Saturday, March 25, 2017

SC 400 - 2017

Wow, haven't touched the blog for a while, so let's get caught up.

Went up to Flagstaff for the Barn Burner, and I got bit again. Not quite sure what the hell happened but sometime after noon when I was starting on my 3rd lap, I just totally bonked out. Couldn't get recovered at all. Spent some time helping another fellow with a tire problem and felt a tiny bit better, but when I finished the 3rd lap it was getting late, I got some food in, but still felt like hell and I just sat down and quit. So that's the second no finish for BB.

El Tour de Tucson went well, I didn't push myself that hard and think I got in at about 7 hours. Had my first big cramp ever about 1/2 mile from the finish.  Coming up 22nd street just short of 6th Ave and my leg hurt like I've never felt before. I got over to the side and worked the muscle for a few minutes and got back on the bike and got it done.  That was an interesting lession, must've been just a little bit short of something. I think it was a 7 hour time, quite a bit slower than my fastest.

Then 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo came up and we managed to catch some serious rain. I did a lap at 8 pm I think and another at about 5 am or so as the sun came up. No big increases in speed, I seemed to not be able to get a lap done faster than about 1:35 during any of my practice laps or the race laps. Not sure whats going on, maybe just getting old.

So, I thought getting back to Southern California and doing SC 400 might be a "fun" thing to do and got myself signed up for it.  The race direction was different this year. In '15 when I did it, we left Idyllwild and went down Coyote Canyon, across the Anza Borrego, up the Lagunas and then into San Diego and back.  This year the route would be counter clockwise, with Coyote Canyon being one of the last things.

Ready to Go
We started at about 8 am on Friday morning, and I think I rode pretty good for the first part. I got partly up Thomas Mountain Road and noticed that my bike was handling funny and then looked down at a mostly flat front tire. I got off to the side, found the hole, added some sealant and let it fix the problem and pumped it up with my hand pump. Other than keeping my OCD worrying about now only having one sealant bottle left this went well. On the down hill side of Thomas Mountain before Anza, I managed to slide out on sand and landed chain side down. Bike didn't shift well after that, but most of the higher cogs were working ok, so pressed on.

Looking towards Lake Hemet

Thomas Mountain Road

I stopped at the Anza RV/Sunshine Market stop and hung with a few other riders for a while ( Shelly, Cedar, Brendan and Angel ). Got a sandwich and drank a little of a beer and then we all headed up Bailey Road and onto the California Riding & Hiking Trail. It's a long stretch through an area called the "Lost Valley" and somewhere around sundown we were getting to Warner Springs and making a supper stop at the newly opened golf resort.  The place was swamped with SC riders, a bunch of Canadians and our group, and I had a great patti melt sandwich, and got rehydrated with about 3 gallons of iced tea and Coke.  Our little group of 5 headed out together and we stopped on Mesa Grande road, at essentially the top of the climb and bivyed out in a cow pasture.

Above Warner Springs

Almost the end of the day

Shelly and Brendan .. Saturday Morning

Mesa Grande Store

Next morning we rode a bit, chilled at the Mesa Grande store (closed ), where Cedar made some coffee. I had a pecan pie tin that I tried to use as a coffee cup .... didn't know it had 5 holes in the bottom of it ... surprise, surprise ... as the coffee leaked out.
Residential Chaos

Was a good ride down Black Mountain road, and towards Ramona.  When we got to Pamo road we took an alternate route as some State Park people didn't want cyclists using a little wilderness traverse that we had used before .. up one of the steeper paved ascents I've done in a while and then down Hwy 78, along the San Dieguito bike path ( which is more of a trail than a bike path in a lot of places ) and we get to Escondido near I-15.  Gas station sandwiches and rehydration and then rolling along Lake Hodges.  Lake Hodges took a while, it was getting hot, Cedar and I got separated from the others .. at one place there was a giant washout with two logs crossing on it.  Trying to do a delicate balance of me on one log and my bike on the other and not falling into a 6 foot deep hole underneath me .. the stuff we do.

After that it seemed like it was mostly uphill, uphill through the residential switchbacks, part of a walking, riding path with excellent grade and railings, but a big gully in the middle, that pretty much kept me from riding any of it, I just got off and pushed. After that was a little snark through a residential area, and then a place where the road had been totally washed out and lots of mud and flowing water. It was pretty good to get to pavement and to start feeling the marine layer. About 5 pm, I found myself in Del Mar. Got a drink and then headed further south to Torrey Pines State Beach. Got off the bike, put the tires in the ocean and then back on the road again.

It was getting dark and I rode thru UCSD, along the freeway, stopped at In-Out Burger, rode by Mission Bay, made a couple of wrong turns and pressed on. At Ocean Beach, some folks had a big bonfire on the beach, was fun to see that. Got stuck in traffic in Ocean Beach and got to Hill Street. I was getting pretty beat, and walked most of it and at the top was rewarded with a nice view of the downtown San Diego skyline. Did a quick descent, and found a hotel at the bottom and declared victory for the day.
Wheels on the Beach

Ocean View

Sunday morning, I got up and rode along the San Diego airport, took pictures of an amphibious assault ship  ( berthed next to the cruise ship area for an open house ), saw the Midway, took a detour over by Seaport Village, and then along the San Diego port area. Saw lots of new cars with the shrink wrap still on them and then headed inland.
Morning in San Diego
USS Midway
Top of the Hill

In Bonita, I got breakfast at a Starbucks, and fretted about my bike as the cars were backing up awfully close to it ( I think I moved it at least twice while eating ), then headed onto the Sweetwater park area. Lots of good single track out there, I walked a bit of the downhill from the pagoda structure at the top of the mountain, and finally finished with that section as the others caught up with me. We rode together a bit, and I dropped back as we went up Sloan Canyon road.  It was really pretty, and I stopped and ate an orange that I scored from a road side fruit stand.  Finally we got to Alpine.
Sloan Canyon Road

