Tuesday, June 9, 2009

LA River Ride Wrap-Up.

Ever since I became interested in cycling in the mid 1990s I've read about and wondered what it would be like to participate in a Century. To actually ride 100 miles in a single day. I had participated in half-centuries, metric-centuries (66 miles) and even the 80 mile version of the Tour de Tucson, but never a full century. This last weekend my wondering ended, as I completed the Los Angeles River Ride Century.

The pre-ride plan was for Molly and I to go up to Los Angeles early Saturday and just spend a nice evening lounging lazily. To make a long story short, a morning meeting led to quick and less then careful packing for me. We ended up getting to our hotel early, only to have to double back because we had forgotten some critical items for our ride.

Sunday morning we got up around 5 AM, criminal in and of itself for someone who values sleeping in on weekends. We had a quick instant oatmeal and coffee in our room; We shimmied into our cycling kits (you don't want to see me shimmy...take my word for it) and we were off to Griffith Park. We found the start, checked in and then got ready to go. Century riders lined up around 6:45, (some of us were in the port-a-potty lines) and promptly started at 7:00 am. I managed to catch up with the bunch before everybody had left the starting area. A couple of blocks later as I was attempting to put on my shades I dropped them. I stopped, and a very nice rider had picked them up and handed them to me. By the time I got going again, I had been dropped by the group.

Two laps around Griffith Park was the toughest climbing of the day. Half way through my second lap I had caught up to a woman and we paced each other around the last part of the loop. We didn't know it then, but Carmen and I would become riding partners for the day. We finally found our way out of Griffith Park, (there were sections that weren't well marked on the course) and we got to the first bike path along the L.A. River. We came out of the bike path and then rode some L.A. neighborhoods before getting to another bike path which led all the way into Long Beach. It was pretty impressive. We arived at Long Beach 38 miles in.

At the SAG stop in Long Beach I thought, "Cool! No sweat, now we turn around and head back." Then I overheard something about a loop. I took off with a group of riders, we found the course markers made our way southward almost to Seal Beach and returned back to Long Beach, across the way from the Queen Mary. The odometer read 60 miles.

The ride back simply retraced the morning route. A nice tailwind helped the legs rest a bit. However at about the 80 mile mark, fatigue was setting in, and I was nursing a cramp in my right calf. After a stretch stop, Carmen and I forged on. The last 10 miles were easy and flat, however mentally, I was ready for the ride to be over. After I had paced my riding partner for about 80 miles or so, she took the lead. A few miles later I caught my 7th wind and we pushed into Griffith Park together. My first century was under my belt!

Century rides aren't races, however there is always the personal desire to do well. My goal was an average speed of about 12.5 mph over the full ride, fully expecting an 8 hour ride. Turns out I did the ride in 7:10 (plus SAG Stops) for an average speed of 13.9 mph. A very nice ride indeed!

The L.A. River Ride itself was a good ride overall, and I would highly recommend it as anybody's first century. There is not a lot of climbing, it's pretty flat and there are a variety of distances. Molly did the 35 mile ride, and there were 50 and 75 mile rides as well. The organization was a bit lacking in my view, but not a deal breaker. There were very few port-a-johns at the start line and, for that matter there was no start-line per se. When a fellow rider asked where the start line was he was told "Somewhere around there." A map of the course was never posted online, you didn't really know what the course would be until you got there Sunday morning. This wasn't too big of a deal for local riders, but riders like myself who don't know Los Angeles all that well, it was a bit of a challenge.

Other than that, the volunteers at the SAG stops were very friendly, there was alway plenty of food and recovery drinks as well as water. Even later in the afternoon as we were coming back, the aid stations still had fruit and plenty of Clif Block Shots to give away. I was very impressed with that part of the organization. By the way, a big thanks to all the volunteers out there. From the kids that cut the bananas and oranges to the bike mechanics ready with a helping hand ... Thank you.

One of the things I enjoy about organized rides is the camaraderie that develops among riders. From my spontaneous riding partner Carmen, to the guy that picked up my glasses off the pavement, to that group that formed in Long Beach and kept it together until the loop was complete so nobody would get lost. Or the pair of riders who were going very strong but stopped at a SAG station waiting for their friend who had major leg cramps because as they said "no one gets left behind." In 100 miles I got to see many random acts of kindness such as these, making the suffering a little easier and finishing a whole lot sweeter!

Ride on.


1 comment:

  1. WOW!!!!! Felicidades Roberto, impresionante, por lo que veo cada fin de semana hay yuna nueva aventura, gracias por compartirla, espero algun dia poderlos acompanar en alguna de sus aventuras!!!!!