Tuesday, November 8, 2011

#102: Borrego Double Century. November 5 2011

This years Borrego Double Century was as epic as epic gets and I don't use that word lightly. It lived up to its name....Borrego Double Ordeal.

The weather played a part on many of the events this year. It was really hit or miss whether we would have a good weather day or not. The weather was forecast as rain on Friday and for plentiful sun on the day of the event and then another storm to come in on Sunday morning.
The forecast was spot on. I knew, having done this event in the past, that it can generally be pretty cold after the climb from Borrego on Montezuma Grade. It was real cold in 2009 when I did it last. That year it warmed up nicely and was warm, sometimes hot, the rest of the day.

I drove up on Friday afternoon and had spotty rain on the way until I reached Temecula. Then it was steady rain and very windy all the way to the summit of Montezuma Grade. The wind was really howling at the top but the view and rainbows were spectacular.
Looking down on Borrego Springs the day before
When I got down the grade to town the wind had subsided some and was not too bad. It was much cooler than in years past though.
I saw my friends Kermit and Clay in the park at Christmas Circle and sat down and talked for a while with them. We then went to dinner and had some great Mexican food. I had the most ginormous burrito you could imagine. Maybe that would keep me warm in the morning, or do something to me that I better not mention here?
We were all waiting for Anny, the ride organizer to arrive. We just finished dinner when she called and we went over to the hotel for the event check-in. We unloaded Anny's van and set up for rider check-in.
I hung out and talked for awhile then I checked in myself, parked my sleeping quarters in front of the hotel and sacked out for the evening at 7:30pm.
During the night the wind came up with a vengeance and woke me up. Then I fell back to lala land. The next thing I knew my alarm woke me up, the moon was out and setting, it was clear, and no wind. It was cold though. I had a couple of cups of coffee and the muffin that Anny gave me the night before, (Thanks Anny), before getting ready to roll.

I found out when I got up from some of the riders that had come in during the night that 6" of snow had fallen on top of the grade. Wet snow they said.

My 102nd double century was to be my last big event of the year. Under the stars on a beautiful morning in the southern desert. 

I started the ride at 4:40am with a few of the riders that I did the White Mountain staff ride with back in September. We had a nice time talking and warming up on the lower, flatter, gradual part of the grade up Montezuma Road.
Elevation in Borrego is about 600 feet, I think, and we had a long climb ahead of us!

I really was not sure how I was going to feel after doing The Deer Creek Death Ride the week before. That ride had some real steep climbing in it but I did not push too hard. It was still tough though. I only rode once during the week so I think I was recovered well.
 I couldn't believe it. The climb up Montezuma was just effortless this time. I just kept a nice steady pace in my middle chain ring and did not feel the need for my granny gear like in years past.
I reached the top, 12 miles later, at an altitude of just over 4,100 feet above sea level still in darkness under the most awesome stars I have seen in years.
I felt like I could reach out and touch the stars on the way up.

I can only say one thing about the top......COLD.... and windy!
Julie and Mike looking pretty cold

Julie Stokes took this pic of me and my friend "The Montezuma Sasquatch"

At the first check point I grabbed some food, put on my jacket and started down the road.
It was right around 29 degrees at the top! I was so cold on the way down I could swear there were icicles hanging off my face. In fact....I couldn't feel my face or move my facial nerves....and nothing on my face would work! I sounded like a drunk trying to talk for about an hour. I was really worried about my eye problem. The cold on my facial nerve just made things worse and I had to keep stopping to put eye drops in because my left eye was just getting frozen and wind blasted again. Shades of the DNF (did not finish), at Death Valley this year came to mind.

I made it down the road to Hwy 79. I could not feel my hands or my face but everything else seemed OK. Lake Henshaw was off to the right and there was a low fog there. We kept seeing cars with snow on them coming from the Julian direction!

Our next turn was on Hwy 76 toward Mount Palomar and along Mesa Grande to our left. We made a turn and climbed Mesa Grande into the freezing fog. On the way up I saw Mike Sturgill from the Phoenix Bull Shifters club.
Mike Cranking up Mesa Grande with his frozen feet
Lake Henshaw and the freezing fog below
 I never prayed for a climb so much in my life. It was cold. The view of the lake below was spectacular at first light as we made our way up.

Foggy Mesa Grande Sunrise
 There was a wonderful sunrise on the mesa as we got close to the top in the freezing fog.

Mike and I rolled up and down on the mesa before a real fast descent back down to Hwy 79. It was sunny now and getting somewhat warmer although still in the low 40's in the sun.
We rolled into check point 2 at "The Julian Pie Shop". My friends Ken Mathis and Clay Sharp were manning the stop. As soon as I got there Clay had a piece of hot Dutch apple pie for me. Yummmy and double yummmmy!!

