Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Death Ride-2008

(7/12/2008 preview) Re-read my first Death Ride Ride Report from 2004 and was "surprised" how sky high, enthusiastic and nervous I was about it. This year I look forward to the Death Ride, but view it as a training ride for the Mt Tam Double (motivated to lose 5 lbs in the last few weeks for the latter ride.)

"Compare this to the Death Ride...., you mean the FUN ride"-A rider named Leticia on last year's Climb to Kaiser when I asked her to compare Climb to Kaiser to the Death Ride.

As constantly at high altitude (5500+ at the low point) the Death Ride is a hard ride, but in California there are many harder daylight rides. For example;
The Death Ride...................129 Miles........15,000+ climbing (per 2008 web site)
Devil Mountain Double....200 Miles........18,600 climbing (per Triple Crown Website)
Terrible Two*.....................200 Miles........16,480 climbing (per Triple Crown Website)
Mt Tam Double...................200 Miles........14,500 climbing (per Triple Crown Website)
Climb to Kaiser*..................155 Miles........13,500+ climbing (per 2008 web site)
(*climbs are steeper than the Death Ride)

The Death Ride (4 of 5 passes closed to cars while surrounded by snow capped peaks) is not as unique as when I first started doing it, the Eastern Sierra Double has more snow capped mountains in the surrounding area and many less cars, cyclists and people for much of the ride. At the Death Ride you ride up close to the snow level, but with it being a drought year and wildfires there probably wouldn't be much. And now I've seen that beautiful blue jewel, Topaz Lake (when seen coming down Monitor) up close and personal.

For this weekend we'll stay in Kirkwood again but not many club members doing the Death Ride and we wouldn't have the "Animal House" accommodations we had a few years ago. Donna/ I plan to do a leisurely out and back on Blue Lakes Road (2004 6th pass) the day before--a great road to ride on. After Donna did 181 miles on the 100+ degree Davis Double she has cut back her training and may not be able to do 5 passes. My game plan is to watch out for her and come up Carson with her if a) she does it, b) I spot her, c) I don't fall apart after doing something stupid, again. (still po'd at myself for needless counterattack on Eastern Sierra Double.)

"So let me get this straight, you live in a perfect climate and you purposely take vacation where the weather can be terrible."-Kelly, an attorney from Delaware, when told of all the rides in the high country where thunderstorms are a strong possibility.

The week before the Death Ride a large portion of Northeast California suffering from forest fires, so Bay Area real hazy and with a tinge of smoke--like someone smoking cigars 5 tables away. Coupled with 105+ degrees Mt Diablo closed by midweek due to high fire danger and lack of firefighters who are off in other areas of the state. Real concern that this may affect the Death Ride, which is to the East of the Bay Area, where the air is usually pristine.

Donna and I off to Kirkwood, which is a ski resort which offers condo rentals in the summer so nice to bring up food to cook. In past years, though July, abundant snow on the 10,000' surrounding peaks but today almost no trace of snow except for some isolated patches. Kinda humorous sight at Kirkwood--because of the altitude some of our tightly wrapped protein bars had expanded as if in an inflatable spacesuit. above-Kirkwood with very little snow in the surrounding hills (compare with Kirkwood photo-same backdrop--in 2005) and expanding Power Bar at 7682'. below-funky old Kirkwood Inn, sevice is slow, ceiling is low, but food is great.

