Category Archives: Double Century

Mulholland Double became Mulholland Challenge

I signed up for the Mulholland Double Century, one of the stage in the California Triple Crown Stage Race. I wasn’t originally going to do this, but my friend Brenda asked if I would do it with her (to have a carpool partner, and a riding partner as well). I said yes, but in the back of my mind, I know I’m not as strong as her, so I had a little hesitancy in doing it. However, I figure what the heck .. if all else fails, I’ll be able to do the Mulholland Challenge, which is only 106 miles, 12,000 ft of climbing, instead of 192 miles and 18,000 ft climbing.

It turned out our friend Mark was going to be able to come along, so it was us three carpooling down.

Credit Mark William Calaway (aka Memo)

I originally signed up for the tourist option, which would not get Stage Race credit, but if completed by midnight, I would still get CTC credit. However, I wanted to ride together with Brenda and Mark, so instead of starting at 4:30 am, we started at 6:30 am, and didn’t need lights at the beginning of the ride. The double century riders, and the mountain challenge riders would start at the same time.

Right off the bat, a lot of the riders charged on ahead at a brisk pack riders pace (since it was a gradual descent). We decided to go at a warm up pace, not going to crazy. After all, we have 200 miles, and 18,000 feet of climbing to do.

The first 30 miles were a good warmup, with nothing too crazy, and we all pretty much stayed together.

The first water stop was at mile 26, because we had our first major test of the day, Stunt Road. Immediately after the first rest stop, on the first climb, I got distanced. After about 10 min of climbing by myself, I knew I wouldn’t be able to catch up with Mark and Brenda, so I just went at my own pace. It’s good that we had the century riders to ride with, just so I had some company while climbing.

Stunt Road is a good 4 mile climb, and about 1340 ft climbing, at an average grade of 6%. That’s not too bad. At the top, I see my friend Teresa, aka Tiger. It’s so nice to see old friends on a ride event, and it was good to see her out. She told me Mark and Brenda had just left 5 min ago, so I’m not too far behind.

After a short descent, and some climbs up Piuma, the next 30 miles were what I call lumpy, or with a bunch of rolling hills (nothing too dramatic as far as climbs were concerned, but still climbing). The route does take us back to the start, so that’s the first loop. I then see my friend Shelby back at the start, and she tells me Mark and Brenda left … you guessed it .. 5 min ago. This is encouraging, so I kept the stoppage time short, and continued on.

I did get swept up by a pack of ~ 20 riders, and hung in with them for a few miles. At least I got some momentum to take me up the next hill. The next hill … ooh, this is where the ride starts getting really tough. We climb up Westlake (Hwy 23), and it’s a 2 mile climb that averages at 7.2%, but the lower half had some really cruel steep pitches (in excess of 23% at times). Once we got through the hard part, we still have to climb 7-10% grades, and that takes a lot out of your legs. For some reason, Strava lists the segment as Decker wall. Little Sycamore was another hill that just burned my legs. That was only 8-10%, but all these hills add up.

Tiger’s boyfriend Chris, caught up with me, so I rode with him for awhile to the next rest stop to Circle X. I know the fatigue is really starting to hit me, so I spent a little longer at this rest stop, but still kept it at a minimum.

After the rest stop, we still climb some more, before we make the descent on Deer Creek to Hwy 1. At this point, my legs are jello, and I was really look for the descent, all knowing I’ll have to climb eventually. I just want to get the cool ocean breeze so my body can absorb the coolness.

Ah finally, the descent is coming. I didn’t bring my Go Pro, and I should have. It would have been good to take a video of the descent down Deer Creek. It is a steep descent, so I had to watch my speed coming down

At the bottom of the descent, another water stop, but this time, with ice. Hmm … I just had them fill my bottle with ice, as it would fill up the bottle. Now we get to enjoy a fairly flat 5 miles stretch of PCH. That is a much needed flat section, before we tackle a difficult Decker Canyon Road climb. If the hard climb wasn’t bad enough, we would have to negotiate a left turn on Hwy 1. Luckily, I caught a break, and didn’t have too many cars to wade through.

At this point, climbing Decker Canyon has the sun beating on your back, and more specifically, on your neck. Decker Canyon is a 3.6 mile, 1500 ft climb, with an average of 7.8% (but does have some 12-14%, and even some sections at 16%). With the sun beating down on me, and my legs are spent, I had to stop under a tree, and suffer the consequences of riders passing me while I let me heartrate down in the shade. I was okay, but just fatigued, spent, fried … I stopped probably for 7 min, as I didn’t want to wait too long, then off I go.

I did see another rider with an Everesting Jersey, and heard him complain “more hills. Where is the rest stop?” It’s kinda funny, an Everesting guy, complaining about so many hills?

I mustered enough energy to finally reach the fire station, which is my signal that it’s the top of Decker. I see that Planet Ultra tent, and I am relieved. My friend Steve, knows I need an ice towel, so her drapes it on my neck. Oooh that felt good … but this is a great candidate for the “slumped over the handle bars” FB group.

Credit: Steve Meichtry

I am spent at this point, but I have to move on. If I want to beat the cut-off, and continue onto the double, I have to check in back at the start no later than 5 pm. It’s still another 20 miles, and there are still some more climbing left to do.

After I get through the climbing, we get to descent a section of Mulholland, that is closed to traffic, but bikes can descent down. We do pass the Rock Store, and I wanted to take a picture here, but I didn’t have time to waste.

