Doing it all the hard way...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

DDC TOC 2 of 3 The Davis Double Century Ride Report

Toto, we are not in Washington anymore..

Cautionary Note: I am a selfish man. When I write a ride report for these epic events they serve as future reminders to me of what to do, and what not to do, next time. For this reason I go into details that you might not care for. Deal with it.

The alarm went off at 4:00. I took Tux outside to water the plants and loosen up my muscles as well. The night was dark with no moon and it was cold with a slight breeze. Returning to our room I mixed up my drinks, fiddled with my bike and contemplated taking a shower. Mixing up my Sustained Energy first thing would prove to be a mistake, but I didn’t know it yet. I eventually dressed, donning a long sleeve T-shirt over my wicking top, but under my jersey. This would be discarded at 53 miles when the weather had warmed up.

I couldn’t get the roof rack clamp on the passenger side to adjust enough inward, so I put the bike inside the war wagon and although Tux felt crowded, we all fit in for the short drive to Spinner John’s hotel in downtown Davis. Looking to the east there was no hint that morning was coming anytime soon.

Before the deluge

John was fiddling with his bike in the doorway of his hotel room. Five minutes later we posed for a “before” picture, then we rode like giddy school children the mile and a half to the start. Resetting our odometers as we crossed the start line we rolled out with dozens of other cyclists with similarly questionable judgment. There were all manner of head and tail lights and it was an entertaining parade.

Into the darkness...
In most of the epics that I have done you find yourself on heavily trafficked roads pretty quickly. The DDC, in sharp contrast, has you on quiet residential streets until you find yourself on even quieter farm roads. This gave us the unique chance to have multiple pacelines without having semi trucks whipping past too close for comfort. Leaving town we saw the first hint of sunlight to the east. The roads went north then west alternating in four to six mile segments with ninety degree turns in between. To break up the monotony Joe lost his saddlebag when I was on his wheel. In a few minutes Geoff had a water bottle spit out of its cage into my path a few minutes later. The time spent stopping while Joe, and then Geoff recovered their missing luggage allowed us to catch and pass the same riders a few times.

As we passed farm fields where the farm hands were starting their day, Joe commented that whenever he thinks he is working hard sitting on his bike, he looks over and sees the farm workers doing real work and he ceases his laments.

In no time we hit the first food stop at 23 miles. As planned we skipped it and aimed for the foothills. The sun was up and we were casting long shadows. The air was still crisp and we were tooling along at twenty to twenty three miles an hour. John was leading our group and seemed not to want or need anyone to spell him at the front. When I looked behind me instead of seeing Joe, I saw thirty riders enjoying our pull. The speed would have been a concern, but I was two from the front and I felt the pace was well within my ability.

What a day !!
I felt strong and my methodology for carrying the bags of powder that would provide my nourishment seemed to be working. In my small saddle bag I carry a spare saddle bag made of a lightweight fabric. This bag was employed to carry two ziplocks of Sustained Energy and a packet of sunscreen for later. This “spare” bag was strapped to my main bag and when my pockets would later be empty (at 103 miles) I would put the ziplocks in my jersey packets and empty the spare bag and return it to the inside of my regular saddle bag.

Soon we were cruising along next to Putah Creek and I kept thinking the rollers were tending downhill. I had thought we were supposed to be heading up river so downhills were not expected. I checked my super cool VDO cycle computer for indicated elevation and realized the rollers were gradually netting us uphill progress. Way cool. This road was alos the course of the second stage of the Tour of California (TOC) that would cover these roads in two days. In no time the road turned steep and John took off. I hung behind Geoff and noticed I was getting warm. I was ready to ditch my long sleeve T-Shirt. The view of the water in the dam was nice. A series of long descents interspersed with short up hills brought us to another valley.

Spinner John at the Food Stop
I was expecting a food stop around the next corner and was out of nuun. My Sustained Energy did not taste like its usual cake batter, but I thought nothing of it. I reached into my jersey pocket and took a hit of Hammer Gel. Just as I got the gel back in place I saw the stop at the intersection of highways 121 and 128. This would be where we would be watching the TOC in fifty hours.

I have learned that when you mix Sustained Energy (SE) you put the powder in first and then the liquid and shake and then add more liquid. I opened up my bottle and (here is my fatal mistake) left the little bit of SE in there and added more powder. I got some water, shook it and added more water. Then I pulled off my long sleeve shirt and tossed it into a trash can and after a minute or two of stretching and I was ready to go. Joe told us to head out and that he would catch up later (which meant in Davis) while John expressed plans of his own as well. He was planning on skipping the next two stops and he took off like he was late for the prom. Geoff and I rolled out and enjoyed the beautiful Napa Valley. The sun on my arms felt nice.

My legs felt strong but my stomach was feeling bloated. I kept drinking my SE as I knew I should, but my appetite wasn’t there and I figured this was why the SE didn’t seem to taste as “fresh” as it usually does. In no time we were at the 75 mile stop and I refilled my nuun bottle and topped off my SE bottle.

