Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Coast Ride 2011: San Francisco-Santa Barbara

Sometimes there is just too much to write and you don't even know where to begin. The Coast Ride 2011 was one of those things that will be ingrained in my memory, but at the same time be a total blur. Even today, just after returning, the days are blending into each other. Luckily, the illegal percentage of lactic acid in my quads is also diminishing. So, I better get this down on paper before I forget how much that hurt.

The agenda for the ride was 3 days, 375 miles, and 19,000 feet of elevation gain "cruising" the California coastline from San Francisco to Santa Barbara.

On Wednesday, I decided I was going to go and bought a one way ticket to San Francsico. Nothing like a little super last-minute planes, trains, automobiles and bicycles to get the blood flowing! After work on Friday, I flew to San Francisco and got to share an awesome evening with my BFF Blythe in the city. Early Saturday morning, the plan was to meet Caroline and Katya and 40 of our new best friends at the Golden Gate Bridge. Caroline and I didn't get the memo of the exact start location and ended up waaaaaaaay down below the bridge.

Wait! We're supposed to be up There!

A short panic attack and several wasted watts later (carrying HUGE packs uphill=hard work), we arrived fashionably late. Our gracious hosts took our bags in the SAG wagon and we were off! The crew that organized the ride has been doing this for years and had all the logistics nailed down from wonderful SAG, to group hotel rates, to spot on route slips. It was AWESOME so big thank you to Scott and his crew.

DAY 1: San Francisco to Seaside- 125 miles
Ok, off through the city of San Francisco- destination Seaside, CA (just outside Monterey) to the tune of 130 miles (including our pre-start "excursion" to find the group). The pace started off fairly civil, but I was nervous on the winding steeps out of the city and hung on the group but near the back. As we climbed out towards Davenport, the group picked up the pace and to my surprise I was able to hang on. I realized quickly that this was NOT a cruisy recreational ride. Everyone was kitted out and there were several local San Francisco teams that were riding together. I realized that we were nearly the only triathletes on the ride, attempting to masquerade with some hard core cyclists. RUH ROH!

It's a good hurt, right? notice no one behind me but I swear the group is just ahead  :)
At some point (BLUR!) we hit a big climb and I was able to stick with the pack I was with. Unfortuantely the descent was a different story. OTB (off-the-back) I went, but I realized there were only a few miles until the lunch stop in Davenport, so I decided to enjoy my time alone. Soon enough, another group caught me and I decided to hang on (for dear life). For the rest of the day, I believe I somehow managed to stay with the group. I was huffing and puffing too much to take any pictures but I snagged some from Caroline, who I think got a few from someone else- so thanks to all for the photos of all the places I missed by staring at the wheel in front of me :)
Ocean, Rocks...this could be any one of a thousand places we passed

We wove our way through Santa Cruz and eventually onto a LONG bike path in towards Monterey. Lucky for me, these sections involved some turns, lights, roots, narrow passages and other things that slowed us down and I was really able to enjoy the ride and the company of new friends. When we rolled in to the hotel 130 miles later still averaging 18.5 mph even with all those slow sections, I knew I'd be in a spot of bother the next day.

Day 1 done!

Caroline compressing and elevating :)
I drank some Fluid chocolate recovery (yum!) hit the hot tub and then went to dinner with C and the boys from the Thirsty Bear/Iron Data team. Most of the other folks from the ride knew each other prior to the ride, but our crew and the Thirsty men were new additions. I probably owe those guys a few more beers, cookies and wine for pulling my butt around for 3 days and helping me bridge many-a-gap. We topped off the exciting evening with McDonald's vanilla cones at 8pm.
A perfect evening :)

Hanging at McDonald's...Stay Classy! 
DAY 2: Monterey to Morro Bay- 126 miles, 8800 feet up!

Foggy morning- I believe this is Steve's photo...
Day 2 involved the most climbing and was also the most beautiful. We began with neverending climbs and descents and rollers through Big Sur and then some flatter "cruising" into Morro Bay. 

