Everesting San Elijo Road


On October 6, 2018 George Vargas Everested San Elijo Road in San Marcos, CA . He climbed 29,301 feet in 175 miles 1.6 miles 606 feet of gain 7.2% grade. He had one rear flat and no mechanicals.  He felt great on the bike all day long on his way to completing his 6th Everest.  Everesting is when you take one hill/mountain and do consecutive repeats until you attain 29,029 feet or 8,848 meters the height of Mt Everest. Follow me on Strava here follow me on youtube here older content on youtube here

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WEATHER

The weather in the morning was cloudy, foggy, drizzling and even raining at times.  Rain is rare in San Diego but I was more than happy to have rain.  The cloud cover kept the sun away for several hours.  It was a welcomed change from my last Everest attempt on September 8th.  It was in the high 90’s that day and a tailwind which is usually welcomed cooked me while climbing.  I was roasting and dripping sweat in buckets!  It was hellish for about 10 hours until the sun finally set.  But the weather on this Everest was, dare I say, enjoyable.  I was happy with the cool weather and enjoyed the rain showers throughout the morning.  The afternoon was overcast and the evening was fairly warm for October. I am sure the cloud cover trapped in the heat of the day and it made for a pleasant evening.

PACING

I climbed at Endurance Zone all day. I felt great from beginning to end.  Endurance Zone for me is 140-189 watts or 2.17 w/kg to 2.93 w/kg.  I know what you are thinking wow those are some low wattage numbers and you would be correct.  But this is an endurance challenge not a race.  You can ride at any pace you want as long as you complete your Everest.  I find that riding at Endurance zone works best for me. Even riding at Tempo range you might dig a deep a hole too deep that you won’t be able to get out of later in the day/night.  I think my pacing was perfect for my fitness leveland my overall capability as a cyclist. Some further analysis follows below.

I took my total time (18 hours) and divided it by 3 equal parts (6 hours).  Then I looked at my Normalized Power (NP) and compared it for the three equal segments.  For a refresher on NP click here.  Basically NP is a calculation “takes into account the variance between a steady workout and a fluctuating workout.  In a highly variable ride the NP will be much higher than your Average Power.”  Let’s keep it simple for the purposes of Everesting.  You want to maintain your NP within your Endurance zone.  One test I used was to just breathe through my nose.  If I could climb and breathe through my nose I knew I was still in Endurance Zone.  This tactic works well for recovery rides too.  Sure enough I would look down and my heart rate would be between 135-140 bpm.  I conserved energy and maintained a consistent pace all day.  To wit, for the last 12 hours my NP for 2/3 and 3/3  deviated by only 2 watts at 154 w (2.4 w/kg) and 152 w (2.37 w/kg) respectively.   My first 6 hours I purposely was riding a little harder.  The weather was cloudy, foggy, misting and raining so I was trying to ride fairly fast to take advantage of the cool conditions 174 NP or 2.72 w/kg.  My tactics worked very well I climbed an extra 1,100 feet in the first 6 hours compared to the last 2 – 6 hour blocks.  1,100 feet may not sound like much but it is 2 complete laps which were about 22-25 minutes each lap.

 

I have also included my Heart Rate zones if that is more friendly to you than power data.

 

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RANDOM THOUGHTS

Did any of you watch the old Batman series on TV with Adam West? Maybe I’m dating myself a little here but…you can catch reruns on some stations that play 60’s shows  I believe TV Land is one of them.  In those old shows, Batman and Robin would be climbing a rope up the side of the building and some of the Hollywood celebrities of the day would make cameo appearances and pop their heads out the window and start talking to them.  It’s funny that I thought of my interactions with other riders in that way.  I spoke with only three riders that day: Will Barnes, Steve Fellows and Evan.  Yep 18 hours only 3 riders.  Why?  Because most riders seemed to be in too much of a hurry to chat with me 🙂   I past a few riders but they didn’t seem to want to talk. I wonder if maybe they were in their own pain cave.  In case you need a little reminder of how hokey the Batman show was I have included a video from youtube below.  Strange things come to my mind when I’m on the bike 12 plus hours. Funny thing Robin mentions Mt Everest in this video compilation!

 

What was my conversation like with the three riders mentioned above?  Will Barnes is training for a ride in the Palomar Mountain area I think he said Gran Fondo.   Steve Fellows, he was a former Cat 3 racer who was always in the winning break but couldn’t close the deal when it came time for the sprint at LOTOJA.  I eventually want to do LOTOJA.  Evan, a full size guy, was doing one of my typical hill repeats ride “up and over”. He said he needed to lose some weight.   We talked about Intermittent Fasting as strategy.

HOW LONG IS AN EVEREST?

I’d like to give you some idea of how long it takes to do an Everest.  Here are a couple of examples:

I saw people gathering at this house mid-afternoon.  On each repeat I would see this progression before my eyes almost like time-lapse photography shows you rose blooming.  I then saw them partying on the patio. The sun set and they were still partying.  In the evening, I saw them watching the Mcgregor Khabib fight and cheering. Cheering loudly I might add.  I caught glimpses of the fight as it was projected on the wall nearly life-sized. More cheering and then some jeering.  I then saw them enjoying their post-fight party.  Each repeat I had a different vignette into their lives.  Eventually, I saw the people leave and the lights go out and go quiet.  Their action-packed, fun-filled and alcohol supplemented day with family and friends was done and dusted with everyone under their doona … and I was still climbing.

