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!



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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.


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.


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


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


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


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 #everestchallenge

Cycling Camps San Diego CCSD St Paddy’s Palomar Punishment Plus and more

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I had a great training ride on March 16, 2013.  The St Paddy’s Palomar event has two options A.  68 miles with 6800 feet of gain B.  92 miles 8500 feet of gain but what does an ultra cyclist choose?  Option C none of the above 131 miles with 11,600 feet of gain.  I brought my REV Cycling teammate Lori Hoechlin, and met a few other endurance cyclists Jim Knight, Bob Bingham and Bob “Rock Lizard” Andrews at the Starbucks in Del Mar.  We rode to and from the event and added a few extra miles.  Lori had two slow leaking flats and probably worked harder than she needed to on such a long day.  I had a great day on the bike. I had great legs and felt like I was holding back all day.

A quick word about the event. It was a fun time with more low key people showing up.  No organized start just a steady rolling out of riders.  Left to themselves riders know that a wave of 100 riders wouldn’t be safe 5 miles down the road as you climb Lake Wholford.  You crossed your name off of a roster at the checkpoints and at the finish. Huge spread of pasta dishes salad and bread at the finish.  I would do this event again!  Thank you Jo and Rob of CCSD!

I used my SRM power meter to keep my power within preset ranges on all climbs.  A power meter is ESSENTIAL for proper pacing in endurance cycling events.  I felt great all day having paced my self properly.  I am an authorized SRM dealer shoot me an email– revcycling@gmail.com if you wish to discuss purchasing an SRM Power Meter and pursuing a personalized power based training program from from me.

Calories burned 5,500 Calories consumed 2,100 calories in 10 hours

Below is a great shot taken of my by Mike Kurtz

In this picture Skins CY400 compression cycling jersey bib shorts SPY Performance Pink Screws Swiftwick 7″wool socks Serfas Helix tires, Serfas Pro Series cycling gloves, Serfas pink bar tape and Suplest Supzero cycling shoes SRM Dura-Ace power meter and PowerControl 7 – thank you to all of REV Cycling sponsors!

This was also the longest ride in my new Suplest Supzero cycling shoes supplied by REV Cycling sponsor Serfas. I have a full product review coming soon.  For now I’m putting in the miles and the hours.  This was a long ride of over 130 miles with over 11,000 feet of climbing and lots of time in the saddle and my feet were quite comfortable.   Shoot me an email with “Suplest Shoes” in your subject if you have any specific questions.  Stay tuned for full product review on Suplest Supzero cycling shoes.

Below are screen shots from Garmin for the map and summary and screen shots from Training Peaks WKO 3.0.

Entire training ride

Lake Wholford great climb bottom half then ran into friend that was having gearing issues and paced her up a bit and then pulled over to adjust her rear derailleur.

Palomar Mountain Lower Section Goal maintain 3 – 3.5 w/kg

Palomar Mountain Upper Section- Goal maintain 3 – 3.5 w/kg

Cole Grade at 90 ish miles into our day I holding back and pacing my REV Cycling teammate Lori Hoechlin who was fading-  she recovered nicely for the last 40 miles of the day.  Goal maintain over 3.0 w/kg but had to hold back

Angeles Crest Highway Reopens – Angeles Crest Hwy from La Canada to Dawson Saddle (12,400 feet of climbing)

A four-hour training ride turned into a seven hour climbfest d’oh!  Angeles Crest Hwy from La Canada (1300 Elev) to Dawson Saddle (7901 Elev) Lots of climbing, lots of heat with few options for rehydrating on the road.  I will put together a more detailed route sheet but here is the down and dirty.  From La Canada I climbed on the Angeles Crest Hwy about 14 miles to Red Box.  I refilled my water bottle and then proceeded to climb up Mt Wilson, a five-mile climb.  I descended back to Red Box and refilled my bottle then climbed approximately 14 miles to Newcomb’s Ranch and refilled my bottle there.  I then climbed from Newcomb’s Ranch to Dawson Saddle through Cloud Burst Summit (7018 Elev) and back down to Newcomb’s Ranch.    I refilled at Newcomb’s and then descended back to La Canada.  About 100 miles 12,400 feet of climbing most of it on the way up with annoying rollers on the way down.

The Angeles Crest Highway is a two-lane (one lane of travel in each direction) segment of California State Route 2 in the United States. The road is 66 miles (106 km) in length, with its western terminus at the intersection at Foothill Boulevard in La Cañada Flintridge and its eastern terminus at State Route 138 northeast of Wrightwood. The majority of the route passes through the mountainous terrain located north of the Los Angeles basin. Its alignment passes through the Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains. Segments of the road reach altitudes above 7,000 feet (2,100 m), with a summit of 7,903 feet (2,409 m) at the Dawson Saddle, which makes this road one of the highest in Southern California.

You can read more about the Angeles Crest Hwy here

4,000 elevation at mile marker 36.25.

Approximately 12 miles into the 45 mile climb to Dawson Saddle

Above and below– The intersection of Mount Wilson/Red Box Rd and Angeles Crest Hwy.

Approximately 14 miles into the 45 mile climb to Dawson Saddle

Cultural Center at Red Box

Work crews on Angeles Crest Hwy.  Above is somewhere between Red Box and Newcomb’s Ranch

5,000 elevation sign

Approximately 20 miles into the 45 mile climb to Dawson Saddle

The distances above are from Newcomb’s Ranch

The base of the climb is mile marker 24 ish Dawson Saddle is approximately mile marker 69.50.

This is a 45 mile climb, albeit not all in one shot but you don’t ever get more than a mile or two of reliefs along the way.

2011 Breathless Agony Ride Report

On Saturday May 7, I completed the Breathless Agony Century.  The timed portion of the event, is 11,000 feet of climbing in the first 74 miles!

I’ve done this event six times now.  Below you will see my previous results along with links.

2004 Time of 6:50 45th place

2006 Time of 5:58 34th Place

2007 Time of 5:40 21st Place — Previous Personal Record

2008 Time of 6:09 66th Place

2010 Time of 5:59 68th Place

2011Time of 5:24  – 21st Place out of 467 four pass finishers–New Personal Record


Today’s ride was all about redemption.  If you read my report from 2010 you will see I had a very tough showing last year.  I had been in a funk and hadn’t been training.  My  time of 5:24 on Saturday is good enough to best my Personal Record from 2007 of 5:40 and more than good enough to redeem myself from last year’s pitiful 5:59!

This year although I HAVE been training I have been getting sick more frequently.  I have been sick twice in the last two months.  Each cold has cost me two weeks of setback in training and/or intensity.  It is interesting to mention that back in 2007 I previewed the Breathless Agony course a couple of times.  I trained specifically for the Breathless Agony event.  This year I have had success in a couple of races without the benefit of training specificity.  I have been training at higher intensities but shorter mileage (40-60 milers) with a century or two every other week.

