(June 30, 2007) CLIMB TO KAISER 155* miles, 13,500' climbing, 64th* of @304 riders 11:28* 5:30-4:58*with Jack, sorta with Joe (he drove in, said hello in parking lot and we never saw him again as he went off to finish 11(T), and Doug *i got lost on a downhill and shortcut the course 3 1/2 miles, or by 10-21 minutes, so would have finished 70-78th, and WORST CASED finished under 12 hours
Course-B: Grueling course--like a mini Terrible Two with "pernicious" climbs--but road surfaces are much much better and traffic is much much worse. Support-B+ The greatest (tied with Terrible Two) rest stop support, efficient but low energy check in and post ride meal, and though not a lot of turns course markings are inconsistant/ nonexistant. Overall-B
After doing Death Ride for four years in a row--ridden almost any imaginable way possible (self supported--bonus passes--for time--taking photos) I kind of lost my desire to do that overly produced but overrated ride this year. Jack's "Climb to Kaiser" jersey--with the elevation of 75 miles almost straight up and then 75 straight down was intriguing, so I decided to sign up for this ride. As doing this ride in lieu of the Death Ride, constant comparisons were in order.
While the Death Ride has longer climbs at a higher altitude (affecting thirst and breathing) I found Climb to Kaiser MUCH MORE DIFFICULT, with it's shorter but more frequent climbs that had a much harder grade than the Death Ride. Not an overcrowded merchandising machine like the Death Ride, but Climb to Kaiser had the best (on par with Terrible Two) rest stops for the far fewer riders. Unfortunately, instead of having to contend with Death Ride cyclists all over the road (much fewer riders who are more well behaved) , there were a few spots on the narrow roads that remain open to traffic that were covered with jeeps, boats and RV's all escaping to the mountains from Fresno. The other BIG negitive was that though few turns the Climb to Kaiser course is poorly marked.
Bottom line-the Death Ride is like a Rollings Stones concert in a mega-stadium, hyped like heck, THE event of the summer, production is incredible, and you can tell everyone you felt like a rocker though the band could only be seen on the Jumbotron and the sound from the well rehersed numbers kinda echoed around the venue. Climb to Kaiser is like a Patti Smith concert a a tiny venue--almost off the radar and you spend a good deal of your time in the standing room only crowd working hard to protect your space--but you wind up 20' from the stage and the music is so good you kind of ignore a few of the production problems
Going in I was kinda pissed at myself--been enjoying riding with a big group all spring--whereas 6 minute rest stops turn into 20 minutes. I had vowed to end my laziness on Eastern Sierra Double, but after 60 miles rode it more like a century than a timed event. My favorite timed event coming up, Mt Tam Double, so knew that I needed practice putting in a constant effort all day and to take care of business quickly and leave rest stops. Also knew that on a pure climbing ride it would be hard to stay in a group, so expected to do this solo.
Didn't know much about the climbs on the ride, and had trouble getting psyched for the ride (unlike the Death ride or a timed double)--but still spent the last two months riding to the top of Mt Diablo each Tuesday-Wednesday nite--but though Mt Diablo @11 miles long, and I'd try to go hard with the Diablo Cyclists to the Junction (midpoint) on Wednesday where I'd then continue on myself(side note--not coming close to the times I posted in 2003 & 04, but at least put off another year of decline as I was easily beating my 2006 times) the gentle 5-6% average grade of Mt Diablo would not adequately prepare me for the Climb to Kaiser. Hard finding this information out on their web site (would probably scare off folks) but here is the list of the Climb to Kaiser climbs, as you make you way from sea level to 9,200'.
Mt Diablo 11 miles-6% average-two parts:
N Gate To Junction 6.5 miles-5%
Junction to Top 4.5 miles-7%
Climb to Kaiser
(mile 23) Wildcat 4 miles-5% average
(mile 31) Burroughs-2.5 miles-5%
(mile 39) Tollhouse-8 miles-7%
(mile 47) Pine Ridge-4 miles-6%
(mile 63) Big Creek-4.5 miles-10%
(mile 73) Kaiser Pass-8 miles-7%
(mile 89) Tamarack Ridge-9 miles-5%
Monitor(1)-8 miles-6% average
To put it in perspective-the steeper 2nd part of Mt Diablo and Big Creek are around the same length. Mt Diablo goes up to 3849', if the 2nd part of Mt Diablo had the same grade as Big Creek, Mt Diablo would go to 4610'! And average grade doesn't indicate that Kaiser Pass starts out gently--so the final section is much worse than average. Up to this ride I was wondering how some of the Fresno Cycling doubles riders are great climbers coming from pancake flat Fresno--not realizing the foothills to Yosemitie start @15 miles to the East.
