Bike Monkey Fish Rock 2019

Some rides have you coming back for more, usually the hardest ones.

I still don’t know if it’s a sense of revenge, need for punishment or simply redemption.

Those are also the rides that have their own character and yet every time provide you with a different experience.

Fish Rock is a “Gravelly Road Race in Mendocino County“, starts in Boonville, CA just around the Ides of March and on days like these it will make you feel like Julius Caesar…

The ride features ~72 miles of mixed terrain with ~10k of climbing, including the notorious eponymous climb around mile 40, after logging almost 6k in your legs.


Bike Monkey warns you about Fish Rock

Pre Race

Recovery stuff….

Weather forecast did  not look promising from the start with rain guaranteed and temps down to single digit Celsius.

On Friday evening I made my stop at Big John’s Market in Healdsburg to pick up some yummy dinner and necessaries for breakfast and made it on time to Andersen Brewery to pick up race packet: that also included some Floyds of Leadville recovery stuff.

Setting up camp was pretty quick: I love the RTT setup and I was warm, cozy and dry when rains started pouring at 3AM. Not sure how the folks in the tents dealt with it.

Race planning

My notes from last year (always write down your race notes…) reminded me that I cramped at the top of Fish Rock climb, so the plan was to avoid that by pacing myself better on the first half of the ride.

I created a power course in TrainingPeaks to help me keep my effort in check during the climbs, setting the targets matching %FTP of my last year race and keeping an eye on my current power duration curve.

The intervals (or segments) are based on distance, so I had to spend some time with the map and elevation profile, but that’s good so I could memorize better the various sections. While I wasn’t constantly looking at the power, this gave me a better idea of the hard vs less hard sections than a ride profile, and didn’t have to think about pacing during the ride.

Fish Rock (& Roll)

Got up at 7AM (nice to have a late start at 10AM) just as the rain stopped, quickly broke camp and went to the start (after getting coffee and pastries on main street) then proceeded to the start at the Jr. High School as people started to arrive.

Got dressed and ready while constantly snacking on bananas, almond butter and bacon and keeping caffeinated. The weather started to improve, and the sun even came out, but the radar showed it was just a little break in between fronts. Around 9am Carlos announced that start was postponed by 45 min to allow the snow slush at the top of Mountain View Road to melt and clear.

That gave me some time to rethink some clothing choices (which turned out to be vital).

Started with thermal bibs, base layer, long sleeve jersey and light rain jacket. Stashed the heavy jacket (Rapha) and extra gloves (Pearl Izumi lobsters) in the pockets. Wool socks, boot covers, neck and skull cap.

It’s always hard to balance clothing when you have long steep climbs followed by fast freezing descents.

My main concern was for my hands, with my fingertips still mostly numb after the night debacle at the 24 Hours in The old Pueblo.

At 10.45am Carlos asked us if we wanted to ride bikes…. Duh! Off we go!

First 3 climbs went smooth and felt pretty good, a bit too warm at times, but by the time I got at the summit rest stop it started pouring rain. Grabbed a quick PBJ, put the second jacket on and prepared mentally for the 7mi descent. Down on CA-1 I was lucky to get in a good group and was able to sit in and rest a bit. Last year I was by myself in the sucking wind – winning!

Insanely good!

The rollers to the second aid station went pretty fast. I wanted to make a 30s stop, but as I pulled over it started sleeting soo hard that I decided to wait a bit longer and inhale another couple bacon quesadillas provided by the awesome crew of TeeRexProduction. BEST. AID. STATION. EVER..

There was even hot coffee, which seems to be a novelty (while it is a must have if you ask me). Jumped back on the bike and hit the main Fish course for the day.

The climb is preambled by a quick descent into what felt like going underground, dark and tree covered broken pavement road with slippery corners and then the “Pavement Ends” sign tells you it’s time to climb.

Pavement Ends – (photo: H. Childress)

Was feeling pretty good at that point (thanks to food and coffee) and my Wahoo was telling me to keep it under 270W, which felt way too easy. But I tried to comply – about 30min later on the same climb those 270W seemed like an impossible feat as I was struggling to keep it over 250W.

I got caught again by the small group I’d been riding with on CA-1 and while I felt I could keep up I decided to stay on my pace and see them slowly pull away. It was a good decision as I was able to catch them again on the rollers.

Once atop the monster fish you know the worst is behind, and somehow everything seems a lot easier. There are several rollers, still on dirt, and at one point it’s downhill for a long while. Dirt was muddy but not too sloppy, but I felt the wider and slightly knobbier tire was the perfect choice for the day.

The last aid station was a quick stop (water in / water out), one quick PBJ and back on the saddle. Shortly after the dirt turned back into broken pavement and then real road. There’s a fast descent with some tight corners and lot’s of washed out material, like gravel and dirt.

From there is just counting the miles down to get to CA-128 around mile 63, which never seem to come soon enough.

(photo: H. Childress)

Then last 9 miles or so are a mix of excitement and fear: feeling so close to the end and hammering head down toward the finish line, and yet worrying about every single pick up truck that buzzes you for no particular reason. It’s a tight shoulder and definitely the least favorite section of the whole course.

Three punchy rollers and the Boonville Fire station appears telling me that I am done. Crossing the line and thinking about the warm food that awaits.

An easy roll thru town back to the car and the amazing feel of getting back into warm clothes and dry socks. Then back to Andersen Brewery to get a nice serving of the famous Gerard Paella. Probably the best recovery food ever invented.

Amazing hearth warming Paella! (photo: H. Childress)

Bike Setup

Last couple years I did this hard ride on my Cannondale Synapse with Maxxis Refuse 32C and a 2×10 with 50/34 and 11-28 (too hard) and 11-32 (better).

For 2019 I went 1×11 on my Hakka MX with 46T paired with 10-42 (pretty close to 34×32 but I see no reason not to go with 10-46 cassette next time and spare my legs on the Fish Rock climb)

Tires made a big difference in these conditions and I’m glad I went with the Schwalbe One 38c, which I don’t think roll much slower than the Maxxis Refuse and gave me extra confidence and cush on the broken road descents.

That was epic

Many thanks to Bike Monkey for putting together an outstanding event and keeping us safe on the road, The aid stations were on point and made a real difference.

Many volunteers suffered the weather while helping us do our thing: here’s a nice race report from that perspective.

Full Photo Gallery from Hannah Childress here.

It was really too hard to get out my phone and take pics this time.

Xert Ride analysis


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