The Good—My legs felt pretty good and I finished with practically the same time as I had in 2005, the Quack Cyclists put on another great ride, and the weather was absolutely perfect.
The Bad—Alto the goat was no longer manning Pet the Goat, and a fellow DMD rider collapsed and died while climbing the backside of Mt. Hamilton.
The Ugly—I crashed on Morgan Territory, but was not hurt. I wore some of the course on my jersey while riding the rest of the course.
Devil Mountain Double
After completing the Mulholland Double two weeks ago, I was unsure if my legs would recover in time for Devil Mountain Double. I did very little distance the weekend before, and only about two hours of recovery during the week. On Friday evening, I felt as recovered as I could be and ready to tackle the “toughest” double in the Triple Crown Stage race.
I didn’t sleep very well the night before the ride. I planned on starting at 5am, just as in 2005. Even if I took 15 hours, which was my time in 2009, I figured I’d still be done before it got really dark. I brought lights, just in case, but put them in a drop bag at the start so that I could pick them up at the Pet the Goat rest stop.
I arrived at the start by around 4:30, and quickly signed in and got my bike ready. I saw Bryan, who I met during Mulholland, at the start, and we rolled out together. It was a rather large pack, as a record number of people had signed up. (Over 200, even though there was a cut-off of 175.) Bryan and I quickly moved to the front to avoid any problems with people crashing, especially during the rough road section at the start of the Mt. Diablo climb.
The skies were starting to get light just as we reached the Athenian School, which marked the start of Mt. Diablo. The rough road section was as bad as ever, and someone in front of me quickly pulled to the side, perhaps suffering a pinch flat after hitting one of the many potholes. We waved hello at the ranger who had just opened the gates and the climb was on. I let the fast riders go away, and settled into a nice rhythm. My legs felt pretty good, but unfortunately it was too much for Bryan, so he dropped off to find his own pace. I debated slowing down, as Bryan is great company on an long ride like DMD. I decided to keep going by myself as I was very comfortable, with the idea that I would see Bryan later in the day.
As the skies lightened and the sun rose, I could see light haze and fog in the Livermore Valley below me, and as I rounded one hairpin curve, I looked down and saw a long line of bicycle lights strung out on the road. Soon enough, I reached the top at about 6:40. The little steep pitch at the very top was as steep as ever, but I resisted the urge to power up it, and opted to conserve my energy. I grabbed some water and zipped up my vest and jacket and started the descent.
I passed a lot of riders on the descent. Laura Hipp was looking strong as she was near the front of the remaining climbers. Mike Mysza was further down but still looking pretty good. As I made the turn onto North Gate, I still hadn’t seen any of the 6am starters, and took some small satisfaction in that, even though many of them would inevitably pass me later in the day.
The descent was very cold, and my hands were getting a little numb by the time I reached the bottom. I started pedaling to get warm and soon caught up to two riders before reaching Clayton. I quickly stripped off my jacket and soon we were climbing Morgan Territory. That’s one of my favorite roads, and with the beautiful morning sun filtering through the trees, it was particularly nice.
Our small group broke up pretty quickly on the climb, as one of my companions tried to latch on to a group of racers who passed us. I resisted the urge to chase myself, staying within my comfort zone, and soon I was at the top. I refilled my water and energy drink bottles. I also dropped off my cold weather clothing, which would be driven forward to Pet the Goat. It felt nice to be unburdened with all the extra clothing and soon I was on the descent.
Morgan Territory is a fast, wicked descent, and one can easily get up to 50mph. With few cars on the road, I was having no problems finding good lines through the corners. However, as I was scrubbing speed to make a right hander, a slight wind gust caught me pushed me over to the left. Since I was already braking, I was very unstable and I knew right away I wasn’t going to make the turn. I locked up my wheels, but I wasn’t able to slow down enough before I went off the road. There was an embankment on the left, so I kind of surfed the dirt. For a brief moment, I thought I might be able to ride it out, but I was still leaning the wrong way and I inevitably crashed.
Once I got over the initial shock, I slowly got up and scanned for damage to myself and my bike. I had actually taken the brunt of the crash on my shoulder and hip. My head had hit as well, but my helmet kept my head from suffering any serious harm. Since the contact was with softer ground, rather than asphalt, the only sign of damage was a smear of dirt across my left shoulder. Throughout the remainder of the ride, many riders and rest stop workers would notice my dirty jersey and ask if I was okay.