Driving in I wound up on surbruban nightmare Shaw road ringed by strip malls and parking lots while stuck in traffic. Had to laugh when I passed the bagel shop next to the mosque where I ate breakfast years ago when all the other soccer parents on my daughters traveling team were pining for Denny's. Luckily ride starting in Clovis--which is a continuation of Fresno but has a real "small town" downtown where I was staying. At dinner Jack told me that Climb to Kaiser harder than the Death Ride--funny, I never heard him say that before. School/ ride registration up the road--one of these big Fresno-Clovis mega complexes which guarentees your kid will never walk to a neighborhood school. A good farmers market in downtown Clovis, with the boutique stores staying open--lucky for me the rock band that was supposed to show had to cancel so when a country band took their place--I could go back and get an early sleep.
Scenes from Clovis, an oasis from mega suburb strip mall Fresno
Mass 5:30 start--and already around 70 degrees--beautiful. Joe and Doug say hello in parking lot--after doing so well on Terrible Two I don't expect we'll see Joe, and Doug indicates lots of business traveling/ lack of training so he wouldn't be riding hard. First 23 miles go East into the rising sun along flat farm roads with a few turns, and with a police escort out of town to get us thru intersections. Pace is much faster than start of Davis Double/ Brevet but still has a lot of yo-yo'ing with riders instinctively slowing near intersections or riders on the left (wrong side) of the road suddenly needing to cut in as a lone car approaches. I'm riding more aggressive than usual, watching out for spent riders/ groups so I stay solidly in the rear of the first group leaving town. At mile 23 the Wildcat uphill rollers start so more riders die out that I can move around--but with so much climbing in our future I am just riding pace. Area looks like what you'd find in the Gold Country. Jack catches up to me--he had gotten stuck in the second group on the road--we'd ride together about a dozen times. I knew Jack wasn't going to stop at mile 28 rest stop but stupid me had solidy frozen a Perpetuem bottle that hadn't begun to thaw, and I had already downed my one bottle of sports drink. So I pull into rest stop @6:59 w/ an 18.2 average.
Re frozen Perpetuem bottle--I knew that on a hot day when I put in an effort I tend to lose my appetite, so my plan was to down 4-6?? bottle of cold Perpetuem with a shot of chocolate Hammergel--BOSCO. Luckily they had Perpetuem/ Hammergel at the later rest stops--as my solid food for 12 hours consisted of @4 fig newtons, 1 real cookie, 1 popcicle, 1 small bag sports beans, 4 1/4 bananas, and 1 (yes 1) slice of bread.
A fast tailwind aided section took us into the gentle Burroughs Grade--still felt like I was in the Gold Country. No traffic except for sag motorcycles that passed frequently on the nicely paved roads. Another rest stop at mile 39 that I was out of in 8 minutes after handing bike off to voluenteer who parked it, seeing Jack leave, getting more drink, and getting seasick in the rocking porta poties on the trailer on the side of the hill.. First serious climb of the day--a huge rocklike peak with a giant bolder perched on the top. This one reminded me of the steeper portions of Diablo. With so much climbing I had vowed to sit in the seat, but after getting passed by enough riders I'd get my dander up and stand more and more so I could repass the group--I wound up climbing with one other guy until I caught up to Jack--then we rode together .
Getting close and closer to the boulder in the sky--when Jack pointed out in the distance a road filled with campers and RVS that was also going up--Highway 168--and he said we'd merge in with the traffic in a few more miles.
Quick 2 minute in and out of a waterstop right before the traffic merged and then a grind (not a bad grade but still uphill) on Hwy 168 with nary a shoulder as campers and RV's and pickup trucks pulling boats consistantly passed by on their way to Shaver Lake--which remained hidden from view.. This went on for about 5 miles--damn-- not the greatest part of the ride.
All of a sudden a downhill, voluenteers stopping traffic for a sudden left turn into the Shaver Lake rest stop. Mile 52--9:40. Another voluenteer grabs my bike but instead of parking it she held it until I was ready to leave--another great voluenteer mixed me a HEED and BOSCO PERPETUEM dirink to my specifications. This is where drop bags were sent, but as ride had HEED and now PERPEPETUM I didn't need what I has sent (along with extra Tums and Endurolights) and as we come here again on the return trip I didn't even look for my drop bag--that had just arrived. Had to ride up a hill to get to the bathrooms that were used by park patrons--so took 13 minutes to get out--first double digit rest stop of the day.
