Archive for March, 2009

Solvang Double Century 2009

| March 28, 2009 8:00 pm
Solvang Double Century 2009

by Franz Kelsch

Some say that the easiest double century in our area is the spring Solvang Double. Yes, the climbing is less than most but with over 7,000 feet it is not quite like some real flat doubles in others parts of the country. Yes the total miles is a bit less than 200 miles. So for many people it is the best way to do your first double. But for me it is not so easy because, unlike with other doubles, people always want to know how fast you did it. So it is more like a race than an endurance event. I make matters worse for myself by starting with the 7:30 am group, which gets timed with the times posted on the Plant Ultra website.

Actually I was feeling rather prepared for this double, even though it occurs so early in the season. For the first time ever, it was not my first double century of the year because I rode the Death Valley Double one month early. Maybe I was feeling a bit too confident because in the same week Anne and I did a little too much speed work, setting 3 new PRs on tandem hill climbs on Henry Coe, Thomas Grade and Metcalf. I don’t mean PR for this year, I mean our best time ever. In retrospect, maybe that was not such a keen idea to do only days before doing a double.

Last year I completed Solvang under 10 hours. By under 10 hours I mean by about 20 seconds. I remember last year I felt I had a shot of breaking 10 hours about 40 miles from the end, which added a lot of pressure and drove me to push much harder than I might otherwise. I had no intention to do that again. I told everyone I was going to stop and smell the roses.

I showed up at 7:15 and they started a roll call of those who wanted to be timed. Joining me was Paul D, Gary F, and Barley and Susan.

Gary, Paul, Franz at start of Double

Gary, Paul, Franz at start of Double

I knew I was in trouble when I saw four tandems there. One was Barley and Susan, who I had ridden with a week ago and knew they were fast.

Barley and Susan at start of Double

Barley and Susan at start of Double

Right at 7:30 a group of 62 riders were off. The tandem in the photo is what I call the 4th tandem later in my story.

The reason why I knew I was in trouble with all those tandems is because two years ago I was not able to stay connected on the descent down Foxon Canyon, and lost the fast group at that point. Last year, with no tandems making the descent, I was able to keep with the lead group all the way to the second rest stop at 84 miles (we skipped the first rest stop).

This year keeping with the pack was a bit of a strain but not overly taxing. We when up a couple of short hills and I would move right up behind the tandems and stay on their wheel as they went down. The first descent down Foxon Canyon went alright but on the second one, the same spot I lost the wheel two years ago, proved too hard. No matter how hard I tried, I just could not stay on the wheel and the group started to drive away from me, even though later I could see I had hit 50 mph. Being a poor sprinter meant I was working way too hard trying to catch them. I was actually making some progress and starting to close the gap. It was a race between either burning myself out or latching back on. I should have known better and backed off sooner and saved the legs for the many miles ahead. You can see from this graph, my heart rate was running in the red zone going DOWN the hill trying to get connected to the lead riders (click to enlarge).

solvangdescent

Soon after I realized I would not be able to close the gap, I was passed by a younger faster rider wearing a Furnace Creek 508 jersey. We worked together, although he was taking longer pulls. For awhile we were starting to gain on the lead group, but you can only drive that hard for so long. Soon the group ahead was vanishing from sight. I had lost my route sheet on the fast descent so I was not sure where the next turn was. The fellow 508 rider pulled his from his back pocket and started to read it. I road in the center of the road to give him space but even with that he cross wheels with me as he was looking at the sheet. Suddenly he was down, and extremely upset about it. But this was one tough dude. Even with some road rash and torn cycling shorts, he got back on his bike and we started off again. Just then we were pasted by the fourth tandem, along with a couple of other riders drafting behind them.. We jumped in the group and stayed with them for a few miles, but they stopped and the first rest stop so we went on without them. Only one other rider skipped the stop and rode with us, another one wearing a Furnace Creek 508 jersey. Kind of like 3 FC 508 guys, but the others were much younger and stronger than I was. Several miles down the road, as we were making a right turn, a group was coming back toward us, having missed the turn themselves.

Yes, I thought. I was now back with a larger group. I moved up toward the front of the group not wanting to get dropped on some of the rollers ahead. I thought I would be able to stay with them until the 2nd rest stop, but my legs were burning from trying to catch the lead riders earlier. It just didn’t seem worth the effort, so after about 5 miles I let them go and started riding solo, something I would do for much of the rest of the event.