I remounted my bike and continued on my way. Needless to say, I was very cautious on the remainder of the descent. I reached the bottom and was soon through Livermore and starting the climb to Altamont Pass. I always like this climb as it’s not steep at all, and I actually had a tailwind. The racers I had seen on Morgan Territory passed me doing a nice rotating paceline. I would have stuck with them but I didn’t feel like doing work on the paceline, so I left them to do their thing. They never really got too far ahead of me thanks to the nice tailwind. The tailwind ended as I made the turn towards Patterson Pass. It wasn’t too strong and there was some shelter from it with the hills around me. It also cooled things off on the climb. I filled up my water just before the summit and quickly reached the top and headed towards Mines Road.
The Wente road race was running at the same time as DMD, and using some of the same roads we were riding on. A group of three female racers passed me, followed closely by a race referee on a motorbike. I figured they must be the front runners, or at least close enough to the front to have a referee nearby. I made sure I didn’t interfere with the racers, although I managed to hook on the referee’s wheel for a while.
I reached the Mines Road rest stop by about 10:45am, which was ahead of my arrival in 2005, so I was keeping a good pace so far. After replenishing my energy drink and water, I started the long gradual climb towards Junction. I must have been making good time, as I was well along on Mines Road before being passed by the fastest of the 6am starters. Going along in the other direction were riders doing the Mt Hamilton Challenge. As groups passed me, I noticed quite a few of my friends, and I took the time to wave and yell my hellos.
At this point of the ride, my left knee started hurting, more than I would have expected at under 100 miles. I must have either twisted it slightly during the crash, or I was compensating for my slightly sore hip with an unconscious change in my position. Either way, it was really bothering me by the time I reached Junction.
As I scarfed some food, I tried to stretch a little to see if that would help. I also took some ibuprofen, hoping that would ease the pain. However, as I made my way down San Antonio Valley Road, it was clear that the pain wasn’t going to go away quickly. Even so, I still enjoyed the profusion of yellow wildflowers blanketing the fields.
There are two short climbs before reaching the backside of Mt. Hamilton. On the first of these, the pain was sometimes excruciating especially when standing. There were moments where I almost stopped, but I tried to spin the easiest gear I had and not stand at all. I made it over the first climb and was able to keep a decent pace to the second one, where thankfully, the ibuprofen started to kick in. I was never pain free, but I could stand when needed, and I felt my pace increase as a result.
The backside of Mt. Hamilton is never easy, rising almost 2000 feet at an average gradient of 8.5%. With a sore knee, it was even less enjoyable than usual. I kept turning the pedals and enjoying the moments when I would pass one of the large mile markers painted on the road. Soon after passing the 2 mile marker, I reached the water rest stop, and topped up my now empty water bottle. From there it was a reasonable push to reach the top, and I was looking forward to resting on the almost 19 mile descent. I didn’t exactly fly down the mountain, mindful of my earlier crash, and also because of all the blind corners and occasional gravel on the road.
As I was descending, I heard the sound of sirens, and a number of emergency vehicles passed me going up. I was hoping that a cyclist wasn’t in trouble, but on Sunday evening I heard the news that a fellow DMD rider had collapsed while climbing the backside of Mt. Hamilton. Despite getting the best help that he could at such a remote location, he died on the scene. His name was Tom Milton, and was an experienced long distance rider. You can more of a first hand account by a rider who was there by going here. It’s very sad, and a sobering reminder to enjoy every day because sometimes you never know what will happen. And even more practical, it’s a reminder to always wear RoadID or carry some other form of identifying information. I hope no one ever needs to use my RoadID on my behalf, but when I pass on, I hope it’s doing something I love like Tom was doing.
Oblivious to what was happening behind me, I reached the Crothers rest stop by about 3:30pm, which meant I was still keeping pace with my 2005 times, despite the fact that my knee was not 100%. I had been keeping my time at the rest stops to a minimum, but I took a little more time here, partly to refuel, and partly because I need to repair the zipper on my seat bag, which had unzipped as I was reaching Crothers. Thankfully I didn’t lose anything, and one of the helpful workers quickly repaired it, and soon I was back on the road. I felt more energized, probably because of the Mountain Dew I just quaffed, and was actually looking forward to tackling the Sierra Road climb, the last of the brutally steep climbs of the day.
