Miserable day but the ride proves to be one of the most unique ones around. Part was unexpected weather. Part was my stupidity. I thought I'd be blasting through the last flat 33 miles while most people are tired, but...
"Sometimes things don't go exactly as planned"--Paul Sherwin
The short story--As weather promises to be mild wear thin socks and no arm warmers. Gentle winds from the north are predicted under sunny skies. Yep-the sky was sunny. At 5:56 winds were out of the North (at Bishop airport) at 14mph with gusts of 22. At 7:56 wind out of the North at 20 with gusts of 26. At 9:56 NNE wind at 20, gusts 28. And we travel NW for the first 100 miles of this ride.
This ride basically travels NW from Bishop to Mono Lake for 105 miles on Hwy 395, looping on side roads whenever you can, then SE for 44 miles on Hwy 120 to Benton, and S for 33 miles on Hwy 6, back to Bishop. The red arrows show the 20+ mph wind direction, which was heavy early and late in the day. Orange arrows/ lines denote climbs.
But at mile 118 or so the wind wasn't a factor (down to 8, gust of 16 from the NW and we were traveling SE.) But I'm getting over a cold and at high altitude (appx 7,000') you DON'T GO ANAEROBIC. But stupid ass decided to counter attack on the last hard climb of the day, which worked as the attackers never reached my two compatriots. But it effectively killed me for the rest of the ride.
But I am getting ahead of myself as this route is real special. Think of an upside down pyramid with its left side much longer than the other two. First you go up the left side, which is Highway 395. But ever time there is a loop to the West you cross over the highway do the loop, whereas you always get back to Hwy 395, recross it and continue Northwest. (Of course this means 9 uncontrolled crossing of Hwy 395--luckily traffic is sparse.) You start the morning with a Southern loop of the area South of Bishop, a looping windy climb of the Old Sherwin Grade, a loop through Mammoth Lakes Ski Resort and a loop of tranquil June Lakes--always coming back to Hwy 395 as you trudge generally upward (meaning both Northwest and gaining altitude) to Mono Lake. Seemingly always surrounded by snow capped mountains . From Mono Lake you turn around and after a warm up climb you head Southeast more across than down one of the sides of the pyramids on Highway 120--which is a desolate road punctuated with expansion joints and the hardest climb of the day Sagehen Summit. Sagehen is a laddered climb which goes on for @10 miles. After Sagehen are some serious rollers among more tumbleweed to Benton. Then you get on the shoulder of Highway 6 and for 33 miles travel generally Southwest back to Bishop.
Mass start at 5:00 which is called "civil twilight" and I took a mini light as I didn't recall much light at the start last year--but it takes 10 minutes to roll out of town and by the time we were in the countryside it was light enough whereas a front light wasn't needed. I had my mini 1 watt LED flashlight held down by hair ties and velcro, and I never took it off the bike and it stayed locked in very well. Unlike last year the mass quickly broke up and I wound up in the 2nd group of about two dozen, with the lead pack (Jack and Joe in there) well down the road but no one close behind us. As we make a few turns we got a few breaks from the cold wind but also get a few icy blasts which f's up my breathing (I think I had the Buff over my mouth for 1/2 of the ride.)
Early in the day, after looping Bishop cycle on a gentle rising grade which eventually gets you to a deserted community college dwarfed by the mountains. Seems like you are at sea level but you are already at 4,000'
A guy wearing a Stockton Club Vest was nearby, he knew Joanie, so we started bs'ing a little too much, it wound up that he and I and a woman rider were pulling a long train. We finally were on a road that went up steadily (5 miles of W. Line into Ed Powers Rd, about 2-3%, not rollers) , and I went to the front and upped the pace, and the woman was the only one who stayed with me. Then she took the lead and we were "two manning" at a nice pace to Round Valley, rest stop #1. Came in 10 minutes after last year when Don and I blasted with the lead pack from the get go--but kept my rest stop time down to 5 minutes, half of last year's. I mistakenly though that at rest stops I'd put a bite in my time for the day. I leave chewing something, woman blasts past me, and when I catch up she says in a really nice accent that we should work together, which we do until the start of the Sherwin . (1 & 2) Just North of Bishop looking East across a runway and then a ranch. (3) Then looking East across Hwy 395. We are at 4,500' but it feels like we are at sea level.
