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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Marin County CA
    Posts
    5,958

    Thumbs up Devil Mountain Double Century Report - yowza!

    This is a long report, but it was a long ride! The summary is: I finished the Devil Mountain Double century last weekend. It was really hard and super hot. I saw a coyote, pet a goat and almost hit an opossum. I swore at the end of the ride that I would never do it again, but now I’m not so sure.



    The Devil Mountain Double Century is said to be the hardest double century in California. With 19,000 feet of climbing in 206 miles, it goes over two of the highest roads in the Bay Area. The California Triple Crown rates the difficulty of the ride as “radically high”, and designates it the hardest double in the series. I had registered for the ride last year, but it came one week after a 600k I rode, so I did not ride it. A couple of weeks ago, as I was driving south on Highway 280 towards San Jose, I saw Mount Hamilton in the distance and it struck me that I wanted to do DMD.

    I had to drive about an hour to get to the ride start, so I left at 3 am. In the car, I noticed that I had developed a huge blister burn on the gum around a molar from molten peanut butter on a toasted bagel. Bummer. I figured that by the time I started the ride, that annoyance would hardly be noticeable. I was right.

    About 190 people started the ride - a record according to the organizers. At 5 am, we set off as a group for our first challenge of the day - Mount Diablo (10 ½ miles of climbing to 3200 feet with a stretch of 20% grade at the top). Before the climb began, there was a fast paced group ride - in the dark, of course! I got to talk to Rick (sprinter) and Anna Stewart, who seem to do ALL the double centuries on their tandem and are amazingly strong. My plan for the climbs was to go my own pace. I am never the fastest climber, but I am rarely the slowest and I generally get a good rhythm going.

    As I climbed, I chatted with riders passing me. Many were talking about how warm it was already - before sunrise it was easily in the mid 60's. I was a little concerned about how hot it might get later. I knew a number of people doing the ride. First Paul Worhach (Paul #1) passed me, and we chatted a bit. He looked super strong and I knew he’d finish well. Next Mahesh and his friends passed me - I got to congratulate Mahesh about their new baby, Tej, and asked how his wife and my old cycling buddy Tiffini was doing as a new mom. Then Paul Duren (Paul #2) passed and we chatted. Paul #2 had finished DMD last year and I was sure he’d finish - although he had crashed on the descent of Diablo the year before.

    At one point, I was alone on the climb, and turned a corner to see a coyote coming down the road toward me. Most of the coyotes I’ve seen in the wild are scraggly and thin. This one was a beautiful animal, with a thick coat like a well-fed German Shepherd. I was very surprised when, as our paths crossed, he turned around and started following me! I picked up the pace a little.

    About a mile from the top, riders started coming back down - so I got to see my friends again, which was fun. I reached the summit just after 7, and quickly filled bottles and began the descent. We descended a different road than we had climbed, and I had never been this way before. There was a lot of this ride I had never done before, which made me a little nervous. The descent was easier than I expected. Then followed some very urban and traffick-y roads until we started the next climb of the day, up Morgan Territory (7 ½ miles of climbing). Until the climb started, I rode for a bit with a fascinating man who initially approached me asking for some food as he was starting to bonk. I was thinking “Dude, it’s too early to be bonking!” and gave him a bag of sport beans. He told me a story about how his family had gotten caught in a storm in the Himalayas at 21,000 feet in December and almost died, so I figured he’d probably tough it out. I never saw him again and wonder how he did.

    Morgan Territory is a pretty badly surfaced road, but it is quite pretty. There is tree cover, so it was not hot. The road surface and abrupt changes in gradient made it very difficult to get a good rhythm going. Veronica had told me to watch for mile 9.3 on the road markers, and I did. I reached the rest stop at the top (mile 51) at about 9:30.

    Thom, Veronica and Curtis were working the rest stop. V checked me in and Thom was plying everyone with pills, powders and lotions like a cotton candy salesman at the ballpark. I left my vest, leggings and arm warmers to be brought to the start as it was now quite warm. I was feeling great at this point, but I knew it was still very early in the day.

    Next came a great descent on a wonderfully surfaced road down to Livermore. I didn’t know the descent, or I would have gone a little faster, but once we were down the hill, a SAG car passed me and the drive gave a thumbs up out his sunroof and said “Great descent!” About ½ mile in front of me I could see three riders that I knew were Mahesh and his friends. If I could catch them, we could ride this flat and possibly windy part together so I pushed to catch them and did. I learned that one of Mahesh’s friends, Barbara, had done DMD last year as he second double. She was a very strong climber.

