2012 Solo Shadow Tour

Jim's 2012 Solo Shadow Tour VIII (click here for background)


Stage Mi
Total Mi

Stage El
Total El


Jun 30




171 4 Kings (King KOM) Palomar Mt 2X:  Carmel Valley (CV) / RSF 15 mi warm-up (RSF-15) / Del Dios (DD) / Via Rancho Pkwy (VRP) / Bear Vly Pkwy (BVP) / Valley Center Rd (VCR) / Rincon / South Grade Palomar Mt (SGPM) / Palomar Observatory (PO) / East Grade Palomar Mt (EGPM) / Lake Henshaw / S2 (2 + 2) / LH / EGPM / Cole Grade (CG) / VCP / DD /CV

SGPM:  1:22:53
EGPM:  1:15:19
1st Century:  6:57, at 11:19 A.M. w/9,924 ft of climbing
2nd Century: 6:47, at 6:51 P.M. w/7,164 ft of climbing

4 Kings                  SGPM     EGPM        Total     Total
Stages   Distance    Climb      Climb        Time    Elevation
    1       200.33    1:22:53   1:15:19   13:44:05   17,088

Strava: Stage 1 S/F 3:55 A.M. / 6:51 P.M.

Stage 1 Daily Blog & Photos:  Click here
Jul 1
 Rest 30.145
1:50:07 1,800
RSF / Santa Luz
Jul 2


4 Kings (King Crab) Palomar Mt 2X:  CV / RSF-10 / VRP / BVP / VCR / Rincon / SGPM / LH / WS / SS / WS / WS / S2 / Montezuma Grade 4 + 4 (MZ-8) / LH / EGPM / CG / VCR / DD / CV

SGPM:  1:21:05
EGPM:  1:10:31
1st Century:  6:54, at 11:11 A.M. w/8,283 ft of climbing
2nd Century:  6:33, at 6:38 P.M. w/8,392 ft of climbing

4 Kings                  SGPM     EGPM        Total       Total
Stages   Distance    Climb      Climb        Time        Elev
    1        200.33    1:22:53   1:15:19   13:44:05   17,088     2        200.58    1:21:05   1:10:31   13:27:17   16,675

Strava:  Stage 2  S/F: 3:51 A.M./6:38 P.M.

Stage 2 Daily Blog & Photos:  Click here

Jul 3
 Rest 29.05
RSF / Santa Luz
Jul 4


13:16:44 16,115
4 Kings (King 4 a Day) Palomar Mt 2X:  CV / RSF-5 / BVP / VCR / Rincon / SGPM / SGPM / Hwy 76 / LH (4+4) / EGPM / EGPM / LH / near WS / LH / Hwy 76 / Santa Ysabel (SY) / Hwy 78 / Old Julian Hwy (OJH) / Ramona / Highland Valley Road (HVR) / Via Rancho Parkway (VRP) / DD / CV

SGPM:  1:20:05
EGPM:  1:08:06

4 Kings                  SGPM     EGPM        Total       Total
Stages   Distance    Climb      Climb        Time        Elev

    1        200.33    1:22:53   1:15:19   13:44:05   17,088
    2        200.58    1:21:05   1:10:31   13:27:17   16,675
    3        200.48    1:20:05   1:08:06   13:16:44   16,115
1st Century:  7:26, at 12:05 P.M. w/10,638 ft of climbing
2nd Century:  5:50 at 6:40 P.M. w/5,487 ft of climbing

Strava:  Stage 3 S/F: 3:47 A.M./6:40 P.M.

Stage 3 Daily Blog & Photos:  Click here

Jul 5
 Rest 29.47
54,952 15.7 175 RSF / Del Mar
Jul 6




4 Kings (King Tut) Palomar Mt 2X:  RSF-5 / VRP / BVP / VCR / Rincon / SGPM / SGPM / Hwy 76 / LH / WS / Near SS / WS / LH / EGPM / EGPM / LH / Hwy 78 / SY / Hwy 78 / OJH / Ramona / HVR / VRP / DD / CV

SGPM:  1:18:19
EGPM:  1:02:06

4 Kings                  SGPM     EGPM        Total       Total
Stages   Distance    Climb      Climb        Time        Elev
    1        200.33    1:22:53   1:15:19   13:44:05   17,088
    2        200.58    1:21:05   1:10:31   13:27:17   16,675
    3        200.48    1:20:05   1:08:06   13:16:44   16,115
    4        200.25    1:18:19   1:02:06   12:59:06   16,007

1st Century:  6:47, at 11:07 A.M. w/8,237 ft of climbing
2nd Century:  6:12, at 6:04 P.M. w/7,770 ft of climbing

Strava:  Stage 4  S/F: 3:43 A.M./6:04 P.M.

Stage 4 Daily Blog & Photos:  Click here

Jul 7
 Rest 29.06
RSF / Santa Luz
Jul 8



16.4 171 Temecula:  RSF-10 / VRP / BVP / VCR / Lilacs / Couser Cyn / Rice Cyn / Rainbow / Temecula / Hwy 79 past Pachanga Casino 4.5 + 4.5) / Temecula / Rancho California Wine Country 2 Laps (5 + 5) / Temecula / Rainbow / Fallbrook / Bonsall (3 + 3) / West Lilacs / San Luis Rey (3 + 3) / Lawrence Welk / Escondido / DD / CV

1st Century:  6:24 at 11:14 A.M. w/6,684 ft of climbing

Strava:  Stage 5 S/F:  3:43 A.M./3:51 P.M.

Stage 5 Daily Blog & Photos:  Click here

Jul 9
 Rest 40.68
175 RSF / Solana Beach
Jul 10
169 Mount Laguna:  CV / Ramona / OJH / Julian / Sunrise Hwy / Lake Cayamaca / Julian / Hwy 78 / OJH / HVR / VRP / DD / CC

1st Century:  6:56 at 11:26 A.M. w/9,060 ft of climbing

Strava:  Stage 6 S/F: 4:01 A.M./4:11 P.M.

Stage 6 Daily Blog & Photos:
  Click here

Jul 11
 Rest 40.27
RSF / Solana Beach / Coast
Jul 12


Orange County:  RSF 20 / Coast / Trabuco Cyn / Coast

1st Century:  5:56 at 10:52 A.M. w/4,700 ft of climbing

Strava:  Stage 7 S/F: 4:05 A.M./3:52 P.M.

Stage 7 Daily Blog & Photos:  Click here

Jul 13
 Rest 55.36
3:25:02 3,545
16.2 175 RSF / Elfin Forest
Jul 14
15.1 170

Temecula II:  RSF-10 / VRP / BVP / LW Rd / VCR / Lilacs / Couser Cyn / Rice Cyn / Rainbow / Temecula / Hwy 79 past Pachanga Casino 3.0 + 3.0) / Temecula / Rancho California Wine Country 2 Laps (5 + 5) / Temecula / Rainbow / Fallbrook / Bonsall (3 + 3) / West Lilacs / Lawrence Welk / Escondido / DD / CV

1st Century:  6:46 at 11:25 A.M, w/6,457 ft of climbing

Strava:  Stage 8  S/F:  3:42 A.M. / 5:11 P.M.

Stage 8 Daily Blog & Photos: Click here

Jul 15
 Rest 35.23
2:11:25 2,143

RSF / Del Dios

Jul 16




Big Bear Lake:  Big Bear Lake / Onyx Summit / Yaciapa / Beaumont / Banning / Idyllwild / Lake Hemet / Idyllwild / Banning / Beaumont / Yaciapa / Angelus Oaks / Big Bear Lake

1st Century:  5:46 at 10:49 A.M, w/8,736 ft of climbing
2nd Century:  7:07 at 6:38 P.M, w/11,036 ft of climbing

Strava:  Stage 9, S/F:  3:56 A.M. / 6:38 P.M.

Stage 9 Daily Blog & Photos:  Click here

Jul 17
 Rest 25.91


16.3 170 RSF / Santa Luz
Jul 18

15.9 167 Lake Cayamaca:  RSF 10 / DD / VRP / Ramona / OJH / Hwy 78 / Julian / Hwy 79 (7 + 7) / Julian / Hwy 78 / OJH / Ramona / HVR / VRP / DD / CV

1st Century:  6:42 at 11:26 A.M, w/8,378 ft of climbing

Strava:  Stage 10, S/F:  4:01 A.M. / 1:29 P.M.

Stage 10 Daily Blog & Photos:
  Click here

 Go to top of page              

Jim's 2012 Solo Shadow Tour Daily Blog

Stage 1:  First of "4 Kings".  The 4 Kings are mega-sized Double Century rides, each with double climbs up Palomar Mt and Start/Finish on the Coast.  These are the hardest rides I know.  Of the 4 Kings, this one's the hardest, with the Cole Grade climb at Mile 162.  Many, many King of the Mountain segments on this ride, thus the Stage name "King KOM".  Rolled off at 3:51 A.M, entering the Wild Animal Kingdom.  Before sunrise, I saw 2 coyotes on the side of the road and was buzzed by a huge confused Owl on Del Dios.  Later, a rabbit made it's morning mad crossroad dash in front of me, and a feisty Blue Jay let me know it was way too early, and I was way too close, to it's nest.  On Bear Valley Pkwy a small fluffy poodle was trotting in my lane against traffic. Warned a few cars to slow down. Temps were perfect as dawn broke around 5:20 A.M.  A cloud cover kept temps cool all the way to the Valley Center Road summit.  From there, clear deep blue skies opened up and I caught the first views of Palomar Mt in the distance.

Made it to the Rincon Trading Post at 7:40 A.M.  Temps were warming up quickly, maybe high 70's to low 80's.  Once again, the Wind God's offered nothing in the way of tailwinds.  I always ride Solo Shadow Tour fully-loaded, with heavy bullet-proof wheels, Armadillo tires, a 70-oz Camelbak, 2 full water bottles, about 2 lbs of tools & parts, a stem-mounted police grade Mace spray, and a ridiculously heavy Mace cartridge gun in my center rear jersey pocket.  Next time you reach into your refrigerator, pull out a full gallon of milk, that's about what I'm packing on these hard rides.  Nonetheless, held 8's & 9's, making the turn off Hwy 76 onto S. Grade at 31:28. Saw 2 riders descending fast in the first couple switchbacks.  Settled into a sustainable pace, holding 7's & 8's without too much effort.  Caught up to a rider wearing a Go Army jersey, which was pretty cool.  No time for war-stories tho. Goal was to be under 1:30 for the full climb, Taco Shop to Summit Yield sign.  Last year, remember struggling hard for 1:32:46.  No such issues this year, hit the summit at 1:22:53.  Mother's Restaurant was open, did a quick ice top-off and downed a couple ice-tea's and rolled off for the Palomar Observatory butt-kicker.  Because of where it starts, that 5-mile stretch is one of the toughest segments around.  On my return to Mother's, was surprised, and encouraged, to see 3 other riders making the difficult grind up to the Observatory.

