Sunday, July 1, 2012


CENTURY #21  June 30, 2012, ALTA ALPINA CHALLENGE DOUBLE, 198 miles, 20,300' climbing, 8 "Death Ride" or bonus Death Ride mountain passes (100 miles over 7,000' altitude--which exploding tubes of suntan remind you of), w/ Toby*, 4:00-10:15  ***53 of 70 finishers--though I went to car for 15 minutes and bundled up before checking in.  Though finished near the rear of finishers just glad I finished--107 people started the 8 pass ride, and 35% did NOT finish***

*Toby did the 8 1/2 pass option, he liked the hardest part of the course-the top of Ebbets #1 so much he did that part twice

Ride report coming which will be brief (for this site.)  If you want to know more about the course and this great ride click on this for my 2011 report   Only course change, Blue Lakes Road was fully open this year so no make up miles in the lower valley.

Note: a correction in last year's report--it was Alpine County itself and not the chamber that kicked the Alta Alpina Cycling Club out from the Death Ride to keep all the $$$ made.   The lack of support from Alpine County for the Alta Alpina is readily apparent (loads of police cars patrolling the course in Douglas County, NV while none in Alpine County, CA)

Summary..Weather perfect. 49 degrees at 4am in Markleeville where ride starts.  Markleeville only at 5500' so it is the low spot on the course.   Temperature here would gradually climb to 80, a little after we stopped for lunch.   Free fall from 80 to 63 in 5 hours, with afternoon gusts of 20-26 mph--and this is for a weather station 3000' below where we'd be riding up to.

A timed event but I view it differently than the other timed doubles.  No mass start--so the person you are passing may have started an hour after you.  And after dying out last year--I just want to finish the course.  Seemed to hear from a bunch of people--best way to ride at altitude is to go straight to the event or acclimate for a week.  Your third day is the worst.  Hmmm, came up Thursday for Saturday's ride--2 1/2 days.  Some medical evidence that ibuprofen and ginko bilboa help with altitude sickness so dosing with thus.

At late minute joined by new club member Toby, who has never done a double.  But he is an elite triathlete and coach, and he has done some other nutty things like started "The Deca" where you do a new triathlon for 10 straight days.  Good to have someone to BS with leading to the event, if I was all alone I'd probably been obsessing too much as this is my last chance to finish the 8 passes.  I'm never training again like I did since last winter, and regardless of outcome was not going to sign up for the 8 pass ride again.

Meanwhile Toby has a plan (apart from wearing two pair of shorts simultaneously) so we don't burn out--to stay around 160 watts of power.    I usually attack climbs and ride easy on the flats--this was very strange, it seemed we were babying the Kingsbury climb but riding too hard on the flats.  Toby and I mildy snipping during the start of the ride--are we both on edge?  He's never done a double and I crapped out last year on this ride.  But he does redeem himself by coming up with a great quote, which I remembered every time I wanted to hammer uphill.

"Don't do what you can, do what you should"-Coach Toby 

Rolling along all day with nary a problem for half the ride (first four passes.)  All the out and back passes, with climbing miles indicated.
Kingsbury-8 miles steady grade--good shoulder--see sun come out over the valley
Carson Pass (pre Luther spur)-5 miles, steep with cool/ mild headwind, no narrow shoulder-traffic
Luther Pass-3 miles steady grade-good shoulder.  Best thing is it breaks Carson up
Carson Pass (post Luther spur)-9 miles-almost flat becomes steeper closer to the top where mild headwind develops.  Traffic annoying but that and worst road surface on ride would be more of a problem on downhill.
Blue Lakes Road-12 miles. Unique pass with light traffic.  Grade slight then kicks up about 3/4's in.

Century done after fast return on Blue Lakes Road.  Feeling great--though felt great here last year, and climbs on the 2nd half of the ride much harder.  Toby got ahead on the Blue Lakes Downhill, I rode back to Turtle Rock Lunch Stop with Dr. Len who knew some of the long time Doubles riders in my Club--and we got on a fast paceline of young guys in a flat section.  Toby and I planned the lunch stop badly and stayed at the lunch stop way too long.  Anxiety building up as Ebbets climb after lunch is where I died last year, but didn't feel overheated like last year when I had too much crap on.  In fact I threw my handlebar bag stuffed with knee/ arm warmers/ glove liners/ sock liners and undershirt in the car--I though carrying a rain jacket and having a thermal vest in the drop bag would keep me plenty warm if the temperature dipped later.

