Ray's Blog

Sunday, February 26, 2006

2002 September 14: World's Toughest Century

[This event has now evolved into the Auburn Century. In 2002, however, it was called the World's Toughest Century, and it was run by Brad Kearns. There were several course variants, and I decided to do the Superstar Loop" option, which was around 136 miles and 16,000' of climbing. Below is a slightly-modified report of a trip report I wrote and disseminated via email in the day after the ride (it's now more than 3 1/2 years years after the ride!).]

After this ride, my cyclocomputer shows 136.87 miles and a time of 11:09:49 (this is the actual time riding. I started the ride at 5:30am and finished at about 6:31pm). Maximum speed attained on the ride: 45.2 mph (could have been faster if I hadn't been conservative. And in pain).

I have not ridden every other Century course in world (actually, the only other time I've gone over 70 miles was riding the Livermore Loop with Lucas), and so I cannot vouch for the correctness of this ride's moniker. I will however vouch for the fact that it made for a really brutal day for the likes of me.

Around 5:00am I stepped out of the hotel to see what kind of overclothes (jacket? Tights? ...?) I should wear. Despite the early hour, it was warm enough that no such clothing was necessary. Probably a bad sign, I figured. But no turning back now! I decided to bring along a jacket in case I needed it, but I never ended up wearing it.

I brought along a large quantity of supplies. My Camelbak had a 100-ounce bladder filled with Cytomax and another 100-ounce bladder filled with water. In addition, I had a water bottled filled with Gatorade and some very large number of energy bars (and a bottle of HammerGel).

Around 5:10am, I left the hotel. It was a pleasant 4.6-mile or so bike ride (mostly downhill, too!) to the starting area. I checked in and was ready to start at pretty much 5:30am exactly.

With my really powerful new Light & Motion bike light, I made myself immediately popular at the start of the day. There were a few people sitting around who didn't have bike lights and who were just waiting to tag along with someone with a good light, so I had plenty of company at the start of the ride.

The first 18 miles of the ride are described as "steady climbing along [Route] 80". I guess that's mostly accurate. Nothing too difficult. There was supposed to be an aid station at mile 18, but I didn't notice it-- it's possible that it hadn't been set up yet.

After that was a big descent, followed by the first big climb (what goes down must go up!). The first two miles of it apparently climbed 1,600'. I hooked up with some guy named Steve, and we did this climb (and some further riding) together. A lot of the ride at this stage took place in a canyon; we would descend down to the small river at the botton, ride a little bridge over it, and then ascend up the other side. We did this a few times. Sometime during the course of this, things started to heat up. By late afternoon, it was hot like a bastard out there.

Since I had so many supplies on my person, I paid very little attention to the aid stations-- mile 50 was the first aid station that I really saw. I stopped and ate a bunch of energy food stuff (including JogMate, that protein stuff that comes in toothpaste tubes. As near as I can tell, it's basically chonklit pudding for 10x the price), a PB&J, some dried mango, etc. Many whiny people bemoaned the lack of bananas-- I think that only the last aid station (with 8 miles to go) had 'em. For my money, bananas are great, but there are plenty of other foods that'll do the trick just as well.

A cop stopping by the aid station warned us that today was the first day of squirrel season. Yeesh!

A bit after this aid station (miles 62-66): the "Corkscrew Wall". The first 3.7 miles of this climbs 2,000'. This is where I started having trouble. My calves and hamstrings started cramping after a while, so I repeatedly tried to anticipate trouble and stop and chill for a few minutes just before I got a serious cramp. I think I took six or seven rest breaks in this 3.7 mile stretch! That climb was steep like a bastard.

I exchanged a few words with a fellow rider, Elizabeth, somewhere around here. Whereas I had weighed myself down with a bathtub full of fluids, she was riding with just a single water bottle (not carrying any food, either!). She said she figured she could always refill at aid stops. Anyway, she went on ahead. I passed her later on, but then she (and many other people!) passed me on what is described as a "sneaky little 500' climb". I have to say that I did not find this climb "little"-- could it really have been a mere 500'?! I stopped three or four times on it when my legs seemed about to cramp up.

Then things got easier. I caught up with Elizabeth around mile 92. She was in kind of a bad state, and had had to ride with no water for an hour in the heat. She was also way hungry. At various times, some aid stations had briefly been out of water, and instead of waiting around for it to show up, she had just hit the road without anything to drink. I gave her some water and let her choose foodstuffs from my tremendous assortment of energy bars.

