At the end of Devil Mountain, though faded badly on Mines Road to the Junction (which necessitated a 15 minute rest stop), I thought I left everything on the table, and was pissed at the end of the Terrible Two where I kept too much in reserve. So the dismal effort in Terrible Two, and my fondness of the Mt. Tam course, had me super motivated going into the ride.
Typically the Mt. Tam’s course has one big climb (Mt. Tam of course) and one hard climb (Coleman Valley 10.7% for 1.4 miles)—and the rest of the course is seemingly gentle roller giving way to rollers giving way to “Italian rollers” (one you have to climb and can’t just power over) to a handful of 1 mile climbs. So enough climbing to slow down the big boys stomping on the pedals in the flats but no enough long climbs to be pernicious.
Day before the Double I'm at Big Rock--In the morning we'd do the long climb up to it in the dark--hopefully 12 hours later I'd be steaming past it after a shorter uphill.
The only negative about the course it is too damn cold in the morning, where the damp Pacific Ocean fog plays havoc with my exercise induced asthma, but USUALLY (not this year) by mile 86, it is warm and clear enough to pull off my undershirt.
I focus on this event and have come in between 23rd and 36th the last four years. I like to refer to the Death Ride as the “Mt. Tam Training Ride.” But this year high placement will be harder as the California Triple Crown included the Mt. Tam Double for the first time as the last of 3 doubles in their Stage Race Series. So all the people gunning for the stage race championship would be entered and going balls out on this one. (By way of comparison, Grizzly Mark, who has in the past I’ve been compatible with in the past but has ridden faster than me this year on DMD & TT, is in 25th, 6 ½ hours back) and club mate Jack who I finished DMD with, but then got me by a ½ hour on the TT is in 34th, 8 hours back.) So easily 34 folks who have done better than me this year on doubles will be entered; it will be a tall order for a high placement, but I get sky high for this ride.
Helped a lot that “I wouldn’t do a double” training buddy Ward has jumped in and helped plan whatever crazy training ride I want to do. All spring-summer long, on almost every Tuesday and Wednesday, we’ve done a 40 mile loop that includes going to the top of Mt. Diablo, and we concocted 3 different Mt. Tam Century rides to check out different parts of the course in the last few months.
Also helped that being super motivated for this ride I dropped to 4-6 lbs to145, equaling my lowest weight from 2003-2004. In 2003-04, when every ride scared me, and I was going crazy, it was real easy not to eat and drop weight. Can’t do that now, even before DMD or TT but did go low calorie-high protein for the three weeks prior to The Mt. Tam Double. Dropping the weight and all the training miles helped me do my personal best since 2004 (34:39) to the Mt. Diablo Ranger Station on our club’s Wednesday nights time trial.
Day before take a small chain ring 40 miles spin from San Rafael to Pt. Reyes Station—Bovine Bakery, which is part of the mid day double and then the finishing section the next day. Sunny at hotel parking lot so I DON’T take a vest or arm warmers—ride quickly became chilly with a cool wet breeze. BIG CHANGE from ride on the Sacramento Bike trail the past Monday when it was 113 back at the car and I was enjoying life. Weather forecast called for cool and breezy the next day—and I saw Dr. Dave at check in and he said he went for a drive on the Coast and the fog was thickly whipping in with high winds. FnGreat.
Registration was weird—no one at the @12 century check in lines but a dozen riders cued up at the Double Check in line. No free tee shirts like last year (in fact their web site still indicates a free tee shit) and when I asked about it some one said “oh, you signed up just for the free tee shirt.” Cute. Also they gave out cards we had to turn in at the start—registrar saying “if you don’t turn in the card you were NOT on the ride I guess as part of the stage race series they really had to keep detailed track of time. Good Marin Century jerseys from last year for $5—of course no mediums left. (and though good looking on the front the back looked like the Vietnam Memorial with the long list of sponsors.)
Up Mt Tam to Bolinas/ Hwy 1 (to mile 35)
Jack and Kitty lined up near the front of the mass start—but that just means they’ll be passed by dozens of riders who go balls out from the get go. I used to start off at the back but a few years ago was caught immediately by a red light on Freitas Parkway (only light on the course) a few blocks from the start, and we had an instant pelaton split, so I’m hanging in the middle looking out for Don and Dave. Dave spots me and squeezes his way in claiming he’s in my club (I don’t wear the Diablo Cyclists vest as I have a clear one that folds up much smaller—but having the same vest would help keep interlopers out of pacelines.) Slower folks who aren’t in this ride for time already left at 4-4:30am, now we’re all bunched up waiting for 5:00. At 4:58 Dave says “I forgot my glasses,” and has to go back to his car when we are ready to go.
