Sunday, June 3, 2012

Soviet Sequoia Double Metric Century (2012)

(June 3, 2012)   Century #1Soviet Sequoia Double Metric Century, w/ Ward and Christine and some sections with Jack,  118 1/2 miles, 10,360' climbing, 0 bananas.
Ward's Strava Point was changing Todd's flat at lower Siberia==he's #1 for tire changing time at that spot

Back in 2004 I had just finished the Sierra Double Metric, and I thought it would be the hardest ride I'd ever do.  Jack announces he is doing the Sequoia Century the next day, which has just as much climbing--when I see him next he announces it is harder than the Sierra Century.  Since then I wanted to see for myself, but Doubles, injury, and rain got in the way. 

Last year had a big group signed up for this ride and a half dozen folks told me I'd love this ride with the steep climbs--then morning of the Century it was raining hard where I live (45 miles away.)  Turned out only drizzling briefly in Southern San Mateo and the few people from our club who went out for the ride did a truncated version of the Century route.   Wondered what I missed and now SO HAPPY I didn't go--going down steep, twisty, fair at best paved roads that are rain slick would have been too much fun.

In short, finally did this ride and may be the biggest disappointing organized ride ever.  It will be remembered for food shortages and long rest stop lines.

Short version of ride report:
Good points
-Lots and lots of sag support
-Very unique food at some of the rest stops
     -At Old La Honda lunch stop fresh strawberry shakes
     -At Pescadero rest stop fresh artichoke bread samples and goat cheese
-Nice rustic climbs
      -China Grade climb, 3.4 miles, 970', with most of the climbing in the last mile (9.7%)
      -Tunitas Creek climb, 9.5 miles, 1780', with most of the climbing between miles 5-8

Crappy points
-Long bathroom lines at first rest stop
-Long food lines at most rest stops
-Long drink lines at a few rest stops
-After waiting on long food lines no food (albeit leftover Halloween candy and animal crackers)
       -NO BANANAS anywhere
       -Lots of hot plates with tostada filling at lunch--unfortunately all the hot plates empty
       -Freshly made deli sandwiches post ride--only problem NO deli meat
-Traffic on the road--heavy or speeding motorcycles going for their Strava time
-Long stop light after long stop light at the beginning of the ride
-Long, steep, twisty descents on narrow, mediocre surfaced roads
        -Highway 9/ Big Basin, 10.6 miles
        -Alpine Road 7.3 miles
        -King Mountain Road 5 miles


Newsreel of the  Long Lines & Food Shortage of the Soviet Sequoia Century

We came across some people we know who were trying to change a flat tire--bike upside down--wheel out of bike--skewer out of wheel--spring out of skewer-co2 cartridge out of air- spare tube not holding any air.  They'd already been there 15+ minutes.  Ward stopped to save the day, change the tire/ clean up the mess.  His reward--a long long food, water, bathroom line at the rest stop just 1 mile away.

Ward, Christine and I carpooled down to the ride.  Day started out ominously as when I got to Ward Industries Worldwide Headquarters at some ungodly hour in the morning and I forgot I had the bike on the roof rack.   Almost pulled into one of the employee parking structures.   Parking problems continued when the Ward Shuttle Express arrived at the Palo Alto VA Center and ride/ parking attendants were waiving us in all different directions, through departing cyclists and we wound up parking far away from the start.  In the East Bay it had been a very pleasant 65 degrees but on the Peninsula, much closer to the ocean, it was at least 10 degrees less with a thin bank of fog.  The temperature drop and damp air made it much cooler.  Around 6:55 we found Jack who had been waiting for us, then upon leaving Jack had a minor mechanical so it was an immediate 5 minute break for us to get real cold.

Segment 1-(0-28 miles) to Boulder Creek-Long Lines, Little Food Rest Stop
Ride started slightly uphill, which would have been a great way to get and stay warm--but every block there was a major intersection where we caught a long red light.   Christine warned me of an upcoming steep climb--REDWOOD GULCH ROAD--and it appeared at mile 13 and it was great--for the next 4-5 miles easy to stay warm.    Ward and Jack started talking about old TV shows--Bozo in particular.  As in guy who suddenly veered left and came within 1" of Jack's front wheel--Bozo.  As in guy who we slowly passed and then tried to cut into our paceline--or actually cycle through Ward--saying "I was here."  Bozo.  This caused Ward to put in a dig and our paceline fell apart with Christine, Ward and I quickly up the road.     Funniest Bozo l,ine--guy in SF Randonneurs jersey who was weaving all over on the climb and when Ward said "on your left" he didn't move and kept weaving.  To be fair Ward didn't say "on your left" loud enough as guy had ear buds on (lots of people on this ride wearing earbuds.)--which caused Ward to quip "I didn't know SF Randonneurs now allow this."

