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.


dan said...

Cool! Great! Congrats!

Ravi said...

Congrats ! Good Job ! Nice report !! Well do i hear a Cal. Triple Crown coming ? Eastern Sierra DC is a very scenic one - you will really enjoy it - although it is a bit more climbing, but not too much more.