Sunday, June 1, 2008

Ojai Valley Century Ride

I had only registered two days earlier for the ride, apparently bike rides don’t fill up like running races, although there were 700 riders this year a 75% increase over last year people were still registering on the day.

Despite my earlier ruminations about what distance to ride (62 miles vs. 100 miles) I had emailed the Race Director and had been told there were a couple of bail out points in the second 50 miles should I need to take them, with that in mind I strapped on my boots and jumped in feet first: 100 miles!

It was to be another late night and another early start, you would think by now that I would have figured out how to get all my crap together before I head out the next morning, still this was my first organized bike ride and that’s my excuse. I finally got to bed around 1:00am and set the alarm for 5:00am. I actually woke before the alarm and so I had a couple of minutes in the bank. A quick shower, 3 Wheetabix and the same number of Race Caps and I was in the car, I had packed everything into the car the night before and only had to mount my bike on the rack; I couldn’t close the garage door with it mounted. On the road I finished off breakfast; a bagel pb&j and a cup of coffee.

Ojai is about 55 miles drive north east of my house, as I left the San Fernando Valley and headed further north the weather started to close in and the temperature got noticably colder, the hills were covered in cloud and started to wonder what the day held weather wise. I had given myself 75 minutes to get there. I needed all of it as I pulled into the town, a morass of cars with bike-racks faced me, we nudged and budged our way through and finally I found a parking space no too far from registration and wandered across to pick up my number. It was somewhat disorganized and there was the usual mix of widows and orphans (metaphorically; the spouse of the runner or in this case cyclist) running the registration. This is only the fifth year of the race and they are obviously still ironing out the details. After some discussion I got my number, photo coupon, helmet sticker, t-shirt and raffle tickets and headed back to my car. I had hoped to leave with the 7am wave but by now it was 7:10am. I unloaded my bike stuffed all my bits and pieces into the pockets on my shirt; gels, chapstick, jiffy bags with powdered sports drink, sun cream, Hammer bars and a few other bits, put on my vest and armwarmers, stuck the sticker on my helmet and headed back to the Start/finish area.

I didn’t really know what to expect, it was very low key and jovial, it was a fun ride rather than a race. I had missed most of the safety brief but caught the tail end “don’t run red lights, stop at stop signs and have fun” (the application of these rules resulted in; happened, kinda happened, happened) shortly followed by “the metric century (62 miles) can go now if they like”, no gun, no horn like I say …very low key! I asked someone to take my photo and at a little after 7:30am I was off.

I’ll spare you a mile by mile blow and wrap it up in nice and tidy 20 mile sections.

Miles 0-20 (Time elapsed 1:23:55)
The first few miles took us through a series of winding residential streets in the backend of Ojai, plenty of stopped signs, most of which were rolled through; hey that’s hard earned momentum you want me to just give up! We finally broke out into the countryside around mile 6 and were treated to some great rolling roads, this is a real contrast to where I live where it'e pretty much either up or down. I was trying to focus on keeping my cadence up; talking the strain/pressure of my knees and I had set a goal of maintaining an average speed of 15mph for the course of the ride. I had no real idea if this would work as this was a new route and a much bigger distance than I head ever ridden before. The first and biggest hill came around mile 11.5 and we climbed for two miles and about 600’ I remember thinking if this was the biggest hill I could be in good shape assuming I didn’t blow up over the mileage. A quick stop at he top to enjoy the view over Lake Casitas and a photog moment and I was off. This picture is actually from the rides website, the one with me in it has the hazy sun shining over my shoulder and is covered in low cloud. Of course the joy of the bike is that after any climb there is a descent and this one with the exception of a few little ups took us down for the best part of 10 miles.

