Sunday, June 28, 2009

New and Improved free MT. TAM CENTURY REDUX

(June 27, 2009) New, Improved, Cheep** and Hot Mt. Tam Century, 105 miles, 8500’ climbing 15 mph***, 9-@5:15 w/Ward and Jack (** SIC for you grandma nitpicks, ***includes DOWNHILL traffic jam off of Mt Tam. )(*190 ride rating*) Thanks to Ward for elevation profile--he has the electron microscope out looking for the Seven Sisters on top of Mt. Tam.

Real crappy week for the psyche. Knees hurting all week, used work elevators until Friday—I usually just see them when our outdoor stairs are being pelted by rain. Though finally hot I cut the Tuesday and Wednesday ride short and Thursday nite would have been a good fixed gear ride but nothing doing. Still po’d at myself for cutting 40 minutes off my Terrible Two but dropping down @20 places—I should have tried much harder and not been so laid back preoccupied by the climbs. Would have been a good week to diet in prep for the Death Ride but was garbage eating (late nite) instead, and instantly gained 5 pounds when my ti/carbon bike had to go in for servicing so I’d be riding my steel bike instead with regular chainrings instead of compacts. Usually not a problem but my legs hadn’t yet recovered from the week before.

Weather forecast for the weekend predicted heat—high 90’s for Contra Costa County and high 70’s for Marin---so it seemed that a trip to Marin in lieu of the weekend Club ride might make sense. Ward and Jack were instantly in and we decided to try our century again, though hitting Mt. Tam early. And with California going down the budget craphole, one of the ridiculous options is closing the state parks, so Mt. Tam may be shut down soon. Every day the forecast for the area went up a few degrees, which made cool Marin a nicer option but no one else came aboard. In short the ride and weather was great, and best we avoided the East Bay.

East Bay VS Marin
Walnut Creek High 102 -VS- Olema Valley High 80
Livermore High 104 -VS-
Mt Tam High 90 (762')

Ward’s turn to have brain freeze when he left his bottles at home, reminiscent of my leaving food in car for our Mt-Hammy-Sierra Road Century—I think everyone gets to screw up ONCE and then you hopefully don’t make the same mistake for five years. Luckily Jack had extra water bottles and I had extra drink mix. Then we get a mile from the car and Jack forgot his Hammergel—which you definitely want on a self supported century. So inauspicious beginning.

We followed the Mt. Tam Double route—series of short steep climbs to Big Rock (21 curves in the road) and Redwood lined run down to Nicasio. Short of Nicasio we turn to loop to Fairfax via a few attention getting climbs—and the from Fairfax go up Tam.

Loads of cyclists out—maybe because it’s a nice day, maybe because of the Death Ride in two weeks, so last week to train before “tapering.” Loads of Team in Training folks out with support cars setting up impromptu rest stops—hope these folks are getting $4,000 of support. More important, hope their trainers are teaching them how to ride on the road, as this is usually the three abreast crowd. They were actually on good behavior until the end of the ride when one TiT didn’t know how to move over on a road shoulder.

At the end of the last Climb before Fairfax a few guys shot past—I tried to get on their wheel but couldn’t with legs feeling shot and with heavy bike. I figured that for the rest of the day I’d just yell out—“Mt Tam Double Race in a month—still plenty of time to sign up.” I was also wondering how I'd do 100 miles today.

1st stop-Fairfax 7-11 for water. Lucky we topped off as it was the hottest I ever remember going up Mt. Tam. Quite a few riders going through the neighborhood at the beginning of the climb. Then Ward and I pulled off to take some photos of the summit peaking though a golf course—Jack was all business and kept going. After the golf course the neighborhood ends. We then chased Jack down before the sudden drop into Alpine Dam—which would have been good for more photos but didn’t want to put in a hard effort to catch up with Jack again. While the initial climb is real steady, after Alpine Dam the grade kicks up a notch with steep hairpins. It is also densely wooded—the exact opposite of Mt. Hamilton. Ward and I pushed each other—as we had to make sure to get to the top way before Jack so we could get his photo. Meanwhile we run into lots of other cyclists. (1) I'm in front of the golf course. after this the climb up Mt. Tam becomes more rustic. The Tam peak is behind me. (2) Jack turning onto the Mt. Tam summit and the start of the rollers, hope he didn't piss off the woman with the guns (3) Ward on one of the rollers, with the cloud cover over the Pacific Ocean off to the side.
On Mt. Tam once you get to the top you really aren’t at the top—there is about 5-6 miles of attention getting uphill rollers nicknamed the Seven Sisters. I LOVE ROLLERS where you can stand and fly over them without a long downhill to navigate, and here I open it up – we catch up to and pass a group that had gone by when we were fn around with the camera. Looking West—the Pacific is hidden by the usual thick cloud cover but luckily the cloud cover is low so we wouldn’t be descending into the fog (worst weather I’ve ever seen at nearby Pt Reyes Lighthouse has been in the summer.) Nice group of cyclists, one coed we passed yelled out encouragement when we flew by, while. Ward was encouraged by some of the coeds minimal cycling outfits.

It’s hot on the Seven Sisters and I have almost drained both bottles. I remember needing water years ago and finding a water fountain a rustic amphitheatre off the beaten path so we turn for the 2nd rest stop shortly after the Pan Toll--Panoramic Cutoff. Good that we stopped as I almost drained another full bottle by the time we got to the end of the road. Jack near the finish of Ridgeline Road at the top of Mt. Tam-San Francisco far in the background (Wardphoto)

Before getting to the end Ward and I stopped for some photos. Every year on the Mt Tam double we come around a curve and I wish that I had packed a camera and wasn’t racing—beautiful view of San Francisco usually rising through low cloud cover. Then Ward spots Mt. Diablo way past the Mt. Tam peak, so we look for a good place to get that photo. Then it is a few fast downhills ending in a semi-steep climb to a little rest area with a snackbar. Rest stop #3—it was after 1:15, we’ve been climbing all day, and we had ridden less than 40 miles. I had packed a PBJ sandwich and got a Diet Coke at the snack bar. (1) Hot day but still hazy/ foggy looking out to San Francisco. (2) Facing East it is real sunny and clear with Mt. Diablo peaking out.

Funny thing about heat. Last week the day started off cool—and my back was stiff, knee hurt and breathing not the greatest (cool damp air not great for exercise induced asthma.) But with cool weather the energy level stays high. Today knee and back felt great, breathing was great, and legs eventually felt good. Heat is wonderful for muscles. Conversely the heat is an energy zapper, and I felt a little drained by the heat, which is harder to recover from.

Three ways to go down Mt. Tam towards the Coast. The Mt Tam Double goes south to Muir Woods, which would be very crowded this time of day.. One goes north of the Beach area—which is probably what we should have taken We took the middle route to Stinson Beach, well paved, tree lined, not that many cars passing. When we were about half way down we hit a pocket of cool ocean air which felt refreshing enough to zip up ones jersey. Well it was nice until the last ½-1 mile when traffic came to a DEAD STOP before Highway 1—the two lane road had a massive traffic jam through town as this late in the day had no parking open. Ward rode on the right side—squeezing past cars but it seemed 1 out of every 10 cars had angled right and were blocking the narrow shoulder. I rode the double yellow line on the left which had much more room, but still had to ride downhill slower than I went up Ft, Ross last week and needed to stop many times.. (Finally beat Ward & Jack on a downhill.)

