Category Archives: double

Happy 50th Birthday Grand Tour

Finally an adventure! I’ve been so caught up in working a lot and these other non-adventure projects that I almost didn’t do this one. Phew. I kind of love that feeling when you are getting your stuff ready and the rational part of your brain chimes in and is all, ‘Are you sure this is a good idea? Don’t you think sleeping in your bed would be nice?’

I rolled out of the house at about 930pm heading for Malibu, 30 miles west and north, to the 50th anniversary of the Grand Tour. It’s a city traverse for the first 15 and then 15 up the famous PCH. I was counting the number of Bentleys that I saw and then lost track when I got passed by a Rolls Royce. Oh Southern California why are you so crazy?

Where to sleep? Stupid sprinklers. I climbed over a half broken-down fence (still in spandex, mind you) into a nursery (the kind with trees, not children) and find a little covered area with hay on the ground. Score. I get out my mat and sleeping bag, change into shorts, eat my burritos and am horizontal by 1230am. The plan was to meet up with Brian in the am after he rode up from El Segundo, but my stupid nextel broke the day before and I couldn’t see his call nor his number to call him. I roll out of ‘bed’ around 530 to the sounds of bike shoes clicking in and out, get checked in, hide my bag and am off.

In 2005 I rode the triple century and in 2006 I rode the double with Brian and Jack. It’s a classic route, that I enjoyed this time more than any previous. It meanders up the coast, cuts inland back through Westlake and then over to Ojai before hitting the coast again at Carpinteria where the double heads south.

I thought I was leaving on time, but apparently all those riders I saw were doing the double metric (I was wearing my Paris-Brest-Paris jersey, figuring it was appropriate because I slept outside the night before the ride). I didn’t really see more than a few double riders till about 80 miles in. Then caught some more at lunch, mile 114. Still, I rode alone, which was nice. A double is long enough where I don’t spend much time worrying about all the other stuff I have to do. When I do 20 or 30 miles in the morning during the week, I am always thinking about what I have to do when I get home. Not on a double. It is like a vacation from myself.

I did ride about 10 miles with a 52 year old guy riding a Soma fixed gear. He bike commutes 18 miles each way to work. Total bad ass. The 50 miles down the coast to end the ride were beautiful in the stereotypical sunset coastal breeze California kind of way. After huffing and puffing about there being not a single vegetarian item at the post-ride BBQ (okay, there was plain white bread) I rode the 15 miles into Santa Monica and went to Whole Foods. A good day. I got in 250 miles in 24 hours toward my 1000 miles in 4 weeks goal I set. And I got to sleep outside, which always makes anything you do more fun.

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Davis double century, Auburn half iron continued

At exactly 546am we rolled up to the start (ride to the ride!). No one in sight. Not one of the 700 people signed up for the ride that starts ‘between 515 and 545am’. So we pedal off! Within an hour it was warm. Ride fast before it’s too hot or conserve energy? Brian double flats on a pothole in a paceline. A first.

The Davis Double is super well supported with 10 checkpoints in 202 miles, most filled with plenty of fruits and other foods (no clif bars unfortunately). It is inevitable on a 200-mile ride that you will deplete your fluid and energy stores, but we put serious effort into minimizing that (read: we ate and drank a whole lot). There is only about 8,000 feet of elevation gain total, but most of it comes in four climbs. Four climbs in the middle of the day. Four climbs all when the temperature is over 100 degrees. We take our time.

The secret watermelon and vegan burrito stop on the LA to SF drive


When we finish it is still daylight, but unlike Los Angeles the temperature doesn’t drop significantly. We eat the free post-ride food, try to find a tool for Brian’s bottom bracket and start mentally preparing for Sunday. Back at Janie’s house we eat again, load the car and then set off for the 45 minute drive to a relative’s place near Auburn.