I was a bit worried without a route sheet but eventually did catch a couple of other riders. Having no route sheet, I wanted to stay with them so I did not get lost. Although I wanted to go a bit faster, I was afraid I would miss a turn, so I ended up mostly pulling.. The problem is that this small group did miss the turn and we went about 3 miles before we realized it. So by the time we got back on course we had biked an extra 6 miles.

Just as we got back on the course I saw Paul D. He rode with us for a mile or so but then started to cramp and dropped off. Soon after that we passed Louise. Once I knew I had made the final turn before the second rest stop, I moved ahead and rode solo. At the second rest stop I saw that I had averaged only about 19 mph, compared with close to 22 mph last year when I had stayed with the lead group, but this year I had now biked 92 miles before stopping for food and water. I guess that was some sort of record for me.

It might have been my imagination but there seemed to be more headwind. I was riding that stretch along Highway 1 toward Moro Bay by myself into the wind. About 6 miles from Moro Bay a group of about 8 riders came up from behind, so I joined them. I saw a couple of riders ahead, both wearing the same jersey. As we passed them, I could see it was Art and Patrice. I stayed with the small group until the lunch stop. I was thinking to keep with them, but they were taking longer eating their sandwich than I wanted to wait so I headed out alone. I never saw them again until I was waiting at the finish after taking a shower, so it is a good thing I didn’t stick with them.

Several miles before the 4th rest stop, while waiting at a traffic light, the 4th tandem came up, the one that had stopped at the first rest stop. They had only one other rider with them, so I joined the small group. The two of us on single bikes would take turns doing some pulling. As we kept passing riders, they were jumping on the train, but they were all wheel suckers. I took another pull and tried to move back into the group but these wheel suckers would not let me in, wanting to keep their spot. Forget them I thought, and I just went ahead and dropped the entire group, again riding solo. At the 4th rest stop I saw Gary S. and Gary B, who were about ready to leave.

After mostly solo riding, I finally made it to the the last rest stop where I saw Chuck, who had started at 6 am. By now I had passed all the other club riders, except of course Gary F. and Barley and Susan on the tandem. I knew Gary was probably about two hours ahead of me, which meant he was already enjoying the finish line. Ann was there and took his picture.

Gary at Finish

Gary at Finish

I didn’t spend much time at the last rest stop, knowing the end was not far. It was up Drum Canyon Hill, a part I really like. I enjoy climbing this hill and passing all the other riders who hate to climb, especially after 180 miles. But unlike last year when I was climbing at full speed to make some time, I kept it much easier. I made the turn on the final highway, with the slight uphill and then the down hill. While going down, I was passed by the 4th tandem and a bunch of riders. I had to accelerate quickly but was able to finally close the gap. I rode with them to the end. I knew the tandem started at 7:30 but I think most of the rest of the group had started earlier.

Franz at finish

Franz at finish

I finally made it to the finish, taking a total of 11:16, which was more than a hour slower than last year. Part of that was due to riding an extra 6 miles and part was from doing a lot more solo riding. I still felt I was working hard and when I looked at my data later, my average heart rate was even higher than last year. Of course that might be because I am just getting older. These two tables show a comparison with my prior Solvang Doubles. My stopping time at the rest stops was a bit more than last year but the crash did cost me some time while I helped the rider back up on his bike. Overall I am happy with how I did. A little older, a little slower, but still riding alongside the young bucks. My only regret was even though I was slower, I never did see any roses to smell.

My thanks to Anne for taking all the photos in this blog. See all her photos of Slovang here.

Solvang Double Century

Year
Age
Bike Time
Total Time
Avg. Speed
Avg HR
Note
2003
55
9:55
11:18
19.2
First Double
2007
59
9:50
10:42
19.6
137
2008
60
9:36
9:59
20.3
145
2009
61
10:36
11:16
18.6
149
Extra 6 miles

Solvang Double Century Stopping Time

Year
CP#1 CP#2
CP#3
CP#4
CP#5 All Other Total
2007 2:00 14:15 10:15 7:30 6:30 11:30 52:00
2008
Skip
5:45
7:45
5:15
1:00 3:15 23:00
2009
Skip
9:45
11:45
7:15
3:30 7:45 40:00

Mt. Hamilton Challenge in Reverse

| March 22, 2009 8:22 pm

by Franz Kelsch

One of the annual events is the Mt. Hamilton Challenge that goes up Mt. Hamilton, down to the junction, over to Livermore and then back through Calevaras. There was a long distance training club ride yesterday, led by Jon, that did this route in reverse, which has some tougher climbs. The ride started at 7:30 am and initially I was going to suggest to Gary that we start later, as we often do, and try to catch the rest of the group. The forecast was for rain later in the day so it seemed better to start with the rest of the riders and finish earlier

It was still dark when I stopped at Gary’s house to pick him up. After a drive up to San Jose, we arrived just in time. It was getting light now and the temperature was not too bad, warmer than last Saturday.