By 10:00 A.M. I was back at Mother's, ready to head down the East Grade and into the East County furnace.  Including the 15-mile RSF + Rancho Bernardo warm-up, I'd racked up big miles & elev.  The Garmin read 79.60 miles and a mind-blowing 9,443 ft of climbing.  A very good start.

My Stage 1 plan called for a spin down the East Grade to Lake Henshaw, onto Hwy 78 to Warner Springs, with a turnaround at Sunshine Summit.  On the return, needed to add some miles on S2 to insure 136 miles upon arrival at Lake Henshaw.  All of that went as planned.  But, and there's always a "but" in east county, gusting hot and dry winds made life miserable on for those 70 miles.  Bear in mind, I hit mile 100 about 4 miles after the left turn onto Hwy 78 with 9,921 ft of climbing.  All of that before dealing with hot/dry/windy high desert conditions.  I recall thinking "uh-oh, it's only 11:20 A.M, wonder how hot it's really gonna get out here".  Saddened to find my fav gas station in Warner Springs went out of business.  Had adequate fluids for the round-trip, but all that hot wind accelerates dehydration.  At the Sunshine Summit turnaround, snapped the photo below at mile 111.  Made a relatively fast return to Warner Springs with some swirling tailwinds.  By about 1:00 P.M. I'm guessing temps were in the low 90's F.  It's been much hotter out there, but there was still cause for concern.  The 2 + 2 mile out-n-back on S2 was needed to round up some extra miles.  That's where I started to really feel the cumulative dehydration and fatigue effects.  I normally stop at Warner Springs for some ice at the Gas Station, but since it was closed, that option was out.  This is exactly the kind of thing that closes the narrow margin of safety & ride management out there.  Decided to make Lake Henshaw an unplanned full lunch stop.  From S-2, those last 9 wind-swept and hot miles took a toll.  Was relieved to make it to the L. Henshaw parking lot at 2:36 P.M. w/136 miles. 

The servers at Lake Henshaw Grill are always very sweet to me.  They were all in cowboy boots for the extended 4th of July celebration.  I was craving salty soup.  Best (and only) soup option was French Onion.  Bring it on!  Soup + 1/2 Turkey sandwich, 2 huge jars of ice-tea, and I was back on the road at 2:55 P.M.  Bada-bing-bada-boom!

The 12-mile climb back up the hot and windy East Grade tested me every inch.  Only respite was elevation.  It felt slightly cooler as I ascended past 3,000 and 4,000 ft.  Had absolutely nothing left for strong climbing, so was reduced to holding 8's on steady grinds and 10 - 15's on moderated grades.  On very long solo rides, speed isn't the main concern, not by a long shot.  But time marks do matter.  It's not good to be 50 - 60  miles away from the coast after 4:00 P.M.  Even the slightest "issue", like a flat tire, could mean introducing night riding heading back to the coast.  That is simply unacceptable as the dangers of night riding with many vehicles (as opposed to almost none in pre-dawn darkness) is way too dangerous.   Plus, when mind & body are in mush, that's no time for high-alert night riding. So, back to the East Grade climb, I needed to get up that Mt in 1:30 to be at 3:25 P.M. and create a little extra buffer from my pre-established 4:00 P.M. deadline.  In the last 3 miles, was able to dig deep and pull in a few minutes and get up in 1:15:10.  Allowed me to top off ice & fluids at Mother's Restaurant and still be back on the road at 3:35 P.M.

The last 52 miles were very difficult.  The 11.6 mile downhill on S. Grade was hard because it required a tight grip and the highest levels of attention for all those S-turns.  As I passed the Taco Shop into Pauma Valley, more waves of late afternoon heat concentrated along Hwy 76.  Those few miles on Hwy 76 are harrowing, with lot of casino traffic driving way too fast and surely many drivers have high alcohol levels.  At the base of Cole Grade I was fried and facing the fearsome "Cole Grade Steep Section" climb at mile 163 with over 14,500 ft of climbing.  Only way to deal with these situations is to break them down into smaller pieces.  I focused first on just making it to the left curve.  Nothing else mattered, just get there. That half mile is humbling to say the very least.  Then it was all about getting to a shady section, maybe 3/10ths of mile. Then getting around the next left curve, and so on.  Normally, making it to Valley Center Road is cause for celebration, but I was beat-up and still had 29 more miles to the coast.  Needed salt badly.  I'd taken 3 E-caps during the day, but it wasn't enough.  Pulled off at gas station, but they only had Jalapeno pretzels.  Learned the hard way they are not the same, ha-ha! Was surfing the bonk-line as I sped down the long Valley Center Rd hill and into Escondido.  Pulled off at the first Seven-11 and got some real pretzels.  Helped quite a bit.  Made it through the city and onto Del Dios Hwy for the last 15.5 miles.

That's when my Garmin flashed "Low Battery".  D'oh!  That meant I HAD TO lift the pace.  The low battery usually means about 45 min of battery life.  No way, after 13 hours of grinding, I was gonna let a low battery prevent having a Strava record of the FULL DOUBLE CENTURY Stage 1.  On the first big down hill I started to get my legs back under me.  Lifted the pace nicely on all the downs and held 18's, 19's, and 20's all the way through RSF.  As 195 passed, knew the battery would make it, and all I could think about was the "Golden Mile", the LAST MILE.  The sun was settling low over the Pacific Ocean, as I made the final grinder ascent up El Camino Real to Half Mile Drive.  The Golden Mile name was indeed fitting as the sun's rays, which had baked me all day, actually felt wonderful at sunset on a long day of cycling.

Stage 1 safely in the books.  Promise, future blogs will be shorter.

Palomar Observatory
                                              Palomar Mt Observatory, el. 5,550 ft, mile 84
Jim at Mothers
        Just touch the little icon on the screen...
Sunshine Summit
                Sunshine Summit, mile 111
Warner Sprgs
                                 Views east to Warner Springs from East Grade Palomar Mt
Go to top of page
Stage 2:
  Second of 4 Kings.  It's a feisty re-run of King KOM, so I call it "King Crab".  Rolled at 3:51 A.M.  Nice temps, no morning mist.  Legs felt ok.  Did a quick 10-mile warm-up in RSF, then headed east on Del Dios for another long day jousting with Palomar Mt.  Cloud cover stayed all the way to the Taco Shop.  Quick fluids top off, then straight up the South Grade at 7:40 A.M.  Less than a mile up, the morning cloud remants burned off and sky turned dark blue.  Temps were still nice, but no wind at all.  Someday, and that day may never come, but someday, I'm gonna have a tailwind climbing the South Grade of Palomar Mt.  Locked into 8's & 9's grinding up to mile 3 (of 11.6), then pushed for 10's & 11's for next 2 miles.  Made the 5.0 mile turn off Hwy 76 at 31:16, about 30 sec faster than Stage 1.  Encouraged to know I was on pace to Negative Split the climb.

From there, my trusty Ipod served up The Smiths, U-2, Sting, Tears for Fears, and many others through the S-turns over the next 6.6 miles.  Consciously lifted the pace on all left hand curves, and pushed for 9's and 10's at every opportunity.  Not a soul on the mountain.  Climbing hard without the thrill & adrenaline of a Race (or Chase) takes full concentration and determination to sustain.  Luckily, every single time I called down to the boiler room for "more steam!", some soot-covered hero stepped up and tossed in more coal.  It was like that the entire day.  But I must say, the last 2 miles on the S. Grade did their best to waste my legs.  Mercifully, the 47.8 Mile Marker (summit) appeared before the Bonk Monster.  Hit the line at 1:20:05, a full 2 min and 48 sec Negative Split from Stage 1.  Was a wonderful feeling to be at the summit precisely at 9:00 A.M, perfectly on schedule and with a Negative Split on the first hard climb of the day. 

Was surprised to see NOBODY on the summit.  A ghost town, even on Jul 2nd.  It sucks for the 4th of July to fall on a Wed.  Also meant NO WATER or ICE at Mother's restaurant, which was closed.  Climbed up a few hundred meters to the view point and took the photo below of the S-turns.  Then down the East Grade for 66 miles in the heat & wind on the East side.

Swapped out the Palomar Observatory 10-mile segment (plus 5 miles in RSF) for 18 miles on S2 to Ranchita.  Cycling on S2 to Ranchita is a very long, hot, wind-swept, mostly uphill, climb for 9 miles.  It has brought me to my knees before, while riding Stage 9 back from Big Bear Lake.  But not today.  At the turnaround in Ranchita, it's only 15 miles to Borrego Springs.  Just 3,800 ft elevation separated me from blast furnace and 107F temps down in the valley.  But it still was a difficult, hot climb to get to that point.  After the turnaround, bombed back down to S2, locked in the 1st Century at 11:11 A.M. with 8,383 ft of climbing, then onto Hwy 79 for 13 more tough miles to Sunshine Summit.  Got some fluids at the General Store, then 22 even harder windy miles returning back to Lake Henshaw for a half sandwich & soup (lentil).  Total time in the Henshaw Grill was 17 min--too long!  Mounted up and went straight up East Grade at 2:00 P.M.  Hit some 10's right at the base, then sustained 8-10's to mile 4.  All that went fine.  Pushed for some 12's, up to 15's, on flatter sections, then went flat for awhile before recovering around mile 8 where I tossed in some strong jumps to right the ship.  Near the top, a sub-1:10 was within my grasp, but started to feel light-headed, so backed off on the final false top.  Still, rolled across the summit intersection in 1:10:31, 4 min 48 sec Negative Split from Stage 1.  Get that done too.  Some fluids & ice at Mother's, then down the S. Gde to Hwy 76, through the awful "3 miles of stupidity" before the Cole Grade left turn.  Will not ride that dangerous stretch on Stage 3 or 4.  There's a reason it's called the Highway of Death and I don't want to be part of the evidence.

