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2003 Sequoia Double-Metric Century
(Sunday, June 1 in Palo Alto, CA)

See also my photo album from this ride.

I woke up at 5, had a cup of coffee, then drove over the Dumbarton Bridge to Palo Alto, arriving at right around 6:00. I had wanted to do the pre-ride checkin the previous day, but couldn't get to Los Altos in time. I sure wish I had, though, as it took a little while at checkin to figure out why my name wasn't on the list. We finally determined that it had been put in under my first name rather than my last (ahh, the joys of having three first names). After I finished registering, I saw my ride buddy Brenda from last year's Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge and said hi before setting out. I hit the road at 6:32.

Looking back south on Skyline It was cool-ish, but pleasant at the start, so I set out wearing just a light windbreaker and knee warmers, figuring it would only get warmer as the day progressed (how right I was!). Brenda caught up to me and we rode north together along very familiar roads (Arastradero, Alpine, Portola, Cañada, Skyline). Brenda had a good deal going today - she was out cycling the lovely peninsula hills while her husband was resurfacing their deck! There was a inline skate race on Cañada Rd. - I was glad we were going the opposite direction. Brenda and I caught up on what all rides we'd been doing. It turned out we both did the Davis Double this year, but never crossed paths. She had a fast ride there - 12.5hrs including stops! I stopped at the top of Skyline to remove my windbreaker, then we zig-zagged our way through suburbian Hillsborough and up a short, but steep wall to rest stop #1 at Cuernavaca Park (25mi). I didn't stop here, as I didn't need anything and wanted to minimize downtime (at least before hitting the big hills later in the ride!), but Brenda did, and that was the last I'd see of her.

Ocean next to Highway 1 After a bit more zig-zagging on side roads, a brief stint on the San Andreas Bike Path (which was unusually uncrowded this morning!), and a few more miles north on Skyline, it was a left onto Sharp Park and a blazing descent into Pacifica. This is a fun downhill, with wide, sweeping corners and great visibility - no need for brakes at all! It was uncharacteristically clear in Pacifica (Not-kindly also known as "Pathetica" for all of the fog it usually has). Montara Mountain, where Sarah & I had hiked just a week earlier, was to our left, and the ocean to our right - not bad terrain for cycling! Riders were fairly scattered here, and I rode mostly alone south over a hill, through the tiny beach town of Montara, and along Devil's Slide (infamous for washing out in nearly every major storm), where I stopped to take a couple pictures. Continuing south I hopped on the tail of a fast tandem with one solo rider behind it, devouring the miles greedily until I decided that nice as the draft was, it was too much work to hang on (especially with the vast majority of the climbing yet to come!). As I pulled into the second rest stop at Half Moon Bay High School (48mi), I saw my friend Deb leaving, but didn't recognize her until she was out of earshot. I hoped I would catch up to her later. At the rest stop, I mixed up another pair of bottles of Sustained Energy spiked with Hammer Gel, used the facilities, stretched, and headed back out before too long.

Great views from Higgins-Purissima Road! I rode south through downtown Half Moon Bay, past the recently-burned-out general store (Alas! It was a very cool little store!), and onto Higgins-Purissima Rd. I'd been here a couple months ago on an ill-fated training ride where I wasn't nearly as recovered from a bout with the flu as I thought I was, and was looking forward to exacting my revenge on the hills (or at least enjoying riding on them!). Higgins-Purissima and Purissima Creek roads both are rural and extremely lightly travelled (a good thing, as they're only 1.5 lanes wide!). They're also quite scenic, and I enjoyed the climb up Higgins-Purissima, with long views down a valley back towards the coast behind me. After passing Purissima Creek Regional Park, it was a nice rolling descent back to the coast, then north on Verde to the beginning of the real climbing. The 100mi and 200k courses split, with the 100mi'ers continuing south along the coast to Pescadero, while us less-sane 200k'ers went inland again to spend some quality time (several hours) with the coastal hills. Lobitos Creek starts with a lovely little climb through eucalyptus and a gentle descent and then climbs at first kindly, then rather steeply before dropping down through a thick redwood forest to meet up with Tunitas Creek Road, a gorgeous, but challenging climb back up to Skyline. Soon after starting on Tunitas, I caught Deb and Tracy. We talked briefly, but neither of them seemed to be feeling very well, so I continued on ahead at my own pace. I met Ramona, a cheery rider, also from Fremont, and wound up riding with her the rest of the ride. She was good company, and we talked as we climbed, which always makes the time pass more quickly. We stopped briefly near the top of the climb to transfer some water from my plentiful hydrapack into her empty bottles, then continued onwards, turning onto Starr Hill and grunting up the Swett Rd. wall (short, but steeeep), then arriving at rest stop #3at the King's Mountain School (69mi).

