Fasted Endurance Ride – Rincon to Julian


In my continuing effort to find the limits of my new nutrition strategy, I rode 8.5 hours in the mountains of Southern California in a fasted state.  Here is the headline, I rode in a fasted state (previous meal 13 hours prior) I rode the entire 8.5 hours on water (Crystal light flavoring) no exogenous calories, 13,200 feet of climbing in the first 90 miles with negligible loss of performance to wit, a Personal Record (PR) on the last 12 mile climb of the day.  Cold temperatures in the 30’s, rain, sleet, winds and black ice … wait are we still in talking about riding in Southern California? You can follow me on Strava

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Tommasini X-Fire Stainless Steel Custom

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It is January and that can mean a wide range of weather.  Some days it can be in the mid 70’s and short sleeves and some days it can mean winter clothing.  We have had a cold spell for almost a week now.  Before you think “oh you Californians are spoiled you don’t know what cold really is like” Let me tell you that this kid is a New Jersey transplant and he knows cold.  He was also stationed, as a US Marine, in many parts of this country to include the great state of Washington where the winters were not pleasant when working outdoors on airplanes.

Often times after an epic ride I think to myself “Man what a difference a day makes”.  Today, Sunday, it is mild and sunny and 58F.  But yesterday, Saturday, oh yesterday was a different day entirely. As mentioned in the introduction, it was cold and raining and there was black ice lurking around many corners.

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Why am I emphasizing the weather so much?  Because cold temperatures put higher demands on your metabolism to keep your body warm and functioning properly.  So what keeps the body warm?  CALORIES! 8.5 hours of exposure to an average temperature of 44F is taxing on the body.  So where did the increased amount of calories come from if there were no exogenous calories consumed during this ride?  My fat stores!   Being on a Ketogenic diet has afforded me the ability to tap into my fat stores while riding these long endurance training rides.  The Ketogenic diet is high in healthy fats, moderate protein and very low carbohydrates.

My dear friends in the Midwest and other places like to give me grief because I complain about the cold when it’s only 65F lol!  I know it’s all in good fun, but yes I am a delicate flower that doesn’t like to ride in cold temperatures.  But here’s the thing -even when those friends of mine brag about riding in 40F or 30F they never have to deal with 30 minutes of descending at 40+ mph in 30F.  The wind-chill factor makes the temperatures feel like you are riding in the low teens.  It’s horrible to be wet, descending a mountain in the cold with black ice hiding around any corner.  You have to be alert and react quickly but not abruptly.  Your hands are frozen and you have lost dexterity and that touch.   You know that special touch on the brakes … the gentle squeeze, the skill you have honed over the years and that you are very proud of as a free fall descender.   Meanwhile you are wet and shivering and fighting to keep your machine under control the entire way down.  It takes enormous skill level and a high degree of confidence to get it done.  You HAVE to get it done … you’re not going to call for a ride. YOU have to get yourself down the mountain.

Look at the graph below you will notice the lowest temperatures of the day were on my final descent.  After being on the bike 8 hours temps in the low 30’s and now begin a 15 mile descent.  I should have been completely depleted of glucose and had poor muscle function and brain fog.  So how was I sharp as a tack with such elevated mental acuity this late in the day after such a long effort?  My body was creating Ketones and the brain loves to run on Ketones! Where did the Ketones come from? My fat stores!

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Here is what I find most interesting about my entire ride yesterday.  I PR’d the final climb of the day.  Wouldn’t you think that I would be completely depleted not having taken in any calories on such a long ride?  6 hours and 20 minutes into the ride I hit the final 12 mile climb of 3,000 feet of gain with no calories consumed since when … 7pm Friday night!  At this point we are talking 19.5 hours since the last time I consumed any calories!!   Oh did I tell you that I had done a 72 hour fast just 2 days before this effort?  Did I tell you that I am eating only One Meal A Day (OMAD)? Where did the calories come from to make this PR effort possible?  My fat stores!

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The training objective for the day was to ride at 3 w/kg.  Yesterday morning my weight was 64.2 kg or 141.5 lbs.  3 w/kg for me is the top of Zone 2 Endurance zone from 140-189 watts.  3 x 64.2 kg = 192 watts I was very close to achieving my goal with zero averaging  at 2.71 w/kg with a NP of 174 watts.  Now let’s look at the final climb after 6 plus hours in the saddle I held 183 w NP for 2.85 w/kg right on target for up to 8 hours or riding.  If you track Heart Rate data — I climbed it at 150 bpm max is 188 bpm.  I am really excited about this result!  The burning question is where did this energy come from?  My fat stores!

FYI – this climb has a few drops so keeping a high power output for the entire climb is difficult to begin with and heck I’m an endurance guy so 200 watts over a long day on the bike is a good day 🙂

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So what I am looking to achieve with the Ketogenic diet?  What is the purpose of these no calorie endurance rides?  I am searching for metobolic flexibility.  This is the ability to use not only carbohydrates but my fat stores as well.  If you are a “sugar burner” you will not successfully tap into your fat stores because you have not reset your metabolism to prefer fat burning.  When you are a “fat burner”  you can tap into your fat stores and use Ketones to fuel yourself.  I am working on being able to use my Ketones for long steady state endurance events and when I need that burst of high intensity power use the glucose stored in my muscles.  Being a Ketogenic athlete allows for glucose sparing for when you really need it.

How can this help me as endurance athlete?  Think back to any race, event or training session when you have bonked.  That was a horrible feeling wasn’t it?  What if you can make yourself “Bonk Proof”? Many athletes fail to realize their full potential because of metabolic failures. That’s right they fail not because they weren’t trained properly with regards to their cardiovascular fitness or muscle strength, stamina or endurance.  They fail because metabolically they are not using the most abundant and almost never-ending fuel source they have onboard … their fat stores!  Bonk Proof consider the possibilities…

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  How about a thousands thoughts?  A thousand possibilities?  Have you ever seen a tanker truck driving down the freeway or at your local gas station?  Did you know that massive rig is using a diesel engine up front and towing gasoline in its trailer?  The tractor is carrying 150-300 gallons of diesel to power itself but it is towing approximately 90,000 gallons of gasoline.  What if the diesel is the stored glucose in your muscles and your liver and then gasoline is your fat stores?  Consider the possibilities of tapping into the huge amount of stored energy you are lugging around with you everyday.  If you are a “sugar burning” athlete when your 150 or 300 gallons of diesel fuel runs out you are either going to bonk or you need to keep replenishing during your event, race or training workout.  But that means stopping to refuel and what if you can’t find something or you are running neck and neck with a competitor during a race? Do you take the risk and stopping to refuel or go until you bonk or hope that you don’t.  Those fat stores are just sitting there… USE THEM!

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By the way, I have also dispensed with the customary almost obligatory ingesting of protein/carbohydrate recovery drink within the 30 minute magic window.  I mean who created this magic window?  The nutrition companies?  What did I have instead? I had coffee, mostly black lol I threw in a little Stevia.