    We rode together to the start of the next obstacle, Patterson Pass. This climb is almost four miles, with a rest stop at a false flat a mile from the bottom. The rest stop gives you a view of “Oh my God!” hill, which is the remainder of the climb which includes grades up to 17%. The climb looked worse than it was from the rest stop - at least that’s what I was telling myself! It really did make you say “Oh my God!” when you saw it, though. From the beginning of the climb, I started having pain in my left foot - I guess it’s what people call “hot foot” - a burning in the ball of the foot. I tried loosening my shoes, moving my toes, but nothing seemed to help except getting off the bike.

    After Patterson Pass, the first time cut off approached. Riders were supposed to reach the rest stop at the base of Mines Road (mile 91) by 1:30 pm or be asked to discontinue the ride. Before I started, not having ridden Morgan Territory or Patterson Pass, I didn’t know if the time cut off would be a problem. It turned out that it wasn’t, as I got to Mines at about noon. I was greeted by cheers from two dear friends who were working the rest stop, Sig and Barb. They were super encouraging.

    After the rest stop at mile 91, you begin what is basically a 40 mile climb to the top of Mount Hamilton. The first 25 miles of the climb are rolly, then there’s a flatter part where there would be a lunch stop, and the last five miles are very steep, relentless and tough - with grades up to 20%. As I climbed the first part, it was getting hotter and hotter. I passed Mahesh and his friends who were stopped resting in the shade, and they said they were going to go off the road up ahead and dip their heads in the river. That sounded great, but I’ve seen too many rattlesnakes on Mines Road to want to go off the road. Fortunately, I came upon a very large, clear puddle right next to the road. I washed my face, arms and legs and the water really was refreshing.

    At the lunch stop (mile 115), I really had to struggle to eat. I have a very hard time eating in hot weather, and it was in the 90's by this point. I put ice in my sports bra and forced down a half sandwich. I felt like I was doing pretty well on the hydration, but was concerned about not being able to eat. As expected, the last part of the climb up Hamilton was very difficult. Mahesh and friends had left the lunch stop about a half hour after I had, and the caught up with me about 4 miles from the top. Mahesh rode with me for a bit, which was very nice because on super steep grades, I can become very slow. Turns out there is a spring 3 miles from the top of Hamilton, with cool water running from a pipe. That was very refreshing - I’d climbed this mountain before and never noticed this. After the spring, I made myself ride to each mile marker and then let myself stop and walk for a bit to loosen my legs.

    During the last five miles of the climb, I was continually passed by SAG cars full of riders abandoning the ride. They’d pause beside me and ask if I was okay. I would give a thumbs up or nod but I really couldn’t talk because I was feeling pretty nauseated. I wasn’t going to quit, though, because I hoped I would feel better after the descent. Apparently they had an almost record number of people abandon the ride this year because of the heat.

    Finally, I reached the mini-rest stop just below the summit (mile 133), where Thom and Veronica were serving up ice water and V8s. I love V8 on a hot ride! I was stunned to see my friend Paul (#2) at this rest stop - apparently he had started having severe cramping and was unable to finish the ride. That was a huge bummer. Thom and Veronica assured me that even though it was getting late, the ride organizers were sincere when they said they would support the riders no matter how long it took them to finish. I felt a little guilty because I knew by this point I would be done after midnight. But there was nothing really “wrong” with me (other than maybe in the head) so I kept going.

    After the climb, there would be about a 20 mile downhill, which I was really looking forward to. I hoped the descent would give me a chance to recover and that I might start feeling better, as my stomach was really not great. But the descent was a bit bumpy and I had difficulty picking lines, and it turned out not to be refreshing at all. After the descent, there was a rest stop at some nice person’s home - unfortunately, you had to climb up a little side street to get there and I really didn’t want any more climbing!

    At that rest stop (mile 150) I has some broth from a cup-a-soup, which was very soothing. It was beginning to get dark, and the temperatures were coming down, and I was starting to feel better. That was good news, because in six miles I would have to climb Sierra Road - four miles of climbing with an average gradient of 10.5% and maximum grades of 25%. That just sounded silly at this point. My friend Kevin, who’d done the ride in 2005 had told me simply to expect to walk some of Sierra and I had no problem with that concept whatsoever.

    The beginning part of Sierra was very steep and I did walk. SAG driver extraordinare Lee Mitchell stopped and attached a rear taillight to my bike - mine had flown off during the first fast group part in the morning, so all I had was a helmet rear light, which Lee deemed insufficient. I was using my small LED front light at this point, but had picked up my helmet HID light at the last rest stop. I planned to put that on at the top of Sierra. I asked Lee if I was last, and he assured me there were riders still all up and down the mountain (Hamilton). I’m no dummy and I lie to the people I am coaching for TNT all the time (“There’s not much more climbing.” “It’s not that steep.”) so I wasn’t entirely sure whether to believe him.

