August 31, 2016/ Guest
This is a guest post by Jason Perez following his Carmel Double Century ride with Justin Too. This was not a race, but it’s a great read.
My last minute life
So this week’s weekend adventure started on Friday in my garage buried under a pile of carbon and vinyl. I’m a huge procrastinator in anything from race entries to getting my truck smogged (only two days left). Last year hopping on a dynamic boom front wheel drive recumbent for the first time only six weeks before my first 24-hour road race is another perfect example of my last minute life.
This year I’ve taken some small steps to ease into the 24-hour race prep and one of those steps is securing an aerodynamic disc wheel for the back of the Vendetta V20. I’ve actually been working on this wheel idea for three months now and I’ve made zero actual progress due to a complete and utter lack of response from the various people who make the products I need. Long story not so long but not exactly short, I ordered two types of carbon sheeting and took the plunge to make my own wheel covers. It wasn’t hard per say but a simple mistake can cost you a whole $150 sheet of carbon which I did do. After my one expensive mistake I finally finished a pair of perfectly fitting wheel covers at 9:30 p.m. Friday night. I had to take them out for a quick spin to make sure they didn’t disintegrate once up to speed. I strapped on my helmet and shoes and off I went, testing superior aerodynamic product designs wearing bagging cargo shorts that inflated like sails with the passing wind. With the wheels functionality sound it was time to load up the truck and get some much needed sleep because in 4 hours I needed to be on the road to make it to the 6 a.m. start of the Carmel Double Century.
The Race to Lunch
Getting up at 3 a.m. after only 4 hours of sleep is easy, staying awake while driving is the tricky part. But somehow I made it to Carmel Middle school safely. The ride (not a race) allows you to start any time between 4 and 6 a.m. with the slower riders normally leaving earlier to prevent the need to ride past midnight. I was planning to wait until the very last second to start with fellow ultra-cyclist Justin Too. The plan was to loosely ride together as best we could but we weren’t going to slow down for each other, instead we’d rely on the slower rider to push through and catch back up.
Justin is much faster on the climbs and I’m faster on the descents so some going back and forth was going to happen. We both figured there to be at least a small group of faster riders all leaving at 6 a.m. but there was only Justin, me and another rider who seemed to know Justin well enough to ask to join us. We all rolled out together at 6 a.m on the dot and headed down Carmel Springs Road which we would stay on for the next 46 miles.
The ride start. Photo Credit: Sonny Too.
The first 104 miles of the course only has one turn on it that you do twice and is an easy to remember out and back to and from the mile 52 aid station. The latter 96 miles contains something like 50 turns zig zagging through cities, bike paths and a very unfriendly section of Highway 1. Oh wait did I forget to mention the ride was being held on a last minute revised route due to some major ongoing fires to the south? No? Then let me rewind a bit. Last week I did a quick 180 mile ride with Justin and he mentioned the Carmel event the following week. So like a dummy with no sense of moderation, I paid the $100 entry fee and signed up with no further research beyond what I heard from Justin on our ride. It turned out the whole event was being threatened by an ongoing fire to the south. The original southern route that looked so fun and remote was going to be changed to a northern route with a million turns and a ton of vehicular traffic. It wasn’t until Friday around 3 p.m. that the new route was released via email and we knew for sure we would have no idea where we were going in the second half. I spent like 3 hours making a slimmed down magnetic route sheet and trying to figure out the useless mapping function on my Garmin GPS unit. This was also part of the reason I didn’t finish my carbon wheel covers till late Friday night.
Ok so where was I? Oh yeah! So Justin, I and the one other rider are rolling down the road lit up only by our headlights because sunrise wasn’t for another 40 mins. I did my best to hold an easy pace on the basically flat first few miles but we still ended up dropping our third rider somewhere. The ride out was very quite with only a couple cars in the first few hours and the nice remote feel you’d expect from the Carmel foothills. Justin basically sat on my wheel drafting the best he could on the flat road until we hit the first climb.