Vince getting ready to ride

Vince getting ready to ride

We had enjoyed wonderful weather on Friday but I knew this day would be much cooler. Ann was not able to join so I was on my single bike, which was too bad because there were two other tandems, Russ & Sheila and Barley & Susan.

Most of the group was together as we started to climb up Calaveras.

Russ and Sheila

Russ and Sheila

It was not long before five of us went ahead of the rest of the riders and the two tandems. After climbing the “wall” we started through the rollers along the Calaveras Canyon. Our group now was down to four including myself, Gary, Brian and Vince. Brian was taking pictures of us from the back while riding which was amazing considering we were moving rather quickly.

Vince, Franz, Gary on Calaveras

Vince, Franz, Gary on Calaveras

Then Brian went ahead, to get a front shot! Not sure how he did it because I thought we were cruising right along.

img_9533

Franz and Gary

At least I thought we were moving along and was surprised that we were suddenly passed by Barley and Susan, who were making a very fast pace through the rollers.

Barley and Susan

Barley and Susan

I raced to jump on their wheel thinking I should be able to hold on with all these curves. I know I have to slow down when cornering on the tandem, but Barley has a lot more courage than I do. I was starting to slip off the back. Gary went around me and was able to connect with the tandem. By now Brian had dropped off the back and we were soon joined by Guy. The three of us were trying to connect with the tandem before the descent but that last climb was just not long enough so they were over the top and headed down fast. Three of us, myself, Vince and Guy, worked together as we were headed to Sunol, trying to close the gap but never seeming to make any progress. Gary was riding in the tandem draft, RESTING!

It was not until we finally hit some traffic lights that we joined up. We road together through Livermore and before heading to Mines Road three riders stopped to get water. I was afraid to stop so I was the only one that followed Barley and Susan as they continued on. On the way up Mines Road, Gary and Vince finally caught us but we did not see Guy again that day. I was so glad to be climbing up Mines road because my heart rate was now much lower than it was on those flat sections and rollers.

We all stopped at the Junction Cafe for maybe 10 minutes, just enough time to eat something small and get water, then it was off toward Mt. Hamilton. I was feeling fatigued at this point but was able to keep reasonably close to the rest of the group. I saw some of the riders going the other way out to the junction from Cheeseburgers at the Junction ride.  Except for Gary, I caught everyone on the last climb before the descent down to Isabel Creek. I was so happy we had finally hit the backside of Mt. Hamilton. I know that sounds strange, but for me I like climbing and it is much easier for me to keep with the fast riders when we are climbing, especially that wickedly fast tandem of Barley and Susan.

I decided to time myself up the backside, although I knew it would not be that fast since it was well into a long ride and I was not going to be racing up. At the top I did a split and found my time was 46:30 minutes. I waited there for awhile, wondering how far the others were behind, but no one was coming up. It was a chance to put on my jacket and eat some more food. It was cold so I decided to head back down the hill about a quarter of a mile to see where everyone was and then I saw Barley and Susan down below coming around a corner. I waited for them and climbed up to the summit and along the flat to the Observatory where Gary was waiting. The tandem didn’t stop but headed straight down, even though Susan was in short sleeves and it was now 48 degrees!

Gary and I started down the hill but I never descend as fast as he does, so soon he was out of sight. About 3 miles down the hill I suddenly got a massive cramp in my right leg and had to stop for a short while. I was wondering if I was going to be able to get out of the pedal with the cramp, but managed somehow. I was surprised to get cramping in such cool weather and when I was going down the hill. After a couple of minutes I was feeling good enough to go on and was okay the rest of the ride. Gary was waiting at the bottom of Mt. Hamilton and Barley and Susan had already gone on. The weather was starting to look more threatening so we headed the 7 miles to the car. At 2:30 pm, it started to rain. Gee why could it not wait until 3:00 pm like the forecast. We got wet enough but were glad it was at the end of the ride and only for 20 minutes. I was glad when we finally reached the car and got the bike inside my minivan. Gary and I headed into Erik’s Cafe and Gary bought me a sandwich. That sure tasted great.

