The "Flat" Double
After successfully completing the Devil Mountain Double (DMD) three weeks ago, I was ready for an "easy" double century. Not that there's anything easy about doing 200 miles in a day, but the Davis Double certainly isn't as arduous, and indeed, it's the one that most experienced double-riders recommend doing for a first double century. By completing Davis, you gain valuable experience and confidence, which enables you to graduate to the harder doubles. Doing a double century is as much about mental endurance as it is physical endurance, plus it takes experience in knowing how to manage time spent at the rest stops, the amount of food to eat, and making sure to stay hydrated. This is also important on shorter rides such as centuries, but mistakes made on a double century tend to compound over the course of the long day. Doing Davis allows you to work out all of these issues on a relatively easy course, where the chance of success is much higher.
I felt I had gained plenty of experience and confidence on DMD, and that I would try to enjoy the ride more and not hammer for the entire day. With up to 1000 participants, the Davis Double is certainly one of the biggest double centuries, if not the biggest. Thus, it was certain that there would be people of far more differing abilities than on DMD. My plan before the ride was to hook onto reasonable pacelines during the ride, in order to conserve as much energy as possible before hitting the hills. The route is basically flat for the first 35-40 miles, and then flat again for the last 40 miles, so being in a group of equally strong riders allows one to conserve energy by not having to be in the wind all the time. I didn't know much about the hills, or the roads in the middle. I had read some ride reports from people who had done the ride in previous years and they all seemed to say that the middle section had a lot of rollers, and that the hills weren't really difficult, in terms of steepness or length. With this information in hand, I felt pretty comfortable about knowing what to expect. Since I didn't expect any steep climbs, I had switched to a 25 cogset in the back, so that I could get a 12-tooth gear as my smallest cog. I figured this would help me keep up on the down hill sections leading back to Davis.
The weather during the week leading up to the ride looked dubious. Some rain had moved in on Wednesday and was abating slowly. We've had one of the wettest winters that I can remember, in terms of the length of it, with rain lasting well into May. However, the rain clouds started dissipating late Thursday and on Friday the skies cleared completely. Saturday was looking very good indeed. I drove to Davis Friday afternoon, which took a while due to the fact that I didn't get started until after 3pm and the roads were full of people trying to get home early, or get an early start getting to the mountains. However, I was driving my new Prius, which made the patches of stop-and-go pass more enjoyably. I watched my gas mileage soar, as the Prius loves to run mostly on the battery when going slowly. I figured I got about 50 mpg during the trip, although at times it felt like I could have got there more quickly on my bike than in a car.
I was staying at the Hallmark, which was an okay hotel, but more importantly, it was right next to the restaurant where the ride registration was taking place. Davis is a nice little town that for years was mostly a college town, having a University of California campus. Tina went there for veterinary school, and she says that it's grown quite a lot since she graduated, as it's become a bit of a bedroom community for Sacramento, and even the Bay Area.
There was a pasta dinner at the registration, and even though I had brought my own pasta, I stayed for a while to chat with Ken Holloway, Mike Mysza, and Mike Harding, who are fellow members of the Western Wheelers bike club. Ken Holloway is an amiable fellow and a very experience double rider, having completed over fifty doubles. He regaled us with tales of his experiences doing double centuries and what to expect during the ride. From his description, I didn't expect too much trouble, confirming my pre-ride scouting of ride reports. He was doing the ride on a tandem with a friend, and was meeting a group of people at about 5:15am. I asked where they were starting and we agreed to meet there and roll out when it was light enough.
After leaving the registration, Ken and I went to hunt down breakfast supplies. I needed some milk and orange juice for the morning. I had brought Muesli with me for my breakfast, and my original plan was to see if my hotel room had a fridge and use it if so. My room didn't have such an appliance, but I figured that I could put the milk and OJ on ice since I had an ice bucket, and that it would stay cool until the morning. After purchasing my goods, I said good night to Ken and went to my hotel room and chowed down on my pasta dinner, pinned my number to my jersey, and was in bed by about 9pm.
Mike's Bike Nearly Falls Apart
I didn't sleep too badly, being in a strange bed and all, but 3:45am rolled around way too soon for my liking. However, I had my first success of the day as the ice bucket had kept my milk and OJ nice and cool. It helped that I had wrapped the bucket in several towels for insulation. Having a breakfast of Muesli felt good, and soon I was ready to go.
