Thursday, January 2, 2003


(Planning for Sierra Century Double Metric-con't)

In theory doing SLUG GULCH and the 120 miler was a nice goal, and I did a whole bunch of early spring centuries (in between the rain) including CHICO WILDFLOWER and SANTA ROSA WINE. COUNTRY But one day, going up the Berkeley CLAREMONT climb, having to stand for most of it in my 12-27 double, the GRUPPO PUMPKINCYCLE "directeur sportif," Joann, told me "nice job--Slug Gulch is similiar--just 3 times as long." OH SHITTY. I knew I couldn't stand any longer--I ran and put a 11-34 cassette and a mountain bike derailleur on the back.As we came closer to the event I knew I'd have to do a SLUG GULCH preride, as might as well do the back end of the 120 mile course. (Very familiar with the front end--metric course..). The trouble is the bonus 20 miles of the 120 mile route is secret--as there is a time cutoff after SLUG GULCH. Contacted the SACRAMENTO WHEELMEN, the ride director was kinda helpful--dropped a few clues but couldn't tell me the route.

Joann was as focused on doing the 120 as I was and the directeur sportif and I prerode the 2nd half of the 102 mile course--guessing (correctly) that after SLUCH GULCH you ride a beautiful 10 mile stretch (gently uphill) through the EL DORADO FOREST to Highway 88, and then guessed (incorrectly) that you continue up Highway 88--past the 5000 foot mark, to Cooks Station. (on a self supported ride Cooks Station is the place to take on food and drink.) Oh, SLUG GULCH--it was hard but not as bad as I expected. Joann warned me that there was a big difference doing it 25 miles into the ride as opposed to 75.The days leading into the 2003 Sierra were filled with training a trepidation. I kept figuring out the timing so we could safely make the time cutoff. We were lucky that we'd be joined by a very skilled rider, Jerry, who usually raced mountain bikes but is a powerhouse on the road. When I told Jerry that we had to leave at 5:30 to make the cutoffs he told me "you got to be kidding." Good to have his confidence around.

With SLUG GULCH in the back of my mind I rode mostly hilly rides (BERKELEY HILLS, MT TAM or DIABLO) 10 of 12 days. with one trainer session thrown in for good measure. Joann finally ordered me off the bike, so on Thursday, two days before the ride I just kicked around Berkeley. (Ironically, a year later I'd be off the bike for 2 weeks except for the Thursday prior to the event.) If Joann's enthuisam accounted for much of my motivation in becoming a good rider, the great Johan Museeuw accounted for the rest--and every night I watched the end of the 2002 Paris Roubaix where Museeuw goes crazy in the muddy cobblestones and rides away from the chasing US Posties.Go up to JACKSON on Friday and take an easy cruise down Clinton Road. (Taking two days off before an event, and then taking an easy spin the day before seems to work great, and I've tried to follow this pattern for all "big" rides" since.) Late in the day drive over to PIONEER Fairgrounds for the great checkin the SACRAMENTO WHEELMEN run. Dinner back at JACKSON, at BUSCAGLIA's, an Italian resturant off the beathen path overlooking a stand of Oak trees. One guy came up to Joann, Jerry and me semi-ranting about how he drove SLUG GULCH and how hard it looked. Jeeze, we thought, he was already spent, while we saw the local barfly fall over most of the outdoor tables Saturday-event day.

(June 2003) SIERRA CENTURY, 125 Miles, 10,000' Climbing, w/ Joann, Jerry and Dr. Yilma, 5:42-4:14, 14.3 average, cutoff at 12:55.

Cool morning and cloudy--we left at 5:42--16 minuted behind my anal retentive schedule that, if followed, would get us to the cutoff for the 120 mile route before 2:00. I couldn't sleep and had been up since 2:30--luckily listening to "Dancin Barefoot" on the MP3..ONE COMPLAINT about the SIERRA CENTURY. On the coolest portion of the day the ride starts with a screaming downhill for 6 miles. 56 degreees was never that cold. Here the ride is pretty flat and Jerry was taking long pulls. We were joined by a Professor from Davis, Dr. Yilma, who heard Joann calling out what was coming up ahead. Hit IONE and instead of going to the rest stop saved some time by going to the secret bathrooms. Then we hit the rollers between IONE and SUTTER CREEK. Another secret bathroom stop in SUTTER CREEK before hitting my favorite climb--the 12 mile 1000+ feet runup to VOLCANO, alongside a shaded grove and a creek. The grade isn't steep until the last mile or so--it feels as if a magnet is pulling you uphill. Hit the big VOLCANO rest stop well before 90% of the riders--in years past I'd get to VOLCANO when it was jammed packed. Saw Bill (Joann's soon to be ex), who was on a solo mission as he was becoming a premier long distance climber.

