  5.  a guilty pleasure or two or three
  6.  Conscience decision to deviate from your off the bike diet principles

1. I prefer liquid nutrition for an Everest.

This is a personal thing.   I prefer liquid fuel because I can ride and fuel at the same time.  Stopping to eat solid foods such as bars, gels, sandwiches etc will extend your total Everest time.  I will continue to stress the importance to keep moving all the time and reduce the total Everest time.  Additionally, I prefer really steep Everest and eating solid foods while rolling is quite difficult especially in the later hours of your event.  Drinking your calories is much easier as you are climbing a 10-12% and descending at 40+mph.  The jury is still out whether liquid fuel is easier to digest than solid foods while exercising but from my personal experience I feel less full and less lethargic and better fueled while using liquid fuel.

2. Bare minimum of 250 calories per hour

Depending on your weight you should target at a minimum 250 calories per hour.  There are several online formulas to assist you in finding the ideal calories per hour for your gender, weight, body type and exertion level.  The more calories you can digest per hour the greater the probability is for your success and the better you will feel during your Everest.  Personally, I target 285 to 300 calories per hour when I Everest.  I am 5’9″ and weigh 150-155 lbs.

3.  Protein sources

While carbohydrates are an obvious and essential forms of energy for endurance events I am surprised how often I have to advice an aspiring Everest athlete to include protein in their event day nutrition plan.  Protein satiates your hunger, prevents muscle cannibalization, gluconeogenesis, which is the synthesis of glucose from the fatty and amino acids of lean muscle tissue.  Adding protein to your nutrition plan will assist you in performing a successful Everest.

4. Variety

Personally I use just one primary liquid fuel but there are several things that I will have in my SAG vehicle and cooler… just in case.  Fresh fruits, Pretzels, Salty and savory or sweet times for variety.

5.  A guilty pleasure or two or three — Coca Cola, Potato Chips (Salt and Vinegar are my favorite) anything that makes you feel good that you wouldn’t ordinarily eat off the bike.

6.  Conscience decision to deviate from your off the bike diet principles.  I have been approached by athletes with special off the bike diets. Vegetarian or Vegan athletes have strict diets and ideology.  Sometimes I offer them options that go against their preferred diet and they choose to deviate in lieu of not completing their Everest.

GEARING

Gearing choice will be decided based on your perfect hill.  I ride a compact crankset 50/34 and an 11-32 Cassette.  Because I prefer 8-10% grades for my Everest locations the compact and 24T and 28T cogs get the majority of the work.  As fatigue sets in or if I would like a relief on a repeat or two I will ride the 32T cog.

You can also purchase a crankset that is being called a micro compact crankset that has a 48/32 chainring combination.  This crankset is a personal consideration for me as I prefer really steep grades.  At the time of this writing, I currently hold the record for the shortest distance Everest in North and South America at 78 miles and 29,203.  To accomplish this incredibly low mileage Everest I found a hill that was 1/2 mile and was over 15% for the majority of 1/2 mile.  The average grade came out to 14.3% because there is a lessening of the grade at the top as it makes a right turn to a connecting street.

It goes without saying that your bike should be properly tuned.  That little nagging click click early in the event might be ok but later in the day/night it can be really annoying especially if the bike refuses to stay in gear.

SUPPORT SYSTEM

You may be able to cajole others to join you for a portion or the entire event.   If you prefer a solo effort, my personal favorite, you will at some point during your attempt seek out support.  Your support may manifest itself in many different forms for example, it could be validation from your social media network.  Posting pictures with status updates to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter are not only an opportunity to validate your effort but these practices are encouraged for documentation purposes, more on documentation in point number 9.

I have had a rider or two join me for a few repeats at their own pace and their mere presence for a short time was comforting.  However, Everesting is a personal journey that I wish to take, suffer through it and come out the other side knowing I accomplished something great on my own.  But as I have been reminded many times through my 14 year ultra cycling career — no one is ever alone on a solo effort.

