Archive for the 'Ride Story' category

Hoodoo 500 – Team Turbo Dog (2 person mixed 50+)

| September 6, 2010 12:46 pm

by Deborah Hoag

The Hoodoo 500 is an ultra-marathon bicycle race. The route passes through or around three National Parks, three National Monuments and several Utah State Parks. The scenery varies from majestic cliffs and striking red rock hoodoos to aspen and pine forests and high mountain meadows. The race follows a course starting in St. George, and traveling through Hurricane, Colorado City, Kanab, Carmel Junction, Bryce, Tropic, Escalante, Boulder, Torrey, Panguitch, Cedar City and back to St. George. It’s a loop course on wonderful, well-maintained, quiet roads with little traffic and breath-taking scenery. 519 miles with about 30,000 feet of climbing with a 48-hour time limit Most of the race is above 6,000’ and reaches 10,000’. Solo, Tandem and Relay Team Divisions are offered. Crew control who is on the bike and for how long.

Franz, Ken and Deb before start

David at Start

This race was a team effort. We plan on finishing in 35 hours to 40 hours worst case. Our main goal was to have fun. And we had a blast together with our crew. David and I can never repeat the fun again. We rode the race and our crew Franz Kelsch and Ken Holloway kept us on track with food, the route, and pull times. We started off with 3 hour pulls, but right off the bat, Franz said we need to cut our pulls. So, David pulled for the first 2 ½ hours and I pulled for the next 2 hours.

David taking Deb's Photo

Deb

Deb headed toward Escalante

David late Saturday, now at altitude

Then we went to 1 ½ hour pulls and through the night, we went to 1 hour pulls. Sunday morning we moved to 30 minute pulls. The worst part of ride was at mile 378 climbing Cedar Breaks (5,000’, 30 miles) with headwinds and climbing up to 10,000’ level. I had to stand on my granny gear to reach 3 MHP. And I was sick from the attitude.

Once we finished the climb at mile 408 and started the descend, my stomach was fine. I was putted back on the bike at mile 432, while the crew talked to Russ and ordered food at McDonalds. And I left on my bike. At mile 442, Ken, David and Franz caught up to me to do another change. We realized that we could come under 35 hours. We did not know how the winds would be. However, this is where it became a real team effort. David rocked. We came to the conclusion that Franz was a major general in his past life.

Deb headed toward Snow Canyon

We needed to get mile 502 by 6:30, but we did better than that and reached it at 6:06. At mile 502 our crew had to leave us, David and I rode the last 15 miles together with our balls to walls, thinking of our crew and breaking 34 hours was on our minds. It was the most painful part for me. We averaged 20+MHP. Turbodog set the course record for 2 mixed, and beat the 2 man 50+ by 1:21 for a time of 33:50.

David and Deb at Finish

We also beat 40+ mixed team by 2 hours.. Going into a ride like this, either the riders and crew come out being better friends than ever or there are problems. David and I both came out having very fond memories of Franz and Ken. They were the best. Let us not forget Anne Kelsch who was supportive and Susan Forsman our coach.

Hoodoo 500 – Russ Stevens

| 12:14 pm
Hoodoo 500 - Russ Stevens

I think you learn less when you succeed than you fail. Thus, this ride report might not contain quite the wisdom of last year’s. However, I think I still have a good story to tell.

Was it worth it? I don’t know. I can say that having failed last year, it was definitely worth coming back and finishing. I simply had to overcome my prior failure. But was it worth trying it the first time? I am not sure. If I had known that this race would completely dominate two years of my life, cost me thousands of dollars, stress my marriage, jeopardize my health and bring almost unbearable levels of stress into my life, I would never have signed up in the first place.

That said, I am awfully proud of my accomplishment. I don’t know if I will lever try anything like this again, but I will certainly never forget finishing. It is something I will be proud of for the rest of my life. So, what can I say about the race?

First of all, I am very glad I did it Voyager (without a support vehicle or crew). That class definitely matches my style. Most people thought I was crazy to try the race without a support vehicle. However, not once during the ride did I feel lonely or wish I had people following or helping me. I really liked being in control of everything that affected me and not having to depend on anyone else. Plus, in my opinion nothing ruins a perfectly good bicycle ride like a vehicle.

I had the ride very well thought out. I was allowed to send 4 drop bags ahead to pick up along the course and I carefully planned everything I needed in those bags as well as everywhere else I could get supplies along the way. I never felt like I was missing anything I needed. I may have carried a few more things than I needed, but as one race official told me, “better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” If I ever do this ride again, I will certainly do it voyager again.

Second, this year’s race was blessed with nearly perfect conditions. It was sunny and warm during the day, but never hot. There was a monster tailwind from Kanab (mile 82) to Escalante  (Mile 203) resulting in several periods when I was able to coast at 30+ mph on nearly flat roads for long periods of time. Despite 30-50% chance of thundershowers, it never rained on me. Despite some predictions of 30 degree temps at night and at the 10,500 ft peak of Cedar Breaks, I never experienced anything below 48 degrees. Despite reports of 25 mph headwinds in the canyons between Loa (mile 285) and Panguitch (mile 375), I saw no wind at all for 2/3 of that stretch and only a mild headwind after that. There was some pretty severe wind in the last stretch from Cedar City (mile 433) to St. George (mile 518), but it was offset by some climbs that offered protection from the wind and an otherwise mostly downhill profile. It may have just been because I was expecting the weather to be so much worse, but I was extremely happy with the conditions on this ride.

Third, just like last year, I still made mistakes and things still went wrong. I guess it is hard to do a ride of this magnitude without any problems (or at least without a lot more experience). In fact, my challenges were very similar to last year: altitude and nutrition. I tried so hard to solve my problems in these areas over the past 12 months. However, it is really hard to experiment with altitude when you live at sea level and it is really hard to solve nutrition problems that manifest themselves after 300 miles without actually riding more than 300 miles (several times). Dealing with altitude and nutrition on this ride really boiled down to my lessening their impact as much as possible and then just dealing with the remaining effects. The only real difference between last year and this year is that this year, I refused to give up. I worked through my problems on the road, before they became irreversible, and found a way to keep moving toward the finish.

Before I started the ride, I put four rules in place.  These rules were based on what I learned last year and will sound familiar to anybody who read last year’s report:

  • Rule #1: Don’t try to win.  Just focus on finishing.  Trying to win on a ride of this magnitude before you have the sufficient experience just leads to bad decision making.
  • Rule #2: Don’t change your nutrition on the day of the big ride.
  • Rule #3: If you have a problem, stop and work it out. If you don’t know how to work it out, then try to get help. If no one can help, then just sit, listen and let your body solve the problem itself.
  • Rule #4: Finish no matter what. Do not leave the course for any reason unless you have reached the finish line, you have a life threatening injury or the time has expired.

5am Voyager start (Photo by Sheila Stevens) A very determined bunch - six of these seven would finish, with one stopping only after 433+ miles.


The ride started out really well.  The first 250 miles were basically enjoyable.  I employed rules #1 & #2, riding my own ride and regularly taking in calories and water.  As a result, I never felt exhausted, sore or tired.  I kept my heart rate around 125 and my power around 200 Watts.  Two of the other voyager riders quickly went off the front, but I did not let that bother me.  By the time I got to Escalante at mile 200, one of those riders was 1.5 hours ahead of me.  However, the other rider was lying on the bed at the checkpoint hotel looking like he wasn’t getting up anytime soon. I never saw him again.  He did cross the finish line, but only several hours after I did.

The highlight of my first day was climbing to the 9800 foot peak of Boulder Mountain. Last year, I did that climb entirely in the dark (having started as a solo rider 2 hours later than I did this year). I reached the top of that climb this year just in time to watch the sun set over the grand staircase – a truly magnificent sight.

Those of you who read my ride report last year know that as I was climbing Boulder Mountain in the dark in 2009, a mountain lion ran across the road in front of me.  This year, just as I approached that exact same spot a bear ran across the road!  Luckily, I was a little bit further away from the bear that I was the mountain lion, but it was still pretty exciting.  At that point, I decided the bear was going to be my Hoodoo totem. Bears may not be the fastest animals, but they are not the slowest either.  They are strong and unstoppable.  I knew that no matter how slow I had to go, I was going to be as strong as a bear and finish this race.