One of the many (okay, five or so) fixed gears at the double

It’s after 11pm when we say goodnight and agree to set our alarms for 445am. The heat changes the fatigue you feel. It’s more of a whole body emptiness that you just don’t experience from regular fatigue. And you just can’t drink enough to replace what you lose. It’s a losing battle. I lay down on top of the bed and am asleep before I even think about getting under the covers.

When I awake in the dark I don’t feel miserable. Similar to being hungover (it’s been awhile so I can’t say for sure) in that you are slightly confused and feel like you over it did the night before. Brian looks somewhat normal.

We arrive at ‘T2′, which is also the finish. We set up our running stuff, load our swim stuff into backpacks, set up our bikes and ride to ‘T1′. Six miles, mostly downhill. Ouch. Legs are unhappy. I’m still a little dazed, but the sun is up, people are about and excited. We check-in, set up our bikes in ‘T1′ and start to dress for the swim. Note to Jan Ulrich-types who like to gain weight in the off-season: If your wetsuit is tight at ‘race weight’, you are going to be unhappy at ten pounds over. Note to slackers: It’s embarrassing to be running down the boat launch as the race is starting.

I have no shame in admitting that I was thinking about quitting before I reached the first buoy. I was struggling to breathe, my body was aching and I was cramping. Why is this so bad? Just kept swimming. Was focusing on my fish-like swimming and was getting nauseous. Can fish vomit in their mouth?

Back at my bike taking off my wetsuit was so glorious I decided to sit down and revel in the wetsuit-free glory. Then I tried to ride my bike up some hills and my legs hated me possibly more than my stomach. It wasn’t that miserable feeling you get on super long or hot rides where you just want it to end. It was different. More of a disconnected feeling where your shortcomings seem somehow to be normal. The odd thing was that I didn’t care that much. Did I accept it on some level or was I too phased to care? I ate a banana. Drank some electrolyte stuff. And some water. And got passed and passed and passed. Aren’t I suppose to be the one doing the passing on this race? No top fifteen percent bike split this year! Hills are hard when you are tired.

I told myself I wasn’t even going to start the run. Why bother? But when I saw my shoes I thought, ‘I already paid and my shoes are already here…’ and went out. Wow. Stomach is super unhappy. What’s that weird feeling? Oh yeah, having to pee. Sort of. I think the thick liquid that came out was urine (only a slight exaggeration). At the first aid station I sit in the shade and stare off into space. My stomach is killing me. I add up my calorie consumption for the day: about 800 in five hours of activity. Uh oh. A very fit looking female volunteer probably 1.5x my age, or more, who could easily beat me in any race, says, ‘Looks like you didn’t do enough hot weather training’. I told her I did plenty the day before. ‘Look. See the salt stains on my spandex?’ The sun felt like it was melting my skin. Other people looked normal. Are they not human?

The run is two loops from the T2/Finish area. When I finished loop one Brian was there to cheer me on. He had finished already. I stepped off the course, laid down in the shade and didn’t get back up. No desire to run. The ground was spinning when I closed my eyes. Am I still edge? Brian brought me some cytomax and water and I put it down. And then some more. And then some more. It’s three days later and eating/drinking is only starting to be normal. Wow.

We didn’t drive back that night. Even after ten hours of sleep we were both blasted. Unbelievable what the heat can do to you. What an adventure. Looking forward to Vineman in August. Nothing crazy beforehand.

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Davis double, Auburn half-iron

The short:
Sat: Davis double century, 202 miles, in 14 hours and 20 min. Over 100 degrees most of day.
Sun: Auburn half-iron triathlon (swim 1.2 miles, bike 56, run 13.1), DNF after 6 miles of run d/t near heat exhaustion, nausea, dehydration.

