The Solvang Century - Mar 13, 2010

This year was my first return to Solvang since '96. I've got many fond memories of the wildflower'd green hills and vineyards, and great comradry among the cyclists. This year, as in '96, I joined Dave Wyman and Silas Lum, with Silas' friend Yvonne, to test ourselves against this beautiful course. The weather was not promising as I got into my RAV4 in Santa Cruz. Rain. The rain turned to drizzle about Soledad, then to mist, and then dry roads on in to Solvang. We met at Silas' friend Lisa's and treated her to dinner at The Hitching Post (of the movie "Sideways" fame, and no, we did not order merlot). I never buy red meat at the market, but decided a fat slab of sirloin tip would be a tastey way to protein-up before the ride. Afterwards, we drove to the expo and sign-in. I bought a pair of Kucharik cycling tights (great deal!) and socks. Then we returned to Lisa's where we were greeted by her two extremely friendly dogs.

Dave and I agree - we I love the ritual of preparation the night before a race. Gu, or PBJ micro-sandwiches? salt tabs, or corn chips? How many potassium pills to pack? My water bottles I filled with Accelerade, and I decided to experiment with some stuff Ferrell gave me - Metabol endurance formula (raspberry flavor). How much can I stuff into that little fanny pack? Electrolytes.... still haven't gotten those Succeed pills Delucchi recommended. Wyman to the rescue, handing me a bottle of something. Great... but I looked at the ingredients: "Dave! there's nothing in these things. Calcium 2% RDA. Potassium, 2% RDA, sodium 3% RDA. Where's the beef? These things are pure placebo! " So instead I packed extra corn chips and added some sea salt to my accelerade. Then, pumping up tires, a bit of chain lube, zero'ing the cyclometer. The weather report said 25+ mph winds tomorrow all day. I didn't believe it (or didn't want to believe it). It had been so calm and warm all evening... and I got the earliest bed time since.... forever. I was on the couch and lights out by 10:30pm. But these days I can only seem to sleep 6 hrs max, and at 4:30am I awoke and watched the parade of thoughts through my mind until 5:30am. At which point, Dave's Macbook came on, blasting a stirring solo from Eric Clapton. Yow!

Breakfast was half a delicious low-carb burrito from Silas, a banana, and a quarter cup of a low-carb smoothie from Yvonne. In hindsight, maybe a little light? But I seriously wasn't hungry after the 10oz of steak the previous night. We saddled up, clipped in at 7:06am, and rode a few blocks to join up with the 5,000 riders on this year's stage. As we were coasting down towards Beulton, Dave says "we'll plan to meet up at the rest stops". I said that sounds good, but that we'll probably end up cycling together. Dave said "no, you've got too many miles on me so far this year, and the rest of your Ironman training. if we're too far behind, just go on ahead" At that moment, he took the lead and that was the last I saw of him. Good psych, Dave! (Dave's got an amazingly low heart rate and a genetic gift for cycling)

The first leg, to Lompoc, is in some ways the most enjoyable. Mostly downhill, past beautiful horse farms along a river valley. Monty Roberts (the real "Horse Whisperer") spent many years at one of these ranches. The first rest stop, and I was ready for more food. PBJ's, pineapple chunks. Waited about 10 minutes but didn't see Silas or Yvonne who were behind me, nor Dave. Onward, now north. The storm front had passed us a few hours earlier and it was brilliant blue skies now, but with a vicious wind which we now headed into. The miles to Santa Maria in the past had been pleasant, but this year it was really tough. I buried my head down as much as possible to lower my wind profile, and just tried to not lose too much speed, in hindsight probably spending too much energy avoiding being blown backwards. And the many ~300ft high mile long hills to climb into that wind. The course has changed since 9/11 and no longer goes through Van den Berg AFB, and instead does some big hills south of Orcutt. Here was aid station #2. I needed sugar, all I wanted was sugar. I ate maybe 8 oatmeal raisin cookies, a half a PBJ sandwich, and some more pineapple chunks. Took my one and only pee behind an oak tree too. At mile 43, in Santa Maria, was aid station #3. I got off the bike and laid flat on the dirt for a couple minutes. My injured right achilles wasn't hurting yet, but I'd dug deeper than I'd planned by this point, fighthing that 25-30mph headwind. I'd saved my potassium pills for the big hills late in the course. Big mistake. I should've brought more, and been taking them from the start. The banana for breakfast wasn't enough. Climbing out of Santa Maria into a series of hills, my achilles injury came back and got steadily worse. I stopped and took 400mg of potassium (half my stash) and a few more corn chips. Anyway, the scenery was gorgeous.