Here’s another take on the support system.  When I first started doing longer and longer events one of the things I used to do was tell my friends that I was training for something epic.  Then during the event I replayed those conversations in my head.  These conversations were important because they held me accountable.  I never wanted to come home and see those friends and have to tell them I Did Not Finish (DNF) said event.

EQUIPMENT

Depending on the weather or the projected length of your Everest several items need to be included as part of your gear list.  I will cover the GPS related items in the next segment point number 9  Redundancy Backup.

Weather – extreme cold or hot conditions should be avoided at all costs.

Clothing-  arm coolers, arm warmers, knee warmers, leg warmers, vest, base layer(s), jacket, long sleeve jersey,

Bottles – how many?

Lighting– bright for traffic to see you in a well lit area where a driver has many different light sources – street lamps cars business lights  or low light in a remote area since your eyes will adjust and you don’t need bright headlights.

Have multiple headlights and taillights available for your event.

While repeating at night save your night vision-  look down at the fog line so you can preserve you night vision which takes minutes to regain if you stare into the headlights of oncoming cars.

Battery power — the need for supplement battery sources for all your electronics can not be overstated.  Cell phone, GPS device, Head lights, taillights and anything else you wish to have with you.

REFLECTIVE GEAR, LEG BAND, vests, lighted vests.

Sunglasses multiple lenses possibly

night glasses — think of your eyewear as eye protection

Leave the ridiculous carbon clincher or worse carbon tubular wheels at home.  Use your low profile aluminum training wheels.  The reasons are fairly obvious but maybe I will spell them out so we are on the same page.

  1.  Wind conditions – no need to be riding deep section wheels (anything above 35mm)  on windy days especially cross wind descents.
  2.  Most carbon clincher wheelsets over 35mm weigh more than a nice set of aluminum climbing wheels like a Shimano Dura-Ace C24 wheelset
  3. Brake pad/rim – heat build up on steep descents
  4. Breaking a spoke on a low spoke count carbon wheel will put your wheel completely out of true.
  5. If you choose to ride carbon wheels bring a spare set of Aluminum clinchers as a back up.

REDUNDANCY OF DATA

You know what they say, “If it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen” – a truthful quip.  You will need to provide digital proof of your Everest.  There is another saying that applies here as well “Pics or it didn’t happen”.  Let’s expound on these two points further.

Strava is the primary source of digital proof of your Everest.  Choosing a GPS device that uploads to Strava is not that difficult since just about all newer units are now compatible.  More important in my opinion is the battery life of said unit.  As a bike store owner, I have access to the latest and greatest GPS devices.  Unfortunately, as the unit manufactures add more and more bells and whistles the battery life of these units has decreased over the years.  As an Everester the last thing you need is mapping functions on your GPS device.  You are on ONE hill doing repeats that’s it.  Color screens, big giant displays and so on are completely frivolous and the guilty culprits of battery draining.

Photos are great ways to get people behind your effort.  Your photos on social media may motivate you when you see the comments.  Heck you might inspire and motivate other riders as well.  Pragmatically, photos provide another form of documentation that you completed your event.  Take pictures often of the data on your GPS device.

My recommendation you should have two GPS devices so you have a back up file.  Strava app on your smartphone can be your third device.  In certain areas, like around my store, the Strava app will over-inflate your actual gain, which I guess would shorten your time Everesting but will fall suspect to data scrubbing FOR FACTUAL GAIN.

BELIEVE YOU CAN DO IT

Now that you have read all the tangible things that you can do to have a successful Everest we come full circle to mental preparation.  In the end it is your mental strength that will get you through your Everest.  When all other things fail such as your nutrition plan or your external battery isn’t charging your lighting system, you need to believe you can finish what you started.  When you have fallen off your goal pace — stay focused and think of all you have accomplished up to that point.  When you goal time for your total Everest comes and goes by remain positive that you are still able to ride your bike past the point when you thought you would already be finished.  When the weather turns for the worse and you didn’t prepare for it with the proper clothing just keep pedaling.  Remember at some point or many points in your Everest it is no longer physical… it is mental!

