I left late on Friday morning for the drive up to Bishop, CA, a fantastic town just south of Mammoth Lakes Ski Resort nestled in a valley with the High Sierras on the West side And the White Mountain range to the East. The area is a sportsman’s dream.
About the only thing you can’t do is surf. The temperature was in the high 80's when I arrived at 3pm.
I decided to camp overnight so I checked in at the campsite, got my bike and gear ready for the event in the morning, then walked around the little mock-town at the campground and took some pictures.
Then I headed into town to check-in for the event. Oh.... on the way I noticed Schat's Bakery and couldn’t go without stopping to pick up a few things, (a must when in Bishop).
I talked with friends as we all checked in and got our numbers and route slips for what I was hoping would be an epic ride and it definitely was!
Then it was back to the campground for some much needed sleep. I set the alarm for 2:45am, (ouch), and it was off to lala land.
We had the choice of two start times for the event. 4am or 5:15am. I was not too sure about how I would handle the heat so I opted for the early start and I was glad I did. I wanted to take it easy and not kill myself as this was the first time I have done this very new event. I also heard that many people didn’t finish last year do to hydration problems in the very, very arid climate.
After a short ride meeting we rolled out on time. It was cool and in the high 40's so I was glad I brought the proper clothes. I was prepared for anything up in the high mountains and deserts.We started the ride with a 15 mile ride down Hwy 395 South to Big Pine. It was a nice easy warm up with no traffic and flat with no hills. It was a very good warm-up for what was to come very soon.
We turned left on Hwy 168 and the fun started almost immediately. The first thing I noticed was the incredible stars! I stopped for a personal break and couldn’t believe my eyes. It was wonderful! We city folks don’t know what we're missing.
I watched the flickering lights of the riders heading into the distance and could see they were going up, up, up. Well....I re-mounted my steed and paced myself into what was a very long and sometimes very steep climb.
Shortly after turning onto Hwy 168 I started up an approximately 13 mile climb to "White Mountain Road" and mile marker 28.
The grade on this section was from 4-8% according to my altimeter. It is a beautiful thing climbing in the mountains in the dark on an event. One of my favorite things although some people may say I'm crazy. Watching the lights above of my fellow riders, seeing the silhouette of the mountains at first light...just surreal and awe inspiring. Everyone should try it!!
Next turn, White Mountain Road. Now the fun really begins!!
I checked in at the rest stop, re-stocked the fuel and water, shed my cold weather clothes and put them in a drop bag to pic up later at a further check point. I saw some friends at the stop, talked and stretched a little then headed up the mountain.
I remembered what the ride director said in the pre-ride meeting. This is the only double century in the Triple Crown with this much climbing so early on in an event. I just paced myself. I am really glad I listened to what Jim had to say and didn’t push hard like I did when I was younger.
The sun was coming up now, the temp was around 37 degrees and it was spectacular.
The views of the Sierra Range and the valley below were incredible. We were heading through the ancient "Bristle cone Pine Forest". THE OLDEST PINE TREES ON EARTH!!
The grades on the climb kicked up to 14% at times as I went seemingly up forever to mile marker 38 and 10,100 feet above sea level. Wheewww that was epic!!!
At the check point, I was told, I was the fourth or fifth to reach the top. Funny, it must have been the lack of oxygen but I don’t remember passing many of my group. It kind of scared me some because; I was just taking easy wasn’t I?
My glee bubble was burst though just before I left the check point for the long descent back to Hwy 168. One of the riders from the 5:15 group arrived at the top. I couldn’t believe it. This isn’t a race so I don’t really care, I just couldn’t believe how fast he caught all of us. After passing me on the way down, he was never seen again by me.
A little blurb about that climb:
The top was at 38 miles into the ride. We had 15 miles of flat before the climb started.
The elevation in Big Pine is around 4,000 feet. The elevation at the top is 10,100 feet!! That’s a 6,100 foot climb in only 23 miles with no flat relief areas. All at the beginning of a 200 mile event with about 5,500 feet of climbing still left, and most of it in the hot desert.
|Onwards and upwards|
This realization is what really worried me about this event. I have done many, but not with this type of course. I have traditionally had trouble with heat and cramping in the desert. I do live in a very hot area is Southern California but do not usually train in the heat. I guess that is a big mistake on my part after all these years.
The descent was long and technical and I had to be very careful. No way to look at the views on this downhill! One distraction and you are off the mountain in a bad way.