On February 26, I finished first at the 2011 Spring Death Valley Double Century blog report here.  I then continued to ride hard and rode 500 miles within seven days. Within a week of  that feat I was sick.  It was the first time I had ridden 500 miles in a week since 2007 when I was training for Race Across America (RAAM).  The first part of March was a wash.  My son was sick, my co-workers were sick and customers were sick.  I couldn’t avoid it. My immune system was suppressed and BAM! I got sick. I had to sit out of Hell’s Gate Hundred because I was sick.  Just recently, after 2011 Mount Laguna Bicycle Classic, April 16, blog report here. I tried to ramp up again got up to 350 miles for the week and BAM! got sick.  So I had to pull back again.  That cold has lasted through Breathless Agony with a nagging cough.  Oh well it is still early in the season and I have bigger fish to fry than Breathless ‘Agony namely the Furnace Creek 508.  The Death Valley Double Century, Hell’s Gate Century, Mount Laguna Bicycle Classic and the Furnace Creek 508 are events put on by AdventureCorps.

Clothing— Simple Green kit, short sleeve base layer, Swiftwick 7″ Performance Socks

Bike — May I introduce you to “Felony” my new 2011 Felt F1, Shimano Di2, Standard Crank 53/39 and 11/28 Cassette, SRM Wireless Crankset with PowerControl 7 head unit, Fizik Airone Versus saddle

NutritionInfinit Nutrition self- supported except water from feed stations

Weight— 146lbs

2011 Felt F1 with Shimano Di2, SRM 7900 wireless Crankset PowerControl 7, Dura-Ace carbon pedals, Fizik Airone Versus

 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 four passes.  I have always done the four pass option.

I rolled at 7am with the Santiago Cycling club.  It was a nice sized group of at least 20 riders.  In the group was Doug “Polar Bear” Patterson, Vance McDonald and a few other familiar faces.  I chatted with them until the first little climb.  Every year that first little climb gives me an indication of how I’m going to do for the event.  The pace was set by the Santiago boys but when they started to fade I came to the front quite effortlessly.  I rode on perceived effort and slowly ramped up the intensity.  When I thought I was going hard tempo I looked down at my SRM PowerControl 7.  I was surprised to see really good numbers — over 300 watts. That’s when I knew I was going to have a good day!!       

Above is the graph of that little climb that comes early in the event (mile 6.5-8.5).  

Data above is from the start in Redlands to the left turn onto Jack Rabbit Trail — Pass 1.

I was in various pacelines.  As usual, riders sat upfront pulling along as the other riders just sucked wheel.  It happens at every recreational century and most doubles.  It’s a annoying to me because ALL of us could be going A LOT faster.  I got to the front and rolled off instantly.  I then instructed the next couple of guys to roll-off quickly as well.  In a short amount of time, the riders that followed my lead in creating a more active and participatory paceline, roll off the front of the massive “paceline” behind us.   We  averaged  20.5 mph, my normalized power was 223 watts (3.4w/kg).  The 18 mile, 1.000 feet of gain section from Redlands to Jack Rabbit Trail took me 52:53

Jack Rabbit Trail Climb Power data from Training Peaks WKO 

Grade Analysis for Jack Rabbit Trail from Garmin Training Center

I hit the base of Jack Rabbit Trail at 7:54 am 54 minutes after my starting time of 7am.  It’s hard for me to characterize the climb on Jack Rabbit Trail.  It is a paved road with potholes that stretch across the width of the road, sand, loose rock, sand traps and so on.   Sounds like fun huh?  Well it would be if it wasn’t for the other 200 riders you have to weave through to get to the top of the climb.

My average speed for the Jack Rabbit Trail climb was 12.2 mph and my normalized power was 254 (3.84 w/kg).    I felt really good on this climb.  The 3.7 mile dirt climb with 900 feet of gain took 18:25.  

Oak Glen Climb from Beaumont rest stop 10 miles 2300 feet of gain

Grade Analysis of Oak Glen Climb from Beaumont 10 miles 2300 feet of gain

I believe this is Tony 

I began the Oak Glen climb at 8:27 am, 1 hour and 27 minutes from my starting time of 7am.  I consider Oak Glen Climb, Climb #2, the hardest of the four climbs in Breathless Agony.  The last two climbs, Angelus Oaks and the Onyx Summit, are much longer but the grades aren’t steep.  Oak Glen has the steepest ramps of all four climbs.  There are various times when you will hit 10% grades on the Oak Glen climb.  I was on this climb a few minutes when I was passed by two strong riders.  I jumped on their wheel.  I stayed on their wheel until that self-preservation instinct got the better of me.  My thoughts were “Wow, I’m going really hard right now.  I don’t know how long I can hang on.” Finally, I thought of the last two climbs and wanting to conserve energy for them.  I bowed out gracefully.  It took me 5-10 minutes to get back to  my own climbing pace.  I didn’t blow up but I was REALLY close.  These two riders I know personally from the Orange County club rides.  One is a former pro road cyclist that races on a Masters Elite team  and the other a pro mountain biker.  I was feeling good but I’m not THAT good 😉  I saw quite a few of my friends on this climb.  I crested and began the high-speed descent down towards Mill Creek Ranger Station.

My average speed for the Oak Glen climb was 10.9 mph and my normalized power was 229 watts (3.46  w/kg).  The Oak Glen climb from the Beaumont Rest Stop took me 55:06 INCLUDING the two minutes stopped at Rest Stop which would have taken me half that time in an AdventureCorps event.

In my opinion, the organizers need to go to chip timing like AdventureCorps.  The clipboard army just doesn’t cut it anymore — not with over 800 riders and only three people per rest stop checking everyone in at each stop.  This event has grown significantly in the last four years — more than double as many riders!  Time to get more efficient or do away with timing the event!  How stressful must that job be for those volunteers?!?!

Mill Creek Ranger Station laying Felony down – Note a member of the Clipboard Army

Felony – 2011 Felt F1 with Shimano Di2 – electronic Dura-Ace

I left Mill Creek Ranger Station at 9:39 am 2 hours and 39 minutes after my start time of 7am.  I began the Angelus Oaks climb knowing that I had 30 miles of climbing with little to no respite.  But what I had as motivation was knowing that I actually had the possibility of setting a new Personal Record (PR) on the Breathless Agony course.  The calculations I had going through my head were these:

1.  It was 9:39 am

2.  Last year I totally tanked on the last two climbs (no fitness)

3.  Last year I climbed Angelus Oaks in 1:17

4.  Last year I climbed Onyx in 1:39

5.  So if I did the same that would be 2:56 minutes added to 2 hours 39 minutes already done and that is 5 hours and 35 minutes.