Fans !
The next stop was at 94 miles and Geoff made it there before me. When I arrived my stomach was really unhappy and I again refilled my nuun and topped of my SE bottle with water and added some powder. For those of you who know, you may now realize that I haven’t emptied out my SE bottle since filling it at 4:10 AM, but have just added more powder and water to the now fermenting brew. If anyone has made sourdough bread and knows what you do to keep the “starter” yeast alive, you may note the similarities between that and what I mistakenly did on this ride.

The Cobb Mountain climb
The approach to Cobb Mountain is on a narrow road that should not be asked to hold both cars and bikes on it. With little warning the road got steep fast, and the turns were tight and relentless. My VDO tells me the grade is consistently seven percent with long stretches above ten percent. At one point it says fifteen percent. My cadence is slow and I commit to using a different cassette if I ever do this again. My stomach is now cramping and I look to the side of the road and contemplate a trip over the edge and down in the bushes. The scenery reminds me of Topanga Canyon in Southern California, except the grade is ridiculous. The heat of the day is upon me and I’m cooking. I seem to recall the high point of this climb is 3,600’ and I can see there is a long way to go. The rest stop at 94 miles was below a thousand feet so I know I still have a lot of climbing to do. I will confess I was pretty discouraged.

Eventually the grade lessens and I hit the food stop at 103 miles which marks the (almost) top of Cobb Mountain. I check the map and the highpoint of the ride and this climb is 3,050’. It wasn’t as bad as I had feared. I pour out my SE and fill both bottles with nuun. I have a guess of what went wrong and I eat a banana. This ride is supposed to have 8,500 of climbing and I have 6,400 of it behind me. There is one more major climb, known as resurrection, and then it should be a cruise into Davis.

Pine trees at the top..

Geoff had left the 103 stop ahead of me while I was in the plastic bathroom. As the real food and unfermented liquid took over my stomach began to feel better. The descent from Cobb Mountain was enjoyable and my bike smoothed out the rough road. I was able to apply some power once again only to battle more stomach cramps and have to back off.

Riparian pleasure
At the food stop at 118 miles Geoff and I hooked up again and I continued to feel better. I knew I was heading down a dangerous road with my lack of calorie intake. To settle my stomach I was drinking a lot while eating very little which was helping my stomach, but I was setting myself up for the bonk of the century (actually the bonk of the double century). Geoff was riding strong and having fun.

Resurrection climb
The resurrection climb is the most overrated climb I’ve ever encountered. It wasn’t that long and it was never very steep. At the top I stopped at the food stop with 138 miles behind me. I was feeling strong and I was able to eat a little while I filled my bottles. I had two huge bags of very expensive SE in my jersey pocket that I had no intention of consuming on the remainder of this ride. If I had it to do over again, I would have tried some to see what happened. I took off before Geoff and assumed he would catch me. I was feeling as strong as I had at six in the morning and Geoff never caught me until I had my aching feet in the wading pool at the food stop at mile 160.

In the morning we had some fog..
I drank a can of coke and figured that was one way to get a couple hundred calories in me. I felt refreshed and ready. The stretch from 160 to 182 felt understandable long. The Coke I drank gave me the flash and crash we’ve all heard about and by the time I hit the stop at 182 I needed a break. I ate some cookies and crackers and had a sip of 7-Up. If I ever like the taste of that stuff I shouldn’t have. I tossed the can in the trash and filled my bottles with water and nuun tablets. There were only 22 miles to go and Geoff was shepherding me along.

Leaving the stop I was in full bonk mode. In retrospect I wasn’t thinking very clearly or I would have carried some food to stoke my engine. There was supposed to be a stop at mile 194 and I found myself watching my odometer for the first time. My legs had been tooling me along all day and my glycogen reserves were long gone. I began cramping and had to stop and stretch to get it to stop. Where was the food stop at 194? With 197 miles showing on my odometer I arrived at the fire station and stopped and stretched just for a moment. Geoff appeared and we rode the remainder together.

Heading for the finish
The last few miles were an alternating mix of easy recovery spin which would allow me to feel better and then I would instinctively speed up and pass people, followed by cramps which would send me back to easy recovery spin mode.

BTB and Tux
Hottie, BTB and Tux were by the side of the road as we approached the finish while the sun sank in the west. Shooting photographs into the fading sun is never a formula for success, but she captured a smiling Evo.

D O N E !!!
With 204.5 miles on my odometer and 8,700 feet of climbing and over twelve hours of riding, I was ready to be done. A simple post ride dinner with John, Geoff and Hottie allowed me some recovery. Joe was still on the course and would be arriving in the darkness.

I showered and after a wonderful massage from Hottie, I put on my compression tights and fell into bed waiting for the cramps I knew would wake me. I wore the tights for twenty four hours and never had a cramp. I didn’t set an alarm and instructed BTB that we would call her in the morning. Tux woke me up and I took him out sometime during the night. I don’t recall what time we went out, but I do remember waking up in the same position that I had laid down in.

Lessons Learned:
1. Keep a timer on your Sustained Energy
2. Pour out what you don’t drink when you refill your SE
3. Consider larger cogs for extended climbs over ten percent
4. The term, “Let’s ride” has different meaning to different people
5. Even if you know the way, a list of mile points where the food stops are is a good thing to have
6. Compression Tights rule the world
7. The Aliante saddle will be my saddle of choice until I die

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