My last report ended as I left the lunch stop, one of my quickest stops on the route. It's easy to lose a lot of time at lunch, although skipping it means you need to be especially careful to stay on top of calories and hydration while on the bike, especially if (like me) you haven't been doing the big-mile rides you would have preferred to have done before this event.
I passed a sign which said Camp Gualala was in 25 miles, Stewarts Point in 35. I remembered Gualala marked the beginning of the steepest climb on the Terrible Two, the Rancheria climb. But I forgot what came in those 25 miles to Gualala.
Of course I could have checked my route sheet. But it was jammed in a pocket of my vest, which was jammed in a pocket of my jersey. And what was the point? Whatever was there, I would ride.
And what was there was tough. First, the nine miles to the first water stop after lunch was an 1800 foot climb in two segments. The road was good and the temperature moderate. I'd finally pushed back my arm warmers, keeping them over the portion of my forearms burned at Diablo last weekend. Perfect riding weather.
At the water stop, I was almost empty, so refilled with water and Sustained Energy and popped two more Endurolytes. Next stop was in two more miles, with more climbing after the initial descent, I was told.
And what a descent! Excellent pavement, nice corners, virtually no car traffic. Perfect.
Then the climb: 1200 feet, again in two segments. But I was feeling surprisingly good. I reached the second water stop at Los Lomas quickly. More water, plus some "Anti-Fatigue caps". After taking a few of these, I was told they were designed to scavenge ammonia. I muttered something about not being ketonic, but maybe it was a good idea anyway. How far to the next stop? 17 miles..... the obvious conclusion was there was a lot of descending ahead.
And there was: this one more of the previous descent, just longer. I fell in with two other riders until an alarming screeching from my front tire had me contemplating various catastrophic ends. I tentatively braked again, and the horrific sound once again emitted from the front brake. I told the riders behind I was stopping, and rear-braked to a fault.
I checked if the pads were rubbing the tire. No. Was the front brake loose? No. Was there something on my rim? No. Everything seemed good enough....
The sound occurred a few more times but then was gone for good. Another unsolved mystery added to my life's collection.
With the brief delay, however, I'd lost the other two riders, and was caught by 3 more, including long-time endurance rider and Bikeaholic Craig Robertson. He seemed to be very fit today. Craig's done 11 Terrible Twos, which is hard to understand. On the ride I met another guy who's ridden 14, equal to his count for Devil Mountain Double, which may be even harder.
We weren't working so well, as I'd gap these other guys on the short climbs, but then we'd raggedly regroup on the short descents. This went on until we reached Gualala, former sight of a rest stop. This year the rest stop was moved to the top of the following climb, and what a climb!
It's by far the shortest of the three major climbs on Skagg's Springs Road: only 800 feet. But every one of those feet is steep: very steep. My 34/26 was enough but only enough. In 1999 I'd walked a stretch on this climb in my 39/28. There was no way I was going to allow myself to walk this time.
I made it to the top without fading, ready for the brief run to the coast and the tailwind relief I expected there. So another quick stop: water, Sustained Energy, and a Hammer Nutrition bar (which are really good, BTW: basically just fruit, oats, and nuts) for my pocket.
Before I left, I was warned someone had crashed on the cattle guard on the descent not far from the summit. The ambulence parked in the corner, with an emergency worked waving a warning, was a strong hint I'd reached the corner in question. Sure enough, 3/4 of the way through the corner and hidden from initial sight, was a cattle guard. I was surprised there was no paint on the road, but it's hard to cover every detail in a 200 mile course. I had no issues because I knew it was there, but easy to see how a hard banked turn could end in tears here.
No surprises the rest of the descent, although I was surprised at the climb which followed. I'd hoped for an effortless descent to the coast, only 5 miles from the summit. But Skaggs wasn't done with me yet: around 250 feet of steep climbing.
I cleared this without issue, then enjoyed the remaining few miles. It's funny how as you approach the coast the hints appear. The sounds, the light. Then there it was: fully revealed in spectacular beauty. The ragged Pacific coastline. Highway 1, an old friend.
A good thing I checked for traffic because a minivan would have ended my ride there had I not come to a complete stop. But I did, then checked for more traffic, and began the 16 miles to Fort Ross. My computer read 150 miles: my longest ride by a nice chunk since Climb to Kaiser two years ago.
The forecast from the day before had been for 14 mile per hour winds out of the northwest: convenient since Highway one we were here going directly southeast. It was great: I was around 120 watts going 30 miles per hour. Later Webcor's Brian Buck told me he held 35 mph here.
Once, going into a tight corner reminiscent of Highway 1 south of Panoramic, three consecutive cars in the oncoming lane, the tail-to-cross wind caused me to drift outward. I braked to control the drift, perhaps not so skillfully, and avoided a head-on collision. This caused me to become a bit more careful on subsequent sharp corners.
But the rest of the ride was great. The miles passed quickly with minimal effort.
Along the way I passed another rider who appeared to drift into the dirt off the side of the road. That worried me a bit. But I passed him and was on my own again.
Fort Ross Road
Fort Ross Road intersects Highway 1, and here is where the penultimate rest stop of the Terrible Two is located. Fort Ross Road is called by John Summerson the most difficult climb from the coastal highway in the state, winning on quality over quantity with its 1500 vertical feet. I only remembered a single corner, a corner in which I'd walked 11 years ago. "Death before Dismount" was my mantra this time. No walking allowed.
So I made a quick stop at the rest stop: three fig bars in addition to my usual hydration + Enduralyte fix. Let the climb begin!
