Archive for September, 2008

Mountain Charlie

| September 30, 2008 1:01 pm

by Jerry Schonewille

The ACTC riding academy held a bicycling touring class September 20-21, 2008 that included a self contained overnight ride from Los Gatos to New Brighton State Park in Capitola. I know the leader, Tony Le, and sort of invited myself along.

First, I have to say I am very impressed with they way Tony conducts his class and the skills of the 8 riders that joined in. I was honored to be among them.

New Brighton State Park has a very nice Hiker/Biker site that is popular and used by tourist riding down the Pacific Coast. I think there must have been 15-20 people in the site overnight. My biggest impression was that I saw four Surly touring bikes. They are becoming popular (and hard to get, I’m told).

I had assumed that the return route would be on Eureka Canyon, one of my favorites, but was pleased that it would be Mountain Charlie instead. I love Mountain Charlie and had often wondered what it would be like on a loaded touring bike. Now I would find out.

Tony’s route from Capitola to the base of Mnt Charlie was different from various routes I’ve ridden before. I have to say, this one is probably the nicest and I will use again in future rides.

I know Mnt Charlie well and I know where the elephants are buried. There are three nasty sections. The first, leading to the purple submarine house is the worse. I didn’t even try riding that section. I was able to ride the second steep section but it really pushed my heart rate to the limit. I could have ridden the third steep section except I hadn’t recovered yet from the second section yet so I got off and walked. Not bad overall. As always, it is not my legs that limit me – it’s my cardiovascular system.

Thanks Tony for a great weekend!

Knoxville Double 2008-earning the Triple Crown

| September 24, 2008 7:39 pm

By Louise McCracken

Pena Adobe Park in Vacaville was dark but dotted with headlight and helmet lights alike as approximately 240 participants started their journey on the Knoxville Double Century.  Ranked ninth out of 20 with the California Triple Crown in elevation gain, this 200 mile ride is considered quite a challenge amongst the cycling community with 12,600 feet of climbing.  With that inconsideration, many started this ride at 5:00 am in hopes to finish the ride before sunset.  Leaving the park and going through a maze of streets to get out of town for the first ten miles was smooth.  A little climb over Mt George to Napa Valley glowed as the sun rose over the horizon.

Arrived at the first rest tom at Napa River Ecological Reserve, I needed to shed my leg warmers.  Topped-off the water bottles had my number checked off and hopped back on the bike.  More rolling hills and some gentle to moderate climbing on Silverado Trail and Howell Mountain Road.  Gary F was provided a few words of motivation and encouragement as he passed me.  Joe F was reassuring moments later telling me that this course is “a piece of cake Louise-a piece of cake!” After the decent and onto Pope Canyon Road I suddenly struck with shooting pain down my left leg and my arm started feeling numb.  I had mobility in my hand; I just noticed my arm was numb.  Pulled over to stretch, when I put pressure above the hip bone near my spine, it was swollen and tender.  Okay, this could be a pinched nerve, should have made a visit with my Chiropractor the day before the ride.

Rest stop #2 at Knoxville Road-Lake Barreyessa, Gary was leaving as Joe, Paul D and Mark D were grabbing their bikes.  As I was shed my arm warmers, Paul advised I take some ibuprofen and also take my time on the climbs.  That was when the others cautioned me that Knoxville Road was going to be a struggle for me.  After a few rollers, it becomes a relentless and consistent grade to the next stop “after the tunnel” which provides water only.  Okay, I followed instructions, grabbed a handful of pretzels and stuffed my bento box for the next leg and mentally prepared myself for the next challenge.  Much to my surprise, the ride was quite pleasant as my focus was concentrated on the battered and beaten-up narrow, two-lane road.  Jeeps and Trucks were parked on the shoulder-dotting along the side the road.  It hunting season and there were occasions where I saw them at their respective vehicles packing their rifles away calling it a day.  Gary F surprised me as he passed me again on the course.  I told him about my suspected pinched nerve and my determination to finish the ride.  He was gracious in providing more encouragement as he sped off into the distance.  I learned later on that he took a wrong turn and went off course for awhile.  One of these days I will be able to pass the same person on a double century ride like he does on two occasions.