Thank God I had at least gotten over Boulder Mountain before my first problem occurred. After descending the other side, I lost my appetite right on schedule at ~275 miles. I kept pedaling anyway and made my way into the Loa rest stop. Then I employed rule #3. I called people for help. I called my wife, Sheila, I called my coach, Susan Forsman and I called my good friend and someone who knows more about ultra cycling than anyone I know, Cindi Staiger. I waited an hour, but when my appetite still did not return, I decided to just keep moving, following Cindi’s advice to just plod along slowly eating small amounts of food.  I also decided to take a NoDoz, hoping that the caffeine might wake up my metabolism and my stomach.  Miraculously, this worked.  Within about one hour, I felt much better and within two hours I felt almost normal.  I called Sheila to tell her I was feeling better and that I was being a bear.  I might not be moving quickly, but I was still strong and I was going to finish. Onward to Panguitch.

The 90 mile stretch from Loa to Panguitch was long and dark. However, there were several nice things about this section of the ride.  First, it was mostly flat.  Second, it wasn’t too cold.  Third, there was almost no headwind until the last 20 miles (I was expecting 20+ mph headwinds through this whole section).  Finally, the sky was clear and the stars were out, which was beautiful.

I arrived in Panguitch without incident at about 6:15 a.m., just as the sun was coming up.  My original intention had been to sleep for a couple of hours in Panguitch to make sure I had enough energy to climb the 4000 feet necessary to get over the 10,500 foot peak of Cedar Breaks. However, I had already lost so much time trying to recover in Loa and on the road afterwards that I felt I could not afford to wait around in Panguitch.  I was in a rush to keep moving forward, so I got back on my bike.

I sensed that I had made a mistake the moment I left town and started to climb.  A nagging voice told me I did not have 4000 feet of climbing in my legs.  But by then, it was too late.  The rules specifically prohibit turning around on the course, so there was no going back to the Panguitch checkpoint.  There was nothing to do but go forward.

The first 29 of the 32 miles to the summit went surprisingly well.  I slowly climbed up to 9000 feet.  The whole time, I kept passing and being passed by the sole 8 person 4x tandem team, including my friends Rick and Anna Stewart.  They kept shouting encouragement and telling me I was doing great which kept me motivated.

I don’t understand what happened next, but I suddenly lost all my energy.  Afraid of repeating the eating problems I had in Loa, I had stopped eating solid food and switched entirely to Spiz, a high calorie powdered drink. Perhaps drinking the Spiz in the slightly chilly conditions caused me to ingest too much fluid, diluting the salt in my bloodstream. Perhaps it was just the altitude.  Perhaps it was the 30 mile an hour wind gusts I was fighting to climb up the final grades. Whatever the cause, I felt terrible.  I was crawling up the hill, moving slower and slower.  I desperately wanted to stop, lay down and recover, but I knew for certain that stopping in the cold above 9000 feet was a recipe for disaster.  I felt I had no option but to get to the next checkpoint at the bottom of the hill.

What a relief to finally get to the visitor center at the 10,500 ft peak of Cedar Breaks! I escaped to the warmth of the restroom to refill my water bottles and add some layers for the descent.  Despite how horrible and weak I felt, I really thought I had made at this point.  I would recover on the downhill, and then it was only 90 mostly downhill miles to the finish.

I was so wrong.  The descent was anything but recovery.  For the first few miles, I had to pedal with all the strength I had left just to move downhill into the 30 mile an hour headwind. Then, despite my many layers, I started to get cold.  Luckily, I was not too cold to control my bike.  However, it just took a long time and a lot of energy to get down that hill.

Finally, as I got near Cedar city, the temperatures rose and I got more comfortable.  I was dreaming of a chicken sandwich and some fries and decided to stop at the McDonald’s in town.  Unfortunately, as soon as I walked into the restaurant, I knew things were about to get worse, not better. I felt a wave of nausea sweep over me.  I ran to the restroom just in time.  I felt sorry for the people who happened to be in there.

I thought that throwing up would make me feel better, but it really didn’t.  I called Sheila. Thinking I might be dehydrated, she suggested I order a large sprite and just sip it, which I did.  But that did not make me feel better either. After about one hour, I thought I would just keep moving despite how I felt. However, as soon as I got outside into the hot sun, I knew I could not yet continue.

I sat down on the grass outside McDonald’s just as David and Deb Hoag arrived (2x Team Turbodog).  Although I was slightly disappointed they had caught me after starting four hours after me, it was very nice to see familiar faces. I chatted with them and with their crew, Franz Kelsch and Ken Holloway. I tried to pretend I was going to be OK, but I don’t think I fooled anyone. I’m pretty sure Franz was convinced I was going to quit once again.  Franz was on my solo crew last year.

Rule #4 was ever present in my mind and I was absolutely determined not to quit. However, I knew I wasn’t going to solve my problem out in the heat in front of a fast food restaurant.  I needed a place I could rest and regroup.  Although the cheap side of me loudly protested, the practical side of me won out and I rented a room for $65 at the Motel 6 on the edge of town.  I called race headquarters and told them I would be off the course for a little while. They asked me if I was abandoning and I told them a forceful, “No!” I said I was just resting and that I would let them know as soon as I started riding again.” I lay down on the bed, but was too uncomfortable and sick to really sleep or rest.  I called Susan for help again. She suggested I just keep rolling, which seemed hard to imagine.  I remember that when I was in Loa, Cindi had suggested I eat some saltines, which were unavailable in that little town at 11:00 p.m. But now, I knew I might be able to find some. I decided to walk to the nearest convenience store.  It was a test. I figured if I could walk to the store and back and actually eat a few saltines, then I could do everything I needed to keep riding.

I passed the test.  Not only did the convenience store have saltines, I was able to eat them and I was able to successfully walk a few blocks required to obtain them.  If I could both eat and expend energy of the sun, then I could move forward.  Four hours after arriving in Cedar City, I checked out of the hotel, called race headquarters and got back on the road.

I was immediately confronted with about the worst headwind I have ever experienced.  The stretch of road leading out of Cedar City is flat and wide open with absolutely no protection.  The wind was brutal and it was all I could do to move 10 mph.  When the climbing started, I got even slower. I tried hard not to think about how many hours it would take to ride to the finish in St. George at this pace.

Then, my left knee started to hurt.  I looked down and noticed that my legs were kind of puffy and bloated.  Suddenly, I knew what was wrong.  Thanks to all of my research on my problems from last year, I knew I was suffering from bloating hyponatremia.  I had too little salt in my bloodstream and was retaining water as a result, causing my legs to swell and my knee to hurt. Even better, I knew how to fix it.  I had to slowly ingest salt and stop drinking water.

To avoid water, I had to stop drinking Spiz, the high calorie drink I had been using as my primary source of fuel.  I made a quick stop to look through my bags and take out all of the solid food I had left.  I went for the salty stuff first: the bag of fritos I had been carrying for the past 100 miles.  I ate a handful of those and a very interesting thing happened.  I suddenly had to pee so badly I thought I would explode. I ran to the bushes.  I felt better.  I ate more Fritos.  This continued for the next 6 hours and 90 miles.  I peed about eight times while drinking almost nothing.  Within 50 miles, my knee no longer hurt and my body was no longer puffy.  The treatment had worked.  I knew I had it made.

The only good thing about getting really sick and working through it is that it forces you to rest.  By the time you recover, you usually feel pretty good. When I called race HQ and my wife from the top of Snow Canyon 15 miles from the finish, I felt positively stellar.

The sun was just setting and it was all downhill to the finish.  I flew around the corners through Snow Canyon admiring the colored cliffs in the setting sun.  I made my way through the streets of St. George and dreamed about the Dairy Queen blizzard I knew that Sheila was buying for me.  I thought about the Hoodoo jersey I was finally going to wear.

