I rode this last year – the spring weather was gorgeous; not so this year. I watched the weather forecast all week; it was rainy down south but Saturday was supposed to be in the 60s with a chance of showers.
My wife Mary and I drove down on Friday. I forgot my water bottles, but we got there in plenty of time to find a bike store and buy two new bottles.
I planned to start at 5:00 AM on Saturday so as to be sure to be back in daylight and in time to go to dinner with Mary. As often happens on the night before, I awoke at 1:30 AM and every thirty minutes thereafter until the alarm rang at 4:00. The day seemed cold but beautiful so I opted for arm and leg warmers and my SS/L vest. FIRST PROBLEM: couldn't find my right arm warmer. Oh well, I figured I'd just be cold for two hours but one less thing to stuff in my jersey pocket in the afternoon. But looking for the arm warmer cost me some time so I started about 5:10, which was good, because there were a lot of riders in front of me that I could follow - and of course I followed about 20 of them off the course. The 1 1/2 mile steep downhill was great, until we realized that we had to climb back up to find the course again.
The ride is uphill for 30 miles. I was going great; I ended up with 6 guys from Utah and I had no trouble keeping pace to the top. After 80 miles I was on pace for a 5:30 century. And then: the great fire hose in the sky opened up and shortly afterward I had my first flat of the day. Little could I imagine what was in store for the rest of the day.
I finished the first 100 miles in 5:36 (not counting time for fixing the flat) which was 1 minute faster than the MegaMonster TTT. And in spite of the incessant rain, after about 140 miles I was still on pace for finishing in under 12 hours.
But the second flat after 105 miles took a little longer to fix; and I discovered that the valve stem of one of my three spare tubes had broken off. The SAG wagon stopped and the driver sold me three new tubes.
By the time I had my third flat at 125 miles, the temperature had dropped to 53 from 56 and I had learned to drink from the rooster spray of the wheel in front of me - I kid you not! The water was good, except for the grit that now lined my lips. My fingers no longer worked, so in order to get the tube from my vest pocket, I had to remove my vest.
Up until mile 140 I had not been passed by anyone all day, and I had been picking off people right and left. I was still riding strong. But then we hit a stretch of Southern California cobblestone equivalent. It was basically an agriculture access road. At the end of it another tube gave up the ghost. Fixing this one took a good 20 minutes; the first five of which were spent trying to unscrew the Presta valve to let the rest of the air out. I finally did it with my bloodless gray fingers on the 10th try. All this time spent playing with my wheels in the pouring rain had taken its toll. From the Garmin record of the ride I can see my power output plunge and my speed slow. My left hand was no longer capable of shifting to the large chain ring; but I had no trouble reaching over with my right hand to pull on the lever (as opposed to pushing with my left hand).
Thankfully, I was never out of sight of other riders, so I prayed that they knew the route; my route sheet had turned to mush and most of the turns were not marked. The good news is that I had no trouble with the 1500 foot climb that started at mile 160. By this time, everyone was riding their own pace and about half the time someone passed me and half the time the other way around. I thought that I should call Mary and tell her that I would be late, but that would have taken me 15 minutes to fish the phone out of my pocket and figure out how to push the buttons so I decided to just press on. In spite of the weather and the flats, I finished in 12:45, about 45 minutes less riding time than last year, with the last 120 miles were in a freezing downpour. Note: it was also 8 ½ miles longer than last year.
Here are some post ride pictures:
The first picture must be what I looked like (it's actually a still from a video; I don't think that I was really that blurry); and as you can see in the second picture, I could still smile. And after a shower and a plate of pasta carbonara, I watched the Stanford B-Ball women win their game in the bar with Mary.
Some other miscellany:
- • The huge pothole that was under water. I was with about ten people and water bottles, tail lights and tool kits flew everywhere. Oncoming traffic saw what was happening and stopped, but the idiot in the pickup behind us thought that was an invitation to speed up and pass us.
- The stalled car on the hill with its flashers on. There was lots of room on the right to pass, until the passenger opened the right hand door right in front of a guy on a fixie, who ended up in the ditch. He told us when he caught back on that the driver got mad at him for not volunteering to push it up the hill!
- I am sure I am now famous for my one armed fashion statement! Got lots of funny looks and sarcastic comments. I also had fingerless gloves, but I don't think that it made a difference after a certain point.
- The evening before was beautiful and the drive back was under powder blue skies and fluffy clouds until we got to Gilroy.
- Mary was looking for me to arrive and tells me that I was in the first half of the group; I did see people still streaming in at 10:00 when we left the bar.
- I developed a bruise on the back of my left heel, and I could hardly walk Saturday night and Sunday morning.
- And finally - I wondered what the noise from my rear brake was the last ten miles - no brake pad.