Archive for the 'Double Centuries' category

Bucket List

| October 25, 2010 7:10 am
Bucket List

by Marcia Morrison

In 2003, three avid cyclists, Paul Greene, Ray Low, and John Mazzella rode three double centuries to earn the Triple Crown Award. Ever since then I thought that someday I’d like to see if I could accomplish such a feat. Comments I heard were: “Double centuries really aren’t that much fun.” (That one kept from trying sooner).”You’d better do it soon, because it doesn’t get any easier.” At that time I was meeting other challenges, so it was put off but still in the back of my mind.

The year of 2009 started out great, but took a turn for the worse. Just four days after returning from the National Time Trials I was hit with a gut-wrenching stomach ache. I went to the emergency room 4 times, was misdiagnosed twice, hospitalized for 13 days, had 5 internal abscesses and almost every “itis” possible, lost 25 lbs., and had to wait 4 months for an operation to make sure all the inflammation was down.

Finally in November I started riding slowly on my own. I gradually picked up my mileage and started following a century training program. There aren’t many centuries in the winter, so even though I wasn’t up to 25 miles I found myself signing up for the Solvang Double Century. I followed a training program I found online and knew I had to follow it religiously. On the long rides I plodded along at a snail-like pace. I felt comfortable with that because the program said to ride the long rides slowly. The shorter rides were to be ridden faster, but that didn’t happen. I was still down 15 lbs., so I thought my hill climbing would be faster, but when you put a large pack on the back of your bike and fill it with V-8 juice, power bars, tools, etc. the weight loss advantage wasn’t that much.

With my tortoise pace I really wasn’t sure I’d make the 17 hour cut-off time. I figured I would either just make it or miss it. You can imagine my surprise when at the first rest stop my average speed was 3 mph faster than my training speed. I guess the adrenaline kicked in. I thought my average speed would drop, but it remained consistent throughout the ride. I even had several hours to spare before the cut-off time and finished just before it got dark. Life was good again!

Spring Solvang Double

  • Highlights-Foxen Canyon Rd. was the first big climb. Had lush, green hills, wildflowers, little traffic, great weather, enjoyed the small towns of Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, perfect weather. Reststops were frequent with Subway sandwiches for lunch. Friendly riders througout the ride. Tailwind for much of the finish. Leapfroged with 2 guys and finished with them.
  • Lowlights-Rough roads, lost my taillight. A 1500 ft., 3 mile climb near the end of the ride with the descent having mega potholes and cracks.

Davis Double

  • Highlights-Temperature can be deadly, but wasn’t. Reststops were frequent, great food. Nice seeing vineyards, Lake Berryessa, Chiles and Pope Valley Rd. had rolling hills with little traffic.
  • Lowlights-Of course there were many friendly riders, but was it just my mood or were there too many rides with a sense of superiority? Most of the roads had too much traffic with trailers, boats, etc.

Knoxville Double

The Fall Solvang Double was going to be my 3rd double, but I signed up late for the Knoxville Double just in case I couldn’t make it to Solvang or some disaster happened during that ride. Originally, I was going to do this ride, but I didn’t like the Davis Double and the middle of this ride has a section of the Davis Double in reverse. Anyway, I’m not sure I want to start this challenge over again next year, so I wasn’t going to take any chances. Training wise I wasn’t ready, but I adjusted my training schedule and thought of this as a training ride.

  • Highlights-Friendly riders, beautiful ride up Howell Mtn, can see a view of all the hot air balloons. Howell turned into White Cottage Rd. and again continued for 4 miles, with a pretty descent into Pope Valley. Was complimented by a guy who told me I did a “hell” of a pull on Silverado Trail, thought for sure you’d pull off and tell us to go by. Six guys were drafting behind me?! Had the best volunteers, were plentiful and were always in sight and provided water stops between reststops.
  • Lowlights-Went to bed at 9:30 pm, arose at 1:30 am, left the house at 2:30 am, started riding at 4:30 am.
    Knoxville Rd. was a long climb in the heat. Had a flat just before the summit of Knoxville Rd. Climbing Loch Lomond Rd. after lunch in the heat was a challenge and 4 miles seemed like an eternity, heard it was 106 degrees. Could have BONKED, but took care of myself, stopped, rested, ate, and drank.

Fall Solvang Double

Instead of being my 3rd double it is now my 4th and a bonus ride. I came down with a cold the week before and it would have been easy to skip it. I had paid for it, had a reservation and since I liked the Spring Solvang Double I decided to ride it. Persistence has gotten me through many challenges, but it has also got me into trouble.

Everything was going great and was enjoying it as much as the spring double except the lush, green hills are now brown with no wildflowers. The signup was small and I heard the 20 riders DNS. The crowds were small at all the reststops. At the reststop before lunch we were told that there was a traffic fatality and they would reroute us, but the volunteer had no other information. I was 70 miles from that point with the next stop being lunch, so I figured the traffic accident would be cleared by the time I got there. At the lunch stop there were 3 volunteers and only a handful of riders. It would have been the perfect opportunity for them to tell us what was ahead of us. I even complimented a volunteer on how well marked the course was and she assured me that would continue. Off I went and finally when I got to the Pismo Beach area traffic was still backed up and I followed the yellow arrows onto 101. Here’s where my nightmare began. I thought I was on 101/1 and there were no arrows or direction as to when we got off, so I kept going and going. Needless to say, my life was at risk riding on 101 with merging and exiting traffic. Finally, I stopped under a sign and called the ride contact, and told him where I was. He told me to keep going and enjoy the ride, so on I went for another few miles. Then I saw another rider on the side of the road tallking to the ride contact. We were on 101, not 1 and had to cross both the south and north bound lanes, another dangerous incident. The contact told us to take an exit I saw going south, but unfortunately that exit didn’t exist going north, so we ended up at our original point onto 101. Now we’re told to go down to the beach and walk a 1/4 mile until we hit Hwy. 1 We didn’t want to do that so we ended up doing what we should have done the 1st time.

We finally got the the turn on Costa Mesa Rd. which I had been looking for far too long. The guy I was with said we’d probably not make the cut-off time of midnight, since we went approximately 24 extra miles and had wasted time trying to figure our way back on course. I didn’t care if we got sagged in since I had already earned the Triple Crown Award, but the poor guy I was with had more at stake as this was to be his 3rd double. I offered to ride with him and to give it a try, but he wasn’t up to it.

It was 8:00 pm when I got sagged in. It felt good to take a shower and have a nice hot dinner with Al and missing the ride in a night time drizzle.

I am lucky I didn’t “kick the bucket” on this ride because another scary incident was on our return on 101 I hit a rumble strip and had trouble getting out of it and veered out onto the freeway.

  • Highlights-Lots of the same scenery on the spring double, but is significantly more challenging with more climbing.
  • Lowlights-Didn’t finish which is still bugging me. Already mentioned my 101 adventure. Not enough volunteers or direction.

Final thoughts

I don’t dare say this is my last double century, because I said that 18 times about running marathons. My favorite double was the Spring Solvang Double Century. Now, I can check the Triple Crown Award off my bucket list.

Knoxville Double–Triple, September 24-25, 2010

| September 23, 2010 11:21 am
Knoxville Double–Triple, September 24-25, 2010

by Cristin Sohm

Part of the ride was a total suffer-fest (lots of hills with extreme heat and not being able to eat). Part of the ride I thought the world was conspiring against me (flat after flat after flat). Part of the ride was scary as could be (riding alone in the pitch dark with rattle snakes rattling at me and a bobcat running in front of me). Thankfully there were other parts of the ride that were truly amazing (friends on the ride and friends volunteering for the ride). Then there was the part of the ride that was simply magical (my daughter Mellissa there with me the whole time and encouraging my crazy idea to make the ride longer than a double).

I’ve always wanted to do a quad, especially after how good I felt doing the triple in June. I knew this was my last event of the year, so this was my last chance. I figured out all the logistics, trained hard, bought extra supplies and then stressed hugely over this crazy idea. Then Mellissa offered to be my support and I knew everything would fall into place and it was my chance and I decided to go for it.

Mellissa came to pick me up on Friday for the drive up to Vacaville. She laughed when she saw that I had packed enough supplies to last a couple weeks out on the road! Later we would realize that the tons of food was useless, but we sure were thankful for the tons of tubes, extra tire and floor pump that I had packed!

We arrived in Vacaville and drove straight to the start location at Pena Adobe Park. I changed into my cycling clothes, filled bottles, loaded up the bike with supplies, got some kisses from my wonderful daughter and started riding on Friday afternoon. My plan was to ride throughout the night to finish 200 miles in about 16 hours and meet Jon Kaplan & Art Cruz at 4am and start the next 200 miles then.

My heart was racing with how nervous I was, having little confidence in my ability to actually pull this off. I just reminded myself that Mellissa was there and that was hugely comforting. Lane Parker sent me the tcx file of the Knoxville Double course, so I felt secure with the directions and Mellissa honked the car horn when I went off course. As I was riding, I came across two guys and I caught up to them. They asked if I was doing a training ride and I told them of my crazy plan. We chatted for a bit and then they dropped off. One of them caught up later and said I was too fast. Ha!

At mile 22 it was 96 degrees and my average speed was 16.3. At mile 29 I sent my mom a text message saying that Mt. George was so easy-peasy that I thought Mellissa lied that we were at the top. Average speed 15.8. At mile 37, with an average speed of 16.1, I hit my first obstacle. I heard my back tire make a big swoosh sound. I got off the bike and thanked my lucky stars for the 3 hours of trying to learn how to change a flat the night before. Mellissa said that the first rest stop was just around the corner, so I decided instead of changing it in the blasting sun on the busy street, I would carry my bike to the rest stop. I changed my first official flat tire by myself and was beaming with pride. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it quite as much if I had realized what was in store the rest of the day!

At mile 58, I had just finished the 7 mile climb up Howell Mountain. It was blasting hot and I couldn’t eat because my mouth was too dry. I was feeling shaky from the lack of food and I was feeling a bit out of it. Mellissa offered lots of different types of food that I had packed, but I didn’t want anything. I choked down a Power Bar and I happened to feel my front tire and found that it was almost flat. Several of my cycling friends have crashed lately because of a front tire flat on a descent, so I’ve been trying to get in the habit of always checking my tires before descending a hill. I changed the front tire (flat #2) with no problems and started on my way again.

At mile 70 my average speed had dropped down to 14.4 after the first 2 hills. After the Power Bar digested, I felt a lot better with some food in me on the hot ride. I stopped at the port-a-potty that would be rest stop #2 tomorrow and then I made my way to the long, long climb up Knoxville (about 31 miles).

It was now pitch dark and I was climbing Knoxville with all the wildlife. I counted no less than 8 rattle snakes, 1 bobcat and lots of other sounds that I didn’t know what they were. Knoxville in the night was like climbing on the moon with big craters. I felt fantastic the whole way during the climb now that I had the Power Bar in me. Unfortunately I hit one of those craters hard and my tube exploded on impact. I put the bike in front of the car with Mellissa’s bright lights on and I changed flat tire #3.