I broke the finish line tape at 10:06 PM, just over 40 hours after I had left the same spot.  I pedaled for 32:30 of those 40 hours while traveling 518 miles and climbing 28,000 feet.  I saw temperatures between 46° and 83°. I burned 21,000 calories while eating 9500, meaning that I left over 12,000 calories or more than 3 pounds of myself somewhere on the road in Utah.  Along the way, I saw some of the most beautiful countryside in the world. I ate my blizzard and marveled that after two long hard years, I had finally reached the finish line.

Russ being congratulated by fellow Voyager Jared Fisher (Photo by Deb Bowling)

A very reflective Russ at the finish line (Notice the Keen sandals and Arkel bag and rack) (Photo by Sheila Stevens)


Russ with a Dairy Queen blizzard at the finish line ~9:15pm Sunday. (Photo by Franz Kelsch)

I’m so grateful to everyone who helped me to finish this ride.  Thanks again to al the people who made contributions to the American cancer society in memory of my father, Wayne, last year.  Thanks to my fabulous 2009 crew, Paul Vlasveld, Franz Kelsch and my wife, Sheila, for all you did for me last year and for understanding my need to try it without you this year.  Thank you to my coach, Susan Forsman.  You taught me that no matter how tired I am I can always to choose to move forward (and thank you for making me practice that many times during my training, despite my complaining).  Thanks to ultra cycling goddess, Cindi Staiger, who fielded my phone calls during the race and gave me advice that kept me going.  Thank you to Keen for making the best sandals and most comfortable biking shoes ever.  Thank you to Rick McCaw for loaning me his awesome Arkel rack and trunk.  That may be the vest voyager/brevet bag system ever. Thank you to my new friend and second place voyager finisher, Jared Fisher, who played leap frog with me for 400 miles and eventually beat me by always pedaling slower (on platform pedals no less).  You are a wise one, Mr. Tortoise.  Thank you to all of my friends and family who sent such encouraging and uplifting emails and Facebook posts before, during and after the ride.  I was truly touched by all of your prayers and support. Thank you to God for keeping me safe on the road and for indulging the crazy amount of preparation time required to get ready for this ride even when there were clearly better ways I could be serving you with that time.  And most of all, thank you to my wife, Sheila, for supporting me in every way possible.  I love you dearly, and I could not have done this without you (no matter how self sufficient I like to think I am).

I finished the Hoodoo 500! Finally!

The Road Less Traveled – at least in June

| August 23, 2010 5:22 pm

By: Sheila Stevens

Russ and I did the Mt. Shasta Loop overnighter June 5-6, 2010.  In the end, we perfected our technique of pushing a tandem through snow and were introduced to the best unknown restaurant in Northern California.

The trip is becoming an annual event for the Shasta Wheelmen, led by our friend, John Crowe.  Our group of 5 (smaller than usual) departed the town of Mt. Shasta at 8:30am.  We started on Hwy 89 with a bit of climbing and a gorgeous downhill into McCloud (mile 15).  Volcanos make the absolute best downhills for a tandem.  We had our first and only view of Shasta for Day 1.  We topped off our water as there would be no services for the next 65 miles along the much less travelled and safer, forest service roads.

The next 20 miles were beautiful as we gradually climbed 2000 feet. We saw snow around 5000 feet and John commented that they had never seen snow in the previous four years of leading this trip.  There was talk of refreshing snow cones.

After several miles an oncoming pickup slowed and called out to us.  Russ thought he was telling us to get off the road, but I said, “No, he just said there is still a bunch of snow up there.”

Lesson Learned #1: If someone mentions snow and you are on a bicycle wearing sandals, stop and ask for more specifics.

We continued to climb through national forest.  We started to see more snow, including drifts that covered part of the road, but nothing we couldn’t roll around.  Charlie thought the top of the climb was at ~5200’ so we weren’t too concerned.  The temperature was very comfortable – I was wearing arm warmers, but Russ didn’t even wear socks.

At 5500’ we had to get off the bike. We continued for a couple of miles on and off (mostly off) the bike, certain the top was just ahead.  Russ eventually added socks and plastic bags over his sandals.  I wore my leg warmers over my feet.  Our only alternative would be to backtrack 47 miles to the cars, always an option if the conditions got too bad.

Lesson Learned #2:  If you are going to hike in plastic bags and biking sandals, put the bags between your socks and sandals, not over the top.  You will shred them within about a half a mile.

At 6000’, after 3 miles of doing the “hike a bike” thing, no pavement could be seen.   We were all amazed at how hard it was to push, pull or drag a bike (much less a tandem with panniers) through 6 inches of snow. We started to feel sprinkles.  We reassessed the situation and agreed that the top MUST be close. We had enough food, water, layers and daylight to continue.

Lesson Learned #3:  Always have some sort of knowledge of where the summit is on remote roads. Also, bouncing a bike is a good way to get packed snow out from under the fender, out of the cassette, etc..  Several repetitions may be required.

At 6400’, we were walking on top of 3 feet of snow.  Suddenly, pushing started to get easier and the sun was out.  After 4 miles of up, the road was going down. Then, after two more miles, the road was suddenly clear!  We hopped on the bikes and started rolling again.  After a couple of miles, all snow disappeared and we knew we were in the clear.  We pulled into a rest area/warming hut parking lot that had restrooms to eat and relax a bit.  We lost about 3 hours hiking and still had 40 miles to go, but plenty of daylight remained.

Russ and I naturally pulled way ahead on the downhill. We fought a stiff headwind for the next 20 miles, but considering we were safe with all of our toes, we didn’t mind too much. The last 10 miles flew by as we turned out of the wind with flat road.

Our destination was the HOSPITALity INN; a hospital until the 1950’s converted into a B&B.  Russ and I didn’t mind getting to be first to the shower, with the rest of the group arriving about 40 minutes later.

Lesson Learned #4: Always carry tire boots on remote roads.  John blew three tubes due to a tire defect finally remedied with a boot.

The B&B had a deal where a couple could get a room, dinner and breakfast for $99.  It sounded like a good deal, but after dinner, we realized it was an AMAZING deal.

The meal we had was one of the best ever. You could choose anything off the menu. (If you chose the 28oz steak, they charged an extra $5) Russ had potato crusted salmon and I had the Triple Decker Ribeye, followed by the best key lime pie ever. The flavors and presentation of the meals were spectacular.  How can this type of restaurant survive in little Dorris, CA?

Lesson Learned #5: If you are ever within 50-100 miles of Lassen, Lava Beds, or Crater Lake, YOU MUST EAT HERE!!!!  The main chef is Jeff, a former forestry guy who has always loved to cook.

We were all too tired after dinner to enjoy the garden hot tub and just went to bed. The next morning the restaurant opened early just for us. Breakfast was again anything off the menu; everything was spectacular.

We finally rolled our distended bellies down the road at 9:30am.  There were great views of Mt. Shasta that the overcast skies had obscured the day before. We would be on Hwy 97 for 50 miles.  Everyone seemed to have some sort of ailment related to our previous day’s adventure, mostly dead legs and sore arms.

The first climb (Mt. Hebron) maxed out at ~5200 ft.  Charlie realized this was the source of his prediction for the summit the day before!  We regrouped at the Grass Lake rest area after ~35 miles. It is the site of a former resort and an unfortunate dynamite incident which blew a hole in the bottom of the lake, allowing all the water to drain. The area is now a marsh, or grassy lake.  Next, there was a spectacular vista point of Mt. Shasta, followed by some much appreciated downhill.

The headwind was brutal, but the scenery was magnificent.  We entered the town of Weed, and Russ wondered if you could trust the brownies in a town called Weed. While in the bakery, a patron recognized our Sierra to Sea jerseys as ACTC.  Turns out, he was also a member just passing through the area (by car).

We then linked up to Old Stage Road, which took us back to Mt. Shasta. We rounded the ride out with a stop at the Mexican Restaurant where we parked the cars.

We all agreed we were no worse for wear and ended up with one heck of story for the weekend.

Stage Race on the Tandem

| July 22, 2010 11:41 am

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!!!!

