Pacific Coast Highway Randonneurs – Trans Sierra Triple Pass 200km

Sherman Pass

Sherman Pass

I DNF’d. After 14,000ft of climbing in less than 70 miles, my lungs weren’t happy, I was feeling a bit dizzy, and the descents on loose chipseal had me concerned. And there was a LOT of descending ahead. Normally that is something to cherish, but in this case, it was bad news. I knew that with only a few thousand feet of climbing left, this shouldn’t have been tough to finish, but I just became overly concerned with my condition. Being alone, riding several hours at night, this tired and spent with sore lungs, I just didn’t feel that continuing was a good choice.

Quail Valley

Quail Valley

I love climbing, and so it was tough to decide to bail on this. A major issue was that the riders were told to expect about an hour between seeing the sag wagon to refill water and grab more food. The beginning of the day started great. I was climbing swiftly, and was able to refill my water frequently enough. But because I was moving along well early in the day, while a few others were already slowing down, a big spread was forming. I heard that in order to get back to the last riders, the sag skipped a trip to see me in the front. However, over this time, I had climbed over 3,000ft in 2.75 hours since I had last refilled water. Normally 25 miles is nothing to worry about, but this was 6% climbing for several hours over that distance. I started sipping water to ration it, but climbing this much really required taking down a bottle every 1000ft or sooner, and I was falling too far behind on that plan.

Kern River

Kern River

I don’t think that this was the only reason, as clearly this was a stupidly tough route to try. But it really was a bummer to expect more frequent fill ups and end up dry on the toughest climb. I really love these routes that get out well beyond where most people would consider riding in a day (the Cascade 1240km being another), but without the proper support, the difficulty changes from challenging to dangerous. I hope to find other crazy routes in the future, but I’m going to be very diligent about making sure there are stores along the way or ensuring support isn’t far away.

Soma Stanyan

Soma Stanyan

Strava: 13,925ft climbing in 78.4 miles = 177ft climbing per mile!

Posted in 50-99 miles, Los Angeles | 4 Comments

LA Wheelmen Grand Tour Lite 200k

In early September, we moved to Los Angeles. (Kathy works 3 month positions as a nurse in hospitals, and we were previously in Puyallup and Olympia, WA this year). LA has been harder to find rides, oddly enough. Few randos, but I get the impression that race teams are popular, but not my thing.

I had emailed a few clubs and caught wind of this Grand Tour ride. There were 70, 100, and 125 mile options. I got up at 5:15am and rolled out half an hour later, 20 miles to the start in Malibu. They didn’t have maps (either online or at the start, though I had an idea of the route from past Strava data), but I was told that the 2 shorter versions stuck to the coast and had little climbing. What’s the point of riding with no climbing?! So I was left with a 200k, plus 40 miles to get there and home on the ends.

IMG_3541The whole weekend was an annoying mess of bike maintenance. I new I was long overdue for a chain, and when I swapped out the chain and cassette, it became clear that my little chainring wasn’t happy with this. I swapped bottom brackets and finally put on my little 30/46t crankset. Then on my way to the ride, the rear derailleur stopped springing back. I asked around and got some lube to coat the cable, and this solved that problem at least for the day. I should probably just put new housing and a cable in there soon…

The route starts with an amazing climb up Latigo Canyon. It’s got switchbacks, great views of the coast, mountains, & canyons, and it was still a reasonable temperature for a morning climb. I passed a few riders here, and also rode with a guy in full Rapha Sky kit from the UK, but was not on the team. I never quite found anyone my pace though, everyone was either a bit slower on the climbs, or hammering on the flats.

Latigo Canyon

Latigo Canyon

I missed the first rest stop, as another ride had a stop very nearby that I mistakenly stopped at and must have zoned out when the real stop came up. Apparently I wasn’t the only one to miss it though. There was a pack of people at the lunch stop another 20 or 30 miles later. I thought I’d roll out with them, but of about 8 people, 4 noticed flats from thorns in the grass as they were about to roll out. I didn’t have one though, and just left on my own, sure to get caught in no time by this Hot Wheels race team. Surprisingly, I made it about 20 miles before 3 guys caught me. I latched on for dear life for a few hours, but approaching the next stop I veered off because their fearless leader was hammering more than I could handle at that point, but it was fun while it lasted!


