Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Mulholland Challenge

The rain during the week and on the Saturday prevented me from riding both days over the weekend and killed off my High Rouleurs attempt for that weekend. The climbs we not the issue and the actual rain during the ride would not be either it was the descents. Some of the roads are pretty rough, throw in the mix, mud and rocks being washed onto the road it was just too sketchy for me. It was decision that was proved right as I was standing on the edge of the road watching the rain come in sideways as hardier souls than me climbed up one of the many ascents into the Santa Monica Mountains. I was happy to be out there for the riders and did my best to provide physical and mental support for them. No doubt it was a tough day.


So on Sunday I loaded my bike into the car along with various layers that I had purchased last minute from Pactimo, including the Ultra-Lite rain jacket and the Evergreen Vest. The day was all about layers. The host hotel in Agoura was bustling was cyclists and I was forced to park at the back of beyond. I finished off readying my bike and headed to the front of the hotel where the official start line was I realized, as is my method operandi, I had missed the start of the event. I wasn’t the only one though and so I rolled out.

You would think that by now I would have covered all the roads in the Santa Monica Mountains but the truth is there are a lot of roads that I have yet to ride up or down and there still is with this ride I was able to cross off a few more. As we rode into the mountains we disappeared into the low cloud and mist. I was glad I was wearing the water proof jacket as the water accumulated on my body and rolled down my glasses! The ride was broken up in my mind as four loops. The first two would take me through and around Topanga Canyon State Park at the southern end of the Santa Monica Mountain and the second would be at the other end of the range with loops around Decker and Mulholland and Yerba Buena and Deer Creek. Some the climbs I had ridden up and down and others I had ridden up and would be descending this time around Yerba Buena and Deer Creek specifically fell into this bucket.



The Topanga section went by without too many problems and I would put and remove my layers when climbing and descending respectively. The first loop was all very familiar from living in the area a few years ago. As I had missed the start I was essentially at the back of the ride but slowly I started to catch up with people and pass them. After the first climb and descent we hit the first Aid Station.


I was pretty self-sufficient with a pocket full of Lara Bars and I had drunk that much. Maybe half a bottle in a couple of hours. I pushed on through after a short connecting section on Mulholland I started the second loop which was up Stunt. I have heard mention of it in the past but never ridden up it. It’s a typical SMM climb with switchbacks to a saddle followed by a descent. It has a total gain of around 1200’ over 4 miles and averages 6% going up to around 9% in parts. Once again I just sat in and pushed on passing some more folks and then being passed by a small bunch that were climbing like a freight train! There’s always a bigger fish!


The temperature was great, cool and cloudy and I just rode within myself making sure to eat a bar every hour or so. At the top there was the second Aid Station and I stopped to take advantage of the potta-john and refill a bottle. With little fuss I back in the saddle and heading back down Piuma. I took things nice and steady and while I was often passed on the rides down, there were few if any people who it didn’t repass on the climbs back up. Back onto Mulholland making sure not to miss the turn we were then directed by way of the third Aid Station up Rock Store and into the northern section. A quick descent down Mulholland all the way to the coast. It was a right hand turn onto PCH for a short section and we were onto the penultimate climb up Yerba Buena, 3 miles 1050’ at 6% maxing at 14%. It’s a pretty shitty road and the rain had washed a fair amount of dirt onto it too. At the top of the road there was another Aid Station, the one I had worked the prior day so I knew what to expect. I had ridden most of this loop but the other way round and the next mile would be the worst. 450’ of gain at an average of 8% maxing at 18%. Sit down, stand up, just keep pedaling. I passed people walking and I passed people riding. I was very grateful for my gearing choice of a 34/32 on my bike and I just span and span and span!

At the top there were a few rollers and then the nail biting descent down Deer Creek which is 11% and twisty! At the bottom a left hand turn and a quick jet south on PCH for the last climb up Decker; 4 miles, 1509’ of gain at 8%. Once again just sit in and keep moving forward. It had warmed up as much as it was going to at this point and people were struggling. 36 minutes later I was almost at the top but I was at the last Aid Station. One more bottle refill, a short down a sharp up and it was basically a 10 mile roll back to the start/finish and a couple of laps around the parking lot to hit 106 miles!


On the clock 8:14 moving time. 9:02 in total, even though I thought I had been pretty quick. 12,933’ of gain. Garmin tells me I was climbing for 4:56 so well over half the time and of that I was standing 1:17…I love my Vector pedals!


There is a bunch of other crazy data on Garmin Connect and Strava if you want to check it.

At the end there were 180 finishers of which I was 80 th, and 31/96 for my Age Group. I really am never going to be at the fast point end but like a diesel I can just keep going!

Overall it was a great day. The course is challenging and would make a great High Rouleurs course. No doubt riding it twice on consecutive days and then adding another 4000’ of gain and 26 miles would really be a big bite to take but that’s the joy of having a flip top head!

Overall the race is well organized. Aid Stations are frequent enough and they made a great call on moving the event due to the weather. Had it been hot it would have been a very different day! I would say that they are very strict with their rules about on road support etc but as long as you play nice they play nice with you. For me I just turn up and ride.

Onwards to the L’etape at the end of the month!

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