At one point, Mellissa asked if I minded if she stopped to get a drink out of the back of the car. I asked her if she minded if I kept going and we left each other. It seemed like forever until I saw her again. I was extremely spooked by the dark and all the wildlife sounds. My light worked great, but it was really scary knowing I was the only crazy cyclist out at night attempting to double the double century. When Mellissa finally caught up, she said she was really worried because she couldn’t find me and she worried if I went off some ditch or something. She said that she couldn’t believe how far I had gotten. I guess my fear had those pedals turning pretty quickly!

We came to the top of the long climb and saw all the signs saying Rough Road and I thought about all the emails that had gone out about water bottles flying out and water bottle cages coming loose and how really rough the descent was. I had thought I would be fine, but then I started having images of something going wrong and Mellissa having to figure out what to do in the pitch dark and in a city we didn’t know. I decided that it wasn’t worth my safety or leaving Mellissa feeling responsible and I made the difficult decision to abandon my effort for the night. It was pitch dark and I’ll tell you, I was pretty darn upset about climbing forever and ever and not getting the fun reward of the descent. It probably wouldn’t have been much fun at that time of night anyway though. I think I made the right decision.

I was disappointed that I wouldn’t have the quad that I really hoped for, but I changed 3 tires by myself, I rode in the pitch dark while everyone else was snug in bed in their hotel rooms and I ventured out far beyond what I thought I could do. I had ridden alone for an extra 101 miles the night before a double century and I was happy about that.

We drove back to Vacaville, found a last minute hotel (since I had planned on riding all night long, I had canceled my hotel) and got in bed at 1:30am. I tossed and turned going over the events and worrying about the next part of the ride and then the alarm went off at 3:30am to go meet Jon & Art.

After less than 2 hours of sleep and riding just over a hundred miles, I muddled through getting ready for the ride and filling my bottles and getting out the door. Mellissa and I arrived at the start location, but couldn’t find Jon & Art anywhere. I waited and tried calling him several times, but no luck. Thankfully I found Clyde Butt and he offered to ride with me. God sent an angel and I couldn’t have been more grateful. After one more call to Jon, we started rolling at 4:55.

Clyde and I picked up another cyclist named Laura who was doing her very first double. She was a sweetie and we enjoyed talking with her. Everything looked very familiar as I had just done the course hours earlier and I felt very comfortable with the directions – for once!

Deb & Dave Hoag came up and rode with me for a bit. They are so insanely fast and strong. Deb was the only person that I had told my full plans of what I was secretly trying for. I trusted her judgment and figured she would tell me honestly if it was out of my ability range or a crazy thing to attempt. She flew by me, but David slowed down to chat for a bit and I guess that Deb had told him what I was up to because he asked if my night worked out the way I hoped. I told him that I abandoned the ride at the top of Knoxville, but did the first 100 miles of the full course and felt proud of that. He was overly kind and supportive and he then gave me the best compliment of the day “If you do the 508 or HooDoo, I would crew for you”. Wow. You have to know Deb & Dave and their incredible ability to understand what that meant for me. I am a small peon in our cycling group and they are the stars along with Russ & Sheila Stevens, Barley & Susan Forsman, Ken Emerson and some others. To receive that kind of compliment from one of the super stars, was such a confidence boost!

At mile 121 (with the extra 100 for me) we hit the first climb of Mt. George. Thankfully, it was just as easy as the night before. We made it to the first rest stop at 7:25am, at mile 137 and I told Clyde that I was already feeling a bit tired and cold and if I didn’t keep up, to go ahead without me. He stuck with me anyway. It was weird that this part of the ride was so blasting hot the day before and now was cold. We also missed out on seeing a lot of the sights that I had seen the day before (day vs night).

At mile 150 we climbed Howell Mountain again. I had pretty much bonked on this hill the night before, but felt fine this time around. It was another easy climb. We descended into the 2nd rest stop where Jason Pierce had brought a big Sprite soda for me and it was delicious after losing so much sugar with the climbs. I thought that my front tire felt a bit odd toward the bottom of the descent and when I pulled into the rest stop, I noticed that it had gone flat. Mike Deitchman jumped in and changed flat #4 for me so that I could grab some grapes and cantaloupe from his wife, Joan Grant Deitchman and use the port-a-potty before heading out with Clyde & Laura again. I saw Steve Saeedi at this rest stop and he was the first person that I told what I had done the night before. It was pretty fun to see his smile at my crazy effort. He encouraged me and helped Mike with the flat and they got me on my way.

We headed out to climb Knoxville – again. This time at 10:41 am at mile 170 and I remembered how very long this climb was last night and worried that it was going to be difficult in the blazing heat. Steve had filled my bottles with ice water and they lasted me throughout the climb. There were some volunteers with water midway through the climb, but I was okay with water and didn’t want to get off the bike. Clyde & Laura were somewhere behind me so I rode at my own pace and enjoyed seeing what Knoxville looked like during the day – what a difference from the pitch dark and the sounds of the wildlife! I came along a guy and stayed with him for a bit and then went around. Much later in the day I found out that his name was Sean and he was riding a FIXED gear bike. Insanely strong guy to be out on those hills with a fixed gear bike! I hadn’t used any of my granny gears yet in the almost 200 miles, but I still had an awful lot more gearing than what he was pushing up those hills! I can’t even imagine. Toward the top of the climb, when I felt like my skin was going to melt right off my body, I looked at my Garmin to see the temperature. It was 107.4 degrees! Insanely hot. Painfully hot. Melting hot. We got to the top and I saw that Mellissa was there. My world brightened. She had been back at the hotel and slept the last however long that I rode 92 miles, so it was wonderful to see my angel back. She gave me a Sprite and the volunteers at the mini-stop sprayed us down with icy cold water that felt like heaven. Clyde & Laura came in just a short bit later and we filled our water bottles again and headed out for more torture in the hot sun.

We made it to the lunch stop at mile 207 somewhere around 2:30 and I still couldn’t get any food in me. Everything tasted like a fistful of sand. Mellissa made me a sandwich of a slice of cheese and lots of lettuce and insisted that I eat it. It took me a very long time to get it down. I felt so bad for Clyde putting up with me. Others were so excited to have food and I couldn’t choke down a bite. The volunteers crowded around me trying to get me to eat this or that and this one lady was very mom like and wouldn’t let up. It was very sweet and I really tried. Clyde got a massage from a volunteer and when he was ready to go, I told him that she is very pretty and he should just relax a bit longer 😉 I finally got ½ the sandwich down without it coming back up and I had a glorious ice sock around my neck and had taken some endurolytes and we were ready to roll. I got on my bike and realized the back tire was very low. I’m thinking God hates me at this point! I decided to try to just pump it up thinking that maybe it’s just from all the extreme heat. Mellissa heard the air coming out of the tire. One of the volunteers checked the tire closely and noticed that it had a pretty good rip in the tire. Darn. I had just put the new tire on a few weeks earlier specifically for Knoxville and a brand new one on the front a couple days ago. I thought that I had done a good job in putting on new tires for this event, but when I got home and checked my spreadsheet of when I had changed the tire, I realized that even though it was only 4 weeks old, there were 940 miles of riding in those 4 weeks. Not as new as I had thought. Thankfully I had brought a spare tire. Clyde, always the gentleman, jumped in and changed the tire and tube. Unfortunately Laura had already left since she expected to be slower on the climb and since we were stuck longer with the tire issue, we never caught up with her again. Yes, that was now flat tire #5! We left the lunch stop somewhere around 3:00ish.

After the lunch stop, we only had one major climb left. The whole day had LOTS of rollers, but pretty much 4 substantial climbs (Mt. George, Howell Mtn, Knoxville, Loch Lomond). Clyde said that we would do fine since we had time for our food to digest while changing the flat tire. Always the optimistic guy! At mile 209 we made our way to the rolling hill of Siegler Canyon before getting to the Loch Lomond hill at mile 213. Loch Lomond was really tiring. It was 14% grade for 3 straight miles and another mile of rollers. I know that I was really tired and worn out, but I have to tell you that when I saw all the SAG vehicles going by with tons of bikes on them and people waving to me as they abandoned the ride, I actually cried tears. It broke my heart that they got so far and then had to stop. I completely understood because the heat was such an energy zap, but it still was terribly sad to see. At 4:16 I finished Loch Lomond. Clyde was somewhere behind so Mellissa went into a little store and bought me a fresh, cold smoothie. It was heaven. We waited quite a while for Clyde and I was starting to get worried, so she went to make sure he was okay. She came back just a short bit later and Clyde arrived at 4:27. Unfortunately Clyde was having trouble with leg cramps due to the extreme temperatures. Like Jon Kaplan though, Clyde just kept on going. Never giving up. He was amazing.

I thought we were done with Loch Lomond at that point, but we actually had to cross the highway and continue for some more climbing, but not nearly as bad as Loch Lomond. Clyde thought he was feeling better, but his leg cramps were still bothering him and he told me he was going to walk up the hill. I continued on at my own pace. At one point I hit some gravel and came very close to losing control of my bike. There was no one else around and that scared me, but I was able to straighten out and get my bike back under control. I guess God didn’t hate me quite as much as I had thought with all those flat tires! I was now at about mile 229 and my cell phone battery was almost dead, so I stopped sending messages to my family. Thankfully Mellissa had been sending texts without me knowing so they weren’t as worried as I expected.

At rest stop #4 we were at mile 234 and Jason Pierce met me with another Sprite soda. Absolutely delicious. These sodas really saved the day for me! Everything got easier after the ½ sandwich at the lunch stop. We got to see Steve Saeedi at this stop too and Clyde and I sat down for a bit here. I was able to get down some corn chips for salt. We also met up with Sean on the fixie bike again.

We then rode out Butts Canyon and Pope Valley and we were riding faster to make the cut-off before rest stop #5 closed at 8:15. I was feeling fine and ready to go and finish up the day. We were at mile 260 and I could start to envision the finish line. Clyde stopped for some Cup of Noodle soup and I think the salt helped along with the setting sun and lower temperatures. I had a hot cocoa to help recover my muscles and prepare for the night riding.

With all the issues of the day, we had to watch our time because we were now barely making the cut-offs for the rest stop end times. We were now in the full dark as we made our way to the last rest stop at mile 287. Clyde and I got separated again and I descended a hill in the dark and came upon a gal named Denise that had gotten a flat tire in the pitch dark. It scared me to think of her out in the dark alone. I pulled over to help her and Mellissa was right behind me with her bright lights. Mellissa was able to help her with the flat tire and help to get her on her way.

We pulled into the last rest stop and had another hot cocoa. I think Clyde had another soup. Mellissa brought out the cookies I had made and gave them out to the all the volunteers and the cyclists. That was fun to be able to thank them for all they had done for us. We had 14 miles to go and it was in the pitch dark so we buddied up in a bigger group. We started out with 4 of us, me and Clyde, Sean (fixie) and a tall guy named Mike. Mike was trying to pull on his arm warmers and ended up crashing right in front of Mellissa. She handled it like a charm and poor Mike kept apologizing thinking he probably scared her. Everyone was fine and it wasn’t a problem. We seemed to take on more people in our group. I think at one point we had 9 of us together. Some were slower than others and Mellissa was struggling with figuring out who to shine lights for since we weren’t able to stay together as well as planned. I think she ended up going around the others that were dropping back and she stayed up front with me and Sean and Clyde & Mike. There were more rollers straight out of the rest stop, but nothing was hurting or tired at that point. I think we all just saw the finish line coming.