Indian Creek Trail

Arroyo Tapioda

The Desert

At Alpine, I ate a bunch of White Castle burgers from the gas station as we watched the police process a stolen car in the gas station area.  Around 5 pm I was headed east toward Viegas Grade, a big long hill ( dirt ).  Not sure how long it took but a while, and then a fast downhill at the edge of darkness to get to Descanso.  I scored some great rolled tacos at Veronica's Kitchen there, resupplied at the grocery store and headed into the night.  It was getting cold out there, and the Merrigan Trail runs alongside a creek filled with noisy frogs and we climbed a bit, then got to Hwy 79 and had a couple of miles of uphill climbing, and a turn on to the Mesa Fire Road headed for the Laguna's.  I rode for quite a while, but in reality it was only a mile and a half or two at the most before I decided I was done for the day and bivied at the side of the road.

Up the next morning, ate a little, road some, walked some, repeat, got to the Indian Creek trail and I wasn't riding that well at all. I found myself walking a lot, it's all uphill with a lot of loose rock over a hard surface.  Think another gear might have helped me, I just didn't seem to have the horsepower to get over what should have been easy stuff. Later on the Noble Canyon trail I seemed to be riding better.  There was no water at the top of the Noble Canyon trail where it met Hwy 76.  So I started worrying about water.  I did a quick descent on 76, got to the single track across the meadow and then headed down Oriflamme Canyon. This thing almost killed me going up it two years ago and it's hard going down .... steep, loose, baby head rocks, sketchy.  Was glad to get off of it, but there was lots of sand at the bottom for that last 3/4 mile or so. Finally got to pavement and stopped at the Butterfield RV stop and it was closed for the day.  Found that the bathrooms were open and I scored some water at the sink and pressed on.

Got to Aqua Caliente State Park and the store had a closed sign, but in a minute or two, Mark, the owner appeared and said "Hi Mike".  He'd been tracking me. I watered up, got some sodas, some chips and decided it was time to hit the desert.

The desert crossing went very well. The rains had left the road pretty rideable, it was just a matter of doing thirty some miles with darkness falling and I got into the Fish Wash section before I stopped for the night around 10pm or so and camped.

I had big ideas the next morning that I would be able to make Idy on Tuesday and charged off, right into a big headwind, that kept me from getting to Borrego until about 10:30 or so. Feasted on huevos rancheros and a giant horchata at the restaurant, discovered the liquor store didn't have any bottled water, found the local grocery store, got water there and got back on course in time for the heat of the day and all of the folks out driving on the same sandy dirt road as me looking for flowers in the Anza Borrego.  The wind was really really strong.  I opened a soda after the second crossing while sitting on top of a hill and I thought the wind was going to blow my drink over.   I would ride on a high side of the road to stay out of the sandy bottom and the wind would blow me into the sandy bottom.

Before the Middle Willows I crossed paths with a Mohave rattlesnake. Scared me a bit, he was pretty unhappy I was on his turf.  Then got into the Willows and the path was pretty easy to follow.  When I got out of there, some parts of the route were right in the wash, but there was a hardened coating that was pretty easy to ride on, until that crust broke and you more or less "fell in". And as I got closer to the Upper Willows, the sky was getting darker, and that wind was blowing in a cold front and the mountains were being shrouded in mist and the sun was going down.

At Bailey's cabin, I thought about staying for the night, but the sun was still high enough and I rode well for a bit, and then hit sand that was probably a good 6 or 8 inches deep.  Totally unrideable and really really hard to push. I was pretty glad to get to the ascent out of the canyon as it was getting dark and rain started to fall. Near the top it was actually rideable, but it was raining enough that I really couldn't see where I was going and knew there was no way I could make Idy and started looking for a place to camp.  I saw a sorta grassy area on a hill above me, and put me and the bike up there for the night, and camped as a pretty heavy rain started to fall.

Woke up the next morning, pretty chilled and soggy with a pretty sunrise and was darn happy to get to signs of civilization.  During a lot of this climbing I could see other footprints of riders, so I know I wasn't the only person walking some of this stuff.

Back to the RV part, the Market was closed, but a jug of water was left out, so I got some and then headed for the last parts of the ride.  We took pavement for a little while, then a detour onto the California bike pushing trail running alongside Hwy 371.  Finally got to Paradise Valley Cafe and scored an excellent breakfast.  Met Dave C there, one of the guys doing to 500 mile version of this thing.
Borrego Springs sculptures

Unhappy Resident

Sunrise after a chilly night


Back up Hwy 74 towards Idy, with the wind in my face and I got finished around 2:45 pm ( all of about 3 hours faster than in '15 )  My feet were cold and wet and that shower felt wonderful. I ate and then saw two bikes in front of the Idy Inn where Kevin and Angie had finished their 500 mile ride and I met them for some beers at the Idy Brewery as sleet and rain fell.

Up the next morning for a drive back to Tucson and it was snowing !  Light snow, but snow nonetheless.

Happy to have done it. I always wish I could have done something faster, but this is a really hard ride, with about 390 miles and 28,000 feet of climbing on some pretty tricky surfaces.  If I ever do this again, it will be on a plus bike, something with tires really suited to the sand .. those miles north of Baileys cabin were pure torture !   Food intake worked pretty well, carried enough water although I was getting a little concerned at the bottom of Oriflamme.  Wasn't the last person to finish, I finished, and I was easily the oldest one out there. Call it a win.

Thanks again to Coach Jen at Desert Endurance for her help in getting workouts planned up for me and to my honey Susan for putting up with her old man disappearing on another Bilbo Baggins adventure !

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