Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mt. Tam Double-2008

Came out of the Death Ride feeling great and MY favorite event--Mt. Tam Double in 3 weeks. In fact the following week I'm leading a Diablo Cyclist reconnaissance century of the course--last year Tom, Joe, Big Mike, and Beth attacked and killed me all day, so the following week the double was comparatively easy.

Of course I needed to avoid accidents--so I promptly returned to work and fell down the stairs--didn't hit anything but twisted and it felt like my hip was coming off. Even worse the next day when I tried to spin easy. Hobbled to physician who said I had a quad strain, and it would take 3-4 weeks to heal. Unfortunately Mt. Tam Double in 2 1/2 weeks. Doc said--"I'm not saying (riding 200 miles is impossible, I just wouldn't bet on it." Missed my reconnaissance ride--spent the weekend off the bike (what do you do??) and in museums (SF Contemporary Jewish Museum terrible, SF Modern Art Museum with Frida Kahlo exhibit good.) On Sunday, 5 days after the fall, was the first time I could take stairs regularly and took ez spins on trainer the following days. Big test was Mt. Diablo, which I turned around on one week earlier after 1 mile of hell. Told myself I'd go easy but soon was chasing two young clubmates and eventually reeled them in, and then took a social ride to the top after promising Don I wouldn't do the ending 17% ramp 2x like usual. A little sore but damn-was I happy that I could again move on the bike. Now have one week to get what little power I have back.

Weekend before two good training rides--first one was a full century and second day a reconnaissance metric. Had great Diablo Cyclist ride which is flat down to Sunol (27 miles), and everyone was on good behavior on our fast run in to Sunol which ends on one short but annoying climb. When it was my turn to pull I looked back and there was a long line of happy faces so I jumped, heard "oh shit," and the free for all was on. I was dead when I hit the hill but good way to check conditioning. From Sunol we rode down to and then up Palomaras (about a 6 mile climb) where Don and I bs'd about the Mt. Tam Double. Now Rusty (from the Ludo Dierckxsens attack, attack, attack school) joined us constant stream of attacks that I tried following through Castro Valley and Pinehurst (50 miles.) Here the club regroups and heads towards Moraga but I took off up Redwood Road and up Skyline. The view--often covered in fog, was crystal clear--very clear shoty of Mt. Tam, wish I had brought my camera. Then down to Tilden Park, where I needed something to eat and sports drink before tackling the Bears, so a few mile detour to Orinada Village instead of going directly on the Bears.

Didn't want to go back and retrace my route so wound up doing something harder. When I learned to climb by doing the Bears almost every weekend, the witch and I would leave Orinda Village on some godawful road that was just as steep as the ramp (17%) on Diablo but 3x as long. So I took ALTARINDA to UPPER HAPPY VALLEY ROAD to HAPPY VALLEY ROAD, more punishing steep sections and I only had an x25 and my quad did not like the steep sections. But then wound up in the middle of the Bears which is easy, last climb of Pig Hill, which a long time ago was the ultimate climb. Total miles 101. Don't know how much climbing I did but to mile 50 it was close to 3000 and the second half of the ride had much more climbing.

Next day went out to the Mt. Tam Course, and did the Marshall Wall section in a loop for a metric. While I love the Mt. Tam Course, on dysfunction is that if you like hot weather Marin sucks--it is anywhere from -10 to -30 from the East Bay, and today it was -30. A cold headwind was blowing on Lucas Valley Road (there usually is no headwind, just an afternoon tailwind) and water was forming on my glasses from the dense fog when I got to the Marshall Wall.

Two 19th Century Schoolhouse on the course which will also be used as rest stops--the Lincoln School on Hicks Valley Road at the start of the 13 mile Marshall Wall run in at mile 85 and then the old Nicasio school building--which hopefully we will be able to skip close to the end at mile 187.