 

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One final note.  I am very impressed with the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt.  It indicated a max elevation of 5,654 ft while the posted elevation sign was 5,665!  Amazing under normal weather conditions but as mentioned throughout this post the weather was less than ideal! Well done Wahoo!

 

Some terms used in this post …. #sugarburner #fatburner #ketolifestyle #ketogenicdiet #fasting #intermittentfasting #omad

2018 Year in Review — 1,000,000 feet of climbing!


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On December 23, 2018 George Vargas completed the REV Cycling Million Feet of Climbing Challenge.  2018 marks the third year in the last four years he has achieved 1,000,000 feet of climbing in one calendar year. The previous years were 2015, 2016 and now 2018. That is the headline if you would like to learn more please read on.

Let’s turn the clock back a few years.  Initially, I had intended to climb 1M in 2014.  I set the challenge to my REV Cycling team/club members in December 2013.  But on my first ride of 2014, January 2, I crashed and broke my right femur.  You can find the posts here that expound on my injury and recovery.  I finished out the year with some fairly strong numbers considering I was off the bike for four months.

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Now 2015 comes around and I’m raring to go.  I would have a full calendar year to do it but in fact I completed the REV Cycling Million Foot Challenge in only 10 months.  Additionally, I was proud of doing it in less than 10,000 miles. The last two months of the year should have been a bunch of “coffee rides” but I still accumulated another 106,422 feet and 1,079 miles on top of my 1M and 8,889 miles at the end of October. When you do the math you can see a few fantastic numbers — in my opinion of course.   Ironically, I’m proud of completing the 1M in fewer than 10,000 miles and yet I am the founder of the 10K/1M club on Strava!  10K/1M is 10,000 miles and 1,000,000 feet of climbing club.

1,000,000 feet in only 8,889 miles = 112 feet per mile

1,000,000 feet in 242 rides = 4,132 feet per ride

8,889 miles in 242 rides = 36.7 miles per ride

The breakdown of the additional feet and miles AFTER I completed the challenge are found below.

November 2015 (13 rides)

  • 556.1mi
  • 38h 7m
  • 45,226ft

December 2015 (18 rides)

  • 523.1mi
  • 41h 59m
  • 61,196ft

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2016 I was determined to remove as many “junk miles” as I could in getting to 1M feet. I had climbed 112 feet per mile in 2015, so how much more juice could I squeeze out of the lemon? LOL!  Regardless, I was on a mission to accomplish 1M in fewer than 8,889 miles.  Keep in mind I am still doing centuries and Double Centuries (DC) throughout the year that wreck my average since there is only two DC’s on the calendar that have 20,000 feet of climbing. In my opinion, they are too far to drive and do them but once every few years.  Most hard DC’s have about 13,000-15,000 feet.  The most difficult ones are 15,000 and above.

I digress, with my mission in mind throughout the year I did accomplish my goal of getting 1M in fewer than 8,889 feet but just barely!  I completed the challenge in just the nick of time on December 22, 2016!  It was getting so close to the end of the year that actually had my biggest month of climbing for the entire year was in December, nearly 129,000 feet.

December 2016 was a crazy month!  With all that was going on with my business and my life I needed 125,994 feet to get to 1M.   I amassed the requisite feet in a scant 809 miles that’s 154.7 feet per mile!!  The biggest bang for my buck in December was an Everest of 29,203 feet in only 78 miles.  At the time it was the shortest Everest in North and South America!  And as I stated earlier, there was one of those low elevation Double Centuries mixed in there of only 7,448 feet which completely wrecked my average feet per mile.

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  • 202.24 mi
  • 7,448 ft

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I only did one more ride in 2016 after completing the 1M challenge of 27.5 miles and 2,923 feet.  The final stats for 2016 look like this:

1,000,000 feet in only 8,384 miles = 119 feet per mile

1,000,000 feet in 245 rides = 4,081 feet per ride

8,384 miles in 245 rides = 34.2 miles per ride

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2017 was a busy year for my business and so I didn’t get out and ride as much.  I think I had decent numbers and a year most people would be proud of … I was anyway!

2018 YEAR IN REVIEW

 

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Thank you for indulging me to bring you from 2014 until today.  I realized I hadn’t posted a blog post for any of my previous 1M completions.

2018 is more of a tale of two seasons.  We can easily split it up by everything that happened before I got sick and everything that happened after I got sick.  Looking over my ride files it’s specifically, everything thing that happened from January until March and everything that happened from April 7- December 23!

Here is a synopsis of what I accomplished in January and February.  Not much to talk about just 2 notable rides.

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Now let’s talk about my illness. For the entire month of March I was sick and I didn’t ride. But not only was I too sick to ride, which may be shocking to many of you that know me well,  I was too sick to work! A minimum of two days a week I lacked the energy to get out of bed and get to my store. I tried to work from home but I didn’t have the mental focus to read emails or process internet orders. I had never ever felt this sick before!

I had Influenza B, pneumonia and Strep throat.  I had sores in my mouth and throat.  There were blocks of time 12-24-36 hours when I didn’t eat or consume fluids.  I dropped weight dramatically.  I weighed over 150 lbs in February.  During my month-long battle with the flu I reached an all-time low was 134 lbs by late March.  When I remounted April 7th I  was up to 137 lbs but I felt completely out of shape – no leg strength no cardiovascular fitness – nothing.  My journal entries point out a very elevated Heart Rate (over 185 bpm) for very minimal effort.

 

I need to emphasize something before we begin digging into the 2018 season.  I had no intention in climbing 1M this year.  The only reason I went after it was BECAUSE I was got sick and wanted a goal that seemed out of reach to do something epic for 2018.

April 7th I got back on the bike and I was on a tear.  I had a lot of time to make up and a lot of feet to gain.  I was routinely did the math of how many feet I was behind the million foot pace. Every time I would start to make some progress I either had work commitments, a Double Century or just life.

So that the math below makes sense to achieve 1,000,000 in 365 calendar days you need to climb 2,740 feet per day EVERY DAY.  If you take a rest day or skip a day then well that is 5,480 feet – skip two days and that is 8,220 feet just to break-even! With that basic calculation let’s now extrapolate what being off the bike for over a month looks like.  31 days in March and 7 days in April — that’s over 104,000 feet behind schedule.

JUST 33 RIDES

How did I close this huge gap? From April to December I set out to do some pretty epic shit. Many of my rides were big rides!  How big?  Take a look at this statistic — 33 rides produced 454,842 feet!  Nearly HALF of the million feet came from JUST 33 rides!! Let’s break this down.

454,842 feet in 3,755 miles = 121 feet per mile

454,842 feet in 33 rides =  13,783 feet per ride

3,755 miles in 33 rides = 113.7 miles per ride

Here are some more stats for just these 33 rides

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It’s important to mention that of the seven Double Centuries I completed in 2018, six of them were on the tandem with the indefatigable Lori Hoechlin. She is as true as the North Star. Her steady, fluid and rhythmic cadence is as constant, predictable and reliable as the pulse of a quasar. As a stoker, and better yet as an athlete she has no equal. Oh yeah and she is a heck of a good human being too.

