Category Archives: double

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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Death Valley double

Second year in a row! I don’t have a proper write-up for this, but here we go with some details:
Five of us piled 5 deep into Molly’s car after I read some Dr. Seuss in her class for a national reading day. My vocab word was ‘deforestation’.
Got to Furnace Creek and checked into our room. Room, what? Megan, Molly and Jen volunteered so we got a free room. Jack and I slept in here and Morgan, John UCLA and another UCLA friend of theirs camped.

In AM we met up for start and Chris Kostman informed everyone that the 17 miles to Badwater was mostly gravel b/c of construction. What the fuck? First I got a flat. Then the UCLA snapped off his derailleur hanger on a $10,000 Colnago! Holy shit. It got hot (surprise!) and our crew was struggling a bit. The course is a 150-mile out and back and then a 50-mile out and back from the start. Last year a bunch of riders quit here. Jack showed some signs he is not invincible and had a rough time on the last 50, but pulled it off. 508 winner Kenny Fast Truck Gecko Souza rode the course in like 10 hours. Geez.
Start

Hiking on Sunday

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Mt Tam double century

Friday Morgan and I caught a Craig’s list ride to the start of the Mt. Tam double century. We slept behind the school it starts at and put our stuff in the gym while we rode. I felt a cold coming on early and it hit me mid-day. Was not feeling well. We took it easy and hung out and enjoyed the great scenery up here. Also nice that I did this double last year. Afterwards we were kind of stranded. We called our friend Lauren who had recently moved to Berkeley from LA to be a superstar bike activist. She hopped in her carshare car and drove over and picked us up. Rad. The next day my cold hit me hard and I ended up spending the next couple days sleeping in her apartment. Then I headed off to Davis/Sacramento for work before returning to the Bay on Friday to ride back to LA.

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Grand Tour Triple Century

Where did you go?
The ride started in Malibu (20 miles north of Santa Monica) and headed north on the PCH before turning inland through Ojai. At mile 143 we were back on the coast (Rincon Point) where the double riders headed south for the last 57. The triple riders went north to Gaviota for a 100-mile out and back before the last 57 miles from Rincon Point. Here’s a map.

How many people did the ride?
About 400 people did the 5 different rides; a double metric (126 miles), a lowland double, a highland double, a triple (after either the highland or the lowland doubles), and a quadruple (either triple with an extra 100-mile out and back at the end). It was put on by The LA Wheelman.

How far is 300 miles?
It is the same as riding from Philly to NYC back to Philly and then to NYC again. If you decided to head south from Philly you could make it to South Carolina. From LA you could ride to Mexico and back.

Why didn’t you do the quadruple?
All the rides had a 24-hour time limit. The 400-miler would require 4 back-to-back 6-hour centuries. That’s beyond my speed capabilities.

What did you eat?
Usually I eat a combination of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, fruit, Clif bars, Gatorade, pretzels, and random snack foods available at check points. Leading up to this ride I started using ‘liquid foods’ like Hammer Gel (a syrupy substance made up of various easily digestible carbohydrates) and Sustained Energy (SE). SE is a powder you add to your water bottles and supplies about 250 calories per two scoops. For this ride I ate about 75 f my calories from these two sources. My stomach did fine till about 2 hours before the end. At this point my caloric intake dropped and I think it affected my performance. After doing some research I think someone transferred a stomach virus to me via Ethiopian food Friday night.

How long did it take?
Amazingly I finished the first 100 and 200 miles in my fastest times ever: 5 hrs 45 min and 13 hrs respectively. My total time for the 300 was 20 hrs with a rolling average speed of 17.1 MPH.

What do you think about while you are riding?
Often boring stuff like my speed, how I am feeling, if I am eating enough, concentrating on staying smooth in the pace line, following the route, how much climbing is left and what I am going to eat when I am done. Beyond this tends to be very personal. When I am riding strong positivity and positive experiences fill my mind. With headwinds or on a particular difficult spot my emotions tend to dip and negative thoughts fill my head. I’ve experienced similar situations when touring alone. There have been times when I had to fight tears.

What’s next?
Morgan and I have been talking seriously for the last two months about The Furnace Creek 508. It is a non-stop, non-drafting 508-mile race through Death Valley. This is an overwhelming decision for me to make and the possibility of me training hard enough to complete it is questionable. It is constantly on my mind and I hope to make a decision in the next couple of weeks.

