2009 Solo Shadow Tour

Jim's 2009 Solo Shadow Tour Daily Blog

For 2009, I'll be attempting a 5th unsupported replica of the entire Tour De France (TDF) bike race.  The TDF is an annual professional bicycle race held in France covering 2,134 miles in 21 stages over 23 days, with 2 rest days.  The 2009 TDF is held Jul 4 - 26 in France; my Shadow Tour will be during the same dates, but held entirely in So Cal.  All 4 previous replications (2004, 2006, 2007, and 2008) were successful. One might conclude this is all routine--trust me, it's not. It's extreme cycling in July heat, deserts, and mountains of So Cal, so an important disclaimer, nobody should attempt this!  For more 2009 Shadow Tour details, click here

Best Wishes, Jim

Jim's 2009 Solo Shadow Tour Daily Blog

Date   

Stage
Stg Mi
Tot Mi

    Time  
   Elev
Tot El  
   Avg
  MPH

 Wgt

                                      Route
Sat
July 4
    1

175.06
175.06 
 

11:46:27   

14,797
14,797
 
 14.86     175 Palomar Mt 2X:  Carmel Valley (CV) / Del Dios (DD) / Lake Wohlford (LW) / Rincon / South Grade Palomar Mt (SGPM) / Palomar Observatory (PO) / East Grade Palomar Mt (EGPM) / Lake Henshaw LH / Warner Springs (WS) /Sunshine Summit (SS) / WS / LH / EGPM / Rincon / LW / Escondido / DD / CV

SGPM Climb:  1:31:55
EGPM Climb:  1:17:29
 
Eastern View Palomar Mt with Observatory
  East view of Palomar Mt from Hwy 79 near Warner Springs.  See tiny white Observatory in center 

View from PM summit 640 x 211
                        Views to the north from Palomar Mt summit, elevation 5,300+ ft.

Stage 1 of the 2009 Solo Shadow Tour got underway at 4:44 A.M.  Note to self--that's ridiculously early!  I soon learned the hard way.  Using my little "guppy" lights, which work perfectly way out in the desert at night, I immediately realized they were not illuminating far enough ahead for me to see the road safely.  But I figured, it's only gonna be about 30 - 40 minutes until early dawn, so I plowed ahead.  At mile 12, my rear wheel hit something hard on a fast descent, followed immediately by the dreaded "whoosh" of air escaping.  In the pre-dawn darkness, I clutzily changed out the tube I had installed the previous day.  Couldn't find the exact source of the puncture (always bad news) but got back underway.  At about 7 A.M. I pulled off to add more air from my quickfil (compressed air cartridge) and "BAM!" the tube exploded.  Great.  2 hours into this and already 2 flats!  At this rate, I'll have at least 9 more flats today, I thought to myself.  But I finally discovered the problem. In the darkness I must have run over something really mean.  There was an ugly gash creating about a dime-sized hole in the sidewall of my brand new, $50 Specialized Armadillo tire.  Normally, that's a turn-around-go-home, and swap-out situation.  But I had a very strong "temporary boot", so I installed it, knowing, "temporary" probably means 10 miles.  149 miles later, I can now confirm those temporary boots really kick butt!  Not my best start.  In fact, in 4 previous Shadow Tours, I only suffered one flat per tour!  Armadillo tires are virtually bullet-proof, so I'm sure I ran over a spike-strip or something like that.

Luckily the boot held, though it was stressful on all the wicked-fast descents I made during in the day knowing it could blow out and I'd be over the guardrail tumbling down a mountainside.  The real monsters on Stage 1 turned out to be sun & heat.  From about 7:30 A.M. until I returned to the cool coastal marine layer at 6:00 P.M. the sky was cloudless and the east county temps soared into the mid 90's F.  Spent the whole day rehydrating to the point I can't swallow now, LOL.  My stomach was so full of fluids, I lost my appetite, so I only ate 2 powerbars all day--another rookie mistake, which I will correct on Mon.  Always Need To Eat!  The 20 - 25 minutes off the bike in an air-conditioned cafe is the right call.  The carbs are needed, hungry or not.

Ended up losing 7 lbs to 175 lbs on the ride.  Reduced my over-dependence on E-caps (big salt tablets) to one every 50 miles.  Need them for salt, potassium, and magnesium, but following the directions of 2/hr led me to GAIN weight over some long 11 - 15 hour mega-rides--not good.  My old-dude body held up well.  No cramps despite an unreal amount of climbing in the heat...over 14,000 feet!  Was very nice to ascend the brutal South Grade starting at 7:41 A.M.  Will continue to wrestle that beast early in the morning.  Made the ascent from the country store at the base to the intersection at the summit in 1:31:55, then continued on 5 miles to the observatory and back to the Mother's Kitchen at 10:03 A.M. with 60 mi and 7,055 ft of climbing to there--ouch!  Roared down the East Grade to Lake Henshaw, then to Warner Springs, and Sunshine Summit as my turnaround.  Back to Lake Henshaw, bypassing the Lake Hodges Bbq--duh!) and straight up the East Grade in 1:17:29, slowed by heat, wind, and semi-trashed thighs :-)

The relentless sun beating down resulted in one of those fun sun-headaches.  Luckily, I had a pair of clip-on sunglasses.  Along with a couple advil, got that cleared up in short order.  At the summit a quick refill of my camelbak 100 oz water backpack, topped off bottles and carved some serious S's down the South Grade maze of switchbacks on Palomar Mt.  Tried counting them many times, depends on how you define a "switchback", but there are at least 30 of those accidents-waiting-to happen on the 6.8 mile South Grade.  Then flew down to the store and ground out the last 37 miles through Escondido back to the coast.  Every mile was cooler, temp-wise, as the late afternoon beat back the midday heat, and the wonderful coastal microclimate mellowed everything.  Amazing what a difference it is between mid 90's on the Mountain and mid 80's in Escondido, followed by chilly mid 70's under the coastal marine layer.  That's it for Stage 1, got 'er done.  Wasn't pretty, or much fun, or very fast, but a good start nonetheless.  Weather forecast for Mon and the rest of next week is calling for about 10 degrees cooler, with some (blessed) partly cloudy conditions on the Mountain.  Added some extra photos of Palomar Mountain, as it's the centerpiece of the first 4 stages with 2 summits per stage.

