View Full Version : Eastern Sierra Double Century report

06-05-2006, 05:05 PM
Well, I'm finally back from the ESDC. It was pretty epic. This was one of the few rides that I seriously considered dropping out of. More than once.

I drove to Bishop on Friday. Bishop is basically a cow town east of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The mountains are spectacular, though much of the topography below is high desert. Bishop is at 4000 feet, and after an initial flat 50 miles, the ride climbed and stayed in the 6500 - 8200 foot range all day. One thing from which I drew a lot of inspiration is that Bishop is close to the staging point for climbing Mt. Whitney. At 14,495 feet, Mt. Whitney is the highest point in the lower 48 states. About 15 years ago, climbing Whitney was the first thing I ever did where I felt that I could be an endurance athlete. I've done it several times since and it is great.

Back to the ride. Bike ready to go at 4:45 a.m.:


I wanted to start the ride before dawn so I could see the sunrise on the mountains. (None of those photos came out....) Starting early would also reduce my chances of finishing after dark. However, in the loony self-sufficiency streak that brevet has instilled in me, I carried my VERY heavy Nite Rider Moab in my oversized Ortlieb saddle bag. That bag was WAY too heavy for this ride, and it was a dumb move. But it gave me confidence that if I had to finish after dark, I'd have more than my little Serfas LED.

After a flat, relatively fast 50 miles - during which I raced a lot of jack rabbits (and lost) - the first climb of about 2000 feet started. View from the Sherwin Grade:


There's 10,200 feet of climbing in this ride. I was maybe over confident because that's less climbing that the Mt. Tam double and indeed a bit less climbing than the last 100 mile ride I did last week. However, I did not feel well all day. Maybe it was the 3 - 4 hours sleep. Maybe it was the carnitas burrito the day before. Maybe it was the heat. Whatever, I couldn't eat much at all. I thought about my 2002 Death Ride fiasco and tried to do what I could. I moved from sports drink to water and supplemented with Endurolytes like crazy. I ate pretzels because they seem to go down okay.

At June Lake (about mile 80), I pulled into a convenience store and bought a Coke. That was a life saver. The June Lake loop was also very emotionally uplifting because it was some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen. My picture doesn't do it justice. I think the professional photographer got one of the super amazing waterfall and I will link to it when he puts them up. June Lake:


After June Lake, a slog to lunch. We descended what seemed like forever to Mono Lake. All the while I was thinking "I have to climb back up this after lunch..." and it was getting very hot. I had lunch with my friend Kevin from the 600k - we decided to share a sandwich instead of having a whole one in view of the upcoming climb.

After lunch, the ride climbed from Mono Lake (about 6000 feet) up and up to "Sage Hen summit" at 8150 feet. Yippee. It was very hot. There were some wonderful unofficial water stop folks along this stretch. Not "check points" but just nice folks who came out to have water and ice available.

It's funny, on a double you play hopscotch with the same folks over again. Though I mostly rode alone til the end, I saw the same folks throughout the day, and that was nice.

I stopped several times on the climb. I wasn't feeling well, but tried to keep drinking and eating something. The last pitch of the climb was my kind of climb: long and shallow into a headwind. I love a 2 - 6% grade, and that really perked up my spirits. After the climb (mile 135), there was a rocking descent during which I hit 49 mph. However, the descent had two huge downers:

Downer #1: expansion joints every 100 feet or so. The roads get snow and ice, and I guess they need these mini-crevasses to preserve the road, but the jarring "KA-THUNK, KA-THINK" really got old, and I actually stopped at one point to make sure my fork was still in one piece. This is one of the more tame joints, photographed by accident. I wear size 11 shoes, to give you an idea of perspective. They ranged from 1 - 3" wide, probably more. Some, like this one, were covered with rubbery asphalt. Some weren't. They sucked.


After the joint marred descent came a road to nowhere. I sang the Talking Heads song to keep myself awake. You could see the end of the road and it was MILES away. Off in the distance, I could see other cyclists. Then I saw them move to the other side of the road. Then I saw what looked like the cyclists coming back toward me on the other side of the road. As I got closer, I realized there were large things on the other side of the road. Walking. I took pictures to make sure I was not hallucinating:



Yup. Donkeys. They were very bedraggled and wild. Probably abandoned, which is super sad. They were walking along a road that is basically a highway as any cars driving on it were going at a good 60 - 80 mph.