The day before the Death Ride we went out to sometimes bonus pass Blue Lakes Road for an easy out and back 24 miler. Blue Lakes is a beautifully paved, lightly traveled road which intersects the climb up to Carson. Could definitely smell a faint whiff of smoke and it was hazy. Right when we unpack the bikes a lady comes down the road yelling "BEAR...BEAR." Sure enough, ambling through the meadow to the left, about
@300' away is a huge bear. Donna hurries to put the bike back on the car but it is soon apparent that the bear is not getting any closer to us, and he is going to cross the road where we planned to ride. Sure enough a cyclist is coming down, sees the bear, and turns to go back uphill. The bear leisurely crossed the road and disappears into the woods on the right. Cyclist now coming down the road and looks familiar, its Jack--we were supposed to do this ride together but couldn't call him as cell phone was stolen earlier in the week. I joke that I thought he had bear walking around everywhere in Canada, Jack indicates only moose.... After reparking the car Donna and I go do the Blue Lakes ride, about a dozen cyclists are coming back down and about a dozen campers on the sides of the road. Heck, we figure we can encounter a bear anywhere up here so we may as well ride. After a little climbing the wooded areas recede and there are nice views of the surrounding mountains. Blue Lakes Road has a a gentle elevation gain until the last 2 miles, where there is a short 9% climb and then 9% downhill--later we'd see many other cyclists stop and turn around at the 9% turnaround--not wanting to ride down and reclimb right before the Death Ride. They'd miss a nondescript lake but a humorous outhouse statue. Scenes from Blue Lakes Road-wish I had the good camera for the bear but was being a weight weenie, cameraphone took good photo of Donna climbing Blue Lakes Road & w/ Jack after he escaped from the bear...
Later we go to the Death Ride checkin. The check in lines are extremely short this year, the line for skeleton clothes (put a skeleton on something and everyone but Jack wants it) is extremely long, and there is NOT a full contingent of vendors like in the past--kinda disappointing. The jersey is a loud orange and purple--maybe a reaction to the laid back deep blue of last year. Ran into a few folks that we knew at the checkin, and then off to Markleeville, the small town down the road, for good sandwiches, and where we had stayed too long and turned around on the self supported ride in 2003. Tomorrow the streets would be lined by local folks cheering the riders. In any event, nice relaxing way for an old couple to celebrate their 30th anniversary. Amador Courthouse Lawn-tomorrow would be packed with people cheering.

Death Ride, July 12, 2008, 5 passes w/ Johnna and Jack. 129 miles, 15,000' climbing. Times below are for finishing the 5th mountain pass of the day, as then one can lay out and enjoy the summit before the almost total downhill back to the start.
2008....9:15 to top of Carson (5th pass) mile 108, 15,000' (:59 of rest stops to Carson)
2006........9:41 to top of Carson (1:19 of rest stops)
2005........9:08 to top of Carson (:57 of rest stops)
2004........9:41 to top of Carson (then 6th pass) (1:27 of rest stops)
2003.......4 pass self supported

Donna, whose previous best was 3 passes--did 4!, and would have attempted 5 if not for the "crappy act of god ending." Rode a little with clubmate Chiro Jim who previously did 5 passes, but this year called it a day after 3.

I was surprised that I was only 7 minutes off my best time, thought it was mostly due to minimizing rest stops, no headwind on Carson, and being a little quicker on downhills, as except for one time I didn't chase anyone on the uphills like I repeatedly did in 2005 when I hammered away, and even if I did I'm getting slower on the climbs. (In 2003 was my first time on the Organized Death Ride and there was a 6th bonus pass thrown in that year, so I really respected the ride, and in 2006 suffering from foot and back pain so took along two cameras to take photos.)

Got to outskirts of Turtle Rock Park at 4:45 as Donna planning to start at 5:00 with lights so she wouldn't get timed out as in the past. I planned to start when a majority does, at first light at 5:30. Loads of cars parked on the road this year, as the Turtle Rock parking lot under renovation, but I always like parking on the road so I can stop at mile 80 and grab things from the car (like NEW shorts!!) before heading up Carson in the heat of the day. But now, at 4:45, it is freezing and I'm shaking as I hold a flashlight helping Donna set up. I talked her into taking vest, and later she was so glad that I did.

Up North Side of Monitor (8 miles, 2773')-I had been so cold that I didn't want to get out of the car and started the ride 3 minutes late. Continue freezing on the starting 3 mile plunge from Turtle Rock Park to Markleeville, luckily a series of gentle rollers for the additional 5 miles to the base of Monitor where I can get warm. As I started "behind the pack" less people sprinting to the riders checkpoint where all cars and cyclists not displaying Death Ride credentials are turned away from the closed road.