Mt. Bike Racer Jerry getting great food service at the picturesque Volcano rest stop.

Then up the steep RAMS HORN GRADE and continuious uphill rollers, where our group broke up a little.Then we hit the turnoff to the "E" ticket ride--the 12 mile rolling downhill to FIDDLETOWN. Jerry was flying, I'd briefly catch up on a sharp uphill roller, and then he'd take off again on the downhill. We got to the FIDDLETOWN lunch stop, mile 60, at 10:09, 45 minutes ahead of schedule.

Pulling out of FIDDLETOWN had some words with a loudmouth who commented on my 11-34 gearing. Didn't like when I disparaged his plastic bike, and then zoomed away from him on the climb. Jerry, on his plastic Trek, was laughing but of no help. We hit BRIDGEPORT-CEDAR CREEK ROAD, a twisty, slight downhill through a dense forest, that didn';t have the greatest pavement. I was living my PARIS ROUBLEX-FOREST ARENBERG fantasy, and our group was flying.Then the hard work started, to MT. AUKUM where we had started our training ride.. At the PIONEER PARK rest stop 40 riders had already come through of the 700 who had signed up for the course.

Then we hit the PERRY CREEK and SLUG GULCH wall. I had hot foot developing but did OK on the climb, we'd circle back and give Dr. Y. who was struggling a little encouragement. We hit the OMO RANCH rest stop at 12:55 (mile 84.9, avg 13.6)-a litle over an hour before the cutoff.Now that we beat the cutoff, and got the secret map of the 120 mile route, we lingered at the OMO RANCH rest stop-soaking our feet in the wading pools and collecting our "we tamed Slug Gulch" pin. I honestly don''t think SLUG GULCH was that hard--but I think adrenaline to beat the cutoff had alot to do with it. But with the adrenaline spent, the gradual uphill trhough the EL DORADO NATIONAL FOREST to Highway 88 was damn hard--the silence the four of us did the next 10 miles in was in sharp contrast to our joking around durning the training ride.

Finally we hit Highway 88, past the monster cattle guard with the missing pieces that swallows bikes whole. Here we started the 20 mile downhill--HIGHWAY 88, SHAKE RIDGE ROAD, FIDDLETOWN expressway once again. At mile 100 Jerry and I were hitting 30+ on flat sections. Revisited the FIDDELTOWN rest stop which was like a morgue this time, one more hard climb up OSTRUM ROAD, but the rolling downhill though the vinyards we pacelined home. (125 miles, 10,000' climbing, 14.3mph, cutoff at 12:55, 5:42-4:14)

HEALDSBURG METRIC-60 miles, small rollers, 7:15-10:45, 21.2 mph to mile 15, 18.7 avg. Donna had a big accident in Lake Tahoe a few weeks back, and had crashed into a tree on their dangerous bikepath. Now she was going to ride a hybrid alone for 40 miles,; proud of her as she now had a broken shoulder blade and previosuly she never ever tried to ride alone and be self suficient. I went out on the 60 miler and grabbed a few fast pacelines. (

MT DIABLO-North Side-7/22/03 75:15--Personal best. Only started NOT stopping at ranger station a few months ago and used to take me 90+ minutes. Doing these hard to get short of breath for Death Ride training. 8/4/03 72:30

(Below) Photos-(1) Doing the 18% on Mt. Diablo a second time so I can get my photo taken. Also scared of losing my breath at the high altitude of the Death Ride I always tried to get out of breath training on local climbs. (2) Ebbetts Pass--climb #3 on our self supported Death Ride was the toughest and seemed like we deserved a long rest when we got to the top--would never stop at the top of Ebbets again on the handful of official Death Rides I've done since.

(August 2003) GRUPPO PUMPKINCYCLE DEATH RIDE (91 miles, from Bear Valley to top of EBBETS, MONITOR, Markleeville, top of EBBETS and PACIFIC GRADE.) With Joann and Mike.

Sitting at work in 1999 I had the DEATH RIDE brochure hung on the wall--with the really cool skeleton jersey. I wanted the jersey badly, what a great idea to do it the first year of the new century. Some problems--I could barely get up Diablo once. My decendings skills were even worse, on a curve I'd frequently wound up in the oncoming lane. Figure I'd do 1 pass, maybe hang in there for 2, and get the jersey and then could proudly proclaim that I did the Death Ride. Frank, who was, a good climber, didn't get enthused when I threw out the idea. So, thoughts of doing the Death Ride died.

