2014 Solo Shadow Tour

Jim's 2014 Solo Shadow Tour #10 (click here for background)

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Date

Stage
Stage Mi
Total Mi

   Time  
Stage El
Total El
Avg
Mph

Wgt

Route
Sat
Jul 5
Done

 

    1

200.12
200.12

13:36:52


16,837
16,837

14.7


170 1st of 4 Kings: "King KOM" Palomar Mt 2X:  Carmel Valley (CV) / RSF 15 mi (12+6) / Del Dios Hwy (DD) / Via Rancho Pkwy (VRP) / Bear Vly Pkwy (BVP) / Valley Ctr Pkwy (VCP) / Rincon / Hwy 76 / South Grade Palomar Mt (SGPM) / Palomar Observatory (PO) / East Grade Palomar Mt (EGPM) / Lake Henshaw (LH) / Sunshine Summit (SS) / LH / EGPM / SGPM / Hwy 76 / Cole Grade (CG) / VCP / DD / CV
 
 July MTS

Current Standing in
Strava July MTS
at completion of Stage 1: 

65th of 88,103

Stage 1

    
Strava Projected Route:  Click here
   

    Strava Actual Route: Click here

    Stage 1 Blog & Photos:  Click here

 

SGPM:  1:26:58
EGPM:  1:14:34
 
1st Century:  6:57 at 11:19 A.M. w/9,880 ft of climbing
2nd Century: 6:39 at 6:34 P.M. w/6,957 ft of climbing

Start: 3:43 A.M. / Finish:  6:34 P.M.

 

4 Kings                 SGPM      EGPM     Cole     Hwy 79    Total       Total
Stages   Distance   Climb      Climb     Grade    Epie Rd    Time     Elevation
   
    1       200.12   1:26:58  1:14:34    24:16     n/a      13:36:52   16,837

Sun
Jul 6

 Rest 30.33
230.45
+0.45
1:53:54
1,721
18,558
16.0

172
RSF / Santa Luz

Date

Stage
Stage Mi
Total Mi

 
   Time
Stage El
Total El
Avg
Mph


Wgt
 
Route
Mon
Jul 7

Done


    2
200.27
430.72
+.72
12:51:39
18,377
36,935
15.6
170
2nd of 4 Kings "King Crab" Palomar Mt 2X:  CV / RSF 27 mi  (12+7+2+6) / DD / VRP / BVP / VCP / Rincon / SGPM / LH / WS / SS / LH / EGPM / SGPM / Hwy 76 / CG / VCP / DD / CV
   
 July MTS

Current Standing in
Strava July MTS
at completion of Stage 2: 

20th of 96,830

Stage 2

     Strava Projected Route:  Click here
   
    Strava Actual Route:  Click here
   
    Stage 2 Blog & Photos:
  Click here

 

SGPM:  1:24:21
EGPM:  1:08:10
 
1st Century:  6:48 at 10:55 A.M. w/9,286 ft of climbing
2nd Century:  6:03 at 6:22 P.M. w/9,091 ft of climbing

Start: 3:27 A.M. / Finish:  6:22 P.M.

 

4 Kings                 SGPM      EGPM     Cole     Hwy 79    Total       Total
Stages   Distance   Climb      Climb     Grade    Epie Rd    Time     Elevation
   
    1       200.12   1:26:58  1:14:34    24:16     n/a      13:36:52   16,837
    2       200.27   1:24:21  1:08:10    19:44     n/a      12:51:50   18,377

Tue
Jul 8

 Rest 30.33
461.05
+1.05
1:53:12
1,965
38,900
16.0
173
RSF / Santa Luz

Date
 
Stage
Stage Mi
Total Mi


   Time
Stage El
Total El

Avg
Mph

Wgt

Route
Wed
Jul 9

Done


    3
200.11
661.16
+1.16
12:45:56 16,726
55,626
15.7
170
3rd of 4 Kings: "King 4 a Day" Palomar Mt 2X:  CV / RSF 18 mi (12+6) / DD / VRP / BVP / Lake Wohlford (LW) / Woods Rd / VCR / Rincon / SGPM / SGPM / LH / Hwy 76 / LH / EGPM / EGPM / LH / Hwy 76 / Santa Ysabel (SY) / Hwy 78 / Old Julian Hwy (OJH) / Ramona / Highland Valley Road (HVR) / Via Rancho Parkway (VRP) / DD / CV
 
 July MTS

Current Standing in
Strava July MTS
at completion of Stage 3: 

9th of 102,492

 

Stage 3:

     Strava Projected Route:  Click here
    
     Strava Actual Route: 
Click here
    
     Stage 3 Blog & Photos:
  Click here

 

SGPM:  1:20:41
EGPM:  1:04:20

1st Century:  6:48 at 11:19 A.M. w/8,246 ft of climbing
2nd Century:  6:07 at 6:11 P.M. w/8,440 ft of climbing

Start: 3:49 A.M. / Finish:  6:11 P.M.

 

4 Kings                 SGPM      EGPM     Cole      Hwy 79     Total       Total
Stages   Distance   Climb      Climb     Grade     Epie Rd     Time     Elevation
   
    1       200.12   1:26:58  1:14:34    24:16       n/a      13:36:52   16,837
    2       200.27   1:24:21  1:08:10    19:44       n/a      12:51:50   18,377
    3       200.11   1:20:41  1:04:20      n/a      16:50     12:45:56   16,726

Thu
Jul 10
 Rest 31.26
692.42
+2.42
1:59:08
1,575
57,201

15.7 174 RSF / Coast / Swami's / Coast / CV

Date

Stage
Stage Mi
Total Mi

   Time
Stage El
Total El
Avg
Mph

Wgt

Route
Fri
Jul 11

Done


    4
200.27
892.69
+2.69

 

12:41:19

 

16,939
74,140
15.8
169
4th of 4 Kings "King Tut" Palomar Mt 2X:  CV / RSF 18 mi (12+6) / DD / VRP / BVP / LW / Woods Rd / VCR / Rincon / SGPM / SGPM / Hwy 76 / LH / Hwy 79 / LH / EGPM / EGPM / LH / EGPM / EGPM / Hwy 79 / SY / Hwy 78 / OJH / Ramona / HVR / VRP / DD / CV
 
 July MTS

Current Standing in
Strava July MTS
at completion of Stage 4: 

8th of 106,472

 

Stage 4:

      Strava Projected Route:  Click here
     
      Strava Actual Route: 
Click here
     
      Stage 4 Blog & Photos:
  Click here

 

SGPM:  1:17:29
EGPM:  1:01:40

1st Century:  6:45, at 10:40 A.M. w/9,372 ft of climbing
2nd Century:  5:56, at 5:41 P.M. w/7,567 ft of climbing

Start: 3:18 A.M. / Finish:  5:41 P.M.

 

4 Kings                 SGPM      EGPM     Cole      Hwy 79     Total       Total
Stages   Distance   Climb      Climb     Grade     Epie Rd     Time     Elevation
   
    1       200.12   1:26:58  1:14:34    24:16       n/a      13:36:52   16,837
    2       200.27   1:24:21  1:08:10    19:44       n/a      12:51:50   18,377
    3       200.11   1:20:41  1:04:20      n/a      16:50     12:45:56   16,726
    4       200.27   1:17:29  1:01:40      n/a      14:45     12:41:19   16,939

Sat
Jul 12
 Rest 38.19
930.88
+10.88
2:28:40
2,644
76,784
1 5.4165E
CV / RSF / DD / RSF / CV

Date

Stage
Stage Mi
Total Mi

 
   Time
Stage El
Total El

Avg
Mph


Wgt
 
Route
Sun
Jul 13

Done


    5
200.20
1,130.88
+10.88
12:36:22

 

13,163
89,947
15.9 170

Temecula Wine Country Tour:  RSF 26 / DD / VRP / Valley View Casino Loop / VRP / Lilac Rd / Couser Cyn / Rice Cyn / Rainbow / Pachenga Casino ( 3.5 + 3.5) / Rancho California (plus 4.5 + 4.5) / Temecula loop (5 + 5) / Pachenga Casino (3.5 + 3.5) / Rainbow / Fallbrook / Mission Rd / Bonsall (2.5 + 2.5) / West Lilacs / Circle R / Bonsall (1.5 + 1.5) / Lawrence Welk / Valley Ctr Rd  / DD / CV

 

1st Century: 6:30 at 11:17 A.M, w/7,372 ft of climbing
2nd Century: 6:06 at 6:12 P.M. w/5,791 ft of climbing

S/F:  4:09 A.M. / 6:12 P.M.

 
 July MTS

Current Standing in
Strava July MTS
at completion of Stage 5: 

6th of 110,940

Stage 5:

      Strava Projected Route:  Click here
     
      Strava Actual Route:  Click here

      Stage 5 Blog & Photos:  Click here

Mon
Jul 14
Rest 30.37
1,161.25
+11.25
1:52:28
1,634
91,581
16.2
173 CV / Santa Luz / CV
Tue
Jul 15
Done
    6
200.18
1,361.43
+11.25
12:29:24
15,572
107,153
16.0
168 Super Julian:  CV / RSF (10 + 10) / Del Mar (DM) / Solana Beach (SB) / Swami's / SB / CV Home / RSF / DD / VRP / Hwy 78 / Ramona / OJH / SY / Hwy 79 / Hwy 76 (3+3) / San Felipe Grade (SFG) / Banner Grade (BG) / Julian / SY / Ramona / HVR / DD / CV
 
 July MTS

Current Standing in
Strava July MTS
at completion of Stage 6: 

4th of 109,320

Stage 6:

      Strava Projected Route:  N/A
    
     Strava Actual Route:  Click here

    
     Stage 6 Blog & Photos:
  Click here

 

1st Century:  6:32 at 10:44 A.M. w/7,734 ft of climbing
2nd Century:  5:57 at 5:17 P.M. w/7,838 ft of climbing

S/F: 3:20 A.M. / 5:17 P.M.
Wed
Jul 16

 Rest 30.33
1391.76
+11.76
1:52:32
1,617
108,770
16.2
173
CV / RSF / Santa Luz / RSF / CV
Thu
Jul 17
Done
    7
200.14
1591.90
+11.90
11:54:57

 

10,613
119,383
16.8
170

Big Coastie:  RSF-20 / Coast Hwy / Crown Valley Pkwy / Trobuca Cyn / Mojesta Cyn (3.5 + 3.5) / Trobuca Cyn / Coast Hwy / CV

 
 July MTS

Current Standing in
Strava July MTS
at completion of Stage 7: 

3rd of 117,707
(1st USA of 26,725)

 

Stage 7:

     Strava Projected Route:  N/A
    
     Strava Actual Route:  Click here
    
     Stage 7 Blog & Photos:  Click here

 

1st Century:  6:06 at 10:19 A.M, w/4,824 ft of climbing
2nd Century:  5:49 at 4:59 P.M, w5,789 ft of climbing

S/F:  3:43 A.M. / 4:59 P.M.

