“What’s the Solvang Century?”

Years ago, before a bicycle was on my horizon, a colleague mentioned that her husband was riding “the Solvang Century”. I asked, and found out that it was this really hard, 100-mile bike ride, way up in Santa Barbara County, in this quaint little Danish village. It sounded very European and very intimidating. She trained (in 10 weeks) and ran the LA Marathon after her husband bet her $5000 that she couldn’t, so I knew this was hard-core.

Flash forward a couple of decades, and after completing a couple of flattish 100-mile rides, and some hilly “metric centuries” (100 kilometers, 62 miles)… in particular the Solvang Prelude… Well, after I dragged the domestic partner into cycling, he kinda trained (rode up Nichols Canyon once in a while) and agreed to do that ride with me. He’d never ridden farther than 20 miles, and he did fine. In fact, when we finished, he asked, “When can we do that again?”

Which explains why we had really low jersey numbers for this event.

So, he kept going out for the occasional climb up Nichols Canyon. I joined a training group with Happy Hour Body. Kate had ridden a solo, unsupported trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles over the summer, so I knew I was in good hands. And, it looked like fun.

And, it was fun, from our first training ride

20130310-095409.jpg all the way to packet pick up Friday night


We visited the coliseum

20130310-095641.jpg and Franklin Canyon

20130310-095717.jpg and a host of other, less photogenic, sites.

We got matching gel nails

at Plush Beauty Bar.

We had a flat tire clinic at I. Martin20130310-095823.jpg for which I am truly grateful.

Here’s a screen shot of the interactive route map Screen shot 2013-03-10 at 10.49.43 AM

And the highlights:

Mile 2 – Ostriches? Ostriches! Ostrichland!

Mile 8 – Pinch flat! Despite our fabulous flat clinic, there’s video footage proving that I used my pre-flat clinic technique: look cute and someone else will do the dirty work for me.

Mile 22 – a screaming downhill into Lompoc. I’m pretty sure the bike got up to 35 mph. It wasn’t the steepest descent of the day, but we were on a rough shoulder with cars going twice our speed on the road beside us.

Mile 23.2 – as we cruised into the first rest stop, a man looked at my bike and uttered, “oh my god”. My road bike is a sexy beast, so I’m used to it. What surprised me was the sight of a pristine version of my bike in his hands. He mentioned that Jim Allen had reprinted it. It was so beautiful. I’m still not sure why I didn’t take a picture.

Mile 23.3 – Lompoc Wine Ghetto

I thought, “in two hours, this will be an epic rest stop.” After the harrowing descent, I needed a drink…

Miles 26.2-33.7 – if you look at the route elevation, it looks downhill. The headwinds suggested otherwise. The domestic partner was beyond drafting reach… and beyond earshot. For those 7.5 miles I had my hate on.

Mile 34 – Vandenberg Air Force Base. The base hasn’t been part of the Solvang course since 9/11. We needed photo ID and wristbands to get on the base. Lots of young airmen and women keeping us safe.

Mile 35 – the first major climb of the day. I go all out, expecting an equal and opposite descent at the summit, and am met by a wind tunnel. It was only six miles to a roller coaster loop of a few peaks and valleys, but I spent most of it noting all the riders from Team in Training and Train 4 Autism and realizing that what some of choose to suffer when we ride is nothing compared to the suffering the people we ride for haven’t chosen.

Mile 43 – I decide that if the sexy beast survives LL505050 intact, I’ll pay for her Jim Allen facelift.

Mile 54 – I overhear another rider say, “You know those headwinds you’ve been cursing all day? They’re about to have your back.”

Mile 55 – the headwinds have our back.

Mile 68 – a double hill that was so tiring that we passed the source of grapes for our 2012 Pinot Noir, without a stop for a photo op. This is what it looked like before dawn, the day our grapes were harvested.


I finally took off my windbreaker and cap; the domestic partner stripped off his thermal, discreetly turning from the road so as not to distract riders mid-climb.

Mile 77 – the battery on my iPhone quits. No more Strava. 2400 feet of climbing will go unverified.

Miles 77-90 – a long, hard climb that, if you don’t look at the elevation part of the route map, you don’t realize is a climb until very near the end. I vaguely remembered this as a flat road that gave me a hard time on the AIDS ride 20 years ago, and subsequent decades of visiting the wineries of Foxen Canyon haven’t dimmed that memory, nor the recollection of someone telling me in camp that night that the road wasn’t flat. I clung to that memory, knowing that big climbs were lurking at the end of the day.

Mile 91 – the wall.

Mile 92 – top of the wall. Woo hoo! No more climbing, according to some guy who was riding with us for most of the really long climb that preceded this. This strikes me as odd. I seem to remember one more climb on the map, some switchbacks near Los Olivos we rode on the prelude in November. Oh well, downhill it is.

Mile 92.1 – something is making a weird noise.

Mile 92.3 – it’s on my front tire.

Mile 92.3 – I should stop. I alert my fellow riders.

Mile 92.4 – I can’t clip out. Uh-oh.

Mile 92.5 – the final rest stop. Mad props to the tech from Cycle World who helped me unclip and made sure I was road-worthy for the home stretch.

Miles 92.6 – 97 – Whee!

Mile 97 – I KNEW that hill with the switchbacks was lurking! [expletives deleted]

Miles 100 – 104 – WHEEEEEEEEEE!

Rolled across the finish line at 4:20.




What’s the Solvang Century?

104 miles of awesome!