by Stephanie Metz
January 1st. That usual time of the year when we resolve to “lose weight”, “do more good”, “save the world”, etc. I, however, wanted a resolution that I could actually obtain. My goal: complete at least 1 century ride before the year was out.
I had already signed up for the LiveStrong Challenge, so I had my sights set on July 11th as the day to complete my goal. Now the longest I had ever ridden up to that point had been 68 miles. Knowing that I’d need to get stronger to make my resolution, I started doing more riding, especially longer and hillier rides.
I did one of the Cinderella training rides and I realized that I should just start leading my own training rides. Nothing against the Cinderella training rides, but Morgan Hill I have to drive to and if I lead the ride, I can start it closer to home. I also have a bad habit of flaking out when I’m not the ride leader, so this meant I had to get out there.
I knew I wanted to do the Cinderella Classic and Challenge, if for no other reason then to see how much more training I needed to do before the LiveStrong Challenge. When the registration for the Cinderella finally came in the mail, I signed up and sent my money in the same day I got it. More than a month of riding and training later and my little green registration card for the Cinderella came in the mail. I was in.
April 10th. The day of the Cinderella Classic and Challenge was cold, overcast and windy. Not a good sign, but I was dressed in layers and I hoped that it would get warmer as the day went on. As it turned out, the weather got worse. In fact, I found out later that people were saying that the weather that day was the worst they’d seen during a Cinderella in a very long time.
I didn’t realize how bad the storm that was moving in was until it was time for me to go down the Altamont Pass. It took me an hour to go six miles, fighting for every inch… and it was downhill. When it was time to make the turn to finish the Challenge, which went up a rather steep looking hill, I took the escape they offered and headed back to the main part of the course. I finished that day with a new personal distance record of 79 miles. But it wasn’t a century and I knew I had more work to do.
When I told Paul about going over Patterson Pass, he pointed out that I had just done one of the club’s billy goats. That got me thinking. I knew Metcalf was part of the LiveStrong Challenge and if I really wanted to get over that beast, I’d have to start doing more hills. So in May, I started leading my ‘No Kidding’ rides. The person who swore you’d never find her climbing a hill, was now leading billy goat rides.
July 11th. The day of the LiveStrong Challenge started with its usual overcast skies, which I was very glad for. I knew it wouldn’t last long, so I didn’t even bother wearing layers. But it wasn’t the weather that was going to defeat me this time, but my body.
I had done one last training ride two days before the Challenge and through nobody’s fault but my own, I pushed myself too hard. When I got out of bed that Sunday morning, my legs were stiff and to add to my body’s rebellion, my time of the month started that morning. While popping ibuprofen like candy helped with any pain I was in, it did nothing for my stiffness.
By the time I got to the third rest stop at Calero Reservoir, the one before the turn off for the 100 mile riders, I was pretty miserable. While I was there refilling my water bottle and getting more food in me, I heard them announce over the radio that the 100 mile route was closed. Even if I was up to it, it wasn’t going to happen.
Knowing that I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t do something that I hadn’t done before, I set my sights on Metcalf Road. Metcalf climbs over 1,000 feet in just over 2 miles and there’s virtually no shade. It is one of the evilest climbs in my book. I stopped and wheezed more times that I can count and I gleefully let kids soak me with their Super Soakers, but I did it. However, I still hadn’t made my New Year’s resolution.
What to do now? I didn’t know of any century rides in the area that I really wanted to do and I was feeling a bit bummed. Then I remembered that the Tierra Bella’s workers ride still had to be done, so I kept on riding and kept on training.
September 4th. Despite some family turmoil, I got down to the ride start for the workers ride with Paul a little after 7 am. I’m not a fast hill climber, but I do eventually get to the top. However, I never really looked over the route beforehand, so I didn’t really know what I was in for.
I knew that Eureka Canyon was part of the course, but I also knew that it wasn’t a very steep hill, just long. What I wasn’t expecting was all of the climbing that we’d be doing before we got to Eureka Canyon or after. By the time we were done with all that climbing, I was more then ready for a rest stop and some real food.