I again emphasized I didn’t want him holding back for me on the climbs because I wanted to challenge myself to try and keep him in sight the best I could. He’d slowly walk away from me as I drug my boat anchor along, but I did manage to keep him in sight and even passed him a few times when the road would flatten or go downhill for a moment. We finally reached the summit on the big climb at mile 29 and started the descent with me only trailing by a few seconds. The road surface was that nasty chip seal stuff that makes the whole road look likes it’s covered in loose gravel so you can’t actually see if there’s any loose gravel in a corner. We both took it rather easy feeling out the road conditions on a road that’s new to the both of us. I finally made my move past Justin about half way down and started to slowly open a gap.
Once we finished the steeper downhill and moved onto the nice long 20 miles of negative 1-2% downhill I cut loose and stretched the long legs of the Vendetta. The new disc wheel covers were spinning silently and after a moment Justin was completely out of sight with me quickly closing in on the next pair of riders ahead. I was just enjoying the outright speed of the bike as I casually flew passed pairs and groups of riders one after the other going on average 5-10 mph faster. The expression and outright head shaking from the passed riders in my mirror are always fun to watch as the miles fly by. I’m not sure how many riders started the ride but I know we started last so everyone was in front of us waiting to be caught.
Around seven miles from the turnaround I started to see the first few riders heading back on the road so we exchanged waves as we passed one another. We had skipped the first aid station at mile 29 but I made sure to stop on the mile 52 aid station for a quick refill. I hopped off my bike to discover I had lost one of my rear bottles cutting me down to only 2 bottles. Thinking back I knew it probably ejected over the bump on an early crossed bridge so I wanted to hurry back and hopefully find in still on the ground. As I’m trying to refill my bottles I’m getting bombarded with question from the volunteers about the Vendetta and the crazy looking wheel covers. I did my best to answer all the curious people but I just really wanted to hurry back and find my missing bottle before someone thought to pick it up.
I left the aid station and headed back up the same road I had just finished while keeping my eyes peeled for Justin who should be coming by any minute now. After a few miles passed, I realized I either missed Justin or he got a flat tire or missed the one and only turn. I’d figure out the missing Justin mystery later, but for now I needed to find that bottle. I got to the bridge and as I dreaded, no bottle in sight. So I either dropped it somewhere else or someone picked it up. I continued on and started up the steep climb back to aid station #1 or #3 at this point. Just then the SAG Mini Cooper I saw helping out riders earlier was catching me. As they slowly passed, I yelled out “hey did you guys pick up any bottles?”. They stopped and handed me back my missing bottle. Sadly it was missing the Camelbak spout from the lid making it impossible to drink from, but I could still carry water in it and swap another lid onto it when needed.
I crested the summit and started the nice mostly downhill 29 mile descent back to the start. It was then that I noticed my average speed so far was something like 18.5 mph and I thought I could get it back up to 20 mph by the 100 mile mark and achieve a 5 hour century on my way to the double. I pushed a touch harder than I had been so far but honestly no harder than if I was in a true 200 mile race. My average speed was slowly climbing but I was quickly running out of miles with a few tenths to go. I ended up hitting 100 miles right at 5:00:04 so nearly a perfect 20 mph average.
Jason fist bumps Sonny Too, Justin Too’s Dad.
I continued the remaining 4 miles back to the middle school and lunch stop where I was greeted by more friendly and inquisitive volunteers as well as Justin’s parents who were helping running the lunch stop. I normally don’t take anything from the aid stations except water but I was planning to wait for Justin so we could enjoy being lost in the second half with someone to complain with. I told Justin’s father Sonny that I never saw him on my way back but I was planning to wait for him. A few minute and a whole turkey sandwich later, Sonny said Justin was 6 miles away via his find my iPhone app. I never considered that app could be used that way but it was very clever idea. I was about to head back counter course and pick him up, but then one question about the Vendetta led to another and there he was. He said he waved to me earlier as he rode by but I just missed him apparently. As I waited for him to get his bottles all topped off he said something that triggered a thought in my head. Up till this point my Garmin was useless for navigation even though I loaded the route. I was still dreading the second half and its multitude of turns and only a paper sheet with turns and mileage for navigation. I had suddenly remembered I had turned off the map screen on my Garmin because I never use it so I turned it back on and voila I had a map with the route in real time.
