1,000,000 feet of climbing for 2018?

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

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

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

May 17 – 137th day of the year

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

Actual feet thus far 264,380 feet

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

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

Today’s ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Camino Real Double 4th Overall

February 17, 2018 – Lori Hoechlin and George Vargas placed 4th overall at the Camino Real Double Century with a time of 10:59.  Our goal was sub 12 hours with a secondary goal of beating our 2017 time of 11:28.  The 2018  had a little more climbing finishing it sub 11 hours was a huge surprise.  We wish to thank Planet Ultra for putting on the event.  We also wish to thank all the volunteers spread out throughout the course.  We only stopped at 2 aid stations all day but we do appreciate the comfort of knowing there were more aid stations and friendly faces to assist us if we needed it.  Lastly and more importantly, I wish to thank my training/racing partner, Lori.  She was simply amazing throughout the day with steady power production and great companionship. I have now completed my 48th Official California Triple Crown Double Century.

The weather was fantastic.  Sure it was chilly in the morning but it warmed up nicely and it never got too hot.  It was in the low 40’s in the morning and mid 70’s during the day.  The winds followed their typical patterns i.e., calm in the morning as we headed South from Orange County and East into the hills of San Diego North County and then onshore which is head/crosswinds as we headed North back to Orange County.

This course has an enormous amount of “stop and go” because of all the traffic lights in Orange County.  In the morning when riding through Orange County and then in the afternoon/evening on the return to the finish line there is so many annoying traffic lights.  It is a little more bothersome getting the tandem rolling back up to cruising speed.  But it’s a level playing right?  Everyone has to stop at them … legally.

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(we are missing 1.6 miles because of a Wahoo Bolt Snafu at the beginning of the event)

Finish of Camino Real Double outside

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Race Day Eve – 2017 Silver State 508

Today we had our vehicle/bike inspection and racer/crew check-in and waivers signed. We are officially ready to race tomorrow Sept 15, 7:00 with the relay start.

Earlier in the day we took everything out of the crew vehicle, inventoried, labeled and organized it. Noreen was methodical and precise with her weapons of mass organization – Sharpies and Post-it notes – color coded at that! Funny story, while were setting everything up in the hotel parking lot security came to us saying they had received complaints of “someone setting up a yard sale”. Point number one – umm nothing is for sale! Point number two – what I’m selling you can’t afford 🙂 Apparently, security weren’t the only ones who thought we selling our wares. Several cars did a slow drive-by and asked if we were selling our things. Nothing to see here nothing for sale move along .

#SS508 #the508 #silverstate508

THE 508 LIVE RACE TRACKING  Hutton’s Vireo



The 2017 Silver State 508

Once again Lori and I are racing the Silver State 508.  This year we are trying something new… we are racing as a 2 person mixed relay.  As my friend, Greg Sherman, pointed out to me I have raced the 508 as a solo, Fixed Gear solo, Tandem why not 2 X Mixed Relay.

We have a great crew.  Lori enlisted the help of her long-time friend Noreen.  I enlisted the help of Alin.  Alin is a veteran of crewing for us so I know he will be fine.  Last week we did a 150 mile 16,000 feet of climbing training ride where Lori and I switched every 25 miles to give the crew an opportunity to practice transitioning, feeding, navigating and direct follow at night.  Noreen did great for her first time.  She even had the opportunity to direct follow at night up and down mountains.

The team of Hutton’s Vireo are ready — riders and crew! You know you can teach people the tasks associated with crewing but you can’t teach them how to care for people.  The willingness to care, assist, and dedicate themselves to your mission can’t be taught it has to come from within. I feel confident we will be in good hands.

If you are interested and would like to follow the race please use the following links

THE 508 LIVE RACE TRACKING  Hutton’s Vireo






Road Trip antics on our way to Reno


We will try to have our crew update you via social media when the are not busy driving, navigating, feeding, motivating, massaging, and cheering us on!


Great day on Palomar Mountain!

Lori and I rode the tandem from Kit Carson Park in Escondido to Palomar Mountain Observatory round trip – 74 miles 9,000 feet of gain.   Before we get too far the name of the mountain is PALOMAR MOUNTAIN.  It is not Mt Palomar or Mount Palomar it is PALOMAR MOUNTAIN.   The ride was organized by my friend, Ken Mathis, who now lives in Michigan and this was sort of homecoming ride on Memorial Day weekend.

The weather was incredible – moderate all day with no rain, no high temperatures or low temperatures and just the typical afternoon winds.  Lori and I commented several times how this was the most perfect day we have experienced on Palomar Mountain while riding the tandem.

