Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Double Century Energy Intake/Output

My report on the Davis Double Century was pretty long, so I left out some details on what I ate. I still wanted to document it, so I am writing this as a supplemental report.

This event was clearly the largest/longest single output of energy I have done, most likely in my entire life. I have no objective measure of exactly how much energy I burned on that day. Some cyclists use a power meter to get an exact measure, but I do not have one.

Instead, I will estimate it based on the total amount of time I cycled and the average rate of energy usage for strenuous cycling. This is not very precise, but it gives a good estimate. I have read from various sources (like this one) that strenuous cycling for someone my weight (currently 158 pounds) burns roughly 600 to 800 calories per hour. I think 700 calories per hour is a reasonable estimate for my activity. I was coasting downhill part of the time, but was also putting out extra effort uphill part of the time.

If I use my full time-on-bike measure of 13 hours, I come up with a total of 9100 calories. This is in the same range as what other people reported, so this estimate should be close to the actual value.

Now to calculate the energy intake. I really ate a lot of food that day. Almost all of it is normally considered "junk" food, but on a day of extraordinary exertion, it really was "essential" food. I ate before I started, and I ate at each of the 10 stops I made on the route (although at the last stop I ate only one cookie).

The second rest stop and the wonderful food on display.
Cookies, crackers, fig newtons, bagels, cakes, packaged energy bars,
peanut butter / jelly, bread, and then fruit on the last far table.

I chose food based on how much energy it contained, how quickly it would digest, and sometimes if it had necessary minerals. This meant I ate large amounts of cookies, cakes, and potato chips. All three of these contain dense energy, and the chips has large amounts of sodium. At the lunch stop, I also ate a cheese sandwich and some oily pasta salad. I had started the day with a large donut. I ate pieces of orange and banana at regular intervals.

I made an estimate of how many calories I consumed:

1 apple fritter 800
12 oreo cookies 600
10 chocolate chip 600
4 pieces pound cake 600
handfuls potato chips 500
pasta salad 400
cheese sandwich 500
5 cans cola 750
2 oranges 150
2 bananas 200
Total 5100

Even though this is a large intake of food, it only accounts for just over half the energy that was burned. The rest needed to come from my body's energy stores.

I weighed myself Friday morning before work (I drove to Davis straight from the office) and I was 158 pounds. I weighed myself after returning on Sunday morning and I was 148. I had to stare at the scale for a while to be sure I was reading it properly. But, of course, most of the difference was due to water loss, not tissue loss. I was thirsty and hungry most of Sunday, and immediately got a few pounds back from eating and hydration.

One thing I did differently is that I did not drink just water, like I usually do. My boss, Joel, (himself a triathlete) recommended some electrolyte replacement tablets called Nuun. Since I had problems with dehydration on my last century, I decided to give it a try.

I carried two water bottles with me. I kept one as just pure water, and the other I filled with water and added a Nuun tablet. The Nuun has no calories (no carbohydrates). It is supposed to have a lime flavor, but to me it tasted more like tender coconut (which is actually an excellent natural source of electrolytes). I cannot say for sure that it made a difference, but I had no dehydration problems the whole day. Plus I had no cramping. I may continue to use it for rides that are long and hot.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Davis Double Century

39th Annual Davis Double Century
200 Miles, 8000 Feet Elevation,
17 hours 30 minutes total (13 hours on the bicycle)

Distance, elevation, heat — these are the three factors that make a bicycle ride difficult. The Davis Double is considered one of the "easier" double centuries because the total elevation is not really that much. But this year, an unusual heat wave took place, so the distance and heat combined to make it challenging. Even though it took me much longer than expected (due the the 4.5 hours total rest time) I was happy to finish successfully.

After a week of rest, the adventure started with the drive to Davis on Friday. The usual two hour drive took four hours because of a traffic jam caused by an accident in San Jose. As a result, I did not get to sleep quite as early as I had hoped to. I wanted to turn in by 8:00pm, but I only made it by 9:00, which was not too bad.