Was RELIEVED to turn left off Hwy 76 and onto the dreaded Cole Grade "steep section" climb.  I was at mile 162, and just knew, inside, I had the juice to take down that climb, and the tricky mental & physical 30 mile return to the coast, with room to spare.  No bonking, not even any pretzel craving this time.  Cleared the Cole Grade summit and hammered down Valley Center road to Escondido.  Had to contend with 5:00 P.M. traffic, but pushed West relentlessly.  Surfed down the relative safety of Del Dios Hwy, then cruised all the way home.  Stage 2 was highlighted by meaningful Negative Splits on all the hard climbs.  Also Negative Split each of the 2 centuries, and the full 200 mile ride time. Just two more "Kings":  Stages 3 & 4.   Totals through 3 days on ST 8:  Distance = 431 miles, Elevation = 35,563 feet, Jerseys: Yellow + Polka Dot (only 2 that matter to me).

S turns
                      Last S-turns and views South & West from Summit of Palomar Mt, el. 5,300 ft
                      9:00 A.M, Mon, Jul 3rd, 2012.  Group shot of Jim's Shadow Tour VIII Wingmen
Lake Henshaw
                                   Lake Henshaw from East Grade Palomar Mt, el 3,200 ft.
Palomar Mt
                             Views of Palomar Mt from East side, along Hwy 79, el 2,800 ft.
Go to top of page
Stage 3:
  Third of the 4 Kings, which I call "King 4 a Day".  Rolled at 3:47 A.M, a little early, expecting more traffic due to the 4th of July.  Very dark to mile 28, Del Dios & Via Rancho Parkway.  Cloud cover stayed all the way to the Taco Shop in Rincon.  As I passed Harrah's Casino, I noticed a full 7-11 Store & Gas Station on the left side of the main entrance.  Where did that come from?  Could be my new fluids top-off spot vs the Trading Post, which is rustic, especially in the restroom, if you get my drift.  About a mile past Harrah's, felt my rear wheel rim touching the asphalt.  Flat #1.  What a pain!  There was an entire staple INSIDE the tire.  At least it happened on a flat and straight stretch of road.  Changed it quickly, less than 5 min, but bent the valve stem when I pulled off the CO2 cartridge.  It wouldn't screw all the way down.  Knew it wasn't quite right, but rolled anyway, because wanted to rock-n-roll up the South Grade.  I'd regret that decision.

Stopped about a mile later at the Trading Post and got set for the S. Grade Climb. Temps were fantastic, maybe 70F, with a thick cloud cover.  Once again, NO TAILWINDS, or any other wind.  Was surprised to see absolutely no riders.  Even more surprised to see minimal vehicle traffic.  Plan was to hit the 5-mile turn under 30 min.  Worked it hard, just below red-line, and made the left at 30:23.  Saw a rider waiting at the turn and hoped he'd jump on, which he did, but only for about 15 feet.  Oh well. 

Knew I was about 1 min ahead of Stage 2, so was on the glide-path for a sub-1 hr 20 min.  Ignored all mile markers (every 2/10ths of a mile), until marker 43.8.  From there, it's exactly 4 mi to the summit.  Wanted to be under 50 min, but was 50:26.  I was grinding it hard, putting out more effort than Stage 2 and was bummed to be off pace.  Dug in for the next mile and got it to 57:46, still 16 sec off pace.  For the uninitiated, the S. Grade is a relentless climb, with virtually no relief the entire 11.6 mi.  The last 4 mi are the hardest to lift the pace, that's why pacing is so critical.  For me, it takes full effort just to hold 8's (8 mph), because the gradient is so steep.  And there are up-ticks that pull you down to 7's or 6's.  To make up time, even a few seconds, brings in the risk of cramps, or just caving into the storm of pain.  At mile maker 45.8 (2.0 miles to go), needed 1:05:00, got 1:05:12, still needed 12 sec.  There was nothing more I could do.  Tried jumps, digs, gapping techniques, whatever I could for for more speed, but I could tell it wasn't happening.  With a mile to go, I was at 1:12:38.  Just 8 seconds off.  On any other normal day (non-Solo Shadow Tour), that would have been easy.  But this is Stage 3.  The 3rd of 4 KINGS (King 4 a Day).  Stacking up 200's vs. Palomar Mt with double climbs is anything but normal.  Tried my best, but sub-1:20 proved elusive.  Went 1:20:05.  Happily, it was still a Negative split to Stage 2 by exactly 1 minute (1:21:05), so that was a relief.  Mother's was closed, so went to the view point about 1/2 mile up. 

It was here that I reached down and felt my rear tire, the one that had flatted earlier.  It was almost flat again!  How I made it up the S. Grade on a nearly flat tire, without noticing, is a mystery.  But it's revealing too, because anyone would normally notice that.  The tremendous effort to grind up that climb commands total mental + physical effort commitment.  My focus was on turning those cranks and watching the Garmin time & distance, that's it.  Obviously, a nearly flat tire removed any chance of dancing up those final miles.  I was lucky to get the time I did.  I fiddled with the valve stem.  Tried to straighten it.  Added more air from the CO2 cartridge.  Then was able to at least get the valve screwed down tight.  Thought that was the end of that story as I rolled back down S. Grade.  But at the turn onto Hwy 76, toward Lake Henshaw, I stopped to check the tire.  It was still leaking air.  Now, the right thing to do, would be to put on a new tube.  I was carrying 3.  But instead, I rationalized that the CO2 air was warming and that explained the tire pressure loss.  I used my mini pump to get it to about 100 psi and rolled off.  At Lake Henshaw I loaded up on fluids and bought a 7lb bag of ice for $2, actually good value!  Did a quick 4 + 4 miles to Hwy 79 and back to Lake Henshaw.  Needed to take the East Grade early, due to a forecasted P.M. T-storm.

Once back at the Lake Henshaw Store, mile 90.0, noticed the tire needed more air.  Again!  All of this is evidence of how a tired mind operates.  I kept wasting time pumping up an obviously broken tube, again and again, rather than doing a full tube change.  I can't explain it.  Seems ridiculous now, but not in the heat of battle.  Anyway, charged up the East Grade.  Goal was sub-1 hr 10 min.  Stage 2 Negative Split was 1:10:31.  Hit all the low mile time marks just fine, even though those are the steep miles.  Kept burning it up through the fast 4 to 6 mile section.  Worked 6-8 hard and was definitely feeling it.  Times were all on pace, with room.  Around mile 9.6, felt the rear rim hit a crease in the asphalt.  Dammit!  Rode another 1/2 mile and had to pull off in some shade and add air.  Even though I was about 2 min ahead of pace, stopping on a climb just plain sucks.  Sweat was dripping on my hands and getting in my eyes.  Flies were all around me.  Was at an elevation of 5,000 ft, so there are tall pine trees and lots of vegetation for insects and animals.  At that point, it finally registered that I needed to swap out the tube at Mother's Restaurant.  Jumped back on, reeled in the last couple miles, and clocked a respectable 1:08:06 and maintained a perfect record for Negative Splits on 3 South Grade and 3 East Grade climbs.

At Mother's, got some ice + fluids.  A couple glasses of unsweetened ice tea sure helped.  Was at mile 102.  Behind pace due to all those tire issues, and would lose more time to changing the tube.  But I went at it in the shade and it was really not a big deal.  A couple nice guys from Carlsbad pulled up on their motorcycles. Classic 50 something's on their Harley's.  We chatted while I finished the tire swap.  I put 125 pumps of air into the tire and felt good.  The Harley guys asked for my business card for their cycle buddies and I obliged. They were heading back down East Grade too, so was nice knowing they'd be rolling by me on my own East Grade descent--just in case.  I was about 4-5 miles down when they motored by me.  We exchanged waves, carved a few S's together, then they disappeared around a bend.

At Lake Henshaw, I had 114 miles and needed to round up 22 miles before heading back to the Coast via Santa Ysabel.  Felt the tire.  This time it was perfect. Figures. Decided to take on the afternoon winds with an out-and-back to Warner Springs on Hwy 79. Winds were rocking, but mostly obliques, so was able to hit it fairly hard.  I calculated that I needed to bring in about 32 minutes to get the final Negative Split of the day: going under Stage 2's 13:27 total ride time.  Because I had front-loaded most of the climbing, due to the T-storms, I had a chance, but it meant pressing the pace all the way. Got a little dried out on the Warner Springs phase, but made it back to Lake Henshaw (for the 4th time) at 3:38 P.M. with 136 miles, avg speed 14.6 mph.  Now, most long-riders would not relish this situation.  It was 64 miles to get back to the coast via Santa Ysabel, Hwy 78, Old Julian Hwy, Ramona, Highland Valley Road, Via Rancho Pkwy, Del Dios.  On tired legs, that's easily 4 hrs.  But I know this segment better than most riders know their middle name.  I pulled out every veteran trick in the book.  Skipped lunch, tossed in countless pace-lifting tactics, pushed the envelope on the descents, ground out every single up-section, and just stayed in gear, never worrying about the advancing time and inevitable sunset. Watched my Garmin and slowly pulled back 14.7, 14.8, and 14.9.  Knew that if I got 15.0 to pop, I'd have it in the bag. Got there while bombing down Highland Valley Road.  Then 15.1 showed up.  Even with that, I knew the tough 2.0 mile climb up Via Rancho Parkway would be a big give-back.  Wasn't sure how much, but figured at least .2 mph.  At the top, 15.0 was still showing.  Could feel the cool coast air as I turned onto Del Dios and laid waste to the last 16 miles.  Needed about 1 more mile, so rounded that up at the 4-way stop sign with the bus stops.

San Dieguito road was heaven.  Felt like I was a bullet train between stops.  Even pushing against Pacific Ocean winds, I was loving those 19's & 20's coming down the stretch.  Rage Against the Machine's "Renegade" came on my Ipod around mile 197.  Then some Peppers on the Golden Mile.  As I hit mile 200, I looked at the time of day and it read 6:37.  Just 2 hrs 59 min earlier I was in the Lake Henshaw parking lot, 64 miles away. That's a 20+ mph avg pace return to the Coast on wasted legs.  Sure, there's lots of downhills in there, which absolutely helped.  But before you think it's easy, first rack up 136 miles with 12,000+ ft of climbing.  And toss in 2 x 200 mile warm-ups the 4 days prior.

Stage 3 "King 4 a Day" is in the books.  The 3rd of 4 Kings.  That makes 3 Double Centuries in 5 days.  All major climbs and total ride times have been Negative Split.  One more to go.  In California there's a series called the Triple Crown.  It's an honor earned by riders who complete 3 Double Centuries in a year.  I'm still working on what I should call my version.  Think I'll just stick with "4 Kings".