The ride has 5 climbs – Lake Wohlford Rd, Palomar Mountain South Grade, Mother’s Restaurant to the Observatory, Observatory to Mother’s, and Cole Grade.  The featured climb of the day is Palomar Mountain South Grade an HC hard climb – it is 11.6 miles average of 7% and gains about 4,200 feet.

For me the hardest climb of the day is Cole Grade.  It is a good 2 miles of double digit climbing.  It’s short, steep and usually over 95F in the summer.  By the time we hit Cole Grade yesterday we already had 8,000 feet on our legs in 60 miles.  Cole Grade on the tandem is really hard and we were barely moving at 4 mph – typical for our tandem on 12% grades.

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After 35 miles and almost 7,000 feet of climbing we reach the end of the road!

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The last climb of the day is Cole Grade.  It much steeper than the 7% average grade it shows below.  There are lots of double digit stretches in a 1.9 mile stretch of road.  Here is a cool picture to show the steepness of the grade.

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Just for fun I thought I would add the Palomar South Grade descent data for the year.  I am currently 5th fastest descender of the 11.7 mile descent for the year and it is the end of May 2017.  Unfortunately, on my descent that day I had to slow down and eventually pass five cars to get down the mountain.  I would have easily been KOM for the year with the 24 seconds of time I lost slowing down for the cars. You can watch my Youtube video of my descent here 

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Also for even more fun I have included my Everest of Palomar Mountain South Grade 7+ repeats of the 11.7 climb for a total of 29,062 feet. This was my first Everest July 2015.  Since then I have done three more.


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Photo credit: Julie Stokes and others

Mulholland Double Century – That Became a Century Instead

On April 8, Lori, my awesome stoker, and I began the day expecting to compete in the 2017 Mulholland Double Century, 196 miles and about 18,000 feet of climbing.  On mile 28 of the event we crashed.  We spent an 1 hour 20 minutes off the bike and timed out for the double so we only did the century with 13,444 feet of climbing.

That’s the headline now if you wish you can read further for more details.  It is important to mention that in over decade of being a tandem captain this is the first and only crash I have ever had on the tandem.  Lori and I began riding tandem back in 2011.  We have ridden thousands of training and racing miles.  We have climbed millions of feet and descended millions of feet on canyons, mountains and rolling terrain.  We have ridden through rainstorms, windstorms, daytime and sleep deprived overnighters on our 500 mile events.  We have ridden in aggressive roadie group rides and solo excursions. I guess I was beating the odds with so many miles and avoiding so many perils.



The forecast called for rain overnight.    It did rain as forecasted even with all the hoping we were doing that it wouldn’t.  Our weather forecasters have the easiest job in the country.  The weather is almost always the same and many times when they forecast rain it never materializes.  We were hoping they would get it wrong.  My best guess is it stopped about 3 am, the last time I looked out the window.  Rain was not forecasted during the event.  As far as I know there was only a very light sprinkle at some point during our 10+ hours on the bike. It was however very windy in the early afternoon.  I can’t comment about the weather after 4 pm.


We launched at 630 am with the other double century riders.   The ground was wet for the first couple of hours. We worked at medium intensity on the climbs and rollers and cruised easy on the descents.  The sun peaked through the clouds every now and then but I would characterize the early morning weather as cloudy and foggy.  In some areas the fog was quite dense.


28 miles into the event, while we were descending Old Topanga Canyon we crashed.   We were on the last 1.5 miles section of the descent when it happened.  The wet and dry pavement were apparent to me.   I could see the darker and lighter patches on the road.  Just before our crash we banked into a right hand sweeper where I could see a perfectly dry section of road.  I then could see up ahead a shaded area so I scrubbed off some of the speed.  We entered a twisty section with Oak trees shading and sheltering the road below it.  On one of the many lefts and rights we hit a wet patch of road under one of the trees and whoosh the front tire washed out from underneath us.

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Crash site just to the right of the blue dot.

You know how when you crash or fall and you think to yourself “that was stupid”?  Well that thought never entered my mind.  I was riding well within my limits and well within the limits of my machine — or so I thought.  I was riding as cautiously as usual and then BAM! We were on the deck!  It caught me completely by surprise!


There I was face down with my cheek and chin touching the wet pavement.  My mouth was open and as I licked my lips I could taste the ground– the dirt.  Immediately I wondered what the heck had just happened?  I did a quick inventory of my mental and physical faculties.  When I opened my eyes and lifted my head I was looking down the hill. Once I figured out where I was, what had happened and that I could move,  I got up quickly and looked for Lori.  She was facedown as well but oddly enough her head was pointing uphill with her hands under her body.    With her hands under her I later hypothesized that she didn’t have enough time to get her hands out to break her fall which might have prevented her from breaking her wrist or fingers.

