Monday, April 29, 2013

2013 Devil Mountain Double Century

Pre-Ride Brain Boondoggling

I had no idea just what I was getting into when I put this on my calendar as an event I might want to do.  I had no idea what I was thinking when I said, “Screw it, no more toddling around, I’m just going to sign up for this thing and see what happens.”

Some great things happen when we fight through our reservations and fears and tackle the things we’re afraid of, things we think we cannot do.  This was one of those things. 

The 2013 Devil Mountain Double Century (DMD) would be my 3rd different double century, the 4th overall.  I have done the Solvang Double twice, and the Davis Double once.  Solvang and Davis are two of the easier rides on the California Triple Crown calendar, ranked #22 and #23 out of 26, and are both given a difficulty of “Medium”. 

DMD?  #2 with a difficulty of “Radically High”.  But, it’s my backyard, the closest double on the Triple Crown calendar to me.  And it goes over one of my favorite places in the whole world, Mt Hamilton.  So, I had to try it.

That was the original goal.  I’m not that great of a climber.  It’s something I work on quite a bit, but it’s still not my strong point.  I knew going into this thing that I might not finish, and that would be OK.  It was time to push myself beyond my limits again.  You have to do that every now and then to keep an eye on just where those limits are.  Life is just no fun if you never tighten the screws, let loose and do something crazy. 

So, here I went.  206 miles and 21,000 feet of climbing.  Mt Diablo, Mt Hamilton, and Sierra Road.  As well as Morgan Territory, Altamont Pass, Patterson Pass, Mines Road/Junction, Palomares and Norris Canyon Roads.  I gave myself a 50/50 chance of finishing.  

The Ride Itself

There was a pre ride meeting at 4:55am and we would all ride out at 5:00am.  OK, most would ride out at 5:00am.  The fast riders would ride out at 6:00am.  But the majority of the ride rolled out at 5:01am.  The beginning was great.  It was cold, but I warmed up quick on the way to the base of Mt Diablo. 

My how quickly things turn from great to shit. 

At mile 8.7 there’s a Stop Sign where we turn right onto Mt Diablo Scenic Blvd.  I was riding in a pack, on the inside.  We began to make the right turn, and I must have either turned early or just cut it to much, because suddenly there was a gigantic hole in front of me, and I went right through it.  I managed to keep the bike upright while cyclists around me yelled “HOLE!” and “STAY LEFT!” and “WIDE RIGHT! STAY WIDE!” 

I thought I had made it through, another cyclist riding next to me actually said he was convinced I was going down and was surprised when I saved it and kept riding.  As he finished that statement, the air from my rear tire began saying goodbye.  I pulled over with a blown rear tire before mile 9.  Of 206.  Not a great start.

Lucky for me, SAG showed up quickly and let me use a floor pump.  Unluckily for me, in the confusion of trying to change a tire at night, I didn’t get the spare tube seated correctly and it blew out.  Two tubes down.  The SAG guy let me borrow one, and as I got it ready I noticed that my rear tire itself had a gash in it from the hole.  The tire was beyond dead.  Luckily (again) SAG had an extra tire and let me use it.  I took my time setting it up, made sure it was all seated correctly, and pumped it up. 

I was on my way, but not before I wasted 25 minutes sitting at the side of the road.  That meant 2 things.  1:  I was now 25 minutes down on a ride that I already didn’t know whether I could finish.  2:  More importantly, I was 25 minutes behind the rest of the pack.  I would be riding solo from here on out, playing catch up the rest of the day.  No pack, no drafting, no encouragement.  Just me, myself, and I.

Sort of an inauspicious start to the day.  I told myself to be patient and to sit and spin comfortably up Mt Diablo, which started pretty much right away.  Once I got going, I started to feel better.

At the top, I lost even more time due to a recumbent rider with a broken chain.  I had a chain tool, and of course I let him use it.  I filled my bottles, used the bathroom, got a stretch, and he still wasn’t done.  Another 15 minutes gone.  That put me 40-45 minutes behind my goal and the pack.

I suddenly had a new goal:  Time to suck it up and play catch up.  There are two cutoff points for this ride:  You have to leave Rest Stop 3 (mile 91) by 1:00, and Lunch (mile 116) by 4:30.  My goal was to make it to Rest Stop 3 in time.  It was time to push.  Hard.

The descent down Mt Diablo would be a lot better without the speed limit, I had to ride the brakes hard to keep it below 25.  But once I got to the bottom, it was time to open it up. 

Morgan Territory was pretty tough, but I was able to push through and even start passing some people.  Then we had some flat roads before Altamont and Patterson Passes.

Altamont was AWESOME.  A nice little tailwind let me do it wide open, climbing at close to 20mph.  That felt great. 

Patterson Pass was next.  Tough one, but not too long.  Now I was really catching and passing folks.  It was starting to get hot, and the little end bit at 15%+ gradient didn’t help.  But I made it over and then BOMBED the descent.  I was greeted with more flat roads at the bottom, which I can cruise pretty well on, before turning onto Mines Road and beginning the long trek up to Mt Hamilton.  But first, Rest Stop 3!  I MADE IT!  Quick refill, quick snack, and I rolled out at 12:35.  Still more work to do, it was time to continue my game of leap frog.

Mines Road was great.  Lots of climbing, some descending, but fairly consistent, right up my alley.  Also hot.  No problem, just keep cranking.  Made up a lot of time here, passed a LOT of people.  Got to lunch, which was at Junction (Mt Hamilton fans, you know…) in plenty of time.  Now it was time to start heading up the mountain.  Sit and spin, you can make it.

