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…http://www.ndzone.com/