Sunday, June 8, 2014

2014 Sequoia Century

120 miles traveled, 10000 feet total elevation gained, 11:50 hours total (9:30 on the bicycle)

In preparation for my upcoming double century, I needed to get some more training into my schedule.  A good century for this is the Sequoia Century, which is one of the more challenging rides that happens to be organized fairly close to home.  I have done this ride two time before.  I am not often drawn to do this one because it covers a route that overlaps with many of my personal routes – so there is nothing novel about it.  But this year it came at a good time and was a good challenge to be part of my training.

Very similar to the last time I tried it, my ability to do it came into question by me getting sick just prior to the ride.  It was nothing major, just a cold, but that might be enough to jeopardize my being able to do a grueling century.  Two days before the ride, I started feeling better and decided that I would be recovered enough on ride day to be able to do it.

This year they changed the start/finish to a new location that is closer to my home.  I decided that I should just bike to the start.  Because it is local, I was able to check in the day before.  So I did not actually have to appear at the start location.  My route to ride the route joins the loop a couple miles down the road, so that is where I started.  Of course this does not shorten it for me because I will be riding back to that spot after the finish.

5:55am, 0 miles, 0 feet

I timed it so that I would join the route at the same time as if I had begun at the start at the official start time of 6:00am.  As I headed out, I could tell that although I was not 100% healthy, I was strong enough to do the ride.  I just might be slower than if I were fully healthy.

I was tested right away, since the first climb of the route was the short but very steep Redwood Gulch Road.  I had ridden that road many time so I knew what to expect.  I knew that it would determine whether I really was fit enough to do the ride.  I had the option of truncating the ride to either the 100 kilometer or the 50 mile route if I needed to.  I definitely struggled to climb it.  Several riders passed me, although no one was going fast.  I did manage to pass just a couple other riders.  It was a difficult climb, but I made it without feeling too drained.  The rest of the climb to the first rest stop was not as steep.

7:45am 21 miles, 2700 feet

After pausing at the rest stop a few minutes longer than I usually would, I decided that I should be fine to do the full 100 mile course.  I ate well (peanut butter jelly sandwiches and cookies) in preparation.  The next stretch was along the mildly rolling ridge of Skyline Boulevard before turning the descend the steep Alpine Road.  The day was cool to begin with, but this stretch was quite cold.  Having ridden down this road countless times, I knew to expect that.  One stretch of the road near the bottom is one of the coldest places I experience on my rides.  The second rest stop was near the bottom.

8:50am, 36 miles, 3400 feet

The organizers obviously expected riders to be near frozen by this point so the refreshments included hot miso soup and coffee.  I needed a cup of decaf to warm my hands and stop my shivering.

The next part of the route was to go over the hill between us an the ocean.  Once down the other side, we headed for the coast and turned south.  There was another rest top here.  The road went mostly parallel to the coast before eventually joining it.  We then turned to head north on Highway 1, and we continued that way for a while.

9:55am, 48 miles, 4200 feet

Although this 50 mile per hour road carried a good amount of traffic, it also has wide shoulders that make it convenient for cycling.  There is enough of a distance between us and the motor vehicles that it is not uncomfortable.  The road mostly follows along the top of the cliffs on the coast, and goes up and down in many places.  It would be exceptionally scenic if fog was not a constant presence, but it is a beautiful ride regardless.  There were many cyclists also headed in the other direction who were participating in a different ride that day.

The route headed a short distance inland for the next rest stop.  This was the official lunch stop and I had a cheese sandwich along with chips and cookies.  We had covered quite a few hills by this point and I was feeling the effect.  I gave myself a few extra minutes to rest before leaving.

11:45am, 71 miles, 5500 feet

The next section contained a loop which I briefly considered skipping.  My legs were tired and I had used a lot of energy.  There was still a big hill to climb even without that loop.  However, that loop was the only part of the route that was new to me, so I just could not resist exploring the new roads.  The route headed back to the coast and followed Highway 1 to the city of Half Moon Bay, and another rest stop.

12:40pm, 80 miles, 5800 feet

Then the route headed into the hills.  The first climb (Higgins Canyon Road) was not too bad but I was definitely feeling tired.  Then there was a descent (Purisima Creek Road) followed by another climb (Lobitos Creek).  This one was hard.  Making up for the pain of the climb was the beautiful scenery.

Finally the climb leveled off and headed back down.  But it led to the final, long climb (Tunitas Creek Road) away from the ocean and to the valley.  My legs were pretty spent at this point, and I was crawling at a pretty slow speed.  I stopped to take off my arm warmers, then to have some of a snack bar, but both times were also and excuse to rest my legs a short while.  Eventually I made it to the top and the last rest stop.

3:15pm, 100 miles, 8900 feet

I did not really need to rest here since all the major climbing was done and there was a long descent coming up for rest.  But I was pretty tired and decided to indulge myself for a few minutes.  There was a relatively festive atmosphere at this rest stop as everyone was happy to be done with all the difficult parts of the ride, and although there was still 20 miles left, it was mostly downhill with no significant challenges.  I continued on to do the descent back into the valley.  From there it was a mostly direct route back to the finish at Foothill College.

4:45pm, 117 miles, 10000 feet

I parked and got some dinner.  It was an energy rich meal of eggplant parmesan, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, and grilled vegetables.  I ate and rested for a bit.  This is a big ride with over 800 people registered, and quite a few were at the finish.

I headed for home, and I guess I technically was not done with the route until I reached the point where I started it in the morning.  From there I rode the easy 4 miles home. 

5:45pm, 120 miles, 10000 feet

I ended up being sore for a few days afterward, a sign of a great training workout.

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