2002 > Winter Solstice Double Century > Tom's Report
Tom Rides Solo WSDC on a Different, Unscheduled Date
Remember when you were a kid and you had a big homework assignment over vacation break? I was the type to always leave it to the very end, which resulted in having it hanging over my head for the majority of the vacation. The clever kids got the assignment out of the way on the first day of vacation, and were stress-free for the remainder. In an effort to follow this doctrine, I therefore decided that the first sunny day of my vacation would be spent completing the WSDC. In addition, given the weather antics of last week, I had low confidence that the official date of Jan 4 would actually be nice, and not wanting to duplicate the Winter Solstice Double for the Criminally Insane, I watched the predictions of the weather guessers intensely for a couple of days prior to the start of my vacation, this past Saturday, and selected Sunday as the day of choice. I had wanted to ride on Saturday, since it was the actual Solstice, but the forecast was for rain. Imagine my dismay when Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day. Oh well..
Wanting to remain true to the spirit of the event, I devised a course which combines most of this year's official route with enough of the previous route to not have to start at Ken's house. My course started at my house and headed out Shoreline/Miramonte to Foothill, then up over Mt. Eden, Tollgate and then followed 9 to Los Gatos, picking up the official route along the way. On the return leg, after dropping the official route along Saratoga Los Gatos Rd, I rode the classic Maze return to Foothill, then down Miramonte/Shoreline to my house. Total mileage on my GPS map software came out to 220.0, and mileage on my cyclometer came out to 219. I'm inclined to believe the GPS :) I must take a moment to say that the route changes for this year are really very nice. Not having to pass through any part of downtown Gilroy is a huge bonus, and the park makes a great rest stop, with the requisite water fountain for the soloist. It was also greatly appreciated that we didn't have to spend any time at all outbound on Rt. 25. My favorite part of the ride still remains the final push out to the Pinnacles however. When you do the ride, do look up once in a while to appreciate the hillsides in that area. They are quite beautiful. Having completed the ride early, I plan to drive SAG for the official ride and my camera will surely accompany me.
Of vital importance to the soloist on such an event is the ability to ride for extended periods in the dark without having the luxury of a battery recharge. In advance of this year's Death Valley Double, I had set myself up with an array of 5 Cateye LED headlights, affixed below my aero-bars. Together, they put out about the same light (and weigh about as much) as a 10 watt Niterider, and they will last all night, or indeed, several nights if you so choose. In addition, I realized that I would have no clothing drop and would have to carry all of my clothes all day. I therefore chose to wear lots of layers, none of which were very bulky. I wouldn't have had enough space to stow it all, but I didn't expect it to ever get that warm. As it turned out, I kept everything that I started the ride with on me the whole day. It never got warm enough to peel at all, and it saved me from having to worry about where I was going to stuff things. One unfortunate item was my choice of footwear. I have become enamored of open toed sandals this past year and wore them on this ride with thick wool socks and gore-tex oversocks. While descending off the Chesbro dam into the usual chill air of Oak Glen, my toes became very unhappy and it took them about six hours to get happy again. My fingers were fine all day in spite of being significantly less protected. Later on I encounter pea-soup fog crossing Day Rd. down to Santa Teresa. Visibility was down to about 100 yards. Most of my clothing became covered in tiny droplets of condensation which was quite fascinating and beautiful, but didn't help the temperature situation any. My glasses got so wet that I had to slide them down my nose and look over the tops.
Originally I hadn't intended to make a point of not buying anything along the way. That idea surfaced about halfway through the ride when I realized that I might not have to buy anything, and it seemed a worthy challenge. My food for the ride consisted of 4 tuna and relish sandwiches, one eaten at the start, and one at each of the 3 rest stops along the way. In addition, I had one balance bar about a half hour after each sandwich, for a total of 4, and one bottle of sustained energy for each of the 4 legs of the trip, with 6 scoops each. This turned out to be the magic combination, keeping me rock steady and consistent all day. I never had any stomach incidents and never even came close to bonking. As I rode over Cienega however, I was starting to feel hunger pangs and the desire to eat something substantial like a big burrito. I became concerned that I wouldn't have enough food to get home and began to plot backup plans that included doing something in Gilroy, or more temptingly, stopping at Andale's in Los Gatos for dinner - they make a wicked mesquite chicken burrito and I was salavating just thinking about it. As it turned out, I was only thirsty, and taking a big swig from my camelbak cured me of my hunger pangs. In the end, my planned diet was perfect for the distance with no supplemental anything.
One of the disadvantages of riding alone is you have to push wind all day. I was a little concerned riding out Santa Ana Valley Rd, as I plodded along at 14 mph. I couldn't feel any headwind, and the terrain looked flat. I became concerned about my pace at that point. As it turned out, once I turned onto Quien Sabe, the pace picked right up, even though the road appeared to now go uphill with no change in wind. I have no idea why, there are odd illusions going on out there, like at the Mystery Spot :) My pace all day was significantly slower than when I did the ride in 2000, but at the end of the day my overall average was the same. I attribute this to staying on the bike. When you don't ever have to stop and wait for anyone else to peel, pee, fix a flat, eat, regroup, etc.. you save a lot of time. On the first outbound leg, I set a new personal record by riding 53 miles from home to Watsonville Rd. in Gilroy without ever putting a foot down. This of course involved running a few lights in the Mountain View/Los Altos area, but at 5am on a Sunday nobody was the wiser. I was sufficiently paranoid about staying on the bike that I declined the kind offer to come inside and enjoy the fire at the Pinnacles Store. The man was fairly insistent, but I knew that if I went in there it would be hours before I came back out. It's a fun challenge to go solo once in a great while, but I definitely prefer riding with friends, even if you have to stop a lot. I was dying for someone to take a pull on the return leg on Rt. 25. I was going straight into the wind at 12mph for HOURS. And I was starting to talk to myself by the end.
What can I say, I've finished my homework assignment at the start of vacation, and I can now relax!