When I got home I went to the King of the Mountain Page to see how fast I climbed up the backside of Mt. Hamilton before and found my best time last year of 46:53, 23 seconds slower than I just did on this long ride.  See the KOM times for the backside of Mt. Hamilton.

Death Valley Double – Spring 2009

| March 5, 2009 10:47 am
Death Valley Double - Spring 2009

by Franz Kelsch

Death Valley received its name in 1849 during the California Gold Rush. It was called Death Valley by prospectors and others who sought to cross the valley on their way to the gold fields. I realized how much has changed since then until today when numerous cyclists cross death valley each year.

Late last year I received an email that they had just opened registration for the Death Valley “Spring” Double and right after that I got a call from Gary F. telling me he was signing up. In an impulsive moment I went on their website and signed up, just before they reached their 300 rider limit in the first hour. Then I was starting to wonder how I was going to get ready. I was going to be traveling a lot in November and December and that left only two months to get in shape. It was kind of like cramming for a final, except the body can only develop so fast. So during the first two months of 2009 I biked more miles than I ever had so early in the year. Although I did not feel like I was fully prepared, I was close to the training program I had laid out for myself for the first two doubles this year.

dvd-training-2-26-09

On Friday Gary, Louise and myself carpooled down to Furnace Creek. After a 500 mile, 9 hour drive, we finally arrived at the Furnace Creek Ranch Lodge where Gary and I were sharing a room. As often happens on these type of events, I did not sleep that well. I woke up at 1:30 am and not quite sure if I ever went back to sleep. Gary and I decided to try to get in with the first wave of riders so we were up early and to the start line by 5:45. But they had 50 people already there and they held us back to start 10 minutes later with the second group. I was not too worried about that but I knew that it meant Gary would need to bridge the 10 minute gap somehow to catch the fastest riders ahead.

It was just getting light as we started off at 6:10. Riding in the desert at sunrise is something so beautiful that it is impossible to explain and needs to be experienced. In the foreground was the vast expanse of Death Valley and looming far in the distant was the Sierra Mountains, with snow caps on Mt. Whitney.

In our group of 50 I saw a couple on a tandem, but not just any tandem. It was a very high priced racing tandem and they were both wearing Everest Challenge Jerseys. That is the State Climbing Championship I participated in last year so I figured I could draft behind them. But they turned out to be not fast enough and I eventually went past them. Not too long after that we formed a pace line of about 9 riders and worked together for about 40 miles when we stopped for water and food.

Franz is one in Orange 508 jersey

Franz is one in Orange 508 jersey

dvd-paceline2

I made a quick stop and decided to go ahead without the group since we would be climbing up Jubilee within 7 miles. From that point on it was mostly solo riding for me.

This double is two parts, the first part is out to Shoshone and back to Furnace Creek. This is stage 4 on the Furnace Creek 508, but both times I was the “A” rider so I had not cycled on these roads. So instead of being sleepy eyed in the support van watching Paul V. bike in the middle of the night, I had the chance to ride in the daylight. It was wonderful weather, not too hot, not too cold, not too sunny and not too cloudy. I could not have asked for better cycling weather.

When I got to the base of Jubilee, I noticed that I had already “climbed” over 1,500 feet, which showed how many rollers we went over. Jubilee Summit was at 1,290 feet and then after a short descent it was a very long climb up Salsberry. I passed several riders during the climb up to 3,300 feet at the summit. I guess these were all riders in the group that had started 10 minutes before us. I could see a tandem ahead and was thinking if I could catch it before the summit I could follow it down the other side. I was able to make a connection just before we hit the crest and attempted to keep in their slipstream as we zoomed down the hill. I finally found myself pedaling as fast as I could and watched them slowly slip away from me even though they were “coasting”. “Wait a minute” I thought, I still had a long way to go so I gave up the chase.

After we leveled out I found myself in a stiff headwind, bringing my speed down to 11 mph. I was starting to worry because the winds last year during this event had caused a high DNF rate. But the wind lasted for only about 10 miles and although it seemed to always be a head wind for the rest of the ride, they were not that strong. I made a quick stop at Shoshone and headed back. On the climb back up Salsberry, I saw the same tandem again but found it easy this time to catch them. Again I tried to keep in their slipstream down the very long descent but once again I finally gave up.