Monitor is kind of like Diablo, no steep sections, just a long drag. As lots of riders going up, with some real slow ones riding on the left side and blocking everyone else, and NO riders yet coming down, many times cautiously have to pass a bunch of riders while crossing the yellow line--but I usually try to ride on it. Keep on calling out "on your left" as some folks oblivious to holding nay line. Here is where people still have lots of energy and many people are bs'ing with their buddies. Soon get to Jack and talk with him for awhile, but as he really minimizes rest stops and is much faster than me on the downhills, it is so hard to ride together and I keeping going. Also see Johnna, who earlier this year completed the Boston Marathon--so during the spring classic season she wasn't cycling, but now easily spinning uphill. Johnna finishing ride below (Westworld)

To the left is usually a steep embankment leading to small falling rocks littering the opposite shoulder of the road, to the right is wide open vistas of the surrounding mountains. Pass up the mid-climb water stop, and then come across Donna. I also pass someone who is on a fixed gear-like me he also rode the Davis Double on it, but I'd never consider doing the Death Ride, almost totally going uphill or downhill, on one. I then pass a slow rider wearing a Delta Pedaler vest who I don't know, but I shout out encouragement to him and I'm surprised he knows of me. Later on an oldtime Delta Pedaler I know and like, Mountain Bike Mike, who was not embroiled in the bureaucratic and personal hi jinx, passes me wearing a local insurance company kit. I pick up my pace so I ride with Mike as we bs. If other riders pass, and there are alot who do, I don't care--my mantra for today is that this is a training ride for the Mt. Tam Double, just have fun on this one. Get to the top of Monitor 2 minutes behind my 2005 time, while a sticker is slapped on my back. I never stop at the rest stops at the top of the first 4 passes, as that really eats into time, but I do pull off at the Monitor tombstone marker about a mile later, to take a whizz, down endurolights, and put on my vest. (Death Ride has NO Hammer products, strange for a long distance event--just Cytomax which is guaranteed to lead to stomach bloat.)

Had been warm on the dry air climb up Monitor but now glad I put on my vest for the fast, wide open buy curvy descent down to the base. Luckily I did as there are still pockets of very cold air. While I still get passed by lots of riders on the downhill, the downhills don't scare me now and I pass many riders, always calling out "on your left." The road is wide open so most people passing me can provide a wide berth, but there are some numbnuts who pass very closely without saying a word. The descent provides a great view as you can literally follow the road as it snakes to the base near Topaz Lake, which is usually a blue gem in a sea of tan, but today it is so hazy Topaz Lake doesn't stand out. Though it is hazy the air quality is good. Slow at the crowded bottom where you get your 2nd pass sticker--though you haven't done two climbs yet you have to reclimb Monitor to get back to the start. Of course there is one idiot trying to push his way through the stopped bikes to get a sticker ahead of everyone else. I'm not used to so many riders, on a double you are lucky to see a handful of cyclists at any one point--here are three dozen clamoring for a sticker. Only @5 minutes at the rest stop (in past years always double digits) and saw Jack as I was leaving.
The "I completed a pass" (or "I am gonna have no choice") stickers that are worth more than gold or oil.

Up South Side of Monitor (9 1/2 miles, 3212') Another long drag that is not very steep--though in past years I prided myself in not getting into a x27 until Ebbets, and today, except to pass I was sitting in the seat more than usual and was in the x27 on Monitor a few times--which surprised me. Even though I did NOT do Diablo hill repeats this year to prep for the Death Ride, I usually ride up Mt. Diablo in an x25 and two weeks ago did it with an x23. But legs are "not the best" today so I spun much more than usual, and would actually cramp a few times later on.

In any event though crowded going up the second side of Monitor not nearly as crowded as the first side, which is just as well as now tons of screaming hordes of cyclists coming down on the other side of the road so I stay FAR AWAY from the double yellow center dividing line. This is usually a very sociable part of the ride and here I talk with a 1st timer who came in from Hawaii to do this, and I tell him about my Haleakala climb earlier in the year. Another guy catches up to me and says (due to my orange bike with orange hub and orange tires) I need to get his gloves, he is wearing orange BMX gloves and is amused when I tell him that I already own a pair--having done Devil Mountain Double when my finger was still in a cast and I wore orange BMX gloves over it. He is also a first timer, so I tell him about the course and that he needs to drink alot--and that on Monitor you can get a refill without stopping.

There is no rest stop on the Monitor climb, but half way up there is a high school running team who you hand off your bottle to as you cycle past, and they fill with water and run back to give it to you as you slog up the climb. Always a treat.