I think this is from Bicycling Magazines 101 Tips To Riding A Century
23) Don’t wear wool garbage men gloves and think they are cycling gloves.(me on last weeks training ride)
38) Don’t forget your glasses (Dave)
49) Don’t forget your shoes (Jack on ES, 2008)
75) Don’t forget your lights (Don on TT, 2006)
We’re off and have about a dozen gradually up then down through a neighborhood until we turn on Lucas Valley Road. Don comes up and joins me, which is great as we can trade pulls. Then we turn on Lucas Valley where it’s a 1-2% uphill which is nice as the pack is going full tilt but the slight grade keeps the pace down a bit. I see Grizzly Mark go by and hustle to ride up to his wheel, he is tactically aware and reads a race really well.
We then hit the Big Rock climb (8.4% for .8 mile) which instantly breaks up the pack. As being one of the worst descender in the bike club, I have lots of motivation to go up climbs hard, essentially so I get to the downhill in semi isolation and don’t have to ride in a pack. All of a sudden I was at Big Rock, rolled the arm warmers down, and sped downhill for the @ 6 miles. My two little lights were mostly illuminating the fog. Luckily I got off the steepest section before a big group in the pelaton caught and passed—Grizzly Mark yelled “don’t stop pedaling now” but I was going to mostly coast as 1) its dark, 2) its foggy, 3) its downhill, 4) I’m coughing away because of the dampness.
We then have 9 miles where the sun will eventually come up and three serious “Italian” rollers which will further break up the pact until we hit Fairfax and the start of the Mt. Tam Climb.
On this stretch ran into ride idiot of the day. Going into the longest Italian roller is a long flat stretch where Don almost caught up to me. I was passed by a guy and woman and I jumped on their wheel. At one point guy sees we’re on his wheel and he ups the pace but we just draft behind. He never signals for anyone to come forward. He then looks back and yells something about how “HE has to do all the work”, goes to the far left of the traffic lane (we’re on a wide shoulder so he moves 10-12” away from us) and then sprints out. I mockingly yell out to the tall white translucent jacket clad rider (didn’t have his number showing) “wow there goes George Hicapie.” Hope he tried sprinting out all day. Woman and I trade pulls to the base of the climb were I catch on to the group ride idiot has joined going up hill so I put in a dig to get in the front of that group.
Sun has risen, yippie, but still cool whereas I’ll climb with a vest which I usually never do. Here my double wrapped bar tape from my right drops started to unravel—I figured I could F around and try to fix it all ride long or, I just unwrapped the whole thing and pulled it off. Luckily the torn ligaments are on my left hand—though with the super fast but super stiff American Classic wheels on today I’d feel every little irregularity on the road.
Start passing some of the “leave early” riders as we go up Bolinas Fairfax Road, and then the curvy descent to the Alpine Dam. The ride up from Alpine Dam is one of my favorite climbs, the grade kicks up without being nasty and it really kicks up on the frequent hairpins. Here I’m motoring past anyone I see.
Then, unfortunately, we don’t ride the rolling ridges on the top of Tam but have to go down secondary Bolinas Fairfax Road—described in the Mt. Tam 3.0 free century post. Luckily today it wasn’t wet, and when I yelled hairpin at the unannounced hairpin off the smooth pavement, someone thanked me for knowing it was there. But if I passed a dozen riders on the climb, at least a dozen riders passed me on the descent.
Pulled into rest stop one at 7:04 (mile 36), as first time rest stop was here nothing to compare it to from the past. Out the door in 8 minutes.
Up Mt. Tam Again past Muir Woods to Highway 1 (to mile 54)
We were now going south on Highway 1, where in 5 miles we’d start climbing Tam again. It was my good fortune to have stage racer Ryan I nicknamed “Fabian Cancellara” come by with his climbing buddy, as on the flats and on the smaller rollers this guy did all of the pulling at a nice steady high speed—and we’d ride on and off together until mile 86.
We bs’d at the start of the 4 mile Tam reclimb but my dander got up when some guys went past and I took off after them. Unfortunately this climb is very steady one for the pure climbers, and though I came close I never caught up. Again motivation to go hard up as we’d soon be riding down on a twisty cold descent to Muir Woods where I turned on my rear flashing lights again. Seemed we were on the Coast very fast, where it stayed damp and cold. Rest stop was wide open in an inlet on Highway 1, no desire to hang at all—besides topping off the Perpetuem I grabbed some strange textured fig cookies to nibble on while riding, unfortunately they’d crumble while in my jersey pocket. 8:33 (mile 54)-5 minutes at rest stop.
