This would be my second attempt at this ride after successfully completing it last year (my first double, in fact). I arrived very relaxed, familiar with the constants of the ride. The congregation at the Royal Copenhagen the evening before for check-in was like a nice reunion for all the ultradistance junkies throughout the Western region. So nice to have been able to catch up with many familiar folks after what seemed to be a long Fall and Winter.
Weather forecast suggested stiff, Northeasterly winds most of Saturday. It delivered. Which meant we fought headwinds almost throughout the first century as we rolled out through Sisquoc, Orcutt, Nipomo, Arroyo Grande and San Luis Obispo. It wasn't until we had made the left turn upon reaching Morro Rock at mile 100 that we began to *benefit* from the winds. And the feeling wasn't quite like that slingshot-around-the-moon scene in 'Armageddon' either. Still, it was comforting to know the second half of the ride wouldn't be as taxing.
My morning would turn out to be less than perfect. I was having trouble keeping up with the early and earnest packs and therefore got dropped to work through the meadow winds by myself very early. Then, less than an hour into the ride, after I rejoined a smaller group, I slammed into the rear of a tandem and hit the deck -- result of an unannounced, rapid slowdown by another tandem in front of the one I hit. Nobody else went down as I chose to steer right and take my fall on the gravel shoulder and guardrail. Everybody behind was safe, including a duo who happened to be from Oakland and Berkeley (Emily and Sue, the latter an MD, no less) and who came to my aid.
Scrapes here and there, throbbing pain in the shoulder, elbow and right knee. Not good. Screw it -- straighten out bar and lever, dust self off, get back on bike, keep rolling. Like Emily said, 'You wanna finish this thing, best you keep moving.' Given the nagging pain I was feeling in the knee, my ride goal quickly changed from a new personal record to just finishing the damn thing -- let alone getting to the next checkpoint.
One good thing about the wind, it made me focus on things other than the knee. Such as finding the right riders or groups to work with. And on rides such as these, the ethic is very conducive to efficient cooperation. I lucked out, being able to ride with folks I'd previously met on other events, assured of help in the windiest sections of the day and distracted by social chatter.
Mid-morning warmed up earlier than I had anticipated. On the way to the second checkpoint in San Luis, I ran out of fluids and pretty much rode dry and alone for almost an hour. Not good. Especially on rides like these. I pounded down nearly three water bottles' worth of water and popped an extra helping of endurolytes at the next checkpoint before re-loading and heading out. This probably is the only thing that kept dehydration from setting in for good the rest of the day.
The next diverted incident would take place at Morro Rock, when after 30 miles of brisk paceline riding, I discovered my front tire was slightly unseated from the rim. Probably another result of crash as the wheel was now also quite out of true. I had noticed the bump-bump-bump while riding on Hwy 1 getting worse, but was so intent on holding my place with the group I was in, that I passed up the wiser option to peel off and see what the matter was. Dumb move -- but thankfully, the tire stayed in place until I had the chance to re-seat it and true the wheel at the halfway checkpoint.
5 minutes after rolling again, my ride companion of the moment (Steve, a fella I met at last year's LA Grand Tour) was badly doored by a minivan. Seeing him go down right in front of me was a horrific sight. The bumbling driver was profusely apologetic but hardly useful, her kids and her friends kids in the van silenced. Still, Steve and I appreciated what we could from her courtesy. Steve appeared to be all right with a small scrape on the elbow -- bike just fine. Off we went, and from that point forth, Steve appeared to be charged with an adrenalin boost, picking up his pace ever so gradually, then eventually dissappearing ahead. I wouldn't see him for the rest of the day.
The rest of my day was far less eventful -- thank goodness. I decided to spend extra time at lunch so I could finish up the ride with Lisa, my friend Dan and his friend Doug. It made riding through Pismo and Guadalupe so much more leisurely and enjoyable. Night fell on us by the time we reached Los Alamos, the last checkpoint 30 miles from the finish. I was almost 2 hours behind my time last year, but really didn't care. Climbing and descending Drumm Canyon in the dark were a treat I had not experienced last year; and this year, I had friends to hoot and holler with as we rode along.
Upon reaching Hwy 246, I decided to power on home -- a 10-mile TT in the dark at the end of two centuries. Nuts. But I did the same thing last year and wanted to compare just how much I may have improved year over year. The way I felt at the finish was all the reward I needed.
Despite the small misadventures this time around, I have a feeling this is one of those rides I'll choose to do year after year as long as I've got the legs to keep turning out the big miles.