Today I completed the Cool Breeze Century in Ventura, CA, which was organized by the Channel Islands Bicycle Club (CIBC). This century ride was billed by the CIBC as: "102 miles with about 4000 feet of climb - moderately challenging, [and] excellent for 1st time centurions." This was my fourth century ride within the past nine months, and despite its advertised status as an excellent ride for "first-time century riders," I think it was one of the more-difficult long distance rides that I have done.
I participated in this century ride with my good friend Kevin, who lives in the Los Angeles area. Kevin told me a few weeks ago that he had signed up for this ride, and at the last minute I invited myself along. Since I live in Arizona, however, this meant that I had to endure a ten-hour drive through the desert to LA on the day before the ride. Nevertheless I met up with Kevin in Ventura on the night before the ride, and we put together our plans for the next day.
We both got up early as planned, and I drove the two of us to the starting point near the Ventura Unified School District offices, where we arrived around 6:15am. (We were one of the last cars to get a great spot in the main parking lot.) We quickly pulled into a parking space, and then Kevin and I put together the last of our things for the day's ride. After a few minutes of deciding what to bring and what to leave, we headed off toward the starting line around 6:30am. In keeping with the spirit of this ride as a "non-race event," there was very little fanfare at the starting line - we simply rode past a set of banners with dozens of other cyclists and we were off.
|Prepping the last of our gear for the day.
|Last-minute selfie before heading out.
|Approaching the starting line.
I should point out before I go any further that I immediately appreciated how well-marked the route was throughout the day; there were route signs everywhere for the duration of the ride. (This was a great improvement over some other rides where you periodically wondered if you had accidentally left the route.) All of the route signs were emblazoned with color-coded arrows which matched the cue sheet that cyclists were given when they registered, so as long as cyclists followed the correctly-colored arrows throughout the day, they were going the right way. One discrepancy that Kevin and I noticed was that the cue sheet which we had been given only listed 97 miles for the length, which was five miles shorter than the 102 miles which was advertised for the ride. I told Kevin not to worry - I had my Garmin GPS with me, and we could use it to verify the ride length when the time came.
|One of the many color-coded route signs
which were scattered throughout the route.
For the first 2.5 miles our route ran south along highway 33 in Ventura, but soon after that we were riding west along the beach trail by the ocean, which was great; this section of the course was what I thought a ride through California should be.
|Panorama of the ocean as we rode along the beach.
(Note Rincon Island in the background.)
We were nine miles into the ride and cruising nicely along the beach when I suddenly heard a "Klank! Klank! Klank!" from immediately behind me. My initial thought was that something had fallen off my bicycle, but then I realized that the sound was coming from my rear wheel. I pulled to a stop, and after a quick examination I determined that my bike had broken a spoke. I have no idea how it happened; I didn't ride over anything like a branch which could get tangled up in my spokes - apparently it just snapped. It took me a few minutes of wrangling to bend the broken spoke into a position which would allow me to extricate it from my wheel, but I eventually managed to wrench it out and we quickly got back on the road. (Although I could hear the spoke nipple rattling around inside my rim for the rest of the ride.)
|Kevin and I passing a photographer at 7:30am.
(Note that this single photo represents the only
time that we saw photographer during the ride.)
We were a little over an hour and 15 miles into the ride when we reached our first stop of the day, which was at Rincon Beach Park. After a quick ten-minute break to refill our water bottles, Kevin and I got back on the road.
|Kevin posing behind my bike.
|Displaying my usual "hang ten" pose.
Our route took us north and inland as we left Rincon Beach Park, which kept us away from the water for the next eight miles or so. Over the next mile or so we faced our first climbs of the day, which were relatively short and nothing too difficult to worry about. After a few climbs and descents, we were mostly riding downhill as we rode to the west for the next few miles.
That being said, before the ride I studied the profile on the Ride with GPS website, which the ride organizers were kind enough to share online. With that in mind, I knew that we were rapidly approaching the most-difficult climbs for the day. Apparently I was not the only cyclist to have studied the course in advance, because shortly after we passed the 25-mile mark we faced the first serious climb and several cyclists loudly remarked, "Oh - this is the hill."
|Route Map and Elevation Profile for the Century Ride.
I'll be honest - this climb was moderately difficult, and thankfully it only lasted for a couple of miles or so. At one point or other, both Kevin's and my bicycles threw their chains when shifting from the large chain ring to the small chain ring, which was exceedingly frustrating. Thankfully each of us was wearing black shorts for the ride, because black shorts always afford a great place to wipe off all the bicycle grease from your hands once you have reseated your chain. (See #14 and #8 and in The Rules.) I should mention that one of the times when Kevin's bike threw its chain during a climb, Kevin did a masterful job of avoiding having to fall down with the bike. Many other people (including me) probably wouldn't have been able to prevent the fall, and several nearby riders remarked, "Nice save!"