The months of September – December were especially busy with epic rides, career achievements and Hall of Fame inductions.  Let’s review this four month timeframe.

Before beginning there is an honorable mention August 25, I visited the Eastern Sierras and climbed three monster climbs: Onion Valley Road, Horseshoe Meadows and Whitney Portal Rd.  17,000 feet in 127 miles.

SEPTEMBER

Mon, 9/3/2018

49.28 mi 10,108

Sat, 9/8/2018 EVERESTING San Elijo/Twin Oaks #5

166.87 mi 29,104

Sat, 9/15/2018

Career Achievement Furnace Creek/Silver State 508 – 10 Finishes Award and working the race

Sat, 9/22/2018 Beach Cities Double Century #51

190.37 mi 9,931 ft

Sat, 9/29/2018 Knoxville Double Century #52

197.73 mi 14,619 ft

Sat, 9/30/2018

Career Achievement California Triple Crown Hall of Fame Induction for completing 50 Double Centuries

OCTOBER

Sat, 10/6/2018 – EVERESTING San Elijo Road #6

175.35 mi 29,301 ft

Sat, 10/14/2018 Mt Laguna Recce

93.76 mi 11,010 ft

Sat, 10/20/2018 Solvang Double Century #53

191.14 mi 11,930 ft

Sat, 10/27/2018 Oceanside Double Century #54

193.29 mi 14,032 ft

NOVEMBER

Sat, 11/3/2018 Mike Nosco Ride

80.71 mi 8,114 ft

Sat, 11/10/2018 EVERESTING Twin Oaks Valley Road #7

132.60 mi 29,088 ft

Sat, 11/17/2018 REV Laps #1

86.15 mi 13,235 ft

Thurs, 11/22/2018 Thanksgiving Climbfest

45.83 mi 10,049 ft

Sat, 11/24/2018 Local Steep Climbing Day

49.06 mi 10,016 ft

DECEMBER

Sat, 12/1/2018 Fun Climbing Day

87.73 mi 12,034 ft

Sat, 12/15/2018 REV Winter Century Series #1

104.33 mi 11,253 ft

Sat, 12/22/2018 The Eleventh Hour Ride

43.01 mi 8,389 ft

Sat, 12/23/2018 The Coup de Grâce 1,000,000 ride

54.70 mi 10,568 ft

 

Some other things…

How about some other fun facts?  In 2018, I saw a couple new power number PR’s.

My 5 second power number increased to 995 watts.  Nothing to write home about I know but for me it’s fun to “sprint” every now and then.  Actually my top two all time 5 second efforts were in 2018.  995 watts 15 w/kg while weighing 66.33 or 146.2 lbs

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What about 1 minute power numbers? 608 watts for 1 minute 9.09 w/kg 66.88 kg 147.4 lbs.  These increases came after repeated efforts at sprinting up local hills of over 8% grades.  It is interesting to note that not only did I increase my absolute power number from 600 watts in 2015 by 8 watts but I also weighed less in 2018 which means I increased my w/kg as well!  The numbers for 2015 1 min PR were 600 watts at 8.82 w/kg at 68.02 kg or 149.95 lbs

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EDIT: 1/1/19 Finished off the year with 10,000 miles the last 3 days of the year I did two centuries and a 40 miler to tackle the last 250 miles.  Last minute goal not even in the plans during the year but I got so close I just figured I should go for it.  

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There you have it a year of climbing 1,000,000 feet summarized in 1,000 words!  What is next for George Red Eyed Vireo Vargas?  I’m not sure.   I haven’t made my goals for 2019.  I guess I better get cracking on that eh?

Everesting Twin Oaks – “South Village to School Entrance”


On November 10, 2018 George Vargas Everested Twin Oaks Valley Road in San Marcos, Ca.  More specifically he Everested an existing segment named “South Village to School Entrance”.  The effort took a total time of 14:06 for 132.6 miles (213.3 km) 29,088 feet (8866 m).  If you track ride time it was 13:09.  Regarding total time this was his third  fastest Everest at 14:06.  His fastest Everest was #4 Everest13:30 total time. His second fastest Everest was #2 Everest 14:05 total time. He had a flat and mechanical free day! This ride marks his seventh completed Everest Challenge. You can follow him on Strava here.

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PREPARATION 

This is a local hill where I have done many repeats over the last 4 years.  I am very familiar with this hill.  The grade is consistent 9-11% once you ride through the “shallow” run in of about 7% in the first 50-75 meters.  I had dreamed of Everesting this hill for the past two years but I just hadn’t summoned the courage to get it done.  The crazy thing is that I have done much steeper hills in the past.  For example, Everesting the top 1/2 mile of Double Peak (Everesting #2) which averages 11% but actually has two distinct ramps of 15-19% with a relief in the middle of that lowers the average grade down to 11% .  I had also Everested Coronado Hills (Everesting #4) which averaged 15%!  At the time I Everested Coronado Hills it was the shortest distance Everest in North and South America at only 77.8 miles (125.2 km) for 29,203 ft (8901 m).

So then why the trepidation on this climb?  There were a few glaring concerns allow me to list them.

  1.  SAFETY – When doing a recce of your climb one of the first things you need to consider is “Will this be a safe place to Everest? Ok it seems safe during the day but what about at night?” This climb has a lot of traffic flow during the day.  The bike lane is narrow.  At night the traffic is much lighter compared to the day but it’s not like it drops to zero.  There are only two lamp posts on the climb, at the bottom and at the top.  At night you are trusting your rear red blinky to provide an invisible force field around you as you climb at 6-8 mph while the traffic in the lane next to you is doing 50-60 mph.
  2. HEAT – During the day this climb can be very hot. During the summer when you have the most daylight it can be over 95F.  There is a slight tailwind every afternoon.  The trifecta now exists the tailwind, the ambient heat and the heat coming off the tarmac.
  3. GRADE – I climbed steeper grades on my previous Everests but for some reason this one I respected, admittedly probably too much, because of the all the times I have done this climb at full gas while chasing or being chased during a group ride.  During the group rides I would make the selection of the lead group and then suffer my way up trying to stay on the wheels of stronger riders until I would POP! That mental trauma of all the times I had suffered at full gas, all the times I POPPED, all those times were in my mind thinking that I had to climb it at least 75 times, albeit at a much lower intensity.

 

I wish to give some props to the smart people who created the logic behind Everesting Calculator which can be found here.  Take a look at my total time in the screenshot provided above of 14:06 the calculator predicted 14:04!  Unbelievable how close the calculator was to reality.  This is one of those situations when I believe I did better than the calculations.