Most of the route after 60mi was fairly forgettable. Way too hot for me, and with lots of flat roads with headwinds. The last portion of the ride looks dead flat on the profile, but it was awful. What I thought should be an awesome 20mph TT down the Pacific Coast Highway was actually rollers. At 140+ miles for the day so far, I found myself climbing up slowly and coasting down the back, and then watching the next roller come up. To make it worse, there’s intermittent parking along the highway, with much of it forcing cyclists to ride in the lane. I had caught a few more people, but couldn’t stay with them because they just rode the door zone and I didn’t care to be a witness to the door prize.

Strava link: 161 miles, 7,900ft climbing

Posted in 150-200 miles, Los Angeles | Leave a comment


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Seattle Summer 400k – Barlow Pass

Realizing that I only had less than 2 weeks left in Washington, I had to fit in one last ride with the SIRs. I had briefly considered volunteering the Barlow control, but after realizing that just getting to Seattle and out there without a car would be logistically just as much effort as riding it, I signed up for the ride instead. I coordinated a ride up with Susan and Asta from Portland, and stayed with Andy just a few miles from the start. I couldn’t be more grateful for such generous randos helping others out!

In the hour before driving up, I noticed my bottom bracket was just slightly backing out. I honestly hadn’t looked at it in a year, so I had no idea if it was moving fast or slow, but figured it would be okay. Of course, upon mentioning this to Andy, he swiftly took off my cranks and snugged up the BB. I got about 6 hours of sleep, and awoke to Andy on his way out of the house at 5am, and I got out by about 5:20 for the 6am start.

IMG_3466As usual, my plan was to stay close to the front and keep up for the first 100 miles. The pack stopped in Snohomish for breakfast, but my sugar was still high, so I just topped off my water and continued up the trail at a reasonable pace with a few other guys at a slightly slower pace, knowing we’d be caught after a little while. Our group of 10 or so rolled along for a long time, until in the foggy mist some fast sprints started to break things up.

My latest ride-metric is how fast the first century is. My too-fast brevets seemed to do the first hundred miles in 6 hours, which lead to me running of out gas by the end. This ride hit the 100 mile mark at 6.5 hours, which felt much better for me. The town of Concrete was just a few miles later, where the lead guys (Theo and Steve) had stopped to refill. Steve had a BB back out too far to continue the planned route, and was going to roll back to a town with a shop and then home.

IMG_3467I continued on with some guys around my pace, but eventually ended up between a few, and rode alone. I briefly sped up to catch Ward, but was having a hard time pulling with just two of us. I would spend a little longer at the stop in Darrington, and while I was there I saw many more randos coming in. I left with just one though, and we were together until the gravel section. The gravel was nothing bad – just a few mostly avoidable washboard sections. I was on 32mm tires (Pasela and Compass).

IMG_3468All day I was wondering where the ultra racers were at, and they flew past on the dirt. I caught up for a moment, but just wasn’t able to hold anywhere near that pace for more than a minute, so continued on solo. At the top of the pass were two amazing volunteers making sandwiches and soup, and just a few randos. Theo had already left, on his mission to reduce stopping time. Several more came in shortly behind me, and we eventually began the hour and a half descent together.

IMG_3469Luckily we were well down the descent before the sun fell, as there were a few craters in the road to stay away from. With just a few moderate stops in Granite Falls and Sultan, the night continued. Doing some rando-math I figured we’d actually finish around 1am, which was better than my initial estimate of 2am. Like every long ride, I started to get antsy, especially for the last hour. My bum hurts so I tend to stand more, which makes my feet hurt, and my hands are no longer comfortable. I count down the miles to the next turn or hill. With just 5 miles to the finish, we hit what felt like the worst hills of the day to climb into Seattle. As others said, this ride didn’t have a lot of big climbs, just some punchy steep ones.

We reached the finish at 12:49am as a small group. Burgers and “recovery drinks” were prevalent. The celebrations were cut short by news of riders that had crashed, though I’ve since heard that everyone is okay. I hung out for an hour but didn’t see anyone else roll in before I left for one final climb back to my couch to sleep on for the night.

