Category Archives: double

The Dirty Double: San Diego County Double Century with 35 Miles of Dirt

The sun morning creeps up over the mountains.

I was tossing and turning in bed- I hadn’t been sleeping well recently. I had that familiar feeling where you know you’re alarm is going off soon- and you want nothing more than to return to deep sleep. It didn’t come and I looked at my phone- 315am. Early, but only 30 minutes earlier than my alarm was set for. I got out of bed and faced the reality of my day: The Dirty Double Century. I said hi to my housemate who was just getting in (good morning? good night?), loaded up my borrowed car (thanks Paul!), popped open a yerba mate and set off for Alpine, CA.

The Montana part of California? Early on before the first dirt climb up Viejas Grade.

I love 200-mile events; I’ve ridden over 20 of them: see my double category. We’re spoiled here in California with the California Triple Crown, 22 doubles a year and counting. You get to be on your bike all day, see obscure places you wouldn’t otherwise see, and they can vary from 11-hour ‘races’ to 18-hour long hauls (see below!). I haven’t ridden many in the last few years, but I could not pass up a new double with 35 miles of dirt. Yes, 35 miles on dirt!

Adam, the last I’d see of him as he went on to be the first finisher. He’s an MD and we had some good chats about nutrition and health.

My fitness is in a strange place. I have the Idyllwild race behind me and the running miles from the Zion 100, but I’m definitely not as fit as I usually am this time of year. But I knew this going in and was out there to have some fun. Read: I let everyone go on the first climb. There were only four of us and one guy started late.  Plus the first climb of the day always sucks! I settled in and rode smartly.  I’m confident on the dirt and even with my 39-28 low gear I was comfortable- for now.

I rode with John M. Clare on and off throughout the ride. He’s the son of John T. Clare, who had ridden 152 double centuries (!!) before passing away earlier this year. John M. Clare has ridden over 50 doubles himself and this year will race the Furnace Creek 508 with the former teammates of his father. More on them and their exceptional family here.

Somewhere on the second climb I started to have some concerns. How many more miles? Oh no, it’s too early to start thinking about this. Dirt slows you down, which makes it mentally hard. I’ve only gone how far? My average speed was about 12 miles per hour. I settled down and focused on why I like these rides so much- their meditative nature. Being out in the world, emptying your mind and intensely feeling the most basic desires- hunger, thirst, compassion, pain. It’s a beautiful experience.

“Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but it is to the one who endures that the final victory comes.” -Buddha

Those hill tops sticking out of the clouds look like islands!

Early dirt. Top of Viejas.

Double centuries teach you patience. I started riding them in late 2004 and any events I’ve done since- from 24 hour mountain bike races to iron-distance triathlons- are easier because of what I have learned on these rides.  Each double is different and has its own unique features from insane amounts of climbing to having over 500 people- pacelines all day long! The Dirty Double is special because of the dirt climbs and I think this kept a number of people away. My word to those who skipped this great double- riding on dirt is a skill that can be learned like riding at night, riding in the rain or making the jump from 100 to 200 miles. If you’ve mastered those skills then this is the perfect ride to challenge yourself!

This is what most of the early dirt climbing looked like. So nice to be out in the wilderness on a road ride!

Use horn at one lane curves. This is just before the only major dirt descent.

Boulder Creek, just before the descent. You can see the dirt road off to the right.

At the top of the third dirt climb, mile 77, the aid station was run by the race organizer, Rob. Here the ultra-century riders riders turn right and head back toward Alpine while we did the 56-mile Palomar loop.  As someone who organizes events I could see his concern. How was I doing? Okay? He was very helpful in getting me fueled and on my way. He had a better idea of what I was in for on Palomar than I did. I thanked him and headed off toward Nate Harrison Grade.  I tagged along with some random roadies for awhile and here we had the first fast descent of the day!

At the turnoff for Nate Harrison Grade we hit another aid station. And by aid station I mean the trunk of a volunteer’s car.  He loaded me up with ice cold drinks, snacks and sent me on my way. I was over 100 miles in at the hottest time of the day and I was about to start a 4000 ft western-facing climb with 7 miles of dirt. Deep breath. I won’t lie. This was super hard. I was grinding in my lowest gear trying to keep my rear tire from washing out. It was technical enough that I had to pick my lines well to dodge big rocks and ruts. Standing was near impossible and there was no shade. I passed John on a particularly steep section where he was walking.  What am I doing out here? Delirium sets in.