Fri
Jul 18

 Rest 30.32
1,622.22
+12.22
1:56:13 1,654
121,037
15.6 173 CV / Santa Luz / CV
Sat
Jul 19
Open
    8
200.20
1,822.44
13:04:40
21,449
142,486
15.3 168

Big Bear Lake Day 1:  Big Bear Lake / Onyx Summit / Angelus Oaks / Yaciapa / Beaumont / Banning / Idyllwild / Lake Hemet (3.4+3.4) / Idyllwild / Banning / Beaumont / Yaciapa / Angelus Oaks / Big Bear Lake

 
 July MTS

Current Standing in
Strava July MTS
at completion of Stage 8: 

5th of 120,268
(1st USA of 27,516)

Stage 8

      Strava Projected Route:  Click here
   
     Strava Actual Route:  Click here
    
     Stage 8 Blog & Photos:
  Click here

 

1st Century:  6:01 at 10:32 A.M, w/8,792 ft of climbing
2nd Century:  7:03 at 6:48 P.M, w/12,657 ft of climbing

S/F:  3:52 A.M. /6:48 P.M.

Sun
Jul 20
 Rest 30.10
1,852.54
+12.54
2:08:07 2,520
145,006
14.1
172

Big Bear Lake / Rim of the Worlk spin

Mon
Jul 21
Done
    9
200.21
2,052.75

+12.75

12:10:10 15,512
160,518
16.5
168

Big Bear Lake Day 2:  Big Bear Lake / Onyx Summit / Yacaipa / Beaumont / Banning / Idyllwild / Hemet Lk (7 + 7) / Hemet / Sage Rd / Aguanga / Warner Springs / S-2 / Julian

 
July MTS

Current Standing in
Strava July MTS
at completion of Stage 9:

3rd of 123,464
(1st of 28,377)

Stage 9

     Strava Projected Route:  N/A
   
     Strava Actual Route:  Click here
    
     Stage 9 Blog & Photos:
  Click here

 

1st Century:  6:37 at 11:35 A.M. w/9,724 ft of climbing
2nd Century:  5:33 at 5:59 P.M. w/5,788 ft of climbing

S/F: 3:50 A.M. / 5:59 P.M.

Tue
Jul 22
 Rest 30.35
2,083.10
+13.10
1:51:44
1,621
162,139
16.3 169 CV / Santa Luz / CV
Wed
Jul 23
Done
   10
200.12
2,283.32
+tba
12:16:54

 

9,311
171,540
16.3 163 Coast & Highland Champagne Stage:  RSF 20 / DM / Coast Hwy / Camp Pendleton / Coast Hwy / CV Home / DD / VRP / Ramona / OJH / Hwy 78 / SY / Hwy 78 / Ramona / HVR / VRP / DD / CV

 
 July MTS

Current Standing in
Strava July MTS
at completion of Stage 10: 

6th of 125,711
(2nd of 28,934)

Stage 10:

    
Strava Projected Route:  N/A

    Strava Actual Route:  Click here
   
    Stage 10 Blog & Photos:
  Click here

 

1st Century:  6:05 at 9:47 A.M, w/4,354 ft of climbing
2nd Century:  6:11 at 5:51 P.M. w/4,957 ft of climbing

S/F:  3:17 A.M. / 5:32 P.M.
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Jim's 2014 Solo Shadow Tour Daily Blog


Stage 1:

Welcome to my 2014 Solo Shadow Tour blog.  This year, I'll try blogging more meaningful insight, rather than just reporting the play-by-play. The challenge for me is to remembering interesting tidbits from a 15-hour bike ride, and/or explaining their significance.  Will give it my best shot.

The 2014 Shadow Tour opens with four 200 mile monster "Stages".  Cyclists call 'em "Double Centuries".  Most public "Doubles" have fairly easy routes, since Event Organizers know that making them too difficult drives away prospective riders.  Knowing this, a few years back, I decided to include 200 mile Stages in my Shadow Tour.  But not just any route would do. I designed each stage to include the most difficult ride I know--Palomar Mt.

Palomar Mountain back story:  My Palomar Mt Respect & Fear relationship began a month after arriving in CA, in 1993. A friend, Dan Rock, showed me the South Grade, an 11.6 mile fearsome climb, starting at 1,100 ft el, and finishing at about 5,300 ft el. It's a no-nonsense, continuous climb. No relief anywhere. The first 5 miles are on SR 76, with wide, lazy S-turns, and long straights, about 6-7% grade.  At "The Turn", mile 5, begins the brutal 6.6 mile ascent on South Grade Rd. It has slightly steeper inclines, 7-8%, with seemingly endless switchback turns. Again, no down sections at all.  It's so hard, there are San Diego riders--even good ones--who've never attempted it.  In ideal conditions (cool/no wind) it will make one question their faith. In July heat, it's Demonic.

All of the above is what appeals to me. There's nowhere to hide. Either you've got the juice, or you don't. South Grade Palomar Mountain (SGPM) is the quintessential "Earn it" of aggressive cycling on a righteous mountain grade. I love it, because I fear it. Respect it, because it's incorruptible. And ride it often, because its a gut-check for my self confidence. I typically ride from my home on the coast (Carmel Valley) to the Harrah's Rincon Casino, about a mile from the base of the climb. That's a 41 mile ride due east (inland).  Then up the South Grade to the Summit, usually adding the extra 9 miles to the Palomar Mt Observatory, then back to the coast, with a 7 mile detour to bring in another gnarly climb named Cole Grade. All of that 1s about 116 miles.

I knew including the Palomar Mt beast in my Shadow Tour would raise the difficulty bar. But just to make sure I wasn't holding back, I also added an additional climb to the top of Palomar Mt, via the slightly less steep, East Grade.  Palomar Mt is actually a gigantic North-South wall, separating the mild Coastal environment from the much drier, and hotter, inland desert highlands.  The far East side of Palomar Mt, around 2,500 ft El, is dry, brown, and harsh.  It's sparsely populated, with few services, such as gas stations, or restaurants.  In the July heat, it's so hot even the locusts leave town.  Naturally, this area was my choice for adding the extra 80 miles to stretch out the distance to an honorable 200 mile Stage.

Now back to the 2014 Shadow Tour.  Severe Weather Warnings from Accuweather called for A.M. & P.M. thunderstorms & heavy rainfall, along with high temps, on Palomar Mt.  But this is nothing new.  High heat always hits in July. And afternoon thunder-boomers are also routine in the summer.  The good news is that storms can be seen brewing before climbing up the mountain.  With some creative and flexible route management, it’s usually possible to avoid the storms completely. So I Rolled off at 3:44 A.M. confident that Stage 1 would go as scheduled.

The early start provides quiet time to ease into the long ride.  There are almost no cars, maybe a few EMT-type personnel going to/from their shifts.  Light technology for bicycles has advanced so far that lightweight lights, such as the Nite Rider 750, can illuminate the road ahead clearly even on the low beam setting.  Once the sun rises, I move the light to flash and ride all day with the extra safety of being seen in the shadows, and for cars turning into my lane.  I carry a spare Niterider 220 to back-up the primary near the end of the 15-hour days.

Carrying extra gear is the name of the game in a solo Shadow Tour. Despite a brand new pair of Specialized Armadillo tires (heavy but mostly bulletproof), about 3 hours into the ride at mile 48 in Escondido, on the Valley Center Parkway climb, I heard what I thought was a spoke pop.  Each revolution of the wheel sent out a dreaded metal-on-metal contact sound.  Having recently dealt with some spoke issues, I was prepared to replace it.  I have extra spokes tucked into my Camelbak, and a special spoke tool needed for the Bontrager wheels.  But when I looked, a 2-inch NAIL had skewered the rear tire horizontally, penetrating both sides.  In fact, no tire on earth would have prevented that damage.  It made for an easy fix, because identifying the puncture culprit can sometimes be difficult. With a lightweight powdered Specialized tube (carry 3) and one CO2 Cartridge (carry 3) I was back on the road in just 8 minutes.

By 7:00 A.M. the sun was now up in the sky revealing a cloudless day.  Temps were on the rise, but still quite pleasant as I rolled up to the Rincon Harrah’s Casino 7-Eleven store.  The road from the store to Highway 76 is about one mile of gnarly beat-up asphalt.  San Diego rider Mark Zarega calls it Goathead Alley, as those devilish thorns have lately tortured many bicyclist’s tires.  I was able to get the store, top off water & Gatorade, and roll off by 7:54 A.M.  Made it through Goathead Alley with no problems and began the South Grade Palomar Mt (SGPM) 11.6 mile climb. 

I was hot from the very first turn.  Palomar Mt heat really has several components.  Direct rays of the sun, humidity, and wind.  Having direct rays of the sun on the skin increases the intensity of the heat.  On this day, the forecasted thunderstorm had evidently passed through early.  There was evidence of rain erosion on the road, but all the water was gone.  But the moisture was definitely in the air; increasing the temperature intensity.  Finally, there was absolutely zero wind.  On the mountain, no wind = higher temps.  A perfect storm for uncomfortable hot climbing.  And so it went, hit the first time mark, near mile 3.5 at 22:21, was hoping for 21:00, then the split at 32:26, was hoping for 31:00.   What’s also draining is knowing that I was working harder, and harder, for average times.  Some shade above  the tree line, around miles 6 to 9 provided a little relief, at least from the direct sun rays.  Tried many times to lift the pace off the switchbacks, but just didn’t have enough juice on this day.  Worked miles 10 and 11 near full speed to salvage a 1:26:58 total time.  Hit the summit at 9:33, with 73 miles and about 8,400 ft of climbing.  Ground out an Observatory out-and-back to top off with 82.5 miles and 9,300 ft.  Topped of with water and BIG ice at Mother’s Restaurant and headed down East Grade at 10:33 A.M. to do battle with the heat to Sunrise Summit, just 33 miles away.  It would prove to be yet another Blazing Saddles episode.

Withering heat is the kind that’s too hot for description.  It physically hurts.  Everything is made more difficult, including thinking.  Near the bottom of East Grade, about 11:00 A.M. the specter of withering heat was literally in my face.  At Lake Henshaw, mile 94.5, I was able (eventually) to compute that I needed to lift the pace if I wanted to avoid a 7-hour first Century.  And yes, 7-hour Centuries are one of my pet peeves.  I don’t like ‘em!  So had my hands full pushing 20-25 mph those next 4 miles on Hwy 76, plus 1.5 miles on Hwy 79 to complete the first century in 6:57:30 with 9, 880 ft of climbing, at 11:19 A.M.  With that monkey off my back, I immediately throttled back to the “Safe Zone” to work the next 15.5 miles to Sunrise Summit (turnaround).

The Garmin temperature steadily rose from 101F to a high of 107.7F near Warner Springs at mile 106.  It was awful.  Add some rare HUMIDITY and it was even hellish. That humidity was almost certainly from the now invisible early morning rainfall.  Having done this exact route in multiple Shadow Tours, I knew the Safe Mode was necessary.  That’s when I stop watching the clock, go a pace that’s well inside my capability and drink extra fluids and take E-Caps about every 2 hours.  The 10 mile stretch from Warner Springs to Sunrise Summit also features about 500 feet of climbing and always a big fat HEADWIND.  So it went.  Pure grind in that awful heat.  Miles pass slow at 12, 13, and 14 mph.  At last, passed the Sunrise Summit sign, and made it another mile to the General Store for an 8 lb bag of ice, a large Mocha Frap, and Gatorade.  Had a Clif Bar, an E-cap, and rolled off at 12:45 P.M.