I was joined by two other racer-types. They started the climb hard: I let them have their gap, but it didn't last, and I passed one and caught the second. I chatted with him a bit, but he didn't want to chat, only wishing me a good climb. So I rode my own pace, dropping him.
And I did clean that corner, finally putting behind me another one of those little failures we accumulate over time. It felt good. But the rest of the considerable climb didn't feel quite so good. I was getting tired again.
It was funny: I'd gotten tired at mile 85, then here I was near mile 170 tired again. I'd recovered the first time, but this time? Hmm.... I wasn't confident.
I finally reached the top after a few false alarms. A guy in his parked truck at the side of the road confirmed that yes, this was in fact the summit. That left only a few climbs, neither challenging, in the 30 remaining miles. Yet 30 miles was seeming like a long, long way.
A short descent, then a 300 vertical foot climb, then the main descent of Fort Ross.
While the Fort Ross climb didn't beat me, the descent certainly did. Rough asphalt was pounding me, my back was aching, and my right foot hurt. I was feeling fuzzy-headed, unconfident I'd be able to react on the descent, so I was extra careful on the corners.
I heard a sound from behind.... first one then the other of the racer boyz passed, banking hard into a corner. A car appeared, so they modified their lines and went by it. I knew I was in no shape to ride like that, and my mood darkened.
Fort Ross Road went on and on and on. I was becoming increasingly paranoid of missing a turn. I finally retrieved my route sheet and checked the mileage points of the turns. My offset from the route numbers had apparently increased to 4 miles from the previous 3, so when the turn from Fort Ross Road to Austin Creek Road, I was becoming increasing confident I'd missed it.
More of the same. I soon passed a SAG truck which was offering water. I was fine on the water but wanted to know the distance to the next turn. What he told me was inconsistent with the route sheet, so I became worried again. Yet I continued on.
A rider from the side of the road offered words of encouragement. I didn't understand, so shouted "What?" in a voice tainted with desperation. This annoyed him, and he responded with a terse "I said `Way to go!'". I felt bad about this, and thanked him as I continued along.
I seemed to be able to sustain only 15 miles per hour at this point. I decided to put aside any time goals, and take as much time as it took to recover at the next and final rest stop. Honestly, I thought about dropping out instead. But such thoughts always leach into my brain on rides like this. I knew if I took some time off the bike, I'd feel good enough to get over the final, easy Occidental climb and from there to the finish.
I was quite relieved when the rest stop finally appeared. A volunteer took my bike and I laid down in the grass. Another volunteer took my water bottles and filled them. I looked over and there was an open cooler. Then I saw it. It was calling to me....
A can of Coke. I asked if they had a cup, and one was fetched for me. The volunteers on the Terrible Two are fantastic. My stomach was becoming knotted, but Coke, as much as I hate the stuff normally, goes down smooth. And there's no denying the caffeine + sugar jolt it provides. I drank about a third of the can, and felt ready again for the road. A quick porta-stop, and I was on my way.
To the Finish
Initially I was moving at my previous 15 mph pace. A rider, his white jersey and black shorts torn by a previous crash, blew by. His jersey was soaked in red, which I later found out was due to a crushed V8 (gotta remember that trick: it looked epic).
Sigh: I wish I could feel that good. Then another: the guy I'd dropped on Highway 1 going to Fort Ross. Initially I resigned myself to this as well, but then I kicked myself out of my lethargy. "Hey! You're a racer. Racers get on wheels. Suck it up now and get on that wheel!"
So I did, to my amazement. We were zipping along at over 20 mph, and I was feeling a lot better than I expected. Sure, there was no way I was going to hold this pace.
Yet on we went, and I wasn't getting dropped. Eventually he pulled over and I took a pull. Wow..... the Coke was working.
We hit the climb and I didn't hear anything behind. I glanced back: he was gone. I set my sights to V8 guy up the road and focused on closing that gap.
And slowly the gap came down. But not fast enough -- this was a relatively short, gradual climb, only 500 vertical feet. I was pleased with the numbers I was getting from my Powertap: up close to threshold here, well over 190 miles in.
Into Occidental, a left, a bit more climbing, and we were at the summit. the gap started to open out on the descent. I lost sight of him at one point but after making a right turn for which I'd managed to pick up the road markings I saw him again. I wanted to keep him in sight as long as I could.
But it wasn't working: he simply went downhill faster. At the bottom of the descent, some rollers: good for me. But he was still out of sight as we approached Sebastapol. I'd started my usual trick of calculating the kilometers from the miles remaining, and I was down to 6.
And there he was: parked at a stop light. I remembered that light: very frustrating so close to the finish. There were no cars, and the light was holding read.
I pulled up and stopped, apologizing for catching him in this way, and promised to let him finish ahead of me if we finished together. I then noticed he, and also I, were outside the detector loop. Whoops. A car pulled up, though, solving that problem. It's about the only time I like seeing cars on the road.
The light eventually changed and we traded hard pulls to the finish. I was riding at around 90% of threshold here, feeling good if very tired, and we pulled in together. As I'd promised, I let him cross the line first.
13:05. Not bad at all.
Some very tasty polenta with tomato sauce, some fruit cup with guacamole (my personal combination), and a shower in the school gym, and the satisfaction of having met my goals. I chatted with the Webcor guys: Bo H had won, and Brian Buck had finished second. Bo is such a strong rider: made for this sort of thing. He rides too hard in road races, but in something like this, you can hammer the competition into the ground. He'd finished a half-hour up on second place.
Eventually Cara arrived, having finished a 16 mile ride along the Rails to Trails route to Forestville. She's only in the past month started riding outdoors again after her April 2009 mountain bike crash and October keee arthroscopy, so I was happy to see she got a good ride in.