The Story Part:
Writing about these rides is becoming increasingly difficult. There is an obvious pattern: Go to sleep late in some sketchy place, start late, get dropped by fast riders, constantly pass slower riders, finish with a mediocre time.

This time one year ago I was contemplating the feasibility of riding a bicycle for 200 miles in one day. I had mentally committed to the Mt. Tam double century in August and started preparing for it. Nervously, I went out every weekend and rode a 100 plus miles. I finished that ride within 20 minutes of the cut-off, but was psyched on completing something that had previously been a far-off goal.

Riding the Grand Tour Triple Century has been on my calendar all year, but it did not hit me till about two weeks before when I told people what I was signed up for. It is a logical step to take after completing 8 doubles this year, but an increase in mileage of 50 s a lot of miles and a lot of time. Is this really something I want to do?

Friday night shaved my legs cramped into Morgan’s bathroom with 3 other people; one with a digital camera and one with a video camera. Rode over to Century city to crash at our friend Alex’s house. He’s a runner and the GT is his first double century. We set-up on the couch and are asleep by midnight or so. Up at 355am and we pile into Alex’s roommate’s car. 4 people and 3 bikes with no bike rack. Did our best to avoid cops on the way over. The church start point is bustling! We get our grab bags, hide our stuff, Morgan signs up to volunteer (his knee is bothering him), and Alex and I sign out by 545am. Many riders started around 430am and most had gone before us.

Next thing we know we are flying up the PCH in a paceline dominated by 5 racers. Within 20 miles we would pick up another 10 or so people trying to catch the draft. Alex, taking Morgan’s place as the person with the heaviest/shittiest bike, even held is own pulling for a while. First checkpoint and we are quick and head out with the racers. Petrero Rd. The same one from the Mulholland DC and the one we came down (and then went up for fun!) on the Different Spokes ride. First climb is moderate and I hang with the racers as we blow by people. At the steep climb I am blowing up. Heart monitor is showing some of the highest numbers I have ever seen. Legs are burning. At steep sections I have trouble turning the pedals as I pass people pushing their bikes. The racers edge over the top about 2 minutes ahead of me. I push over the top and change gears rapidly to catch them. Luckily checkpoint two appears and with them stopped I can regroup. We are quick and as we leave Alex rolls up. He swears about the insanity of the hills and we wish each other luck. I bounce with the five racers.

Morgan called Central Coast my first official roadie ride, but I think this one takes that claim. Pacing with the racers is incredible for my time, but is working my legs as I do my part in the front. First 80 miles with an average speed of 20.1 MPH. Occasionally they’d drop me on the hills and then I’d catch them again. At one point we catch a group and roll on with them to lunch. One guy is Eric Ostrich; we met him at the Fargo hill climb and have read his stories about The 508 (which he has won). I say what’s up to him and he asks me which ride I am doing. When I tell him the triple he asks if I am training for the 508. WTF? I mutter some response about how we don’t talk about that. He says, ‘Great I’ll see you there. Have you picked you totem yet?’ Fuck. Sometimes things are so obvious to other people that keeping it a secret is a joke.

I eat lunch in 20 minutes. Ready to head off on my own when the racers ask if I am ready. Acceptance? At mile 141 we turn south towards Rincon Point checkpoint two miles away. Some riders on the triple pass by heading North and someone asks, ‘Where the fuck are they going?’ This was their first double and the guy who suggested they do it explains that there is a triple option. One guy flips out about how he can’t believe people are doing that when he had been thinking how bad-ass he was for doing 200 miles. At the checkpoint I say bye and explain I am heading north. I feel more dumb-ass than bad-ass, but am thankful I was able to ride with them.

Headwinds and hills slowly destroy my positive mood. Two flat tires (one patch fail and one puncture) worsen the situation. Riding through Santa Barbara is beautiful and rather surreal in that I have been there three times now this year. I think about the kids we hung out with at Critical Mass and I imagine how odd it would be if I ran into one of them. Finally at mile 193 I exit the 101 and hit the checkpoint that is the turnaround point. They wish me well and I leave before two riders who had gotten there before me. Heading south I pick it up a bit to hit two hundred miles at 645pm.