6.  My previous PR was 5:40

7.  So worst case scenario if I rode the last two climbs at the same pathetic pace I did last year I would PR

8.  BUT I was in better shape on Saturday May 7, 2011

9.  Hence all I had to do was ride within my limits on the last two climbs and BAM! new PR

It was at Mill Creek Ranger Station where I linked up with my photographer and friend, Lisa.  She was kind enough to come out and take some pictures so I would have something to share with my readers.  I climbed through Damnation Alley and felt fine.  I had a few riders pass me but less than a handful. At the left turn where there is also a turn off for Forest Falls I was expecting to see a water stop.  The past few years I have done the event there has been a water stop.  I timed drinking my bottle so that it would be empty by the “water stop”.  I was disappointed that it wasn’t in place.  It was only a temporary setback because the weather wasn’t that hot and we are already close to 4,000 feet elevation.  The toughest part of Damnation Alley is all of the surrounding terrain goes up with you and you don’t have any visual clues that you are climbing…but you are!

Thank you Swiftwick for my 7″ – can you say happy feet on a climbing century?

I climbed from Mill Creek Ranger Station to Angelus Oaks in 1 hour 7 minutes 21 seconds my stop to refuel was 45 seconnds.  My average speed to Angelus Oaks was 10 mph and my Normalized Power was 205 watts (3.10  w/kg) 

1.  I climbed to Angelus Oaks in 1 hour 9 minutes which was 8 minutes faster than last year.  So I have just banked 8 more minutes!!  On pace for a 5:27!

Angelus Oaks Grade Analysis 11.2 miles 3,050 feet of gain

I began the climb to Onyx Summit at 1049 am 3 hours and 49 minutes from my start time of 7am.   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 a little from the 11 mile climb from Mill Creek Ranger Station to Angelus Oaks, Climb #3.  But now you have a long protracted 19 mile stretch from Angelus Oaks to Onyx Summit.  I say it that way the rollers do get a tad bit annoying.  You see the 6,000 elevation sign twice.  You even hit 45 mph on one of the rollers- which now puts you on notice that you will have to climb that roller on the way down to Redlands.  A descent of 45 mph means a climb of 7- 7.5% on your return 😦

Between Angelus Oaks and Barton Flats I was feeling flat.  I had worked so hard to get to Angelus Oaks under 1 hour 17 minutes (time from last year) that I was having a tough time recovering and getting back in to a comfortable groove.  I was also experiencing cramping.  My right inner thigh and my left calf were sporadically tightening up.  When I’m in good form I rarely cramp.  But the other side of this is that Breathless Agony doesn’t really supply quality endurance fuels.  They still treat this as a recreational century and provide the type of food you would eat while touring.  I would prefer to see tables of that and one table for the experienced endurance athletes who prefer to go on liquid nutrition only including electrolyte capsules.  End Rant!

My pace was getting slower and slower I could feel my PR slipping away.  I was cramping I was fatigued and I was alone on the road.  It was strange that there were over 800 riders on the event and I couldn’t see anyone behind me or in front of me as far as the eye could see.  The fact is I had passed everyone on the road ahead of me.  I had been passed by faster riders and now I sat in that “no man’s land” between the fast riders and the slower riders.  So what did I do?  Well I starting replaying in my head the events of the day.  The times I felt good, the hundreds yes literally hundreds of riders I had passed in the first two climbs.  I replayed my good climb up to Angelus Oaks.  I thought about some of the riders that I had worked with on previous climbs and wondered where they were on the course now.  While all this was happening my cramps subsided and the mileage kept ticking away.

I knew the summit was just after mile marker 39 on Hwy 38.  I kept counting down each mile and then finally three riders caught me.  I needed these three riders to remotivate me.  I jumped on their wheel and surprisingly I found their pace comfortable considering it was faster than when I was going it alone.  I rode with them. sitting on the wheels, hoping not to get dropped, for a few miles until I got back into a good place- mentally and physically.  When I recovered I stepped up the pace a little and found myself riding away from the three riders.  Once I saw the 8,000 foot elevation sign I knew I was only 443 feet from the summit- it was close.  I thought about Newport Coast Drive back in Newport Beach which is 450 feet of gain in a 1.5 and convinced myself that I was on that climb just doing 1.5 miles.  The mind is a powerful thing vastly more powerful than your body –USE IT!

Many of didn’t know my friend Dan “Crane” Crain and another link  here .  He was an amazing cyclist with 106 double centuries seven Furnace Creek 508 finishes including one solo with a very respectable time of 33:13.  But more than that he was an amazing person.  I remember running into him, quite literally, one day in March a couple of years ago.    My son, Alexander, and I were just coming out of the Back Bay in Newport Beach.  We turned on to the sidewalk off of Bayside heading North on Pacific Coast Highway, and here comes Dan also on the sidewalk.  He was doing March Madness with the Davis Bicycle club.  When we recognized each other we stopped and chatted a few minutes.  He was so kind to my son.  My son was not yet 5 and he sat and talked with him for a few minutes.  Even though he was obviously in the middle of a ride and in the middle of a month long “competition” he took the time to talk with my son– that’s just the kind of guy he was.

I remember riding a 600km (375 miles) with Janet Christiansen and Dan.  We were off the front of the bunch and chatting sparingly because the pace high.  As we were cresting a climb he said “you feel that breeze?  That means we are getting close to the top of the climb.  You’ll always feel the wind pick up as you near the summit”  I have never forgotten that conversation.  I think of Dan almost every time I summit a climb.    I consider it Dan’s spirit living (Dan Crain’s Spirit) on when I feel that breeze in my face.  Dan was hit by a car in the Newport Beach area, on a climb, and died a week later in the hospital.  I believe it was from complications from one of his surgeries.  Dan was in my thoughts on Saturday.  I will miss you Dan.

At exactly mile marker 39 I saw Lisa again.  I hadn’t seen her since early in the climb.  She misunderstood me and thought I wanted her to go to mile marker 39 instead of what I really said which was mile marker 39 is near the summit.  Oh well it was good to see her again.  She was still taking pictures bless her.  Seeing her, seeing mile marker 39 was all I needed for that last push to finish the climb– and the event!

Just for fun I’m including a picture of when I rode my fixed gear (49 x 18) to Big Bear City passing through Onyx Summit twice back in 2009.

