Monday, August 8, 2011

Mt. Tam Double-2011

(August 6, 2011) Mt. Tam Double, 197 miles, 14,500 climbing, 13:35 (5:00-6:35), 15.3 mph; 41 min rest stops. 43rd of 275 riders**; 11:12 winning time; 12:51 25th rider; 14:58 median finisher; 81% starters finished, middle of course run "backwards" (Petaluma to Ocean) into headwind

**Fast top end of the field--1st (non pro) rider and 25th rider has best time of any of the Mt Tam Doubles I've done. But new course wasn't fast--median finisher and % of people dropping out around the average. I'm not getting much slower but much more excellent riders now doing Doubles.

2005 13:48 (6:48 finish), 36th of 211 riders, start w/ Don, Steve, Mike, Tom (11:20 winning time; 13:32-25th rider; 14:00-median finisher; 85% starters finished)
2006 14:15 (7:15 finish), 35th of 233 riders, whole ride with Don (11:13 winning time; 13:57-25th rider; 15:26-median finisher; 81% starters finished)
2007 13:42 (6:42 finish), 23rd of 247 riders including Steve Cozza who finished @3 hours ahead of me (but he also did Paris Roubaix), solo (10:50 Steve Cozza 10:50, 11:39-2nd place; 13:47-26th place; 15:24 median finish; (82% starters finished)
2008 14:35 (7:35 finish on slow windy course), 28th or 29th of 199 riders, most of ride with Jack, whole ride and finish with Don (11:32 winning time; 14:33 25th rider; 15:47 median finisher; 72% starters finished)
2009 13:34 (6:34 finish), 33rd of 289 starters (Triple Crown race so field enhanced, Mt Tam closed so climbed 2x halfway), start with Don and Jack (11:29 winning time; 13:17-25th rider; 15:03-median finisher; 84% starters finished)
2010 Did Not Start-Death in family
When Mt. Tam Double/ Marin Century sent out a promo email--the first photo in email was Don and I chasing a rider out of Petaluma in 2008

There is one thing I can do well on a bike, stand and grind up short but steep climbs. To this skill the Mt. Tam Double course is great for me. At 14,500' in elevation gain its 7th out of the 22 doubles on the schedule (range is Alta Alpina at 20,300' to a few tandem friendly ones under 8,000'.) Has a big climb up Mt. Tam but climb is a series of steep hairpins and recovery points and rollers, most of the rest of the course are Italian rollers (long ones you can't power over), a few Eddie Stankey rollers (never mind, see post for Tomales-Petaluma Century last month), and a hard steep climb up Coleman Valley.

Usually I'm sky high for this event and its the focus of my year (I used to joke on the Death Ride that it was a training ride for the Mt Tam Double) but I'm a little nervous this year. Alta Alpina was my focus this year. I missed the Mt Tam Double last year. Middle of course is being run in reverse and while I like a slow course full of steep rollers this would also throw in headwind and I'd be unfamiliar with course run the first time last year. Also after Alta Alpina I stopped watching weight, and while I was focused dove down to 145 two years ago year before this event I gained up to 144 coming in, whereas if I had teh same foxus from two years ago I could have come in at 140. Also faded at Knoxville last year at mile 160 and same on Alta Alpina this year--hoped that this was not a trend. Worse thing is NO teammates starting this ride--it will be a long day. Hope to come off of the Mt. Tam climb before Grizzly Mark and then we'd ride together like we did in DMD. Things going for me are good endurance training rides. and luckily scouted out the middle of this course a few weeks ago.

Mt. Tam with San Quentin sitting at the base. (top) Day before nice and sunny (bottom) Colorization trying to match gloom hanging over Mt. Tam day of race. All photos unless indicated taken day before on 40 mile small ring spinning ride at beginning of course. This is Marin Civic Center Auditorium--designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Mass start ride starts at 5:00, about 45 minutes before daylight. This year the Mt. Tam Double is one of the three tough Doubles combined for the stage race series so the field is enhanced. After short snooze I start getting bike ready at 4:30 at a school in residential neighborhood, and enjoying the quiet, but that doesn't stop some of the yentas from throwing a party (seems the same few hundred crazies do these rides.) One yenta is yelling from across the parking lot about some Grizzly Peak Cyclist who broke their collarbone last week (oh shut up), and a woman who took 147 photos on their last ride. When we cue up for mass start nervous energy continues a guy next to me yacks on about this being his first ride not on his fixed gear, even Mt. Baldy?--then with 5 minutes to go he notices he still has on slippers and not his cycling shoes.