Two remaining mountains, Ebbets and Monitor, and unlike the out and back passes, these you climb and then descend the other side-necessitating a reclimb.

Ebbetts Pass Front Side-13 miles.  The most scenic of all the climbs along Hwy 4--which here is a 1 1/2 lane unstriped road.  Very little car traffic but with narrow road the idiot drivers really stood out.   On each side is forest.  Also the steepest climb--the 2nd half features many double digit hairpins and sections.  Also very long.
Ebbetts Pass Back Side-5 1/2 miles.  Much shorter than the front side.  Road nicely repaved since did it last a few years ago.   Just like riding to the Mt Diablo Junction--maybe with more kick.  The Hermit Valley rest stop at the base is one of the nicest on any ride
Monitor Pass Front Side-8 miles.  Back on a main road but nicely paved, nice shoulder, and not much traffic.  Steady climb with a few kicks thrown in.  Not a hard climb if done before 156 miles in your legs.  Very straight so can motor on the returning descent (though falling rocks an issue) if during the day--but on this ride returning when it is dark.
Monitor Pass Back Side-10 miles.   Better views than the front side of Monitor.  Also twister with a few more grade kicks.  Today would have a howling head/ cross wind that would make it a bitch.

Toby leads out and sets a good pace to Ebbets where there is a mild headwind.  Headwind stops when we hit the tree line but then the grade spikes up.   Near top of front side of Ebbets, pass #5, the steepest climb, I start falling apart a little with 2 miles to go so I back off.  Figure I can recover on the downhill so when I pass Toby at the rest stop I tell him I'm not stopping but going straight down.  I continue on and go straight down towards Hemet Valley.  As every climb to this point has been an out and back, Toby goes downhill back in the direction we came.  After @7 miles of not seeing me he realizes he's gone the wrong way and reclimbs the steepest part of the course.

At Hermit Valley rest stop expect to see Toby pull in but ?????.    When I get near the top of Ebbets, pass #6, I catch up to The Other Brian, recumbent guy who I've talked to and emailed before the ride--at the same time Toby goes by on the downhill--what the hell happened to him?   I imagined he had bonked and stayed at the rest stop that I left him at for a long time.

Get to the top of Ebbetts for a second time.   Rest stop worker tells me I'm 2 hours ahead of cutoff which isn't actually true as time to remaining cutoffs don't do justice to the time you actually need.   From there on out I'm getting out of rest stops easy and trying to follow the Toby plan, I pace up Monitor 1 with climbers who are climbing a little slower than I usually like to make sure I keep in the lower power zone.  After his Ebbets bonus mile reclimb Toby slamming on the downhills to make up time.   I get to Monitor 2 hours before the 7:00 cutoff to descend the other side, and have a nice ride up bs'ing with a doubles vet--one of the many great people I met on the ride, so reach the top with about 45 minutes to spare to cutoff..    Meanwhile Toby will need to throw out the conserve watts plan to get up Monitor before the cutoff.

I start down Monitor 8, stoked that all I need to do is reclimb it to get all 8 passes.  But I notice on the descent the suddenly howling crosswind--and that though not especially steep the back side of Monitor is 10 long miles.  I start up Monitor 8th pass with sun directly in front--hot.  Then sun disappeared and crosswind took over-suddenly cold.  Saw Toby and Recumbent Brian coming down.  Nausea set it--quickly drained my water bottle and other bottle with HEED was going to make me upchuck .  Why didn't I fill the HEED bottle with Cola?   Why do I keep chanting at myself to keep moving?  Found religion--start praying to my dad--"dad, please stop the crosswind around the next turn."  Vowed not to stop on climb for at least 45 minutes and then until a photo op presented itself--luckily one did in 55 minutes.

Drained and freezing almost 2 hours later when I got to the top.  Luckily had my mini light with me as at 8:45 it suddenly is pretty dark.   I was ready to keel over but got a lift from some kind words by another doubles rider.   First time sat at rest stop all day--now covered in blanket in a shelter area sipping noodle soup.   A blabbing cyclist complaining about his feet got me out of the shelter.  I had left my handlebar bag filled with arm warmers, undershirt, glove liners, in my car after the warm lunch stop--I figured rain jacket and thermal vest would be warm enough for downhill.  It wasn't.  While looking for fallen rocks, and getting bombed by swarms of moths, I was shaking uncontrollably.  Glad that someone asked of they could follow me down as I had heavy duty lights--helped on the last 10 miles of rollers and then annoying uphill to Turtle Rock Park.