Just when I gained confidence in myself and thought I was doing well with this challenge when the grade of the climb increased.  The road started to get smoother so the concentration was shifted to power on the pedals as opposed to maneuvering around the potholes to avoid a pinch flat.  Now I knew what everybody was warning me about.  My arm was still numb, hand functional and the ibuprofen as wearing off.  Passing through the “tunnel,” a rider was stopped along the side of the road.  It was very tempting to do the same as lighting bolts of discomfort was shooting down my leg at every pedal stroke.  But I knew there would be a stop to refuel and medicate soon.  A few hundred yard up the road, a photographer as sitting on the shoulder taking pictures of riders.  He got a good shot of me munching on some of those pretzels I just stuffed in my face.  Guess I will become the poster-child advertizing the ride for next year.  When I approached him, he asked me if the rider down below was okay-oh yea, he’s just catching his breath.  “You don’t have very far to go!  Slip it in the lower gear and spin, spin, SPIN!”  Yes sir, I can do that, I am on my way.

Up and around the corner a sign along the road warning that there are cyclists on the road asking hunters not to shoot us.  The water stop was within my sights-as I approached, I found Russ S and Debra H dressed in camouflage and painted faces.  Russ was checking off the rider’s numbers and Debra was providing accolades acknowledging our accomplishment by blowing a duck caller (synonymous to the Quack cyclists who organized the event).  As I approached the tents to refill my camelback and bottles, I saw Shelia S and David H in the same attire of camouflage and painted faces.  It was quite the festive theme and well receptive after a good tough climb.  Shelia was pushing chocolate milk as it was “good fuel for the thighs.”  Okay Shelia, serve me a double, one for each thigh.  More ibuprofen and continued on course as there was more elevations on conquer.

The humor of the organizers was sustained at Morgan Valley Road as marking on the road indicated “Last climb before lunch, (Promise?!).”  After the 2nd identical marking was passed, it was clear that there was more work to be done before the next rest stop.  As I arrived, Gary, Joe and Mark were on their bikes and getting ready to roll.  They gave me a resounding applause knowing of the additional and unexpected obstacles I was facing.  Joe tried to me humor me as he announced that “there is no more climbing.”  When I heard the surrounding cyclist burst into laughter, I knew better.  After some friendly banter describing the climb of Cobb Mountain-the degree of difficulty, distance, etc., I was reassured that this was the “easier” side of the mountain.  Thanks guys, I read the course description before the ride, I know there is more climbing to do-just not as much.  I appreciate your vote of confidence.

Quack cyclists made a healthy sandwich as opposed to the skimpy ones at the lunch stop of the Grand Tour.  A bag of chips and a soda, more ibuprofen, filling the camelback and topping off the water bottles, I was refreshed and ready to for more.  A Quack cyclists announced that “bonking was not allowed” on this ride and encouraged us to stuff our jersey’s. Another maze of streets out of town and the climb of Cobb Mountain began- the toughest climb of the ride.  The pain returned to my leg after the climb just as I started the descent.  Everybody loves to see those road signs warning trucks to use low gears when you are working so hard to reach the summit.  The Detert Reservoir/Pelican Lake rest stop was a welcome sight as I headed straight for the ibuprofen.  Quack Cyclist noticed I was slow climbing back on the bike as my number was checked off.  “The hard climbing is over” he shouted as I rolled back on the course.

