Mt Tam double century

200 miles in one day. It’s a goal I set for myself way back when I first started doing long rides in Fall of 2000. It was at my first organized ride ever, the Santa Monica mountains century earlier this summer, where I learned about the existence of organized 200 miles rides called double centuries. It’s called the California Triple Crown, a series of double centuries all over the state. I checked the website the night after that ride and was hooked.

Saturday morning I woke up at 245am, drank some coffee, ate what food I could, and hopped in my rental car. The extra $5/day for the CD player was so worth it. Public Enemy and Gangstarr kept my energy level up on the one-hour drive to the start of the ride in Merin County. I downed a quart of silk latte. The start of the ride was at an elementary school and the place was buzzing. At least 125 people on bikes plus organizers and supporters. I stand in line surrounded by geared up roadies; slightly intimidated by all of the people for whom this is normal. I get my number and am on my way back to the car to unload my bike. Is this it?

I had just finished putting on sunblock (still dark out) and sorting out my lights when the start begins. I hop on my bike and take off with the main group. After a couple of miles we are split up by a small climb. A fast group takes off in the front and I am still with the main group. At one point we are flying downhill on a road with full tree cover. At about 30 miles an hour all I can see is the spot of light in front of me from my light and dozens of blinking red lights. Amazing! If I am doing anything at 530am I would want it to be this.

At the first pit stop, at mile 22 or so, I look at my computer and my average speed is 18 MPH. This is damn fast for me, my ‘fast’ training rides were at about this speed, but for only 25-30 miles. I have 178 left. I decide to not pace with the main group. Here we also drop our lights and warm clothes in marked paper bags. The organizers kindly shuttle this stuff ahead to the second to last stop, where we will be needing them again for nightfall.

The first big climb of the day was up the infamous Mt. Tamalpais. 2500 feet to the top where we check-in, turn around and descend. Astounding views of San Francisco, the ocean, and the mountain ranges from our position above the fog line. During the descent, and some time after, we hit fog and cold weather. Damn the crazy bay area weather! Eventually I will be sweating in 90 plus heat, but at this time, around mile 50, I am almost shivering. Like I have said before, when you spend hours and hours on a bike, outside, you truly experience every change in the environment.

Around mile 80 I ended up chatting with two women in their forties. Turns out they have both ridden many tough centuries and other hard rides. We formed a pace line and chatted away. They were so impressed that this was my first double and only my second organized ride! Eventually we caught another group and about 8 of us paced together. Riding at about 21-22 MPH on flat we picked up some miles quickly. I held my own at the front for many of them, but our group split up at the next big climb.

These organized rides are ‘supported’, meaning that food, drinks, minor mechanics, and first aid is available at a number of pit stops along the way. My problem is that I hang out there too long eating and drinking! Vegan food is abound usually in the form of pb/jelly sandwiches, clif bars, fruit, bagels, fig newtons, Gatorade, granola bars and hammer gel (yum!). The lunch pit stop was stocked with veggie burritos and one of the last ones had figs, one of my new favorite fruits.

I spent a lot of midday on my own. This included a ridiculously steep climb at mile 130. It was one of those climbs, in the open sun, where you have trouble turning your pedals over in the easiest gear. I was standing for a lot of it. My legs are aching, as is my lower back, and I am regretting my early morning pace. ‘Why the hell am I doing this?’ I hate riding uphill. I much prefer riding downhill and/or with tailwinds! If there was ever a lazy person who did a double century it is me. At the next stop I realize we are on the same course as the metric double century (125 miles) riders and I try not to turn my nose up to those doing fewer miles.

Around mile 150 I am feeling sluggish in even keeping a fast pace on flat. I am seeing fewer and fewer riders and my motivation is low. My mind is searching for something new to think about! I force myself not to stare at my computer and calculate my pace, miles to go, etc. Around 175 I meet up with a guy I had talked to briefly earlier and we start riding together. Not pacing, simply riding side by side. It turns out that it is his first double, but he just ran the SF marathon the previous weekend! We end up riding together the rest of the day (and into the night!).

At the mile 186 stop we meet the guy responsible for the course. He is ecstatic that this is our first double and tells us that we will be hooked. Yeah too late my friend. It’s great when someone involved in an inherently exclusive hobby is not exclusive to who does it and actively encourages others to participate. After that we had one last climb before a descent and some flat to the 200 mile mark. But, as always, I was having gear problems. My light was going in and out and my friend’s battery died. We had my back-up commuter light, but in the pitch blackness it was little help on the descent. Luckily someone with two LED lights caught us and led the way to the end point. 200 miles in 16 hours and 42 minutes. I was shooting for 15, but what are you going to do? I finished within the cut-off time of 17, so I was happy.

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