Go to top of page
Stage 4: 
Rolled on the 4th of "4 Kings" at 3:43 A.M.  This one's called "King Tut", because I'm starting to feel a little dried out and mummified.  Starting time was a little earlier each day because I got faster with the morning prep phase.  I get up at 3:00 A.M. each day and already have everything set.  The bike is readied the day prior, wiped clean, inspected, lubed, and tires checked/pumped to 125 psi.  Lights & Garmin are charged ahead of time and placed on the bike.  Water bottles filled w/ice the night prior and placed in the freezer, then I add Powerade & water in the morning, while I warm up my Starbucks Chocolate Croissant.  The night prior, I cut 8 strips of soft cloth tape to wrap 2 knuckles on index + middle finger on each hand, also shower, and set out contact lenses.  Sun screen, Butt Butt'r, Zinc Oxide, Chap Stick are all at the ready in the bathroom.  Energy items, cell phone, and wallet with more Chap Stick are in plastic bags ready to go into my jersey pockets.  Base layer, jersey, bib shorts, socks, and full-finger gel gloves are laid out the night prior.  The morning is pure execution.  No time to think, or try to remember anything, or to hope for the best.  Pure no-brainer execution phase.

As I rode down onto San Dieguito Road, I was glad this was the final day jousting with Palomar Mt.  Those first 5 miles set the tone for the whole day--as odd as that sounds.  In that stretch, my legs feel either heavy/dead, or good-to-go.  The weather can be misty, even heavy with fog/rain; temps can be very warm or very cold.  Vehicles can be non-existent to a few sporadic passings.  They frequently have high beams on, which can temporarily blind me when they pass.  On this nice Friday, the legs felt good and I was holding solid 16's all the way up & down Santa Luz.  Almost no cars at all.  None flashed me with high-beams.  Temps were perfect:  no wind, nice & cool, with no fog to mist up my shades (transition-style).  Perfect start for a Double Century.

Made good time up Del Dios to Via Rancho Parkway.  Hit the turn averaging 15.2 mph and it was nearly light.  Marine layer (cloud cover) appeared thin in the grey morning light.  That meant dawn would break slowly and I'd have some extra relief from direct sunlight a little longer as I headed east--always a nice.  Remember getting up the Valley Center Rd with some authority.  It's a much better & safer alternative to Lake Wohlford Rd.  Went over the top at 14.7 mph avg at about 37 miles with 3,400 ft of climbing to that point.  That was a good indicator, b/c I hit the same spot on Stage 3 at 14.4 mph.  Having posted Negative Splits on each of the first three Stages, it was definitely on my mind to wrap-up the "4 Kings" with all Negative Splits.  Negative Splits mean riding certain defined sections of the ride faster each successive time.  It's one of the hardest things to do in sport.  By this point, I'd already ridden 690 miles in 5 days, so holding a sustainable fast pace AND hitting the difficult 11+ mile climbs up Palomar Mt in sequentially faster times required constant focus and attention.  That's why I kept track of check points along the route to make sure I wasn't drifting into a "survival grind".  That's where the pedals are turning, but there's no real power.  The brain is just saying "get from A-to-B".  That's my LEAST FAVORITE mode of cycling.  To me, simply going for survival is pointless.  I train hard and want to be tested hard, yet ride with authority & control, even when forces are conspiring to box me into the survival mode.

The nerve-shattering descent into Rincon Valley was uneventful.  By Stage 4, I've become highly dependent on a special rear-view mirror given to me as a gift by good friend Rick Bienias of the San Diego Descenders.  This little mirror, engineered out of glass & metal, mounts to the left arm of my sunglasses.  Once I got used to it, it provides a clear picture of what's behind me.  I used to reason that what's behind me is up to fate.  To some degree, that's still true.  But what changed, for me, is the ability to see a clear lane behind me without needing to turn my head.  On fast, bumpy descents, like Rincon, it's a huge advantage to safely ride in the vehicle lane, avoiding debris and choppy asphalt to the right of the white line.  When a car appears, I brake, and shift right to allow the car to pass, then move back into the main lane to continue the descent (about 4 miles). At the Rincon Casino, I looked closely at the new 7-11 and was stunned to see there's a new Subway Sandwich located there as well.  Yay!  It's all still fenced and under construction, just to the left of the main entrance, but it's coming soon!  They don't know it, but that's the future site of my new Palomar Mt launch point. Smiles.

Rode past the point where I flatted on Stage 3.  No problems this time.  Both tires held up great.  Hit the Trading Post store at 7:18 A.M, got my fluids, hit the restroom, ate a Gu and energy bar, chugged a Diet Coke, had 2 E-caps (salt tablets), plugged in my Ipod, and set my chronograph to 00:00:00.  Took a deep breath, and rolled off at 7:34 A.M.  The cloud cover was hovering thick just above my head.  Typical (for me) ZERO tailwind.  But conditions were still fairly good with temps in the 70's F.  Having achieved 3 successive Negative Splits on the South Grade climb (Taco shop to Summit Yield sign), meant it would be much harder to get one more.  But that's the kind of challenge I live for.  Plan was to hit the 5-mile turn under 30:00.  Once again, that's not difficult on a light bike, on fresh legs, with zippy fast wheels, etc.  But I'm on heavy Bontrager bullet proof wheels, with a full Cambelbak + 2 x 24 oz water bottles, tired legs, and all kinds of other non-speedy issues.  Nonetheless, IN MY MIND IT WAS ON.  Jumped on some 11's, which hurt too much, so settled into a pace that looked like mostly 10's with 9's through the first couple miles.  Hit my first check point at about mile 3 in 19 min and change.  One full minute ahead of Stage 3, so was on track.  Near the turn, the cloud cover burned off and the sun's rays warmed the air quickly.  Of course, by this point I was sweat-drenched anyway.  As I crested the mile 4 top, I geared up and wound-up for a fast 25 mph charge to the 5-mile turn off of Hwy 76 onto the South Grade.  I glanced down and saw 29 min and about 30 sec as I turned.  Whew, got it!

The long mile 6 goes straight-arrow up to the 1st turn.  After a fast start, that's always a difficult stretch to deal with.  It's necessary to hold 9's and the price is high.  It's the "in-between" phase, over half way, distance wise, but not time-wise.  Gotta dig deep.  Lots of semi-jumps (lifting butt off saddle, but not fully upright).  Near the turn, some shade trees offer a bit of relief.  Into the turn, I jumped hard and got some 11's and held 10's to the next turn.  The next 2 miles are pure torture on the relentless slope.  I don't even like to look at my splits, even though I should.  The bottom line is full speed.  Every minute, every second.  Absolutely no resting.  If it's a 7, it must be made into an 8.  If it's an 8, a 9 is much better.  If it's a 9, a 10 is extra credit.  And so it goes.  Not mile-by-mile, but right down to the second-by-second.  Its a kaleidoscope of pain and effort.  How can a 6% slope possibly create so much agony?  Curse Gravity.  Curse the heat.  Curse the pain, but push the pace!

At long last, Mile Marker 43.8 (4.0 miles to summit) was just ahead.  Even when I saw it, from about 30 yards out, I promise you it took FOREVER to get there.  Needed the time to be under 50 min.  Would have been happy with 49-anything.  Looked down and 48:48 was staring back at me.  Whoa!  Now.  On a climb like this, having a buffer is only a snapshot in time.  It can disappear without warning.  It's essential to stay in the moment.  Each successive 2/10th is separate and requires individual attention.  I kept the pace as high as I possibly could back and forth, through the S-turns, on the stairs, on the elbows, wherever I was, I pushed.  At Mile Marker 44.8, needed 57:30, got 56:18.  Ok, still on pace, 2 more miles of this.  Felt some swirling winds and hoped they would go away.  Just wanted to get up to the summit.  Elevation 4,000 ft sign appeared.  One more notch.  Felt it big time on a couple dead-spots (false flats that are the same slope).  Wanted to slip into survival mode, but no.  Tossed in some full jumps.  Got to Mile Marker 46.8.  Needed 1:05:00.  Got 1:04:something.  Was way down in the pity pity and felt awful as I looked down on 6.9 mph.  Had to dig even deeper.  Got some 7's and 8's to show and tried to hold on.  An eternity went by.  Then Elevation 5,000 ft appeared.  It's hazy as to what happened there.  I thought the next sign was 46.8 (1.0 mile to summit).  Needed 1:12:30.  Got 1:12:39.  Boom, just like that, was behind pace.  Now, I think the truth is that sign actually read 47.0, meaning I was on-pace.  More evidence of the bizarre tricks the mind will play when stressed.  Regardless, I treated it as an emergency, called down to the boiler room for "Full Steam" and attacked with everything left.  All in, with no reserves.  As if on-cue, I looked up and saw another rider ahead of me, maybe 100 m up the road. Adrenaline rush, Woo-Hoo! 

Revved past the water fountain, and that gnarly semi-flat and 2 more switchbacks.  Somewhere in there I passed the cyclist.  Hope I said "hey", but I was summit-focused.  That last 50 meters is the longest in the world.  Even when crossing the Yield Sign Ahead painted in the road, it's not over.  Gotta press and press and press.  At last, crossed the Yield line and stopped my watch at 1:18:30.  Waves of relief.  Pedaled up to the view point and snapped the photo below.  Put on the summer weight armwarmers, checked the tires and rolled back down to the Yield Sign.  A couple more quick photos and made the descent back down the South Grade Beast.  It's so pleasant in the down direction.  How can it possibly be so cruel in the up direction?

The cross-compartment ride to Lake Henshaw on Hwy 76 went well.  Got to the Lake Henshaw Store around 9:48 A.M. well ahead of Stage 3.  Had 81.38 miles and about 8,200 ft of climbing.  Bought a full bag of ice and a Gatorade.  Crammed ice in my Camelbak to the top and the waterbottles too.  Ate an Clif Bar and sleeve of Clif Shots.  Several locals visiting the store said watch out for the heat to today and that it was gonna be a sizzler out there.  Great.  Shifted gears into making up some time.  Had a 14.3 avg showing.  Decided to do a 32 mile round-trip past Warner Springs on Hwy 79.  Used active recovery (very gradually pace-lifting) to move the average speed up.  Wanted to get the 1st Century in before 11:00 A.M, which was a long-shot, but withing the range of possible.  Also wanted to get the average speed back to 15.0 or higher.  As it turned out, I was just short of collecting the 1st Century by 11:00 A.M, it was 11:07.  On the return to Lake Henshaw, started to feel the high temps and building winds (westerly with gusts).  Was liking the average at 4.7 then 4.8 at Warner Springs.  Near the S2 turn, I got 14.9 and held it up a couple long grinder hills.  Hit the right turn onto Hwy 76 fast, and worked on the 14.9 until it FINALLY read 15.0 just before the store.