We ended very strong riding in at 18+ mph. I later found out that Mellissa sent a text to all my family saying that she couldn’t believe I was pulling all the guys in those last several miles at that speed. That felt good to know my daughter was proud. It was a rough day for sure, but it was great to finish it feeling great. 301 miles with 21,053 feet of climbing. I had hoped for 400 miles, but I’m proud of the way it worked out. I’m especially proud of Mellissa helping SO many people. She was there for me, but ended up touching so many other lives in the process. She was a super star for sure! Thanks to everyone that sent the text messages encouraging me during the long day and night. I loved the one from hubby saying “Are you really having any fun? Just come home!” J oh.

  • Miles – 301
  • Climb – 21,053 feet
  • Avg speed – 13.2
  • Time in saddle – 22 hours, 54 minutes
  • Max heart rate – 176
  • Max temperature – 109.4
  • Flat tires – FIVE flats and one wrecked new tire
  • I’ve found you find strength in your moments of weakness.

And by the way… I earned the California Triple Crown!

2010 Mount Tam Double

| August 9, 2010 7:11 pm
2010 Mount Tam Double

by Dan Connelly

Without a hint yet of the coming dawn, the lead police car led the main pack out of the Vallecito Elementary School parking lot, and we were off. The pack was considerably smaller than the 300 rider limit, but given the 10:30 pm finish deadline and the desire to minimize time spent on Marshal-Petaluma road after sunset, a large number of riders had already left. This is a sanctioned option, with riders allowed to check out at any time from 4 am to 6 am, but those starting at 5 am have the advantage police control through the traffic signals early on, not to mention the draft advantage of the pack.

Soon enough we were on Lucas Valley Road, the first climb of the day. In 2005 I’d done this ride without a light, figuring I’d simply utilize the illumination of proximate riders. But that had been an uncomfortable experiment, one which led me to go out too hard on the opening climb as I put too much value staying with the lead group and the lights of the follow vehicle. This year I’d borrowed a friend’s NiteRider Newt dual-light system. The difference was amazing: I was able to ride my own pace on that climb. This still put me in sight of the leaders at the top, but only 5 miles into a nominal 200 mile ride, my goal was only to avoid a debt which would require high interest payments in the second half.

My Garmin 500 display wasn’t visible (in retrospect I should have hit the “light” button; I wasn’t thinking so well), so probably still rode a bit harder than I should have. But not too bad: I could still talk easily enough, a good indicator of being no worse than the low end of Z4.

I found some riders with which to share the pace over the southbound bumps of Nicasio Valley Road, the easy backside of Whites Grade, and then down into Fairfax. By now the day had reluctantly arrived through the low clouds: the first phase of the ride was done.

Usually Bolinas Road: the first climb to Pine Mountain, the rolling descent to the dam, and the climb to Ridgecrest seems like an endless grind. Today, it passed quickly, as I knew there was so much more yet to follow. Along the way, I stopped at the Pine Mountain rest stop, the first of the day, to pack my light into a paper bag for delivery back to the start. Then I hopped on to some passing riders and continued on.

Overcast clouds turned to fog as we hit Ridgecrest, the tree cover condensing the mist into a surprisingly steady rain. But by the second sister, the trees were behind me, and the rain stopped. The morning sun was shining brightly through the thin clouds, and by the intersection with Pan Toll road, I was riding in sunshine.

Here I was tempted to remove my vest, as I was warming quickly, but I was using the pockets, and it wasn’t pressing enough for the hassle of transferring everthing to the pockets in my jersey underneath. This would be the last time I’d be tempted to remove the vest in 100 miles. On my legs I had full-length compression tights and high-calf compression socks over my bib shorts and regular socks, while on my upper body I had a long-sleeve undershirt, jersey, and arm warmers (turned inside out to hide the “Alto Velo”: still waiting for that Voler order to come in!) in addition to the vest. Crazy amounts of clothing for August, but that’s how it goes in San Francisco-Marin.

Soon after the climb to the golf ball (west peak) began, I began to see descending riders, some looking fairly fit. I was worried some of these had been with my start group at 5 am: that was a considerable time gap. But then as I approached the golf ball I saw Bo, the winner of the Terrible Two this year, and I knew everyone ahead of him was likely an early starter. I was riding fairly well, hopefully within myself. In preparation for Terrible Two, Bo did a training ride which included climbing Mount Hamilton Road, descending and reclimbing San Antonio Valley Road (the steep “backside” of Hamilton) four times. That’s the sort of suffer-fest which allows a rider to hammer a double. Lacking that sort of disciplined preparation I had to be more careful, so I had no regrets about not matching Bo’s pace.

After passing the golf ball, I descended a bit then climbed to the east peak parking lot, where there was a checkpoint. I quickly topped off my bottles with water (one contained Accelerade, the other Spiz, which is a “liquid food”), then back down. It was 7:30 am: a wonderful time to be on the mountain.

Back down upper Ridgecrest, the turn onto Pan Toll was a remarkable transformation. Within a second, I went from uncomfortably warm to cold: the fog-chilled wind blowing up from the coast. I slowed a bit to take inventory, decided I’d be okay, then continued on carefully on the wet roads, the sun now hidden behind the mist.

I feared things would be even worse in Muir Woods, but actually it was slightly warmer there, the roads a bit drier, as I’d passed through the clouds. The second rest stop was here: I ate some fruit, filled my bottles again, and added orange Perpeteum to my remaining chocolate Spiz. This seemed a good idea at the time… but I realized I’d have been better off adding the unflavoured Sustained Energy instead.

I was 50 miles in. The first quarter of the ride was in the bag.


A brief hesitation as I wasn’t sure which way to go out of the rest stop (I am almost neurotically paranoid about wrong turns), but then I was soon to the Highway 1 intersection. I rode this north, mostly alone over the two significant climbs to Stinson Beach. After passing through that beach town I was overtaken by a group of three. We worked surprisingly well, picking up a few more along the way, and rolled into the rest stop at the Pt. Reyes Station public toilets together. I was much quicker here than the others, however, and (again after some seconds of confusion about which way to go) rolled out alone.

Back on Point Reyes – Petaluma Road (reverse Roasters), past Nicasio Valley Road I rejoined the Marin Century route. Marshall Wall was stacked with riders, mostly 50 k’ers, some walking their bikes. I have to admit this perked me up; what had felt like a slow pace now seemed not so slow.

That is, until I was passed by one guy from that group of three I’d left at the rest stop. Riding a relatively low-cost Performance bike, he motored up the wall. I simply had to let him go: I was keeping my power meter in the 200-230 watt range, a level of effort I thought I could hold on climbs through the day, and couldn’t be digging myself deeper than I already had so early in the ride. If he could hold that pace he was fitter than me, and there was nothing to be done about that.

I probably should have reviewed the route sheet ahead of time: I was surprised when we passed Hicks Road without turning. Other riders were returning from the same road. I later learned they had reversed the direction of this portion of the course. In 2005 we’d turned onto Hicks, headed out to Highway 1 on Marshal-Petaluma Road, and returned via Petaluma. This year was the opposite: probably an improvement as it allows a southern leg on Highway 1 along the coast.

Lunch this year was in Petaluma, at mile 93. I got through quickly, only stopping to fill my bottles, down three Endurolytes, and stuff my pockets with some fig bars, dates, and a half-bagel. As I left I found myself again next to Performance guy, but once again, his relentless pace left me behind. A good sign at lunch: the volunteers in the “double century section” (with its powders, potions, and pills) was surprised to see me. There obviously weren’t too many doublers ahead. I knew the Webcor pair of Bo H and Brian Buck were well ahead, but they make even quicker use of stops than I do, so were easily missed. But obviously I wasn’t too far down.

Mile 100, somewhere in Chileno Valley Road: I was halfway. Of course, I was tired already: I rarely ride 100 miles in a day. But mid-way through a double I just forget about the route and focus on turning the pedals. Turn them enough times, eat and drink, and the finish will arrive.

Performance, Rivendell, and Roubaix

Somewhere near here I was caught by a Davis Rider on a Specialized Roubaix and another guy on a Rivendell. They were clicking along at a nice pace, so I joined in. I’d say we worked well together, but I did less pulling than the other two, who were content to zip along. We joined up with first one, later another century rider, making a nice group. As we rode I asked Rivendell why he rode that bike: he seemed stronger than most riders of the brand. He said his wife got it for him and he liked it because with its condiderable mass it was a bit of an equalizer between the two. I told him I appreciated the equalization myself.

We arrived together at Valley Ford rest stop. I stopped here for a can of Coca Cola (part of which I drank, the rest of which I added to my bottles), as well as a few more Endurolytes, then left alone. The Coke worked so well for me at mile 184 of Terrible Two, I wanted to tap into it a bit earlier here.

I never did see the century riders again: the century split off again. But I would rejoin the other two soon enough.

It was after a busy stretch on Highway 1, soon after we turned onto Joy Road. Honestly I don’t remember Joy Road from 2005; it wasn’t on the route in 2004 (see Felix Wong’s route sheets). It gains 1047 feet climbing from Highway 1, much of it steep. The descent is also steep, with potholes overlapping other potholes, not the sort of thing you want to deal with 120 miles in. Actually, I was glad I’d installed latex tubes, which lose around 2 psi per hour: the lower pressure relative to the 105 psi I’d started with took off a bit of edge.

They descended ahead of me, but not too far, and I caught and passed them at the lowest slopes of Coleman Valley Road. Coleman Valley is nasty: sustained 12%+ (feeling steeper from 135 miles in the bank already) followed by a false summit and then two short climbs before the true descent. I just focused on spinning my 36/26, my lowest gear, which took me close to threshold in the 270 watt range. Truth be told I wanted to put up a good number for Strava on this section, a move which would end in tears. But that’s for later.

The climb took a bit out of my limited reserves, however, and I was passed by the Rivendell guy on the rolling summit. As he passed, we could see Performance up ahead. Rivendell caught and passed Performance, but I followed at my sustainable pace.

The descent was much nicer than that of Joy, and other than my usual nagging worry about missing a turn, I enjoyed the ride. I caught sight of Performance at a key moment which convinced me I was still on track.

At mile 142, the day had finally began to warm and so as I rode I transferred the odd bits of food I had in my vest pockets into my jersey pockets underneath. Then I removed my vest and stuffed it into my center jersey pocket. From there it was just eight miles or so back at Valley Ford.

I could have skipped this stop, but I wanted more Coke and to try some of the Tums they had at all the rest stops. I was getting some stitches in my chest, and wanted a blast of calcium to see if that would helped. I’m not sure if the Tums helped, but while the stitches continued to be an issue, they never got really bad. On the Coke end I went a bit overboard, putting it in both bottles. Coke should be diluted at least 1:1 with water, more if combined with food, and I was over that concentration. But despite eating a fig bar and dates on the road following Valley Ford, I handled the Coke okay.

150 miles done, 50 to go. We were in the final quarter, but 50 miles is 50 miles is still a long way, longer with tired legs than with fresh legs, no matter how small the fraction of the total.

