Monday, March 10, 2014

Not quite "sideways" in Solvang

And that's a good thing since the point of the weekend was not to re-live scenes from Sideways but to have our own epic experience at the Solvang Century Ride (and Metric, which was our plan).  This was one of those events that I thought about doing last year but I just did not feel prepared, not even for the Metric or Half-Century.  This year, however, we signed up in January after a round or two of margaritas with someone (Hi Rob!) who rode it last year and convinced us that we should definitely ride it this year.  The funny thing is, I had already made reservations for us back in the fall, so I guess I was already planning on the ride!

Solvang is a little town north east of Santa Barbara that makes the most of its Danish heritage.  I'm not sure about windmills and Denmark, but Solvang would have you believe that they are an essential part of Danish architecture!  The last time we were in the area was a few years ago, just passing through, so it was a chance to return to the Santa Barbara area and enjoy the weekend!

Our get-away was reminiscent of the week before, when I kept changing my mind - should we stay or should we go?  Michael, again, voted for the weekend away, and I was easily convinced to go but still a bit skeptical about the ride and whether it was a good decision to go away two weekends in a row -  living on the edge!  And while I feel that I'm paying for it a bit today, what a great weekend!  We did have to make some adjustments in terms of our plans.  We took Gus up with us, and he has been one stressed out doggie since Milo's passing - freaking out every time we leave him.  So, Michael opted to hang out with Gus while I rode.  Not the ideal solution, and I totally owe him for taking care of Gus on Saturday and for letting me have the experience of the Solvang ride, but we were also happy to know that Gus was okay.

Despite participating in triathlons for a few years now, this was my first organized ride - not race, and I woke up on Saturday somewhat nervous about the ride but nothing like I feel before a triathlon.  Talk about a stress-free morning!  I kept reminding myself that there was no set start time and that I should just enjoy the experience.  That, fortunately, was not hard to do at all!  There was great energy as people wandered over to the official start line and took off - whenever they wanted (again, this was such a novelty to me).  Also, there was a greater range of bikes, attire and people which made me feel so relaxed.

Once I finally settled on what to wear (arm warmers, check, vest, check...), gave myself a little pep talk about riding solo, I took off - over the start line, through the quaint streets of Solvang, just riding along...  The first 24 miles or so were really great - easy rolling hills, nice roads, beautiful countryside.  Some sights were memorable - I passed an ostrich farm, Alma Rosa, a winery that we visited our last trip up here, and also an Icelandic horse ranch (they are so small and cute!).  Others just blur together - the vineyards and rolling hills.  I felt good when I hit the first SAG stop but also didn't mind getting off the bike for a pit stop, eating some fruit and I also grabbed an Uncrustable to snack on.

At that point, I felt great and actually regretted that I hadn't signed up for the full Century, and my good spirits - mental and physical - stuck with me until about mile 38.  At that point, we were riding along a stretch of farmland and different parts of my body were going a bit numb.  So, it was with relief that I hit the 2nd SAG stop - where I took another Uncrustable and ate more fruit.  Less than 20 miles of the official ride, easy stuff!  Ha!  I did not realize that right after the SAG stop, we would hit a major climb and deal with crappy road conditions.  After creeping along for 2 miles or so (hey, at least I didn't walk my bike!), I felt like I was inches to bonking, and I started to curse myself for being such an idiot and for not fueling properly.  Fortunately, the climb evened out for a bit, so I unclipped, drank the rest of the bottle of Osmo that I had and ate a few gels.  That seemed to help tremendously, as I finished the climb and started the downhill.  Sadly, the downhill, which I had anticipated with pleasure during the climb, ended up SUCKING.  Most of the roads on the ride were pretty good, but this part was sub-standard, to say the least.  I white-knuckled it for the entire descent but made it down safely, which was no mean feat (apparently one rider lost control on the descent).  Things finally evened out around mile 50, and from there to the finish line, I relaxed and enjoyed those final miles. It was hard to ride past our motel to get to the finish line and then ride a few miles back to our motel, but, hey, I wanted an "official" finish!

 Once I met up with Michael and Gus, who had enjoyed their morning by touring all of Solvang, we were ravenous, so we filled the rest of the day with lunch, a nap, a walk, and dinner.  And plenty of good beer, especially at the Firestone Walker Taproom in Buellton.  

This is not an official finish line photo but I was done! We had lunch in Los Olivos, and Michael took this quick photo of me - to remind us both of my past life in 4H.

Technically, this ride was part of Ironman training, but I had SO MUCH FUN.  It did not feel like training, or maybe it reminded me that training and racing do not have to be work, they can and should be fun.  Ooh, what a concept - training and fun are not mutually exclusive!.  Even the challenging climb and tricky descent left me feeling happy about being out there, riding my bike.  It's hard to describe what a treat the ride was or to articulate the why?  Maybe it was the scenery?  Or sharing the experience with random people who were also ridiculously happy to be out biking on a lovely Saturday?  Or just being outside, on two wheels, in a beautiful part of the world?  I'm not sure, but I'm already looking forward to the Solvang (Metric or Full) Century in 2015!


mindful mule said...

And free orange socks in the goodie bag!

Kristina said...

Yes, I love the socks! I didn't wear them on Saturday for the ride, though - I thought they might be too big or make my feet hot. But I wore them afterwards with pride!