April 16, 2011 — A magical day on the Hemet Double
Well, that was one fine ride I just completed: the Hemet Double Century in Hemet, CA. I had a magical day, feeling good the whole way. My legs seemed to get stronger as the day wore on, and I had plenty of energy at the end. Just the way it should be. My only complaint was being a bit saddle sore. That’s not much to complain about.
This was my first double century where I purposely rode with a group, in this case, riders from the Bullshifters club in Phoenix. In all the other efforts I had ridden mostly by myself. I was wondering how this would change things. I can only say it changed it for the better, as I had a great time riding with some very nice (and hardy) people.
April 2, 2011
“Where the heck is Hemet?”
That’s what I wonder as I peruse the California Triple Crown website, looking for another double century ride to make up for not finishing the Spring Death Valley Double. Since the Hemet Double is the closest of the California doubles to us folks in Arizona – and one of the easiest – I decide to give it a go. It’s slated for April 16th.
Hemet is a city in Southern California, located south of I-10, about 30 miles southeast of Riverside, tucked into a valley west of the San Jacinto Mountains. Just over these mountains is the more well-known Palm Springs area (not shown on the map below, but east, off to the right):
The Hemet Double Century route, starting in Hemet, CA. The route heads northwest to Riverside, down to Corona, then southeast to Lake Elsinore, and back east to Hemet, for the first 104 mile loop. The second 96 mile loop goes south out of Hemet, heading for the town of Temecula, and then making another lap around Lake Elsinore, before heading back to Hemet.
Profile of the relatively flat Hemet Double. There is only one tough climb (Sage Rd south of Hemet, which peaks at 12%), with the last climb on Whitewood Rd at the 178 mile mark (which peaks at 4-5%). Total elevation gain: 6,100 ft., according to my GPS.
Friday, April 15th, 2011
I leave Phoenix early Friday morning (7:30 am), with Mark, my carpool partner for the trip. Having driven to L.A. on many occasions along I-10, I can easily visualize the Palm Springs and Banning Pass area: desert. So that’s what I expect to find in Hemet. I expect the ride to be a 200 mile romp through a desert valley floor.
Windmills near the Banning Pass area, west of Palm Springs, with snow-capped San Jacinto Peak off in the distance (topping off at roughly 10,000 ft.) I took this shot as we cruised down I-10. Photos like this are tricky to pull off with a one-second shutter delay when you are speeding by at 75 mph.
But desert is not reality at all for Hemet. Instead, I’m pleasantly surprised to find “farmland, sprinkled with suburbia” (the best way I can think to describe it.) The area is quite green, compared to the browns of the Arizona:
Typical scene in the Hemet area. This is along Hwy 79. (Actually taken on the way home on Sunday, as we head north out of Hemet.)
We arrive in Hemet around 1:00 pm, making for a 5 1/2 hour trip. Later that evening, our group from Phoenix (comprised mostly of riders from the Bullshifters club) have dinner at Marie Callenders (next to the Motel 6, the headquarters of the ride), and check in for pre-registration afterwards.
Saturday Morning, April 16th, 3:00 am
We had pre-arranged to start at 4:45 am, and since I was staying at the Best Western, a mile from the Motel 6, I had set the alarm for 3:00 am, in order to have time to wake up, prepare for the day, and ride over to the start. Unlike most of the big rides I’ve done in the past, I fall asleep soundly at 10:00 pm earlier in the night, and sleep like a baby till the alarm goes off at 3:00 am. Thus, I get five hours of solid shut-eye. Unlike before all the other big rides, this time I have no frets, no worries, no nightmares, and I don’t wake up in a cold sweat. Ha!
Don’t know why this is, exactly. Is it because I’m finally getting used to the routine of doing doubles? Or is it because this time, unlike all the previous attempts, I’ll be riding in a group, rather than going solo? I suspect it’s the latter case. Any contingencies I might have during the ride will be easily mitigated by having other riders around for support. It was thus that I was able to sleep in peace and comfort.
I’m on tap to ride with seven others, all from the Bullshifters club. We sign in together at 4:45 am to start our journey.
Tatyana, Amy, and Jim (left to right) contemplate the long ride ahead, at 4:30 am. It’s chilly, probably upper 40’s-lower 50’s, but actually not too bad.
Dave and Fred look like they are ready to rock and roll.