    I alternately walked and rode up Sierra, and gradually the city lights of San Jose came into view below me. There were fireworks going on below me somewhere - they looked so small, but sounded impressive. It was very dark, and I was surrounded by fields. An occasional SAG car would pass me going one direction or another. The climb seemed to go on forever, and the city receded farther and farther below. Finally, at about 9:30 pm, I reached the legendary “pet the goat” stop at the top of Sierra Road (mile 160).



    Alto the goat is a fixture of this ride. Sierra is the toughest climb in the ride, gradient-wise, and the ride organizers decided to give the riders extra incentive to get up the hill by putting a goat at the top which you get to pet when you finish the climb. Last year, Em and I had come to cheer on our friends doing the ride and went to this stop specifically to pet the goat. He’s very engaging. I had some more cup-a-soup and sat down for a bit, putting on my very bright helmet light. By this time, my core body temperature seemed to be coming down and my stomach was feeling better. I still didn’t want to eat much, though.

    After Sierra there was a rolling descent down Calaveras Road. I was glad for my bright light, which shone where I looked and allowed me to descend at a pretty good clip. At one point, I saw an opossum on the road ahead. He was trotting along in my direction and I worried for an instant that he might cross in front of me. I passed him and continued into the dark. It was starting to get a little chilly, and I wished I had my vest and arm warmers sent to a rest stop instead of the end of the ride.

    After some moderate climbing and descending, I finally reached the town of Sunol and the last rest stop in the ride (mile 181). It was about 11 pm, I think, but I could be wrong. At the rest stop I had some chili and a root beer. Dangerous combination, but it seemed to work out okay. I asked the rest stop worker what the next two climbs were like. He described them, generally, but somehow it didn’t register to me that the first climb was four and a half miles long. That climb really made me bitter. It was very late, I had 20 miles to go and they keep making me climb!!! I was becoming a bit depressed.

    Someone had said early in the day that the last 20 miles would be the hardest. I had just done a 250 mile ride a couple of weeks before, so I wasn’t really worried about the distance. But the cumulative effect of all the climbing, the severe heat, the inability to eat, was starting to take its toll. That last 25 miles took me about 2 ½ hours! After the four and a half mile Palomares climb, there was a bitterly cold descent and finally the last climb of a few miles up Norris canyon.

    It was dark and I was still in a pretty rural area and not really sure where I was. Finally, I heard freeway noises and crossed the freeway overpass and was almost done!!

    At 2:00 am, I reached the finish and checked in. I swore to the ride organizers that, while it was a great ride, well supported, etc., I was NEVER doing it again and would be happy to help out with a rest stop next year. This morning, I was driving down to San Jose, and saw Mt. Hamilton in the distance and thought to myself, well maybe I’ll give it a try again next year....
    Last edited by maillotpois; 05-01-2007 at 05:37 PM.
    Sarah

    When it's easy, ride hard; when it's hard, ride easy.


    2011 Volagi Liscio
    2010 Pegoretti Love #3 "Manovelo"
    2011 Mercian Vincitore Special
    2003 Eddy Merckx Team SC - stolen
    2001 Colnago Ovalmaster Stars and Stripes

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Seattle, WA
    Posts
    2,210
    Congratulations, what an awesome ride.

    Quote Originally Posted by maillotpois View Post
    At 2:00 am, I reached the finish and checked in. I swore to the ride organizers that, while it was a great ride, well supported, etc., I was NEVER doing it again and would be happy to help out with a rest stop next year. This morning, I was driving down to San Jose, and saw Mt. Hamilton in the distance and thought to myself, well maybe Iíll give it a try again next year....
    Funny. I wonder how many of us can see ourselves saying the same thing in our challenges...

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Concord, CA USA
    Posts
    1,299
    Congratulations on toughing it out! What a great ride report too.

    Did you get a pin at the top of Sierra?


    aka-I'm not worthy-kim

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Marin County CA
    Posts
    5,958
    Yes, Kim, I got a pin!!! In a moment of panic this evening, when I was writing the report I thought I'd lost it. It's safe and sound.

    What I want is a jersey. I think it's bad juju to order the jersey for such a ride before you've finished it, so I am hoping I can still get one.

    And you ARE worthy. You could do this ride. You've done most of the Death Ride, right? You just need to be stupid stubborn. Or maybe just stupid.
    Sarah

    When it's easy, ride hard; when it's hard, ride easy.


    2011 Volagi Liscio
    2010 Pegoretti Love #3 "Manovelo"
    2011 Mercian Vincitore Special
    2003 Eddy Merckx Team SC - stolen
    2001 Colnago Ovalmaster Stars and Stripes

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    San Francisco Bay Area
    Posts
    9,351
    Great report MP. You know you could volunteer and do the staff ride.

    V.
    Discipline is remembering what you want.


    TandemHearts.com

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Pacific Northwest
    Posts
    3,473
    Formidable, Sarah.
    "My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved;I have been given much and I have given something in return...Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and an adventure." O. Sacks

 

 

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