CCSD – Cycling Camps San Diego Day 1

50 miles 5,800 feet of climbing

Day 1 is designed to begin the altitude acclimation process.  Today’s course was intended to be ridden at endurance pace.  Keep in mind your power and heart rate can be down as much as 15% at elevation.  I went fairly “easy” as far as my numbers appear but I assure you it felt more like medium intensity. I believe I am having an easier time acclimating to the altitude, relatively speaking, than the other campers because of my CVAC Sessions at Ascent – OC.

The scenery was amazing and the support by CCSD – Cycling Camps San Diego was right on the money.  Rob Panzera, President of CCSD, provided coaching tips on descending before the ride.  Later at Minaret Vista, 9,265 feet, Rob provided information on the affects of altitude on the body as it relates to heart rate and power.

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It’s either up or down 😉 data from Training Peaks WKO

Data from Ride with GPS

George “Red-Eyed Vireo” Vargas at Minaret Vista 9,265 feet

USA Olympic Marathoner Meb Keflezighi or here still running at altitude just days before the London Olympics

Devil’s Postpile

A Geologic Wonder

Established in 1911 by presidential proclamation, Devils Postpile National Monument protects and preserves the Devils Postpile formation, the 101-foot high Rainbow Falls, and pristine mountain scenery.  The formation is a rare sight in the geologic world and ranks as one of the world’s finest examples of columnar basalt. Its columns tower 60 feet high and display an unusual symmetry.

From the Gate House adjacent Minaret Vista pictured below

Minaret Vista Station Elevation 9,176

Rob Panzera, President of CCSD – Cycling Camps San Diego, at Minaret Vista 9,265 Elevation


Somehow even though I was riding easy I picked up a top ten on a Strava segment (unaware it existed) – go figure 😉


CVAC Sessions are working!

Just a quick post to update you on my progress.  I have been back at CVAC for one month and it’s starting to pay off.  I restarted my sessions on June 11, 2012.  I went out for a ride last Sunday July 7, 2012. I had been off the bike for two weeks because of a bad infection.  I pushed a little on a couple of the hills and even along Pacific Coast Highway when I caught up with a fast three-man paceline.  I am happy to report that I didn’t have my typical coughing spasm related to the recovery period after a hard effort. If you would like more information please click here.  You can also find a Frequently Asked Questions section here.

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Park City Point to Point – T minus 12 hours

I’m excited to be doing my first endurance MTB race.  It’s my first MTB race period.  Actually, it occurred to me as I was chatting with my friend Cheryl Zwarkowski that by the time I finish this race I will have spent more time on a MTB on just this race than I have ever spent in my previous five rides …and I mean cumulative!

I went for a pre-ride yesterday and was amazed how in just 9 miles I had 1600 feet of climbing but more importantly the distinctly different terrain I rode through.  I was cruising along quite nicely when I hit the wooded area below.  I HAD to stop and take a picture.

Below is an example of the markings that I will follow to keep me on course.

Below:  I had to dismount as I tried to climb this rocky section.  I won’t be taking any risks tomorrow.  I’m just there to finish.

Below:  This is the bike that will crush the competition.  Just kidding –everyone knows it’s not about the bike.  But I am very thankful that Felt Bicycles provided me a 2011 Felt Edict.  It is a full suspension cross-country race bike.  It is a 4″ travel bike that weighs sub 25 lbs with pedals in the stock set-up.

Please follow me on my Spot page. will stream information during the race.

Please make comments on my Facebook Fan Page.  I have a volunteer on the course who will pass along your comments.

So what are my goals for this race?  My goal is to finish with all my skin intact and all faculties 😉  Seriously though I would like to finish about 10 hours.  They say middle of the pack riders will finish between 9-11 hours so I want to be in the middle of that 😉  12 hour time limit with the pros finishing in 7 hours.

Am I ready?  Ready as I’ll ever be.  I have good legs.  I’m not overly tired or fatigued from weeks of hard training.  I have been off the bike dealing with a lot of personal issues lately — work and my son.  But that’s life isn’t it?