It is breathtaking to descend from over 3,315 feet down to below sea level. Once I was back down to the valley floor, it was a short ride back to the rest stop to get more water. From there I had about 30 miles to reach Badwater, where there was a lunch stop. That seemed like the longest 30 miles. I was on the verge of bonking and was out of water as I pulled into Badwater. Badwater is a basin in Death Valley and is the lowest point in the US with an elevation of 282 feet below sea level. It was also for me the lowest point in the ride.

I realized I needed a break so sat there for nearly 19 minutes enjoying a sandwich, a coke, and a V-8. I was now feeling much better and headed off. I grouped with two other riders, one was wearing a Furnace Creek 508 jersey from last year. I had been with him early in the day with the small pace line we had formed. I was chatting with him and he indicated that he had only been on the bike 4 times since last October’s Furnace Creek 508. “Wow”, I thought, how could he do that. He said he had been swimming and running. I asked him if by chance he had run the Badwater Ultra marathon, put on by the same group putting on this event and the 508. “Yes”, he said, “4 times”. This is the hardest running race I know of, covering 135 miles non-stop from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney. He said he had finished 4 times and had completed both the Badwater Ultra Marathon and FC 508 solo in the same year (his totem is Desert Duck). He is only the second person I met who had completed both events and the first to do it multiple times.

I reached Furnace Creek for another stop, I saw Gary’s coach there who had already finished. That meant he had finished the last 50 miles out to Stovepipe Wells and back before I even started out. Yikes, I guess I had better get going. So after a 10 minutes stop I headed on, riding solo once again.

I was now riding on the same road I had ridden twice during the FC 508, except in reverse. What surprised me was that this road had a lot of rollers. When doing the 508 I always thought this section was flat. Doing it in the dark made it hard to see the ups and downs and I had thought the difference in effort required was due to the shifting winds. But now I was measuring as much as a 300 ft. change in elevation through the rollers. About 5 miles from the turn around one fellow did pass me so I jumped on his wheel for awhile. Then I felt like I could pull and went around him. A mile or so later I glanced back and he had fallen way off the back so I just went ahead by myself. I finally reached Stovepipe Wells, which is right at sea level.

img_0106

At the turn around point they offered me a cup of noodles. Hum, that sounded good so I sat down and enjoyed it since I wanted to make sure I had enough energy to finish. After a 13 minute rest, I decided to bike to the finish. It was getting late in the day so I decided to turn on my lights before I headed back to Furnace Creek for the last 25 miles of the ride. One fellow joined me but he had a simple CAT-eye light so he enjoyed following me with my bright light. I was thinking he liked following me a bit too much because he never took a pull. Oh well, at least in the dark it was safer to have two riders together.

I finally pulled into Furnace Creek at 7:30 pm, for a total time of 13:20. Gary, who had finished two hours earlier, was there to meet me. I was happy I was done. Not long after I finished the fellow with the totem Desert Duck pulled in. I asked him if he was going to do the Badwater Ultramarathon and FC 508 again this year. He said he was taking it off because he was going to do a triple Iron Man instead. “Yikes”, I said, “what is a triple Iron Man?” He said it was “7.5 mile swim, then 336 mile bike and 78 mile run.” But he added, “I have 60 hours to finish”. I started to feel like a wimp for having a hard time finishing only 200 miles on the bike.

P2281631

Desert Duck

After eating some more food, I headed to the room to take a shower and then went back out to the front to wait for Louise. I slept well that night. Checking my data later I found I had averaged 16 mph over the course of 197 miles and 9,300 feet of climbing. My total stopping time was about 1 hour. Although I had not pushed myself as hard as I had on some other doubles, overall I was happy with how I did. Maybe I should be thinking about doing a triple Iron-man, NOT!

Route

Elevation Profile

Death Valley Double

| March 2, 2009 10:38 pm
Death Valley Double

by Louise McCracken

It was a crisp morning with temperatures in the mid to high 50’s and no wind that morning at Furnace Creek Ranch to begin the Spring Death Valley Double Century. Groups of 50 were set off for the ride every 10 minutes starting at six o’clock.  Recommendations of faster riders were preferred for the first group and the slower groups thereafter.  I was surprised to find Gary F and Franz K in the same group as I starting off at 6:10 am.  They teased me the night before over dinner as they expressed that they were going to make this a leisurely ride and watch me fade in the distance on the climbs.  Yea right, I could not ride fast enough to make it a leisurely ride you guys, give me a break.  When I expressed my astonishment of their position, they quickly informed me that the max number of participants had been reached for the first group before they arrived.  Regardless, we wished each other to do well on the ride with high hopes that the Wind Goddess will be good to us.

