It’s been almost two months since my Mulholland adventure. I wrote a report a little bit afterward, and have been sitting on it since then. I looked it over and here it is in all its glory, after the fold.
Mulholland Double: Epic Fail
After my triple crown quest of 2005, I had decided to retire from double centuries. However, Tina did the Davis Double last year, so she was keen to try for her triple crown this year. She decided to do Davis again, and add Solvang and the Grand Tour to complete her three doubles. I was pretty happy to come along and support her, but I wasn’t totally motivated to do those rides myself. Instead, I thought that I could do the Stage Race comprising three of the hardest doubles. Like a typical stage race, each “stage” or double is timed, so the goal is to get the lowest accumulated elapsed time. The stage race changes slightly each year, and currently three of the four hardest doubles are chosen on a rotating basis. This year the stages would be the Mulholland Double, the Central Coast Double, and the Terrible Two.
Given that goal, I dedicated myself to training, and getting the right mix of equipment. Specifically, I thought about getting deep dish aerodynamic wheels, as having aerodynamic advantage over 200 miles would be beneficial, either allowing me to save energy or allowing me to go faster at the same energy level. After some consideration I decided to try out some Zipp 404s. I found an online dealer that provided a one week demo, so I signed up and got a set of (very expensive) wheels in a few days. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I quickly decided that these wheels were very nice. They accelerated quickly, and cut into the wind exceptionally well. I didn’t expect such a difference between them and the wheels I currently ride, but it was very noticeable, so the decision to buy a pair was pretty easy.
Once I had my Zipp wheels I had to spend a few days before getting them ready. I had decided to get the tubular versions, which are much lighter than the clinchers, but they require gluing the tires to the wheels. That’s a multi-day process, and I had screwed up the front wheel on my first attempt, which required me to do it over again. I managed to get it right on my second try, and did a short ride with them on the weekend before Mulholland.
With the equipment and training pretty much dialed in, the next goal was to stay upright. Through no fault of my own, I was victim in two accidents since December. The first happened when I was going down a local hill on one of my morning rides and a deer decided to dart in front of me to cross the road. I managed to hit him, and went down pretty hard. That gave me some road rash and a big bruise on my hip. Fortunately, I was able to keep training, and it didn’t affect me greatly. Then, in March I was on Alpine Road heading towards Palo Alto, when an SUV pulled in front of me. I didn’t have time to react, although I turned enough so that I didn’t hit the fender head on, but rather hit it obliquely enough to slide towards the front end and then crash in front of it. The damage to me was actually pretty minimal, but my bike suffered more, with my handle bars breaking near the left shifter. I had a little muscle pull in my groin area, but that didn’t affect me too much and I kept up my training.
Tina’s ride at the Solvang Double was two weeks before Mulholland. I decided to do my own local ride and be around the finish to wait for Tina. Her ride turned out pretty well. I went up the front and backside of Figueroa Mountain and then over to Drum Canyon, and did the last little bit of the Solvang Double. Tina’s ride went well, and with this ride, my training was pretty much complete, and I felt ready to do a good ride.
Hot and Windy
As Mulholland approached, the weather forecast started shaping up, and it looked to be a hot spring day in Southern California. Given that forecast, I prepared my bike by adding my extra bottle carriers, so that I’d be able to carry four bottles of fluids. Also, I packed plenty of Endurolytes, so that I’d have lots of electrolytes on the ride. Tina was nice and made some Banana Bread and small potatoes for the ride. The ride would provide Sustained Energy and other food items, but I like to have some food with me, as well as my own bags of PowerBar energy drink. We packed the bikes and everything else and headed down to Calbasas on Friday. It was a long drive down, and sitting in traffic in Santa Barbara was not fun, but we made it down without too much other difficulties. We were staying at the Good Nite Inn, which was also where the ride would start and finish. That was very convenient, as all I would have to do in the morning is get on my bike and roll down the parking lot and I’d be ready to start.
We ate dinner at an Italian restaurant called Spumoni, which featured this Bill Murray-esque lounge singer doing Karaoke singing while we ate some pasta, I checked in for my ride, getting my number and route sheet. I had already gone over what I thought the route would be like using Google Maps, but as it turned out, nothing can prepare you for what actually happens on the road. Tina copied down some of the beginning of the ride so she’d have something to do during my ride.