I saw a wedding party taking pictures in the park around the water fountain in the light of day.  I then saw them convene at the local watering hole for a wedding reception. Between my repeats I saw people coming and going, dancing and cheering, laughing and hugging.  More pictures and more hugs and more toasts. The shiny disco mirrored ball shining it’s random beams of light across the dance floor and out onto the sidewalk where I would ride through them.  I felt part of the party for those few seconds I passed the watering hole.  I wondered what it would feel like to be off the bike and dancing under the lights … you know being normal on a Saturday night.  Then I saw the wedding party disperse.  Then the clean-up and eventually the watering hole closed… and I was still climbing.

And this song was stuck in my head

I saw the local coffee shop open, serve coffee and breakfast.  I saw it close. I saw it reopen for lunch.  I saw it close after lunch.   I then saw it convert from a local watering hole into a wedding reception hall. I saw it close for the last time … and I was still climbing.

The neighborhood security patrol began their rounds … and I was still climbing.

18 hours … it can also be your fasting window 🙂

These long epic days on the bike remind me of the time I was riding the Mulholland Double Century (200 miler with 17,000 feet) I was sitting at the side of the road just before the Decker climb. I was 150 miles into the event and I was just spent.  I was running in the top 5, riding alone and completely hammered.  I had to pull over and regroup with myself.  I sat down next to a fire hydrant and drank an entire bottle while watching the other riders catch and pass me.   I was no longer running in 5th, or 6th or even top 10.  I have seen and ridden by that same fire hydrant since then and I have reflected back on this day.

As I sipped on my bottle and nursed my energy back up, I allowed myself and my mind to disassociate with what I was doing and then connected to where I was physically at that very moment.  You might call it being present.  It was May.  It was Saturday. It was early afternoon. It was a beautiful sun-filled day with a clear sky.  I still remember it.  I could see people going about their day.  Surfboards and bikes, you know the beach cruiser types.  The type of bike you take to the beach and leave it there because you know no one will steal it.  It will be there when you return from surfing.  Couples walking hand and hand, carrying bags and towels and stuff heading down to the beach.  Will they be joining friends or having an intimate date alone but together.  Will they be staying until sunset? How romantic that would be?  As beach goers sunsets are eagerly anticipated and watched with awe.  As a cyclist, it means a completely different way of riding.  What did they do earlier in the day? Did they do anything?  Did they sleep in? What will the rest of the day bring for them?  I allowed myself the time to think of being someone else for a moment and doing something else … for a moment and then it was time to get back on the bike.  If I stay on task I might actually enjoy dinner tonight at a reasonable hour and maybe even at the same time as this couple.

So how long IS an Everest?  It is long enough for the average person to wakeup, have a full day of activities with family and friends, get a modest workout at the gym or outdoors, go home change get dressed go out to dinner, go to a movie, then go to a bar, close it down, drive home get in bed … and I would still be climbing.

ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS

You would think after 10 Furnace Creek/Silver State 508’s and 50 plus Double Centuries that I would have the ability to pack all the requisite items for an endurance ride/race/event.  Once packed and accounted for it you would think I would possess the organizational skills to have everything in it’s place and a place for everything.  Well, you would be mistaken because I take too much for granted.  The thing is you need to be very well organized because as the hours pass and fatigue sets in. During your Everest when  you are looking for something you second-guess yourself whether you packed it or not.  Logic, reason and memory functions are compromised the longer you are out there.

Allow me to provide for you two examples of the stress I experienced looking for things.  The first was my knee warmers.  I was sure I had packed them but I couldn’t find them anywhere. I usually keep them in a cubby drawer thingy that I tote around with me to do my Everesting and the Furnace Creek/Silver State 508.  BUT… the weekend before I had taken them out to take to a Double Century up in Northern California (blog post in draft mode still) and I forgot to put them back in my cubby.  The second was my top tube bag.  I used it to hold my external battery pack to recharge my electronics i.e. Wahoo Bolt, Cell Phone, lights etc.  I searched and searched and in the dimly lit cabin of my minivan I couldn’t find it. Eventually I found it when I was looking for something else.  Isn’t that the way it usually works out?  These are minor and it could’ve been a lot worse.  But these two instances were huge time killers and time off the bike is time you don’t get back and it extends how long you will be out there.

I have already thought of how I will organize my night gear for my next Everest.  Things like my top tube bag but also my reflective clothing, lighted vest and additional lights.  I wasted a lot of time converting my bike to night mode.  Next time I will already have my second taillight mounted on the bike but just not turn it on until after dark.  The handlebar clip that holds my headlight, should have been on the handlebar as well.  I mount my headlight under the handlebar so that the light doesn’t bother me.  When I climb my hands are very close to the stem and the light on top of the bar would get in the way and cramp my style lol!  But on the day of the Everest at the very least the clamp wouldn’t bother me as much and it’s a necessary evil anyway.

