First Sufferfest of 2016 -Off the beaten path to climb some hills

I have stopped counting how many people show up for our rides on a Saturday morning.  For those of you that have joined us at the start, you know it’s pretty much mayhem.  There are dozens and dozens of riders at Nytro on a Saturday morning – definitely an exciting cycling scene.


Swami’s Team Fun lines up for a photo before the ride.  Love those new kits!

We have managed to organize ourselves in spite of the craziness, and this week we had me leading out the A group, Julie and Lauren helping with the B group, and Michell leading the C group.  All three routes were to be challenging, and all were close to, if not exceeding, 100′ climbed per mile.  For those of you new to the sport, that is a hefty dose of climbing!  I usually have a few goals when I design these routes:  (1) Follow similar routes on all three so we have several chances of crossing over.  It’s fun to be able to see the other groups out there and provide motivation.  (2) Take back roads when possible to keep the route quiet and interesting. (3) Keep the challenge high, but not too high, for each given level.

I have to admit when I took off north from Nytro on Saturday morning, I let out a bit of a groan.  I had done the majority of my route Wednesday and knew what was in store – and knew it had a chance of not being a very pretty scene (i.e., perhaps my legs might be left to the side of one of the >12% hills).

Our group started out as four women and two men, a bit of a smaller group than we’ve been having in A as of late.  As we weaved around the starter climbs in Encinitas, we picked up a third man to make it a group of seven.  It turned out to be the perfect size to suffer together.

The first real challenge came in the La Costa Greens neighborhood.  Everyone in my group was sure I’d be taking them up the famed “El Fuerte”, but I said, “Oh no – but don’t kid yourself that this one is going to be any easier!”  Also known as “that awful hill above the duck pond”, you take Lapis Road to where it winds around to Amber Lane, which seems to offer a steep pitch around every corner.  When we got to the end of Amber Lane, someone asked me if we were done… there was a lot of me chuckling and saying, “Haha no” on this ride, and a little of, “It’s about to get a whole lot worse”, too.

We found our way out of the Rancho Carillo neighborhood to familiar ground on Palomar Airport Road, only to veer off onto a yet another one of my favorites – White Sands to Coast, where once you turn onto Coast after a long, steep climb up White Sands – you guessed it, it was about to get worse.  But this group was literally nonplussed.  It was like they were dialed in, determined to just scale hill after hill with consistent effort, game faces on.

I felt like the nerve was beginning to crack when we got to San Elijo and someone asked, “Do we just have one more climb?” And someone else responded, “You don’t really know Heather very well, do you?”  We were maybe halfway in.  Almost the whole rest of the route prior to the return was serious climbing.  We started with the Dove Tail Climb in Oak Creek, and then headed out San Elijo road toward my true favorite climbs on the ride.  There started to be a lot of talk of donuts.

And this will be where the pictures start.

So when you are doing a ride where you will see your Garmin top out in the 12-15% range on every single hill, I have to say that San Elijo road seems like a pretty moderate hill in comparison.  It’s just the little hill you have to get up to get to the good stuff.  Turn right on Questhaven, head all the way to where it’s about to end, then take the potholed road to your left – Attebury.  You’ll feel like you’ve suddenly left North County and ended up in a rural paradise, with ponds and huge old desert plants – and its fair share of steep pitches.


Pond off Attebury. There used to be blue herons found in the pond at this time of the year.

Reach the end of Attebury, and you have your choice of Deadwood on your right and Valborg on your left.  On our planned route this week, we had Deadwood only.

deadwood ascent

The bottom of the Deadwood ascent

Deadwood has some crazy >15% pitches, but fortunately, it’s fairly short.  It was snack time.  And undressing time.

Deadwood view.jpg

Heather B, Matt, Jessica, Janice, Kevin and Jill pose on Deadwood with Double Peak looming in the background.

Eric had also joined us, but needed to head off early for home – and fortunately for him, we dropped him off right on Questhaven.  At the top of Deadwood, while we pondered Double Peak, I made the suggestion, half-jokingly, that we could just do Valborg while we were here and maybe skip Double Peak.  Everyone was game for that, so we descended Deadwood only to ascend very quickly on an even steeper grade to top off where I used to live four years ago.

deadwood switchback

Deadwood switchback

descending deadwood

Deadwood descent with view of Valborg and Frank’s Saddle

I like to take people up Valborg to share the pain I had to experience at the end of every ride I started from home for a solid year.  I get to point out the tree I stood under in pouring rain, when I refused to ride up the hill following 35 miles in driving rain returning from Sea World.  We get to say hello to my former neighbor’s fearsome looking trio of Mastiffs and a Great Dane (that are actually sweethearts).  And always, we get to take pictures with amazing views.  I didn’t talk about the ghosts we lived with, but that will be for another time.

Valborg group

Jessica, Matt, Heather, Jill, Janice and Kevin – still hanging on and still smiling on top of Valborg (~4000′ of climbing done)


These dogs each weigh over 150 lbs. I remember when the Mastiffs were puppies.

Valborg with view

Heather, Matt and Janice with a view on San Marcos in the background

On Valborg, we decided to finish out our route with Wild Canyon (the street opposite Questhaven), and ride Kevin home.  Earlier in the week when Jill and I previewed the route, I had said that it would be cooler to do the Pearls & Quartz sequence in the neighborhood off Wild Canyon, but alas, it’s gated and I’ve only managed to get through once.  It turned out that Kevin happens to live on Quartz, so by a happy coincidence we got to escort Kevin home and do the route we had hoped to do.

As we ascended Wild Canyon, Matt treated us to more of his mad bike cycling skills and wheelied up the steeper part of the road for a little photoshoot with Jill.  He had been doing this on many of the climbs.


Imagine holding that for what seemed like minutes on end. Showoff!

After dropping Kevin off and taking in yet another amazing view, we descended back down to Wild Canyon where we had to make the fateful decision of whether or not to finish with Double Peak.  We’d already done two extra steepies not on the original route, and we rationalized that we were running low on food and water (we were, actually).  Some of us were planning activities post-bike, and it was decided that Double Peak could be left for another day.  I think there may have been an additional request for Albertson’s donuts.

We threw in an extra hill leaving the San Elijo area, and ended up dropping Matt off at his house.  To keep on the theme of what was turning into a little bike valet service, we exited the north side of La Costa Oaks, and headed across a little dirt and down toward my neighborhood (Jessica’s also), and dropped the two of us off to prepare for my very first “brick” (I didn’t really know it was called that, to be honest).

dirt riding

Janice and Heather getting in some dirt time. This is baby dirt, though – it’s really just a packed sand path. Pretty tame. That’s about all I can handle, but I told Jill to try to make us look cool.

And then there were two – Jill and Janice made their way back to Nytro together to finish out the route.  The official distance was just under 41 miles, and depending on the Garmin used, approaching 6000′ of elevation – just a tad over the original estimated 4900′.  It definitely qualified as a festival of suffering, but with such a great group, the suffering was definitely minimized!  As hard as they are, these types of rides are always on my list of favorites.

I will conclude with some photos from the B and C rides.  I hear the route master might be merciful next week and feature an almost completely flat ride!  Unheard of?  Perhaps.  Stay tuned for this one!

B group at Carilloc groupgroup line up on poinsettiasmiles on C

And last but certainly not least, the only person to take on the Double Peak Challenge yesterday was Chin!  In addition, this was the first time she made it up without walking.  Congratulations to Chin!


Chin PRs Double Peak!


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