2002 Planet Ultra 400 K Brevet 2nd Edition

"It's a bit much this ride following last weeks Devil Mountain Double Century!"

Well Dave, I can't agree with you more. As anyone can tell you , "Big Chain Ring" Dave Evans is tough. When Dave considers a ride " a bit too much", it must be a CRIPPLER indeed. And so it was. Twelve Canyons, 19000 ft of climbing in 250 miles!!

Last year I rode the inaugural ride. Three loops, the first one the most scenic and the second one the toughest. The first loop starts at Magic Mountain, meanders through some canyons for the required miles and then follows the old Ridge Route to climb to about 4000ft.  This road is not "county maintained". The road is very rough but scenic. Towards the end the climbing gets quite steep, but not more than 8-10 %. After a few more short climbs and a long descent there is one last climb looking out over Lake Castaic and then it is downhill back to the start. The second loop climbs to Mt. Gleason via Big Tujunga and Mt. Wilson. Back via Upper Big Tujunga and Solidad Canyon. Third loop climbs Bouquet Canyon. After the summit, it descends through Leona Valley. It climbs back to the summit of San Francisquito Canyon and to its descent  back to Magic Mountain.

This year I started out with Eric Ostendorff ( 2nd place 2001 Furnace Creek 508 ) and Steve Pack. Both fast riders. After a late start we blow by the rest of the field and drop them like a bucket of lead. Steve is like a man on a mission, but if we continue  this pace I will be the one not finishing. "Slow down!". Chris Kostman, leading the field, grabs his portable phone, probable to call Deborah Caplan, his better half in Planet Ultra, to get  moving. On the pace we are going, we will  outride the support. Some other riders, including Mike Miller (another Twelve Canyons veteran), join in and then take off. Since I have no desire to stay with the lead group, Steve and I are dropped pretty quickly. Was the road this bad, last year? During last years ride, Chris had a running commentary how great this road really was. His brain washing must have worked,  I did not feel a bump ( riding a Softride last year may have something to do with it too ).Recommend some strong tires, though. For this ride I used new Continental UltraGator Duraskin tires.

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  Finally the welcome sight of the  rest stop. Deborah has put out great snacks. One of the riders inadvertently makes a victory roll with his bike while turning on a little dirt bump. Fortunately both rider and bike seemed OK. The next few climbs, before and after Three Points, are  "delightful". Amazingly we catch a glimpse of Charles Massieon descending  the opposite way. The world is small indeed. I only met this strong climber during this years 508 training camp. The guy dropped me on the final climb to Whitney Portals. The last climb gives us a chance "to clear the lungs" and "run up" the old heart rate" and then back to the hotel, where we take it easy for awhile. Paul Biron "volunteered" to man this stop. Good to see him again. Paul and I rode the second loop together last time, finishing it hours before anyone else. I waste quite a bit of time to dump the contents of my large back pack in my jersey pockets and to figure what to leave behind. No chain tool. Only one spare tire. Surely I am not going to need arm warmers etc.???  I am just fed up to carry this big, heavy, pack.

Ken Marsh and Merrick Cohn join Eric, Steve and I for the second loop. This is a beast! We "gas up" at the 7-Eleven, just before to turnoff to the Big Tujunga climb. I treat myself to a Baskin Robbins milkshake ( small ), fill the water bottles and up we go. After a while Merrick drops back. One of the descents is followed by a bridge which climbs up more then any other bridge I have encountered. Damn!! I can't shift to the small chain ring of my triple. I need it!!!! Godverdomme (I swear in Dutch ), the chain gets stuck and I nearly fall over. STUPID!!! I have been only riding for umpteen miles. I am so mad I can throw the bike over the bridge. Finally get it all straightened out. The damn bridge is so steep and I am so tired, I have to turn "down bridge " to get going again. Unbelievable! Steve is lamenting: " I have no power " Yeah right, he is like the Energy Bunny. He keeps on keeping on. We can now see Mt Wilson Observatory way in the distance and way up in the sky. Did I mention the climbing is beautiful? Hardly any traffic. This is quite different from the more popular climb to Mt Wilson from La Canada Flintridge. After more climbing we are nearly to the rest stop, at least we think we are. Just a lot more switch backs and there we are. Chris is waiting for us to sign us in. " Ice cubes, please."

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 Maybe next year I will do him  the "favor" of volunteering for  this rest stop, so Mr. AdventureCorps himself can do all three loops. This year I know not to stuff myself. Steve looks like death worn over. " I have no power!!!" Onwards to the last climb: the dreaded climb to Mt Gleason. This climb carries a big PUNCH. One can see where the summit is, but you never seem to get there. Fortunately it has cooled down quite it bit. I am sure to suffer on the descent, but at least for now it's OK. I know Chris must be somewhat disappointed with the turn out of about 40 riders ( which is a lot more than last year ) but with the lack of volunteers/sag vehicles  it is just as well. This is a remote area. One would hate to be stranded here at night without adequate warm clothing. The next 40 miles or so are the real challenge. Yes, it is downhill but you wouldn't know it for the headwind. Last year it was still light when Paul and I rode in at 7:45, now it is getting dark. The traffic on Solidad Canyon near Magic Mountain, is horrific. The usual mix of impolite and impatient motorists. Somehow we survive and we "feel our way" the last mile along the road construction on Magic Mountain Parkway. Just before 9 pm, we are back at the hotel. I can't wait to get in my car and go to Starbucks for a Frappuccino. Deborah is nice enough to offer the use of the shower so I can get all the road grime from my legs and  put on my leg warmers. Now that's what I call SUPPORT. We are to be "ready" to roll out at 9:15 .

