(Click the pics to see them in a lightbox)
Somethings you just gotta face head on. This 300k was one of those things for me.
The day started out pretty good. I felt strong and made my way to the first checkpoint pretty quickly. I chatted with Ryan briefly at the start and we rolled together for about 5 mins. Basically to the first hill and then he was gone. I believe 2 other riders followed him and then there was me. Fourth on the road. I was riding comfortable, not really pushing, but most likely there was some adrenaline kicking in. I’m usually not that close to the front of the group. At the first control Ryan was already gone, but the other 2 riders where still there. I got a receipt and went back outside, just as a large group of riders where pulling in. This group was huge, about 8-10 riders I guess. It looked like they stuck together most of the day.
One of the riders got through the control very quick so I took off after him. I ended up catching him before the bike path and then Pete and I, together with Chuck (I think that was his name) headed towards Control #2. We were making really good time. Weather was good, bike path traffic was good. At Control #2 we again see the 2 riders behind Ryan and with a couple minutes the large group is behind us again. They were only about 2-4 minutes behind us I would guess. Pete and I get on the bikes quickly and make our way north on PCH. It’s really easy to loose a bunch of time at the controls. It’s much easier the larger the group is. I always try to keep my stops really short so I filled out my card, drank some water and started pedaling. I unwrapped a bar at the control and started eating as I rode.
From PCH we turned up the SART towards Corona. Pete and I were still making great time working together. At some point past Anaheim Stadium Pete’s tire started to go down. He added some air so we could get rolling again. At this time the riders that were chasing down Ryan pulled in behind us! What? We had passed them at some point on the river trail and they were catching up to us. So now the group of 4 were headed towards Corona. I hung on for as long as I could, but eventually had to pop off the back. I knew this was the section that I had struggled with before and I still had a long ways to go. Better not to push it.
I stopped for lunch at Control #3 and it wasn’t long before the large group rolled up again. I ate half of my order and shoved the other half in my jersey for later. I didn’t want all of that food in my stomach for the climbing that was about to come. I met a couple of the riders with the group. One was on a beautiful Soulcraft with fenders. I should’ve taken a picture. The other was Devin on a Long Haul Trucker. Seeing his LHT made me think of my first brevet on my LHT. I think my legs still hurt from that bike. I asked if they wouldn’t mind an extra rider with their group and we headed across the street to gather up everyone else. In hindsight I did two things wrong here. One, it was warming up and I should’ve shed my arm warmers and knee warmers. Two, I should’ve just kept pedaling. They would’ve caught me eventually. As it worked out I climbed with the group for a while until I got too hot. So I stopped to shed the layers and tried to rejoin the group. I wasted too much energy doing that. I would see them at a distance, get close, but still not catch them. I was working way harder than I needed to and way harder than I should have.
I caught up to them at the next Control and we overlapped by only a couple minutes. I wasn’t ready to roll again as they were rolling out. Then, they must’ve stopped somewhere along the way because as we started the first real climb of the day they caught and passed me. I tried to hold their wheel again, but decided to just climb at my pace. I was sure I’d see them again.
Somewhere around here I remembered that I had my camera. Looking around as I was pedalin’ takes some of the stress out of the ride. Instead of the just looking to see how much farther until the next turn, I was just riding to the enjoy the ride and the scenery. I wish I had remembered to take pics earlier. Although, where I remembered was the most scenic section of this ride.
The climbing from Lake Elsinore to Fallbrook was tough. Some really steep climbs, then steep descents and more steep climbs. Climbs that made you use every single gear on your bike. One of them I even got off and walked for a while. I didn’t stop, just had to walk for a couple minutes before finishing it off. As much as it was tough though it was just as scenic. Riding through avocado and orange orchards. Along side a creek and the Pacific Ocean way off in the distance. You could see the mountain range that we rode all the way around. The scenery more than made up for the climbing. It was well worth it.
I pulled into Fallbrook for the next Control and saw that the group was still there. So I knew I wasn’t that far behind them. I think they rolled out only about 5 minutes before I did. As I was sitting with my lunch Pete and his group ride up. I was sure they were 2 hours ahead at least by this point. Turned out Pete had multiple flats and lost a lot of time to that. It was good to see them again, but it was short lived. We rolled out together but once the climbing started again they were long gone. I made my way down to the bike path that would eventually get me to Oceanside. At the bike path my lunch and I duked it out.
The sun was setting and it was time for the reflective gear. From here on out it was going to be a dark ride. I brought along and extra light that I mounted up to my helmet. That was a good idea. I used it to read the cue sheet, GPS and bike computer. It also gave me a good directional light for looking around at the spooky things on dark bike paths. Human or animal.
From Oceanside we had to ride the 5 Freeway North. At first, this sounds pretty sketchy, but it’s really not. The shoulder is pretty wide and it tends to be fairly clean. You have to watch out for tire tread and other hazards, but it wasn’t so bad. The only issue I had was that a bus was broken down in the shoulder. I wasn’t going to risk riding out into traffic and I was concerned about glass in the dirt. So I just picked up my bike and carried it around the bus before carrying on. Is that was they call cyclocross?
The final push from San Onofre to the finish was pretty straight forward. The only bummer being that there’s an eight mile section of rollers that you need to get through. That wore out the already tired legs even more, but I knew I was on the home stretch. I ended up pulling in to the finish at 10:30pm or so. Sixteen and a half hours on the bike, 190 miles and about 9,000 feet of climbing. It sure felt good to finish this ride. I needed to make good on the last attempt. It was a challenge that I had to face and I had to conquer, and I did.
Thanks for all the kind words/support as I was out there. It was fun to know that people were following along. Next month is the 400k. Guess I better get back to ridin’!