What a whirl-wind fast weekend! This past
Saturday was the Solvang Double Century and I wasn't ready. I
didn't have enough base miles yet and my power to weight ratio isn't
back up where it should be. But I decided to do the ride anyway as
training to build on my base. My brother Leo made the trip with me
and I promised him a Guiness or two if he'd pick me up when I decided
I'd had enough of the ride. So, my goal wasn't to finish, just to
continue training. We had a nice 9 hour drive to Solvang and got
there early enough to walk around town some before registration.
This was my first "Planet Ultra" event, so I was new to their ride
registration and departure process. When I checked in, the lady
asked if a 7:30 start time was ok. I forgot the lights for my bike
(even with the warnings on the Solvang Double website to remember
lights) so I wanted to leave a bit earlier than that. But if I
didn't leave at 7:30 I wouldn't get an official finish time. If I
finished I'd still be listed as an official finisher, just not with a
recognized time. Hmmm quick decision time. I decided to
leave at 7:30. Sunset was at 7:20pm, so I would have 12 hours
available before I had to call it quits because of darkness. My
boundary was set. Leo and I walked around town some more and had a
nice dinner at a little cafe. He had his favorite -- split pea
soup. I had a bowl myself, not bad -- could have used some Tabasco
Because I registered late for the ride, we had to stay in Buellton
because Solvang was pretty much sold out of hotel rooms. It's only
3 or 4 miles away, but we drove over to the start in the morning anyway.
It was pretty brisk, so I had arm and leg warmers, a vest and my full
finger glove liners on. There was a pre-departure check-in then
the group left a few minutes after 7:30 (according to my watch).
Solvang isn't very big, so we were out of town pretty quick. There
were about 50 riders in the 7:30 departure. That quickly split in
half on the first climb. I stayed back with the second half.
They were still going harder than I wanted so I dropped off, preparing
myself mentally for a long solo ride. When I got to the top, there
was a small group of 6-7 in front of me stopped at a light at the bottom
of a small descent. So I accelerated and got through the light
before it went red again and caught onto the back of that group.
There are a lot of rolling hills around Solvang -- the kind of rolling
hills I've had problems with in the past. So I knew I needed to
watch myself. I wheel-sucked off that group for probably the first
20-25 miles or so until one of the engines at the front (the guy doing a
lot of the work) stopped for a "natural" break and another stopped to
wait for him. We had dropped a couple people before that and two
guys had gone off the front. So the group disintegrated and I was
on my own right before a pretty significant climb on Foxen Canyon Road.
I took my time up the climb and had a really nice descent on the other
side. I wasn't familiar with the route profile, but there's a good
20 miles of slight descent after that climb and I started making better
time than I expected. I even started passing some people, which
surprised me a bit.
A small group caught me just as we were about to pull into the first
checkpoint. I took off my vest (since it had warmed up), had a
piece of banana, filled a bottle and was on my way again -- still making
good time with the flat and descending terrain. I was on my own
through Santa Maria, then another faster group of 5 or 6 passed me
shortly after the turn onto Thompson Ave, so I jumped on the back
and wheel sucked some more. The guy at the front never left the
front for the entire time I was with that group even though the wind had
started to pick up and we were riding into a hard headwind (although not
all that hard for me since I was about 4 riders back enjoying a very
nice draft). We started going through some rolling hills again and
somewhere along Branch Mill Road (about 70 miles into the ride), the
route turned and suddenly we had a strong crosswind and I had to
actually start working. So I dropped off and started riding my own
The route passes a LOT of vineyards through rolling hills. While
climbing one of those hills along Orcutt Road I started to hear a noise
when I was out of the saddle. I glanced back and my rear wheel was
out of true and had a spot rubbing against a brake pad. Crap.
I waited until the top of the hill then pulled off to fix it. I've
never had to use my multi-tool to re-true a wheel during a ride and much
to my dismay, none of the spoke wrench sizes fit my Powertap wheel!
Crap, crap, crap! I hit a low point here and considered calling
Leo. The headwind was blowing pretty good at this point and I had
a mechanical problem that was getting difficult to fix. But I kept
fiddling with it and was finally able to get the smallest size spoke
wrench to barely fit, just enough to get it to turn. It wasn't a
perfect truing job, but it fixed the major problem.