The first mellow climb on Stage Road I stretched, mixed up more Sustained Energy, and then got in the surprisingly long water line. This could have been arranged more efficiently, since there was just one line for 2 jugs of gatorade and one of water. To my dismay, when I got to the water dispenser, I found foul-tasting water. I soon saw the culprit as a staffer topped off the jug with a garden hose - yuk! Even copious amounts of Sustained Energy and Hammer Gel could not defeat the icky hose-taste. Previous ride reports for this ride have mentioned this problem as well. It would be very nice if the Western Wheelers could address it. Ramona wisely found a drinking fountain and filled up her bottles from that. I stretched for a little while and saw Deb and Tracy pull in as I was getting ready to leave. They definitely weren't feeling well, and Deb said she was just going to go home (lucky her lives on nearby Skyline!). Ramona and I headed out after a little bit. We rode south on Skyline then west on Highway 84 back towards the coast for the 3rd and last time. The top portion of 84 is an okay descent, but not steep enough to build up a great deal of speed. After going through the mountain hamlet of La Honda, the road continues as a very gradual downhill out to the coast. There was a headwind, naturally, brisker than the usual 84-west-headwind, and I was glad to have someone to trade pulls with. This last stretch on Highway 84 often seems interminable, and I was definitely starting to tire by the time we neared San Gregorio. We stopped at the quaint San Gregorio store (which is basically the entire town) for a few so I could stretch and take some aspirin (were weren't the only riders with that idea - there were a half dozen or so from our ride here as well, along with the usual complement of cyclists out for a training ride.

After reluctantly getting back on my bike, we headed south on Stage Rd. towards the comparatively-large town of Pescadero. I'd never ridden this direction on Stage before, and it proved a pleasant and non-difficult ride over two small'ish hills. We rode past Machine Gun Man (a huge steel skeleton holding a large machine gun in someone's front yard), down the tree-lined road, and into Pescadero, then turned east for the last time and started up Pescadero Rd. towards the last rest stop. It was a much easier climb than I was expecting, which was just fine by me! I talked to a nice rider (John?) from Marin who was wearing a Death Valley Double jersey - he'd never ridden in this area before and was really enjoying it. No doubt this would be a truly impressive course for one not familiar with the area! He said he was tired of cycling the same roads in Marin, which struck me as odd since Marin is pretty near cycling nirvana, but then again we do tend to shun the familiar. Before too long, we turned off on a very narrow spur road to the Huckleberry Flat picnic area (103mi).

This was a nice stop, situated in a redwood forest, and there were cheerful volunteers all around. I made a turkey and bread sandwich to get some solid food, and had a glass of cool lemonade. It was pretty warm at this point, and ice would have been a welcome addition to the beverages (as would V8 and some sort of carbonated, caffeinated soda). As I was stretching, I saw Mike J., proprietor of the excellent Chain Reaction Bicycles. I talked to him for a few, then Ramona and I headed back out on our way. A rare shady section on upper Alpine Rd.

There were only two climbs left, Haskins Hill, which I hadn't ridden, but had heard ill spoken of, and west Alpine, which I've spoken ill of ever since last year's Sequoia Century ;-) Haskins Hill wasn't too terribly steep, but it was definitely too exposed and warm especially towards the top. I found myself wishing that I had normal water in one of my bottles so I could pour some on myself (its a bit difficult to pour water on oneself from a Camelbak whilst riding!). After cresting Haskins Hill, we enjoyed a too-short descent, then turned off on Alpine Rd. The westmost part of Alpine Rd. is a gentle shaded climb through the redwoods and along a bubbly creek, reminiscent of Tunitas Creek, but easier. Then it gets steeper, the trees go away, and the true suffering begins. We eventually arrived at a water stop at the intersection of Portola Park and Alpine. Ice would again have been much appreciated, but just having a friendly staffer with some munchies and water sufficed nicely. I filled one bottle with water to pour on myself, and after some idle chitchat, we reluctantly resumed our slog towards Skyline Rd. It was only 2.5mi and didn't take toooo long, but it sure felt warm, and I sure was tired. Ramona & I had pretty much stopped talking by now, just concentrating on dragging our sorry selves to the top of the climb. We eventually got to the top and enjoyed a 1 mile gradual descent to Skyline Rd., ecstatic to be done with all (well almost all) of the climbing! We started down Page Mill Rd., always a fun descent. At least this time I remembered that there are two small'ish climbs at the top of Page Mill before the plunge begins in earnest. On the longer of the climbs, I talked to a nice fellow in a California Triple Crown jersey about various double centuries we've done, and then the proper descent began - yeah! I really enjoy riding down Page Mill - its mostly well-surfaced, lightly trafficed, and doesn't have too many surprise turns. We turned onto Altamont for some zig-zagging through Los Altos Hills (presumably just to bring the mileage to exactly 200km, as its more direct to descend all the way down Page Mill), finally arriving back at the start at 6:10 (10 minutes after the official course closure, but fortunately nobody seemed to care). We checked in, got patches and ice cream, then parted ways, perhaps to meet again on the Death Ride. There wasn't any appealing food at the end, but perhaps that's because we were so late arriving. All I wanted was the cold part of an ice cream bar anyways!

This was a pretty good ride, although nearly all of it is quite familiar to me. If it wasn't so long, I wouldn't bother paying for it, but its nice to have support (and company!) on a hilly 200k ride. The food and such were okay, but unremarkable. For a ride of this difficulty, I would really like the luxury bike foods (V8, caffeine, ice, etc.). Still all in all a pretty ride, and definitely challenging!

Related links:

Ride Stats:
Distance: 127.0mi
Total Time: 11h 33m
On-bike Time: 9h 41m
Average Speed: 13.0mph
Average Speed
(including stops):
10.9mph
Maximum Speed: 45.0mph
Total Climbing: 10,000 ft
 
Rating (out of 10):
Difficulty: 8.5 - definitely hard!
Support: 6.5
Food: 5.5 - gross hose water and no ice :(
Route: 7 - very familiar, but pretty
Overall: 7

Last modified 08 February, 2011 MST
Copyright © 2009 Adam R. Paul
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