  1.  The actual distance ended up being 132. 6 miles vs 126 miles for the calculator
  2.  The gain I was getting each ascent was more like 370 ish ft not 387 ft
  3.  The actual repeats were 76 vs 75 predicted
  4.  Using 185w avg in the calculator I ended up with an actual 175 np
  5.  The actual kj were 7,116 calculator predicted 6,959 kj again very close

In summary, I rode further, climbed more and still made the time cutoff!  

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GEARING —

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I chose to ride a 53/39 and an 11-28 cassette.  It was also my first Everest using AbsoluteBlack oval chainrings.  There are quite a few studies out there to the effectiveness of oval chainrings.  But here is what AbsoluteBlack states from their study “Up to 9% increase of Force effectiveness, up to 7% less oxygen consumption, up to 15% less Ventilation (breathing) and up to 10% heart rate decrease when using oval chainrings versus round. What does that mean? In short, it means that you will consume less energy at the same power output using Oval chainrings so you can ride for longer and/or faster.”  I have been riding really strong so who knows if they are helping or not but all I know is I’m kicking ass lately! 

As I mentioned earlier I have done many repeats on this hill in the past.  My current total is 519 subtract the 76 from my Everest it leaves you with 443 previous efforts.  I knew that the 11-28 cassette would be fine as I am not a spinner.  I also didn’t want to change out my crankset as I prefer to ride/climb with my 53/39 chainring setup for most of my climbing and everyday riding.  Having said all of that, my spare set of wheels had an 11-34 cassette installed on them.  Just in case everything went wrong I had a large cassette for the 10% grade. 

 

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ORGANIZATION

I decided after my last Everest that I would be better organized for all subsequent attempts.  As a former mechanical engineer, I believe in continuous process improvement.  If you standardize a process the end result is predictable and expected.  Then you take the process and seek ways to continue to improve it.  In the case of Everesting, you need to establish what supplies, clothing, nutrition and equipment you will need for each attempt.  Now that you have “your must haves” you should have them organized perfectly.  Once you are fatigued you may not be thinking clearly and not be able to find what you are looking for or you might doubt you even packed it.  

To wrap up my preparation I had intimate familiarity with the climb – to include day and night riding on it.  I had consulted the Everesting Calculator for a prediction prior to riding it and used it as a pacing tool while I was on my Everest.   I was much better organized this time by treating it like one of my long endurance events. 

See video below on how I set up my van for my Everesting attempt. 

 

 

THE RIDE

I got a late start but I wasn’t frazzled by that at all.  I like to sleep in until my body wakes up naturally.  I don’t use an alarm as part of my normal life.  On race days I use alarms as a back up but I am usually up before the alarm goes off.   I’m an odd duck… I like to take a shower, have a cup or two of coffee relaxing before heading out for my Everest.  Notice I did not mention having breakfast as part of my morning or pre-race routine.  I don’t eat breakfast before centuries, double centuries or even my 500 mile ultras so why would I have breakfast before an Everest attempt?  There are several reasons why having breakfast before an event is a poor decision.  First and foremost you don’t want an insulin spike which takes hours to settle back down.  Secondly, who likes to climb a hill/mountain on a full stomach? Not this guy! Once on the bike slowly begin fueling and continue through the ride/event/race or Everesting attempt.

The sun was up but most of the climb was still shaded by the higher hills surrounding my segment.  It was in the mid 40’s at the start.  The first few descents were quite chilly for this soft Southern California rider 🙂 You have to consider wind chill factor with 45-50 mph descents.  

Right from the start I could tell I was on a good day!  My legs felt great and I had to temper my enthusiasm so as not to go out too hard on my first few repeats and pay for it later.  I like to divide my ride into three distinct blocks of time/effort.

A Block – Early morning and early part of the ride.  Fresh legs cool temperatures… it’s time to make hay! The A Block sets the tone for the rest of the ride for me.  I like to set a good pace for which the rest of the ride is measured against.  I have done enough endurance events (centuries, double centuries, 500 mile ultras) to know exactly how hard I can push without wrecking myself and not being able to finish strong.

B Block – Slow down as the heat of the day comes on strong.  Keep a steady pace reduce stop time stay on the bike but keep the pace steady.  

C Block – Late afternoon and early evening.  In many cases you have a lot more stopped time for gear and nutrition and riding slower because of reduced visibility think increased safety considerations.

D Block- If we ever get to D Block things have not gone very well and we are into extra innings!  This block would be the very definition of pain cave.  Doubts and concerns about finishing go through my mind.  Something either physically, mentally or equipment-wise has gone awry.  This block is situation critical!

I have to remind people I am not a natural athlete and these things don’t come easy to me.  I suffer and I suffer a lot.  What I believe I am properly equipped with is a powerful mental edge over other athletes.  I say this to my friends and the athletes I coach… “most people don’t like to suffer” I also think about one of my sports heroes Steve Prefontaine — “It’s not who’s the best – it’s who can take the most pain.”

I digress D Block … I have been in D Block at two previous Everest attempts.  I had to do a lot of negotiating with my mind to make my body get back on the bike.  I experienced the dreaded time in D Block during my very first Everesting — Palomar Mountain South Grade – a monster of a climb nearly 12 miles with 4,200 feet on each ascent.  It is an ICONIC climb known the world over so it of course had to be my first Everest. It was the 25th of July 2015 and over 100F climbing the bottom 5.5 miles of this climb.  The second time was on my #5 Everesting September 2018, when it was also very hot with a tailwind.  On Everest #1 I spent over 4 hours off the bike trying to manage my overheated brain and body by pulling over and taking advantage of shade when I could find it.  On Everesting #5 There wasn’t any shade to be had anywhere on the climb so I just had to take the pace down several notches just enough to keep moving but nothing else.  I had to wait for the sun set before I could climb at my true potential.  On Everesting #5 I spent over 4.5 hours off the bike again dealing with overheating and dehydration.

BREAKDOWN OF EACH OF THE BLOCKS

Below is my A Block – My Normalized Power (NP) was 189 watts or 2.93 w/kg which is the very top of my endurance range of 140w-189w. That is a fairly fast start but I felt great so I went with it.  Additionally, it is important to reiterate that the climb is mostly double digit grades which demands a moderate to high power output just to climb it.  Usually during my A Block there are wheels to chase or pace yourself with or against since that is primetime for “normal” people to be riding.  It was during the A Block when an Instagram follower, Jason, came out to do a few repeats with me.  I was so happy to have someone endure a little suffering with me.  We chatted a bit which was nice since I had been talking to myself for a couple of hours before Jason showed up.  My apologies sir if our paces were not compatible at that time of the day but my legs were fresh and the weather was still cool so I pressed on.  Thank you so much for coming out Jason! 