I started having headgames … if I do make it by 5 pm, do I have anything left in me to do another 91 miles and 6000 feet? As I approached Agoura Hills, it’s looking more and more like I’m going to miss the cutoff. I finally get there, approximately 5:10, 10 minutes past the cutoff. Oh well, it looks like I finished the Mulholland Challenge, and that was it. I just wanted to take my shoes off, and have a seat.

About 10 minutes goes by, and I see Mark. I thought he had gone on ahead, but apparently, he suffered 3 flats, and had no more supplies, so it didn’t make sense for him to continue. So we both DNF’d the double, but made it through the Mulholland Challenge.

We then hopped in the car, and followed Brenda and the rest of the DC riders along the route, just to aid them if they needed help. Brenda eventually rode with Dennis, also of XDV, so they rode together, and finished by 11 pm, well within the cutoff.

So congrats to Brenda and Dennis, and a really difficult double century. I’ve gotten so many comments, that it was an accomplishment for me, just to even attempt this, and to complete the Mulholland Challenge. I heard some DNF’d, due to mechanical issues. One rider had to DNF, due to a broken chain. That sucks!

Look at that profile!

Solvang Double Century – Number 22

Solvang Double Century in March is probably my favorite double century. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that it is held in the same month as my birthday? It’s also one of the most popular, as it attracts riders from all over California, and it’s a nice reunion with all my DC friends.

I carpooled with my friend Dzung, who was going for his 99th DC. He did have an accident a month ago (tire blowout on a descent), so this would be one to dig deep down. As per tradition, we also met with a bunch of friends at Firestone Walker just down the road from the start of the ride.

We started out at 4:30 am, known as the “Tourist” option. That allows you more time, plus as long as you finish before midnight, you get credit for it. I probably didn’t need all that time, but I wanted to start with Dzung in the morning. It’s better to ride in numbers in the dark.

Tiger (aka Teresa Beck) messaged me the night before, as she met this kid, Quang, who was riding his first double, and wanted to ride with a group. So I agreed to look out for him, so he can ride with us. Quang is the one on the far left. It turns out he’s a friend of another young rider that I ride with, Nguyen. What a small world. It turns out he had no problem with the double, as he rode ahead about 15 miles into the ride.

There was 40% rain forecast for the area, but not till late in the afternoon/evening. By the time we climbed, then descended Foxen Canyon, it did get really misty. It was still a little dark at that time, just before sunrise, so we still needed our full lights. It got to the point I had to take my glasses off.

There was a group of cyclist, One Cycling, who is from Stockton, who volunteered to support Carmel Valley Double last year, and I saw them pass by us like we were standing still. I did catch up to them at the first rest stop.

They are such a fun group. I kept passing them, when they got a flat, and they would pass me after they fixed it. They had 4 flats on the day. Each time I passed them, I say “again?” They started on, and I wanted to see if I can catch their train. I was about 5 seconds behind, but they distanced me really fast, and no way I could keep up. Oh well.

The next rest stop was at mile 78, and at the home of Adam Bramwell (son of Chuck Bramwell, who runs the California Triple Crown, aka CTC). They were across the street from a park, so it made for a perfect venue, with ample bathrooms nearby.

From this point, we did a loop up to San Luis Obispo, passing Cuesta College, then back to the same spot, for lunch. There is one thing I have to improve upon … is the length that I stay at these stops. When I looked at the data afterwards, I had a total of 1.5 hours of stoppage time.

To this point it didn’t rain, so I decided to take my jacket off … would this be a bad decision? Uh … yeah … it started to sprinkle about 5 miles down, and had to put it back on. However, it was just sprinkles, and nothing really bad. We then encountered a new climb, Ormonde. Nice little climb, about 5-8%. There was one other cyclist, who was mentioning something about his Garmin being screwed up, and couldn’t read the map properly. However, I told him we are on the right course. Then we came up to a T, and we are supposed to go left, but he was ahead and turned right. Before I could tell him, he was already about 500 yards ahead, and I yelled out left turn, but he was gone. Hope he found his way back, because I never saw him again on the ride.

Further down, I bumped into my friend Kirsten (it’s actually pronounced sheer-sten). She was helping out another rider with a flat, who had no tools … what? On a double? Anyhow, we both continued to ride on, and she is so strong (who has ~ 140+ DC’s, done many endurance gravel rides) … i.e. She is a badass. I was actually able to ride with her for about 40 minutes (15 miles), although some of it was downhill. Hey, that’s an accomplishment for me!

Next rest stop at Guadalupe, I spent quite a bit of time there … probably 20 min … waaay too long. Of course, having the bathroom not next to the food probably took a bit of that time away. A lot of it was probably chit chatting with Shelby … awesome DC rider … such a hoot!

Onwards, and this stretch between Guadalupe and Los Alamos is always tough. Luckily there was no stiff headwind, but is going along Hwy 135, with cars speeding pass you. I was struggling to maintain a 10-11 mph pace, then came the tandem train, and Steve Meichtry was the captain of the tandem, and I proceeded to hop onto that train. My pace jumped from 11 to 18-20 mph .. nice.

Next rest stop is at Los Alamos, and little did I know it, but my friend Ron Tag, who I rode with at the end of Bass Lake, was on that same train. Great to see him. And of course, the best part on this rest stop is the cup o noodles. Ooh the salt!

From here, it’s the home stretch, last 20+ miles. I started the climb up Alisos Canyon with Q (who has over 85 DC’s in his belt). He’s quite a character. He’s a strong rider, but hadn’t ridden much lately. However, that didn’t stop him from charging ahead of me on the hill. It did started sprinkling again. By the time I crested Alisos, and made the right turn onto Foxen Canyon, the rain started getting harder. It was still light out, but that would not last. As luck would have it, when it did get dark, it started raining harder. I could see the stream of water come down, as it passed through my beam of headlights.