Marshall Wall run in--gentle uphill rollers to mile 9.23, then 300' (3%) climb begins, to 10.98 where it is so foggy that you can't see the fast downhill to the Peace Bell (ring the bell) right before Hwy 1 at mile 13.69.

But I love this section, which is fast rolling uphill in the middle of nowhere, which starts right after the Hicks Valley School rest stop (mile 85.) It is about 13 miles to the Coast, and 9 miles of my favorite terrain (rolling uphills) until a serious climb, the Marshall Wall, starts for 1 mile. Then 3 miles of downhill to the Coast which is too fast for me, and then a turn North on Highway 1. By that time a century has almost been completed and "only" 100 more miles to go. Today I turned South, and luckily the sun came out and the usual afternoon tailwind was present for the last 20 miles of today's 65 mile ride, and the double in a week.

Was planning to ride Monday but tired and quad sore so took he day off which was great as went on a "teacher ride" (those poor folks in the club who get the whole summer off--we hate them in August when they start whining that they have to go back to work) in Solano County which was mostly rollers on sections of road found on the Davis Double, Knoxville Double and Foxy's Fall Century. Everyone kept up a strong pace, and mostly rode cooperatively except when Stephen saw a county line sign. 65 miles, 3,600' climbing, 17.2 average. Quad felt good with so much ez spinning-now time to shut down.

MT TAM DOUBLE, 199 miles, 14, 500' climbing w/ Don & Jack (5:00-7:35), Finished 28th or 29th* (w/ Don) of 199 riders (inc 55 DNF's) (*Unclear of one final time of a rider who finished close to us, even though finish sheet has him after Don and I.)

This is now my favorite ride, with enough climbing to get rid of the guys that can just hammer the flats, but not enough to be pernicious. Actually, except for Mt. Tam (long) and Coleman Valley (steep), most of the climbing is less than a mile or Italian (aka long, that you can't just power over) roller after Italian roller along the Coast or in the Marin (cow county) wilderness.

Climbing chart from the Marin Cyclists.

This year was unique for few reasons; this was the first time that Jack, I and Don have all ridden a double together, especially a timed one. Jack usually scoots out of rest stops too fast and I usually care too much about attacks/ counterattacks. We were all on good behavior which slowed down our final time as Jack hung out at rest stops for more than 1-2 minutes (though longest non rest stop was when he had stand in his shoes), Don and Jack took it easy on the downhills, early on I dropped off drafting a few cyclists who sped by when Don/ Jack dropped out, and took it easy early on the Mt. Tam climb--which was probably a blessing when Don later sped up Coleman Valley and my injured quad was yelling at me for doing this ride. At other times, especially when it seemed that we owned the course (late in the game you can easily go 10 miles and not see another rider,) it was great being in our 3 man line wearing our Diablo Cyclist kits.

While I indicate I love this course, while doing the ride I recalled that there are plenty of things not to like. I've gotten used to (and actually enjoyed this year) the 5:00 mass start in the dark which has you plunging down off of Big Rock next to the George Lucas estate through giant redwoods. But the descent off of Mt. Tam sucks, as close to Muir Woods you enter an ugly fog bank that lays off the coast, and suddenly drops the temperature 10-20 degrees. Actually this year the fog was not that thick and we were soon out of its somber grip. But this year there was a constant 21+ mile wind from the west by noon, which made the left turn uphill to Dillon Beach a lousy slog--and then on the downhill ridge line we were killed by the cold crosswind. Likewise, the Bay Hill ridge line is always cold and windy--but this year it was colder than usual. I am SO happy when I finally see Coleman Valley Road which we take back inland, it may be the steepest climb on the ride but it always means we will finally get off the cold and windy coast.