It didn't take too long to get to the meeting point. I unpacked my bike, and got everything ready while watching lots of riders go by my parking spot, getting an early start what was sure to be a long day. It wasn't too long before Ken and his tandem partner showed up. They were loaded for bear, with six water bottles full of food energy drinks. As for myself, I use Perpetuem as my food drink and Powerbar drink as my electrolyte drink. I had packed plenty of electrolyte drink to ensure that I didn't get depleted of salts or dehydrated, especially during the hot parts of the day. After waiting for more people to show up, including a couple of more tandems, we were off.
Almost immediately, I knew that I probably wasn't going to be able to stick with this group. With three tandems driving the paceline, the pace was very quick, and my heart rate jumped into the 150s almost immediately. I stuck with the group for maybe about 5 miles, and then I hit a pothole that no one in front of me had called out. I dropped back to assess the damage. My wheels seemed okay, and I didn't flat, but my handlebars had twisted downward from the force with which I had hit the pothole. My bike was still rideable, but that my time on that paceline was pretty much finished, and I resumed riding at my own pace. I soon caught up to another group and I hung on the back of that for a while, and started chatting with some folks in the group. Soon enough, I hit another pothole, and my rear light popped off. I turned my head and watched as it separated into at least three pieces. I sighed and wondered how much longer it would be before my bike literally fell to pieces. I had lost my headlight in the first half-hour of the Devil Mountain Double, and now I had lost my rear light in the first half-hour of the Davis Double. I figured that I shouldn't bother with lights on my next double if I was going to keep losing them.
I checked over my bike again and nothing else seemed to be broken, other than my funky handlebars from the first pothole, I quickly got back on the group, and being a small world I recognized Joe Bartoe, another rider I knew from Western Wheelers. I hadn't seen him on a WW ride since last year, so we chatted some, and in no time we arrived at the first rest stop at about 23 miles.
Into the Hills
I didn't need any fluids or food at the first rest stop, but I certainly got the SAG people to help me fix my handlebars. With a quick adjustment, I was soon on the road again, although the group I was with had dispersed. I hunkered down into my aerodynamic position and started racking up some miles on the flats averaging about 23 mph for the next 10 miles. After a bit, I reached Winters just as I got onto the tail end of another group. I thought I might get a free ride at the back of this group, but they fell apart as we turned west towards Lake Berryessa. I decided not to wait for the group to reassemble and made my own pace towards the hills. I soon reached a nice rolling section of road that goes alongside Putah Creek. A few pickups pulling boats going to the lake passed me occasionally, and there were a few early morning fishermen on the side of the road getting ready to try their luck, but otherwise it was a very pleasant ride along the road. Another paceline passed me, and I hooked up to them for a while until the road kicked up a little and the group fell apart. This was the first real climb of the day, so I settled into a nice rhythm and soon I reached the second rest stop at Monticello Dam. It was about 7:40am and I had been on the road for only 2 1/2 hours, but had already covered about 45 miles.
Chiles and Pope Valley
I quickly filled my water bottles with Powerade and Perpetuem and browsed at the food table for a few minutes. I don't eat a lot at rest stops, but prefer to graze, making sure that I don't overeat. Even though I can burn up to 8000 calories on a ride like this, the best I can do is process about 300 calories a hour from food that I eat during the ride. Obviously there is a calorie deficit, so what I don't get for eating has to come from glycogen and fat stores that I've built up before the ride. Proper training helps as well. By doing long endurance training rides at a medium tempo, I've hopefully trained my body to use fat efficiently as a fuel source. And by eating lots of complex carbohydrates in the days before the ride, my glycogen stores are as topped up as I can get them to be.
I was quickly on the road again, and soon I reached a climb known as "Cardiac" Hill. It wasn't a very difficult hill so it made me wonder where the name came from. Perhaps if you're used to the flats around Davis, any hill becomes a challenge. Regardless, I dropped into the 25 and spun up it fairly quickly, passing lots of other riders in the process. The hill was only about two miles so the fun ended quickly and I descended onto Chiles/Pope Valley Road. This is a lovely road, rolling along a pleasant valley, with hills on both sides.
After a bit I soon caught up to other rider and we chatted for a while. He commented on my Canadian jersey, and mentioned his family was originally from Canada, near the Hamilton area, although he was born in America after they moved to the Bay Area. He was a cousin of Sheila Copps, the former deputy Prime Minister for a while in the 90s, which I thought was pretty cool. He was also a good source of information about the riding in the area and as we passed several side roads, he would comment about how the ride was on it.
As always, having a conversation on a bike is a good way to pass time, and before we knew it we were at the next rest stop at 76 miles. He wanted to wait for his friend there, so I topped up my bottles and was soon ready to depart, but not before he noticed that there seemed to be a slight crack in my stem. It was a very minute crack, and only at the surface, so my bike was still rideable, but I would have to keep an eye on it to make sure it didn't get any worse. I figured that I got the crack when I hit the first pothole that adjusted my handlebars. The torque that caused by that jolt must have also been enough to stress the stem. I sighed at my back luck but I figured at least I'd be able to finish the double.