South Grade Sign at Summit
 South Grade Summit Palomar Mt, Elevation 5,265 ft
Jim on Palomar Mt
             Jim at Mother's Kitchen
Warner Springs
                     Warner Springs, CA
PM Elev Sign
    Entry to Observatory, Elevation 5,550 ft
      PM Observatory
          Palomar Mountain art deco Observatory
Sunshine Summit
      Sunshine Summit, Elevation 3,277 ft
Shadow Mt Winery
                      Shadow Mountain Vineyards & Winery, near Sunshine Summit, CA
Sun July 5  Rest 50.42
225.48
2:45:11 1,585
16,382
18.30 175 CV / Hwy 101 N / Oceanside / Hwy 101 S / Rancho Santa Fe (RSF) / CV
 
Mon
July 6
    2
 
176.40
451.88

11:36:14

 

14,289
30,671
15.16 177 Palomar Mt 2X:  CV / DD / Via Rancho Parkway (VRP) / LW / Rincon / SGPM / EGPM / LH / near Ranchita / WS / near Sunshine Summit / WS / EGPM / Rincon / LW / Escondido / DD / CV

Stage     SGPM Climb   EGPM Climb   Total Time

   1        1:31:55        1:17:29        11:46:27
   2        1:30:05        1:13:20        11:36:14
Mothers Kitchen
                            Palomar Mt General Store and Mother's Kitchen Restaurant

Stage 2 followed a nearly identical route as Stage 1.  The promised "cooling" of the weather was a ONE DEGREE drop in temperature!  The sky was cloudless all day.  Nonetheless, I got a more resonable start at 5:10 A.M. and had no tire issues all day.  Was still tight from Stage 1 all the way to the base of Palomar at the country store.  Stiffly made my way up to the turn-off to the South Grade about 3 minutes slower than Saturday (35:20 vs. 32:30).  Was not looking forward to the more difficult 2nd half of the climb up the South Grade switchbacks for the next 6.8 miles.  But strangely, as I ascended, I felt better and better.  Toward the top I realized I had made up the 3 minutes and charged for the summit over the last 2 miles, clocking a 1:30:05, which was a real confidence boost.

As you can see in the photo above, Mother's Kitchen was closed (until 11:00 A.M.), so immediately plummeted down the East Grade to the Lake Henshaw Store for fluids.  It was HOT on the east side!  Decided to do a "Y" with 10 miles out-n-back toward Ranchita on the S2 and Montezuma Grade road, then back to Hwy 79 for another 10 mile out-n-back toward Sunshine Summit.  As always, the girls at the Warner Springs Gas Station were sweet and let me buy 2 X 40 oz cups of water + diet Coke with lots of ice for $1.53...Ahhhhhh...that all went down so good in the blazing mid 90's midday heat.  Made my way back to Lake Henshaw and had a nice Turkey Sandwich on on black bread with applesauce instead of french fries (talk about temptation!).  The 30 minute lunch break at 1:20 P.M. was exactly what I needed to break up the long day in the saddle.  Then straight up East Grade about 4 minutes faster than Stage 1.  Climbed with authority all the way to 9 miles.  Struggled the last 2.2 miles a bit, but made it A-Ok.

Topped off at Mother's Restaurant--the girls there also seem to like (or pity) me...let me fill both water bottles and my camelbak with ice, water, and diet coke for $2.00.  Zoomed down the South Grade with all those harrowing switchbacks, then into the "blazing pit" of Rincon Indian Reservation, then that awful 2 mile climb back up to Valley View Casino/Valley Center, who's sign read 89F at 3:56 P.M.  Then past Lake Wohlford and back to the coast keeping everything together.  Finished the ride faster than Stage 1, with a little over 1 mile extra--my math is getting fuzzy out in the heat.  All-in-all, a very good Stage :-)
     
        East Grade Sign 11 Mile
  East Grade Summit Palomar Mt (actual at 11.2 mi)
Iron Mountain
Iron Mt, Los Coyotes Indian Res, Warner Sprs
Tue
July 7
  Rest
 
27.5
429.38
1:36:19 1,422
31,593
17.10 177 CV / RSF / CV
 
Wed
July 8
    3
 
175.42
604.80
11:24:31 14,823
46,916
15.37 175 Palomar Mt 2X:  CV / DD / LW / Rincon / SGPM / PO / EGPM / LH / WS / SS / WS / LH / EGPM / Rincon / Escondido / LW / Escondido / DD / CV

Stage     SGPM Climb   EGPM Climb   Total Time

   1        1:31:55        1:17:29        11:46:27
   2        1:30:05        1:13:20        11:36:14
   3        1:24:10        1:08:43        11:24:31
Lake Henshaw 704 x 234
                       Scenic view of Lake Henshaw from vista point on East Grade Palomar Mt.
Stage 3 followed the same route as Stage 1, which is the harder Palomar Mt route, because it includes continuing the South Grade climb past the traditional finish, another 5 miles and several hundred more feet of climbing to the Palomar Observatory.  Thankfully, temps were about 5 degrees cooler, making the 3rd consecutive near cloudless day a little more manageable.