The Marin Cyclists run the ride , and they are energetic but a little disorganized (eg. web site re registered riders not updated for 1 1/2 months), and this year made some nice improvements. This year the person taking numbers at checkpoints wore a brown club shirt, so you didn't have to search for them. At the Valley Ford lunch stop which also caters to century riders who come through 2 hours earlier, there was a special area for doubles riders so this year there was good food left. Apart from the weather, the only "worse than usual" things were at the old Lincoln School rest stop food was put at the opposite side of a huge sand pit. Registration was also weird--doubles rider registration was linked to all other riders, so it was closed early (as century rides seem to do but not doubles) , then briefly reopened so cyclists started scamming--registering for the double but then showing up and indicating they only want to ride 100k. Otherwise, rest stops were very enjoyable--Endurolights/ Hammergel at all-Sustained Energy at a few, Diet Soda and lots of good bread (which is what I usually live on late in the game.)

Ride was fun riding with double vets Jack and Don. I also took it easier, with me trying to spin more to protect my injured quad. I also came in motivated with my weight compatible to 2003 when I was scared of hilly rides--5 lbs less than my Eastern Sierra weight. I also tried to sit and spin more on climbs--after Eastern Sierra didn't want to kill my cardio system, and protect my quad. I never really cared that standing raises my heart rate 10-15 bpm, but recently read that even on a 5% grade the aerodynamics of sitting pays off.

"Knock-knock-knock"--I was doing my favorite pre ride activity, napping in the car while listening to music interspersed with Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin when Don came by at 4:30 tapping on the window and wondered if I need to get going--but I have 10 more minutes of snooze time as I can set up the bike, put on mini lights, and take all the necessary bags of HEED, Sportsbeans etc. in 10 minutes and then roll to the start line. (But not enough time to reset my odometer--so for the whole ride I had to keep subtracting 30.) I hate waiting around in the dark and cold with many nervous folks. Finally have broken in the gleaming white carbon soled shoes that were half price at Nashbar (Time pedals without the curve really only go well with Time shoes,) and its between Memorial and Labor Day so gleaming white shoes are permitted.

Don/ I started out together with our (2006 Mt. Tam) pact that he'd watch for me on the descents and I'd watch for him on the climbs. But instead of starting out in the back as I usually do on this ride, I started out mid pack for the downhill on Lucas Valley Road. Then we hit some rollers and I looked for folks to draft going into Fairfax before the 13 mile climb up Mt. Tam. Here I set a good pace that Don could follow and if anyone passed I didn't hammer back.

The first sign Jack was going to join us was at the mid climb rest stop (mile 25 into the ride) which is needed to shed lights and top off liquid. Jack pulled in right after us and usually he'd be down the road in 1-2 minutes. Here he waited a little while longer for us--thought he still left before us so he wouldn't lock up.

Another sane pace up Tam, then a sudden drop down to Alpine Dam where you have to begin climbing anew. Like Diablo the grade isn't bad but here the hairpins are steeper, and there are more which I like to stand on. Near the top we came by Jack--just when we began the 7 miles of uphill rollers to the summit. Surprisingly it wasn't that windy and though the fog laid off the Coast it was sunny around Stinson Beach. Kodak moment--fog enveloped San Francisco with the Golden Gate, Tranamerica Pyramid and Mt. Sutro sticking through it. As we ride along the ridge line super sag driver Lee Mitchell sits behind us for awhile FINALLY playing some music that I like (Creedence Clearwater Revival) over the speakers in his van.

Funny ending--there are a few false summits and then a quick downhill and finally a short but steep run in to the summit parking lot (guessing 300' @10%.) Count about 20-30 riders ahead of us already coming back. Up to now have just kept a steady pace--not minding if anyone passed. Make the turn into the parking lot runup and some guy goes balls out past me which gets my dander up so I stand and hammer past him to the summit while Don laughs (hey, 38 miles of good behavior.) I turn around and stop for Don to catch up when I see Jack elbows out hammering up the same ramp chasing us.