We get to Stinson which has so many people it looks a little like Midtown Manhattan. So no stop at the General Store. We get 10-15 blocks out of town and cars are still parking along Hwy 1—heck I can buy one of those 6 person bike-trams and cart folks from their parked car to the beach.

Here we cruise along Highway 1 on section that is featured on the Mt. Tam Double-roller after roller after roller. Did I mention I love rollers!!! What do you expect from someone with a shitty spin (though getting better) but I can stand on the bike for a long time over and over and over. We all are working together well and get a nice paceline going. When we get to Olema Ward “invents” a new loop (Bear Valley Road) that takes us off Highway 1 until our run into Pt. Reyes Station..

Rest stop #4--Late in the day at Pt. Reyes Station not overrun with cyclists as usual. Great Bovine Bakery had plenty of whole wheat vegan scones—and for once plenty of room to sit outside. Save the scone for tomorrow with coffee, now an ice fruit bar hits the spot. We sat near an elderly lady who was real interested in our cycling group dynamics, and was more politically hip than most 20 year olds. Think it was first time at bakery and NO COFFEE for anyone. Rest stop at a quiet Bovine Bakery-Pt Reyes Station
Back on Highway 1, with a long flat section until rollers again started. This time we got an inconsistent headwind—first we were getting help when the road turned to the right, and hindered when it turned to the left—but after a while this observation went down the toilet. Here we were no longer right on the ocean like at Stinson Beach nor sheltered by the Pt. Reyes National Seashore, but were next to Tomales Bay, a calm inlet speckled with funky oyster houses. We all took long pulls and suddenly were in Marshall where we’d head inland in the direction counter of what we usually do.

Sudden climb away from the Coast and it got warm—fast.. As we usually do Marshall Road in the other direction I was trying to recall what course should be like—after the initial climb course was relatively fast heading East with a few more rollers thrown in. Very isolated road but very little traffic. Pavement “Marin Choppy” (not terrible but never really smooth)—and it seemed we had ridden over the cobblestones today with all the uneven pavement. Just another thing combined with the heat to make us slightly drained.

Pass the antique school house that would be a historic treasure back east, and is a rest stop on the Mt. Tam Double, and just when water bottles drained again we pull into rest stop #5, the Cheese Factory picnic grounds. Nice shaded table by the lake provides a little heat relief. In the heat feet were swelling so time to loosen shoes.

After a pleasant rest stop, even Jack wasn’t in a rush to leave, we had the climb of the Cheese Factory hill and then the fast run in through Nicasio that ALWAYS gets an afternoon tail wind. I forgot how easy the Cheese Factory Hill is (it’s the one on this road closer to Petaluma that is difficult)—on the downhill stayed close to Ward and Jack, and I went to the front for one of my favorite stretches once we made the left turn to Nicasio.

Nice wide smooth shoulder along a road with minimal traffic but enough where you want to stay in the shoulder. Usual tailwind. Our three man is flying when we come across two Team needs more Training cyclists riding side by side. I call out “on your left,” woman on the left doesn’t move. We wind up passing very close—riding the shoulder/ road line, luckily no passing cars, as we hear woman say to significant other “I didn’t want to ride in the dirt.” Ride in the fn dirt???—you’re 3 feet away from any dirt. You don’t HAVE TO ride fn side to side, front and back would actually help you draft and allow others to pass. But this has been such a great ride I just thought this while laughing instead of stopping and yelling out.

Left turn and now “up” Lucas Valley Road—through the tall redwoods, aka dense shade which felt great. “Up” as you are actually climbing, but with the tailwind you can go at speed. Years ago, after knee surgery, I was shocked at hitting 20 mph on a climb, no matter how slight. We kept a nice paceline until we came close to Big Rock, where the grade kicks up. I’ll blame Jack for upping the pace, I stayed on his wheel, and the heat finally got to Ward. On the downhill with 21 curves, I stayed close enough to Jack that I could bridge up to him once the road flattened out. Ward, who flies down descents, was stuck behind some cars so he didn’t rejoin for the final fast flat run back to the cars.

105 miles in! I felt real good and figured we did 6,200’ climbing but I underestimated by a lot, Ward got 8,500.’ Route was great—rest stops were perfectly placed. I’d do this again on any hot day—only change might be coming off Tam on Bolinas Road instead of the Pantoll-Panoramic Highway that becomes the Panoramic Parking lot.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


(May 20, 2009) THE TERRIBLE TWO, 200 miles, 16,400' climbing, 5:30-8:35, started w/ Jack. 118 of 221 starters (47%); 183 finishers (*501 ride rating*)

The Terrible Two--the real Death Ride. View of hill North of Trinity and South of the Geysers, but kind of climb we'd have to go over and back between Sonoma to Napa Valley. Then the hard climbs to and back from the Coast would start.

I did this ride in 2005 when I thought I'd fade out, and did well, finishing with Jack. Then did this ride in 2006 when I figured I'd do well and it was one of the epic 100 degree TT's when a third of the riders don't finish--I finished but I don't know how. The next two years daughter events precluded me from suffering again--until now.

The TT is traditionally the double with the 2nd most climbing (new Alta Alpina double has dropped the TT to 3rd.) Its climbs are not nearly as long as Devil Mountain Double's, but are much steeper.

After focusing so heavily on the DMD, then the TT suddenly popping up after the Eastern Sierra Hailstorm, I really hadn't done any special training, nor lost the proverbial "last 5 pounds" for the TT (in 2005 I had made a pilgramage to the Gold Country for my old mini TT.)

But luckily I've been going up Mt. Diablo every Tuesday and Wednesday--Ward and I have extended the Tuesday ride to a 40 miler, coming up the North side and going down and around the South side. Wednesday has been a hammerfest where more and more cyclist stay ahead of me--as we've been joined by a solid group of 20 year olds. Road cycling lost the 30 year olds to Mountain biking but Lanciepoo did inspire 20 year olds to get into road cycling. So while it used to be that 36-37m to the half way point was good enough to be 6 minutes behind cyclecross champ Mark but finish ahead of all of the other 40+ year olds, now a 36m still means 6 minutes behind Mark and 1-2 minutes behind the youngsters. But its good training riding real hard chasing as one youngster invariably falls apart for going out so fast, and then recovering and continuing up Diablo.

Otherwise feel real good, especially after finishing the Eastern Sierra. Though my climbing speed has declined my descending has improved. Will be interesting when we hit the Geysers downhill, and other twisty potholed Santa Rosa descents--all which used to instill fear. Hopefully the fear level will be less. (planned to put 25mm Verensteens on my bike just for this section but they've been out of stock for a month.) Since the Davis Double it has been unseasonable cool, which meant that it would probably be a scorcher on Saturday, but weather forecast calls for a warm Friday with a milder Saturday--though winds of 10-23 mph with gusts of 30 are also expected.