After we had reached the summit for this set of climbs, we were treated to three miles or so of downhill riding, which was a great change of pace. Unfortunately, I knew that these few moments of physical respite would be brief; having studied the ride profile, I knew that the next part of the course was going to be the most-difficult segment of the ride.
One we had descended back to sea level and rode west along the ocean for a half-mile or so, we turned inland again and began a one-mile climb to the north and our second stop of the day at the 31-mile point around 9:00am in Manning Park. This stop is actually situated during the difficult part of the ride, so it's well-located for cyclists because it gives them a moment to rest up before tackling the really challenging climbs ahead.
|Scores of cyclists in Manning Park.
|Resting my bike near the park fence.
|Refueling and bicycle maintenance stations.
While Kevin and I were taking a break, we both refilled our water bottles, and I quickly ate a half a banana (for the potassium), a half-sandwich (for the carbs and protein), and a cookie (for the sugar). After a little over a half hour, we were sufficiently rested and refueled, so we climbed back on our bicycles and rode off to the north and into the toughest part of the course.
For the next two miles we faced steep climbs which ascended several hundred feet into the hills above Santa Barbara, where we slogged our way through neighborhoods filled with luxurious mansions overlooking the city. I will freely admit, the climbs were often steep, and they seemed to keep going on forever. We turned west as we continued to climb, and for the next eight miles it seemed that whenever we thought that we were finally beginning our descent we would round a corner and discover another climb was waiting for us.
|This future site of somebody's mansion
will have an awesome view.
|Posing for a useless photo.
|Dozens of narrow, hairpin turns during the climbs.
I wear a heart rate monitor while I ride which is paired with my Garmin GPS, and occasionally it beeps at me when my heart rate is too high; e.g. over 170bpm. Usually I ignore it, because it's generally just a momentary spike in my pulse during a difficult moment or two, so eventually the beeping will go away on its own. But during this part of the ride it began beeping at me, and it wouldn't stop. After a few minutes I decided that it was best not to ignore it, so I told Kevin that I needed to pull over for a couple of minutes. As we pulled to the side of the road, my GPS showed that my hear rate was a little over 170bpm, but after five minutes' rest it came back down to 140bpm and we got back on the road. One other thing, I found it a little difficult to breathe during a few of the climbs, which I attributed to a lack of proper time to acclimate before starting this ride. (I had only arrived the day before, and I'm used to riding at an altitude that is 3,000 feet higher. When I rode in the Seattle to Portland ride a few weeks ago, I had a week to acclimate and enough time to get in a training ride.)
There is an old adage which states, "All Good Things Must Come to an End," and thankfully the same can be said about bad things. With that in mind, somewhere before we hit the 40-mile mark we had finally made it through the truly-difficult sections of the ride and we began our descent into Goleta. We encountered small climbs here and there over the next ten miles or so, but nothing as difficult as the major climbs which we had just completed. As we passed the 50-mile point of the ride, both Kevin and I had to suffer through some lower leg cramps, but nothing unbearable.
We pulled into our next stop at Stow Grove Park around 11:30am, which represented the mid-way point for the ride at 51-miles. Kevin and I refilled our water bottles, then we headed over to the dining area to grab some lunch. Once again I had a half-sandwich (for carbs and protein), a half a banana (for potassium), and few cookies (for sugar).
|Resting my bike against a railing.
|Picking up lunch.
|Simple fare for simple minds.
|Cookies and fruit!!!
During lunch Kevin and I were seated across a table from three ladies, and I made several jokes with everyone about classic songs that I had been rewriting in my head during the day's ride:
- Sung to the tune of "Safety Dance":
"We can pass if you want to,
We can leave your friends behind.
'Cause your friends can't climb, and if they can't climb -
Well they're no friends of mine."
- Sung to the tune of "Hotel California":
"Welcome to the Cool Breeze California,
Such a tiring race, such a grueling pace.
You'll question your mind at the Cool Breeze California:
I'm no competitor; why'd I register?"
- Sung to the tune of "Margaritaville":
"Climbing the hills again in California,
Wondering why I'm still here at all.
Some people say that there's a friend I can blame,
But I know - it's my own dang fault."
My re-written version of "Margaritaville" drew an especially large chuckle from everyone, because I followed that up by mentioning how the pain of endurance riding passes over time, and then next thing you know you're inviting people along with you for your next excursion by saying things like, "Hey - you should sign up for this century ride with me; it's going to be lots of fun." At which point two of the ladies quickly turned and pointed at the other member of their party, who responded, "Yup - I'm the guilty one in our group."