End Game

I didn’t see any of my usual company as I left Valley Ford for this second time. Next was the long southern run down Highway 1, which in 2005 had been to the north. There’s usually a northern wind on the coast, but today held up to what I’d seen from weather data for the day prior: wind from the south. A block headwind isn’t what I really wanted to see at this point, but I just hunkered down and dealt the hand that was there. It was the same for everyone.

The route finally turned left off Highway 1 onto Marshal-Petaluma Road: a rather rude introduction as the grade went from zero to large within just a few pedal strokes. I had just overtaken two century riders at this point, so it was nice to have company for this. But I slogged along at my death-march pace and was on my own again.

At the Walker Creek rest stop I got some water to dilute my remaining Coke, and grabbed more dates. I asked when the next turn was and was told 18 miles. For some reason I found this discouraging; I prefer changing roads to mark progress than staying on the same road mile after mile. I was out quickly, though, putting it out of my head.

It turns out my question was misunderstood and the next turn, onto Hicks Road, wasn’t far at all. Hicks soon T’ed into Pt Reyes-Petaluma and I knew I was in the end game. The eastern side of Marshall was easy compared to the eastern “Wall”, then the descent and left turn onto Nicasio Valley Road. In 2005 I almost got taken out by an RV in this turn, but today no issue. I was getting really close.

PhotoCrazyOne last rest stop on Nicasio Valley Road. I wanted to blow past but decided to check to see if this was a mandatory checkpoint. Of course, had I checked the route sheet in my pocket I would have known this, but my brain really wasn’t working well at all by this point. I had trouble getting anyone’s attention, so spent more seconds here than I would have liked.

One more climb to go: Lucas Valley Road. I really wanted to blast this sucker: blitz it at or over threshold, but there simply wasn’t anything left. I couldn’t even hold 200 watts on the climb, a strong contrast to when I was strong on the final climb of Terrible Two, to Occidental. Instead I just focused on keeping the pedals going, knowing I was almost there.

Fire trucks were moving back and forth on the road near the summit, almost absurdly. One was approaching from behind, siren off, soon after another had descended the opposite direction (also siren off) and I disparately did not want it to pass me, as I knew I’d be much faster on the descent. At the summit, a volunteer pointing a flag at a “dangerous left turns! ride slowly!” sign, I thanked him and began my descent just ahead of the following truck.

The road was in excellent condition, making for solid cornering. I vividly remember getting passed on this descent in 2005 and I vowed to not let that happen again. Despite this, I showed more caution than required in the corners. It turns out there were approximately five crashes on this descent, several requiring medical treatment, despite warning signs at each of the tricky corners. But I didn’t have the slightest issue other than that I should have taken it a bit faster.

The last few miles went easily. I was tired, unable to sustain power above Z3, but I could at least get into Z3. I was calculating as I went my chances for a sub-12:30 and it looked good.


I entered the school, crossed under the finishing banner, and with some bystanders cheering I gave a little fist-pump. I was glad to be done. But I wasn’t really done until I’d checked in, so after asking directions to check-in, I went up onto the sidewalk, through the expo, and to the check-in table. My watch said “5:26”, so 12:26 if we started on time.

“You’re #8” the volunteer said. “Eighth?” I responded. I couldn’t believe it: that was better than I’d thought. I was 17th finisher in 2005, so that’s a nice improvement.

Davis and Rivendell finished soon after. Each of them had clearly been stronger than me but chose to enjoy the day a bit more. Still, my goal going in had been top 10, for whatever that is or is not worth, and I’d hit that goal. So success.

After hanging out at the finish for a few hours, in part waiting for my carpool partner to finish his double (on his ‘cross bike!), it was time for the drive back to San Francisco.

I’d managed to do the entire ride without any wrong turns, always a major victory by my standards, but in an RTFM moment I shut down my Edge 500 without first hitting “stop” and “reset”. This apparently caused my ride data to get purged. Now I’ve gone through periods of data aversion where all I want to do is ride, echewing metrology. But this isn’t one of those periods: I’m riding well, I’d made a solid effort up Coleman I wanted to Strava-log, and I wanted to see how my power up the opening climbs compared to the power on the final climbs. Losing the data was such a disappointment I devoted an entire blog post to the subject.

Despite my dreadful lack of sleep the night before, I had trouble getting to sleep that night. Too much Coca-Cola, I suspect: a considerable caffeine dose in 20 ounces of the stuff. But part of it may have been the fitful mix of trauma and adrenalin from an extremely full day.

Stage Race on the Tandem

| July 21, 2010 11:13 am
Stage Race on the Tandem

by Deborah Hoag

This is how the Stage Race works: Riders have to complete three of the most difficult doubles in the California Triple Crown. This year it was Mulholland, Devil Mountain, and the Terrible Two. The Total Elapsed Time from each of these grueling Doubles is then added together and the rider with the fastest overall time for all Three Doubles wins the Stage Race.

I have no idea why we decided to do the Stage Race on the tandem. We would joke that when we completed the Stage Race on our singles, we would do it on the tandem. Well, I finished the Stage Race in 2009 and David finished in 2007. After I finished, David reminded me about the Stage Race on the tandem. So, we bought a new tandem in Sept of 2009 and started training. We did not know which of 200 milers would be in the Stage Race for 2010; however, we had agreed we would do the race. In Feb, we found out it be the 3 hardest out of 5 -200 milers, Mulholland, Devil Mountain, and Terrible Two. During the training, we realized this was going to be the hardest thing we had ever done on a bike. We thought about not doing it, because the training was so hard. We worked on interval training, core exercises, eating right, preventing lows, riding together effectively, mechanical issues with the new tandem, and communicating. A week before the first 200 miler, Mulholland, we took the tandem to Bicycle Outfitters for a quick over look, and found out the rear rim was destroyed. It had less than 2000 miles on it.

The night before Mulholland, I felt we were going to have a great ride. There was one other tandem at the start, Karen and Mike, who had taken the Stage Race in 2004 and 2008. They started off fast and pulling the mast start of riders; however, when we hit the first climb, we past them and never saw them again.

There were two tough climbing areas, one had 24% grade and another 25% grade. We finished 2 hours before the time we thought we would, and earned a T-Shirt for under 16 hours. We had beaten the other tandem by 58 minutes. We now had two weeks before Devil Mountain Double. My favorite ride and David’s most hated ride.

The second leg of the Stage Race was Devil Mountain Double. The route starts in San Ramon and heads up Mt Diablo North, up Mt Diablo Summit and then descends down Mt Diablo South to Morgan Territory. From there the route heads up Patterson Pass, up Mines Rd, up the Back of Mt Hamilton, down Mt Hamilton, up Sierra Rd, up Calaveras, up Palomares and finally up Norris Canyon for 18,500 of climbing and 206 miles. We rolled at 5A with about 225 riders and no other tandems. We had done all the climbs during our training, so we knew what to expect. However, with the first climb being Mt Diablo the last 100 feet seemed easy compared to the training rides we had done. Then came Morgan Territory and Patterson Pass, we had no problems. After that it was Mines Road, where we realized this is hard and it hurts, and we had two more hard nasty climbs, the backside of Mt Hamilton and Sierra Road. We struggled up the backside, however, on the Mt Hamilton descend we had recovered and we felt ready for Sierra. Sierra Rd comes at mile 160, we started the climb and it was tough. I had told David, we may need to stop part way up. We reached the trees and David asked me if I needed to stop and I said no, that the climb is most completed. I guess it is a good thing I cannot remember, because we were only half way up to top of Sierra! Somehow we managed to make it up, and it was off to Sunol via Calaveras.  It was great to see Sheila Stevens there (freshly back from a long business trip)!  She told me we were head of her and Russ’s time by 40 minutes – another great modivator. We then headed down Niles Canyon, the hard climbs were over, but we two more climbs to finish Palomares and Norris Canyon. By the time we hit the Palomares descend, what Sheila had said about our time hit me. I had thought we were shooting for under 18 hours for a completion time, but we were looking for under 17 hours. We came in screaming to the finish with a 16:21 time. We were saying yes, one more:  The Terrible Two.

Terrible Two is known for its nasty hot weather (over 100 degrees), but this year the average temperature was 78 degrees. The seven week break between Devil Mountain and Terrible Two created difficultly in our training. We both had a hard time peaking again. At the start of the ride, we could feel the intensity in the air with the other 227 riders. This is a race. Riders were warned about very bad roads and the technical descends on the course. We installed torn resisted tubes in the back and front (thanks to Russ and Sheila). On part of course there is gravel, and we wanted to avoid flats. Also a few years back Jennie Phipps and Craig Robinson had had a front blow out descending and crashed. They were in first place in the Stage Race, so, we backed off on the descents and took to heart Bill’s warnings. As it turned out one of the big stories of the day were crashes and we were not one of them. To finish first, first you must finish. The Organizer, Bill Octinger was there to shake our hands when we rolled in. I could hardly stand at the finish. And most important thing, I earned a “I Did It” T-Shirt (I wore it continuously for 4 days after the ride). We were done with the Stage Race and we had no food problems, no lows, no mechanicals, no drama, no events, and no problems on all three rides. We were prepared. Then we loaded the tandem into the back of the truck and saw the brand new rear tire that we had installed before ride with white treads showing and the side bead popping out.

Going into the Terrible Two, there were 47 riders that completed the first two legs of the Stage Race, after Terrible Two there were only 32 (4 women 27 men) that completed all three legs of the Stage Race. We were the only tandem.

Our finished times:

  • Mulholland           15:21 60 minutes off the bike
  • Devil Mountain      16:17 with 75 minutes off the bike
  • Terrible Two           15:08 with less than 45 minutes off the bike
  • Total of time of 46:45, 614 miles, 55,915′ of climbing.

Each of 3-200 milers was different as far as the ride; however, the weather was great for all three rides. Reflecting back on it, would we do it again? Perhaps!!!!

Alta Alpina Challenge

| June 21, 2010 9:01 am

by Brian Shaner

That first blast of cold wind almost blew me back into the car.  Why hadn’t I worn warmer clothes? It was in the mid 40’s but that wind was vicious. Later I’d thank that same wind as it seemed to always be at my back giving me a little push up some of the harder climbs. But now I was cold and a bit afraid that I’d bitten off more than I could chew: 141.5 miles with over 14,000 feet of climbing in this thin air. Fortunately, I’d ridden up with Eric Wessler, so I had someone with whom to share this challenge. It was nice to tuck in behind him now and then during the first twenty miles to the foot of Kingsbury. It was 6am and the sun was just peaking over the hills to the east across the Nevada plains.  The changing colors and patterns of light took my mind off the cold and the immensity of this ride.

We got to the base of Kingsbury and as previously arranged Eric went ahead at his faster pace.  I was determined to take it easy and not burn out on the first climb, so it took me an hour to ride the seven miles to the top.  Waiting for me was a well oiled team of Alta Alpina club members.  The first one took my bike, the second filled my water bottle and the third attached my Kingsbury sticker. This happened at every rest stop (with the exception of Carson which we’ll get to later).  I felt like I had made a pit stop at the Indianapolis 500, and was ready to go in less than five minutes.  As I was getting ready to leave, one of the club members asked if there was anything else I needed.  Trying to be clever, I asked if he would mind peddling my bike up Carson for me.  Without missing a beat he asked when and where he should meet me.