Today I was way too focused on nailing down good times for the two major climbs.  I was riding with authority during the first 39 miles to the Stage Store at the base of Palomar Mt., so let it rip, right up to my fitness limit for my climbing ability.  Problem with that is: this was a very long day in the saddle, 175 miles with well over 14,000 ft of climbing, and it was the 3rd stage on "The Mountain".  Feeling "good" at mile 39 (start of morning South Grade climb), then again at mile 113 (start of afternoon East Grade climb) are both highly relative terms.  More correctly, I didn't feel "too bad" is a more accurate description.  Yet, I knew I could go much faster than the first 2 stages, so I gapped my times on both summit climbs, nearly 6 min faster on the extremely difficult South Grade (32:20 to turn + 51:50 on South Grade); and over 4 min faster on the slightly less steep East Grade (1:08:43).  Both ascents were very consistent efforts with no cramping or serious suffering, but they took thier toll, no doubt about it.

Really felt the cumulative effects of 600 miles with over 46,000 feet of climbing through 5 days on the last 50 miles back to the coast.  Still, was able to post my fastest overall time for the full 175 mile ride.  Now I have descended my times for all the summit climbs through 3 tough days, but that's enough of that!  Back to riding smarter, not harder.  One more day on Palomar Mt, this Friday.  May strap on that uncomfortable heartrate monitor to make sure I ride well within my limits.

Tomorrow is a 25 mile rest day.  Intend to use it as such!     
   East Grade Meadow 352 x 269
         Meadow on East Grade Palomar Mt.
Jim at Lake Henshaw BBQ 352 x 297
       Fuzzy Jim at Lake Henshaw Grill
Thu
July 9
  Rest
 
28.08
632.88
1:39:08 1,511
48,427
17.00 175 CV / RSF / CV
 
Fri
July 10
    4
 
175.08
832.96
11:00:47 14,251
62.251
15.80 175 Palomar Mt 2X:  CV / DD / Via Rancho Parkway (VRP) / LW / Rincon / SGPM / EGPM / LH / near Ranchita / WS / near Sunshine Summit / WS / EGPM / Rincon / LW / Escondido / DD / CV

Stage     SGPM Climb   EGPM Climb   Total Time

   1        1:31:55        1:17:29        11:46:27
   2        1:30:05        1:13:20        11:36:14
   3        1:24:10        1:08:43        11:24:31
   4        1:19:36        1:04:17        11:00:47
The fourth and final Palomar Mt stage got rolling at 5:09 A.M.  Being a Friday and the last day battling the South and East Grades, I was feeling very good. It got light right away, which usually means a cloudless (and hot) day, but that wasn't the case.  By the time I got to the store at the base of Palomar, mile 41, it was just before 8:00 A.M. and the temps felt perfect...maybe mid 70s F.  So, despite my dire predictions about limiting my effort at all costs, I decided to let Mother Nature make the call.  By that I mean, I rode the first half up the South Grade at a fast clip in the cool morning air.  Didn't kill it, just went smooth and steady, but solid.  When I hit the 5 mile turn at 29:59 I knew all was well.  That was about 2:20 faster than last time and all systems were GO.  I used lots of "jumps" on miles 6 thru 9, something I usually avoid due to cramp potential.  Jumps are out-of-the-saddle blast accelerations of about 5 to 20 seconds.  They work especially well on the left turns on most of the switch-backs.  Not exactly sure why, but I think those areas are stealth flat spots.  Was maintaining a very high spin rate and timed each mile from 5 through 9 and was holding right at 7:10 min/miles, so I knew I had a shot at a sub 1:20 to the top.  The other thing that helped was neutral winds.  On the South Grade, tailwinds are useless, but any headwind just spikes the suffer-factor.  I got lucky and enjoyed near-ideal conditions all the way to the summit.  Crossed the line at 1:19:36, my fastest climb of the four. 

After this confidence builder, I did a swift descent to Lake Henshaw and snapped the photo of the lake below.  One of the waitresses took my photo in front of the flower pot.  By now, the temps were definitely on the rise, but still maybe in the mid-80s F.  Gave me a chance to build back my average speed over the next few hours.  Followed the same route as Stage 2, with a "Y" out to Ranchita and Sunrise Summit.  Lee at the Warner Springs store gave me her usual encouragement and friendly smile.  Then back to Lake Henshaw for a delicious Turkey Avacado sandwich and some quick phonecalls and texts (many thanks to Partner Larry for handling numeous Shadow Tour tasks while I toured) then a determined climb up the East Grade.  I set a fast pace right from the start, 6:00/mile (aka 10 MPH) and relentlessly chopped away at each mile.  Made up some time on the flat spots around miles 4, 5, and 7, then hung on through pity-pit miles 9 - 11.  Crossed in 1:04:17, again, my fastest time for the four climbs.  Was feeling pretty darn good.

The return ride to the coast was interesting, because I was going faster than all the previous stages, but, for a change, the temps got warmer as I approached the coast.  The Valley Center school sign flashed 91F at 3:56 P.M.  About 10 miles later, in Escondido, it cooled off again and had a delightful spin back through Rancho Santa Fe to Carmel Valley and my 175 mile finish line. 

