Sunday, May 25, 2008

Heartbreak 08 Ride Report

More often than not I'm a creature of comfort. I find myself getting into a good groove and I stick to it. Case in point: Training for The Mulholland Challenge. Instead of finding varying rides with the elevation I needed I simply did laps of a very familiar ride that's close to my home that I ride all the time. Every once and a while though I break out and try something new. Case in point: the first time I tried Mole, at a restaurant where I had to pay. Normally, if I have to pay I buy something I know I'm going to like, like a cheeseburger, or enchiladas. There was this one time though that I got all crazy and ordered a plate of Mole...

Anyway, my point is that usually I do rides in areas that I'm pretty familiar with. for the most part if you look at the list of rides that I have for 15 rides you'll see many that I've done before; Tour de Palm Springs, Solvang, Conejo, Coolbreeze. However, this year I branched out and did a few that I've never done before, and for that I'm kind of proud.

The Heartbreak Hundred ride was one of those that I've never done before, and I did an unusually light amount of research on the ride. It wasn't until a few days before that I realized the ride starts at 3500 ft. above sea level and rises to about 6100 ft. This plus the steadily declining weather would end up playing significant factors in my performance.

For those who aren't familiar with the Heartbreak Hundred, it's the final century of Planet Ultras' King of the Mountains Challenge. It takes place in Frazier Park and the surrounding areas and takes you up to 6100 ft. above sea level, then down to 2500 ft. then back up to around 5500 ft. then back down the the starting elevation of 3500 ft. My Garmin counted 8844 total ft. Heartbreak starts right off with climbing, there's no warming up on the flats, no coasting to the first climb, nothing. Straight out of the parking lot you're going up. You climb through Frazier Park, through Pine Mtn. Club and through Ft. Tejon State Historical Park, which I have to say is incredibly beautiful. Then you descend for a while before steadily inching your way up to the final climb which leads to rollers and then a final descent. This is what I knew of the ride going into it.

The first section of climbing is nearly 30 miles. Through this there were some quick, steep descents marked by the emblematic yellow "Trucks use Low Gears" signs. These signs were a welcome warning as they meant a quick reprise from the unusually grueling 6% grade that, combined with the wind and the altitude was taking it's toll on my legs. There were points where the road pitched up to as much as 15% but for the most part the climb was steady. The summit of Mill Potrero was marked by a State Parks Fire Station and a State Parks sign that I didn't bother reading as a wicked descent was about to follow. This descent wasn't too steep, but carried on for a while, leading to a sections larger than normal rollers that took us through a windswept section that must have been a prominent ridge line. This area was absolutely beautiful as it gave way to incredible views. The terrain was incredible as well. There were wildflowers blooming everywhere and those combined with the windswept pines created a beautiful, surreal experience. After the rollers there was a long, long, long descent through rolling fields and farmland. There were moments the road pitched up, but these were few and far between. Most of the road through here pointed downward, and I was able to get some food down before we got to highway 166, which led to highway 33, which was torture.

Highway 33 was a climbers nightmare; long stretches of false flats with a blistering headwind. by this time we had picked up two extra riders and were setting an asphalt crushing pace of 14 mph through the farmlands. It SUCKED!!! It was fortunate that we were able to stick together through this section, going it alone would have been terrible. We lost those two new riders at the Aid Station and it was back to Mark, Alfred and I. We were passed by a pretty sizable group a few miles past the Aid Station and Mark Jumped in with that group. I didn't feel like hanging on and neither did Alfred so we let them go. Later on we came across one of those guys, (I think his name was Chris) who was waiting for his friend (Scott? or maybe I think it's Scott because he was riding a Scott). We teamed up with them until a few miles onto Lockwood Valley Rd, executing a nearly perfect double paceline. The four of us had caught a group of guys that Chris and Scott started with. We stuck with them for maybe a mile or two but they went ahead as Alfred and I suffered through the false flats leading up to the days final challenge. We did catch them as the road started to pitch up, but then let them go again as both of us were pretty beat.

The final real climb of the day was Heartbreak Hill, and it was something else. The wind had managed to switch directions each time we turned and every time we thought we'd have
a tail wind it turned into a head wind. Heading up Heartbreak Hill was no different. I crawled up the climb, Alfred came up just a few seconds after me. There was a short, beautiful descent which lead to about 10 miles of rollers and false flats and then it was back to descending. We had caught another rider in the rollers and the three of us were working together on the descent as we caught another rider, who was a giant. This guy must have been 8 ft. tall. I didn't catch his name, but he rode a "2danger" bike or something. The last 4 miles was a sweet, fast, lightless descent that saw speeds of 30-35 miles an hour despite a wild, crossing headwind. We were being blown all over the place.

We managed to make it to the finish without incident and I checked in at 6 hours 48 minutes. I was shocked when I heard my time as I had miscalculated and thought I was close
r to 8 hours. Actually looking back at the ride I realize that most of the names and other specifics that I learned in the last 40 miles might not be accurate as my mind was pretty clouded by the suffering that was The Heartbreak Hundred. Despite that suffering, it was an awesome ride, one that I would totally do again. The BBQ afterwards was a welcome relief.


Anonymous said...

So proud of you! Keep it up. I just know you will achieve your goal this year.


Bill Meadows said...

good on ya dude! i was gonna be out there but the threat of work kept me away....congrats on knocking it off!

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