I may even retract my prior statements about avoiding 400ks. While I like sunrise-to-sunset rides best, longer group rides tend to be a better pace for me and can be more sociable than 20mph pacelines. So this was a great last SIR ride. I’ll be in LA for the next 3 months, and hope to join some PCH Rando rides down there for the end of the season. Thanks to everyone I rode with, and especially those that help carpool me to ride starts or offered a place to sleep – I couldn’t have done all these rides without that support!

Posted in 200-300 miles, Olympia | 2 Comments

2014 Cascade 1240km – Day Four – Mazama to Monroe

Mile 605

Mile 605

It was tough leaving the comfy bed at the Mazama Inn for the last day. I was on the road by 6:10am with few other randos behind me. Knowing that the day was starting with the climb up Washington Pass, I was excited to climb early in the day compared to the end of the day climbing on Loup Loup.

I caught up and passed a half dozen other riders on my way up. Strava seems to show that I was going awfully slow compared to a normal climb, but maybe that’s just life on a 1200k. I felt like I was flying uphill anyway, and the grade seemed easier than the past climbs for my sub-par 34×28 gearing. As I got higher up in the pass, the view only got better. There was snow ahead of me, a big switchback in sight with riders ahead, and I was in Cat-6 mode trying to catch the blinkies.

[Mile 612] Flying up the pass, feeling great, and absolutely amazing views in the snowy peaks with a huge valley behind me. — in Washington.

Mile 612

[Mile 612] Snow! — in Washington.

Mile 612

[Mile 613] The top is just around the corner — in Washington.

Mile 613

I didn’t know where the top of the pass was, but looking back on my route was a great view through the valley. Turns out everyone took  pictures from here!

[Mile 613] One last view through the valley. Gorgeous! — in Washington.

Mile 613

True to my cycling roots in NY, I still hadn’t gotten fenders on the bike. It was wet for a few hours in the morning, but never hard rain, and I stayed relatively dry. I also stayed in shorts all the way up and down the first pass. It was on the top of Rainy Pass that I put on tights, my spare jersey, and full gloves.

[Mile 614] Washington Pass! Stayed in shorts though. — in Washington.

Mile 614

Apparently those that started early in the morning had a rainy and frigid descent after Rainy Pass. Fortunately it was dry and decently warm enough when I was there. There was a non-controle station a few miles down the pass, where I stopped briefly to check my sugar and top up water. There wouldn’t be another stop for a while, though it was downhill for many miles at this point.

[Mile 618] Quick downhill for a few miles before another climb up Rainy Pass. Not too rainy at this time, though the early crowd got frozen in the rain. — in Washington.

Mile 618

[Mile 649] Gorge Lake, after Diablo Lake. Crazy side gusts through the valley. — in Washington.

Mile 649

Mile 651

Mile 651

I leapfrogged with a few riders when I stopped to remove layers again after the descent. The California couple caught up a few times, and eventually while I was resting they passed and I caught up and rode with them again. We reached the tunnels, and while the first short one was no issue, we had a long line of cars pass just before and after the longer tunnel. I was afraid that the drivers wouldn’t see cyclists in the dark, but we got out before the cars had caught up.

Mile 669

Mile 669

The Californians were flying as usual, and I decided to take a little bit longer of a break when we reached the next town. There were a bunch of BC randos there, about ready to go while I was still getting my things together. I finally packed up and was about to roll when Graham rolled in. He decided that if we took pulls together, we could catch up with more people. We were flying along and caught up in just a few miles to get a group of half a dozen. From somewhere deep, I felt like I was recovering from the past days of riding and wanted to put some more effort in, and started pulling the pack faster. I found out at the next controle that they had trouble with that pace, but on the flip side, I was having difficulties with shorter breaks. I had to work to catch up again, only to have the sun come out and stop to put on more sunscreen. With only a little under 100 miles to go, I gave it everything and caught up again, but only stayed on the back for half a minute before passing them in the hopes of catching the Cali couple yet again since they were riding faster and a more steady pace. They were still flying along at ~18mph even though they were tired and suffering an ankle issue. They were some of the strongest riders I’ve met!

When we caught a pack of Seattle randos, I decided I needed to slow down. 80 miles to go now, and the road was rough chipseal. I had over-filled my tires on Rainy Pass after feeling like they were too soft, and I was paying for it now. I knew that stopping to fix that would probably be the start of a solo metric century on my own to the finish, so I kept on rolling. The Seattle guys were flying as well. They seemed to like starting early and taking a few longer breaks in the day, which isn’t a bad plan, but I just haven’t been good at waking up early enough for that.