Climbing up to Palomar on dirt after having ridden 100 miles was something else. At least what I can remember of it…
Here one of the volunteers climbed up with us after closing the aid station.

Chatting with the volunteer helped some of the time: I could be distracted by chatting about triathlon splits and mountain bike championship qualifications. But in some ways it was harder: I wanted to suffer alone in silence.  Near the ‘top’ he turned back to check on John and descend back to his car. I contemplated my situation. It’s a balance of letting yourself suffer enough so you are present in reality and maintaining enough coherence to keep moving forward. I’d pass shaded spots and want nothing more than to curl up in a ball on the ground. But I pushed on. The dirt turned to broken pavement which then turned into an actual road.

I love pine trees! Really, this wasn’t just an excuse to take a break.

View from Palomar. The Southern California most people never see…

At the top I fumbled my way into the store. I had been out of water for about an hour. I replenished with snacks and cold drinks. Later I’d find out the restaurant next to the store has a number of vegan options? Ha. Next time?

The descent was bumpier than I’d like so I wasn’t able to really kill it.  Eventually made my way back to Rob, 56 miles later, at mile 133.  With the dirt sections behind me I got my tires back up to 110 psi from 95 and started getting ready for nighttime and colder temperatures. Riding at dusk- one of the most exciting things ever. My stoke is returning at an indirect relation to the dropping temperature.

Lake Henshaw again. Familiarity does wonders for a fatigued brain.

From here we winded up and around Julian before descending the 79 and passing Sunrise Highway- where I was for the Mt Laguna Bicycle Classic and where I’d be the following weekend to crew the San Diego 100. It took to about here for my brain to return to normal. When I’d see Rob again (he closed the other aid stations and did leapfrog support for John and I) he’d tell me that I wasn’t looking good at mile 133 and that he had been concerned, but was I was looking better now. Phew.

Vista Point sign for the moon. Nighttime already?

The descent continued and I passed the 8 freeway and rode along Japatul Road- which I had ridden only once before, also at night, when I rode out to the Boulevard Road Race (I don’t think I ever wrote about how I rode out there the night before and then got second to last in Cat 5! Ha.). More descending and then the long way back to Alpine. No straight shots and more climbing! It’s now almost 11pm. The cut-off was suppose to be 10pm, but Rob extended it so we’d finish. I’d end up crossing the line at 1115pm- 18 hours after I started. Longest double century ever.  Rob and other volunteers were there, as was Chris Kostman, who had ridden the 144-mile option and also took a bunch of photos- start here. I hung out for a little bit and made my way back to the city where some mushroom sauce pasta (thanks Lis and Marissa!) and a warm shower awaited. Twenty-two hours after waking up I was getting back in bed.

Thank you Rob for the wonderful experience. You asked if you should make it easier- no way. It’s fun, challenging, beautiful; a great day on the bike. I hope to see it on the California Triple Crown schedule next year. There’s no reason for it not to be!

My bike
I rode my only road bike, a steel Seven.
My low gear is a 39-28. I pushed it through, but a lower gear would be more comfortable.
I put 700×25 Continental Ultra Gatorskins on and they were great.
I ran my Ksyrium SL’s, which probably wasn’t a good idea as I had just broken a spoke and got it replaced. No problems though.

Skills for riding in the dirt
The hardest thing about riding in the dirt is changing speeds- both slowing and accelerating. People say, ‘this is easy’ before they have to do either. Practice this.
Choosing lines. Can you read the terrain ahead of you and adjust in time? Crucial skill. It becomes second nature once you practice it.
Know when to slow down.
Shift your weight- balance between wheels, pedals and bars. Roadies tend to have trouble with this and bash things with their front or rear wheel.
Race cyclocross this fall/winter!
Check the Dirty Double site for additional tips. They even offer dirt riding clinics.

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Day in the Life 2; Endurance Athlete Brian Davidson, Part Two: Death Valley Double Century

How fun was our first Day in the Life episode with Brian Davidson? Even as a vegan and an athlete myself, I learned a lot. Which is why we are doing this series- veganism works in different ways for different people and seeing this makes it more accessible. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback; there’s a desire out there to know more about vegans and how they do what they do!

Last week we caught a glimpse of how Brian eats and trains as he prepared for the Death Valley Double Century- a 200-mile time cycling event. Today’s show goes into Death Valley and follows the race. And have we got a treat for you!  When we approached Brian about this project he was worried that his training and competing was too unstructured. We assured him that his style is just one of many and we want people to see that. He expressed that he wanted to do well in the 200-mile event because veganism is so important to him. He didn’t want to let us down. I’ll let the video speak for him and just say that he definitely didn’t let us down!