After a 50-minute break Kevin and I headed back to our bicycles. As we prepped our gear for the next half of the ride, I met a cyclist who was wearing a jersey from the Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) randonneuring ride, which is a 1200-kilometer (≈745-mile) endurance ride in France. (Which - by way of coincidence - was starting this same weekend.) The two of us chatted for a couple of minutes, and he admitted that he had ridden the PBP four times, but he was now too old to survive riding 250 miles a day for three days (with only four hours of sleep per day). I admitted that I was probably never young enough to have survived the ride.
As we left Stow Grove Park, our route had us backtrack to the east for three miles or so before zig-zagging for the next few miles in a mostly-southern direction through Hope Ranch towards the ocean.
|The view of the ocean from the southern end of Hope Ranch.
For the next three or four miles we rode eastward and parallel to the beach, although much of that riding was through residential areas so we only saw the water occasionally. (That being said, a lot of the mansions which we were riding past were pretty amazing; it must be nice to be that rich, but couldn't that opulent wealth be better spent? [Deep sigh.])
As we rode into downtown Santa Barbara, we turned toward the ocean again, and we cycled along the water past a series of beaches, parks, and marinas. As we passed the entrance to Santa Barbara Harbor, Kevin suddenly had a flat. The two of us worked on the flat, and we managed to get it sorted out in a few minutes. (I was obviously taking photos at the time, but I actually helped Kevin fix his flat. Seriously. I really did. I promise.)
|Santa Barbara Harbor was pretty nice.
|Fixing a flat. No fun.
|The beach near Santa Barbara Harbor and Stearns Wharf.
After we got back on the road, we passed the ladies with whom we had met during lunch earlier in the day. As we pulled up to a stoplight, I mentioned that we had stopped to fix a flat, and I asked why they hadn't stopped to help us out; to which one of them replied humorously that it was every man and woman for themselves. As we approached another stoplight a short time later, some @#$% motorist unnecessarily blocked the bicycle lane even though the light was green, thereby causing all of us cyclists to quickly pull to a stop in order to avoid an accident. One of the ladies issued an appropriate expletive at the clueless driver, and I remarked that I completely agreed with her assessment of the situation. She replied by asking if I had a song in mind which expressed that sentiment, and I said that I could put anything to music - even that.
We rode east along the water for another three miles before turning inland to the north. After another two miles of riding and a short climb we arrived back at Manning Park around 2:30pm. This park had been our second stop of the day, and I thought that it was pretty ingenious that the ride's organizers had managed to arrange the ride in order as to recycle some of the stops. (Great logistics.) We refilled our water bottles and ate a few snacks, and then Kevin took advantage of the bicycle repair facilities to make sure that his tube repair was sufficient for continuing the ride. (The guy was able to discover a couple of places where the bead for Kevin's tire had not been seated completely, and he was able to fix that.)
|Back at Manning Park.
|Pausing to refuel for the next segment of the ride.
|Kevin having his bike checked out.
(That's just good sense.)
We got back on the road after the bike technician had signed off on Kevin's bike, where we continued to ride east and parallel to the beach for several miles. We started our final climb somewhere around the 80-mile mark, but to be honest it wasn't much of a climb. That being said, my bicycle decided to throw it's @#$% chain again, so we had to stop for me to fix it again.
|The accumulated filth on my fingers.
(And this was after wiping them off on my shorts.)
Nevertheless, my chain was an easy fix, and we were quickly back on the road. After a couple of miles we ran into a brief moment of confusion with a small gaggle of cyclists about whether our route really meant to take us onto the highway, which it did. Once we had ridden a few hundred meters, we had arrived back at Rincon Beach Park around 3:50pm, which was our final stop for the day at mile 82. (You may recall that Rincon Beach Park had been our first stop of the day, so once again the ride's organizers had managed to recycle one of the stops.)
|The view from Rincon Beach Park.
|Good to know.
The main claim to fame for riders who make it to the final stop at Rincon Beach Park is - popsicles. I had heard about this feature before we started the ride, and I must admit - an ice-cold popsicle tastes pretty good after a long day of cycling.
|Posing with our popsicles.
After a 25-minute stop to rest and recharge, Kevin and I climbed back on our bicycles for the last segment of the ride. The next 12 miles had us riding along the beach again, which was great. At some point about ten miles from the end of the ride I changed cycling techniques so that I was only pulling up on the pedals. I do this occasionally in order to allow some of the muscles in my lower legs a brief respite from my normal riding, but on this occasion my change in technique was met with a sudden and sharp cramp in my inner right thigh. This was painful enough for me to loudly and angrily remark, "Oh crap!", and I drifted off to the right side of the bike lane as I desperately tried to stretch out the affected muscles while still riding. Kevin overhead my exclamation and asked if everything was okay, and I responded that I would be fine in a moment or two. I eventually managed to work my way through the pain, but still... that really hurt.