[Mile 729] Rode with some Seattle Randos to the finish! — with Andy Speier in Washington.

Mile 729

The familiar Centennial Trail was the final stretch. I knew once I reached that point that finishing would be no problem so long as the bike stayed together. Andy (Seattle) was leading the pack most of the time, at a pretty steady clip that was tough but still possible to hold onto. Thankfully the pack slowed a little as we got closer, because I was just about to ease off and take a break. Like the end of most rides, I think I tend to get sloppy at the end. When I know the finish is near, I don’t have a good cadence, and I tend to pedal and coast instead of keeping a steady pace. I’ll also blame the paths for having a lot of little bumps that make it hard to ride a steady cadence when I’m tired. Once we were off the trail, I was doing better with this, but I think that was because the pace slowed too.

770 miles down, 4 very long days of riding behind me, and we rolled into the hotel at 9:11pm. There isn’t much fanfare, but the hotel storage room that I had checked in at 5 days prior was filled with pizza and randos, all congratulating each other on completing the ride. I heard that 88 people started, and around 63 finished. I don’t know how that compares to other years, but it seemed reasonable.

I remember at the time feeling like I could be done with long bike rides for a while, though of course while writing this now I have to admit that I looked up future big rides this year. That probably won’t happen, though I am interested in a few crewing opportunities and maybe volunteering for upcoming brevets.

Until then…


Posted in 150-200 miles, 2014Cascade1200, Olympia | 2 Comments

2014 Cascade 1240km – Day Three – Ephrata to Mazama

[Mile 472] Day 3 begins. Bluffs and Buttes.

Mile 472

Day 3 started around 6:10am. I had about 4 hours of sleep and didn’t eat much for breakfast because I forgot to grab a bagel in the morning. A few people had just left that I missed when I realized I left my Platypus water bottle in the room and went back for. Along the first climb, I reached Bob and Gary (BC) and rode with them for a while. They descended slower, and I kept on moving along Sagebrush Flats / Moses Coulee Rds.

 [Mile 477] Washington rocks! Some interesting formations in these hills. — in Washington.

Mile 477

 [Mile 478] Sugar dropped from looking at this hill. SF and BC guys caught up for the climb. — in Washington.

Mile 478

When I got to the end of the road by the switchback leading up Route 2, I noticed my sugar had dropped. Oddly, my recent rides had all seen higher than normal sugar levels compared to normal. I was well prepared for lows though, and had more than enough sugar. Unfortunately this put me high for much of the day. It’s too scary to take a lot of insulin to treat that for fear of going low, but I also knew I need to keep eating to keep up my energy. It was a tough balance on this ride. While I was waiting there, the San Fran randos caught up again, and the BC guys weren’t far behind.

 [Mile 485] Climb complete! Rolling along with BC guys into the control. — in Washington.

Mile 485

Farmer controle

We started up the climb and split apart somewhere along the way to the “town” of Farmer. I saw nothing but maybe a farm or two. Our controle was in an old community building, complete with stage and disco ball spinning. I made a PB&J, filled my water, put on sunscreen and was off again. I caught up to Gary (BC) and we rode together for a while. At some point the San Fran guys caught up, and were awesome to let us draft again. They would trade pulls, and I would try my best to hold on, unable to go that pace without the draft and mental support of having something to chase. This stretch of road was as straight as could be for about 13 miles too. Towards the end, I did slow down again coming down the grade into Bridgeport, as my knees were becoming more sore and I didn’t feel as comfortable in the aero tuck position. Quite a few randos were already at the store as more came in. I ate a mini pizza which was so bad yet sooo good.

Bridgeport store

Bridgeport store

Gary and I left Bridgeport together, and navigated through the road detour. I realized that the sunscreen from earlier seemed to be wearing off, so I tried to put more on while rolling, but wasn’t very successful, and also ran out. I stopped at the next store in Brewster just a few miles up the road to buy more and put more ice in my bottles.