The return trip to Lake Henshaw is the inverse of the above.  Yes, it’s still bitchin’ hot, but there’s a wild tailwind, it’s a descent, and most importantly, it’s way past the half-way point of the ride.  I surfed 30 mph for about 6 miles.  Then held a good pace to Warner Springs, even on that last 2 mile uphill past the glider port.  Gradually lifted the average speed from 14.4 to 14.7 coming around the horn to Hwy 76.  Made it to Lake Henshaw for a Diet Coke and Gatorade and immediately headed up East Grade. 

East Grade is the little brother of the Palomar Mt climbs.  It’s got all the distance, 11 miles, but not as much elevation, because the start point is already up at 2,500 ft.  There’s also some flat spots, even down segments to “attack”.  But it’s always very hot in the late afternoon.  And typically winds are in play and mostly slamming headwinds.  But again, it’s a mental game.  At mile 136, at Lake Henshaw, I know I’m just 12 miles away from that summit at mile 148.  Mother’s Restaurant is open and has ice. And, what follows is a 14 mile descent to Cole Grade.  So that’s all good, and makes the East Grade mentally something less difficult.  Near mile 6 of the climb, “Cruzin’ Suzan” was descending from her own East Grade climb.  She saw me grinding up the hill, stopped and snapped a photo (below).  She agreed to meet me one more time at the top of the fearsome Cole Grade to take pictures and top off ice & Gatorade.  That was yet another huge mental boost to have a Wingman out there in such scorching conditions.  Having kept the pace under control for the highest heat section of Sunshine Summit, it felt like there was some extra juice in the tank at mile 7 of the climb.  I got on it and ripped up a couple miles of the flatter section and made it through the last rollers to the summit in 1:14.  That’s a respectable E.Grade time and a big confidence builder.  Topped of with ice & soda water at Mother’s and rolled down the S. Grade at 3:26 P.M.  One more major test on Cole Grade to go, but for right now, it was a 14 mile descent, which I tried to relax and enjoy.

Down through the wide S-turns, it was quite warm, but not anywhere near the inland blaze.  As I approached Cole Grade, I mentally prepared for that final battle.  Made the Cole Grade turn at 4:11 P.M, 89F, mile 162, with 14,000+ ft of climbing.  There are probably lots of ways to make this particular Double Century easier—relatively speaking, of course.  But putting Cole Grade at this junction isn’t one of them.  And that’s why I put it there.  A couple years ago the Tour of California used Cole Grade on a stage.  It humbled all of them.  One rider, L.A, later said it was the highest recorded heart rate ever.  Another, World Champion Philippe Gilbert, was reduced to pedaling squares on a Z-shaped line.  So it’s wicked hard, steep, and long.  Those 2.4 miles are pure agony.  So that’s why I positioned them at the end, just because it would magnify the Challenge & corresponding sense of accomplishment.  Plugged into some Led Zepplin and starred down that looming “steep part”.  It was all I could do to get through each pedal stroke.  I assure you, this tested the idea that one is never too tired to take one more pedal stroke. I glanced down to my Garmin, and every time it was at 4 mph.  But that wasn’t my concern.  Just forward progress was all that mattered.  Got into the “bend” and some merciful shade.  About mile 1, Susan was just ahead and shot a few more photos (below).  An eternity of agony passed over the next 1.4 miles to McNally Rd, and the Strava summit of Cole Grade Rd climb.  “Strava” is an online social community--like a Facebook for cyclists.  It’s where riders download their rides from devices, such as Garmins, and the software plots the ride route and ranks rider efforts on a multitude of defined “segments”, each with a KOM (King of the Mt).  When I passed the Cole Grade summit, as promised, Susan met me and topped off my water bottles with ice and headed home to clean up from he own monster day on South Grade and East Grade.  Sending out my sincere gratitude to Susan for her fantastic support efforts on Stage 1!

From this point, I made the turn onto Valley Center Pkwy feeling stoked.  Just 28 miles, mostly downhill, to the finish.  By now, the high heat of the day had mostly broken.  Just one more pesky 1/4 mile climb on the “Walmart Hill” in Escondido.  I dread that steep little bugger!  But got up & over. Worked my way through Escondido, then down Del Dios Hwy.  At last, hit San Dieguito Rd, and my “Golden Miles” stretch of 5.5 miles through Rancho Santa Fe.  Ipod served up some Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bruce Springsteen.  All was good in the world at this point.  Even pulled back 14.8 mph avg, and held it up El Camino Real to my home.

JK1 ST 2014
                                          Palomar Mt Observatory, Mile 77, El 5,500 ft
JK3 ST 2014
      Jim on East Grade Palomar Mt climb, Mile 142
JK4 ST 2014
              Jim on Cole Grade climb, Mile 162
JK 57 ST 2014
     Jim at Mother's Restaurant, Palomar Mt, Mi 82
JK7 ST 2014
                Jim at Finish Line Stage 1
JK2 ST 2014
               Panoramic view of Cole Grade Road & Pauma Valley, CA.  Steepest section to right
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  Stage 2:

More fierce inland heat awaited my arrival on Stage 2.  Rolled off at 3:27 A.M.  An early fog bank loitered at about 500 ft elevation.  Took the photo below near the dam at Lake Hodges.  Shows the sun burning off the fog, and the cloudless skies to the east.  Whoa.  Knew it was gonna be another blood, sweat, and tears day.  Well, no blood, and not too many tears, but gallons of sweat!

During the first 4 Stages on Palomar Mt, my dominant concern, besides managing high heat, is my goal to negative split certain parts of the ride.  That means, specifically, riding successively faster on the South & East Grades of Palomar Mt, but also on two more brutal grinder ascents:  Cole Grade Rd & Hwy 76 from the Hwy 76 intersection to Edie Rd.  The first two Stages include Cole Grade.  The last two, Edie Rd.  Not only do I attempt to negative split each climb, but also to negative split total riding time on Stages 1 through 4.

What’s hard about all this is each successive day, the cumulative effects of previous Stages make everything harder.  But that’s okay with me.  Hard is good in my book.  That doesn’t mean sandbagging early stages, either!  Those who know me, know I ride near my top potential on almost all long rides.  Stage 1 required great finesse to deal with 107F temps, no doubt about it.  Getting up South Grade in 1 hour 26 minutes was a real bear, I assure you.  As a frame of reference, my best effort in recent years, was 1 hour 5 minutes in 2012.  Last week, I did a 1 hour 22 minute medium-high intensity climb, as part of a century ride.  My best effort in a Shadow Tour is 1 hour 18 minutes, which I did twice (in last year’s tour).

So when I arrived at the 7-Eleven at Harrah’s Casino at 8:05 A.M. I knew The Beast was waiting for me.  Not a cloud in the sky.  Not even a whisper of tailwind.  Or ANY wind, for that matter.  I iced up my bottles & Camelbak.  Set my Timex Chrono, locked into some Ipod motivation, and got after it.  Setting a good early pace always a mystery.  Wind & heat are easily misleading.   Like most riders, I break it down the South Grade climb into two parts.  The first half, starting at the “Taco Shop”, is a 5-mile grind, with mostly long & straight segments at about 8% grade (starting elevation is about 1,000 Ft).  That concludes at the turn off Hwy 76 onto South Grade Rd.  From there, the second half is 6.8 miles of numerous switchbacks to the summit (evelvation about 5,200 Ft).  The second half is also about 8%, but there are clearly some steeper sections.  The only minor respite is about .6 miles between the two parts, where the road levels out.

On Stage 1, I hit my first time check at the Emergency Phone at about 3.5 miles in 22:08, then  “the split” at 32:27.  Today, on Stage 2, I hit the first time check at 20:54, and the split at 31:08.  Because I was climbing in the blazing sun, with zero cloud cover and no wind, I was pleased with the initial split times.  Plus, if felt  about the same level of pain as Stage 1.  That treacherous first mile after the split always humbles me.  I do my best to hold 8 & 9’s (as in MPH) on my Garmin.  Once at the first switchback, I lift the pace to 12 for a few seconds, then try to settle in on 9’s, working each switchback elbow, to move the pace back up.  Not quite full-fledged “jumps” but a modified version, half out of the saddle.  This process of hitting the pace over and over, is continuous all the way to the summit.  There’s never a single foot of down slope, and not a second of time to rest.  Mile markers are at every .2 mi.  The summit is at Mile Marker 47.8. 

For the most part, I don’t watch for mile marker signs. It’s too demoralizing, because even at .2 miles, they take forever to appear.  What moves faster, is the elevation feet on the Garmin.  At least that number changes every few seconds!  Another big motivator is other riders.  Unfortunately, there are very few riders on South Grade during the week.  But occasionally a rider will appear ahead, and it’s a good adrenaline boost to reel them in.  Their speed is mostly irrelevant.  Think about it.  Only way I’m going to even see another rider, is if they are riding SLOWER than me.  If they are faster, the sight line on each switchback is short, so I would never see them in the first place.  On this climb it was a mute point.  I was alone bottom to top.  I at least had a time target to shoot for.  Namely, my Stage 1 time of 1:26:55.  I timed miles 43 to 44, 44 to 45, and tried 45 to 46, but missed the marker.  It’s really hard to even REMEMBER the split time from the mile you are working, because the climbing work is so arduous every second.  Staying active is important.  Drinking water, lifting the pace, checking current speed, staying ENGAGED in the moment helps one navigate through the pain.  Around mile marker 45 I felt just a twinge of hamstring pain in my right leg.  That’s an old running injury that always makes an unwelcome appearance at Tours.  In response, I made an effort to not lead with my right leg on those countless “digs” to move 7’s to 8’s, 8s to 9’s, etc.  Drank extra water & Gatorade too.

Around mile 47, I was pretty sure my fuzzy time calculations had me under my Stage 1 pace.  But that’s not enough!  The last 1.8 miles can easily suck out even 2-3 minutes of buffer time.  So I pressed, and pressed, and pressed past the 5,000 Ft El & 47.2 sign, then pushed through tough 47.4 and 47.6 signs, which are situated near tight bends, and have steep up’s at each elbow.  At long last, I crossed the painted words “Yield” and “Ahead” on the asphalt.  Those last 50 meters can never come quick enough!  Across the line, my watch showed 1:24 and change, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief!

At the top, I’m completely soaked with sweat.  It’s pouring out of every pore in my skin.  Within 3 miles of descending on the East Grade, everything is completely dry.  It’s that fast. The east side of Palomar Mt is the divider between coastal relatively green vegetation and the harsh dry high deserts.  Micro climates are a remarkable thing to witness first hand.