Grade. Old Sherwin Grade starts at mile 32 and goes on for 8 miles, going from 4450' to 6330.' It is not terribly steep and the first portion is very easy, where we pass "The Far Side" House. I also pass Jack with his new shoes, and I can just imagine Joe shooting up this climb. But then continuing past the subdivision we aren't sheltered and blasts of cold icy air hit from a different direction on every turn. I start passing more and more folks from the lead pelaton, and then catch two tandems, one which is climbing great.
Up Sherwin Grade to "The Far Side House" subdivision (see photos from the last post) Still about 3/4 of the climb to go where it will get windier and windier.
There is a short downhill where a few riders come by that I had passed, but then there is another climb where I repass them and the climbing tandem, and take the subsequent downhill well enough so the tandem and I reach level ground about the same time, and I can follow them to rest stop #2. At time we are going only 11 into the fierce 20+ mile headwind--but 11 mph is good enough to be picking off many riders in front of us who quickly join in the tandem train. We get to Crowley Lake Rest Stop #2 17 minutes behind last year. I leave in 7 minutes which is 2 minutes too late as the tandem took off quickly down the road with those more aware than me. (When I missed the tandem I was pissed for a long time that I didn't whizz behind a pickup truck and walked down to the restroom, 100-200' away--ironically someone was dq'd for doing thus.) No one else leaving so I start off solo, back toward 395 into the headwind.
Back on the shoulder of Highway 395 and struggle solo in the crappy headwind. Suddenly I hear "You-ho, we're back." Tone of Norway is in back of Richard who turns out lives near Mt. Diablo, and he is hammering in the lead. We get to an uphill section and I go to the front and spell Richard, and Tone would go to the front when the pace started to lag. We had a good working group. They were both doing the course for the first time so I laid out what was head of us. Tone and I debated who was a worse downhiller, but luckily not many long downhills in this course. Too bad I didn't paceline in with them at the end of the ride. (Richard finished 27th and Tone 30th)
We worked well up 395, no one passed and we caught some riders, and then another Highway 395 crossing to the June Lakes loop, which starts off as a rolling climb but then last year was a speedy loop where our whole club came together. This year even with the wind it didn't disappoint as we were sheltered from the headwind. Tone exclaimed that this looked like home with the lake surrounded by a town in the hills and mountains--I mistakenly suggested Denmark and was told "NO-Denmark IS FLAT." (1-3) June Lake Loop that looks like Norway--Not Denmark. (3) Grant Lake w/ low water as we speed towards Mono Lake.
Unfortunately the loop was over too soon and it was back on Highway 395, through Lee Vining and to the Mono Lake County Park (owned by Los Angeles), which was the turn around. Here wind was not a factor as there is a long downhill which unfortunately we have to climb back after lunch. Before we started the 3-5 mile downhill we saw a dozen riders in the lead group come up, and Joe was solidly in with them. Figure they were 50 minutes ahead of us. On the descent maybe saw another dozen riders on the return trip uphill or leaving the park as we came in. Turnaround at mile 105. Came in at 12:20, 20 minutes behind last year, but last year we stayed for 30 minutes while Mike and Rusty had their feet in the stream. Now Tone wanted to maintain our place as much as I did and we left in 20 minutes. We see Jack rolling into the long park access road as we are rolling out--I figure he is 10 minutes behind us and due to his great rest
stop management he'll probably join us for the run in. (1) Mono Lake from the Mono Lake County Park (owned by Los Angeles) driveway. (2) Only Jack could leave this lunch spot quickly
Long climb back up to Lee Vining but now with a hint of a tailwind it wasn't bad at all. A little past the June Lake intersection we are supposed to cross Hwy 395 for the last time of the day and go East on Hwy 120 for 44 miles. We all see the sign "Left Turn Hwy 120 (E) 1/2 mile"--about a mile later we realize we missed the turn and had to double back. Planet Ultra has spoiled us to this point, actually marking all turns, so this one wasn't marked with the familiar yellow arrows.
The wind has settled down, now just a mild crosswind as we thunk-thunk over the expansion joints on Highway 120. We were getting into a few uphill grades before hitting the annoying Sagehen Climb--a laddered climb with many false summits where we'd go from 6920' to 8139' in @ 8 miles---on paper this doesn't seem tough and I remember it as being more annoying than hard.