Descending Kingsbury was great with a smooth road and little traffic.  After a few miles of gentle rollers, we began the long slow climb up highway 88 towards Carson via Luther.  It was past 9am and those clouds that had looked beautiful a few hours before now looked dark and ominous. But unlike last year, the weather held for the entire ride.  Plus there was more traffic and less shoulder.  I had met Brian Birkeland at the Immigrant Gap rest stop but left earlier than he and his riding companion.  In fact, I didn’t see anyone in front of or behind me most of the way to the Luther turn off.  But then part way up Luther I saw a familiar face as Eric whizzed down the mountain.  I met a hefty rider at the top of Luther who was just doing three passes so only had Blue Lakes left.  Eric and I had driven that route the day before and gone for a hike to get a bit acclimated.   So I told him that it wasn’t very steep (not true) and that it ended at the fourth gate because the real steep part was still covered with snow (true).  Later as I was struggling up some 10% grades on Blue Lakes, I realized that I had not been paying very close attention from the car.  So when I saw my hefty friend descending, I was glad he gave me a friendly ring of his bell and not the finger for misinforming him about the difficulty of the climb.  But all of this happened after Carson.  I was struggling near the top of Carson Pass.  It seemed to go on forever, and even though the views were spectacular, I was beginning to have doubts about being able to complete the ride in the time allotted.  Then just as I was feeling discouraged, the tailwind picked up and seemed to lift me effortlessly up the last few tenths of a mile.  This was not the last time I would have a “helping hand”.

Near Carson Pass

Then there was the Carson Pass rest stop.  I was the only rider there but the three club members didn’t seem to notice my presence.  Unlike the other rest stops, there was no rack for your bike, so I leaned it against one of the tent poles.  Later a gust of wind blew my bike over, but it was saved by a large water bottle.  It was wedged awkwardly between pole and bottle, and I had a cup of soup in one hand, but I was given no assistance.  However, this was my only negative experience with the support staff.  Everywhere else they were extremely friendly, helpful and appreciative that I had chosen their ride.

On the way down from Carson Pass the route turned right up towards the shortened Blue Lakes climb.  I was pretty beat by this time and very glad that the climb had been shortened.  I saw Eric again and he stopped to chat a bit and give me some much needed encouragement.  The rest stop was at the fourth gate, and the views were terrific.  I ate quite a bit of food and took some extra time to see if I could get my legs working.

Near the Blue Lake Rest Stop

I’d completed almost 90 miles with 50 remaining but was close to exhaustion.  The next 15 miles were mostly downhill with over a 2000 foot elevation loss.  I was hoping that the lower elevation and food would do the trick.  And in fact, I was feeling some better by the time I turned onto highway 89 toward Markleeville.  About this time I saw a group of riders gaining on me.  It turns out they were Alta Alpina club members.  One pulled up beside me and said, “You look like you could use a push”, and he put his “helping hand” on my shoulder and pushed me for about 200 yards.  After this help, I felt so good that I tucked in behind them and drafted for the next mile or so.

Just before arriving back at the start at Turtle Rock Park, the route took a left turn up Airport Rd.  This extra six miles had been added at the last minute to make up for the closure of the top part of the Blue Lakes climb.  The club members had told me that it was only a 500 foot climb which was true.  However, the route continued down over the peak and descended another 500 feet.  It was a pretty area and the grade wasn’t too bad, but I was getting very concerned about the 6:30pm cut off at the top of Monitor.  I was going to stop at Turtle Rock to talk to someone about the various cut offs and whether or not it made sense for me to attempt the fifth pass.  But there was a little rise up to the building where I might find someone to talk with, and it seemed a bit crazy to take the time and energy to find out.  So I turned around and continued on towards Monitor.

It was about seven miles to the base and another seven miles up to the pass. I stopped briefly at the rest stop at the base of Monitor and saw some of the eight pass folks who had just finished Ebbetts.  On my way up I calculated that I just needed to average 5mph to make the cut off.  This seemed reasonable for the first mile or so, but then things slowed down.  I had never climbed Monitor (or any of the other passes), and wasn’t prepared for the sections of 8-11% grade that seemed never ending.  I stopped twice to rest which I hardly ever do while climbing.  Each time I stopped I had to have a good talk with myself about continuing.  It would have been so easy to turn around.  I was well below my 5mph and was pretty sure I’d miss the cut off.  But about two thirds of the way up I was passed by another rider who told me that they had extended the cutoff half an hour. And sure enough, even though I missed the cut off by eight minutes, I got my sticker.

Monitor Pass

I stayed in the tent at the top of Monitor for 15 minutes before attempting the descent.  On the way down I noticed that my bike felt a bit wobbly; the steering didn’t seem quite right.  But when I stopped I realized that I was shaking (from exhaustion and cold), and that it wasn’t the bike that was a bit wobbly.  So I took it easy and stopped a few times to take pictures, and I felt much better by the time I was at the base of Monitor.

Monitor Descent

The return to the start wasn’t as bad as I had feared, but my pace was slow, and for some reason I had decided that I wanted to make it back by 8pm.  This was half an hour after the original cut off, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be DNFed if I made it by then.  So at 7:57 I put my bike on the rack at the finish and by 7:58 #480 had checked in.  Apparently, my Kingsbury sticker had come off, so I was a bit shocked when they listed me as completing only four passes.  But they took my word for it that I had completed five.  Eric had said he was going to do six passes if possible, and he showed up about fifteen minutes later having done just that.  They had some pretty good food for us at the finish, so we just sat around and compared notes for awhile before heading back to our place at Kirkwood.

This was the hardest ride I’d ever done and the closest I’d ever come to quitting.  At the finish I swore I’d never do it again, but on the way back to Kirkwood we were already talking about which passes we’d include in our ride next year.  Since some of my riding buddies are doing the Death Ride this year, I had considered seeing if I could get an entry.  But after the Alta Alpina Challenge, I think I’ll pass.

DMD Ride Story

| April 25, 2010 9:33 pm
DMD Ride Story

by Russ Stevens

Those of you who know me better might be perplexed to hear that I rode the Devil Mountain Double yesterday, especially since I swore off rides over 120 miles about a month ago (at least for a little while). After failing to finish the Hoodoo 500 last year, I found myself unable to back off on the mileage or intensity and spent the next four months riding myself into a hole.  I eventually got to the point where everything I did on the bike seemed painful and unpleasant.  I knew I had to change something when I realized I was starting to hate doing something I have loved since I was a little kid.  Luckily, it’s amazing how fast your mind can recover.  It seems that only a few weeks of lower mileage and no intensity were required to bring back my passion for this sport.

Given the fact that I have been taking it easy (or at least easier) for the past month, I really had no idea how to approach DMD.  I knew I could finish and probably even have a really enjoyable day by riding moderately and taking time to enjoy all the rest stops.  However, part of me also wanted to see if I could beat my prior time of 14:20 recorded during the stage race in 2007.  I finally decided to start with the fast folks at 6:00 AM and just see how long I could hang on.  I figured if it got too difficult, I could always fall back to the moderate riding/enjoy myself plan.  With prior stage race superstars like Marc Moons, Robert Choi, Phil Hornig and Graham Pollock signed up, I figured the fall back to plan B would happen pretty fast.

We started the ride with great weather.  It was about 50° in San Ramon and according to a weather station at the top of the mountain, it was actually slightly warmer (54°) on top of Diablo.  The great weather would follow us all day, never being too warm or too cold.

The first half hour of riding was very relaxed.  That only lasted to the base of Mount Diablo.  Marc Moons set a pretty fast pace right at the bottom, and from there things only ramped up.  People started falling off the back as I watched my heart rate climb into dangerous territory.  By the time we got to the top, less than 10 people were left in the front group.  The entire climb up Mount Diablo took only 61 minutes (only 5 minutes slower than my record time up that mountain).

I picked up some time on the descent and for 10 minutes or so, I was actually in the lead, able to back off and recover a bit while the rest of the group caught back up.  Easing back was a smart move because once we started climbing again, things only got more intense.  As we neared the top of Morgan Territory, my power meter started reporting sustained output over 300 Watts.  I was getting worried.  I knew if I maintained this level for too much longer, I would be so tired that even reverting to plan B would still be miserable.  I decided if I was going to be miserable anyway, I might as well stick with plan A and hang with the leaders a little bit longer.  As we left the preserve, our group had shrunk to only five people: me, Marc Moons, Robert Choi, Curtis Taylor, and a guy from Colorado I did not know.

I have to admit that being in the fast bunch on Altamont Pass was a kick.  There’s always a nice tailwind on that road.  We charged over the pass in a rotating pace line, readily clocking over 35 mph.  I kept asking myself, what am I doing here?

As the grade increased on Patterson Pass, it got harder and harder to hang on.  The steeper the hill got, the more power Marc Moons put out.  I would have lost the group except that Marc and Robert stopped for a few seconds for water at the Patterson Pass mini stop.  Skipping that stop allowed me to get to the summit just in time to be caught by the leaders and follow them down the hill.

Some blissful pace lining and recovery along the flat sections of Tesla and Mines Rd brought us to the Mines Rd checkpoint.  It was pretty crowded with riders who started at 5am, so it took longer than I wanted to fill my bottles.  Marc, Robert and Curtis headed out a few seconds before I was ready, but were nice enough to wait for me and Colorado guy to catch up.  Unfortunately, my tenure with the front pack was not to last.  As soon as the grade increased, Marc once again picked up the pace.  Robert matched Marc’s pace and the guy from Colorado also started to pull away.  I knew it was finally time for me to back off or risk not finishing.

To my surprise, Curtis Taylor also started to back off and we both soon found a fairly compatible pace.  I was pretty wiped out and unable to help much, but Curtis was nice enough to let me draft him most of the way up Mines Rd.  Along the way, he informed me that he was doing the stage race along with the guy from Colorado, who was flying to California with his bike for each of the three rides.  As Colorado started to pull away out of sight, Curtis started to worry that Colorado might steal his third place standing, a position he currently defended by only 17 minutes.

My first bout of cramps started on the last few short climbs before lunch.  I told Curtis to keep going, but he did not leave without handing me a packet of his new secret weapon: Pedialyte.  I quickly dumped the packet in what remained of my water bottle, backed off a bit and nursed the bottle all the way to the junction, arriving just as Curtis was leaving.  I quickly topped off my bottles grabbed some food and headed off.

The Pedialyte started working and I was able to leave the junction and slowly increase my power.  What had been a nice tailwind along mines road turned into a stiff head wind on San Antonio road.  I got into my aero bars and picked up some speed.  Pretty soon, I caught up to Curtis and Colorado.

I expected the backside of Mt Hamilton to be miserable, as it always is.  While it certainly wasn’t pleasant, it was better than I expected.  I soon learned that while Curtis was slightly faster than me on the flats, I was slightly faster than him on the climbs.  Since he had helped me all the way up Mines Rd and shared his secret weapon with me, I promised not to go off the front.  This allowed me to back off slightly, giving me not only company but a much less painful climb.  Curtis, Colorado and I stayed within eyesight of each other to the top.