Would you believe that for me one of the biggest stressors during an Everest is keeping all my shit charged?  It’s obvious to have your lights charged and to have backup spares as well.  GPS units also need to be charged during an Everest – yes units.  You should always have a spare GPS unit as well. If one craps out during your ride or one doesn’t upload properly you should have a spare GPS unit.  In addition, I document with photos and videos during the event as a back up to the back up!

SETBACKS

I had a couple of setbacks that also wasted time.  A flat tire on the bike and a dead battery.  I had a rear puncture.  It’s so strange because at that time I had gone over that same stretch of road for approximately 6 hours.  I flatted about .2 of a mile from the end of the climb so I just rode it to top to the van which I affectionately refer to as the Mother Ship vice SAG wagon.

The second setback was a dead battery on the aforementioned Mother Ship. A huge shout-out to my friend Paul Sims who came out and gave me a jump.  When my tandem partner Lori, Everested the same hill last year her car battery died also.  The battery being dead is a misnomer since the interior lights work but you don’t have enough cranking power to turn the engine over and start it.  We didn’t notice until she was done and we were leaving but luckily I was there to give her a jumpstart.  Here I was trying to be proactive and start my vehicle so as to prevent draining the battery but little did I know it was already too late.  Fortunately, it was still early in the evening 745 pm. Thank you Paul!!

EVEREST TIP Two helpful hints when using your vehicle as your SAG:

  1.  Turn off all interior lights
  2.  Have a friend on standby not just for the jump but for supplies since you can’t leave your Everest location – food, ice, spares for your spare, clothing etc

 

NUTRITION

For me this is the easiest piece of the “how to complete a successful Everest puzzle” I use a product called Spiz.  Hour after hour I am completely fueled with all the macro nutrients and tons of other good stuff.  I can “pre-make” my bottles by placing the powder in the bottles without water.  This small step saves time.  Sure you end up with a lot more dirty bottles to clean after the event.  I then add water when I am ready to use it.  I am usually one bottle ahead in the cooler.  Each serving has 20g of protein so I don’t mix until I need it or at least not more than couple of hours before I need it. A 4 scoop serving is 517 calories.  With Spiz you get your macro nutrients and everything you need to sustain your energy through your event and beyond.  What do I mean by beyond?  Because I am fully fueled during my, in this case, 18 hours of Everesting, my recovery was so much faster.  You can purchase Spiz here.  Please take a look at the nutrition panels for Spiz.  You may contact me directly if you have questions. revcycling@gmail.com

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By the way, I bring other things with me but I don’t rely on them for any appreciable amount of calories or fuel for my ride.  They are things that are treats and provide a cleansing of the palette.  For example, I had the following items with me:

Peanut Butter filled pretzels (I love pretzels and I love peanut butter I had some of these)

Ms Vickie’s Salt and Vinegar potato chips (never opened the bag)

Black Pepper Triscuit (never opened the box)

Bananas (I had 2)

Grapes (a few handfuls)

Energy Bars (I had 3 – 140 calories each)

Energy chews (I didn’t have any)

Coca Cola – (I had 3 – my first one at the half way point 15k feet into it)

WEIGHT LOSS

I have been experimenting with Intermittent Fasting or IF to lose those last 5 stubborn pounds.  I wonder if doing the Everest in my Endurance Zone I was using more fat stores than glycogen and/or the carbs I was consuming as I was riding.  I never felt like I was fading never felt extreme fatigue.  This was the most gentle grade of all my Everests.  It is my longest Everest at 175 miles.  The climb was only 7-8% most of the way with a flat spot at the top.  1.8 mile climb with .2 of a mile at the top that was flat with a median in the middle that prevented me for making the u-turn sooner. 1.6 miles 606 feet of gain 7.2% grade

Besides being in fat burning zone, maybe, the real benefit has been losing those stubborn pounds, the last 5 pounds you just can’t get rid of. Enter Evan, late in the day I got the opportunity to ride with him as he was returning home.  We had a chat about weight loss and the subject of IF.  I told him that for many years I was 155 and no matter how many miles I rode I would always gravitate to 155 lbs.  FYI- When I first started cycling I was 190 lbs.  Then last year my focus was to get down to 150 pounds.  Now this was the new normal and no matter how many miles I rode or calorie watching I did I would gravitate back to 150.  So this year I thought I would shoot for 145 pounds.  Success!! I can proudly say I am a member of the sub 145 pound riders club if there is one.  I think IF helped because I just found a reason to restrict calories with a plan and goal in mind.  I IF about 3 times a week.  I eat regularly on weekends beginning on Friday if I am racing that weekend.  I eat regularly on Friday pre-race, Saturday race day, and Sunday and Monday on my recovery days.  However, regularly now means almost a complete elimination of carbs from my diet. I don’t buy rice, potatoes, pasta, bread and so on for the home.  If I am out and it’s a race weekend then I indulge otherwise I abstain.

If you are considering an Everest I strongly suggest you give yourself the best opportunity to succeed and lose those pounds you have been thinking about losing.  You will thank yourself as you are 15,000 -20,000 feet into your Everest.

Here is a video compilation of each time I stopped and documented the ride for Instagram (IG) and Facebook.  IG has 1 minute video limitation so that was just perfect to get the pertinent information out to social media.  It also makes the compilation short and concise.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Please subscribe if you haven’t already. Please leave a comment so I know that you are reading and enjoying or not enjoying my blog.  Either way I would like to know so that I can find new and interesting ways to entertain you.  If you have suggestions of something I should blog about feel free to leave a comment.  Please refer your favorite cycling buddy to my blog.  Follow me on Strava there are a few more epic adventures coming up this year.