Unfortunately, when we got to the first rest stop, no one was there. After checking to make sure we had the right place, it seemed we missed it by 45 minutes. We also learned that the next rest stop would be closing in another 45 minutes and that it was 25 miles away.
Tired, dispirited and disappointed, I knew there was no way I was going to make the century ride. I decided that I could at least try for a new distance record for myself, but in the end, I just couldn’t do it. We only did 64 miles that day, but I did set a new climbing record for myself by doing 4200 feet of climbing. But again, it wasn’t 100 miles.
Due to family turmoil, I didn’t have a lot of rides planned for September or October. But I did learn that Lane Parker was doing a 108 mile bike ride in the beginning of October, starting in Santa Cruz, going down to Monterey and back. Because of a previous commitment, I wasn’t able to do his ride, but I was able to get a slightly modified route from him. Ok, 3,500 feet of climbing is not really my idea of fun, but I’ve done worse over a shorter route, so I was willing to give it a go.
I submitted my 100 mile ride for November with visions of heavy fog and cold winds dancing around in my head. I tried to make sure that I got some more riding in, but the weather was against me again. In the space of four weekends, I only got to ride once as Paul and I switch off on the weekend days we ride. This left me with mostly weekday rides, however, since I have kids to pick up from school, even those rides had to be limited.
November 14th. The day breaks with a few wispy clouds, but some rather impressive winds. Thoughts of really nasty headwinds fill me with dread as I loaded up my gear, bike, water, food and the one and only route sheet I was able to print for the drive down to Santa Cruz. I kiss my boys goodbye (the two I gave birth to and the one I married) and head on down the road.
I got there to find that Kevin Henington, Jean Yamashita and Kristin Rozier already there and unloading with Vic Oros, Nanci Scharfen and Bryan Shaner arriving shortly after me. While I was happy that other riders were willing to make the drive down to Santa Cruz, I was even more thrilled that there was virtually no wind. After unloading and a quick visit to the bathrooms in Natural Bridges Park, I came back to the ride start to find one more had joined our merry gang.
Santa Cruz resident and ACTC member, Tony Ornellas had arrived. I had been told that he was planning on joining my ride and that he knows where all of the places to stop for water and restroom breaks were. Since I didn’t have a chance to drive the route beforehand, I felt a lot better about having a local guide.
At 8:08 am, we started to roll and the day couldn’t be more perfect. It was slightly chilly with a bright morning sun and just a light scattering of thin clouds with the still amazing lack of wind. Without a doubt, it was a breath taking day.
The ride was pretty easy going with only some minor amounts of climbing, though I knew that there would be hills at around the 13 mile mark. Before we got to the first one, Tony caught up with me and asked if I would like to avoid some of the climbing. That’s like asking me if I want to keep breathing.
With Tony’s help, we skipped Spreckles Dr., Bonita Rd. and most of San Andreas Rd. This was great as I was afraid that I would burn out my legs before we got to Monterey with all of that climbing. While the new route wasn’t flat, it had less climbing and a good part of it was on nice, quiet residential streets. This was great since all too soon, we were going to be on Highway 1.
I’ve never particularly liked riding on busy roads, so I was a bit worried about getting on an actual highway for over six miles. Not only are cars whizzing past you at sometimes insane speeds, but there are big rigs and vehicles hauling trailers to contend with also. With heart in my throat, I made the right turn.
Turns out all of that worry was for nothing. There’s a very wide shoulder on 1 and since it was Sunday, there weren’t any big rigs. Yes, cars were still zipping past us at speeds I’d rather not think about, but for the most part, they gave us plenty of room.
We finally turned off 1 onto a quiet country road that was surrounded by nothing but empty fields. We were all doing good, but personally, I wouldn’t have said no to a potty break and I was running low on water. Shortly before we had got to an overpass for Highway 1, I heard ‘PSSssssss’.
I quickly got the group pulled over and stopped and find that it’s Kevin who had the misfortune to have our first flat. We all pulled over to render what assistance we could which was pretty much just moral support.