Then race director says something no one can hear (I used to start in the rear, now solidly in middle of pack as don't want to miss out if only traffic light on ride-500' from start/ finish--turns red as it did a few years back,) and its balls out in the darkness up a neighborhood hill and then a left turn on Lucas Valley Road, with an almost immediate steep climb up to Big Rock and then downhill in the darkness through Redwoods. I always have motivation to go hard up the Big Rock climb, though descending doesn't scare me like it did a few years back, I still want to go downhill with as few people as possible. Turn onto Lucas Valley Road marked, but can't be seen when we started at night. This year no road markings used but signs. Unfortunately at mid course some signs were stolen so a little confusion and backtracking to stay on route.

At night no one would see the Indian guarding the base of Big Rock Climb.
Crest of Big Rock Climb--but no one would see it as still dark out (above) ...then it got foggy and cool for the downhill (below)
Still dark at mile 11.3 when we make a left and a series of rollers to Mt. Tam. Century riders later would go right and ride mostly flat where they'd join us at mile 75 and push the pace to Petaluma.

In the dark managed to get over Big Rock nicely and luckily descend with just a small group of people. It was suddenly foggy and visibility was poor. I used to hate this descent on clear bright days, now taking it slow but calmly--small group rode behind me as my Exposure Joystick Light (@75 g, 200+ lumens) was perfect. When the road started to level out a paceline came by and I jumped on the back. After left turn suddenly a big cluster of riders as many riders coming up and many caught up with--but this pocket quickly breaks up on three substantial rollers. Small paceline to Fairfax, again do well on climb and start downhill by myself--I know I'll get passed but hopefully near the base of the descent. Works out and ride into Fairfax with a small group--bs with a nice guy from San Francisco doing his first double as we start the Mt. Tam climb.

Mt. Tam climb starts as a gradual/ consistent grade--not something I'm particularly well at doing. If we were kids trying to imitate our favorite pro players, picture Andy Schleck easily spinning while seating up a mountain--I can't even try this. I ride more like (a crap version of) Cadel Evans-pogo'ing out of the saddle which doesn't help on the shallow stuff or when there is a headwind--but great for short steep sections of road. So on the shallow climb a few pure climbers are passing me (or already off ahead in the distance) but I'm also passing lots of folks.

Rest stop at mile 24, I get here at 6:30. Many long distance riders pass this up but I have to stop but do so for only 5 minutes. Start climbing again and pass big group led by Fresno Lori's tandem--doing doubles solo is too easy for her now so she instantly forms best co-ed tandem. I shout out that she should yell out when ready to pass me on a downhill--and all day long I expect to have her tandem roar by on the flats or a downhill but they never do.

I'm passed by a few riders on twisty descent to Lake Alpine but this starts one of my favorite long climbs. Next few miles of climbs is steep hairpins joined by shallower road--like a series of rollers. I love this climb with good legs and ride just began so I'm feeling great. Here I pass many riders and can't wait to get to Ridgecrest--the 7 miles of rollers on Tam where it is always clear above the clouds.

But today we're fucked. It ain't getting sunny as we approach Ridgecrest. The mist is rolling through and the tall trees are dripping wet. Hold on--that ain't the trees dripping--ITS RAINING. A minute or two of rain , a reprieve for a few minutes and then another minute or two of rain. Repeat. Repeat. And first gate (and later another gate) is locked so we have to dismount in the drizzle and make a path through the redwood needles.

Ward/ Christine on the Century and they'd be going over Mt. Tam about 3 hours after me. (below) Christine riding by Lake Alpine at base of Mt. Tam in full sun. At the top its much nicer than when I went through and you can still see remnants of the clouds/ fog laying over the road. (WWF-Worldwide Ward Foto).

It's so foggy at the top can hardly see the two bikes who just crested the roller 100' in front of me. In fact soon I can't see 10' in front of me as glasses steamed. I ride most of Tam's Ridgecrest peering over my glasses on the tip of my nose, so at least I can see 3' out clearly. After Alta Alpina debacle where I overdressed I only had a vest/ undershirt/ arm warmers with me today--no jacket or knee warmers or cap, now I wished I had everything I left behind.