While on the subject of mental strength let’s discuss start times.   I have had several aspiring Everest riders telling me that they will be starting at 11pm or 2 am.  Personally, I could never understand why anyone would want to do that.  I usually start my Everest at 7 or 8 am and ride through the day and finish at night.  I prefer to spend the lion’s share of my Everesting during daylight hours and the last bit of it at night.  As an Ultra Cyclist I have ridden many times through the night and I actually like riding at night.  But for an Everest I prefer not to do an overnighter.

On my third Everest on Thanksgiving Day, I rode almost half of it during the day and half after dark.  In San Diego the sun sets about 430 pm during the winter. It was not the best time of year to perform an Everest.   I was running out of time in the calendar year to reach a 1,000,000 feet hence I did an Everest to get a quick 29K towards my goal.

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There are riders who focus on the physical challenges of Everesting but I maintain that the riders that are successful at Everesting are those that work on the most important muscle — their brain.  The ability to suffer physically is a practiced art of masochism which ultimately does have it’s limitations.  But are those really your limit? But I asseverate the best push through those perceived limitations and find new boundaries of what really is possible.  When you are able to use your mental strength and channel it – your power is limitless!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.  If you like the content please subscribe and share it with a friend.  Please leave a comment or question. You can follow me on Strava here  Lastly, if this post was helpful towards your first or any Everests please come back and post a comment.  Suggestions are also welcomed.

Mulholland Double Century – That Became a Century Instead


On April 8, Lori, my awesome stoker, and I began the day expecting to compete in the 2017 Mulholland Double Century, 196 miles and about 18,000 feet of climbing.  On mile 28 of the event we crashed.  We spent an 1 hour 20 minutes off the bike and timed out for the double so we only did the century with 13,444 feet of climbing.

That’s the headline now if you wish you can read further for more details.  It is important to mention that in over decade of being a tandem captain this is the first and only crash I have ever had on the tandem.  Lori and I began riding tandem back in 2011.  We have ridden thousands of training and racing miles.  We have climbed millions of feet and descended millions of feet on canyons, mountains and rolling terrain.  We have ridden through rainstorms, windstorms, daytime and sleep deprived overnighters on our 500 mile events.  We have ridden in aggressive roadie group rides and solo excursions. I guess I was beating the odds with so many miles and avoiding so many perils.

 

EVENT EVE

The forecast called for rain overnight.    It did rain as forecasted even with all the hoping we were doing that it wouldn’t.  Our weather forecasters have the easiest job in the country.  The weather is almost always the same and many times when they forecast rain it never materializes.  We were hoping they would get it wrong.  My best guess is it stopped about 3 am, the last time I looked out the window.  Rain was not forecasted during the event.  As far as I know there was only a very light sprinkle at some point during our 10+ hours on the bike. It was however very windy in the early afternoon.  I can’t comment about the weather after 4 pm.

EVENT MORNING

We launched at 630 am with the other double century riders.   The ground was wet for the first couple of hours. We worked at medium intensity on the climbs and rollers and cruised easy on the descents.  The sun peaked through the clouds every now and then but I would characterize the early morning weather as cloudy and foggy.  In some areas the fog was quite dense.

THE CRASH

28 miles into the event, while we were descending Old Topanga Canyon we crashed.   We were on the last 1.5 miles section of the descent when it happened.  The wet and dry pavement were apparent to me.   I could see the darker and lighter patches on the road.  Just before our crash we banked into a right hand sweeper where I could see a perfectly dry section of road.  I then could see up ahead a shaded area so I scrubbed off some of the speed.  We entered a twisty section with Oak trees shading and sheltering the road below it.  On one of the many lefts and rights we hit a wet patch of road under one of the trees and whoosh the front tire washed out from underneath us.

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Crash site just to the right of the blue dot.

You know how when you crash or fall and you think to yourself “that was stupid”?  Well that thought never entered my mind.  I was riding well within my limits and well within the limits of my machine — or so I thought.  I was riding as cautiously as usual and then BAM! We were on the deck!  It caught me completely by surprise!