Grand Tour Triple Century June 26, 2010

| June 29, 2010 8:51 pm

by Cristin Sohm (Pinkie)

I didn’t tell anyone about my hopes of completing the Grand Tour Triple Century. No one. It was a very private goal that held incredible meaning for me. Whenever anyone talked about the triple that I did 3 years ago in my first year of cycling, I always said that it was a lifetime ago and it literally was. After my father died from Cancer, it felt like there was a big seam down the middle of my life of “before dad died” and “after dad died”. For me, I knew what it was going to take to change that. At the Grand Tour, riding 300 miles, I could feel that seam fading away. I cried several times on the ride just knowing what this event meant for me.

I chose a few very close family and friends and added them to my text message group. At every rest stop, I texted what mileage I was at and how I was feeling. Everyone replied asking me where I was and what I was doing. I didn’t answer. I just kept those messages going for 23+ hours. It felt amazing. I felt like I was changing something big within me and keeping it very personal. When my closest friends received the text message at the 210-mile rest stop, most realized what I was going for. The messages I received after that were amazingly supportive and fun and made it easy to keep the pedals going around.

Jon Kaplan invited me to join him for the Grand Tour several months ago. I didn’t commit to it then, but I’ve worked really hard in training for the event so that if I participated, I wouldn’t let him down. In 2007 Jon courageously signed up for the Grand Tour Triple and invited a few of us to join him. He encouraged us and made us feel like we could actually pass this huge test of character, strength and endurance. We had an awesome team of 4 that year: Jon Kaplan, Art Cruz, Patty Dougherty and myself. We finished the triple and we felt fantastic. It was an amazing year. Patty & Art went on to do Paris Brest Paris after that. Just 3 months later my dad was diagnosed with Cancer and I took time off from cycling and karate to care for my dad. By the time the Grand Tour rolled around again in 2008, I had just lost my father to Cancer and my world had broken apart. In 2009 Jon went out to do the triple again. Unfortunately I was at home in a bright pink cast after a bad break and hand surgery. Patrice Carney, Art Cruz & Jeff Urnes joined Jon for the adventure last year. It turned out that the wind and weather conditions were not favorable and since they were behind on the timeline, they decided to make it a double century instead of the triple. Along comes 2010 and Jon decides he wants to go for the triple again. He said he wanted to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.

I woke up at 2:30am to prepare for the ride after a difficult evening of trying to sleep with nervousness of the adventure ahead. We started the ride at 4:15am. They give you this sticker that you put on your helmet and they scan it and you HAVE to get back before that same time the next day or you DNF (did not finish). So we had 24 hours to complete 300 miles. It doesn’t sound all that bad right? Well then you factor in wind, heat, rest stops, lunch break, potty stops, filling water bottles, mechanical issues, slowing from incredibly sore bum, oh and don’t forget the 12,654 feet of climbing hills. It makes for quite an adventure and strictly watching the timeline.

We secured all our lights, front light, headlight, blinky light in the back of the bike, red blinky on the back of helmet, and every reflective sticker we could find. It’s pretty dark at 4:15 in the morning. We rode out along the coast of Malibu. Unfortunately we couldn’t see the ocean in the dark, but we could hear it and smell it. It was very invigorating. We pulled over at 4:22am for Jon to take his arm warmers off and I decided to take off my vest. I lugged that vest around the rest of the long day, but I was thankful to have it in the evening. At 6:31am we arrived at our 1st checkpoint of the day at mile 34. We had an average speed of 16.7 and it was already humid.

Our first big climb of the day was Potrero at mile 44. There are different route opportunities at the Grand Tour. Some chose the Lowland route which keeps them out of the hills and instead puts them in the urban area with all the traffic lights. We chose the Highland route because it’s much more scenic and we prefer hills rather than dealing with stop lights and car congestion all day. Out of 442 registered participants at the Grand Tour this year, only 17 of us were registered for the Highland Triple. Potrero hill was exactly as they described it. It was incredibly steep and very difficult, but short. I used every gear I had, unlike the big boys using fixed gear bikes that are simply insane. My Garmin said 12-14% grade at the bottom and steadily climbed. It stuck at 17% for most of the last mile. Everyone else said they were registering 19%, but I must have blacked out at that point 😉 Thankfully it was a short climb and knowing that we had already conquered the steepest hill of the day felt really good. We arrived at the 2nd checkpoint at 7:43am with 52 miles and 2 hills done and an average speed of 15.2. Several people took pictures of my pretty pink bike at the rest stop and cheered us on.

We hit a few more hills and came around the side of a mountain into a massive gush of wind that stuck with us for a bit. I couldn’t believe how strong it was. While descending we were only going about 12-16 mph because of that wind pushing us back. Thankfully I got into a little tuck on my aerobars and soon the wind decided to go pick on some other people and thankfully, we still had energy to spare. As Jon and I started another climb, I told him that Mylie Cyrus was singing on my iPod “it’s not about how fast I get there, it’s not about what’s waiting on the other side, it’s The Climb”. It really is all about the adventure right? When we crested the summit of the hill, my iPod starting playing “We Are The Champions”. Perfect timing. I really felt like God was watching over us and answering my prayers for strength. At 10:02am we hit mile 78 at the 3rd checkpoint with an average speed of 15.2. We had finished climbing 6 of the hills and after the wind, I started to be concerned with our timeline to get to the finish without a DNF.

At 11:35am we hit mile 97 and were about to climb our 9th hill of the day on Ojai. It was 8 miles long, but a moderate climb. I really enjoyed this one. I had been doing good with drinking my Sustained Energy bottles (basically protein powder) since my stomach usually gives me trouble eating on long rides. Before the long climb, we stopped at a store so I could refill my water. As I pulled up, a group offered me their water. Jon chatted with a cyclist for a bit and I ate a power bar faster than I’ve ever eaten anything before. I don’t generally like to eat before a climb because then your muscles are working on digestion instead of climbing, but I was really hungry after dealing with the wind. We then started off for the long climb.

I think there was magic in that water they gave me because I felt incredible. I passed every cyclist I came upon and flew up the hill. I don’t think I’ve ever felt anything like that before. When I got to the top, I stopped for a moment to ask some people at the Summit Restaurant if they knew if this was the top of the climb. They didn’t know, so I continued on. By then many of the guys that I had passed on the climb, had caught up. I was scared of missing a turn and getting lost, so I tried to follow two guys that were far ahead of me. The guys behind me grabbed onto my wheel and I pulled at 23mph trying to catch up to the two guys that seemed to know where they were going. Unfortunately I never did catch up to them and the guys on the back kept dropping off. Two of the guys held on and when I caught them up to their group, they dropped off to be with their group and I continued to try to chase the lead. It was 10 miles at that speed with me trying to keep them in sight to get to the lunch stop. Fear of getting lost is a big one for me, so I gave it everything I had. When I got to the lunch stop around 12:55pm, at mile 115, the two guys out front said something about me flying, but I was on empty at that point. I have hypoglycemia and the 23mph pushing it as hard as I did, left my blood glucose levels far too low. My whole body started shaking. I know the next step is passing out, so I quickly got a 7-up soda and the sugar did the trick. Jon arrived and he ate lunch and chatted with some cyclists. I ate a few bites of cantaloupe, few bites of watermelon, 1 ½ sodas and filled my water bottle with Sustained Energy and used the restroom.

We left the lunch stop around 1:33pm and we finished up the last 2 big hills of the day for a total of 11 with an average speed of 14.9. All that was left would be more mileage, the freeway extra loop and lots of rolling hills in the dark. I felt fantastic, but was starting to panic about the deadline. At 3:10pm, I hit mile 136 at our 5th checkpoint at Rincon. This is where the double and triple cyclists say goodbye. The triples pick up another route sheet and continue on for an extra 100 mile loop. The doubles all start their way back to the finish. Jon came into the checkpoint a short bit later and had a plan ready. He said that if I can pull through the wind, that we could increase our speed and after the extra loop, he would get me to the Pacific Coast Highway and I should take off to meet the deadline. I appreciated that Jon gave me the opportunity to pull him since he had done so much in encouraging me to do this event and was a complete angel in handling all the directions and navigation. I know it had been a frustrating process for him. From the very start of the ride, his bike computer was not showing the mileage to be able to know where to make the next turn. He asked me to tell him about the mileage, but it was very hard for me to hear him with the wind in my ears and the traffic around us, so I felt bad that he had to waste energy re-saying everything constantly.