Soon I catch up to Johnna who had not stopped at any of the stops yet, and we soon catch up to Jim--a club member who I always saw on Diablo a few years ago when he was feverishly training to do 5 passes. I joked that I haven't seen him lately and he had slacked off, we bs'd for awhile and he indicates that he had to hit the top of Monitor rest stop for some serious business. I felt good and the road flattened out to about a 1% uphill grade so I put in a big effort and pulled Johanna and Jim until the Monitor Pass marker again where I peeled off for another whizz and endurollights as I wasn't going to stop at the crowded rest stop up the road. Loads of folks taking photos of themselves by the marker, wonder how many photos I got in the background of. 8:40--I'm even with 2005 time.

The return downhill on Monitor is very fast, much of the road is very straight with some sudden curves and potential danger by falling rocks littering the right side of the road. A few years ago I hit 50, today my max was 46 but I was much more consistent on the whole downhill--again being passed by many riders but I was also passing my share, or checking behind someone who was going at a good but not reckless clip. Here I did yell at some numbnut (word of the day)--coming into a curve where I stayed in the middle of the lane as better to make the turn and not ride the shoulder where the curve is sharper and where rocks are laying about. Set up for the turn when some jerk starts yelling "on your left, left, I'm on your left" but I'm not moving over until after the turn. He keeps yelling and passes closely and I yell "hey ass, couldn't you wait until after the turn." But all other descenders on good behavior and soon make the left turn for the 2 miles of rollers into the Ebbetts climb. Oh year--saw the pink pannier lady (what the heck does she have in those bulging panniers) when starting the Monitor descent.

Up East Side of Ebbetts ( 10 1/2 miles, 2949') If you just looked at the average grade Ebbetts seems easy at around 5%. The problem is that Ebbetts starts out gently, and then when you hit the bridge by Silver Creek it cranks up. I wouldn't be surprised if hairpins are 15% and other longer stretches are 10%.

The road up and over Ebbetts is basically Highway 4 but you'd never know it--there is no center line and it is barely two lanes wide. While no "oh wow" views like on Monitor the whole route is picturesque, like taking a bike path through the woods with streams off to the side.

We quickly pass the Centerville Lunch stop, which will be our lunch stop when we return. In past years I stopped here to top off my bottle but today a worker isn't letting anyone in, telling us to go to the rest stop at Scossa's, 3 miles up the road--which I had always passed.

On the way through the forest a house with huge front deck is off to the right. In 2005 loads of women dressed up as viking chicks, I was riding so hard that day that I never saw them. Today they are dressed up as debutantes, and cheering us on (they'd call out to Donna "go, athletic woman.") Guy behind me called out "will you marry me?" At other parts of the forest/ campgrounds, people sitting out and cheering. Again Johnna and I hook up for awhile until the Scossa's rest stop where I top off my bottles and down a fig newton. But after a few minutes back on the bike and now with the steepness getting serious, legs getting tired after 50 miles, and the big pack broken up, not much of the rider banter as heard constantly on Monitor.

My climbing has definitely slowed, in past years probably passed 90% of the riders, now down to 80% and my saving grace is that I can put in a standing effort on the hairpins and/or when the road gets steep. If I just sit and spin another 10% of the riders get away from me. But no impetus to chase at altitude after Eastern Sierra debacle. And after all "this a a fun ride." But if any part of the ride isn't fun, it is the steep sections of Ebbetts.

Here the people I'm riding with are staying single file, except to pass, and yelling "rider up" when an elite rider or someone who started at 4:00 is coming back down. I joke with some ride old timers that we wouldn't be given the same courtesy when we return and riders coming up are 4 across the road. Much agreement. Ebbets #1 the hardest pass with a few serious grades but beautiful scenery while seemingly riding a bike path (really Highway 4) (West World Images)

Unfortunately, no mile markers on the road from a few years back, so even though I have approximate mile markers tapped top my handlebars I'm not sure where the climb will end, and don't exctly recall all of the steep sections. Pass a lake and a vendor set up to give massages. Hell, if I got one now I may as well call it a day. But suddenly a recognizable one last steep pitch which I have fun on knowing it will be the last for awhile, cross the cattleguard, and slow for sticker #3. It's 10:30--4 minutes off 2005.