I tried to shoo them off into the desert.

After the flat bit, there were some more fairly nasty climbs. Nastly mostly because after the jarring of the expansion joints I was sore. Then there was another descent, during which I encountered....

Downer #2: Bees.

I was descending at about 30 mph when I saw a thick dark cloud in front of me on the road. I could not stop or avoid it, so I went through. It was a huge swarm of bees. I felt like someone had thrown gravel at me. Large bees hitting your body at 30 mph HURTS. After the impact, I maintained my course and brushed the bees off me as best I could. I wanted to get away from the cloud first and foremost. The bees didn't seem to be able to sting through my shorts, but they did sting my bare legs and arms. I got one stinger under the elastic leg band of my shorts that I didn't notice for about an hour. That one really hurts and itches now. Dead bees splattered on my sunglasses. YUK!!!

I pulled over and brushed off the rest of the bees and continued on. I saw two nice guys who had passed me on the last climb at the side of the road. I pulled over and asked them if they'd seen the bees. They had not. I think they could see that I was visibly shaken, and at the last rest stop (2 miles later), they asked me to wait and leave with them so we could ride together.

They hung around a bit longer at the rest stop than I would have, but I was glad for the company. The last 40 miles were a payoff. Low-grade fast descents and flats the whole way back. We worked well together and covered the last part at 18 - 30 mph the whole way. The two guys I was riding with were great - very nice folks. We all took turns pulling - this is probably sexist, but again, guys are always very appreciative when you can pull at 20 mph plus. I really do like riding hard on the flats, and to have this eb the end of the ride was great.

So for feeling crummy all day, the end bit was pretty good. We finished right about 8, in the light (barely!). My ride time was about 13 1/2 hours, which is probably about the same as my time for the Mt. Tam Double which has more climbing (but not at altitude). I'm trying not to beat myself up about it too much, because I really wasn't well all day and I am pleased that I didn't pack it in - I was really tempted to several times. (I actually had chest pains a few times, which I have never had and I think it is indigestion related, but it was worrisome.) For 200 miles, I didn't eat as much as I should have, but obviously enough to get me through. I had 2 1/2 flasks of gel, 1/2 turkey sandwich, 1 small PB&J, 1 banana, 1 package sport beans, 2 handfuls of pretzels, 3 bottles of sports drink, 2 cokes and lots of water and endurolytes. They had no V8 which was too bad.

The area is beautiful, but I don't know that I would do the ride again. Those stupid expansion joints were such a buzzkill (no pun intended). The bees were a fluke, but one of the scariest things to happen to me as I have not yet had a front wheel flat on a descent which I am sure would be scarier.

I really want to go back and camp at June Lake, though....

06-05-2006, 05:41 PM
Wow! How epic! Maybe I don't want to do this ride next year.


06-05-2006, 05:44 PM
Wow! How epic! Maybe I don't want to do this ride next year.


Yeah, I know you wanted to do it and I don't want my not so positive experience to ruin it for you. It really is a beautiful ride. And because I felt like crud I am sure it soured it for me a bit.

I would definitely do it again if it weren't for those expansion joints for miles and miles. I was warned about them by a couple of people. After that many miles, the jarring just hurts. Maybe on your steel frame it would be better, but I really think you'd need a goose down bike to make any impact.

06-05-2006, 05:47 PM
There were some of those on the Siskiyou metric last year. I didn't like them. They are just so jarring - not like regular bumps.


06-05-2006, 06:48 PM
Thanks for the story and the beautiful pictures. I'm very familiar with the area, those are stunning views! The descent into Mono Lake must have been something else on a bike, well, except for the climb back up.


06-05-2006, 08:29 PM
Wow, what a story of highs and lows. Are you healing quickly?

There are wild burros and horses down there. Probably a breeding population.

I did a lot of hiking in the eastern Sierra in high school and college. Brought back a lot of memories.

06-05-2006, 11:21 PM
"I was descending at about 30 mph when I saw a thick dark cloud in front of me on the road. I could not stop or avoid it, so I went through. It was a huge swarm of bees. I felt like someone had thrown gravel at me. Large bees hitting your body at 30 mph HURTS."

May I just say, WWWWHHHHHHHAAAA!!!!!!! :eek: :eek: :eek:

It must have taken a cool head to get out of that without crashing. ;)

Good for you!