My partners in crime, left to right: Dave, Alan, Amy, Jim, Fred, Mark, Tatyana, and Bryan (yours truly.)
Mile 0, 4:45 am – Alan holds a “paceline clinic”
We depart as planned at 4:45 am. This start time was a compromise. Some of us wanted to start at 4:30 am, figuring the earlier we started, the less time we’d spend in the heat and wind, and we’d have a good chance of finishing before sundown. Others wanted to “sleep in” and start at 5:00 am.
We could have started as early as 3:30 am. But nobody was that crazy, apparently. Ha!
As we roll out of Hemet, west along Florida Ave, the moon is just setting on the horizon, a golden globe disappearing behind a small group of mountains. Too bad the point-and-shoot camera I have along with me is useless for such moon shots, for that would have been a great picture to set the scene.
Soon we are heading south along Warren Road, and the group self-organizes into a pace line. Alan is pulling up front. I end up just behind him. Whether it’s his intention or not, he holds a veritable clinic on pulling a pace line, setting a rock-steady pace for miles and miles and miles. We cruise along at a 17+ mph average during this stretch. It’s a great pace to warm up our legs.
Mile 33, 6:50 am – Rest Stop #1
We roll into the first rest stop along Alessandro Blvd, near the 215 Freeway in Riverside. There is some confusion, for the organizers had moved the rest stop from an Arco station on one side of the freeway to a different gas station on the other side, without telling anyone. Well, without telling us anyway. A few other riders happen by that seem to know the rest stop had been moved. I guess we missed the memo.
By this time, the day is warm enough to take off jackets. But I’m too busy answering the call of nature and stuffing myself with food to fully realize this. Jim sets a strict 10 minute maximum at each rest stop, and it wasn’t always easy to take care of everything before departing.
Not long down the road, I start overheating. The group lets me stop along the way so I can take off my jacket. But like the space cadet I am, though I take off my jacket and store it in my new Ortlieb saddle bag, I forget to take off my arm warmers too. I don’t realize this until further down the road. Doh!
The Ortlieb Saddle Bag for bikes, large size. You can hold several spare tubes, CO2 cartridges, tools, sports powder, energy bars, spare batteries, etc, and still have room for a jacket and arm warmers. Perhaps a bit ugly, but these bags seem perfect for long distance rides, like doubles, and beyond. The bags don’t get in the way of your legs. At least I didn’t have any problem. Unlike other large saddle bags, these bags don’t use a hard clamp to the seat post, meaning you can use them on carbon seat posts without fear of trashing your post. And not trashing your seat post seems like a reasonable thing to strive for. (These bags do have a velcro strap that ties around the seat post, which I forgot to attach for this picture.) The Ortlieb bags use a unique twisting flap at the rear, instead of an eventually-will-wear-out zipper. The twisting flaps work fine, though I’ve haven’t quite mastered the art of closing the flaps without propping the bike next to something, or having someone hold the bike for me.
There was some issue about whether the clipping system these bags use would work on Brooks saddles, like the Brook Swift Ti that I have. Turns out it wasn’t a problem for me … well, I got it to fit, anyway, if barely. I think the problem is mainly for those saddles with spring suspension. You can buy special straps to take place of the clamp.
Victoria Ave – a beautiful route through Riverside, CA.
The route through Riverside is mainly along Victoria Ave. I haven’t been to Riverside in many a moon, (in maybe what, twenty, thirty years?) So I don’t remember what the city looks like. Whether not this street is representative of the area, Victoria Ave is one nice route, lined with palm trees and red-flowered bushes and a wide bike lane:
The Bullshifters cruise down beautiful Victoria Ave in Riverside, CA. I had gone up ahead a ways, so I could turn around and take this picture. Too bad the car had to be there too. With my point-and-shoot camera’s one second shutter delay, it was tricky to pull off this shot.
As the miles tick by, I’m struck by how easy this ride is. I’m feeling good. I suspect we all are.
At one point, I pull up next to Jim. “I don’t know if I can make it,” I say to Jim, faking a pant. “This ride is too hard!”
Jim laughs. He and Tatyana had done the Death Valley ride like I had, and we all remember how tough a day that wind-fest was. And the two of them had also slogged through the cold and rainy Camino Real and Solvang doubles earlier in the year. Quite a contrast to the pleasant ride we are having now. I thank them for sacrificing themselves to the cycling gods on those earlier rides, so we can have weather like we’re having now: Sunny, little wind, and temps in the mid-60’s. Cycling heaven!