It was about 12:15 P.M. and I faced the East Grade Climb back up to the summit of Palomar Mt.  Also needed to Negative Split Stage 3's 1:08:06.  I was confident I could do that.  But I also know that back in 2009, I had a lucky wind day and posted at 1:04:17.  So that was my real mark.  Went into the restaurant, ordered a large Ice-T and 2 pitchers of ice.  Topped off the Camelbak with ice only (melts quickly, no need to add water).  Made one waterbottle ice only and the other ice + tea.  Jumped on the bike and motored to the East Grade Turn.  Hit the turn fast and began the battle in earnest.  East Grade is different than South Grade.  The distance is 11.2 miles, vs. 11.6, but the read difference is the elevation.  S. Grade has about 4,200 ft and E. Grade about 2,600 ft.  It's a much softer climb, with lots of flat spots, even some short downhill sections.  It still hurts, just in a different way.  Pain, followed by recovery, followed by pain.  To make it easier, at least mentally, I just went full speed the whole way.  Whatever was in the tanks I used.  Always tried to turn 10's into 12's, 13's into 15's, etc.  Along the climb, I posted some fun times on the downs, seeing 20, 25, even 30 mph flash on my Garmin.  Unlike S. Grade, I don't use the mile markers.  Again, it's just a different climb; difficult to explain.  The last section from Mile 9 to 10.8 is very hard.  But I had confidence that I had ridden very hard the whole way and my time would reflect.  It did and had a 1:02:something at the top.  More waves of relief!

Topped off ice + fluids at Mother's.  Check the tires, all ok.  Rolled back down the 12 miles to Lake Henshaw for the final time in Shadow Tour VIII.  Now the only remaining challenge was to Negative Split the full 200 mile time.  Needed 13 hrs 17 min or faster.  That meant a 15.4 avg.  I was at 14.5 at the top of Palomar Mt.  By the bottom, it was 14.9 mph.  Didn't stop at Lake Henshaw.  Made the turn onto Hwy 79 and began the long grinder up past the Santa Ysabel Casino.  Big time winds were whipping up by now.  It was about 2:45 P.M. and I knew those West winds would punish me all the way back to the Coast, but had to put that out of my mind.  Made the 3,200 ft summit and roared down to Santa Ysabel.  Stopped for pretzels and peanut butter cookies and ice.  Back on the bike, still at 14.9 avg.  Turned right onto Hwy 78 and began the wind-duel.  Any experienced cyclist knows it really sucks to have headwinds on downhill sections.  It was like that all the way down Hwy 78 to the Old Julian Hwy turn.  Should have been loving free 30+ speeds, but instead, had to WORK, to get 20-25's.  But there was still progress made, and when 15.0 mph avg showed up I cheered up.  On Old Julian Hwy, winds were a little less frontal, and I got 15.1 and 15.2.   By Ramona, was really feeling tired.  Battled those long straight roads before the climb & descent on Highland Valley Road.  Fought hard and held onto 15.2 avg. Once on the main Highland Valley Rd descent, gathered some speed.  Yes, those 2 short steep hills hurt!  Past them, it was smooth sailing.  Got 15.3 avg somewhere along the bottom flat section.  Rode on the freeway to the Via Rancho Pkwy exit.  Although it's legal to do so, I don't recommend it at 5:00 P.M. on a July Friday.  At the exit offramp I dreaded getting into the left lane, but made it across ok.  Next year, do not do this!  Go right and make a U-turn at the next stoplight.  About  1/2 mile up Via Rancho Pkwy, the wheels started to fall off.  I had zero horsepower.  Pulled off under a shadetree and had a Clif Bar and the last of my now-warm ice-tea.  It was a near-bonk, but actually it had everything to do with the rapid burst of speed needed to get into the left lane on the freeway offramp.  On normal rides, that acceleration is manageable, but on at mile 181 on Stage 4, there's a price to be paid.  I paid that price in full on the side of Via Rancho Pkwy as Friday quitting-time traffic whipped past me.  I shook it off and started the first Via Rancho climb.  I was ok.  Dropped down to the stoplight, which mercifully was green, and began the main Via Rancho climb.  Just stayed in there, held 6's and 7's to the top.  Recovered well and even tapped at 25 mph at one of my many "primes" I have out on the San Diego roadways. 

At Del Dios, I still had a strong 15.2 avg showing and knew I could get the sub-13 hr Double if I pushed it all the way home, another 15.5 miles.  That's exactly what I did.  Ripped it up down Del Dioas and made it back down onto San Dieguito Road.  I was finishing exactly where I had started all those hours earlier.  Only now, I was bombing full steam to the finish line. I love San Dieguito Road.  At 5:48 P.M. I was the only rider out there.  Seal, MGMT, and Tears for Fears brought me home.  On the Garmin, 15.4 popped, then I saw ride time was 12:57 with about .6 miles to go.  No problem.  Let the distance get to 200.25 then pressed Stop and it was done.  Stage 4 complete.  4 Kings complete.  Negative splits on all climbs and total time complete.  Did it all Old School. No fancy wheels, light plastic bikes, or cork brake pads.  No wingmen or support of any kind.  Nope, none of that.  Just the way I like it.

Iron Mt
                     Views East to Iron Mt (pointed Mt top) from Hwy 79, elevation 2,873 ft, mile 89
Santa Ysabel
              Jim in Santa Ysabel, mile 149
PM Sign
    Most welcome Mile Marker Sign on South Grade
PM Sign 3
                                       Summit shot on Palomar Mt, 9:01 A.M, mile 64
Go to top of page
Stage 5:  Big transition from riding up in the high mountains, above 5,000 ft el, to non-stop coastal rollers of about 1,500 ft.   Both offer plenty of challenge, but on balance, today's ride was far less demanding.   Got a nice early start at 3:49 A.M. and had the roads to myself until a police car eased alongside on San Dieguito road.  I couldn't see inside, but it appeared he was looking at something.  After a few seconds he accelerated away.  About an hours later I discovered my rear Knight Rider taillight was off.  I carry 3 spares (2 front + 1 tail), so was able to correct that issue.

Made good time to Lake Hodges, but then I entered a thick fog bank.  Probably was just low clouds.  It meant I had to constantly wipe my sunglasses, which is a distraction when trying to hold a good pace.  That continued all the way to Via Rancho Parkway and well onto Bear Valley Parkway.  Near the Lake Wohlford intersection, the sky cleared up and there was very little traffic at 6:30 A.M, so I decided to climb Lake Wohlford Rd instead of continuing straight up Valley Center Rd, which is my preferred route.  Passed one rider on the climb.  Stopped and took the photo below of the lake just after sunrise.

At the top, did an out-n-back to Valley View Casino, then took the fast 5-mile connector road back to Valley Center Rd.  Made my way to Lilac Rd, then down to West Lilac and up Couser Canyon (steep side).  Climb felt good.  Took a few photos at the summit, then rolled down to Hwy 76 and right on Rice Canyon.  Made good time up the 5-mi climb, saw a couple riders descending in the other direction.  By the summit, had 68 miles with about 5,200 ft of climbing.  Far less than on Palomar Mt, but still a good amount of accumulated altitude.

Dropped down into Temecula Winery Row.  Made a fast 4.5 + 4.5 mi past Pachenga Casino to gather some extra miles.  Then made it onto Hwy 79 briefly.  Always turn left off Hwy 79 onto Jedediah Smith Rd.  Such a fitting name for that particular area and it's Old West charm.  Eventually onto Butterfield Stage Rd, then right on Rancho California past all the wineries.  Stopped to photograph the Mount Palomar Winery entrance.  Also captured a photo of Big Bear Mt way off in the distance.  Have a date with that monster on Saturday.  Did 2 fast loops of winery row, including a stretch on "Calle Contento" (another well-named road), then back up to Rainbow and on to Fallbrook.

The rest of the ride was focused on holding good tempo and reeling in a few more mph tenths for average speed.  Wanted to outpace last year's stage average of 16.3 mph.  Made a fast ascent up West Lilac Rd to the summit intersection, then continued on West Lilac all the way around to Lawrence Welk Rd.  Needed a few more miles, so did 3 + 3 mi toward Bonsall.  Last major grinder of the day, was the always tough Lawrence Welk hill, including "Hamburger Hill" halfway up.  Usually encounter heat and awful headwinds at this point in the late afternoon, but it was mild today.  At the summit, made a quick out-n-back to the Deersprings Rd Arco to top off ice, then down to Escondido and Del Dios. 

Had this ride well-in-hand all day.  Got the 16.4 mph to pop even before the San Dieguito Rd Golden Miles.  No Ipod this time, just enjoyed a controlled, incident-free, 175-miler in California's Avocado & Wine Country.

Lake Wohlford
                                       Lake Wohlford just after sunrise, el. est. 1,200 ft
Couser Summit
                               Avocado Heaven:  Summit of Couser Canyon, el. est. 1,600 ft
Mt Palomar Tower
Mount Palomar Winery Tower (should be Palomar Mt)
Mt Palomar Sign
            Entrance to Mount Palomar Winery
Butterfield Stage Rd Temecula
                    Photo taken on Butterfield Stage Road in Temecula--lovely area!
Go to top of page
Stage 6:  Headed back up into the San Diego mountains today.  This time, the 6,000 ft Mount Laguna was the summit of choice.  Rolled at 4:01 A.M.  The National Weather Service had issued a Hot Weather warning the day prior, forecasting 100F temps in the lower coastal mountains and high 90's F for elevations above 5,000 ft.  The mini heat wave appeared to be a one-day phenomenon.  I easily could have swapped the mostly Coastal Stage 7, but that's not the way I roll.  Riding in the heat has never been a big issue for my style of riding, so pressed on with Mt Laguna as planned.

The main difficulty of Mt Laguna is the 59 mile nearly non-stop climb from the Coast to Julian at 4,128 Ft El.  The climb is interminably long.  While not very steep, the slope is always there.  Before sunrise, I could already see in the pre-dawn light that there would be no cloud cover.  That, alone, partially explained why temps were expected to soar.  Dawn finally broke for me on Via Rancho Parkway descending to the Interstate 15 intersection.  Because of the layout of this route, I was not able to include my traditional 10 mile warmup in Rancho Santa Fe.  That meant it was very dark all the way up Del Dios, to include Via Rancho Parkway.  My average speed to the Interstate 15 intersection was only 14.0 mph, reflecting the difficulty of getting up at 3:00 A.M. and jumping on the bike an hour later.  The cumulative effects of the Shadow Tour are amplified during those early morning hours.