I had set my alarm for 3:00am, but woke up on my own at 2:30. It took me a little longer to get ready than I expected.

Click for the interactive map.
The route is the clockwise loop. The markers show each of the rest stops.
The start/finish is marked as L.

Start, 4:30am, 0 miles

I drove to the start and got rolling by 4:30. There were already many people starting at this time or even earlier, but the majority would be starting between 5:00 and 5:30. I fell in with a group of three other riders and we immediately got off course. We missed one of the early turns. But since the rural roads outside Davis all form a grid, we just took the next turn and quickly rejoined the route.

I left this group and joined a different one which was riding faster. My legs felt strong, so I thought I would keep a fast pace on this early part of the route, since the first 30 miles are all flat. We formed a paceline that kept a 21 mph speed. I saw the sunrise while pedaling.

Rest Stop 1, 5:50am, 23 miles

Many people decided to skip the first rest stop, which is understandable since the early part of the route is not difficult. But my plan was to stop at every rest stop. Since this was my first double century and since it was going to be a hot day, I wanted to rest, stretch, and consume more calories.

I lost my paceline after the stop. I did not encounter any other ones going my speed, so I was riding alone.

Early morning riding through the flat farmlands outside Davis.

Rest Stop 2, 7:15am, 46 miles

Oddly, I somehow had a bloody nose just as I reached the rest stop. It was perfect timing because I got a napkin there and stopped the bleeding. I kept an extra napkin with me in case it happened again, but it did not.

The section after this rest stop had the first significant climb of the day — Cardiac Hill. For some reason, there was a large swarm of butterflies on the road. We all pedaled uphill through this colorful cloud. The grade was not too steep, and the day was not yet hot, so no one struggled. After the summit, the downhill section was very wide and smooth, with little traffic. Here, I managed to set a new personal speed record on the bicycle — over 44 mph (my previous high had been 38). And I am a cautious descender. Many people reached speeds over 50.

Rest Stop 3, 8:40am, 64 miles

Again, many people skipped this rest stop. I ended up staying here longer than planned because there was a long line for the restrooms (well, the Port-a-Potties). I felt pretty good to this point. I had kept a fast pace and still had energy.

Up until this point, I had been passing many more people than the number who were passing me. This is because the slower riders started even earlier in the morning, and I was passing many of them. The stronger riders started later, and around this time is when many of them started passing me.

Rest Stop 4, 9:39am, 76 miles

This is the stop were the heat started to become apparent, even though it was still relatively early in the day. I had not really noticed the heat until I came to a stop. After this checkpoint, it was a factor, though not a problem. I started sweating a lot at this time, so it was good that I had been drinking two bottles of water between each of the stops so far.

Rest Stop 5, 11:17am, 95 miles

By the time people reached this stop, the sun was oppressive. I and many others took a longer break here. The next stretch contained the longest climb of the route, so we needed to be relatively rested and cooled.

This friendly volunteer cooled me off by spraying me with water.

The ride up Cobb Mountain started off easy and then increased to a long stretch that varied between an 8% - 10% grade. While this is not "easy", it is not as steep as the hills I usually do, so I did not expect it to be too difficult. Well, combining the grade, the brutal sun, the lack of shade, the lack of any breeze, plus the fact that I had already pedaled 100 miles / 7 hours, it was difficult.

I was not the only person having a hard time. Wherever there was any shade by the side of the road, people were stopped and catching their breath. Many people quit pedaling and walked their bikes up the hill.

I wanted to make it to the top without stopping, but could not do it. I was getting heat exhaustion, so found a shaded spot on the shoulder, set my bicycle down, and laid down on my back. Since I was facing up, I would see the other riders pass me, either slowly pedaling or just walking. After five minutes, my dizziness went away so I remounted and continued on. I had to stop a second time, but this time just stood for two minutes to recover.

Rest Stop 6, 1:29pm, 105 miles

I was happy to finally reach the rest stop at the top. There was a grassy area with some shade, and there were cyclists laying down in most of that area. I joined them.