Park City Point to Point Race Organizer Jay Burke and George “Red-Eyed Vireo” Vargas pose for a picture on race day eve.

Lots of people to thank (alphabetical order)  CVAC Systems, Felt Bicycles, Infinit Nutrition, the Pro Bar, my friends and many more …too many to mention and I don’t want to bore you 😉

As far as tonight I had a nice light dinner and feel satiated.  I have compression tights on to keep my legs fresh and I’m hydrating.  Other than that this is just another race …just on different terrain and equipment.  The mantra that will get me to finish and keep me out of trouble?   Tranquilo Mijo…. Loosely translated “go easy son”

Wall Street Journal article on CVAC Systems

I was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal last week about my personal experiences with CVAC sessions and the POD.  I have noticed that my exercise-induced asthma has gone away and some performance gains.  I have documented them in previous posts.  Just use the “CVAC Sessions” label to filter those posts out.  I was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal article that came out today in both the online and in print versions.  It was very brief but hey how many of you can say you have been mentioned in the Wall Street Journal 😉  Here is the link to the article.

Newport Coast Personal Records Comparison

What follows is a graphical comparison of my personal records on Newport Coast Dr.  It should be self-explanatory but feel free to make comments on this blog post to open a discussion.  I will tell you that I strongly believe that the CVAC sessions in Newport Beach have made an improvement in my training and subsequent field tests.

George “Red-Eyed Vireo” Vargas progression to current personal record of 6:43 on Newport Coast Drive.

A few points to consider:

1.  Time is an absolute — less time represents faster ascents

2.  Normalized Power increased for each Personal Record. Faster times not a product of environmental factors such as tailwinds

3.  Watts per Kg increased for each Personal Record.  Regardless of my weight I increased  w/kg ratio

4.  Crank Torque increased for each Personal Record. More powerful legs pushing harder and pushing harder gears.  Last effort on 6/28 was done in “Big Ring” (53×21).

5. Intensity Factor- 6/28/11 represents 122% of effort compared to my FTP (1 hour of power) of 285watts.  So either I need to adjust up my FTP or I’m becoming a specialist at 5 minute efforts 😉 I will adjust my FTP regardless to 295 watts.

6.  Weather consistent.  Early morning efforts no winds, no heat. Allowing repeatable Field Tests.

New Personal Record on Newport Coast – (6:43 Normalized Power 348 watts 5.11 w/kg)

Yep folks another PR today.  I took 7 seconds off my previous PR of 6:50 from May 31, 2011.  Today I climbed Newport Coast with a time of 6:43.  My gearing was 53 x 24, with 53 x 21 when I stood up.  I stood up twice towards the end of the effort.  For years I have been climbing this hill month after month and never have I had such significant gains in performance.

I am now certain the CVAC sessions are paying off.  I owe a huge thank you to my good friends at Lunar Health and Wellness in Newport Beach.  Not only has my performance improved but the exercise-induced asthma has disappeared!! My heart rate reached 192 bpm on this effort.  In the past when I would come off of a hard effort like this I would cough uncontrollably for several minutes afterwards.  I didn’t cough at all today!  Additionally, my sleep is REALLY deep.  I can’t explain it but it’s very different.

George “Red-Eyed Vireo” sets new Personal Record on Newport Coast 6:43

Newport Coast Drive PR (6:50 Normalized Power 321 watts 4.8 w/kg) & May Month End

On the last day of a 75 hour, 1274 mile month, I set a new PR on Newport Coast Dr.  My new time of 6:50 is 12 seconds faster than my previous PR from earlier in the month of 7:02 and 31 seconds faster than the PR before that of 7:21.  I held 321 watts for almost seven minutes.  My weight was 147.4 and my 4.8 w/kg was the highest and longest time frame I have ever held for that w/kg.  Keep in mind, the pros hold 6 w/kg for 30 minutes or more once again proving I’m just your average working stiff that enjoys riding a bike.  And speaking of working, that 1274 mile month was done by riding 2-2.5 hours in the morning and 1.5- 2 hours at night after work.  I often see Crow going in the opposite direction. ONCE last month we were going the same direction and chatted a few minutes.  I had a few centuries thrown in as well.  You may not know but I can’t ride on weekends because I am either working or I have my six year-old son.