I'm happy to have faced my nemesis, Palomar Mt, back-to-back-to-back-to-back.  This showdown was long overdue.  I negative split all climbs and overall times each of the 4 days.  It took some luck, but much more hard work and concentration, I would say.  I will always have respect for this fearsome mountain, but it's nice to have gone a few rounds and come out on top for a change! 
Jul 10 Lake Henshaw 351 x 351
        View of Lake Henshaw from store
Jul 10 Jim at Lake Henshaw
          Jim in front of Lake Henshaw Grill
Sat
July 11
  Rest
 
28.13
836.09
1:35.44 1,826
64,506
17.60 175 CV / RSF / CV
 
Sun
July 12
    5 125.55
961.42
7:26:40 7,392
71,898
16.80 174 Couser Canyon Loop:  CV / Coast / San Marcos / Deer Springs Rd / Lawrence Welk / Hwy 76 / Couser Cyn / Lilac Rd / West Lilac Rd / Fallbrook / San Luis Ray / Escondido / DD / CV
Jul 12 Couser Canyon 704 x 252
        Summit of Couser Canyon Rd, elev 1,152 ft, in heart of avocado country near Fallbrook 
Stage 5 was a tour of San Diego's northeastern areas.  Lots of up-and-down short climbs.  Temps were on the warm side, in the low 90's F.  Started the ride at 5:12 A.M. with a spin up the coast on a sleepy Sunday morning.  Almost no traffic on Hwy 101 that early; was very weird considering the normal chaos of cars, surfers crossing, pedestrians, and other cyclists.  Did the full 125 miles with just two stops for fluids.  Had a powerbar lunch on the bike and was fine.  While grabbing a gel packet from my rear pocket I managed to jettison one of my beloved Ipod shuffles...Grrrrrr.  Have two spares, so not a big deal.  The upcoming week has two more big 175 mile days, the first up to Laguna Mt on Tuesday, then up the coast to Dana Point and back.
Mon
July 13
  Rest
 
52.09
1,013.51
3:02:44 2,529
74,427
17.10 175 CV / RSF / Santa Luz / RSF / CV / Hwy 101 N/ Encinitas / Hwy 101 S / CV
 
Tue
July 14
    6
 
175.19
1,188.70
10:38:35 13,005
87,432
16.46 171 Laguna Mt 2X: CV, Escondido, Ramona, Julian, Laguna Mt, near Pine Valley, Laguna Mt, Julian, Ramona, Escondido, CV
July 14 Laguna Mt
                                                    Summit of Laguna Mountain
Started stage 6 at 5:06 A.M.   There were two dominating challenges on this stage:  weather and elevation.  The sun rose into a cloudless morning sky, which stayed that way all day.  Temps up in the San Diego highlands soared well into the 90's F by mid-day.  With the early start, I got a big chunk of climbing done before the high heat, but certainly not all of it.  Tried to keep a high tempo (fast pace) for as long as possible.  Held a solid pace all the way to the summit of Laguna Mt at 11:05, around mile 77 of the out-and-back course.

This route has most of the elevation front-loaded.  Riding from the coast to Julian is about 57 miles with 5,700+ ft of climbing elevation.  Then heading up to the summit of Laguna Mt adds another 2,000 ft.  By 100 miles, my total climbing elevation was right at 10,000 ft, which put a serious burn on the old thighs!  Returning to the coast, following a sizzling hot 2nd summit over Laguna Mt adds another 3,000 ft.  But the shorter climbs were mostly quick ascents contained within long descents, so not too bad.  Averaged 19.3 MPH on the last 75 miles, vs 14.8 MPH on the first 100.  Overall time was 10:38, or 16.46 MPH average, which I was very happy with given the nature of the ride. 

Spent most of the day focusing on fluid replenishment.  Still, lost about 5 lbs even though I must have consumed nearly 3 gallons of fluids out on the course.  At the general store on the summit of Laguna Mt I treated myself to an ice cold bottle of Yoo-Hoo, love that stuff, yeah!  Had a nice Cobb Salad at the Rongbranch Restaurant in Julian on the return route. 
Wed
July 15
  Rest
 
28.13
1,216.83
1:38:36 1,518
88,950
17.10 175 CV / RSF / CV
 
Thu
July 16
    7
 
175.30
1,392.13
9:52:08 7,545
97,495
17.76 171 Coast:  CV / DD / VRP / Hwy 78 / Bandy Canyon / VRP / DD / CV / Hwy 101 N / Dana Point / Hwy 101 S / CV
Jul 16 Coast
                    View of the Pacific coastline from South Carlsbad along Highway 101
Stage 7 started with a 60-mile loop inland, including Bandy Canyon, a steep little butt-kickin' 600 ft climb of about 1 mile.  The next 115 miles consisted of a long ride up-and-down the Pacific coast on Highway 101 to Dana Point and back.  This is very difficult mental riding.  Not because of steep terrain or high temps, but because of the absolute necessity to stay completely focused and attentive the entire way.  Lots of cars pulling in and out of parking places, tourists who are clearly lost, car doors swinging open using the "swing-door-open-wide, then look" method (popular in So Cal), summer vacation kids on their skateboards, and surfer-dudes bisecting the bike lane with their surfboards.  The only respite is the dozen miles on Camp Pendleton in both directions--love that section! 