I started to feel the early temperature increase on the the very long grind up to Julian.  The first point was on Old Julian Hwy, about mile 45, when the sun was up higher in the sky around 6:45 A.M.  The winds were absolutely dead-another reason for the higher temps.  I had climbed about 4,000 ft.  Legs started to feel a little better, so lifted the pace gradually near the intersection onto Hwy 78.  Pushed the pace all the way to Santa Ysabel, mile 52, where I topped off fluids and heard the locals talking about how today would be a "scorcher".

Coming out of the air-conditioned store, there was no doubt it was gonna be a hot day, but I was focused on the rest of the front-loaded climb for Stage 7.  Surprisingly, was able to ride well up the last 7 miles to Julian.  Took that climb in about 39 minutes.  At Julian, had 68.9 miles in 4 hrs 26 min with 5,800 Ft of climbing.  Average speed was 13.5.  There's another 4-mile grinder on Hwy 76 up to about 4,700 ft el, then a short descent to the left turn onto Sunrise Hwy.  That's the start of a 14 mile climb to the summit of Mt Laguna.  Compared to Palomar Mt, Mt Laguna is a soft climb.  I easily held the 13.5 avg all the way up to the summit.  There are lots of flat sections and extended downs the length of the climb.  The temperature seemed to remain constant.  Hot, but manageable, as I climbed.  Made the summit just after 11:00 A.M.  and took a photo at the 6,000 ft el marker.  Skipped stopping at the summit store and made the fast descent to Pine Valley, where I stopped at the gas station and topped off fluids.  I'd estimate temps were in the low 90F range by Noon.

The infamous "Gutay Hill", aka "Gut Hill" was a bear.  It's about 500 ft that hits about 2 miles outside of Pine Valley.  Was a relief to get over that and make the swift descent to the turn onto Hwy 76.  From there, it's 14 miles of gradual climbing up to Lake Cayamaca.  Had improved my average speed to the low 14's by this point.  As I rounded Lake Cayamaca, I lifted the pace substantially and reeled in 14.5 mph avg, then held it all the way back to Julian.  Had a nice Turkey sandwich at the Julian Deli Store.  The clerk told me it would be 118 F in Shelter Valley, where she lives.  Good grief that's hot!

Rolled off for the 58 mile return trip to the Coast at 12:48 P.M.  Winds were from the west and building, but not nearly as strong as they have been during this year's Shadow Tour.  Made good time all the way down to Ramona.  Still loving my new rear-view mirror.  I make it a point to make a "thanks" wave to cars that give me a little extra room.  I can easily tell before they pass me, if they are giving some room.  I have to say the vast majority of drivers actually do give extra space.  By giving a  "thanks wave" it's interesting to see how the following vehicle almost always follows suit, and gives extra space too.

In Ramona, plugged in the Ipod and felt good.  Had clicked over 10,000 ft of climbing, but was feeling strong.  Made it through and down the tricky Highland Valley Road section with no issues.  This time, the turn onto Via Rancho Parkway was no problem today.  Made the 3-mile climb up to Del Dios and fun final 15.5 miles to the Coast.  Got the pace to 15.6 mph before San Dieguito Rd and held it to the finish.  Nice day in the saddle.

Mt Lag Summit
                                 Mount Laguna Summit, 11:01 A.M. 79 miles, 8,600 ft of climbing
  Jim in Julian, 12:55 P.M. 117 miles 10,700 ft
Mt Lag 6000
                    Mount Laguna Summit
Lake Caya
                                                             Lake Cayamaca
Go to top of page
Stage 7:  Rode up and down the Pacific Coastline with a 15+ mile inland detour to Orange County's Trabuco Canyon.  Rolled off at 4:05 A.M.  Did a 20 mile warmup in RSF, then got onto Highway 101 headed north.  At Camp Pendleton, did an extra 5 + 5 miles to the store in order to synch with the north gate re-opening at 8:00 A.M.  Early pace, pre-dawn, was about 15.5 mph.  Legs took awhile to get back into gear.  Wanted to surpass last year's 17.7 mph average.  That meant pressing the pace the entire day.  By Dana Point, I had reeled in 17.1 as I turned east on Crown Valley for the long roller climb to Trabuco Cyn.  At the entrance to Trabuco Cyn, I had coincidentally hit 100 miles at 17.0 mph average.  Weather was still overcast with a some light mist in the air.

Decided to avoid the El Toro Rd return to the coast in favor of a return on Crown Valley with a 3 + 3 mile extra stretch on Antonio Rd.  Once back on Crown Valley, pushed the pace until 17.3 finally popped.  Had a quick Subway lunch in Dana Point, then back on the road.  Being on high alert for traffic was the most stressful part of this ride.  Being a Thursday afternoon is wasn't too bad.  The last couple hours had some sprinkles, but never got very wet.

On the return through Camp Pendleton saw a simple little sign, maybe 1 ft x 2 ft that simple said "America has the Marines".  Damn right!  As long was we have the Marines, they will always have our backs.  Semper Fi!

The last stretch from Carlsbad to Solana Beach was swift and uneventful.  Realized I had accummulated a few extra miles, over the planned 175 miles, so came home on Via De La Valle instead of through Del Mar and around on Carmel Valley Road.  I had reached the 17.7 mph average somewhere around Carlsbad but did not have the juice to push it one more tick.  Was very satisfied reaching the goal and held it all the way home.  Overall, a good recovery day in the saddle. 
Trabuco Cyn

Go to top of page
Stage 8:  Joined today by Bob Andrews, veteran of 10 Death Ride tours of the California Alps.  We rolled at just before 4:00 A.M.  Temperatures felt pleasant.  After the 10-mile Santa Luz warm-up, we made good time to the top of Del Dios and onto Via Rancho Parkway.  In the grey pre-dawn light we saw an overcast sky.  It was also here that we noticed extra humidity in the air.

Over the summit of Valley Center Rd, the cloud cover dissipated into endless blue skies.  We did a fast loop to Valley View Casino and back round onto Valley Center, then Lilac Rd.  An aggressive driver of a pickup truck buzzed us on the descent honking, as if to demonstrate his dominance--the first of several on this long ride.  We followed Shadow Tour protocol to just ignore & shake it off with no reaction.  Was nice to get onto the steep Couser Cyn climb, with almost no traffic.  At the summit, it was still early, around 7:15 A.M. and the temps were definitely starting to warm up and it was clear humidity was onboard for the duration of the ride. We saw a few riders as we descended to Rice Cyn. 

The 5-mile Rice Cyn climb put us well over 5,000 ft of climbing at about mile 70.  Past Rainbow, we made a swift descent into Temecula Valley, where Bob took a monster 6-mile pull on the 3 + 3 Pechange out-n-back, holding 20 - 24 mph the entire way.  We refueled with quick Starbucks turkey sandwiches at mile 86 (thks Bob!).  We began a pleasant tour of Temecula Wine Country on the immaculate wide bike lanes on many of the local surface roads.  As we turned onto Butterfield Stage Rd, we met a local rider named Craig, who joined us for about 45 minutes.  Craig gratiously served as our guide and photographer.  He's planning a transcontinental ride as part of a fund-raiser for Parkinson's Disease, which as afflicted some of his close friends and family members.  On the second lap of Rancho California (Winery Row), Craig suggested we continue past Calle Contento and showed us a very cool Strava KOM Segment.  He blazed up, while Bob & I went into a safe-mode grinding climb.  Over the summit, was a newly completed Anza Road traffic circle.  Just past the traffic circle, we said goodbye to Craig and turned around, making our way back to Calle Contento and back to Butterfield Stage Rd.  By the 11 o'clock hour, temps were way up there.  Bob's Garmin was showing high 90's F, then 100F popped as we reeled in the century point of the ride.

It was a little relief to get back up to Rainbow, leaving the hot Temecula Valley.  We made our way to Fallbrook, then down Misson to Bonsall for a fluid refill at the Arco on Hwy 76.  On the long climb up West Lilac, I remarked that Bob looked way too cool given the difficult heat + humidity, which was causing me to wilt.  Bob is simply blessed with outstanding cooling skills in hot conditions.  As far as I could tell, it looked like he wasn't even sweating.  I actually asked if he was sweating!  Of course, he said yes, but it he sure looked cool in the saddle, riding comfortably with a smooth & steady pace for those 14+ miles all the way up West Lilac and around to Lawrence Welk Rd.  We chopped away at the interminably long Hamburger Hill coming up Lawerence Welk to Deersprings Rd along Interstate 15.  A final fluid top-off at the ARCO station, complete with full bags of Pretzels, and we were all set for the return to the Coast.

It seemed that every mile on Del Dios brought cooler and more comfortable weather.  It was a clear reminder of how lucky we are to live on the Coast.  We rolled at at a high spin through the Golden Miles on San Dieguito Rd.  At the top of El Camino Real, at the Del Mar Heights intersection, I turned into my home at mile 175 and "Wingman" Bob continued back to his home in La Jolla, stretching his total ride distance 187 miles.  It was such a pleasure to ride a challenging Stage 8 with such an experienced long rider.  Many Thanks Bob!

Pachenga Pkwy
                                        Views from near Pachenga Parkway at mile 83
        Pretzel refuel Deersprings ARCO, mile 150
Couser Summit 2     Bob Andrews at Courser Cyn Summit, mile 65
Mt Palomar Winery
                     Bob & Jim at Mount Palomar Winery on Rancho California in Temecula
Go to top of page
Stage 9:  Joined by Dave Bruemmer for today's mega-sized stage in San Bernardino County.  Dave is the 2012 Breathless Agony Race Champion, where he lowered the Course Holder.  Breathless Agony is a brutal 114-mile road bike race with the fearsome 30-mile Onyx Summit Climb as it's final timed segment. From a pure cycling perspective, I could not possibly have had a more appropriate "Wingman".  But even more notable were Dave's sacrifices to join me during an extraordinarily busy time at his Defense Industry company, 5D Robotics, where he serves as Vice President, spearheading fascinating technical controller breakthroughs with robot/human interactions.  The trip also cut short a fun Sunday of body surfing with his family in Pacific Beach to make the long drive to Big Bear Lake.

After several years of having 3 Shadow Tour Stages involving Big Bear Lake, this year, the plan was distilled to just one unequivocal Double Century.  Shadow Tour VIII blasted off with the "4 Kings" Stages, which were 4 Double Centuries on Palomar Mt, each containing 2 summits of Palomar Mt, with their Start/Finish points on the Coast.  The 4 Kings Stages were each 200 miles with 16-17,000 ft of climbing.