Up Highway 1 to Pt. Reyes Station and Hicks Valley (to mile 86)
I started out of rest stop along but soon two racer guys in Capo Jerseys went past, I jumped on their wheel and they upped the pace but I stuck firm. They each took short pulls, and I did to, though I kept the speed 20-21 instead of the 25-26 they were going at. Soon Fabian Cancellara arrives, he brought a long pace line with him. Now with a dozen riders a few of us took turns at the front, which was great as this 20 mile stretch along the Coast and is the only real place you can endlessly paceline on the ride.
Only one little problem, the 20 miles is punctuated by a series of short rollers. Instead of keeping it steady a few times the racing guys tried to pick up the pace and get off the front, so when we hit a few rollers I picked up the pace and Cancellara and his friend went with me. Cancellara pulled about 80% of the time but when we hit a roller his friend or I would do the work at the front.
Besides the beautiful rollers, I love this part of the ride as it gets sunny and is usually wind neutral (we had a little tailwind.) Near Olema the road again flattens out and the racers/ pelaton caught up to our group. I cautioned Cancellara to take it easy as the Cheese Factory climb is long for this ride and coming up soon.
When we hit Pt. Reyes Station I planned to hit the 3-4 block uphill out of town hard to break up the pelaton but the pelaton outfoxed me—they ALL turned down the wrong street (I was the ticket collector at the time) so I was alone on the climb out of town and took it easy and waited for the pelaton to regroup as they stole my designation as “rider most likely” to get lost.
A few more gentle rollers where I upped the pace, but now there was a crosswind and then got back into the pelaton awaiting the Cheese Factory Climb (1.1 miles, 5.3%.) We were also now merged in by Century riders who had 66 less miles in their legs than we did. When we got to the Cheese Factory Climb I felt good and Cancellara’s riding buddy and I took off; I was able to stand most of the way. Passing century riders was kinda iffy with lots of cars on this road. I got to the top first so I figured it would be easy for me to solo to the rest stop, as only a few miles of a wide open smooth downhill remained. I get near the bottom when Cancellara yells “hop on” when a streaking tandem is pulling the remnants of the pelaton I had left behind. I painfully dig in to catch the end of the train, wondering where the F did the tandem come from. Of course they were on the century ride.
I usually take off my undershirt at the Hicks Valley School and its the first rest stop I spend serious time at, but there was still a chill in the air so I left on the tee shirt but (stupidly) took off my arm warmers. Wasted time walking all the way to the back, through a sand pit, to get to the drink/ food while Team in Training tent was put close to the entrance--hey, if your're gonna run a timed event how about making it easy to get in and out of rest stops. After reloading Perpetuem/ Hammergel mix and downing a breakfast bar I was again out of dodge quickly. 10:16 (mile 86) – 10 minutes. Pulled in 15 minutes earlier than my best time from 2005-2008.
Marshall Wall to Tomales to Crowded Valley Ford Lunch (to mile 116)
Usually when I do the Marshall Wall run in I do really good. Today had a good run in (11 miles) but not great.
First there was a slight headwind—which would pick up the closer we got to the wall. Then it was still cool and foggy in spots. Worse, the road was deserted with people I could paceline with. There was only one guy from the southland who was a brevet rider who knows Eastern Sierra Vic we just briefly bs’d with, and there were a few century riders (when I went off to the side of the road to whiz in lieu of the crowded Hicks Valley outhouses, one commented “can’t he wait a few miles.”) I was zooming past.
When I got to the top of the Marshall Wall I stopped to put on my vest and arm warmers before plunging into the thick fog. At that point Fabian Cancellara and friend came by, and the brevet rider. In reality I couldn’t have stayed with them on the fast downhill that shoots by the Peace Bell on knarly road, but if I had started the downhill earlier and arrived at Hwy 1 with them it would have been great riding up the Coast with them.
When I got back to Highway 1 I go North by myself, more rollers that are more serious than the earlier ones, with flat sections between I’m doing 20-21 comfortably in the drops on. Seven miles of this and the first time I see any riders are when passed entering Tomales, and ready for the left turn climb into the headwind. One guy shoots off, the other guy is wearing a cool Project Rwanda jersey, and we’d keep passing each other the rest of the day. Then a long fast downhill on good road with an annoying crosswind, misty also which necessitated wiping my glasses often, but nothing like the wind causing mass bike shimmy last year.
