Tessa Pierce bio photo

Tessa Pierce

PhD Candidate at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD

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The day started like any other day: get up at 5am, get into cycling gear and get ready to ride 100 miles. Ok, so it wasn’t really like any other day, but it sure started out promising. We had checked in the day before, so we headed over to Laguna Seca Raceway and over to the start line. The official start was at 7am, so we waited with other riders for the pace car to lead us around the track and out onto the tour.

This was not your grandma’s recreational 100-mile course. We got a little nervous when we realized there were only 200 riders doing the tour, but we decided that even though we didn’t look as hardcore or as in shape as the other riders, we were darn persistent and were gonna make it through the ride.

Things that slow you down on a ride: 1) flat tires 2) elevation 3) wind 4) rough road

Things we encountered on the sea otter: 6 flat tires; 6650 ft elevation gain; headwind; rough road

Notice any similarities in those lists?

It would have been a challenging ride without technical difficulties, but with 6 flats and a minor brake alignment issue, it was ridiculous. The first flat happened at mile 2, just outside of the track as we were headed up a big hill called “the wall.” We never saw most of the riders again. Darn flat and difficult tire. Anyway, the 2nd flat happened about 10 miles later, and I was so frustrated with not being able to find anything in my tire that I pulled out a trick Steve told us- where i thought I saw the hole in my tire, I stuck a dollar bill in as lining (to protect the tube). It worked! …sort of. I rode another 25 miles or so before I got another flat! Finally, these people we had been riding with stopped to help and found the tiny pieces of glass responsible for all that trouble. We made it to lunch just before they closed the rest stop, got food and their last extra tube, and soon were on our way again. Most of the people we were riding with (we were pretty far behind after 3 flats- I’m still not super fast at it) decided to forego the huge hills ahead and backtrack along the flatter beginning part. We pushed on, telling the rest stop people and other cyclist that we’d see them at the next rest stop.

..five miles later, Annie’s front tire gets a flat! Glass again. Ok, another one. This is getting a little ridiculous. But as she was getting her tire up to pressure, we hear this pop pshhhhhhhhhhhhh. And just like that, my back tire was flat again! The tube split open on one of the seams- perhaps from the heat? I wasn’t even riding at the time! So in goes our last new tube, and away goes any hope of catching the people ahead of us. On top of that, Annie’s brakes were somehow misaligned and she had to adjust them to stop them from rubbing.

The signs had been taken away from the course turns, so we had a feeling the SAG had forgotten that we were coming. We weren’t wrong. We got lucky that some nice people stopped to ask if we were ok and had some water to refill our camelbaks, because we didn’t see another SAG person or tour coordinator the rest of the trip. It was HOT HOT HOT, and now we’d lost so much time that we were doing the worst part of the ride in the hottest part of the day.

I got one more flat- in my front tire- on the way down from Cahoon Summit! Since we were out of tubes, we patched that one and and then we pushed on, finally making it to (and painfully, over) Laureles Grade and back to the track. We crossed the finish just before 7 pm, almost 12 hours since we’d left! A little disappointing, but with all of the trouble we encountered, we were so excited to have made it through the course and were ready for some BBQ and our finishing packets! but… nobody was there! SAG forgot about us and everything had just about closed down. What if we’d been injured on the course?? It can’t take too long to drive it and make sure everybody got home safe!! Needless to say, we’re a little frustrated that we didn’t get the food and support we expected (and paid for). At least we made it : ).

To finish off the day, we took ourselves to dinner, ordered way too much food (which conveniently served as a great lunch the next day), washed off our dirt and grease, and were in bed by 10:30. It was definitely an adventure! I know I need to ride in the heat more to get used to it before B&B, and I certainly got a lot faster (and better) at changing tires and finding the source of a flat. And the next day, we met up with a bunch of friends in San Francisco to see one of my favorite folk musicians, Chris Pureka, so all in all it’s been a great (if interesting) few days.