Monday, February 23, 2009

The Camino Real Double Century 2009

Disclaimer: If you are a crotch, the following recap of participating in an ultracycing event may offend you, as crotch abuse is rampant in this story. Read on at your own discretion.

Just like a true ultramarathon starts at 50 miles, a true ultracycling event starts at 200. Therefore, in my quest to become an ultra cyclist (and in the future, an approximately ultra ultra + 3/4 ultra cyclist), coachubby, Robyn, and I set out at 6:20 am this past Saturday to rightfully earn the ultra title.

Although no sleep-deprivation training had been planned for months, I unintentionally started this masochistic technique on Saturday morning, beginning the ride on what I'll guestimate to be 4.5 hours of sleep.

At twilight, a group of riders gathered under the very overhang that coachubby had whacked with his bike seat the night before, when he drove under it with the bike on top of his car. (see reenactment, left)

Immediately, I had a few observations about the type of crowd drawn to these events:
  1. Ultracyclists are generally way older than I am.
  2. Ultracyclists have no sense of humor at 6:15am (...or throughout much of the day, I'd find out.)
  3. Ultracyclists do not like pink arm warmers when paired with purple leg warmers, and reflective nipples. (See photo) They do not find this funny. This may have something to do with observation #1. TBD.
  4. Ultracyclists must wear a jersey from the hardest ultracycling event they have ever done to every event thereafter. Plainclothes are not allowed.
  5. (Discovered later) Ultracyclists do not like to acknowledge other ultracyclists participating in the same event, neither with a wave, nor a smile, nor a "hi". They seem to be participating out of a sense of self-hatred rather than one of adventure. But they're still in it for the bragging rights. (See observation #4)
We clipped in at twilight and tried to stay at the front of the pack. This effort lasted for about 20 minutes, then with each successive hill / stoplight, people got split up into smaller and smaller pelotons. We couldn't tell where we stood in relation to everyone else after an hour of riding.

I could tell, however, that neither my Silver Bullet aka Frankenbike nor my outfit were receiving their due appreciation. One rider asked if I had scoured my garage to throw the Bullet and my ensemble together. I laughed, then vowed to kick his ass. Then I couldn't remember what he looked like a few minutes later, in the sea of "Triple Crown" jerseys surrounding me.

(In my defense, the pink arm warmers and purple leg warmers are the only arm warmers and leg warmers I own. They must be paired with the blue jersey, because it is the only jersey I own with 3 back pockets, and the acid pee vest, because it is the only wind vest I own. The Bullet needs no defense; he's the radest paint-stripped, incognito bike on the planet.)

The Camino Real Double Century is a very urban event, with tons of stop lights. Running them is not an option, although a group ahead of us must've thought it was, and was subsequently captured by a motorcycle Sheriff stealthily dressed in a dark green jumpsuit--like a tree . He was hiding in a residential area plagued by multiple stop signs.

Robyn and I immediately moved up in the female finisher standings. Thank you, Sheriff Tree!

With a predicted high of 70 and clouds all day, we couldn't have asked for better weather.

But when we came upon the part of the route that put us out on I-5 for 7 miles, I could've thought of a better route. Like running through Camp Pendleton somehow. Probably dressed like Sheriff Tree.

I've ridden that stretch before, and couldn't believe I came out alive at the end of it. Doing it 2 more times for this ride probably shaved years off of my life. (Although judging by many of my competitors, who have all so clearly done many a ride like this before, I might still live as long as I want, which is 100 years.)

At each aid station, we drew a card from a deck of cards. The cyclists with the best poker hand at the end of the ride got neato prizes. It was a nice incentive to finish the ride.

Coachubby wore his Garmin and informed us when we had hit 100 miles. Amazingly, the first 100 hadn't been that bad. We had only had one flat in our little threesome, and were feeling pretty good.

Then at mile 120, coachubby's crotch began to rebel. Unlike at Ironman aid stations, there was no giant, germ-infested tub of Vaseline at ultracycling aid station #3 for competitors to scoop out petroleum jelly relief and slather it where the sun don't shine. A trip to the bathroom revealed someone had foreseen the 120-mile crotchal riding limit and brought along a little disposable tube of Chamois Butt'r. The used capsule was in the toilet. No help for coachubby.

We soldiered on, beginning to pass smaller groups as we went. It's amazing how 80 miles becomes "Only 80 miles!" after you've ridden 1.5x that far.

When we hit the last aid station, the awesomeness of my poker hand took a nosedive along with the sun and we set out to crush the last 24 or so miles in the dark. Blinkies activated. But we had only brought "legal" headlights--not road-illuminating lights--since we assumed this "urban adventure" would be lit by streetlights at night.

Not so.

In fact, 16 miles were on a 2-lane canyon road. It was pitch black.

Robyn was nervous. Coachubby was nervous descending, but later discovered he hit 37 mph anyway. And for some reason, maybe emboldened by my choice to bring a head lamp in addition to my bike light, I felt a strange sense of calm and euphoria riding at night.

Apparently, it takes 11 hours of exercise for the endorphins to kick in now; a few years of Ironman training have destroyed my body's sensitivity to working out. Or something like that. Had I, or coachubby or Robyn flatted or crashed, I'm sure the euphoria would've quickly turned into panic accompanied by a heart rate otherwise only induced by Red Bull.

We picked off one final rider moments before rolling back into the hotel parking lot around 7:20pm. (With, according to coachubby's Garmin, an approximately 11h30m actual ride time.)

(PIC: Robyn and I pose with road on our faces after finishing.)


I was exhilarated. Not only had we ridden that far, but we had also done it on very little sleep. I had also fueled properly, and felt good the entire time. Knowing that I can ride that far without much sleep and on completely dead legs from 2 straight weeks of psycho training is a great confidence booster going in to future ultra events.

My poker hand earned me a respectable bottle of Endurolytes.

Robyn got a flush, and won a ton of money to redeem toward future Planet Ultra events. She also, I believe, was the 4th woman to finish. And might've placed even better if she hadn't stopped to wait for me after every climb, and both I-5 sections.

Coachubby began making a mental inventory of the ointment he was going to buy at Target.

(PIC: How we really felt after finishing.)

RĂ©sultats: The Camino Real Double Century is a fabulous starter double. As long as traffic doesn't freak you out, and lights don't frustrate you, there isn't too much climbing, the aid stations are stocked full of awesome goodies, the poker thing is fun, and there are, contrary to everything I just said, some nice people out there--especially the people running the aid stations. I suppose I can't ask everyone to be joking around 150 miles into a 200 mile ride.

Other riders could smile, though. Although even facial muscles get tired, I suppose!

And be ready for chaffeage. Like you've never known. Forget a fancy, expensive bike fit--you'll figure out which side of your bike you favor after riding that far. How? Well, do it. You'll see...

P.S. Why wouldn't my car start? Because coachubby left the lights on!


  1. I think ultracyclists need to get the proverbial stick out from where the sun don't shine. Sheesh. Sounds like quite a departure from the cameraderie you usually find among triathletes. I thought your outfit was kind of cute, in a garish, nerdy sort of way! Let's face it, cycling clothes by their very nature are more function than style, so who really cares? But to comment to a stranger on it? Dude! Weak!!

  2. Totally weak. He'll regret it when I somehow convince the cycling universe that clashing, eye-catching colors are the way to go, particularly for ultra cycling, particularly for riding on a freeway, and are thereby ironically hip. Or something like that :)