Somewhere around mile 100.

It didn’t take long for the “A” group to seperate itself from the main group and after about 10 miles into the ride I found myself falling out of the “B” group as well.  My riding partner Joe was committed to staying with me even as more riders passed us by in one’s and two’s.  I am usually a mid pack rider but today it seemed that I would be closer to the “lantern rouge” end of this ride.  In randonneuring however perseverance is the key, and if nothing else I can do that!

This route has above average climbing (in my experience) with much of that coming in the first half.  It’s good to get some of that out of the way early but it does take a toll.  2 secret controls suprised us (I guess that’s the point) along with some pretty steep climbing but the scenery was spectacular and the miles rolled by.  After a mini-mart control in Goleta we found ourselves heading up the coast on the PCH.  The color of the ocean today was amazing, a deep blue green that you get on clear days like this.  The winds were variable, sometimes against us and sometimes with us but always shifting.  That made drafting difficult but we made good progress regardless.

We came back through Goleta on a new route to me, a bike path that starts near the airport and puts you out close to Hope Ranch.  It was fun but navigation was a little uncertain with all of the available turns.  There were few road signs so it wasn’t always easy to know where you were but we made our way.  This ride had more informational controls than I have ever seen, the rest were receipt controls at local businesses.

Once we had passed through the urban areas the climbing started once again on our climb of Casitas Pass.  This climb is not that long and is never steep but there are many false summits.  You are never quite sure when you have actually reached the top.  The many false summits keep you guessing but once you start on the final downhill it is a relief.  As you get closer to Ojai the route follows a wide shouldered highway into the outskirts of the town.  This is where we encoutered out next navigational challange.

There were 5 of us together at the time and we were looking for a bike path indicated on the cue sheet as we got into town.  We searched and searched, crossing traffic and backtracking, looking for the secret passage.  I finally found the correct route, unmarked and obscure across the highway.  We entered the path and proceeded on.  I guess it is like many routes, if you have ridden it before then no problem, but if the route was new to you (as it was to us) then it was pretty hard to find.  The route guide was written for those who had ridden the route before.  If we had been here a half an hour later the correct route would have been invisible to us in the dark as there were no street lights to mark the correct route!

Ojai was a welcome stop and Foster’s smiling face greeted us as we rode in at dusk. We had access to our drop bags here and were able to re-supply food and gear from our bags. It was a good location and we took some time to get all we needed to eat etc. I was starting to have some stomach issues again and I wasn’t happy about. You do your best and press on however and that is what we did. It was full dark by the time we departed.

From this point on, the difficulty of the course eased for a while but my discomfort did not. It was pretty flat to the next control but the winds were still shifty making it hard to follow in a draft. My pace started to fall off a little as a result of inadequate food intake and progress was slower than I would  have hoped. Progress was made none-the-less and after a while we arrived at the next control in Oxnard. We got the required receipt but departed right away to look for better food choices. We stopped at a Wendys but I found very little that was palatible and we soon moved on towards Mailbu. Shifting winds, darkness and very little conversation were the theme now. It was a pretty night however and we enjoyed that.

We arrived at the Malibu control and were surprised to find quite a few other riders still there. Either I was getting faster or they were getting slower. Actually neither was true, several of the riders were having mechanical or other difficulties. Bummer for Kerin, Renee, Jim and Nicole, it was good to see you all again this late in the ride, sorry you were having problems. Several others I did not know by name but were there as well.

All I could stomach here was some chocolate milk. I thought of other stuff to try but if I puked it would be worse so I played it safe and ate what would stay down. We headed back up the coast and hoped for more favorable winds. On the way back we did see a few other riders still outbound so we were not the “Lantern Rouge”….yet!  The ride back was quiet with almost no traffic and the wind was not too bad, for a while. As soon as we rounded Pt. Mugu however that changed. We were headed back north and the wind was now in our face.  As we switched back and forth to follow the route so did the wind, always a headwind.

After the Las Posas Rd turn you move away from any city lights and into the farm fields. There was a glow up ahead however and it stood out in the darkness. We assumed that it must be some riders who had stopped with a flat tire or something. As we got closer we found a nice surprise, Greg and company had soup and snacks at a mini rest stop! We were about 20 miles from Malibu with about 20 miles to the finish so it seemed like a good idea. I tried to eat some soup; the broth went okay but I couldn’ eat the noodles. My stomach just wouldn’t co-operate.

We rolled out into the darkness again ready to finish this ride up. Once we turned onto Santa Rosa road the winds really picked up, right in our face. It is a steady but low angle climb back to Moorpark and we were actually started to catch some riders who were ahead of us. Their blinky lights kept getting closer and then it happened, I started to bonk. I had pretty much ridden the last 100 miles on 2 chocolate milks and some soup and that clearly wasn’t enough to sustain me. My pace slowed to a crawl as the wind and the last few hills tortured me. In the last mile or two we turned downwind to the finish at Greg and Lisa’s house. That helped a lot but it was still hard. I walked in and sat down on the couch and started shivering uncontrollably. I was done!

Thanks to Greg and Lisa Jones along with all of the volunteers from PCH Randos for putting on this event. I appreciate the effort it takes to get a ride like this done!