While watching Kevin start to fix his flat, Tony let me know that the next rest stop was just on the other side of the overpass. Kevin encouraged us to go on and he’d catch up in a bit. Since the rest of us were just watching anyways, I led all but Kevin and Jean over to the rest stop which was at a fruit stand for a much needed potty break and water refill.
It didn’t take Kevin and Jean long to finish with the wheel and catch up with us. Once they had a chance to get a little rest and to get more air into Kevin’s tire, we were on the road again.
A short time later we finally reached the Monterey Bike Path. Another 10 miles and we’d reach Monterey and lunch. With the proverbial carrot, or in this case, a bowl of clam chowder, in front of their noses, I suddenly found myself riding with only Tony and Bryan for company. Since I’m quite used to my riders getting ahead of me, I thought nothing of it and just kept plodding along.
In due time Tony, Bryan and I finally make it to Fisherman’s Wharf and found that the others had only beaten us by a few minutes. After a quick meal of clam chowder, we made one last potty stop with a refill for the water bottles. Tony managed to get us together for a group shot and then he and Bryan headed back ahead of us.
By ‘ahead of us’, I mean they decided to go back at their own pace and we kept them in sight for all of about 10 seconds before they were long gone. It’s a good thing that I’m used to being left in the dust or my ego would have taken one heck of a hit.
I set a nice easy pace back and about 15 miles later we made it back to the fruit stand for another potty break and water refill. As we were leaving, I noticed I had a flat on my rear wheel. Lucky me.
After getting the tire partially off of the rim, we found the culprit. A piece of wood that was about 1-1½ inches long and about ¼ inch wide right in the middle of the tire. There were a lot of wood fragments from the crates used for hauling produce lying around so that was probably where I picked it up.
After getting a new tube in, Vic used his pump with a gauge on it to put air in my tire. However, it didn’t seem to be working. We tried 3 different pumps and finally came to the conclusion that there was something wrong with the new tube. When we pulled it out, sure enough, there was a puncture on the tube from when we used one of the tire irons to get the tire back on the rim.
Luckily, I had brought 2 tubes with me. We got the second tube in, making sure to not use a tool this time to get the tire back on and pumped it up. Neither Vic nor Kevin could get the gauge to go past 90 no matter how hard they tried, but the tire felt hard, so we figured it was inflated enough.
As we were finishing up fixing the second flat, a highway patrol man pulled in to use the restrooms and as he was heading back to his car he had to jokingly ask:
“How many bicyclists does it take to change a flat? ”
“Obviously six, ” someone responded, though I don’t remember who.
“One to fix the flat and five to run commentary, ” I added which got everyone laughing.
The wheel back on, 2 dead tubes in the garbage along with my sunglasses that didn’t take well to being dropped on the pavement and we were rolling once more. Despite the fact that I had just gone through 2 tubes and my sunglasses were now gone, I was feeling pretty darn good. A mile and a half later we came to the stop sign at Highway 1 which we had to turn left on and that’s when I hear ‘PSSSsssssssss’.
I look down and sure enough, it’s my back wheel again. Marvelous. While cursing my lousy luck with bicycle tubes, I was also thanking my lucky stars that it hadn’t decided to blow while I was trying to cross Highway 1.
We were in front of another fruit stand and we pulled into their parking lot to change my latest flat. I can change a flat, but not fix it, so I don’t carry a patch kit with me and I was out of spare tubes. At this point I was wondering if I was going to have to send my riders back to the start without me and have someone come back and pick me up. With more than 30 miles still to go, I wasn’t looking forward to a 3+ hour wait. Since I had the car, there was no point in calling Paul other than to tell him that I’d be home really late.
After examining the tube and the tire, it appeared something put a half inch hole in the sidewall of my tire. Since it was nowhere near the original puncture hole, we’re fairly sure something else caused that flat. Not wanting to chance something poking through the new hole in the sidewall of my tire, Kristin donated an instant patch to cover it up while Jean was also nice enough donate a spare tube to replace the one that we blew up. Thanks to both of these wonderful ladies and Vic and Kevin for fixing my 3rd and thankfully final flat, I was able to continue on.