I also noticed at the summit, that my overall pace was several minutes ahead of Stage 1.  These small signs make a big difference when battling a monster ride.  More positive reinforcement when I made the 1st century a full 7 minutes ahead, plus that put me on the “back half” of the double century.  Then I rolled past the exact spot where the temp read 107.7F on my Garmin on Saturday’s Stage 1.  Today, it read 101.0.  Still hot, dry, and uncomfortable, but not nearly to the extreme of Saturday.  The humidity was also noticeably absent.  As I rounded the corner on Hwy 79 entering Warner Springs, I also noticed the winds were feeling normal for that time of day—a slight headwind.  Two hours later, those soft winds would be tailwinds, if all went well.  And it did.  Made the Sunshine Summit out-and-back with no problem.

Got back to Lake Henshaw for some ice, Gatorade, Ice Tea, and one of those microwave bbq sandwiches.  Felt almost fully recharged.  Traditional winds, always means a better East Grade ascent. It’s never a perfect tailwind, because the road goes left, right, and all over the map.  But for the most part, the 11-mile climb goes by with relative ease.  Got the top at 1 hour 8 minutes, about 6 minutes faster than Stage 1.  Iced up at Mother’s and rolled down South Grade to Cole Grade Road.

On this day, the temps said 97F as I turned onto Cole Grade at mile 163.  That’s 10 degrees hotter than Saturday, but nothing could stop me at this point. I knew that 2.4 mile climb was the only thing between me and a nice 28 mile ride back to the coast.  I went fine.  Even stopped to take a couple pictures of the last stretch (on the clock!).  Also took photo of McNalley Road sign.  That’s the exact summit of the Strava Cole Grade Road KOM Segment. 

Made the turn onto Valley Center Parkway and knew this one was gonna be good.  Only issue was pushing through Escondido during drive time.  Near the trolley station, hit a crease in the road hard and blew the rear tire.  That just sucked.  Nothing to cry about though.  Replaced the tube, used a CO2 cartridge for instant inflation and I was back on the road.  The Golden Miles were effortless and finished with a total time of 12:51:39, surpassing my best effort of 12:59:06 on the same route.     

Another big motivator is the Strava July MTS Challenge.  This is a worldwide competition to simply rack up as many miles as possible in the month of July.  At the end of Stage 1, I was in 65th place out of 88,103.  At the time of my Garmin download today, I was in 20th of 96,830.  The total number of participants will climb throughout the month, as more riders join the challenge.  I look forward to moving higher in the rankings on Stage 3 and Stage 4.

JK8 ST 2014
                                        Sunrise near Lake Hodges from Del Dios Hwy (S6)
JK9 ST 2014
        Harrah's Casino in Rincon Indian Casino
JK10 ST 2014
        Warner Springs near mile 105 for Stage    
JK11 ST 2014
         Sunshine Summit near mile 115 of Stage
JK12 ST 2014
       Views of Palomar Mt from the east side
JK13 ST 2014
  Garmin shows 101.5F, near Warner Spgs, Mile 125
JK14 St 2014
  Up ahead, in the distance... Cole Grade Rd Summit
JK15 ST 2014
    Cole Grade Rd Summit, mile 165 of Stage
JK16 ST 2014
              Stage 2 safely in the books!
JK17 ST 2014
   Views of East side of Palomar Mt. Look closely, that tiny, tiny white dot at top right is the Observatory
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Stage 3:

Today’s primary motivation was to continue the streak of negative split times on South Grade and East Grade Palomar Mt.  Used a different route, bringing in the Lake Wohlford Rd climb and a return route on Hwy 79 to Santa Ysabel, including the tough 3-mile grinder to Edie Rd, then down Hwy 78 through Ramona, Highland Valley Rd, Via Rancho Parkway and back to the Coast.  The more difficult overall route would make getting 3rd negative split on overall time very difficult, but decided to go for it anyway.

Rolled off at 3:49 A.M.  Even though I felt okay, my early speeds were in the 14’s.  Down from 16’s on Stage 1 and 15’s on Stage 2.  Riding in the dark is always deceptive, but it’s usually true that no matter how fast you think you are going, you’re actually going slower.  It’s also pointless to press the pace so early in the ride.  Patience is vital.  I was confident I could make it up later, so I made it across I-15 with a 14.6 average speed, about mile 40.  Strava buddy, Daniel Cipriani wanted to be at Harrah’s a 7:45 to pace me up the South Grade, so that was an additional motivation.  Unfortunately, after dropping off wife Jackie at work, getting to the 7-Eleven by 7:45 became unworkable.  I would later met him at Mother’s Restaurant and he paced me down the East Grade at a fast clip.  Was great to have someone ahead showing me a good line.

The South Grade ascent was 100% in the direct rays of the hot sun with little to no wind.  Temps were low 80’s to low 90’s all the way up.  Even with a mushy first 4 hours, averaging under 15 mph, I dredged up some MoJo and got onto a strong pace.  The first 2 Stages are more controlled, but by the 3rd Stage, the split times are successively harder.  Basically, Stage 3 and 4 require race pacing to shoot for continued negative splits.  So that’s exactly what I did.  Hit every jump point with authority.  Not to the point of full oxygen debt, or cramping, but close on both counts.  Made the turn at 29:54, nicely ahead of Stage 2’s 31:07.  Confidence boosted, I gutted out that first steep mile after the split and re-grouped to push 8’s, 9’s, and even some 10’s (mph).

Even though I don’t like to clock intermediate miles, I needed to for pacing purposes.  Started at Mile Marker 43.0 (summit is 47.8).  Splits for miles 43, 44, 45 were all below 8 minutes each, which is solid.  Worked mile 46 quite hard and with 1.8 miles to go (Mile Marker 47.0), was at 1 hour10 and change. Made the summit at 1:20:41, well ahead of Stage 2’s 1:24:21. Started down East Grade, but decided to double back to Mother’s Restaurant to see if Dan was there—he was.  So we exchanged greetings and immediately descended the East Grade into the inland furnace.  At the bottom, Dan turned around and rode straight back up.  I headed to Lake Henshaw, then rounded up 25 more miles on Hwy 76 & Hwy 79, completing the 1st century and made good progress toward moving my overall Stage 3 average back to 14.9 mph (needed to be 15.7).

At about 12:15 P.M. I iced up one last time at the Lake Henshow Grill and braced myself for a very hot climb up the 11-mile East Grade.  Had posted 1:08:10 on Stage 2.  That meant I basically needed to hold 6 minutes per mile bottom-to-top.  As I suffered through the first couple steep miles, I was under 6 minutes. The temps climbed from about 98F to high of 102.1F through about 4,000 ft el.  Was a little over at mile 3, but got back onto a good pace to mile 4, then killed it through that mile flat section.  Made mile 5 at about 24 min.   Winds were in play, about half heads and half tails.  Working through mile 6 to 9 temps finally started to drop into mid-90’s F.  Pressed the pace on mile 9, and suffered for it.  Hit mile 10 at 59 minutes and looked good for getting under 1:08.  Crossed over the summit (Yield Sign for South & East Grades) at 1:04:20.  What a relief!

Was at 125 miles, exactly.  Was 1:55 P.M, making a 6:00 P.M. finish difficult, but possible.  Did a quick ice-up at Mother’s Restaurant, then right back down the East Grade.  It’s hard to push the pace downhill with that many miles and over 13,000 ft of climbing.  The East Grade is beat-up, less maintained than South Grade and exposed to harsher temps and winds, because most of that slope has no trees or significant vegetation.  It’s barren & fierce. The road surface is covered with cracks and bumps that send shockwaves through the bike and up my arms and legs.  It’s almost a hard as climbing.  At least, the jarring is hard. 

Got down to Hwy 76 and had my work cut out for me.  The average showing on my Garmin was 14.6.  Needed to pull back in a full 1.1 mile/hour, which at 9 hours, meant I needed to ride the last 63 miles at about 18 mph avg.  Difficult, but not impossible.  Knew I had some mega-sized downs on Hwy 78 from Santa Ysabel to Ramona, then on Highland Valley Rd to Escondido.  A couple climbs too, but was numb to climbing at this point.  Attitude became ‘tis what it ‘tis”.  So when I went up, I continued to work hard, left almost nothing in reserve.       

Little by little, got to about 15.2  heading down to the Old Julian Hwy.  Had 15.4 in Ramona.  Then 15.6 in Escondido on Via Rancho Parkway.  Lost a little on Via Rancho Pkwy to Del Dios, but made it up about halfway down to the Coast.  Did not get to enjoy the “Golden Miles” (last 5 miles through Fairbanks Ranch on San Dieguito Rd, because needed to pull back in about 4 minutes.  Decided to do it all on the 3.3 miles on San Dieguito Rd, plus a little more on El Camino Real before it tilted up for the last mile to my house.  Held 20’s, 21’s, even some 23’s through miles 195, 195, 197, and 198.  Trust me, that’s not much fun, but it needed to be done.  Gutted out the last mile and stopped the Garmin at 12:45:56.  That was 4 minutes and 54 seconds faster than Stage 2.  Clean sweep on all negative splits!  Okay, now just need to do it all one last time on Stage 4, the final day on Palomar Mt.

Pacer Call-out:  Would LOVE to have pacers on South & East Grades Palomar Mt!  Okay to ride some, or all.  Okay to meet me halfway up, or anywhere along the climbs.  Just be ready to hit me as hard as you can.  Okay to drop me--no offense taken.  Just give me your wheel again, and again.  I won’t be able to carry on an intelligent conversation (or any conversation), just know I’m trying to go Sub 1:20 on South Grade and Sub 1:04 on East Grade.  Plus, trying to finish full 200-mile Stage with over 16,000 ft of climbing in under 12:45:00.  A cool option is to ride the middle century with me.  It includes South & East Grades, plus nice stretches on Hwy 76 and Hwy 79.  It’s blazing hot, so be ready for that.  START TIME/LOCATION:  Plan on being at Harrah’s 7-Eleven between 7:45-8:15 A.M.  My contact info is here (can’t post on the web due to blog bots):  Jim’s Contact info.

JK18 2014 ST
                                Lake Henshaw, on East side of Palomar Mt, near mile 105
JK19 ST 2014
                      Selfie at mile 113
JK20 ST 2014
                          Stage 3 Done!
JK 21 ST 2014
                 Post-ride burgers, yum!
JK22 ST 2014
      Rest day at Java Depot in Solana Beach, CA
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  Stage 4:

After successfully posting consecutive negative split times on all climbs & Stage total time for the first 3 Stages made today’s mission crystal clear.  Complete the sweep!

Athletic consistency has always one of my strengths.  It also sometimes makes things difficult, because going faster each successive Stage isn’t just incrementally more difficult, it’s orders of magnitude more difficult, especially at age 53!  Nonetheless, the stage was set for either magnificent achievement or colossal blow-up. Exactly the kind of pressure confient athletes willingly accept.

Needed an early start, so rolled at 3:18 A.M.  From the first second, I was mentally keeping the pace higher than what was comfortable.  Knew I’d need every second by the end of the day.  Happily, not too much protest from the body.  Knocked out the 23 mile RSF warm-up in excellent shape, moving the average to 16.3 mph. That’s an strong effort in the pre-dawn darkness, when stiff muscles usually make life difficult.  The Del Dios climb at sunrise was a bit harder, but temps were in the high 60’s F, so wasn’t feeling the added discomfort of high temps. Also, didn’t want to press hard on the first big climb, so kept the tempo under control, and allowed my average speed to move to 15.1 mph over the top of Via Rancho Parkway. Also had nice cloud cover, which stayed in place all the way to the top of the Lake Wohlford climb.

