So as usual this is late but hey better late than never! I have a couple of Race Reports to write up before they fade into the distant memory but this is the most recent and my short term memory is suffering the worst! So on with the show!
The Belgian Waffle Ride. 130 or so miles with a third or so off road and plenty of climbing. Add in some deep sand, a shallow water crossing and 95f+ temperatures, hot waffles and cold beer and you get the idea.
Having attended the Camp in January I had an approximate idea of what to expect. Back then the course hadn’t been completely locked down. In fact, it turned out that the final Permits hadn’t been granted until the week of the race so there was going to be an element of surprise to it but that’s how I like it!
I headed down a day early to attend a dinner organized by the Camp hosts as well as some of the Race Management. I was staying with Casey, an online friend converted into an IRL (in real life) one who I had met at the Camp and we both attended the dinner. Becca was manning the home fort with Volley Ball commitments for the kids and would travel down by train the next afternoon.
The dinner was casual and fun. The next day was easy going with an early group ride which took us on the last 15 miles of the course and included a quick spin up Double Peak. Double Peak is a one mile climb at 8%. I would next get to ride it again on race day at mile 120! Fun Times!
The rest of the day was spent hanging out and navigating my way through the Expo and packet pick-up. The bike got a quick wash and polish and I was pretty much ready to roll the next day. A casual dinner and I picked up Becca from the Train Station. The final prepping tasks and the alarm was set for Dark o’clock!
The start was a 20 minute drive from Casey’s. We got there with plenty of time to spare and could park easily. With nearly an hour to go there was time for second breakfast, I confess to skipping the Waffles and opted having extra coffee. All that was left was the nerves to build up.
I had opted to go in the second wave which I anticipated, correctly, would be less competitive. While my goal was to race the event, I wasn’t keen on rubbing wheels and going down hard and early. The second group rolled out and with a left and left we were on the main road and on our way.
132 miles is a long way and rather than give you a mile by mile, blow by blow diatribe I’ll try and break this up into more manageable sections.
The first four miles were a neutral roll out. This makes it sound like a mellow chatfest…nope! The Police were out closing roads and letting us fly along and through junctions. There was no hanging around and we were averaging 18-19mph riding uphill! There was an early climb that spread folks out and then it pitched up a little steeper which was an early test of nerves and equipment with some pretty rough gear changes and chains being dropped. A sharp right turn put us on the first section of dirt. I took it easier than most and spent as much time avoiding as many thrown water bottles as I did pot holes. I passed a couple of early flat tires and made it safely to the bottom. Another road section for a while and we were directed off onto the dirt, into the sand, into the deep sand and then forced to walk and carry the bike.
This was short lived and around the corner was the first Aid Station at Mile 25. Becca, who had been waiting for me, was sucked into volunteering. She spotted me and asked if I was good, I was. I rolled through.
A quick spin up Bandy Canyon was followed by the long climb up Highland Valley Road, just over 1000’ in just over 6 miles. Tick, tick, tick the miles ticked by and I was rolling across to Ramona. I had ridden this section back in January on Camp and we had had a brutal headwind. This time with no headwind and I was PRing all my Strava times.
With a little over 43 miles on the clock I hit the second Aid Station. Becca had leap frogged me from her impromptu volunteering at Aid Station 1. I pulled in and refilled my bottles and pockets, ditched my phone which was weighing heavy in my jersey and had a quick reapplication of SunScreen. In and out ASAP was the order of the day!
Black Canyon. Twelve miles of off road, mostly climbing, some shade and no relaxing. There was one long descent in the middle. This was tricky and required you to focus. The road wasn’t closed so there were a few cars here and there. I had covered most of this climb in January and my time, while slower than then, wasn’t terrible. By this time, it was getting warm, and the Aid Station at the top was doing a brisk business with cokes and cold water being the order of the day. While it had been a tough section the distress of some of the riders so soon into the event was surprising but then again, well you know! I tried not to linger. Most of the time was spent finding somewhere to lean my bike rather than just laying it down in the dirt, which seemed to be the modus operandi of a lot of people.
Stocked up I was back on the road and rolling for the section that I had not ridden before as it was new. This was basically a clockwise loop. In my mind, it would bring us back to this point but in reality it brought us back down Black Canyon, basically at the bottom of the climb out! It was a 20 mile loop and after the climb out of Black Canyon and the ride back down I was back with Becca and rolling into the Aid Station at Mile 81.
I filled up on all the cold stuff and chugged more coke, grabbed some more food and shot off. I had had a pretty good rest on the way down and was anxious to get rolling as quickly as possible.
Back on the road I joined a small group and we took turns pulling as we rode across the rolling roads and through the farmland. They lost me on the descent of the 78.