 

Here are my other Everests:

 

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Recovery Ride musings


Today while I was on my recovery ride I had a few thoughts that came to mind and I thought I would share them with you.

I felt remarkably well considering I just did an Everest on Saturday (2 days ago).  The ride I was on I usually do a few surges and a sprint here and there.  But today was all about taking care of my body and doing what I was supposed to do… an active recovery ride.  I did a pretty good job at it as I kept my heart rate down as well as my power.  I let the group ride ahead and I met them at each regroup.  No fragile ego today I just put on my recovery mindset.

You can see from the graphs below how I kept my power and heart rate low during the ride.  I rode 58% of the ride below 139 watts and 49% of the time in a heart zone of 120-145  bpm.  Very comfortable and able to hold a conversation without heavy breathing.

 

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And now onto my musings —

The first thought — was using the analogy of a quiet unassuming fellow in a bar getting harassed by some inebriated bullies.  The quiet fellow is just minding is own business having his Long Island Ice Tea – that should tell you right there he’s a little different.  When is the last time you had a Long Island Ice Tea?  Better yet when was the last time you had two Long Island Ice Teas?  Yep! You can’t remember because those things are heavyweight drinks and they will put you down if you are not careful.  They have several liqueurs in them and very little mixer.  Back to the quiet and unassuming fellow he tells the bullies he doesn’t want any trouble and that he’ll buy them all a drink if they will just go away.  What we don’t know about the quiet unassuming fellow is that he’s some super killer Ninja dude with all these secret ways to kill you with one punch and he can wipe the floor with these guys.  So the analogy is the bullies are the peloton, the quiet unassuming guy is you on a recovery ride.  You know you can kick ass and be riding hard with the big guns today BUT you need to do the right thing and let them ride and you need to ignore the taunts in the form of surges from the group.  The fellow buying the drinks to the bullies that’s you letting the big guns win the sprint today because you don’t challenge it.

So next time your are on an active recovery ride be the Ninja dude/chic and use the discipline to keep your efforts in check even though you know you feel good and could kick some serious arse!

 

The other thought was in reference to my latest Everest.  I have always wanted to do an Everest REV Style where you attain 29,029 feet or 8,848 meters without doing a single repeat.  Living in San Diego County there are plenty of climbs to make that work.  So when I got back to the shop I created the REV Epic Everest Ride.

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It combines the iconic climbs of San Diego into one ride.  It is 276 miles and 30,000 feet of climbing.  I went over the 29,029 in case Ride With GPS overinflated the elevation and we would end up short.  Starting from my shop in San Marcos the climbs are as follows:

San Elijo Rd

Old Castle

Palomar South Grade

Mesa Grande

Climb to Julian

Mount Laguna

Cuyamaca Peak

North Peak

Montezuma Grade

Palomar East Grade

Cole Grade

Double Peak aka Mt Vargas

This would be one monster ride and so epic I don’t even know if I can get anyone crazy enough to ride it with me.  Here is the ride link on Ride With GPS website.  PLEASE DO NOT DOWNLOAD TO YOUR GPS DEVICE it has not been scrubbed to ensure every turn is correct or that every road is bike friendly.  Two climbs in particular I have not ridden myself — yet.  They are Cuyamaca Peak and North Peak.  I plan on doing a recce of those two climbs soon.  Too many activities planned these next few weekends.

 

Thank you for reading my blog.  If you haven’t already please subscribe.  Please share this blog with your best cycling friend.  I have several posts in draft mode that I am chipping away at releasing so stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

Beach Cities Double Century


On September 22, 2018 George Vargas and Lori Hoechlin completed the inaugural running of the Beach Cities Double Century with 9,900 feet, in a total time of 12:56 on the tandem.  For those of you that keep track of ride time only, 11:39. We had a mechanical and flat-free day!   This was George Vargas’s 51st and Lori Hoechlin’s 36th  Double Century and our 4th of the 2018 season.  The two biggest hurdles of the day were TRAFFIC LIGHTS and a never-subsiding HEADWINDS.

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Before getting into the ride report I would like to thank Jim Cook for taking the time and immense effort to create a new double century right here in Southern California.  Next, I would like to thank all the volunteers for being out on the course all day ensuring we were well supported.  Thank you!

PRE-EVENT

I had my reservations about doing this double century.  At first I thought there are going to be a lot of traffic lights.  When we checked in at the finish Kermit even said, “How did you like Tour de Lights?” LOL! As Lori and I discussed whether we were going to do it, I told her I just needed to prepare myself mentally that we are going to be stopping a lot on this double.  You see you have to think of the tandem as that big semi you see on the road.  In the city, they are slow lumbering beasts that clutter the road and are almost always in your way.  But on the highway, they are a picture of beauty with all their lights, fairings and effortless speed based on their momentum.  Yeah we are something like that 🙂

I then thought I might as well do the double since it is a local event and I would like to give a local guy, Jim Cook, a shot at succeeding.  Furthermore, the event would benefit many worthy causes addressed by from the event website – “FINDcures a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit charity that supports research for Alzheimer’s Disease, Autism, Concussion, Epilepsy, Major Depression Disorder, MS/ALS, Parkinson’s Disease and Stroke, and provides transitional support services for individuals impacted by any of the above neurological diseases. NdZONE will donate at least 5% of all Beach City’s proceeds to FINDcures.”