(1p) We found the Magic Bus buried on the side of a climb, I thought it was Ken Kesey's, but Ward (3w) said he had seen this on the cover of a Who LP.  (2w) Ward, Christine and Jack on the Boulder Creek Climb. p=pumpkincycle photo, w=ward industries photo
I got nice and warm and pulled off the vest and bemoaned that I had started with knee warmers when we suddenly dropped-dropped-dropped on Hwy 9--a fast twisty descent through a densely tree shaded road.  Paved well but a fair amount of passing traffic including speeding motorcycles who were leaning close to us on the turns.    As we were getting close to the rest stop Ward yelled "stop"--Super Johnna was with her tri group and another Club member, Todd, who had a flat and basically had his wheel disassembled.   While we froze Ward saved the day. 

(1p & 2w)  How not to change a flat tire.  Frozen DMC Girls had supervised Todd changing tire for 15+ minutes by the time we arrived and Ward saved the day.
For Ward's good deed when we got to the rest stop there were long lines for drink, long lines for food and long lines for the 3 outhouses.    Rest stop had plenty of bread, boiling water (oatmeal or soup?), animal crackers and candy.  Bananas---NO.   Breakfast bars or power bars----NO.    Luckily I had two packs of Chomps and a Z-Bar with me, and a weak Perpetuem mix.  Weak as this was an organized Century we paid $$$ for--and glad we wouldn't have to take all the crap we do on a self supported ride.   Ha--we eat better on our self supported century rides.  At least it was sunny-including the weed infested field in the back of the school a line of guys were pissed in instead of killing time on the porta potty line.

(1p & 3w) Long long line at the 1st rest stop outhouses.  Also long lines for food and drink.  (2p) Jack telling Ward that support much much better in years past--Ward wondering what the F happened.
All this had me bugging Christine to sign up for the WORLD'S GREATEST SIERRA CENTURY--which is coming up soon.

Segment 2-(28-51 miles) to Saratoga Gap--Where More Animal Crackers and No Bananas Await Us
We continued downhill a little and then hit one of the two best climbs of the day--China Grade.  Its a backroad through Big Basin Redwood Forest.  Half is a shallow grade, and the second half is 1 1/2 miles close to 10%.

On the shallow portion I pulled our paceline along.  We dodged around two guys riding all over the road--and unbeknown  to me they hooked onto the back of our line, which was OK if they just stayed there.   When we hit the start of the steep part they jumped off our line and put in a dig to get well in front of us.  These freeloaders brought forth Ward's ire, already irked about their earlier weaving.   I don't need much encouragement to get my dander up so I took off after these guys--catching one immediately.  The other guy was about 200-300' ahead and kept looking back--I wasn't making rapid progress closing the gap but was making steady progress.   I liked the climb, calling out to any rider I was passing and offering encouragement to anyone who looked like they were stalling (few riders walking up this.)  Finally got close to my target with about 1/2 mile to go and he was breathing heavily so when I pulled alongside I bs'd a little and then took off.  All this concentration on the freeloader ahead made me ignore how steep the climb was.

When Christine arrived near the top she was riding pace with a guy who had a ponytail almost as nice as Christine's--so I yelled for her to sprint which she did while guy chuckled.  Man of the match was a recumbent rider on China Grade.

(1p) Recumbent enjoying the recumbent friendly course--Dr Dave, the recumbent climbing maestro, would have loved this course (2p) Ward arrives at the top of China Grade (3p) Christine takes out the "Roman Vansteins Memorial" sprint finish  (4w) Christine from another angle taking out the sprint (5w) I enjoyed this part of the ride
I got my comeuppance as we were now back climbing Hwy 236 for a few miles.  Much shallower than China Grade.  Not a climb you muscle over but one that involves spinning and aerobic fitness, both which I lack.  Two guys passed our group right away so I stayed with them as they passed a long line of people--but suddenly a guy and woman dressed in black kits came alongside--guy was spinning like crazy up the climb and woman jumped out of the saddle more than I do.    Two guys I started with soon dropped out--I tried to hang with the couple in black but I also had to drop out 3/4's of the way up.

