I am not a morning person. If this statement is true, and it undeniably is, then I'm really not a 4:15am person. You can therefore imagine my bleary eyed confusion when I was woken by thunder and around 4:15am on Saturday morning. My internal monologue went something like this:
"Wow, thunder?... and lightening?... and rain."
"Isn't that unusual for this time of year?"
"I wonder what riding 120 miles in the rain is like?"
"Wait! What? Rain! Today! Get out of here."
"Oh I can't hear rain. I wonder when my alarm is going off. Oh look it's 5:48am and I'm getting up at 5:15am. Wait! What?"
See I told I'm not a morning person, at any other time of day it would have no more than a minute for all of that to run through my mind. For those not in the know, Saturday was the Oakland Yellowjackets annual Monterey ride and I was planing on riding 120 miles (193.12128 kilometers for the down unders) from Pacifica to Monterey. The good news was that it wasn't technically raining at that point, there was so much fog that the air was completely saturated, but not technically rain falling from the sky.
The bad news was that I was now half an hour behind schedule because I'd set my alarm for 5:15pm instead of am, maybe I'm not a night person either? I fixed this time deficit by not eating breakfast and walking out the door. Not being a morning person I'd packed the car the night before and put my water bottles in the refrigerator. This meant that I'd stuck a piece of tape on the back door holding it shut with the text "Water Bottles!" written on it. For some reason I remembered then water bottles and forgot the tape, the loud tearing noise as I opened the door certainly helped get me into the next level of awakedness but caused me to drop a bottle. My downstairs neighbor may also now be aware that I'm not a morning person.
Once in the car and on my way things started to settle down somewhat and I could finally be excited. My previous longest ride was 80 miles around Petaluma, so I was really looking forward to a new milestone as well as having some trepidation that I could even ride that far. After all I'd only decided on Monday that I wanted to do the ride on Saturday. I pulled into the Pacifica parking lot, checked in, topped of my tires and parked the car, and after checking that I had everything maybe 10 or 15 times headed to check-in. I manged to breakfast on some muffin and a banana and pedaled around the lot a couple of times. Mary and Al called us over for a quick run through of how things would work.
Due to the amazing work of other people in the club the route was marked with fluro yellow route markers on the road meaning that reaching for the paper route sheet wasn't quite as necessary as usual. Once the briefing was over we headed off at 7am as promised (the one time a year the Yellowjackets leave on time). After following the first few markers we ended up at the bottom of Devil's Slide, it was about this point that I realized that maybe the people I was riding with were a little stronger than me. They quickly disappeared off into the fog leaving me to spin my granny gear up the climb.
After a close encounter with some hay I was a the top. I decided that maybe I was wrong about the people ahead being stronger, and that if I put in a bit of effort now I'd catch them on the short decent. This was a naive and wrong assumption, I saw then again for a second in Pescadero and then not again until Monterey. Later I was talking to Bruce who got to Monterey quite some time before anyone else. It turns out he does this sort of thing quite a bit, actually he's ridden 550 miles in 43 hours. Wow!
At some point before Pescadero, Kevin, and then Barry, caught up to me. Without knowing it, Kevin taught me a valuable trick to doing 120 miles—coast down the hills. Seems obvious and I'm guessing most people know this but it took me a hill or two to work it out. Pedaling down the hill only gets you a few more miles an hour and just uses that extra bit of energy you'll be thankful for later. In the midst of the rolling hills Pescadero appeared. It was nice to jump off the bike in Pescadero, fill the bottles an grab some snacks. As I started riding up the next roller the lack of breakfast started to catch up with me and I decided I need to eat a Clif Bar and munch on some Shot Bloks. The Shot Bloks are so much nicer than gels, it's like eating jello cubes and that's never a bad thing!
The fog was slowly lifting and it was great to be able to see bits of ocean and pumpkin fields rolling by. I've never ridden past a pumpkin field before and it took me a second to work out what the flashes of orange along the rows of the field were. Pumpkins in Australia tend to be green or gray which I guess is why this was a new thing. Santa Cruz couldn't come soon enough for me at this point, the calories I'd eaten hadn't really started to kick in and I was really looking forward to getting off the bike and having lunch. Lunch was perfect, turkey sandwich with BBQ sauce, pasta and some brownie where exactly what I needed and I started feeling better right away.
The riding after lunch took us through Santa Cruz and surrounds. All was going well until the route markers lead me into a closed off street having some sort of festival. Someone pointed at a detour and I managed to find my way through to the other side. Barry and I rode along for a while before he stopped to check out something, and after a couple of minutes solo I saw the yellow jackets of the Yellowjackets' bunch up ahead. We ended up in a loose bunch until the next rest stop.
Unfortunately about 5 minutes before that rest stop a small dog decided to run after me. I decided a good reaction to this would be to ride into the thigh deep ditch beside the road. In hindsight this probably wasn't a good tactical move, and I was in far more danger of injury from the ditch rather than the dog. Unfortunately nobody was around to witness this because it must have look hilarious to see a 200 pound man drive into a ditch while being chased by a 10 pound dog! The upside of this maneuver was a) I wasn't hurt and my bike was okay but for some slightly bent bars and b) the dog was so confused by my actions that it went to a nearby field and watched me sort myself out.
The final rest stop was apparently a shell of it former fruit stand glory. There's literally only a shell of a fruit stand left. Anyway we had the truck with water to top up bottles and after couple of orange quarters I had the energy to make it to the end.
Kevin, Barry, Ronald (maybe?) and I then battled the strawberry field headwinds, even giving a draft to a passed touring cyclist. A few more rolling hills later and we were approaching the end. I realized I was going to make it and I felt good! After negotiating a Triathlon finish line that appeared in Pacific Grove (Barry tried for a 3 hour 32 minute finish but ducked out at the last second) we powered up the last hill like Lance and the Schleck brothers up Mont Ventoux. Actually it might not have been quite like that but anyway we got to the park and descended on the lunch leftovers and some awesome cupcakes. Yum!
We checked in, showered and ate more. I felt no guilt in eating—my computer seemed to think I'd burnt 8,000 calories! (Please don't tell me it's wrong!)
Some stories were swapped around the fireplace and then I was off to sleep. I kept dreaming about riding, which seemed like an extra effort I didn't need. After breakfast and a stroll to the beach the next morning we jumped into the bus and vans and headed back to Pacifica and reality.
A huge thank you to Al, Mary and everyone in the Yellow Jackets who helped organize this great ride. Special thanks to the SAG drivers who followed us around all day, you were awesome. Also thanks to everyone for trying to decipher my Australian accent and for all being such a great welcoming bunch of people. I had a great time, sign me up for next year and see you Saturday!
You can follow Chris on his blog, See Chris Ramble