Sierra Road is even steeper than the backside of Mt. Hamilton, rising about 1775ft at an average gradient of 9.5%. It starts tough right away and never really lets up. As I was climbing a wild turkey decided to cross the road in front of me. Needless to say, I was in no danger of hitting it going 4mph. I said hello to him as he sauntered across the road, and soon enough, he was in the field on the other side. As for me, I decided to stay on the road. I was starting to get a little tired, but I kept pushing, thinking back to how much I was cramping on this climb in 2009. The gradient eased slightly here and there, providing much appreciated relief, but this climb was dishing out the hurt all the way to the top. With a slightly shallower section through some trees, I knew I was close, and with a final kick, I made it over the top. I powered through the false flat and quickly reached the Pet the Goat rest stop.
The Pet the Goat rest stop is so named because the owner of the driveway where the rest stop is located would always bring his goat Alto out and tie him up giving us tired riders an opportunity to pet him, if they desired. Alto was a rather large goat, but he was pretty amiable to getting petted. When I worked the rest stop in 2006 and 2007, I brought him some carrots, which he was quite happy to eat.
Unfortunately, Alto had passed away earlier in the spring, as he was getting up there in age. Nicely enough, his owner had acquired another goat, just a kid at this point, and he was out there for everyone to see. He isn’t quite as pettable at this point, but I’m sure he’ll carry on Alto’s legacy in the years to come.
I took a moment to say hello to the new kid on the block, and then gathered up all my gear that had waiting for me. As I was organizing my gear, my friend Tim Woudenberg arrived on his recumbent. Tim is a very strong rider who is doing RAAM this year. He was climbing very well despite the fact that he was on his recumbent, and the fact that he was hot on my heels meant that his RAAM training was right on track.
It was still only 4:50pm by the time I got back on the road, and I felt that I had a chance to equal or beat my time from 2005. I quickly descended to Calaveras, and was soon enjoying the rolling road alongside the reservoir. A group of three 5am riders as well as Tim caught me and I attempted to hang with them. However, they were flying around the corners and I was still being very conservative in the corners. Even so, after a good effort on the final descent before Welch Creek, I managed to hook up with them again, and they pulled me into Sunol.
I enjoyed a hot dog and V-8, and some Endurolyte capsules, as I was starting to feel some twinches in my legs, likely as a result of trying to keep up to the fast 5am riders on Calaveras. I had been using Endurolytes all day, and I was never in real danger of cramping all day, but I wanted to make sure it didn’t get past the twinch stage with the Palomares and Norris Canyon climbs yet to come.
Soon enough, we were back on the road. Tim pulled our little group to the bottom of Palomares, at which point the climbing started again. I wasn’t able to keep the pace with the 5am riders and soon they receded into the distance. Palomares is only a five mile climb, and fairly gradual, so I was over soon enough. I lost sight of Tim on the descent, and I paused at the bottom to plug my Garmin into the spare battery pack.
It was still light out and I knew I would make it back before sunset, but the question was whether I could get in before 7:30. I pushed on and soon enough I was on Crow Canyon, looking for the turn to Norris Canyon. I don’t like Crow Canyon very much, with all the traffic, so Norris couldn’t come soon enough. One more push and I would be flying down to the finish. I could see a rider climbing in the distance. I was gaining and soon enough I realized that it was Tim. I caught him at the top and we bombed down the other side. He gapped me slightly there but we both made it through the final stop light and reached the finish at 7:32. Just missed 7:30 by two minutes, and slightly faster than 2005, but only by the barest of margins.
I was pretty happy with my ride and being able to finish with an almost identical time as 2005. If I hadn’t had to deal with the knee pain, I might have improved on my time even more, but I don’t think it would have made a major difference.
I saw Bryan come in as I was chatting with Tim and some of the other early finishers. He looked pretty good, and obviously had recovered very well after I left him on Diablo. After chatting and eating some of the post-ride food, it was time to go home, get cleaned up go to bed, but not before Tina graciously cleaned up my wounds. There was very minor road rash, although I’m sure my hip will be sore for a few days. It was very long day and I was happy to get into bed and fall asleep.
Next up is Central Coast in two weeks. Even though it’s not part of the Triple Crown Stage Race, I’d like to at least finish it, having DNFed it last year. The big question is my knee, which stiffened up within about 15 minutes of finishing the ride. As I write this on Sunday, it’s still sore but not quite as bad as in the morning. I will take it day-by-day, but I’m sure it will be recovered completely for Terrible Two, the last remaining ride of the Stage Race.
Once again, the Quackcyclists put on an excellent ride, and if there were any problems supporting a record number of riders, it certainly didn’t show. If the darned thing wasn’t so hard, I’d keep coming back and doing it every year.