I was comfortable sitting in at nearly 30 mph with cars and motorcycles whizzing by. At the bottom, it was back onto Bandy Canyon although this time to the side of the road and back in the dirt. The trail weaved backwards and forwards and eventually sat us back out onto the road where there was the climb back and then the road descent back down Highland Valley back towards Lake Hodges.
There was one Aid Station around Mile 100 and I met back up with Becca who had parked the Van and walked in with a Cool Box full of goodies. I resumed riding and was put back on a section I had covered during the camp. This time, however, I was riding it from the other direction. I knew there were some tricky short climbs and descents and with a few dabs and a lot of grunting I managed to get through 99% of the Lake Hodge section without having to walk. At the end was a surprise Aid Station had the dregs of a water cooler and I took what I could and moved on. With around 25 miles left I was on the home straight…kinda!
There followed on and off-road sections which wound their way towards the finish line. The previous days ride had dropped us onto the course about 5 miles from the start of the Double Peak climb and every time you rounded a corner you thought…or hoped that the 5 miles would start.
It came as a surprise when I did round a corner and came across the “Oasis”. I grabbed another coke and refilled the bottles and headed out again. More road, more dirt and more uphill. Finally I crested a small hill and recognized yesterdays’ section.
The climb up Double Peak is not long, but it’s steep and when you have 120 or miles on your legs it just goes on and on. There is small respite on the way up but then it pitches up again. There was a steady stream of riders heading down giving cheers of encouragement and motivation…easy to say when you could almost roll back to the start without a pedal stroke!
I finally got to the summit and made a point of riding right to the very top, stopping at the Aid Station, which was in the parking lot and then trying to get going again would be hard so I rode up to the top straight back to the Aid Station, chugged another coke and made the descent down.
The final ride back to the finish was mostly downhill. I had one eye on my Garmin and was riding as hard as I could to get a sub 11:00 finish. I passed a couple of folks who must have thought I was an idiot! My Garmin Edge 810 had 2% left and I wanted to beat it to the line!
I got caught at pretty much every light I could and used my best judgement.
The last right hand turn and some maneuvering around a truck in the way. A gentle roll up the curb and I was done!
Becca was there to catch the final 50 yards!
…and my Garmin! Well here you go!
So here are the post mortem thoughts;
I had been asked the day prior did I have a target time, I had replied around 9 hours. Obviously, I underestimated the day. That would have been a close to 15 mph day…I realized soon into the ride that around 10 hours was more realistic. With the added heat, I am pleased with my finish time of 11:02. I was especially happy that my total stoppage time for the day was only 35 minutes. This included the 5 or 6 Aid Stations I stopped at and a stop to pee.
With that said my actual goal of racing the event was more or less met. Pacing over that distance is hard. Could I have gone faster maybe? Looking at the data I spent 48% in HR Z3 and 14% in HR Z4 so 62% of my HR was “racing”! Food for thought for next time
I ate and drank a lot, way more than I have ever done with no adverse effect. Pretty much anything that was on offer was game, Becca had fresh fruit and Coke and the Aid Stations had more soda, water, PB&J and plenty of Clif Product. I specifically used SkratchLabs mixed with Base Amino.
My Lynskey Cooper CX was great…as always. I could have maybe gone with slicker tires but I had trained in the Clement USH XPlor and so they were the tires to ride in. I kept the bike lightweight with a Topeak Wedge II saddle bag, I like their bags, they are simple and do the job and the “click” feature makes them easy to move around. Inside it contained had 2 tubes, 2 C02, a tire boot, a quick link and a multi tool, I carried a small pump and that was it. My water bottles were CamelBak Insulated Podiums, they are a bit heavy and they are not throwaway bottles but they keep my drink cold and that’s a real treat when you’re cooking in the sun!
What could I improve?
More time on the course, more time on my gravel bike would have helped. I have race ridden it this year at more events but predominantly my training is on my road bike. The Lynskey does have a Stages and having more insight into that would be a better thing for pacing. Something to consider for next year.
Other than that,…well I think that’s it!
And so, finally, about the event.
I have to confess that I was somewhat intimidated by this event, I doesn’t have the craziness of the Rock Cobbler and it’s not a pure gravel ride like Dirty Kanza. The general attendance of this race is fast road riders and that’s not the environment that I feel comfortable in. With that said, there is a saying to be X do what X does and I have watched enough cycling on TV that I know how to ride in a pack, it’s just that I don’t do that much. So when I did I focused on the wheel in front. I took my turns on the front and did my best to be safe and not in the way. I had concerns, as mentioned, above about having an issue early, this proved to be unfounded and I surprised how quickly riders got spread out.
Overall the event is amazingly organized. From the Expo to the Post Race Party. The route traverses several municipal areas and they all come together to support it.
Finally, it’s fun! Yes, it’s hard and yes it’s a bit out there but if you train for it you’ll be fine!
Here’s the Strava details let me know if you have any questions.