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Monday, August 25, 2008

My Epic Adventure on Saturday

On Saturday I had no idea where I was going and no motivation to go anywhere. But I knew I needed to ride and it had to be at least a century. After the 45,000 ft climbing camp last weekend I wanted to keep building on my fitness for Everest Challenge and Furnace Creek 508. I had breakfast and two cups of coffee (stalling) and finally got on the road. It was almost 9am. A very late start for me. I like to roll at daybreak on century days.

Three miles into my ride I was passed by a paceline of three riders. I decided to hook up with them to get warmed up. At the very next light (I've been on their wheel less than 2 minutes) they slam on their brakes for a yellow light and I locked up my brakes to avoid hitting the rider in front of me and swerve left. I went down in spectacular fashion-- bike here, body there, bottles everywhere. I was furious as I was wearing my Assos S2 bibs ($280) but more importantly my Furnace Creek 508 Race Veteran jersey which was made in limited quantities and they were not doing a reissue. But you know what made it even worse? The riders looked back saw I had crashed and didn't say "boo". They were off as soon as the light turned green.

I collected my things and got up on the sidewalk to inspect the bike. Both shifter/levers are turned in but the frame and fork were fine. I was riding Sasha my Cervelo Soloist Super Light (SLC-SL). While I'm composing myself I see a rider with a California Triple Crown Jersey come up the light and I'm thinking "good a fellow Ultra Cyclist he'll stop for sure." It was Dave Evans out on 150 miler. He then says "I saw a rider down and then I saw the 508 jersey so I knew it was an experienced rider". He was shocked when I told him the other riders never rendered assistance. We rolled together until the next light when I realized I couldn't get my big ring, Dave astutely noticed the front derailuer was out of alignment and I was back on the road.
Turns out Dave had gone down earlier in the day catching the lip from the concrete gutter to the blacktop in a construction zone in the predawn hours. I wish him a speedy recovery. We soon parted ways.

My wounds- I had a skinned left knee, skinned left elbow, bruised hip which I could feel I had broken the skin on. Miraculously I didn't rip my shorts and only a few little pin holes in my jersey. What made everything look more dramatic was the gels I had in my short leg that exploded on impact. There was gel running down the back and sides of my leg. I didn't bother cleaning it off since I didn't want to take off the Hawaiian Island Creations Sunblock. By the way this is an excellent all day sublock. Please pick some up for yourself. I use the 50 SPF.

I then hooked up with Marty Brown from my team, Sho Air. I asked him where he was going and he replied the river trail. I had never been on it and thought why not I've got all day. We rode on the San Gabriel River Trail for a few miles. On one of turns he gave me late notice to turn right and I hit a huge cutout on the edge of the pavement and sure enough I got a pinch flat. I know my Velocity Deep V's rim can take the punishment so I didn't even worry about the rim or the wheel's trueness.

I change the flat and I realize now that I only packed ONE tube and ONE CO2. I didn't think to carry two since I was lazy to ride in the first place and I also thought I would end up doing a coastal century or be home in less 30 miles remember I had no motivation to ride. So now I am less than 15 miles into my ride and I HAVE HAD A CRASH AND USED MY ONLY SPARE TUBE AND CO2. We rode a few more miles together and he turns off and I decide to press on.

The SGRT is a good place to ride endurance and tempo pace since there aren't any traffic signals and best of all no CARS. The trail heads Northeast for at least 38 miles inland from SEAL BEACH. On one of the last Public Restrooms I stop to fill up and use the facilities. Now I still haven't decide where I'm going or what I am going to do for the day. But I am about 50 miles into the ride and getting REALLY close to the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. It is quite warm out and I figure if I am going into the mountains I need to take more water. So I look in the trash and grab an empty 20 oz WITH sport top, rinse it out and fill it up with water. While to some of you that might sound nasty and gross just think about all the road grime and crap that gets on your water bottles during your ride-- and you put that spout up to your mouth and drink from it everyday.

I now have two water bottles on the bike, one in my center pocket and now I have a 20 oz in my right pocket. I begin the climb up Hwy 39 at 1ish pm. It is hot and all I can think of is if I keep climbing it HAS TO GET COOLER.

I climb Hwy 39 and see the turn off for EAST FORK. I've been there before how about something new. There is a sign that says CRYSTAL LAKE 15 MILES. I say I've never been there let's give that a try.