I really can’t describe how magical it is to reach the top of Mt Hamilton on DMD and start the descent.  As I headed down the hill I know like the back of my hand, I started to pull ahead.  As I reached the fire station and started the first mini-climb, I slowed a bit to wait for Curtis.  By this point, he had pulled in front of Colorado.  We left the Crothers rest up just as Colorado arrived.  At that point, I realized there was hope for Curtis to defend his third place position and decided I would do everything I could to help him.

At the Crothers rest stop, I realized I had not seen Phil Hornig all day.  I mentioned this to Curtis and he said he had not seen Phil since the start.  We headed back down Crothers road and just as we made the right hand turn to finish the descent down Mt Hamilton Rd, a rider turned right onto Crothers.  Curtis said, “That was Phil Hornig!” It seemed we now had two people chasing us.

Given the fact that Phil showed up out of nowhere, I fully expected to be quickly passed by him on Sierra road.  This expectation got stronger when I immediately started cramping at the first pitch.  Damn it!  I got off and started walking up the hill, while taking some more Endurolytes, and drinking as much Gatorade as my stomach could handle.  Curtis inched away, but not as fast as I would have expected.  It turns out that when you are tired you can walk up Sierra road almost as fast as you can bike.  After a minute or so, the cramps subsided and I was able to get back on my bike.  I caught up to and passed Curtis.  Ken Emerson welcomed me at the Pet the Goat and informed me that I was currently in third place, about 25 minutes behind Marc and Robert.

I waited about 45 seconds for Curtis and then we headed down Felter.  I could not believe we had not yet been passed by either Phil or Colorado.  We climbed over the Calaveras wall and headed out towards the reservoir, both of us wondering where our two chasers were.  We thought we were out of the woods until Calaveras offered us a nice view of the road behind us at which point we saw two cyclists riding together behind us.  It was time to pick up the pace.

I’m not sure I have ever ridden down Calaveras Rd so quickly.  Curtis and I traded turns in front all the way down the hill.  In Sunol, we were told we were now only 20 minutes behind the leaders.  We left Sunol before Phil or Colorado arrived, but we sensed they were close behind.

We maintained the pace down Niles road and up Palomares, where we were surprised to catch up to two cyclists: the last two of the 5:00 crew.  It was a father and son pair, Max and Bruno Mehech.  The son was only 22.  I thought we would pass and leave them behind, but we must have inspired them because they were still with us at the summit.  Now we had a team of four.

We charged up crow canyon and turned right onto Norris canyon: the last climb.  I started to pull away from Curtis and realized I could probably take third place.  But then I remembered there’s no way I would’ve gotten here without Curtis’ help, so I slowed at the summit to wait for him.  A tie for third place was good enough for me and making friends on the road is more important than any time or place.

Final Stats:

  • Total Time: 12:32
  • Rolling time: 12:15Miles: 207
  • Total Climb: 18,481
  • Avg Heart Rate: 132
  • Average Speed: 17.0
  • Avg Power: 226 Watts
  • Place: tied for 3rd
  • 1st and 2nd place time: 12:14

Speaking of friends, one of the most fun things in the day was seeing so many people I knew along the way.  Barley Forsman, Peter Merrill and Kley Cardona all joined me at the 6:00 AM start.  Along the way to the Morgan Territory Preserve, I saw Clyde Butt and Joan Deitchman <> .  Ken Emerson greeted me at the top of Morgan Territory, which is also where I saw Dave and Deb Hoag and Brian Chun.  I passed Laura Hipp on Altamont. As I headed up Mines Rd, I saw many other club members heading the other direction on the Mt Hamilton challenge including Guy Neenan, Kryia Adams, Dennis Uyeno and Art Cruz.  Paul Duren and Ken Emerson took care of me at pet the goat.  Susan Forsman went barreling down the Calaveras wall on her fixie just as we were heading up and I saw Scott Guillaudeau as I was descending Calaveras (along with Guy Neenan, Kryia Adams and Art Cruz again).  Ben Waters supported me in Sunol and I saw Steve Saeedi there as well after driving back to pick up Sheila at the end of the ride.  The smiling faces and encouraging words I received from all of these people along the way inspired and energized me the entire ride.

Finally, a big thanks to a Quack cyclists and all the DMD volunteers.  Nobody supports double centuries or makes them as much fun as you.

Insomnia, Mosquitoes Good For Something – White Mountain Double

| October 3, 2009 1:39 pm

by Vince Cummings

I decided to do a new double century called the White Mountain Double to get my third official double for the year in the Triple Crown series. This ride climbs to the top of White Mountain after a flat thirteen mile warm up. The climb gains 6000 feet in twenty miles. After that the ride skirts near the northern boundary of Death Valley heading east. Then it swings north for many miles before turning west and heading back southwest over a long climb and through Benton to the start/finish in Bishop California.

I really like the Bishop area so I took some vacation days from work and went up a couple days before Saturday’s ride to acclimate to the altitude and to explore the area. All the weather reports I heard were for record high temperatures all over the area for Saturday.

By Friday night I was a little apprehensive about the heat. I also had an upset stomach due to too much carbo loading. I went to bed fairly early but could not sleep much.

The ride had two ride starts. The first start was at 4:15 for the predicted slower riders and the second was at 5:15 for people who felt that they could finish the ride in 14 hours or less. I felt fairly confident that I could finish within 14 hours since I finished the Eastern Sierra reroute with about 1500 more estimated feet of climbing in much colder but just as harsh conditions as I expected to find Saturday.

At 2:15 AM I wasn’t sleeping though so I decided to try and make the early start. One thing I learned on this ride was that it is a good idea to check the tires for damage as soon as possible after getting up. I waited until about a half hour before the ride start to find a thorn in my front tire. Fortunately I had a new Michelin Pro Race 3 with me and this was a good excuse to put it on with a new tube.

I made it to the ride start on time and we rolled south down Highway 395 on time at 4:15 am. I led for awhile but fortunately someone else came to the front for most of the ride to the foot of White Mountain. I stopped to take off my vest at the turn off to Death Valley Road right before the start of the climb. This allowed me not to have a dry vest when I got to the top and it kept me from racing up the first climb.

After about 10 minutes I got a good rythmn going and I was able to pass most of the riders who got ahead of me when I put on my vest. I stopped at the first bathroom though and this took about 10 minutes. Then I stopped at the rest stop to fill my bottles.

Even with all those stops I only counted about 10 riders in front of me. So I wasn’t feeling too bad about the ride when I got to the 10000 plus foot paved summit of White Mountain ( a dirt road continues to near the 14000 foot plus summit).

I checked in at the summit station and put my vest back on. The descent wasn’t too bad and it was getting quite warm already.

The next stop was at the same aid station to make sure I had enough Perpeteum to last the next aid station. I stopped again at the bottom of White Mountain Road to drop off my vest and a thermal shirt and my back tail light to have them transported to near the final aid station where I would pick them up later.

After about 6 more miles of very fun descending I was finally at the low point of the ride and the long flat desert road stretched out before me. At this point there was one rider about 1/4 mile in front of me and I was riding with another. We caught the other rider (Jim Poppy from Palo Alto) but the other rider didn’t want to work as hard so he fell back.

We filled our bottles and headed toward Gilbert Pass. I was climbing pretty well at this point and Jim fell back. After the climb though he quickly caught me and we worked together for a few miles (maybe only 5 miles). This was tiring and boring for me though. Even though it is faster to work with two riders it is so monotonous that I chose to go slower instead and let Jim keep a faster pace.

The next rest stop was at a bar appropriately called “The Boonies.” After a 20 minute break there I took off and Jim took off a few minutes later. By now the desert road was getting a little boring and I had developed an annoying habit of looking at my cycle computer every 30 seconds. At this point I started making a mental note to look at the computer as little as possible and just concentrate on the scenery. This strategy worked quite well especially after a short climb dropped me into a beautiful desert basin surrounded by painted mountains. This was at mile 110 and I was feeling a second wind which lasted all the way until the next stop which was the smoothie station.

I arrived at the smoothie station a few minutes behind Jim. A couple fast 5:15 am starters caught us there. After a smoothie and a fresh dose of sunblock and fuel I was ready. Now it started to get hot. As I started the climb the two 5:15 starters passed me. This was first time anyone had passed me since the start of the White Mountain climb 100 miles ago. Jim was well ahead of me too. But no one really took off at light speed and I kept them within sight (as much as I could see with all the sweat dripping sun block into my eyes). This was another 15 plus mile climb and I was very unprepared for it. Although I was still climbing at a decent pace it did throw my calculations for the ride off.

At the next station I could feel a mild bonk (is bonk an adjective?) and the heat was starting to slow me as well. I let someone park my bike for me and I took a seat with a cold cup of water for about 10 minutes. When I got back on the bike I noticed that my computer had been zeroed out. It’s a newer cateye and it has a hair trigger on all the functions so it’s best to leave it on “distance 2” because if that gets zeroed out the other information stays. On all the other functions a simple touch can wipe out everything but distance 2 and total odometer. I only mention this because I think it may be a better idea to decline an offer of help with my bike on doubles. I think just gently laying the bike down is a better idea rather than letting someone else touch it or spending time trying to think of a good place to keep it standing.

Back on the bike I hit the last climb of the day and I was still climbing ok but definitely not fast. The downhill into Benton was the easiest part of the ride. I passed the rest stop and came to the foot of the last climb of the Eastern Sierra reroute. Fortunately at that point one of the ride volunteers came driving up and told me I had missed the stop. I took another 10 minutes at this stop and was anticipating the promised tail wind that I had enjoyed for the final 37 miles of the Eastern Sierra reroute earlier this year.

That wasn’t happening on this day though. I rode by some flags and they were flying straight into my face. So I went into survival mode. The two 5:15 starters who had passed me earlier had stopped at the rest stop for an extended break because one of them seemed to be suffering from too much water retention, with similar symptoms to the ones described by Russ Steven’s on his Hoodoo attempt. These were two riders who probably could finish a ride like the normal Eastern Sierra Route in 11 to 11.5 hours or better. As I geared down for my struggle with the headwind they passed me at about 19 to 20 mph. I thought about grabbing their wheel since I am sure they weren’t going full speed but thought better of it since I was getting pretty tired by now.

Once I hit mile 190 I knew I would get my Triple Crown for the year so I decided to take a break or two on the way in. I pulled over just after the sun went down at a place that looked comfortable and safe to rest a few minutes. I felt something on my leg, looked down, and the mosquitoes were getting ready to inject. Needless to say this kept me riding into Bishop which led to a shower and dinner at a reasonable hour and a fair nights sleep. The next day I was feeling better than usual after a double and stopped to explore the June Lakes area and Bodie State Historical Park.

So if I had a good nights sleep before the double I would have started at 5:15 and probably not been much faster throughout the ride. If it wasn’t for the mosquitoes coming out as the sun went down I would have stopped one or two times in the last ten miles. Thanks to both of these things though I finished exactly at 7:00 and was able recover enough to enjoy the drive home.