To minimize time on the ride, I decided to ride the first 60 miles at a fairly high tempo, averaging 17.6 MPH.  The idea was to press the pace and maintain that average the whole way up-and-down the coast.  Also hoped to crack the 10-hour barrier.  A pesky 10 MPH wind from the north made the 57 mile northbound ride challenging for my old & tired legs.  But on the return trip, it was payback time, and I romped south with a 20 MPH the whole way home and carded a 9:52:08, my fastest time yet for a 175 mile stage.  Many thanks to Fred at Leucadia Cyclery, for accommodating me with his quick mechanic magic to silence a squeeky rear wheel hub. One day of rest, then Saturday it's time for "The Bear" ride.  This year, it's from Warner Springs to Big Bear Lake...170 miles with over 15,000 ft of climbing...including the mindnumbing 30 mile climb to Onxy Summit, near the end of the ride, at an elevation of 8,443 feet.  For this weekend the National Weather service is issuing High Temperature warnings for Idyllwild, Riverside, and San Berardino...my exact route to Big Bear Lake.  In fact, Idyllwild is expecting the hottest day since 1960 on Saturday...UGGGG!
Fri
July 17
  Rest
 
28.01
1,420.14
1:35:47 1,449
97,944
17.50 173 CV / RSF / CV
 
Sat
July 18
    8
 
170.57
1,590.71
10:24:59 16,149
114,093
14.93 171 Big Bear Lake:  Warner Springs, Idyllwild, Banning, Beaumont, Yacaipa, Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Climb:  3:09
Big Bear from Yacaipa 653 x 237
             Big Bear Mountain, photo taken in Yacaipa on Bryant Road, elevation 3,200 ft
Onxy Summit Sign 653 x 292
                                    Onyx Summit, elevation 8,443 ft, 5:06 P.M.
 
Rolled onto the Big Bear Lake ride at 4:36 A.M. from Warner Springs resort.  Began by riding to Ranchita and back to front-load 22 miles.  This was necessary to makeup miles lost from moving the start from Julian to Warner Springs.  The early morning air was perfect for cycling: no wind, temps in the 70's and almost no vehicles.  As the sun rose around 6:00 A.M. I could see a cloudless sky all around me.  The forecast called for the hottest day since 1960 in Idyllwild, something that rattled around in my head as I pushed the pace over Sunshine Summit toward the first major climb, a 22 miler up SR 371 starting in Aguanga.  I began the climb just before 7:00 A.M. and stayed focused and well-hydrated for the long, steady grind from 2,000 ft el, past Anza, to 4,700 ft el.  Snapped the photo below from the summit showing views of southwest Riverside County.  Over the top, just after 9:00 A.M., I could feel the mercury rising as I maintained a fast spin along SR 74 toward Idyllwild.  At Lake Hemet, took the photo of the Idyllwild mountain range.  Made the 5 mile climb up to Idyllwild with no problems.  At 5,300 ft el, the temps were in the mid 80's.  Had a nice sandwich at the Red Kettle restaurant, then jumped back on the bike for the post-Idyllwild climb over 6,100 ft el, see photos from viewpoint looking northwest toward San Bernardino County.

During the 22 mile descent on SR 243 toward Banning the real heat started to burn.  I could feel waves of desert heat coming up from the Banning/I-10 corridor as I descended through about 3,000 ft.  Once in Banning, around noon, the temps were around 104 F.  Having ridden over 100 miles with about 7,000 ft of climbing, I was committed to pushing through.  The sun was crashing down relentlessly, so the only response was to get through it as quickly as possible and stay hydrated.  The suffer-fest continued on Bryant Road through Beaumont and Yacaipa from 2,600 ft el to 3,800 ft el.  Finally made it to the 7-Eleven Store just before the turn onto SR 38 and the fearsome 30.2 mile climb up Big Bear Mt to Onxy Summit.

Began the monster climb at precisely 1:30 P.M.  Had some relief after the first couple miles with cloud cover.  Maintained a solid pace.  At the big switchback, near mile 6, had to stop to get some irritating sand out of my left shoe.  Got back on and focused on making Angelus Oaks around mile 12 of the climb at about 6,100 ft el.  Had some tasty beef & veggie soup and a salad bar, then jumped right back on the bike.  The cloud cover disappeared for the entire remaining 17 miles.  Following the roller section around miles 14 to 21 really focused on the 9 mile climb to the summit.  The last 7 miles are almost staight up, 300 ft per mile, virtually no turns.  At long last, the summit neared.  The Onxy Summit has a one mile teaser false-top right before the summit, which is pure hell to reel in.  Made Onxy Summit at 5:06 P.M.  The net climbing time was 3:09, my best effort.  Took the photos below from Onxy Summit showing the road over the top and back down the mountain.  Temps were still quite warm, so no need for a wind vest or winter armwarmers.  Made the swift 16 mile descent to Big Bear Lake, arriving just after 6:00 P.M.
View 371 326 x 245
Southwest Riverside views from summit of SR 371
View Lake Hemet 326 x 245
    Idyllwild Mt range near Lake Hemet, SR 74
View 243 326 x 245
Northwest views to San Bernardino Cty, SR 243
Jim on 243 325 x 245
    Viewpoint near crest of SR 243, 6,100 ft el
Onxy Summit North 326 x 245
     Onxy Summit looking toward Big Bear Lake
Onxy Summit South 326 x 245
 Onxy Summit looking back toward Angelus Oaks
Big Bear near Arrowbear 653 x 245
   View of Big Bear Mountain from SR 38 on rest day ride to Arrowbear, taken at about 7,100 ft el
Jim at Robinhood Resort 323 x 275
   Post-ride photo of Jim at Robinhood Resort
Robinhood Resort 233 x 275
         Robinhood Resort in Big Bear Lake
Big Bear Sign 323 x 255
      Big Bear Lake sign, elevation 6,754 ft
Jim on Lake
  Sailor Jim renting powerboat on Big Bear Lake
Idyllwild Sign 653 x 219
                                              Idyllwild, elevation 5,303 ft
Sun
July 19
  Rest
 