Over the top of Lake Wohlford, got back into my rhythm, and lifted the pace on Woods Rd.  Got it back to 15.0 mph, from 14.6 mph.  Smashed Valley Center Pkwy, with a “spirited” descent to Rincon, for my first ice/water stop at mile 66.  No luck with pacers for the South Grade climb, so got psyched up to hit it hard solo. Temps were in low 70’s F, which felt good, but by now, all cloud cover was gone, meaning I’d be in direct sun bottom to top.  Topped off fluids & ice, double-checked bike, plugged in the Ipod, and rolled off.  At the Taco Shop it’s 11.6 miles with 4,200 feet of elevation to the summit.  Treated this 4th ascent as Time Trial.  That means near full effort the entire way up.

Got onto an aggressive early pace of 10-12 mph the first 2 miles.  Passed one rider with a Pro Cam and wished him well.  Focused on pushing 9’s to 10’s and 10’s to 11’s.  The wide S-turns take their toll, no doubt about it.  Nonetheless, hit my first time check at 19:27, well ahead of Stage 3’s 20:13.   That was a good confidence boost.  Some kind shadows gave me a good excuse to press harder on the last 2 miles before the Hwy 76/South Grade Rd split.  Dug deep all the way to the split, hitting it at 29:45, a very strong time for a Shadow Tour, and still felt good, riding with authority & control. 

Ground up that first misery-inducing mile holding 9’s, with some 10’s.  Into the early tight S-turns, concentrated on triple-hits.  That’s three short, modified “jumps”, out of the saddle.  Not explosive, but designed to change the saddle position and shake out the legs a little, while doing my best to increase the speed.  Planned to time individual miles starting at Mile Marker 43, so had about 2 miles past the split before that point.  At Mile Marker 43, time was 42:53, almost 2 minutes ahead of Stage 3.  More good news arrived at Miles 44, 45, and 46.  I can’t recall the exact splits now, but they were all on track to go under Stage 3’s time.  In the back of my mind, I knew my Shadow Tour all-time best was 1:18:03.  At Mile Marker 47, the time was 1 hour and change.  It’s nearly impossible to calculate when one is that deep in the pity pit.  But I knew there was a chance. At the minimum, knew it would be very close.  With nothing to lose, I went all into starting at Mile Marker 48.  I think the time was around 1 hour 11 minutes and change.  Everything was chaotic at this point.  My legs & lungs were screaming, sweat pouring out into my eyes, feet were on fire, heart rate through the roof, and waves of nausea all combined to make that last 8/10ths of a mile pure agony.  The Yield Ahead paint appeared, I didn’t look at my time, but did one final burst to the line and stopped the clock at 1:17:29.  My Best Ever Shadow Tour South Grade effort!  Also a top 20 All-time ascent.  A huge relief to have that bear off my back.  Was also uplifting to see my pace was ahead of Stage 3, even with about 600 more feet of climbing to the same point of the ride (80 miles with 9,700 ft).  

The good vibe continued as I got down to Lake Henshaw and completed the 1st Century in 6:45 at 10:40 A.M, both were the best so far. Temps were in the low 90’s F, which was tolerable. Did and out-n-back to Hwy 79 to bring my mileage to 113 at Lake Henshaw Resort, where I had a microwaved Bbq sandwich, bag of chips, and Arizona Ice Tea.  Iced up and rolled off for the East Grade ascent right at Noon.

The 4th climb up East Grade was significantly more challenging that the first three. Temps got to about 94F in the lower miles, but some headwinds magnified the effort required.  Was trying to hold sub 6-minute miles for the 11-mile climb.  6 minute pace would not quite get the negative split, but would be close, so knew I’d have to press the last couple miles.  The biggest difference on East Grade is the opportunity to rip up a few sections of the climb where the slope eases. With my experience on this long climb, it’s possible to manage the effort with amazing precision.  I knew exactly where I could affort to ease up, and where I could accept risk with some burst efforts.  Mentally, I always think of East Grade as “Easy” Grade.  It’s not really easy, at least no physically.  But in my mind, I just know I can get it done on the climb. At mile 10, I was at about 55 minutes.  Dug deep all the way to the finish intersection, posting at 1:01: 40, another Shadow Tour Personal Record!  That also completed the negative split sweep on Palomar Mt. 

Iced up at Mother’s Restaurant, mile 125 with 13,000+ ft climbed, and immediately straight back down East Grade. On the descent, did some calculations and realized a stage negative split was possible, but it would definitely take some hard work and would still be close.

Hit the Hwy 79 turn and stared the Epie Rd 3-mile climb.  Knew I needed to go under 16:50 to negative split that segment.  Made it in 14 minutes and change, so that one was done too. Would later find out that was a Shadow Tour Personal Record too!  Got to Santa Ysabel, iced up.  Realized how hot it was when I came out of the air-conditioned Don’s Market.  Felt like a sauna.  So mounted up and got the heck out of there.  Blasted away all during the final 52 miles. Headwinds made it arduous, but I was riding for my own record and wanted to get it done. Once again, had to attack the Golden Miles (last 5 miles) to reel in the negative split.  At mile 200, stopped the clock at 12:41:19, another Shadow Tour Personal Record.  Got the Clean Sweep!


JK23 ST 2014
                          Last few switchbacks on South Grade Palomar Mt, Elevation 5,300 ft
JK24 ST 2014
           Harrah's Rincon Casino, Mile 66
JK28 ST 2014
     1st ice & water stop, next to Harrah's Casino
JK25 ST 2014
   Selfie on top of South Grade, Mile 80, El 5,300 ft
JK26 ST 2014
  Santa Ysabel, Mile 148 with 14,000+ ft of climbing
JK29 ST 2014
  4 x 200 mile Palomar Mt Stages will do this to ya!
JK31 ST 2014
    Clean sweep of all Palomar Mt negative splits
JK28 ST 2014
                  Palomar Mt from the East side, near mile 105, elevation 2,800 ft, it's HOT out there!

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  Stage 5:

Got going on Stage 5 at 4:09 A.M. Today's Stage was all about shaking off the first 4 Mountain Stages.  Also knew I had to deal with high heat in Temecula Valley's Wine Country, and wicked afternoon headwinds returning to the coast.  The first 3 hours were awkward, because while I felt relatively good, my average speed was on the 14.0 bubble.  From experience, I knew pressing the pace early would move the average up, but at a very high price later in the day.  So I stayed patient and very gradually moved the average up after getting to the top of Valley Center Parkway at Woods Valley Road intersection, around mile 51.

At 8:00 A.M. the cloudless sky was an ominous reminder to stay well-hydrated--which I did.  As my legs shook off most of the stale after-effects of the Palomar Stages, I actually began riding with a little more authority.  I rode up the steep side of Couser Canyon (the hard way) with no problems.  Then posted one of my best-ever times on the 4.5 mile Rice Canyon climb.

Enjoyed the 3.5 + 3.5 mile out-and-back on Pachenga Parkway.  By now, temps were right at 90F and on the rise (about 10:30 A.M.).  Iced up at a store and pushed through to the 1st Century of the ride at 11:17 A.M. with about 7,700 ft of climbing in 6 hours and 30 minutes. 

The next 30 miles were just pure grinder miles in the high heat and stiffening winds.  Only my many previous rides on this route kept me on track.  Finally made it back to Rainbow for a nice 5-mile descent.  Unfortunately big headwinds cancelled out most of the down slope advantage.

The last phase of the ride, in Bonsall and West Lilacs Rd, went by fairly well.  Got my second wind and held a strong pace.  Around mile 170 noticed the rear tire was losing pressure.  Not a flat, just softening.  Not quite enough to justify a stop to change the tube, so I pressed on and rode it all the way to the finish.

At San Dieguito Rd, the Golden Miles once again were anything but easy!  Needed to pull in about 3 minutes to get the average to 15.9 mph.  Susan Oswalt said she wanted to ride in with me, but I wasn't sure if she was in position, because my cell phone ran out of juice on the ride.  Was stoked to see her up ahead as I approached the Apajo Rd & San Dieguito Rd intersection.  She must have seen I was coming in hot, like a loud, cross country freight train.  It took real effort to catch up to her, about 1/2 mile after the turn onto San Dieguito Rd.  I called out to "Bump it up!".  She dug way deep to push, and hold, 18-22 mph in strong headwind conditions.  I pulled through just once, then right back on her wheel for another 2 miles.  With one mile to go, I had 15.9 mph showing on my Garmin (very hard to read when the sun is ahead).  Knew I needed one more tremendous jump on the final mile to secure the 15.9 mph average.  I attacked with everything that was left and went ahead solo to the 200 mile point.  A fantastic & memorable finish.  Many Thanks Susan!

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JK32 ST 2014
                                          Views from near summit of Couser Canyon
JK34 2014 ST
         About halfway down Couser Canyon
JK35 ST 2014
                    Stage 5 Complete
JK36 ST 2014
                                          Butterfield Stage Rd in Temcula, CA
  Stage 6:

Got a nice early launch at 3:20 A.M.  Added a longer warm-up of about 42 miles prior to heading back to the San Diego highlands of Santa Ysabel & Julian.  Even rode about 10 miles up and down the coast from 5:00 to 5:50 A.M.  Almost no cars on Hwy 101, which is surprising, because that doesn’t seem too early in my mind.  Stoplights were very friendly, so made excellent time.  Average speed wasn’t great, but I felt good and that’s what matters.  Even left my heavy Camelbak & one waterbottle in my refrigerator to lighten the load.  Grinding out those early miles can be a real drag, so dropping about 7 lbs helped.  I circled back to my home, picked up the Camelbak & water bottle, topped off the water bottle I had carried, and rolled off again, this time with 42 miles in the bank, at 6:09 A.M.

The relatively cool temps extended all the way out Del Dios and Via Rancho Parkway, across Interstate 15, at about mile 62, and onto Bear Valley Parkway.  Was a little risky to ride there around the the 8:00 A.M. hour, because that’s when heavy traffic develops heading inland.  But my timing was excellent, just made it past the pivit point, so almost all traffic was flowing in the opposite direction of my Easterly travel.  Got onto a better pace past the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in San Pasqual Valley, around 15.2 mph, then settled in for the big 5-mile climb to Ramona.

At the top, was feeling good and dug in to lift the pace, when I felt a mushy rear tire.  Not AGAIN, GRRRR!  This happened at the end of Stage 5.  I replaced the tube, and carefully checked every millimeter of the Armadillo Tire for the source of the slow flat.  But I didn’t find anything and concluded it must be a flaw in the tube.  I should know better!  I pulled over the Kirk’s Bicycle Shop in Ramona, but it was only about 9:15 and his store opens at 10:00 A.M.  So I made one more attempt to figure out the problem.  Took off the tire & tube and scanned the inside and outside of the tire, millimeter by millimeter, for any tiny thorn, or piece of glass.  I held the tire in the direct rays of the sun to help magnify and it worked!  A single, very thin shard of black colored glass was flush with the tire on the outside only.  From the inside it was also flush, but under the weight of cycling the tip just pushed through enough to cut the tube and cause a very slow leak.  What a relief!  Got out a new tube (only use patches when the 3 new tubes I carry are exhausted).  Filled with a CO2 cartridge and rolled off in under 12 minutes total.