I was quite please with myself for hanging in the group for the first hour of the ride and even stuck right in the middle on a screaming descent into Carmel. Suddenly, my bike wobbled to 45 degrees and THUMP THUMP THUMP. I have NO idea how I stayed upright OR how I did not take anyone out, but I am very lucky. I was SURE I had blown a sidewall or something and pulled over out of the group to deal with the damage. Such a bummer as we were only about 15 miles into the day and I had already lost the group. The great news was that it was actually my seat bag that had come un-velcroed and was thumping into my rear wheel. I replaced and tightened it and looked up to see Katya who had come back to get me. Now, on a normal day, this would be a kind thing to do, but no big deal. Today, this was huge. She had left the group that could get her to the destination FAST to come back and get me (and pull me around until lunch!) Now that's a friend. We climbed and descended through foggy big sur and it was truly amazing.
When riding alone- Self portrait in order! 

I have to admit though, that I was kind of scared as it was so foggy I thought maybe cars wouldn't see me.

 Anywho, we finally made it to lunch, regrouped, and I decided to hang on to the group as long as possible after that. WOW, big mistake. There seemed to be a good deal of (good natured) testosterone floating around and the group started pushing 28-30mph and did.....not......let.....up. I made it as long as I could (15 maybe 20 miles?) and then told Texas Randy, one of the Thirsty Bear boys that I was ready to relax and pop off. Lucky me, he offered to join and pull my arse all the way to Morro Bay! We actually had a very nice time and I was enjoying the ride at a civil pace with good company. We rode by Hearst Castle and eventually grouped up with 4 or 5 others who had also had enough of the Tour de France group riding for the day. 
My view- Randy's arse! 

Cruising towards Hearts Castle

When we made it to Morro Bay, I was, again, crushed, but revived a bit by the "ice" bath we took in the Ocean.

Another great dinner (maybe too much wine!) and of course dessert (the best part!), and I went to bed nervous for day 3 but excited to finish 'er off!

The Brave Ice Bath Crew

DAY 3: The finale! Morro Bay to Santa Barbara - 125 miles (I ended up riding 102....)
On the 3rd day, I woke up with a massive headache (not to mention sore body). I sought out a quadruple Americano to revive me but no such luck. Every surge those first 12 miles of the ride to Santa Barbara felt impossible. I kept trying to channel my inner Jens Voight and say, "shut up legs!" But the legs didn't want to listen. After a regroup in San Luis Obispo (more coffee!) we set out towards Lompoc. Again, the Tour de France Coast was on! Caroline and I encouraged eachother and pedaled our best. We had multiple pushes and helpful tactics from the Thirsty boys and hung on for quite a while. At one point I looked up and saw a WALL in front of us. The steepest climb I've seen in a while. I  had already burned my last match 20 miles ago, but I knew that I needed to stay in the group up the climb to make it. I started shaking my head, "no" and Caroline (who had been looking down at a wheel or something) tried to say, "Come on! You got this!" THEN, she looked up. Then she saw what I saw, and I think she dropped an f-bomb :) . Well, we made it up and over and on a few miles, but eventually we wanted off the party train and bowed out, happily pedaling on to the next rest stop.
Day 3 chilling behind Texas Randy and Caroline

 Later in the day, at lunch, I was toast. I knew that if I wanted to be with the group the last 50 miles, I had to make it up the biggest hill of the day, but more imporantly, down a loooooooong screaming descent. I knew that I simply could not stay with the group for that, and the lovely SAG folks offered to drop me on the other side of the! (Nice service, eh?) I didn't have to think twice. I would still ride more than 100 miles on the day and I didn't feel the need to be a hero. Some people may see this as a cop out, but I had already far exceeded my expectations and was happy to just make it through. 

When I was getting ready to pedal back into the group on the other side of the hill, I realized I couldn't shift my bike. CRAP! SAG pulled over again for me and Steve tried to fix it but we couldn't figure out what was wrong with the rear dearailleur. I was not too sad when I thought that was the end of my ride- after all, if my bike breaks, it's not my fault if I don't finish :). However, Steve is just too good and he fixed the whole thing just in the nick of time. I was able to rejoin the crew and pedaled on in to Santa Barbara.
3 days, 355 miles. whoa. I think I am still in shock!