I recently bought a new headlight, Cygolite Ranger 1400 … that’s a really nice light … and I only had it on the low beam and it still lit up the road. That was much needed for this dark descent.

Another change in the route was to return climbing up Foxen Canyon, to follow the same route that the Solvang Century goes. It continues, where you cross Hwy 154, and takes you straight into Ballard Canyon, where you continue a short climb before descending. On the other side, the road is really rough, and that’s where the new light came in really handy. At least I was able to see where all the potholes I was about to hit.

I got back to the start around 8:20 pm, so it’s about 15:47 total time, with 14:23 moving time …. 1.5 hours stopping time. Kirsten says the only reason why I need to start so early is because of all the time I stop … that maybe partly true, but I’m not a badass endurance rider like she is.

Celebrating successful DC with my friends Shelby, Dee, and Tiger

Dzung made it back ~ 10:30 pm, so not too bad. He definitely made it within the midnight cutoff time. However, to my suprise, Q didn’t … he didn’t check in at the end, and had everyone worried. Many calls to him was unanswered (probably not in a place with cell reception). He was eventually found, and he ended up with 30 extra miles (220, instead of 193). He somehow got lost, and his Garmin got confused which direction he was going. That was strange, especially for a rider of his stature. It’s lucky he had extra supplies, like food, water … and he even left his water bottles at the last rest stop. All we cared about is that he is safe and accounted for.

This year’s Solvang DC was definitely one to remember. I’ll need to work on stoppage time, as my next DC is probably the toughest I’ll attempt … Mulholland (although DMD was right up there, which I DNF’d). Mulholland is also the first DC Stage Race … I signed up for the tourist option. I was convinced by my friend Brenda, that I should do it. We’ll have to see how I do on this one. That’s only in 3 weeks … I’ll need to do a lot of hill repeats to prepare for this.

https://www.relive.cc/view/vevWQNgYMG6

https://strava.app.link/RLvvtLVIBob

Camino Real Double Century … #21

The first California Double Century on the calendar is Camino Real, which was held February 19th. I’ve always liked this one, for a couple of reasons … First, of course it’s the first one of the year. Nice way to kick off a year. Second, it’s held on President’s Day weekend, so there’s an extra day to rest, recover, or damage my body even more.

I drove down Friday, and met up with my boys Robert (who brought along some of us Las Vegas buddies from Adobo Velo), along with Memo. I ended up riding with Memo and Monica for the whole DC.

Being in lowland, we got to start at 4 am (highland riders started at 5:30 am, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to finish in a respectable time starting that late).

The temperature at the start was 50 F, so it wasn’t too bad. That’s not to say it didn’t get chilly … it got as low as 39 F, and that was when we headed inland from Laguna Beach into the canyons. We did get an awesome sunrise view.

I somehow lost Memo and Monica when we started climbing through Laguna Nigel (and I even stopped at the first water stop). Eventually we re-grouped at the first CP at San Onofre.

One of the “non so pleasant” parts of the ride is riding along I-5, but at least we have shoulder room to work with. Normally when I ride this, there is bumper to bumper traffic, but it was moving pretty good today. When we got near our exit, the bumper to bumper traffic returned. It was nice to pass the traffic on our bikes past the cars … weehee!

When we got to Oceanside, we would then head inland towards lunch. When we got close by, I can just feel food coming, and like an idiot, I pushed the pace to get to lunch. I will never learn, but it was fun. Met up with long distance extraordinaire Steve .. always good to catch up with him.

After lunch, we do a climb up Old Castle Road, which I’ve never done before, but it’s not too bad. It’s longer than the climbs we did in the morning, but nothing too steep (maybe 5-8%). The only problem is it was right after lunch, at high noon. Luckily it was not in the 90s or 100s, but the sun was still beating down on us (although my Wahoo measured 106 F … don’t believe that!).

We then started to do some rollies, but my leg started to tighten up a little bit … it wasn’t cramping, but was on the verge of doing so. Memo had to remind me to drink .. egad, bottle is 3/4 full .. time to hydrate.

On the way back, Memo knows of this one street called Triple Crown Road, so it was a small little detour for us. That was definitely a Kodak moment, that we had to take. I’m surprised Planet Ultra didn’t have us go on this, just to say that we went on Triple Crown Road.

Back on the route, but to I-5, but this time, cars were speeding by at 70-90 mph (estimating 90 mph, based on how fast they were wizzing by us). The good thing is there was not too much junk and debree on the side of the road, so it was doable, but definitely not a pleasant experience.

By the time we got back to San Onofre CP again, we finally met up with Robert and the Las Vegas boys. However, they are going on the highland route, so that’s the last we would see of them. I thought it was odd we didn’t see them on the whole route, and yet, they were here at San Onofre before we got there … maybe it was a change in the route after lunch stop?

Anyhow, we return along the coast the same way we got here, and this is where the sun sets. With all the water I was drinking, to re-hydrate myself, I had to take bio breaks a lot more than this morning. That’s one thing I have to work on .. hydration. When it’s cold, it’s hard, because you don’t feel like hydrating, but you really should. Lesson learned for my next DC.

On the way back from San Juan Capistrano, we encountered pretty heavy urban traffic .. and in the dark! We saw another group of Adobo Velo riders come up, and we rode along with them to the next checkpoint. However, it was observed they had some personal SAG, as we could see them meet up with the group several times, and there was no SAG sign on the car. It’s a good thing no one from Planet Ultra saw them, otherwise, they would get disqualified.

