Monday, April 30, 2012

Devil Mountain Double Century 2012

jersey DMD
Not just a number, but a name.
My longest ride deserves the longest post I've ever made. Here it is. 
The Goddess of the Weather looked down and thought "I gave these folks one-hundred-degree-plus weather for the Davis Double Century two years in a row. I made it pour like crazy on the Wine Country century even though the weather prediction was just for 20 percent. At Solvang I gave them gale-force headwinds for almost 100 miles. They endured. It's time for their reward. For the Quack Cyclists Devil Mountain Double this year I'll give them a cool morning, but not too cool. I'll provide a tail wind at Altamont, and just enough gentle headwind on Patterson to keep them cool. I'll help them up Mines with a slight tail wind, and make sure it doesn't get too hot. I won't even make the backside of Mt. Hamilton hot, and I almost never do that. And when the sun goes down I'll stop the wind all together and make sure it's not too hot, not too cold, but just right."

Thank you Weather Goddess. I know I wouldn't have made it if you hadn't smiled on this endeavor.

The Weather Goddess wasn't alone in helping me on this ride.

My sweet bride Tricia came and spent the night with me at the ride start in the San Ramon Marriot Hotel the night before, She tried to keep me from pinging off the wall so hard I left dents, even though it meant waking her non-morning-person self at an insane hour.

My good friend Dan (Mr. Lance Oldstrong) did DMD last year, and had announced he was done with that particular flavor of fun. When I told him I was going to give it a shot he did everything he could to talk me out of it, and when that didn't work he decided he had to ride with me just to make sure I got through it. Even his family helped, texting encouraging messages and the the kids track meet successes throughout the day. Heck, they even made me a sign.

Steve signSteve (Midland on BikeForums) surprised Dan and I by being on Ygnaico Vally Road with a cowbell and a big sign after we came down Mt. Diablo. He made a ton of noise and worried me that he'd get us disqualified for private SAG, something the Quacks don't allow. But he made noise for everyone, and we didn't get a ticket or fined or anything. Thanks Steve!

Our friends Veronica and Thom staffed a rest station just before the Hamilton climb, giving us the pleasure of seeing friendly faces and even a couple of hugs (hugging a cyclist after they've ridden 130 miles is a true act of friendship, even if you're really careful)

rest stop with Veronica

The DMD staff is beyond belief. Every rest stop, and roving SAG is staffed by people who understand what you're doing. They don't get charity-ride silly with over the top cheering, they just help you through your ride. Here's my "Pet the Goat" rest stop experience: We were at mile 162, and it just got dark and we'd just finished Sierra Road, one of the toughest climbs of the day. We needed to stop and pick up our drop bags with lights for night riding and some warm clothes. I sat down, zoned.
"Can I get you anything?"
"No, I'm fine."
"How about a warm cup o' noodles?"
"Oh, that does sound good. Thanks."
Let me get it for you. Something to drink?"
"No, I'm fine."
"How about a V8?"
"Oh that sounds good. Thanks."
"Let me get it for you."

They understood how stupid I was at that point, and that my decision making ability was shot.

I realized one of my rear blinkie lights had a dying battery. The ride staff  had warned me in their ride packet "Check your batteries." and I thought I had. But there I was…. When I asked if they just might have some they took my light and brought it back blinking, with fresh batteries installed.

This rest stop isn't the exception, it's the way Quack Cyclists run a their ride.

I had a team worth of support. All I had to do was "push the pedal back down when it comes up" as Quack Cyclists advise.

DMD start

The ride started at exactly 5 am. Thirty seconds later we had our first minor "mechanical." No big deal, but it meant we were off the back right at the start. We managed to catch the tail end just in time for mechanical number two. Dan's Garmin, unlike the weather, had decided today was the day to be a total pain. Dan's 206 mile ride, if you go by his GPS, was .4 miles with zero feet of climbing. We know better, but still, if he wants official US Government registered ride credit he needs to re-ride it within 48 hours. That's the law.

Our ride up, and down Diablo was beautiful, but uneventful, with a quick turnaround at the top. It feels funny to write that. In the past I viewed any ride to the Diablo Summit as "epic." Even lately it's been "noteworthy" at the very least. Today it was a warmup. Even the dreaded wall at the top was just a small obstacle before the ride got hard. The same for Morgan Territory.

It was just a plain old nice day for a ride, though. The "Plunge" was wind free, but when we got to Altamont, a section veteran DMD riders say is long and dull, we had a tail wind. We were on the Wente Road race for a bit, and hoped for a slow moving train to catch, but it didn't happen. Instead, we ended up behind a strong DMD rider, and combined with the tail wind, helped us cruise at near 30 for a ways and chew up some pavement. It was a ball.

Curtis Summits Patterson crop 2Patterson Pass is often a nightmare, but with only a light breeze Saturday is was only steep. Dan commented on the way up that if you keep thinking you hear an airplane, it's just the windmills. As I rode up I thought, "Wow, he's really right, that sounds exactly like an airplane." Then the airplane flew over.