 

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It might be a good time to say that I do my Everests alone… mostly.  I don’t advertise when I am going to do them or where I’m going to be.  I also don’t invite other riders because I don’t want any uncomfortable moments between us if they or I am feeling better that day and the other rider is suffering.  Worst case scenario I won’t pace myself to the slower rider and I don’t ever expect another rider to slow down for me.  Hence, I do my Everesting alone.  But there’s more, I like the pain and suffering (refer above that I am not a natural athlete) that comes from the physical and mental challenge of completing an Everest.  I like what I think about during an Everest and I like how I transcend I like the way like a caterpillar I come through as a butterfly on the other end.  

Just for fun the largest butterfly in the world is the female of the Alexandra Birdwing reaching wingspans slightly in excess of 25 cm (9.8 inches).[2] This birdwing is restricted to the forests of the Oro Province in eastern Papua New Guinea.

 

I am proud of the discipline I exhibited by only having 8 minutes of stopped time in the first 4.5 hours.  My first stop for additional nutrition was 3:51 into my ride.  As mentioned earlier it is important to make as much time before the heat of the day takes hold.

 

 

My B Block

NP was 175 watts well within my endurance zone of 140w-189w or 2.71 w/kg . The weather never got hot.  The forecast was for 76F.  It was comfortable and pleasant.  I reduced the intensity of my pace so as to conserve energy for later in the effort.  Additionally, I reduced the pace so as to preclude having to stop more often for nutrition.  It is amazing how a short stop to refill your bottles can turn into much longer than you think. In your mind you think you have only been stopped for a 2-3 minutes and when you remount your bike it’s been nearly 8-10 minutes.  

 

It was during B Block when my friend Michelle came out to join me.  It was an awesome surprise!  She has been dealing with a few chronic injuries and is recovering/rehabbing from them.  This is not exactly the climb you would want to do while you are rebuilding your strength but there she was putting in the work! 

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B Block

 

 

My C Block

NP was 155 watts well within my endurance zone of 140w-189w or 2.4 w/kg. The weather never got hot.  The forecast was for 76F.  It was comfortable and pleasant.  I reduced the intensity of my pace so as to conserve energy for later in the effort.  Additionally, I reduced the pace so as not have to stop  as often.  The transition to night mode still took too long but I just can’t see how to reduce the time.  

  1.  This time I had all light mounts on the bike all I had to do was clip in the lights
  2. This time I had everything organized in drawers
  3. This time I prepared two bottles so that I would make one less stop than I did last time.
  4. This time like last time I had to remove my top clothing to don a wool base layer which I prefer to put directly to my skin. 
  5.  This time I actually put on a second base layer that has a wind shell on the chest so that I would not have to stop in a couple of hours to don another wool base layer. I ended up being too warm for the next hour though.  
  6. This time the Mother Ship was not located at the U-turn at the top of the climb.  It was a block away up further on the climb and I had to ferry stuff down to the turnaround point and stash them behind bushes.  There was a little time wasted there BUT… I wanted to keep the elevation gain to stay pure – just the climb only.

 

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C Block

 

CONCLUSION 

People ask me often “What do you think about when you’re on the bike for so many hours?” Well it depends.  I can tell you that this time I thought about all my Marine brothers and sisters out there.  Some are currently stationed in hostile environments, combat environments and some are even stationed at cushy posts around the world and stateside.  I thought about how the US Marine Corps is so steeped in customs and traditions.  How every year, while I was on active duty, on November 10th the world seemed to stop so that we could observe the Marine Corps Birthday, either with a small formation out in the field or a large formation and a band main side with all the pomp and circumstance.  I also thought of all the veterans that have been committing suicide in alarming rates … on average 22 veterans commit suicide a day.  Most recently a Marine veteran opened fire in a nightclub and killed 12 people then turned the gun on himself and ended his life.  It’s deplorable!  But those families were in my thoughts as well.  

This will probably be my last Everest this year.  Everest #7 allow me the opportunity to close the gap to 1,000,000 feet of climbing for 2018.  The weather is also going to continue to get colder and wetter and daylight hours fewer and fewer.  I am happy with my performance on this Everest.  It was my second fasted Everest at 14:06 and my fastest at 13:30.  My time off the bike was excellent at under 1 hour – being self-SAGed.  As an avid climber Everesting offers the rider a unique opportunity to challenge oneself to an extreme. I fancy myself a climber, an extreme climber, not fast but just someone that likes to take on the challenge of Everesting and conquer it!  

 

 

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Mike Nosco Memorial Ride – PR’s YAY!


On November 3, 2018, George Vargas participated in the Mike Nosco Memorial ride, 10th Anniversary edition. With increased focus throughout the year on diet and weight loss he was able to attain new Personal Records (PR) on two of the three timed climbs.  The three timed climbs were: Deer Creek Rd, Mulholland Highway, and Latigo Canyon. The weather was excellent, albeit a little warm towards the end.

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Left to right: George Vargas, Jack Nosco and Lori Hoechlin

I wish to share with you my excitement of having a great day on the bike.  Since I am a nobody, really, I will share my power data with you.  Some of my posts are about the ride and the sights and sounds and the struggles of completing endurance events.  This post will be more about data.  Don’t tune out because it won’t be THAT heavy, or maybe it will, but it is important for me to show a few examples of why training and racing with a power meter is essential.

First things first, I wish to thank Jack Nosco for creating and putting on this great event every year on November 3rd. In Jack’s words,

As I work to preserve my brother’s memory through the Michael P. Nosco Foundation, Inc., my main goal is to provide financial relief to families and/or individuals in our community. The emotional support that comes with 700+ people showing up in their honor is incredible! Your support means a lot to them and goes a long way in providing inspiration and strength to our recipients and their families.”

Each year the foundation will provide financial relief to a handful of recipients.  You can read about this year’s recipients here.  If you are ever free on November 3rd please consider making a donation and riding this great ride for a great cause.  It is held every November 3 regardless of what day of the week it falls on since that is the date of Mike’s untimely death.

The Ride

The course is 80 miles with about 8,000 feet of climbing.  You will climb three defined climbs but there are plenty of rollers and steep-ass kickers throughout the course.  The featured climbs are Deer Creek Rd, Mulholland Hwy and Latigo Canyon.  Each of the climbs are distinctive and offer their own unique challenges.

 

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The Climbs

Climb #1

Deer Creek Rd — the steepest climb of the three is also the shortest of the three, at 2.25 miles.  It averages 11% but the ramps, oh my the ramps are over 15%+.  Every year I see so many riders hit the bottom of Deer Creek, which has to be over 17%, so hard that within minutes they are pedaling squares and barely moving forward and upward.  More on that later… In previous years, my enthusiasm has also gotten me into trouble before the base of this climb.  I have tried to stay in the pack that leaves the memorial site and then hammers towards the coast and then south on the coast to the bottom of the Deer Creek.  This year I told myself I would not do that and just let the pack/s go.  The reality is I would just get in the way of faster riders if I was up near the front when hitting the base of the climb.  Besides, I don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell to place in the top 3 riders of the day.  I am only racing against myself using my power meter as my training/racing partner.