Another rider rider gets sprayed with cool water.

After taking a long break, the stretch to the next stop was not too difficult and was mostly downhill.

Lunch Stop, 2:24pm, 117 miles

This was the stop at which most people took a long break. I was there close to an hour. After eating, I laid down for a long time. I had developed a strong headache, so I took some tylenol for it.

Besides to recover from the last climb, the other reason to rest fully at this stop was to prepare for the upcoming second climb — Resurrection Hill. Although it is neither as steep nor as long as the previous one, it could be difficult for people who were weakened by the last one. My long rest had re-energized me, so I did not expect to have any problems.

Except, I mistakenly refilled only one of my two water bottles. When I discovered this, I was annoyed that I would have to ration my water intake, rather than just drinking liberally like I had been. Fortunately, I saw a support vehicle parked by the side of the road. I held up my water bottle and shook it, indicating that I needed water. The driver saw that and waved me over. He filled my bottles, and I was happy that I did not have to limit my intake. Again, I saw people stopped and resting in the few places where there was shade, but in smaller numbers than on Cobb Mountain.

There were many support vehicles like this on the course. They were making sure that everyone and their bikes were okay. Most of them were in action on Cobb Mountain and Resurection Hill.

Rest Stop 7, 4:55pm, 140 miles

This was a milestone rest stop since all the big climbs were done at this point. I heard that the high temperature this day was 102°F. Apparently one rider actually had a thermometer on his bicycle and it registered a reading of 110°F in the sun. I also heard that many riders were forced to quit by the heat. There were several support vehicles accumulated here. They had filled up with riders and bicycles that they were going to take back to the finish.

The scenic view from the stop on Resurection Hill.

Again, the downhill section was wide, smooth, and conducive to high speeds. I was approaching the high speeds that I reached earlier, but this time I started experiencing cross-winds that started pushing me around the lane, so I slowed down.

Now it was just a matter of just spinning the pedals and getting to the finish. There were no more big hills on the course.

Rest Stop 8, 6:40pm, 163 miles

Although it was mostly downhill to get to this rest stop, I was pretty tired. I rested longer than I thought I would need to. Clearly I would not have enough time to reach the finish by sunset like I had hoped. So I had no problem with lingering a little. Also, by this time, my butt had gotten pretty sore and appreciated being out of the saddle.

Rest Stop 9, 8:31pm, 181 miles

This stop was the same location as the first one. I reached it just after sunset, but it still had not gotten fully dark. Knowing that the last 20 miles would be fully flat, I stayed here only briefly before heading for the finish. It quickly became fully dark.

I was alone much of the time, but did join a couple different pacelines for a while. There was almost no traffic, and the area filled with the sounds of insects and frogs. There were so many flying insects in the air that I could not keep my mouth open and remain a vegetarian.

Although the route contained many turns, they were clearly marked with flashing yellow lights at the intersections so we did not need to look at the map or see the street signs. Plus we could see the taillights of other cyclists ahead of us, and the headlights of those behind.

Finish, 10:00pm, 200 miles

I finally made it back to the finish. There was a group of school children and some adults cheering each of the finishers. I walked into the building and officially checked in. They had dinner for everyone, but I had no appetite.

I had originally thought I could try to drive back home after the ride, perhaps after a short nap, but this was clearly not feasible. At this point my mind was slow and my thoughts were cloudy. Even if I napped, I would not feel safe doing the two hour drive back home. Instead, I returned to the motel where I stayed the previous night. I went to bed at 11:00, so it was a long day.

My primary goal was simply to finish, and I felt a sense of accomplishment to do so without any serious problems. At several times I felt like the finish could not come soon enough, but at no point did I feel like quitting.

This was good training for the Death Ride. I was able to show that I could handle spending the full day on the bike. The Death Ride is much less distance, but much more elevation, so I will be keeping a lower average speed. It should not take as much time (neither overall nor on the bike) as this did, but I have proven that I could handle this much if I need to.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Racing the Sun

Since doing the Mt. Hamilton Challenge, I have done quite a few training rides, with nothing exceptional to report about them. But I will definitely have something to write about after this weekend. I signed up to do the Davis Double. "Double" means "double century", which means 200 miles (in one day).