DESCRIPTION OF THE ROUTE

From the Beach Cities DC website:

“The Beach City event starts and finishes in Irvine, California. Irvine offers a system of bicycle lanes and trails to encourage the use of bikes as a means of transportation. It has 44.5 miles of off-road bicycle trails and 282 miles of on-road bicycle lanes.  The City of Irvine is one of the most bicycle friendly and safest communities in America”

Sounds great! Sign me up! The reality is that you can’t do a DC exclusively in Irvine.  Well you could I guess by doing laps … something I abhor.  It is the very reason I have never signed up for any 24 hour races.  They are usually held on looped courses.  The largest loop in the daylight hours with a shorter loop usually after sunset.  Although if you follow my blog you will know that I have no problem Everesting.  When Everesting you do repeats up and down the same hill until you reach 29,029 or 8,848 meters on one ride. So you would think I would be able to tolerate a looped 24 hour course but you would be wrong.

I digress, back to the event.  The route turned out to be a great route not what I expected so I was pleasantly surprised. It was billed as quite the scenic tour see below:

Popular cities:

Laguna Beach
Corona Del Mar
Newport Beach
Huntington Beach
Sunset Beach
Seal Beach
Long Beach
Irvine
Lake Forest
Mission Viejo
Dana Point
San Clemente
and more…

Legendary course highlights:

Surf City, U.S.A.
Queen Mary
1984 Olympic Cycling Road Race Course
Florence Joyner Olympiad Park
Ole Hanson Beach Club
San Clemente Casino
Western White House

EVENT DAY

Saturday morning we launched out at 6:07am.  Yes that’s an odd start time – we were late for the 6:00 start — oops!  MY BAD! It was still dark but luckily Lori could read the cue sheet just fine under the street lamps of the main roads.  Additionally, because she resides in Orange County we stayed on course without incident or wrong turns until sunrise.  Lori and I had discussed the advantages/disadvantages of the different start times.  The organizer gave the riders the option to start between 4:30-6:00 am   Here is my opinion regarding the advantages and disadvantages of the different start times.

EARLY DEPARTURES

Advantage

Early start leads to an early finish – in the fall and winter months daylight hours are shorter.  Mentally, I like finishing a double before sunset.

Advantage

Lighter traffic – Saturday morning at 430 you should have much lighter traffic I mean who else is crazy enough to be up that early although you would be surprised.

Major thoroughfares are green-lit — major streets are green, green, green while the feeder streets which have less traffic will most likely be red.

Advantage

More hours/miles ridden and climbs completed before the heat of the day sets in!

Disadvantage

Headlight use in the morning eats into the total burn time available for your headlight.  If you have flats or mechanicals during the day and your progress is delayed then you may run out of burn time on the tail end of the ride.

Disadvantage

Night navigation – reading the cue sheet and reading street signs pre-dawn, let’s face it night time, can be especially tricky.  Missing a turn can add unnecessary miles and added stress and frustration to your already long day.

LATE DEPARTURE

Advantage

Usually a daylight start – easy navigation and great visibility for you and your visibility to motorists.

Advantage

Warmer start – it’s usually coolest/coldest just before dawn.  The later the start the warmer the start and the less clothing you will need at the start and quite possibly a short time and then have to schlep it around for the next 12 hours or longer.

Advantage

Chasing down the early starters – it is motivating for me to know there are other riders ahead on the course.  I like the feeling of chasing them down throughout the day.

Advantage

After a long work week and long travel to an event sleeping-in 1.5 hours more hours feels amazing!

Disadvantage

If you have any flats/mechanicals you could easily go into the night and have to finish in the dark.

In the end we chose a late start 6am of the 4:30-6am window- to minimize night time navigation and feeling confident we would move briskly through the course and finish before dark.  We just barely made it in before dark.

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Sunrise through Santiago Canyon – the first climb of the day.

I lived in Orange County for several years logically you would think I would remember the sequence in which the major intersections come at you and when to anticipate a left hand turn but I really don’t remember much.  Whenever I had free time I would leave town and ride either in the San Gabriel Mountains, Eastern Sierras or the mountains of San Diego.  It can’t be overstated enough how important it is to not miss a turn during a double century!  This DC had 2 pages front AND back of directions!  Thank you Lori for your excellent navigation!

The weather was a pleasant 63 degrees F on a late September morning.  We felt a slight breeze as we were climbing through the first real climb of the day, Santiago Canyon.  Little did I know that slight breeze would strengthen and become our nemesis the for the remainder of the day.

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The Shadow Selfie 🙂

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A walking/bike path summiting a steep climb just before descending to Rest Stop #2

We rolled up and down through many hills in south Orange County and eventually we made our way to aid station #2 in San Clemente.  What happened to the first aid station? We bypassed it since we didn’t need anything within the first 25 miles.  Immediately following aid station #2 was the toughest hill of the day for us – Avenida Salvador!  It had ramps over 12-15% and it is a bear on a tandem.