Our trio regrouped at the top and a mile of rollers on Skyline to the Fire Station Rest Stop.  Crap food again.  One guy was yelling "there goes that orange Litespeed"--unlike DMD when I was so focused I had no idea who he was, this time realized it was Mick who I finished the Terrible Two with a few years back.  He was wearing his resplendent Alta Alpina 8 jersey, the ride I crapped out on last year and will try again in a few weeks.   For the rest of the day when I saw him I'd yell "I want that jersey."

(1-Unknown Raider fan) We all stop for a Kodak moment (2p) Ward & Johnna at the Saratoga Gap rest stop
 Segment 3-(mile 51-66) to La Honda.    Shitty Alpine Road downhill to lunch stop with NO food.
Our Club does a great self supported century where we go up narrow, rough, twisty Alpine Road.   Even Jack couldn't believe they would be taking us down Alpine Road.  And take us down they did. 

Ward likes to quip that climbing rides are easy as 1/2 the mileage is downhill--of course this purposely overlooks that it takes 3-5x to go the same distance uphill than downhill.  Well, on this ride it seemed like it took me 3-5x longer to go down Alpine Road than UP any of the steep climbs.  Not much traffic, but around a hairpin a car would suddenly appear in the middle of the road--usually on a segment so narrow that the center line had disappeared.   The Western Wheelmen should give out complementary brake pads.

Later I found out that one rider went off the side of Alpine Road and broke his collarbone (Heard of three accidents on this ride.)

(1p) I want Mick's Alta Alpina 8 jersey (2p & 3w) Long line for the great food (4w) Doesn't the food in those trays look yummy
At least bonus was that we were getting to lunch.  Surly they'd have real food.  After standing on another long line we came to the three hot food trays--EMPTY, and worker had no clue when more food was coming.   Bananas--ha ha ha.   They had more animal crackers.  At least the strawberry smoothie was good and they had mini-muffins next to the ubiquitous bowl of candy.  Nice park in the back with secret outhouses in the shade--would have been great to eat actual food in the park.  Johnna pulled in and is skipping the Death Ride this year--focusing on marathons and tri events.  Shockingly she no longer rides a 11x23 on hilly rides as she used to do on the Death Ride.  I bugged her about the Cruella Century ride that ran out of food--the one her group put on--but the Cruella was only in it's second year, not a longstanding one like this event.

Segment 4-(mile 66-81)  Pescadero.  No bananas but best rest stop and riding of the day.
Now I was suddenly familiar with the course as this is part of the Tunitas Creek loop--but we were going to come into Pescadero backwards.    On this segment we'd lose the 100 milers as we'd be beginning the bonus 20 miles for teh double metric.  This stretch almost felt like a Double as we saw only a handful of other riders.

Fast run in on La Honda Road--again with a good amount of traffic and motorcycles trying to get their best Strava time.  Once we hit San Gregorio we went on the hilly Stage Road that is off the beaten path and paved decently--except for the drop in temperature (now 1/2 mile from the ocean)  this was wonderful.

(1w) Stage Road on bonus 20 mile loop--nicest part of the ride (2w, 3w) Christine and I Riding up Stage Road and then slacking off
The rest stop was in a park behind Arcangeli Grocery and Bakery--where our club always stops.   They had a sampling of bread from Arcangeli's--and I filled pocket with sample after we were told that the last water stop--24 hilly miles away--was already out of food.  I wasn't brave enough to try the local goat cheese with more climbing miles to go.  They even had bananas--NO, not the rest stop--but Arcangeli's Grocery.

(1p) Pescadero rest stop--speciality bread samples and local goat cheese. (2p) Ward wants a time trial wheel for the climbs
Segment 5-(mile 81-96)  Down the Coast to the foot of Tunitas Creek
Bonus mile segment continued to be the best section of the day.   Small climb out of Pescadero put up on Highway 1 overlooking the Pacific.  Pacific beautiful as usual--but much traffic passing us on the narrow shoulder.   Riding Highway 1 in Marin-Sonoma much better as much much less traffic--here we had a steady stream.  On the other side of the road was a steady stream of AID's riders--many neophytes not pacelining so struggling along with decorated helmets.   Kudos to them.   We saw them strung out for the 8 miles we were on Highway 1, with Ward, Christine and I taking turns at the front and blocking the cool breeze.  I'm happy to report I wasn't my usual cold wimp self and didn't put back on the vest or knee warmers.  But I thought about it.