COMING TO…

There I was face down with my cheek and chin touching the wet pavement.  My mouth was open and as I licked my lips I could taste the ground– the dirt.  Immediately I wondered what the heck had just happened?  I did a quick inventory of my mental and physical faculties.  When I opened my eyes and lifted my head I was looking down the hill. Once I figured out where I was, what had happened and that I could move,  I got up quickly and looked for Lori.  She was facedown as well but oddly enough her head was pointing uphill with her hands under her body.    With her hands under her I later hypothesized that she didn’t have enough time to get her hands out to break her fall which might have prevented her from breaking her wrist or fingers.

I began asking Lori if she was ok.   It was only after several impassioned inquiries that I got her first response.  Her response was unintelligible, in fact, it can be best described as groans.  There were no discernible words… at first.  I asked again and again what hurt and if she thought I could move her.  She couldn’t respond with something I could use.  I know better than to move an injured person but we were still in the middle of the road and on an open course with cars and other cyclist coming very soon. After what seemed like an eternity she started to make coherent phrases but not sentences yet.  Meanwhile a couple of riders had stopped at the scene and one of the riders called 911.

Now let me take you back about 11 years.  I would like for you to understand what I was processing at the time.  Years ago while I was driving my car on a twisty road in San Diego, Highland Valley Road,   I was the first person on the scene of a motorcycle accident.  The motorcyclist crashed head-on with a small Ford Ranger type pickup truck.  The motorcycle rider was thrown from his motorcycle and was lying facedown when I approached him. Numerous times I asked him if he was ok.  I asked him what his name was and all I got from him was, you guessed it, groans.  Long story short, this gentlemen died at the scene of the accident.  Even with the help of emergency services he was not going to make it.  They were unable to stabilize him before transport and he died at the scene  Unfortunately, I had that experience in the back of my mind while I was trying to extract a response from Lori.

I digress back to the scene of the accident, within a few minutes of our crash Ed Gallegos, roving SAG, drove up, parked his “toaster” as he calls his tiny economical car, and pulled out a camper’s chair and a blanket. Tony Musorafite Sr was also at the scene very promptly.  Paramedics, Fire Rescue and an ambulance arrived soon after.   Meanwhile hordes of riders were coming down the canyon and doing the looky Lou thing as they passed by us. We were very near the front of the event (top 10 by my count) so the main body of the double century riders were still coming down the canyon as we were being attended to by the emergency services.

Just before the emergency services arrived I was asking Lori typical questions to ascertain her condition.  From my perspective the answers should have been very apparent to her.  I asked her things such as: her name, day of the week, what event we were  participating in,  she struggled at first but she was able to recall those things.  When I asked her what the specific date was she couldn’t tell me.  Generally, I’m not that good at telling you the specific date but an event date is always on your mind as you train for it.  She couldn’t tell me if it was the beginning, middle or end of the month.  She also couldn’t remember us crashing.  I cut her a little slack on that one since she is a stoker and can’t see the road ahead of her most of the time.  But when I dug a little deeper she couldn’t remember hitting the deck.  Now I was worried.

We both declined emergency services.  Our injuries were fairly common for any cyclist that comes to grief against the tarmac.  We both had road rash on our left side and significant soreness.  I had severe whiplash from my head bouncing off the tarmac.  While our road rash was common we had both experienced concussions. Lori took it to the next level by having road rash not only on her left side but with road rash on the right side of her face.  Additionally, at some point she was lucid enough to perform a very astute and accurate self-diagnosis of a broken left clavicle.  As the emergency vehicles drove away Tony loaded up our tandem in his vehicle and took Lori 1.5 miles to Checkpoint #1.  I was ferried to Checkpoint #1 by Ed in his toaster.

