On Saturday May 1, I completed the Breathless Agony Century. It is without a doubt a “climbing century”. I wouldn’t recommend it as a first timer’s century. The time cut-offs are listed below:
To complete the 3 or 4 Pass Options, you must begin the climb to Angelus Oaks from the Mill Creek Ranger Station Food Stop by 10:30 A.M.
The Angelus Oaks Rest Stop closes at 1:00 P.M. and you must leave there before 1:00 P.M. in order to complete 4 Passes of this ride.
The Onyx Summit Rest Stop closes at 3:30 P.M. and you must arrive there before 3:30 P.M. in order to complete 4 Passes of this ride.
Source: Breathless Agony website
In my opinion, the ideal rider is someone who has been riding for sometime and loves to climb! The stats are 114 miles with 12,000 feet of climbing. However, the timed portion of the event, is 11,000 feet of climbing in the first 75 miles!
I’ve done this event several times and have had mixed results. I have provided the results and the links to the event website below.
2004 Time of 6:50 45th place
2006 Time of 5:58 34th Place
2007 Time of 5:40 21st Place — Personal Record
2008 Time of 6:09 66th Place
2010 Time of 5:59 68th Place
Today’s ride was very tough. I have been in a funk lately and haven’t been training. The last time I rode my bike was April 17, two weeks ago, for the Mount Laguna Bicycle Classic (MLBC). My race report is here. Prior to MLBC I had also been off the bike for at least two weeks. By the way, I would consider MLBC a climbing century as well. It is a century with 10,000 feet of climbing. With all this time off the bike my result today of 6 hours, probably isn’t that bad but I am really hard on myself.
I had many “WTF moments” during the ride particularly at times when I was barely pushing the pedals and merely producing 150 watts. I also battled with the same cramping issues I had at the MLBC. But I have decided it is just from poor fitness or better yet NO fitness. In the last 45 days I have done less than 10 rides. That would be one ride every 5 days. But that’s how funny averages and math can be because I was off the bike much more than 5 days at a time. Back on April 3-4 weekend I rode Saturday and Sunday doing the Hell’s Gate Hundred and Towne Pass century plus. But then I didn’t ride for two weeks until the April 17th. You can’t expect to do well at a climbing century if you are not fit. I got ‘er done but it wasn’t pretty.
Clothing— Bike Religion kit, short sleeve base layer, Furnace Creek 508 vest, Wool gloves, Wool knee warmers,
Bike — Rebecca– Cervelo R3 SL, Compact Crank 50/34 and 11/23 Cassette, Power Tap Ant + and a Garmin 310XT.
As you can see from the map above Breathless Agony starts and finishes in Redlands. The call-outs are:
1. Mile 17.8 – left turn onto Jack Rabbit Trail
2. Mile 22.0- right onto Highway 60
3. Mile 26.6- Beaumont Ave checkpoint
4. Mile 43.6- Mill Creek Ranger Station
6. Mile 54.6- Angelus Oaks
7. Mile 74.2 Onyx Summit
There are three options for the ride. You can do two passes, three passes or the whole enchilada of four passes. I have always done the four pass option.
The graph above is from Training Peaks 3.0. It shows only the timed portion of the event.
Orange– Elevation Profile
I rolled at 7am with the Santiago Cycling club. It was a massive group of at least 30 riders. It was nice to ride out with a big group and benefit from the draft for the first few miles. New for this year, or least since the last time I rode the event in 2008, is a checkpoint at mile 12. The checkpoint was a surprise to me (no I don’t read the route sheet on this event 😉 . As I was coming up on it I saw a large crowd of cyclists huddled around someone and my first thought it was– CRASH!
Data above is from the start in Redlands to the left turn onto Jack Rabbit Trail — Pass 1. We were moving at a good pace with an average speed of 19.3 mph and my normalized power was 209 watts (3.2 w/kg). I got dropped on the first little climb but I knew that wasn’t my pace anyway.
The climb on Jack Rabbit Trail is always sketchy. But I found the trail to be in really bad shape on Saturday. It seemed to me that the potholes and ruts were bigger. The sand and gravel patches were bigger. The road was so bad in some areas that they were barricaded to ensure riders wouldn’t fall in what appeared to be sink holes. It’s hard to maintain and even and steady effort through this climb. I faded a little and let riders pass me that I thought on any other day I would be passing them. My average speed for the Jack Rabbit Trail climb was 10.2 mph and my normalized power was 207 (3.2 w/kg). So far so good not a stellar performance but not THAT bad.
I consider the hardest climb of the four passes to be the Oak Glen Climb. The other climbs are longer but the pitches are not as steep so they are easier to climb. I made my up the climb thinking to myself “Man I really should be training more often”. By the time I passed Chuck Bramwell’s water and photo taking spot I was really in the hurt locker. I couldn’t produce any power and was just limping along. I crested and began the high-speed descent down towards Mill Creek Ranger Station. My average speed for the Oak Glen climb was 8.3 mph and my normalized power was 182 watts (2.78 w/kg).
