Yesterday, Juliette threw Andy a surprise birthday party. When I got the invite earlier this week, we were told to not park in the driveway, because that would tip him off. Somehow this made me think I should ride my bike there, which is pretty crazy because it's a 45 minute drive by car. But the idea stuck in my head, so I tried to find somebody who'd want to do the ride with me. Paul has apparently abandoned his throw-down rule, but I was able to convince Nathan to come along.

I planned a route using gmap-pedometer, and then revised it a little based on somebody else's route I found on the web. Turns out to be right about 50 miles. The rest of the week I spent getting increasingly worried about what I'd gotten myself into. So far this year I've been biking about 24-36 miles per week, with a longest ride of 15 miles. My longest ride ever is only 25 miles. Nathan has recently done a 30 mile ride, but hasn't been riding as consistently as I have. We figured we were both equally unprepared. To make things worse, I injured my left knee just a little on Wednesday, and my back seemed to just be tightening up on Thursday/Friday.

Saturday morning I woke up to an achy back, but after a hot shower and stretching it seemed to be merely a bit tight. Nathan arrived just after 1, and I was ready with some printed maps, directions, water, gatorade, and some snacks. We headed out the door after putting air in our tires. Half a mile later we were stopped at a traffic light when my rear tire went flat. I didn't really want to use the only spare tube I had with me so early on, but luckily we were close by a bike store. We walked over there, where I purchased a new tube and used their pump to replace my flat one. After this delay, we finally started our long bike ride.

After a short while we had to get on freeway 101. Neither of us had ridden on it before. I was a bit concerned how it would go. It wasn't a problem. The shoulder is large, with a dedicated bike path painted in. There was one dicey part where a car was stopped on the bike path, forcing us onto an actual freeway lane, but it worked out alright. The stretch was only 4 miles long, after which we got off onto a regular road. What we had noticed on the freeway was a 15-20mph tailwind, which allowed us to ride much faster than we had planned. This tailwind would be with us for most of the day.

In Ventura we hit a multi-use path that led us along the beach. It was pretty crowded with pedestrians and other cyclists, but slowing down just let us enjoy the scenery more. It was really nice to see this part of Ventura that I hadn't known about. A bit later we turned onto Harbor Blvd which was less scenic, but still enjoyable to ride on. Near the end of Harbor we reached the half way point of our trip, and turned into a park to take a break. There were several people flying kites in the park, including a few with huge tails. The kites provided a nice visual reminder of how strong our tailwind actually was. While stretching I noticed my back was fairly tight, but it didn't bother me while on my bike. My knee had been holding up well. I'd only felt it once or twice. About 20 minutes after we stopped, we resumed our journey.

We said goodbye to the ocean, and headed more inland along a road that was marked as a scenic drive. I suppose the person who did that considered strip malls to be scenery. A few turns (and quite a few miles) later we were biking through farmland, which could be considered scenic. We saw fields with a variety of produce, and even some filled with flowers. After passing route 1, the scenery became more wild. Not much later we reached mile 40, which meant the bottom of the only climb on the route. So far the road had been as flat as you could wish for, but no more. The elevation profile of our route promised a climb of 1000 feet in 4 miles.

Nathan and I were both feeling remarkably good, but going up it was evident that our muscles weren't rested. The climb started out fairly shallow, but that just meant it would be steeper in the end. It was in fact steeper in the end. Once it got steep I stuck to my lowest gear, heading up the hill at 5mph. Nathan had a harder time than I did, because his lowest gear is nowhere near as low as my lowest gear, but we both made it up. After a short rest at the top, we enjoyed our downhill reward. A few short rollers later, we turned off the main road. After a short sprint up the last hill, we arrived at our destination. I was very pleased to discover I could do a sprint up that last hill, and that I really didn't feel that bad. I was tired, and my back ached the rest of the night, but that was all to be expected. We spent a 3:06 hours biking 50 miles. Add to that our 20 minute rest stop, and some other random stoppages, and we finished the journey in bout 3:30 which is half an hour than I expected to go with my optimistic estimate. Thank you tailwind!

Today my back aches, but not much more than I expected it to, given the way it's been the last few days. My muscles are barely sore at all. I haven't done anything active today, but right now I feel like I could do another 50 miles.

While I'm happy and proud to have completed the 50 miles, it is sobering to think that my ride is barely a blip on the Race Across America route, which 29 hardy individuals started today.