Tour de Palm Springs 100: The only ride where I finished with sand in my ears

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Event link: Tour de Palm Springs 

The ride

I rode George (my tri-bike).  Decided at the last minute on George over Pedro (my road bike with a storied history).  Did a 56-miler the weekend before on Pedro and he wasn’t fitting right – knees were a little sore.  Time for a refit I think.  Figured that even with some pack riding, George would work out fine.  Plus after a short time on century rides, the riders get pretty strung out which makes aero a viable option.

The first 10 miles included a 35-40 mph cross and head wind, with gusts north of 45.  Wow. Had sand kicking up and pricking me in the legs like little needles. Took about an hour to go the first 12 miles.  Then we had a little downhill, followed by a slow gradual ascent with the cross and head wind.  Took up 2 hours to go 25 miles.  A little slower than the scheduled 18mph moving pace.  We knew the first 20+ miles would be slow because it was a climb, but jeez…  Saw people bailing and heading back to town by mile 3 or 4.  I just tried to chill, lean into the cross-wind, and kept my heart rate below 130.  Figured I’d be fine.

At mile 10, we had the first 2-3 mile descent – straight decline with smooth roads where you can plain bomb it. Very glad to had George instead of Pedro for the ride at this point. (Sorry Pedro)

There was a SAG around mile 20 and 35 where we stopped briefly for a bio break and to top off water and fuel.

At mile 40, a section of rollers ended and then had a 10 mile decline with clean roads where you barely pedaled. I hit 45mph and was more than 40mph consistently. We averaged 35mph+ on this stretch.  Finished this section at mile 50 at a rest stop.  Feeling pumped to be half done, Leo was still feeling the affects of a lingering cold.  We took a few minutes, got some lunch, and powered up.

The next stretch from mile 50-72 was the longest stretch without a rest stop.  They had one at 72 and 86 – would have been better at 65, then 84, then the finish.  This stretch was mostly pretty open road.  Some cross-wind, some head wind, some tail wind.  I hit a really nice groove here and did some pulling with a pack.  A few small groups of 3-5 riders got together for a loose 20-rider pack – not a really pelaton, but plenty to help eat up windy miles with drafting.  The wind died down to 10-15mph by now and I was feeling really good – happy with my nutrition plan (Perpetuem, Endurolytes, Clif bars, water).  

At the mile 72 SAG, we found a convenience store to get some Motrin and Coca-cola for Leo.  That seemed to jumpstart him a bit.  We pushed through and found another couple of riders to get lost with.  (Poor course markings – see below under “Ride Organization.”).  Lots of lights and turns – very unpleasant after the open road of the desert.  

One last SAG stop at mile 86 then the finishing segment.  We had a couple of team riders around us that were itching to do some racing.  A couple guys took off around mile 92 – bobbing and weaving with each other.  Smaller groups were off and back.  I caught for a bit to see if the weeknd tri-guy could keep up with the real cyclists.  I did catch them, then fell back with Leo and Sal – rather ride with them then finished solo with a couple of random dudes that would have killed me in a straight race.  (Maybe…)

We saw 3-4 crashes in the last 20 miles – ugh.  I think a few people were tired, plus the wind caught them.  No one looked seriously hurt – just some bumps and bruises.  I did see a single older gentleman down on the road by himself.  Help was already there.  I thought maybe he conked or flipped on a bump.

The finish was nice – through a gate with cheerleaders and a band playing.  T-shirt right away. Lena was standing at the corner at the last stop light a block from the finishing gate to get a picture or two.  We took a few minutes on the grass to regroup and talk about the ride together while snapping pictures. Because we missed a couple of turns, my Garmin was reading 97.5 miles.  Leo’s was showing 99.1. After the finish, we rode our bikes back up the Shilo Inn to get clear over the 100 we needed – sadly enslaved to random numbers.

Felt great just after and the day after. Even went for a five mile run on Sunday.  Very little soreness or back pain, which is unusual.  Extremely happy with my early season fitness.  Could be a good year, even without an Ironman.  I’m thinking of a few more Century Rides and still have the ultra-marathon on my brain.  If all goes well this year, that will be good base development for Ironman-Australia in March 2013.

Travel Logistics
  • We originally planned to drive 8 hours on Friday from Davis, then the ride on Saturday, then 8 hours back on Sunday. 
  • Instead, we left Davis Thursday night at 6:30pm.
  • Drove 4 hours to Buttonwillow (near Bakersfield), stayed at the Econo-Lodge.  $55 for the night. It was clean and had a Starbucks at the exit.
  • Drove the rest on Friday AM.  Two route options that are equidistant from this point.
Option 1: Straight south from Buttonwillow on I-5 to Pasadena, then east to Palm Springs via 210.  Leaving in the AM and hitting LA rush hour traffic seemed silly.