The Casual Second Half
We rolled out from lunch and onto a nightmarishly busy Highway 1 and up a steep hill, so we were only doing about 7 mph. I rode behind Justin and played defense using my mirror to alert any drivers looking to buzz by at full speed with a little preemptive recumbent wobble. It’s not the driver who buzzes you that I’m worried about it’s the driver on the phone behind him that’s drifting to the right a bit that I’m worried about. We finally made it to exit #399 and onto a small traffic free road. My now activated map was working well and we never felt even the slight less bit lost for the rest of the ride. I worked to stay with Justin on the climb out of lunch and with the extra weight of me (yes I’m not as light weight as I seem) and aero of the Vendetta. I effortlessly pulled away on the downhill into the City of Seaside. I coasted for a bit until Justin caught up and then we started through town.
It was now 11a.m. on a Saturday and the route makes use of some of the local coastal bike paths which are nice because no cars but they were an adventure in themselves. On the way to the start of the bike path we have to pass right through a massive shopping district with stop signs, traffic lights and pissed off drivers angry that anyone besides themselves decided to leave the house that day. We only managed to get on the bad side of one guy in a BMW, or course it would be a dude in a beamer right? We got onto the bike path without further incident and enjoy the breath of fresh salty air with the ocean clearly visible to our left. The bike path in areas had buckled enough to get me and Vendetta airborne over the small double and triple jumps. I’m sure Justin who was drafting in his tri bars was a bit startled with me wobbling to recover my balance. Somewhere along the path Justin had ejected his rear seat bottle leaving him with only two like me earlier. We got off the bike path through a bit more city and then onto a few farm land roads where we could just set a nice pace and hold it for a few miles between turns. As we approached the highway a group of people all in blue T-shirts was standing halfway in the road and jumping up and down like a bunch of crazy idiots. As we got closer you could hear a dozen cowbells and people yelling hysterically which is about the point I told Justin that they must be part of some other event going on because it clearly didn’t look like a casual double century aid station. Sure enough that was our stop and yeah those volunteers where just a bit higher on enthusiasm then I’m used to. After a quick refill we were back on our way with a few other riders in tow.
It didn’t take long for the trio of riders we picked up at the aid station to drop off and into their own paceline. With some more rural roads to enjoy we kept plugging away at the miles chatting about random stuff from time to time. Suddenly we dropped into the small or not so small town of Watsonville. This place was jam packed with cars and red traffic lights for miles. With two lanes in both directions and no bike path I took the liberty of using the whole right lane and just moved with traffic and avoided cutting to the front. I find the cars will yield you the right lane without rebuttal if they can use the left to go around you and not have you always jumping back in front of them at every red light. We even had a few very none cyclist looking fellows follow us for a few miles with their hazard lights on to protect us which was kind if not a bit random. Finally out of the city we started a nice forested climb to the mile 152 turnaround point. Do you remember staring at the clock in class just waiting for 3 p.m. to strike so you could go home and no matter how much you willed it the minute hand just never seemed to move? Well that was mile 151 for me today. After 100 miles I lose the tenths on my tiny window on the Garmin so all I see is 151 for what felt like 20 mins. I wasn’t tired or anything in fact it seemed Justin was feeling the mileage a bit more then I as he stopped passing me on the climbs. I just wanted to see miles 152 so I could keep an eye out for the turnaround which wasn’t going to be heavily marked. We finally got to mile 152 and found the little circle of arrows on the ground so we flipped around and started enjoying a nice fast descent back to town.
