Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sea To Summit

While there were thin wheelin' Chickens riding in Bakersfield & Modesto and fat-wheelin' Chickens riding in the Santa Ynez Valley, there were a few "Not-so-smart Chickens" sweatin' at the Sea to Summit event in Ventura & Kern Counties. For those of you who don't know, Sea-to Summit is an annual cycling event that starts close to sea level in Ventura and finishes 87 miles later atop the 8, 327' summit cul-de-sac of Mt. Pinos for a total elevation gain of 12,000'. Our very own Testrider, Ben Edwards talked me into participating in this year's Sea-to-Summit and I felt the neighborly thing to do was to extend the same invitation to our newest Santa Barbara resident, Randy Tinney.

The day started on a good note in that it was actually cool at roll-out. The question bouncing around the big group of riders on the way to Ojai was "how long would it stay cool?" And, "do you think we'll make it over Big Pine Summit before the heat kicks in?" These questions were answered with great clarity less than hour in and by the time we reached the tunnels on Hwy. 33. It was officially "HOT" and "No", we wouldn't reach Big Pine Summit, Rose Valley or even the Ranger Station before it turned hot! As the climb to Rose Valley always does, it broke the big front group of riders up into many smaller groups including a lead break of five. By the time we reached the Rose Valley turn-off I realized that the theme of the day was not so much about who would finish first, but one of survival. Who was going to hydrate right and survive the heat, elevation gain and altitude? After grabbing some fresh beverages at Rose Valley, we reconnected with the second pack where we settled into a nice tempo in a safe position off the front while dropping a few off the back. Our support crew extraordinaire of one, Elda, exchanged our bottles at Big Pine Summit before Randy and I rolled over into the highlight of the day - the big descent to Lockwood Valley! The view was epic (see photo), as was the descent. Randy put his 53:11 into to gear and was hooting & hollerin' while he sling-shot us down the 12 mile slope. We passed the group that left the summit before us like they were standing still. That would be the last we would see of them on this day. Unfortunately, the turn onto Lockwood Valley Road would be the end of the good times. All I had heard about this course was in relation to the the two big climbs of Big Pine and Mt. Pinos. No one ever mentioned anything about Lockwood Valley which shouldn't be called a valley at all because the steepest climbs of the day hit us in the face in this so-called "valley". As did the hottest part of the day and the stiffest winds. Randy pointed out on several occasions that "this isn't very fun" and that "I was a very bad person for getting him involved in this thing". The relentless combination of heat & elevation gain was showing its' toll by the ever-thinning group of riders and a leg cramp that made Ben scream like a school girl at American Idol. Luckily for Ben, "Elda-matic" was stationed a 100 yards uphill with the requisite fluids, electrolytes and food in hand. Ben shook off the cramp and cranked out the rest of the ride. The ride concluded with the 14 miles ascent of Mt. Pinos. While the climb isn't too steep, it is relentless in that it never gives you a break. After a watermelon slice hand-off and a cold water dousing I got into a nice groove and caught the guy in front me only to have to stop and massage out a case of "hot foot" that hurt so bad that I thought my feet were going to explode. A minute later I was back on the bike and pedaling strong for what I was told was the last 2 miles, but turned out to be 3.5. As I came around the final turn the guy in front came into sight and I instinctively jumped on the pedals Although I didn't have near enough runway to catch the guy, I was happy I had the legs to finish with a strong uphill sprint and to hear I was the 4th to finish. Since the theme of the day had been "heat", you can imagine my surprise to find the summit parking lot flanked with packs of snow.

I can tell you that the Sea-to-Summit course is beautiful, but in the heat it is the toughest 87 miles I've ever ridden on the road. Despite the challenge, I have a feeling I'll be out there again next year if it doesn't overlap with a race that actually counts. Randy, are you in???

Good Times. Thanks Ben - I think...

PHOTOS (Click on photo bottom for description):
Dan Rudd

Ben added his .02

Great report Dan... and spot on, except you left out one part. As I started fading after mile 50 and a hill named "Heartbreak" that happened to be in the "Valley" Dan reeled me in. We traded pulls through the rest of the valley, but as we hit the slopes of Mt. Pinos Dan's tempo was too much for me and he sailed away to his fourth place. I was barely moving at this point and past by a few guys that may or may not have been on recumbents. I ended up 8th, thanks mainly to Elda's impromptu support of a Chicken in distress. Watermelon is without a doubt the greatest on bike food and may soon be a banned substance.

With all that said I will definitely be riding Sea to Summit next year... I hope Dan, Randy, and I have some more Chickens to share the pulls in Lockwood "Valley"!


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