Stop to put on my vest before the long plunge to Muir Woods. I'm still not the fastest downhiller but am no longer unnerved by this twisty, cold plunge. Actually it was actually warm and sunny for the initial part, and just became suddenly cold when we neared Muir Woods, with Don riding behind me so he can slow to my speed. We catch up to Jack when the road flattens out and we get to the 2nd rest stop, mile 50, at 8:27--actually 5 minutes faster than my great ride in 2007, but last year I also skipped this stop and last year didn't have stiff head/ cross winds for much of the day, so from this point my time came down. Here helpful rest stop worker topped off my two bottles with water but switched caps--unfortunately I blitzed out at the next rest stop and added HEED to the PERPETUEM/ HAMMERGEL mix. Lethal.

The next 20 miles along Hwy 1/ the Pacific Coast to Pt. Reyes Station is my favorite--especially as it was clear with almost no wind on this section. This part of the ride features gentle roller after gentle roller, and we had a good paceline going. A few times people would go whizzing by and Jack/ Don show much more patience than me--and we'd slowly reel them back and go past. Other times someone would speed through and I'd jump behind them but Jack/ Don didn't make the move so I'd fall back with them. One guy we played cat and mouse with was someone with a huge Rivendale saddle bag and tri bars (and ear phones--great for a group ride) who'd hammer the flats but would lose steam on the uphills. Disappointed that Jack/ Don didn't join me bridging up to him--but they know better than I do not to tax ones self in the first 100 miles, and we'd eventually catch and pass Rivendale Tri guy the last 20 miles of the ride. Not too many cars on this stretch of Highway 1--though a few Ducati's roared past, leaning close to us on the turns. At one point we passed them when they stopped on the side of Hwy 1, which of course meant a few minutes later that they soon sped by us again.

Once opportune time was when one guy came by on a flat section and we all jumped on his wheel, and he never made any motion for anyone to come through, but just kept riding hard. He was either a very nice guy or thought he could pace us off his wheel, but after following Big Mike on this portion a few years back when Mike was pulling at 26-28 this was easy.

Out of Pt. Reyes Station we didn't have the long line behind that we had a few years back when Don led the parade down the Coast, and we rode a nice pace to the "Cheese Factory Climb" where we are joined by slower century riders. By the Nicasio Reservoir we saw a REAL fixed gear rider just tooling around--riding a 19th Century hi-wheel or safety bicycle. (Other nice source of amusement was rest stop worker wearing orange plaid kilt that kept appearing at different stops.)

Saw photographers about a half dozen times, and planned to buy a few combo photos with my clubmates--but I never showed up and Jack and Don only in 1 each, by the Cheese Factory Climb. Oh cool, you can see my orange wheel next to Jack. Photos from Action Sports International.

It suddenly got nice and warm and Don was not to happy--we'd each take turns losing energy on a specific part of the ride. Hicks Valley/ Lincoln School is a nice combined rest stop (mile 85, 10:38, 6 minutes off of 2007) where the food tables were in explicitly on the other side of the sand pit. Off came the undershirt and arm warmers. Jack graciously waited around for Don/ I the 15 minutes we were in the stop, and then we waited for Jack on the side of the road for a few minutes as he dumped sand out of his shoes.

Marshall Wall was fun--the 9 mile run in to it was nice and warm. But as soon as the climb started a cold headwind hit us, a bad sign of things to come. It stayed cold and windy as we plunged down to the Coast and the wind picked up as we approached Tomales. A 20 mph headwind as we turned West to Dillon Beach, which may have hit 30mph as it became a cross wind on the ridge line. Usually a nice descent back to Valley Ford turned hairy with lots of bike shimmy.

Nice touch at Valley Ford (the first time) rest stop (mile 114, 1:02, 27 minutes off of last year), where they had a separate area for the doubles riders so the food wasn't all gone by the century riders who came through 2 hours ago. Don was brave and had a burrito, I liked the good focassia bread. They actually had diet soda (yippie!) More importantly they had Sustained Energy and real ice!, and I was a little behind on hydrating properly so that was great.

