Sunday, September 21, 2008

Knoxville Double Century

200 miles, 12600 feet total elevation
17 hours (14 hours 30 minutes on the bicycle)

I am now a California Triple Crown winner!

My third double century of the year will likely be my final organized cycling event for 2008. After completing the Mt Tam Double, I needed to pick a third double century to complete my triple crown. There are several of them remaining this year, but Knoxville is the only one in the Bay Area, so this was the most convenient for me to participate in.

The route profile is more difficult than the Davis Double, but easier than the Mt Tam Double. Of course, the overall difficulty can be changed by the weather and by my own conditioning. Because of the travel we have been doing recently, my training has not been as regular as earlier.

My friend Ravi made the trip with me, since he was going to be a ride support volunteer. We left work a little early Friday, drove 3 hours through thick traffic, and I checked in for the ride. We had a quick dinner and retired early in our motel room.

Click for an interactive map.
The rest stops are marked with pins and ordered alphabetically (the start/finish is "I").
The route is a figure "8". The bottom loop is done clockwise, and the top counter-clockwise.

As usual, I woke up at 3:00am, got my bicycle and gear ready, drove to the start (5 miles from the motel), and got underway at 4:30am. The morning air was cool (lower 50's), but not nearly as cold as I had expected.

4:30am, 0 miles, 0 feet elevation

I tried to stay near other cyclists for the two hours of riding in the pre-dawn darkness. Climbing uphill and then descending into Napa Valley, I could tell that I was missing some lovely scenery in the absence of daylight. As I had hoped, the morning descent into the valley was not too cold, so my decision to leave my jacket behind was not imprudent.

6:55am, 36 miles, 1500 feet elevation

The sun rose about 30 minutes before I reached the first rest stop. I arrived at this stop ahead of the main group, so there was no restroom line. There was a significant line by the time I left because a large group arrived after me. I briefly chatted with Ravi was working at this stop. I quickly ate and left, keeping a fairly strong pace.

The route took us further through Napa Valley before climbing out over another hill. I have only come to this area at "tourist" times, so this was the quietest that I have seen these roads.

9:31am, 70 miles, 4000 feet elevation

Again, I was still in the early group of riders, and this streamlined my stay at the second rest stop due to no restroom line. And again, I ate quickly and left soon. However, I was unknowingly miscalculating my energy requirements, and this would be the route segment where that would become apparent.

The next stretch was on the remote Knoxville Road — the namesake of the ride. There is absolutely no development on it. It is actually impassable during the winter (our rainy season) because the road goes through stream beds instead of bridging over them.

The road is a steady uphill, with some steep sections near the top. I actually saw Ravi a second time as he passed me in the car on the way to his next stop. He set up close to the summit and took pictures of all the riders as the passed by, so here I saw him for the third time on the ride.

The beautiful view from the top of Knoxville Road.

After a very brief break at the mini-stop at the summit for a water refill and some minimal snacks, I headed on the mostly downhill route towards the next stop which would be the lunch stop. Here is where my miscalculations bit me.

This ride has one fewer rest stop than the other doubles I did. This means they are spaced further apart. The greater distance coupled with the fact that I was keeping an aggressive pace meant that I had greater energy needs than I usually do. About 20 miles before lunch, I was hit by a gnawing hunger. And about 10 miles before it, I crashed (metabolically). I felt dizzy and sleepy I actually felt like I was riding drunk.

Because I was very close to the lunch stop, I decided to just push onward to it instead of making an unscheduled stop and losing time. I had an emergency energy bar with me, but I did not want stop and wait for it to digest. If I had only drunk a high-sugar soft drink at the mini-stop, I may have avoided all this. What I really should have done is carried extra food from the rest stops and eaten while riding.

12:43pm, 105 miles, 8000 feet elevation

I crawled into the lunch stop and headed straight for the food. I started off with a couple mini-candy bars to jump start the sugar intake. Even though it was warm, I was having chills so I needed to sit in the sun while I ate. After eating, I found a spot in the grass where I could lay down. Twice I dozed off and woke the the sound of my own snoring.

It ended up being a one hour stop — about twice as long as I had hoped to do. I had lost time and was no longer with the lead group, since they had left while I was sleeping. As I left, I saw Ravi again for the third and final time. He had finished all his support work and was getting prepared to do a ride around Clear Lake. It was coincidence that I bumped into him again.