After a quick stop at Mill Creek Ranger Station it was now time for the 30 miles of climbing that take you to Onyx Summit. The next section is an 11 mile climb. The hard part in my opinion is the section of road called Damnation Alley. The weather was mild on Saturday. On a hot day that the “Alley” can roast you since there is no shade to be found. What I find tough about this section of road is that you can’t tell you are climbing but sure enough your legs struggle to keep the speed up. I was really dragging and just turning the pedals over. It wasn’t until I reached the Forest Falls turn off where I came into a spurt of energy. I was able to maintain that momentum until Angelus Oaks. My average speed to Angelus Oaks was 8.3 mph and my Normalized Power was 180 watts (2.75 w/kg)
The last climb isn’t that hard but you are fatigued and so it feels harder than it really is. Additionally, you are at altitude from 6,000 feet to 8,443 at Onyx Summit. Leaving Angelus Oaks the road has a lot of rollers and you get a chance to recover from your 11 mile climb. It is a 19 mile stretch from Angelus Oaks to Onyx Summit but it’s not until the last 10 miles that you reach a sustained climbing section.
When I reached the summit, I got my picture taken, grabbed my “medal”, grabbed some strawberries, a banana, chips, water and I was headed down the mountain immediately. I don’t like hanging out on the top of the mountain because the descent just gets colder and colder the longer you stay up there. Besides there is much better food available at the finish.
So there you have it my Breathless Agony report. I didn’t experience being “breathless” because I couldn’t ride hard enough. I was fatigued, cramped and just plain out of shape for a climbing century.
This painful event served as a wake-up call. No matter the funk or personal strifes going on in my life I NEED TO RIDE BY BIKE. My bike has always been my way of keeping myself sane and physically fit.
What’s next for the Red Eyed Vireo? I don’t really know because I am required to work the weekends I don’t have my son. So unless I start racing on the weekends I have my son I may not have races to report about here on my blog. The Furnace Creek 508 looms over me as it is May now and I have only five months to get ready for it. I won’t have the benefit of doing events at race pace. Training alone just doesn’t replicate the demands of racing. But you know, things have a way of sorting themselves out over time.
Thank you for reading my blog. Please pass it along to your friends, subscribe to it, and post comments if you feel so inclined.
Breathless Agony – A good report.
I think you summed it up: “This painful event served as a wake-up call. No matter the funk or personal strifes going on in my life I NEED TO RIDE BY BIKE. My bike has always been my way of keeping myself sane and physically fit.”
I was too late to enter. Perhaps in hindsight, because of the lack of training, due only to other things going on in my life, i too have not had the time to train.
However, cycling is my zen, my church, my solace and karma. For me too it has always been a way of staying and keeping fit and sane.
George, I totally agree that this is “Agony” if you show up without the benefit of training, last time on the bike for me was the Hemet Double. Was in a Nyquil induced coma for the El Camino. So, I decided to make this just a day of riding and not think about the clock, that is until I was sitting at Angelus Oaks and decided to at least make this in the 7 hour range. I did hang with an aquintance from my climbing class that was really hurting for a bit to cheer her up, and then stopped for a second for the guy that flipped in the “Beaumont Grates” until CHP showed. (how this happened with the cones and the flag girl is beyond me, but that’s why they call em accidents) Face full of blood and the front wheel under the bottom bracket makes you think and appreciate life a bit. Bramwell told me the hospital report was no broken bones but I’m sure he is feeling it today. Weather was awsome, I liked the little tail wind climbing up to Onyx on the clock. It’s alot easier going downhill into the headwind and the clock not ticking. See you on the rode…Edward Gallegos.
Nice report! I would say 6 hours is pretty damn good!
At least you were out there doing it and got it done….don’t be so hard on yourself!
Way to go George. Anyone can do a tough ride when they’re having a good day. Kudos for sticking it out with insufficient training when you were having a tough day. Most people wouldn’t even attempt a ride like Breathless without being in good form, and many in shape would have DNF’d when things weren’t going well. Congrats.
Do you think being “in a bit of a funk” can be benifitual? Body and soul asking for a break from the usual grind. I thinks sometimes yes, and a renewed energy is soon to come.
Hey Dave you found your way to my new blog :-). Thank you for making the effort. A new and improved George will come out of this funk. You hit it right on the nose my friend. Sorry to hear about Trans Iowa being called short. But that’s just the way it goes in Iowa isn’t it?
Thank you all for reading my blog. I appreciate the comments especially as I recover from my funk and lack of motivation. It’s nice to know that my efforts on the road and my efforts behind the keyboard is actually appreciated.
Stephen– You missed a great ride. If you want to do it next year make sure you put the registration day on your calendar. The event sells out very quickly. You can have my spot since I think next year I will do some road racing as I slowly move away from Ultras. I’ll see you at the shop or on the road.
Edward– Nyquil- here’s a story for you. Back in 2007 when I did Race Across America on a two man team I was really really sick and Brandy thought if the other rider would pull a good night ride I could get some sleep. she gave me some Nyquil and Tylenol PM and put me down. A couple of hours later I was woken up to get back on the road because my teammate couldn’t finish his pull. Now I have to ride in a Nyquil Tylenol PM coma serving all over the road. Yeah I saw the guy who face planted — it looked bad. Make sure you introduce yourself we are at an event together!
Karen– Thank you for the kind words. I thought about bailing from the ride. I had to play hookie from work to do it but I went anyway. Like I said in my report that was the wake-up call that I need to get back on my bike.
Jim- Thanks buddy. We will get a chance to ride together someday. As I get closer to the 508 I will be doing some epic stuff if you want to tag along.
George, it was good working with you in that group before Jackrabbit trail, and seeing you at the finish.
I hope that your funk clears and you find a way to race and train while still meeting your work and family obligations. Riding (or running, back when I could run) has often been my way of dealing with stress and problems, so sometimes the worst stress comes just from not being able to do it.
Yes, George, that is Iowa, I love it from a biking standpoint. Just when you get used to a style of riding everything changes. 🙂
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