A little more on the riders that blow up because they have gone too hard at the bottom of the Deer Creek.  They quite literally are going so slow and weaving so much they block the path of riders coming up behind them.  At least if they were doing the “paperboy” up the climb that would be better.  As a rider coming up behind one of them you can at least see a pattern to the weaving but most are not weaving in any discernible way. My suggestion to them is next year bring a larger range cassette.  I had an 11-28 with a 53/39 crankset.  My cadence is slower this climb than what it is normally but it’s only 2.25 miles and I don’t see a need for a larger cassette than 11-28.    I would also suggest they stay to the right of the road and within their lane since the roads are not closed to vehicular traffic.  Every year I see riders crossing over the centerline which is a definite no-no and very unsafe.  Additionally, as faster riders come from behind they need to get by the slower riders on their left and THEY also need to stay inside the centerline.  Years past I have seen rear derailleur hangers snap right in front of me.  I have seen many chains drop as well.  This is probably the most common rider mishap I see on this climb.  Last year or the year before a rider dropped the chain to the inside and it got past the chain catcher all the way to the frame.  The chain was then lodged behind the chain catcher which was attached to the front derailleur by 2 mm or 2.5 mm  fastener.  You will be hard-pressed to find a multi-tool with that small of an Allen wrench on it.  Most multi-tools a 4 mm is usually the smallest Allen head found on a multi-tool.  This poor rider was dead in the water until a SAG vehicle could come up with a full set of tools to help them get the chain catcher out of the way, get the chain out, and then re-adjust the chain catcher.  Personally, I don’t use a chain catcher for that very reason.  I don’t have one installed on any of my high-end bikes. A properly tuned bicycle shouldn’t need a chain catcher or a dork-disc on the rear wheel.  Just my two cents…

 

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I had a PR on the Deer Creek climb of 21:38 my previous best was 23:16.  I have heard somewhere before that 1,000 VAM is the minimum for elite climbers.  As you can see I didn’t achieve that in 2016  with only 833 VAM. I doubt I could hold 1,000 for an hour lol!

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As I mentioned in my introduction I have been focused on weight loss this year.  I have mentioned in previous posts that I have been using Intermittent Fasting (IF) and a diet that is low in carbohydrates and higher in fats and protein.  Basically, I have a reason to eat all the yummy healthy fats now such as Avocado, Olive Oil, Coconut Oil and much more 🙂

I digress, this year I was 63.57 kg or 140 lbs that’s down a few pounds from last year. You will note the Strava numbers show me averaging more watts for the Deer Creek climb in 2018 than 2017, 257 w and 254 w, respectively.  The numbers are actually flip-flopped  when you look at my Training Peaks data below.

Normalized Power (NP): 258w for 2018 and 259w for 2017.  But remember the weight loss?  I was a few pounds lighter this year so even though my NP was 1 watt lower this year than in 2017 I was actually 1:52 faster for the same wattage with an increased power to weigh ratio or watts per kg or w/kg.

w/kg 4.06/kg 2018 vs 3.87 w/kg in 2017

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2018

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2017

Regarding 2017 – notice how there is a big spike in power (pink line) at the base of Deer Creek and a slow degradation of power throughout the entire climb.  I took a look at the 2017 climb at split it into thirds.  My power was: 1/3 291w NP, 2/3 253w NP, 3/3 229w NP — that is poor pacing on the climb.

2017 NP for the 23:37 was 259w

1/3 over by 32 watts

2/3 under by 6 watts

3/3 under by 30 watts

Now let’s look at 2018 – 1/3 268w NP, 2/3 259w NP, 3/3 248w NP

2018 NP for the 21:45 was 258w

1/3 over by 10 watts

2/3 over by 1 watts – negligible really

3/3 under by 10 watts

I paced myself much better in 2018 and felt better because of it when I hit the summit.

 

Climb #2

Mulholland Hwy – 6.9 miles stair step climb with a few dips along the way up with no memorable ramps – memorable as in steep. The dips lower the overall average grade down to 4% but the climbing portions are all within the  6-8% grade.

I increased my NP from 226w (2017) to 229w (2018). But more importantly I increased my w/kg from 3.38 w/kg (2017) to 3.60 w/kg (2018) my time improved from 36:17 in 2017 to 35:25 in 2018 — a 52 second improvement

 

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2018

 

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2017

 

Climb #3

Latigo Canyon  —  another stair step style climb with dips on the way to the top of the 9.2 miles gaining nearly 2,000 feet.  I was 1:37 slower in 2018 than in 2017 (PR). I remember last year being with a group of stronger riders like Rahsaan Bahati and Neil Shirley.  They set a good tempo for them reflecting by their ability to still chit chat.  I, on the other hand,  had to ride outside my comfort zone just to stay in contact.  I feel I could have gone just a little harder in 2018 but I was alone with no wheels to stay on or chase up the climb.  Everyone was so spread out that I just used my power meter to get up the climb.  I did pass riders along the way but it would have been nice to work with a few riders that were stronger than me to see what else might have been possible.

1 minute 37 seconds…. 97 seconds… 9.2 miles … just 10 seconds faster per mile would have done the trick right?  I was also riding “blind”.  In other words, I didn’t have a clue what my PR was and how to pace to it.  Who knows I might have had some fatigue from having PR’d the two previous climbs.  Either way I still feel good about my effort.

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2017 remains my PR on Latigo Canyon

POWER PROFILE CHART

Let’s put this data in context.  Below you will find the Power Profile Chart.  Earlier, I said I am really just a nobody, a hack, just a guy trying to do my best at endurance events and climbing events such as the Mike Nosco Ride.  I do these events for the personal challenge.  I foolishly seek gains even as I get older every year lol!  When looking at the Power Profile Chart you will see four columns.  The column headings are duration in time.  On the left side you will see ranges for each of the categories of cyclists.  To use the chart you select either 5 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minute or FTP (60 mins) of time and then find your watts per kilogram. So for example, it is said that the power you hold for 20 minutes is closely related to your 60 min power.  It is supposed to be about 5% higher than the power you can hold for 60 minutes.  In my coaching practice, I tend to use 10% instead.

 

Let’s use my numbers,

259 watts for 20 minutes translates to 233 watts for 60 minutes.

233 watts divided by 63.57 kg = 3.66 w/kg under the FT column you look for 3.66 w/kg and it falls in the low Cat 3 high Cat 4.

For an endurance cyclist you would think my FT (60 min) power would much higher wouldn’t you?  So would I.  Maybe I should be doing shorter events right?  Lately, my focus has been on getting my 1 and 5 minute power higher through my Wednesday night shop ride, The REV NIGHTER!

Attached are screenshots of my 1 minute power 9.24 w/kg and 5 minute power 5.0 w/kg

1 minute power 9.2 w/kg is straddling the high end of Cat 2 and the low end of Cat 1

5 minute power 5.0 w/kg is straddling the high end of Cat 3 and the low end of Cat 2

Now just for fun look at what a world class athlete holds for FTP — 6 w/kg for 60 minutes!! That would be me holding 380 watts for 60 minutes … um … no!  4-5 minutes tops lol!