Mile 53, Corona, CA – Our first climbs of the day
The route swings south and then southeast through the streets of Corona. We go up a few small climbs, and off to the south and west lies the coastal range of mountains. Too bad we’re not doing any climbs in those mountains …
Soon we swing back east, over a few more rollers:
Riders going over a small roller in the city of Corona. The snows of the San Jacinto Mountains loom on the horizon to the east.
The Bullshifters cruise through the streets of Corona. I took this picture while riding at the back of the group, holding the camera with my left hand, and steering with my right. It’s a miracle this shot came off at all. It’s a miracle I didn’t crash. I won’t be trying this feat again.
At mile 53, we come to the first climb of any significance, along East Foothills Parkway, in Corona. Though the grade is mostly an easy 2-3%, I shift down into my triple granny gears and spin with an easy cadence – a good strategy for a 200 mile day. I arrive at the top just behind Jim and Alan, and turn around to attempt pictures of the others coming up the climb, not having too much success. I did manage to get one of Tatyana:
Tatyana tops the first climb of the day, along East Foothills Parkway in Corona, CA.
Mile 63.5, 9:00 am — Rest Stop #2 (Tom’s Farm)
We arrive at the second rest stop around 9 am. Our average on-the-bike speed has dropped slightly, down to 16.7 mph – still a decent pace that should allow us to finish before sundown.
During the first 100 miles our routine at the rest stops is the same: Jim sets a strict 10 minute maximum, we all scramble for the restrooms, (and it’s a good sign that we’re all drinking properly and thus need to), and I try to down as many nuts and Fig Newtons (my solid food of choice for the day) as I can, and make sure to fill my water bottles.
One of my few nits about this ride is the sports drink they choose to serve: Cytomax. I have no love for Cytomax – it’s probably the last thing I would have chosen. I haven’t had any of this stuff in years.
And I wasn’t about to start now. It’s generally a mistake to eat or drink anything that you haven’t tried in training. It’s definitely a mistake to use something you don’t like. I did have some of my energy drink of choice with me – Perpetuem. I had packed some for the trip because the Hemet Double website wasn’t specific about what they would be serving. Unfortunately, I only had enough powder with me for 100 miles. (My personal, easy to remember, though admittedly inaccurate formula for Perpetuem is 2 scoops = 1 water bottle = 20 miles.) I decide to stretch out my stash of Perpetuem, using only half my usual amount, rather than risk drinking anything else. I sure wasn’t going to partake of any Cytomax.
As it turns out, I manage to stretch out my 100 mile supply of Perpetuem for 200 miles, with no ill consequences.
I do, however, religiously stick to my formula of one Endurolyte Fizz tablet per bottle. I had plenty of that with me. And it seems to work well, as I experience no issues on what turns out to be a very warm day. (Some say it was hot. To me, it was “very warm.”) So, as was the case in Death Valley, I give a thumbs up to the Endurolyte Fizz tablets.
After leaving the rest stop, we ride in a generally south-easterly direction along Temescal Canyon Rd, eventually passing through the town of Lake Elsinore, and riding along the lake’s northern shore. It would be nice to get a picture here, but I don’t want to hold up the group, and Jim informs me we’ll be riding along this road again later in the day.
Mile 85.8, roughly 11:00 am (?) – Rest Stop #3, E.L. Pete Peterson Park, Sun City, CA
So far, this ride is going smoothly. I’m feeling top-notch, having no issues whatsoever. We arrive at the next rest stop uneventfully and are soon heading east for Hemet.
At the 94 mile mark, we turn onto Domenci Domenige Dominogi … sigh … the Parkway That Cannot Be Pronounced (Domenigoni Parkway). I’m joking about this, but ya know what? I didn’t meet anybody who could pronounce the name of this road correctly the first time.
Along this parkway, it’s a straight shot east back to Hemet.
Mile 100, 11:41 am
My personal goal and hope for this ride is to finish each loop in approximately six hours – well, at least six hours of bike riding time that is, making for two six hour centuries. And voila! That’s what happens, at least on the first loop, for I cross the 100 mile mark in exactly six hours, for an on-the-bike 16.7 mph average. Total elapsed time? 6 hours and 56 minutes.