(1p) Ward and Christine rolling down Highway 1 (2p)  Ward on a coastal roller.  Yes I know I said there was a steady stream of cars on Hwy 1--I took about 8 photos on Hwy 1 and these are the 2 that didn't have a bunch of vehicles nearby.
 After 8 miles we took a sudden turn inland to San Gregorio.  I think the group consensus was that we were happy to experience this section of Highway 1 we are not usually on, but even more happy to get off the busy roadway and didn't have to do it again soon.  San Gregorio has a General Store used in a few commercials and here lots of bike riders joined the motorcycle riders for an unscheduled eating stop--our group downed sodas getting liquored up for the Tunitas Creek Climb.

(1p) Christine in front of an Gregorio General Store--along with lots of cyclists looking for food other than animal crackers (2p) Ward telling another cyclist that the ride climbing is all over
We were now finished with the bonus miles and back on the 100 mile course.  Familiar short but mediocre steep climb out of San Gregorio that gets us back to Highway 1.   Ward noted that we'd get close to a rider and then he'd speed off.  This happened twice so I rode hard past him until close to the top where there was a big Asian bike club--where we exchanged pleasantries and started bs'ing--they filled me in about the Alpine Road accident. 

(1p, 2p) Ward and Christine climb out of San Gregorio back to Highway 1.
At the top waited for Christine/ Ward, and they had waited for me on all downhill sections.  This slowed us down all day as we were always waiting for the slower rider, but we had a fun group and best part of the ride was riding together.

After 2 more miles South on Highway 1 we turned East on Tunitas Creek.  Great great--with wind coming off the ocean we'd have a mini tailwind for awhile and it would finally warm up.  Small rest stop at base of Tunitas Creek Climb so refilled bottled and ate---no skipped the candy and taco chips and animal crackers;  luckily has some of the Arcangeli bread with me.

Segment 6 aka Tunitas Creek (mile 96-105)
Tunitas Creek is a great climb.  Initial miles are barely uphill.  But road slowly hikes up.   Mile 3-4 from the end has some serious hairpins.  The last two miles flatten out and are uphill fast.    The serious climbing portion is densely tree lined.  Sparse traffic.

Ward set the tempo and we rode with the better climbers of the Asian group I had talked to earlier.  Until about half way up.   I spotted a far away car's headlights coming down and yelled 'car up." car.  As soon as Ward asked if I was sure I had seen one we came around a turn and car was stopped--lying on the road was a cyclist knocked to the ground by a neighborhood dog.   Owner was now running to get their dog back in their tree lined cabin.  We stopped for awhile to make sure cyclist was OK.

(1j) Ward arrives at the top of Tunitas Creek
 Tunitas flattens out at about mile 103 of the ride--and I wanted to test myself for Alta Alpina and I sprinted off and was pleased how I rode the last 2 miles.  Water stop at top had the ubiquitous animal crackers-and were even out of the other staple of the ride.  Only crumbs of taco chips were left in the industrial taco chip bag.

Segment 7-(mile 105-119)  King Mountain Plunge Back to Finish on Traffic Light Blvd for no deli Deli Sandwiches.

We hadn't gone down a twisty descent in awhile so our last shot was King Mountain Road--wider than Alpine Road and surfaced better but with much more traffic.  I suggested to Christine that I start down early so she/ Ward wouldn't have to wait for me but she liked the idea of our starting out of rest stops together even though I knew I'd lose the group in 25'.

On King Mountain I got behind a group of mediocre descenders--mediocre as we did pass a few slower riders and many other riders rocketed past us.  Christine and Ward probably finished the NY Times by the time I arrived, but with all the accident stories heard today I wasn't taking any chances.

After our regroup still 9 miles to the finish and an energetic group came along including a guy with a full fairing wheel we saw in Pescadero so we kept alternatively attacking off the front--this fun came to an end when we hit the first in a series of red lights.

Unlike most events where we change and then go and eat--we were parked so far away we went to eat in our bike clothes.  As Ward would say--the rest stop worker slogan on this ride was "oh, we've run out of that."    They had a table with an assortment of sliced bread and a platter of cheese and peanut butter (and the nearby bowl of mini Almond Joy's--Cisco Dave would LOVE these rest stops.)  I asked if there was anything else--"oh, we had deli but we ran out of that."   Shit--it wasn't like we stumbled in 2 hours after the ride ended--the Courtyard was packed and, as at the barren rest stops, many more cyclists were arriving after us.  Jack said in past years the support/ rest stops were much better.

I heard the route is always tinkered with and I'm sure there were better roads to descend.  And as this ride has been put on for awhile, there is no excuse to keep running out of basic cycling food.   Breakfast bars and bananas.   Our Club's Tunitas Creek-Alpine Road Self Supported Century a much better option.  Now if I could think of a way to incorporate China Grade into our ride.

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