The last 20 miles were a bit odd. It was all flat, but I was struggling to maintain pace. I had water, and I was drinking, and I had food, but somehow I didn’t have the energy. Memo kept warning me about the hill climb at the end … but then, when we got to the hill, I had this extra energy, and I powered up the hill. Maybe the flat junk miles were making me board, making me sleepy (I remember yawning quite a few times), and then when hill came, it woke me up.

We finished a little before 10 pm, with a moving time of 15:23:24, but a total time of 17:58. Too much stopping time .. will need to improve upon that. However, the more important part of this, is this double century is complete. This make number 21.

Total stats … 198 miles, 8104 feet climbing

2021 Retrospective and Getting Back into Double Centuries

Well here it is … another year in the books, and yet another year under the environment with Covid-19. From a cycling perspective, at least some of the restrictions have been relaxed enough to allow us to do some of the things we used to do. For me, it was getting back into Double Century riding (although I had taken a 7 year hiatus, separate from all this Covid non-sense).

I think I got the bug to get back into Double Centuries due to all the Virtual Doubles that my friends have been doing. However, one thing that prevented me from doing doubles in years passed, was partly due to work. My group was down to 2 people (where it used to be 4). What that meant was every other weekend, I had to be on call, which really impacts how much training you can do for long distance riding. I was fortunate that this year, the schedule was laid out, such that I was on call once every 6 weeks or so, and I had more flexibility to change schedules.

The first virtual double I did was in April, and it was for the Mulholland Double. It wasn’t the actual double (I would never be able to make the time cutoff). Still, it was 200 miles, and 12,000 feet of climbing. It was basically doing a big loop up and over Mt. Hamilton, then down the other side and over to Livermore, then back to San Jose. Well, that was 130 miles of it … we then made up for it by doing a series of smaller 3-5 mile loops until we reached 200. I felt like a hamster, spinning my wheels.

One of the best things about these virtual doubles is being able to ride in your local neighborhood, and being able to have local support (whereas actual double events wouldn’t let you have your own local support). The other nice thing about this was having local friends hang out and serve you food on the course.

My favorite was Melissa’s rice porridge .. mmm, that hits the spot, after 150 miles, and especially if it was cold. It was so good, I went around a couple more laps, stopping each time for rice porridge, but I had to continue on.

With this being my first double coming back after 7 years, I did have some doubts in my mind. At mile 130, I was tired, I was exhausted, and I was ready to throw in the towel. But thanks to my friend Dzung, he convinced me to continue on. I needed that push, to get me over the edge, and I thank him greatly for that. The funny part was his comment, that the first double I do coming back, was one of the hardest. Yeah, I don’t like to do things easy.

After succeeding there, I decided I wanted to do a double solo. Oh, big mistake. Well, I did my own loop, of ~ 60 miles, and met up with a group ride. There was a bit of climbing on the group ride, but I figure I should be able to handle that. Unfortunately, the weather (in May) was a little more wet than expected. It was pretty foggy … it was almost like a misty rain, but it was enough to make us all wet. I was the only one who knew the route well, and being the local, the group begged me to lead them back to the start, as everyone was wet and cold. So I led them back, but I still needed to continue my double, as I had only 90 miles with 110 more to go. I continued on, and instead of doing multiple 5 mile loops, I had a great 20 mile loop, through bike paths, and I figured I would be able to keep doing this to get to 200. My care was parked along the route, so if I needed something, I would stop by the car. On one of the stops back to the car, I was really exhausted, and since it was solo, I didn’t have anyone to motivate me, and that’s what did me in. I stopped at mile 155, and since I was at my car, it was way too easy to just go on home. So that was a failed attempt.

To this point, I chalked this up as a training ride, but I kept thinking if only I had more mental toughness to continue on. Others were impressed I continued on, after the weather conditions. I can’t blame the weather on this, as by the time I got back to the car, it was all dry, and should have been able to continue on … but it is a learning opportunity.

I was able to complete one more virtual double, and that was Grand Tour, which I did in July. That was fun, but that hardest part had to be doing all those small 5 mile loops, but at least we did it, and that was the 2nd one of the year, and that would end up being the last. Again, my favorite part was stopping for rice porridge on those 5 mile laps. Eventually we shortened them to 3.5 mile loops, just so we wouldn’t get delayed by traffic lights.

In August, it was our club’s double century event, Carmel Valley Double. This was not virtual, and I think it was the first non-virtual double. This was a tough one, as it was 14,000 feet climbing. The most climbing I had ever done in one event was Devil Mountain Double, but I DNF’d that one. By the time I DNF’d, it was 159 miles, and 17,000 feet climbing. When I finished Carmel Valley Double, I was ecstatic. This was tough, and it was the first worker’s ride I had ever done (I volunteered, and supported the actual ride which was held on Saturday, two days later).

There were 4 of us doing the volunteer ride, but I was the slowest. I was able to ride with Stefan for most of the ride, but by the time we climbed Carmel Valley on the way back, I was far behind. The difficulty was when I descended, it was pitch black (about 8 pm). Since this was rural, it had many turns, and I needed to put higher beams on. I definitely was not going as fast as I normally would down this road, and it would go on forever. One mishap on this ride, was that somehow, the screw on the mount for one of my lights was no longer there. So I couldn’t really use this light, so had to rely on my other one. Since I had to use my brighter beam, that meant using more battery, and I was running low on battery. I was able to finish before it went out, but that was a close one.

The best part on this ride was to actually cross the finish line. While riding this, I was worried I wouldn’t make it to the cutoff, thinking it would be after midnight before I finished. I underestimated myself, and I actually finished around 10:30 pm, so not too bad. That was one of the happiest moments of all the doubles I did. It also helped having so many friends to support me on this one.