The long:
I now fully understand what it is like to be dehydrated. Am also now familiar with heat exhaustion, nausea and intense cramping. This is good. Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go? My approach to whatever you call the things I do (adventure? fun? extreme? athletic?) has been simple. If it’s there and has a draw, do it. A little naivety is healthy. Curiosity is a sign of intelligence. You won’t know until you try. Et Cetera.
I did the Auburn ‘World’s Toughest Half Iron’ in 2006 (second triathlon ever) and in 2007 (third triathlon) . Both years I had a blast and actually placed in my age-group. This year the Davis Double Century happened to be the day before. Why not? Bike touring is all about waking up after a hard day of riding and then riding again. And on PBP I rode 325 miles in one day, slept 7 hours, then rode another 200 plus without much problem. And it’s not like I’d drive all the way up there just to do the double, so why not save gas and do both at once. I talked to Brian ‘Emperor Moth’ Davidson and he didn’t flinch (note to potential bad-asses: If you want to look badass for some crazy thing you are doing don’t invite the strongest athlete you know to come along).

What we did not calculate was the heat. Over 100 degrees both days. 109 at one point on the double on Saturday. That’s hot. About how hot it was on the drive up (and back) in the car with no AC. That probably did not help our preparation (but runs up quite a few punk points). But we did all we could and Davis is a great bicycle city to do it in. We park the car at our friend’s house. Ride half mile to bike shop. Closed. Ride around corner to other bike shop. Score. Ride half mile to ride check-in. Ride half mile to a Co-op. For real. Got to love that shit. We ate a nice meal (you can make fun of raw-foodists all you want till they make you the most kick-ass salad you’ve ever had). Asleep by 10-ish for the 5am wake-up call (from Nextel).

(to be continued manana)

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Butterfield Double

In my haze as I left the comforts of bed at 455am I was reminded of all the training I’ve done in preparation for long bike events: being a paperboy. For almost four years (14-17 yrs old) I delivered 60-80 newspapers in my neighborhood by bicycle every day. I knew exactly how long my route took and slept as late as possible (530am) so that I would have to leap out of bed, get dressed and be outside on my bike by 535am. If Donna the Secretary from the High School did not have her paper by 6am I would hear about it later at school.
As I got older I started staying up until the newspapers were dropped at my house at 2 or 3am, sometimes even leaving parties, doing my paper route and then returning. Once I even convinced an older kid to drive me around in this girl’s convertible and we took turns throwing the papers at peoples’ stoop. That job was a requirement from my parents, who got sick of buying me new bike parts every time I broke some forks or cranks. I learned quickly about the exchange of labor for payment and it did not take me long to realize that the less money I spent, the less I would have to work…

So 15 yrs later I am off on my bike at 515am riding to the start of the Butterfield double century. Rolled up just as the main group (150 or so) were leaving (my tardiness would of let my paper route boss down). Still had to run in and drop my bag, but I caught up a few miles down the road. This soon to be renamed route is new, covering some of (sub)urban OC, coastal areas like Laguna, Newport Beach, San Clemente and Oceanside, Canyon areas in East SD County and South OC before ending back in Irvine. Whenever I ride the section of bike paths along the coast and through the bike tunnel I think about my bike trip to Belize with Justin. We rode this section before we entered Mexico, Guatemala, Belize…only 5 short years ago!

Back to 2008. I rolled with the front group for 45 miles, got dropped. Rode with another group, got dropped, then, after I patched my flat, ended up with a couple of guys about my speed. It felt so good to be on my bike, pushing a bit. Why pay money to do an organized ride when you could ride it yourself?
1) You ride harder and you won’t shorten the mileage for some made up concern which is easy when you are out there alone.
2) To get stoked by others. Like Timmer, a 54-yr old guy who lives in Mammoth and commutes to work on his fixed gear in sub-zero weather. Or Chris, who has done iron-distance triathlons all over the world and flew out from Chicago for this (below).

Finished in 12hr 35min. Results and report here.

