My California dreaming

I am trying to write about my California dreaming in a very objective way. As it is.Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 4.40.17 PM

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Since I first started the bike trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles, in 2012, I knew there’s something very special about it, that will forever influence the way I am. We are talking about 750km with 6000m elevation gain and some amazing sights. But this post is not about how beautiful is being outside, enjoying the sun, eating Mexican food or taking pictures in a convertible riding down the coast. This is about my California dreaming, the idea of getting so physically fit and mentally strong, that I could do the ride without any sleep.

You can check out the activity at http://www.strava.com/activities/593630200.

This blog post contains 3 parts that will talk about the why, the how and the actual ride. Maybe something about what inspires me and what I want to do in the future.

Why? Why would you want to ride SF2LA without any sleep? Why aren’t you doing something else?

I think this is a hard question and, unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer to that. I am very competitive and I like to compare myself with others. I like to push it to the limit and challenge myself; the harder I go, the better I feel afterwards. I love taking decisions under enormous pressure.

People think that exercising is healthy. That’s true, but when you are doing something close to your limit, you are not exercising anymore. Just to make it clear, what I’m doing is not healthy. SF2LA as a single ride is not healthy and it puts A LOT of pressure on your body. Take another example, I was riding the bike with a group and, after a while, I started to have some concentration problems, i.e. I couldn’t see where the road curves ahead. I looked at the GPS and we were averaging 50km/h for over 6 minutes already. This is anything else but healthy.

About going to the limit, I like to believe:

  • You haven’t pushed it hard enough if you aren’t about to cramp or throw up;
  • You know you are close to your endurance limit if all you can eat is a can of Coca-Cola (or soda of your preference);
  • The pace is really high if you’d rather use the remaining water to spill it over your head, rather than drink it.

How? How can one ride 750km without having to sleep?

In 2015, I did 8 double century bike rides in California: Solvang Spring, Mulholland, Devil Mountain Double (insanely hard), Central Coast, Davis, Heartbreak, Terrible Two and Mt Tam. A double century is a supported 320km (200 miles) bike ride that is somehow popular here. All I wanted was to get a good understanding of what is like to ride 320km as fast as I can. Some rides are extremely difficult and some others are easier, thus the distance is the only factor to be taken into account; I’d add the heat and elevation gain to the list of decisive factors. Nonetheless, I had a great year of training and I won 2 jerseys: California Triple Crown Stage Race (finished the hardest 3 double centuries in California) and Gold Thousand Mile Club (5 double centuries in a year and volunteered at one).

The hardest part in the 2015 training season was that I had to drive solo for about 4-5 hours to get to the starting line, ride for 12-16 hours and then drive back for 4-5 hours. There were 8 such weekends and it became tiring, but I knew that’s gonna help me get where I want. None of my friends are interesting in doing this, so it wasn’t easy, and much of the ride is solo, because it’s impossible to keep a pace line for such a long distance. If you don’t have the right context to do something, would you still do it?

I have attempted SF2LA and failed for three times. I realized the two problems that I have are: I can’t eat enough to keep on going and I run out of gas after 16 hours. I’ve always knew that the nightmare starts after 16 hours of riding and it lasts for about 8 hours. Sometimes, knowing the problem and the solution doesn’t mean you’ll be able to actually do something about it.

I pleasantly remember some other one day rides in Romania: Bucuresti-Constanta (275km), Iasi-Constanta (415km) and Transalpina-Transfagarasan (360km). Many Romanians are complaining about the roads and the drivers, but I think they are wrong. The roads are in a really good shape and the drivers were awesome; I remember going up Transalpina and people were cheering me up. Plus, they really know how to drive, although they are a bit more aggressive than Californians.