Miles 21-40 (Time elapsed 2:40:25)
Just after mile 20 there was an aid stop; potta potties, food and fluid were available and I availed myself of the latter two. It was only a quick stop (stopping for a grand total of 35 seconds!) I was soon back in the saddle pushing further North into Santa Barbara. Here the 62 milers and the 100/200 milers spilt (yes there was a 200 mile ride as well!), I followed the 100 mile arrows and was directed onto a nice loop around the orchards and farm land of Santa Barbara and Capenteria, there was a fair amount of winding paths and I nearly missed a turning onto a bike path. During the ride I was trying to pay close attention to other peoples handling skills and mimic them, I not the most confident downhiller, (I was really burned by a tandem that flew past me, in the early hills section, while I was traveling at 35mph) as I typically ride alone I have never had the luxury of being able to draft someone and on this bike path I was riding close to a girl on a Tri bike, I tucked in behind her and was amazed at the difference it made, I was literally able to coast while she cut through the air in front on me! This section lasted a good 10 miles or so and when we exited back onto the road I was willing to pick up the reins and let her enjoy my wind blocking but she declined to follow and so I headed back into the previous aid station for a quick stop.

Miles 41-60 (Time elapsed 4:00:00)
This stop was the reverse entry of the 20 mile station and this time I opted for a potta pottie break, there was the compulsory line so I waited my turn stripping off and packing away my wind vest and arm warmers. From this stop I wound my way back the way I had come, threading through lush farmland with the spine of the mountains reaching into the sky like the backbone of a stegosaurus on my left and wafts or salty water from the ocean to my right. We were unceremoniously dumped onto the bike path that ran alongside the freeway and for 20 miles we followed the 101 south finally exiting up a ramp and tooling round a semi residential area. I rounded a corner and I was at the third aid station, there were bikes everywhere and there was a huge line for make-it-yourself sandwiches, clearly this was the fun element to the ride. I had been pretty self sufficient up until this point; Endurolytes, a gel each hour, an Anti-Fatigue and Energy Surge tab each hour and to be honest the thought and large sandwich was really not appealing so I refilled my bottles (Perpetuem/Amino-Vital) and grabbed some chips and once again headed out.

Miles 61-to finish (Time elapsed 6:36:02)
The next four miles had us tooling around the backstreets that ran parallel to the beach and the railroad, there was a lot of stop’n’go traffic; lights, stop signs etc, the road was pretty crappy and by now my backside was forming an opinion over my choice of distance, we finally exited onto a smooth section of tarmac and started to pickup speed when then was a twang and my front wheel went wobbly! I pulled over expecting to see a rapidly flattening tire and to my amazement I had broken a spoke. Now I understand that this happens a lot but in the 30+ years I have been riding bikes I have never broken a spoke. Of course the tension on the rim was being thrown off and it was rubbing on the brakes as it would if it were buckled, I opened up the brakes and let it spin freer, not wanting to tempt fate I thought best course of action was to head back to the aid station as there was a mechanic stop there as well, I pootled back at low speed anxious not to do any real damage. I pulled back into the aid station and heading for the mechs. They looked at it and said they could fix it with a temporary spoke, I had never heard of this but it is basically a Kevlar thread that you connect through hub to rim as per a normal spoke and tighten and it serves as a “get you home in an emergency” fix. Fortyfive minutes and $20 later I was back on the road.

The mechs said that the prudent course of action would be to head back to the finish using the metric century route and that it was about another 12 miles. By this time I had lost too much time to finish off the remaining 40 miles which conservatively would have taken me another two and a half hours. So I picked up the shorter route and headed up the bike path that ran parallel to 150 highway back into the centre of Ojai, stopping to grab another picture along the way by the river (note the stock pose!). I cruised through the finish line in, according to my Forerunner, 6:36:02, I had covered 82.25 miles, I had a total stopping time of 1:04; most of it while having my wheel fixed. I had a maximum speed of 36.7mph, climbed 6031’ and burned a staggering 7199 calories, personally I am amazed at this as my consumption had conservatively been 250-350 an hour, and although I was tired I felt pretty good and nowhere near bonking as I had the previous week with half the mileage.

Once in the finish area I made sure to stretch, chugged a protein shake and took eight Recover-Ease tablets, I discovered these on; they were offer free samples and I am never someone to turn down something free. In fact as I write this the next day, I do not have an ache in body, not one! I searched through some of the photos that had been taken but there were none of me and then waited for the raffle where I won, woot, a Cateye Astrale 8 cycling computer, ironically I have one fitted on my bike but it’ll work on my mountain bike. After this I packed up and set off for home.

Looking back a day later, I had such a blast, other than the broken spoke, the ride was just so much fun, seeing some new parts of the world and meeting some interesting people, I’ll definitely be back for another one later in the year.