Around dusk I get a little lost heading back through Santa Barbara. Read Carrillo St as Cabrillo St. I recognize that my mental status is slightly reduced. I love riding at dusk so I hammer on and end up passing another person. Back at Rincon Pt in the dark. I check my cell phone messages and have a conversation that does not quite make sense to me (sorry Carolanne! Happy Birthday!). My desire to eat is just about gone; even my intake of Sustained Energy has dipped. I eat a chocolate bar and feel sick to my stomach. The roads are surprisingly desolate and I am holding a pace strong enough to pass a couple of more people. At some point I end up with a guy I had passed early and we decide to ride together. He had started at 330am and did the lowland double, but at this point we are riding a similar pace. His wife is SAG-ing for him and is constantly leap frogging us.

At the mile 274 checkpoint I am a little delirious. I barely eat anything even though I know better. We leave together and I focus on our conversing to distract me from the slow pace. My heart rate, AVE speed, etc barely make any sense to me. When I hit a hill I go into my easiest gear and just spin. Legs are feeling the racer pace from the first 143. We stop so he can get a new battery for his light (I am already on my second which was already strapped to my top tube). Instantly I am freezing. Putting on my vest helps, but I am still seriously cold. This is when I question my sanity. Also a time when I must really focus on my safety. There is low traffic, but it is DARK. I stare out into the ocean and, of all the times I have looked at, it looks new to me. This image is forever frozen in my brain. The miles slowly tick away. Every hill feels like it should be the last one. Finally Pepperdine University appears on the mountainside and we see the stoplight where we turn towards the church. AS we turn someone calls out from a van wanting to know where the finish is. It’s Max! He’s there to pick me up and he follows up the hill to the end. My computer rolls over to 300. I check in and they give me my time. Morgan finds us and expects a full report. I tell him ‘hard’.

Obviously I am out of it. Obliterated. Having been up for nearly 24 hours with 20 of them riding my bike. We load the van and I mutter about how damn cold it is. They express concern because neither of them are cold. I fall asleep and wake up in a drive-thru. I ask what city we are in. Eat some burritos and mumble random details about the ride. Finally make it home and Megan had made me a cake! I apologize for not being able to eat it d/t stomach issues. Crawl into bed after a shower and try to make sense of it all. Can’t say I had any huge sense of accomplishment or machismo; just more of a smirk about what bikes can get you in to. Woke up in time on Sunday to ride to The Smell for my More Than Transportation workshop on touring by bike and to help with a checkpoint for the Serial Killer alley-cat style race by being a dead body (bike tube guts and all!) at Union Station. Yeah BikeSummer!

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Eastern Sierra double century staff ride

Friday night was the epic BikeSummer kick-off party at the Santa Monica pier. Over 350 people, many of which came on bikes. Hell yeah. Rode back at 2am and finally got to sleep around 345am. Up at 630am on Saturday for the Wheels of Steel DC training ride I had posted to the BikeSummer calendar. No one showed (surprise), so I did 20 miles alone and came home and went back to sleep. Up at 1pm, then to Tierra for vegan brunch before heading out on the 5 hour drive to Bishop in the Eastern Sierras.

Get to the hotel around 730pm to see the 14-15 hour crew of riders coming in. Exclamations of its difficulty abound. But it is only 10,000 feet of climbing. Most of the day is spent at 7-8000 ft high. Fuck. I don’t do well in high elevations and on Sunday’s ride I’d be feeling the elevation. We chill with the organizers and a guy I met at SF Critical Mass and then we go to eat. Taco Bell is the only thing open. Fuck it. Find a place to sleep in some bushes across the street next to a skate park. Sprinklers? None around. Asleep by 1130pm! Amazing. Almost 5 hours of sleep.

Crawl out of the bushes, go to the car, sort our bikes and roll over to the start. Everyone is ready and staring at us. Oh yeah, this is the staff ride we are doing for volunteering at The Heart Break DC . Only 8 peeps: 4 in the slow group (us) and 4 in the other. They leave cause they don’t want to ‘burn daylight’ (not that you are at risk of finishing in the dark when you do doubles in 12 hours). We leave 10 minutes late and catch the ‘slow’ group in about 15 miles. A big climb to start. Some tall dude takes off and we try to stick with him. It doesn’t happen. Our personal SAG vehicle greets us at the top of the climb and cheer us on. We’re in the front of the slow groups, kind of a weird feeling to be the fastest of the slow.

