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.

1 comment:

Ravi said...

Good luck on your first DC!! Just stay hydrated... and pace yourself. There are tons of pace-lines that will fly by at huge speeds - Have some fun chasing some of them - but just make sure you do not get burnt out in the first 30 miles ;).