The time wasted at the rest stops isn’t great, but really, not bad, considering. Even though we’d been keeping the rest stops to 10 minutes or less, it’s still hard not to lose significant time on this route, for there are lots of stop signs and stop lights in this partially suburban ride. As the day wears on, those stop signs and stop lights grow wearisome – another of my few nits about this ride.
Somewhere about this time, the group starts to slow down. I find out later that one of the riders is diabetic, and he experiences a low blood sugar moment and has to back off the pace. I decide to zoom ahead, setting a pace that’s comfortable for me. Alan and Mark are already up the road a ways, but I catch them just before they turn onto Acacia Road, a half mile from the finish line, the Motel 6 in Hemet.
Mile 104.3, 11:58 am, Motel 6, Hemet, CA – First loop completed. Woohoo!
I check in at 11:58 am. I was hoping to be in by noon, and here I am! They serve us lunch (pasta, ham, turkey, and cheese sandwiches, potato salad, etc.) I eat very lightly, not wanting too much in the way of solid food. For drinks they serve soft drinks – and the ubiquitous Cytomax. Cytomax? At lunch time? Ugh. What I look for and don’t find: water. I ask one of the volunteers. They are serving water out on the sidewalk in a water cooler. A curious arrangement if you ask me. Ah well.
Mile 104.3, 12:31 am – Ready to rock the second loop
We don’t dally too long at lunch, spending only a half an hour. I check out at 12:31 pm along with the others, and we are on our way to complete the second loop of the day, this one a 96-miler.
We roll out steady and easy, all of us anticipating what’s coming up next: the only tough climb of the day. We turn south along State St, and round a corner to the east. Alan has already zoomed ahead by this point, and is well up the road. We wouldn’t be seeing him the rest of the day.
Mile 113 – Sage Rd, our tough climb for the day
Though the Hemet Double is a relatively flat route, it does have one steep climb, just to keep the legs honest. This climb comes at the 113 mile mark as we turn south again onto Sage Rd. I’m up front pulling. My legs are itching to start the climb, and I’m ready to rock. I pick up the pace.
Dave pulls up beside me and says I might want to cool my jets. We’ll most likely have to wait for the others on top, he says, so we might as well take it nice and easy. Makes sense. Except I think it’s best to set your own pace on climbs. It works out better for everybody, and really, that’s what usually ends up happening anyway. But I do slow down a little. After all, we had just eaten lunch, and it’s starting to get “warm” out there. Some would say it’s “hot.”
The climbs starts out easy enough, with 2-3% grades. Jim had told me earlier that Sage Rd was a “gentle climb.”
Yeah, it’s gentle at the beginning, but soon the grade picks up to 6%. Mark passes me. He’s at least 30 pounds lighter, with a smaller frame (and thus lighter) bike. Though I’d see him off an on up the pass, as it turns out, I won’t catch up to him the rest of the day.
The grade pitches up to 8%. Dave now passes me. We’re both huffing and puffing. Dave pulls away inch by inch. Next thing I know, I’m seeing 10% grades flash on my GPS, and then 12%. Jeebus. We’re roughly 115 miles into the ride. I realize I’ve never climbed a 12% grade before after this many miles. A new first.
I see some shade up ahead. I see a rider stopped there. Sounds like a good idea. I pull into the shade and take a breather. After starting again, I don’t last too long, for I’m having a bout of exercise-induced asthma. I get off the bike and walk for a while, unashamed that this climb is kicking my butt, at least momentarily.
The grades are mostly in the 8-12% range. I see a glimpse of 13%, but mostly, the max I see is 12%, so that’s what I’ll tout as the steepness of the climb. At the base, the altitude was 1,720 feet. On top, it’s 2,557 feet, for a net elevation gain of 837 feet, over the course of four miles. I’ve certainly seen worse climbs.
I reach the top. A volunteer is there with ice water. Dave is there too. Mark is nowhere to be found. I guess he has decided to go on ahead. The others are somewhere in the back of us. Rather than wait for them here, we decide to carry on to the next rest stop. There would be shade there, and a place to sit. The volunteer with water tells us there is one more steep roller to climb before we can roll easily into the rest stop.
We encounter this roller on Mesa Rd, 123 miles in. We’re back to 12% grades. Jeebus. I break my record once again for the most miles into a ride that I’ve encountered a 12% grade. But not to worry. My legs are feeling fine. I’ve had not even the remotest twinge of a cramp.
Dave tops a 12% roller on Mesa Rd, at the 124 mile mark. This is the last steep pitch we’d see for the day.