When I reached the summit, I checked in with the timekeeper and I heard my time as 12:25 pm.  I had done it I had set a new PR!  At the time I thought my time was 5:25.  But later I found out that I actually started at 7:01 and so my official time ended up being 5:24– even bettah 😉

I was interviewed on Hi-Definition video by my friend Chuck Bramwell.  I CAN’T wait to see how tore up I look in that video 😦   I then went to the table and was disappointed again with the food choices.  Luckily, I found two hard boiled eggs — awesome good healthy protein!!  I didn’t hang out at all at the summit.  I still had to drive to San Diego to pick up my son.  As soon as I had some food in me and fluids on board I took off down the mountain.  It’s another 1 hour 40 minutes to get down so you need to eat at the top.

The food at Redlands was supplied by Bristol Farms.  It was Mexican fare and it was very tasty.

Lastly a treat for my friends at Lunar Health and Wellness in Newport Beach

My friend and multi-category hall of fame cyclist John Howard, and I spent a few minutes chatting at Onyx Summit.  My relationship with John began back in 2003.  I had just completed my first year of Ultras.  I had no clue what I was doing about bike fit, stretching and riding a bike– seriously.  For those that are new to my blog here is a quick recap.  In 2003, I completed the Grand Tour Highland Triple Century- 300 miles (yes that was my first Ultra cycling event– crazy yes I know) in June, the Tour of Two Forests in September, and the Death Valley Double Century in October. I suffered incredibly my first three events. The summer of 2003 was a very hot.  The Did Not Finish (DNF) was more than 50% at the Death Valley Double Century where it was over 100 F degrees.

Here is an excerpt from the Event Promoter’s report:

“Hotter than hell” temps made for a tough day for everyone at the annual Fall Death Valley Century and Double Century, held October 18. With the mercury rising beyond 100 degrees, just 76 of 169 double riders completed the 200 mile distance,”


2003 Death Valley Double  Century Southern Route I finished 14th, 14:42

I had only been back on the bike 8 weeks after two years completely off the bike when I did the Grand Tour Highland Triple.  In 2001, I had sustained injuries when I crashed on my bike.  I broke my left hand and jammed my neck as I pile-drived myself — headfirst at over 30 mph.  My neck has never been the same and hurts like hell when I ride my Ultras.  Dealing with that pain takes my mind off of  the other things that hurt while riding 😉  By the way, before that crash and subsequent two year hiatus off the bike, I had never ridden more than 125 miles ever!!

In the winter of 2003, I called on John Howard to help me with the essentials – like BIKE FIT!  Duh!  He set me up very comfortably and powerfully according to the Compu-Trainer.  He then gave me a hand-out with stretches but also demonstrated the proper way to perform them.  We then had a discussion on nutrition which is a very important element of Ultra Cycling.  After the official business concluded we talked about his achievements and my dreams.  I was so inspired I couldn’t wait for the 2004 season to start.

My relationship with John has continued through the years as I have called on him for advice from time to time.  In 2007, his facility along with John Martinez sponsored my two-person Race Across America team.  Here’s an interesting little story.  One day in 2009, on the Wednesday Camp Pendleton ride we were at Starbucks in Carlsbad getting ready to roll off.  John showed up and he greeted me by saying “Hey Mr Ultra” .  I looked at him and said, “John if anyone is Mr Ultra it would be you!”

Well now our paths cross again.  He is a strong proponent of CVAC sessions.  Here is a recent article John has written about his experience with CVAC and his success at El Tour de Tucson as a 63 year-old.  I have recently stated taking CVAC sessions.  I was initially interested in the performance gains I may obtain.  But I also learned that my exercise induced asthma and sleeping issues might also be helped by CVAC sessions.  What are CVAC sessions?

What is the CVAC™ process?

Answer: The Cyclic Variations in Altitude Conditioning™ (CVAC™process is a patent-pending methodology that applies rhythm-based changes to pressure, temperature and air. A proprietary, high-performance altitude simulator is required to deliver the CVAC process.


Although I have just started taking CVAC sessions I may be receiving performance gains.  I have PR’d a local hill climb in Newport Beach, Newport Coast Drive by 19 seconds!  And now at Breathless Agony I PR by 16 minutes!  I’m training a whole lot less because of my work schedule so something’s going on.  Let’s wait and see how the rest of the season plays out.  Meanwhile wish to thank the good folks over at Lunar Health and Wellness in Newport Beach.  Thank you for helping me achieve my goals this year.

John Howard and George “Red-Eyed Vireo” Vargas

“The Pod”

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2011 Mount Laguna Bicycle Classic Report

I know I know it’s long overdue. I have been working so much and still trying to train that my blogging has really fallen off. I apologize to you, my readers, for not providing more prompt reports of my “suffering and getting it done” adventures.

So here is the quick down and dirty on the Mount Laguna Bicycle Classic. I finished with a time of 6:54 which was good for 19th overall.  I’m actually shocked because with my time being 40 minutes slower than last year I thought I would have been mid-pack.  This year there were 133 finishers of the three loop course.  Interestingly enough, my 6:14 time (11th) from last year would have put me at almost the exact same place this year.  I would have been 10th this year.  If you’ve been reading my blog you might remember a post I made about my goal being sub 6 hours.  Well my work schedule changed and with it my training plan.  I had Friday off before the event and so I rode a century with 5,000 feet of climbing.  More on that later….

Over the years, I have come to the realization that I am a much better Double Century rider.  I fair better on the Double Century circuit than I do in the climbing century realm.  I love to climb but I know placing high is not in the cards for me in shorter events.  The benevolence of my sponsor allows me to participate in these climbing centuries.  I ride hard, follow good wheels and hope for the best.

Here is a quote from Event Promoter, Chris Kostman of AdventureCORPS:

“We had 200 participants (31 female and 169 male, from age 26, Jeremey Stromsoe, to age 76, Skip Nevell). Nine riders completed the 45-mile route, 56 riders completed the 75-mile route, and 133 riders completed the full 101-mile route. Just two DNF’d.”


George “Red-Eyed Vireo” Vargas places 19th overall at the Mount Laguna Bicycle Classic (6:54:50)



Before I move into the meat and potatoes of my report I would like to thank the staff and volunteers of the Mount Laguna Bicycle Classic.  AdventureCORPS, puts on very organized and well supported events.  Chris Kostman provides the structure and framework necessary so that his volunteers can provide exceptional support during the event.  All you have to do is make sure your bike is in top running condition, make sure you’re fit, because his events are challenging, and then just show up and RIDE YOUR BIKE!  AdventureCORPS takes care of the rest!!  I strongly recommend AdventureCORPS events!