34.52
1,625.23
2:05:26 2,685
116,778
16.50 173 Big Bear Lake / Arrowbear / Big Bear Lake
 
Mon
July 20
    9
 
200.25
1,825.48
12:12:24 14,449
131,227
16.39 170 Big Bear Lake:  Big Bear Lake, Yacaipa, Beaumont, Banning, Idyllwild, Hemet, Warner Springs

Century #1:  6:09
Century #2:  6:03
Big Bear and Banning 653 x 245
                         View of Banning and Big Bear Mt from SR 243, elevation 2,700 ft.
 
Got another early start at 4:24 A.M. for the double century return ride to Warner Springs.  The return ride is longer because it's not safe to ride down SR 371.  This means riding from Idyllwild to Hemet on SR 74, then crossing over 25 miles on Sage Road to connect with SR 79.

Made a serene climb from Big Bear Lake back up to Onxy Summit as total darkness turned to twilight.  As I neared the summit, I was struck by the silence and magnificently glorious daybreak.  I could feel the coolness of the air above 8,000 ft, just before 6:00 A.M. as I made Onxy Summit.  I stopped to pull on my windvest and lightweight winter armwarmers, then braced for the white-knuckled 30-mile descent.  The first 8 miles are straight down, with almost no turns.  I saw 45 MPH flash on my Garmin and figured that was fast enough.  Experence taught me the real dangers on that downhill are rouge pinecones and small animals.  The large pineapple-sized pinecones are a real danger early in the morning, because few vehicles have come through to bump them off the road.  Luckily, I saw none.  However, 3 small critters made their frantic breaks across the road directly in front of me.  One was a confused bird, who crossed at wheel height, but no impact.  The other two were chipmunks or squirrels, but I saw them in time to avoid.  I was glad to have the windvest, armwarmers, and full-finger gloves to keep me warm in the chilled air above 7,000 ft.  But once below 6,000, I was able to comfortably remove the extra layers.  I continued a fast, but not reckless, descent all the way to the Bryant Road intersection.  My average speed to Bryant Rd (mile 46) was 18.8 MPH. 

Made good time through Yacaipa, Beaumont, and Banning.  Got to the base (elev 2,200 ft) of the intimidating SR 243 climb right at 8:30 A.M.  Began the 25-mile climb just ahead of the rising heat and winds.  Stopped to take the photos below of the Banning corridor.  In the background is Big Bear Mt.  It's hard to see, but Interstate 10 cuts through Banning on its way to LA (west) or Palm Springs (east).  As I continued the climb, I heard a couple long train whistles coming up from the valley as I churned away on the pedals.  My first milestone goal on the climb was to reel in 3,000 ft and see how I felt.  When 3,000 ft came, I was in great shape, so I continued a solid pace to 4,000 ft, around 7 miles into the climb.  It took another 6 miles to pull in 5,000 ft.  By then, all I could focus on was getting to 6,000 ft.  Nothing else mattered, speed, distance, water, food, all seemed irrelevant in comparison to the 6,000 ft. grand summit.  The east side of SR 243 is remote, high desert terrain with few signs of humanity, and no stores or gas stations.  It's mostly scrub plants and barren fields until you get above the treeline.  After seemingly reliving my entire childhood and early adult life in my head, the magic 6,000 ft. sign finally appeared.  There were another 5 miles of awful rollers to contend with before the final 3-mile plunge to Idyllwild.  I arrived at the Red Kettle restaurant in Idyllwild at 10:45 A.M. with 91 miles and just over 7,700 ft of climbing; but I felt pretty good overall. 

After lunch, I launched down the 5 miles from Idyllwild to SR 74, then 19 miles mostly downhill into the Hemet furnace at about 1,700 ft. elevation.  I marked the first 100 miles at 6:09.  I recall thinking it sure would be great to negative split the second century, but didn't have high hopes for success in that oppressive heat.  I also knew I was heading straight into the frying pan of afternoon heat in Hemet.  At 12:09 P.M. I saw a lighted bank sign flash 98 F.  It was miserably hot.  I took a 2nd (and last) E-cap salt tablet.  Stopped in town to top off water bottles and my camelbak and headed to the State Steet turn, which flows into Sage Road.

To this point, I was still averaging 18.0 MPH, around 115 miles into the ride.  But Sage Road and the sun would soon correct that.  As with all my previous solo shadow tours through this stretch, I was humbled into submission.  The combination of heat, tough riding miles, steep climbs, and head winds conspire to make the 25-mile crossing almost unbearable.  Near the halfway point on Sage Road (about 12 miles) the road tilts up at about 8 - 9% for maybe a mile.  That nasty section is my nemisis.  It's the only time I can't hold my speed above 5 MPH in the entire tour, including the steepest sections on Palomar Mt and Bear Mt.  For the 1st time ever, I stopped on the hill and took a photo of that gnarley section.  Of course, the photo can't capture the intense heat, swirling headwinds, and cumulative effects of two weeks of climbing and riding.  But the photo does show a twisted and steep road.  Amazingly, I've ridden the exact same section with complete authority under different circumstances, such as part of a century training ride.  Sage Road continues it's camelback middle section of ups and downs for about 3 miles.  Finally, it connects with SR 79, but not before one more little 1/2 mile butt-kicker climb.

