Monday, March 16, 2009

The Solvang Century...A Day Late

Coachubby's Timex beeped obnoxiously at 4am on Saturday.

Neither of us moved. For 4 more hours.

So much for bandit riding the famed Solvang Century!

A week of intense training left me in much need of sleep, and a late night watching Paul Rudd and Sean William Scott in Role Models just couldn't be followed up with a 4am wake-up call.

In an effort to be cost conscious about racing this year, coachubby and I were fully prepared to drive the 2.5 hours north to Solvang, home of the celebrated wino film Sideways, jump out of the car, and join hundreds of other people on the rolling route north to Santa Maria and back.

(Note: The key to respectful bandit riding is to have all the provisions you need with you. No stealing from the ride's aid stations, no matter how many extra bananas they seem to have. Using a ride-provided porta potty is fair game. However, on a country route like this, there are plenty of places to hide in the bushes.)

Riding with hundreds of other people makes me feel like I won't be the one to get hit by a car, given the hundreds of other options on the road, and our greater visibility in numbers. Kind of like swimming in the ocean during Hermosa Beach's pier-to-pier swim during the summer; there are lots of yummy shark meal options flapping on top of the water with me. My odds of becoming an Erinburger are therefore greatly reduced.

However, when coachubby's Timex beeped in my ear at 5am yesterday, we both actually got up. I needed 100 more miles to round out my week of self-inflicted pain and mental training for RAO. I wasn't going to miss out on the brain game that would be pedaling 100 more miles on top of an already brain-melting week of riding, swimming, and running.

We arrived at the pretty Danish tourist trap that is Solvang around 7:45 a.m., waltzed into the host hotel like we knew where we were going, changed in the bathroom by the pool, and were off.

It was 45 degrees outside. The insta-process of becoming an Erincicle took place.

On the bright side, at least coachubby didn't hit any hotel lobby overhangs with his bike this time. The carbon fiber beauty that is his triathlon bike (the "F Bomb") secured a place inside the car. His road bike (the Leader) only wishes he could have such preferred treatment.

On the even brighter side, the sun began to shine, illuminating rolling hillsides of bright green grass, vineyards, and the white butts of random deer.

The last time I rode through Solvang, I was having my butt handed to me by a professional cycling team. I did not enjoy the scenery. In fact, I never saw anything but road, the backsides of other cyclists, and the interior of the team car that drug me along half of the ride.

This ride was much better. I felt like I was on my way through the Austrian countryside to meet Maria von Trapp for a glass of wine. I had time to stop and take it all in.

In fact, I stopped a lot, making what should've been a sub-6 hour ride about a 7 hour ride. Coachubby's total ride time, as shown on his Garmin, was 45 minutes less than mine, though we finished at the same time. Oops.

On the brightest side, the ride never went anywhere near roads that were very busy, and it warmed up into the high 60s. The road that did have traffic (the 101 up by Lompoc) had a huge shoulder. I was thrilled that we had accidentally come a day late. It was the most peaceful, beautiful, leisurely, rolling, easy century I have ever ridden.

It was a blessing to have the country roads of Foxen Canyon and Santa Rosa practically all to ourselves. Quite calming. Super romantic. It would've been a shame to have hundreds of people around ruining the zen that is riding in Santa Barbara County.

It was also a blessing to ride a century without any sustained climbing. I didn't think I could reach my zen moment so early in training, but the next time I need to get in an extra 100 miles without fearing for my life for half of the ride (riding up PCH in Malibu, or down the 5 in Oceanside) I will drive to Solvang.

The total drive time, at 5-ish hours, is still less than the total ride time, at 6-7ish hours, it's a legal getaway in my book.

My final advice? Strap on a Camelbak and do the Solvang Century a day late. The route markers are still out there, so you won't get lost (the century was orange this year, 50-miler was yellow).

A Sunday ride through vineyards with hardly any traffic is like something straight out of a movie. A movie filmed in France.

CA is cheaper.

Vive la Californie!

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