By Louise McCracken
It was a 5:00 am start with Jon Kaplan, Barbara Murphy and Fred O’Leary. I was nervous as this was going to be the longest ride I have ever set out to accomplish. Jon had complete faith in me to finish. And to give me a boost in my confidence, had expressed his concerns that his pace would be too slow for me, “You can finish this ride in 12 hours.” Thanks Jon, I know I need to pace myself so I can have the energy to finish.
Several had started this ride “at the butt-crack of dawn” as a dear friend would tell me. Many ultra bright headlights mounted on bikes and helmets made my lighting in-effective for the first ten miles or so. Those of us who are “new-bee’s” identified the seasoned cyclist instantly when there were turns on the course. I was so thankful I was cycling with Jon as he clearly expressed the directions. Barbara was very helpful herself yelling at other cyclists if they had turned the wrong way down the road. Talk about “Girl Grit,” yee haw.
My wool jersey was keeping me plenty warm and my jacket was becoming more of an access item than a barrier to the wind. As the sun peaked over the mountains, the fields of poppies, lupine and mustard were glowing creating a breathtaking view. I turned to Fred as we rode on a long stretch of road amongst a single row of red flashing lights, “This is quite the Kodak moment.” I forgot how he replied to me, but the look on his face validated my expression. Nothing beats the coolness of the morning hitting your face, watching the colors glow with the first dawn light, and the sounds of cyclists turning the pedals – priceless.
Tim from San Diego joined us as we continued the ride. At approximately mile 70, my energy hit an all time low. Jon says that I “hit the wall” as I dropped back from the group before the reaching the 2nd rest stop. Barbara knew right away what happened – “You’re not eat and drinking enough!” Yea, you’re right, I am still learning how to cycle and reach for articles in those back pockets of my jersey. Took advantage of electrolyte pills and inhaled some goodies, most of then salty and topped-off my water bottles. A rider and a SAG crew member complimented me on the wool jersey. Oh yea, they are warm! The group had been waiting for me so I was not going to hold them up any further. I shed my jacket as I felt overheated and as able to keep up with the group refreshed-I was starting the ride all over again.
Winds blowing pretty good to Morro Bay that took a toll on our group as Jon and Barbara broke away from Fred, Tim and I until the Main Street turn-off on the highway. I was so happy to have that red “dot” placed on my number as we knew this was the half-way point of the ride. You know what they say, “Strength are in numbers.” And that is especially true when you are riding through towns like Morro Bay and Pismo Beach. Traveling in packs, a grand presence is created when approaching traffic signals and stop signs. Motorists were gracious and courteous. There was one incident where a small-sized burgundy truck was passing us honking his horn and “flipping the bird.”
Lunch was a welcoming sight. My camelback was empty and the energy bars and gel shots I stuffed in my sleeves were nearly gone. Time to re-energize and re-group thoughts about the ride; as Gary Franc advised me at Death Valley, strategy is eating and drinking. So very true, and lesson well learned. Tim dropped behind and informed us that he was having knee problems-too bad, we were enjoying his camaraderie. A sandwich and a soda made me feel bloated, but I stuffed my sleeves knowing that sensation would not last for long. Met Barry Schwartz after a group photo; after telling him about my experience hitting the wall, he smiled and said, “That is what Doubles are all about-suffering.” Larry joined us as we continued down the long and straight flatlands enjoying some tail winds and battling crosswinds. I concentrated on keeping pace as I felt guilty of “sucking wheel” more than pulling the group.
The last rest stop was a welcoming sight as we were asked for our numbers to be checked-off a list. Many riders reassured me that I was “almost done” and lots of congratulatory expressions once they learned this was my first double. One last climb and the rest is downhill from there. The cup of noodles went down easy-comfort food that hit the core indeed. Barbara and Fred took off ahead of us because Fred is a slower climber and Barbara had confidence that we would catch-up to them. Of course, another comment the wool jersey before leaving the rest stop, “Women aren’t supposed to wear wool jerseys!” Hmmmm. “Well, they do now!” LOL
Climbing the last hill, I was mentally prepared for a tougher climb. Granted you have cycled more than 160 miles at this point and your legs are getting tired. I guess I was concentrating so much on maneuvering around the patched, chopped-up, and re-patched road up the grade. When Jon and I reached the cattle guard at the top, he expressed that I had made a better effort than him. The decent was challenging because of the beaten-up road, I was happy we were doing this while it was still day-light. Once we were on better surfaces, it was smooth sailing from there.
One last climb-yea right; a rolling hill into Buellton and a short “climb” into Solvang to complete the ride. To us new-bee’s that was the last amount of suffering to be had on the ride. Jon was pleased to announce that he did his all-time best ride on the Solvang Double completing the course in 12hr 50min. Many thanks go out to Jon, Barbara and Fred! I was happy to be a part of the experience for Jon to achieve his best time, what a ride to remember.