Unfortunately, another double with not a lot of teammates. Terrible Two is not especially recumbent friendly, Dave is going to do the Grand Tour to complete his triple crown--and swears he'll never do one again. Ward swears he'll never do a double--even after I relayed the blog of the coed triathlete that was so cold on Eastern Sierra that she climbed into a ditch and hugged a friend for 30 minutes. Joe and Don taking it easier this year, and Steve's double career was ended by injury on this ride 2 years ago. CA Mike is now HA Mike; Domo Tom and Doug also moved. So it will be me and Jack, who has put the pie plate on for this event. With a x34 chainring my gearing now at 34 gi instead of 36 gi-hopefully my back will stay intact. Plan to take a training ride the day before--do the end of the course backwards so wouldn't be so strange at (hopefully) dusk if riding solo.

Day before take the long way to Santa Rosa to get around the NASCAR traffic clusterfuck--so start off on a warm up ride late in the day. Santa Rosa is a suburban design hellhole--endless dead end streets, subdivions next to shanties next to farms, road shoulders suddenly disappearing on busy roads, and takes "the broken glass capitol of the world" title away from Antioch. After meandering about I finally get to Sebastopol, where the Terrible Two begins. Pass many vineyards and traffic has quieted down so much nicer--and I enjoy the giant metal animal folk art sculpture that dot the area. Only bad thing is that Sonoma County doesn't believe in fixing the pavement on their roads, so many potholes and crack to be avoided. I turn around when the road kicks up significantly and ride back to Sebastopol to look for a pasta house in order to avoid Santa Rosa endless strip malls. Note to self--next time I do the TT just drive out to Monte Rio and go for a bike ride before checking in at a Santa Rosa dive.

Santa Rosa Sebastopol area home to some funky metal sculpture--when I came to CA I used to go gaga over the sight of grapes growing, now no big deal--unless dog art among the vineyards. This was within 10 miles of the finish--if I didn't see it the day before we would have missed the dogs in the vineyard.

Terrible Two 2009

Weather report is iffy--a little too cool for me with high winds called for in the afternoon. I opted for a tee shirt and no knee warmers--Jack would opt for knee warmers but no tee shirt. No definite signal on how to dress, and you didn't want to drag excess clothes up extended 12-15% climbs. Early morning check in

Mass start at 5:30 but strangely you can't check in the day before, you show up, grab your number and get ready. No big deal but the check in-number on jersey procedure means getting to the start 15 minutes earlier. Also one guy's toilet stall. Otherwise everything the Santa Rosa Cycling Club does is spot on. This ride might feature the worst paved roads in the Bay Area but has the greatest support. Loads of drop bag options, food, Hammergel and Hammercaps and friendly volunteers, who later would be whooping it up when cheering riders pulling into rest stops.

Had two sportsbars in pocket and also grabbed a bagel to stuff in jersey pocket--as FIRST REST STOP AT MILE 55--NOT A TYPO--ALMOST A METRIC CENTURY WITHOUT A STOP!!, and you better consume enough carbs by the time you arrive, around 3 hours later.

After being told by "ride" director that "this is not a race"--"exercise caution".....the "race" starts with a 20-24 mph tightly packet pelaton that goes through Santa Rosa with a pace car supposedly tripping lights. Well sometimes it didn't and at 5:45 not much traffic and no cyclist, even Jack (who stops for yellows on Club riders) stopping for the red lights. A few sudden slowdowns, a few cyclists suddenly veering into the pelaton when their lane suddenly ends or a pothole appears, I was glad when abut mile 12 we get into Bennett Valley--and rollers start which starts breaking up the pack.

We soon hit Trinity Grade--a Diablo like climb that is about 1/3 as long but has a few steep sections thrown in. It was soon apparent that I was riding much differently than in 2006, when I last did the TT. In 2005-06, whether racing Tom up the Geysers or hanging on Ish's wheel when speeding over the rollers to the Geysers, I would always try to catch up with anyone in front of me--and even if I failed (which I did often) I'd still try again and again. Today, mindful that I needed to protect my back I just set a good but not killer pace. Stopped at the @25 mile water stop near the top to do a Sierra Club dedication, and put on my vest and arm warmers. Grizzly Mark came by when I first stopped and Jack when I started up again. Long twisty downhill where I kept Jack in (very far away) sight, was able to catch up to him in the flats, we got into a paceline of about a half dozen when at mile 32 we were set for a real cool tour of the Napa Valley.

Uncle Steve, Queen Kitty and I have disagreed over the years what ride is harder--Devil Mountain or the Terrible Two. Steve says DMD is harder as TT times are so much faster--which they are. But TT times are faster because in between the pernicious climbs are very fast straightaways that are paceline inducing--and the 16 miles down the Silverado Trail was one of these fast sections.

Before getting on Silverado I saw another paceline down the road--and it was the only time Jack or I took a long pull, for we soon helped catch the other group and we now had a dozen riders; no one ever passed us and we'd pick up about another half dozen on our way to Calistoga. Near the end two riders came out of the line to break away to the rest stop (wondered how they fared for the remaining 145 miles.) but for once I didn't chase--mindful how 1/3 of the riders died out in 2006. Calistoga Rest Stop-- Mile 55, +10 ahead of my 2006 time, 17.9mph avg (note 2005 start was 5 miles closer and 11 miles added to the back end so not compatible.)

Grizzly Mark hadn't left the rest stop yet, Jack still doing something, and I was quickly good to go (though forgot to squirt in some Hammergel in my refortified Perpetuem mix.) Only problem was long line for 2 outhouses that had trouble accommodating the large paceline groups arriving at the same time. I figured I'd pass a public park, so I took off through town looking down side streets. In retrospect maybe I should have hit a golf center clubhouse, as I was soon out of town and among vineyards out in the open. Mark flew by and said Jack behind being pulled by a tandem, then Jack quickly arrived with a few other cyclists. Next section was gradual roller which I'd usually excel at but bad knee was twinging and I did need another Sierra Club dedication. Our paceline flew around one corner where there were suddenly a few cutouts and trees lining the road and it was time to stop and whizz. I figure I'd catch up to Jack on the next climb but his tandem led paceline group would be faster than my 4 man, and I'd never see Jack or Mark again-- I'll have to learn how to whizz off the bike to get faster.

Continued on for 14 miles of easy rollers among vineyards with some classic homes and densely wooded undeveloped land and joined by three other cyclists--two from the Auburn area, where we formed a fast four man. I should say 1+3 man, as one cyclist did 50%+ of the pulling. We passed a good woman rider with a cool orange bike (she was jealous of my orange helmet) who joined us. Riding out of character. Knee was sore so when our pace slowed I DIDN'T go to the front to keep the pace up. NOT throwing caution to the wind, near the start of the Geyser climb I thought we were going to hard and I dropped out, which kind of disrupted the paceline and it all slowed. I was being being overly cautious--already hurting and dreading the climbs.