Caroline and I showered, grabbed some food and waited for our train back to San Diego. I finally crawled into bed close to midnight- back to work bright and early the next morning! It is still definitely all a blur, but I am getting worried that I am already starting to only remember the fun, the beautiful weather, the epic scenery, the new friends, the bad jokes, the delirious chatter and all the other good things. Somehow the pain (and let me tell you, this is THE most painful thing I have ever done. I hurt during those 3 days more than I have ever hurt in Ironman or a marathon or any race. And I hurt for long long LONG periods of time.)

But, I also did a lot of things I didn't believe I could do.I pushed harder and held on longer and rode more aggressively that I EVER have. I found myself saying all the time, "Well, I'm just not a cyclist" but you know what? I am turning into one.


MissFancyPants said...

One word - Epic!

Jennifer Yake Neuschwander said...

Awesome! I love the story of Katya coming back for you. Truth in action. You need to do the ride again except with your Dad and James . Billy goat James can carry all the gear.

Stephanie said...

Stellar! Amazing! Inspirational!

Jennifer said...

Wow, I'm so happy you posted your adventure! I live in SF and know a couple people who did that ride (but I only found out about it by seeing them tagged in Facebook pics). Great to hear the scoop. Sounds exhausting but so exciting that you finished! Totally inspirational.

Kelly said...

awesome, what group did you go with? there's another one going right now. and i love the thirsty bear guys (or whatever they're called now)

jc said...

beth - great to meet you on the ride. congrats on the amazing effort. that was definitely the toughest group of coast riders i've ever seen so amazing that you were able to hang in for so much of it. i totally agree about not being a hero... you're training to run 26.2 miles off the bike, nor ride 100mi for 3 days straight and cover attacks! recover well!

jordan blanco

Jill Costantino said...

WOW - that is AMAZING! Congrats to you:))) James better watch out!

Christi said...

That sounds like a ride to remember!

Shan said...

Really great work, Beth! Those NorCal cyclists are NO joke (I spent a year trying to chase them around), and despite it being a "coast ride", I know how hilly it can be. So happy for you that you had the chance to do this ride, and it sounded like an amazing time, if not extremely challenging. That's how we grow as athletes!!

Ryan Denner said...

Fun post, effing epic weeekend!! I'm so jealous of you. I've done that drive 3 times, but never even thought of cycling it! Awesome stuff beth!

Beth said...

YIPES! That is just A LOT of fast, hard riding (understatement of the year). GREAT JOB! I would love to do something like that (only slower and with lots of food :)

RR said...

Very impressed with your tour! way to hang on with the crew.

idropboys said...

Reading is all....mostly I kept thinking- I wish I was there. I know pain and suffering, yeah, yeah....but really I wish I was there! So happy for you!

Ryan Weeger said...

impressive as hell, and im scared of you on the bike now beth. youre a roadie now, especially with all the talk "in a spot of bother" and "shutup legs".

Running Bums said...

Girl you crazy! Now I remember why I quit cycling! :)' Glad you're having fun!

Libby said...

wow!!! epic trip and you did SO awesome for riding with the caliber people you were riding with. holy crap girl. you ARE a cyclist :) I think that pic in the fog is one of my favorite pics! when I saw you post about this trip on fb I was thinking I definitely wanted to do that someday- until I read that it wasn't such a joy ride :) I'll take the less tdf tour of the coast :) HUGE accomplishment girl. dirk must be proud!

dave sinclair said...

beth I was out on the rode when your group came through. I jumped on the back from ragged point into cayucos. three days at that pace is amazing. good work. next time you want to ride hwy way 1 check out cayucos multisport there's also great runs! cheers

czechchick15 said...

Wow! This sounds like soooooooooooo much fun!!!!!! Great job! I have to say, I must be crazy, but I would LOVE to try that trip one of these days! Living on the East Coast I have been stuck on the trainer the last few months, so reading about your weekend is making me extremely jealous! :) Keep up that great work!

jmilliron said...

This sounds awesome. Who organized it? Is there a website?

Ryan said...

Great write up! I am getting ready to do this ride in less than two weeks over MLK weekend and cant wait.