Leaving Valley Ford heading a little further north is one of my least favorite sections of the ride. Significant rollers back towards the Coast, where you usually hit another cold, windswept climb on Bay Hill Road--and this year it was colder than in the past. The usual impromptu stop to put ON the vest while riding on the ridgeline before the downhill. At least, though windy on the Coast, it was sunny. (Before 11:00 wind at Valley Ford was 10 mph or less, once noon rolled around it stayed over 20 mph from the West for the rest of the day.)

We then headed a few miles further North to the Coleman Valley climb, the steepest climb of the day at mile 124 but a things promise to get better as once over the climb and another 8 miles inland we'll be blessed with warm weather and a tailwind. Don got the KOM points on this climb which is featured on the Tour of California with many American cyclists names written on the road--with the most frequent one being "Steve Cozza"--no doubt for his winning time in the Mt. Tam Double last year. At this point my quad was bugging me a little, so thoughts of taking off the annoying thigh wrap disappeared, though its comfort improved when I cuffed the bottom over my bike shorts .

A water stop which is usually at mile 132 at the end of the ridgeline was moved to the top of the climb so it was cold and windswept and we didn't stay long. Finally the Joy Road descent (punctuated by some steep rollers) and some nice rustic (light traffic, lots of cow farms) roads back to Valley Ford--now pretty desolate (mile 143, 3:45, 42 minutes behind last year.) There we ran into a friendly guy who we had seen earlier and would provide a few laughs in our run in to Petaluma. As we've been riding to the slowest person I thought we were in the back of the ride but friendly guy says he was told at water stop he's 39th or so.

We'd zig zag to Petaluma on flat roads with a few rollers, getting a nice tailwind when heading East on a long stretch of road, then have our speed checked when we hit a roller or suddenly turned South for a short segment. We again got into paceline mode and at one point a tandem flashed by followed by the friendly guy at the last rest stop and another guy in a yellow jersey. On an uphill we caught up to the tandem group and figured we'd enjoy the draft--however on the next uphill the yellow jersey guy jumped on ahead. That po'd me and I caught him, whereas he then slowed down when the tandem repassed. I fell to the back when we hit the next roller and yellow jersey guy jumped out again. This time when the tandem came off the roller it just sped off up the road--I went up to Mr. Friendly and said jokingly said "what did you say to the tandem to piss them off?" Mr. Friendly gets next to the Yellow Jersey guy, points and says loudly "it wasn't me, he pissed them off as he's been jumping ahead on every roller since the last rest stop." Yellow Jersey guy became indignant and went off in a huff--bolted ahead and missed the next turn.

Around 5:00, with 40 more miles in the ride, Jack becomes concerned that we may not finish before dark, so he starts to piledrive all the way to Petaluma. He kept the groups speed up until the outskirts when some little sheltered hills end the tailwind effect. Another classic school building from the 19th century. After Petaluma we head back West, and Don is wary that we may have a block headwind all the way back to the Nicasio turnoff. Suddenly we are in Petaluma, loop part of the town and hit the LAST rest stop of the day (mile 170, 5:33, 47 minutes behind last year.) There is another rest stop in Nicasio but that is only 12 miles from the end of the ride so we made up unless absolutly necessary no stopping there; I don't want to lose our rank placement (which I joke must be 200th) , Jack hates to stop anyway and Don is always ameniable.

One steep hill out of Petaluma, then right into the wind. A few riders down the road and we caught up to a big guy in red who then tried to pull away, but Don/ I slowed for Jack who never does well coming out of a long stop--and we had been in Petaluma for 15 minutes. We pass the Rivendale tri guy who had hammered past us on Hwy 1 much much earlier in the day. Jack gets back on and the hills begin--luckily the wind is being blocked by the hills on the side of the road. Don and I get close to the guy in red and you can see him trying to speed up. We again let the guy go as we slow for Jack but the rest of the climb is ahead, then there is a drop down to the Cheese Factory before another moderate climb begins. Don/ I pace each other up the climb and when we drop down, no sign of Jack--Don suggests we pull over but ever time we stop and start up my quad yells so I suggest we ride the next hill slowly. I did mean slowly but once on the uphill Don set a businesslike pace. We again get close to the guy in red and I got my dander up and take off up the hill to pass him at the top. At the top I wait for Don, the guy in red shot downhill, and as I had not started down there is no way I could again catch him--until we make "the turn!" "The turn" is a sudden left turn to Nicasio where you always have a beautiful tailwind. With the tailwind there is about 3 miles of the road going slightly uphill, then 7 miles of uphill rollers where the tailwind increases, puncuated by a very short climb up to Big Rock, a tricky twisty descent which used to scare the shit out of me, which leads into the final run-in of 5 miles of tailwind infected road, and lastly a 1 mile neighborhood climb. Climbing in a tailwind is my favorite and I'm psyched--except for the Big rock downhill.