BIKE –Sasha Cervelo Soloist SL or SLC- SL.  SRM 7900 wireless crankset power meter with PowerControl 7 head unit.  Crankset 53/39 and 11/28 cassette.  Dura-Ace C24 wheels, Shimano Electronic Dura-Ace Di2, Zipp ZedTECH 2 wheels weight of the bike was 15 lbs

CLOTHING– Simple Green cycling kit, LAS helmet, base layer, Defeet wool Kneekers, Defeet wool gloves, Simple Green Arm Warmers, Swiftwick Merino Wool Socks,  Oakley Jawbones, Shimano R315 cycling shoes with Sidas insoles provided by Fizik.

NUTRITION -Loop 1 INFINIT NUTRITION Loop 2–  Infinit Nutrition and Hammer Nutrition Loop 3– Hammer Nutrition.  Hammer Nutrition was provided by AdventureCORPS and makes refueling much faster than packing more Infinit Nutrition in baggies.


I mentioned earlier in this post that I’ve been working a lot.  My available ride time has been impacted significantly this year.  Hence, my training plan has shifted significantly as well.  I now only ride 2-3 hours at much higher intensity during the week.  On my days off I try to get one sub 6 hour century and then follow it up with another hard ride of equal or slightly shorter distance.

What follows is not training advice for those looking to compete and finish high in the standings at a climbing century at the end of the week.  My goals are much different than most of the riders that participated in the MLBC.  I wanted to show up tried to the Mount Laguna Bicycle Classic (MLBC).  Why would I do that?  Because the only event I really want to do well in is the Furnace Creek 508 in October.  The Furnace Creek 508 is a 508 mile non-stop event with 35,000 feet of climbing.  So at strategic times of the year I ride two hard centuries back to back to see how my fitness is coming along.  I know I’m ready for the Furnace Creek 508 when I can do back to back centuries at high intensity.  If I could ever score three straight days off of work I would do three hard centuries.  These hard days prepare me physically and mentally for the ardor of the 508.  Here is what I did on the week leading up to the Mount Laguna Bicycle Classic.

Monday is “always” a rest day

Tuesday – 2:40 part of the ride solo then met up with group on the hardest part of their ride then solo again. Cadence drills over 100 rpm and high wattage

Wednesday– 2:10 solo ride 10 minute intervals at 3 w/kg, 3.5 w/kg, 4 w/kg then a 60 minute Perceived Effort interval (blind no power meter feedback)

Thursday– Hill work on Newport Coast. Warm-Up then Sprints and Surges to reach Newport Coast Drive then 4 repeats outlined below:

1.  2 minutes at 3.5 w/kg then 3 minutes at 4 w/kg then 4.5 w/kg then the last-minute at 5 w/kg.

2.  8 minutes at 4 w/kg

3.  Freeride- sprinting out of saddle when I recovered (blind no power meter feedback) 

4.  An excerpt from my training log-- "Pelican Hill sprints and surges on inclines. I felt gassed, couldn't go that hard.  But I was surprised when I made the junction to
 Newport Coast because I thought I had so much more to climb."

Friday– a sub 6 hour 106 mile 5,000 feet “century”  — The Canyons Loop  – Newport Beach South on PCH to Dana Point, East on Del Obispo, CLIMB Antonio Parkway, CLIMB Live Oak Canyon, CLIMB Santiago Canyon, CLIMB Silverado Canyon, back to the coast.  Then from Newport Beach to Seal Beach with 10 minute intervals at 3.5 w/kg and then a 20 minute 3.5 w/kg interval on the return to Newport Beach.  Needless to say by Saturday I was tired.  But I planned that way.

The Canyons Loop Century done on Friday the day before Mount Laguna Bicycle Classic

George “Red-Eyed Vireo” Vargas at the start of the Mount Laguna Bicycle Classic
My friend and Epic Training athlete Carlo 

Map of the Mount Laguna Bicycle Classic 



I lined up just before 6am.  I found a few familiar faces, Dave Elsberry, Steve Boniface, Jerry Cook and I caught a glimpse of Ton Van Delan.  As we rolled out I was at the tail-end of the first wave of 50 riders.  Down we went on the first descent and it was time to close the gap on the first riders.  We rode hard the first few miles.  I could feel how tired my legs were from the previous week of training.  That first little climb to Gutay really hurts when you’re not warmed up.  Steve, Dave’s trusty lieutenant, set the early hard pace.  A few miles down the road I had to let him go.  I settled into my own groove with another Steve.  We chatted a bit but he started to have troubles and so I rode on.  I would ride alone from before the first summit of Mount Laguna to the finish.  Many times I second guessed my decision of the training plan I had followed the previous week.  I was tired and I lacked the snap in my legs.  Getting up at 3am to drive down to Pine Valley from Orange County didn’t help my recovery either.  I kept my mind occupied envisioning a great showing at the Furnace Creek 508 in October.  I told myself that the 508 is all that matters and that made getting dropped that much easier to handle.

I arrived at the first summit of Mount Laguna at 2:20.  It was approximately 8:20 am.  I noticed that the 22.5 mile marker was near the aid station.  That little detail became vitally important in the latter stages of the event.

Start to summit of Mount Laguna on Loop 1

3,400 feet of gain in 34 miles

Decent of Loop 1 and Climb of Loop 2

I descended alone from the summit of Mount Laguna. I stayed alone until just before the Kitchen Creek gated section where I was passed by one rider.   The approach to the Kitchen Creek gated area is tougher in my opinion than the gated area.  You can tell by looking at the graph below that CADENCE (green) and POWER (yellow) decline as my TORQUE (grey) increases.  This is a visual representation of a steep grade.  Most people think their POWER goes up on steep grades and that’s true to a certain extent.  But TORQUE really goes up on steeper grades.  TORQUE puts a lot of twisting forces onto your frame but doesn’t propel you forward as well as POWER does.

Once into the gated area I started to feel much better. The grade wasn’t as steep and I found my climbing groove again.  I passed Dave Elsberry on this climb and didn’t see him again until the finish.  I was passed by a couple of riders near the junction to the main road near the summit of Mount Laguna.

Kitchen Creek climb in its entirety from the lowest point on Old Hwy 80 to the summit at Mount Laguna

3,000 feet of gain in 15 miles

Descent of Loop 2

The second descent off of Mount Laguna was very welcomed indeed.  I was getting fatigued and I needed a few minutes of recovery.  The temperature was rising.  As I began the descent I wondered  how hot the Pine Creek climb was going to be.  But as soon as those thoughts came I had to push them aside so that I could concentrate on the descent. I had to hydrate and refuel! I told myself now is the time to get some fluids and calories in me.  It’s really hard to refuel on the 15% grades that Pine Creek so graciously presents to you as a challenge.