Photos from ALL ACTION SPORTS--so many photographers ers on the course and then a crapshoot finding photos which took 2 months to get-- I don't know where this was"Bathroom hill" let me leave the park already 100' up the next climb--and I didn't know if Jack left before me, as he usually does, or if he was still searching for his drop bag. After a short climb the road flattens out around the lake, and then a twisty descent--which I took slower than usual as I expected the BIG CREEK (10% climb, max 20%-4 mile) climb to start after every turn. One woman from the Western Wheelers who I had briefly chatted with on the last climb came by and said with a latin flair "you don't decend very fast do you?" but then she added that neither does she...and she told me we still had awhile to get to Big Creek so I opened it up a bit and we rode together.
Besides doing Climb to Kaiser before she had also done the Death Ride, and when I told the story of how people on last year's Death Ride looked half dead and would complain out loud about how hard it was, I would smile and tell them it's a "FUN RIDE." Latina rider laughed and said "exactly"--she told me that Climb to Kaiser was MUCH HARDER than the Death Ride. I started getting a little apprehensive as I left all lights behind, but she told me not to worry as last year she finished at 7:30--so as we decended at the same speed and I climbed a little faster, I figured that minimally I had an hour of "fudge factor time."
Soon a scene right out of Italy, a huge powerplant in the middle of nowhere--making a constant loud humming noise as an (ironic?) sign on the road said something like "Quiet--Residential Neighborhood." Mile 63-@10:55, another 2 minutes at a water stop. Then BIG CREEK began.
I don't spin on climbs, I muscle up on them. As such I don't care how steep the road is--actually the steeper the better as long as their is added flat sections where I can get some relief until the next killer uphill portion. But Big Creek offered no relief (except for one 100' that was probably 3%)--it always went straight up while very little shade was offered. Nature of the climb was like the one at Riverbank to Mocisson--but just DOUBLE the grade. One guy passed me on the climb but in a mile he was off the bike stretching as I do on Ft Ross Road. (Ft Ross, coming at @160 miles on the Terrible Two, is the hardest climb I know, but this may be harder if it also came at mile @160.) Otherwise I passed a dozen+ riders, many of whom had stopped. Last year I know I would have stopped also but there was no fn way I was getting off the bike this year--but I contemplated next year going back to a 34 chainring for the TT and this ride. . My back was starting to hurt when I made the sitting/ standing transition, so I stayed "miserable" for the first two miles and stayed seated most of the way--my odomoter mocked me by registering many 3.? mph's.. On the last two miles I opened it up a little, felt a twinge when making the transition, but then felt great for a 30-40 standing pedal count. And when the climb was over and could stretch out in the drops I felt really good. Unlike the Death Ride--no fainfare-rest stop-stickers at the top of the climb.
Now at 7,000'--and getting off the sunny climb felt refreshing. Lunch stop at mile 71 in a nice shaded Bear Creek Cove--I was amazed how many riders were already there, but may looked like they didn't want to leave. I was a little "out of it"--as my Tums were in my left behind drop bag I bummed some from the rest stop workers, kept trying to take two but spilling a bunch all over. Not hungry for sandwich, and as I felt good wanted to get out of there. But made another cold Bosco/Perpetuem special and I was good to go--though line for bathroom. See Jack pull in and I set out, as I am going to do a "Sierra Club Dedication" down the road. But about 300' away is a day use area with great EMPTY bathrooms--at both rest areas for 13 minutes, pull out at 12:06 as one rider comes down the road--it's Jack.
Some rollers around Huntington Lake where I draft Jack's wheel and plan to return the favor on a straightway, but we immediately come to an UNMARKED (I would have probably missed it) left turn onto Kaiser Pass Road. Jack indicates the 8 mile climb starts off very gradual, but picks up as you go along, and is very steep at the top.
Now 12:15, so am about 60-90 minutes from the 9,200' Kaiser Pass, and the turn around point. All of a sudden we see cyclists already coming down--about two a minute. Then we see Joe in the middle of this elite group. This goes on for ten minutes-holy crap--there are LOADS of riders way in front of. But all of a sudden the deluge stops--in the next half hour we may only see another half dozen riders coming down this ski ramp (nicely paced-perfectly straight shot.)
OK-Action Photos make it hard to locate your photo and eventuaaaaaaaaaly send it, but they do take good pictures--this is one of my cycling favorites, as guy in back of me reflects that the climb is hard but I look calm.
