Monday, June 7, 2010

Sequoia 200K Ride Report

"Why am I doing this again?"

That was the question I was asking myself at around 5:40 AM on Sunday morning, just after Officer Mike and I had hit the road to Palo Alto and the start of this year's Sequoia Double-Metric Century. I hadn't been out for a decent ride since my triathlon two weeks prior - in fact, if you discount couch-surfing and beer-drinking, I hadn't been out for much of anything since that event.

Sequoia was one of my main targets in 2009 and I prepared accordingly; this year, I hadn't committed to signing up until late in the afternoon on the Friday before. With 124 miles and 11,500 feet of climbing on the docket, I wasn't sure I had the fitness to enjoy the ride. My plan? Sit back, stay hydrated, conserve and rely on my remaining tri-fitness and course knowledge.

Thirteen of us rolled from Palo Alto at about 6:40 AM and softpedaled for the first ten miles before "swooping" down into the forest, hanging a left and breaking our legs on the day's first climb: Redwood Gulch. The pitches were just as nasty as I remembered, and when the road gets that steep, there's only one thing you can do: grind it out. 2,500 vertical feet later, I met up with Jared at the first rest stop and we waited a few minutes for the rest of the gang (left: Jared, Vitaly, Silas, Mike, Joe) before an epic descent of nearly 20 miles.

(Much to my disappointment, I was actually slower (and sketchier) on the descent(s) than I was last year. I'm getting worse! This is a problem, and one I need to fix soon.)

We regrouped again before the Highway 9 climb, on which Jared spun effortlessly up the road ahead of us. I settled into a comfortable rhythm of my own, and eventually we hit rest stop #3 before the Alpine descent and lunch.

The road to the PCH was fun once we managed to organize ourselves into a functional pace line. Vitaly, Jared, Mike, Michael and I were trading off well and cruising along well and that continued when we turned south on the highway and into a tailwind. We turned at Pescadero and tackled three monster "rollers" on the way north to Tunitas. Joe was coming on strong at this point, and Jared was laying it down as consistently as he had been all day long.

We shook our legs out at a rest stop before the climb and then hit it pretty hard. We started conversationally, chatting about the Giro and such. When we hit the steep section, that conversation halted. I have to credit Joe for the quote-of-the-day, but sadly, I can't repeat it here!

Tunitas was muggy and painful until the false-flat, and like last year, that's where I turned it on - flipping over to the big ring and cranking it out to the top. Jared came up not long after I did. Cola at the top was key. Combine caffeine, tailwind, smooth roads and slight downhill grades make for one hell of a great-feeling final 16 miles; we were hitting 30 miles per hour on the flats into the finish.

After some analysis, my times on RWG, Highway 9 and Tunitas turned out to be almost identical to my times the year before. My total rolling time was only two minutes slower. That, my friends, is weird. It's also good: I honestly did not feel like I had pushed as hard this year, and I definitely haven't been climbing as much as I had been the year before. I must be in deceptively good shape..? And if I add some more hills to my routine, I know I'll only get stronger. (Below: Mike, Alex, Travis, Tina, myself, and Danno at the finish.)