Scenery is unreal. Rolling right along GIANT snow covered mountains. Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 is in this range. We climb up to Mammoth Lakes. Despite the shitty suburban feel it is beautiful. Big, wonderful trees. Meanwhile I am feeling horrible. Lethargic. My breathing is feeling okay, but my ‘go’ is on pause. Could not get into the rhythm all day long. Morgan is feeling great and later would claim this was his best DC yet. We did a loop around these lakes that was unreal. Huge canyons with people skiing down! Love that shit. It is like a crazy resort town you would see in Colorado. California never ceases to amaze me. We end up back out on the main road (395) that runs between the Eastern Sierras and the Mountains that make up the Western side of Death Valley. Two very distinct regions and one road between them. It helped to distract from the fucking wind we dealt with all day. Got lost once and lost like 20 minutes. Two people DNF’d from our group. More wind after lunch then a left turn (East) into what looks more like a desert. The insane down hills begin! I topped 45 MPH on about half a dozen occasions. Top speed of the day, and in my life: 52.1 MPH. Holy shit. In the open desert it is so easy to pick up speed and not know it. Topped 50 three times. Unbelievable.

One more climb out of that valley and then, seriously, 36 miles of downhill to the end. I’m feeling better. Morgan is stoked and high on Hammer Gel. Finally I make the jump to consuming Sustained Energy (a liquid food that is luckily vegan). We end up with the last person in our group and we fly back to the end at an ave speed of close to 25 MPH. Our elapsed time is a very impressive (considering how I was feeling) 14 hours and 20 minutes. Better than 50%! Arguably we had worse conditions as well.

Change in the car, eat food at Amigos restaurant and chat with the waitress about all the long distance runners in Bishop (Are they training for the Badwater Ultra-marathon? Yep). Cruise around some more being big fish in a little pond then back to the skate park for bed. Not long after that the sprinklers kick on. Fuck it, I think, they can’t be on for that long. My sleeping bag is pretty water resistant. Back to sleep. Woken up with my feet wet. Morgan has already moved onto the concrete in the park (over the fence). I figure that if my feet are wet then they’ve been on for a long time and should go off any minute. Then some starts dripping on my face. I recognize the irony of my stubbornness that lets me finish DC’s but keeps me from moving to a dry spot to sleep….

On the drive back we turn around on the highway cause we see someone pushing a mountain bike up the road, heading north. We pull over and Mr. Jim Smith, age 71, was walking just cause he got tired. His $75 Huffy mountain bike was strapped with backpacks and had gallon water jugs hanging from it. The people you meet via bikes! He’s been traveling for 10 years by bike and has NOT BEEN INSIDE A HOUSE IN TEN YEARS. We swap some stories, give him a Clif Bar and say our good-byes. Whoa. Puts things in perspective as I drive the rental car back to Los Angeles to return to my job and my house (and laptop, cell phone,etc)…

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Central Coast double

Back up the coast for a ride! Central Coast DC is the last of the stage races and a beautiful route on top of that. Paso Robles, the starting point, is an odd town that is a mix of yuppies, rednecks and college kids. Not sure what to make of it. We find a construction site across the street from the park in the center of town starting point to sleep in. Wake up to the sounds of roadies clicking out of their shoes. We hop the fence in the back and carry our sleeping bags to the car discreetly. We have to sign ourselves in to leave on time with the main group. We stick with the ‘main’ lead group all the way to the first check point, after two decent climbs.

Heading north on the PCH is beautiful. Rolling hills, ocean views, all that stuff. The big climb is right off the coast, 8 miles up and over the mountain range to HWY 1. I take off my helmet and decide to push. Start passing people pretty consistently; but that is not as impressive as it sounds because we had taken too long at the checkpoints and were totally sandbagging it. After the downhill is lunch. Morgan shows up later than anticipated: he had flatted. We decide to split up.

Oh yeah I had bonked on the flat about 2 miles before lunch and had to get pulled in by some guy after a group I had passed on the hill overtook me. This was my first experience with truly bonking: just could not muster the energy to go a decent speed. After lunch I was still recovering and was not feeling so strong. I bunny hopped the cattle guard and a group behind me was quite impressed. We hit some headwinds and I was feeling stronger so I pushed on. When I’d pass people they’d jump on and ride in my draft. Pulled for about 5 miles and was a little annoyed that no one else jumped ahead. Even on the 49 MPH downhill people stayed right on my rear tire. Made a turn out of the wind and there is only one person behind me! He thanks me graciously and I am stoked he was appreciative. We chat for awhile as I recover.