We started off from Rincon with another guy (wearing a Furnace Creek 508 jersey) that was going for the triple, but he quickly dropped us. At about mile 149, we got lost and couldn’t figure out what the route sheet was describing. We back-tracked and finally worked it out. At 5:37pm we made it to the 6th checkpoint out in Goleta at mile 164. My blood glucose had dropped again, so I had another soda and tried to tell myself to be better about drinking my Sustained Energy. My bum was horribly sore and I was hating all the stop lights and getting on and off the saddle. I felt ok as long as I stayed where I was, but lifting and sitting back down was really painful. Jon’s cleat had broken so while we were at the rest stop, he had a very nice guy fix his cleat and he had some soup. The text message that I sent at this rest stop said that my bum was on fire, but will be better.

This is where we get onto Hwy 101 for the extra loop. I remembered that I absolutely hated this part 3 years ago as it was very scary. The cars and huge trucks are going by so fast and there are big divets in the road to help keep the drivers awake in case they get off course. This part didn’t bother me this year. I felt very purposeful in pulling Jon to the turn around spot. It was much easier to have one person pulling since there isn’t enough room to pull off in a paceline. The only part that I didn’t like is that it was facing straight into the low setting sun which was directly in my eyes the whole way. My face got burned and my eyes with contacts were drying out quickly and my right contact got cloudy. When I saw the freeway sign that said Gaviota was coming up in 7 miles, I was excited that we were almost there and I pointed out the sign. Jon very calmly replied with “yes”.

We arrived at Gaviota at mile 190 and they took down our names and rider number. They said that I was the first woman to check in for the triple turn-around spot. How exciting is that! They didn’t have any Sustained Energy, so I was very thankful that I had brought a bag of my own from home just in case and had kept it in one of my pockets. I used it to fill up my bottle and we chatted with the volunteers (Steve who was SAG and guided us 3 years ago and I think Sarah?) for a short bit and headed back out for Highway 101 again.

At 8:20pm we were at mile 201. The sun was almost gone. We arrived back at the Goleta checkpoint again at mile 209 and I had a Coke. I was curious how my body would react since I never have caffeine. I went to the porta-potty and it felt like someone poured acid on me. My female parts were raw and bleeding from sitting on the saddle for so long. I couldn’t believe how incredibly painful this very sensitive area was. Wow. I would break my hand any day over feeling that kind of pain. I talked to the volunteer there, Saralie, and she gave me her own supply of Lantiseptic cream that she said will hold me straight to my chamois rather than it moving around. Jon also gave me Cortizone cream. I honestly thought of getting a SAG (support & gear) vehicle and calling it a day. I had plenty of energy to spare still and my legs felt great, but not in my bike shorts. I decided not to go to the restroom anymore the rest of the ride to not feel that acid pain again. Jon had some soup and refilled his Camelbak and we were off again praying that the cream from Angel Saralie would offer some relief.

Jon navigated us through the dark town. At 9:17pm we hit mile 210 with an average speed of 15.2. My mom sent me a text message saying that 210 was a good round number and it was okay to call it a day, plus it’s dark outside. Burcu sent me a message saying not to think about my bum and to just keep pedaling and that she didn’t know the ride was more than 200 miles and she was proud of me. At mile 222 Jon pulled over to ask for directions. He found a driver that provided detailed information on where we were supposed to be going. I sent Jon’s wife a text message saying that he was an angel with directions and holding in strong.

We arrived at the Rincon checkpoint again at 11:21pm with 235 miles completed. It was pitch dark outside, my bum hurt and we still had all the rollers to do. Jon had done a phenomenal job in navigating us back to Rincon in the pitch dark through the many traffic lights. With the timelines we both had created, it definitely seemed to me that we would DNF, not making the time cut-off. My heart sank, but it had been a great day.

At 1:19am we hit the last checkpoint at 260 miles with an average speed of 14.9. I didn’t need to go in, so I waited on the bike and sent my daughter, Mellissa, a text message that said “I want to go home. I hate the dark”.

We had 40 miles to go and still had the rolling hills to go along the Pacific Coast Highway. I remembered them being steep and tiring from 3 years ago and lasting many, many miles. That wasn’t the case at all this year. If you asked me to describe the rollers now, I couldn’t tell you. I don’t remember them being bad at all. That was a nice surprise. Jon had suggested that I ride the last 40 miles along the PCH at my own pace to try to get to the finish line before our deadline. He was very sweet and said that he knew I could do it and there were no turns to worry about and to just ride. I thanked him and decided to try to get there in time.

I took off and climbed the rollers at a good pace. I came upon two guys on one of the hills and as I passed them, I said hi. One of them caught up to me and I realized it was the guy in the Furnace Creek 508 jersey that had started the extra 300 loop with us and had dropped us. He asked me where Jon was and I told him that Jon suggested that I try to make it before the time cut-off. What happened next was amazing. The two guys that I had just passed on the hill both got directly in front of me and you could right away see their intention. They set out to pull me to the finish line. It was so touching. Unfortunately it only lasted a few minutes as one of the guys seemed to be struggling and they dropped way back and I continued on, but it was so very kind.

For 280 miles I felt strong, capable and no pain except in the shorts area. Unfortunately the last 20 miles the Sustained Energy caught up with me or maybe it was the fear of using the restroom the last 90 miles. In the last 20 miles, I got a gas bubble in my stomach that was really painful with each pedal stroke. So I muddled through the last 20 miles quite slow. In the last 5 miles, I prayed for a hill because my eyes were getting so sleepy and I needed something to wake me up. I finally made my way to what I thought was the finish location. Unfortunately one of the Grand Tour guys was kind enough to email me the route sheet and it turned out that it was from a previous year and the ending location had changed! Ugh. I went to Pepperdine University climbed the little hill to get there and everything was pitch dark. Since Jon had done all the navigating and I have no sense of direction, I was out of my element with trying to find my way, especially at 3:30 in the morning after 290ish miles. I finally headed for the start location and as I was coming back from the opposite way, I saw the two guys that had tried to pull me as they were nearing the finish. I went for it and rushed ahead before they arrived, ran in and got my helmet scanned. When Frank Neal (keeper of the California Triple Crown stats) told me that I had arrived in time (3:55am), I about lost it. It took everything in me to not break down. I was so excited to not have a DNF on my record. The other very cool thing is that Jon arrived just a few minutes later and also successfully completed the triple century within the timeline! I was so excited to see him.

It was an amazing experience. Yes, we rode a whole bunch of miles and that is awesome, but for me, this event was SOOOO much more. The seam of “before dad”/“after dad” is gone. I know he was watching over me and proud. I had INCREDIBLE support to accomplish this goal. I lost 2008 & 2009 to my dad’s death and my hand surgery, but in 3 1/2 years of cyling, I’ve now completed 3 doubles and 2 triples. On a side note, out of 442 registered participants for the Grand Tour, there were only 2 women registered for the Triple Century this year. The other woman had a crash about a week before the event and ended up volunteering instead of riding. She has completed the Furnace Creek 508 and other huge events way over my ability. So I think that means that I may have been the only woman to complete the Triple Century this year! I am so blessed. What an amazing experience. Thank you everyone for your support and prayers!

Miles – 297
Climb – 12,654
Average Speed – 15.0
Max Speed – 43.9
Time in Saddle – 19 hours, 38 minutes
Average Heart Rate – 123
Max Heart Rate – 181
Elapsed Time – 23 hours, 40 min with going to wrong finish location
When you pray for Courage, God gives you an opportunity to become Courageous

Alta Alpina Challenge

| June 21, 2010 9:08 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.

Haleakala

| June 1, 2010 8:05 pm

by Bryan Shaner

It’s a big volcano: Haleakala is visible from most of Maui; in fact, it is most of Maui. What the heck do I think I’m doing: why am I going to sit on a bicycle for most of the day when there are so many cool things to do and see? And then there are the two guys in front of me at the as-yet-unopened bicycle shop in Paia.  They are probably 10-20 years younger and obviously in much better shape than I am. Plus they are in front of me. And when the door finally opens just after 8am, they seem to have all the time in the world.  I’m eager to get my rented bike fitted and be on my way. The shop closes at 6pm and who knows how long it will take to climb and descend this 10,000 foot monster. But these two guys are having a great time talking about all their biking accomplishments, and the guys in the shop are taking a lot of time cleaning up their bikes and getting them fitted just right. Finally, I ask another employee about how long it will take to climb and descend (he says 5-6 hours up and 1.5-2 hours down) thus letting him know that I would like to get started. He brings my bike out, and although it doesn’t receive quite the same loving care as those of the young duo, I’m ready to go by 8:45.

