I recently did the "Tour de Lake Arrowhead" ride in, of all places, Lake Arrowhead.
There were 2 options for me: the metric century (100km, 66 miles) and the metric half (33 miles). My first instinct was to do the full 100k. 66 miles was a good distance for me to be doing at that point in training, so no problem.
The full century had 6,000 feet of climbing. That's a lot of hills, but I don't mind the climbs. Well, to be more accurate, I recognize that climbing is a great way to train so I'm willing to go up mountains. No problem.
The rides start at an altitude of 5,200 feet. Problem.
I was in Lake Arrowhead a few weeks before and did a one-hour ride. I was wheezing like a 10 pound hummingbird*. There is not a lot of oxygen up there, and I was really feeling the effects so I decided to do the half-century ride instead. It still had over 3,000 feet of climbing which is not too shabby.
I had a feeling this was going to be a low-key ride, and I was proven correct at packet pick-up the night before. One of the race organizers was casually chatting with people: he asked the guy next to me what his name was and the guy replied "Bob Smith". The organizer said "ah yes, you're doing the ride with your wife Mary, right?" He asked me where I was from, and then said "so you're the by from Glendale...we have 2 people from Burbank coming up as well." When the race organizer has the attendee list memorized, you know you're dealing with a small event.
On ride morning, I'd guess there were about 100 bikers total across the different distances so it had a nice small-town feel. Before the start, the race director kept warning us over and over about the first hill, I had been more worried about the the huge hill in the middle of the course, so I couldn't figure out what was the big deal about the itty-bitty hill at the beginning.
Well, race profiles can be deceiving. That short hill was VERY steep. And because it was so early in the ride, we weren't warmed up at all. It was a little rough, but I have relatively good climbing legs still. I probably passed 20 people going up.
Going down the other side was a different story. I'm sure 40 people passed me. These were steep, narrow, winding mountain roads with hairpin turns and I was riding my brakes the entire way. Scary stuff.
Because it was a small ride, it was fairly lonely at times. We spread out a lot so I would have long stretches without seeing any other riders. It was a complicated route with a lot of turns on tiny residential streets, but was fairly well-marked.
The support area at the turn-around had a cool Hawaiian theme which was nice, and they also had bagels with real peanut butter. Wow. I LOVE peanut butter and bagels and I really had to control myself and not completely pig out. They also had a kind of a cheesy Hawaiian Luau theme going, so that was an added bonus.
You would think that a bike ride around Lake Arrowhead would have beautiful scenery. And I guess it did. But after about 20 miles or so, I really couldn't care less about the scenery. My head was down and I was just staring at the road 20 feet ahead the entire time. It was a LONG climb on the way back, and again- lots of sharp turns on tiny switchback roads. I had little interest in looking up at any "scenery".
All-in-all, a nice ride. I would have liked to have done a longer ride, IF the additional mileage was flat. Thirty three miles of hills and 20 miles of flat roads would have been great, but you just can't get that kind of terrain in Arrowhead.
* "Wheezing like a 10 pound hummingbird": Used without permission from Brad.