I began asking Lori if she was ok.   It was only after several impassioned inquiries that I got her first response.  Her response was unintelligible, in fact, it can be best described as groans.  There were no discernible words… at first.  I asked again and again what hurt and if she thought I could move her.  She couldn’t respond with something I could use.  I know better than to move an injured person but we were still in the middle of the road and on an open course with cars and other cyclist coming very soon. After what seemed like an eternity she started to make coherent phrases but not sentences yet.  Meanwhile a couple of riders had stopped at the scene and one of the riders called 911.

Now let me take you back about 11 years.  I would like for you to understand what I was processing at the time.  Years ago while I was driving my car on a twisty road in San Diego, Highland Valley Road,   I was the first person on the scene of a motorcycle accident.  The motorcyclist crashed head-on with a small Ford Ranger type pickup truck.  The motorcycle rider was thrown from his motorcycle and was lying facedown when I approached him. Numerous times I asked him if he was ok.  I asked him what his name was and all I got from him was, you guessed it, groans.  Long story short, this gentlemen died at the scene of the accident.  Even with the help of emergency services he was not going to make it.  They were unable to stabilize him before transport and he died at the scene  Unfortunately, I had that experience in the back of my mind while I was trying to extract a response from Lori.

I digress back to the scene of the accident, within a few minutes of our crash Ed Gallegos, roving SAG, drove up, parked his “toaster” as he calls his tiny economical car, and pulled out a camper’s chair and a blanket. Tony Musorafite Sr was also at the scene very promptly.  Paramedics, Fire Rescue and an ambulance arrived soon after.   Meanwhile hordes of riders were coming down the canyon and doing the looky Lou thing as they passed by us. We were very near the front of the event (top 10 by my count) so the main body of the double century riders were still coming down the canyon as we were being attended to by the emergency services.

Just before the emergency services arrived I was asking Lori typical questions to ascertain her condition.  From my perspective the answers should have been very apparent to her.  I asked her things such as: her name, day of the week, what event we were  participating in,  she struggled at first but she was able to recall those things.  When I asked her what the specific date was she couldn’t tell me.  Generally, I’m not that good at telling you the specific date but an event date is always on your mind as you train for it.  She couldn’t tell me if it was the beginning, middle or end of the month.  She also couldn’t remember us crashing.  I cut her a little slack on that one since she is a stoker and can’t see the road ahead of her most of the time.  But when I dug a little deeper she couldn’t remember hitting the deck.  Now I was worried.

We both declined emergency services.  Our injuries were fairly common for any cyclist that comes to grief against the tarmac.  We both had road rash on our left side and significant soreness.  I had severe whiplash from my head bouncing off the tarmac.  While our road rash was common we had both experienced concussions. Lori took it to the next level by having road rash not only on her left side but with road rash on the right side of her face.  Additionally, at some point she was lucid enough to perform a very astute and accurate self-diagnosis of a broken left clavicle.  As the emergency vehicles drove away Tony loaded up our tandem in his vehicle and took Lori 1.5 miles to Checkpoint #1.  I was ferried to Checkpoint #1 by Ed in his toaster.

The 1.5 mile drive to the checkpoint was very difficult on me mentally.  We had a very friendly and helpful reception at Checkpoint #1 by Jennifer, Terri and Q.   Although everyone working the checkpoint was already handling us as a DNF I was not prepared to quit… not yet.   At the checkpoint, I reconnected with Lori. I asked her several times what she wanted to do.  I knew her injuries were worse than mine.  I also knew that if she could push the pedals I could get us to the finish.  She deliberated for a long time.  I could see it in her eyes that she didn’t want to quit either.  But I could also see the disorientation in her eyes in the Marine Corps we called it “the thousand yard stare”.  I also witnessed the constant wincing as she moved around in what should have been a nice comfortable leather passenger seat in Tony’s Tahoe.  Eventually, I said, “Look let’s get back on the bike and if you can’t ride then you’ll know you made the right decision to end the ride here.”    I reasoned with her that if the pain was unbearable then she would know.  I could see the indecision and after all the time we wasted with SAG, Emergency Services and debating it was time to “shit or get off the pot”.  We needed to bring clarity to her decision making and our predicament.