Other cyclists were friendly and encouraging as we all shared our desires of finishing the ride-the countdown to the finish commenced.  Lake Hennessey rest stop was a welcome sight as it was dusk.  Paul V was serving freshly cooked hot dogs as I broke my six year ban of eating them-it tasted so good!  Everyone had to show the Quack Cyclist their lights as their numbers were checked off the list.  It was going to be dark soon and people visiting the lake in their boats were sure to be leaving soon for the day.  The narrow shoulder on HWY 128 was going to provide some safety concerns.  It was necessary to activate my lights about a mile before the last rest stop at Pardehsa Store at Hwy 121 and Pleasants Valley Road.  More ibuprofen, some pretzels and a soda-I was ready to roll. Quack Cyclists were insistent that riders left in pairs using the buddy system.  The boaters were leaving the lake and the ability to see two or more cyclists on the road was better than one.  Some of these boaters were quite confident in their passing capabilities as you could feel their draft as they passed.

“Thirteen miles left to go!’ I was reassured by my cycling buddy.  His helmet light was very bright and I preferred he be the front man when we needed to ride single file as vehicles passed us.  In contrast, it was a little ways to go-but it felt like one of the longest sections of the course.  I was tired, full of ibuprofen and eager to lay flat and rest my leg.  Deer scampered across the road in front of us before the next car sped along, passing us on the road.  It was a welcome sight and distracted me from the exhaustion I was facing.  Once we were at the end of Pleasants Valley Road and turning onto Cherry Glen to cross over the freeway, I knew we were to quickly approach the finish line.  YAHOO!  Thanks to all the support and encouragement of the organizers and fellow cyclists alike, I was able to accomplish a personal goal of completing my 3rd double century for the year and earn the Triple Crown award.
Day of Event = September 20, 2008

Everest Challenge

| September 22, 2008 5:06 pm

by Franz Kelsch

Five us (Eric, Doug, Kley, Luke and myself), all finished the Everest Challenge. Doug took my photo (above) after finishing the event. Doug came in 2nd place in the Masters 55+ and I can in 5th place with a total time of 14:47:48 (see official results). Kley and Luke competed in the Masters 45+ category. Eric was riding in the non timed category.

The Event

This USCF two day stage race is the California/Nevada State Climbing Championship and is considered the hardest two day USCF race. It was the most difficult cycling event I have ever completed, with over 200 miles and 29,035 feet of climbing.


Saturday we left the motel in Bishop and drove 6 miles north to the ride start. It was a bit cool, around 49 degrees. I decided to put on knee warmers, vest and arm warmers. The Masters 55+ started first at 6:45 along with all the female Pro/CAT1-5 racers. There was 11 men and probably 50 women racers. For the first 8 miles it was a neutralized start, so the pace was only about 18 mph on a mostly flat road. With the cool air I wanted to go faster to warm up. Doug was riding beside me and shivering so much his bike was shaking. Then the climbing started and the faster riders took off. I stayed with the leaders for awhile but I had already decided to keep my heart rate below 158 due to the two day event, so I backed off a bit. I mentioned to Doug that the guy up front was the one who won last year so he started to chase them.

From the very beginning I felt my legs were sore, even though I had take a couple of days off the bike. I think I did too much training in the week before the event. I realize that I had already climbed about 25,000 feet in the 7 days prior to starting the Everest Challenge. That would mean by the time I finished the two days I would climb almost 55,000 feet in 9 days. I think I should have tapered more.

I was riding my newer bike with a double crank. The first climb was up to Mosquito Flat. At 10,250 feet it is the highest paved road in the Sierras. It was cool for the entire 22 mile climb with an average grade of 5%, maximum of 11%. I reached the summit at 9:50 am. The descent was fast (over 41 mph) but still cold so I was glad I had worn what I had on. We biked over to the second climb up Pine Creek to 7,420 feet. On the climb I was passed by the first Pro/CAT1 male riders who had started 55 minutes after we did. It was the easiest climb of the day, with an average grade of 7% and nothing over 9%. I reached the summit at 11:55am and my average speed from the start was now up to 13.2 mph. It was now getting warm so after the descent I stopped to take off some clothes.