Don suggested we stop at Nicasio so he could change out his lenses but there was plenty of daylight so I asked if he could continue with the tinted glasses and he gave the thumbs up. We quickly pulled into the rest stop to see if anyone was taking numbers, someone yelled out "no but there is food." Don yelled back "there is food at the end also." Like me he gets in the spirit of riding fast at the end of a double.

We speed onto Lucas Valley Road where the tailwind uphill begins--and I bet that Don wished he changed his glasses as it is almost like night through the redwoods. I'm pulling like crazy for the first few miles, making sure we keep our placement, and then half way to Big Rock Don takes over. Some of the slower century riders are still on the course but we pass a couple of doubles riders--you can tell who they are (before viewing their number) by the rear light setup on their bike. One guy has huge ankle reflectors. Right before the short climb to Big Rock we catch up to a doubles rider who is setting a good pace but we speed on by him.

Now for the tricky downhill with 12 haripins. (Later Jack would tell me someone crashed here on the club ride I was supposed to lead.) I am counting out the hairpin turns, hoping I'd get off of this before anyone came by, when after 9 or 10 one rider shot by. I really get psyched, knowing that I'm NOT going to speed up on the downhill but as soon as the road straightens out..(When the Music's Over: "drum beat-wait...wait...wait, "I want the world and I want it NOW!!"-the "NOW" shoots in my head as soon as the road becomes flat)... Road straightened out, I sprint out, Don is on my wheel and we catch the guy--then ride at his moderate pace for awhile until we again spring off.

We then see a fast two man up the road. We jumped again and get on the back of their wheel--for a second I feel like Museeuw nailing back riders at the end of the 2001 Paris Roubaix. It's like a dream sequence. One guy is doing all of the pulling and the 2nd wheel always looked like he is going to loose the wheel but didn't. We then suddenly hit the Las Galinas neighborhood climb and Don and I went up at a fast but not killer pace, no one went with us, and we were fortuitious to hit the light which another doubles rider had been waiting for. The hard riding since Petaluma has us pass @9 riders. More importantly felt good riding balls out, much better than limping in like at the Eastern Sierra.

Hit the school at 7:35. Jack came in about 5 minutes later. Wouldn't come close to 23rd like last year but this year much more fun riding with Don and Jack, and happy that the doctor I saw 2 1/2 weeks ago would have lost a bet. With the wind the course was slower than last year (2007 top 10 riders excluding pro Cozza averaged 734 minutes, in 2008 775.) and until the final segment we always rode to the slowest rider in our group, and which at any point of the day was any one of us. We also stayed at rest stops longer--83 minutes this year compared to 59 last year--with a larger group you get out of rest stops with the rider who stays the longest.

Almost nightfall and the temperature quickly fell during the low key post ride meal. Earlier it had been set up for 2,500 century riders but now workers were folding up chairs and tables as only @200 double riders remained on the course, most who would come in during the next 2 hours.

Oh yeah, another Triple Crown earned--4th year in a row--but unlike 2005 this was an afterthought. Strange-it is the beginning of August and the serious portion of the bike season is over. Estatic a few weeks later when I learn that even with slower time, finished 28th or 29th of 199 starters.

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