Stage 9, "King of Kings", would test the extreme limits of a high-mountain stage design and represented the capstone Stage for this year's mountain climbing.  The stage plan called for a Start/Finish in Big Bear Lake, elevation about 6,200 ft.  The route would proceed from Big Bear Lake, up to Onyx Summit, El 8,443 ft, descend 30 miles to Banning, then climb 25 miles to Idyllwild, continuing to Lake Hemet for the 1st Century, then retracing the route back to Big Bear Lake.  This placed the final climb of the day, the massive 30-mile climb to Onyx Summit, before descending the final 15 miles to Big Bear Lake.

We rolled from Northwoods Resort at 3:55 A.M.  Temps were cool, in the high 40's F.  It was forecasted for 40 F at the top of Onxy Summit, so we both carried arm warmers and jackets.  Dave set a good pace for the first 6.5 miles along the shoreline of Big Bear Lake.  The turn onto SR30 began the 9-mile medium grade climb up to Onxy Summit.  In the darkness, the only points of light were bright stars overhead, which appeared even larger than life in the high elevation and clean air.  At the summit, we had both warmed up, but we stopped anyway to put on extra layers of clothing for the 30-mile descent to Yaciapa.  It was about 5:20 A.M. and daylight was just breaking, so we still relied on our headlights for the early part of the descent.  With the wind-chill, my knees quickly began to feel the freeze.  I had summer weight long finger gloves, so added an extra layer of plastic sandwich bags and that worked great.  Dave led us down for miles and miles and miles.  Occasionally, we'd hit a warm thermal and it felt like we were on a tropical beach.  That would last for about 10 seconds, ha-ha.  As we passed various Parks and Campgrounds, we could smell campfires, even some bacon & coffee.  A few contractor 3/4 ton trucks and pickups passed us on the descent.  Both of us were grateful for the mid-mountain set of roller hills that let us get up out of the saddle and press on the pedals long enough to get the blood moving again.  In the past 7 Shadow Tours, by this point it was always warm enough to strip off the outer layers, but not this time.  The chill persisted all the way to the bottom.

When we hit the last long downhill segment, known as "Damnation Alley", the bike lane is about 15 ft wide and the road is straight as an arrow.  We smoked that segment, even traded some fast pulls.  We were going too fast (for me) to look down at the Garmin, but Dave said he saw 44 mph flash on his.  Our average speed at the turn was 19.7 mph for the first 55.5 miles, the best I've ever done.  Riding through Yacaipa, we saw a couple groups of what looked like High School Cross Country runners.  I remember thinking I wish I could have traded places with them.

In Beaumont, we stopped to top off liquids and shed our outer layers.  The nice lady at the Union 76 Gas Station let Dave leave his jacket there to pick up on our return.  We then made fantastic time on the next 7 miles riding parallel to the Interstate 10 Freeway on Beaumont Ave.  Then came the intimidating left turn onto 243, which began the continuous 25 mile climb to Idyllwild.  That stretch of road has no services whatsoever.  So water management is necessary.  The temps were warming up quickly, but we had made such good time, we were trading off warm temps for higher elevation.  Once again, Dave did the pace making and set a solid pace the whole way.  The 3,000 ft sign appeared quickly.  Took a bit longer for 4,000 and 5,000, but we got them done too.  The 6,000 ft sign is the hardest, because there is a 5 mile roller set before the sign, so we had to re-fight some climbing battles when the slope of the road tilted down steeply for short sections.  Once again, the solid pace kept us ahead of the developing heat and we blew right through those rollers.  Dave cautioned me not to attack, which is something I always have done on that dreaded set of climbs.  So I throttled back, and we smoothed out the pace and made it to Idylwild by about 10:50 A.M. with about 90 miles.  We made a swift descent, then climbed over Keen Camp Summit, and rocketed down to Lake Hemet, our turnaround point.

Interestingly, one might think retracing the route to Big Bear Lake would seem like a re-run, but on this route, the two routes are basically twins with completely different personalities.  Whereas the ride out contained some huge climbs (over 8,700 ft) and covered a full 100 miles, it was a twin with a pleasant personality.  The return trip, however, represented the evil twin.  Still 100 miles, but with 12,000 ft of climbing.  We knew this was the case going in, so we put on a brave face and began the long ride back.  Dave's comment was to just have a "stress-free" climb back to Idyllwild.  And that's exactly what we did.  Once again, Dave set a high tempo pace, but with a wide safety margin the whole way back to Idyllwild, el 5,600 ft.  There, we topped off, and got right back at it.  Made it to Pine Cove, then past 6,000', delt with the roller section with a fairly fast pace, saw the 6,000' sign for the final time and began the 20+ mile descent down to the Banning corridor.  But that time it was past Noon and winds were whipping and buffeting us left and right.  The sky was totally blue and we could easily see the Big Bear Mt across the valley.  Truly an intimidating sight.  Down in the tight S-turns, near the bottom, it became more difficult with the wind, so I slowed down.  I eventually caught up to Dave at the bottom.

We made the left turn onto Beaumont Ave, the road that we fly on hours earlier.  By now the winds were hammering as a relentless frontal assault.  Mercifully, Dave took the lead and we banged away for those awful 7 miles.  About half way, I noticed I was falling off my aerobars to the left.  It was weird.  At first, I though the winds were causing that sensation.  But at a stoplight, I figured it out, the left aerobar had cracked at the seam and was bending left.  Crap!  I use that comfortable position probably 60% of the time. The bar was also connected at a bridge to the right side, so it wasn't possible to remove it.  What a hassel!  My Garmin was also connected to the broken left aerobar.  So I had to shift my weight around and hold the bar in place.  Letting go of it meant the whole thing rattled uncontrollably.  I fashioned a make shift brace using my Night Rider clipon headlight.  It was awkward, but got things stabilized.  All of that happened from mile 146-150.

In Beaumont, we made the right turn onto Oak Glen Rd, the long, gradual climb, that becomes quite steep near the top.  That was the hottest part of the day, around 2:00 P.M.  With my aerobar woes, there was no way to use my normal climbing positions and I could not hold Dave's wheel.  Even with perfect aerobars, I doubt I could have held on with his strong climbing skills on that segment.  Later, we discovered that he posted a KOM (King of the Mt) on that segment in Strava.  Bravo Dave!

As I eventually neared the top, Dave had doubled back to bring me over the top.  I was completely soaked with sweat and definitely was feeling all the fast riding we had done to that point, as well as the previous 8 stages of Shadow Tour.  It was a relief to go over the top and take a long & fast descent on Woodhills.  A few miles later, we were near the big turn onto SR38.  We stopped at the 7-11 and topped off and braced ourselves for the 30-mile climb to Onyx Summit.

The big climb began at mile 154.5 of the ride.  I had 13,000+ ft showing on the Garmin at that point.  It was about 2:45 P.M.  The 6+ mile straight-arrow climb on Damnation Alley was grueling.  Just steep enough to know you're definitely climbing, but not steep enough to gear way down.  One of those maddening in-between climbs.  I did my best to hold Dave's wheel.  Whenever he feel asleep, I'd catch up.  Then he'd wake up, lift the pace and pull away.  We did this several times.  My aerobars continued to deteriorate, eventually separating completely at the weld seam.  What a horror show, but I was sinking into the pity pity anyway, so it was just one more thing to deal with.  At the Big Turn, near mile 7, the slope gets a little more steep, and Dave lifted the pace beyond what I could hold.  We had planned to regroup at Angelus Oaks, and that was only about 4 miles up the road.  That's actually a nice section of the climb.  There are a couple false flat sections to ride faster--which feels good, even if only for a minute or two.  By Angelus Oaks, Dave was already inside the restaurant when I arrived, but he didn't need to wait too long.  The very nice server, brought us Gatorade, Ice Tea, and large pitcher of ice.  She even snapped a couple photos of us.  I'm sure we were wearing our finest Funk Perfume by then, but everyone was still very nice to us.

From Angelus Oaks, it's 19 more gut-busting miles to Onyx Summit.  I told Dave before we rolled that I just wanted to get to the 7,000 ft sign.  We made it though the roller section quite well.  By "We" I really mean "Me".  Dave was fine.  He was very understanding as I wore down.  On the long grinder up to the 7,000' sign, he told me lots of stories to keep me engaged.  I mostly grunted and smiled.  But he kept me in the game.  He would be a great Psy-ops asset in the Special Forces.  By shifting my focus from pain to various anecdotes, I couldn't descend too deep into the Pity Pit.  By this point, Dave's Garmin battery had died, so he was using his Iphone to record the ride for Strava.  But it meant he could not see the elevation and speed, etc, because his phone was in his rear pocket.  Luckily, my Garmin 705 was still working.  It had flashed "Low Battery" in Angelus Oaks, but was still going strong in the late part of the climb.  Dave said that he thought we were past 7,000'.  I informed him that my Garmin read 7,300+ ft, which meant someone had taken out the 7,000' sign, which was a bummer.  At that point, we agreed to focus on making it to the 8,000' ft sign.  So every single time any kind of sign appeared on the horizon ahead I'd ask Dave "is that 8,000?".  But it never was!  Always a "Turnout" or something else.  That long 7+ mile stretch to the summit is absolutely relentless and punishing.  The slope is agonizingly constant.  About the only solace was the beauty of the surroundings and tall pine trees.  I remember seriously asking Dave to "hold 8.5 mph" speed.  D'uh!  He had no way to know what that was without his Garmin.  Plus, what's up with the .5 part?  Who knows.  That's just where my mind was at that near Red Line snapshot in time.  On and on the climb went.  Temps were now cool, so that part got comfortable after sweltering on Oak Glen Rd and Damnation Alley.  Fluids were good, but I was at the point that the only thing that mattered was the finish line.  Dave gave me his last Endurolyte (salt tablet) somewhere near the summit.  He had told me his gloves were covered with Gu, Gatorade, and God knows what else.  Well, when he handed me the tablet, take a guess as to what it tasted like...exactly!

After an Eternity, the 8,000' ft sign appeared.  From there, it's another miserable 1+ mile to the summit.  This is the stretch Dave blazed though earlier this spring on his fabulous Course Record setting victory at the Breathless Agony Race (I finished 5th, 14 minutes behind).  But not this time.  Dave patiently stayed with me all the way to the summit.  He took a photo of me, we donned armwarmers, and made the white-knucked descent to Big Bear Lake about 15 miles away.  A few pickups buzzed and honked at us on that descent, but that was about the only danger.  We had made fantastic time on this ride and I was showing at 15.6 average near the hotel.  A couple stoplights and one minor wrong turn (my bad) took it to 15.5, but still a great time.  We made it to the hotel lobby at 6:38 P.M, nearly 1.5 hrs faster than I expected.  Exhausted, but happy, we made our "Safe Arrival" Calls to loved ones, showered up, and headed out for a nice meal.   Mission Accomplished!