There was a mini stop somewhere in here, and I started noticing the same riders resting.  I had found the riders at my level.  Now the only question was, just how far was I going to go today?  Was I really going to attempt Sierra Road at mile 150, after 15,000 feet of climbing already?  At that moment, my answer was no, my new goal would be to make it over Hamilton to the next Rest Stop at Crothers Road and reassess my goals. 

At the top of Hamilton I met a guy that I had been riding with on and off for probably 20-30 miles.  Jason.  He was thinking the same thing, about probably not finishing, and about rethinking his goals at the Crothers Road Rest Stop. 

So, we started our descent down Hamilton.  I figured this very well might be the last leg of this ride, so I would enjoy it.  We made it to Crothers Road at around 6:30.  Had some Cup-O-Noodles, V8, and a Coke.  Jason and I made the decision to keep pushing, and if we rode together, pushing each other and supporting each other, we might stand a chance of finishing. 

Of course, the next major hurdle was Sierra Road.  Whoever planned out Sierra Road, I have some questions for you:  Mainly, why the hell did you run it STRAIGHT up the side of the mountain?  Yeah, that hurt.  But we got to the top where the next rest stop was at 8:15.  With 47 miles to go, we knew it would be at night.  And it would be quite a while.

Lights went on, the vest went back on, and we started pushing.

This portion of the ride was what I can only describe as “terrifying”.  I’m not a fan of riding at night, especially back country roads with lots of tree cover.  It was PITCH BLACK out on Calaveras, luckily Jason and I road together.  I guarantee, without a doubt, if he had not been there I would not have attempted that road.  Not a chance. 

But I did, and we pushed through and made it to the Sunol Train Station Rest Stop.  They had chili dogs.  And hot tea.  Yeah, we chilled here for a bit. 

27 miles to go.  Niles Canyon Road, Palomares Road, Crow Canyon Road, Norris Canyon Road.  All had some climbing, all at night.  Some was nice, through towns, with street lights.  When I say “some”, I mean almost none.  The vast majority was out on country roads.  But, Jason and I kept pushing.  We were patient, took it easy, and just kept cranking.

Then it happened.  His light was dimming and going out, so he turned it off up one of the climbs and we road side by side to save what battery it had left.  I turned my light up to full power, which I now know was a mistake.  It went out.  It shut off like, well, like a light switch.

Now, I have to tell you about a bit of luck.  I read somewhere that lots of riders used a high powered light for full darkness, but for dawn and dusk they would use a cheaper, weaker light that lasted much longer.  I almost didn’t put it on that morning, but at the last second I figured, meh, I’ll pop it on and see.  So, I had my powerful, expensive, super nice light AND my old, cheap, AAA powered light that lasted dozens of hours.  It sucked, but it gave us something to get through.  His light fading fast, my light illuminating a small circle of road in front of me.  10ish miles to go.

We took a small break right before the last climb up Norris Canyon Road, and while we chatted on the side of the road, my Garmin Edge 500 finally died.  Well, it made it longer than it should have.  It was rated for 16 hours of battery life, it made it over 18.5.  But, with under 6 miles to go, it was dead.  All of our electronics were failing us. 

But, we were pretty much there.  Once we were over that last hill, it was a short, straight, bomb down into San Ramon and back to the San Ramon Marriott. 

I couldn’t believe it.  A ride I gave myself a 50/50 chance of completing before I started, loosing 25 minutes to a botched road side repair, 15 more to helping another rider with his chain, not being a strong climber, having my light go out on a pitch black country road.  All the problems I ran into seemed to be matched by some good luck, perseverance, the will to finish at any cost, and a cat named Jason Mills. 

If it wasn’t for him, there is no way I would have finished.  And vice versa.  We pushed each other, helped each other through our bad luck and benefited from each others good luck. 

We pulled in to the San Ramon Marriott to finish the ride at 12:14am.  I was freezing, I was tired, everything hurt.  My legs were screaming at me, my feet throbbed, my back hurt, my neck was sore.  I was cold in that way that feels like you will never defrost again.  Chilled to the bone. 

None of that mattered, I felt like I floated down the hall into the victory dinner room.  Lasagna.  Salad.  And a big bottle of orange juice.  I think it was orange juice.  Whatever it was, it tasted glorious.  It tasted like success.  I was too tired and sore to really realize what I had just been through, but I knew that I had finished, and that is all that mattered.  I did it.  I was done.  I had made it all the way back.

Now I know where my limit is.  Now I know that I can push myself to that next level.  I think I’ll leave it here for a while.  But, eventually, I’ll have to push that point again.

Just how and with what, I don’t know.  Some day I’ll have to figure that out.

For now, my next ride is in 3 weeks on May 18th.  The Davis Double Century.  If I finish it, I will have completed my first California Triple Crown.  But for the moment, I will continue to relish my current success.  And maybe go lay down again.

I still hurt.  All over.

Now for numbers.  My Garmin died with about 6 miles to go, but I mapped those 6 miles into MapMyRide to estimate what I missed and to get the full picture.


201.4 Miles
19,153 feet climbing
8,175 calories
18:36:37 total time

Garmin + MapMyRide:
207.2 Miles
19,658 feet climbing
19:13:00 (have to wait for organizers to release official finishing times)

Or, just view the whole Strava Report.

Time to go lay down. 


Renee said...

Amazing. Just amazing. And you didn't tell me the light went out. :(

Erik Dabel said...

Yeah, it did. But I had the spare light, which wasn't much but was there. Really glad I decided at the last minute to put it on. Being an obsessively over prepared over packer finally came in handy!