The double itself was nice. Good support and friendly staff at all the rest stops. The route was difficult because after the first three climbs there is a 70 mile (approximately) trek north which on this day was into a headwind. The headwind wasn’t so bad but the ride had a fairly small turnout (83 started) so there wasn’t much help for the headwind. Of course the predicted tailwind from Benton to Bishop turned into a strong headwind as well which probably cost me about a half hour at least. Anyway, all that is part of cycling and since I didn’t really draft anyone all day, I feel more of a sense of accomplishment for finishing this one which is my toughest double to date.

Here is the link to more information and results for this double…

Knoxville Fall Classic Double Century 09/19/2009

| September 27, 2009 6:57 am
Knoxville Fall Classic Double Century 09/19/2009
by Clyde Butt


After a 19 month absence from riding in California Triple Crown series events, I’m glad I chose to do this one. A long term period of unemployment forced me into survival mode – I simply could not justify or pay for the events. Praise God, I landed safely at Brocade last month (08/10/2009), and of course, one of my first actions was to check the calendar for all the doubles still going on this year!

My brother and his family live only 8 miles from the start. Having not seem them for a while, I made arrangements to stay with them and visit a while before the big ride day. Brother Doug and family just returned from a vacation to Sweden. Wow, the pictures were incredible, perfect weather for that part of the world. A must see for me, someday.

I arrived at the start location nearly an hour before check in time and to my surprise and delight Albert Kong showed up early, too. What a delightful guy. Always smiling and showing his enthusiasm for cycling. He was still recovering from doing the Last Chance 1200 in Colorado less than a week ago! What a stud! Later the next day at the awards breakfast, Albert was inducted into the California Triple Crown Hall of Fame after completing his 50th double century!

Instead of checking in and taking off for some much needed rest, I decided to stick around and help check in the riders. Albert took care of A-L last names while I managed the M-Z crowd. It was a lot of fun meeting everyone, checking their names off, and giving them their ride numbers and route slips. Volunteering is always a blast. You gott’a try it sometime, if you haven’t done so.

I still managed to get to sleep and log about 6 hours down time. This has always been a challenge for me the day before a big event. I guess the excitement kind of takes over, even after several years of doing these types of rides.

The Event

I “slept in” and got up at about 3:30am, ate a big cranberry wheat muffin and banana I purchased at Trader Joes before leaving the bay area. Got to the start and saw my friend Kitty G. about to start. At 4:37am my wheels were rolling and I caught her about 30 mins down the road.

I left all my cold weather clothes behind, save my long fingered wool gloves. Even though it was mild at the start, I remember Mt. George from 2007 where I froze and couldn’t feel my fingers or toes in the 36 degree temp on the descent!

Well, I didn’t need ‘em. In fact, I descended with arm warmers rolled down around my wrists. Conditions were perfect, about 58 degrees and the wind at the start had dissipated. What a pleasure to pace line with Kitty G., Karen Huber, Isabelle Drake, and a few other very experienced ultra-cyclists. In fact, after 4 hours on the course, I noticed that we were averaging 18.8 mph! At this rate, I thought, I’ll be done in 13 hours or so.

Karen Huber; one of only 3 women that finished Alta Alpina in 2009, the #1 hardest double century on the circuit

My what a difference the heat can make. 6:16 mins ride time to complete the first 100 miles and over twice as long to get the second 100 done! By 11:30am, I was probably down about 1 liter of water. I have difficulty forcing myself to drink when the temp is cool like it was that morning. I think this set me up for what was about to take place…

As I came up to the pre-lunch water stop at mile 97, both of my hamstrings started to twitch…an all to familiar feeling for me. I knew that cramps were about to hit. No matter how much I hydrate and take endurolites, Tums, and eat bananas, something has happened over the last 3 years as I entered my 50s. Heat induced cramps? Age-related? Could my bodily systems be changing and not producing the right amount of elements needed to avoid these debilitating cramps? I don’t know, but I’m sure going to try and find out.

For the next 6 hours, I suffered. Must have walked a total of 5 miles or more…on the bike a minute or two, then cramps would start, off the bike to walk them off…over and over again. I even got a little “short” with a rider that came by like so many others asking if there was anything I needed. I said, “NO, I’m all over it!” Needless to say, I was getting pretty agitated by the whole ordeal. After all the walking, the front of my feet, right around the ankle joint, were getting really sore.

But I was determined to not quit. Must of had something to do with the fact that my personal goal for the second half of the year was to finish this ride. A DNF would have put me in jeopardy of not getting paid some of the potential incentive bonus I’m eligible for at Brocade. What a great company, they are actually going to pay me for completing this ride!

I missed the turn to the lunch stop and continued on to climb Siegler Canyon and Cobb Mtn. Two pretty tuff climbs, especially for me in the condition I was in. I could not ride any of the inclines without cramping! All I could do was walk and coast on the flats and decline sections.

Thank God for SAG support. Ernesto came along at just the right time with cold drinks, and other supplies. I downed a coke, took some more endurolytes and started out again, only to find myself cramping again.

I sat down at a paved driveway to stretch out my hams and it seemed to help me ride a little farther before cramps set in again, so I kept stretching them out, even while on the bike, hoping I could overcome this problem before it overcame me.

About 5:30pm as I was climbing Pope Valley Rd., I had a terrible bout with cramps in my hamstrings and quads. I was hobbling to try and walk them off. At this point, I was seriously thinking that I was done, stick a fork in me, I may not be able to continue!

Oddly enough, as the sun got low in the sky and the temps began to fall, no more cramps, not a single bout for the rest of the ride. They must be heat induced…gott’a find out about this before I do another long ride.

I was so glad they were over, I got very pumped up, reinvigorated to make up for the slow, agonizing afternoon.

After Rest Stop #5 as twilight was coming on, I came across a lone cyclist, Nancy. She was doing her third double century and going for the triple crown jersey (only riders that complete 3 in a calendar year can buy it). I asked her if she would like me to buddy up with her during the night hours and she welcomed the idea. Always do this, folks. Two sets of lights on the road are always better than one.

As we rambled on down Hwy 28, we realized that it was even more important to stay together. It was Saturday night and we were in vacation camping country (Lake Berryessa). A few trucks with their trailer rigs loaded with jet skies came dangerously close to us. We know what they had been doing – how do you spell drinking & driving?

I wasn’t as concerned about it as Nancy. I guess since I always pray before every ride that God will dispatch guardian angels to watch over us, I figure that when my time is up on this earth, nothing, no matter how cautious I am will keep me from entering into eternal life, but lets not rush it, either :)

At about 8pm Nancy and I came up to the next turn on our route slip. We were to make a left at the junction of hwy 28 and hwy 121. Hmm, Scott and his team of volunteers had done a good job of marking the course at every turn and I saw the Kx left arrow at just the right mileage on my computer, so we turned at the store. Little did we know that had we gone just another 30 yards up the road, we would have seen the real left turn to make!

7 miles and about 1500′ of elevation gain later, we came to the end of this wrong turn road. Some people were having a pool party with loud music at the top where there was a small community of homes and so I crashed the party. I must have looked like an alien walking up to them…miners light strapped to my helmet and reflective ankle bands and other reflective stuff showing. Chris, with his buff shaved chest full of tattoos informed us that we had to go all the way back to the store 7 miles away to get back on course!

Nancy was not exactly happy about this. In fact I distinctly remember hearing some expletives shouted into the air!

Now it didn’t really rattle me. I was really enjoying the balmy temps and beauty of the outdoors. However, I did feel bad for Nancy. She wanted to get to the finish a lot earlier than when we would tonight. As we got back to the store, I called Scott and told him what happened (I tried to call him at the end of the road 7 miles away but there was no network coverage). He explained that the turn is further up the road where the stop sign is, and sure enough, as we talked, I looked up and saw what he was describing. It was kind of comforting to hear him say that he has made the same wrong turn, too! We climbed Steele Canyon all the way to the top. That little out and back amounted to 14 miles and about another 1.5 of riding!

Lesson learned; always preview the route slip before the ride. Had I realized that the left turn was a left to keep us on hwy 128, I would have been looking for markers to confirm we were on that hwy!

Hey, Scott, just the same, please place that road marker AFTER the turn onto Steel Canyon! Thanks!

Scott also told me during our phone call that 4 riders had just made the left turn onto hwy 28 about 5 minutes ago and there were still 3 riders behind us. He assured me that even if we got to the finish in Vacaville after midnight, we would not be “awarded” a DQ for missing the cut off time. Ah, that was nice to hear.

I delivered Nancy to the group of 4 where Scott was driving his van behind them to provide more light and security up the gentle hill climb we were on. As we got to the group, I decided to turn on the afterburners and cook it to the finish. After a quick stop at the last rest stop, I pumped it up and arrived at Pena Adobe Park, the finish, at 12:05am.

The second 100 miles took me 13:32 to complete! Totals for the day = 218.9 miles, 16:48 ride time, 2:20 in stop time (only 28 minutes off the bike in the first 100 miles). The 18.8 mph average from early morning fell to 13.0 for the day, and a fast 45.9 max speed on the descent of Mt. Howell.

Oh, about Howell Mtn. I got a little too cocky on that descent. Sometimes it happens when I’m with a group of riders (there were about 6 of us) coming down from the summit, I was feeling over confident in my descending skills and decided to cook it. Forgetting that a few hairpin turns were coming up, that was a really bad decision.

On one of those that banked to the right, I got very close to the center line just as a big ole pickup truck was coming up on the other side. He too, was hugging the center line. My life didn’t flash before me, but when I saw him coming, I tried to ease off and not brake to hard and just maintain my line. As I nearly kissed his left fender, I could feel the wind rush by my left ear. We were only inches apart!

I heard several of the guys I was with, shout out the big WOE! Bashar, a Jordanian guy that I swear looks and talks more like an Italian pro climber, came up to me in the flats and gently put his hand on my shoulder and kindly encouraged me to be more careful. We road together with Victor for the next hour or so and had a great time climbing up the longest stretch of the course just before the lunch stop at mile 107. It really helps your mental attitude to climb the long hard ones with others. It gets you out of thinking about you, and the time and work seem to go by faster and easier.

The after ride meal put on by The Quackcyclists, was a great feast, catered by Pietro’s #1 in Vacaville, we were treated to several different pastas with maranara and cream sauces, bread, salad, baked chicken, and ice cream, lots of ice cream (I had 3 chocolate covered vanilla bars :)

More later when I return with a post about the awards breakfast Sunday 9/20. What a great time it was. The stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things will inspire you. Guaranteed!

The awards breakfast Sunday 09/20/2009:

After only 4 hours sleep, I jumped out of my sleeping bag and headed back to Pena Adobe Park to get in on the breakfast and ride stories of all the newly inducted hall of famers. Wow, we were treated to huevos rancheros! I had 3 big burritos of scrambled eggs, refried beans, sour cream, and guacamole, hmm, hmm, good!

11 riders were inducted into the California Triple Crown Hall of Fame this year. They had to complete 50 double centuries in order to be eligible. It was so delightful to see friends walk up to the podium and tell their stories. Albert Kong brought is two youngsters with him and Kitty G. accepted on behalf of Betty Berka who could not be there.