Quickly to 2003. My climbing is better but not to enamored with the thought of climbing with a crowd. And while my downhill skills have improved they've gone from lousy to fair at best--so going downhill in a pack doesn't thrill me. And the Death Ride has gotten so popular that it is hard to get in. DELTA PEDALERS annual campout near BEAR VALLEY--seemed like we could stay in a lodge nearby and ride onto the Death Ride course.Joann took to the idea (at the time any crazy ride one of us would throw out the other person would agree to do) and Mike surprisingly was in. Joann went up a few weeks early to scout the course, and I kept trying to get winded on Mt. Diablo--as really afraid of oxygen debt at high altitude. Wanted to make sure we saw Markleeville, and did a minimun of three passes in addition to the PACIFIC GRADE which is sometimes a bonus pass on the Death Ride. Numerous campgrounds along the way but only one had water (Silver Creek)

We were staying about 10 miles from Lake Alpine, and had the usual debate with Mike about starting time (noon may be just about right for him.) So I started at 7:00 and rode up to Lake Alpine, and Mike with Joann started about 45 minutes later and drove up. Actually I was glad that Mike had driven as I get warm quickly on climbs and was able to shed a layer of clothes. Got on Highway 4, which at this point resembles a 1 1/2 lane bike path. Passed Lake Alpine with steam rising from it, and tnen got to PACIFIC GRADE with a 24% downhill with some big hairpin turns, and beautiful Frederic Church like mountains on the sides.

Climb #1-EBBETT'S PASS (8730 feet altitude, 1700' climbing) This was surprisingly easy and was amazed how quickly we got to the top. Mike and I reached the peak together--may not have been the greatest idea for both of us to slow down to do this with cattle guard at the top. The decent ranks up there with Fiddletown Speedway, wide semi curvy Highway 4 with no cars and fantastic views of the valley off to the side. Stopped off at SILVER CREEK for water, then gentler grade to the base.

Climb #2. MONITOR PASS (8314 feet altitude) Now getting warm and switched to lighter jesey. Now we were on Highway 89 which had some traffic--luckily it also had a shoulder. Scenery not as nice as EBBETS, just trees and meadows to the side. Long climb but not a bad grade--as it got warmer I felt better.

I had a good tempo going and shot on ahead, Saw a huge peak (Leviathan at 8963 feet) and thought we were going to have to climb it so started motoring when all of a sudden hit the Monitor Pass tombstone marker. Waited awhile for Mike and Joann--felt great, Wondered what was on the other side but we weren't going to ride any further. Great feeling ended-I think my nervousness registered on Mike's heart rate monitor when I hit 44 on the downhill, and was still the slowest in the group.We then battled the headwind to Markleeville for food--riders doing the real Death Ride go through this valley on their way to CARSON PASS.

Big mistake in Markleeville, we sat around way to long (Mike loves to stay at rest stops) and everything tightened up.

Lots of desolate scenery--this lone smokestack off of "Highway 4" at the start of Ebbetts pass.

Climb #3. Back up EBBETT's. Long series of rollers back to the base of EBBETTS. My breathing, which I had worried about was fine Legs were tightening up. At SILVER CREEK CAMPGROUND, for a water refill, Mike and Joann looked weary. I felt weary, very weary, when going up the seeminly endless drag back to the EBBETS summit. Tiny Camelback that had a 4th bottle (3rd bottle on my handlebars) was bugging me. Got to that cattleguard, and just flopped alongside it to rest. Nice but short downhill to the nice and short and STEEP....

....Climb #4..PACIFIC GRADE, rumored to be 24% around one hairpin. But we were close to the end, close to the top. We climbed all so slowly--a headwind had picked up. Stopped at one hairpin near the top and watched Joann climb up--hill looked more frightening looking down and seeing someone come up than when actaully doing it yourself. Then it was a straight slight downhill back to Lake Alpine, and we pace lined in--Donna off at the side of the road to congratulate us--great I was ready to coast back down Highway 4 to the lodge, which would have made this into a 100 miler, but Donna convinced me that she should drive back the 9 miles. Great staying in a B&B (real shower-real mattress) than in a campground after a ride like this.Usually I'm a lousy 2nd day rider, but next morning solo'd over to Spicer Lake to meet the DELTA PEDALERS as they started their ride to Lake Alpine. Going up to the campsite is a nice climb --Cows with bells all along the road, sounded mystical--like Oriential Gongs. I felt good. OH SHIT--I DID THE DEATH RIDE (but ws it 3 and bonus pass or 4 passes??) --man was I jazzed.

Postscript--the following day we drove to Markleeville to the hot springs--Donna couldn't believe that we went over the PACIFIC GRADE. When we passed Silver Creek Camground big sign said "pipe busted-no water" If this had happened two days ago you would have found 3 dead cyclists. (91 miles, 12.0 mph

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