My eyes can’t tell my brain about anything it reads that sounds right on the cusp of being a dumb idea, because that’s JUST the kind of thing my brain goes for.
Case in point: My eyes stumble across the words ‘double century’ somewhere – on the twitter wire maybe – and Brain plucks the fruity words off that silly tree and plants their idea seeds deep in some juicy grey matter in a corner behind a filing cabinet. There they fester and grow until one day PING! Brain says let’s do it, skin tube!
Anyhoo, yesterday, I swung my leg over the black and carbon form of Peanut Butter and rode the Solvang Autumn Double. It’s 191 miles and not 200, so I figured our mutual inability to do math would be our bond.
This is the point where I would normally dive headfirst into a 20,000 word writeup about the day. But for serious, who has time for that when they should be finishing a book? And so, I shall give you the 5 CheckPoint tour of my first ever double century that isn’t really 200 miles.
MILE 0 to MILE 32 (CHECKPOINT 1)
There were two start time options. 6am for if you think you’ll take longer than 14 hours, and 6:45am for if think you have no idea how long you’ll take but figure can do it in the time allotted (18 hours is the cutoff). I ummed and ahhed about that, but if you started at 6 and finished under 14, they said you’d get DQed. I had set a goal in my mind to go under 14 hours, so 6:45 it was.
We gathered in the dark out the back of the Marriot in Buellton, then shouted out our individual race numbers as we rolled single-file past the start.
As per usual, I start ok, but fizzle pretty quickly. I don’t want to go too fast too early, and I don’t feel so great. It’s quite hilly in some of the beginning parts. After crossing Highway 154, I latch onto a paceline of about 5 people, lead by a tandem. We work well for a while, then I accidently get dropped trying to fish a gel out of my pocket. Oh well. I’m more of a soloist anyway.
Foxen Canyon Road becomes becomes foggy, mysterious and a marvelous speedy funtimez all the way to the checkpoint. I had been worried I was wearing too much stuff at the start line (no one else seemed to have knee warmers on, and some didn’t even have armwarmers), but I was very grateful for all the warmth in this section. It was a heavy fog.
Rolled into the checkpoint in Sisquoc. Ate a brownie. Snagged some Heed and water. Ate a half PB&J sandwich.
MILE 32 to MILE 54.7 (CHECKPOINT 2)
This section included the first noted climb of the ride, and I kept waiting for it to turn up. But it was one of those climbs that goes gradually, levels out, goes gradually, has a couple kicks from time to time. Nine miles of this, from memory. It was a lot of shaded riding, and quite pretty. The best part was it lead to an amazing descent. Just super fun. Not incredibly technical and an amazing view near the top. The only stop I made on this entire ride, I made near the top just because I had to. Though I took a shitty picture.
MILE 54.7 to MILE 95.7 (CHECKPOINT 3)
Started to feel pretty good around the 70 mile mark. Found that rhythm I have where I can just stick in it and ride for ever. Couldn’t find any wheels to latch on to. Was picking off people for a while, and would occasionally get passed by a soloist going a tad too fast. There were some really nice stretches of road on this segment including a fast run down to a very long, curving bridge. Either side of it was broad river basin I guess. Need to look it up and see what that was. The kind of valley floor you expect to see bison on.
There is no good time to get stung by a bee. But I will say there is a very bad time during a double century. It’s when you’re looking for a little park on the left hand side of the road where lunch will be. Lunch, a very important thing. So let’s say you’re rolling down a hill and you know the park is soon, but all of a sudden, a bee flies into your open jersey and stabs you in the chest.
Argh! You look down and see the little jerk with his stinging little butt stuck in you and you’re not stopping (because that doesn’t occur to you and you’re going quite fast) and you ‘gahhh! eeek!’ and brush it quickly away with your hand. But then you’re not sure if it’s gone further into your jersey or you got it out, so you’re looking wildly down the front of your jersey, but you can’t see anything. And then you see the stinger and you try brush that off and holy hell all of a sudden it’s stinging like crazy, but the stinger is on your finger so at least that’s out.
Then you spend the next couple of minutes as you roll along wondering if if the bee is in there, before deciding it’s not.
So that happened.
