My name is Byron Beck, and I am a Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition board member. I represent the Santa Barbara Century to the coalition. I am also an SB Century board member. Every year, the Century provides a great venue and raises funds for a number of nonprofits around Santa Barbara and the world, SB Bike and Sports Outreach to name a couple.
My first “job” as a Century board member in 2010 was to bring support to the different aid stations along the route, and when the last riders had gone through the stations, I was to pick up all the tables, chairs, extra equipment, pop-up shades, extra food and water, and so on. All of this, along with having just flown twenty-six hours after traveling around the Middle East visiting friends from Lebanon, Jordon, and Israel. Needless to say, I was running on empty.
The one thing that kept coming to mind was how extraordinary this ride actually was. The hundred-mile ride takes cyclists along one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, climbing up Toro Canyon, Ladera Lane, and then up Gibraltar, known in the bicycle world as the Alpe D’Huez of California. All of this climbing adds up to 9,000 feet plus of elevation gain, a feat that I really wanted to try. After the first year shakedown of board meetings, I let it be known that, if I were to continue working with the SB Century as a board member, I would have to ride it the next year, just to see for myself if it was what its cracked up to be. So the next year, I trainedundefinedwell I rode a little, doing some hills and some longer rides, you know thirty miles or soundefinedand then thought I was ready. Now mind you, for the previous five years, I had been racing mountain bikes for Platinum Mountain Bike Team. Yes I realized my training had fallen off “just a little,” but I didn’t realize how much until the day I rode it. When I woke up the day of the ride, the weather was foggy and rainy. I suited up in the appropriate gearundefinedleg warmers, arm warmers, and vestundefinedand filled two water bottles. A few days earlier, I had been talking to one of my “younger” riding buddies, and he had said that he was going to ride with a big group and that he was sure that I could hang with them, no prob.
It turned out to be quite a big prob, because when I went out with them at 7:00 a.m., in the dark, we were averaging around 23 to 24 miles an hour. That is about 5 more miles an hour than I usually do. Basically, by the time I reached the first hill, around thirty-five miles into the ride, I was cooked. I was already hurting, and I hadn’t even got to the first serious hill climb. So I stopped at the aid station and crammed in some food, a lot of it, before hopping back on my bike. Over the next few miles, I began to wonder, Am I gonna really make this thing? Then, I started to climb Gibraltar, and the dreaded it happenedundefinedcramps. Cramps, cramps, and more cramps. For the next three hours, I tried with all my might to work through them, but with no luck. I was engaged in what was, by far, the most difficult mind game I had ever played. When I got to the bottom of Painted Cave and stopped at the next aid station, I realized I needed more food. I ate three sandwiches and two bags of potato chips and downed two cokes.
As I rode the rest of the miles to the finish, I struggled like never before. It was by far one of the greatest challenges I have ever done. The great lesson? Pace, eat, and hydrate constantly. This year? Well, we’ll just have to see if the ole body will be ready.