The trip back to LA this morning was amazing. Wish every day was a holiday. Empty trains, empty roads… and this jewel on my street:

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Death Valley Double Century and LA Marathon

the short:
1. Saturday Death Valley double century in 13.13, Jack and I were in the top 10 fastest times (wtf?).
2. Saturday night drove back to Los Angeles, arriving at 4am.
3. Slept 1.5 hours.
4. Ran a 4.57 marathon (2.20/2.37 split).
5. Ate two burritos.
6. Slept 16 hours.
Why: To try train for upcoming long races. And they just happened to fall on the same weekend.

the long:
double

We rolled into Death Valley Friday afternoon, which is a first. Usually we don’t get there till 1 or 2am, which Morgan, Jack, Stacy and Megan did, keeping Swarm! tradition alive. Chris Kostman joked about all 20 of us staying in the one free room that the volunteers got. It probably seemed that way, with about 15 of us cooking dinner outside the room. Lee Mitchell, ultra-cycling legend, was perplexed by our presence. You all here for the ride? Yep, almost all of us. The double or the single? Most are doing the double. Wow, great!
Some of us camped, some actually had paid for hotel rooms and only six of us slept in the free room.

 

Saturday morning we tried to get a group photo, but some of Swarm! had to be at the Badwater checkpoint, some wanted to get in the early start for the double and the century riders were getting ready for their later start. As feared, Jack set a vicious pace to the first checkpoint, 17 miles away. I was blowing up. Him and I managed to stay together till Jubilee Pass, where he easily dropped me. I still passed a couple people going up, but was also passed on the long down hill to Shoshone that was plagued with head winds. Saw Jack as he was leaving the turn-around point and Jesse had caught me as I was leaving. The out-and-back gave us an opportunity to see how our other rides were doing.

After climbing back over Salsberry and Jubilee, the head and cross winds really kicked in. That’s the desert. Jesse, a Bullshifter rider and myself managed to bridge up to a couple of other groups just after Ashford Mills and got a paceline going. At one point there were 8 of us, all taking turns in the front battling the wind. Then the group split in half, then suddenly it was just me and one other guy. My stomach and legs were feeling better and we rode past a couple more groups before finally arriving at distant Badwater. Budge, Luz, Jen Diamond, Morgan, Max & Sasha (who DNF’ed the century on the tandem cause of Sasha’s f’ed up knee) were all there. And Jack! He had just flatted. It was the lunch stop, but we barely hung out before him and I left together.

 

This route is tricky in that the 150-mile checkpoint is at the start/finish (picture on left is Kiecker and Paul before the last 50 with Signey who had finished the century). It’s real easy to stop and not do the last out-and-back to Stovepipe Wells. Five of our riders did not make the cut-off time here and were not allowed to continue on (but two tried! Props to the ‘old guys’ for the punkest move of the weekend). I think they all would of made the overall cut-off and were only delayed to here because of the crazy head winds. When the sun went down and the full moon came up it was so bright we could see our shadows! The last twenty-five were tough, due to the aches and pains that arise from the first long ride of the year. I’ll spare the details of Jack’s ass pains. Some clif shots with caffeine (after two months of almost zero caffeine consumption) made my stomach unhappy. When I finished I just laid in the grass. It was the most out of it I possibly have ever been after a ride.

Our team chefs (the century riders) had made some gnochi that I pushed down before showering and coming back to wait for our other double riders to finish. We hung out with the guy who rode the fastest time of the day on a fixed gear. Not the fastest time on a fixed gear, THE FASTEST TIME. On a 48-16 yet. Yeah. He ruled. Was real nice too. Congrats to everyone who rode their longest ride, whether it was 100, 150 or 200. Thanks to everyone who helped cook, drove, etc. It was a team effort and I am stoked to of been a part of it. Also see Luz’s pictures and Kiecker’s write-up.

The drive back luckily, was uneventful. Tried to sleep, but with 3 of us crammed in the back it didn’t work out so well. I’m also one of those people who is so concerned about the driver falling asleep that I feel the need to stay awake.
When we got into the house, on the kitchen table was the map of the marathon. I looked at it and sighed. It was 4am. Morgan said, ‘Look Matt, if you didn’t do it, no one would think less of you.’ Not doing it never seemed like an option, which I think made it easier. After putting on all my running gear, I took a nap sitting up on my couch. Disorientation barely describes what I felt when that alarm when off. Holy shit. I’m going to do what?