The tire stayed well inflated after several miles on the Old Julian Hwy.  That was just the extra motivation I needed, along with a mild tailwind, to get myself onto a good pace of 10’s to 12’s on the main upslopes.  Attacked all the level and downs with some authority.  Made it to Santa Ysabel, mile 96.0 by 10:30 A.M.  Was back on track for a solid overall time.  Maintained 15.1 mph avg with about 7,500 ft of climbing.  One more 4 mile grinder on Hwy 79up to Epie Rd to knock back the 1st Century at 10:44 A.M, in 6 hours 32 minutes, with 7,834 ft of climbing.  Temps were on the rise, well into the 80’s F.  Needed  4 + 4 miles on Hwy 76, toward Lake Henshaw, to round up additional miles.  That went by fast, as the Garmin displayed 90, 91, and 92 F.  Back on Hwy 79 for the difficult 4 miles to San Felipe Grade.  On just that section, the temperature moved to 98F.  At the right turn onto San Felipe Grade, I knew it was going to be viciously hot over the next 17 miles to Scissors Crossing (intersection of Hwy 78 & San Felipe Rd) on the east side of Julian, down  the 12-mile Banner Grade.  That’s traditionally one of the hottest points of my Shadow Tours.   About halfway down, I stopped to take a photo of the Stagecoach Century turnaround point (see below).  This one’s for Frederick Beseler—you’ll get it this year!  Also made me think of Karen Finklestein and Courtney Krehbiel, who have ridden 26 of 27 Shadow Tour century rides.   Normally that long 10-mile segment has hot tailwinds pushing.  Not today.  Today, it was got HEADWINDS!  Nothing is more demoralizing than working very hard, on a downhill section, just to get 14 mph.  I stayed optimistic.  Knew that winds that weird, would mean something positive when I got to Scissors Crossing.

Made it to Scissors around 12:15 P.M.  It was brutally hot.  Wanted to get a couple pictures, so stopped briefly.  Got the Ocotillo sign for Neil Hitch, the Stagecoach Century Master Volunteer from the Imperial Desert Museum in Ocotillo.  When I got back on the bike, looked down to see 106F showing on the Garmin.  Was very hard to read the display when the sun is directly overhead.  I saw 107F, then had to focus on the massive 12-mile climb on Banner Grade up to Julian.  Normally, blasting headwinds pour down the mountain on that section.  But today, non-traditional winds were sidewinds instead.  Got up and over that first 2-mile thigh-burner in the blazing heat with no major issues.  The 2-3 miles from there to the next up section wasn’t bad.  Took advantage of neutral winds to lift the pace.  Once back onto the climb, got a nice break, with about 3 miles in the shade created by the mountain itself.  Was fired up, even skipped stopping at the Banner Grade store.  Around halfway, the shade disappeared, and temp shot right back to the high 90’sF.  By miles 8 & 9, headwinds returned and made me work hard.  However, that far into the climb, nothing can bring me down.  Continued modified jumps all way into the tree line.  Had 15.2 mph average showing at mile 9, with 10,700 ft, and wanted to hold 15.0 mph to the summit. Pushed hard all the way to the summit in Julian, mile 142, with just over 11,000 ft climbed, and held 15.0 mph average.  All good!

From Julian back to the Coast is one of my favorite rides.  I do it many times during the year and know every crack in the road and how to maintain a good pace in all weather conditions.  The elevation is about 4,200 ft, so there’s plenty of down sections to work with.  Stopped at Santa Ysabel to ice up at mile 149.  Not sure why, but I was thinking about the Goats down on Old Julian Hwy.  They always eye me when I climb up and bomb down past them.  The Old Julian Hwy was about 7 miles ahead, so I bought a 2lb bag of carrots and stuffed them into my jersey pockets.  Thought those goats mike like a little cold treat.  Well, it wasn’t quite as rewarding a giving dogs a treat, but the whole herd of goats came over to the edge of the fence and ate the carrots.  Since that wasn’t as fulfilling as hoped, I saved several carrots to give to a particular horse further down the road.  But when I got there, he was gone.  Looked for other horses, but every little corral was empty in the high heat of the day.  Ended up carrying those 6 large carrots all the way down to Highland Valley Rd before, finally, finding a hungry candidate.  It was large Bull grazing close to the fence.  I stopped and asked if he likes carrots, but he didn’t say much.  I tossed all the carrots over the fence and rolled off.  Maybe cows don’t even like carrots.  I’m clueless on that.  But was glad to get rid of those heavy carrots!

With about 25 miles to go, I saw a heavy Marine Layer ahead. Knew that meant cool temps all the way to the Coast.  Felt AMAZING to come under the cloud cover.  Temps got all the way down into the 70’sF with moist air.  That’s a HUGE swing from the scorching dry desert temps just a couple hours earlier.  Got the average to15.9 mph as I made the turn back onto Via Rancho Parkway.  Got up & down the tough 3 mile climb to Del Dios.  Attacked the first down section, like a man possessed, and got back to 15.9 mph.  So my mission was clear, needed to reel in 16.0 mph in the next 15 miles.  Love those kinds of missions.  Pressed hard on every flat & down. Got to 16.0 mph average just before the Golden Miles.  Probably could have relaxed on those last 5 miles, but I was amped up, so pushed hard all the way to the end.  Got 16.1 mph to pop, but lost that on the El Camino Real climb up to my home.  No worries, with that many miles, the 16.0 mph average was safely in the Garmin. 

Today’s strong time of 12 hours 29 minutes represented an unexpected 6th consecutive faster Double Century on this Shadow Tour. Also improved to 4th Overall in the Worldwide Strava July MTS Challenge (4th of 109,320) and 1st American (of over 26,000).  Both are my highest standings to date.  Also very stoked that my parents finalized plans to fly down from Gig Harbor, WA, to be part of the finishline celebration next Wednesday.  Onward!

JK37 ST2014
                                     San Felipe Grade views toward Julian from the East side
JK40 ST 2014
    Stagecoach Century Turnaround Point on S2
JK41 ST 2014
      Scissors Crossing Intersection Hwy 78 & S2
JK38 ST2014
        Temperature 106.7F at Scissors Crossing
JK39 ST2014
                 Stage 6 Good to be home!
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Stage 7:

Rolled early, at 3:43 A.M. onto the “Super Coastie” Double Century.  Today’s ride was positioned on predominantly on the coast to serve as a recovery day leading up to the monster Mountain Stages in Big Bear on Friday and Saturday.  Nonetheless, it included 3 stretches inland, all with real elevation.  Three Witches in RSF at the very start, then a big 12 miles inland inside Camp Pendleton, and Trabuco & Santiago Canyons in Orange County have some gnarly roller hills. 

Early, I stayed patient in the saddle and let my average speed drift to it’s own center point.  By mile 29, in Solana Beach on Highway 101 (Pacific Coast Hwy), it was light enough to see, and my average was around 14.7 mph.  About ½ miles per hour slower than I wanted, but manageable.  Still amazed that the coast hwy has so few cars even in the 6:00 to 7:00 A.M. hour.  I was hitting every traffic light perfectly and had a good trip up to Camp Pendleton.  Coming into the entrance is always a tricky situation getting across merging traffic coming off of Interstate 5. Played it safe and dismounted at the traffic island and waited for a clean break to cross.  The incline makes even this sketchy.  Thoroughly enjoy riding on Camp Pendleton.  Prior to 8:00 A.M. the Los Polgas gate, at the north end, is closed to outbound traffic.  That was all the excuse I needed to ride and extra 16 miles way back past the firing ranges.  That’s also got a few good steep climbs too.

Made it back to Los Polgas gate at about 8:35 A.M. and proceeded north along the coast, through the San Onofre State Park, the San Juan Capastrano bike maze, and up to Dana Point.  Made the turn onto Crown Valley Pkwy at 10:02 A.M. with 95 miles.  Picked up the pace to round out the 1st Century in 6 hours 6 minutes, one of my best Shadow Tour efforts on this stage.  Hit the 100 mark at 10:19 with 4,824 ft of climbing.  Temps were in the mid 80’s, very comfortable.  Made the long 9.5 miles inland on Crown Vly Pkwy, then worked my way to Trabuco Canyon.  Was nice to ride under the shade trees for a few miles, but most of it is uphill.  On Santiago Canyon, needed 3.5 mile + 3.5 miles out-and-back to my turnaround point.  That section is hilly & hot!  Got ‘er done and headed back to the coast.  I think I hit ever single red light possible.  Afternoons are very difficult anywhere near the coast.  Traffic is constant and unsafe.  Seemed like it took forever to get back to the Pacific Coast Hwy (PCH).  Got back to Dana Point for a Subway Sandwich at about 1:40 P.M.  I wanted to carb-up, to be sharp for the last 50 miles on PCH.  It takes an unreal degree of concentration to avoid crashes, even knowing the traffic flows and high risk areas.  Without going into detail, I had 3 close calls just through Oceanside.  It was a huge relief to get back to the wide bike lanes in Solana Beach.  Somewhere in there, my Garmin 810 was reset.  Luckily, had my Garmin 305 as back-up.  Pressed hard to get the average speed to 17.0.  Total time was 11:47:45.  Not sure why the download to Strava gave me a 7 minute haircut, moving the average to 16.8, with a time of 11:54:57.  But I know what I did, so that’s what matters.  Stage 7 was also the 7th consecutive faster total time.  It also equals the record for Double Century’s (7).  Most importantly, however, is that I’m feeling good to tackle Big Bear and those fierce climbs on Sat & Mon.

JK42 ST 2014
                          Trabuco Canyon, from Summit of the WALL at the North end
JK43 ST 2014
    About Mile 123 of ride, deep in Orange County
JK44 ST 2014
 Snazzy Tuxedo jersey courtesy of Courney & Karen

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Stage 8: 

Drove up to Big Bear Lake on Friday afternoon.  Stayed at traditional Stage 8 & 9 Hotel, the Northwoods Resort.  Got rolling at 3:52 A.M.  With a starting elevation of about 6,600 ft, early morning temps can easily approach the 30s F, even in July.  Add to that, the 1st climb of the day is done in the dark, and rises up to Onyx Summit at Elevation 8,443 ft.  The 8.5 mile climb is not really the difficult part.  It’s the 10 mile white knucked plunge on the other side that is cause for real concern.  I always carry two layers of outer clothing and full finger winter weight gloves to change into at Onyx Summit before the descent.  On this morning, at the summit, temps were about 47 degrees, meaning the wind chill at 45 mph was significantly lower.  But I was completely protected with my Pearl Izumi wind vests (2) and winter weight gloves.  Did forget my toe covers, but improvised with sandwich bags over my socks, inside my shoes, which worked just fine.