We got a good sleep and woke up at 4:30am. The ride would start in two waves, one at 5am for the slower riders and one at 6:15am for the fast group. I was going to ride in the fast group so I had plenty of time to get ready. Even though the forecast was for hot and windy, it was quite chilly at the start. I didn’t bother with a lot of extra clothing, as I figured I would not be needing it for very long. Even so, my fingers got numb in a hurry at the start. Calabasas is about 750ft in elevation so it was mostly a descent down to the ocean to start. Except for a couple of rollers to get the heart rate up, it was hard to stay warm. However, it started warming up as we approached the coast and I took off my vest and would not put it on again for the rest of the ride.
The group was pretty much all together down the coast. I kept myself out of trouble by staying near the front, amongst the top 15 or so riders. Other riders would move up though, but we had to stop momentarily to make the left turn onto Topanga, so I was able to move up to the front again. Topanga was the first climb of the day, so the initial selection would be made there. I moved up and was near the front, and a head wind was kicking up, even at this early hour of the morning. I sheltered somewhat as the faster riders pulled me up the canyon. The road kicked up a little after not too long, and riders tailed off the back. I stuck with the front group for as long as I could, but after a while, they started to pull away. That was no problem as I was able to settle into my own rythym and after a while, I caught a rider that had stayed with the lead group longer, but was slowing down on the climbs.
Soon enough, I reached the first check stop at Peter Strauss Ranch, seeing some of the riders from the front group. I got some water and went to the bathroom, and a second group pulled in behind me. I continued along, enjoying the roads in the Santa Monica mountains until reaching the coast at Deer Creek. That was the first checkpoint to get a sticker on my number. I quickly refilled my bottles and was soon back on the Pacific Coast Highway heading west.
This was a nice scenic road with a great ocean view, and I managed to hook on to a small two-man pace line of 5am riders, and stuck with them while eating some banana bread. Soon we reached the turn to go north and that’s when the head wind picked up. I soon dropped my pace-line buddies, and headed towards the first tough climb of the day, Potrero Road.
With the road kicking up, I dropped into my low gear, as the first bit was quite steep, with grades of over 10%. The middle section moderated, but it soon kicked up for the last mile, with more very steep grades. It was at that point that I lost my route sheet, as the winds were still pretty strong even on the uphill. I had turned over the page before the climb to see the next bit, and I hadn’t secured it quite right. Oh well, I thought, I should be able to get one at the lunch stop, which was about 10 or so miles away.
I continued along, meeting David Hoag and Deb Lefferts from the local ACTC riding club. I said hello to David but he was sticking with Deb today, so I continued ahead at my own pace. The road had been pretty well marked up until this point, and the arrows guided me well until I reached the lunch stop. However, the lunch stop people weren’t able to help me. They mumbled something about not being given any because they didn’t want people to take them and get private SAG. Didn’t make much sense to me, but there was another rider who had been more-or-less going my pace after I passed David and Deb, so we left there together, him with the route sheet, and me without.
Well that didn’t work out as good as I expected. To start with, I was doing all the work into the wind. That wasn’t helping my mood, but c’est la vie, and the roads were still pretty well marked. After making it through all the traffic lights of Thousand Oaks, we pushed our way into the wind and towards Fillmore. Except for one stretch in Moorpark, it was pretty much a strong headwind all the way north, which was even annoying on the up hill drag on Grimes Canyon. The descent was pretty good from there, but with the swirling winds in the canyon I had to be careful as my bike was blown around pretty good.
After Grimes we got to Bardsdale as the 10th and 11th riders, so I felt we, er, I had managed the wind well, and now we’d be heading back with a tailwind for a while, not counting Balcom Canyon. Balcom Canyon was a climb that was used during the Tour of California. The initial part is pretty easy, but the stop section was brutally steep. The pros even have trouble on this climb, with sustained grades of 20%. Fortunately, it’s not very long and I kept cool by dousing myself with water.
Cresting the top, I was a little ahead of my route-sheet buddy. I continued along until we got to the turn at Los Angeles. He was only 50ft behind me at that point, and I looked back and he pointed left. So I went across, but he had to wait for traffic. I noodled along, now facing the headwind again and waiting for him to catch up. I got to the Somis Road turn, and put my foot down stretching my right leg out fully, causing it to cramp up. I loosened that up as the turn was at a traffic light and I was waiting for my route-sheet buddy to show up. Within a minute my leg was feeling much better and so I looked around but he was nowhere to be seen. I thought WFT? My next thought was that he actually got the directions wrong and the route was actually the other way, and that he had turned around. There were no road markings so I turned around and went west on Los Angeles.
