Sunday, February 8, 2015


For the last three years I've considered joining my triathlon coach, Chris Hauth, on a multi-day ride down the California Coast. This year, I bit the bullet and took on the challenge. We planned to ride more than 400 miles in four days.  It was fully supported by SAGMonkey including: catered meals, SAG vans, stocked aid stations, bike mechanics, massage therapist, and luggage transport. “A spa vacation on wheels.”
Photo by Doug Thralls

SAG is an acronym for “Support And Gear” or “Support And Grub.” A SAG wagon is also known as a “Broom Wagon:  A support vehicle following a group of cyclists in a race, tour or recreational ride that may carry equipment, food, rider luggage, or mechanics. May also pick up riders unable to continue.” What it amounts to is all kinds of help along the route and I ended up using it all. The ride was even more challenging than I had anticipated.

There were 27 riders ranging in age from their 20s though 50s, plus two who joined for one day each. Riders came from as far away as Florida and there were six women (+2 one day each) and 21 men. Most of the riders were triathletes although a few were strictly cyclists. Everyone rode road bikes rather than tri-bikes. When I wasn't with the big group or on my own, I mostly rode with Liz, Nancy or Carolyn all who I know from San Francisco.

Day 1: San Francisco (or Marin County) to the Marina Holiday Inn which is just outside of Monterey.
116 mi, 4,700 ft. of climbing -
Day 2: Marina to the Morro Bay Comfort Inn, through Big Sur. 132 mi, 8,600 ft. of climbing -
Day 3: Morro Bay to the Pacific Suites in Goleta, just north of Santa Barbara. 118 mi, 5,200 ft. of climbing -
Day 4: Goleta to the finish at The Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica.  97 mi, 2,700 ft. of climbing - (as planned without Hwy 1 being closed)

Fresh and rested, ready to start (top)
My sliced tire (bottom)
DAY 1: My friend Liz and I started the ride from her house in San Francisco at about 8:00 am; as usual it was cold and foggy. The rest of the group was meeting at the Golden Gate Bridge at 8:45. We figured we needed a head start and didn't really need those extra miles. After about the first 25 miles, I ran over a small piece of broken up saw blade (among several pieces scattered in the roadside shoulder) and sliced through my tire and tube. A text to SAG Monkey and within a half hour I had a new tire. In the mean time everyone else in the group had passed us. In order to keep the group somewhat together, SAG monkey threw our bikes in the van and moved us up 13 miles to join the group. The next stop was 27 miles down the road at Davenport, where Chris made Liz and me join Carolyn and Ty in the SAG wagon to jump ahead another short distance because he was worried about us riding after dark. I was a little peeved at this point, and got out at the next stop to continue the ride into Marina. However, by the time I got to the hotel, which was about 4:30 pm, I was not disappointed in the amount of time I had in the saddle that day.

Liz and me at Ragged Point
DAY 2: Liz chose to SAG to the first stop, so I rode with the group (peloton) through Monterey and Carmel to the second stop in Big Sur. From Big Sur, I tried riding with Nancy but couldn't keep up on the long climbs and there were a lot of them. It was a beautiful and desolate 50 hilly miles from the Big Sur River Inn to the next stop at Ragged Point, where I felt relieved to catch up with Liz. We rode together for the next 20 miles past Hearst Castle and Elephant Seals on the beach in San Simeon. At Chris’ direction, we sagged out near San Simeon, having ridden a little over 109 miles. I didn't feel worn-out but was satisfied with that distance. I had to put my ego aside and remind myself of my goal for this ride was to build fitness for the 2015 race season, not to put in some epic number of miles. The point of having a coach after all is to do what he says. The sunset in Morro Bay was stunning!
Riding by elephant seals - taken my Nick Nicastro
DAY 3: This was my most uncomfortable day. We left Morro Bay as a group and remained together for 13
miles to the first stop at Peet's Coffee. Not being big coffee drinkers, Liz and I rode ahead. After 30 miles
Leaving the town of Guadalupe
there was a notable short climb of one-third of a mile, where my Garmin read as much as a 15% grade. We were happy that we weren't in a crowd of cyclists going up that one! The route went inland for much of the day. When we got to Lompoc I gave in to the fact that I had a raging migraine and hopped into the SAG mobile. Liz continued on for another 16 miles before joining me, as directed by Chris.

DAY 4: This was my favorite day. It may have been helped by the massage I had the night before. The day started with notification of Hwy 1 being closed south of Ventura due to a landslide, so we would have to deviate from the plan and detour off of Hwy 1 on a route that Chris had not taken before. This added a significant bit of climbing. I was able to ride with the group for the first 57 miles which made navigating through Santa Barbara simple; all I had to do was follow. The deviation from the planned route started at the 57 point where Chris gave Liz and me two options: 1) ride 18 miles to the base of the climb and SAG the rest of the ride or 2) SAG to the top of the climb and ride the 36 miles from there to Santa Monica. We chose the latter and were joined by Nancy and Carolyn. It turned out that the 18 miles to the base of the climb, included quite a bit of steep climbing. I was quite happy with our choice as I enjoyed all 92.3 miles and 2,982 feet of climbing that I accomplished on our last day in 6 hours of riding time. It was a happy feeling to arrive in Santa Monica having ridden over 350 miles in four days! I definitely felt like I had accomplished something.
Nancy, Liz, Carolyn and me, happy to have arrived in Santa Monica!
EVERYDAY: SAG Monkey’s proprietor, Nick Nicastro is a professional chef and prepared delicious meals every morning and every night. He also prepared a variety of delicious and nutritious, rice based “portables” as a preferable alternative to pre-packaged bars, chews and gels to fuel us during our rides.  I have a severe allergy to gluten as well as allergic reactions to dairy and eggs. Nick provided meals to meet my needs over the four days.

I should have taken advantage of Doug Thralls’ massage earlier in the trip. I waited until after the third day of riding and I think it made a huge difference in my comfort on the fourth day. Next time I will get a massage after the first and third days, at least. Maybe everyday if Dougie T. is there.

Time for some to relax on the patio, others to pack up their bikes for the flight home.
Thanks to our leaders, Doug Thralls, Nick Nicastro & Chris Hauth.
Happy to have us all arrived in Santa Monica safe and sound!