Report from Ultra Women Susie Degazon
October is think Pink… it is Breast Cancer month, and as I am part of the AVON Breast Cancer Crusade in Puerto Rico I thought I would open up the month with 2 races back to back here in Southern California. So in my trademark Hammer Pink uniform I ended up on an unusually cold overcast morning at La memorial Park in La Canada Flintridge at the base of the infamous Angeles Crest Hyw. Here is my report!
Brr.. It was nippy and I went to sign in Debbie from Planet Ultra asked me if I had any leg warmers…err no was my answer. See it has been really hot here in So Cal so the idea of warm clothing never crossed my mind even though the weather forecast predicted showers and colder temps, so here I was ready for a 100 miler with elevation gain of almost 11,000ft with just arm warmers and a light shell jacket for descents! In terms of extra clothing… thank goodness I had put socks on!
As I set off I soon warmed up as I started to climb Angeles Crest highway, this was in total 11miles to the first check point and I knew I was going to be in for a long day as the first rain storm of the season rolled in and visibility was reduced to almost zero, I could hardly see the white line on the road forget about the beautiful scenery and of course I did not have a red tail light attached to my rear drop out.. The road twisted itself up to finally I was at an intersection called Clear creek which was actually clear!! I enjoyed a descent of a few good miles and a few rollers and finally came upon Upper Big Tujunga road I took a right turn and began an 8 mile climb up to Short cut, this section of the ride was quite pleasant, and I lost a little bit of time looking for the second checkpoint! I refilled my water bottles and took a few endurolytes I was keeping on perpetuem and hammer gel.Boy it was cold but the good news was I had 22 miles of climbing to do to the 50mile turn around so I would warm up very quickly.. Or so I thought!
Now the 3rd check point was at a place called Jarvi Memorial Vista. What I can tell you is that there was no vista! There was also very little in the way of traffic, another indication that conditions that day were not suited to being out in a car never mind on a bike! And that those 22 miles were not all up hill, I felt strong and kept trying to block out the cold, I do not wear an ipod as I like to hear my surroundings, but it was eerie out there.. as elevation rose the storm clouds blew across the road, in patches the sun came out to tease but not for long, soon I saw the first rider making his way back I still had 10 miles to go, as I turned into the final 6 miles the weather became cold and visibility zero, there was a twisting descent and then a sharp uphill to the check point, a rider passed me and I gratefully followed his silhouette he shouted “Tunnels” next thing I knew I was in a tunnel I tried to focus on the light but there was none1 I was surrounded by darkness it totally spooked me out and then the guy in front let out a scream and dodged another cyclist so I screamed to! And nearly lost control of my bike! Finally a haze appeared and we were out of the tunnel only to go under a second tunnel which was not as long. I rolled into the 50 mile turn around, everyone was cold and I was really happy to see that check point! I was the second female to roll in my friend Sarah had just left. I refueled up and decided to spray my legs and back of my neck with Kool n Fit, if anything it made me smell good!I took some of my race Caps and Anti fatigue caps, as it was 25 miles nearly all downhill, I stuffed a plastic bag down my jersey front to keep out the wind chill, and set off once again into the storm clouds. Trying to pick up a little bit of speed was almost suicidal as with speed and wet tarmac my brakes became useless. I was shivering so much that when I approached Newcomb Ranch on my right I thought I would stop and get a plastic bag to keep warm. As I rolled up to the entrance I was greeted with several bikes. I opened the door and there was Sarah and several cyclists all hugging the open log fire, talk about funny, hot tea, coffee and whiskey was being passed around and food was being ordered, it was tempting not to go back outside again but I really needed the miles and if these conditions happen in Hawaii I still have to keep cycling. So I started fashioning plastic bags when another cyclist Amy gave me her jacket, ear warmers and gloves! Wow I thought that was pretty cool and trusting!I gratefully accepted the clothing and after about 30minutes or more I set off into the white clouds.
It was only 13miles to Red Box where I would turn and climb 5 miles to the top of Mount Wilson, yet those 13 miles seemed like 100 miles! I pondered on whether to put my rudy project glasses over my eyes or on top of my helmet, they helped shield my eyes from the rain but I could not see through them! Yet if I did not have them on the rain burned my eyes and I still could not see!! At this point I probably would have paid big money for a red blinkey light on my bike as I felt like a deer waiting to be hit by a car! If I could not see the white line in front of me what little traffic there was on the road definitely would not be able to see me!! I was grateful not to be able to see my polar speedometer, as I knew I was in single digits! Finally the clouds lifted and for 3 miles I was able to ride the bike and turn off for Mount Wilson, cool nearly at the 80 mile mark, then conditions became bad again and the final 4 miles where misery! Then there I was at the 80mile mark, Deborah took one look at me and asked me where my leg warmers where!! You had to laugh I had my photo taken not the normal view of the mountains just white mist and drizzle, the SAG van was full so I rolled down the final 20 miles back to where I was to be picked up. It was not an easy ride the road was narrow in parts and every now and again visibility would clear! My arms and hands were sore from holding the brakes, my eyes tired from squinting but I was happy I had finished the 100 miles. As I waited for my ride I ate a Hammerbar to recover and purchased a pound box of Sees dark chocolate bon bons! Over half the riders had called it quits today and saved there legs to ride another day! Only 57 brave souls had finished and not everyone had done the final 20 down the hill!!
I was really grateful to the female cyclist Amy who had given me her warm clothing to complete the ride! The highlight of the ride had to have been Newcomb Ranch chatting with the other cyclists all of us hugging the fire!!
But the best was raising $700 for AVON’S Breast Cancer Crusade, not getting any flat tires (thank you serfas!) and my Cannondale bike getting me down the mountain safely! and being able to share this report
photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images