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