I saw a guy up ahead with a double century jersey on and decided to follow him to the lunch spot. Then the town sort of ran out and I panicked a bit – had I missed the lunch spot while that bee was stinging me? The guy was riding through and I saw more town on the other side of a stretch of empty, so figured he must know where he was going.
There was much hope for a turkey sandwich and something to put on a bee sting. It never occurred to me that the guy in front had perhaps already been to lunch back at the bee sting zone. I stopped in front of a shopping center. Checked my iphone map. Crap. I missed the lunch spot and I was completely out of water. The next section had a big climb in it, and it was hot, so I did what any logical person would do: I went into Starbucks and grabbed two bottles of water and an oatmeal cookie. Their sandwich area was completely bare. Outside I googled a gas station and found one on the way out of town. Grabbed some beef jerky there (it’s always been a great pick-me-up for me).
Felt a bit discombobulated, but carried on. I still had loads of snack things in my pockets. Honey stinger waffles (LOL), some lara bars. A gel or two. Just not a turkey and swiss sandwich. 🙁
MILE 95.7 to MILE 136.2 (CHECKPOINT 4)
The 5 mile climb at mile 100 of this ride is kinda poopy. Prefumo Canyon Road, if you ever wanna give it a go. It had some steep pitches in it, but also yielded some fantastic views once you got up out of the trees and to the open areas. Can do a 360 and see forever in pretty much every direction. If I weren’t trying to break 14 hours, I would have stopped to take photos. Also, when I’m on a tough climb I don’t like to stop unless absolutely necessary. There was a photographer and a volunteer at the top of one section and I pulled over. They offered water and snacks – I decided that was absolutely necessary.
Pismo Beach flew by, and the ocean looked gorgeous. Such a pretty area. At the checkpoint in Guadalupe, Peanut Butter fell over in a gust of wind while I ate a snack size Mars. I was too tired I think, to realize I’d propped her up very clumsily against the curb. First sight of delirium? Nah, just idiotic as per usual.
MILE 136.2 to MILE 170.3 (CHECKPOINT 5)
Here’s a weird thing – the further I rode, the better my legs felt. It actually seemed like I was getting faster. I’d do a checklist of things that hurt and found nothing too scandalous. Except for the following.
These miles, between checkpoint 4 and five, seemed to be flush with up and downs. The climbs weren’t super steep, just long, and the descents didn’t steal back the time I’d lose on the climbs. But I became aware, on one of these climbs, that the thing that ached most was my damn face. From all the grimacing. It hurt. My damn face hurt and ached like blazes. I’d keep trying to relax, to stop grimacing, but the combination of the slowly dying sun and my general gritting through things would spasm it up into a hard grimace that must have been very unattractive to passersby.
Still, it was a little funny to me. The thing that hurt most was my face.
The most I can say about this section is that I will always have the memory of the long ups and fast downs of Highway 1. With all those miles in my legs by this stage, every time I’d see a long slow uphill, I’d groan a little. Then grit it out. But I could practically sniff the finish. By the time I rolled into checkpoint 5, at the Home Depot in Lompoc, I was feeling pretty spectacular. I took a little longer at this checkpoint to eat some chicken noodle soup. It was DELICIOUS!
MILE 170.3 to MILE 191-ish (FINISH)
Turning on to Santa Rosa Road, I was glad that it was pretty much a straight shot home from here. I didn’t really have a light to look at my directions while riding, and my bike computer didn’t have a light either, so I wouldn’t be able to read the miles to see when to turn. Darkness fell hard and heavy, and there was no moon. Just my bike, my headlight and I. Out in the darkness with no traffic to speak of. I hammered along in the tunnel of light and wondered how far I had to go.
About a mile from home, I made a wrong turn and ended up on a dead end road. Quickly backtracked and made the right turn, and before I knew it I was rolling back into the parking lot of the Marriott. I stuck my head in the door of the check in room. 306 hath arrived and your double not double century is slain!
After check in, I rolled off and around to the other side of the hotel, briefly contemplating finding another 9 miles to round it up to 200. But then brain came to its senses. It said to body “Room Service. Beer. Movie”.
And I thought that sounded pretty darn swell. But I added Shower to that list and proceeded to execute the plan.
12hr 34mins. Glad I didn’t opt for the 6am start.