The bike feels pretty good although I try not to think about the fact that it has the same cheap rims that blew three front tires out on my Sequoia, and the fact that it’s a compact with a 39-34 low gear as opposed to my triple 30-28.  But the guy at the shop says the grade isn’t that steep and that I should have no problem.  Of course, I know that he has no idea whatsoever of my climbing ability or lack thereof.  But I’m eager to get going and after filling up my water bottles and adding a packet of Perpetuum to one of them, I head out the door.

I weave through the traffic in Paia and head up Baldwin Avenue trying to settle into this unfamiliar aluminum-you-can-feel-every-little-bump bike.  It’s a beautiful morning with the temperature in the low 70s with a slight headwind.  After a few miles I wish I had spent more time adjusting the seat as the nose is just a smidge high.  And as the grade increases I try to shift down into a lower gear, and of course, I’m already in my lowest gear.  I stop in Makawao for water and head up Olinda Road which is probably the steepest part of the ride.  I’m really wishing I had that extra gear, and it’s a relief when I come to the right turn on Hanamu Road for a few miles of rolling hills before the left on Haleakala Highway.  I don’t see many cyclists, but I do pass a couple and as part of my greeting mention what a great day it is to climb the mountain.  They look at me like I’m crazy and say, “You’re climbing that thing?”  And of course that same question has been bouncing around in my head every now and then as I look up and see how much of it there is.

I try to break the trip up into segments – 1000 foot segments – and not think of the whole 10000 feet all at once.  I’ve got my Garmin in my pocket and pull it out now and then to check my progress.  And it becomes increasingly clear that we’re looking at 6+ hours for the assent and who knows how long for the descent.  The guy at the shop said 1 ½ – 2 hours but I’ve read that it sometimes takes up to three.  So far, it looks like I’ll still get back before 6pm, but as the air gets thinner, I become less sure.

I read that you’re supposed to stop at the Sunrise Market to get water, so I do along with a dozen or so Japanese tourists who arrive at the same time.  It’s a small (tiny) market, so getting to the bottled water is not an easy task.  When I ask how much it is, I’m aghast:  $2.75 for a little bottle of water!  The cashier tries to be helpful by mentioning that I can get a big bottle for only $2.95.  But I don’t want a big bottle, so I get some tap water from the bathroom (after waiting for several Japanese tourists).  This should tell me that perhaps the altitude is starting to affect my brain.  I’m spending over $40 on this rental bike and over $2000 on this vacation, so maybe I could spring for the $3.  But no, I settle for some so-so tap water.

At about 5000 feet, I see a car pulled off to the side of the road and a young couple taking pictures.  This seems like a great opportunity to gather photographic evidence of this event, so we take each others picture and then spend 20 minutes talking about this ride and other rides and answering all sorts of questions about cycling.  I’m enjoying the questions and the break, but when I get back on the bike, lots of body parts don’t seem to work as well as before.

But then I enter the cloud layer that seems to inhabit Haleakala most of the day, and the coolness feels good.  At 7500 feet I’m feeling less happy about the lack of sun, but then at 8000 feet I’m cloud free and I feel great.  Well, my butt hurts so I’ve been standing a lot, and I’m going slower with the lack of oxygen, and I’m not entirely convinced that I’m going to be able to keep peddling to the top, and I’m really not sure I’ll be back before the store closes.  But endorphins are a great drug, and I feel great.

About half an hour later I’m still feeling pretty pooped, when five guys come screaming down the mountain in their road bikes.  And they are screaming, literally, at the top of their lungs.  Included in their screams are some comments to me such as “Way to go”  “You can do it” etc.  And strangely, it helps.  I’m feeling really happy about these guys and the lift they’ve given me.  In fact, when the last one yells “Way to go”, I reply “You too”.  Right about then this van shows up, and I realize that these guys didn’t bike up the mountain.  They had someone let them off at the top.  Of course, if my brain wasn’t so oxygen deprived, I would have realized that these guys would have passed me somewhere along the way if they had actually gone up.

The endorphins wear out about 9000 feet, and it’s a real grind the last 1000 feet.  It’s one of those so-close-yet-so-far summits that tease you.  But then I’m at the look out just below the summit where everyone comes to watch the sunrise.  It’s cold and windy with just a few mid day tourists.  The clouds have just begun to fill the crater, so the view is still great, and everyone wants to know about the ride up.

But I’m not quite to the summit.  There is another 300 feet that’s steeper than anything up to this point.  So in what seems like slow motion, I weave my way to the summit at 3:35pm (later I figure from my Garmin that I was in the saddle just over six hours).

After some pictures and more questions about the climb I head on down.  And it is heaven.  My butt is extremely grateful for the rest and my legs are pretty pleased also.  Like many slow climbers, I’ve learned to descend quickly and confidently.  It’s a bit slippery back through the clouds, but after that the road is dry and smooth, and the 5-6% grade is just perfect.  The corners aren’t banked too well at the top, but once you get out of the National Park, you hardly need your brakes.  I was back in Paia just under one hour and twenty minutes.  The total distance was 71 miles, so my average speed up was about six miles per hour (saddle time) and just less than 27 miles per hour going down.  During the summer you might need a camelback, but my two bottles were just fine.  I filled them up in Makawao, the Sunrise Market and at the visitor’s center.  The Perpetuum plus 4-5 energy bars were fine for fuel.  Be sure to bring $5 to enter the national park unless you’re over 62 (as I have been for a few years) and have your National Parks Senior Pass (which I did) and your ID (which I also did fortunately, since the ranger asked to see it;  maybe she thought that having a National Parks Senior Pass and climbing Haleakala on a bike were mutually exclusive).

Oh yes, I didn’t tell you who showed up at the bike shop a few minutes after me:  our young duo.  They drove their car up the mountain about 10 miles, then biked up to the top and back to their car.  I still don’t know why I never saw them on the ride or why they took longer than I did, but they looked a bit flabbergasted to see me.

I don’t think climbing Haleakala was the hardest ride I’ve ever done, but it was one of the most challenging mentally.  That volcano may not be steep but it’s relentless.

Davis Double Century-May 15, 2010

| May 24, 2010 8:59 pm
Davis Double Century-May 15, 2010

by Cristin Sohm (Pinkie)

The Davis Double Century has been a thorn in my side for 3 years. I participated and finished the event 3 years ago, but it took everything in me to cross that finish line. I was so dehydrated that I couldn’t move my tongue in my mouth for 3 days after the event. It was the year of the Davis fires and I made many mistakes and couldn’t keep any food in me and rode the first 188 miles alone pulling against winds and getting more and more depleted without food or my Sustained Energy liquid calories to keep me going. The Resurrection rest stop ran out of water and we waited 19 minutes while they trucked water in for us. At mile 188 I laid on the pavement for 45 minutes trying to not pass out. The ACTC group came along and pulled my thankful bum the last 14 miles to the finish line. Ever since then, I considered Davis THE BEAST. That was 2007, the year I completed two doubles, a triple and my Black Belt test. Then in September, my father was diagnosed with Cancer and I took 7 ½ months off from cycling and karate to spend every day caring for my father before he died. I missed all the events of 2008, but felt comfortable with my choice in priorities. In 2009 I hoped for a come-back to cycling, but the first day of Spring I broke my hand in a karate demonstration and had to have extensive surgery with pins holding my hand together. I was out for another 4 months. Now it is 2010 and time to work on my goals again… time to finally conquer my fear of Davis!

At 3:18am the people in the hotel room above mine started stomping around preparing for the big bike event. I jumped up thinking I had missed my alarm, but my alarm went off as planned at 3:30am. I dressed, filled my bottles, put on sunscreen, ate my almonds and half a plain bagel, made sure I had every reflective sticker I could find on my bike and was ready to go at 4:30am.