The sun had not peaked over the mountains yet, but it was light enough to see the road.  Light requirements were marginal. As we arrived to the first rest stop at mile 17 at Badwater, the group was still spreading out and most riders were still finding groups at their pace to work together.  The group I rode with consisted of about five, but individuals were dropping and popping into the pace line.  As we were a mile or two out of the rest stop the pace line remained consistent with four.  Got to know two of them, Joe and Gwen from the Marin Cycling Club.  I was amazed how Gwen was able to stand on her pedals through every climb. A gentle breeze was noticeable as we arrived to the second rest stop at mile 45 at Ashford Mills.  I needed to refill a bottle, top-off my camel bak and grabs some munchies the climbing was shortly ahead.

Remembering the Century ride from last year, I felt that the summit of Jubilee Pass came up quickly.  Yahoo!  I was happy, but knew a tougher climb to Salsberry Pass was ahead.  What a climb, gradual but steady, I had to concentrate on my form as I pushed forward.  I was so relieved to see the Water Stop at mile 57.  The support crew was happy to fill my water bottle for me so I would not have to get off the bike.  The summit was three miles ahead “then it’s all down hill and flat” I was reassured.  Happy to hear the news, it felt like a very long three miles until I was able to coast and light pedal down on the descents.

A few rolling hills before arriving to Shoshone rest stop at mile 74 and the turn around point of the ride.  The table was nicely stocked with fruit and other goodies including ice for bottles and camel pak’s.  I had trouble clipping my left cleat into my pedal when I left the rest stop.  Pulled over and noticed that I stepped in some bubble gum.  I cruised back and tried to clean off the gum with a paper towel-futile.  Then I saw a leatherman and had trouble flipping out the tool I needed to clean out my cleat.  One of the crewmembers noticed what I was doing and helped me clean out the cleat.  I should have pulled out my camera for that, it was a unique Kodak moment.

Leaving Shoshone, I knew climbing back over Salsberry and Jubilee Passes were going to be a challenge.  The wind had picked-up as it started to remind me of the grief of last year.  Nevertheless, I remembered conversations I had with others days before about these climbs.  I was reassured that the climbs were shorter, but steeper in some areas.  “Don’t worry, you can make it, they are easy.  The toughest part of the Double is already done at that point.”  Going through the climb back over Salsberry Pass was as strenuous as expected, but the climb back over Jubilee Pass was tougher.  I felt like I performed a miracle when I reached the summit.  An easier climb, I don’t think so!

Arriving back to the Ashford Mills rest stop at mile 103 was a welcomed sight.  My legs were telling me they were tired and I needed to stretch to release the pressure in my lower back.  The camel bak was empty with the exception of the ice and I was working on my second bottle.  Snacks at the table were not as plentiful; this rest stop took care of the Century riders too.  I made the most of the situation as I filled my bento box with pretzels.  Filled my water bottles and camel bak and I was ready to venture off to find a pace line.

Much to my delight, the wind lighter, but consistent.  I found a pace line with a recumbent at the end.  When I approached, the recumbent was gracious enough to let me in behind the next rider.  After a few miles, the group approached three more in a pack that joined the group.  Moments later, I found myself slipping away as the group was pulling faster.  Pushing harder, I could not hang on much longer and fell back.  The rider on the recumbent was encouraging me to press on and keep up them.  I shook my head indicating that it was too much for me.

As the riders moved on creating a larger gap, I saw the recumbent talking to the last rider of the group.  The next thing I knew, he was falling back to ride with me.  That was so sweet, he didn’t need to do that.  When I was able to approach him, I expressed my gratitude.  He responded “Riding a Double alone makes it a very long ride.”  True, so true indeed.  As I agreed with him, he admitted that the group was getting too fast for him anyway.  I thought he was just saying that to be nice, but I quickly learned that he was getting tired.  As we took turns pulling each other, we were running low on energy and ready for lunch.  There were moments where I was having doubts if I was able to finish this ride after all.