Continuing on the downhill is a pleasant surprise, it is still steep and twisty but in past years the road had been rutted, now it was smoothly paved. On this section cyclists tend to come down in waves and I am lucky, i'm in a nice pocket where not too many cyclists are around me.

Soon pull into Hemit Valley--IMO, the nicest rest stop on the ride. It's one of the big rest stops but now the ride has broken up so not as crowded as earlier ones. Sunny out, warm but not hot, air smells great. Today this is my first serious rest stop--stay here for 14 minutes (when you sit down it is serious.) Want to make sure I'm hydrated and didn't bring extra HEED along with me so down 1/2 a Coke while sitting around, remembering when I first saw this spot coming in from Bear Valley on the self supported Death Ride in 2003. Ready to leave as Jack rolls in, joke with him that he'll join me at the Centerville lunch stop when he downs his banana special, while everyone else pigs out.

Up West Side of Ebbetts (5 miles, 1519') This is a nice short climb--like going to the Mt Diablo Ranger station. In fact the climb to the Mt Diablo ranger station from the North side after the inital downhill section is very similar.

This is the only place I put in a big effort on the climb. When starting out I am trying to spin in a low gear after sitting around for 14 minutes, so I'm at the right edge of the road and two Team in Training numbnuts pass me. Now I don't care that they passed me, I've been passed often all day and have been laid back, but they do what Donna hates when she is riding and a paceline passes. As soon as they pass they sharply cut back to the right, whereas I need to brake so I don't run into their wheel. Now I'm pissed so I cut around them and return the favor--though I didn't shave them as closely as they shaved me. The guys grunt and dig in, but so do I, and every time they come close I stand on the pedals and roll away from them. Once away I go back to being lazy (or laid back, i can't decide.) I admire when a slight woman spins at a high cadence past me, I wish I could do that when sitting. But before I know it I'm back to the top of Ebbetts, 4 passes down. Forgot to mark down the time here.

Now is where Death Ride got its name, 12 downhill miles to the lunch stop, half on a steep decline with steeper hairpins while riders are coming up, sometimes 4 across, the other side of the road. Hell, sometime they are on the wrong side of the road. But this year, except for one n_m_n_t (fill in the blanks) weaving at the center of the road, it isn't too bad. Saw Donna coming up and looking good.

Then eventually the road levels off/slight downhill, where for the first time today apart from the top of Monitor, not going sharply up or down and can turn the cranks and pedal hard. Pull into lunch, mile 80, at 12:01, 9 minutes off of 2005 but today would only stay here for 14 minutes, when in the past was here for 18-23 minutes. They had premade sandwiches this year, and somehow they are never as good/ fresh as when put together on the spot. I ate the ham and one bite of pita bread, 1/2 coke, topped the bottles, had to stop down the road to take mud out of my cleats (and nice place to whizz), and soon to the worst sight on the ride, the sign that says "ROAD NOW OPEN TO TRAFFIC."

Now a 14 mile slog to the start of Carson Pass. First are rollers to Markleeville, though somewhat downhill there is a constant headwind. I caught a break here--a few riders zoomed by and I decided I wasn't being laid back but lazy when I didn't react. I jumped on the wheel of the next rider that zoomed by and he pulled for a few miles, whereas we caught some riders who earlier passed. I told him that I can take a turn pulling, unfortunately it was not on a slightly uphill tailwind section where I excel but on a slightly decending piece of road with a headwind. In any event I pulled for a couple of miles, and when I peeled off a dozen riders were getting a free ride on the train. I jumped back into the middle of the line where all of a sudden a half dozen Webcor riders zoomed by and we all got on their wheel. We then hit some uphill rollers, where usually I'd jump to the front, but I knew what was coming up so I stayed mid pack. Then a sudden short but steep downhill to Makleeville where I jumped in the back as two dozen riders in close quarters were rapidly descending into town where a packed crowd on the Courthouse lawn, in front of the sandwich place and the general store, were whooping it up and ringing cowbells. The Webcor riders peeled off down a sidestreet, I admired how one woman folded her number into a tiny blip sticking out of her jersey pocket (I spend lots of time tyring to minimize my number on my bike) then the long steep climb to Turtle Rock Park which I was freezing on descending this morning. A little past the park I spotted Donna's car where I pulled over, opened the trunk, and started throwing things in like I was done for the day. The minimal number lady passed by and offers encouragement and says "come on, I'll wait for you." I called back that I wasn't stopping for good. Down half a bottle of chilled Perpetuem, take on a bottle of cold Heed, change my shorts, socks (thinner as feet swell up,) headband, leave arm warmers behind, get a lighter vest, dump powder everywhere, take endurolights, eat a jo-jo nut bar, down a chilled rice pudding--the perfect food for a hot century, and stock up on sportsbeans. I was supposed to change into mesh gloves but forgot and in years past always changed my jersey but didn't today. Think the guy sitting on the lawn chair across the road was still amused.