Marathon:

The new route for the LA marathon is a point-to-point from Universal City to Downtown, which makes bike transportation difficult. I opted for the train and hopped on at Beverly/Vermont only a 20-min walk from our place. Cyclists may look funny in spandex, but there is something about runners or being at running events that makes me feel real out of place. Maybe no matter the bicycle event, it is still a part of the broader bicycle culture, a culture I am comfortable functioning in, as opposed to a ‘running culture’ which is still undefinable to me.

I’m off the train and on time. Glad to see some anti-war group handing out stickers which many people have put on their shirts or bibs.  In the ‘corral’ I ended up next to two bearded, bare-foot guys. One, I learn, is Barefoot Bob from runningbarefoot.org. I asked if it was a requirement to have a beard to run barefoot. Others asked him the typical, annoying questions that he answered with a quick wit that kept me amused till the race started.

The start is anti-climactic after standing around for 45 minutes. I’m tired as we start to climb the back of Cahuenga Pass. Unlike cycling, there is no free ride and the downhill into Hollywood is brutal, but my legs feel better then they did on my last training run. My brain not so good. Around mile 8 I pass 6th/Hobart and I toss my long sleeve shirt in a bush to pick up later. Looking for Morgan or someone from the house, but can’t blame them for not getting up after 4 hours sleep to see me run by. The halfway point eventually shows itself and I have retained enough analytical ability to do some math on my time/pace.

Not that my entire mental state is healthy. For no reason I would take serious emotional dives, almost into tears. Unexplainable. Not in a ‘running is horrible I need to stop’ way, but in more of a nihilistic, depressing, ‘the love of my life just dumped me’ way. As if physical or mental exhaustion was exposing the emotional ends of my cognitive functions. I knew what I was getting into and, the best I could, welcomed the ups and downs.

Last year I walked the water stations and still ran a 4.04 in my first marathon. Now I was finding myself walking well past them with little motivation to run. My calves, quads and ankles are all aching so I stopped to stretch occasionally. I saw a guy throwing up on the bridge back over the LA river from Boyle Heights and I gave him some props for letting it all go (I don’t what that guy ate, but it looked like an entire Indian buffet), but he was less stoked than I. The math I am doing in my head at every mile is making less and less sense as I get closer to the end. But I care even less. When we reach downtown I find it incredibly odd that all the spectators are blocked off from the route by these giant 10-foot tall fences. It seemed so out of place, like we were in a ring or some sort of cage. I unceremoniously cross the finish line: 4.57.

Again I don’t take the medal (something else to throw out next time I move) and again the post-race refreshments are crap. Some round bread, bananas and shots of OJ. I don’t know how anyone who paid $100 for this race thinks that is okay. Hobble to the train back to our neighborhood where Morgan meets me with a bike. We coast down to get some burritos with Budge, Luz and Megan. Everything is surreal and I feel super hot. Did I drink enough water? I know I didn’t eat enough burritos so I eat two. At 4pm I go to sleep, only waking up once to have some toast before sleeping till 8am. Good weekend. Thank you to everyone who made it happen.

Doing these events back-to-back will hopefully prepare me for Norseman, which will be my first attempt at an iron-distance triathlon. And this is my first public commitment to it.

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for the crew going to Death Valley for their first century or double century