 

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SUMMARY

When all is said and done, I had a great day on the bike.  I PR’d 2 out 3 climbs.  I was close on the third climb.  I never felt like I was going to blow up.  I feel like I chose the right intensity and power, to start and finish the climb at the same intensity.  Maybe I could have gone harder here and there but I am happy with my results. During the climbs I felt I was right on the edge of just about to go too hard.  On the last climbs of the day – off the clock now – I still felt strong.  Who knows maybe I still had too much in me and I didn’t leave enough out on the timed climbs.  Being an endurance cyclist, an Ultra Cyclist, I am always saving some for the rest of the ride.  This ride was only 80  miles – not 100 or 200 or even 500 like my typical races.  Maybe I need to work more on that self-preservation instinct and leave it all out there.

I am hopeful to improve my times again next year.  I don’t think I can lose any more weight and still maintain the same power output.  So that means more interval training … ugh! At times, I am thinking the marginal gains I have made over the years will lessen going forward.

The weather was fantastic.  No one crashed near me which has happened in the two  previous years. Only one SUV buzzed me too close for comfort.  I just don’t understand why motorists are in such a hurry when they see hundreds of cyclists on a twisty 9 mile climb they really aren’t going to get anywhere that much faster.

I hope to see you next year in attendance.  November 3 will fall on a Sunday next year see you there.

What’s next?

If the week goes well I am planning another Everest for November 10.  It is the Marine Corps Birthday.  I am a former US Marine and wish to honor not only the Corps but veterans that suffer from PTSD.  I also wish to meditate about my fallen comrades who die at their own hands by committing  suicide.

Lastly, if you have questions about power meters or power meter coaching feel free to drop me a line at revcycling@gmail.com or you can make comments on this post.  I am currently accepting a limited number of applicants for coaching.  Let me know how I may assist you.

Oceanside Double Century Survival Guide


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Here are few pointers and REV Tips for success for those wishing to tackle the Oceanside Double Century on October 27, 2018.  The event is put on by my friend and awesome human being, Anny Beck of Mountain High Cycling.  The route covers many of the roads I use to train on a regular basis.  I have intimate knowledge of these roads and know just about every roller and pothole on this course.

A few other things I would like you to keep in mind as you ride the 194 miles and 15,700 ft of climbing.

Your number one priority should be to climb out of Borrego Springs on Montezuma Grade before 1pm. The winds can kick up something horrific and can make the 11 mile climb as much as 2 hours of grinding into the wind which is generally a downdraft from Ranchita (town at the top) but can also have no apparent wind direction except for keeping you from climbing up.  From time to time you might get a tailwind but it is short-lived.  Early starters should get down Banner Grade (descent from Julian) to Yaqui Pass and through Borrego Springs before the winds kick up too bad. The LEFT turn MILE 99 on to Borrego Springs Rd can be a freaking wind tunnel with winds as much as 20, 30, 40 mph. It will be a very stiff block headwind for only a handful of miles but it can be very humbling to be pushing your hardest into that wind and only going 8-10 mph on flat terrain.

Ok so what about before Borrego Springs which is nearly 100 miles into the ride? I suggest quick stops on the outbound portion of your event.  Remember it is key to climb out of Borrego Springs before 1pm (preferably earlier of course).   The first 19.8 miles are flat until the LEFT onto La Bajada then you will have steep rollers through Rancho Santa Fe. Rancho Santa Fe roads are some of the worst roads on this route even though it is the most expensive place to live in San Diego County and even nationally.  The roads are very narrow as well.  Be careful on Del Dios Hwy make sure you are very visible someone was hit during this event a year or two ago.

MILE 40 Hwy 78 you start a long gradual climb for the next 10 miles.  Some sections are really narrow – stay single file. Stay alert with your head on a swivel.  Personally, I never ride this road on my training rides.

Old Julian Hwy is one of my favorite roads in San Diego County MILE 51 ish to MILE 59 ish. Wynola at MILE 68.5 is another one of my favorite roads. Some of the best country riding on the route.

Don’t miss the RIGHT turn at MILE 71.8 onto Farmers Rd. (slight downhill) There has been sand and gravel on that hard right turn for months so be careful. Farmers Rd has about four kickers of double digit grades so be ready for them.

LONG descent from Julian to Yaqui Pass MILE 74 ish TO MILE 94 ish and the winds do all kinds of swirling on your descent. Yaqui Pass often has a tailwind climbing it. You also may also have a tailwind once you summit Yaqui Pass until the LEFT onto Borrego Springs Road (MILE 94 ish – 99 ish)

Montezuma Grade is tough at any time in a ride but especially so with 100 plus miles ad about 8,000 feet of climbing on your legs.  The forecast for Borrego Springs is a high of 95F.  But the heat coming off the pavement can raise the ambient temperature where you are riding by an additional 10F degrees.  Of course as our luck would have it we are riding on the hottest day of the week through Borrego Springs and Puama Valley with a cooling trend starting on Sunday.

Fear not though after slogging up Montezuma grade you are rewarded with A LOT of downhill from Ranchita MILE 117 – MILE 154.9 to Cole Grade. Cole Grade is a tough steep climb with sustained sections of double digits.  It is my preferred road to exit Puama Valley because the traffic is significantly less than Valley Center Road.  Cole Grade has a few rollers but it is generally downhill until Miller Rd.  Miller is generally downhill until Valley Center Rd.  Miller is a RIGHT turn after the big downhill and uphill through the traffic light (you’ll know it when you see it and you will laugh at my description) don’t miss the turn RIGHT MILE 161 Miller Road is safer than staying on Cole Grade to Valley Center.

MILE 167.3 RIGHT to stay on Lilac is easy to miss. Lots of rolling terrain with a lot of generally downhill sections following poppers.  The hard part of the double is all behind you now.  You are literally going downhill for the next 20 ish miles and onto the bike path.  If it is mid to late afternoon you will have a block headwind again.  But if you are on the bike path after sunset it is easy cruising into the finish.  It is advisable that you have paired up with at least one other rider for the last 8 miles on the bike path to Oceanside so you can share the workload.

I wish everyone good luck and tailwinds!

If you haven’t already download the Epic Weather Ride App here.  It based on your start time and averages speed it will give you a forecast for the entire route.  As you know you can’t rely on the weather forecast for the start/finish town since you are doing a Big Ass Loop of 200 miles 🙂 Download it and use it — it is REV RECOMMENDED!