Morgan claims this was my first ride at roadie speed. I’m very happy with my time and felt strong at the end of the 211 miles. Morgan gets in after me and I had already changed and found out that the meal did not have one vegetarian dish. Blah. We found a school to sleep at (my experience at the X-games in 1997 taught me not to sleep in the open, but Morgan did not and got caught in the sprinklers) and got a full 8 hours sleep. Stopped in San Luis Obispo at a rad coffee shop, promoted BikeSummer there and then again in Santa Barbara before heading back to LA.

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Toughest double century? Devil Mountain

6pm on Wednesday, May 27th and the Death Valley crew is on it’s way to Davis. Well, Morgan had a paper or some shit for Thursday so he flew up to Sacramento that night and Emilio, Megan, and I (and Morgan’s bike) piled in the rental hybrid off to Davis. First stop is Glendale to drop off the disk for BikeSummer newsletter two (which I would spend part of the next couple of days on my cell phone trying to coordinate the details of). Then DelTaco.

We left on Wednesday night cause I had to work in Sacramento on Thursday (so work paid for some of the rental car!). Meanwhile Megan and Emilio chilled in Davis; possibly the most bike friendly city ever. There is a graphic of a bike on the city emblem! That night we met up with Temra, my partner in having a full-time job based on our politics. Thai food, coffee, chillin. Friday morning Morgan and I did a quick 20-mile spin, dropping Temra off at work on the way, while the other kids cooked up a hearty California breakfast. Drove to Oakland, then BART with bikes over to SF for vegan ice cream and Critical Mass. CM was out of control; fist fights and some dude who drove through a group of cyclists and continued on despite one of them being on his hood! SF don’t play around. Permanent image on my brain of a guy on the hood of a car smashing the windshield with his bike as the car sped off.

The Devil Mountain Double Century starts at fucking 5am. Setting an alarm for 345am at 1215am is humorous. We probably would of even started on time if it wasn’t for getting lost. The stupid road had two different road signs! So we missed the group start and didn’t get out till about 540am. This ride was put on by the Quack cyclists, the same group who did the Knoxville ride Matt Pro and I got lost at on my birthday. I joked with them about not getting lost and they handed me a bandana with a map on it! Was getting this printed a direct result of Matt Pro and I getting lost last year at Knoxville? Funny either way.

First climb up Mt Diablo is EPIC. A serious mental challenge. I started to question the feasibility of my completing this ride (did I mention this is the hardest double in CA at 207 miles and 20,000 ft of elevation gain?). The ‘racers’ started at 6am and passed us soon after at a pace that I would consider inhuman. The first person done with this DC finished in under 12 hours, shattering the previous record. Finally make it to the first checkpoint at the summit at roughly 4000 feet. The descent is invigoratingly fast. My new bike takes turns at unbelievable speeds, even with my teeth chattering and my hands shaking from the cold. Next climb is aptly named Morgan Territory and we finally start to catch some people, despite Morgan’s bike and its noises.

As the morning moves on we are enjoying ourselves more. Our pace picks up and my mind drifts from the physical demands of the ride to the scenery. The Mt. Hamilton climb begins as rain starts to drizzle from the sky. The hill winds along the mountain, with the valley continuously on our right as we look up to see other cyclists pushing on. About an hour of climbing before we reach the top. Luckily the rain has stopped, but it is cold enough to need arm warmers for the fast (fast!) descent. Even at the next rest stop I am still shaking from the cold.

Before night falls, around mile150, we hit Sierra Road. Steep, unrelenting, and over three miles long. Afterwords Morgan takes a picture with a goat while giving the international punk/metal sign. After dark we ride with a group, cover some more fucking hills, then start the last 10 miles of the 207. Morgan is seeing trails of light from other riders. I worry we are going to crash the car on the drive home, but then I can’t remember where we hid the keys. We safely roll into the hotel at 1145pm, after 18 hours of cycling. We make jokes about clif bars and warm Gatorade, I pick up the ridiculous jersey (that you only get if you finish!), we find the keys and drive back to Oakland. Crash out on the floor and the next day we drink coffee, eat vegan Chinese food and drive back to LA. Road trips rule and make riding the toughest double century in CA even more fun. Thanks kids.

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