Poor Man’s PBP – Day 3

[For Day 2, Click Here]  [For Day 1, Click Here]

I wake with a pain in my leg. It beats the alarm by a few minutes, kind of a natural wake up. I stretch it out and start getting ready. I didn’t really plan to pack 3 meals for breakfast so I figured I would consume my liquid fuel a bit faster and then have a nice sit-down meal when the sun is up and I reach a populated area.

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Poor Man’s PBP – Day 2

[For Day 1, Click Here]

I wake up before my alarm, having slept enough, and get ready. I am hoping to see people outside but I think all the 600k people have left already. So I head off into the early morning cold around 5:30am.

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Poor Man’s PBP – Day 1

After being unable to get a 600k in this year before the PBP cut-off date, I had to look around for another adventure. There was no sitting idle while my friends had epic adventures.

So on August 19, while most of my ultra friends were on flights to do their 1200k ride in Paris/PBP (or off to Alaska for the Big Wild Ride), I opted to do Poorman’s PBP.

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My new bike



After approx 10,000 miles on my size 59″ Soma, I am finally getting a bike that “fits me.” It’s hard to make the transition to a 54″ frame, to curved handle bars, and to a stem … and probably not the wisest thing to do a week before my 1000k … but I figure I have to do it at some point in the future if I want this to be my 508 bike. Megan has been working on my bike for what seemed like months and finally gave it to me last Saturday. I have done about 50 miles on it since and feel like I am learning to ride a bike again. A very pretty bike.
Here are the pictures:
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Training Status

As I gear up for the 1000k this month and The 508, it pains me to not ride tonight. I have been warned against peaking too soon, and of overtraining. But I still feel so under-trained since I have not been able to keep up with the fast riders in the LA bike scene; last night I got dropped before the first TRFKAS stop! But I ride on.

Here’s where my training stands. Before the crash I did 2500 miles this year. I have been picking up my time on the bike and have 1500 miles in the past 3 months (pretty much the past 2 months). Biking has almost become a full-time job this summer. Here are the visuals of my training milage and time:

Weekly Milage

Weekly Time On Bike

5 Canyon Challenge

Last Saturday I passed on doing the Mt Tam double to stay local. Also, I had the privilege of riding the 5 canyon challenge. It is also known as El Muertito (little death). This ride is a great concept ride with challenging climbs, but the honor comes from the people who invited me.

The concept: at the top of a hill in Malibu lies Saddle Peak. There are 5 paved roads that get you there: fernwood, las flores, tuna, piuma, and stunt. The challenge is to climb all of them in one day. Here is my route.

There are two ways to make this ride more difficult, both of which I took on.

  1. Do it fixed
  2. Ride to the climbs

The people who invited me were all geared, and they parked cars at the top filled with coolers, water, and ice. After each climb they would celebrate and chill before taking on the next. The ride started at 6am so we had a very early start.

In order to do the ride car-free, I had to leave my house by 4:30 and climb topanga and fernwood in the dark. I do topanga often but doing it at dark was a new experience. The normally challenging lower topanga climb seemed a bit less challenging. Perhaps it was the lack of stress of a car running me down, as I could see the headlights from minutes away. The grades appeared less steep and more inviting, and the stars filled the sky as I made my way to fernwood. Then I turned to do the climb. Honestly, the worst part of the climb was biking into a spider web and freaking out for the next few miles that I had spiders crawling all over me. As I approached the top, the sun started to rise. So I snapped a picture. Then I droped my cell phone.

Sunrise ... feeling bad for those who drove to the ride start

As I headed towards the group I forgot that Saddle Peak climbed before it got to th top by Stunt Road. So I climbed with anxiety of being late.Then I saw the family of dear and relaxed.

Can you see the deer?

In addition to a family of deer I also saw a coyote hanging with the deer, and a black rabbit among the normal wild rabbits.

I caught the group just as they were rolling out to do Tuna so I made a U-turn and we rode together.The descent down Tuna was steep and fast. I was hitting 155 rpm and trying to calm my breaks as we dove into the fog layer. I start fluttering my brakes but as we hit the steepest descent I have to pull over using mostly my leg brakes. The front rim had heated up so much it scalded my legs. I took advantage of the heat to warm up my palms. Once I got to the bottom, some of the riders made the u-turn and went up. Others opted to take Las Flores up twice. The way I saw it, there are few chances in life to go up Tuna with a group of people and so this was my safest chance. Tuna does not allow cars to go up hill, and perhaps that rule applies to bikes, though we and others climb it often (side note: my surgeon climbed it on his 60th birthday). It is known to be a quiet climb. Oddly enough, we saw six cars as we climbed our way back to the summit. I almost climbed most of it and have seen video of me doing the 13% grades, but when the roads pitched to 17% I opted to walk. By the time we summited I could take credit for 4000′ of climbing.