I'd been worried since i signed up for the ride about making the 1PM cutoff at the mile 92 rest stop on Mines Road. I mean truly obsessively panicked. I had my eye on the clock the whole way, and worried every time I slowed. But we made it with time to spare and were in and out as quickly as we could shed our warmer clothing.

The ride up Mines to the Junction for lunch is just a grunt, but we cranked it out with the help of a slight tail-breeze.

The lunch cutoff is "leave by 4:30," but we were out by 3:15 or so.

Dan at DMD
ccc dmd self portraitThe section between the Junction and the bridge water stop is the only section I hadn't ridden before. It's beautiful, and the only section where I wasn't so busy, cold, or working too hard that I was able to shoot a few photos. I can't imagine a more California place, with its meadows and oaks. It was stunning. It was also about the last section I felt fine. There are three bumps on the way to the Mt. Hamilton Climb proper the locals call the Three Bears. No one mentions them when they talk DMD, but they are there, they are real, and they are a pain. Worse, they are just the lead in to the Mt. Hamilton back side climb, a relentless five-mile, double-digit monster. We all talk about Sierra road, but Hamilton is worse (Just ask Marco P, who pointed it out to me.)  It's longer, and there are no stair-steps for a moment's relief. It's relentless. The only saving grace is that there are mile markers painted on the road, so you know exactly how much suffering is left, and can confirm you are still moving when the numbers go by.

Dan had a strong ride and waited for me at the top, only to jet down, descending zen-master that he is. By that point in the day I couldn't find a good line through a corner with a Geiger counter and a map. I took it easy, and managed to avoid the worst bumps and gravel. We hooked back up at the Crothers rest stop

After the Crothers rest stop at mile 150 (which is an out and back up a hill, what's up with that?) comes Sierra Road.
It's unreal. I had determined that I might need to stop on it, being as I was toast, or maybe jello. Or maybe something more slimy and gross. But Dan rode with me and, knowing the road well, called out upcoming "flatter"zones — flatter meaning only 10-11% — that helped me struggle up without stopping. We got to see a beautiful sunset, and watch the lights start to come on all over San Jose. Dan likes to point out that the faster riders miss this stunning scene.

Tandems, amazing on the flats and descending, are not noted for climbing well. We managed to catch our Bike Forums friends Marco and Ruth on the way up in a most comical slow motion race to the top, gaining about 6 inches a minute. You'd have needed one of those time-lapse photography setups like they use to photograph plants growing to see us ooze past them. 

At the top before the descent to the "Pet the Goat" rest stop, I stopped to put on my light windbreaker. I couldn't. The very light material kept blowing around and my arms kept getting stuck. Finally Dan said, "Here, let me put it on you like you're my prom date or something."  That worked, and we were off to the "Pet the Goat" rest stop even though the goat had apparently gone to farm animal heaven sometime earlier this year.

There's a long, fun descent to a right turn onto Calaveras Road. It would be more fun for me in the light. Even with a very bright headlight, I'm not bold enough to bomb it. I felt fast, but Dan was gone like a falling missile. I didn't miss the turn at Calaveras , which was great, and another thing I'd worried about. More than a few have, and have had to slog back up a steep hill after overshooting it. Quack Cyclists had come through again, with a large "1/2 Mile DMD" painted on the road, visible even at speed in the dark.

As  I  turned on to "Calaveras Wall" I could hear a woman swearing. Her light had gone nuts, blinking oddly and sputtering. Stopping on a hill that steep in the dark would suck, so we rode to the top together so she could see where she was going, seeing the road in my light.  I stopped and illuminated her bike as she fired up her backup and was off again. I rode the entire Calaveras Road by myself. It was wonderful. It's in the middle of nowhere, no cars, no other cyclists, just frogs and an occasional coyote howling. I relaxed and pedaled and enjoyed not trying to keep up with faster Dan for a while.

I met Dan in Sunol where his bike was getting an on-the-fly overhaul. It seems he produced so much power he bent his derailer hanger and his drivetrain was a mess. Of course, Quack Cyclists had a first-rate mechanic there, in the dark, at night, who made everything wonderful again, at least for a while. Dan really needs a new bike. He's ridden this steed into the ground. He may love it, but it needs to be put out to pasture. With love and respect, but it's just wrong to make the ol' Felt keep working so hard when it needs to retire.

At 25 miles to go you might think we'd be almost there. You'd be wrong. Palamares  Canyon is a wonderful ride, if you're fresh and in a climbing mood. I was ready to be done, and this climb is more work than many will admit. I did see a white owl and almost hit a deer, so it wasn't uneventful, and again the sounds of a flowing creek and croaking frogs made riding, even uphill in the dark, almost (but not quite) pleasant.  At the top I wanted to switch my MagicShine light from medium to high, but I forgot you have to cycle through strobe and then to off. I'd been on the bike too long to ride even half a heartbeat in total darkness with the light off, so I stopped long enough to cycle it to bright.