That 10-mile descent is the stuff of nightmares.  It’s straight down, for miles, at a steady 6-7% grade. In the early dawn light, picking out obstacles requires maximum vigilence, even with highbeam lights.  Only 3 cars passed me, so at least that was not a big issue.  I worry that a deer, or raccoon, or even squirrel will dart in front of me.  So I’m on the brake hoods, braced, the whole way down.  The good news is that at the bottom is a very identifiable bridge, that signals the end of that section.

The capstone high mountain stage blasted off at 3:46 A.M.  Temps were in the low 50's F, which was fine for cycling.  On the first 6 mile segment along Big Bear Lake, I had the road to myself. 

Besides the dawn descent, the other major concern for this ride is typically high afternoon heat and possible thunderstorms near Onyx Summit on the return.  This day, the high heat was absent, highs forecasted for the high 80’s F, but P.M. rain & thundstorms were in the mix.  As I made my way down through Yucaipa & Banning, toward Hwy 243 for a 25-mile climb to Pine Cove, near Idyllwild, I could see dark clouds hanging over the very San Jacinto Mts I was heading toward.  As I climbed the first few miles I could literally smell rain.  The first few drops hit me around mile 72.  More sprinkles followed for about 5 miles, intermittently. Then around mile 80 enough rain drops hit to wet the road surface.  It looked like I was in for over 100 miles of rain.  Then, around a bend, I saw blue skies ahead in the distance.  It was still lightly raining, but the skies showed great promise for relief.  Near the end of that bearish 25 mile climb, even the sprinkles stopped.  I rolled through Idyllwild completely dry.  Only to get hit again with more sprinkles on the descent to Hemet Lake.  But I could see the weather was moving away.  Good news:  away from where I was going; Bad news:  toward Big Bear.  I tried not to think about it and was making excellent progress, hitting the 1st Century in 6 hours 1 minute, at 10:32 A.M, an extremely good Shadow Tour time for a century with over 8,000 ft of climbing!  I added 4 + 4 miles at the turn, which was uphill, in order to eliminate those miles along the busy road around Big Bear Lake later in the day when traffic would be heavy on a Saturday evening.

The return ride to Idyllwild and down to Banning went very well.  Was pleasantly surprised by the many polite motorists who gave me room when passing on the long winding Hwy 243 back down to Banning.  Made good time through Banning to the turn onto Beamont Ave (becomes Live Oaks Rd).  Temps were in mid 80’s F as I made the very difficult 3 mile climb up to Wildwood Rd.  That’s a legitimate suffer-fest.  Whatever was left in my legs at mile 150 always gets wrung-out on that climb, plus the grinder on Bryant Rd to the turn onto SR 38.  Could also be a mental issue, but those 150 miles with over 15,000 ft of climbing, to that point, are very real indeed.

Stage 8 actually starts at mile 162, el. 2,700 FT.  The turn onto SR 38.   That’s the beginning of the 30-mile climb to Onyx Summit.  The first 6.5 miles are on “Damnation Alley” an interminably long 5% grade along the banks of Mills Creek.  It’s arrow-straight, with very wide bike lanes, which are likely snow lanes in winter.  The asphalt is always baking hot, as are my feet.  Sweat pours as I try to hold first 10’s & 11’s, and later 8’s & 9’s.  It’s just steep enough to be a righteous climb, but not steep enough to treat like a full-fledged switchback style Mt climb.  An in-between kind of hell.  Especially with all those miles prior AND knowing there’s about 5,000 more feet of elevation in the next 30 miles.  I’ve tried everything on that wicked stretch, but have never found a way to reduce it’s debilitating effects.  Only salvation is the lone 180 degree switchback at the end.  That’s where the regular climbing starts.  From the switchback, it’s about 4 miles to Angelus Oaks Restaurant for fluids and a quick bowl of salty Chicken Noodle Soup.

From Angelus Oaks, it’s 19 miles to Onyx Summit.  The first 9 miles are a series of long & short roller hills, but gradually moving up through 6,000 and 7,000 ft. The last 8 miles are a continuous, mostly straight upslope.  I had worried most of the day that I would be caught in a late afternoon thunder storm.  To my eternal relief, the skies cleared almost completely.  Although I was way down in the pity pit, I got something of a second wind and what would normally be an endless series of short bursts to hold 8’s and 9’s became a much more steady series of 9’s , 10’s, and even 11’s.  I covered those last 8 miles in well under one hour.  Got some pics and warm outer layers and I was bombing down the last 7.5 miles of the ride toward Big Bear Lake.  Final time was 13 hours 4 minutes, my best solo Stage 8 ever!

JK45 ST 2014
           Views of Big Bear Lake through Pine Trees on rest day spin, elevation 7,100 ft
JK 46 ST 2014
  View of clouds over Big Bear Mt from near Idyllwild
JK 47 ST 2014
   Viewpoint on San Jacinto Mts.  Unknown visitor.
JK 48 ST 2014
        Onyx Summit, about 6:30 P.M, mile 193
JK 49 ST 2014
  Jim at Onyx Summit on capstone Shadow Tour #10

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Stage 9:

Overnight temperatures dropped significantly in Big Bear.  As I rolled at 3:50 A.M. the Garmin showed 45F.  I knew this meant an even colder descent from Onyx Summit and proceeded to climb up to the summit with some dread.  At Onyx Summit I put on two outer layers, heavy winter arm warmers and full-finger gloves, and toe warmers (improvised sandwich bags).  The temp reading was 41F, but the wind chill at 40+ mph was much, much colder.  Those 8 miles register as some of the coldest I've ever experienced during the Big Bear Stages of all Shadow Tours.  Once chilled to that extreme degree, it's very difficult to get back my MoJo.  Even at lower elevations of the remaining 19-mile descent, I felt stiff & cold.

Through Yucaipa, I did warm up, but could not get back to a good rhythm.  It took several more miles in Banning to begin to get it back together.  The 20-mile climb to Idyllwild was a real grind.  One the one hand, temps in the 70's & 80's F was a welcome relief, but on the other, the full effects of Stage 8's deep effort lingered, preventing authoritative climbing.  Eventually, I struck a delicate balance and summited with a fairly good time.

Needed to add miles after Idyllwild, so rode to Lake Hemet, which brought in the Keen Camp Summit climb, twice.  Felt much better and pushed the pace to get back up to about 15.5 mph.  On the long descent down to Hemet, pushed it to 16.3 mph.  This is where high afternoon temps always kick in, and today was no exception.  By Hemet, the Garmin read 95F.  That was ominous for the difficult cross-compartment on Sage Rd, which connects Hwy 74 and Hwy 79.  The gruelling section has entered my nightmares on several occasions.  It's a triple camel back profile.  The first real upslope is about 12% and hit me hard.  I made it up without stopping, but it was severe.  Temps were 98 &  99F.  I suffered mightily for the full 7 miles, but got through it.

The last 50 miles to Warner Springs, San Felipe Grade, and Scissors Crossing were agonizing in the blazing afternoon middle desert elevations.  The final 12-mile descent to Scissors Crossing were difficult, but rewarding.  Finished at 5:59 P.M. with a respectable 12:10:00 overall time.  Relieved to have this one safely in the books.

JK50 ST 2014
                               Onyx Summit at 5:05 A.M, just prior to dawn descent
JK 51 ST 2014
       View of Big Bear Mt from San Jacinto Mt
JK 52 ST 2014
         Jim at Fire Station on Sage Rd, mile 142

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Stage 10:

The 2014 Solo Shadow Tour Champagne Stage got underway at 3:17 A.M.  Did a quick 130 miles up the Coast (50 miles inside Camp Pendleton) to San Clemente and back to Carmel Valley; then a very hot 70 miles inland to Elfin Forest.  Notably, this final stage represented my 40th Double Century inside Shadow Tours. During the second part of Stage 10, my parents prepared & set up a wonderful family Finish Line celebration at the upper Del Mar Powerhouse Park.  The Celebration included presentation of Polka dot "King of the Mountain" Jersey, the coveted Yellow "Winner" Jersey, and Shadow Tour acrylic trophies for all.  Sure, some of this is Jim living out his fantasy, but riding ten Solo Shadow Tours, well, that was all very real--I assure you of that!

Despite being old, fat, slow, and bald, I achieved several Shadow Tour Personal records during Shadow Tour #10:

     Most Distance (2,283.4 miles)
     Most Climbing (171450 feet)
     Highest Gradient (1.4221%)
     Lowest Finish Weight (163 lbs)
     Most Double Century's (10)
     Oldest Start Age (53 years, 6 months, 14 days)
     Least Time to Finish (19 days)

The average speed of 15.81 mph, while not a Shadow Tour Personal Record, was significant for a variety of reasons.  The most impactfull was my decision to ride 10 x 200 Mile Stages.  The most Double Century's inside a previous Shadow Tour was 7, in 2013.  When riding Grand Tour distances, over nearly 3 weeks, even small Stage distance changes magnifies the difficulty, although perhaps not in the way you might think.

For example, using a simple Century (100 miles) as the basis, has "x" pain units.  When one lengthens the Stage to 150 miles, the actual physical effort is increased by only about 5%.  But the mental stress is increased by about 50%.  That's because from the moment one rolls out into the pre-dawn darkness, those "extra" 50 miles weigh on the brain.  It's a known distance, 50 miles, but an unknown "time".  Since there are no extra days to make up miles if things go wrong, the concept of "Forward Progress" becomes the dominant thought.  The MAIN EFFORT.  Even compulsive.  The concentration required just to safely navigate the route is unreal, but adding another layer of urgency creates much more stress, and therefore energy is expended to deal with it.

Moving the distance out to 175 miles, introduces the possibility of riding from pre-dawn darkness, to sunset darkness.  The latter is entirely unacceptable.  Riding in pre-dawn hours, when there are almost no cars, is risky, but manageable.  Riding at night, when cars are everywhere, and you are 16+ hours into a ride, is reckless.  I won't do it.  Tried it once and that was enough.  So at 175 miles, not only is Forward Progress pressing, but maintaining a solid average speed is also required.

The final step-up, to 200 miles, is another giant leap up, even from 175 miles.  The error margin is nil.  Intense concentration is required from mile 1 to mile 200.  It's hard to explain the mental exhaustion that builds while maintaining that ultra high level of focus for 12, 13, 14, up to 15 hours (my limit).  Concentration never stops, even when stopping to ice up.  Every second counts, so if someone in line ahead is delayed because their Credit Card isn't accepted, that's lost time, and stress builds.  I should also be clear, it's not like sleep deprivation exhaustion.  That's a whole different nightmare.  Ranger School proved, at least to me, that endurance fitness and sleep deprivation are not correlated, and further, the two should not be mixed, especially on public roadways.

Those extra hours in the saddle extract a real cumulative price as each Stage passes.  It becomes physically & mentally harder to jump out of bed at 2:30 A.M, get psyched up, and charge out into the darkness on heavy legs. That part, rolling out every other day for 200 miles, proved my biggest challenge of all. 