The 1.5 mile drive to the checkpoint was very difficult on me mentally.  We had a very friendly and helpful reception at Checkpoint #1 by Jennifer, Terri and Q.   Although everyone working the checkpoint was already handling us as a DNF I was not prepared to quit… not yet.   At the checkpoint, I reconnected with Lori. I asked her several times what she wanted to do.  I knew her injuries were worse than mine.  I also knew that if she could push the pedals I could get us to the finish.  She deliberated for a long time.  I could see it in her eyes that she didn’t want to quit either.  But I could also see the disorientation in her eyes in the Marine Corps we called it “the thousand yard stare”.  I also witnessed the constant wincing as she moved around in what should have been a nice comfortable leather passenger seat in Tony’s Tahoe.  Eventually, I said, “Look let’s get back on the bike and if you can’t ride then you’ll know you made the right decision to end the ride here.”    I reasoned with her that if the pain was unbearable then she would know.  I could see the indecision and after all the time we wasted with SAG, Emergency Services and debating it was time to “shit or get off the pot”.  We needed to bring clarity to her decision making and our predicament.

TEST RIDE

Here was my idea we would go backwards on the course and climb back up the canyon 1.5 miles.  That waypoint was were we crashed and entered the SAG vehicles and made forward progress in the motor vehicles.  It was very important to me to reenter the course at the crash site.   We climbed slowly and then I asked her to stand and climb with me.  It hurt her and the bike felt off balance, because she couldn’t put weight on her left hand/arm, but we did it.  It was imperative that we could stand because we still had many steep climbs ahead.  Climbs like Decker Canyon and Cotharin have sustained sections of  12-15% with pitches over 20%.  I checked with my stoker if she thought she could ride and she said yes.  We hit the 1.52 mile marker, made a U-turn and descended back to checkpoint #1.  Much to the surprise of all the great volunteers at Checkpoint #1, we were back on the bike and requesting a “sticker” so that we could resume our ride.

AFTER THE CRASH

The first few miles were difficult.  All told we had been off the bike for over an hour.  As you can see from the graphs below we were off the bike from 1 hour 45 race time to 3 hours 2 minutes race time.  My best guess is we were off the bike 1 hour and 17 minutes.  That’s a long time off the bike under any circumstance but it is especially difficult to get going after a crash.  We had substantial injuries now if you compound that with all the time on the sidelines we sure had a long road ahead of us to get back in the groove.

 

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THE NEXT 80 MILES

Something neither of us had considered was how challenging it would be to descend with Lori’s injuries.  Steep descents like Deer Creek will put a lot of weight on your hands/arms and shoulders while on a -12% grade.  There are even steeper sections peaking at -19%.  I was very cautious descending Deer Creek which prolonged the descent and put a lot of strain on her upper body.  I could feel her helmet hit my back any time I braked too hard.  So now I had to balance keeping the tandem’s speed down while still releasing the brakes often enough to keep the brakes from overheating but then having to apply them quite firmly because the tandem was gaining speed virtually exponentially on the 12% grade. We got through it but it really is one of the least favorite parts of the course for a tandem captain.  If you’re not careful the tandem becomes a runaway train at over 300 pounds and overheated disc brakes

THE ONLY TANDEM

We were happy to be the only tandem at the start line for the double century.  It meant loosing the three event California Stage Race series was up to us.  Two years ago we made a mess of our attempt at the Stage Race with mechanicals on the second event. This year we were lucky enough to have two events relatively close to our homes Mulholland Double and Oceanside Double.

It is important to mention that the Mulholland Double Century is extremely difficult on the tandem while healthy.   My suspicion for us being the only tandem at the event is that the amount of climbing and the steepness of the grades is concentrated in so few miles.  There are countless ramps of 12-20% grades with sustained sections at double digit grades on the course.  So while this event is difficult while healthy it became even more difficult for us and and in particular Lori because she could not put pressure on her left hand/arm.  We did our best to “sit and grind” up many of the double digit ramps and stood very sparingly.  When we stood the bike was out of balance as we were going 3-4 mph.

Initially after the crash I could tell Lori was nervous and apprehensive while descending so I kept the speed way down.  Throughout the day as the roads dried out and I gained her confidence and we descended a little quicker but far slower than our usual speeds.

Eventually we rolled into the finish of the century which also served as  the start for the second loop for the Double Century.  Because of all the time we spent off the bike and our much slower pace throughout the climbs and descents we timed out and were not allowed to continue on to the double century.  108 miles and 13,442 feet is a good day’s work in anyone’s book.

