On Friday, March 22nd, I pulled into Solvang early and got to see some great old friends, hang out in a neat little town, eatwonderful pastries, got horrible service and ate quite possibly the worst Mac and Cheese I’ve ever had at Firestone Walker Brewery. And then crashed early.
The next day, Saturday, March 23rd, was the Solvang Double Century. I had much less training time and miles under my belt, so I was really unsure how it would all turn out, but I did know one thing: The weather was better. Sunny in the 70’s and 80’s, a strong wind going the right way this year. I was planning on beating my time from last year by a bit, but I wasn’t sure how much.
I started a bit later, I figured since the wind and weather was much better than last year, that I would do it a bit quicker, so I planned on rolling out at 6:00 instead of last year’s 5:15. Of course, paranoid on being late to anything like I am (damn musician’s mind) I set alarm clocks like crazy. A wake up call, six alarms on my phone and four more on my tablet. Eleven alarm clocks.
And when did I wake up? Seven minutes before the first alarm went off. So, I was up and eating early, which is fine, I told myself I would take my time getting ready. Apparently I didn’t listen to myself, because I was ready to roll at 5:10. So, I chilled for a bit, got bored, and took off. My hotel (Pea Soup Andersen’s, I highly recommend) was a bit less than a mile from the start line, so I headed out, made some adjustments to my light and everything I was carrying, and went through the timing gate at 5:37 AM.
I started the ride about ten to fifteen minutes later than last year, but my goal remained the same: At all costs, no matter what, I would finish before the sun went down. Last year I didn’t, and that was the worst part about the ride. So this year, I would be done before sundown. Goal set.
The first leg, the first forty-ish miles, was great. A bit of steady climbing, what I’m good at, and long trains defined the start. I got into a good pace line early, and we cranked all the way to the first rest stop. There were anywhere between five and twenty people in it, and the bulk of the work was done by four or five people, me being one of them. That was fun, sitting at the front of a pace line cranking away, doing 25+ mph knowing I was pulling people along with me. Fun stuff. When we pulled into the first rest stop, one guy walked up to me and said, “I can’t believe how strong you guys are!” That’s right, stroke the ego.
However, I made my first mistake of the day soon after that at rest stop one. Water/Hammer refill, quick stretch, update Facebook, and out. ¼ mile down the road my body decided it had to pee. Now. So I turned back knowing the next rest stop would be a couple hours away. The line for the Porta-Johns took about 20 minutes, which really bit into my total time. Lesson learned for next year.
After the first rest stop, I was riding solo for much of the rest of the day. Fine by me, that’s how I train, so that’s how I’m comfortable. I spent much of the day spotting other riders up the road and seeing if I could catch them. Most of the time I did, I only got passed a few times, which felt good. The legs were definitely on that day.
Between the first rest stop and lunch (and a bit after), we dealt with on and off headwinds, sometimes as strong as forcing me down onto the aero bars and cranking as hard as I could to keep 10 mph. Once we hit lunch, it was crazy tailwinds all the way to rest stop five. At times I was all by myself, no drafting, doing 30 mph in the flats.
After rest stop five we started getting to the hills heading back into Solvang, but before we got to them we hit a private road that was not maintained. Actually, that’s not true. It clearly was maintained, there were piles of asphalt all over the place, I’m assuming to fill potholes and cracks, but leaving the opposite. It felt like cobbles, quite painful. So, I saw a group of riders about ¼ to ½ mile ahead of me, and imagined myself as Tom Boonen and started to kill it to catch them. I eventually did, right as we started to hit the hills.
The hills towards the end of the Solvang Double Century are SO MUCH easier in daylight! I was able to push pretty hard climbing up, passing several people, and since I could actually see, I was able to really open up on the descent.
I rolled back through the timing gate at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott in Buellton at 6:30 PM, at least a full hour before the sun went down! Goal achieved! I shaved a full hour and a half off last year’s time, finished in daylight, and was back at my hotel, showered and looking for dinner before night. Which of course was at the Pea Soup Andersen's restaurant. Couldn't come all the way down and not get some of that yummy soup!
Overall, an incredible day. The legs felt great, I was still able to push quite a bit in the flats and hills at the end, and my post ride soreness was nowhere near what it was last year. So overall, the 2013 SolvangDouble Century was quite a success. Numbers:
Start Time: 5:37:05 AM
End Time: 6:31:50 PM
Total Time: 12:54:45
Moving Time: 11:30:30
Feet Climbed: 7,614 feet
Next year’s goal: Close down that gap between total time and moving time. Much of that was the Porta-John delay at rest stop one, but I should be able to shave a bit off at every rest stop and finish in under 12 hours total next year. GOAL SET.
A couple days later I signed up for the Devil MountainDouble, a 200 mile ride on Saturday April 27th, starting and ending in San Ramon, with around 20,000 feet of climbing, going over Mt Diablo, Mt Hamilton, and at mile 150, Sierra Road. Time to work on the climbing legs!
And, as I write this, I got a confirmation email from the good folks at Devil Mountain Double confirming my registration. I’m in. I really, really, really, really, really, really, need to start working on climbing. This ride is going to hurt. A lot. IAt this point, I honestly don’t know if I will finish.
But the challenge is part of the fun!