Lost and Found
Los Angeles Avenue goes due west towards Ventura. With the tailwind I was having a good time. My recollection of the maps I had studied before the ride said that this road should meet up with Las Posas, and Las Posas would take me south to the coast. However, my recollection was wrong, and this road would go nowhere near Los Posas. Lousy stupid memory. Must be coming down with Alzheimer’s. Anyway, the road turned south after a while, but I was thinking that I had made a bad choice, as the Santa Monica Mountains looked a bit too far away. I continued along until I reached Highway 1, but it was a freeway at this point, so I couldn’t ride on it with my bike. I made a turn and started east on Pleasant Valley Blvd. heading east. However, I was pretty lost so I didn’t know if this was the right way to go. Moreover, I was starting to run out of water and I was surrounded by fields of crops with no store in sight where I could purchase some.
I continued along Pleasant Valley for a while, until it turned towards the north. I decided to turn south at Hailes, but that didn’t look like a good way to go either. So I climbed off my bike and called Tina. Fortunately, she had finished her ride and was able to go over the people manning the ride headquarters and ask about directions. However, they weren’t too helpful and wasted a lot of time trying to get someone who knew where I should go next. The best anyone could suggest was to keep riding on Pleasant Valley until I reached Las Posas. However I wasn’t interested in that idea, so I got Tina back on the line and tried to get her to use our car’s GPS system to find me.
Tina grabbed as much water and some soda’s for me and started driving towards me. I got back on my bike and continued along Pleasant Valley until I reached a road called Laguna which looked like it headed east. So I took that and voilà, I finally reached the long lost Las Posas. I called Tina and updated her on my position. She was still on the freeway heading west towards me, but she would be able to find Las Posas without to much difficulty. I continued along on it myself for a few miles until I reached the interchange at the Pacific coast highway. I stopped there and called Tina again. She was on Los Posas herself and heading south towards me, so I decided to wait there. The shoulder was wide so she’d be able to pull completely off the road. Soon enough she was there.
At that point I had been off course without water for a long time, and I had figured I had lost at least an hour or more by being lost. Indeed, people who I had passed a long time ago were now passing me while I stood at the side of the road. At that point I realized that my heart wasn’t into the ride anymore. First, I’d have to get water on board, ironically because I got a private SAG from Tina, which not giving me a route sheet at the lunch stop was supposed to prevent. Secondly, I was way behind my estimated schedule, so I likely to finish in the dark, still without a route sheet, so getting lost again was a possibility. So I just climbed in the car and we called it a day.
Fortunately Tina was a great help, having lots of water and cold Sprite. She also had a cold washcloth, and boy did that feel good. We got my bike packed up and soon we were headed back to the hotel.
After getting back to the hotel, I checked in and talked to someone there about the route sheet snafu. The lady I talked to claimed that she gave the lunch stop people route sheets. Another rider was right there and he claimed he got a route sheet at a rest stop after he had lost his. So I guess the lunch people screwed up, or the people that I talked to didn’t know about that.
I left it at that, and got cleaned up. For my reward, we went to In and Out Burger for some tasty post-ride junk food. That definitely picked my mood up.
Overall I felt that I could have finished the ride if I hadn’t gotten lost and run out of water. The bike performed great, and the new wheels definitely felt fast. Also, I had some insulated bottles that worked really well, or at least as well as could be expected in such heat. I had that cramp but that was when I had stretched my leg a little too much after unclipping. It didn’t seem to affect me too much afterward and with the cooler temperatures near the coast I figured I would have been okay heading towards the climbs towards the end of the ride. I think I might have started my Endurolytes earlier, but otherwise I didn’t think I would change my approach the next time I ride in those kind of temperatures. The wind was definitely annoying, and if I try this ride next year, I hope they’re not so strong, and that the temperatures are a little more reasonable.
As for the rest stops, the food was reasonable, and the staff was friendly and helpful, except for the lunch stop crew, who were not helpful at all. The road markings were good, except for those fateful turns that I missed. Checking Google maps afterward, I figured out that my route-sheet buddy was correct with the left turn at Los Angeles, but I figured that he had turned south on a side road before reaching Somis, which would have then taken him, and me, if I had turned right on Somis myself, towards Las Pomas. I’ve decided to chalk this one up as a learning experience.
As for my stage race, that’s kaput, so we canceled our hotels for Central Coast and Terrible Two. Tina is doing Davis in May and since I’ll be there I’ll probably do it too, although I’m debating whether to do it with Tina and her friend Lydia, or just pound the course as fast as I can. I don’t have to decide that now though, so I’ll think about it for a bit more.
In June, I’ll get a chance to finish Mulholland as Tina will be doing the Grand Tour starting in Malibu. So my plan for that day is to do the last part of Mulholland, including the hard Decker Canyon and Stunt Road climbs. I might even throw in the first climbs up Topanga as well, just to make a day of it. With that, I’ll have a really good idea of Mulholland in case I try again next year.