It’s a few more miles to the next rest stop, well, six to be exact. But before then, we have to cross an unusual barrier. Some poor driver had managed to smash up his SUV. It was sitting perpendicularly in the roadway, completely blocking traffic both directions. A tow truck was there, winching the smushed SUV onto the bed of the truck. Traffic was backed up. We unabashedly rode in the left hand lane, going the wrong direction, bypassing all the stuck traffic, and then got off our bikes, and carried them through the ditch, past the tow truck.
Yesirree, we are now cyclocrosser’s. Ha!
Mile 130, 2:24 pm, Rest Stop #4 – The Danza Del Sol Winery
So far, this second loop is proving to be a bit more rural and a bit more scenic the first loop. Case in point is that we’re now passing through wine country. We reach a winery for our next rest stop. (And no, they don’t serve wine at the rest stop):
The scene at Rest Stop #4, 130 miles in.
We fully expected to see Mark at the rest stop, but he’s not there. We begin thinking maybe he got lost and missed a turn somewhere. Finally it dawns on me we can check the sign-up sheet to see if he made it in.
At each rest stop, we are required to sign in, so that they know we’ve actually ridden the whole route, and aren’t cheating in order to chalk up another ride of the Triple Crown series dishonestly. It boggles the mind to think there are those that would stoop this low. After all, it’s not like you get a trophy or anything, and certainly no money changes hand. Well, actually, money does change hands, for as a “reward” for finishing the Triple Crown, you get the right to wear a Triple Crown jersey – which you have to pay for.
Regardless, having the riders sign in at each rest stop is a good idea, anyway. For now I can tell that Mark has indeed made it this far, and must have decided to continue on by himself. Or perhaps he’s riding with Alan.
We end up waiting quite a while before the others come in. By the time we’ve left the rest stop as a group, 30 minutes have gone by. With both Mark and Alan up the road, our group is down to six riders.
The day grows hot
It’s thirty miles to the next rest stop, and the day has turned hot, (I call it warm, but I’m weird that way), and windy. Jim pulls for a while and then I notice him drifting towards the back. Next thing I know, I find myself up front doing the pulling. No one else seems interested in this task. And I keep drifting away from the group, continually having to slow down.
As we reach the town of Temecula, I notice I’ve gone through most of my water. The next rest stop is a good twenty miles away. In a moment of serendipity, Jim pulls beside me and says that if I see a convenience store, to turn in. He’s hankering for some Gatorade and some ice. Sounds good to me!
Mile 140, 3:40 pm – The town of Temecula
The miles tick by, and even though we are now going through town, no convenience store is in sight. Finally, an Arco station presents itself at the corner of Jefferson Ave and Winchester Road. We pull in – and end up spending quite a long time here. I don’t know how long, at least thirty minutes, maybe more. I began to wonder what’s going on. Perhaps the others figure there is no rush, and really, there isn’t. Sure, it would be nice to finish by sunset, but I can see that’s not likely now. We’d have to average 20 mph for that to happen.
Oh well, it will be cooler riding at night, that’s for sure.
Mile 140, 4:17 pm – We depart for Rest Stop #5
It’s at this point I find out Jim isn’t feeling too well, and that’s why he wanted to stop at the Arco station. Our prevailing speed drops to 15 mph and lower. The group sends me out front to pull, since I seem to be the one with the most pep.
Now, this is really ironic. So far, all my doubles have consisted of me riding mostly by myself, or with strangers who have no reason to keep tabs on me, other than general human kindness. It’s one thing to ride at your own pace, it’s quite another to ride at the pace of the group. My only “fear” about this ride was not being able to stay with the group – to be struggling off the back. Funny that it’s turning out to be the other way around.
To be fair, though, Mark and Alan, animals that they be, are well up the road at this point. And Dave is a much stronger rider than me, I’m sure. But he’s better at hanging back with the group than I am. I’m sure he’s had more practice at it. And ya know, it would help if I had a rearview mirror, so that I could more easily monitor the pace.
To add to the woes of Jim’s day, he has the group’s only flat, just a ways down the road:
Jim fixes a flat while Dave holds his bike. I didn’t realize how much Jim was suffering at this point, or I would have certainly helped change the flat.