Loop 3 Pine Creek

I was in and out of Pine Valley in less than 30 seconds.  Thanks to the support of the Adobo Velo crew!!  My legs were really tired by the time I hit Pine Creek Road.  Oh my god does that road suck the life out of you.  I was riding a 53/39 crankset and an 11-28.  I didn’t walk and I suffered because of it.  Many times I thought, “You’re barely going 4 mph, surely you can walk faster than that!”  But I stayed focused because I didn’t want that stigma that comes from walking on a climb.  And really isn’t that just silly?  There were plenty of times I was on 20% grades out of the saddle just  to turn over so I could stay upright for one more revolution.  Last year I rode a compact crankset with a 50/34 and an 11-25 cassette.  But this year I was riding my standard chain ring 53/39 SRM 7900 Dura-Ace wireless crankset.  I rarely ever need a compact and had I not done a century the day before I would not have suffered as much as I did.  One pedal stroke after another until I finally hit the main road.  I hit the main road and noticed the mile marker was 27.5.  Do you remember earlier I said that knowing the location of the aid station at mile marker 22.5 would be valuable?  I later heard from many riders that the final section of climbing to the final aid station was hard on them mentally.  I knew exactly where I was and how many miles were left until the last descent into Pine Valley.  It pays to pay attention to your surroundings.

Notice from Mile 4 to mile 6.5 how much time is spent going between grades 10% – 20%!!

Training Peaks WKO Pine Creek Climb

The Final Descent into Pine Valley

Final thoughts

Do I regret not going after the sub 6 hour goal I had establish a few weeks before the event? NO! Do I feel I shouldn’t have ridden a century with 5,000 feet of climbing and hard intervals the day before the Mount Laguna Bicycle Classic? NO! Am I happy with my final results? YES! Did I suffer?  YES!  Did I get it done? YES!  What would I change if I had a chance to do it over again?  NOTHING! OK so there you have it George “Red-Eyed Vireo” completes the Mount Laguna Bicycle Classic.

2010 Tour de Francis- Winter Edition

Thank You- Skins Compression for C400 Cycling specific Bib shorts and long sleeve compression jersey, SRM Dura- Ace 7900 Wireless Crankset Power Meter System Power Control 7, Oakley Sunglasses, Swiftwick 7″ Merino Wool Socks!

Sasha- my Cervelo Soloist SL-  Electronic Dura-Ace 7900 Di2, Wireless Dura-Ace SRM Crankset Power Meter system with Power Control 7, Zipp 404 Carbon Clinchers, Fizik Arione Versus Saddle, Fizik Microtex bar tape




If not for the 12 minutes off the bike for a flat 10 miles from the finish this would’ve  been a sub 6 hour century with 11k feet of climbing.

The graph above is for my best 60 minutes of power production.  It was in the first hour of the event, Normalized Power 248 watts or 3.64 w/kg.  Remember being a century there is no point in riding at threshold all day.  Also you only go as hard as is necessary to stay with the lead pack.  So even though I could have gone harder it didn’t seem to me to be the best strategy.  Moreover, I didn’t know the route well enough to go solo either.

But I digress, it makes perfect sense that the first hour was the best hour of power since it is during these 60 minutes that I was trying to establish the break.  You should be able to see an “attack” of over 600 watts for about 45 seconds, at approximately mile 4.  I wasn’t happy with the pace being set by the other riders– it felt slow.  Additionally, there were a few riders whose pedal style was really hard to pace off of.  Their pace seemed choppy and the power surges were intermittent.

The hard attack was for 45 seconds but the sustained hard pace over threshold was for 7:20 at 320 watts or 4.7 w/kg see below The purple line is watts.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 6.02.13 PM

It was very obvious that other than myself no one else was using a power meter to keep their effort steady and not waste energy.  Riding with my SRM power meter allowed me to gauge my effort and not follow them when they surged.  Keeping the power consistent I would just creep up to them again and close the gap.  I knew if I “attacked” while everyone was still trying to warm-up it would break up the group.  We were on a climb (purple line is elevation profile) and I also knew attacking on a climb would shake people up mentally.    Hey, trust me it hurt me too because I wasn’t warmed up either. But my tactics worked when I jumped very few followed.    In just the first 5 miles of the event a small group of only five riders was formed off the front of the field.  A field of 100 riders or so were registered but I never found out how many actually rode the event.

The graph above is from the start to the first check point at Lake Elizabeth.  I set tempo for the majority of the climbing for the first 15 miles and then decided to hang back and see how everyone else felt.  I sat in the back of the lead group and watched as the riders would surge at the wrong times and waste an awful lot of energy instead of being fluid and consistent.  By the time we reached Lake Elizabeth (mile 27 and 3,100 feet of climbing) the 5 man break was down to 4 riders.  I was the first to roll in, top off  my bottle and first to roll out.  I hadn’t drank much because it was so cold.  I waited for two more riders to exit the checkpoint.  The break was now down to three riders.

The graph above is from Lake Elizabeth (mile 27) to Three Points (mile 39). The climbing continued for several more miles.  One of the three riders was struggling to maintain our pace and dropped off.  So now there was only two of us, Jon and myself.  We worked together trading pulls through the uphill and downhill sections.  We were moving at a good clip when we came up on the left turn at Three Points.  We would have missed it if the volunteers didn’t wave frantically and yell at us to stop and check-in.  I checked in from the roadside but Jon ran up on the grass and dirt to fill his bottles again.  I didn’t need anything since we had just left a checkpoint 12 miles earlier.  My “race plan” was to refuel at the turn around point 12 miles further down the road– the half way point of the century.

The next two graphs, above and below, are for the pesky little climbs from Three Points to Quail Lake and back.  They were a lot easier to deal with on this day compared to the times I have climbed this section as part of the double centuries.  I was getting a little fatigued but having Jon there made me work harder.

My son have awesome food from one of the SAG stops.

The graph above is from Three Points back to the finish.  After a couple of short climbs you can see a long descent.  It’s funny I didn’t remember the climb being that long.  It’s usually the other way around where you think the climb is long and the descent is too short 😉

The graph above shows the time off the bike (12 minutes) for a flat just 10 miles from the finish.  I was in a turn going 31 mph and I front flatted.  The tire went flat instantly.  I was fortunate enough that no cars were coming from the opposite direction.  I grabbed handfuls of front and rear brake, straightened up my line and headed towards the guard rail.  Because of my straight line I didn’t roll the tire off the rim, I kept the bike upright,  I didn’t damage the Zipp Carbon Clincher $2,750 wheelset …oh and I kept all of my skin 😉  I was amazed at my fast reaction and skills.  I came to rest just inches from the guard rail.   How I did that I don’t know–instinct I guess.  You know they say everything happens so fast in a crash but then they also say it seems like it happened in slow motion weird isn’t it?