The rest of my photos are here, as mentioned there were some photographers on the course but they are still being uploaded.

Here's the MotionBased data:


  1. Duuudddeee!! Very cool!! I don't know about you lately ;-) Before you know it, you'll be swimming and signing up for IM LOL. Wait . . . have you done IM already?

  2. So Stuart - looks like you're mixing "ultra" disciplines. When I was biking, I found I could only stay with one sport. If you can manage the juggling of long distance running and long distance cycling,kudos to you! Too bad about the spoke. I always used 36, 4x spoked wheels (14 gauge) My best time was 5' 40" fo a 110 miler with a buddy of mine on a fairly hilly course but probably not as tough as yours?

    I was very impressed when i was in the Marin hill outside of San francisco. Nice riding out there! Good luck on that 50. BTW, I joined Planet Ultramarathon.


  3. Damn, over 7K calories! I don't think I've hit mark yet even on my longest training days. That's like a few pizzas, a couple of burritos and a dozen girl scout cookies...give or take a milkshake.

    Congrats on the Canadian Century!

  4. Congrats! That's dang far.

  5. Being a crazy girl, you know the first thing that pops into my head is "WOW, that's A LOT of calories!!!!"

    Such a pretty area. You did a great job.

  6. That is what i HATE about the bike...god knows what can go wrong....

    luckily and happily, you still got plenty of mileage in on your adventure!!!

  7. Darn! What a bummer about your bike! You were so close to the 100 mile mark! I must say, a broken spoke is crazy! I have never heard of that happening; it is interesting to see the pics and hear how the mechanic fixed that. I wonder how it was you broke a spoke?

    I find your comment on burning calories interesting. I think my Garmin significantly over-estimates my caloric expenditure on biking. I just bought a cadence sensor--I wonder if that may adjust it correctly?

    Awesome pics, awesome post, and congrats on a solid ride (minus the bike problems, grrr)

  8. Wow, what a cool race! I like the low key nature. Also, good job figuring out what do about the broken spoke - I would have been totally lost :)

  9. VERY NICE!!

    Question - $20 for getting you back on the road? Do you carry cash with you?

    I am just getting into the drafting myself and continue to see the benefit when riding with a pack of riders.

    got to love jumping in an event at the last minute both feet first. Now that is exciting.

    As always i loved all of the detail on your food and recovery food intake. Very helpful stuff.

  10. How cool... just ordered my free samples!!

    Thanks for the heads up!

  11. I'm looking forward to my first century ride in September. That sounds like such a blast.

  12. oooh! you know i love this post!

    i gotta bunch of thoughts:

    #1 - this sounds like a great day! #2 - i'm always amused by all the differences (from registration to people attending) to the races (biking vs. running). and there's no gun - always a run down of the rules & a simple "go". love it.
    #3 - i bet your scenery was just stunning
    #4 - downhills scare the heck out of me
    #5 - drafting is a magical thing
    #6 - i am always amazed by how fast those damn tandems can fly.
    #7 - i totally emailed the recover-ease people for a free sample. although right now, i do love recoverite.
    #8 - thanks for sharing - i've always wanted to know more about what a century was like!

  13. Nice ride SLB. Sorry to hear about the broken spoke, but you seemed to have a lot of fun. I need to do one of these long rides one day.

    After completing the Bear with Fred I decided to do at least one Half Iron this year. Just for fun - I may not have mileage to race it, but I'll just give it a go. I may actually do two in the span of 4 weeks in September. We shall see.

    The long events are just so much fun compared to the short runs or sprint triathlons.

  14. Pretty cool. The thing is I would love to get into biking but I don't know the first thing about it. I try and learn as much as I can from various biker blogs but, in the end, I feel like I'll hop into a bike race, blow a spoke - like you - and end up feeling like a lost kid at WalMart not knowing what to do. I guess you have to live and learn. Nice job!

  15. Nice ride!! And I'd never heard of that quick fix either....

    Congrats again!!!

  16. just stumbled across this, Stuart, when i googled "Ojai Valley Century Ride"! i rode the metric last year and am thinking about doing the full century this year. decisions, decisions :)


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