LKHC MegaMonster Enduro, 102 Mile TT
February 9, 2008
February 9, 2008
If one were driving on the desolate stretch of Hwy 198 between San Lucas and Coalinga and turned North onto Hwy 25 one would see a sign which would make any motorist a little nervous; the sign says, “Next Services 51 Miles.” That sign marks the turn-around point for the Low Key Hill Climb (LKHC) Mega Monster Enduro time trial and the services it alludes to is a small Mom and Pop store in the town of Paicines, the time trial’s starting point. Some may know this town as the start of the Panoche Road Race, but instead of East on Panoche Rd., the MegaMonster Enduro heads South on Hwy 25. There is not much civilization on that stretch other than the road, which is in fair condition, the turn off for the Pinnacles State Park, and the miniscule town of Bitterwater, which was also the first checkpoint and the turn around point for a 100 km TT which was run at the same time. On the 102 mile course there is 5220 feet of climbing in a series of rolling hills, the highest climb being about 500 feet and the steepest section about 8%. The 100 km course has 3820 feet of climbing and encompasses the same hills as its longer sister, but misses out on a long steady 1% slope between Bitterwater and Hwy 198.
The event flyer requested that faster riders start after 9:00 in order to avoid getting to the checkpoints before they were manned. I figured that did not apply to me since my goal was to finish in just under six hours, so I started at 8:14. When I arrived at the start point a rider on an HPV was just leaving and I watched him vanish over a distant hill as I signed in and was assigned number 6. By using advanced math techniques such as subtraction, I was able to deduce that there would be five riders in front of me. I didn’t do a pre-race warm up because, hey, who warms up for an endurance event, so I was kind of cold with arm and leg warmers but no jacket. The chilled feeling passed quickly once I started, but it remained cool enough to keep the warmers on for the rest of the race; luckily there was no rain despite the early February date.
It felt good to be tucked in on my clip-on aero bars and cruising along, so I had to hold back and pace myself. After about ten miles the first climb started and, almost immediately, I caught and passed the HPV that had started just before me. A couple of more climbs and I passed another rider. The most exciting part of the ride was just before Bitterwater on a descent where I went into the one and only sharp corner on the course at about 40 mph and found that it was a declining radius so I leaned the bike a lot harder than I felt comfortable with, prayed that there was no frost, and just managed to stay on my side of the yellow line. Bitterwater was at the bottom of the hill and I blew through it at 30 mph; the volunteers at the checkpoint were busy setting up their tables and I yelled out my number without slowing, hoping they had heard me. The next 19 miles to the turnaround was a steady, but gentle slope with a few rolling hills tossed in. As I got near the turn around point I passed the time by wondering when I would see the first of the three riders who should have been in front of me coming the opposite direction; the longer I had to wait the better. According to my cyclometer, I was getting close to the turnaround but still no riders. Finally I could see Hwy 198 up ahead but still no riders and no check point. A car had just pulled over at the “Next Services” sign, about 200 yards short of the intersection, and as I passed the driver got out and yelled at me that this was the turn around point. By the time I slowed and turned around I had added 100 yards to my 102 mile ride – oops. I told the official my number and asked about the other three riders. He said that I was the first and that he had just gotten there. It was 11:00 and I was 15 minutes ahead of my projected pace. I had figured roughly equal times coming and going since the turn around was 600 feet higher than the start, but there would be a head wind going back. I found out later that riders 2 and 3 were on a tandem and their start was delayed due to a mechanical problem and that the race coordinator was racing and had assigned himself the number one, but started late. So that made me the first rider at all the checkpoints and put me in the position of being able to see all my competition as I rode back and guessing which ones would pass me on the return. The first rider I went by was the last one I passed on the climb before Bitterwater. I saw him after about a mile, which meant that he was two miles back. I started seeing lots of riders after that, including some pretty effective looking teams. A team of four Webcor riders went by at about five miles; I figured they would come roaring by me in about thirty more miles.
When I got back into Bitterwater I filled my water bottles. They didn’t have exchange bottles, but there were water jugs on tables on the shoulder of the road so it only took a couple of minutes before I was off again. Soon after Bitterwater and going up the first hill on the return, I started passing riders who would have to have been in the 100k race since I was at the head of the 100 mile group. It was very strange to be passing the 100k riders with ease and not to have the Webcor train fly by. The last ten miles were rollers about 100 feet tall and at the top of each hill I could see about a mile in front and behind me and there was no one in site; a 102 mile TT can get kind of lonely. I was really starting to feel the saddle at that point and had to sit up, out of the aero position for the last twenty minutes despite a headwind. I rolled into Paicines the first 100 miler to finish. I had finished in 5:26:08 with an average speed of 18.8 mph and, as I was not to find out until the results came out two months later (http://megamonster.lowkeyhillclimbs.com/results.html) , in 5th place. The best times were 5:01:42 for an individual, 5:08:33 for an HPV, 4:57:12 for a tandem, and 5:04:07 for a team. I was really pleased with my time, having finished over half an hour faster than I had hoped. Also, I finished only a minute behind Dan Connely, a major competitor in the LKHC hill climbs and way out of my league on the climbs; he looks to be about 135 pounds compared to my 180 which supports the adage that big guys like me should be time trialing rather than hill climbing.
Both SJBC and Webcor had four man teams representing them, taking first and second in that order. Looking toward next year, I think this is the sort of challenge that Bike Trip can’t turn down. Bike Trip excelled in the LKHC hill climb series and they can do the same in the TTT. The event is held in the middle of the base mileage riding period so doing the long distance fits right in. So, next year, I’m hoping to convince three other Bike Trip members to join me in breaking the five hour barrier and trouncing the SJBC and Webcor teams.