 Why 12 minutes for flat change?  Like a bonehead I didn’t have long stem tubes for the Zipp 404 rim!  After trying several combinations of tubes and valve extenders we patched the tube and got back on the road.

During my harrowing experience I thought about the Frank Schleck in the video below.

Even though Jon’s actions were selfless when he assisted me in changing my flat just 10 miles from the finish he had to know that the last climb was every man for himself.  You can see in the graph above the power (yellow line) steadily increasing.  This may sound corny but I allowed myself to fantasize about being in the winning two man break.  I imagined Jon and I going into the final 2 kilometers of a race in some European country.  The sides of the road were lined with spectators as we entered the barriers.  The set-up was perfect.  In the final kilometer there was a climb with a respectable grade (about 7.5%- 8%) that led to a parking lot where volunteers were waiting for riders.  I set the early pace on the climb.  The pace was moderately hard.  Jon seemed to accept the pace so I knew he wasn’t working hard enough nor was I hurting him.  I then rolled off and let him take the lead.  I kept a watchful eye on Jon’s pedaling style, his hand position on the handlebars, his breathing and his overall body language for signs of weakness or an impending attack.  The attack never came.  So I came around again and pushed the pace even higher.  I looked behind me and thought I saw a gap opening so I pushed even harder.  I didn’t know where the top of the climb was so I was looking for any clue, any sign that we were about to summit.  Finally, I thought I saw the top nearing and I attacked out of the saddle.  It wasn’t an all out effort but it was enough to create a gap. Jon later confided in me that when I stood up he tried to follow but he had to sit back down.  I thought it was a fitting way to finish a great century. I came in first by a bike wheel but it was all I needed.

Riding with Jon made the day so much more fun.  We pushed each other all day and when we were finished I felt we had accomplished a good effort as a team.  It can’t be overstated that Tour de Francis events are well supported and just filled with awesome people.  I will definitely be back!

Two pictures of Jon – the guy that stuck to me like white on rice all day.

My son and I off to our next Epic Adventure.

Tour de Francis Ride Report

First off I would like to thank the Adobo Velo gang, and in particular Francis Ignacio, for inviting me to the Tour de Francis Summer Edition- Frazier Park. As usual, they put on a great event and I had a great time participating. Thank you Adobo Velo.


100  miles approximately 9,000 feet of climbing

Long sustained climbs

Beautiful scenery

Very low traffic

Cities visited – Lebec, Frazier Park, and Ventucopa

Counties visited— Kern County, San Luis Obispo County, Santa Barbara County, and Ventura County

Climbs– Lebec to Frazier Park, Mount Pinos and Apache Saddle. Lockwood Valley to Heartbreak Hill then back down to Lebec

Video may found here


Felicia, my Felt F2 with Di2, got the nod.  After 2,500 miles on the first charge of the battery I decided to charge the battery the night before the event.  In that 2,500 miles I had never missed a shift, I had never dropped the chain and I never experienced chain rub from cross-chaining.  For wheels I used my Zipp ZEDTech 2’s with ceramic bearings.  Now that I finally have a wireless SRM I can use them.  They had been collecting dust, figuratively speaking of course. They worked beautifully.  They are light (1060 grams confirmed) aerodynamic and stiff on the steep grades.  Drive train was 53/39 crankset and 11-28 cassette.


The first climb from Lebec to Frazier Park is about 12 miles of slightly undulating terrain.  It isn’t steep in any section that I remember.  The only difficult part is that it comes after a .25 mile warm-up 😉 which isn’t really a warm-up.  As soon as you leave the parking lot of the Best Rest Inn you begin climbing!  I felt good on the climb so I set a medium pace for myself.  I thought for sure there would be other riders coming up on my wheel but no one followed.  The climb is about 2,000 feet of gain in 12 miles– your data may vary. Summit first climb 1:00:00 total time about 7:20am.

The second notable climb was a little over 3.5 miles and gained about 1,000 feet.  I was still feeling good and worked hard to keep my tempo up.  I do remember a few steep pitches and I was glad to have the 28T cog on my 11-28 cassette.  I am working the 39T chainring and the 28T cog so that I don’t have to switch to a compact crankset (I could only afford one SRM 😉  for the FURNACE CREEK 508. Summit second climb 1:35 Total Time about 7:55am.

Next up is the long grind up to Heartbreak Hill.  As I was descending and heading towards the lunch stop I remembered the last time I rode this course.  I was doing the double century and Brandy was doing the century.  I had completely over-heated and was in really bad shape.  So bad in fact that on the last few miles to the lunch stop I was trying to stay on Brandy’s wheel and she was dropping me.  She was giving me the countdown of miles to go just as I had done many times in the past for her.  But on that day I just couldn’t stay on her wheel.

When we arrived at the lunch stop I dunked my head in the spigot of cool water and drank a Coke and got back on the road without eating lunch (rarely do I eat lunch in a 200 miler).  I recovered really well as the day went on.  Incredibly, even with the heat meltdown, I finished 5th that year with a time of 13:28! Race Report can be found here.

Today was different!  Today I was feeling great! I was only doing a 100 miles.  I also hadn’t been riding with faster guys that would have worked me over before reaching this section.  The weather was cooler, albeit a little windier.  I was moving through the course quickly.  The goal was to begin the Heartbreak Hill climb or Lockwood Valley, before 10am.  I was only five minutes behind this goal.  What was my reason for the haste?  I know how hot it can be in those lower elevations (2,500 feet).  It’s important to get through the hottest part of the course before the heat kicks up.  The next concern was the afternoon winds.  As the afternoon wears on, the winds can get really strong. Those were my two primary concerns for maintaining a fast tempo through the valley and the whole day for that matter.

No matter what the temperatures though, Heartbreak Hill will always take a lot out of your legs.  The 39T chainring and 28T cog were perfect for the last couple of kickers.  It was hot (95F) even at elevation (5,000 feet) but it was tolerable.  Summit Heartbreak Hill 4:31 Total Time or 10:53 am.

The big rollers you see in the graph above are always the toughest portion of the course for me.  The winds are stronger and the grades are steeper.  You roll up and down through beautiful wooded and shaded areas and eventually end up in wide open spaces where the wind can really put a wrench into your plans for a fast finish.

I was going as hard as I could because I was looking at a sub 6 hour finishing time on this course.  I had never done just the century.  I didn’t have a personal best time to shoot for.  But I thought sub 6 hours would be a good goal, especially with all the climbing and all the solo riding I had been doing. Summit last roller and begin descent 5:25 Total Time 11:45 am.

Looking at 2009 Heartbreak Hundred results I would have slotted in Top 20 with my 5:49 finishing time.  Considering I rode solo the whole day with no one to pace off of I am quite pleased with the result.  I’m quite sure many of the riders in the top 20 were in  pacelines throughout the day.  Not too mention chasing other riders on the course always makes me work harder and produce better results.