I could hardly see the start of the downhill to Muir Woods that is half way on Ridgecrest that we'd come back to. Luckily by the "radar" that looks like a huge golfball, about three quarters on Ridgecrest, the sun broke through strongly, started drying off, and the impetus returned. At the same time started to see a dozen riders who had already reached the checkpoint at the end of Ridgecrest and now were returning to start the descent.


Reached the end of Ridgecrest checkpoint at 7:43, mile 38, which was my same time as in 2005 when I was a much faster climber. (In 2005 stayed at 1st rest stop 3 more minutes, but didn't have to navigate two closed gates or the drizzle.) This was great as my descending since 2005 has improved greatly. And I would need the improvement today on the wet/ foggy descents. Took a few minutes to grab/ release water at the top as I planned to skip the next rest stop

On the way back I saw Grizzly Mark coming up but no other familiar faces. Hoped that in 1/2 hour? it took to ride back to the "T" intersection, that the sun hadmoved over the descent down to the Muir Woods and the Pacific. Not a chance. Usually a fog layer is waiting at the base of Tam next to the Pacific Ocean, but even before the intersection fog/ drizzle started again. It had been nice riding with glasses, they soon came off again.

Luckily this part of the Course was familiar; when I came to the fork that splits the road going directly to Stinson Beach instead of the long way past Muir Woods and miles to the south of Stinson I couldn't see any road signs. I went left and didn't see any riders ahead, and slowed down and for a few minutes no one passed me--so I really thought I took the wrong turn and was off course. (Usually there are packs of riders going down at this point.) I was never so happy to suddenly be passed by two riders--yippie--going the right way.


Some more spot drizzle, catch up to and follow one rider on next turn down twisty road to Muir Woods. Another descent that used to terrify me--I'm now slow but relaxed. Seemed we were very soon on flat road by Muir Woods and then past rest stop at mile 50--I yell in my number for worker to take down (ride not the greatest making it clear where checkpoints are) and continue on in the fog. Luckily a few steep rollers out to Highway 1 so can get warm and pass a few other riders.

Beginning of this part of Highway 1 tight to the Pacific Ocean is relatively flat with a few Eddie Stanky (aka easy--you can get a running start) rollers. Usually lots of pacelining but I rode for miles--past Stinson Beach, as a solo cyclist. Where is Lori's Tandem pulling a line or Grizzly Mark organizing one?? A little past Stinson one paceline shot by, I was a little tired but picked up the pace to hop on the back. Luckily for me Highway 1 turns inland and the roller start kicking up so the paceline slows considerably. Its also easier for me to go hard on rollers and stay ahead of the paceline so I wouldn't have to scramble back to the paceline on the downhill. On flat section paceline reformed quickly--we all rode fast and cooperatively to Pt. Reyes Station, mile 73, and quick 4 minute stop at mini rest stop. Day before--in Pt Reyes Station, on redwood recumbent seat.
Out of Pt. Reyes Station, pointing the way to Petaluma, 20 miles away.

Out of Pt. Reyes Station some mini rollers. One guy from Peninsula Velo does most of the pulling, while another guy makes sure he never gets to the front. We are now cutting across Marin County, West to East, in a new direction. All of the earlier Mt. Tam Doubles I did eventually turned North and came back to Petaluma at the end of the day well after the Century ride was well over. But now we'd see Petaluma early in the day, and when we merged with the Century riders just starting out havoc reigned.

We merge with Century riders who have 15 flat miles in their legs, and we have 75 hilly miles. Right after the merge is the Cheese Factory climb, attention getting but nothing hard. As Peninsula Velo guy pulled most of the time figure I'd ride his pace on the Cheese Factory hill, and in fact Peninsula Velo guy and the Passenger started pulling away from me at the base of the climb. But then two Century riders quickly passed without saying anything and shot by the other two Doubles riders. That got my dander up--I put in a spurt and stayed even with them for the rest of the climb.

After the climb the road to Petaluma was fast and Century pacelines sped by with Doubles riders trying to jump in. I missed one but a big guy with his number flopping pulled me back. Then another fast paceline came through that we jumped on until crappy road in Petaluma City Limits started. At Petaluma rest stop, mile 93, at 10:48, out in 6 minutes.