Entering the climb up Tuna

The next climb would be Las Flores. The group wanted to do the two toughest firsts. Honestly I thought Las Flores was tougher and walked more of it. Much more. The geared folk I was with climbed the whole way up and I found them relaxing at the top well above the cloud layer. The final stretch to the saddle it was getting close to 10am and the roads were starting to get crowded with cyclists coming up Piuma.

In our group there were a total of 8 people, most of whom I met at the Baldy ride two weeks ago. And these folks are fun! Steve Meichtry was the ring leader. Les McElhaney showed up and forgot to sweat. Bruno George from the brevet scene was there trying to get some pre-PBP rides in. Vic Cooper was there. Tiger Beck kept me smilling all day. And Ken Mathis kept me hydrated so that I didn’t have to ride down to Piuma to refil my two bottles. Annie was also there, but she showed up late and kept her breaks short to catch up to everyone on the way up Stunt.

The Pack

So after Las Flores we did Stunt. The order of the rides forced us to cross the saddle each time. And Stunt was a nice break from the insane 17% climbs of Las Flores and Tuna. I don’t think Stunt ever got above 7%. We climbed and stayed together. But unfortunately the clock struck 11am and I had to make my way to Northridge. So off I went after doing half of Stunt. 3.5 of 5 climbs completed in the challenge. 8000 feet done by noon! By the time I got to Northridge I was hungry and had 75+ miles under me. It was a good day!

ramped up

For my final week with the wife out of town, I decided to ramp up my training. Last week was my first 400 mile week of the year which had some highlights:

  • my longest ride since the crash with the steepest climb since I’ve been counting
  • an all around fun week to ride
  • good company

Unfortunately, this was also going to be my bike+bike week, but had some technical troubles and my partner decided to make more reliable plans.

Kicked off the week with my first Cyclones

Friday I took the day off to recover, catch up on sleep, and climb Angeles Crest. What a rewarding ride! Steady grade, light traffic, and great views. I made it to redbox in only 2 hours. It felt fast to me, but a lot of roadies probably do it in half the time. I wanted to slow down to take pictures of the views and rattle snakes but I felt too good to stop so I kept climbing. It was a 4000 feet day with my target 2000 per first 10 miles.

Music: Wanda Jackson and Sharon Jones 

Saturday, I invited myself onto a century ride. The route was 15,000 feet of climbing, but I knew I had a big day on Sunday and waking up at 3am didn’t go well with the plan, so I did about half of the ride. Here is my route. I joined up with the southern california double century posse, plus fellow fixie ultra rider Michael Mellvile. There were 13 of us in total, many of them local legends of the ultra scene. We were flying and it felt great to be with a group that was stronger than me. We did about 6000 feet and I had some great practice in boosting my RPMs above 165 as well as managing myself on long climbs and descents. There was a sad moment when a chipmonk dived into someone’s spokes. One of the most magical moments was when I saw the mount wilson observatory from the back side. I was there yesterday. Somewhere there. I love trying to connect strange roads in my mind to chart out new routes. It taps into my primal columbus.

The pack

The views

Sunday I drove to San Diego to do Dion’s Butterfield Stage. It’s an odd distance, 165 miles. Somewhere between a double and a double metric. Actually, it’s a century plus a metric century. And it felt like it was in between. The ride could be divided into three parts: first third of the ride  miles had half of the climbing, about half of the total; the second third had high temperatures reaching 114F; and the last third cooled down and we were able to fly if not for mechanical issues.

Music: The Cure

Most of the ride was new road for me, and much of it quiet roads that felt much busier than Friday or Saturday. Lots of people yelled and honked in honor of the passage of the bicycle harassment law.We passed by Corona Lake where the sign says “California’s largest trout caught here” and then in small letters near the front it reads “Some of.”

Up santiago

Music: Pawn Shop

There was one stretch at about mile 90 where Imperial pitches up to Santiago Canyon. It got up to 11% and I was hanging on for about half a mile, but when it hit 14% I got off and walked the last stretch. Overall we were averaging about 11 mph including breaks for water, ice, food, ad facilities. But once the sun went down I got a burst of energy and took off. We flew from Capistrano to Oceanside. It was too late to go through the base so we stuck on the I-5 freeway. At some point Dion swerves and I hit something that rattles my whole body. It turned out to be a 2×4 block of wood. I kept going but after a few miles I was flat in my rear tire. Several miles later Dion was flat in his front. So close to home we sat along the freeway fixing tires. it felt like being in the eye of a hurricane. The cars will rumble and roll and scream by us, with periods of 5-20 seconds of silence. With both the eeriness of the I5 and my stiff tire, there was no way I could get the tire back on without Dion’s help. Plus we had to use two tire leavers.

Music: REM Hurts

After that we rode on in silence, swapping off lead as we raced back home. The ride finished and it was anticlimatic. No pizza dinner or celebratory talks. After saying our goodbyes,  Dion and I headed home … a long drive as I kept having to pull over for coffee ad fresh air. And so concludes my 400 mile week.