44 miles of expansion joints on Hwy 120.
All of a sudden Tone spots a bunch of riders gaining on us, "we can't let them catch us," and we decide we want to maintain our position. I go to the front and pull into the Sagenhen Climb--but at the beginning of the climb we are joined by two guys--both who go hard at the beginning of the climb and pass us. I feel good-no need or thought to stop at water stop. Now I have a choice--though I conveniently forget I've been on antibiotics for a week and we are at 7000+, and just feel good and happy that the wind has died:
Do I tactically pick?
(1) ride pace and hope to bring them gradually back before the end of the climb, and we can 5 man to the finish.
(2) counter attack the lead rider and when his buddy jumps counterattack the other rider.
Mr Stupid ass does #2-effective as they fell back and never got back to Tone or Richard. But I killed myself in the process and suddenly the x27 which I didn't need all ride was too damn small and grandma on her "Big Wheels" could pass me backwards. My heart raced and wouldn't settle down and I felt sooo tired, thirsty and nauseous. I struggled on the climb--watching the odometer as it slowly crept towards 130, but the rest stop wasn't until 132--another 2 painful, agonizing miles. I decided I just wanted to finish the ride and now couldn't worry about time and I'd crash at the rest stop--no more making up time. I almost barfed where Steve had last year.
Last year we stayed at the Sagehen rest stop for 25 minutes while our weaker riders recovered. I had planned to make up time by getting out quickly here. But I rolled in 20 minutes after last year and stayed for 35-40 minutes, first laying in the back of a pickup and being real chilled and moving to a chair in the sun while trying to down a soda. No hunger at all--damn--like Central Coast in 2006 when I DNF'd. While I slept in the truck bedliner (with a radio blasting overhead) Doug had told him I was laying in the truck but Jack was so focused he didn't hear him (and Doug speaks up) and later wondered where he had passed me.
(above) I narely making it up to the Sagehen Summit, 8,000', where I quickly go take a nap in the back of a pickup (note radio on top of cab--it was blasting and I barely heard it) , and then move to a chair where I'm freezing (its not that cold.) Thanks for Kathy Parsons for catching the excitement--too bad she didn't catch me sleeping in the desert about a half hour later. Below, Jack looks a little better than me when he passes the pickup.
Kept struggling on the uphills but now enough downhill relief to help out. Still passed by a cyclist each minute. Finally get an appetite back--luckily I had stuffed some pretzels in my jersey and ate some Sports Jelly beans. But still real thirsty and my drinks weren't cutting it. Getting close to Benton gave me some energy. Got pissed when a chubby trio passed closely on an uphill--I just rode pace to get on their wheel but then they reorganized and blasted away on the flats.
Benton is basically a ghost town, and rest stop in park nearly empty. Workers there really helped me out as I joyfully drank a soda while one produced some moist mini brownie muffins that were perfect. I only stayed here for 10 minutes and conserved energy as much as possible, I was the only person who didn't run over when someone came in with a bamboo bike.
Now wind picking up again, but now a 20 mph tailwind in the same direction of Highway 6--which features a nice smooth shoulder for 33 miles. Some riders report cycling at 40-50 mph, I didn't want to relapse so I coasted much of the beginning--there were some gentle uphill sections I was pushed along at 30 mph. Chubby trio flew by without saying a word and I couldn't get on their wheel. F. Feeling better now but truth be told I was tasking it easy. Just started putting in an effort near the end where Highway 6 turns near Bishop so friendly tailwind becomes a crosswind--as getting close to 7:00 and I wanted to finish before 14 hours.
Nice moment near the end--a raggy big Chevy with young couple driving along and guy yells out the window, Type of car that usually causes problems on the road and I'm in no fn mood, but finally hear guy said "sir, is it true that you just rode 200 mile." When I signal yes girl yells out "that's awesome. " Stoked when about a dozen riders who finished are hanging out and cheer me in. Finished at 13;58, just 36 minutes more than last year. Jack wondering how he passed me and Richard hanging out and wanted to know what had happened to me. Jack just started to laugh when I told of my ill fated attack and subsequent fatigue. Riding aggressively worked out last year on the Mt. Tam Double--today it was a disaster.I'm on North side of Mono Lake, behind me is where we cycled.