I think that at any point in time, for a given vertical, one is operating at her incompetency level, exactly what Peter’s principle say. What I also think is that once you hit the plateau, you can get at the next level if you are willing to take a lot of damage and risks, and you make a lot of sacrifices. In order to do SF2LA, I realized I have to train harder, take more risks (i.e. push it even if I am injured) and do certain sacrifices (i.e. don’t do alcohol, sleep more & better). I don’t believe that it’s enough to wish something come true and to just work towards it. Of course, it’s just effort, not a superpower, but you won’t get to the next level unless you adjust your lifestyle.

In 2016, I had the weight I wanted (75 to 80 kg) and I knew many things about myself. So it is the time to push the gas pedal and get some real results. The workouts that helped me get into the SF2LA shape are:

  • Berkeley half marathon in 1h25m, top 2%;
  • The Coast ride, 3 days of group riding from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. I tried to stay with a fast pack and even force a breakaway in the end of the ride;
  • Oakland marathon in 2h59m, top 1%; it took me 5 days to recover;
  • Devil Mountain Double, https://www.strava.com/activities/561666906, I was shaking at the end; it took me 3 days to recover;
  • Davis Double, https://www.strava.com/activities/583771305, I averaged 19.3mph (31km/h) for 320km. I rode a lot in time trial mode and I realized I need to work on getting rid of my belly. I drank ALOT of sodas and, at the end, I needed to rest one minute before I could talk. I was happy to have learned that I finished second, with an 8 minutes gap to the first finisher;
  • Penvelo group rides on Tuesday or Thursday. I was renting a car from the city, drive 40 minutes one way just to ride 1h20m with a club. The pace is amazing and that explains why I was spending 2 hours driving just to ride a little over 1 hour. We usually average over 36km/h for 1h20m;
  • Boxing workouts and sparring. I like to test my fitness level against an opponent in the ring. Plus boxing is really fun.
  • Yoga. Good for stretching and relaxing.

The actual ride

I have some amazing equipment and I can’t use it in a really long unsupported bike ride.

  • S-Works Shiv time trial bike with HED rear tubular disc wheel, aero helmet and ZIPP 808 front tubular wheel;
  • ZIPP 404 tubular wheelset;
  • ENVE 25 classic carbon wheelset with inner spokes (it’s hard to true such a wheel, unless you have some good experience);

I knew the only way I could do the ride is with ordinary equipment that can be easily fixed. I was frustrated that I cannot fly with my tubular ZIPP 404s, but I have to ride the training wheelset.

I woke up Saturday, 28th May 2016, at 8:30 AM, I washed my face and then I knew now is the time to do SF2LA. I’m at a peak shape and I should take advantage of it. So I had a quick breakfast and then I started rolling. I didn’t take much stuff with me, as I wasn’t 100% convinced that I’m going to ride to LA. I remember what Floyd Mayweather Jr said: “When I travel I don’t pack clothes. I only pack Benjamins”.

I started rolling at 9:15 AM and, by 5 PM, I was in Monterey, buying stuff from a bike shop. A major challenge of riding unsupported is that during the day there are 28 Celsius degrees and 8 degrees during the night, so you need some clothes to survive the night. From Monterey to San Luis Obispo, a city where I could have the very next solid meal, the are 215km. The tiny villages in between are dead during the night, so I knew that pacing myself is the key to the potentially successful ride.

I mentally separated the ride into 3 parts: heaven, hell and nightmare. The first third was heaven, from San Francisco to Monterey, and everything went according to the plan. The second third, Monterey to San Luis Obispo, was hell, as I was riding in the dark and there aren’t many places you can stop for food and water. I got water from drivers, public toilets and I even found a water bottle in a closed gas station. With 10 km to go to San Luis Obispo, I had a hard time breathing and I had to stop; it was really cold outside. I was thinking about giving up, but then I remembered a quote from Narcos: “I didn’t go this far to go this far”.