The first weekend in March, 20 of us are going to Death Valley for the century/double. This is my third year going to the Spring event and I am honored to be rolling deep for 2007. I know for a lot of you from the Swarm! list this will be your first century or double century. Here are some things I have learned, that I want to share:
1. Read the website so you are familiar with the route, rules, etc.
2. Get enough sleep on Thursday night. This is more important then Friday night.
3. Start with full bottles and a little food in your jersey pockets. The first 18 miles to Badwater (checkpoint 1) are mostly downhill. Budge, Morgan and Luz will be there helping out.
4. Start with warm clothes, that you can shed easily. The temperature difference between 6am and 2pm can easily be 30 degrees. A vest and arm warmers is usually adequate.
5. Have your lights sorted. There are drop points for where you think you will need them, usually at Badwater (checkpoint 5), mile 130. Make sure your batteries are fresh. Also carry a tube, a pump and a patch kit.
6. Don’t hammer from the start! I still make this mistake. When I rode the triple century my first 100 and 200 miles were PR’s. I paid for it later.
7. Eat something every hour. No matter what. Not eating/drinking enough takes out more people than lack of ability. The ride is well supported with 7 checkpoints with gels (bring a gel flask), bars, fruits, PBJ sandwiches, etc. Eat your money’s worth. Always put a bar or fruit in your jersey pocket for between check points.
8. Stay focused. When you get tired your efficiency drops, but less so if you are mindful of it. Over 200 miles the difference between a 12 MPH pace and 14 MPH is 2.5 hours. Don’t think about your finish time, but what you are doing at that point in time to keep your pedal stroke, etc efficient.
9. Ride with others at a similar pace. Pacelining saves energy and increases motivation.
10. Don’t hang out at checkpoints! Do as we say, not as we do, right? Swarm! has a reputation of chillin hard and wasting time. It adds up fast.
11. At this point, it is all mental. Plan to spend the whole day (and into the night!) on your bike and look forward to being able to do so. Death Valley is beautiful and it’s effect on you will change with direction, light, feelings, etc. Take it in. There will be mental ups and downs; this is what life is about.
12. If you’ve been riding, which I know most of you have, forget about the physical part. It’s a spiritual journey (to quote Morgan Goat Beeby). Compare it to running: A sub four hour marathon is a tough physical endeavor, but walking 26.2 miles in one day would not be difficult, if given the time. You’ve got the time for this ride, so do not stress on the physical component.
I don’t want any Swarm! DNF’s! My props to you for taking this on. See you at 6am for the group photo.

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Grand Tour double

Today Jack, Brian and I rode the Grand Tour double century. The triple was one year ago? Wow. I thought a lot about why I am interested in ultra-endurance cycling (and running? Or endurance events in general…). Others write about accomplishment and reaching goals, etc as motivation. This, along with language that talks about achievement or ‘hard work’ or ‘for the challenge’, has never appealed to me. It is very similar to the language used by high school guidance counselors to funnel students into college and/or an ‘important career’. And it is often used as a justification for fucking people over in business (‘Starbucks is so successful because they worked hard and achieved their goals of shutting down all other coffee shops. What a great achievement.’).
Then why do I ride these? It may, for good or for bad, be very simple. It is a great way to spend the day. It gets me up in the morning and out to see a lot of the world. Also, I especially enjoy the emotional ups and downs. The lows can be so low, that everything I’ve ever cared about comes into question. Once on a ride I almost convinced myself that I was not going to do another one ever again. When it is going well I think about how with a little more training I could probably win an iron-distance triathlon (ha!) or how much I love my friends and family. I’ve made phone calls immediately after finishing to tell someone I was thinking about them. Maybe for some people their range of emotions is increased by being in difficult environments (this probably relates to my interest in going to places like Chiapas, Palestine, etc).
But where does it end? A solo 508? Race Across America? I don’t know, really. The appeal of things (riding or otherwise) seems to come and go without reason. Right now I am stoked on these rides and even more excited to have friends to ride them with. I’ll take it day by day for now and be sure not to get ahead of myself.

The ride:
Brian and Jack forgot to eat and drink enough and the near 100 degree heat in the valley made this slightly problematic. I got them through the hot part of the day and then I struggled to hold on for the last 50 miles when they were both back to their normal fast selves. I’m not sure what our time was. Jack or Brian? If you know, post it. This may the oldest double in the world, but I imagine the route was much nicer 40 years ago when there were about one million less cars on the road. A lot of California may be bike friendly, but the other 95% would probably rather see us dead.

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