The route then began an overlap with the Davis Double route, though in the reverse direction. I headed up Cobb Mountain from the steeper side today. Thankfully, the obscene temperatures from the Davis Double were not an issue. In fact, we were blessed with unseasonably mild temperatures during the day. My exhaustion would have been undoubtedly worse if we had had the typical heat.

Even though I had recovered from the exhaustion, I was not back to 100%. I no longer kept an aggressive pace, but I was able to keep a moderate, typical pace. The summit marked the last long climb of the route, and was followed by a long downhill, which was greatly appreciated.

3:49pm, 120 miles, 10000 feet elevation

By the time I reached the forth rest stop, I was basically recovered and at the typical energy level I would expect at this point. I could afford to keep the stop short.

Pope Valley, with hills on both sides. Bright blue sky.

5:41pm, 156 miles, 11000 feet elevation

The fifth rest stop would be the last stop I would see in full daylight. I put on the night gear and cold weather gear that I had removed at the first rest stop. Feeling good, I handled the remaining shorter climbs without trouble.

8:11pm, 187 miles, 12300 feet elevation

The last rest stop was practically a formality since the final 13 miles contains no hills. Everyone who makes it this far should be able to finish. It was a quiet road with very little traffic, and the stars were visible in the night sky.

9:23pm, 201 miles, 12600 feet elevation

I arrived to the finish and checked in. I asked the volunteer manning the checklist how many riders were still on the course, and found out there were still over 100, out of around 250 who started. So I actually kept a very good pace overall, considering I started in the lead group and finished in the middle.

For now my Triple Crown is "unofficial" because the finishers list for this ride needs to be officially compiled. Soon after that, my name will be published online as a 2008 winner. I have to say I am very proud of this achievement since this was nowhere on my radar screen at the beginning of the year.

The year 2008 has been an extraordinary bicycling year for me.

Photo by Ravi.

[Update: 01 Oct 2008]: I am now officially an Cal Triple Crown winner.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Still Training

I have not written much in the past couple weeks because I have not participated in any organized rides. Since this summer has been full of events, I stopped documenting each individual training ride like I did at the beginning of the year.

My focus is still on my current goal — the Knoxville Double Century, and the California Triple Crown. I am still amazed that I am actually close to achieving the triple crown (three double centuries in one calendar year). My initial thoughts were that this could be a reasonable goal for next year. Once I finish this, I will declare all major goals for 2008 accomplished.

The Knoxville Double Century is now less than three weeks away, so I need to continue my usual training schedule to stay in shape. Normally I schedule a big training ride at the two week mark, which would be this weekend. But we are out of town for a wedding so I will not be able to do that. I don't think that is a problem. I will just stick to my usual schedule, and then shut down all training at the one week mark.

Over the past Labor Day weekend, I was able to do two training rides — one on Saturday and one on Monday. The Monday ride covered some new territory. I rode to San Carlos and rode on some of the steep hill roads there (Crestview, Club, Hastings). This was a great ride because those roads were much steeper than I expected, and were a nice challenge. The overall distance was 50 miles, and I pushed my pace on the flat parts to finish it all in only 3 hours 30 minutes on the bike.

Click for an interactive map.

The previous Saturday, I rode up to Skyline Blvd on Highway 9 (the ride that I did so many times last year), then continued on Skyline northward its full length to the intersection with Highway 92. I had planned on dropping down to the coast at that point, but I instead headed away from the coast, resulting in a shorter ride. It looked like it was cold, windy and completely foggy by the ocean, plus I was not feeling as energetic as usual, so I settled for the shorter route. Still, it was a 67 mile total and I finished in under 5 hours bike-time.

Click for an interactive map.

The weekend before was more interesting. We traveled to Austin Texas to visit Kavitha (my cousin). I had done some research before going and found that one of the steepest streets in the area is Jester Blvd. I did a ride from Kavitha's house to Jester. The road was steep, but not more than many of the Bay Area roads that I am used to. My group drove and met me at the top of the hill, and an unexpected rain shower drenched me just before I finished it all.

Click for an interactive map.

I don't think I will write another report until Knoxville. I will mainly be doing post-work training rides after this weekend.