Mile 536

Mile 536

Malott controle

While there, the remaining pack of BC riders caught up. We climbed up Old Rt 97, which drops back down to the Okanogan River. The next “town” of Malott didn’t offer much, but there was a small store with a few things and this was the controle before climbing up the pass. I bought a full bag of ice for only $1.60 to fill my bottles with, and poured ice for everyone else there. The peak of the hot day seemed to be over, although there was the huge climb of Loup Loup Pass ahead. I filled my water to the max – two 20oz tall bottles, plus my 32oz Platypus in my jersey pocket.


First peak of Loup Loup

The route up makes a few large steps, starting with a very steep climb. We still had a large pack of people as we rounded the net-enclosed farms, but the next climb was longer and steep and people were stringing out – I was somewhere in the middle of this. I took a break in the shade partway up to dump half of my Platypus into my waterbottles and drop in more electrolyte tablets. At the first peak before a short descent, I was still feeling good. But the climb ahead proved to be tougher. I’m now at 100 miles for the day, but with little sleep and plenty soreness from hundreds of miles ridden this week so far. I had 34×28 as the smallest gear, which worked okay, but clearly isn’t the 1:1 or better than many people had for getting up the passes. I traversed in a few places, took a few more breaks, but eventually made it to the top, just as the road enters the Okanogan National Forest.

[Mile 570] Loup Loup Pass! What a tough climb with two pitches. I had to stop and take a few short breaks on the way up. — at Loup Loup Ski Bowl.

Mile 570

The next 8 miles of descent made it all worth it. It’s difficult not to look at the mileage while climbing, and it changes so slowly, but while descending I hardly get a chance to notice the mile numbers flying by. I got into Twisp where there was a grocery store, and bought another smoothie drink and water. The remaining ~20 miles into town would be mostly easy, with a slight uphill but no major climbs. Other people at the store didn’t seem to be in a rush to keep going, but I didn’t want to linger longer than I already had, so I left alone. I got on the drops and made good time on the remaining miles along the Methow River.

Mile 586

Mile 586

The town of Winthrop was really interesting, with a western vibe. Even the chain stores were in buildings with a classy wood log finish. There seemed to be a lot going on, with restaurants and shops and tourists everywhere. I zipped through town and back onto the open road, when I was met with a stiff headwind. What was a 16-18mph pace turned down to 9mph. I had 10 miles to go, but my time estimate only kept growing. At one point I looked back and saw two people in the distance. I didn’t know if I should let up and tag along with them, or just keep trying to push through, but I did the later. Eventually Bob and James (Seattle) caught up with little more than 5 miles remaining. Bob said we could do 1/3 mile pulls, and we rotated through until we had about a mile to go. This brought the pace back into the 15mph range, which was great. We cooled down on the last mile, and got in at 8:50pm, just before sunset.

Everyone already at the Mazama Inn seemed to have showered and put normal clothes on, so while I’m feeling totally dead, they all looked fresh! I got a plate of spaghetti and salad, chatted for a little while, and got a room in the Inn with Tyler. Thankfully this “short” day meant plenty of time to sleep before one last long day to head back to Monroe.

Strava data for day three: 06/23/2014 Cascade 1200 – day three – Ephrata to Mazama 144.7 miles with 9,036ft climbing

Posted in 100-150 miles, 2014Cascade1200, Olympia | Leave a comment

2014 Cascade 1240km – Day Two – Carson to Ephrata

[Mile 231] Started at 5:30am. About 6am here. Hammering away while it was flat along the Columbia River

Mile 231

It was tough to get out of bed and ready in little time. I could see everyone else packing up quick and getting rolling in the morning, but I had a big breakfast, put my things together, and got rolling at 5:30am after waking up at 4:30am.

The route starts flat (after a very brief drop from the hotel) and meanders along the Columbia River. I was trying to go reasonably fast, and caught a few others. There was a convenience store an hour in, and I pulled it before realizing that I don’t always have to stop, so kept on going a minute later.

[Mile 270] Headed up the Klickitat with Asta, Jon (MA), and Eric & Tim from CA.

Mile 270

I caught up with Asta (OR) and Jon (MA) when they stopped at a rest area before the turn on Klickitat. We rode together for a bit, but my knees were telling me not to punch it up the climbs, so I backed off and took it slow as we ascended away from the Klickitat river.