All in all I had a great day on the bike.  I actually enjoyed the scenery much more than I ever have on my double centuries on that course.  The weather was not a factor in my estimation.  Sure there was heat and some winds but hey you can’t ride 100 miles and expect the wind to be at your back the whole time…right? Total time 5:50:39 with only 3:16 off the bike all day.

Yesterday’s fast tempo century gives me hope since my last 155 mile ride to Palomar Mountain wasn’t promising.  I need to do something a little longer this week to see how my fitness is progressing.  All for now and thank you for reading my blog.  If you care to make a comment please do.  I love interacting with my readers.  Your questions are welcomed as well.

And then there is the food at the finish.  These guys ride to eat 🙂  I thoroughly enjoyed the Chicken Adobo and rice.  My son loved the Chicken Enpanadas!  Thank you Adobo Velo for feeding us so well!!!

Tour de Francis

Next up for the Red Eyed Vireo is the Tour de Frances.  It is put on by the Adobo Velo club.  The series of rides is named after its most benevolent club member, Frances Ignacio.  I am very excited to finally participate in one of his events.  I have always had a schedule conflict and this weekend is no different but a little easier to resolve than others.  The event is closed for registration and there are no day of event registrations.  It is this Saturday July 31.  I believe the stats for the ride are 100 miles with 9,000 feet of gain.

I have attached a slideshow of the route preview.  Enjoy the beautiful sights but here a few of my favorites.  I don’t have photo credits but they are from the Adobo Velo site I hope that will suffice.

Ok all for now check back for a ride report.

Newport Beach to Encinitas – via Mount Palomar

Yep you read that right.  I went from Newport Beach to Encinitas …the long way.  I made a left turn at Oceanside and headed East.  I climbed Palomar Mountain in triple digit heat again and it totally sapped me… again.  I climbed Palomar Mountain less than a week ago on Saturday July 17th.


155 miles 9,000 feet of gain.

Lot of heat again — triple digits climbing Palomar Mountain

My first 80 miles were great! The weather was cool and overcast.  I drank only two bottles of Infinit Nutrition. I averaged almost 20 mph from Newport Beach to Bates Nut Farm in Valley Center.  I like the route I chose.  It was mainly coast and flat so I could work on my aero position on the aerobars I had installed on my road bike.  Yikes! Aerobars on a road bike?  Yep …get over it :p  So here I was at my first stop of the day.  I had been rolling for 4 hours 14 minutes (my download told me that) and this was the first time I had dismounted.  AND that’s when I realized it was freakin’ hot out there lol!

I filled my bottles and rolled on to face my nemesis, Palomar Mountain.  A few turns, a downhill, and there I was at the foot of one of California’s 10 toughest climbs— Palomar Mountain 12 miles and 4300 feet of gain.   I began the climb in the 100F+ heat and within just a few minutes I felt my pace was slowing. I have climbed Palomar Mountain many times but I never had close to a century (100 miles)  on my legs before reaching the base like I did on Friday.  Had I made a mistake?  Is it still too early in my training for a century before Palomar?  And if I’m suffering now how will finish this 12 mile climb and the 50 miles back to the coast in Encinitas?

After the first 5 miles I pulled over totally overheated and totally spent.  I took five minutes in the shade and finish my first bottle.  I had three – two on the bike and one in my jersey pocket.  I rolled even though I wasn’t feeling any better…got to stay moving.

As I began the second half of the mountain I just couldn’t pedal on.  I pulled over and took 20 minutes in the shade. I looked at my SRM and it said it was 102F.   I still had about 5 miles to go on the 12 mile climb.  Now you must know something about me and climbing…I love to climb, which is to say I love to suffer.  But when I climb I hold myself to one and only objective…DON’T GET OFF THE BIKE!  So for me to have pulled over twice on a climb I have climbed probably 100 times is a grave situation.  I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.  I didn’t feel under-fueled.  I did feel dehydrated but that shouldn’t affect my legs that much. I had to be economic with my fluids to finish the climb but I needed to take more fluids in NOW!

You might ask yourself …why is he doing this to himself?  Right?  In case you don’t follow my blog regularly, I am training for the Furnace Creek 508. It is a 508 mile non-stop bicycle race through the Mojave and Death Valley deserts with 35,000 feet of climbing over 10 mountain passes.  It is my fifth year returning to this extreme race.  It is my goal race every year and if I don’t suffer now I will really suffer in October.

Well 20 minutes off the bike was the key and I got back on and finished the climb feeling better but still feeling terrible.  As I think back I hadn’t stopped for my first 80 miles at which time I was stopped fewer than five minutes.  I then stopped for five more minutes after the first 5 miles of the climb.  So basically in over 90 miles I had been off the bike only 10 minutes…in this heat.  OK now it’s starting to make sense.  Funny how things are clearer when you’re at home rested and comfortable in your favorite chair and not dehydrated and smoked on the side of the road.

Even though I wanted to hang out in the cooler temperatures (low 90’s) above 5000 feet I knew I just had to get down off the mountain. I then descended as quickly as possible. I love the 12 mile free-fall from over 5,000 feet elevation to 800 feet.  I love descending at speed.  It’s a blast taking hairpin turns at twice the posted speed limit.  One of the things I also love is there are a few right handers that I am leaning so far over as I cut the apex of the turn that the I feel the long blades of something brush my face at 40 mph.

I had a lot more hot climbing still to do.  But the great thing about coming back from Palomar Mountain to the coast is that little by little it  gets cooler. It’s also into a headwind so that helps in one respect but hurts in another…pushing into a headwind sucks actually.   I eventually started to feel better… just better.  I wanted to ride back up to Newport Beach which would have made a 200 miler but the damage had already been done on Palomar Mountain.  I was very dehydrated and just needed to pull the plug on this ride.


OK so Saturday July 17th I climbed Palomar Mountain on a 127 mile 10,000 feet of climbing day—  Start/Finish Encinitas

Friday July 23rd I climbed Palomar Mountain (90 miles in) on a 155 mile 10,000 feet climbing day Start Newport Beach Finish Encinitas

The goal is to climb Palomar Mountain (90 miles in) on a 210 mile 13,000 feet of climbing day Start and Finish in Newport Beach.  Mid August

Next goal is to climb Palomar Mountain (90 miles in) go down the other side and climb Mesa Grande, go towards Santa Ysabel and then work my way back to the coast and North as part of a 290 mile 17,00 feet of climbing. Start Finish Newport Beach end of August.

All for now…thank you for reading my blog please pass it on to your best friend.