I reached the 3rd climb at 12:38 pm. This is a 20.4 mile climb up to Bishop Creek at 9,835 feet. It averaged 6%, but the last mile had some sections at around 15%. I was doing the math in my head. So far I had biked 6:04 so I was thinking if I made this climb in under two hours, I would be able to finish in around 8 hours. Certainly I could climb 6,000 feet over 20.4 miles in 2 hours, right? Wrong! It was a long climb with virtually not portions that leveled off to provide any recovery. The legs started to yell at me, enough is enough! The last 3 miles had some very steep sections which tested my tired legs. I started to cramp and had to stop for a couple of minutes before I could go on. I was a bit disappointed in how I did until I heard from others who seemed to have suffered also. Even Doug said he had cramped on that part. I finally reached the finish line at the summit at 3:13 pm. My average heart rate was 145 for the day and I had averaged 12.4 mph. You can see from the graph below I was keeping my heart rate out of the red zone through out the day. My total time from the start was 8:26:40, which was 5 minutes faster than my calculated best possible time.


I was determined to do Day 2 smarter. They were handing out filled water bottles on Day 1 but I had mistakenly taken some water bottles that I didn’t want to give up, so this meant extra time when I had to stop to refill my water bottles. This time I took other bottles that I was glad to get rid of. I also skipped the knee warmers to avoid the wasted time to stop and get off the bike to take them off. The biggest change however was I decided to use my old bike with a triple (which I had luckily brought along). The climbs on Day 1 were fine with a double (except the last part of the last climb) but I knew that tired legs would not work as well.

We got up at 6 am, loaded the car with everything, since we were checking out. It was a 16 mile drive south to Big Pine for the start. The temperature there was colder than for Day 1, at 42 degrees. We started again with the women racers at 6:45 am.

The neutralized start took us 3 miles back over highway 395 to where we started towards Palisade Glacier, starting at 3,940 feet and finishing at 7,800 feet. It was a tough climb, averaging 8%. I noticed immediately that I could not get my heart rate up as high as the prior day, a clear sign I was fatigued. It was warming fast so the cold temperature was not much of a factor for long. It was a beautiful hill to climb, especially up near the turn around point, which I reached at 8:20 am. There was a water stop there but I was prepared and didn’t need to stop riding.  I just threw my empty water bottle into a bin and took a filled one and then off down the hill. When I reached speeds of around 40 mph, the bike started to shake a bit, which is why reason why I don’t like to descend on my old bike, so I had to brake to keep the speed under 40 mph.

Once I reached the bottom, it was biking the 3-4 miles back to the start for the easiest climb of the two days, up the Death Valley Road to 6,545 feet in 8.5 miles. With an average grade of 5% it seemed like we were not really climbing. I did not see any riders in front or behind me so I started to wonder if I had missed a turn. Then the lead rider from the men’s pro racers passed me. I reached the summit at 9:53 and did a slow turn around without dismounting, grabbing another water bottle and a Cliff Bar, which I ate on the way down. During the descent it was now clear we had actually climbed quite a bit since I was able to get up to about 31 mph.

After passing the start once again, I turned right to head up to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. It was a 21 mile climb up to 10,100 feet with an average grade of 6%. But the bottom third had a long section with 9-12% grade so I was glad I had the lower gearing and really use it. This was the last climb of the event and seemed to go on forever. Even though I was putting in a full effort, my heart rate would only go above 142, compared with Day 1 when I was holding back to keep it below 158. I already knew the top 3 miles would be tough and they didn’t disappoint. The grade was averaging 10%, but sometimes steep. Even some of the young racers that we just now catching me were not going past me very fast as they were grinding it out. It was one of the hills where you can look up and see the miles ahead and wonder how in the world will you ever make your way up to the top. After a brutal climb to within 1.5 miles of the finish the grade did become a tad easier but was still hard. I crossed the finish line at 1:06 pm, with a total riding time of 6:21:08. My average heart rate had been 138 for the day and I have averaged 10.4 mph. You can see from the chart below the lower heart rate compared with the first day (click to enlarge)


Overall for the 2 days, I finished in 14:47:48, coming in under my goal of 15 hours. I was amazed I was only a single minute off my estimated best time. I am pretty sure I had the best time for anyone 60 or older, but they don’t have that category anymore. The last time they had a category for 60+, the winner was 40 minutes slower than my time.