06-06-2006, 08:29 PM
For those who are interested - the "real" photographer - who's a great guy who also did roaming SAG and had a water and ice stop - got some photos of the cyclists and the surrounding environment (including the donkeys!).

Me climbing Sherwin Grade:


Amazing fantastic waterfall at June Lake:


Me somewhere I don't remember being photographed because I was delerious:




06-06-2006, 08:59 PM
I like the Sherwin Grade photo. Nice everything, colors, background, etc..

06-06-2006, 10:04 PM
For someone who's delerious, you look pretty freakin' happy! Well done!

06-07-2006, 06:08 AM
Wow! What a ride! Nice report and pics.

06-07-2006, 09:49 AM
For someone who's delerious, you look pretty freakin' happy! Well done!

I thought the same thing! Great job sticking it out.


06-07-2006, 10:28 AM
Great pics and ride report! That must have been horrible hitting that swarm of bees. It's a good thing you're not allergic to them!

You do look awfully happy in that last picture. Mighty good for delerium. :)

Bad JuJu
06-07-2006, 11:04 AM
You not only look happy, but also confident and ready to take on the world--or at least the rest of the ride. I'm enormously inspired by your definitely epic ride. Too cool for words!

06-07-2006, 01:07 PM
Wow congratulations on the ride. You should be very proud of yourself. I would have been hunting down the sag wagon after that bee encounter.

Well done.

06-07-2006, 06:07 PM

I can only echo the admiration and amazment already laid at your feet! Wow! Thank you so much for posting this. The bees win for best added degree of difficulty so far! The pictures are breathtaking. Having spent 5 days in SLC, I'm even more impressed at what you can do at that altitude.

Your daughter is going to be telling stories about her hero-mom to her great grandkids, and she'll have the pictures to prove it.

Good on you! Looking forward to many more. L.

06-08-2006, 06:38 PM

I just got back from harassing Slinke and just got to really read the whole thread. I have to also say that you do look pretty darned awesome for someone who was feeling badly! I loved your pictures!!!!! :D

You did a fabulous job sticking it out in spite of the issues.... those bees would have freaked me out! You are awesome and I'm sure you are very proud of yourself, just as you should be!

Great Job and great report!


06-12-2006, 09:09 AM
How did you manage to look so gorgeous in the middle of that ride??? I always, without fail, look like crap in any pro photo.

I had the same stomach deal going on Saturday, when it was over 100F. Sustained on water and electrolytes, but none of my usual stuff seemed right, but I still had to eat _something_. It's tough.

Great report!


06-12-2006, 09:23 AM
How did you manage to look so gorgeous in the middle of that ride??? I always, without fail, look like crap in any pro photo.

I had the same stomach deal going on Saturday, when it was over 100F. Sustained on water and electrolytes, but none of my usual stuff seemed right, but I still had to eat _something_. It's tough.

Great report!


Thanks for the compliments all of you!

Nanci - I am really struggling with what to eat in the heat. We just can't seem to get any training rides in when it is hot - yesterday was a long ride and it was cold all day. But then for my events, especially those in the Sierra like ESDC and the Death Ride coming up, I expect a lot of heat. So I can't "practice" what works in training. Pretzels and super bland stuff (wheat thins) always seem to work for me. Water and electrolyte pills go down easier than gatorade or other sports drinks at some times.

What's been working for you?

06-12-2006, 10:38 AM
I can always get Sport Beans down, and the good thing about them is I can eat two or three at a time, and just keep munching. If I can get down two packs, that's 200 calories. Kettle cooked potato chips go down, and Funyums. (All nutritional value has obviously gone out the window- I just eat any kind of calories for survival!!) I had a Coca Cola Icee Saturday, it was _so_ good. I don't know if I got any calories from it. Coke Blak goes down- that's 45 calories in a little bottle.


06-12-2006, 10:50 AM
When I have near-death experiences due to heat, I've been able to suck down apple juice. The small boxes don't need to be refrigerated and apple juice always tastes cool to me even when it isn't refrigerated.

06-12-2006, 11:52 AM
I wonder if the little foil packed Capri Sun juices would be good, too, then.


06-12-2006, 12:02 PM
I think those would be too sweet. I do a variation of your chocolate milk with the individually packaged Silk chocolate soy milks. They don't need to be refrigerated and work better for me than milk.