George “Red-Eyed Vireo” Vargas sets new PR on Newport Coast Dr of 6:50

New Power Profile after PR

Month End numbers for May.

As you can see above, May was my first thousand mile month in a long time. I’m fortunate to have a good base from my first years of Ultras where I would do 12,000 – 15,000 miles a year. Why the big ramp up this month? Well because every May I start my preparation in earnest for the Furnace Creek 508 I now have to put in four months of solid training.  By September, I am doing more speedwork (intensity) so the mileage (duration) is shorter.  I would like to do Everest Challenge just before Furnace Creek 508- just like last year with one week apart. AND there is also Interbike in September so basically September is a wash.  Hence, May through August is when I really need to focus on my 508 training.

Stay tuned for more Furnace Creek 508 specific training….

For those that wonder where I am timing my Newport Coast PR’s here is a graph.  1.55 miles 450 feet of gain about 6ish% grade.


Glendora Mountain Road – Mountain Training Ride

Felony- 2011 Felt F1 with Di2 SRM 7900 wireless crankset power meter with Power Control 7 head unit

New bike, new year and here I am training for the  Furnace Creek 508 again.  For those that are not familiar with the Furnace Creek 508– it is a 508 mile non-stop bike race with 35,000 feet of climbing.  Along the way you  pass through the Mojave and Death Valley deserts and summit ten mountain passes.  It is “the toughest 48 hours in sport” . I am returning for a sixth SOLO run.  To my knowledge, I am one of only two racers to have successfully completed five consecutive solos.  The other racer is Michael Emde, multi-time Furnace Creek 508 Champion.

Yesterday, I had a few errands to run before being able to ride.  I began my ride out of Glendora later than I ever have.  It was 5pm.  But I thought it would be interesting to do the majority of the ride in daylight and finish the ride with a little night riding.  I was prepared with lights and set off.

My training route was:

CLIMB Glendora Mountain Road

Descend to Camp Williams

CLIMB Glendora Mountain Road (I call it little GMR)

CLIMB Glendora Ridge Road

CLIMB to the Mount Baldy Lifts

About 8,500 feet of climbing in 39 miles!

Elevation chart for my ride.


It is early in my preparation for the Furnace Creek 508 but I wanted to see what my form was like.  I set out on Glendora Mountain Road with a short warm-up and then went for my Personal Record (PR)  of 44 minutes.  I felt fine during the climb.  I looked at my power numbers compared to my heart rate and once again I noticed they were lower than usual.  I have been participating in CVAC sessions and I believe that has a lot to do with it.  More on CVAC later.  I was only 12 seconds off my PR.  The result is very promising since it is only May and my PR was set in late August when I am in much better form.  the other reason my result is good is that it comes at the end of eight workout training week and almost 19 hours on the bike.  Below is the graph of my ascent of Glendora Mountain Road.

Once I crested GMR I descended towards Camp Williams.  That descent is a favorite of mine but there were too many rocks strewn on the road to really enjoy it.  The weather was perfect.  I hadn’t finished my first bottle when I pulled into the Camp Williams store.  I topped of the bottle and then ascended what I call little GMR.  Why?  Because it is only 4.9 miles vice 8 miles — seems like a good enough reason to me 😉  My time was 30:09 from the right turn onto GMR to the junction at with Glendora Ridge Road.  It was slower than my PR but I was spent from going hard on GMR.

Once at the junction I continued climbing on Glendora Ridge Road.  I was not going for any specific time other than just keeping the intensity at medium level. I was fatigued but recovered on the occasional downgrade.