Clay serving Mike up some Pie!!
I rolled out by myself and turned to the west on Hwy 78 and then Old Julian Hwy. Now we had mostly descending into Oceanside and the beach via Escondido, San Marcos and Carlsbad.
San Diego Wild Animal Park.....Escondido
I arrived at lunch with Mike and a guy I met from Carlsbad, Dave. We got in just before noon.
Oceanside Pier
I  had a sandwich and hit the road by myself. I did not want to stop long.
Leaving the beach at Oceanside after lunch

A couple quick turns and I was on the San Luis Rey bike path out of Oceanside. It was real nice on this day as it was real cool and not too crowded. Our section on the path was about 7.3 miles. I just got into my aero bars for a 20 mph cruise to our return to the roads.
Heading east on the bike path...flying.
This is now one of the nicest sections of the ride. Climbing back up to the foot of Mount Palomar from lunch for about 40 miles, mostly climbing through the coastal hills.
From lunch I was all by my lonesome for a real long time so I had to really focus and make sure I was eating enough in the cool temps. You need more fuel and fat in cold temps and I forget that sometimes.
I arrived at mile marker 137.5 and check point five all by myself. I talked to Anny for a while, got some liquid fuel for my bottles, ate one of my famous peanut butter and honey sandwiches and rolled.
Now comes the grade that always kicked my butt in years past. Cole Grade to the foot of Mount Palomar approaching from the West this time. The last two times I did this ride it was near 100 degrees on this climb and I was toast by the time I got through the steeper section. It is about 9-10% grade at the bottom section which is usually not much of a problem but at this point in the ride it just seemed never ending. It then levels some before the summit.
Cole Grade looking toward Mount Palomar...doesn't look that steep does it?
This time I made it to the top feeling great. It was in the 60's climbing up from Pauma Valley below but my computer was reading the mid 40's on the road when I reached the shady sections after the summit. I was getting chilled already and had to put on my vest and arm warmers already.
The eastbound trek from the summit to Lake Henshaw on the return seemed to take forever with no one to talk to. The view when I got to the lake was awesome and it brought back my spirit and fired me up reminding me why we do these rides. It just puts us out there with this incredible beauty God has created.
Lake Henshaw...PM
After stopping and taking some pics I made my way to the turn on Hwy 79 and back to Santa Ysabel and the Julian Pie Shop.
The sun was now low behind the mountains to my right in the West and it was really starting to cool down. I was now starting another gradual climb along the foot of Mesa Grande, this time on the east side of the mesa. I looked up and saw the most ginormous Bobcat I have seen in my life. It gently walked across the road not 10 yards in front of me.
I did not take this....the one I saw was much bigger
 It had the girth of a large jaguar with no tail and paws so big it looked like some kind of mutant cat. Did I really see this? Yes I did. I was not hallucinating! I knew they could get real big but few have seen the big ones. The many I have seen riding have been smaller ones like the picture above.

Over the top, a blazing fast section then some flats and I was back to Santa Ysabel for the second time. I was the 5th or 6th rider to arrive and I saw Dave from Carlsbad had just gotten there also. Mile 167.3
Check point 6 Santa Ysabel....Picture by Ken Mathis
I started to get the shakes!! I quickly put on my wind jacket, my full fingered gloves, my warm scull cap and had a bowl of hot soup cooked up by my friend Ken and the crew. Ohhhh.....that soup hit the spot....and it warmed me up. For the last stretch I mixed up some coffee flavored Hammer Perpetuam in one bottle. I also put a can of Mountain Dew in my other bottle for an extra Yahooo kick on the climb to come.
I filled my camel-bac about half way with water and Dave and I started up the 7 mile climb to Julian.
Dave and I leaving CP 6.....Picture by Ken Mathis
Sunset in Santa Ysabel
The climb up to Julian is not too bad but it was now getting dark and the darkness sometimes makes it seem like forever to get to a summit. It was getting so cold that huge clouds of fog were coming out of my mouth and showing up in my headlight in front of me. It was real weird! It was in the 30's when we reached the little town of Julian known for its apples. A neat, western looking town.
Julian during the daytime
I stopped for a second with Dave and I put on my helmet light. From Julian we descend on Banner Grade to our turn on Yaqui Pass Road. We descend from over 4,000 ft to about 700 feet in elevation in about 17 miles before going over very easy Yaqui Pass and another descent into Borrego.
Banner grade looking North

Banner Grade looking more South East....we were absolutely flying on that descending straight section at the top.
 The first part of Banner is technical in the dark and can have rock slides so you really have to be careful. The first couple of thousand feet were freezing and I was shaking so bad I could hardly hold my bars steady. Sag driver extraordinaire, Jay Nielsen, kind of leap frogged us all the way to our turn at Yaqui Pass. Thanks Jay!!
Dave and I really hammered when it got somewhat warmer and the roads straightened out some. We made it over the final pass and turned on Borrego Springs road for the traditional last 3 miles of blazing (arrrggghhh) headwinds to the finish. We finished at about 8:30 pm

Thanks first and foremost to Anny Beck who again put on a fantastic event. I still cannot believe that more of my fellow "Triple Crown'rs" do not make this their final event of the year. What a way to finish it off. Spectacular!!!
Not to mention Anny's own....mineral enhanced...electrolyte balanced....drinking water at the stops.

Thanks to all the volunteers without whom these events could not be run. Thanks for being prepared and keeping us warm!!

Start Time: 4:40 am
Finish Time: 8:30 pm
Overall Time: 15.50 hrs

Here is the link to the Borrego Double Website with the results:
All my pictures: www.stephenpaul.shutterfly.com
Route Map:      http://ridewithgps.com/routes/538778


  1. Nice blog post Steve. It was great riding with you, especially after Julian since I was unsure of the route. See you out on the road sometime.

    Dave Nash from Carlsbad

  2. Thanks Dave, Great riding with you too. It was nice having someone to ride with on the last stretch. Did you see the video of us taken by the sag driver on Banner grade?