Now had to recross Marin, going West, on Chileno Valley Road. On old version of ride this was done near the end, some sharp rollers but with tailwind--sweet. Now into a headwind and had ridden balls out for 93 miles and energy low. Traded pulls with one other rider for a few miles but when a fast Doubles/ Century mix came by I was too tired to stay on.


To digress--around mile 105 is where I couldn't stay on the paceline. For the rest of the ride I don't remember catching anyone and three Doubles riders caught up with me--so for 95 miles I just saw 3 Doubles riders.


Luckily this is portion of course Ward/ I rode a few weeks earlier (see photos from July post)--solid cow country. At some intersections NO direction signs--later told they were "stolen." A couple of times had to circle intersection and double back after looking at route sheet. After fading last year at Knoxville and Alta Alpina I was a little worried about low energy now. Map had a checkpoint at mile 118 that didn't exist. Real happy when hit Valley Ford lunch stop at mile 124 at 12:44--7:44 after start. Bike Mechanic Ryan working ride (built my front wheel years ago)--good talking with him briefly. Stop has special table for Doubles Riders with drink mix I'm used to (by now bottle had mixture of Cliff/ HEED & Gatorade)--nice but table far in the back of rest stop.

Loaded pockets with mini muffins and got out in less than 9 minutes. Then started the 30 mile Northern Loop that contains the steep Coleman climb. And before Coleman its a long drag out over steep Bay Hill and Hwy 1 (inland portion with lots of traffic and uphill.) By now my legs starting to tire and my right ankle mysteriously hurting, but I rather take my chances on slow climbs than on flats with another speeding paceline coming by. Passed a few Century riders but no Doubles riders on the road. Started singing "When the Music Over" and "In Shreds" on the desolate climbs. Laughed when passing a point on Highway 1 where years ago I was dead and "luckily" Don/I got stuck by a horse camp crossing. Not so funny when a auto PARKED on Highway 1 blocking traffic with everyone yelling at the dazed driver-parker. Watermelon GU Chomps I had carried from start were perfect here. Cursed myself for not losing 5 pounds when Coleman Climb was kicking my butt. Coleman checkpoint/Mini stop at mile 136 was great, 2:22, a few funny workers here. Took Advil for ankle, took off undershirt figuring it would be warm (wrong) rest of the day. Worker voluenteered that I was doing great--about 137th rider. 137th??, oh crap, but he quickly corrected himself and said "I meant around 37th." Just like a few years back this knowledge made me redouble my effort to defend my position and try to catch other riders.

Worker also told me that pothole strewn Joy Road, which was a long descent leading back to Valley Ford, was kinda fixed--potholes filled with an uneven patch job. Shade from tall trees made it hard to see many of the patch jobs. I was surprised that I was not passed on this downhill, and didn't see anyone until back at Valley Ford Rest Stop, now mile 153, now 3:20, and now most Century riders gone--and so was I after 5 minutes. As I was leaving two doubles riders also leaving but talking each other into first starting the Coleman loop.

Now feeling better as knew rest of course--a few short but real steep rollers, rollers down Highway 1, and the Marshall Wall backwards. There were two more rest stops on the course but I'd only stop at the one after the Marshall Wall, as the one at Nicasio was only 11 miles from the finish. Though I didn't like long headwind drag out from Petaluma earlier--the new course modifications meant an easier home stretch.

Again desolate on steep rollers and actually nice going downhill into Tomales instead of climb into headwind out of Tomales as in the past. Soon on Highway 1--small rollers of all varieties and flat sections where (damn, why did I watch 2002 Tour of Flanders last week where Erwin Thijs is run down and caught near the finish, instead of 2002 Paris Roubaix where Johan Museeuw motors away from US Postal chasers) I expected a large paceline to zoom past--but no one ever does.


Quick turn and suddenly past the Peace Bell and climbing Marshall Wall. More wrong expectations (when riding solo have alot of time to think) -- I expect it to get warm and sunny after we turn East but it never does. On the climb I don't expect to get caught but I soon hear a guy and woman bs'ing far behind me--and as we go further up the climb they get a little louder as they move close. Marshall Wall is easier in this direction, soon on undulated top part the guy and woman catch me and inch ahead as we start the downhill. To my surprise both pretty large (tall) folks. On downhill they put in more distance away from me, but then my next surprise is I catch them in the @ 3 mile flat run in to the rest stop, and then I just ride in their draft. Woman clad in a Luna Kit, guy has a light jacket on--and she seems to be slowing for him. and urging him on.