About two miles from the EAST FORK turn off I see a gate and a few cars parked along the road. I have done about 10 miles of climbing and I have gone through a bottle and half of water. I asked a family that is exiting their mini-van if they had any water they could spare and they offered me a 20 oz bottle. I said my thank yous and I was off.

At this point by my estimate I had 12.5 mile CLIMB to CRYSTAL LAKE about 3500 feet of gain (I had just passed the 2000 ft elevation sign) NO CELL COVERAGE, NO TUBES, NO CO2, NO PATCH KIT, AND 4 GELS (400 calories) LEFT, and it was in the low 90's for temperature AND I AM ABOUT TO ENTER A CLOSED ROAD . On the plus side I had 76 oz of water and good climbing legs.

I had to pull over twice because the heat and lack of calories were getting to me. The first time I pulled over I downed one of my 20 oz bottles and took a gel under the ONLY shade tree I had seen in a while and then got back on the bike. As I got into the higher elevations it slowly got cooler and somewhere around 4000 ft I saw the tiniest waterfall coming through the rocks. Although I wasn't overheating I thought for insurance sake I better dunk my head. The water was ice cold and felt so refreshing and then BACK ON THE BIKE.

It was weird to climb past the 2000 ft and 3000 ft signs and not see a 4000 ft sign. I kept looking at my Polar 625x and expecting to see the 4000 ft sign. I kept climbing and almost by surprise I was at 5000ft sign. My Polar 625x said I was at 5005 feet-- I think that is pretty darn accurate. I am not a fan of GPS I find it very inaccurate as it overstates your elevation gain by a huge percentage. I figured I must be getting close by now. About 2.3 miles to CRYSTAL LAKE I took a right turn off the main road and climbed the rest of the way to the CRYSTAL LAKE RECREATIONAL AREA. I was now in the shade and in cooler temps. This was my first time up there and the place looked like a ghost town. Signs were either just barely attached to posts hanging sideways while others were just on the ground. While it was nice and deserted I knew I had to get off the mountain and start making tracks for home.

Before I began my descent I REMINDED myself "you have NO CELL COVERAGE, NO TUBES, NO CO2, NO PATCH KIT, NO GELS LEFT, 32 OZ OF WATER AND YOU ARE 12.5 MILES INTO A CLOSE ROAD YOU MUST BE CAREFUL AND DESCEND WITH CAUTION. The road is paved but unmaintained. There are fallen rocks everywhere but the road is in good condition except one section. The fallen rocks are not a problem when climbing. They are easier to dodge at slower speeds but at descending speeds they are little land mines waiting to get ya!

The 25 mile descent goes without incident and I am back at the SGRT with about 50 miles to get home with about 96 miles in the bag. While in my search for a good exit to take off the SGRT for food I notice my rear tire is a little soft. Darn it's going flat. But I am also starving. So now I'm riding a rear flat (Velocity Deep V Rear with Powertap) , standing to keep the weight off the rear and starving looking for food and I have no idea where I'm at. Yes I'm on the bike path but I don't know any of the neighborhoods and which street exit will I be able to find food quickly off the bike path.

I take a chance at Ramona Blvd. I saw what looked like an elementary school from the bike trail and figured there has to be a store near it. I get on the surface streets and two blocks away there is a taco shop---CASH ONLY. URRRGGG!! I didn't have any cash on me but I HATE CASH ONLY PLACES. Two more blocks and I see a 7 11. As I pull up there are three police cars there and there is a lot of activity. Isn't this just great. I am in the hood and a crime has just happened at the 7 11 that I need to stop at. I went in got a turkey and cheese sandwich and a cherries and cheese danish and within minutes I started to feel better.

I left the 7 11 STILL ON THE REAR FLAT. I got back on the SGRT and kept hoping to find someone with a spare tube. Finally an older gentleman (Eddie) stops and offers to help. I have ridden the rear flat standing for 5 miles (REALLY SLOW) to keep the weight off the rear rim. I know the Velocity Deep V is sturdy but how much punishment can it take.

He didn't have a tube but he had patches. We patched the tube aired up with a mini-pump (I HATE MINI-PUMPS) and got back on the road. Within two minutes I am flat again and Eddie catches up to me.

We patch the second puncture. In my haste to get back on the road I hadn't noticed the second puncture. This time I inspect the tire more thoroughly than before and put the double-patched tube back in the rear tire. Meanwhile, as I am patching the tube Eddie calls his friend Miguel. He informs him that we need a fresh tube and it doesn't seem like he wants to leave the comfort of his sofa. I find out later that after his ride he was relaxing tossing back a few. With two patches and 40 psi (remember mini-pump)I roll. I figure this has to be the last of my tire woes.