Mike Miller apparently decided not to do the 3rd loop (saddle sore?). That leaves Sam Beal in front of us. Sam will race this years RAAM in a two man team, and appears to be ready for it. He was considering to add extra miles to this ride. I bet you anything he won't tonight. Those miles reside in the never never land of the back to back Terrible Two Quad and  the Furnace Creek 508 out and back. While waiting for Charlie Griffice to join us, Dave Evans rides in. Ready with the quote: "It's a bit too much after the Devil Mountain, don't you think Peter?". " You bet, Dave " Dave is a VERY tough 60+ rider, who I met years ago riding Deer Creek Rd. A real gut buster of a climb from Pacific Coast Hwy near the Venture/LA County line.

We start out at 10:30 pm, feeling quite refreshed. Especially Steve appears revitalized. Last year I had tendon problems at my right ankle, which caused me to ride easy most of the way. Reading over the stats from last years ride, it shows you how  important it is not to stop. Last year I left at 11:30 pm and rode in at 3:30 am. I remember taking it slowly, but steady. This year we will finish at 3:03 am. My Ciclo Sports computer gives a riding time of 4:04. A full 30 minutes were taken by messing around with lights, peeing, eating etc. The last loop was somewhat of a let down. This time no full moon. With the lights, noise etc. of the group the night riding is less pristine, but time flies by. Steve is like born again. Steve's "wheel barrow" displays will be etched into my mind forever. Steve is a concrete contractor and as such has the opportunity to "train" while pushing up wheel barrows with concrete and the like. His demonstration of how this  motion is similar to climbing and especially sprinting away is very convincing. Needless to say, he spends a lot of time way out in front. Dave Jones is the volunteer at the Leona Valley checkpoint. We fill up with "soup and noodles". Apparently Sam Beal has not checked in and we speculate he turned right instead of left at the T crossing with Elizabeth Lake Rd. That should put him in Palmdale by now! We lost Charlie on the climb and on we go. The turn back to San Francisquito Canyon is quite tricky. It is a more than 120 degree turn, very easy to miss in the dark. Better gear down for the last climb! Up and over the summit to the fast descent to the stop sign at Spunky Canyon and then to the more gradual descent the rest of the way. Before I realize it we are back at the hotel. Wake up Chris! 3:03  in the morning, another mile stone for this rider. Sam Beal apparently missed a turn, thereby cutting the ride short. Must have taken Spunky Canyon rather than continue on towards the summit of Bouquet Canyon.  So after all of this, the long rest stops, etc we finish first.

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Cumulative Gain

Time on bike













Thanks Chris for organizing this brevet ride. I know you probably will receive some criticism concerning the difficulty of this ride as part of a brevet series. As far as I am concerned, I am glad that there is someone like you giving us the opportunity to test ourselves and go the EXTRA mile(s). I would encourage you to continue to seek out challenging roads and to organize similar epic rides. 

Thanks Eric and Steve for hanging in there with the old Penguin. Till the next one!

Comments by Charlie " Deer Slayer" Griffice, taking revenge on last years ride:

Just got into work. I finished about 4:10am. Chris was awake, but Deb had gone to bed. Really struggled with sleepiness on the last uphill. Bouquet  Canyon in the dark is really a LONG CLIMB. There was no way I was going to stay with you, Eric, Steve and Ken. I had motivation problems (and genetically inferior legs). I wanted to stop at one of the 100 campgrounds along the way and go to sleep. It was a beautiful evening, (actually early morning) but I NEEDED FLATTER terrain. The running water in the creek and the blazing campfires with young people beside them near the top totally got me out of the mood to ride my bike anymore. 

I measured over 20,000' on my altimeter for the ride. My exertion level was low as I just didn't work that hard on the third loop. But overall, I agree that this ride is second only to the FC508 (or maybe the Grand Tour QUAD) in difficulty. I was BY FAR the heaviest (in pounds) rider out there. I think they should weigh everyone at the start of these rides and give us 10 minutes per pound handicap to even things out. I stopped LOTS of times on Lake Elizabeth to pee and just wake up. I'm not sure how to take naps. Every time I stopped I would wake up. I was thinking it would be nice to sit down on Elizabeth Lake Rd and snooze beside one of those white fences, but it was too cold. The downhill on San Francisquito sure woke me up. It had to be in the low 40's or upper 30's. Dave Jones was the guy at the last rest stop (I know him from work and I'm trying to get his email address). Later in the early morning hours, Dave closed his rest stop and followed me in his truck on the last part of  San Francisquito Canyon and thru Valencia. It was flat there and I felt like I was finishing the 508 (my ego was out of control there as it is now and, some would say, is always). HOWEVER, almost fell asleep twice on way home driving the van. Knocked my right side mirror off on the freeway and scared the daylights out of me. I'm really going to have to watch that on future trips. Caffeine didn't seem to be working. I had one coke and one cappuccino. I stopped the van after the first sleepy time noticing I was sleepy and weaving (a truck honked at me), but once I stopped I was wide awake again. The second time could have been disaster. The adrenalin was pumping and I will be buying a new right side mirror for my Vanogan. I ended up at home at 7:30am or thereabouts. Slept 2 hrs and then 10 hours last night. See you at Central Coast.


Photos by Chris Kostman

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