There you have it! Brian with his dates and liquid food was the first across the line after 200 miles, with the next racer more than 30 minutes behind! Check out the unbelievable results. So how does Brian do it? Here are his recommendations for riding or racing your first ultra-cycling, 100+ mile event.

Brian Davidson’s Tips for Your First 100+ Mile Bike Event

-Have a plan, but know it is okay to deviate from it. If we learned one thing from Brian it is this: Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s not going to make or break your success.

-Start slow and build a base! Not only with slower speeds, but less frequency. Brian thinks cyclists start too fast and get burned out before they build a good base.

-Build up to longer, unsupported rides. Brian suggests you be comfortable with 100 miles on your own before doing a supported 200-mile event.

-Make mistakes.  Brian has very little ego and was not scared to admit he had failed numerous times. More than once he was out on an all-day ride and hadn’t planned appropriately for the heat and needed to not only quit for the day, but find a ride home!

-Learn from your mistakes. Understanding yourself and what you need to do is a huge part of success in ultra-distance events.

-Aim for about 250 calories an hour. Many cyclists can go with very little food for the first few hours and may be unfamiliar with having to eat while riding. Aim for 250 calories an hour and adjust for heat and experience.

-Cross train. As we saw in part one with Brian, he does sit ups and push-ups and runs to cross train for cycling. With over 10 hours on the bike, non-cycling muscles get fatigued, so doing more than cycling in preparation makes you stronger and better suited for endurance.

-Do speed work only after spending many hours at a time on the bike. Brian said he only worked on getting faster after he was comfortable going for a long time. Then he does intervals and hill repeats to build strength and speed.

-Mentally prepare. In my own experience with ultra events, the brain wants to quit before the body needs to! Train your brain, while you train your body. Know that lows will come and be ready to work through them.

-Lastly, Brian uses some liquid foods in order to more easily process the thousands of calories he needs on a really long cycling day. There are commercially-available vegan options, but what Brian was using is a homemade version. More on that in an upcoming post.

And that concludes our time with Brian. Thank you Brian for being such a bad ass and letting us peek into your life. And for showing that you can be vegan and a damn fast cyclist! Thanks for reading and if you enjoyed this please share it with others!

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Filed under Day in the Life, double, race, road, vegan

Alta Alpina Challenge double century

Wow. This was over a month ago now. But back in June, as part of a 10-day trip, Max and I rode the Alta Alpina Challenge in Markleeville, California. It’s put on by the same cycling club that used to do the infamous Death ride, but apparently some conflict led to the local Chamber of Commerce taking it over. This year was the inaugural Alta Alpina Challenge and I rode the double century.

(Carson Pass avalanche warning)

Thursday night we stayed with an ex-Angeleno in Mammoth Lakes with the idea that we’d go for a mountain bike ride Friday morning. A 7800ft headache kept that from happening, so instead we continued up the 395 past Yosemite into the ‘California Alps’. This state never ceases to surprise me. I’ve spent time in Alaska, Montana and New Zealand and this part of California can hang with the best awe-inspiring, expansive landscapes. The first plus of this ride? It starts at a park with a campground. Score. After running into yet another Angeleno (the organizer of the Midnight Express ride), the three of us headed out for a 30-mile spin that meandered along a river, out of the valley which contains Markleeville and up toward Ebbetts Pass. We had no idea that we had turned around just before it gets gnarly.

(Near Ebbetts Pass. How beautiful is this?)

I signed up for the latest start time, 516am, while Stephen (who joined us from Mammoth Lakes late Fri evening) opted for the 330am start. I heard his alarm, but not mine. Getting out of my tent and dressed at 545am, I made my way to the start and left Swarm! style: alone and late. This route (see map) utilizes 6 major passes in the area, 4 of which you climb from one side (Kingsbury, Luther, Carson and Blue Lakes) and then turn around while on the last two (Ebbetts, Monitor) you climb over, descend and climb back up the other side. I usually avoid out-and-back routes because my interest is in transversing and seeing as much as possible, but the magnificence of this area cannot be understated. I didn’t want to leave! Seeing the same area from multiple perspectives was actually quite enjoyable.

(Carson Pass, looking out from the checkpoint ran by a Pearl Izumi store. The woman was chastising me
for only having a vest and sleeves. I teased her about just wanting to sell me leg warmers.)