At mile 76, the Geyser Climb is almost as long as Diablo with many more steep sections--the only saving grace in the middle being a downhill recovery section that then makes you reclimb. Again far cry from my 2006 mentality when I took Tom up on his offer to "race you to the top." Saw stupid cycling move of the day was guy in front obviously weaving wide up the climb when girl wearing headphones goes to pass withOUT shouting out a warning, and they almost collide. I had stopped to take off arm warmers before the climb and was now cursing still wearing the tee shirt--though a chilling breeze would intermittently blow through it would quickly return to being too fn warm while trying to navigate up a steep section with my knee hurting and my back twinging (not hurting but I could feel the strain on it.) And what was the fn reward when reaching the top of the climb, a long long downhill along unstable terrain marked by cracks, potholes and grave.

Top of the climb, rest stop, mile 86, +1 ahead of 2006. So lost time between rest stop 1 & 2. I figured that on the climb I had a good chance of seeing Jack, but I didn't so I suspected I wouldn't seem him at all the rest of the day--especially as he'd handle the next 14 mile pothole/gravel rollercoast well and I'd be riding my brakes.

The good news is that they patched most of the pot holes and cracks, though it looked like some derelict did the job. When I told someone they fixed the Geysers Road they looked at me like I was nuts, as the patch jobs were "not the best.' There were also three 100-200' sections of gravel, with one scary fast downhill gravel section--where trying to ride a part without much gravel meant keeping your wheel straight while rumbling over a tractor tire imprint.

The patch job and more confidence on downhills than in 2006 did have me almost enjoy this section. Of course a few cyclists went past, but on downhill sections I never chase. Stopped once to dig out Naproxen, which was bad, as earliest I had to dig out to take any for my knee in years.

Came out of the Geysers with woman on orange bike. Saw one rider about 600' up the road and a couple of riders about 1/4 mile up. Told her that if we dig in we can catch all three and first time since Oakville Cross Road I put in a serious effort all day. We got up to first guy, wearing mountain bike shorts, but he was a strong rider and after we caught him he took a long pull. We then came up to the other two riders right when serious rollers started on Dutcher Creek Road, in the opposite direction of the Wine Country Century route. I went to the front and kept the pace up, pointing to the sky before I stood (as CA Mike said that one had to do on brevets.) Mountain bike guy yells "oh wow, look at that"--above is the strangest rainbow I had ever seen. Looked like a giant multicolored kite in the sky, mountain bike short guy said he wouldn't have looked up but he thought I was pointing to something.

On one message board, Chrisoco posted this photo of the rainbow kite with his ride report Rolled into lunch stop, mile 111, at 12:44, 16.3 mph; 6 minutes faster than 2006. (1st person on the road had pulled in at 11:18, 1:34:00 ahead) One volunteer grabbed my bike to park it for me and then took my bottles to fill them. Didn't see Jack, I can imagine he was the fastest person out of the lunch stop. I hung out for a reasonable 15 minutes before hitting the park restroom down the road (in lieu of outhouses.) Made to order sandwiches were being prepared--brave person before me had a Kitty special--big roll-mustard, mayo- ham, roast beef, cheese, onions, pickles, guacomole, I ordered the Doug special--2 slices of wheat with some deli meat. Another table had a hole array of Hammer products. Some riders looked like they we on the Wine Country Century and looked like they had settled in for the afternoon--others were quickly stoking up and leaving for the 15 mile Skaggs Climb. In 2006 this shadeless climb in the heat spelled death for 1/3 of the riders.

Today the climb was still oppressively steep but pleasant most of the way--high winds were forecast but it was relatively calm and sky was slightly overcast. Ride was really stretching out. I caught a few people, only one person kind of (see below) caught me--but most of all the good climbers were about a 1/2 hour ahead with Mark and Jack. One young guy wearing a Death Ride jersey easily caught up to me, asked me a little about the course, and then pulled away. NO I WASN'T GOING TO CHASE, remembering almost dying at a Skaggs water stop in 2006. Funny thing though, he got about 300' ahead and then suddenly stopped and drooped over bike . I yelled out if he was OK, he just said he was winded--I got a little ahead and he again went flying by again, and again stopped 300' ahead. He rejoined when I went past again, I saw he was running "young person gearing" x23 or x25, which would kill him on the later climbs if it didn't get him on Skaggs. I told him about the double summit peak so he might pace himself. But he was again soon off and again parked up the road. This time when I passed him I didn't see him again.

Skaggs starts off hard--steeper than Diablo, and then there is a left turn and it kicks up even more. My back was behaving itself on this climb and though my knee had a dull pain it hadn't gotten any worse. I was trying to remember where the end of the climb was, but really couldn't--only remembered the bridge at the bottom before the climb of the second summit. Stopped at the first water stop (water stop with drink mix) and refilled though didn't really need to. The climb had started with a few cars towing boats but now we were infrequently passed by a motorcycle, if it was a car/ van it was probably a sag vehicle. Fast descent down to the bridge--a few cyclists passed me but I repassed most on the climb out though not really chasing anyone so not paying attention to other cyclists like I usually do. Just riding my opwn pace. All of a sudden got to a second water stop, the one I camped out at for 20 minutes in 2006 before Kitty came in yelling at me. I asked the workers how far to the top--they said it was right around the corner.

Now 11 miles of slight downhill with a slight headwind out to the Coast, on a beautiful rustic road. Joined by a local woman also riding a Litespeed who liked my bikes paint job. Along the way we picked up passing or were joined by a few more cyclists--again, real strange I wasn't paying attention to placement. I was thinking more of the Annapolis 1.7 mile killer climb to the Coast and the 2.6 killer climb back in at Ft. Ross, both steep or steeper than Sierra Road where my back went out each time this year.

Nice wooded rest stop at Gualala, mile 139. Now 35 minutes ahead of 2006, average speed tumbled to 15.1 mph. Only stayed for 9 minutes as no avoiding pain--the Annapolis Wall.

The Annapolis wall goes up 900' in 1.7 miles (and then was followed by a serious but shallower 300' climb) For comparison the end of Mt. Diablo, the steepest section which includes the ramp, goes up 690' in the last 1.7 miles--so this is @30% harder.

Go over a funky old bridge and then onto THE WALL--though it really isn't I swore that the whole thing was as steep as the Diablo ramp. First few transitions to standing were OK, then back started hurting but WAS NOT going to get off the bike--figuring it was half the length of Sierra Road and 1/2 way up Sierra was when I usually had to get off and stretch. After any ballbuster section I'd yell out some James Brown "Payback"--a great song one can jumble up words just to get some yelling in.

"Hit Me--Good God-HIT ME--AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH!!, Hey. I know you heard of Master Gee--but you head nuttin until you heard JB--HA HA. Good God. HIT ME -AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!"

Who needs an IPOD?