NOOOOOOO! About 10 minutes later my rear tire is low again and I am riding on the rim AGAIN. I'm starting to worry about the rear rim it is at least 7 miles of riding on it and the tire keeps coming off. I have to stop and reinstall the tire to keep rolling. My speed is only 3mph. I have traveled less than 10 miles in the last 2 hours.

All of a sudden a guy on a ROAD BIKE blows past me. By the way, I forgot to mention that in all this time no one with a road bike has passed me or was anyone coming from the other direction either. Mainly what I saw were Beach Cruises, Moutain Bikes and Hybrids. It was after 6pm and I guess most Roadies had gone home. I whistle desperately at "the guy that blew past me" and he keeps going around a turn and out of sight. I said isn't that my luck. As I turn the corner there he is. I then see Eddie behind me and he introduces me to Miguel aka the guy that blew past me. He has a spare tube and I take the tire completely out off the rim turn it inside out and inspect and inspect and inspect it again. I put the fresh tube in air up and I am back on the road.

Now I'm thinking that has to be the last of it. I am now racing the sunset. I have lights on the bike but why not get home before dark right. I am riding my MiNewt Headlight and tail light. Awesome lights from NiteRider. YOU'RE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS 3 miles from SEAL BEACH I puncture AGAIN. A front flat now. I couldn't believe it. I have NEVER flatted so many times in six months let alone one day.

So now I am sitting as far back on the saddle as possible to keep the weight off the front rim. Now my front Velocity Deep V is taking the punishment of expansion joints every few meters. I try to lean as far back on the saddle but the tire is completely flat and comes off the rim again and again.

It is nighttime and I still can't call in the calvary to save me. On this particular day there was no one to call. I make the junction to PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY AT SEAL BEACH. I am going really slow and thumbing it. I even pulled into a gas station and offered to pay for this guy's gas if he would take me home in his huge pick up truck. He said no. Why? Because he was headed in the other direction. I was offering $20 in gas for a less than a gallon ride. He even looked at me and said "Dude that's far." I said "yeah no shit and I have a flat so it is VERY FAR FOR ME." He still said no. I didn't push it and got back on the road.

BUT HERE COMES THE BEST PART. After hours and hours of dealing with flats and riding on rims I am on the Pacific Coast Hwy with my thumb out. You're not going to believe this but a stretch HUMMER LIMO pulls over to give me a ride. The driver used to ride a long time ago. He punches in my address in the GPS and says "8.2 miles you'll be home in 13 minutes". Sweetest words I had heard all day.

As I pull up to my house my neighbors came out and were asking the obvious questions as to why I was in a limo. It was now after 930 pm. I was tired, hungry and just mentally drained from all the possible scenarios I had run through my head on HOW THE HECK AM I GOING TO GET HOME!!!

I thank Velocity for their product durability. I rode on the rear Deep V for about 7 miles and the front for about 5 miles and the wheels are still true (24 spoke) and even though they are marred they are still in service as my primary wheelset. RIDE VELOCITY




  1. Hmmmm...what did I do? Ventured too far from home, apparently! Sorry I wasn't there to save you honey. Just think, if I had not been down in Encinitas, you wouldn't have had as good of a story to tell. ;)

  2. Great story George.. Thanks..


  3. Hey Eric good to see you chime in. What's going on with you? What is/was your big event this year?

  4. During training for the 508, I neglected my hang gliding lifestyle for a few years.. I've been getting back into that and back into mountain biking.. I've done a bit of cycling too; got a fixed gear (thanks to you BTW).. I will do the 508 again; next year if I get accepted..

    Big event..? Paying a HUGE debt to my wife for her support for the 508; we're going to Maui in November..

    We'll be watching the 508 in Oct.. Do you have your crew filled out..?


  5. Hang gliding is fun but I have been watching too many of those "spectacular crashes" shows.

    I love riding FG. It is like learning to ride all over again. Just don't do anything silly like signing up for FC508 on that thing.

    Hmmm.. Maui? We not try this now you can make a vacation and bicycle adventure out of your stay. Sorry wife I had to do it. I mean how often will you be in Maui?

    Yes I have my crew selected and they are going to be a great team. I just hope I can equal my riding to their level of support.