After climbing Glendora Ridge Road I climbed from the Post Office where I refueled to the Mount Baldy Ski Lifts.  I was beat but I had to follow my plan.  I struggled with the steep grades.  I was riding my SRM 53/39 crankset and an 11/28 cassette.  My legs were really fatigued but up the mountain I went.  I summited only out of shear will.  I kept telling myself “this is your last climb of the day.” ” This is your last hard effort of the week. ”  “It’s been a long hard week …just get it done!”  Here is my power chart for Post Office to the lifts.  Notice the grey line how much higher it is than my yellow line.  Yellow is Power and grey is Torque.  The climb to the lifts is really steep over  10 percent in many sections.  My 39×28 combination was not easy enough to spin up so I was grinding and producing A LOT of torque.  I don’t ride a compact because I have an SRM and prefer to use a standard crankset since 95% of the time I won’t be climbing 15% grades 😉

Climb Analysis- From Post Office in Baldy Village to Mt Baldy Ski Lifts

 It was now night time 8:45 pm.   And this is where the “adventure” in George’s Epic Adventures begins.  My headlight was shutting off every time I hit a bump.  So I pulled over to see if the battery was fully engaged and that’s when I noticed the plastic enclosure around the proprietary battery had broken.  When I tried to reinsert the battery it wouldn’t work at all now.  Hmm…I already dislike proprietary stuff but now I’m at the top of Mount Baldy …pitch black with no ambient light…and 26 miles from my car on almost all twisty downhill!  Now I could abandon the light and get my night vision which would take about 20 minutes.  I could see the road in general and use the fog line and the centerline to guide myself down the mountain.  But my main concern was all the rocks I had seen strewn along the road– just hitting one of them could ruin my season if not more.  And then there was the x-factor.  Something I hadn’t considered was the boy racers in their fast cars racing up and down Glendora Mountain Road.  One very scary moment three cars came around a blind corner over the centerline right at me.  I swerved to the ditch and was safe but I think I gave that young man a good scare as well.  He was probably thinking what is this crazy dude doing on a bike at 10 something at night with no headlight descending this mountain.

Serfas True 250 – 250 lumen headlight

The last 26 mile stretch took me 1 hour 40 minutes and my average speed was only 16.5 mph.  Actually, that isn’t so bad afterall.  I was cold as well and I was never so happy to see my car.

George “Red-Eyed Vireo” Vargas on Felony – his 2011 Felt F1 with Shimano Di2 and SRM 7900 power meter climbing Glendora Mountain Road.

And now for a special treat I met Ray Clone as I was taking a picture of Felony in front of the 5.08 mile marker sign. He explained to me that he has been riding Glendora Ridge Road for 30 years. He asked to take a picture of me…how could I refuse?

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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New Personal Record on Newport Coast Drive 7:02

On the tail-end of today’s 3 hour hill workout I PR’d on Newport Coast Drive– 7:02.  I started my climb at 4.5 w/kg and held it.  I’m quite happy with a 19 second improvement from April 22nd time of 7:21.  The other climbs today were Pacific Island Drive (9:25)  in Dana Point and Temple Hills (11:42) in Laguna both seated climbs in my 39×23. On Newport I climbed in my 39×21 and felt fine.  So now the question is are the CVAC sessions at Luna Health and Welness in Newport Beach paying off?  Next goal sub 7 minutes!

Note the 300 watt doted line – all climbs were done at 300 watts (4.5 w/kg) or above

Also note the hard efforts on rollers prior to the first climb 

Normalized Power for the 3 hours was 232 or 3.5 w/kg

George “Red-Eyed Vireo” Vargas sets new PR on Newport Coast Drive – 7:02 

Normalized Power 308 watts or 4.7 w/kg

Timer starts at the crosswalk at Pacific Coast Hwy and ends at Pelican Hill/Morning View traffic signal

1.5 miles 450 feet of gain avg 5.7% grade