Another double peaked climb where passed by a few riders on the downhill who I caught up to and passed on the second peak. Here I put in an effort as I had to start down the Coast before them so I wouldn't get droppedon the final downhill and we could form a paceline. But when I got to the top and pulled off to slip on vest no one else came over the top so I solo’d down to the Coast.

The Coast was beautiful (and I often say big deal we’ve all seen the Pacific)—but it was really a special day. Cool but warmer than it had been earlier in the day at Trinity--full sun and big whitecaps along mostly desolate beach. Strong tailwind and moderate crosswind. Highway 1 starts out flat and tailwind was huge, but later on rollers start and a few times the road loops uphill towards the ocean where met with a block headwind. A lone rider about ½ mile up the road when I started but I didn't come any closer so and I soon gave up thoughts of catching him/ her. Looked back a few times and no paceline coming up. Surprised when still on the flat part whem suddenly passed by a guy towing the woman who admired my Lightspeed earlier.

I jumped on and it seems the impetus went out of the guy as soon as he passed me. But every time the woman went to take the lead the guy would speed up—not steady riding at all. When we hit the first roller that turned into the wind I almost rolled into both of them—on the next roller I took the lead and they couldn’t stay with me on the rollers that followed. A fast guy in a Columbia Kit who passed me on flats all day shot by—I thought about getting on his wheel but Ft. Ross was on the back of my mind. Even with no back problems in 2005 & 2006 my back went out on the Fuckin Ft. Ross climb.

Pulled into Ft. Ross rest stop, mile 163, at 5:23, 14.8 average, 45 minutes earlier than 2006 where I had done 15 minutes of nighttime riding with Grizzly Mark. Now, if I survived the Fuckin Ft. Ross Climb I was assured of finishing in daylight.

Got out of Ft. Ross rest stop in 6 minutes. That rest stop was being hit by the strong cool wind, but I knew enough to make sure my vest and arm warmers were off. Even though most of the Fuckin Ft. Ross 2.6 mile climb is in the shade—it gets fn hot when going up 1500’. Again in comparison to the steep END of Diablo, where the last 2.9 miles goes up 1090’, this is @50% harder. Yeah—I know Mt. Diablo is 11 miles, well, this is after 163 miles!!.

Actually the first ¼ miles isn’t steep—I forgot about that. Then just when I thought it wasn't that bad the section after section seemingly as steep as the Diablo ramp began, with very very tiny relief sections (that still go up.) Cool air all around and I’m sweating profusely. Back starts hurting almost immediately, but I wasn’t getting off the fn bike. My odometer dropped to 3.2 mph—I didn’t realize that you could go that slow, and frequently looked to see if I could possibly go any slower. Started doing wheelies while sitting so stood more and more, and for longer times than my customary 100 pedal reps as the transition was where my back pain was especially acute. Finally saw some light coming through the trees—the false flat before a few more ramp like sections, but I knew I was going to make it.

A the top pull of to put on vest-arm warmers for the last 35 miles which I wrongly recalled were mostly downhill, or deep in shade. I had conveniently forgotten how long the uphills were—the places in years past I caught back to Jack or Grizzly Mark when getting dropped on the twisty, rough road downhills. When ready to go a guy wearing the new Alta Alpina 8 Pass jersey came by—I was impressed as that was a freezing wet clusterfuck and not to many people did all passes so we started bsing and riding in together. At one point he exclaims “YOU'RE THE FAMOUS JAY!!”—huh—turns out Mick actually reads this blog (so now an audience of 3,000,000,000,001) and had sent me some feedback on the Eastern Sierra ride and the support that was “not the best.” (Though he sounded like Phil Liggett he used terms I never heard Phil use.)

Though I thought serious climbing done, the downhill off of Ft. Ross Road is twisty and steep with lousy pavement, puncuated by steep climbs that are longer than “rollers.” I did my usual job of losing contact with the group on the downhill and then riding back on the uphill. This is the area Uncle Steve broke his neck in 2007, flying over the “tree root pavement bumps.” Downhill was no fun but having to ride hard to get back to the group was energizing.

Finally, fully energized when while turning on the 4 miles of rollers of Austin Creek Road—rollers being my favorite. I was talking to Mick when two guys shot past. Usually I would be on their wheel immediately but still complacent when Mick jokingly yelled out “hey, this isn’t a race.” That got me out of my 180 mile lethergy and I said something like “lets catch them” which we did and then I continued to ride hard to drop these guys. A few miles of real hard riding when pulled into the last rest stop, mile 184 at Monte Rio, at 7:24--43 minutes ahead of 2006. 14.3 average.

One of the great bike riding treats is pulling into the Monte Rio rest stop. If the earlier stops were great this is great to the zillionth power. Someone yells riders coming in and all the rest stop workers cheer. Again someone grabs my bike—another person grabs my bottles to fill them up. My drop bag with lights is here and another voluenteer sets them up on the bike.

Only 16 miles to the finish, plenty of daylight but the 5 miles of the Bohemiam Highway is densly tree lined. All approaching cars have their lights on and my bike and helmet blinkers are on. We hit a few more uphill sections after I told Mick the run into the end was mostly downhill, he jokingly complained about my lousy memory but hey, he just did 8 Death Ride passes. The High Road kit rider who I passed all day on hills and who repassed me on flats shot by, I sprinted out to get on his wheel but at this point 1 minute wasn’t going to make much of a difference so slowed to regroup. We soon hit the section I had ridden yesterday, marked by the three dogs guarding the grapes. We had a three man and unlike earlier in the day, whenever our group started lagging I went to the front so we could preserve placement. Got stuck at the red light guarding 116—first light we saw since Santa Rosa in early morning. Another little uphill and we were back in at 8:35—to a group of cheering workers.

Have mixed feeling about my ride. My original goal was to get in before dark and did that with a half hour to spare. But I was riding as if it was 2006 with the course being 100 degrees and conserving too much—the course was much faster today. (Only 20% DNF’d today, 35% did in 2006.) Though I rode the course 40 minutes faster I was 16 places behind my 2006 placement. Skaggs, Annapolis Wall and Ft. Ross were still killers—but muscle killer that you can recover from, not the heat sapping killer that suddenly ends your ride if you overtax yourself.

Great pasta buffet at the end. Grizzly Mark has finished 45 minutes earlier but hung out so I joined him. Long weary drive home where I'd get 3 hours sleep before rolling into the car for more sleep before going down the Coast to meet my daughter for father's day. Good times.

Keeping in mind that I came in about midfield--the same local guy who "always" wins the TT came in almost 4 hours ahead of me. As impressive, one guy (45 y/o) on a fixed gear set a fixed gear course record--finished 42nd and came in 1 1/2 hours ahead of me. Wonder what kind of gearing the guy had to make it up 14-18% climbs and maintain speed on the flat sections.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Cheep (Sic) MT. TAM CENTURY

(June 13, 2009) Nicasio-Cheese Factory-Marshall Wall-Pt. Reyes Station-Mt. Tam (almost), $$FREE$$, 90 miles, w/ Jack, Ward (who cheated getting into sheriff's car) , Chris and Diablo Cyclists for for first 60 miles.