The next part of the ride was pretty much the same as the last part, rolling along the pleasant valley and enjoying the wild flowers and the rural atmosphere. Along the way I passed a few other riders, but they were fewer in numbers than during the first 50 miles. I passed one fellow on a fixed gear bike, which is a bike with only one gear ring on the front and on the wheel. I figured this was the right ride to do on such a contraption, as more gears wouldn't be as necessary since the climbing wasn't too bad. I continued on my way after passing him and soon I reached a short and easy climb up Butts Canyon Road, and then another climb up towards Detert Reservoir before I reached the Middletown rest stop at mile 96. It was not even 11 am yet, and I was almost halfway finished. I took a little longer at this rest stop, enjoying the food, and eagerly downing the little V-8 juice cans that were available.
I left the rest stop and turned onto Big Canyon Road. This would be a long gradual climb though the canyon along Big Canyon Creek. Even though there were trees and other brush alongside the road, there was very little tree canopy cover, so the climb was exposed to the sun. Fortunately the temperature was below 80, so I wasn't feeling too hot, and dousing myself with water from my bottle occasionally was keeping me plenty cool. I had plenty of water, and the gradient always stayed below 7 to 8 percent, even on the steepest sections, so I soon passed on a water stop near the top of the climb. An encouraging rest stop volunteer called out that it was only "1 or 2 more miles" to the top. That kind of approximation wasn't all that helpful, as a mile is a lot on a hill. It didn't bother me too much though as I was feeling pretty good, and passing a lot of other riders as I steadily climbed to the summit. On this climb, I reached the Photocrazy point, where there was a photographer out on the road taking pictures of all the riders. Actually he wasn't really taking pictures, as his cameras were all automated, and all he was really doing was telling people to line up on the right in order to trigger the cameras properly.
At the summit, I passed some writing on the road that said "Top of the DC," meaning that that was the highest point of the day, at about 2175 feet. The road dropped down quickly, and soon I was at the lunch stop at 115 miles, and it wasn't even noon yet. I made a PB&J sandwich and a soda and sat down to enjoy a leisurely lunch. At this point I was pretty confident of finishing before 6pm, so I decided to relax a little more at the remaining rest stops. I didn't feel too fatigued yet. Given that there was only one more climb up Resurrection, the only challenge was the mental fatigue of the last 30 or so miles on the flats. As I was finishing lunch, Harvey Wong, another Western Wheelers member that I did a lot of riding with, joined me. He's about as strong as me, and also pretty pleasant company to have on a ride, so I waited for him to finish his lunch so that we could ride together.
I reapplied some sunscreen, and soon we were both ready to go. Harvey had done the Death Valley Double in the spring and in two weeks, he would finish his California Triple Crown by riding the Eastern Sierra Double. Like myself, he was squeezing the easier Davis Double in between two harder doubles. My last double, however, is the Terrible Two at the end of June, so I'll have plenty of time to get ready for it. Nonetheless, the Eastern Sierra sounds like an excellent ride, cycling through the majestic mountains around Bishop, Mammoth Lakes and Mono Lake.
As usual, chatting makes the miles pass away quickly, and soon we reached the bottom of the Resurrection climb, after a short little uphill just after the town of Clear Lake. Unlike Big Canyon, Resurrection is on an exposed highway with lots of traffic, so the riding was not as fun, but the shoulder was sufficient so that we didn't have to mix with the cars and trucks pulling boats. Soon after we hit the climb we were passing other riders. I kept a good pace, and it didn't feel too strenuous, but soon I had dropped Harvey, although not very quickly. I knew there was another rest stop up ahead, so I decided to keep at it until I got there. The grade was very gradual so I was able to keep a good cadence and my heart rate stayed out of the red zone. The rest stop was near the top of the climb, and I quickly reached it without much further effort. I filled up my bottles and popped a couple of Endurolytes to keep my salt levels topped up. Soon enough Harvey pulled in and I waited while he filled up his bottles and then we were off.
We reached the top of Resurrection, and got some good speeds on the downhill. I think I topped out at 47 mph before we came to a short little climb, the last one of the day. It was no problem at all and we were up and over it in about 5 minutes.