Up down up down more hills and familiar roads as we were doing large loops back to earlier aid stations.   I’m sure that made it easier for the event organizer to provide support for us.  All was going fine until I started having twinges in my legs that eventually became cramps.  I rarely cramp.  Lori says never say never.  I was just about to type I “never cramp”.  I was so surprised and wondered what the heck was going on! I started taking sodium supplements at each aid station and taking extra capsules with me.  Throughout the day I was fighting off cramps in my legs.  It was actually quite annoying.  My nutrition was the same as always — concentrated bottles of Spiz Nutrition . Lori and I ride 90% liquid nutrition for our doubles with Spiz being our primary fuel. It is an amazing product that provides the calories, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, electrolytes and amino acids for you to sustain hard efforts for hours on end.

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Lunch stop – so many people were surprised we stopped. The truth is I had enough calories for 12 hours but the first 100 took us longer than I expected and started to think we were going to go way beyond the calories I had onboard so we picked up a few more calories and a Coke!

The on and off cramping was nothing compared to the headwinds we experienced all day.  Anytime we turned West or North the winds were unrelenting.  On Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) there were times that we were barely going 15 mph on flat sections.  Let me tell you that’s disheartening as a tandem lol!  We pushed through it and finally made our turnaround in Long Beach immediately across the harbor from the Queen Mary.  I had told Lori on the way up that I had never been to the Queen Mary.  She was surprised probably just as much as I was lol!

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Just 3.5 miles from the turnaround point TJ Knight and Brook Henderson took such great care of us!

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Once we made the turn for home we were treated to a wonderful tailwind from Long Beach back to Newport Beach, approximately 20 miles.  We turned inland and headed for Irvine.  Funny how so often we are racing the sun to finish our doubles in fall and winter doubles.  Sunset for Saturday was 6:48pm.  We pulled into the Hotel Irvine just a couple of minutes after 7pm.  Sub 13 hours was the goal and we were right on target! At first it was a conservative goal with hopes of beating it but with all the winds during the day and the cramping it ended up being a struggle just to make the sub 13 hour goal.

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Finishing photo several minutes after finishing still a little daylight left 🙂 Thank you to Irwin Cycling for the 38mm Disc Brake wheels

Thank you to Lori for being so steady on the bike with power and grace.  I’m sorry for rushing you through lunch!  She gets all the photo credits too lol!

What’s next for me/us?  Lori and I will be doing the Knoxville Double Century (200 miler with 12,000 feet) on September 29th.  If all goes well it will be our 5th Double Century of the season.  On Sunday morning there will be an awards breakfast where I will be inducted into the California Triple Crown Hall of Fame for having completed 50 Double Centuries.  Stay tuned…

You can follow me on Strava here

2018 Silver State 508


For the first time in over a decade I did not race in the Silver State 508 – “the toughest 48 hours in sport”. This year I was honored for my 10 finishes.  I then partnered up with the former race director, Chris Kostman, as race official.  It wasn’t all business though. I became the designated driver while Chris took pictures and videos of the racers for social media.  It was fun to interact with the racers and crews along the race course.  That is something you don’t have the luxury to experience while racing, or at least not to the same degree.  I have to say it was very interesting to be on the other side this year.

I am working on a several blog posts where I will highlight a few of my observations of the 2018 event from the perspective of a 10 time finisher.  I will also provide REV tips for success in various subjects.  Please subscribe to the blog so as not to miss that post and all subsequent posts!  For now here are a few images that I hope will motivate and inspire you to take on the challenge of the Silver State 508 in 2019 and beyond.

I save the best for last — I WISH TO THANK ALL MY CREWS over the years for helping me achieve my 10 finishes.  I also wish to thank Lori Hoechlin for being an excellent teammate on the tandem and 2X Mixed.   Stay tuned for more posts to follow!

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Owens Valley Epic Climbs


The daydreaming continues…

Today is Thursday and now instead of counting down the days I am counting down the hours until I am free from responsibility and on my bike.  This is will be a short post because I have a lot to do before I can get out of Dodge.  One of the routes I have done in the Eastern Sierras, on more than one occasion, is riding three very difficult climbs in one day.  They are very different from each other but they share one thing in common … they are Epic!  See the graph below 105 mile 18,000 feet of climbing now that’s EPIC! Will I do this route while I’m there?  If I don’t do this route I will definitely knock down 2 out of the 3 climbs.

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The three climbs on this ride are Onion Valley, Horseshoe Meadows and Whitney Portal, in that order.  I mentioned previously that these climbs were very different from each other and I will expound on that now.  Onion Valley has a very consistent grade, albeit steep, but consistent.  Horseshoe Meadows undulates and ramps up and down.  It also has very long stretches of road as far as the eye can see.  The “switchbacks” on this climb are miles apart and amazing to admire from a distance.  Finally, Whitney Portal is dwarfed by the giant Horseshoe Meadows but the grades are brutally steep in some sections and this is very difficult climb.