It was an outstanding ride; my selective memory will preserve the good parts and forget the tough parts I'm sure. Dave Wyman has put together a lyrical ode to Solvang '10 on his icyclist blog here. All the photos below are shamelessly borrowed (w/ permission) from his page, unretouched - thanks Dave!

The expo, Friday night. Lots of goodies to be inspected

The Kuchariks have been making great cycling gear at bargain prices for many years. I bought socks and a new pair of cycling shorts - black with gold to match my Serrotta

Up at 5:30am, bright eyed and ready to ride


Morning ritual - the pumping of the tires. Note my Santa Cruz Track Club yellow socks, nicely color coordinated with my bike.

Kathy Frank's friends Cherie and Miguel also did the ride, although I did not know about them till after I returned. Dave Wyman is of course a famous photographer and has learned to take some great shots one-handed on his ride with his iphone. And among the 5,000 riders, he managed to capture a picture of Miguel just because it made a great shot! What are the odds?? See Cherie's website for her version of the race here.

Yvonne and Silas - in his Lawrence of Arabia cape - near the start

Miguel, resting at aid station #1

Port 'o Potties a'Plenty

Pounding up one of the hills north of Lompoc...

...and down the other side, past vineyards south of Orcutt

By aid station #2 at mile 43, a stiff headwind had many feeling like this guy. The only solution...

... peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Lots. And oatmeal raisin cookies. And pineapple chunks

and I'll have whatever she's eating

At the Sisquoc aid station, a beautiful little red farm deep into the Foxen canyon hinterlands, I was ready for a 20 minute layover to massage my achilles. And as many oatmeal raisin cookies as I could inhale. On up Foxen canyon, past vineyards and green hills and flowers, alternating between headwinds and sidewinds so strong that they sometimes wobbled me off the road. My right calf and achilles were really hurting now and I was worried I would really damage myself. But there was no "meat wagon" on this ride so all I could do was ease off further and play with my positioning to minimize stress on my right calf. I knew there was a very steep hill at the end of the canyon, and we'd already done over 4,000 ft of climbing. I stopped and did one last calf massage, and headed up.... and felt so good that I made it to the top OK! then a long steep downhill past Fess Parker's winery and the last aid station, which I skipped. The last challenge was "the Wall" - a 10%+ grade to the high point of the ride. Then a long downhill (a'la Old San Jose Road, for Santa Cruzer's to compare), and then one more winding switchback hill before a long gradual set of curves heading back to Solvang. Amazingly, my odometer read 100.00 miles as I crossed the finish line. And 101.5 including the ride back to Lisa's. 5350 ft of elevation gain.

After Santa Maria, the mountains and Foxen Canyon. Near the summit, just before "The Wall", was the famous Fess Parker winery and his personal ranch. Sad to think back on now, as Fess Parker passed away there just 3 days after the ride.

A couple hundred yards from the finish line now. My VDO cyclometer read 100.00 miles at the ribbon - a pretty well planned course

My time wasn't impressive at all - 8:33, but my calf injury and that tough wind didn't help. I'd gone through almost 4 water bottles worth of fluids, but only pee'd once all day. Maybe I didn't hydrate well? My thirst mechanism is out of whack I think. Dave peed at every aid station. I'd wanted to do a short run afterward as part of training, but no way! I rode back to Lisa's and found Dave, zonked on the couch, tapping away on his Macbook. Silas and Yvonne arrived soon thereafter. We commisserated, took showers, ate, and then it was time to head back - Dave to LA, me to Santa Cruz. We'll do it all again next year - thanks all for a great day.