Lake Hemet
                                         Lake Hemet at about 11:20 A.M, mile 100.0
Santa Rosa Mts
                              Santa Rose Mts views toward Idyllwild, Dave to left of photo
Beaumont 76
  Dave & Jim at Beaumont 76 Gas Station 8:45 A.M.
Jim at Onyx Summit
        Jim at Onyx Summit, 5:46 P.M, mile 184.6
Angelus Oaks
                                       Dave & Jim at Angelus Oaks Restaurant, mile 165
Onyx Summit
                          Onyx Summit views toward Big Bear Lake, 5:46 P.M, mile 184.6
Go to top of page
Stage 10:  The final stage of Shadow Tour VIII was an absolute delight.  As a reward, I traditionally have applied excess miles, meaning miles in excess of the total miles of the Tour De France, to this final stage.  With one stipulation:  the stage length may not be less than the LONGEST stage of the 2012 Tour De France.  Since I had accumulated more than enough excess miles, I limited the stage length to 141 miles, such that my final (and shortest) stage would be longer than the longest stage at the French Grand Tour.

I selected a route that offers a mix of climbing and enjoyment and rolled off at 4:01 A.M.  I cycled the long 59-mile, mostly climbing, course to Julian.  I was concerned there would be some over-hang from Monday's difficult 200-mile monster, but that was not the case.  Right from the start, I felt fine.  This is clear evidence that the last stage could probably be anything and it would still feel fine.  The early hours were cool, even chilly in some low areas near the coast on San Dieguito Rd.  When dawn broke, the sky was clear, but temps stayed pleasant all the way to Ramona, where I arrived right at 8:00 A.M. averaging 15 mph. 

As I pedaled along Main St, it struck me that I was riding as if I had wings.  I was wearing a bright yellow jersey, a gift from Robin Gitman, wife of business partner Larry.  Robin presented Larry and I these Yellow Jerseys at the conclusion of the inaugural Shadow Tour in 2004 at the final stage finish line at the La Jolla Cove.  Since then, I have "worn yellow" on the final stage of all Solo Shadow Tours.  Commentators at the Tour De France (Phil Liggett & Paul Sherwin) frequently say the Yellow Jersey gives the wearer an extra gear.  That might be true, because even on the 5.5 mile winding climb up the Old Julian Hwy, I felt incredible.  Adding to the euphoria was the fact that temps stayed cool past the point where heat usually builds.  As an extra happy coincidence, construction crews were laying sealant on the entire length of Old Julian Hwy.  I arrived just in time to squeeze through the road closure and had the entire east bound lane to myself allowing me to enjoy the sights of goats, hawks, and manicured horse ranch pastures.

I briefly stopped in Santa Ysabel, about mile 61 and topped off fluids and had a sleeve of peanut butter crackers and Clif Bloks.  I just needed to make the last 7-mile grinder climb up to Julian then a 7 + 7 mile out-n-back to Lake Cuyamaca.  In past years, I can recall the 7 mile Julian climb taking over 45 minutes, and with lots of effort.  Today, it went by smoothly in about 35 minutes.  Not effort-free, but well within my fitness level.  I didn't stop in Julian, proceeding onward to Hwy 79 for the 3-miler up to elevation 4,700 ft, then on to Lake Cuyamaca for the big Turnaround point at mile 75.5.

At the turnaround, I stopped an took a photo, then back to Julian for bottle of Gatorade at the Julian Market & Deli.  A tourist snapped my Yellow Jersey photo.  All that was left was the 58-mile mostly downhill ride to the coast--one of my absolute favorite routes.  Temps were in the 70's and the sky ahead was blue and inviting.  Not a worry in the world as the miles flew by.  A quick final stop at the ARCO in Ramona, and I was back on the bike for a "Champagne spin" back to the Coast.  Of course, I substituted Gatorade for Champagne, but the feeling was the same.

Down onto Del Dios, I could honestly feel the finish line rushing toward me.  I honestly wished I could have slowed down time.  There was a little extra traffic on Del Dios for that time of day (around noon).  That was attributable to Opening Day at the Del Mar Horse Track.  No worries though.  The rush of wind roared in my ears as I sped down along the San Dieguito river and shortly onto the final five Golden Mile stretch of San Dieguito Rd in Rancho Santa Fe.  The song that accompanied me was "Mr. Brightside", the famous Killers song.  An entirely appropriate song name for the conclusion of Shadow Tour VIII. 

Many Thanks to all who offered encouragement and support along the way.  I thought about every single one of you out on the road.  Your attaboys, Strava Kudos, Facebook Likes, and emails all matter and help.  Thanks also to "Wingmen" Bob Andrews (Stage 8) and Dave Bruemmer (Stage 9), who patiently rode full stages with me, including 4:00 A.M. roll times.  And a special "Thank You" to Mom & Dad, who have always been my biggest fans, even if they don't fully understand all the intricacies of Solo Shadow Tours. I also wish to thank many thousands of motorists who gave some extra space when passing.  The vast number of cool drivers always swamps the very small number of raging drivers.  Helmets off for Sharing the Road! 

Shadow Tour VIII is now safely in the books.  2,167 miles with 162,464 ft of climbing in 19 days.  That's the most climbing ever.  Feels good to finish the full tour four days faster than the skinny pro's in France.  I'm not saying I rode faster, because I was nowhere near their pace.  But I rode it Old School, much closer to the traditions of the original 1903 Tour De France, with 6 X 400 km stages and a 500 km final stage to Paris.  Kickin' in Old School is high on my list of fav's.  Clearly, the fantasy part of Shadow Tour adds to the fun, but I can assure you, riding all those miles is very real and takes genuine effort and commitment.

Sunrise and Cyamaca
                                Near Lake Cyamaca, Sunrise Hwy to left of photo, mile 75
Jim at Finish
           Jim at Finish Line in Carmel Valley
Bicyclist Sign 2
       Near Sunrise Hwy intersection on Hwy 79
Vista Point
                          Vista Point on Hwy 79 about 3 miles from Julian, CA, elevation 4,700 ft
Go to top of page 

2012 Solo Shadow Tour Recap

Total Average Climbing Elev.

Date Day Stage Miles To Date Time Speed Elevation To Date Start Finish

30-Jun Sat 1 200.33 200.33 13:44:11 14.58 17,088 17,088 3:55 6:51
1-Jul Sun
30.15 230.48 1:50:07 16.43 1,800 18,888

2-Jul Mon 2 200.58 431.06 13:27:17 14.91 16,675 35,563 3:51 6:38
3-Jul Tue
29.07 460.13 1:49:59 15.86 1,708 37,271

4-Jul Wed 3 200.48 660.61 13:16:44 15.10 16,115 53,386 3:47 6:40
5-Jul Thu
29.47 690.08 1:52:52 15.67 1,566 54,952

6-Jul Fri 4 200.25 890.33 12:59:06 15.42 16,007 70,959 3:43 6:04
7-Jul Sat
29.06 919.39 1:49:00 16.00 1,819 72,778

8-Jul Sun 5 175.61 1,095.00 10:42:11 16.41 11,658 84,436 3:49 3:51
9-Jul Mon
40.68 1,135.68 2:35:13 15.73 2,781 87,217

10-Jul Tue 6 175.65 1,311.33 11:15:06 15.61 13,773 100,990 4:01 4:12
11-Jul Wed
40.27 1,351.60 2:31:02 16.00 2,445 103,435

12-Jul Thu 7 181.09 1,532.69 10:14:30 17.68 8,500 111,935 4:05 3:55
13-Jul Fri
55.36 1,588.05 3:25:02 16.20 3,545 115,480

14-Jul Sat 8 175.85 1,763.90 11:40:07 15.07 11,422 126,902 3:42 5:10
15-Jul Sun
35.23 1,799.13 2:11:25 16.08 2,143 129,045

16-Jul Mon 9 200.49 1,999.62 12:53:16 15.56 20,762 149,807 3:56 6:38
17-Jul Tue
25.91 2,025.53 1:35:29 16.28 1,767 151,574

18-Jul Wed 10 141.74 2,167.27 8:54:24 15.91 10,890 162,464 4:01 1:29

138:47:01 15.62 162,464 1.3340%

Shadow Tour Recaps

Year of Tour: 2004 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012

Age: 43 45 46 47 48 49 50 51
Miles Ridden: 2,111 2,274 2,222 2,189 2,140 2,267 2,132 2,167
Time: 142:06:00 143:31:33 149:51:55 
Avg Speed Mph: 14.85 15.84 14.83 15.94 16.53 16.75 16.31 15.62
Feet Climbed: 107,460 126,772 134,970 142,891 150,022 155,485 149,887 162,464
Gradiant: 0.8900% 1.0558% 1.1501% 1.2705% 1.3274% 1.2989% 1.3312% 1.3340%
Start Weight: 190 192 200 188 182 180 178 178
Finish Weight: 172 179 186 175 170 167 165 167
Weight Lost: 18 lbs 13 lbs 14 lbs 13 lbs 12 lbs 12 lbs 13 lbs 11 lbs
Flat Tires: 1 1 1 1 2 3 0 2
Days on Tour: 23 23 23 22 22 21 19 19
Participants:  JK & LG Solo Solo Solo Solo Solo Solo Solo

Go to top of page


Jim's 2012 Solo Shadow Tour Background

For 2012, I'll be attempting an 8th unsupported solo replica of the Tour De France (TDF) bicycle race. The TDF is an annual professional bicycle race held in France, with stages crossing into Italy, Spain, Belgium, and England.  The race covers 2,100+ miles in 21 stages in 23 days, with 2 travel/rest days. The 2012 TDF dates are Jun 30 - July 22. My personal version, the "Shadow Tour" starts on Jun 30, covers the same distance, has substantially more elevation, finishes 3 days earlier, and is held entirely in So Cal.  The Shadow Tour includes riding 10 very long stages of 175 - 200 miles, alternating with 25 - 57 mi "rest days".  The 5 x 200 mi stages represent my own spin on the "CA Triple Crown," which is 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 Palomar Mt.  Average speed a low priority with this much climbing, heat, and mileage, but want to keep it above 16 mph. All 7 previous solo replicas were successful (2004, 2006 - 2011). 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 25 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 2011 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.

Go to top of page