Solvang Autumn Double Century


On October 20, 2018 George Vargas and Lori Hoechlin completed the Solvang Autumn Double Century, put on by Planet Ultra  , on the tandem with 11,900 feet in a total time of 11:41 and for those keeping track of ride time only it was 11:13.  It was George Vargas’s 53rd Double Century and Lori Hoechlin’s 38th Double Century.  It was our 6th Double Century of the 2018 season, all 6 on the tandem.  We were fortunate and had a mechanical and flat-free day — sort of.  The biggest obstacles of our epic adventure were the pothole-ridden roads and early morning cold and afternoon heat. We had ONE goal a sub 12 hour finish – mission accomplished!

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I would like to thank Deb Bowling and Planet Ultra for putting on an excellent event.  The looped course coming back to the hotel at 50 ish, 100 ish miles and eventually at the finish was very helpful for riders using their vehicle as an additional SAG.  On the course, the SAG stops were well placed and well stocked, the course was well marked and Roving SAG was seen multiple times during the day.  The volunteers were plentiful and awesome!  Please always thank the volunteers at your events.  For those I didn’t thank on the course, because we didn’t stop at your aid station, I appreciate you being out there as well.  Honestly, I don’t think it could have been any better run!  If you wish to do an intermediate-level double century this one should definitely be at the top of your list.  Thank you Deb!

Next, I would like to thank my stoker, Lori, who was a steady and powerful force on the back of the tandem during the entire day.  She had a few cramps on Drum Canyon coming from Hwy 246 but she toughed it out.

I would like to thank our two riding mates for nearly the entire Double, Brook Henderson and TJ Knight.  They are two very strong riders and veterans of the double century community.  Lori and I are usually in no man’s land either off the front or just off the shirt tails of the lead pack. Riders come and go wanting to draft the tandem.  Some of them shoot up the hills or mountains and then there are others that can’t sustain the pace.  Either way, Lori and I end up riding alone for 10-12 hours on these doubles.  It was very nice to ride with the lead pack for the first 70 ish miles, of which Brook and TJ were an important component of and contributed equally to ensure a good steady pace. But it was even nicer to ride the rest of the course with Brook and TJ!  Thank you gentlemen!

The two toughest parts of the day for us were Drum Canyon and Foxen Canyon.  After finishing the first 100 mile loop we came upon Drum Canyon from Hwy 246.  The steep ramps over 12% were very difficult on the tandem.  Lori started to cramp which made it very difficult to keep the tandem balanced and propel the bike forward and up the canyon with one hampered rider and massive loss of power that Lori provides.  When she would stand out of pure necessity to keep her legs from locking up it made the bike unstable and hard to control at below 4 mph.  Normally, getting up on the tandem is a coordinated and timed effort.  Fortunately, I would respond quickly enough to keep us from toppling over.  Just at our worse possible moment Ronald Iseri, Roving SAG, came by us.  He had stopped to take pictures of us but we definitely needed to pull over right then and there.  After a cold Pepsi and a Mountain Dew and some water top offs we were back on the road and finished the climb in much better spirits.

Foxen Canyon was a LONG steady and gradual climb of single digits.  It was just enough of a grade where we could not ride it in the big ring (55T) so we were in our middle ring (39T) for the majority of the 10 or 15 miles from mile 160 ish to 170 ish.  Drum Canyon was tough on us physically.  Foxen Canyon was tough on us mentally because it was never-ending and it never seemed like you were climbing.

Special thanks to Robert and Dee Mann.  They have installed themselves recently as fixtures at these double centuries. They are selfless and seemingly always volunteering. Dee thank you so much for the homemade cookies at the lunch stop and mile 180 ish.  The hug after Drum Canyon at lunch recharged me emotionally THANK YOU!

Now a quick explanation on the “sort of” comment in the introduction regarding being flat-free.  Coming out of the lunch stop (mile 118) we got a puncture on the front tire.  We were running tubeless and I felt the sealant spraying out of the left sidewall onto my left leg.  I was concerned for two reasons.  One being a sidewall puncture sometimes they don’t seal in time before all the sealant sprays out and two the front tire was inflated to 100 psi and higher pressures also prevents punctures from sealing.  Typically one of the benefits of riding tubeless is riding lower tire pressures.  On a tandem we are nearly 300 lbs (wet weight).  Tires feel squishy unless they are at least 95% of max pressure indicated on the sidewall.  On my solo bike I am between 80-85 psi on a 25mm tire on a 26mm external width rim.  Fortunately, the tire sealed.  When we got to the finish we checked the pressure of the front tire and it only had 40 psi in it.  Maybe that is why Foxen Canyon (160 ish to 170 ish) felt like such a long slog lol!! But seriously, another benefit of riding tubeless is one of safety.  The tire bead is less likely to unseat when you ride lower tire pressure … say for example you have a puncture on a descent or at a high rate of speed you should be able to slow the bike down to a safe and manageable speed before the tire completely deflates and the bead unseats from the rim.

Lastly because the event was chip-timed we had results within 24 hours!  I think Double Century riders are willing to pay a little extra for chip timing in their entry fee.  I don’t know how the math works out but I appreciate prompt posting of results.  Once again thank you Planet Ultra for chip timing and timely posting of the results!

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At the finish with L-R, Lori, Brook, George, TJ

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At the start I noticed this rider’s number “the 508” came to mind 🙂 (10x finisher)

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Daytime running lights front and rear for safety

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The early morning train – started as 11 bikes, then 9 bikes, then 7 bikes, then 6 bikes, eventually it was 3 bikes Brook, TJ and us.

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The early day shadow selfie

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The late day shadow selfie we finished just before complete darkness

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Alexis, Brook, George and Lori came across the line all together the delta in our time is based on the when we crossed the chip timing machine at the start in single file so as to ensure everyone would register on the machine.

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And now a rant – it really bugs me when people post their Strava rides, events and/races on social media using their ride time as opposed to their total time. Why is this a pet peeve of mine? Well let me give you an example. Let’s say you are doing a Double Century and you roll out at 5am and finish at 10pm. Let’s also say that you stopped at each aid station refilled your bottles took potty breaks and socialized with the volunteers. Additionally, you stopped at the lunch stop and had a great little meal. Then you download your ride and your ride time was 14 hours. Why would you post your Strava ride on social media as 14 hours when it actually took you 17 hours?! When the results are posted your time will be 17 hours. The only time that counts is TOTAL TIME from when you cross the start line until you cross the finish line. Where and when did this Mickey Mouse shit start where people post their ride time? You’re fooling yourself that it takes you 14 hours to complete a Double Century. Then you sit back and accept all the accolades from your friends on how wonderfully you did at your DC finishing it in 14 hours. No!! It took you 17 hours and that is what you should post. Rant over

What’s next for the George “Red Eyed Vireo” Vargas and Lori Hoechlin — aka Hutton’s Vireo (when on the tandem)?  I will be doing the Oceanside Double Century on October 27, 2018  on my solo bike.  Lori will be racing a hill climb up Gibraltar Rd in Santa Barbara.  You can follow me on Strava here  Please SUBSCRIBE to the blog and please post comments.  I read them all and make every effort to respond to you.  Until the next epic adventure … I’ll see you on the road!