Yesterday I rode the San Diego Century. Another well-organized event, with well-equipped SAG stops at good intervals, staffed by very friendly folks.
The packet pickup was slated to begin at 6:00 and the official start time was at the riders’ discretion between 6:00 and 8:00, and as I arrived at around 5:40 I saw that people were already heading out. Volunteers were already manning the packet pickup tables (thanks guys!) so I quickly got my packet and fumbled around with the bib #, trying to find a place on my bike where it wouldn’t get in the way of my knees. I finally decided I was happy with everything and queued up in a small group of about 10 riders at the light. My cycle computer read 6:09.
The light turned green and I was immediately annoyed by everyone around me. I was behind maybe two others and they were all bumbling around trying to get their feet clipped into their pedals; meanwhile I was clipped in and rearing to go. I bolted past them all and began a two-hour long tear through the hills of Encinitas and Rancho Santa Fe.
I have to admit to being in a completely psychotic state of mind. In the morning I had woken up an hour before my alarm went off. I had just dreamed that I had completed the century in under 4 hours and my son was asking me why I was so arrogant. I was unsettled by that dream and couldn’t get back to sleep, and when I went outside to pack my car I saw that the cold night air had caused a 1-inch crack in the windshield to expand to 6 inches. Apparently my car doesn’t like bike events, because the initial crack was caused by a rock hitting the windshield not a quarter mile away home from this year’s Alpine Challenge. This, combined with a general feeling of annoyance at other cyclists, traffic signals, and motorists, gave me a sort of tunnel vision toward a singular goal: to get the hell away from everyone.
I passed people like crazy going up all the hills. I passed two guys going downhill only to be stopped at a light where I needed to make a right turn, but a car was going left in front of me. I could either sustain my speed, blow the stop light, and hope the car wouldn’t go wide, or slow and wait for the car to go. My commuting experience told me to defer to the car, but the two guys I had just passed were now barreling behind me, yelling “RIGHT, RIGHT!” I turned and yelled back, “I KNOW” as I started my right turn, and they replied “I just don’t want a pileup.”
That just pissed me off. I know I broke whatever messed up unspoken cyclist code that says you’ve got to blow through stoplights, but frankly I’ve seen and escaped a lot of crap on the road and I’d like to think I’ve learned a thing or two. And one thing I’ve learned is that safety is far more valuable than convenience.
This exchange, and my embarrassment over it, put more fire into my legs. I dropped those two guys and went to work on a few others in front of me. As I reeled in two more, I looked behind me to see if any cars were coming before I overtook them only to find a barnacle stuck on my wheel. Well, as long as he didn’t try anything stupid I’d let him draft, but I was sure not going to let him pull. This was my century.
I waited for a safe opportunity to overtake the two guys but they took back their position during the next flat section. I got on their wheel, plotting my revenge, and I saw that they were both fighting each other, not so much trading pulls as trading positions. I drafted for a couple of minutes to recover, then at the next hill I took off and didn’t see them again.
I began to wonder if I wasn’t killing myself too hard, but I didn’t care. If I bonked going into Ramona, so be it. I wanted to come home knowing that I hadn’t given up any opportunity to push as hard as I could.
There’s a SAG stop just before the hill into Ramona, and I made sure to top off my water bottles since the memory of running out of water in last year’s brutal heat was in my mind. The folks at the SAG stop said I was the first one there, though I saw one cyclist that I had recently passed blow by while I was refilling. I hastily made my way out and I was soon headed up the “purple monster” to Ramona. The hill up Scripps Poway Parkway to highway 67 is fairly challenging, but today the heat wasn’t much of an issue and there were two cyclists farther ahead who spurred my legs to pass them before the 67.
Left on highway 67, and more climbing before the descent into Ramona. I didn’t see any other cyclists at this point, and most importantly I did not see any in the opposite direction. I began to think that I was first into Ramona.
I stopped at the Ramona SAG stop and the workers confirmed that I was the first cyclist through. They were antsy to get more customers. I quickly ate a little, topped off my water, and hopped onto my bike for the last leg back to Encinitas. As I pulled out, the cyclist who I had seen go through the last SAG stop pulled in.
I hightailed it out of Ramona, back over the 67, and back over Scripps Poway Parkway. I saw huge groups of cyclists in the opposite direction and thought that the Ramona SAG station would soon be overwhelmed. The heat was beginning to settle in as the marine layer had by now burned off, but as soon as I began the descent into Poway, I could feel cool air and almost smell the salt in the air. This was nothing like last year, when there was no marine layer at all and the temperature was in the high 90s all the way through Poway and hotter in Ramona.
By this time, my energy was beginning to ebb and flow. But the miles were ticking away quickly, and as I watched them click through 70, 80 miles I still felt pretty good. There are a couple of nasty little vindictive hills toward the end of the course in Rancho Penasquitos but I made short work of them and was soon at the coast.
No century would be complete without my going a little off course, and I did so by making a premature right turn off highway 101 onto Lomas Santa Fe. The intersection looked familiar from last year, but as soon as I made the right turn, I knew something was off. I made an immediate right turn, then turned back around, then got back on Lomas Santa Fe again and went all the way up the hill before realizing that Lomas Santa Fe was way too early. I headed back down and looked at my cycle computer, which now registered 100 miles in 5 hours, 15 minutes.
I got back to highway 101 and back on track. I sailed into Mira Costa college to finish in 5:30:49 (excluding stops). My cycle computer’s clock read 11:55, so about 5 hours, 46 minutes total. They have commemorative mugs at the stop for the three different courses, and as I picked mine up the guy at the table said I was the first one.
So… first place? Oh yeah, it’s a ride, not a race!
|SAN DIEGO CENTURY 2009
||5 hours, 30 minutes, 49 seconds
||5 hours, 46 minutes