I’m not a great climber, so 20,000 feet comes only with significant work. What I found to be helpful is tolerance for poor weather (had rain, storms, temps in the 30′s and even snow flurries on the passes), ability to descend quickly and being diligent about time at checkpoints or skipping them altogether. What’s also fun about starting late is you spend the day catching people- makes you feel faster than you really are. I also got to ride a few miles with Stephen and then with Max as they did their rides.

I have not been riding a ton so it felt fantastic to be out on such a well-supported ride with so many strong cyclists. The roads were quiet, with ample 7mph speeds; perfect for absorbing the environment and thinking through all of those deep, hidden ideas that only come to you on a 15hr bike ride. I flatted once, but was still happy with my results. Riding, eating and then passing out in my tent is second nature and it brings back great memories of bike touring. I always feel so fortunate to be able to live, ride and explore where I do and all of it seems that much more magical when the day ends in a tent.

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Ebbetts Pass 8700ft

Near Markleeville, CA, on the Alta Alpina Challenge, 8 passes, 200
miles in the Eastern Sierra mountains. Beautiful! California, oh how
you amaze me.

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Filed under double, road, travel

peak.com interview part one

This is part one of an interview I did with peak.com. If you like it and think others may be stoked please share it with the tool on the upper right.

Age?
Recently 30.

Occupation?
I’m trained as a Registered Dietitian, in other words a professional nutritionist. Currently I work under a Food-stamp grant doing nutrition education in low-income areas of Los Angeles. Am also an adjunct instructor with the LA district community colleges.

How long have you been doing ultras?
Since Fall of 2004. More or less.

What was your first one?
My first ultra was the Mt. Tam double century in 2004. I had no idea what I was getting into. I did it on 3 hours sleep, finished in 16 hours, then had to drive an hour back to a friend’s house. It was beautiful.

What got you into ultras?
Bike touring. I spent the majority of teenage years on a BMX bike riding the most difficult trails in the country. Many of my friends went on to be pro. I went to college. Not sure if I made the right decision. Filled the gap with mountain biking and then bought a $50 panasonic road bike my senior year. Rode it 150 miles through Pennsylvania to my mom’s house within a month. First lesson: cut-off shorts and no underwear is not the most comfortable choice for your crotch. The following Spring I rode cross-country from California to Pennsylvania alone (mostly). I was too cheap to pay for camping (hotels weren’t an option) so I found my own places behind trees or rocks or in public parks. Spent $5/day over two months. Would of been faster but I got hit by a car head-on outside of Flagstaff, Arizona in a surprise snow storm. Ten days off the bike mending a broken wrist and a broken bike. Insurance of the driver bought me my first ‘real’ bike: a Bianchi Axis. The next summer a friend and I rode from Los Angeles to Belize City, Belize. We went through Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guatemala, it was a phenomenal experience. With some shorter trips, including Alaska and the Great Divide, I’ve got about 10,000 bike touring miles logged.

Your hardest?
Solo Furnace Creek 508! No doubt. The desert does something to you mentally. If you don’t love it and show it respect, it will chew you up. I struggled the second day quite a bit and would not of finished if it was not for my great crew. After 37 hours I was glad to be done and did enjoy it, even with the misery. That’s partly why I am out there. I love the highs and lows.

Longest?
Paris-Brest-Paris in 2007 was definitely the longest. Does that count as an ultra? I wasn’t competing, I just thought it would be a fun way to experience France. It’s part Critical Mass, part bike tour, part cultural submersion. I went with the night start and rode with various groups over the next 26 hours. In Carhaix I found a cot in a gym to sleep on. ‘When do you want us to wake you up?’ In 8 hours, I replied to their confusion. I figured it would be more fun and easier if I slept a full night. Did the same the next night. Finished in 77 hours, if I remember correctly. Two weeks previous I had done my first iron-distance triathlon on a course in Norway they call the world’s hardest, the Norseman. I was nervous because it was especially cold. They had to move the swim away from the glacier run-off in the fjord. You actually had to get out of the water half-way through so they could check you for hypothermia. The bike was 126 miles and the marathon ends up a mountain. I finished near the back and the organizers were always tremendously supportive. They let us sleep in the gym (is there a theme here?) in the days leading up to the race and cook in the kitchen of a school to save money.