Grade increases and I start pulling away from Jack--which is OK as on the downhill return trip--that looks just like a long ski ramp on the CTK jersey-as I told him "once you call out on your left and pass me I'll never see you again," which will happen if he passes me on the downhill at the 7,000' level. But if I can make it down to the 2,000' level before Jack passes when the ski ramp changes to downhill rollers, then I have chance to stay with him. Though average grade is supposedly 7% much much more gentle on the open road/ski ramp area--but with about 2 miles to go the open road pinches into an oversized bike trail, starts curving UP through the forest, and the grade dramatically increases.
This is only place with poor roads all day--and not that bad except for one chewed out section, but with sand piles along the edge that sometimes bleed deeper onto the road. Meanwhile bikes and jeeps are coming down this curved road while bikes and jeeps are going up--twice traffic grinds to a halt. (Just imagine the ending ramp on Diablo, but it is curved, a little bit wider for two way traffic, and 8 times as long and maybe the grade is 15% instead of 18%) Now a few cyclists coming down, one yells out "not far to go" another yells "your seconds away"--so I get anxious every time I turn a bend but his seconds going downhill are long minutes for me. Might be almost as steep as Big Creek but at 9,200' much cooler and easier to climb. Finally see a gathering just off the road--some cheers--low keyed placement of the sticker. Mile 83-1:10-a blazing 11.9 average speed.
Man making sandwiches to order but I am not hungry--in fact I'm sick of Perpetuem, but knowing I need carbs I get a slice of bread. I'm also sick of Heed so rest stop worker fixes me one diluted Gatorade. Want to stay hydrated and they actually have Diet Coke. Unlike Carson on the Death Ride where you can lounge at the top as the ride is essentially over, I am eager to get started on the, what I envison to be, the 72 mile downhill, so only hang out for 8 minutes--next year I lounge out for at least a half hour. As I pull out Jack is coming in.
I decide I might as well stay calm and count the number of cyclists who will pass me in the next 72 miles on the endless downhill. Right away, on the shandy twisty ramp with loads of traffic--two cyclists zoom past near the centerline--15 seconds later they would have become the hood ornament of a jeep. Then hit the 6 miles ski shoot--but it is nice and straight surprisingly no one comes by. Around same place I saw Joe coming down about an hour ago, I see Doug now going up.
Get to T intersection by Huntington Lake, am moving fast and there are NO ARROWS marking which way to go. I vaguly recall that we go down in another direction than we came up, so I make a quick left which heads me to the last climb of the day Tamarack Ridge But I don't see anyone in front of me and start wondering if I went the right way when 3 guys shoot by, one inviting me to get on his wheel for the climb. At first I don't, but then decide to do so and work to catch up.. Tamarack Ridge may be 9 miles but it is a relatively gentle 5% and I feel great. We all trade pulls, and second time around I am really zooming, at one point look back and everyone is far off my wheel. I figure that I might as well press on as they'll eventually pass me on the downhill--which they will.
After downhill, and beautiful view of Shaver Lake (nicest view of the day) the endless downhill I imagined is broken up by some sharp uphill rollers--good--will delay Jack's arrivial until we get closer to my 2,000' goal. Go into nearly empty Shaver Lake rest stop, now nearly empty, as on worker grabs my bike, and another mixes Heed Perpetuem. My drop bag is still here--I leave the powder I was carrying--take out the bars (but still not hungry) but down a pack of Sports Beans (what a marketing ploy--jelly beans with sodium). Another 1/2 can of Diet Coke--just to drink something else--8 minutes and I'm back on the road,
Here's where things get f'd. It is a little after 3:00 and back on Highway 168--but unlike the morning not a lot of traffic going back to Fresno mid afternoon. Yippie. Fast downhill. I know we go down to the right of how we came up in the morning--next rest stop is in a town called Auberry. So I'm speeding along and there are a few roads that go off to the right and left, I figure the turn will be marked and/or if it isn;t there will be a road sign that says AUBERRY--x miles --->. As it turns out there is neither--there is a directional sign that says to Alton Springs (>) but that name wasn't on the CTK map. One intersection has street sign leaning at an odd angle--it looks like I am on Auberry Rd. I continue on speeding downhill, when the 2 lane country road I've been on changes into a divided 4 lane road with wide shoulders. I'm waiting for the turnoff to Auberry but it never comes. You can see the vallety from the ski ramp downhill and no other cyclists are visable. My feeling grows stronger and stronger that I'm off course.