Arrived around 10:15--but before I checked in went to the car and changed/ put on warmer clothes.  Checked in about 20 minutes later, just as Toby arrived and I found out about his misadventure--and bonus climbing miles.  Friendly volunteer kept pushing great food, unfortunately I couldn't eat anything.  Strange that people kept coming over and saying what a great job, finishing 8 passes on the hardest Double, but I felt like I got run over by a beer truck.

Next  morning feeling better and while packing the car a few people came over and said they had seen me on the climbs, riding easily, and they congratulated me for doing eight passes.  They had done three pass rides and were apologetic for not doing more--but no need as they did great as long as they met their goal .  A motorcyclist came over and wanted to hear what I had done, then commented that Lance just won a bike race.  Turns out he didn't know Lance was retired, just that he was "just busted" on doping charges.  

The goal is to do what you can do and next time try for a little more.  Except for me--next year I do the family fun ride.

Retro Garmin course profile.   Now I can be like some 508 finishers --I'll wear the Alta Alpina 8 pass jersey on every ride.

I'm by Caples Lake near the Alta Alpina course.  (Top) 2012 (Bottom) 2011.

Toby on Blue Lakes Road easy spin preride.

In 2004 Blue Lakes Road was the 6th pass bonus on the Death Ride and instantly became a favorite.  It goes out for 12 miles, gentle climb most of the way before it kicks up a little near the end, and then dead ends at a campground.  Smooth road, very little traffic, pine meadows and snow capped mountains off to the side.  So each year the day before doing the Death Ride/Alta Alpina, ride Blue Lakes Road for the ez spin preride.  Seminal moment a few years back--see rider who looks familiar, its Jack, coming back from his preride when a lumbering bear moves toward the road.  Last year Blue Lakes Road was closed after 4 miles as it still had snow drifts.   Below is a short video of our preride on Blue Lakes Road, to give you a taste of the ride. 

Photo's from Sorensen's, a bit expensive but nice/ unique accommodations.

Toby looks happy that he woke up at 2am to start a 4am ride.  Going up Kingsbury Grade, Pass #1, right after the sun came up

Toby and I at the top of Kingsbury Grade--I look nervous.

Toby approaching the top of Luther Grade with the Toby Forest off to the right.

Toby and I at the top of Carson Pass--the seminal, long, windy, Death Ride climb.  On the Death Ride this is the final pass.  On Alta Alpina this is only Pass #3.  Not much headwind today but bad road surface and traffic at close quarters made turning into Blue Lakes Road especially nice.

The end of the greatest 12 miles of the ride--the campground turnaround at the end of quiet Blue Lakes Road.  A rider who knew some of our club's older Doubles Riders, Dr. Len, told me that in the early 2000's this road wasn't even paved.

Toby going up Ebbets front side--the most picturesque but steepest of all the climbs.

View of the lake near the top of Ebbetts, (top) 2012 (bottom) in 2001

A little suffering near the top of this one but front side of Ebbetts done, pass #5 in the bag.

Now at bottom of Ebbets backside, the short reclimb is pass #6.  I almost look happy.  Rider in background, Garth, would give me lots of encouragement when I was falling apart at the top of pass #8.

Recumbent Brian on the backside of Ebbets.  First bent to do the Alta Alpina 8.   When he whizzed by on the downhill later he rang a bell as a warning and yelled ice cream.  I could have used one.

On top of the front side of Monitor--the 7th climb.  Things are going TOO WELL,

The tombstone marker at the top of Monitor.  No doubt a warning sign of the hell that was about to follow on pass #8.

While climbing pass #8 the sun is setting in front of me, and far below is the Topaz Lake Valley, where I started up from. 

Feel great that I completed 8 passes but disappointed that I fell apart on last climb.  Some mistakes made:
1) Toby/ I didn't have a solid plan for getting out of the lunch stop quickly--spent 20 minutes more there than I should have.
2) Needed to eat more after starting the Monitor 1 climb.  For the next 4 hours--climbing 2 passes and descending 1--I had half a Chomps packet, 2 mini Lara Bars, and--think I grabbed something small when I first reached Monitor (I remember bananas that I usually love no longer looked appealing.)
3) Had some fizztabs with me--should have put that in second water bottle instead of HEED for Monitor 2 climb.  But forgot i had them.

I am surprised that this is not the Alta Alpina 9, with the short but steep Pacific Grade thrown in after Hermit Valley (1000' climbing in 2 miles.)  Hopefully the Alta Alpina Cycling club will first think of this when its totally ridiculous for me to contemplate doing this ride again.

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