Pull into Walker Creek rest stop at mile 172 at 4:57. Usually I'd stay awhile at the penultimate rest stop (in the past Petaluma) as I wouldn't stop in Nicasio and want to refule for the last fast 28 miles. But here I felt good albeit strength in my legs kinda down. Club member and super long distance rider Kitty working rest stop--and instead of yelling at me for dawdling at a rest stop as she does when she rides a Double, she offers food, suntan lotion, drink, etc. I just gobble down another a mini-muffin and get fresh energy drink and I'm out in less than 6 minutes--though Luna Gal and Jacket Guy have already left.
At Walker Creek rest stop--couple I came in with from Marshall Wall in upper left. I'm happier than I look--thinking about what I need to get out of rest stop quickly. Thanks to Kitty for taking the photo and letting me dawdle for five minutes.

Road markers show just 4 miles to the end of fast/ flat Hicks Valley Road, where we'd turn to do the Cheese Factory Climb from the easy side albeit headwind. Coming off Hicks Valley Road one rider did catch me and he pulled into the climb, so on the climb I went to the front to block the wind. I lost guy on subsequent long downhill, and knew I wouldn't catch him on the fast run back to the finish but I hoped to pass other riders.

I'm now on fast tailwind flat road back to Nicasio past Nicasio Reservior. Check out the clouds covering teh Coast in upper right. (Photocrazy)

Map indicates Nicasio rest stop is a checkpoint so I slowed to yell out "who is taking numbers" as no one near the entrance doing same. Someone yelled back "we're not taking numbers here." Didn't notice if any/ many riders in the stop as I quickly go through Nicasio and start the 11 mile uphill along Lucas Valley Road--but the uphill is gentle as we're pushed along by the tailwind. Years ago after knee surgery I was amazed that I could do 20mph on an uphill along this section.
(above) Nicasio Rest Stop--I've never set foot in it on 6 doubles. (below) Town of Nicasio--so close to the Bay Area but looks like it belongs in a different century. (far below) The turn into Lucas Valley Road, one of the great ending roads of any ride--outbound wind is neutral, then picks up during the day so always get a tailwind inbound.

Lose much of the daylight in first section of road when suddenly surrounded by redwoods. Spring is back in my legs as I stand on the pedals--see and catch a few riders ahead but they are the remnants of the Century ride and no Doubles riders. Seems like in a flash where Redwoods end, and sunlight and yellow vegitation begins, and then the 2-3 turns on road that never gets steep but you finally realize you are on an uphill.

Redwoods (above) and front yard art (below) on Lucas Valley Road. We didn't see any of this when still dark 13 hours ago.

All of a sudden at Big Rock--semi steep but short in this direction. I always liked the climb but the twisty descent off of it used to really scare me--organizers put a few warning signs on this downhill and found out later club member Todd had crashed here on the Century, in about same place another club member crashed years ago on a training ride. As a relaxing mechinism I count out the 22 hairpins and curves as negotiated, usually do it quietly by now yelling ".....7........8........9......." as I'm sky high. Coming off downhill I usually catch a rider or two on flat fast run in but no one visable down the road.
(above) Start of Big Rock Eastern descent (below) One of the many curves complete with warning signs. (far below) Earlier on the century ride WWF News Fotos--covering the Todd crash--gets photo of rider who just overshot the curve while rider behind quickly unclips. (WWF photo)
If Chileno Valley dragged earlier in the day and seemed like hours to ride--the few miles on Lucas Valley seemed like seconds before right turn onto last street before Highway where we climb through suburban neighborhood. Three blocks from the finish we have to cross a main street/ parkway where I almost always catch the "red" light--and it just turns red when I'm 100' from the intersection. To the amusement of two Century riders waiting patiently I keep hitting the -walk- button where the machine announces somethin inane as I bob up and down waiting for the light to change. When light changes I'm now wound up, skid into Courtyard of school (checkin is in the middle, not the front) where at 6:35 I shout out my number a few times ...


Unlike most post doubles I have a good appitite at the finish. Courtyard is a little depressing as workers already putting stuff away as Century riders finished hours ago. Also not like past years where some cubmates at the finish with me or we wait for them to come in. But after hours of stuffing mini-muffins in my mouth while "on the run" or drinking some chalky Hammar product time to enjoy some pizza and ice cream--real food, and then start drive home still in daylight..

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