I made it into Goldendale alone, and saw randos at various stops in town. I knew there was another Subway slightly past the turn, and headed for that. To my surprise, many other randos knew about it also. I loaded up on yet another ham sandwich and refilled my water. Someone mentioned to me that there would be a water stop along the route, but gave me the wrong mileage number, about 12 miles too short. I had two 20oz bottles and a 32oz Platypus, but left a bit shy of totally full (the Platypus gets stuffed in my jersey when used, and weighs quite a lot back there). I also didn’t have a printout of the elevation for the day, and had no idea how much hot desert climbing there would be into Bickleton. I later heard that this was the very reason why several people had DNFed on the second day – lack of water in the heat through extended climbs with no nearby services. I rationed my remaining water and took my time to not overwork myself and made it into Bickleton.

 [Mile 301] The long path up from the distance. — in Klickitat, WA.

Mile 301

[Mile 301] SF Tim — in Washington.

Mile 301 – Tim from CA

Much of this day I was riding with or near Eric and Tim from the San Fransisco Randonneurs. We didn’t always go the same pace, but I’d catch them at the next stop and ride out with them again. I caught up with the SFRs in Mabton after seeing a few others stop at the first c-store at the edge of town. I knew of yet another Subway, and only briefly stopped at a fast food joint before deciding to get Subway instead. Leigh from Australia came in as well, but we were otherwise alone there.

 [Mile 316] Plenty of range land for sale. No thanks — in Washington.

Mile 316 Plenty of range land for sale.

The road quality in Mabton was awful, with debris strewn shoulders and rough pavement. This continued for a few miles out of town. There would be another long slog of a climb, and I rode solo up that as well. I found that I was getting GPS-stare, and decided remove all the numbers from the screen so I wouldn’t stare at the mileage changing so slowly. About 15 miles later, I reached the top of this climb and enjoyed a partial decent. I reached a few BC riders changing a frustrating tire at the turn, and continued on the for rest of the climb chasing after one other further ahead. We rode together briefly, but he stopped to wait for his buddies while I upped the pace and tried to cover more miles at speed. I was passed by a volunteer car offering water (not a bad idea after the “Bickleton Massacre” that made several people DNF after a hot climb with no water sources around), but turned it down because I was only 6 miles from the Vernita rest stop (seen below as the patch of trees across the river).

 [Mile 387] Vernita rest stop in the trees to refill water. Then this monster of a climb! — at Vernita Rest Area.

Mile 387

The reason this photo of Vernita looks like it came from up in the air is because of the ridiculous climb I was nearing the top of. The road was maybe the steepest section on the entire route, and was covered in locusts. Half of them were dead and being eaten by the other half. I tried to swerve around to stay away from them, because they would hop and chirp and were annoyingly in the way and trying to get squished. I successfully avoiding hitting any.

I reached the final controle of the evening in Mattawa right at sunset (~9pm). I considered shutting my eyes for 20 minutes, knowing that this would be a long night ahead of me still. I ate a bunch of food, filled up my water one last time and set out without sleeping though. I tried to go fast again, but continually ran into difficulties with that. Along the Columbia River were swarms of bugs, so breathing could only really be done by nose to avoid eating the bugs. Then there was the climb. Again, having no printed elevation chart, I had no idea what I was really in for. It was only 700ft, but it felt like a mountain. Remember that I have ridden 200 miles so far this day, and 225 the previous day! I could see blinking bike lights ahead, but they were 10 minutes away and not seeming to get any closer. I reached the top, which then plummets a few hundred feet down on a descent that could have topped 50mph. But tired around 11pm and with a few cars around, I didn’t dare go much more than 30mph.

Kathy in Ephrata

Kathy in Ephrata

Eventually I caught the blinking lights of the CA couple. We rode together for a few more miles before catching the SFR guys. Then as five people, the SFRs unloaded everything and were hammering away to the finish. When this train caught a few Seattle and BC guys, I broke off with them, but people split and it was just Tyler (Seattle) and I for a bit. He had to stop to fix something, and I kept going the remaining few miles with Bob and Gary (BC) to get in around 1am. It was great to see Kathy there helping randos check in, eat food, and find a bed! I milled about for an hour before setting my alarm for 4 hours later.


Strava data for day two: 06/22/2014 Cascade 1200 day two – Carson to Ephrata 231.1 miles ridden, 11,110ft climbed.


Posted in 200-300 miles, 2014Cascade1200, Olympia | 1 Comment