The San Diego Randonneurs Coronado 300K promised fantastic riding: from the Pacific Ocean into the mountains, wending up and down little-traveled country roads in San Diego’s southeast country. It also promised some acute suffering: 187 miles with more than 14K feet of climbing. From the SDR description:
“Start in Coronado, head down the Strand bike path and up to Chula Vista, out Otay Lakes Road, over Honey Springs Road, then up to Julian via Descanso Junction, down through Santa Ysabel, and Hwy 67 to Lakeside. Climb up to Alpine, then back over Honey Springs to Chula Vista, then back up the Strand to the finish.”
To anyone familiar with San Diego County’s diverse landscape, this description encompasses some fairly epic climbing built into a scenic tour. The GPS route fills out the ride profile:
I did this ride on a whim. After hitting the wall during the Kitchen Creek 200K (the ride stopped being fun and my riding partners and I bailed out at Mt. Laguna), I decided to forego this 300K occurring two weeks later. Yet, on Thursday night, I saw the forecast calling for unseasonably cool temperatures, and on Friday morning, I began getting my head around the ride. I hadn’t ridden much since Kitchen Creek, but by Friday after work, I decided to give the 300K it a try. My wife taking the kids for a whole day was a generous Father’s Day gift.
I arrived at the start, caffeinated and fed, about quarter to six. The volunteer with the brevet cards was a little late – but we headed out by about 6:15. Given the beauty of the course, I was surprised by the small turnout. Perhaps other folks’ sanity kicked in when they looked at the elevation profile. I’ve heard that brevet participation drops off after the 200K – regardless, we had a great group. As we headed down the Strand, into Chula Vista and up Otay Lakes, I hung back to temper my enthusiasm and allow the other riders to set my pace. We moved past the grip of the marine layer and the sun met us as we began climbing past lovely country.
After the first control, I headed out on my own and made it up Honey Springs and down toward Descanso Junction with my mojo intact. A fellow rider named David on an older fender’d Trek 520 followed me up the mountain, and I followed him into Julian. As the curving road meandered into alpine forests, the weather grew cooler and the views more magnificent. Best of all, I was feeling great, and the majority of the climbing was done. Well, at least on paper. We rode through Julian and into Wynola to stop at an info control – the same orchard we took our daughter to pick apples last summer. There was a huge Blues Bash on property adjacent to the farm, and David and I were both surprised how little road traffic it attracted.
The descent from Wynola was absolutely magnificent. A canopy of oaks and pines provided shade as we gathered some of what we had given in elevation. We made it down to Ramona via Old Julian Highway and I ate half a turkey sandwich, drank some chocolate milk and purple Gatorade® at the control. David talked about feeling especially good, and I encouraged him to charge ahead and go for a good time. I this was at mile 106, and my body began to enter “limp home mode.” This is a feature of the old Volvo red-block motors that allows you to slowly get home despite mechanical failure. I was going to finish this ride, and finish slowly if I had to. Before leaving the control, two fast riders came in – the only two who were ahead of us. Puzzled, we asked why the heck they came into the control later than we. Harper, one of the riders, said that they missed the turn onto the 79 at Descanso Junction, and rode an extra 14 miles. That’s a tough pill to swallow on a 300K! As Harper settled into his slice of pizza, I headed out after David, who began to disappear in the distance.
The next few sections were not that fun. Descending into Lakeside was thrilling, but the heat and traffic through the town added to the suffering. Then a long climb up old Highway 80 into Alpine, were I stopped into the control at Carl’s Jr. and found David digging into a meal. I ordered some fries and the cheapest burger on the menu. I couldn’t bring myself to take more than a bite of the nasty burger, but the fries were excellent. Harper soon arrived, followed by Osvaldo. We chatted, and then I headed off for the most difficult climb of the day – up Jacumba Rd. Before I left, I got a good look at the bikes, and they really do show the variety of randonneuring equipment.
Jacumba was brutal. I took it slow, but never had a breakdown – just settled into the rhythm of pedaling. Up over the final crest to Lyon Springs and mostly rollers. When I came to Honey Springs, there was a little more unanticipated climbing (!), then a magnificent downhill to Otay Lakes and into Eastlake. I’ve never been to the McMansions and malls that make up this part of town, but it really felt like Saturday night – people cruising with their radios loud, and so many people out driving on the wide thoroughfares that make up newer parts of Chula Vista. As darkness fell, I rode through working-class Chula Vista and was delighted by all the children playing outside and the little food stands that spring up after nightfall. I stopped at a gas station for batteries and some peanut butter cups before making my way toward the Harbor and up Silver Strand. I was fourth to finish, and it felt phenomenal.
My pinky fingers are still numb as I type this – but I feel great. The Romulus performed spectacularly, and the ride offered just a few lessons:
• I love my small chainring!
• Swrve’s windbreaker saved the day. It was cool in the morning, warm during the day – but the night ride back through Eastlake was darn right cold. I could have used gloves! The windbreaker, stuffed in my jersey pocket for most of the ride, was a lifesaver. My Bouré SPF long-sleeve jersey kept me cool and protected, and my Ibex wool knickers worked as well as they always do.
• Real food is always good on an brevet, but this Hammer stuff really helped me. I used two bottles of Perpeteum for my calories during the first two hours, and stayed on a schedule of two Endurolyte pills every hour. I think it really helped!
I came home and fell asleep on the sofa in my riding clothes, reflectors still wrapped around my ankles. I thought about my family for most of the ride, and I enjoyed Father’s Day with a day’s full of good thoughts and feelings behind me. A good day!