Recommendations for new athletes?
It is difficult for me to answer this because I struggle to call myself an athlete. I’d say keep it fun! Don’t take yourself too seriously. I like to do athletic events because they are an adventure and the process adds to my life experience. When I lose sight of this it becomes like a job and significantly less fun. To me swimming in a fjord in Norway, riding my bike through traffic in LA, mountain biking fantastic technical single track or running up a mountain near my house are all worthy experiences in their own right regardless of the end goal. Each give me that jolt of excitement that I don’t think enough of us get in our daily lives.

Food and hydration during events?
Even though my expertise is in nutrition, I still have to work very hard to get my food and hydration sorted out. The more I’ve trained and at times when I am most fit I am able to eat less while riding without compromising my performance. It has taken me years of paying close attention to my body to know how far I can push and when I need to eat and drink. I try to average about 200 calories an hour and focus, when possible, on eating fruits and whole foods. On doubles and really tough centuries I do use gels and the liquid foods with definite success.

What’s your training like?
Oh how my training varies. I am definitely on the low-end of hours and miles compared to others. Especially running. It is a struggle for me to run more than twice a week, which is something I need to change if I want to get my marathon time under four hours. I do a lot of core work, including pilates. I also live in Los Angeles without a car, so riding to the grocery store and carrying 20 pounds of groceries home on my fixed gear definitely helps.

Favorite event?
So hard to say! My first mountain bike race ever was this year, the Shenandoah 100. It was freakin awesome. A party the whole time, with a 100 miles of amazing terrain and great single-track in the middle. I raced rigid single-speed and came in just under 11 hours. A great way to spend the day. I also did Vineman, the ‘people’s iron-man’, this year in Sonoma Country. Very well supported, lots of veg food and an emphasis on minimal impact: they washed and reused water bottles and even composted fruit scraps.

Why ultras?
I like the commitment. I don’t want to spend more time traveling to an event than I do participating in it! That space in time after the initial adrenalin wears out is where you learn the most about yourself and the world. I’ve experienced clarity like no other on really long bike events. This is cliche, but it takes you away from mundane, normal life with the hassles of bills to be paid, reports to be filed, calls to answer, etc. In a way it is very primal and aligns us with what our ancestors were forced to do to make it through life. I think we all need to remember this. I do my best to promote ultra events so others can get out of the work-buy stuff-watch tv-sleep-repeat routine and experience what we are capable of experiencing, for good and for bad.

Long term goals in the sport?
Tough one. I take it year by year. I like this mountain biking thing so I want to do a 24-hour race next year. The courses seem so boring though. Maybe race the Great Divide? I am not sure. I hope no one who reads this holds me to that!

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Filed under 508, brevet, double, off-road, triathlon, vegan

LA urban double start this morning

This should be called the urban-escape double! Why am I not riding it? I went out to the start this morning to help Shaun, who so far is doing a bang up job on organizing this, and that was the thought I had. As you can see a hardy crew set out at 9am (!!) to get in 200 miles almost literally around Los Angeles.

Here is a map of the pit stops. The lines are obviously as the crow flies (no riding in the ocean or on freeways on this ride). I rode out to the first stop in Rosemead and turned around there for a sweet 40 mile ride.

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Death Valley (again)

Two weeks ago 5 of us piled into a (borrowed) car to head to Death Valley for the Fall double and century. Morgan, Stacy, Luz and myself were volunteering (my third time!) and Budge was going to ride his first double. Driving separately were Max and Michael who were volunteering and Jack and Megan who were riding the century on the tandem. Below Morgan hops on in Megan’s place before the start.

‘I hate the desert. This is stupid. I don’t know why anyone would want to ride out here.’
-about mile 400 of the 508 last month.

Okay, so I am not a huge fan of the desert, but after years of trips to Death Valley, I do really appreciate it. The mountain ranges are gigantic and they rise from the vast valleys in such immediate contrast. It is like nothing back East. And it helps when you have Dr. Morgan Beeby, walking Encyclopedia, with you to rattle off unknown facts and figures.

Stacy chillin the best way she could


1) I really enjoy being out on the course and helping riders who are on their first century or double or in Death Valley for the first time, finish and feel good about it. 2) I want to give back to AdventureCORPS for making all of these rides possible 3) I don’t want to forget the scale of what I have been through and 4) my experiences can help the riders who are out there. 5) I love a free trip.

Budge crushed it for his first double and the little training he did. He finished in just over 13 hours! results, photos, write-up here.

Hiking on Sunday

This is obviously awesome


After a great hike on Sunday we drove back via the 395, with great views of Mt Whitney and more stories from Dr. Morgan Beeby, I walked from Mexico to Canada through the mountains, the whole way.

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