We started the ride at 5:00am in the dark. I had my front light and rear blinky lights on and a cool helmet light that my mom had put in my Christmas stocking. It wasn’t dark for very long and we were with a group, so everything seemed plenty light enough. The Davis Double staff was phenomenal and they had a person at every turn in the beginning of the route to get us out of town safely. Somehow we lost Paul Metz at the start location, but I knew he had different goals in mind and was capable riding on his own. Jon Kaplan and I were riding along for a bit and Ken Emerson and his whole team of “big boys” as I call them (really, really strong riders – by the way on fixed gear bikes!) rode by yelling out hellos. I don’t know all of them, but I saw Ken Emerson, Steve Saeedi, Jason Pierce, Michael Melville, and others that I don’t know since I can’t keep up with the big boys! We also saw Spencer and JoAnn Frink at the very start riding on tandem, but they were really strong, so we only saw them for a bit. Jon and I chatted in the back of the group for a while and then I said that I was going to go say hi to Ken and I went on the left of the large peleton up to the front and chatted with Ken and his team for a bit and then pulled off to the left side again and motioned for everyone to go by so I could get back in line with Jon.

At some point, the big boys took off (I think after the first rest stop) and we were left with a smaller group. Jon & Paul took turns pulling and when we got to an open area without turns, Paul said I could pull. I jumped off the front and Jon yelled out “but make sure we can stay with you”. Since Paul was right in my mirror, I asked him to let me know if I went too slow or if anyone dropped off. Paul stayed right in my mirror the whole time which always makes me nervous that I’m holding the group back. At about mile 50, we had an average speed of 18.0 and felt good. When we got to Cardiac Hill and I was able to see past Paul, I saw that Jon and the rest of the group was gone. Paul offered for me to ride the climb with him, but I said no, that Jon was my designated angel for the ride and I was sticking with him. I may still be somewhat new to this sport, but I know better than to blow myself out in the beginning of a long ride! So I took my time climbing Cardiac Hill. One of Ken’s team got a flat and I saw them off to the side and I kept plugging along. At the top of Cardiac, I waited a short bit for Jon and sent my family the first text message of the day saying how it was going.

At mile 56 we stopped at the 2nd rest stop and I ran into a little store and bought a Gatorade bottle and mixed my Sustained Energy. Unfortunately the Davis crew only offered Cytomax which I think tastes just like drinking perfume. I knew that wasn’t going to work for me. I also ate 1/3 of a banana and a bit of cantaloupe. Jon and I both felt great. It was nice to know that 1 out of 3 of the big climbs were already done!

After Cardiac were a bunch of little rolling hills which I always find just plain annoying. If it’s not a sustained climb, why bother? I drank more of my Sustained Energy bottle in case I was getting grouchy from low blood sugar (I have hypoglycemia and that is the first sign), but I felt fine. At the 76 mile rest stop, I sent my family a text saying that I still felt good and we were chugging along at a good pace.

At some point we came upon Honey Hill, but I don’t recall much about it, so I think it must have been pretty easy. On the descent there was a long group of motorcycles and I decided to have fun with the descent and I “raced” them down the hill zipping around the corners and loving every minute of it. Since they had to slow down for the cars and motorcycles in front of them and I got to stay off to the right, I won the race 😉 When the motorcycle group caught up to me, one of them yelled out “You Go Girl”! That was fun 🙂

At the 95 mile rest stop, I soaked my head cover and neck gaiter in cold water and tried to mentally prepare for the much feared Cobb Mountain. 3 years ago Cobb about killed me. I remember it well. The hill seemed to go on and on forever and I hated every minute of it. I said a quick prayer asking God to give me strength and took off to conquer my fears. I climbed the hill alone because Jon stopped at the bottom to water a bush. I took my time and just kept a straight line plugging away. One thing that was different this year is that I studied my route sheet and knew where the end was going to be. For someone like me – no sense of direction – that made all the difference in the world. I know a lot of people don’t want to know much about the hills, but I want as much data as I can wrap my brain around. I researched online how long the climb was and read many write-ups saying there would be pitches of 14% and much of the hill is exposed to the hot sun. I felt ready. I was definitely tired at the top, but the climb was nothing compared to what I remembered 3 years ago. I was hot and tired, but it was manageable. I got my first 7-Up of the day to replace lost sugars, tried to eat a couple bites of a peanut butter & jelly sandwich with a very dry mouth and sat down for a bit to wait for Jon. Jon came up the hill very quickly and we sat for a bit and relaxed and then pushed off for more punishment. Jon said there would be less than a mile of more climbing to reach the top of Cobb Mountain. I figured we can do almost anything for a mile and it wouldn’t be too bad. When we got to the top, I was so excited that I got choked up holding back tears. I was very proud of us for not stopping at all on the hill and that the largest hill of the day was DONE. Just then a big bug flew into my front teeth and I decided it was God’s way of reminding me to stay focused and that I was only at mile 105 of the very long day still to go 😉 My mother sent me a text message saying that 105 is a very nice round number and I can be done now. I laughed out loud.

Normally I LOVE the descents and I consider them to be my reward for the climb. Unfortunately with the nervous energy I had on Friday, I got very little sleep and I actually felt like I might fall asleep on the descent of Cobb Mountain! We pulled into the lunch stop and saw Spencer & JoAnn just heading out on their tandem. At the lunch stop, I actually drank a Coke for the first time in probably 20 years. I don’t do well with caffeine. I’m much too hyper as it is and when I have caffeine, I feel like my heart is going to jump right out of my chest. The coke did the trick though and I was thankful to have given it a try. Stupidly I grabbed one not thinking and it was a Diet Coke. Since I knew I’d be getting my calories almost all from liquid, that was a pretty dumb move, but oh well. I did make myself a sandwich and ate a little bit of it. I also ate another 1/3 banana and some strawberries. So far everything seemed to be sticking pretty well. Jon suggested that I take two Endurolytes since we were losing a lot of electrolytes from sweating in the hot sun. I went and soaked my head cover again in cold water and I noticed they were giving out long tube socks filled with ice to wrap around our neck. I grabbed one for Jon too and wow, those ice socks were amazing. It felt so good to have ice wrapped around our neck especially knowing we were coming up on Resurrection Hill.

As we descended from the lunch stop, I stayed on Jon’s wheel and all the drops of water coming off his ice sock were hitting me in the face. It felt cool, but a little painful at the speed we were going. Jon had said that Resurrection Hill was only a couple miles long, but I still don’t understand how that’s right. The route sheet says Hwy 20 climb at mile 124 and the top of Resurrection at 136, so I guess it was multiple climbs, but the whole thing felt like one long climb to me. Not 2 miles. I would say more like 8 miles of climbing directly into the sun. I had lost Jon on the climb and was really feeling the heat. My ice sock melted rapidly which actually felt great because as it melted, all the water dropped down onto my legs and was very refreshing. After the ice sock was empty of ice, I stuffed it in my sports bra and that was cooling too. I decided to pass the time during the climb with a little mind game. Each person that I passed on the climb, I counted one and whenever someone passed me, I took away one. It got to be fun as I came upon a group of 5 cyclists that were climbing slowly and a few pulled over to the side taking a rest from the climb. It was difficult to pass on this hill because there were these huge divets like they have on highways to keep the motorists from falling asleep. We had a wide enough shoulder to bicycle, but not much room between the cyclist and the divet to pass. I carefully called out to each cyclist “can I pass you on your left” and they would pull over as much as they had room for and I passed without hitting into one of the divets. I did hear someone far behind me get an instant, loud, flat tire, probably from hitting one of the divets. What a bummer that would be to change a tire in that baking sun! Anyway, I continued my game and making my pedals go around and neared the top of the hill with 16 passes. When I reached the top, I was behind #528 cyclist. I yelled out my usual “Woo-hoo, we did it! Aren’t you so excited” and being a complete stranger, I’m sure he thought I was nuts, but he said “I’m very happy to see the top, but I have no energy or extra air to woo-hoo”. When I arrived at the rest stop, a very nice young tween boy came up to me and asked if he could park my bike for me and fill my water bottles. I touched his shoulder and said “you will be my new best friend”. At the top of Resurrection, I cried. Full on cried. I was so VERY excited to know that the hardest parts of the day were behind me and I finally had the confidence in myself to know that I would finish. I was so extremely happy. I texted my family and chatted with a bunch of cyclists and a gal came with a huge watering can and poured freezing cold water down my head and back. It felt fantastic. I tried to eat a little more – another 1/3 banana, but mostly I just wanted water and I also got another soda. Jon came along and did the usual rest stop break stuff and we got another ice sock and started out again.

