San Diego Century:Grinding it out with the help of the team and cookies

Last Saturday started very early indeed for the Swami’s Team Fun members signed up to take on the challenge of the San Diego Century.  My alarm went off at 5:00 am, and the first thought when my alarm goes off at that time is always, “Why?” (I’m not a morning person).  Usually if it’s that early the only reason would be a flight, but there is the rare case when I momentarily forget how hard centuries can be, I sign up for one, and then inevitably feel compelled to get out of bed that morning to either not waste the fee, meet up with friends, or both.  I was sure glad to know I had a team of folks waiting to ride with me that morning.

We had team members in all of the three distances that morning (and let me know if I forgot to mention you):

105 miles:  Jill T, Heather K, Lorraine, Carol, Heather B, Donn, Tom, and for part of the way, Steve

67 miles:  Debra, Tatiana, Kimberly, Manya

33 miles:  Joy, Kim Z, and Joanne

The Start

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Carol, Donn, Lorraine, Steve, Heather B, Jill, Heather K, and with Kimberly in back of Heather B – at the start 6:45 am

Donn and I rode the six miles or so miles to the starting line together, watching the hordes of cyclists coming up Rancho Santa Fe in the opposite direction – the early birds.  I checked in very quickly, and soon our group was on our way.  Looking to maintain a steady pace of a reasonable tempo for the entire ride, we took off out of the Mira Costa parking lot and into our day long adventure.

You will notice fairly quickly that we do not have any pictures from the ride itself.  I think at a certain point, we became a little too focused on accomplishing the task at hand to pause for pictures.  Another obstacle to pictures was the sheer number of people on the road with us and at the rest stops – this is a popular ride, indeed.

The ride starts on roads very familiar to us (at least, to me), as it wanders up Rancho Santa Fe Road, past my house, and then out toward Lake San Marcos before winding through San Marcos and Escondido and into the familiar territory of Del Dios (from such famous routes as, the Swami’s Saturday Ride).  In Rancho Santa Fe, you make a left down Via de la Valle and eventually make it over to the base of the Three Witches climb.  At this point we were in the low 30s in terms of mileage and enjoyed our first stop.  Not much looked appetizing to me except for the cookies – so I ate some (firm rule:  do not count cookies while on a century – just take another).

We do the Three Witches climb so often either in a midweek or Saturday ride, that it’s always surprising to me what a big deal they make out of it for the century.  At two miles, with an average grade of 3%, and nothing I can recall over 8% (and that for only a short stretch), it’s not a terribly remarkable climb.  Not to diminish it as an accomplishment, but it doesn’t actually seem as hard to me even as the steady, unrelenting climb on Rancho Santa Fe at the start of the ride (which is five miles at 2%).

With Three Witches in our rearview mirror, we were heading out for what I find to be the longest, most interminable stretch of the ride… making your way out through Poway to Ramona.  You roll mostly up, a little down, a little flat, out and out and out until finally you hit this nearly two mile stretch of a steady 7%.  In reality it’s not really worse than say, San Elijo, but perhaps it’s the position in the ride, or the broad scope of the scenery out there, it just feels big and  long.  And you get up it, pat yourself on the back for getting there, and realize you have a long set of false flats, and twists and turns through what feels like endless farmland until finally you reach the turnaround rest stop with lunch.  Maybe you feel as exhausted as I, and everyone else I encountered was, while reading through that description.  “Where is this rest stop already!?!” was heard more than once (mostly out of my mouth).  Perhaps I will admit to a teeny bit of bonking at that stage – it’s my usual bonk spot of a century – between the 60 and 70 mile spot.  After Jill helped Carol fix a flat, we all met up to “enjoy” our Subway sandwiches.  One wonders who chose ham and veggie as the options… but at that point, you’ll eat just about anything unless you packed your own.  You might imagine I ate more cookies, and you’d be right.  I don’t want to endlessly complain about the rest stop offerings, but to find the only soda left was Diet Coke was more than a little disappointing.

This team was dauntless, however, and we headed back full force into a pretty intense wind through Ramona and on the 67.  I can vouch for the intensity, as I was in the front until we got back out onto 67, and it was unpleasant.  I may have lost my body weight in secretions from my nose that day – I’m not sure.

Somehow, in spite of the wind, the fatigue setting in, and the discomfort from all those veggies on the Subway sandwiches, we ended up with faster times returning to the start in the last 40 miles than we did in the first 65 (I guess we’ll blame it on all the hills in the first two thirds).

All in all, our group put out a fantastic effort, finishing with an average speed in the high 16s (close to an average Saturday ride pace, actually).  I looked down at one point and noticed the time for my first 100 miles was 6:02.

We put our generous $5 coupon we earned toward some food – for those of us that forgot extra money, that purchased a six inch pizza.  That nibbled at the hunger, for about 10 minutes.  Jill did manage to get a picture at the end, where we ran into Manya who intended to complete the 67 mile course, took a wrong turn, and ended up accomplishing an 80 mile ride!

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Going around the table from the left:  Manya, Jill, Heather B, Tom, Donn, Carol, Lorraine, Heather K

Want to train for a century or a metric century?

Maybe I didn’t sell the concept too hard in my description, but the team camaraderie and feeling of accomplishment are definitely worth the early morning hours and physical suffering!  Pretty soon I’ll have the details out for the upcoming Swami’s Gran Fondo (Swamdo for short), which will offer both a challenging century route and a metric century route.  The ride is scheduled for the September timeframe (I’ll get the date out as soon as I have it), and the price is in the “extremely affordable” range – and I imagine the food at the end will be better than the $5 coupon (just guessing).

In addition to being affordable and team-sponsored fun, we will be hosting training rides on Sundays leading up to the event.  These will most likely start in July, although it’s possible we could through a few in in June.  We will help you reach your goal!  Stay tuned for details.

I will finish with some pictures of our fine SD metric century trio of Debra, Tatiana and Kimberly, who were even featured on the SD Century Facebook page.

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