Lunch stop is crowded—takes awhile to establish that there is no one taking numbers/ checking in riders, and food is near the rear. Special table for the double century riders, where regular century folks are constantly begging for endurolights/ Perpetuem. There are some gourmet wraps but I pass on these for some good seeded Italian bread.
As I’m pulling out Grizzly Mark, who is a great closer, is pulling in. So I figure I’m 10 minutes up on him, that he’ll eventually join me, but I can at least make it hard. 12:20 (mile 116) 7 minutes at the lunch stop. Pulled in 8 minutes earlier than any time from 2005-08.
Bay Hill to Coleman Valley Hill to Empty Valley Ford Rest Stop (to mile 145)
Apart from riding with Cancellara earlier in the day, this was the most fun re riding with people.
After a short flat ride starts on a long ( 4 milers) uphill with traffic (Hwy 1) and a good shoulder into the headwind towards Bodega. Then short of the Coast there is a right turn onto Bay Hill, another 4 miles climbing on a knarly side road with little traffic but a cold cross/ headwind.
I passed a few riders in Hwy 1 and was pretty tired when I got into the windy Bay Hill climb. Here I caught up to a woman wearing a Roaring Mouse Cyclist kit who had been dropped by her friend. First we saw a car almost spin out as it was racing past us downhill. Then she helped me out by blocking the wind so I spent some time riding behind her standing, and then I helped her back to her friend—and followed them down the roughly paved road back to Highway 1.
Now it was a few miles north along the windswept coast until up Coleman Valley. Coleman Valley climb is tough but I like it as it means the rest of the ride is away from cold wet headwind. Luckily no one in front or in back of me so I decided to take the climb at a solid pace but nothing where I’d burn out. One person did catch me at the top of Coleman but we all regrouped for the 134 mile water stop. Playing bluegrass music at the stop, which should be banned as makes you want to cycle at 3mph (all day long I was trying to get sag maestro Lee to play the Doors or James Brown.) Was out in two minutes where we had a 5 mile fast descent along badly paved Joy Road. The jolts from all the bad road was starting to bug me—I hadn’t remembered this much crumpled road in the past..
When we got back on fairly level road two guys from the Double joined me and we organized a paceline where we caught up with a larger group in the front, and then came into Valley Ford together. It was even windier and more inhospitable than it had been two hours ago, and now the rest stop was almost empty. No more Perpetuem. Took a Cliff Shot and more Italian Bread, Deju Vu--while leaving saw Grizzly Mark roll in again. . 2:48 (mile 145) 9 minutes at stop, rolled in 10 minutes ahead of any time from 2005-2008.
To Petaluma (to Mile 172)
Back had been tweaked on Coleman Climb, and foot was starting to feel the cleat too much from all the standing-but my energy level felt OK and my legs felt good, so disappointed that passed by 5 riders while passing 1, in this 30 miles stretch of rollers and tailwind aided flat sections.
This is the part of the ride where you incredibly only see 6 cyclists for 30 miles, and have to recall the hordes of riders at the mass start. Actually I saw a 7th, saw someone make a right turn where I recalled road should go to the left, and though course was usually well marked, arrows here had been scuffed out. I went left and spent a mile or so wondering if I had gone in the right direction. On a climb two guys shot past me, good as I knew I was going OK, bad because I couldn’t get on their wheel.
Even more disappointing was that “Colanogo kit guy” got away—think he is same strange dude that I rode away from in DMD, squat guy with tri bar setup who mashes big gears—with every pedal stroke his bike looks like it is about to fall down as it makes a grinding sound. He flew past without calling out at one point, I caught up on the next roller, he flew down it, I caught again on the next hill, but on a wind aided stretch he easily went 30+, I drafted on this section but lost him when the road turned into a crosswind. Disappointed I couldn’t give it a better effort. Otherwise just spent time recalling riding this section with Don and Jack last year. This was only time I looked at odometer and miles seemed to slowly tick by.
No targets up the road either. One guy I caught said he was fading fast so we couldn’t two man, then close to Petaluma I hear two guys talking loudly rapidly approaching—I thought one was Grizzly Mark. But when they passed it wasn’t and I lost the two guys on the next hill.
Weather was warmer than anytime during the day but still not hot . My drop bad missing at Petaluma stop—luckily hadn’t turned in lights like was suggested at registration. Found out later Grizzly Mark’s was missing also. Luckily they had some Cliff Shot Blocks & Endurolights (which had been in my drop bag), I still had Tums, and I mixed a 20% Cytomax drink as Heed I had sent here was missing. Unwrapped a Cliff Bar and stuck it in my pocket, as I wasn’t going to stop again. And as I’m rolling out, who rolled in—again, Grizzly Mark. 4:38 (mile 172) 7 minutes at rest stop, 6 minutes ahead of best pace 2005-2008.