rupt

Once I got to San Luis Obispo, I ate at a restaurant (Denny’s) and I soon started the last third. I was feeling miserable and I wan’t convinced that I could do it. It was still dark and I was freezing. I knew that if it will get warm, I will be able to get back into the game. It was still cold and it didn’t get better for the next few hours. I arrived in Santa Barbara Sunday at 1 PM and I had a few issues to solve: the back tire was destroyed, all the pieces in my body were hurting and I had numb fingers. Santa Barbara is really spread out and there are soooo many traffic lights, so it took me a while to ride the 10 miles of this city. Soon it was Sunday 3 PM and I was 140km away from Santa Monica. I dropped a lot of my stuff at a bike shop and a very kind mechanic is going to mail me home the stuff. I tried to push it really really hard from Santa Barbara to Santa Monica and I couldn’t really get too deep. For every pedal stroke, I was feeling at least four different types of pain and the harder I’d go, the more it’d hurt. Nonetheless, after 5 more hours for grueling suffering, I got to the Santa Monica pier, where I watched the sunset and it was amazing. There, I bought some clothes, I took a cab to a hotel and I soon slept for 6 hours. The next day I was driving back from LA to SF. „It was hell, but I’m finally home.”

final

Some quotes that I find very motivating:

  1. „The tempt for greatness is the biggest drug in the world”. I could barely see the road in Malibu after suffering for 700km, but I knew I’m gonna make it.
  2. „To see a man beaten not by a better opponent but by himself is a tragedy”. I had to adjust the lifestyle to achieve what I want; I have never smoked anything my whole life and I do my best to avoid alcohol.
  3. „A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t”. It was really cold and I couldn’t breathe, so I lied down the road. I literally sat on the ground and I thought about giving up, but I didn’t.
  4. „Don’t count the days, make the days count”.
  5. „To be a champ you have to believe in yourself when no one else will”. When I first talked about SF2LA, nobody believed I could do it. Over the time, very few friends have changed their opinion.
  6. „A true champion can adapt to anything”. I don’t spend too much time planning things and I’m always confident I’ll find a way to get out of trouble.
  7. „They’re talented, I’m God gifted, there’s a difference”. My favorite quote. Ever.
  8. „I didn’t come this far to only come this far”. Thinking about where I was a few years ago and where I’m now.                                          Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 11.11.56 AM
  9. „I do it for the haters that them never put their hands up”.

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I signed up for Alta Alpina 8 passes challenge and that’s basically it. I am dreaming about doing Race Across America one day.

Anunțuri

2 răspunsuri to “My California dreaming”

  1. Ovidiu Eftimie Says:

    Awesome Laurentiu !

  2. pauldiac Says:

    Maybe hard to believe but when I read this I am the one that is being inspired now. The table has turned :). There’s dust on most of my bikes now (literally), I have 89 kg, don’t care what I eat, I drink alcohol almost daily .. and future plans are not ambitions at all (at least in sports 🙂 ). However just now I got the idea to do Iasi-Bacau-Vaslui-Iasi again this summer, 280 km, one long standing record of mine in past in 2009. And this idea just came while reading this post.. Or perhaps 400 km of flat road.. Yeah, small plans – relative to SF2LA, big compared to my rides in recent years..

    5. „To be a champ you have to believe in yourself when no one else will”. When I first talked about SF2LA, nobody believed I could do it. Over the time, very few friends have changed their opinion.

    That is actually false. Maybe even unfair for you to say it! I never had any doubts that you CAN do it. What I had doubts about is that you actually will. The probability of you being capable of these things is by orders of magnitude higher than the probability of you actually getting them done. The former is ‘expected value’, the latter is not.

    Today (and even in the past) I have absolutely no doubts that you are capable of doing RAAM or an very impressive time on Ironman. Or something much, much greater. And -sorry-, these are not even challenging relative to your potential. I am not joking or overstating. These are ambitious tough relative to the chances of you actually making all the right decisions, no mistakes, and all stars get aligned so that they actually become true.

    That is your context. good luck!

    liitlegrandpa 🙂

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