Here was my idea we would go backwards on the course and climb back up the canyon 1.5 miles.  That waypoint was were we crashed and entered the SAG vehicles and made forward progress in the motor vehicles.  It was very important to me to reenter the course at the crash site.   We climbed slowly and then I asked her to stand and climb with me.  It hurt her and the bike felt off balance, because she couldn’t put weight on her left hand/arm, but we did it.  It was imperative that we could stand because we still had many steep climbs ahead.  Climbs like Decker Canyon and Cotharin have sustained sections of  12-15% with pitches over 20%.  I checked with my stoker if she thought she could ride and she said yes.  We hit the 1.52 mile marker, made a U-turn and descended back to checkpoint #1.  Much to the surprise of all the great volunteers at Checkpoint #1, we were back on the bike and requesting a “sticker” so that we could resume our ride.


The first few miles were difficult.  All told we had been off the bike for over an hour.  As you can see from the graphs below we were off the bike from 1 hour 45 race time to 3 hours 2 minutes race time.  My best guess is we were off the bike 1 hour and 17 minutes.  That’s a long time off the bike under any circumstance but it is especially difficult to get going after a crash.  We had substantial injuries now if you compound that with all the time on the sidelines we sure had a long road ahead of us to get back in the groove.


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Something neither of us had considered was how challenging it would be to descend with Lori’s injuries.  Steep descents like Deer Creek will put a lot of weight on your hands/arms and shoulders while on a -12% grade.  There are even steeper sections peaking at -19%.  I was very cautious descending Deer Creek which prolonged the descent and put a lot of strain on her upper body.  I could feel her helmet hit my back any time I braked too hard.  So now I had to balance keeping the tandem’s speed down while still releasing the brakes often enough to keep the brakes from overheating but then having to apply them quite firmly because the tandem was gaining speed virtually exponentially on the 12% grade. We got through it but it really is one of the least favorite parts of the course for a tandem captain.  If you’re not careful the tandem becomes a runaway train at over 300 pounds and overheated disc brakes


We were happy to be the only tandem at the start line for the double century.  It meant loosing the three event California Stage Race series was up to us.  Two years ago we made a mess of our attempt at the Stage Race with mechanicals on the second event. This year we were lucky enough to have two events relatively close to our homes Mulholland Double and Oceanside Double.

It is important to mention that the Mulholland Double Century is extremely difficult on the tandem while healthy.   My suspicion for us being the only tandem at the event is that the amount of climbing and the steepness of the grades is concentrated in so few miles.  There are countless ramps of 12-20% grades with sustained sections at double digit grades on the course.  So while this event is difficult while healthy it became even more difficult for us and and in particular Lori because she could not put pressure on her left hand/arm.  We did our best to “sit and grind” up many of the double digit ramps and stood very sparingly.  When we stood the bike was out of balance as we were going 3-4 mph.

Initially after the crash I could tell Lori was nervous and apprehensive while descending so I kept the speed way down.  Throughout the day as the roads dried out and I gained her confidence and we descended a little quicker but far slower than our usual speeds.

Eventually we rolled into the finish of the century which also served as  the start for the second loop for the Double Century.  Because of all the time we spent off the bike and our much slower pace throughout the climbs and descents we timed out and were not allowed to continue on to the double century.  108 miles and 13,442 feet is a good day’s work in anyone’s book.

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Oh yes some of you might be wondering the condition of the bike. Of course, because you must be the cyclists in the bunch.  The bike is fine.  The Left shifter got scraped up, the bar tape was torn and a very minor scuff on the stoker’s saddle.  The stoker’s stem and handlebar are secured to the captain’s seatpost.  When we crashed the stoker’s handlebars hit the deck.  During the remainder of the day we couldn’t get the handlebars straight while not twisting the captain’s seatpost.  The best we could do was get her bars straight and let my saddle remain off center.  I didn’t want to stop and take the time to loosen and retighten everything without a torque-wrench.  We just wanted to continue to make forward progress and leave well enough alone.  The last thing we needed was to snap a seatpost collar or a stem bolt on the stoker’s handlebar set-up.

As far as clothing — my highest-end Biemme Bibs (plain wrapper), my REV Cycling branded knee warmers, REV Cycling Pink Jersey (my favorite), and my wool base layer are all torn beyond repair.  Additionally, my Kali Protectives Phenom helmet was cracked in several places and needs replacing.  A shoutout for Kali Protectives they offer a lifetime Crash replacement program!  No hassle just fill out the form pay for outbound shipping and a new helmet will be sent to you.  Might be why REV Endurance Sports is a Kali Protectives dealer.


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Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.  It has been a long time since I have been actively writing and posting on this blog.  I appreciate your support.  I commit to releasing posts more often.  I have over 40 posts in draft mode.  They will get released and you will have a lot more material to read.

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