I really had the double bug now, so I proceeded to do Bass Lake and Solvang Autumn Double. On Bass Lake, we had quite a few people from XDV drive out to Clovis (near Fresno) to do the ride. I wanted to do this as a group ride, but right off the bat, we got separated, as I rode with the lead group, but most of our group had a flat, which delayed them for about 40 minutes. I eventually waited for the rest of the group at the 2nd rest stop (at Bass Lake). I probably should have just continued on, but something tells me they would have caught up to me anyways (as Dominique and Ellen are so so strong).

Solvang Autumn Double was the week after Bass Lake. This would be my fifth of the year. It was a bit colder than I was anticipating, especially when we got into the canyons. This was a bit tougher than I thought, as we did Drum Canyon twice (once in each direction), and that road was really rough. Descending on a road bike felt like I was in a boxing match, getting my upper body taking body blows, with all the bumps the bike was taking. I think a gravel bike would have been more appropriate for these descents.

One thing I did observe was I did slow down quite a bit in the second half, while others took longer in the first half and finished stronger in the second half. Even after all the doubles I have done, I still have some things I have to improve upon (aside from the fitness).

The last double I was able to do was the Dead of Winter, which was held first weekend of December. It was a nice flat double, with a climb up Lake Casitas pass, which is always a lot of fun. This is the same as what we do on the actual Grand Tour Highland Double. What was nice about this was seeing a lot of double century friends that I know from the many trips I made down to So Cal. It was a blast seeing them, and was fun to complete my 6th double century of the year. I’ve never done 6 in a year before, so this was a first for me.

For 2022, I have a goal of completing my 25th double, and that will be for Carmel Valley Double. Melissa has said they will create a big banner for me for that one, so how could I not strive for that as a goal. So that’s my plan … that’s my new year’s resolution … I am currently at 20, so I will need 5 more to get to 25. Wish me luck!

I would also like to thank Dzung Dang for maintaining a group that encourages cycling and more importantly, keeps me motivated to keep riding. I was burnt out, and that’s why I had a 7 year hiatus from double century riding. It’s his emphasis on doubles and endurance riding that kept the double century bug in me. It also helps to have a group that has the motivation to do these rides (as these events are not for the normal every day bike riders). Thanks Dzung!

A new decade starts

Really, we’re into a new decade?  I guess so … 2020 … wow, it was just yesterday when they were concerned that the world would end due to Y2K.  Now really, did anyone really think the world would end?  Nature finds a way … hmm … sounds like a quote from a movie … Oh, because it is … Jurassic Park.

Anyhow, in past years, I would refrain from doing any type of new year’s resolutions, but this year, I wanted to do something different.  Last year, I didn’t have time to train for any events (being on call every other weekend).  That sucked.  So this year, I said to myself, screw it.  I’m going to sign up for an event, and no matter if I’m ready or not, I’m going to do it.  So I signed up for Solvang Double Century in March.  I’ll have to make sacrifices, like ride into the darkness after work (and have no relax time at night), just so that I can have training time.  Who knows … maybe I’ll ask to work consecutive on calls, so that I can have consecutive weekends to train.

We’ll see how that goes.  I miss my double century friends, and the feeling of doing a double century … I gotta do it.  Wish me luck.  It’ll be one way to start off the decade.

Oh, and I didn’t do quite as bad as I thought for the year, even though my weekend suffered.  I still got over 6,000 miles for the year.

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Let’s see if we can improve upon this in 2020.

Finally a Weekend Off, and Doing the John Clare Memorial Solvang Double

For the first time in about 2 months, I finally was able to get a weekend off (not being on call, or attending to family related issues). This was the weekend to celebrate John Clare’s life (a highly popular double century rider among long distance cycling enthusiasts), with the Solvang Double renamed as his memorial ride. I just had to do it, so I begged and pleaded to get this weekend to do it (as I had been doing on call for just about every weekend). Because I was on call these weekends, I did not have the opportunity to do any real long distance rides. The last one I did was Devil’s Slide, back in mid-January (about 8 weeks ago). So I didn’t have any really good training in my legs, so if I was to do any of this ride, it would have to be the double metric century (200 km, not 200 miles).

The start time for the double metric century was 7 am, which was actually the same start time that the fast double riders (who could finish in less than 12 hours). I saw my friend TJ there, so I had to take this opportunity to take a selfie with him.

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We let the fast double riders start first. It was forecast to be about 10% rain, so that was the only reason for bringing my Showers Pass jacket. Good thing I brought it, because it started to drizzle around the 35 mile mark (around the 1st checkpoint). The drizzle was constant, and then it became harder, and turned into rain. You know you are drenched, when you tilt your helmet down, and you see a stream of water fall. I’m a little used to this, as I have been on some short loops, where I did get caught out in the rain. However, my Showers Pass jacket didn’t keep my route slip dry though. I forgot to bring a ziplock bag to keep the route slip in … Wasn’t expecting the rain to be that hard.

The rain hit hardest when I had to make a right turn, and then saw a road closed sign. I was barely able to locate the ride organizer’s phone number on my route sheet, who then suggested I just ride right on through the road closed signs. I remember riding through this part of the route from previous double century rides, so at least this was confirmation that I am on the right path.

Of course, with all this rain, I was always second guessing if I was on the right path, since I was basically riding out solo. As it turned out, I read the route slip wrong, as I made a wrong turn at the next step of the route slip. I went left, instead of right. I had to double check on Google Map on my smart phone, before realizing I made the wrong turn.

