Yesterday I participated in the 25th anniversary of the Death Ride. I will post pics soon, but here is how the event went.
Friday evening – the night before.
I chose to sleep in the park where the race starts so I can leave bright and early and not deal with the mess of driving in early in the morning. There were hundreds of cars doing the same thing, stacked in this open field. It was like Woodstock (but with very fit people and no drugs).
Those who know me, know that I am not one for rough camping. For Friday night, I slept in the back of the rental car (luckily it was an SUV) which was not the most plush way to sleep prior to an event. I folded down the back row and had my bike in there with me. I soon realized that I was taller than I thought as I had to keep curled up inside. I was finally able to get to sleep at 1am. Cynthia, please stop laughing.
The morning of the event.
At 4am the horn goes off in the park and Pink Floyd started to play on the loudspeakers. I looked up and saw people milling around with flashlights heading to the main building for breakfast. I headed off to the building, had pankcakes and oatmeal and chatted with the others at the long eating table. A nice way to start the day. I was suprised to see some folks heading out on their bikes at 4am with lights to get an early start. There was no rule on when you can start so there were a lot of people that headed out to beat the crowds, sun and clock.
I chose to wait until I could see the road.
I chose to leave at 530am when I can safely see the road. The first few miles was a decent into Markleeville. It was in the low 50s so a little brisk but not too bad. This was the most crowded of the day. Luckily many of the roads were closed.
Monitor Pass – Pass 1 of 5.
This was a beautiful climb. It was almost 3000 feet of climbing to the top. My strategy was to take it easy and watch my heartrate on these early climbs. I had never done this ride before I so did not know how the climbs were going to be. I made it up easy with little effort and passed more people than passed me. It was hard, but I let people go past and did not try to chase. I am getting smarter as I get older.
At the top, I filled my bottles and ate a little bit. Always assume that when I stop I also use the bathroom (I won’t call it out each time). The descent was fast and I had to scrub speed quite a bit. Many people passed me on the way down. I did not like the descents so I took it safe – but still hit 40-45 mph on these. Some of these guys had to be going 55+.
Monitor Pass – Pass 2 of 5.
When we hit the valley we had a turn around to head back up. Once again, I took it easy for the 3000 feet up. Most of the climb was at around 8%. When I reached the top, I once again filled the bottles and grabbed some fig newtons (this was my main diet item of the day).
Once again, I took the twisting descents easy and watched people pass me by. I realized I will just need to catch them on the hills. The ride at this point was starting to open up a bit and I could tell I was in the top 1/2 of the riders at this point.
Ebbetts Pass – Pass 3 of 5.
This was much harder that Monitor. It was a beautiful ride up but it was much steeper – sections of 12% with no let up til the top. This was another 3000 foot climb. People were quiet here and I passed more people than passed me. The hills were starting to separate people by now. I reached the top, filled my bottles and ate a bit. It was noticably cooler when you get near 9000 feet of altitude. The descent over the back was once again fast so I watched my speed.
Ebbetts Pass – Pass 4 of 5.
The turn around was only about 5 miles down the backside, dropping almost 2000 feet. Here we turned around and headed back up. At this point, it was harder than I thought it would be. My back was bothering me which gave me some concern. Many people were having trouble here as I continued to pass many of them, hurting back and all. Thank goodness for my new gearing on my bike (I really needed it). I reached the top of Ebbetts again, topped off my bottles and ate a little more. I was hurting some so these frequent shorter stops are what I needed.
I headed back down, once again being cautious. At the bottom there was a lunch area where I grabbed an bannana and some Advil then headed to the next pass. There was about 10 miles before we passed the park where we started – the place where the 4 pass riders peeled off. I kept going and it was another 8 or so miles til the last climb began.
Carson Pass – Pass 5 of 5.
This was about an 18 mile climb in total. It was not as steep as Ebbetts but very long. About half way up I refilled, ate, took Advil, and realized the stop was pretty empty. At this point I could tell I was doing well overall compared to my expected time. The climb continued up towards Kirkwood. This road was open to cars so we needed to be careful. The wind also really picked up and the last 2-3 miles was into a very stong and gusty headwind. I put my head down and pushed. When I reached the top I realized that the hard part was over. I ate and drank a bit and received my 5 pass pin from a volunteer. The ride back down was fast and glorious. I knew it was just 23 miles from the top back to the park, 3/4s of that downhill.
I rolled in before 4pm. I had exactly 9:30 minutes riding time and 10:30 minutes overall (meaning all those stops added up to an hour in total). My rough estimate was that I was in the top 10-15 percent of riders. I felt good, although my back was sore.
My special thanks go out to my wife Cynthia for the time to train and her advice on training and nutrition (www.soundmultisport.com) and to my in-laws Tom and Hilda Fenton who were my gracious hosts in Tahoe.
Until next year. 😉