My mood had improved some by the time I got to the next checkpoint where
I stopped to fill bottles and mix some Accelerade. My Accelerade
powder bottle was buried in my rear pocket under my vest, so I had to
unload some to get to it, but was quickly on my way again. About a
mile from the checkpoint I realized that I forgot my vest. My
favorite wind-resistant vest. The vest I rely on the most. I
debated for a minute then decided to go back and get it. Add
another 2 miles to the route! On the second departure from the
checkpoint I passed a guy going up a hill who jumped on my wheel and I
pulled him into San Luis Obispo. Then we started working together
and he seemed to hold back and wait for me on some of the climbs.
Glenn from Davis CA, nice guy! He said he's use to the wind, but
not wind with hills! We picked up another rider who wasn't part of
the Solvang Double, just a guy who wanted to ride with us (ie, draft).
We stopped in Morro Bay for our mid-point sticker (to prove we got
there) then continued on to the third lunch checkpoint at Laguna Lake
Golf Club (at 114 miles). For lunch we had a choice of Turkey and
Ham Subway sandwiches or, if you wanted to get really extravagant,
Turkey and Ham Subway sandwiches! I went with the Turkey and Ham.
We left the checkpoint together and worked together for quite a while
along Highway 1 -- very scenic! But we hit a hill that was just a
bit too much for me and I dropped off. There was a pretty strong
cross wind at this point and I just didn't have it in me to try to catch
him at the top so I watched him riding away. Then I started to get
passed by several riders and hit a second low point. I made up my
mind to call it quits at the fourth checkpoint in Guadelupe. The
checkpoint was just off of 11th Ave. I got into town and figured
11th Ave had to be on the far end, so I didn't really pay attention to
the street signs. When I finally looked at one, it was 8th Ave.
Good, checkpoint coming up! Then the next street came up -- 7th
Ave! Crap, missed the checkpoint turn. In front of me I
could see the road turning in the direction that would provide a tail
wind. It would be nice to relax my legs with some easy recovery
riding for a while riding with a tail wind. So I decided to hold
off on calling Leo. That tail wind was just what I needed and it
lasted for quite a while before turning right and into another strong
cross wind. Hmmm... I looked at the route sheet and it was
only another 20 miles or so to the 5th checkpoint, most of it should be
with a tail wind, so I decided to continue.
I was right about that tail wind and started to make really, really good
time. Surprisingly good time. Amazing time. I was
catching and passing people who had gone by me. I was enjoying the
ride again! I looked at the time and it was about 5:30.
Geez! At this rate I could actually finish this ride! I
pulled into the final checkpoint in Los Alamos right at 6pm. They
were checking riders off as they came through. Only 18 miles left
with an hour and 20 minutes until sunset! Wow! I was going
to make it! I quickly ate half a PB&J, filled my bottles and was off
again. The route turns onto Centennial street in Los Alamos, then
heads up Drum Canyon. Drum Canyon. A 3.5 mile climb with
grades of 6 to 8%! Ouch! I wasn't expecting that at all,
especially after 175 miles! At the bottom of the climb I started
worrying about time. It was going to be close! The road was
the roughest on the ride. I wasn't looking forward to the descent.
Someone was waiting for someone else at the top and I said "Nice to put
the hardest climb right at the end!" He replied "They just wanted
to make sure we REALLY appreciated it!" The ride down was almost
as bad as the ride down the hill on the Son of Death Ride. Quite
bumpy and very technical. The Solvang results webpage says one of
the Bullshifters broke a headset bolt and went down, but got a
replacement bike and finished the ride.
After the rough part of the road I started making pretty good time, but
I could tell the sun was setting and took my sunglasses off. I
still had about 10 miles left. That 10 miles was pretty
uneventful, but I was surprised that I still had enough endurance and
strength in my legs to maintain a pretty quick pace. I was passing
quite a few people near the end. My official finish time was 11
hours 49 minutes! One minute before sunset! Leo did get that
Guiness and I had a pint or two myself to celebrate a great ride.
We left early Sunday morning to return to Phoenix. I had a 7:00
flight to Dallas to catch (in fact I'm writing this on the flight back
from Dallas). We had no problems on the drive TO Solvang, but
there were accidents on the freeways going back that were bad enough to
CLOSE the freeways in TWO places. We were stuck in the first mess
that had 6 lanes of traffic all exiting at once for over an hour.
We hit the second one before traffic backed up, but they diverted us
towards LA. My lead foot paid off and we got home just before 4pm.
Just enough time to say "Hi!" to the family, repack my bag and head to
the airport. Overall, a good trip!