Had arrived at the car at 12:51-6 minutes behind 2005. Downed another quarter bottle of the Perpetuem on the 4 mile downhill to the Woodford rest stop. Not getting off the bike I asked a young worker to fill my Perpetuem bottle with water. But unfortunatly she dumped out what was in there, so I pulled over and put in a Fitz-tab, which is a good tasting electrolite that would also have me drinking. Johnna came by and pulled a Kitty, yelled something out like "lets go." Could Jack, the master of no rest stops be far behind?? (and we've always climbed Carson within 5 minutes of each other) In Woodford for only 3 minutes, out by 1:18, but in 2005 I started up Carson 14 minutes sooner.

Up Carson Pass (14 1/2 miles, 2979') The average grade for Carson is less than 4%, so why is it so scary? Well, one reason is that one has 94 climbing miles already in their legs. Secondly, it starts off like a bitch, the steepest part is at the beginning. In fact in the middle it flattens out but by that time there is a block headwind. This year it was suddenly damn hot at the beginning of the climb, with no wind at all.

Seemingly same ratio as the whole ride, passing 8 riders (before passing having to watch out for cars now going up this heavily traveled highway with narrow shoulder that does cut out at times) while one rider will slowly creep by me that in years past I'd dig in to repass, and one rider who zooms by. Soon I catch up to Johnna, hard to believe she wasn't riding much this year, and we tag team up the climb--I take something off on the steeper parts so we stay together but otherwise Johanna keeps a steady spinning pace that is easy to follow and we are still passing 7 of 10 riders. I indicate that I'll take the lead when we are met by the block headwind but it never comes. Pass Sorenson's resort to more people out in front cheering, more importantly the road goes to about 2% and will eventually flatten out until past the Blue Lakes Road cutoff.

We are soon at the Luther Pass rest stop, which Johnna pulls into, but I hate stopping in the middle of a climb so I go on. I'm going at a good clip but being a lazyass again. Suddenly a rider from Ophir Milan catches up to me, asks me what mile we are on and how much longer to the top and speeds. I quickly get on her wheel and she pulls strongly for the whole flat section. I think about going to the front but this is too nice a ride and I figure I'll help out when the road starts going up.

We zoom past the Blue Lakes cutoff and the road goes up so I go to the front and try to set a moderate pace. It works on the first climb but when we are joined by a couple of riders I just ride at tempo and am soon off by myself, trying to catch any trio in front so we can trade off into the wind (conundrum, if I can catch up to a trio of riders they are going to slow to stay with) and occassionally having a cyclist zip by me who I can't stay with. Now a slight head/cross wind, the sky is darkening, and a few drops from the sky and BOOM--lightning to the South, where Ebbetts/ Monitor are.

Gets dry again though sky stays dark. Hit the last steep section which curves to the left, but here the crosswind diminishes like usual so I stand and try to slot into a big open area, as around the turn the last pass photographer is stationed. I'm around the wall, unlike 2006 feeling good, it's 2:48. Only behind 2005 time by 7 minutes where I pushed all day. (and rest stops about the same with 2005.)