Once on SR 79, at mile 141 of the ride, it was about 2 miles to the Stagecoach Inn restaurant for some icecold sodas and top offs for everything.  The prevailing winds were finally tailwinds to help with the 20 miles back to Warner Springs.  The first 10 miles are uphill to Sunshine Summit at about 3,200 ft elevation.  The late afternoon furnace blast was weakening every minute.  As I approached Warner Springs at mile 161 I was extremely tempted to call it a ride, go to my room, take a shower, grab some food, then take a nice soak in the natural hot mineral springs.  But nooooo, that would simply never do.  So instead, I worked out a 39-mile route to the top of San Felipe Grade, then to the top of the Montezuma Grade, then back past the Warner Springs airport, with a blazing return to Warner Springs resort for the full 200 miles.  I was very proud to negative split the second century of the day, with a hard-fought 6:03.  Finishing at 6:33 P.M. was a real bonus.  I had plenty of light left to get to my room in Warner Springs Resort, get showered, and enjoy a steak dinner.  Was too beat-up for the mineral spring soak, so crashed for the night in a wonderful air-conditioned Casita.   
Big Bear from 243
 Banning in foreground, Big Bear Mt in background
Banning Corridor from 243 326 x 245
      Banning/I-10 corridor to Palm Springs
Jim in Idyllwild 325 x 284
Jim at gas station in Idyllwild after lunch, mile 91
Sage Road 325 x 284
  4 MPH "Suffer Hill" on Sage Rd, near mile 122
Stagecoach Inn 324 x 257
  Stagecoach Inn restaurant on SR 79, mile 138
Teofulio Summit 324 x 257
       Summit of San Felipe Grade, mile 169
Anza Borrego Park 325 x 284
     Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, mile 178
S22 Summit 325 x 275
      Summit of Montezuma Grade, mile 179
Tue
July 21
  Rest
 
30.22
1,855.70
1:38:17 1,595
132,822
18.40 173 CV / RSF / CV
 
Wed
July 22
  Rest
 
51.71
1,907.41
2:52:51 2,766
135,588
17.90 173 CV / RSF / DD  / Elfin Forest / Hwy 101 / Solana Beach / Del Mar / CV
 
Thu
July 23
  Rest
 
53.18
1,960.59
2:51:43 3,253
138,841
18.60 172 CV / RSF / DD / VRP / DD / RSF / Santa Luz / RSF / CV
 
Fri
July 24
   10
 
101.63
2,062.22
5:37:35 6,511
145,352
18.10 170 CV / RSF / DD / VRP / Hwy 78 / Ramona / Old Julian Hwy / Ramona / Highland Vly Rd / VRP / DD / RSF / CV
Old Julian Hwy
                            Views to the west from Summit of Old Julian Highway
 
Rode my final long stage at an elevated speed the whole way.  Started at 6:16 A.M. under overcast skies on the coast.  As I proceeded inland, the cloud cover was gradually burning off.  At mile 31 the sky was clear except for a few very high thin clouds.  But the temps seemed ideal, maybe in the low 80's.  Hammered the last 5 miles of the Ramona hill on Hwy 78 in 20:25, one of my fastest times ever for that tough climb.  Continued with a fast pace up the Old Julian Highway, never allowing my pace to go below 10.0 MPH.  At the turn-around near Santa Ysabel at 51.0 miles, I had climbed over 4,200 feet and had a 16.8 MPH average.  The return ride to the coast went back down the Old Julian Hwy, to Ramona, then Highland Valley Road, Via Rancho Parkway and back to Carmel Valley.  Felt very good the whole way.  Must be related to the finish line coming into sight!  
Sat
July 25
Rest 53.14
2,115.36
2:51:31 3,320
148,672
18.60 167 CV / RSF / DD / VRP / DD / RSF / Santa Luz / RSF / CV
 
Sun
July 26
Rest 25.16
2,140.52
1:14:51 1,350
150,022
20.20 170 CV / RSF / CV

Today's swift ride marks the conclusion of my 5th Shadow Tour.  This year's solo tour represents my best performance to date.  My single proudest accomplishment for this tour was riding to the summit of Palomar Mountain 8 times in the first 4 stages.  Not just making all the summits, I actually improved my riding times on each climb, each day, AND rode the full 175 miles faster each of the four stages in succession, even though I was getting more and more beat-up by all the tough riding.  Below is the Palomar Mt phase summary from Jul 10, '09:


Stage     SGPM Climb   EGPM Climb   Total Time    Miles     Avg MPH

   1        1:31:55        1:17:29        11:46:27       175       14.86
   2        1:30:05        1:13:20        11:36:14       176       15.16 
   3        1:24:10        1:08:43        11:24:31       175       15.37
   4        1:19:36        1:04:17        11:00:47       175       15.80 

    SGPM = South Grade Palomar Mt, 11.6 miles
    EGPM = East Grade Palomar Mt, 11.2 miles

I entered this tour in better shape than any of my previous attempts.  Being able to run prior to the tour, after several years of being sidelined by running injuries, was a huge help.  I rode with authority and confidence at all times.  I eliminated all dangerous night riding, but added more pre-dawn hours, which worked out very well, except for stage 1.  Having lots of experience with each stage was a major advantage too.  I knew about how I should feel each day, and at various "pity pit" points on the long & hot sections of the tough stages.  I lost a total of 12 lbs, from 182 to 170 lbs.  My average speed for the entire 2,140 was 16.53 MPH, my best ever; and I accumulated 150,022 feet of climbing, also my most ever.  Which means, I rode my fastest tour, despite it being the hardest to date.  Wouldn't have it any other way...

