Fuzzy and I just finished the Breathless Agony ride and man, what a doozy! A 114 mile road ride, climbing 4 passes totaling 12,000 feet of climbing, from the heart of Redlands up to Big Bear and back down.
My eyes could barely peek open when my alarm went off at 4:30AM, but I was able to roll off my mattress, into my kit, and out the door a bit past 5 for the hour long drive to Redlands. Just as I found a parking space my phone rang with Fuzzy wondering if I had even left yet! As the sun was coming up we simultaneously scratched our beards, circled our wagons, and headed to check-in. We both had to pass on the socks that were included with registration when we found out we could opt instead for a sweet cast-aluminum beer bottle opener! I immediately knew this ride was a winner.
Ara and I placed our new shiny bits of metal in our trucks and made our way back to the start line. Since it wasn't a mass start, we checked in with with the timing booth, zeroed-out our SIGMA ROX computers and pedaled forth. Not having a crowd to contend with was great, but since neither of us had done this ride before we were soon scrutinizing the route sheet to figure out where to turn as we zig-zagged our way out of town. We quickly began passing other riders and knew we we were on the right track. We left the housing tracks behind and began skirting the foothills on a winding two-lane road. We were able to hop into a group of riders and thus briskly make our way to Pass #1 - Jack Rabbit Trail. "Trail" is pretty accurate, too, since the last time this road was paved was probably before Jerry Brown's FIRST stint as Governor. Cracks, gravel, holes, sand, dirt, you name it, if you thought you shouldn't be riding a road bike on it, it was there. But there was a VIEW. The group accelerated like mad to thin the herd and make it easier to navigate the obstacles. I knew I needed to save energy for later so I let them go.
Not too soon came Food Stop #1 since I had already downed all my water. It was already getting hot. As we topped off, I discovered Ara had smartly bagged what looked like a kilo of colombian nose candy, but turned out to be a secret stash of AMINO VITAL in his jersey for the long day ahead. I had mine triple-strength mixed in one of my bottles that I diluted as we went on. Great minds think alike! I think Ara had a slightly better plan, though. We had a few bites to eat, made like a baby and headed out. Unfortunately two minutes later I got a flat tire, but with Ara helping and timely floor pump help from a support car, I had my KENDA KALIENTE all aired up and we were rolling again.
Next was Pass #2 - Oak Glen. A real treat, this climb winds up through a string of apple orchards and big oak trees and definitely had the coolest temperatures of the day. Once at the peak we were treated to a swift 7 mile downhill on the other side to Food Stop #2 in Yucaipa. After starting a bit late and with the flat tire, the support crew were already packing up the EZ-ups and making ready to vacate. I had depleted all of my water yet again, so I furiously guzzled two entire water bottles before refilling them and jumping back on the bike.No rest for the wicked, on to Pass #3 lovingly called "Damnation Alley." Straight up Highway 38. No shade. No relenting. No babies. This is where Ara pulled away from me and disappeared into the distance.
2 1/2 hours later I had gone 10 miles and reached Food Stop #3 at Angeles Oaks. I unclipped from my XPEDO pedals and my feet were on fire. Ara had already been there so long that he had to leave lest his legs atrophy too much from inactivity. I bid him adieu and wished him well. He hoped I'd continue on, but I was unsure. I hung my bike up on a rack, sat down, and took my shoes off. It felt sooo good. Physically AND mentally. The other super-boost came from BACON. Yes, the food stop was stockpiled with sizzled pig sticks and it was glorious. This was definitely a morale lifter.
After downing more than a few of those guys, along with some banana and orange slices, some tasty fig newtons, and then gulping down 3 water bottles, there was nothing keeping me from reaching the top. Don't get me wrong, though, I was beat up. With my belly full, I stretched out my legs every which pretzel way I could, and then slowly strapped my shoes back on. The event website had made it very clear that there were strictly-adhered-to time cut-offs for the stops, but with the toll the heat was taking on all the riders, they graciously extended the cut-off by 20 minutes. I grabbed a few more gulps of water and refilled my bottles again just as they kicked everyone out.
Back to the pavement. Turning the teeth. Luckily my girlfriend had a Compact crankset she had yet to build a bike with that she let me borrow, I needed the extra gearing. Pass #4. With more pine trees further up there were a couple shady spots. And the altitude dropped the temperature a couple degrees, but it was still the roastiest part of the day. My legs seemed to cook like the bacon that was already a distant memory to my tastebuds. The wisps of clouds laughed, offering no protection from the Great Fireball's grilling rays. Surprisingly, I was still passing someone every once in a while. Good to have a goal to try to reach the next speck in the distance. I spotted Ara flying back down the mountain with a big grin on his face, and I whooped at him and he shouted back to keep going. There was no way I was turning back now!
Ten more miles, two more hours. But I slinked by the Grim Reaper at the Top: Onyx Summit 8,443 feet above Sea Level. WOO HOO! But wait. I'm only at mile 74, there are still 40 miles to go! I shuck my shoes off again and lay down on the moving pads they provided so we didn't have to sit on the scalding pavement. More water. More food. Apple Cobbler? YES, please! Vanilla Coke? Fill me up! This ride was first class all the way. More stretching. A bit of relaxing. And hey, I peed for the first time the whole ride! Things were looking up. Or down, actually, as most of the rest of the ride was descending back down Highway 38. Yay! I clipped back in to my XPEDOs and in a matter of seconds we were soaring on the asphalt at 40mph. There were a few last climbs between mile 85 and 90, but other than that it was miles of zooming around corners and bombing down straights for 35 miles. We took a different route down so as to avoid reclimbing the first two passes. Dropping from 8,400 feet to 1,500 feet. Pure pleasure.
Eventually we arrived back at the park where we started, and wonderfully waiting for us was the grandest Build-Your-Own-Burrito I've ever encountered. Even with tortillas that were twice as big as the plates they were served on, I wasn't sure I could heap enough stuffings in there to compensate for all the calories I had burned. I gave it my all. It was barely enough. Luckily there were brownies and lemon bars to gorge on as well. Sweet satisfaction. A great end to a great ride.
See ya next time,