"You Can't Control Everything"-James Brown

This has been the year of bonus miles suddenly ending by bike failure. A few months ago my wheel crapped out while coming down Mines Road. Now it was Ward's turn.

We had a great club ride scheduled, a metric tour of the rolling hills around Mt. Tam. Unfortunately great March weather--in June--been dreary and cold since a week of hot weather in May. We had a nice sized group and a spirited ride around Nicasio, to the Marshall Wall, and looping down Highway 1 and back to Pt. Reyes. With racer (sprinter) James and (climber) Mark the pace was always high, though everyone did a good job keeping the group together albeit assorted James + 2-3 off the front at different times. I'd try to open it up at the same places I try on the Mt. Tam Double.
Rumor has it Ward will be exhibiting photos at next year's Art At the Cheese Factory show--this year the winning art were the bathrooms.

Good stop at Bovine Bakery in Pt. Reyes Station--the pastries are so big that most folks soon looking to share what they bought. For once they at loads of whole wheat vegan scones. I think this is 2nd best bakery in California.

I thought a finishing climb up Mt. Tam and back would be perfect prep for the Terrible Two, and Jack (also upcoming Terrible Two) and Chris (upcoming Death Ride) jumped in, as did Ward. So plan was to add 45-50 miles to the 60 mile group ride. Thought we'd have a few more join us as after all, everyone is bitching at the $75 it now costs to ride the Marin Century/ Mt Tam Century--and this was free!!

(above) I'm ringing the peace bell (below) Diablo Cyclist women's group also contemplate peace and how to match their bar tape and drink color to their outfits. (ward-o-photo)

So after 50 miles we departed from the larger group and headed to Mt. Tam, usually quiet hippyville Fairfax was crowded with a street faire--I haven't seen that much tie-dye in years. Quick stop at 7-11 where it actually started to get warm and the climb up to Tam among the densely shaded road was nice, even with the arm and knee warmers finally off. Chris had never done this climb and we kept trying to fool her--on the drop down to Lake Alpine where we have to start reclimbing "we're at the top, we're at the top." She's too smart to believe me.

At one point Ward stops as his wheel has a little play--which foreshadows things to come. But up the modestly graded road until a hairpin appears, where the road kicks up significantly. I kept trying to note where the end is, so I'd know where I could open it up on the Mt. Tam Double--think the last mile marker to the entrance to the park is 10.22.

We make the turn onto the top of Mt. Tam which now means 6 miles of rollers along the top. We hit the 2nd one and Ward powers up. I go to close the gap and Ward looks like he's been hit by a Klingon tractor beam--his chain jumped in the space between the cassette and the spokes--and after 15 minutes he couldn't pry it loose. I'd go back to the car and drive back for Ward--but that would probably take 3 hours.

On the way back we passed a parked car that looked like a park ranger--so we went over to ask him if he could drive Ward off Mt. Tam. Got close--oh shit--it's a sheriff--that ain't gonna happen. Oh what the F, still rode over and asked and to my surprise the sheriff said sure--he'd rive up the road and drive Ward down to Fairfax.

Some time later Jack, Chris and I were going down when we heard Ward yell from the sheriff's truck "car back." He was waiting for us on the corner of Fairfax, said he'd check out the hippy chicks and then go a few blocks down to a bike store where he'd wait for me to drive back.


Luckily Jack had come across a "shortcut" between Fairfax and Lucas Valley Road--where we were parked, that involved a hidden bike path. The good news is that Jack found the shortcut--the bad news is that it involved two 17-18% climbs. (What kids use this path for cycling--the next Greg LeMond??--Butterfield, Fawn Drive, Trail Though Sleepy Hollow Open Sapce, Freitas Parkway)

So we cut about 10-15 miles off the return trip and drove back to pick up Ward while it actually got sunny. OK--didn't do the 110-120 miles as planned, but still wound up with 91 miles of climbing.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


(June 6, 2009) EASTERN SIERRA REROUTED DOUBLE, solo in rain, snow & hail. 189 miles, @11-12,000' climbing, 14.6mph. 5:00-7:28 including numerous stops to put on and take off rain gear, take photos, and get my annual nap in the desert. 54th of 176 starters (top 30%)--only 103 folks finished (59%)

A few days before the event we get an email from Planet Ultra, the double organizers:
"The weather forecast for Saturday is...June Lake-high 37 with 30% chance of rain...The event will be held, rain or shine, warm or cold...Be advised that it's NOT POSSIBLE to SAG 225+ riders...Do not start the ride thinking that you'll ride part way and get a ride back if you're cold. We're not equipt for that. NO event organizer could be."
Typical Planet Ultra--typical lawyer bs language-- they haughtily argue about pissing in public and then on their ride--when they spend no money for outhouses--it's OK.

This is typical Planet Ultra. Of course any other ride organizer would get everyone sagged in. Instead of reasonably indicating that mass sags may lead to a delay of 1-3 hours getting someone back to the start, due to logistics, they basically say "screw you." (Ironically on event day Planet Ultra did a good job sagging riders in.) No wonder a couple of clubmates who do doubles have sworn off Planet Ultra rides. Only Professor Dave on the recumbent is also signed up for this--and with the climbing front end of the course and fast end of the course we'll have trouble riding together.

Apprehensive going into the event as 1) last year blew up on Sagehen, last climb of the day, 2) weather forecast. By midweek:
Bishop (ele 4198') 40% chance of showers and thunderstorms, mostly cloudy with a high of 78
Lee Vining (7652') 50% chance of showers and thunderstorms after 11am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 57.

For details of the route please see last year's ride report. Briefly it starts in Bishop and heads north to Mono Lake (Lee Vining), taking numerous side loops whenever possible, and gets to 8000'. Then the ride goes SE and SW through desolate high valley. In any event after the rain-soaked Santa Rosa Wine Country Century--I ran out and bought a decent cycling rain jacket, rain pants, waterproof socks and gloves. (Capo Mortirolo jacket--highly recommended!!)

The good news is Donna going with me to see this incredible area. It is SO DIFFERENT than anything else, she had to see it. So different as the 4,000-8,000' valley is seemingly at sea level, as surrounded by snow capped 14,000' mountains. You can go miles in some areas (including the main roads) without seeing anyone. Bishop, the BIG town in the area is like the town that time forgot, with a big main street filled with mom & pop stores--it is almost like a museum piece for anyone who wants to see what small town USA looked like in the 1950's.

Two reasons to go to the Bishop area--Mono Lake and Schat's Bakery.Mt. Whitney and Death Valley (highest and lowest points in continental USA) both to the South, and I've never been South of Bishop. Wondered what the area South of Bishop looked like. I'd get my wish.

In any event took my "rain bike" down to Bishop, put back on a rack to carry my brevet bag (which is a modified Adidas Cleats bag) and a front fender.