I am happy that the event is over but did really enjoyed it. We had fantastic weather and the support at the event was as good as it ever gets.

Next up is the Furnace Creek 508, in less than 2 weeks!

Touring – Expect the Unexpected

| September 13, 2008 2:59 pm

by Jerry Schonewille

So I was in the middle of a 60 mile tour from Turlock to Mariposa, with 3000 ft of climbing, noticing that 5 gravel trucks had just passed me yet there was almost no other traffic on this country road.  Then an oil truck passed and I instantly thought – chip seal!  I started making plans in the event the road ahead was blocked.  I thought about turning around or hitching a ride or backtracking to an alternate route, but I kept going.  None of these alternatives were attractive because it was hot and each would sabotage my plan to ride early and beat the heat.  I carry spare tubes and spare spokes and a spare tire but no spare road.  So I plodded along.

Then I came upon a roadblock and there was no longer any doubt – chip seal!  One-way traffic control was in effect and several cars were lined up waiting their turn to proceed.  I rode past to find out if the road ahead was even rideable.  Before I could ask, they guy said you don’t want to ride on this.  We’ll put your bicycle in the pilot truck.  Fantastic!  Almost 5 miles of fresh oil and gravel bypassed.  I asked if other bicyclist had been along but was told I was the first and only.  In fact, very few cars come this way.  I was dropped off at a fork in the road and while I had planned to go left, I was advised to go right.  So I did.  It ended up adding more miles and more climbing in exchange for no automobile traffic.  Good move, until the dog …

Anyone who rides remote country roads eventually gets chased by a dog.  I’ve been chased by many during my rides.  About 95% of the time dogs just want to have fun and chasing bicycles is fun.  Sometimes I play along, slowing down or speeding up and letting the dog know that I enjoy his company.  Sometimes I’m not sure of his intention and proceed cautiously.  If I’m nervous I’ll stop and get off my bike.  Usually the dog stops too, forgetting why he was chasing me and deciding I’m no fun anymore.  Turns around and goes home.  Once in a while the dog’s body language tells me this is not about fun but about aggression or defending territory.  That was the case today.

I saw a home on a hill next to the road ahead of me about a quarter mile away and already the dog in front was barking and acting agitated.  As I got closer I saw there was no fence between me and that dog and sure enough there came a point when he charged down the hill toward me.  I could tell right away this was not a dog looking for fun.  As he approached I slowed, made eye contact, and started yelling things like “no”, “bad dog”, “go home”.  But he kept coming.  This dog was not accustomed to taking directions from humans. I stopped, and so did he – about 5 feet away and continuing  to display aggressive behavior.  I was concerned an attack might be forthcoming.  I kept yelling at the dog, my bike between me and him, standing tall and waving my arms like a madman.  The dog kept his distance but did not back off from his aggressive demeanor.  We had a standoff.  I now had water bottle in one hand (to squirt in his eyes in case of a charge) and my frame-mounted bicycle pump in the other (as a defensive weapon).  The dog was not backing off and seemed to move closer as he paced back and forth.  It entered my mind that if I was carrying a gun it would be in my hand right now and cocked and ready to go.  This was a very scary and unpleasant situation.

Then I noticed pebbles near my feet and I grabbed one and threw it at the dog.  It missed but not by much, and he noticed.  He instantly turned tail and ran back to his home up on the hill.  Phew.

This all occurred just before I reached the property the dog was defending.  As I rode past he continued to be agitated and aggressive but stayed on his property.  I hope he learned a lesson and next time will not be so aggressive toward a passing bicyclist, but I doubt it.

— jerry schonewille (aka vagabond jerry)