Dan and I met at the bottom of the hill, rode to Crow Canyon and eventually to the Norris "Is this really necessary?" Canyon climb.  The weather had started to cool enough to see my breath, and I thought I was getting odd reflections from my glasses, perhaps from condensation. But no, it was real. There were spider webs on my bars, spun across my cables in front of my light. I wondered if I'd been out so long and gone so slow spiders had moved in, but I think it was just one of those floating webs that landed on me.

Sign for Curtis crop
Oldstrong family sign for me. Such a deal!

Amazingly, on Norris I felt like I was out in the country, but in just a couple of miles we were approaching the hotel. I can't explain how odd that feels. I'd been out for 20 hours. It was weird to stop. It felt impossible. All through the ride Dan had been saying "You're going to finish this!" but, even with 1/2 mile to go I wasn't sure. I wasn't sure when we got to the parking lot. Tricia and Dan's family were there. The kids had made a sign. I loved it, but could hardly think. I just wanted to check in and be officially done.

Inside at the sign in table there were no trumpets, fireworks or cannons, but Tricia brought me an icy cold IPA and sushi. That may sound odd, but I've discovered I have sushi lust after a double century. I don't know why. We visited a bit with Marco and Ruth, amazing tandem riders, until Tricia pointed out how late it was. She drove us home and I finally got in bed at 2 am, an old, sore guy, but at least an old, sore guy who completed the Devil Mountain Double Century.

Damage Report:
Nothing serious at all, or really damaged. The usual slightly sore neck, and a bit of stress in the Achilles tendons. My nagging back-of-the-knee issue seems to be resolved. My brain is semi-functional. All in all, pretty darn good.

Things that worked really well:
Sidi shoes. My feet felt perfect at the end of the day.
Selle Italia SLK saddle. No buns issues at all.
Garmin Minty Boost battery thing with lithium batteries. My Garmin finished fully charged.
DeFeet Kneekers. Wonderful knee warmers.
Hammer HEED and Perpetuim kept me fueled
Capo shorts were comfy all day
Tiagra 12-30 cassette. Thank Shimano for that 30 tooth gear or I'd never have made Sierra Road.

Stats via Garmin and Strava and Twitter:

Miles: 206.4
Moving time: 17:35
Total time out: 20:02 (though I left the darn Garmin a few minutes when we got there.)
Climb: 21,718 (The 305 may read high, ride is billed at 19-something, but it sure felt like 21,718)
158 registered, 139 finishers, 5 DNS, 14 DNF.
Ride start 5 am
Last rider in at 1:45 am
And, for inexplicable reasons, I got a 10th place Strava cup in a .3 mile segment. Weird.

We also rode with (kind of rode with anyway as we were on the same course) Bike Forum folks Bassem, Metin Uz, Silent Ben, Maillotpois (Sarah), Rumbutter on his trike and Bostic (Ramon)

Parting thoughts:
Imagine sticking yourself with a sharp pin for 20 hours. It would hurt. You could claim some sort of victory over pain and sleep after you accomplished it. You could say "Not many people can do this!" But really, it isn't because they can't, it's just that they don't want to. They can't imagine why anyone would. Yet all the other dedicated pin stickers would congratulate you, and each other. You'd have special shirts made, and in general set yourselves apart from, and above, the non-pin stickers. You would display your pin pricks with pride, and argue about the merits of steel vs. titanium pins with your colleagues. I would have to shake my head and wonder what had become of the world I live in. I would be sad for you. Edit: Don't miss Dan "Lance Oldstrong's" response to this in the comment section

Links to 2012 DMD things on the web:
Cool 15 minute ride report video by Bike Forum's chidonchea
Sacpedalclips made a time lapse of the Mines Road rest stop that pretty swell


  1. gpelpel9:17 PM

    Awesome accomplishment and report.

  2. Midland9:22 PM

    Congratulations Curtis! Official 2012 DMD finisher.So cool. Thanks for taking the time to write this ride report up, I enjoyed your view of the ride.I too really dug San Antonio Valley, very pristine. I saw the eye of the tiger in you on Y.V.

  3. Congratulations! That is an amazing achievement, truly impressive. Also, you made a fantastic pin analogy there at the end - think I'm always going to remember that as a reality check!

  4. I don't know about pins. This sums up why I ride the DMD.
    From those philosphers who write for The Simpsons:

    Air Traffic Controller: Okay Homer, I don't know anything about planes, but I know about you. You have what made America great: no understanding of the limits of your power and a complete lack of concern for what anyone thinks of you. So you'll land that plane. And do you know why? Because I heard some guy say you couldn't.

    Homer: What! I'll show him. I'll show that guy!

  5. Great story--great ride--congrats on your finish

  6. Congrats! I enjoyed reading your report. Laughing at the airplane :)


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