Where my favorite bike ride photograph is taken--the arrival at Carson. After making the turn around the cliff, reprieve from the head or cross wind, and the photographer is laying low and suddenly waiting for you--I look happy like in 2004 and 2005--not out of it like 2006. I have the 2006 shot close by in my house--motivation to do the early morning and midnight exercise set. (nice work West World Images)

Get last sticker, 5 pass pin, and signed 5 pass Death Ride poster in bottom right corner with a pumpkin so I could find it later. (Intended to look for my name on 2004, 05, 06 posters at the BBQ dinner.) Grabbed a lounge chair and downed another 1/2 a soda and ate the magic ice cream bar. Does cheap ice cream taste better at 9,000'?--all of the Death Ride riders would yell-"YES." Really surprised that I never saw Jack but he indicated yesterday he might only be in for 4 passes. (Normally I wouldn't believe him but last week he didn't go on the Diablo Cyclist bonus mile loop--which may have been a first.) Johnna arrives and more congratulations for each other but thing are ominious. While it is sunny to the West and North the sky is dark to the South and East, and we are heading back down South South East)

I put on vest leaving the rest stop for the short climb before the long downhill, but it is warm and I yell out to Johanna that Big Mike would laught at me for being overdressed so I pull of the vest. Around first turn I see Jack coming up--good for him! Here there is lots of traffic and many riders now coming up, and I am going to be looking for Donna coming up on the other side of the road so I have my inverse climbing ratio--8 riders pass me on the way down as I'll pass 2. Have to ride near the shoulder because of the traffic and after a while it looks like there is a good chance I miss Donna as the other side of the road is now crowded with people going up to Carson, and traffic is blocking a clear view.

Now getting close to the flat section by Blue Lakes Road and feel an occassional rain drop, not bad, but past the Luther Rest stop there is suddenly a chill in the air--not a good sign, and just as suddenly the rain picks up so I stop and put on my vest. Rain gets heavy and road gets wet quickly--with my glasses getting hit by huge droplets--shitty, who thought I'd need a cycling cap. Then a little past Sorenson's the rain stops and it is warm again--I stop to pull off my vest. But cars coming up other side of the road all have their lights on and within a mile or so it is cold and raining heavily again. I stop again--this time vest goes on for good. It is getting colder and rain is getting heavier with thunder in the distance. Now there is @ 3 miles back to where we parked before Turtle Rock, with a few short but steep uphills. I don't care if my legs hurt now, I stand and go hard just to warm up--I catch up a few riders who had passed me a few miles back--but impeteus is NOT to pass anyone but just to stay warm.

Suddenly see Donna by the car on the other side of the road. It's 4:05, she just arrived coming down Ebbetts in a rain storm mixed with hail--whereas people were walking their bikes downhill, and she rode down at 5 mph. So she was screwed out of one of the best, fastest parts of the course, and if dry would have been here at @3:30, and made the cutoff by a half hour to start up Carson. But now we were both like cold sponges, and decide to skip the end o ride meal (instead of eating in a nice big picnic area we'd be huddled and shivering in the food serving area like 2006.) Luckily I had convinced Donna that we should bring extra pasta up with us, so we can cook back at Kirkwood. Drive back soaked to Kirkwood where we first have to drive up Carson, and there still hordes of cyclists on the road getting drenched, covered with garbage bags. I guess if I never did 5 passes I would also do it, but if I had been caught in the rain earlier by my car I would have called it a day.

Go West 10 miles to Kirkwood--it is warm and sunny, ironically a jogger busting out of her halter top rambles by as we get out of the car. Was it just cold and rainy?? It is then over to the hot tub where Donna enjoys accomplishing 4 passes and I'm happy getting 5--but do miss the end o ride festivities. Wonder what that 5 pass jersey looks like? (Postscript: The 5 pass jersey revealed a week later. Usually there is a subtle color change like when they took out the rainbow colors in 2004 for anyone doing Blue Lakes Road 6th pass, and replaced the rainbow with blue. In 2006 they had a slightly different shade of orange and some of the tan was flipped with the orange for the 5 pass jersey. OK, sometimes they really FU the regular jersey when they put Xmas color polka dots all over the blue 5th pass jersey in 2005--instead I thought the skelaton with an outstreatched hand should be holding the beer of choice for all 5 pass finishers. But at least it is different. This year the 5 pass jersey is identical to the regular jersey--and they just added "5th Pass Finisher" language to the front and back. Nah--I'll pass on it.)

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