Shortly after we hit the 94-mile point we turned northward into Ventura as we retraced the 2.5-mile route which had started the day's ride. As we approached the Ventura Unified School District offices where the finish line was located, a cycling couple quickly pulled off the bike path several hundred meters from the end of the route. As Kevin and I rode past I remarked, "You can't quit now!" However, after Kevin and I had ridden few hundred meters further, my Garmin GPS showed that we were going to reach the finish line after having ridden only 97 miles, so I told Kevin that we needed to pull to the side.
I mentioned that if we crossed the finish line, we weren't going to make 100 miles; however, we both wanted to officially claim this as a "Century Ride," which means that we needed to add three miles to the length. I proposed that we create a quick loop through Ventura and Kevin agreed, so we bypassed the finish line and headed off into areas of Ventura which weren't on the scheduled route. After a little over a mile we merged back onto the official course, and as we headed toward the finish line I remarked that we were still going to be short by a little less than half a mile, so we bypassed the finish line and rode off in a different direction. As we approached the point where I wanted us to turn around, we bumped into the cycling couple which we had seen earlier, and I remarked to them, "Oh - now I get it; you two wanted your official century ride, too!" They both laughed and said that yes - that's why they had bypassed the finish line, too.
As Kevin and I rode back toward the finish line, I could see that we were just going to make it, and as we pulled to a stop past the finish line my GPS showed that we had just crossed the century mark.
|One hundred miles!
Once we had crossed the finish line, we rode over to my car, where we loaded all of our combined gear into the back and locked up our bikes on the bike carrier.
|Post-ride selfie before heading home.
After we had all of our things stowed in the car, Kevin and I dropped by the registration area to take advantage of the dinner which was provided, then the two of us hopped in the car and drove back to Kevin's house for the night.
- Primary Statistics:
- Start Time: 6:35am
- Distance: 100 miles
- Duration: 7:09:34
- Calories Burned: 3,892 kcal
- Altitude Gain: 4,724 feet
- Average Speed: 14.0 mph
- Peak Speed: 30.3 mph
- Average Cadence: 80.0 rpm
- Average: 73.6 F
- Minimum: 55.4 F
- Maximum: 104.0 F
(This is according to my GPS, but I find that hard to believe.)
- Heart Rate:
- Average: 148 bpm
- Maximum: 181 bpm
Epilogue and Miscellaneous Parting Thoughts
As I had done for my Seattle to Portland ride notes, I had jotted several things down which didn't necessarily apply to any part of the ride, so I thought that I would add a special section to this blog in order to share them.
- Based on advertising, I thought this ride was going to be peaceful cruise along the water with the cool breeze at our backs, but it was seldom like that. I realized from looking at the ride profile that the climbs were going to take us inland for several miles so I expected that, but what was unexpected (and somewhat disappointing) was that we sometimes rode parallel to the ocean for several miles without actually being able to see the water.
- We rode through Santa Barbara for quite a while, yet I never saw Gus or Shawn. But then again, I guess that they live in San Francisco now. (Inside joke.)
- It was rather warm during parts of the ride; as a result, several of the locals and some others complained, but the temperature was not bad for me.
- We completed this ride at a considerably slower pace than my normal rides, and somewhat slower than my previous century rides. But Kevin and I had agreed to take this ride at a comfortable pace; I specifically did not want to feel like I was racing a clock (which I normally do), and as a result the ride was more enjoyable [sic] than normal.
- Despite the advertised length of 102 miles with 4,000 feet of climb, the Ride with GPS website lists the length of this ride at 97 miles with a little over 5,000 feet of climb. That being said, my GPS agreed that the length of the ride was 97 miles, although my GPS said that the final altitude gain was closer to 4,700 feet. In either case, I think the CIBC guys were pretty far off.
- The fact that almost all of the difficult climbs were relegated to one segment of the course was a mixed blessing; it was nice to ride for dozens of miles over long, flat stretches of road, but the hours of actual climbing were exceptionally arduous since the bulk of the elevation gains were all in one small segment.
- As I mentioned in the notes, my bike threw its chain a few times during this ride. However, I managed to catch it quickly each time, so I avoided wiping out. After some experimentation, I determined that the problem seems to be when I am shifting chain rings at a high RPM; when I consciously slowed my cadence I was able to avoid throwing my chain. (But still - my bicycle should not be throwing the chain like that.)
- I had overlooked one unfortunate side effect of driving ten hours on the day before the ride: I had predominately used my right arm while driving cross country, and it was hurting by the time that I arrived in Ventura. Even though I took some Advil and tried to relax my arm during the night before the ride, I could still feel my right arm hurting during the ride as a direct result of the previous day's drive.
- I purchased a new saddle a couple of weeks before this ride, and I had not completely broken it in; so my derriere was understandably a little sore by the end of the ride. It was fine by the next day as I drove home, but still - I can honestly say that this ride was literally a pain in the... butt.