When we approached the sign that read “Badwater vista point ¼ mile” my partner yelled “Yea!” with delight.  He stopped at the restrooms as I coasted to the tents at mile 130.  I could not get off my bike when I arrived.  Leaning over my handlebars in a stance, a crewmember asked if I was okay.  I put up my hand indicating that I needed one minute to answer her.  She asked if she could bring anything, I asked for a banana.  She offered orange wedges since they were out of bananas.  I shook my head in agreement as a quart size bag of orange wedges was in my face moments later.  She was patient and gracious handing me piece by piece as the oranges disappeared quickly.  Another crewmember grabbed a chair for me and offered a Subway sandwich and a soda as I dismounted my bike.

My bike was put aside for me as I sat in a chair with a sandwich in one hand and a soda in the other.  Just like the orange wedges, the sandwich disappeared in no time flat as I started to feel sub-human again.  My riding partner was behind me finding his drop bag so he could put his light on his bike.  I turned to him as asked, “You think we can finish this ride if we work together?”  Without hesitation he replied, “It would be my pleasure!”  Excellent!  I had confidence that I would complete the Double Century as planned.  Filling my bento box with pretzels and taking some endurolytes, I was ready to roll.
Arriving to Furnace Creek at mile 148 felt great, my partner advised me that he wanted to grab another light from his truck before we continued.  It was dusk and lights would be necessary soon.  When I approached the table to refuel, I heard a “Hello Louise” behind my left shoulder.  As I turned, it took awhile to recognize who was talking to me; it was Joe.  He was not wearing his helmet.  Isn’t it funny how you can’t recognize people right away without their cycling gear?  I greeted Gary F with accolades as he arrived moments later completing the ride.  Joe agreed to ride with us for the rest of the course when my partner came back with his light.  During the introduction, I learned his name was Andrew.   Joe had trouble with his lights working and told us not to wait for him any longer.  We needed to leave so we could finish the ride before the official cut-off time.

Regardless of the overcast, Death Valley was beautiful as the sun disappeared into the mountains.  Andrew and I started talking as we rode along the course together.  It was startling to find out that he works with Barry Swartz.  Furthermore, we both grew up in Santa Clara, but attended different High Schools.  Small world, isn’t it?  Andrew had joined ACTC a few months ago, but has not attended any of the LDTR rides.  I told him about my experience and advised him to meet Franz and Gary.  Andrew’s lights were very bright!  Whether I was pulling or not, I had no trouble with visibility of the road.
When we arrived to the last rest stop at Stovepipe Wells, it marked the completion of 171 miles.  It was clear, dark and getting cold.  Cup O’ Noodles was served, but I did not have the appetite.  Drinking another soda, we were happy to sit in a chair and slipping into our arm and leg warmers.  Andrew turned to me and said, “It doesn’t matter now, and we know that every turn of the pedals brings us closer to home.”  He is so right and it certainly gives you a great sense of vitality to finish the ride.  I found out later that I was more revived than Andrew as we started the last leg of the route.  Every now and then I would look up and see the stars shining brightly over us.  With the glow of taillights and headlights of other cyclists and vehicles, there was a sense of awe to be in Death Valley.

I could feel the coolness of the air hitting my face happy I was wearing my arm and leg warmers.  At first I wondered if I needed to pull over and wear my jacket.  But moments later, I felt it was not necessary.  Pulling along the course, I noticed that Andrew was starting to struggle.  I was concerned that I was probably riding too hard too soon and not have enough energy to complete the course.  When Andrew announced that there were three miles left, I replied by indicating that it was going to be a long three miles.  He advised me to go ahead.  I rebutted by indicating that I was “low on gas,” but he quickly replied by indicating that he was lower.  “Are you sure?” “Yea Louise, go ahead, I’ll be okay.”

As I arrived to the final stop at Furnace Creek, Gary and Franz were there to greet me.  “Hooray! I finished! Thanks for being there guys, you’ve got to meet Andrew!”  He arrived moments later and introductions were initiated after he checked-in.  Eating another Subway sandwich went down easy.  Taking a shower in the hotel room made me realize I was sunburned on my neck, arms and legs!  That’s Death Valley for you, now for the road trip back home to the cold and the rain.  Yes!  The Wind Goddess was nice to us that day, what a ride!  I have initiated muscle memory for stage four of the Furnace Creek 508 later in October.