Many thanks to all who encouraged me along the way!

~Rider Jim 
 
Yellow Jersey 652 x 827
                                   Jul 26, '09, Jim completes 5th Shadow Tour
 
2009 Jim's Solo Shadow Tour
Total Avg Climbing Elev.
Date Day Stage Miles To Date Time Speed Elevation To Date
4-Jul Sat 1 175.06 175.06 11:46:27 14.86 14,797 14,797
5-Jul Sun 50.42 225.48 2:45:11 18.30 1,585 16,382
6-Jul Mon 2 176.40 401.88 11:36:14 15.16 14,289 30,671
7-Jul Tue 27.50 429.38 1:36:19 17.10 1,422 32,093
8-Jul Wed 3 175.42 604.80 11:24:31 15.37 14,823 46,916
9-Jul Thu 28.08 632.88 1:39:08 17.00 1,511 48,427
10-Jul Fri 4 175.08 807.96 11:00:47 15.80 14,251 62,678
11-Jul Sat 28.13 836.09 1:35:44 17.60 1,828 64,506
12-Jul Sun 5 125.33 961.42 7:26:40 16.80 7,392 71,898
13-Jul Mon 52.09 1,013.51 3:02:44 17.10 2,529 74,427
14-Jul Tue 6 175.19 1,188.70 10:38:35 16.46 13,005 87,432
15-Jul Wed 28.13 1,216.83 1:38:36 17.10 1,518 88,950
16-Jul Thu 7 175.30 1,392.13 9:52:08 17.76 7,545 96,495
17-Jul Fri 28.01 1,420.14 1:35:47 17.50 1,449 97,944
18-Jul Sat 8 170.57 1,590.71 10:24:59 14.94 16,149 114,093
19-Jul Sun 34.52 1,625.23 2:05:26 16.50 2,685 116,778
20-Jul Mon 9 200.25 1,825.48 12:12:24 16.39 14,449 131,227
21-Jul Tue 30.22 1,855.70 1:38:17 18.40 1,595 132,822
22-Jul Wed 51.71 1,907.41 2:52:51 17.90 2,766 135,588
23-Jul Thu 53.18 1,960.59 2:51:43 18.60 3,253 138,841
24-Jul Fri 10 101.63 2,062.22 5:37:35 18.10 6,511 145,352
25-Jul Sat 53.14 2,115.36 2:51:31 18.60 3,320 148,672
26-Jul Sun 25.16 2,140.52 1:14:51 20.20 1,350 150,022
2,140.52 129:28:28 16.53 150,022

2009 Shadow Tour Background Continued

At my end, I have 22 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, 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 2009 Shadow Tour will match all the total riding distance and far exceed the total climbing elevation of the actual TDF. 

In 2004, my business partner, Larry Gitman, and I, replicated the entire Shadow Tour as a rigid mirror image of the real 2004 TDF.  I discovered that exactly 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 (approx. 4-5 hrs).  There are 2 rest days.  Most stages are less than 100 miles in length.  The real TDF has some exciting early stage sprint finishes, which I can never replicate.  The middle and late stages separate the leaders from the pelaton on just a few difficult high 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, played a major role as well.  Both issues I find detestible.  For 2009, TDF organizers have finally intervened by positioning 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.  With some luck, the TDF winner may ultimately be decided on the streets of Paris. 

In stark contrast, the original 1903 Tour De France--the one that started it all--had 5 monster stages of 400 Km, plus a final gruesome 480 km finishing stage to Paris 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 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. 

In the spirit of the original Tour de France and Eddy Merckx--a true test of Endurance + Will--this year's solo Shadow Tour blasts off with 800 miles in the high mountains the first week.  This harkens back to the mega-distances of the original tour.  To make Week 1 even more memorable, I've included 4 high mountain stages with 175 miles each.  Each of the 4 mountain stages include 2 separate summits over Palomar Mountain,a fearsome 5,200+ foot mountain 50 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean and San Diego.  It's extreme difficulty was showcased in the 2009 Tour of California.  The South Grade is at least as difficult as the famed L'Alpe D'Huez climb in France.  The high mountain stages continue in Week 2 with climbs past Idyllwild (6,000+ ft) and Big Bear's Onxy Summit (8,443 ft el), before transitioning back to mid-level elevation and coastal rides the final week.  I will thus ride all the distance of the modern-era TDF and considerably more climbing elevation.  This makes the Shadow Tour more challenging and, correspondingly, more rewarding on a personal level.  It's not about racing or the times I post (although I do enjoy posting a descent time on a tough climb).  Staying mentally tough through the long hours, heat, and soreness is my real prize.  

It's necessary for me to minimize impact on work days; so only 5 will be sacrificed completing the 2,134 mile journey over 23 days.  This limitation drives up single day mileage, necessitating 8 stages with 170+ miles each.  Each of these stages far exceed the distance and elevation of the longest stage of the 2009 TDF (137 mi.).  In the interest of safety and good health, I've eliminated almost all night riding, baring unforeseen circumstances, with a 15-hour maximum time cut-off. I'll post daily blogs and pics. Some blogs will be delayed when I'm on the road, but I'll catch-up once back in San Diego. All ride data is downloaded from 2 Garmin 305's.

Thanks for your interest and support.

Respectfully Yours,

~Jim