She said she felt dizzy and otherwise bad, so I babysat her up the hill until the next aid stop at mile 94 (it wasn't actually 94 miles for her, since she was "only" on the 105-mile century course, instead of the 136-mile "Superstar Loop"). She indicated that she used the Internet, so I asked her what her favorite search engine was, but her answer was kind of iffy, and I'm rather suspicious that she doesn't actually do anything online. She was like, "I dunno...whatever," and couldn't even give me a name. Plus she had never heard of Google! So I yelled out to a guy nearby, "Hey, do you do stuff online?" When he said yes, I asked him what his favorite search engine was. He gave the correct answer, naturally. It's possible that my Google jersey had something to do with it, but I doubt it.

I had to take a break to avoid my legs seizing up, so she pulled ahead and reached the next aid stop first. I believe she bailed out from there and got a ride to the finish.

From there to the end, there was nothing too brutal, but many of the rather small climbs felt pretty tough at this point! When I stopped at the 128-mile aid stop in the town of Cool, I just sat around doing nothing for a while. I didn't even eat or drink anything. I was pretty fried, although apparently not as fried as another guy I'd seen now and again on the ride, who was lying down and being treated for heat exhaustion. Also, apparently I had just missed witnessing a bike crash right there-- somehow a passing truck enticed two cyclists to collide. I'm not sure if it actually clipped one of them, or got one of them with a sudden burst of wind, or what.

That guy Steve was at the rest stop, and he left maybe five minutes after I got there. He gave me what I felt was a little too much friendly advice about what to eat, what to drink, etc. He was only trying to be helpful, of course, but I was in no mood to take anyone else's counsel at that point! Besides, I didn't feel like ingesting much of anything, anyway.

With 8 miles to go, I knew I was could finish (although I had time to think more than once about bagging out and getting a ride), but I was having a tough time getting going again. Finally I got up, filled my water bottle with Gatorade, and hit the road. My sunglasses were balls nasty from sweat, so I took them off to improve visibility. It was downhill until the final 2.5-mile hill into Auburn. I took my time on that hill, stopping a bunch of times. It wasn't a bad hill (although the shoulder was narrow and the traffic was unpleasant), but at that point, it felt pretty tough. Every time my legs started acting up, I stopped and chugged a bunch of Gatorade. Several sag wagons checked up on me to make sure I was good to go; one guy went so far as to ask me if I knew where I was. I was mentally fine (although physically exhausted), so no way was I going to accept a ride at that point!

At last I pulled into the parking lot just past 6:30pm. The course officially closed at 7:30pm, so I was really glad that they had changed the starting time for the Superstar Loop to 5:30am (it had originally been 6:30am)-- finishing in time would have been a dicey proposition if they hadn't! I sat around for a bit eating not very much and trying not to cramp up (by this time, my quads were also willing to cramp up if I gave them half an excuse). Man, was I dirty! Dirtier than usual, even!

A very tough ride, with some really great woodsy and canyony scenery. Other than squirrels running around (that's right-- they'd better run!) and birds a-flyin', I think that the only wildlife I saw were a dead deer, a dead mouse, and several dead snakes.

Although I felt like I was constantly drinking (I pretty much finished the 1.5 gallons of fluid on my back, plus I drank 3.5 additional water bottles worth of water & Gatorade), I probably should have drunk even more (I only had to take a leak once during the entire day!). Plus I probably should have figured out a good way to consume more sodium & potassium to prevent cramping. Turning in at the parking lot at the very end, there was a kid watching me, so I stuck out my tongue at him. Some muscle on the bottom of my jaw (or maybe that's just the location of the tendon connected to the muscle?) cramped up immediately. Yeesh.

I have no idea how many other riders rode the Superstar Loop with me; how many finished; when the first finisher finished; or anything like that. I'm pretty sure I was basically a straggler. But I can live with that!

Respectfully submitted,


Post-Smurf: I'm exceedingly glad that I took the time to take the cassette of the tandem and install it on my road bike! Doing this gave me access to a gear 28% lower than I could have otherwise used. With my "real" road cassette, I'd probably still be stuck out there somewhere now.


Post a Comment

<< Home