I had planned on doing the Davis Double, but I had originally expected to do it next year. However, since I am fully in training mode for the Death Ride, I feel like I am in good enough shape to actually attempt a double century at this time. The Davis Double is longer than the Death Ride (200 miles vs. 129 miles), but it is much less elevation (8000 feet vs. 15000 feet), so I expect it to be easier.

The real challenge of the Davis Double is the sheer number of hours needed to do it all. Elite cyclist can do the whole thing in 12 hours or so. For me, my estimate of the best-case scenario would be 15 hours. This means I need to start early (4:00am — 5:00am) and may have to finish after sunset.

Actually, I am not fully expecting to be able to finish it. If I have any problems or cannot keep up the pace to finish at a reasonable time, I can quit and get a ride to the finish in a support car. Having such support available is one of the benefits of doing organized rides like this.

As the name implies, the ride starts and ends in Davis, California, which is a two hour drive from home. In order to facilitate an early morning start, I booked a motel room in Davis for Friday night. I will drive back home Saturday night after finishing. Vaishali is not coming since she has other plans this weekend. Plus, if she did come, she would have to keep herself occupied the whole day while I am cycling.

I did not do any different training to prepare for the Davis Double. I have kept up my standard mid-week training rides (34 miles, 2000 feet, 2.5 hours). I decided that after doing one long ride this weekend, I would do no more riding until the event. I want to be fully rested and recovered.

On Saturday I decided to do a ride that would be moderately long and have only a few small hills. This approximates the profile of the Davis Double. I have not done any rides like this in a long time because all my rides usually include a lot of hill climbing.

Click for interactive map.

I got a late start at 3:45pm because I was busy with various household chores that I did not want to put off. This gave me only 4 hours for riding, so if I wanted to cover a long distance, I had to keep a fast pace. I started off with only a rough idea what route I wanted to do, which is unusual for me. Usually I plan in detail exactly where I am going.

The route took me towards San Francisco parallel to Highway 280. It contained several small rolling hills, but no extended climbing. I eventually reached the area near the Crystal Springs Reservoir. On Sundays, the road near this stretch (Canada Road) is popular with cyclist because it is closed to cars. On this Saturday, there were few bicycles and also few cars.

I was able to keep a much faster pace than I normally do. On the flat stretches, I was able to maintain a 18-20 mile per hour pace when there was no wind. I reached my intended turnaround point at around 6:00pm, which meant I could still make it home before dark if I kept the fast pace. I expected to have a faster average in the return direction because I had had a headwind up to this point.

I decided to come back via a different route. I knew which main road I needed to get to, but was not 100% sure of how to reach it. I knew which direction to head, but I would be taking some roads that I had never been on. I was in no real danger of getting lost. I knew exactly how to get to some of the other roads I knew, and I could always just retrace my steps, but if I lost any time on an incorrect route, then I would not get back home before sunset.

I turned onto a road I did not know because it headed in the direction I needed to go. After about 1 mile, I stopped to check with a couple who was out for an evening walk. They confirmed that the road I was on eventually connected to the road I wanted to get to. After a couple more miles (and a couple short, very steep hills), I got back to familiar territory. I climbed one more hill and I had mostly flat road to home. I kept the fastest pace I could manage since I was racing the sun.

I finally reached home at 7:45pm — just before sunset. It had been almost exactly four hours, and I covered 59 miles. My average speed was just over 15 mph. If I can manage this pace on the Davis Double, then this would translate to an overall time of 13 hours 20 minutes. Of course, that route is almost 3.5 times as long, and I will be making more stops (including a long one for lunch). So a more accurate projection for this pace would be an overall time of 15 hours, which is what I guessed my best-case scenario would be.

But this is all theory. It will get tested this Saturday.