To the Finish
Seeing Grizzly Mark gave me more than my usual impetus that no one is passing at the end of the ride—especially on the next section I really love. Grizzly Mark is a good guy to ride with, we helped each other out on the Terrible Two a few years back. Usually we’re are ride times are similar, but this year he’s been up by a lot on all the timed doubles we both entered, and many of his clubmates finished well ahead of Jack and I on DMD. So it would be a little special getting in before him—so I conjured up the images of Museeuw during his 30 mile Paris Roubaix time trial in 2002—and I rode really hard all they way in. Passed three riders on the road, plus anyone who had pulled into Nicasio.
One long climb into the headwind getting out of Petaluma, and then another downhill on crappy pavement, where the American Classic wheel transmitted every rut in the road. Passed one guy wearing a Terrible Two jersey who I had ridden with earlier, I had hoped he’d be on my wheel so we could trade pulls but no such luck. So then onto serious climb between Petaluma and the Cheese Factory in an annoying headwind.
Made the turn to Nicasio—a tailwind but not the gale force tailwind usually there, but I get into the drops and try to hold a constant 20-21. Only a few of the slower Century riders on the course. Pass the Nicasio rest stop (mile 189), yell out my number, and keep going—only 11 miles to go, no need to stop. (above) Last rest stop by Nicaiso's new school with old schoolhouse in background--but with @12 miles to go no need to stop, ride would pass (minimally) 3 historic schoolhouses. (below) I'm passing the Nicasio reat stop--looking for the person taking numbers (thanks to Brian Chun)
Flip through town and then the long uphill to Big Rock. Its almost 4 miles but a gentle 2% grade, and with the tailwind I can stay in the big ring and stand whenever I have to. Finally see Big Rock, look back to see that there is no one behind of ahead, but I still go up as fast as possible, though miss the rush when this was contested last year. Now the curvy downhill with the 19 bends that used to scare the crap out of me, and its off again on the straightaway 20-21. Start and finish of the Big Rock climb we'd hit at @ mile 195--short and with a tailwind, I love it.
All of a sudden I’m at Las Gallinas Road and the few block climb up through the neighborhood, and then the downhill to Freitas Parkway-see the green light, see the green light, about a block away, light is green, now half a block away it TURNS RED. OH SHIT. Major thoroughfare—light stays red for 2-3 minutes which seems like 2-3 hours as I keep glancing back to see if anyone is coming. Just when light turns green I see off to the side a big group pulls in, I’m ready to go and hear a friendly “HI JAY.” Voice sounds familiar but I don’t look back and yell “got to sprint to the finish and I go hard the last 3-4 blocks, ride into the crowded area where the finish table is, one lady almost steps in my way when I yell “on your left” and I’m in at 6:34 – 8 minutes AHEAD of my best finish two years ago when the course was wind neutral.
Nice little spread of pasta, pizza, chicken, at the end. Even though I don’t like the colors figure I’ll buy a Mt. Tam Double Jersey—but they’re not taking credit cards so I save the $$$$ (I’ll wait them out until the get a brighter color than drab green on it.) I go to eat when I hear “Hey you didn’t say hello.” –it’s Sacramento Doug who was the guy pulling in with a group of Century riders—not Double riders.
Ate with Doug while purposely didn’t take any vegetables so he’d cringe. Then hung out for Don and Jack’s arrival. Joined Grizzly Mark and a few of his clubmates as we swapped Doubles stories. He writes a good article on how to train for them. Then lounging around and recognize Alta 8 Mick—I called out and he said “do I know you??” To be fair I was in regular clothes and he was still in cycling clothes, and people look real different out of cycling garb. Ironically he rode part of the course with Don & Jack, and was bummed that there wasn’t as much pacelining on this course as on the Terrible Two. Then Jack and Don come in—Don hadn’t trained for this ride and Jack was still feeling the effects of eating too much escargot at last month’s Tour de France.
I felt that I had ridden as hard as I could all day, only suffered some energy loss from Valley Ford to Petaluma, and got out of rest stops in a Jack like 52 minutes (including 3 where it was hard to access fast)—which, if you can, is great for not tightening up. While I didn’t have nearly as much fun as riding with clubmates, I couldn’t envision riding much better.