I think the next bunch of miles were a descent, I don’t remember them. At one point we came near Cache Creek Casino and the Davis volunteers made a big deal of telling us to try to get to that point before dark and to get through there as quickly as we could so that we wouldn’t have any issues with people that possibly had been drinking alcohol or driving erratically. Jon got his 2nd wind and pulled me through that whole area at about 21mph! When we finally stopped, I said “wow, you sure got your 2nd wind” and he said that he was afraid of that area and wanted to make sure to get us through it safely. What an angel!

I don’t remember much of the next 20 miles. Everything felt fine. Unfortunately before the 2nd to last rest stop, Jon got stung by a bee on his face. He pulled over and I asked if he was okay and he just said to hold on and let him take care of it. I texted my family again only to find out that they hadn’t received the last several messages because of no reception up in the hills and they were freaking out that they hadn’t heard from me in several hours. It turned out that Jon was allergic to bee stings – which he knew and was on top of, thank God. I think he put some cream on his lip and he also took some Benadryl right away. By the time we came to the 2nd to last rest stop though, Jon’s lip was hanging all the way down and he couldn’t speak clearly. It was incredibly awful to see. Poor guy. While a volunteer and I held his bike and chatted, he went and spent quite a bit of time with the medic. Being the trooper that he is, he continued on and we departed in the pitch dark to finish the ride. Around this time my iPod died which was a bummer. I had been thoroughly enjoying my music in my right ear and now it was quiet and dark.

We still had 22 miles to go and while I had felt fantastic the entire day and thoroughly enjoyed every minute, there were now about 15 miles that I hated with a passion. It was seriously PITCH DARK and my light that worked well on the big events 3 years prior, felt horribly insufficient in the farmlands of Davis. I managed to hit every single pothole on my very sore bum and I was just hating it. I heard that in previous years they filled the huge potholes with glow sticks so people would be able to maneuver around them better, but that didn’t happen this year. We also could hear tons of frogs and a running creek, but couldn’t see anything at all and I was beyond frightened. I prayed every single second of the journey back. At one point, we missed a turn and a police car happened to come up and tell us where to turn. That was amazing considering we were in this completely desolate area all by ourselves and here comes a police car to tell us we missed a turn. God sent another angel. We finally made it through the darkest areas and came into town. I about jumped for joy and poor Jon had to put up with me saying repeatedly how much I loved having street lights! At some point, two cyclists joined us. I didn’t get to see them in the dark, but I could see their lights shining from behind. I think it was a man and a woman. We only had about 2 miles left to go and the girl crashed. I don’t know what happened, but what a huge bummer to crash at mile 199.6! Jon and I were just about to go back and see if she was okay, but she was sent an angel. An ambulance directly across the street, saw the whole thing and immediately went to assist her. Amazing.

We pulled into the Veterans building where we had started the race and found my daughter, Mellissa and her boyfriend, Irik, had driven all the way up to Davis to stand at the finish line in the dark and see us go by. I am so incredibly blessed! It was an absolutely amazing day. I hated the pitch dark part for about 15 miles, but every single other thing about the 202-mile day was wonderful. I enjoyed riding with Jon and so appreciated him being my angel, I enjoyed Ken’s team and their incredible support, I didn’t see much of Paul, but it was nice to have him out there and I even enjoyed the climbs. I stayed in my middle ring all day and never used my granny gears. I didn’t eat much at all, but made it work. I loved the ice socks immensely. I loved getting all the text messages from my family rooting me on and I especially loved finally doing my first double century in 3 years and conquering my fear of Davis!

  • Mileage: 202 miles
  • Climbing: Approx 8,400 feet
  • Cycling Time: 13 hours, 50 minutes
  • Total time with rest stops: 17 hours, 5 minutes
  • Average Speed: 14.5
  • Max Speed: 42.6

DMD Ride Story

| April 26, 2010 6:16 am
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, since as any sport you have to have passion for it, as some people play soccer or golf, like some people get golf simulator screens to practice their sport the most time they can.

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 Mehechi. 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 <http://www.facebook.com/joan.grant> . 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.

Auburn Century 140 miles 17,000 feet of climbing

| February 17, 2010 5:58 pm

by John Pugliese February 17, 2010.

“The Wildest ride in the West”

“Someone said it was tougher than the Death Ride”, said the SAG driver who stopped to give me some water – I agreed.  Although the Death Ride has similar elevation gain, it’s split up into fifths and only averages about 7.2% grade.  Mainly, though, most cyclists who attempt the Death Ride go extremely focused and properly trained.  I did Auburn as an opportunity to view some nice country, but completely had the wrong mindset.

The week before, I had gone down Highway 1 along the coast from Los Gatos to San Luis Obispo.  That trip had become an adventure after I broke a chain in the dark and we ended up sleeping in a field near the coast by Lucia, south of Big Sur.  After that escapade, the idea of needing to drive and get a hotel wasn’t appealing.  Instead, for Auburn, I took the Amtrak Capital Corridor to Sacramento and transferred to an Amtrak bus to go to Auburn.

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I arrived early enough to go to Auburn’s Old Town area and get a good meal, then I went to set up my tent.  I then went to registration early to hang out with the promoters and was told of the ‘Iowa Hill Time Trial’.

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Again, my mind wasn’t set right.  I was set to do the 140-mile ‘Lone Ranger’ course, with 17,000 ft of climbing at the official start of 6:30, ignoring the mention that many people would start earlier.  I also disregarded ‘Iowa Hill’ as just another climb like ‘The Wall’ or all the other noted climbs in events that often don’t compare to our noteworthy local climbs like Bohlman, Welch Creek or Ramona.  I figured I’d blow out the paltry 1.7 miles Time Trial as if it was Redwood Gulch.

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The following profile is for the 110-mile “Outlaw” route with 11466 ft. of climbing and 13.5% average grade plus the 1.75 mile timed climb up Iowa Hill.  There was nothing ‘just another’ or ‘paltry’ about the day.  The following profile shows the deep V prior to Iowa Hill:

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The time trial occurred during the second hour of the ride in the location shown at this ‘V’ in the chart.  The average grade of Iowa Hill is 13.5% and many short pitches in the 20%+ range.  I stopped on the bridge just before to snap a photo:

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I got back on my bike and picked up the pace as if attacking a local hill and upon crossing the chalked start line, I monitored my odometer and applied power.  At 25% of the distance, I realized I needed throttle back, at 50% I realized that the distance was more important and I slowed into survival mode.  Bummed, I looked up to see riders, walking or stopped.  I stopped at the top and another cyclist pulled up in disbelief and said he practiced the hill and still couldn’t believe it.  Having blown out the cyclists on this hill, the promoters set us up early for a long subsequent climb.  Here I saw more stalled cyclists and one awaiting a SAG.

Upon getting refueled by a SAG myself, I continued on and eventually pulled into one of the rest stops:

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I wasn’t able to take pictures for a while as it started raining between my last two rest stops.  As such, the last rest stop turned me around, preventing me from doing the entire 140-mile course.

A bunch of us hung out under the rest area and headed back into town along a fast, wet downhill.  Of course, the rain had stopped after a bit:

The Auburn Century (Wildest Ride in the West) was a challenging and beautiful ride that went through Auburn, Colfax, Meadow Vista, Foresthill and Bowman, past a reservoir and through the Sierras.  Although many rides have their favorite hill challenges, or noteworthy names, The Auburn Century was a nicer surprise and worthy of repeating.

Here’s another nice review, with stats:

http://www.mtbguru.com/trip/show_static/92-auburn-century

This year’s event will be on June 12, 2010, sign up now at http://www.wildestride.com/