Mile 149, Clinton-Keith Rd & Grand Ave, Wildomar, CA
The route turns southwest down Clinton-Keith Rd in the town of Wildomar. (“Where the heck is Wildomar, CA?” Well, now I know!) We come to the intersection with Grand Ave, where I spot some shade. I instinctively pull over and stop, figuring it was time for a break.
At the time, I didn’t know how true that was — how much Jim needed us to stop, and how fortunate I had found shade. Jim is soon lying on the ground, trying to recover. I guess the heat is taking its toll. (We find out later the temperature is in the upper 90’s).
As the minutes tick by, it’s apparent Jim’s not getting any better. His day is probably over. The group asks me to ride on ahead to the next rest stop (11 miles away) and see about having them send a sag vehicle their way, in case Jim needs to abandon. We’re all feeling for Jim.
I take off, and Fred decides to come with me. He jokes, “Now, no speeding, Bryan.”
But a mile down the road I turn around and notice Fred has dropped off the back. I hesitate momentarily, thinking about waiting for him to catch up, and then decide, no, it’s important I get to the rest stop as soon as possible. I put some mettle into the pedals – well, as much as a person can after 150 miles. My prevailing speed: 17-20 mph. (Note: It didn’t dawn on me then that trading drafts with Fred might have gotten us there quicker. Doh!)
This is a long stretch of road, about 9 miles of low rollers, and there’s a headwind. But you know what? After Death Valley, I’ve acquired a whole new perspective about wind. Unless it’s like, blowing me off the road, I don’t notice it much anymore.
Just before the route swings north into the town of Lake Elsinore, there’s a volunteer off the shoulder to the right, handing out ice water. I pull over and refill a bottle. Wow. I’ve gone through four bottles since the last rest stop, some thirty miles ago. Good thing this water stop was there. And good thing we stopped earlier at the Arco station.
It’s fortunate for another reason that I pulled over, (one of many fortunate circumstances that would happen the rest of the day.) For the water stop volunteer tells me that a turn is coming up, and even though the route sheet says for us to turn right onto Riverside Dr., in actuality, there is no sign saying “Riverside Dr.” Instead, she told me turn at the sign that says “Lake Elsinore.” Whatever I do, I was not to continue straight on Grand Ave. Apparently many riders had done just that and had gotten lost.
I was glad I wasn’t one of them. I turn the corner and soon reach the next rest stop, in the town of Lake Elsinore, near the shores of the lake.
Mile 160, 5:45 pm (?) – Rest Stop #5, Lake Elsinore
I sign in and ask the volunteer about sending a sag wagon down the road, to look for Jim and the rest of the group. The volunteer doesn’t seem too concerned about this, and I began to wonder if he is really going to do anything. I impress upon him, that yes, there is a person down the road a ways that really, really needs to be looked after. About this time, Fred comes in. He wasn’t that far behind. He tells me he had spoken with Jim on the phone and that he had already found a ride back to the finish. Whew! … And sad about Jim.
Fred and I wait at the rest stop. I down a V-8, and eat some delicious looking grapes. And they are delicious. Best grapes I’ve had in a long time. I’m sure having ridden 160 miles has something to do with this.
We end up waiting a long time. By the time the others arrive and we are ready to depart, an hour has gone by. The sun is getting low in the sky. It’s quite apparent we’ll be riding several hours in the dark. Some of the others are beginning to look a little fried. Me, I’m feeling very good. I’m ready to cruise on down the road. The others are just determined to finish, no matter what. We’re now down to five riders. Mark and Allen are probably not far from finishing by now.
Mile 160, 6:46 pm – We depart from Lake Elsinore
We turn onto Lakeshore Drive, and I instantly recognize where we are. We’d been on this route earlier in the day. The lake is off to our right, and earlier in the day I had wanted to get a picture, but I didn’t want to hold up the group, or have to burn too many matches catching back up. But I can see now that it won’t be an issue. I pull over and snap a few shots, just as the sun is about to set over the coastal range:
The soft light at the end of day glows on trees on the shores of Lake Elsinore, at that magical point in time where the sun is just setting behind the mountains of the coastal range. Any good photographer knows that’s the exact time to take a picture, for that’s when the light is at its best.
Another scene along Lake Elsinore. Turns out if I had gone up ahead a 1/2 mile, and stopped to take a picture there, I would have had a much better view of the lake. Oh well.