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THE BIKE

Oh yes some of you might be wondering the condition of the bike. Of course, because you must be the cyclists in the bunch.  The bike is fine.  The Left shifter got scraped up, the bar tape was torn and a very minor scuff on the stoker’s saddle.  The stoker’s stem and handlebar are secured to the captain’s seatpost.  When we crashed the stoker’s handlebars hit the deck.  During the remainder of the day we couldn’t get the handlebars straight while not twisting the captain’s seatpost.  The best we could do was get her bars straight and let my saddle remain off center.  I didn’t want to stop and take the time to loosen and retighten everything without a torque-wrench.  We just wanted to continue to make forward progress and leave well enough alone.  The last thing we needed was to snap a seatpost collar or a stem bolt on the stoker’s handlebar set-up.

As far as clothing — my highest-end Biemme Bibs (plain wrapper), my REV Cycling branded knee warmers, REV Cycling Pink Jersey (my favorite), and my wool base layer are all torn beyond repair.  Additionally, my Kali Protectives Phenom helmet was cracked in several places and needs replacing.  A shoutout for Kali Protectives they offer a lifetime Crash replacement program!  No hassle just fill out the form pay for outbound shipping and a new helmet will be sent to you.  Might be why REV Endurance Sports is a Kali Protectives dealer.

 

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Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.  It has been a long time since I have been actively writing and posting on this blog.  I appreciate your support.  I commit to releasing posts more often.  I have over 40 posts in draft mode.  They will get released and you will have a lot more material to read.

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Everesting Elfin Forest to Double Peak Summit – San Marcos – Everest number 3


I completed my third Everest on Thanksgiving day November 24, 2016.  While many were enjoying their time with family and friends I decided to go out and spend some quality time with my climbing bike Bella – Bottecchia Emme 695.

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The first Everest was South Grade Palomar Mountain.  I still consider it as my hardest.  The solitude, the danger of the country road at night, the heat during the day and let’s not forget the HC climb of 11.6 miles and 4,200 feet of gain.

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The second Everest was a local hill close to my shop and home, Double Peak Drive.  The climb is 1.1 miles but I chose the segment of the climb that was the steepest 1/2 mile.

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And for my latest trick, I climbed a 2.4 mile climb 31 repeats at an advertised 985 feet about 7.8% grade and it also included the entire Double Peak 1.1 mile climb which ramps up to over 15% on the last 1/2 mile.  I Everested only the last 1/2 mile section (steepest section of the 1.1 mile climb) on July 10th – screenshot up above.

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One hour 38 minutes of stopped time.  At first glance it looks like a huge amount of resting time however, I assure you not one of my stops was for a rest.  This particular Everest had 10 Traffic Signals, Five on the way up and Five on the way down.

  1. Elfin Forest Rd (start of the climb and U-turn point)
  2. Schoolhouse
  3. Hope
  4. Questhaven
  5. Double Peak Park Dr (Left turn across traffic)

On every repeat I had to stop at least once on either the ascent or the descent.  Consider 31 repeats being stopped just ONCE for one minute that’s 31 minutes right there!  The rest of my stops were all logistical in nature.  Clothing changes, transition to night riding and of course the self-sagging stops are all very time consuming.

Below is a comparison table of the key data I monitor and use to compare the efforts for each event.

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A few quick points to put some sense to the numbers:

  1.  The Elfin Forest to Double Peak Summit ranks second in the following categories: A. Total Time, Moving Time, Stopped Time and Kj’s, kj/hour, Normalized Power and VAM
  2. The Elfin Forest to Double Peak Summit ranked Highest in Training Stress Score (TSS)

In general it did feel as the second hardest Everest that I have completed.  So the numbers give an accurate representation what happened on the road.

Thank you for reading please subscribe to this blog.  It has been dormant far too long.  Four years ago I opened my own high-end bike shop and that has consumed me.  My spare time for my writing has been almost nil.  However, there are several posts that are in a draft mode and just need to be revisited, edited and published.  Please leave comments with your questions so that I can answer them.  Your questions will be incorporated into my future Everest posts.

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