As we got closer and closer to our second visit to the over enthusiastic aid station I could sense Justin was fading a bit. I’ve always been an excellent pacer getting my friends over that wall and onto the finish of a ride or run but with the Vendetta my sense of speed is all skewed and I can’t regulate without at least a little input from others. Suddenly with only a few miles to go till the aid station Justin started falling back and I knew he needed a little boost. I reassured him that the aid station was only mins away and with a little encouragement he came back to life a bit. He didn’t mention it but he was probably running a bit dry due to his lost bottle back on the back path. Justin is no stranger to Ultra distance cycling so he knows full well the power a soda late in a ride can have. After chugging a soda and a little food we were back on our way through the final miles. The soda had given Justin his second wind and he passed me to pull in protest of my still reduced speed. After a few minutes of following I recalibrated my internal effort meter and moved back to the front at our new set speed. We finally got back to the bike path and I mentioned to Justin this was the 5 mile section he must have lost his bottle on. A few miles later we hit some of those big bumps and sure enough I caught a glimpse of what looked like a bottle out in the ice plant. Justin was right behind me so I started yelling out “bottle bottle” because he hadn’t seen it and I didn’t want him rear ending me. We grabbed his still full but now a little sandy bottle and continued on our way. Somewhere awhile back my garmin beeped in protest because it was getting tired and only had 10% battery remaining. I guess the mapping uses a bit more juice and I had a feeling it wouldn’t make it to the end. Up the final climb I cut loose a bit and gave it a nice solid effort making Justin work and make use of his second wind.
Right as we reached the top of the climb my Garmin took its last dying breath with only 5 miles of downhill left to go. We merged into Highway 1 and quickly coasted up to speed with the cars on the downhill into Carmel. I was actually using my brakes a bit to keep from breaking the 45 mph speed limit and passing the cop who just happen to end up right next to me in the left lane. Meanwhile in my mirror I could see Justin doing his best to tuck in and gain speed but he was slowly falling back with a row of impatient cars pilling in behind him. I got lucky and caught the final traffic light of the day green (may have been the only green all day) while Justin wasn’t so lucky proving the never ending red lights were all his fault. I eased into the finish area as Justin sprinted to catch up and we finish together with us claiming the two fastest times of the non race. 200 miles in the bag and a stomach full of pizza and I thought to myself “damn that didn’t even feel like a double century, I feel like I could easily keep going”. These types of thought are common right up until you hit the next climb and realize, NOPE! I was fine with just 200 today.
Photo Credit: Sonny Too
Reflections and Thanks
A few things I noted today. I could have continued my early fast pace set in the first half and not waited for Justin but I would have never sat in the lunch area long enough to fix the mapping function on my garmin and would have most definitely been miserably pissed off and lost the rest of the day. For me being the introvert that I am and just down right antisocial most the time I will still always choose to ride with friends over the lonely alternative for some reason. We newly fashoned wheel covers on the back wheel worked fine with me never noticing any difference even in the moderate side wind we had at times. Although my wrists are getting a little better every day they seriously weaken over the course of 12 hrs on the bike. In the final 50 miles I could barely even get my bottle out with my weakened grip and I even aborted a rear bottle pull a few times and opted for plain water from my front and center bottle. Three weeks ago I couldn’t pull out the bottle while riding at all and had to stop to drink so I’m at least making progress.
Thanks to all the Volunteers who help put on the Carmel Double as well as all the riders who showed up under less the promising conditions because of the ongoing fires. I want to give a shout out to the fire fighters who work day and night to keep everyone safe. Thanks Team Cruzbike for letting ride the Vendetta because without it I’d still be sidelined for at least another month before riding my standard road bike instead of knocking out 200 mile rides with ease.
For those who are interested, here’s the ride on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/691493085