I sat next to Kitty for breakfast and the presentations and watched her autograph a book that one of the riders brought along. It was a book about the race across America (RAAM). There is a photo of Kitty from 1987 riding the course followed by her support crew vehicle. Her crew had mechanical troubles with the car along the way. It forced Kitty to abandon the ride somewhere in Utah. Sometimes it’s not the rider that gets into trouble!

I got to see Lynn Katano receive a special recognition award from Chuck Bramwell (The Triple Crown Guy who started the ride series). Lynn is the premier volunteer and quintessential hostess for these events, giving of her time and resources to support the riders and all the teams of volunteers. I met Lynn and her photography guy in Arizona in April 2007 where we were riding PBP qualifying events. Chuck pointed out that Lynn has completed 91 double centuries! WOW, I didn’t know that! Her award was quite unique. A rock from the Tom Simpson memorial monument near the summit of Mt. Ventoux

The most moving story of the morning came from a woman who was inducted into the hall of fame and had an impressive list of accomplishments to her credit, include numerous ironman competitions. Chuck mentioned that she hopes to compete again at that level one day. As she walked up to the podium to speak, I couldn’t help but notice a limp in her stride. Saturday she completed her 50th double with a prosthetic foot. Several years ago she was struck by a motorist while on a training ride and the bones in her ankle were crushed beyond repair. Eventually, the only option left was to amputate. Not only is she back to riding again, she swims 3500 meters a week and has started running 45 to an hour. I have no doubt she will do another ironman.

I will always remember this double century and awards breakfast as a time of re-uniting with friends both on the bike and at rest stops where I saw people like Doug, Tim, and other familiar faces. There were new friendships made, old ones renewed. A truly great time, even with all the suffering I went through. Kind of like life condensed into one day on a bicycle.

A big heartfelt thank you to Scott Halversen and all the Quackcyclists and volunteers that made this a well supported event, including all the SAG support along the way – those guys have an uncanny ability to know when to come along side you and offer assistance. A special thank you to hall of famer Lee Mitchell for blasting old time rock and roll from his mini-van roof mounted speakers. At one point, I remember hearing some Elvis Presley as he was sweeping the course – instead of giving Lee the thumbs up sign that I was okay, I just raised my hand in the air and started snapping my fingers along to the tune. He knew I was okay and enjoying it! Oh, and I must not forget to thank the crew at rest stop #5. Those chili dogs and soup really hit the spot!

Blessings. Safe and fun riding to you all!


P.S. My ride number for the event was #36. One of those serendipitous things…when you had 3+6 it equals the number of double centuries I have completed now! (I am 9 for 10 – my only DNF was Mulholland in 2008).

DNF = Did Not Finish

(*)/ (*)
“Fortitudine Vincimus – By Endurance We Conquer”

Devil Mtn Double – No Trouble with a Double

| April 29, 2008 5:02 am

by Franz Kelsch

I finished the very difficult Devil Mountain Double on Saturday. It is 206 miles with 18,600 feet of climbing. It is probably the most difficult double century in California. My final time was 15 hours, 32 minutes, a big improvement over last year

I was happy with my time since it was hot again. I got worried coming up Mines Road because of the heat and started to get a bad case of hot foot. There was a breeze this year that helped. I really focused on drinking all day, and took a lot of Endurolyte tablets. I was so worried about cramping again on the backside of Mt. Hamilton that I went up slower than I probably needed to, but I never did cramp anywhere on the ride.

I was also happy to make it to Norris Canyon, the last section, before dark. I don’t like biking on Crow Creek Canyon road in the dark due to all the traffic. I had carried my one pound light the entire day and could have got by with a small Cateye light.

I left the aero bars on the bike which was a good thing. It gave me an alternate position not only for my hands but when I am in the aero bars I get a different position on the saddle, which greatly helped to take some pressure off a tired butt. It was either that part of the body or my right foot that hurt the most.

This year I used my newer bike with only a double crank, but I had no big issue with the higher gearing. I would have preferred to climb up Sierra Road with a triple but the better handling of the newer bike was a benefit on the rest of the ride.


Here is a detailed comparison with doing the same event last year.

2007 2008
Body Weight 135 139
Bike Gearing Triple (30/25) Double (39/27)
Total Time (hr: min) 18:12 15:32
Riding Time (hr:min) 14:51 14:31
Avg. Speed (mph moving) 14.1 14.3
Stopping Time (hr:min) 3:21 1:01
Average Heart Rate (bpm) 136 136
Maximum Heart Rate (bpm) 167 169
Average HR Climbing Sierra (bpm) 142 146
Issues to Deal With Significant Cramping Significant Hot Foot
Weather Hot No Wind Hot With Breeze

Time Comparison

This chart shows my arrival times into the various rest stops. You can see that for the first 115 miles, up to the junction cafe, I did almost the same between both years. Last year my times slowed down considerably due to cramping on the backside of Mt. Hamilton. Click the chart below to view enlarge.

Stopping Time Comparison

This shows a comparision between my stopping time between years. Times shown are in minutes. Most of the improvement in the total time was due to a signficant reduction in the amount of stopping time at the rest stops.

Stop 2007 2008
Diablo Summit
Morgan Territory RS
Mines Rd RS
Junction Cafe
Cramping on Mt. Hamilton
Crother’s RS
Pet the Goat RS
Sunol RS
Other, stop lights, mini rest stops
Total Stopping

Last Time

I don’t plan on doing this event again. It is very difficult and takes out of you far too much. Since I had a difficult time last year, I wanted to do it again to see if I could do it right with better training and more of a focus on hydration during the event. Having accomplished that, I don’t feel a need to repeat it.

Solvang Double Century 2008

| April 2, 2008 7:48 am

by Franz Kelsch

There were twelve club members who took on the Solvang Double Century challenge this year, including Joe Farinha, Dave Zajac, Jon Kaplan, Gary Franck, Barry Schwartz, Marnel King, Barbara Murphy, Fred O’Leary, Louise McCracken, Steve Sundstrom, Ken Emerson and myself. In addition I knew a couple of others that I ride with that joined the event. This is the account of my experience.

Last week I took a look at my data from last year trying to figure out how I could improve on my time. I wrote about my strategy in a prior personal blog entry.

Just as we did last year, I started with the 7:30 am group, the ones that wanted to be timed. Joining that group was Gary Franck, Joe Farinha and Kley Cordona. This 7:30 start group is made up of mostly fast riders. We had a large gathering, maybe over 40 riders. The pace was brisk but I didn’t feel over taxed. After 20 miles we turned to head up Foxen Canyon. This has two moderate climbs and after the second one there is a longer descent. It was on this second descent that I lost the group last year and never was able to catch back on.

My strategy this year was to stay right near the front of the pack for the second climb so I had a better chance to stay connected. It may be the fact that this year there were no tandems to chase down the hill, or that I had been working on descending down faster, but in any event this time I was able to stay connected to the front pack, something only about half the group were able to do. We lost the other half on either the climb or the descent and I knew that they would never be able to catch back on.

We stretched out to a single pace line. Except for a few wheel suckers at the back, everyone was taking a turn pulling, some longer pulls than other, which was okay. One guy, who was particularly strong, would ramp up the pace every-time he pulled. I found myself right behind him on a couple of rotations which meant I had to drive hard to hang on his wheel, then do a pull and still keep enough left to rotate to the back.

I had already planned to skip the first rest stop and sure enough this group went right by it. We made one wrong turn which costs us an extra 2 miles and some lost time trying to get back on course. There were some rollers right before the 2nd rest stop (our first one) that proved a bit difficult due to the pace. I was glad when we finally stopped with a total of 84.8 miles averaging 22.0 mph.

Some of the group had a very quick stop, just enough to fill water bottles. I needed a bit more time but was was able to get back on the bike in less than 6 minutes. There was only one other fellow from the 7:30 group who started with me by the name of John who was from Nevada. He and I biked together for awhile. We were soon joined by others from the 7:30 group that had taken a little longer at the rest stop. But there was a couple of young guys who were driving the pace too high for me, so I eventually dropped off the back. I slowed down to wait for John who had fallen off earlier. We biked together, taking turns pulling until we hit the check point at Morro Bay. We had to wait 1 minute there to get the dot to prove we had gone to the turn around point.

While riding through Morro Bay I hit a bad bump and came down on the back of my saddle, which tipped up the nose. I couldn’t get it to move back level. Although it was quite awkward to ride like that I decided I could not afford to stop so I rode that way until the lunch stop, which was another 14 miles from Morro Bay.

It took me about a minute to fix my saddle and then another 6 to 7 minutes to get some food. We saw some of the 7:30 riders leaving, so John and I jumped on our bikes and caught them.

We started to form a pace line behind a tandem and rode with that group for awhile but eventually some of us moved out ahead and we never saw the tandem again. Soon it was just John and I again as we pulled into our third rest stop with an average speed of the last section of 19.5 mph. The pace was clearly slower while we kept behind the tandem for those miles.

After a 5 minute stop John and I took off, again just the two of us. I hit another bump and my seat got tipped once again with the nose pointing up. I didn’t want to take the time to fix it again so I decided to just keep riding that way. It made it hard to use the aero bars but I felt maybe I could just wait until the next stop.

We were taking turns pulling but on one uphill grade on Highway 1, where I was pulling, I notice that John had fallen way off the back. I had been doing some calculations in my head and figured at this point I had some slight chance to finish under 10 hours so I made the decision to ride on solo, which I did for the last 50 miles. I had a thought of skipping the last rest stop completely but was down to a half of water bottle so I made a 1 minute stop for water. Fatigue was setting in so I was having a hard time keeping my heart rate up. Fortunately we had a tail wind now. There were several club members at that stop who had started earlier. One told me that Gary was about 10 minutes ahead of me, so I jumped on the bike to chase after him. I noticed at that point I had averaged 20.6 mph rolling from the start.

On the way up Drum Canyon, I heard a popping noise so I stopped to check my bike, only to find I had broken a spoke. That was so unexpected for a light guy like me. I wrapped the broken spoke around another spoke, opened up the brake, then jumped back on the bike and started to climb. I had yet to fix my saddle and wondered if I had time. I decided to stop again and to level the seat. As I started to climb again I kept worrying about breaking another spoke and was not sure how hard I should be torquing the pedals as I climbed. I decided to climb carefully, but steady. I was getting very tired and found it hard to do the math in my head to see if I could still finish under 10 hours. My rolling average speed had now dropped to 20.1. When I made it to the summit, I was wondering how fast I should go down, considering it is a rough road. I decided to ride down fast, just hoping no more spokes broke.

Periodically I would calculate again how much further I had to go and how much time I had left. It seemed to be an impossible task and I was about ready to give up trying to make it under 10 hours. I felt lucky to make all the traffic lights in Beulton, thinking one single stop was more than I could afford. That final uphill as you are entering Solvang was just about enough to kill my chance. I then started to hit the traffic in the town of Solvang so I turned right one block early to take a back street.

I finally made it to the end and clicked the split button on my Polar Heart Rate Monitor just as I came to a stop. I was almost afraid to look down but when I did it read 9 hours, 59 minutes and 51 seconds. Ann was there, a bit surprised I finished so fast. She watched my bike as I ran to check in. I had averaged 20.3 mph for the entire ride and had a total stopping time of less than 23 minutes. Funny thing was that I felt better than I did last year after finishing 43 minutes slower.