Friday's forecast was slightly worse than Saturday's and after waiting until 10am Donna and I took off for a bike tour of the area. It was sunny over Bishop but heavy clouds, some black, way to the North. On the Eastern Sierra Century, after circling the ranchland on the outskirts of town you head North and climb up to a subdivision featuring "The Farside House" (see photos from last year.) We started on the "heading North" stretch expecting to get wet but it stayed sunny and calm--the only time we got wet is when we had to ride over the watered down sand on a road under repair, with me thinking I hope Planet Ultra knows about this/ and warns everyone about this tomorrow. Donna was amazed how we were surrounded by gigantic snow capped mountains you could almost touch and there wasn't any people or any cars in sight. We'd pass isolated buildings (eg. fire station, schoolhouse) but all void of life. We finally saw a couple of cars close to the subdivison and then it was fast back to Bishop when we connected with Highway 395 and rode on the shoulder--passed by a car every 30-40 seconds. We only had 45 miles when we got back to Bishop. Still sunny though ominous to the far North, so we then did the Eastern Sierra's initial circling of the ranchland around Bishop. First time I had ever seen it in real light, as usually illuminated by moonlight and just a hint of the rising sun when we start at 5am. Our day before warmup ride in Bishop started out with overcast skies, with mountains hoovering all around. Quickly out of town and into nearby ranchland--the mountains always nearby, and the sun broke through by the time we got to the Far Side House. We then did the E. Line-Warm Springs flat loop around the outskirts of town, still desolate-so Donna and I did the first @45 miles of the regular route, unfortunately tomorrow would be highly irregular.
Get to checkin and see Nevada Doug who 1) loves to start doubles, and 2) loves to give Planet Ultra shit for things like not providing ice on 90 degree days...He tells us that they are changing the route for tomorrow. I go in to get checked in; I'm getting checked in by Brian who I later learn is the co-director. The route has been changed as they are worried about black ice problems on the Northern Hills. Planet Ultra is going to send us South on Hwy 395 to a place called Big Pine then towards Death Valley while the road remains paved. Then we're going to come back on Hwy 395 to Highway 6 and do and out and back to Benton, which we always come in on.

I have no clue where Big Pine is and want to know more about where the rest stops are and the route to Death Valley, but Planet Ultra doesn't yet have a route sheet. I'm trying to get some essential information from Brian but Doug is on the line next to me demanding a route sheet, wondering why this is the only event that doesn't give out numbers, protesting a bunch of boring out and backs on Highways. Brian's ADD kicks in, and he'd stop talking to me and starts arguing with Doug while I try to bring him back to the conversation. If I knew where this ride was going the Doug/ Brian interplay would actually be funny.

Meanwhile get a call from Professor Dave who is going to meet us for dinner before his attempt of his 3rd Double for his initial Triple Crown. His message "Hi-I'm in...Walnut Creek" Turns out Yosemite Pass to Bishop was closed and Sonora Pass was also suddenly snowed in, so after being stuck all day Dave turned around and went home. Little consolation the real route wasn't being done and what we thought boring was substituted in.

The Ride
Early wake up, its not raining but rain not due till after 11am. At the start we get a 1/2 page cue sheet with thankfully few turns (19 in total) --but rest stops NOT marked. We do the usual 12 mile circling of Bishop but head South on Hwy 395 for 12 miles. Then head out 29 miles on a road toward Death Valley and then come back on it. We'd get back to Bishop and then head out the 34 miles to Benton, go 7 miles past, and then return. So two out and backs.

Mass start adrenaline kicked in under the moonlight. Last year was quickly dropped into the second group so this year determined to stay with the leaders. I did hang on the back for the fast trip round the valley and became much happier when the sun peaked through. And it was a slight peak, sky was heavily clouded and the clouds were dark. Usually the area is very dry but lots of moisture in the air this morning which had me hacking away. Uphill before hitting Hwy 395 helped break up the pack even more and we had a very good paceline shooting down 395.

Ride photos from Steve Meichtry photo gallery. (1) Early morning shooting down to Big Pine, what the F am I (blue jersey rear left) doing following a recumbent--hasn't Dr. Dave taught me anything. (2) Sleet when approaching the summit into Death Valley (3) Snow covered hills on the return trip.

I was happy when we finally reached Highway 168 turnoff as this had been too much of a mashfest just like the end of Davis. Pack slowed as a rest stop set up about 1/4 mile down the road--we had covered the first 26 miles at 21 mph. Also slowed because the godawful expansion joints Hwy 120 was famous for was also on Hwy 168. But as pack slowed a familiar hunched over camelback wearing rider HAD TO BEAT everyone to the rest stop, and with me riding close to the right side of the road he shot by WITHOUT WARNING on the right. My adrenaline was sky high and out of character I yelled at him "how about saying on your right" and as he didn't say anything I then threw in some Bronx language. He did acknowledge that, and said "I'm just riding" and I did apologize for the extra stuff (though Ward would have been proud) I had thrown in, but I'm amazed how clueless some people are. His "just riding" can wipe out lots of people.

Planet Ultra rest stop 1--where are the fn restrooms???. Planet Ultra doesn't rent porta-johns, usually putting their rest stops at parks with limited bathrooms, and then threatening to DQ you for needing to go on the road. Well, this year their rest stop workers said "go behind a bush"--apparently it is only bad to go in public when you need to go, NOT when Planet Ultra wants you to.

Now it was onto Gavia Pass--oh, I mean the 30 mile Death Valley/ Wacuba Road. The road started gradually climbing and there was no summit in sight, but I was happy as the road was nicely paved with no expansion joints. I'm usually warm on climbs but here my vest and arm warmers were welcome, it stayed dark grey overhead and a slight cross/headwind became more and more apparent as we kept climbing. Tandem royalty was on this ride--a couple who had done Devil Mountain on a tandem, another with Terrible Two jerseys.

5 miles in, then 10, then 15--never any steep sections but the road always went up--surrounded by rocks and brush and getting cooler and windier. It started sprinkling at one point and I put on light but useless PI jacket so I stopped again to dig into brevet bag and put on new rain jacket and cap. Rain got a little serious, after 10 minutes it stopped but feet were damp. After rain stopped I left jacket on, it was cold, and I stopped again to dig out glove liners--which were new waterproof ones. Very very strange, now bundled up and being overdressed wasn't bothering me, in fact still cold. Someone later said it was 34 degrees. Getting close to mile 20 of the climb and still going up--when suddenly THE SKY OPENED UP AND IT STARTED HAILING--HARD. Of course this is when the road stopped going up and suddenly had a few steep downhill sections before permanently going downhill. Not only was road wet but soon after downhill began the nice pavement changed into pavement mixed with rock, so it was bumpy and hard to see if you were going over sand or solid road. Rode brakes real hard, so did most other folks except for a few people shooting by. Suddenly surrounded by odd looking cactus but with hail and hat slung over eyes hard to admire.

