Posted on April 23rd, 2010 1 comment
This past Saturday I completed the Mount Laguna Bicycle Classic. The ride was 101 miles with 10,174 feet of climbing. The route consisted of three ascents up Mount Laguna from Pine Valley. Below is the route and the climbing profile.
I started out the morning in the second group (6:10am start) with a starting temperature of 39 degrees- brrr. Once started, I was looking forward to climbing as I knew it would warm me up and maybe I would feel my fingers again. The first loop climbed to Lake Cuyamaca via Highway 79 and then to the summit of Mount Laguna on Sunrise Highway. I felt great during this loop and tried hard not to push it too much as I knew that each loop got consecutively more difficult. On the way up I passed a number of people and was also passed by a few myself.
At the top I was greeted by the wonderful checkpoint staff. I should note that everyone working for AdventureCops were wonderful and always provided cheerful service including full service bottle fills. The descent down Sunrise highway was fantastic with one exception. For some reason gnats were swarming around the road and as I went through them, at speeds up to 45 MPH, they felt like road gravel bouncing off me and they made a “tink” sound as they hit my glasses. At one point I had to hold my hand in front of my face to keep from getting them up my nose or in my mouth as I breathed.
The second loop climbed up Mount Laguna via Kitchen Creek, which has to be one of the best cycling roads/climbs is San Diego County. It starts out on open roads with some undulating climbs that are steep enough to get your attention. I stopped at the base of one of these to remove my toe warmers, leg warmers and jacket. The climbing became more steady as we worked our way back in to a beautiful canyon. Eventually you end up at a gate that is suppose to keep motor vehicle traffic off the remaining section (a little more about this later). Here there was a check point and a great time to strip off some clothes- temps had risen a good deal by this point and were around the mid to upper 70′s. I re-packeged the clothes I had already taken off into more comfortable positions which included rolling my jacket up to tie it around my waist and then tying my leg warmers to my seat post. Unfortunately I had not stuffed my toe warmers deep enough into my jersey pockets and they fell out somewhere along the way.I spent about 5 minutes at the checkpoint and then continued on.
As I was enjoying the quite whispers of the wind as I steadily climbed the wonderful ribbon of pavement up Kitchen Creek a group of motorcyclists came along and disturbed my peace. Motorcycles always annoy me when I am on the bike- I think its their sound. Anyway, as you get closer to the top you work your way into the pines and the scenery was a great distraction from the lactic acid that was building in my legs. I still felt pretty good though going through this section but did have to stop once to use my inhaler – if you don’t know I am an asthma sufferer. I briefly chatted with a few people on the way up, but most were not in the mood for a chat so I peddled on.
When I reached Sunrise highway and turned left to head up to the checkpoint I started cramping a bit. I thought oh-no not a repeat of what happened to me at Death Valley Double (where I fought off cramps for about 75 miles – a bad day). I soft peddled for a bit and the cramp subsided but I began to worry about the third loop. This was my low point for the day but I got through it.
After my second visit to the top of Laguna I found myself racing down Sunrise Highway with another rider. We took turns taking the front to cut through those not so yummy gnats. I made it to the beginning of the third loop (don’t recall the checkpoint name but its the start/finish line) at 12:00. At this point I had ridden approximately 75 miles with 7,000ish feet of climbing. I felt great at the checkpoint and decided I had to finish this event even if it meant I would walk the steep climbs ahead – over 20% grades- gulp.
As I began the loop (Pine Creek) the road wound its way through a sparse residential area and was nice cycling…ah famous last words. The road quickly degraded, to at times gravel, and the climbing started off innocently enough… short steep pitches. After a few miles of those I came around a sharp bend and there it was… hell!
A long time ago I was lucky enough to stand at the foot of Hoover dam, looking up this climb brought that memory back. I took a deep breath and started at the task at hand… get up the beast. After about a quarter mile I began to realize I did not have the best gearing for this and had a tough time keeping any kind of cadence. My legs were screaming and then my horrible little friend Mr. cramp came back to visit my legs. The average grade was 20% and I felt it. As I slogged along stopping occasionally to catch my breath another rider passed me as I stood… a few pedal strokes later he fell over because he was going to slow to keep his balance. I quickly realized that I could walk this maybe 1MPH slower than my riding speed and use half the energy to do it. The fallen rider decided to walk as well and so I had someone to talk with as we walked up the wall. He pointed out where the road leveled off ahead and then to the cut into the side of the mountain that looked like it went straight up (climb number 2). We took a brief respite at the top of the first climb and then both rode as far as we could on the second and finally resorted to walking again.
At the top of the second climb there was a very well placed water stop. They had a few chairs out and all the riders that passed me while I was walking were there collapsed into the chairs and one on the ground. I drank what I had left in my bottle, filled it, drank 1/4 of it and filled it again. Hopped on my bike at left them behind. The climbing was not over yet, but, it was easier and there were some steep short descents with sand in the corners at the bottom. With a well chosen line I was able to keep my speed to help me back up the climbs that seem to await after each downhill part. Finally I turned left onto Sunrise highway and left hell, uh- I mean Pine Creek, behind me. This was a five mile section of road that was part of the first loop and amazingly the climbs got steeper from the time I did them on the first loop to the time I returned to them on the third loop.
I passed a few people along the way up to the final trip into the Laguna checkpoint, which made me feel like I made the right decision to walk the steepest parts of the Pine Creek climbs. I spent very little time in the checkpoint and pushed hard to make it down Laguna to the finish. The gnats were not as bad this time around thankfully. I was going 40 to 45 MPH on the way down and passed two additional riders… unfortunately in my tired state of mind I missed my last turn. After crossing the freeway my brain kicked in and said, “Hey Bill, this isn’t right!” I turned around and yes as luck would have it, climbed back up to where the turn was. I finished in 8 hours 24 minutes.
Next up on the calendar is ether Central Coast Double or Heartbreak Double (both very difficult double centuries with over 15,000 feet of climbing. Then Hoodoo training camp, Grand Tour and the Fireweed400.