The rain did eventually stop (after about 1.5 hours), so I was drenched. My Showers Pass jacket did hold up, so this investment already paid off. I eventually got to the part of the route slip, where the turn direction was unreadable … arghh! Luckily, I saw one of the metric double riders, who unfortunately got a flat, and was there fixing it. Unfortunate for him, his spare tube was bad, so he was repairing his original tube with a patch. This gave me opportunity to catch up with him, as he knew the next few turns for the ride. Whew!

The second rest stop was at Guadalupe, and we were the last of the double metric riders. None of the double century riders had gotten there yet (much to my surprise, as I thought we were so far behind).

After leaving Guadalupe, I think my fitness started to falter. I could feel the back of my knee start to be in pain, but I persevered through it. However, by the time I started the last climb, up Alisos Canyon, my legs were feeling it, but was still able to crank it up the hill.

I started getting passed by some of the fast double riders (that I had mentioned early on, that started at 7 am). At least I had some company, even though they were ahead of me.

I was able to hang out with my double century friends from So Cal, even though I didn’t ride with them. We had a blast, and although the conditions of this ride were not ideal, I had a lot of fun.

Photo courtesy of Victor Cooper

Volunteering for DMD 2018

My feeble goal of completing DMD (Devil’s Mountain Double) was squashed by all the cold and rain we had in March/April.  My knees were just not having it, even though I felt good last week on Primavera Century.  So instead, I opted to volunteer to help support this event.

I volunteered for two stops … Morgan Territory and at lunch, at the Junction.  This year, DMD is the first event of the Ca Triple Crown Stage Race.  Every year, the Ca Triple Crown chooses 3 of the toughest double century, and times it, to see who is the baddest, most kick ass double century rider.  So I decided to be the time keeper, taking down all the numbers of every rider that passes through this rest stop.

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It was partly cloudy, but every now and then, the sun would show through (but not enough).  For a tough double century, this is perfect conditions (won’t have to worry about overheating on this ride).

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First Two Riders

First two riders came in around 9:15 am, and way ahead of everyone else.  I have no idea how well they did on the rest of the ride, but as you can see, they quickly got to the stop, then hurried onto the course.

The riders came in waves … there were two fixies doing the ride … Wow, major kudos to them.  Riding this hilly double century, on a fixed gear?  And then I saw one rider, who had a Colorado Triple Crown jersey.  Now that’s gotta be tough, especially with all the mountains they have there, and at elevation.

And then there was one guy, who was riding a bike from someone in Iowa, or something like that, called Strong.  It’s a Strong Bike.

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Strong Bike

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And then some of my friends showed up.  One of my dearest friends, Teresa came rolling through, affectionately nicknamed Tiger.  Of course, she loves mug shots!

After this rest stop, there is a steep descent, with road narrowing to 1.5 lanes, and of course with blind curves.  Well, unfortunately, despite the warnings we give to watch speeds, we had some riders go down.  Three riders went down … first fell on a corner (not sure if they went too hot into the turn … that’s the most obvious reason), and two others went down, not being able to react fast enough.  The middle rider got out of it fine, without having to go to the hospital … the other two unfortunately had to be shipped to the hospital … one with a fractured collar bone, probably some ribs issues … ouch!

What made this difficult is that the riders coming behind that accident, now had to wait 45 minutes to an hour for the firetrucks, ambulance, to come by, care for them, then clear the road.  It’s just unfortunate.  The combination of narrow roads, steep descent, just makes this very dangerous.

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The Junction Cafe

I finally made it to the Junction, which is a cool cafe, out in the middle of nowhere.  It’s about 25 miles down on Mines Road before you hit this spot.  I made a bunch of cold sandwiches for the riders.  Either my sandwich making is a newfound art I didn’t know I had, or the riders were so hungry, they will eat anything.  I had so many complements that the sandwiches were good … I had one guy take 4 of them.  I think it was the latter … but it’s great to hear those complements.

What’s constant though is how thankful everyone was for us being out there, volunteering our services for them.  To all those riders, thank you for the complements, and I have nothing but utmost respect for every one of them out there … at least they had the guts to actually do it (even if they didn’t finish it).  There were a few that had to DNF (did not finish) … but hey, consider this a training ride.  Not many others would even attempt this.

 

Probably the Lowest Mileage I’ve Had in a Month In a While

So February is over, and it is the shortest month of the year, with smaller number of days.  But that hasn’t stopped me in the past from piling up the miles.  Well, it’s odd, this time, I only got 369 miles in the month.  Looking back on that month, I really didn’t do any big rides on the weekend.  In fact, I had one weekend where I was on call, and another weekend where I visited dad.  Plus, there was another weekend where it rained, so that’s 3 weekends where I didn’t ride at all.

Now I still commuted almost every day, but that still didn’t accumulate the mileage.  This makes it extremely difficult if you are trying to go for a double century.  I’m starting to re-think my goals, and whether or not I should be concentrating on mileage.  With this said, my goal of Solvang may not come to fruition.  I’m also way out of shape for a double.

Devil’s Mountain Double was Epic, but DNF’d

I finally got the courage to enter and ride Devil’s Mountain Double, despite the advertised 206 mile, 18,600 feet total elevation.  However, the result was a DNF, but it’s not that I am disappointed at this.  I am pretty happy with my performance.

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I got really good news on Thursday, that my co-worker, who lives 12 minutes from the start, was offering to let me stay overnight.  Cool.  I was originally going to drive over at 3:30 am (meaning I’d have to wait up by 2:30 am).  This meant getting at least an hour more sleep, and a much shorter drive, and a civilized start of the day.  This was better than a 5 star hotel.