Dave chooses to stay behind with me as I snap a few photos, and we spend the next few miles catching up to the others. We come to downtown Lake Elsinore, and at a corner on Main Street I notice a hill in front of me. I laugh. We had been at this very spot, some 90 miles earlier. Talk about deja vu. At the time, I joked that I was sad we weren’t going to climb that hill, and instead turn and go around it. I wasn’t joking now. I was sure glad not to be climbing said hill!
Soon, we’re cruising down the last section of shoreline along Lake Elsinore, and it’s getting dark. We stop to put on our “clear” glasses, and to turn on our lights. For whatever reason, the group elects me to be navigator the rest of the way. Now this is funny, for before the trip I had printed out the route sheet at a reduced size, so I could strap it onto my top tube and not have it interfere with my legs. Trouble was, the print at that size was a little hard to read, especially in the low light of the LED headlamp I had with me. No matter. I resolved to do the best I could.
A bit down the road, someone spots hang gliders up in the air, a dozen or more. It’s quite a sight in the evening twilight. Too bad there is no way to get a picture of this scene. But it’s way too dark for my point-and-shoot. The moon has risen by now. It’s almost full, and adds its bit of magic to the evening.
We cruise down Mission Trail road, heading southeast, and then on to Palomar St, through the town of Murrieta. We’ve basically done a loop around Lake Elsinore and are using some of the same roads again.
I’m up front pulling and guiding the group. I note with consternation that our speed has dropped considerably, down to 12-13 mph at times. I think a few of the others are really starting to feel the miles.
Even though my legs are feeling good, my saddle is not. And the slower speeds aren’t helping any. I frequently climb out of the saddle to relieve pressure, but this just kicks me further off the front. I have a notion to say goodbye to my riding companions and cruise on to the finish at my own pace. But no, we started the day together, and that’s the way it should end, too. Besides, it is dark out, and it wouldn’t be that hard to get lost. Best we stick together.
Mile 177, O-Dark pm (I don’t know the time) – Rest Stop #6, Murrieta Hot Springs
We roll into the last rest stop. Whew! Only 23 miles (or so) to go.
At the rest stop they have noodle soup for us, and also some entertainment. Someone is playing a banjo, and later, I hear the strains of a fiddle. Being the fiddle player that I am, I’m tempted to ask if I can play a tune. I tell Dave this, and he says he’d be sure to get a video of that on his cell phone. I mean, how many days do you see someone who’s just ridden 170+ miles play a fiddle tune? But I don’t bother the musicians. I’m sure the fiddler wouldn’t want my sweaty hands on his instrument.
We stay at the rest stop perhaps 20 minutes. Our “ten minute maximum” rule had long ago been shattered.
When we depart, we all have only one thing on our minds (besides finishing): There’s one more climb to come. Amy and Tatyana ask how hard that hill will be. I don’t know, but I pull out the map and profile to try to determine that. Hmm…, looks like about at 400-500 ft climb, in about 3.5-4 miles. Sounds like Usery Pass (back in Phoenix) to me. I tell Amy this. She looks at me with shock and dismay. Though I was trying to ease her mind, apparently my comment has the opposite effect. Or, perhaps, after 177 miles, she thinks any little hill will feel like a mountain. I can’t argue with that.
The climb turns out to be along Whitewood Dr. We had all agreed earlier to ride at our own pace, and regroup at the top. I slowly pull away and reach the top before the others – straight into some nasty road construction. It’s here that another fortunate thing happens. There are volunteers there, steering me off the ground-down road surface and onto a smooth stretch of pavement that would have been easy to miss in the dark.
Mile 182 – A porta-potty from heaven!
While I’m waiting for the others, I’m thinking that I really wish I had went to the restroom at the last rest stop. I guess I’ll have to find a bush somewhere along the way. The fact that I need to go is a good sign, though. It means I’ve been drinking properly all day long.
The others catch up and we start down the road. We go about 100 feet when I spot a welcome sight. A porta-potty! From heaven! Talk about luck! It must have been parked there for the road construction workers. Or was it? (Insert Twilight Zone music here.)
The Bull Frog Club, er, leap frogs the Bullshifters
Only 18 miles to go. The route is flat from here on out. At this point, we all know we’re going to finish. I don’t know about the others, but I’m getting excited by the prospect.
The cool night air makes for nice, easy riding. As we head north and turn onto various roads, we have to stop frequently at intersections. At many of these corners, seeing’s how were sorta out in the country, we hear bull frogs croaking. In fact, it sounds like the same bull frogs at each corner. What? Have they been following us? Is there a Bullfrog Club tracking the Bullshifters?
