Not a bad place to ride! Source
One small issue - the ride was NOT last Saturday, May 24, like I had thought and planned but this past Saturday, May 31. Oops! Fortunately, I discovered my gaff well before we got up to Ojai on the 24th - that would have been quite a comedy of errors. We planned to leave early Saturday morning, and after looking at the website numerous times, I finally noticed the date at around 4:00 pm Friday afternoon on the 23rd. While I was quite frustrated with myself for screwing up something so obvious, we were able to adjust.
Sooooo, Friday afternoon, I returned from the annual multi-day, end-of-the-year camping trip with kids (a good trip but not relaxing), picked up my final exams to grade, and then I prepped for Saturday's ride! The prep mainly involved water bottles and food, but I also double checked supplies of tubes, CO2 cartridges, sunscreen, chapstick and other random items.
A pre-5:00 AM wake-up call came early, but I managed to get out of bed without the snooze button. After coffee and breakfast and loading up the car, we were on the road before 6:00 am and arrived in Ojai between 7:15-7:30. Because I participate in more 'races' than organized bike rides, it always fascinates me how relaxed the atmosphere is for a ride. Mind you, I'm not trying to win anything, and rarely do I get an early start, so it is probably a different experience for the more serious cyclists. We finally pushed off around 8:10, staying together for the first mile. After that, Michael followed the metric ride, and I began the long, slow climb up Highway 33. It was a beautiful ride and not too hot at that point. I must have been one of the last people to hit the road (or so it seemed) because I felt as though I was totally alone, with the exception of two cyclists behind me. I knew that our first aid stop was around mile 14-something, so I assumed that the climb would end there, but not so! It ended a mile beyond the aid station, so I kept trucking along. I don't know how people stop a mile before a climb ends - I just want to get to the summit! Well, I finally got to our turn-around point and documented the experience:
Seriously, I'm happy to be here! Don't I look cheery?
After that, we retraced our route. So, rather than 12 miles climbing, we had a 12 miles descent - now that was fun! And I even passed a few people! After that out-and-back, we headed west to the ocean. We had another challenging climb before hitting the coast and cruising along Highway 1/101. I briefly stuck onto a group's wheel, but then they pulled over which was a bummer - I had hoped to cruise to our lunch area with them. I tried to stay focused on that stretch and keep a high cadence, catching the occasional glimpse of surfers in the water. After a quick bite to eat at mile 60 in Ventura (sponsored by my favorite store, Patagonia), I continued on with the ride. By that point, I had caught up with enough people that I no longer felt alone. We continued further south and then took a left, heading east - passing the fields in Oxnard and a lovely auto plaza and then through residential areas and then more fields. At that point, I wasn't quite on a guy's wheel, but he was being a good leader and taking care of me, signaling and gesturing to let me know what was up ahead. Once we caught up with another group, he took off! I felt great about my pace until mile 83 when I HAD ANOTHER FLAT! That was the first one of the day but jeez, I'm so tired of them! I was close enough to the final SAG stop that I aired up the tire and cruised to the stop where I did some of the work and then a SAG volunteer got to work on the tire! I was a little nervous that I had a slow leak in the tire and not the tube, so I worried that I wouldn't finish the final 15 or so miles. Fortunately, the tire stayed plenty inflated, allowing me to finish out the ride - one long push before cruising down into Ojai Valley for the finish. I did start to feel new aches and pains around the 90 mile mark, but I also knew that the final 8 miles were downhill or relatively flat, so I kept chugging along until I returned to the start! I was still just a bit short of the 100 mile mark, but after a few loops around the "city" blocks, the Garmin clicked over to three digits. Woo-hoo! I was DONE! The ride advertised 5,300 elevation gain for the century that I did (there are 2 century options), but I thought that there was a bit more than that. I don't always trust my Garmin, but it confirmed my suspicions, clocking around 6,400 feet of elevation gain. Either way, that was a good training ride for Coeur d'Alene!
Michael had finished earlier, obviously, but had waited for me to eat (I don't know if I would have waited for him...). I initially inhaled the food, but then slowed down and couldn't quite finish my ice cream. Overall, I would give the food on this ride 5 out of 5 stars - I tried to stick to my "nutrition" for most of the ride, but there was an abundance of fresh fruit at all of the stops, and I did enjoy the lunch break at mile 60, quickly eating half a sandwich, some pretzels and taking oreos for the road. One of the stops had popsicles too! And the post-race food was excellent and servings generous.
In addition to the SAG stops/food - also stocked with sunscreen - I would recommend this ride for other reasons. First of all, there are lots of options with varied terrain. Again, Michael did the metric century, and he really enjoyed his ride. The final plus of the ride is that it is a good community event. While it was a smaller event than the Solvang Ride I did in March, the support on the course was great.
I'm not sure if an ironman is in my future in 2015, but I definitely plan on doing this ride again - along with Solvang! I'm looking forward to experiencing these rides without the pressure of "ironman training". I have a hunch that it will be a different experience - not better, not worse, just different.