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We rolled out at 4:59 am, and started out with Curtis and Rick.  I made sure I took it easy at the start, as I knew we’d be heading straight up Mt. Diablo first.  I was amazed how many riders had the bad luck of having a mechanical, even before starting the climb.

This year, DMD is not one of the Triple Crown Stage races, and the organizers wanted to stress being able to enjoy the surroundings, and enjoy the scenery.  Ok, I can do that … don’t have to twist my arm.  One thing I’ll have to say … early morning Mt. Diablo climbs are spectacular, and even the best pictures, and best descriptions don’t do it justice.

Curtis and Rick ended up summiting Mt. Diablo before I did.  I was trying to stay within comfortable limits.

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When I finally got up to the top, my friend Victor was helping support the ride, and he was taking pictures if everyone summiting Mt. Diablo. Funny, he didn’t realize it was me until I pass by him. Very cool.

OK, down the hill, and here I made up some time because for some reason, I acclimated to the cold better than others, which caused them to be a lot more cautious on the descent, and I eventually caught up with Curtis and Rick.

We continued ride together through Morgan Territory, then over to Livermore, but split up by the time we got to Paterson Pass. This was the defining moment of the ride, as this is what kicked us all in the ass. We had gale force winds, plus the Double digit grades we had to climb. This combination was brutal.

I descended down the other side, and the route merged with the Wente RR.  As they pass me, I get a real cool kudos from the lead pack.  “Is that DMD you’re riding?  Awesome” … that’s pretty cool to get kudos from some hot shot racer.

One thing I have always feared was making the time cut off. We had to get to the Mines Road checkpoint and leave no later than 1:30 pm, then get to lunch at The Junction by 4:30 pm. It was pretty flat getting to Mines Road but I wasn’t sure how well I was doing on time. There were other riders near me, so that made me feel a lot better. We ended up getting there a little past 1 pm, so that’s one hurdle we crossed.

Now it’s onto Mines Rd., which Eye on the Bay called “the road that goes to nowhere”. That is such an appropriate adjective, as it just kept going on forever. I also had Scott in the SAG wagon, checking up on me just to see how well I’m doing. I started thinking if I’m the last rider, and will I make the cutoff for lunch? About 10 miles from lunch, we had a water stop and they confirmed I’m not the last one … It just felt like it, with no one behind me.

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Finally, I get to lunch, and there are still people here .. Woohoo. Victor was there to greet me, along with Kermit and a few other Double Century notables. More importantly, they had food here … Mmm chicken sandwich never tasted so good.

Off to climb Mt. Hamilton. I didn’t climb from the Junction to the top of Hamilton in a while … Maybe I should have? I forgot about the double digit grades at mile 10-12. I thought it was all from mile 5 but they still have some kickers before that. At this stage, the climbing was all a matter of survival .. Just turn the crank and keep moving. I had just done this climb a week ago, so at least my body is used to this, except I only had 25 miles in my legs, as opposed to 120 miles. The one saving grace is at least there is still some sunlight left.

I get to the top and only one person passed me. I was a little surprised by that. I thought there were more behind me. There was no rest stop at the top, and I had to go down to Brothers, so time to layer up, and get ready for a cold descent. I had no toe covers so I just gotta suffer through it.

The sunset coming through the clouds was a cool and eerie sight. I was descending this but really enjoying the scenery (I guess you can say I’m taking Scott’s advise, and take in the beauty). I wasn’t cold either, and this was probably my favorite part of the ride, as I’ve never descended Hamilton at this time of the evening.

The rest stop is off of Crothers and in someone’s home. Now that’s the way to have a rest stop. Nice warm soup awaits. I caught up to Curtis here, not knowing he was ready to their in the towel, due to cold, and not being able to keep control. That’s too bad, as I finally was able to ride along with him.

Ok, continuing on, and Sierra Road awaits. Lucky for me it’s dark so I won’t have to see how steep the road is that I have to tackle. As I climb, a group of DMD volunteers were parked in the hill, cheering me on, ringing cowbells … I I’ve that enthusiasm and I really appreciated it. This was just awesome .. Now if only I can finish the climb. Well that’s easier said than done.

I was struggling to find leg strength and it just wasn’t there. I found myself stopping about 5 times. I even walked a few hundred steps, but I had to keep on going. Another push, then I see a car coming down thinking “I wonder if that’s a SAG wagon” … and it was. I officially throw in the towel at this point. Checking my Garmin, I’m at 159 miles and just under 17,000 feet climbing. Wow these stats are out if this world.

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So I DNF’d … I still feel great about what I accomplished. Some couldn’t even fathom doing this. I started but I simply did not finish. As my friend Lynn says, consider it as a kick ass training ride.

I got to chat with some of the finishers at the end, and it was refreshing to find out Patterson Pass affected them as much it affected me. This was brutal. It wasn’t raining, it wasn’t hot, but the wind made it so tough. Now that we are off the road, we’re all smiles.

 

A social double?  Well yes, that is possible, with the right, fun crowd.  This is an event I love to do not just because it is pretty, and not incredibly, but it’s fun to reunite with my double friends from So Cal.  So I coined this a social double

My friend Curtis over to pick me up.  It didn’t start off on a good note.  We had issues mounting my bike on the Yakima rack.  We end up having to call their tech support for help, and eventually got that all squared away.  What a stressful way to start the weekend.

Was trying to get a group together for dinner early, but just couldn’t arrange that.  Plan was to eat, then register, then sleep.  Just couldn’t get that all set up.  Original plan was sushi, but the local place was too expensive, plus it didn’t seem to be
a good source for carbo-loading.  We ended up at Andersen Split Pea restaurant, and I loaded up there … Mmmm

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Got everything all squared away, and ready for the 5 am start.