Hail stopped when final steep/ long downhill section started but road very wet. After 10 miles saw valley floor with a van, which marked the turnaround. Bathrooms meant trudging through the sand (which got a few people stuck in their cleats) to tumbleweed in the desert. Only two water jugs and people shivering like crazy ready for a drink. Only food were bananas and Power Bars which worker was cutting in half--I grabbed a whole bar before it was sushied, and quickly turned around so I could warm up on the climb.

The climb out was steeper than the initial climb in, but thought the sky was black it still wasn't raining so all was good. I rode awhile with a guy in a Mapai kit, where we decried all the attention paid to Lanciepoo by American sports fans who nothing about the classic races. To my surprise an armada of vans were coming into the valley--in a little while we'd see them coming out filled with cyclists sagging in. Pulled out cellphone to take a few cactus photos but unfortunately cell phone now decided not to save photos.

I stopped and took about a dozen photos with my cell phone, ironically carried to call Donna in case of an emergency. However, there was NO cell phone coverage on almost all of the ride--and the camera crapped out and didn't save any photos. Below are a few I borrowed that mimic photos that I took.

(above) Here is a non ride photo that a Frank Farmer took of desolate Death Valley Road. In the morning, when going down this, we were hailed on. Later, coming back, sky was still considerably darker than photo , road was wet from another brief rain, and where I was heading snow was covering the hills about 200' higher than we were. It would have been great if we had this weather.

(below) Another non ride photo by a David French of Joshua Trees in winter. On the ride the Joshua Trees in the middle of nowhere were amazing--the snow wasn't this low but hills like the ones in the background were covered.

(above two) Photos from Vic who I later rode uphill from Benton with. First is from early in the day from the Death Valley floor. The other is near the end of the day of me putting on for the millionth time a rain jacket before the long downhill back to Benton; it's not raining but its cold. Notice the sky is always threatening. Someone wrote that I might write the longest ride reports, I'm pleased to report that the length of Vic's detailed report match mine. Check out his website for a good perspective on the ride and more great photos.

On one of the rollers transitioning between the uphill and downhill sections lots of cyclists still coming in. I yelled at one--"is it still raining?"--he yelled back "its snowing about 5 miles back" OH SHIT.

Luckily, though had to later ride through a slight band of rain before getting back to the top--there was no snow and rain was manageable. But scary moment-jet fighter flew up from behind and sudden sonic booms sounded like thunder.

When I got to the downhill sun was now peaking through but I still left jacket on--good move. It was a very pleasant 20 mile downhill at @33MPH (compared to the 18mph on the steeper but chilled/ rain slicked downhill earlier). Got back to rest stop #1, now rest stop #3 and sun was out full bore, no porta potties yet (don't hold your breath). Now 11:52, mile 88, average speed had tumbled from 21 to 13.7 mph from when I was here earlier.

Now it was so warm that knee warmers and vest could come off for boring but fast 16 miles back to Bishop. Lunch was at check in motel--Donna waiting for me--she had heard about hail and snow and all the riders that had sagged or turned around, and as I hate the cold she thought I'd do the same. Seeing her was great. Skipped Subway Sandwich lunch which in years past was tolerable a picturesque Mono Lake Park--couldn't even use motel restroom so it was off to a gas station. I had downed a cereal bar, in hindsight I should have eaten more.

Now 34 miles along Highway 6 shoulder to Benton, was familiar with this route as real Eastern Sierra finishes on it in the opposite direction--it is usually a fast back. But now we are going in the opposite direction and apparent why the other direction is fast--we are now in a strong headwind and climbing-1200 in 34 miles isn't much but a 20mph headwind is blowing.

In short I started out with a 3 man paceline, we passed lots of people, and half way up I got very very cold. It wasn't that cold out at that point, and I thought I hadn't eaten enough. I got off the three man, put on my vest, but was really tired so I did my favorite thing on this ride, I pulled off and just laid down in the desert for 10 minutes (at least not the 30-40 I did last year.) Ate, bundled up, which was good as some more light rain soon hit.

It was a real pain getting to Benton and once there had to continue for 7 miles on 120--oh no--usually a fast downhill in to Benton but this was going to be a slog in the other direction . Yep-7 miles of short steep uphills sections. Luckily joined by Vic--a 508 rider (unusual for some 508 riders--he actually wore another jersey beside a "508,") and we rode the uphill bs'ing about long distance cycling, rain jackets, taking photos and real estate. Vic had a handlebar bag which seemed easier to dig stuff out of instead of my bag on a rack. Vic started wondering were the turnaround was--he knew the area and thought we should be done. Luckily I kept the route sheet and we had bypassed the turnaround by 1/2 mile--fully expecting someone to be there to check you in, or at least a road marking. That's Planet Ultra!! When going back people in the opposite direction were yelling out wondering where the turnaround was--we'd let them know but Vic, being a nice guy, would include "there is no one turning around/ checking in riders." Heck, knowing this people could have instantly turned around.

The 7 miles back to Benton was fast. (mile 155, 5:42, 13.5 avg) I tried to call Donna to let her know my ETA but no cell coverage. Now 34 miles back to Bishop, I started off solo, now with a tailwind to my back. I never passed a rider--one two man paceline caught me but it had just started briefly raining (again) and spray from being behind a wheel wasn't to my liking and I dropped off. About 10 miles to Bishop I stopped to take off rain jacket--looked down the road--didn't see anyone coming up.

Donna waiting at finish which was fantastic--she though it was a faster course than usual instead of a harder one and I'd finish at 6:00 instead of 7:30. Route sheet was also by 5 miles (Vic and I had the same odomoter miles in Benton), and it was 5 miles longer after lunch than advertised. Usually on a double there are lots of people milling around cheering, even in past years at the motel down the street with the patio there'd be people sitting around all night but at the new motel without a patio area, and loads of riders sagging earlier, only a few people were out. And as a Planet Ultra ride no postride dinner where riders trade war stories.

As mentioned previously I think Planet Ultra did a good jobs with the sags and a first half interesting emergency course. Rest stops all had Heed, Perpetuem, Sustained Energy and Jug Water--and the usual premade Peanut Butter/ Jelly sandwiches and cereal bars. On the other hand Planet Ultra did neglect a few basic things. Only ride with no numbers, who do you know who is on the ride?? Brian had snapped at Doug that "numbers are not required!," but all other doubles have them. More importantly, when I mentioned my surprise that there was no person checking in riders at the turnaround that many people missed as they expected a checkpoint, ride director Deb said "I never SAID there would be a checkpoint." And they never said there would be bathrooms either--and there were none for 135 miles.

So lifetime Double #21, another triple crown for 2009, and made up for Nancy Riding (see Diablo Scott) for pulling in during Santa Rosa rains. The ride was much harder than I expected, clock really didn't matter to me as a once only course, but Death Valley part was great. If they could get rid of the Hwy 120-Benton portion of the regular route, and do the Death Valley to June Lakes portion they' have something--and rent a few porta potties instead of tumbleweed-potties.

(As it turns out--in the Mammoth/ June Lakes area, it was 52 degrees at 10:30am and calm with the sky clear until 11:50--and it looks like it never rained up North--but PU told someone it had snowed at Sagehen.)