With all the major climbs behind us, we bombed downhill to Highway 16. This highway goes along Bear Creek through a lovely canyon. Bear Creek eventually joins up with Cache Creek before opening up into the Capay Valley. The water level in the river was still quite high from the winter rains, and the scenery along it was lovely, and occasionally we would climb a small roller and rise above the river and get an excellent view of the water below. At this point, there were very few bikes on the road, although a tandem did pass us at one point. The Davis Double is made for tandems, as the climbs are not difficult, and the weight of the tandem really allows them go fast on the downhill sections, and two riders allows them to go pretty fast on the flats as well. We were making good time ourselves, and soon I realized that I was doing all the pulling. I think we had a couple of other riders join our line, but I didn't really look around to see. I didn't mind too much, as I was enjoying the ride and the miles were melting away. I enjoyed the nice canyon views and riverside scenery, and with not much else to think about, the Giro podium song was on a loop in my head. I had been watching the live Internet stream of the Giro d'Italia on OLNTV and they would play the same song over and over during the podium presentations following each stage. I was definitely not having any profound thoughts at this point of the ride. It wasn't too long before we reached the Guinda rest stop at mile 160. Everyone on the paceline was relieved to get a break, especially myself. I had pulled for about 20 miles at an average speed of over 22 mph, and everyone in the group was grateful for that. We rested for about 10 minutes or so, enjoying some fine rest stop food and refilling our water bottles, and soon we were back on the road.
The Home Stretch
I decided I wasn't going to pull for the rest of the way, so some of the other people in our group pulled for a little bit. Eventually we passed the Cache Creek Casino in Brooks, which is run by Native Americans. It definitely sticks out like a sore thumb in the lovely Capay Valley, a mostly bucolic region with gently rolling hills on both sides. I noticed a banner on the side of the main building advertising an upcoming appearance by Tom Jones. Good to know he's still working, I thought to myself, but no Tom Jones song appeared in my head to dislodge the Giro song. Although I'm not a big fan of casinos, I figured this kind was good way for the Natives Americans to get some money back from the whites.
As we passed the casino, I decided to take the lead again so that we could make good time through this area. There were a fair number of vehicles on the road coming from the casino, so to keep us in a single file I did all the pulling until we reached Capay where the road widened a little. We quickly turned off the highway onto the side roads that would take us back to Davis on the flats.
Soon we reached Rest Stop #9 and I had to stop to get more repairs on my bike, as my water bottle cage had come loose. Fortunately, they had the right tools for the repair, and after a bit of fiddling, we were back on the road. Some of the people who had been with us for the last 40 miles went on ahead as I was making the repairs, so it was just Harvey and I until the end.
At this point I was feeling a little tired from all the pulling. The riding hadn't been too difficult since Resurrection, but there wasn't any tailwind at all, and often it seemed like there was always a bit of a head wind. At this point my pace wasn't as high as previously, plus the long stretches of road made for some pretty dull riding. We were pretty quiet for most of this, but made decent time, and soon passed the last rest stop, which we skipped because it was only 7 miles from the finish. We made the last turn towards Davis, and another fellow who had managed to get onto the back of our group pulled for a little bit. Eventually, I could see a line of trees in the distance, and I figured that must surely be Davis. I moved back to the front, and encouraged by the end being in sight, I found my final reserves of energy and pulled us past the Davis City Limits sign and onto the city streets. After a short ride though Davis we reached the finish. It was about 5:30pm, and I even though I had only 197 miles on my odometer, I wasn't going around the block a few times to roll it over to 200. At least my cycle computer worked for the entire ride, unlike during the Devil Mountain Double.
We enjoyed a little post ride food and found Ken Holloway hanging around at one of the tables. He had been finished since about 2:45, just about 3 hours less than us, and had even managed to shower and change into clean clothes. They were actually the first riders in, so I didn't feel so bad about being that far behind them, as this course is tailor made for tandems, especially when both riders are very strong. They didn't even stop once until mile 70, and apparently they reached the Resurrection rest stop before it was even open, so they were definitely ahead of the curve on this ride. I think I could have probably could have cut off 45 minutes from my time by spending less time at the rest stops, especially after lunch. However, I think I met my objectives for the ride (finish in the light and enjoy the nice sections in the middle), and still managed to relax and enjoy the excellent food at the rest stops. This ride is very well supported, and all the volunteers were helpful and made the day go by that much more pleasantly. With the sheer numbers of riders and the number of rest stops that need to be managed, the Davis Bike club did an outstanding job.
Overall, I would say that the ride was a little more difficult than I expected, especially due to all the pulling I did in the last 50 miles. Thus, I felt I had to work hard enough to earn my second double. Now that I have two of them under my belt, I have a good stretch of time before the Terrible Two, so all is on track for my Triple Crown quest.