ONION VALLEY RD

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HORSESHOE MEADOWS

 

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WHITNEY PORTAL

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Below I have provide a screen shot from the PJAMM Cycling website.  Please visit it and contribute to it by doing some of the rides and providing feedback or doing a ride report.  Some of us are visual learners some of us like lists.  As a male I like images but as a Virgo I like lists.  Which one are you? The 10 toughest climbs in California.  You will notice the ride above bags the toughest climb in California along with the 2nd and 5th toughest climb in California.  FYI, the 3rd and 4th toughest climbs are also in the same geographical area. White Mountain is within riding distance of the three climbs of this ride.  Owens Vally has the goods! Sherman Pass West is “around the horn” as I call it.

 

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Well there you have it a possible route for this weekend.  Tune in for more of my misadventures — subscribing to the blog is the easiest way to follow me.  Thank you for taking the time to follow my blog please share it with your best friend.  See you on the road.

 

FIETS – What’s FIETS?


As I sit here daydreaming of an epic climbing weekend, yes epic, an overused word but more on that later, I just can’t contain myself.  I am counting down the days until I am free to fly in nature’s most amazing playground – the mountains.  Is it only Wednesday?  I check the calendar again and yes it is only Wednesday darn!  Where am I going and why am I as excited as when I watch brown Santa pull up at my door?  I’m headed to the Eastern Sierra Mountains of California!

I’m sure you thought I must be headed off to Europe.  Or possibly you thought I must be headed to Colorado.  No, I’m driving, yes driving, a few short hours, depending on traffic ugh traffic, a mere 274 miles to Lone Pine, CA for some of the best climbing in California. I will take it one step further and state unequivocally, some of the best climbing in the United States.  The Eastern Sierras have some of the hardest climbs in the country in a  small and concentrated area.   Taking on one of these legendary climbs is a great acheivement but having them so conveniently close to each other enables you to tackle a second and possibly, if you are as nutty as I am, you might take on a third massive climb.

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We all value things differently.  Our value systems allow us to rank and prioritize things that are important to us.  What I value in a climb is how much I will be challenged by it and how great my sense of accomplishment will be when I summit.  For some it may be the scenery and surroundings.  I understand that as well.  However, for me the scenery comes second to the suffering while I’m climbing.  Once I summit well then it is ALL about the view!

Now I’m not completely delusional sure I would like to take off to Europe and climb the mountains that have been made famous by the mano a mano battles of my cycling heroes during the Grand Tours.  But when time and finances are an issue you can find the most amazing climbing adventures right here in Southern California.  No flying, no customs, no worrying about how to get your bike to Europe and back from Europe in one piece and let’s not forget the 9 hour jet lag issues and so on …

Who’s the GOAT?

Do you often find yourself debating with your friends “What are some of the hardest climbs you have done?” This is akin to the other never-ending circular debate “Who is the G.O.A.T?  Who is the greatest of all time?” insert sport here _________ And like the GOAT argument I wish to arm you with the facts and stats that we as climbers use to back up our argument.  Once you understand them you can use them the next time you fall into the “what is the hardest climb?” trap.  I have had this debate for years.  So I wish to introduce you to FIETS.  What is it?  Let’s find out together.  Oh and you can thank me later for the tables and graphs.

What is FIETS?

FIETS is a formula for ranking climbs.

The Fiets Index (developed by the Dutch cycling magazine Fiets).

The actual formula is: [H^2/D*10] + (T-1000:1000; but only if greater than 0)

  • H = ending elevation minus starting elevation in meters.
  • D = total distance traveled in meters.
  • T = Height in meters.

Note: Only add T-1000 if that number is greater than zero.

Let me simplify things for you … the higher the FIETS, the harder the climb, and the higher it will rank on a list.  If you want a little more explanation of the formula then think of these three things —  how much will you climb, in how much distance and what is its height.

The good people over at PJAMM Cycling have taken the time to construct and maintain an excellent interactive website with climbs from the US and all over the world.  It is a valuable resource if you love climb, love numbers and data like I do.  I have thoroughly enjoyed pouring over the lists which may be sorted in multiple ways.  One such sorting is listing the climbs in the US by the highest FIETS which as you may recall means the toughest.  I wish to provide for you a few observations.   Please bare with me as some may be plain as day but I hope to bring even the novice climber up to speed along with the elite climber.

Hawaii tops the list with the first and second hardest climbs in the US –  Mauna Kea and Haleakala, respectively.  Mauna Kea has a FEITS of 28.9 and it also has the unique distinction of being the hardest climb in the world.  The stats are mind boggling – 42.6 miles long, gaining 13,778 feet, with an average grade of 6.1%  Haleakala is no slouch either but its FIETS at 18.2 is nearly half that of Mauna Kea!  It’s numbers are: 35.6 miles long, gains 10,059 feet, at an average of 5.3% .  As any experienced climber knows the average grade just means that most of the climb is more than the average grade stated.

Now that we have dispensed with the huge volcano climbs of Hawaii let’s move back to the mainland.  I created a small table below to illustrate, again in numbers, my mind works best this way, where the rest of the hard climbs are in this great country of ours.  Excuse my rudimentary spreadsheet skills please.

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It becomes glaringly obvious to anyone, even at glance, that California ranks consistently with the highest number of hard climbs in each breakdown of 20 climbs for the top 100 climbs.  It also doesn’t take a math whiz to see in the final tally that 46 climbs out of 100 climbs or 46% of the nation’s hardest climbs are located right here in California.

