Sunday, October 06, 2013

Diablo Challenge 2013

Diablo Challenge 2013 (iPhone) my number
Of course, I was early. My wave for the Save Mt. Diablo's "Diablo Challenge" wasn't set to launch until 8:50, but I arrived in the Monte Vista High School parking lot, three miles from the start, before 7am. It was not really a bad thing. I didn't have to hurry putting my stuff together, and I enjoyed chatting with the other cyclists in the near darkness. It would have been perfect if it hadn't been so darn cold. It was the coldest morning this season, but fortunately I was prepared with lots of warm clothes.

I also arrived at the start way too early. But again, it was interesting to see, and chat with, so many cyclists. Bike ogling is always enjoyable as well, and there were some very swell machines there.

I had no help with the ritual pinning on of the race number, but I wasn't alone as many fellow riders also had to take off their shirts in the shadowy cold and pin without help. We also were issued electronic timing chips on ankle bands that made us all look like we'd had some issue with the courts and law enforcement.

Diablo Challenge 2013 numbers and pins

Diablo Challenge 2013 search and rescue patchThere were tons of helper-bees there, among them the Search and Rescue volunteers, who walked over to where I had my bike and dumped all their stuff next to, and partly on top of, my Roubaix. As I moved my bike I commented to them "This is ironic, here you are the rescue folks, and yet I'm having to rescue my bike from you." I said it with a smile and a laugh, but they didn't seem amused. Still, I'm glad they were there for us, and my bike was, after all, unscathed.

Over near the start all the hyper-serious cyclists were warming up on portable trainers. It looked pretty funny as they were all facing away from the start. It was because that was uphill, and it feels better not to ride a trainer facing downhill. Still, I cracked up.

Diablo Challenge 2013 warmups

As we waited I sent Tricia a text with a photo of the mass of humanity lining up. She texted back "Aren't there any women there?" so I sent her this photo. Not only were there women, there were really fast women I never even saw until they were on the podium, collecting prizes for their stunningly fast times.

Diablo Challenge 2013 (iPhone) women's wave

My wave was number five, so we waited (and waited) until the earlier waves took off. As we rolled away from the start I watched almost everyone ride away from me. At least being an uphill ride it was warm enough that leaving all my warm gear in my backpack and not wearing it turned out to be a good idea. The organizers had a pickup to deliver the warm clothes packs to the top, which is great as it can be cold coming down.

After about 10 minutes I was surprised to find I had caught a lot of riders and was passing them. This was a continuing theme the rest of the climb. I was amazed how many I passed and that only two passed me (Being in the last wave I shouldn't have been too surprised, but I was anyway.)

Passing all those people made me think I was having a good ride, and having someone constantly in front of me to catch helped keep me focused. I tried to make use of the whole road, something you can't normally do because of downhill traffic. But the closed road let me try to find the shortest lines between corners. At least when I remembered.

Normally when I ride with a group it isn't an all out effort to the top. There are regroups and chatting along the way, and often a stop at the junction. Because of that I don't have a feel for how long any section takes. Still, I was pleasantly surprised to hit the junction at 38:02. I didn't have any clue how to extrapolate a possible finishing time from that, I just kept pushing the pedals.

Diablo Challenge 2013 curtis and DiabloScott
Me with legend Diablo Scott, one of many volunteers who made this ride possible.
The famed DiabloScott (of the famous bike blog) had guessed my time would be 75 minutes. As I rode I found myself thinking "Yes, I've got that." and "No way can I hit that." I was surprised how long some sections were, and that some weren't as long as I remembered.

As I got close to the final push I was wondering if I'd have anything left. The normal "Wall" at the summit is on the right, and you come down the left side. To keep riders coming down to the festivities in the large parking lot just below the summit from having to cross the path of riders still on the course they route the Challenge up what is normally the down side. It's steep, and it's longer. I swear it's harder, and the normal side is plenty hard enough. DiabloScott had (perhaps jokingly) earlier suggested I toss my water bottle aside for the final bump. It sounded silly when he said it, but I got there I was up for any help I could get. I yelled to an onlooker, asking him to put my bottle by a signpost and tossed it, then started up.

I was at the end of my rope when I crossed the finish line. I'd had to slip though a traffic jam of a guy walking his bike and another rider wobbling badly as my lungs screamed at me to just stop the pain. But I made it. As soon as I stopped moving I almost tossed my cookies and thought my heart would pound out of my chest. I wanted to lay down, but couldn't find the energy to dismount the bike. In just a minute or two, though, I felt like I might live, and eventually even breath normally again.

As I rode to the party just down below I looked for my bottle and didn't see it. I'd resigned myself to it being gone when I saw it — on the top of the signpost, well out of reach for me. As I contemplated how I was going to get it, the nice guy who put it there just happened back by and retrieved it for me.

I joined the party below, and scored a water bottle and hat (but not a jersey, darn it.)

Diablo Challenge 2013 (iPhone) results
I have no idea what some of the columns mean. But my time was 1:15:34:9.
Tricia and I had a plan. She'd start up North Gate and I'd come down the North side, we'd meet and ride together. Unfortunately we didn't know they'd closed North Gate road. She couldn't get up, I couldn't go down. So she rode around Walnut Creek while I went back to Danville. We were able to meet for lunch at least, but I sure wish the organizers would have mentioned the North Gate closure in their info packs. We weren't alone in being surprised and having our plans screwed up. It was the only annoyance in an otherwise well run ride.

Philosophy and stupid stuff
I turned sixty freakin' years old on Friday. I never thought I'd be this old. It's very odd. In honor of my age fears I started preparing for this during the summer, and worked on losing 15 pounds since the school semester started. I'm still slow. I'll never break an hour, the benchmark for actual athletic riders. Still I did meet my goal of a Strava PR, and collected a ton of PRs on the way up. I met my goals of finishing, not running into anyone and wrecking their day, and getting a PR for the climb.  I managed to put out more power than I ever have before — 201 watts average to the junction, and 193 for the whole climb (and a 195 weighted average.)  I may well be in the best cycling shape of my life. At 139 pounds I'm certainly at the lightest. Does it matter? I guess not. But maybe it's better than drinking beer in front of the TV. Or maybe not, if the beer is really good.

Followup post here.


  1. Outstanding. Standing ovation worthy.

  2. Midland10:00 PM

    Good show!

  3. Thank you for bringing glory and honor to The Mountain.

    Congratulations on arriving at 60 in phenomenal condition.

    I saw Tricia riding on Walnut Ave after I got down off NGR.


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