Option 2: Drive east from the Buttonwillow exit through Bakersfield on CA-58, then to US-395 south, picking up the interstate far east of LA in San Bernardino.  We took this route.  Saw all kinds of interesting landscapes and farms, including very un-Napa-like grape farms and a 4000 peak over the pass down into the San Gabriel Valley.  Definitely recommended.
  • Stayed at the Shilo Inn – Palm Springs.  Got an early check-in before 1:00pm. Nice big rooms and a courtyard with two pools – real pools where kids were have tons-on-fun. Recommend second floor rooms and the ceilings are a little thin and you can hear people above walking around. (Yes, I had us moved…).  It is about 1.5 miles from the downtown/uptown stretch of Palm Springs.
  • After the race, we went back to the Shilo Inn. We checked out already, but there is an outdoor shower in the pool area and a bathroom, so you could at least rinse off.  I didn’t plan accordingly, but good to know…
  • We grabbed dinner with our cycling mates at Kings Highway Diner (awesome desserts) then hit the road via the Interstate and Pasadena, up I-5 back to Buttonwillow and the Econo-Lodge.  Took less than 4 hours to get there, including a rest for gas and coffee.  
  • Up at 7am, on the road by 7:30, Starbucks in hand, and home in Davis by noonish.
Random things I saw/did this weekend
  • Fighter jet flying around at Edwards Air Force base
  • The towns of Mojave, Boron, and Buttonwillow
  • A $5 Arabic coffee after lunch on Saturday at Ignition Coffee in downtown Palm Springs that was AWESOME.  Never had a straight up Arabic coffee before. Yum Yum. Very good Mediterranean food too.
  • Bill Walton, NBA Hall of Famer.  Bumped into him at the 1st and 2nd SAG stops. He’s really tall and stopped to take a picture with a volunteer.  He didn’t appear stoned.
  • A couple getting married at the post-ride expo area after the ride.
  • A cow eating a piece of paper while standing in a field off of I-5
  • The cattle farm off of I-5.  Almost makes me want to me vegetarian.  Almost.
  • An exit on CA-99 when we missed the split to stay on I-5 on Saturday night, and Route 132 between I-580 and I-5 when we missed the split on Sunday morning. (note: I wasn’t driving on either occasion.)
Ride/Host Organization
  • The course opens at 6:30am and there’s plenty of light.  We started at 7am and I wish we would have started earlier to catch the red and orange sky sunrise.
  • The expo was open all day on Friday until 9pm. I got my wrist-band that night after dinner – it took all of two minutes.
  • The people of Palm Springs seemed very nice and supportive of the race.  I’m sure this is a big weekend for the local economy, and given that we saw billboards driving into Palm Springs like – “Jumpstart the economy – buy her some bling” – they are suffering and needed the jolt.
  • Absolutely the best SAG stops I’ve every had.  They had 20-50 volunteers as “bike holders.” They stood there and said – “I can hold your bike” – and they did while you used the bathroom and got some food.  Totally gnarly.  
  • Then, there were tens of volunteers at multiple tables handing out food. Every stop had PBJ, trail mix, Clif Bars, Peanut M&Ms (my go-to choice), endless bottles of water and drink mix.  
  • Good number of Porto-Johns.  Never had to wait more than a few minutes in a long line – moved quickly.
  • Saw lots of SAG wagons along the way helping with flats and monitoring the course.
  • In the course areas closer to town, there were police directly traffic at intersections.  Would have liked to see more of this from the mile 72-90 stretch.
The Course

The first 72 miles were awesome. Riding through the desert, past Joshua Tree State Park, and lots of challenging head and cross winds, followed by tail winds that pushed me to 45 mph on the downhills.  The last 28-30 miles were pathetic.  Winding through the town with constant stop lights and incredibly poor course markings. We missed turns 3-4 times and had to double back. And it wasn’t just the three of us. There were packs of 5, 10, 30 riders off course.  This easily added an hour to the ride.  We should have been done at 2:00, but instead rolled into town close to 3:00pm.  Very frustrating while you’re on mile 84 and realize you’ve gone a mile the wrong way and have to sit through 3 lights to get back on course.  I won’t do this ride again because of this.

The ride is $60 plus $5 online payment fee.  Pretty cheap for all that you get at the SAGs. But still, the poor course markings and turns through the city were a real drag.  We were at mile 72 at 12:15, which is excellent timing to get down by 2pm – our goal.  That would be 18mph average plus an hour total at SAG stops.  Intead, it took more than 2.5 hours to go the last 28 miles on mostly flat roads in groups.  Just a drain and very frustrating. 

Finally

A thank you to Leo and Sal for getting me off my tail over the winter months to ride.  We’ve had spectacular weather in Sacramento this winter and I’ve been getting in the rides I should be getting in.  It’s not Ironman training, and for that, I’m thankful.  Dinner at Spencer’s on Friday night was excellent. Nice choice.

And most importantly, an ENORMOUS thank you to Lena – wife and sherpa.  She was happy to do the rode trip even with less than two months to go before the two of us become three.  She’s a trooper and continues to support my lust for endurance events.  

I saw what I wanted to see and rode in the desert – no need to do this event again. Though, I would go back to Palm Springs for hiking and running trails. Reminded me a little of Tucson.
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