Luckily I don't mind riding on the main road but have loads of thoughts skampering thru my head. Apparent that I'll be back in the Valley at about 130 miles-25 miles short--so obviously DQ'd, but what the hell, I saw Kaiser Pass anyway and the finishers jersey isn't that great (prepaid for a while ago but just unveiled by Volar yesterday.) Of course I can wind up anywhere in Fresno/ Clovis (not knowing 168 runs a few blocks from the finishing high school)--so once I'm back in town how the hell do I get back. Only real disappointment is I wouldn't have a real finishing time.
The T ramp splits and off to the side is Millerton Road, and I know the last water stop is at the Millerton Store, so I make turn. Just riding pace as I'm not sure if I am back on course/ what I missed, when someone creeps up and gets on my wheel. At this point I don't care--I'm feeling good, and figure my chance for being back on course has gone up. Eventually look back and it is a woman in pink. We keep going and somewhere she asks me something about the course and I tell her I have no clue, I might be lost--and she freaks "Stop, we have to look at a map, you don't know where you're going." I know where I'm going, back towards Clovis, but slow (mistake) to hear her rant as she pours over the map. Hey--I didn't force you to follow me and sit on my wheel. Soon another woman with a DMD jersey is traveling down the road who indicates we are on course--figuring I did enough pulling I just sit on their wheel until the Millerton Rest Stop. Temperature has shot up from the high 70's at higher altitude to mid 90's.
Funny water stop where I am for about 6 minutes (only 68 minutes of rest stops for the day) and many other riders sitting around looking half dead. . I'm thirsty (altitude didn't effect breathing but thirsty all day) so I just want a popcicle. Bur rest stop workers keep asking "do you want a wet towel," "you sure you don;t want a wet towel..." finally I take one. Webcore racer says he saw me take wrong turn; and he almost did also as turn was not marked. He then wanted to know if I wanted to paceline in, which I was game for--though I asked workers 2x how we got back, as I did not want to get lost again. "Don't worry--a straight shot back"--they said. We head back hard--Racer Frank keeps looking at his watch--as he wants to complete course in under 12 hours, and I tell him lets go for it. Someone who started with us dropped out. Eventually we hit a T intersection that is also unmarked. We have no clue which way we should go, Frank asks me what I think and I laugh as I'll pick wrong. After we both think we should turn right, and have our bikes pointed for a right turn, Frank looks at his map and sure enough we have to turn left. Spotg huge school football towers in the distance. Get back to the school and check in at 4:58--total time 11:28. I tell lady that they need to put an asterisk by my name as I missed Auberry, but after she asks if I did all the climbs I get checked in as a finisher. I'd wind up 64th of 300+ starters.
Call Joe, he is almost halfway back to the Bay Area--winds up he finished (11th) I'm still dehydrated--I'd love a shake or some diet sode--but all they have is homemade tea that isn't quite doing the job. Venue isn't very crowded as most riders still on the road. Good tri tip with pear-mandarin salid that really hits the spot. Large group over by ride photos--as we're told photos wouldn't be posted online (eventually they are), and I only find two ride photos as binders are passed around and around and around. See Jack while he is eating and join him--he doesn't remember Big Creek being that hard and he confirms Auberry turn wasn't marked and he started going the wrong way until he caught himself.
I like that I finished but not knowing how much of the course I missed bugs me--and if I would have finished under 12 hours if I did the whole thing. Almost first thing I do when I get home is take out a mapping program and see that I only cut course by 4 1/2 downhill miles, which at 25 MPH is only 11 minutes, and I wouldn't have slowed to look at witches map and would have ridden harder if I knew I was on correct route.
On a worse case scenerio, the 25.4 miles I missed were curvey downhill miles with hairpins (est 20 mph). My alternate was 16.8 miles of a straight ski shoot downhill (est 25 mph) plus 4.1 miles of rollers (est 17 mph) Throw in the mph figures in the parenthesis and 2 minutes for a water stop and I would have taken 23 more minutes, so I'd still finish under 12 hours--est . 11:39-11:51, with a 70th to 78th place. Figuring this out made me feel better.
Postscript--ride coordinator did an honorable thing and asked for feedback for the ride--lots of people complained that course was poorly marked and/ or got lost on Auberry turn.. One example: "When I told the event staff that my friend was lost on the course, and that I had been lost on the course, their immediate reply was 'you're not from around here." Somehow being a local makes a difference? Perhaps you should restrict the Climb to Kaiser for locals instead of inviting all riders, that way you don't have to put road signs up anywhere," Ride coordinator apologized for not taking better care to mark the course--a reason to return for next year.