Mile 188 – Only twelve miles to go
At one point, I stop at a corner waiting for the others to catch up. Our bull frog consorts have apparently moved on, for I don’t hear them anymore. A truck happens by. It’s one of the ride volunteers. He tells me a right turn is coming up in a few miles, and that the sign will say Newport Road. He stresses that it will not say “Domenci Domenige Dominogi … sigh … the Parkway That Cannot Be Pronounced (Domenigoni Parkway)” as the route sheet says, but that Newport turns into that road.
I thank him for this advice, and how fortunate we are to receive it. For it would have been a real drag to get lost this close to the finish.
Sure enough, at the 188 mile mark, we find Newport Road and head east, the road turning eventually into the Parkway That Cannot Be Pronounced.
At this point, I’m tempted to go my own pace and rock to the finish. There’s no way for anyone to get lost, as it’s a straight shot back to Hemet. Yet, I want to stay with the group, too.
I sorta do both. I often find myself off the front, and then I stand up and coast for a ways before the others latch back on. It’s hard for me to pedal slowly in the saddle. That hurts my rear-end a bit too much.
This repeats itself until we turn north onto Sanderson Road, not far from the finish.
It’s at this point my Dinotte dual head lights go into their “battery saving mode” – a low power mode that will last, for, well, I don’t know, an hour at least. I’d been running them mostly on medium, for four and half hours on this ride (an hour and a half in the morning, and three hours this evening). Every now and then I had put them on high, so I could better see the road when it got rough. Most of the time, the medium setting was more than adequate. Heck, even in “battery saving mode”, I can see perfectly well.
Anyway, it’s fortunate timing my lights have lasted till now, though I had carried a spare battery with me all this way. Just in case. ‘Cause ya never know on these long rides. We should have easily finished before sundown. On an ordinary day, we probably would have. Yet here we are, still riding at 10:15 pm.
Mile 200, 10:23 pm – BACK IN HEMET, THE FINISH, YAY!
I’m in good spirits when we finish. I’m still full of energy and my legs feel good. Several people laugh when I pull off my helmet at the finish. My hair is sticking up, making me look like a wild man. Yesirree, a wild and crazy man from Arizona who’s had way too much sun on his brain, Ha ha!
I’m all smiles at the finish, and ready to partake of some chicken and pasta … and potato chips. Yes, potato chips. That’s what I’m craving for the most. Hey, I just rode 200 miles. I can eat whatever I want!
No doubt about it, for me this was a magical day. I felt like I was floating the last 40 miles, and my legs felt stronger the further we rode. I’m sure the fact I was riding well within my abilities had something to do with it. So did having all those long rests at the rest stops, where I was able to fully recover, despite the inevitable cool-down of muscles. And so did the fact that this was by far the easiest double I’ve ever finished. (Okay, so I’ve only finished two others.) And it sure was nice to finish a whole 200 miles for a change, after having had two consecutive unsuccessful attempts at the Spring Death Valley Double.
My on the bike stats: 200.77 miles, 13 hrs, 5 mins and 10 secs of riding time, 17 hrs and 38 mins of elapsed time. I rode in Zone 1 (heart rate) for 79 miles, Zone 2 for 34 miles, Zone 3 for 6 miles, Zone 4 for 1 mile (probably on Sage Rd), the rest below Zone 1, and never in Zone 5. Not riding in Zone 5 on these long rides is good strategy.
Mark tells me he made it in by 7:30 pm. This is when we were all expecting to make it in. He was actually the first Bullshifter to arrive. Though Alan was most likely the strongest of the group, he had stopped somewhere along the way to go antique shopping, and thus Mark beat him in. Heh!
I have many cycling friends who think I’m nuts to do these doubles. It sure was nice to find a group of riders who think otherwise. Thanks for allowing me to accompany you on your ride, Bullshifters. What great group of people. Congrats to Alan, Mark, Fred, Amy, and to Tatyana for finishing her first California Triple Crown on this ride – on her birthday no less. And while I’m sorry Jim didn’t have such a great day, it was good to see he was doing fine by breakfast the next morning.
I’ll sign off with a few parting shots I took out the window of Mark’s car on our way back to Phoenix:
Scene north of Hemet, along Hwy 79.
Along I-10 near Banning Pass.