Once my tire was fixed, again, we had the task of making a left onto Highway 1. Daunting and nerve-wracking doesn’t even cover the feelings I had. However, there is a section in the middle of the road so with my heart in my throat and our lights finally on, we made it across without too much of a problem.
I don’t know if it was because of the wind created by the cars driving by or if the wind had suddenly decided to come from behind us, but we were booking on that road. I looked down and saw that I was going about 17 mph on an uphill and I was barely trying! What a great way to make up for lost time!
As with all good things, it couldn’t last and we finally came to our turnoff. Another left across Highway 1 and we were back onto the quiet country roads. As fun as going 17 mph with little effort was, it was nice to get away from the exhaust and noise.
We continued to make our way back and while I knew where the next rest stop was, I wasn’t sure it would be open. I was worried that since we took so long fixing all of my flats that Manresa State Beach would have closed at sunset like all of the other beaches. But luck was with us and we got there with the gate still open and a breathtaking view of a beautiful sunset.
We quickly used the bathrooms, refilled our water bottles and had a bit to eat. I checked the route sheet and noted that we had maybe another 15 miles to go. I went to get back on my bike and that’s when my backside muscles decided to let me know that they really didn’t like me any more. I guess I had my own personal black and blue bottom.
Despite aching muscles and quickly dwindling sunlight, we rode on. Soon we were riding in full dark as we trudged our way up San Andreas Road and shortly after that, Bonita Road. Both were noticeable climbs and after going more than 80 miles, I wasn’t going up them at all quickly, even by tortoise standards.
We finally reached Soquel Road and while I wasn’t thrilled about doing even rolling hills, I was glad we were nearing the end of the ride. I was a bit tired and sore, but I was feeling great as we continued on through Soquel, happy to finally have some street lights to help us on our way.
While I did bring a headlight, it wasn’t exactly impressive with its wattage. Unlike Vic and Nanci’s headlights which I’m fairly sure that if you stood close enough to them, you’d get a tan. At least I knew drivers were going to see us unless they were completely blind.
After about 10 miles of going down that same road, we turned off into a unmarked path. If it wasn’t for Kristin, I would have completely missed it. As it was, we couldn’t see any street signs, so we didn’t know where to get off of the path and ended up getting a bit lost.
Where we ended up was near a hotel, so I asked the night clerk if he knew how to get to Natural Bridges. He didn’t have a clue. How can someone live or work in Santa Cruz and not know how to get to Natural Bridges? After staring at maps for a while, Kevin went across the street to another hotel and asked the night clerk there. That guy at least was helpful and we got going again.
However, we soon found ourselves at Beach Street which was one way going the wrong way. We rode on the sidewalk for a while. Even though the street was fairly quiet, I didn’t want to chance a head on collision. We only needed to be on the sidewalk for a few blocks and there were only a few pedestrians about, so it was an easy ride. Soon we were back on the street and headed up West Cliff Drive. We were on the last leg of the journey and we were feeling elated. That or the peanut butter M&Ms and chocolate covered coffee beans Jean was passing around was getting to us. Either way, we were a happy bunch.
I was thrilled that I was nearing the end of my ride and I was going to make my first century ride. But I have to wonder if the city of Santa Cruz has something against street lights. Man was it dark and it didn’t help when that obnoxious teenager went driving by yelling, “Go faster! ” I wonder how fast he would be going if he had just done the miles we had.
With still a couple miles to go until we reached our cars, Vic announced that we had officially done 100 miles! We all cheered and I’m sure there were a couple home owners that were wondering what all the noise was about. I also found out that not only did I just complete my first century, but Vic did as well! Congratulations, Vic!! At about 7:02 pm we finally made it back to our cars, tired but happy. While it had taken nearly 11 hours to complete the ride, we were only in the saddle 8 hours and 17 minutes. I couldn’t have asked for better weather or better riding companions.
Thank you, Lane Parker for the original route, thank you Tony Ornellas for helping modify it and pointing out the rest stops and thank you to all of my riders for being on this journey with me. A big Thank You to hubby Paul for encouraging me to get out there and ride so I could complete my New Year’s Resolution. I did it and I’m looking forward to doing it again.