Monday, October 27, 2008

Ride Report: SpookTacular Century

Man... It's been a while since I've written a post that starts with this picture ya? Amtrak Century was the last century I did, and that was back in the beginning of September, so it's been almost 2 months since I've done a century ride... and You know what? My legs, lungs, heart, arms, shoulders and brains could all tell. Spooktacular was a F&%$ing nightmare.

It probably didn't help that after Amtrak my training consisted of excessive beer drinking and shorter and shorter weekday rides that eventually disappeared all together. It also probably didn't help that the longest ride i'd done since Amtrak was the 70 miles just last weekend. The Spooktacular ride would prove to be deceptively difficult, and for starters I wasn't even properly prepared.

I awoke the morning of after having spent the night in my car at a small campsite exceptionally close to the start of the event. I drove over to the start so I wouldn't be charged for parking overnight. I checked in around 5:30, got ready, ate some leftover pasta for breakfast and then sat around and waited for the sun to start coming up. Once I felt it was sufficiently light enough I rolled out. The ride started easy enough with rolling hills through the western outskirts of Bakersfield CA. The ride then took a left hand turn onto the 178, which was to be the road most heavily traveled for this event. The 178 is a road well summed up in this picture here:

It's a poorly maintained road that winds it's way through cattle grazed hills of farmland. There's no yellow line, and just enough room for two cars coming at each other to pass if one pulls slightly off the road, which in many sections would cause the car to fall down the hillside. I was on this first section of Breckenridge road early in the morning, and the sun was just rising as I crested one of the many hills, and honestly it was quite breathtaking.

The road did exit this sparse landscape and entered one that was lightly scattered with trees of different types. The first sag stop followed not long afterwards, and the riding partner who I had teamed up with at this point and I decided to get a quick fill on water. Brock also informed me that the road was about to get incredibly difficult, but that it wouldn't be too bad, whatever that meant. He was not lying. About 5 miles after the sag stop the road pitched up, in a mean, vindictive and evil way. There was not gradual work up, there was no slight descent and then up, no. The road went from it's slow and grinding 5% and pitched skyward to a dastardly 12% which it maintained for what must have been a mile. It refrained for a bit, down to about 9%, then shot back up to 12 and 15% for a couple of sections, then leveled off for a while only to return to some high grade rollers later on. But the real test would come when we passed the weird little hunter. "only 40 miles to go" he shouted as we passed. 40 miles to what?

It turned out that he wasn't talking about anything that pertained to us, but what did lay ahead was a 14% section of road that lasted for about 3/4 of a mile. It was followed by a beautiful but chilly descent, and some other short climbs, which all eventually came to an end at the second rest stop at mile 33. It was at this point that I checked my Garmin to see how much climbing we'd done so far...6400 ft. 6400 ft. in 33 miles.

Not all of Breckenridge Highway was through hilly cow fields. Much was 13% gradient through wooded forest area" yipee!

The descent had to be guarded and slow, as much of the road was scattered with sand and debris, however it gave me a chance to check out the view concentrate carefully on the road. Fortunately I took this picture before the descent started, what a view!

That descent was fortunately followed up by some more climbing, because you know, descending sucks. Thankfully that climbing was between 5-11% but was cut tragically short by a sweeping descent that saw speeds upwards of 50 mph. I'm being sarcastic of course, at this point I'd have been happy to have not seen another positively vertical mile all day. But whoa is me, there was more, much more.

The breaking point for me came at mile 59, after the third sag stop that was at a graveyard, but still in the unfortunately hot sun. Yes, at mile 59 I'd had enough, after a grinding uphill section that was only about 5% most of the way I was ready to call it quits. But thankfully only a quarter of a mile up the road the climbing ended and it was downhill to the Twin Oaks General store. We stopped there and collected our wits, then continued the -1% descent into a blasting headwind at about 25 mph. The descent was on a road that followed a trickling river that brought us to a steep canyon. We caught another rider in the canyon and kept the paceline going. It was a much needed break for me, as I was able to take pulls and then rest for substantial periods of time. We rolled up nice and easy to the last rest stop of the day, 25 miles from the task completed. It was there that I took my most substantial break. Brock, who had family waiting went on without me, and I jumped in with a large group of older guys from the area who seemed cool at first.

However after proving my mettle with a long pull at 23 mph into a head wind on a false flat the group saw it fit to not soft pedal at the top of the following climb and leave me to suffer in the wind by myself. If any of you guys are reading this I have this to say gentleman's sport douchebags don't ever ask me to pull again. Whatever though, there was only 12 miles to go at this point so I just rubbed some vagisil on it, put my head down and hammered it out. I tempo'd the rest of the way home, got in my car and boned out. I didn't want to have anything more to do with the Spooktacular Century. Despite all the suffering, when asked a day later if I'd do it again, my answer was "Sure, why not?"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This makes me wonder why the hell I was riding up Angeles Crest at 3 pm on Saturday in a blanket of pea-soup colored haze that I could taste just to hunt for a measly 3 k of vert.

Next century, I'm in.