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Met Debbie, Sharona, Rory, and Less at the start and off we roll.

Three first 35 miles was just to get into a groove, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t blow myself out, and get into a nice comfortable pace.  I ride with Les and Rory for that stretch.  We basically rode together till the first rest stop.  Less went on ahead, while we re-grouped at the first rest stop.

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We continued on from there but Rory was going at a brisker pace so I decided to hang in with the gals.  Besides, it was more my pace.  🙂

We were now three, myself, Debbie, and Sharona.  We went ahead and traded leads, riding together for the remainder of the ride.  This made for a much more enjoyable double century, and yes, fun!

Sharona, Ron, and Debbie

Sharona, Ron, and Debbie

In past years, when we got to Morro Bay, we would head straight over to Los Osos Valley Road, but they changed the route last year, to go through some lush hillsides on Turri Road.  This was a much more scenic option, and boy was it pretty.

Onto lunch stop … a left on Los Osos Valley Road, then … a tandem train comes.  Whaddayaknow … my friend Steve, hanging on to the tandem train.  I’m gonna slip in, and enjoy the fast train … woohoo.

After lunch, we travel through one of the most scenic sections of the ride, Shell Beach.  It kind of reminds me of Palos Verdes .. words, and pictures don’t do it justice

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By the time we rolled into the Guadalupe Rest Stop, which was about mile 136, I was feeling a bit fatigued.  Back was beginning to ache, I just attributed this to lack of riding miles, translating to a weak endurance.

We continued on, picking up a couple extra riders to help lead the pace. Up to this point, I was leading our small group, but now I was just tired, and I was just hanging on from the back … hanging on with the claws of my hands. I had taken ibuprofen and endurolytes, but they just didn’t quite seem to help. Then, all of a sudden, I realize I have a flask of hammer-gel in my pocket.

Took a swig of that, and now I’m fine. Got my energy back just in time for the next rest stop.

Everything was going so smoothly, we all are in a great mood, anticipating finishing this in daylight.  Then, all of a sudden, we have a flat, and this is just 6 miles from the next rest stop.  Well, the tire was deflated to about 50 psi, so we figured, just CO2 it.  Well, that only lasted < 1 mile, and we had to go ahead and replace it.

Damn, this tire is hard to pry off

Damn, this tire is hard to pry off

I checked the tire but couldn’t find anything indicating a puncture, or any other debree that caused it.  Roll into the next rest stop, and fill up on tubes and CO2.  And oh, gotta take in the cup o noodles … gotta do that as a tradition at the last rest stop of the double.

Ok, 30 more miles to go, and we all feel good about finishing this before dark.  While we are at it, we probably should plug in our external power, just to make sure we don’t run out of battery power on our Garmins (and record it as one ride, instead of separating into multiple rides).  We plugged in our external power at 6 pm, and we figure that after about 40 minutes, it should have enough juice to last us the rest of the ride.  All seems good, except Debbie’s Garmin seems to have been reset to 0.  Noooo!!!!!  Damn, and using the same cable seems to work on Joshua Tree, but why did it not work here.  Phooey!  Well, my external power seems to work, so I agree to give Debbie my fit file, after we finish the ride, since we all rode together, at the same pace up the hills.

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Oh, BTW, we have a second flat.  Nooo!!!!!  What’s wrong with this tire … it’s brand new.  So here we go again, same routine as before, but why did it fail again.  I pry it open again, and still, don’t see anything wrong.  So put on another tube, but this time, the tire is much harder to put back on.  We pump it up, but there is no air going into the tube.

At this point, Lisa, one of Debbie and Sharona’s friends, comes along, and we are now 4 riding back.  However, we still have the tire issue to deal with.  Robert, Sharona’s hubby, who also happens to be SAG’ing the ride, comes by to the rescue, with a full floor pump, more CO2, and tubes.  We get that going, and off we go.  I have no idea how long we spent struggling with this, but I’m now pretty refreshed, other than the energy it took me to put the tire back on.

It’s getting dark, and we need to get our lights on, layer up, and finish this Alisos Canyon climb.  After a right turn, we ascend Foxen Canyon.  Debbie and I are riding in front, and I figured we would re-group when we got to the bottom at Hwy 154 intersection.  We didn’t see Lisa and Sharona in back of us, but in the distance we see some headlights.  We thought it was them … nope.  A few more cars and bikes pass by, and no Lisa and/or Sharona.  OMG … we start to panic at this point.  We gotta climb up the hill to get them.

We climbed only about 1.5 miles before we saw them, and Sharona had just about finished putting it back together.  Dang, what is up with this tire?  What’s important is that we are back on the road again … this time, we’re going to stay together, keep every in sight.  From this point on, I’m sweeping, just to make sure we are not separated.

4 flats?  Damn, there goes our daylight plan … there goes our OCD plan to get to 200 miles.  At this point, the drive to get OCD miles has gone … we just want to get to the finish before 10 pm.  Finally, we made it back to the finish.

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We were delirious at this point

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Am I a lucky guy or what?

WE finished at around 9:30 pm, and here are the stats:

Strava:  194.8 miles, 8,649 feet climbing (even with elevation correction enabled)

Garmin Connect: 194.75 miles, 7,753 feet climbing

This was the most fun I’ve had in a really long time.  What a way to get off double #13.  This was my 14th double, 5th Solvang Double.  Thanks for such a wonderful day, Debbie, Sharona, and Lisa.  All for one, one for all.