There are many ways I could have lightened the load.  For example, despite having a trick set of high-speed, lightweight, super-aero, Zipp wheels, I choose to ride heavy, reliable & sturdy Bontrager wheels with bulky Specialized Armadillo tires.  I'd rather push a heavy bike than risk lots of flats along the way.  Additionally, I carried many spare parts and items no one would normally care to bring on a ride (10 quarters, 3 spare tires, emergency blanket, spare lights, spare Garmin, spare spokes, full tool set, 70-oz Camelbak, numerous extra food items, etc, etc, etc) in order to be entirely self-sufficient for nearly every mile for all ten years.

Lastly, I've been told my cycling is inspirational.  I've also been told I'm crazy, so the truth is in there somewhere.  I'd just like to say that anyone who has been a life-long conditioned endurance athlete could tackle 10 Shadow Tours.  It's not physically demanding, in the moment, as say, a Marathon, or even Hawaii Ironman. It's a magnificent mental mountain, that sums it up.  Should anyone out there reading this think they can replicate this adventure from a cold start, I urge you to reconsider.  Mother Nature would prove more cruel than you can imagine.  Likely, something as silly as saddle sores by Stage 3 would spell the end anyway.  Nope, this is definitely not a no-notice, come-as-you-are challenge.  Having said that, there is a Shadow Tour that's suitable for everyone.  Know your limits, and set reasonable goals.  Just like life.  For some, a workable Shadow Tour might be riding 20 miles a day before work for 3 weeks.  More experienced riders might start with 50-75 per day for 3 weeks.  For a very small minority, replicating the full 2,200+ miles in 21 stages, over 23 days (Grand Tour Model) is physically possible.  On a relatively flat course, it's more than possible.

For me, the challenge was always to go beyond the established mark and limits.  At first, only a little beyond.  Later, I went way, way beyond.  And found my own limits along the way.  Not always in a kind & gentle way, either (one hour in Urgent Care).  Now, as I stand on the happy side of the ultimate finish line, I can say with Pride & Confidence that it's possible to achieve unequivocal personal goals. without any outside assistance, "juice", PED's, monetary gain, or public accolade.  The real race is never between you and them.  It's between you and you.  Just as the real reward isn't fame & fortune, it's knowing you had what it takes to persist when others abandoned.   Hitting that sweetest 10th Finish Line, and sharing the treasured moment with those I love, will always remain as the high point of my endurance cycling life.  Many Thanks to my parents, supporters & friends!

JK 50 ST 2014
                                   Cool banners & signs made by Jim's artistic genius Mom
JK 60 ST 2014
        Night before final Stage 10 at Jim's home
JK 61 ST 2014
 Stage 10, mile 130 of 200. Mom's sign on Jim's Door.
JK 62 ST 2014
    Stage 10 Finish in Del Mar.  Nice Yellow Nails! :)
JK 63 ST 2014
    Finish line Champagne (sort of) at Del Mar Park
JK 64 ST 2014
  Jim's 'Old Man' COL Knight, presents finish trophy
JK 65 ST 2014
    Dad, Mom, and Jim at Finish Line in Del Mar, CA
ST 68 ST 2014
Jim wins Polka Dot Mountain Jersey
JK 67 ST 2014
 10 yrs in Yellow. Zero juice.  Rangers Lead the Way!
JK 66 ST 2014
    Jim's Mom & Dad set up this sweetest of all Finish Lines!  Many Thanks for all your support & love.

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2014 Solo Shadow Tour Recap





          Total
Average
 Climbing Elevation    
Date Day Stage Miles To Date Time Speed Elevation To Date Start Finish











5-Jul Sat 1 200.12 200.12 13:36:52 14.70 16,837 16,837 3:43 6:34
6-Jul Sun
30.33 230.45 1:53:54 15.98 1,721 18,558

7-Jul Mon 2 200.27 430.72 12:51:39 15.57 18,377 36,935 3:27 6:22
8-Jul Tue
30.33 461.05 1:53:12 16.08 1,965 38,900

9-Jul Wed 3 200.11 661.16 12:45:56 15.68 16,726 55,626 3:49 6:11
10-Jul Thu
31.26 692.42 1:59:08 15.74 1,575 57,201

11-Jul Fri 4 200.27 892.69 12:41:10 15.79 16,939 74,140 3:18 5:41
12-Jul Sat
38.19 930.88 2:28:40 15.41 2,644 76,784

13-Jul Sun 5 200.20 1,131.08 12:36:22 15.88 13,163 89,947 4:09 6:17
14-Jul Mon
30.37 1,161.45 1:52:28 16.20 1,634 91,581

15-Jul Tue 6 200.18 1,361.63 12:29:24 16.03 15,572 107,153 3:20 5:17
16-Jul Wed
30.33 1,391.96 1:52:32 16.17 1,617 108,770

17-Jul Thu 7 200.14 1,592.10 11:54:57 16.80 10,613 119,383 3:43 4:59
18-Jul Fri
30.32 1,622.42 1:56:13 15.65 1,654 121,037

19-Jul Sat 8 200.20 1,822.62 13:04:40 15.31 21,449 142,486 3:52 6:48
20-Jul Sun
30.10 1,852.72 2:08:07 14.10 2,520 145,006

21-Jul Mon 9 200.21 2,052.93 12:10:10 16.45 15,512 160,518 3:50 5:59
22-Jul Tue
30.35 2,083.28 1:51:44 16.30 1,621 162,139

23-Jul Wed 10 200.12 2,283.40 12:16:54 16.29 9,311 171,450 3:17 5:31














2,283.40
144:24:02 15.81 171,450 1.4221%

                                                           
Shadow Tour Recaps & Records


















Year: 2004 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014











Age: 43 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53
Miles: 2,111 2,274 2,222 2,189 2,140 2,267 2,132 2,167 2,221 2,283
Time: 142:06:00 
143:31:33 
149:51:55 
137:21:16 
129:28:28 
135:22:09 
130:46:55 
138:47:01 
149:11:19 
144:24:02
Avg mph: 14.85 15.84 14.83 15.94 16.53 16.75 16.31 15.62 14.89 15.81
Ft Climbed: 107,460 126,772 134,970 142,891 150,022 155,485 149,887 162,464 159,239 171,450
Gradient: 0.8900% 1.0558% 1.1501% 1.2705% 1.3274% 1.2989% 1.3312% 1.4197% 1.3576% 1.4221%
Start Wt: 190 192 200 188 182 180 178 178 174 170
Finish Wt: 172 179 186 175 170 167 165 167 166 163
Wt Lost: 18 lbs 13 lbs 14 lbs 13 lbs 12 lbs 12 lbs 13 lbs 11 lbs 8 lbs 7 lbs
Doubles 0 1 6 5 1 2 3 5 7 10
Flat Tires: 1 1 1 1 2 3 0 1 1 4
Days: 23 23 23 22 22 21 19 19 19 19
Field: JK & LG Solo Solo Solo Solo Solo Solo Solo Solo Solo
                     
Bold Red indicates Shadow Tour Record
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Jim's 2014 Solo Shadow Tour Background

For 2014, I'll be attempting my 10th unsupported solo replica of the entire Tour De France (TDF) bicycle race. This "Shadow Tour" will be my most ambitious ever, with 10 Double Century Stages in just 19 days.  The TDF is an annual professional bicycle race held in France, crossing into Italy, Spain, Belgium, and England.  The race covers 2,200+ miles in 21 stages, with 2 travel/rest days. The 2014 TDF dates are Jul 5 - July 26. My personal Shadow Tour starts on Jul 5th, covers the same distance, has substantially more elevation, finishes 3 days earlier, and is held entirely in So Cal.  The plan is to ride 10 massive 200-mile Stages, alternating with single 30 mi "rest days".  The 10 x 200 mi Stages represent my spin on the "CA Triple Crown,"  a series of 3 Double Century rides completed in a 12-month period.  The Shadow Tour's first 4 stages, aka 4 Kings, each include 2 ascents of the ferocious Palomar Mt (South Grade + East Grade).  Average speed is a lower priority with this much climbing, heat, and mileage, but I'd like to keep it above 16 mph. All 9 previous solo replicas were successful (2004, 2006 - 2013). If you conclude this is all routine--trust me, it's not. This is extreme ultra-distance, ultra-climbing, in July's blazing heat, in So Cal's inland desert & mountain regions, with many, many dangerous elements; so an important disclaimer: Do Not attempt this!

At my end, I have 27 years of cycling and racing experience in all types of terrain and weather, especially in sizzling desert environments and advanced mountain cycling. I'm a lifelong conditioned athlete. I know every stage by heart, with no need for a map. I've mentally mapped nearly every crease in the asphalt, studied traffic flows of every mile of the route, and know how, and when, to make adjustments, as necessary.

My traditional venue for the Solo Shadow Tour is So Cal, from along the Mexican border to the south, north through San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Orange Counties, east through Imperial County, and west along the Pacific coastline on Historic Highway 101. The 2013 Shadow Tour will match all the total riding distance and far exceed the total climbing elevation of the actual TDF.

In 2004, Shadow Tour Co-Founder Larry Gitman, and I embarked on an adventure to replicate the entire Shadow Tour as a rigid mirror image of the real 2004 TDF. I discovered that precisely replicating the modern-era TDF format was not challenging enough. For example, in France, pro cyclists start about noon each day, following a huge breakfast/lunch, morning spin, and massage. The pelaton rides at a relatively fast tempo, but well within the capabilities of trained professional cyclists. They average about 180 km/day (about 4-5 hrs). There are 2 rest days. Most stages are about 100 miles in length.

The real TDF has exciting early stage sprint finishes, which cannot be re-created. The middle and late stages separate the leaders from the pelaton on just a few difficult high alp mountain passes. Further separations occur in Team & Individual Time Trials. Unfortunately, the last several years, with 3-4 stages remaining, the final podium rankings were relatively "fixed". Doping has, sadly, continued to plague the event. Both issues I find utterly detestible. In 2009, TDF organizers finally intervened by situating the brutal Mt Ventoux high mountain stage one day prior to the traditional "Champagne Spin" to Paris, along with other measures, to make the race more of a true competition. In my opinion,it needs many more reforms, starting with ethics training and a much more selective process for inclusion of well-qualified riders and teams in the event.

In stark contrast, the original 1903 Tour De France--the one that started it all--had just 5 monster stages of 400 Km each, plus a final gruesome 480 km finishing stage to Paris. The race was spread out over 19 days. They rode on unimproved crushed gravel roads, on heavy steel bicycles, with just two gears: a large ring on one side of the rear wheel and a small ring on the other. To change gears, a rider stopped and turned the wheel around. Outside support was not permitted. They rode day and night in all weather conditions. There were no team tactics, every rider rode to win on every stage. In the late 1960's and early 1970's the legendary Eddy Merckx "The Cannibal" rode with a ravenous Will-to-Win. In his first TDF in 1969, and again in 1970, he scorched the field. He won the Sprinter's Jersey, the King of the Mountains Jersey, and the overall winner's Yellow Jersey. He won the Tour de France five times, the Giro d'Italia five times, and the Vuelta a Espana once, tallying 11 Grand Tour victories. Eddy Merckx remains the greatest cyclist of all time, well beyond the accomplishments of all other multiple tour champions including recent multiple TDF winners.

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