Another observation, which was rather illuminating to me, was that Colorado ranked much lower than I expected. Aside from their two world famous, 14’ers Mt Evans and Pikes Peak in the top 20, they don’t have another strong showing until climbs 61-80 with five in that category.  Mt Evans and Pikes Peak are still on my wish list.  I tackled a 14’er here in California White Mountain Peak which shows up on the top 20 list as #9 but only up to 10,114 elevation.  You can continue on White Mountain when the paved road runs to dirt up to the summit at 14,252.  Not recommended on a Cyclo Cross bike only a crazy person would do that – who me?  Yeah me it was very challenging to say the least! Take a hard tail MTB instead.

Yes yes but Colorado has the altitude.  Fair point.  However, I submit to you that not everyone is effected by altitude.  I have ridden above 10,000 feet in race conditions and I felt the usual effects of reduced power but not the most common complaint of not being able to breathe under effort.  So not everyone will feel the effects of altitude but everyone will feel the effects of the length of a climb and the steep gradients, those are very tangible.  Length and steep gradients is what California offers in abundance.

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Even more surprising to me was how well Utah ranked with a total of 11 climbs and a good showing in each bucket of 20 climbs.  It seems like you can get plenty of good climbing there as well.

Below are screenshots from the PJAMM website.   It can’t be overstated how much work they have put into their website.

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Then I got to thinking wow that is a lot of climbs in California and some of these names sounded familiar.  So how many of the California climbs have I done? This part of my research was much more fun.  It turns out that:

Top 20 

I have done eight out of eight of the hardest climbs in California!

Top 40 

I have completed nine of the 11 climbs – not bad.  The two I haven’t done I just haven’t heard of them.  I need to locate, close with and destroy the enemy … oh wait that is the former Marine coming out.  What I mean is I need to find out where they are and get them done.

Top 60

I have completed nine of the 11 hardest – One of which I may never do. Hwy 330 is just too narrow and too dangerous and the other I just put on my hit list. There I go again –  I mean checklist.

Top 80

I have completed three out of eight climbs.  Interesting to see a few on there that I didn’t know existed or that ranked in the top 80 so I can knock them off fairly easily but I need to travel to them.

Top 100

I have completed seven of the eight.  Same story there is a climb on the list I haven’t heard of before this exercise.

I haven’t made my plan yet for this weekend’s rides but know that they will be epic.  Oh yeah I was going to talk more about the overuse of the word.  I will just give you my 2 cents on the subject.  Far too many use the word too loosely. The short of it is — to me EPIC is something that either weather, mechanicals, terrain, duration or a combination of these four attributes but limited to them, cause you to experience great elation, despair, sense of accomplishment, suffering, soul searching, or a combination of these attributes but not limited to them, and you complete the event, race or training session and you say “one and DONE! there is no way I’m doing that again”.  But alas, the entry window opens up for next year and you sign up again.  For the long of it I will have to publish a post about epic adventures to give you some sense of what I consider to be EPIC.  Your experience may vary.

Is it still Wednesday?  yes urg!

1,000,000 feet of climbing for 2018?


I climbed 1M feet in 2015 and 2016. For 2016 I wanted to repeat 1M feet but in fewer miles so steeper climbing and less “junk miles” 8,412 miles. The first year I attempted 1M on my first riding day of 2014 I fell and broke my right femur I was off the bike for four months. There are a series of posts about that ordeal in this blog. 2017 my business kept me too busy to go for a three peat of 2015, 2016 and 2017.

I was looking at my climbing data this morning and did a little math.  This is what I came up with

To climb a 1M feet in one calendar year you need to climb 2,740 feet per day for 365 days

May 17 – 137th day of the year

137 days x 2,740 feet = 375,380 feet Should have as of May 17

Actual feet thus far 264,380 feet

375,380 – 264,380 = 111,000 feet behind goal pace

I was off the bike for six weeks from mid February until the first week in April.  I had Influenza B, pneumonia and then strep throat and sores all inside my mouth. It was awful and I will make a separate series of post about “the flu from hell”. Anyway, I lost a lot of climbing time.  I didn’t set out this year targeting 1M feet but now I’m wondering if I can make up the ground I lost and maybe pull it out by year’s end as part of a comeback success story- a feel good story with a happy ending like Disney.

Today’s ride

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I mean my stats aren’t bad for what I have done this year they are just behind the pace.  Let’s take a quick look at how the numbers breakdown.

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2,877 miles for the year in 69 rides = 41.6 miles average per ride

269,134 feet divided by 69 rides = 3,900 feet of gain per ride

269,134 divided by total miles 2,877 = 93.5 feet per mile

200 hours divided by the number of rides 69 = 2.8 hours per ride

Let’s just see how the next couple of months go and then I’ll make a determination to go for it or not.

You can follow my progress on Strava. Whether I end up with 1,000,000 feet of climbing this year or not I am going to ramp up my climbing and it should be interesting for you to watch.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog! Please share it with your friends. Also if you leave a comment please provide feedback and if you have a topic you’d like me to discuss please make a recommendation. Once again, thank you so much for reading my blog we’ll see you on the road.

Next up – Heartbreak Double Century 5/19/18 – 200 miles approximately 17,000 feet of climbing.