I came to Hwy 168 again and stopped for a minute to rest my hands from braking so hard before the left turn on the Hwy which would take me now east toward Nevada.
Down, down, down I went on a glorious 40 plus MPH descent off of "Westgard Pass" to the aid station at Deep Springs in the valley below. It was still in the 70's and I couldn’t believe it. Still had to make sure to stay ahead of the hydration curve though!
Ahead is Gilbert Pass in the distance.
The sun was really intense on this climb and I really started feeling the affects of my location. I just took it easy again and enjoyed the spectacular views. You could see for 100 miles I think.
I now enjoyed another epic descent. This one of about 10 miles with no winds and still no vehicle traffic. I then stopped at the turn onto Hwy 266 for some water and Ice. (Thanks Terry for the Ice and endurolites!)
After having a relatively calm day where winds are concerned, things started to change.
As I rode into Nevada on Hwy 264 I picked up a slight tail wind and was just taking it easy at 21-26 MPH for the last 16 miles before the lunch stop.
Lunch stop: "The Boonies" in Dyer Nevada. It was a very fitting name for where we were.
|THERE REALLY IS A "BOONIES"|
I was thinking that some will pay later.
I was feeling really good after lunch and hit the road again by myself, this time into a slight head wind. (it kept changing).
I stopped for a few minutes down the road to use nature’s facilities trying not to disturb the rattlers!! They do have many of those in the bushes around there you know. I was not just being paranoid you know....or maybe I was! Strange things do happen in the desert you know. In "The Boonies"!!!
After mounting my steed once again and feeling renewed I saw a familiar rider profile up ahead. I just paced myself up to him and joined him and one other rider. It was so nice to again be riding with someone, especially in the windy desert.
One of my fellow riders was a guy named Rob Cleymaet from Reno Nevada who was doing his fourth ever double century. The other was none-other than California Triple Crown and ultra endurance legend John Clare. 69 years young and around 135 double centuries in the last 11 years!!! You may have seen him in many of my other pictures. He is an amazing cyclist.
What a contrast. A young baby just starting out on the double circuit, John and myself.
|Left to Right: John and Rob|
These guys would be my partners for the rest of the ride and as it would turn out, my saviors later.
We turned right on route 773, went over a nice easy climb and then down a gradual descent into a headwind until we reached Hwy 6 where we made a right turn toward Tonopah Nevada. We took turns pulling at the front in the hot wind until we reached Coaldale Junction where Hwy 6 meets Hwy 95 and our turnaround point.
The Coaldale checkpoint was awesome.
"Picture this"... A full service Jamba Juice smoothie store out in the total middle of nowhere. Not quite but it seemed like it as I drank down a strawberry smoothie made fresh right there under a tent. Thanks guys and gals.
|MMMMM strawberry smoothie|
OH....and I have to mention the best invention in the world. ICE SOCKS. No... you don’t wear them on your feet. They were giving them out there for those that could use them in the heat. Take a tube sock, fill it with ice, and tie off one end.
You then put it around your neck and tuck it into the front of your jersey. Stays cold for around 2 hours and puts melting ice water on the front of your chest for a long time and cools down your core. I was soon to find that I really would need it.
At this point we were at mile 123 and we now headed West on Hwy 6 back to Bishop with more obstacles to come.
First we had to climb another 3000 feet or so including Montgomery pass which takes us out of Nevada back into California.
|Montgomery Pass looming in the distance|
This is where it really got tough. We all started over heating and I am really glad I got an ice sock because it was right around 100 degrees on the climb up Montgomery. The climb seemed never ending in the heat. Just as you think that you are coming to the top and it looks like the top, and then you see that there is another top and another and another.
This is when I first noticed there was something wrong.
I think I made a dumb mistake with my
fuel/water/electrolyte mixture and mixed it too heavy on the fuel/electro and not heavy enough on the water. I started to get the upset stomach halfway up the climb. I was still able to stay with the guys as we all agreed on just taking it easy till the top. We got to the next check point at Basalt Station and picked up our lights and cloths we dropped earlier in the day.
We only had another 3 miles to climb and it was all downhill to Benton and the final stop.
As we made the final climb we looked across the prairie at many wild horses standing there watching and wondering what these figures were doing out there in the middle of nowhere rolling up the hill. Were those really horses or was I just hallucinating?
The final climb was not very difficult but the heat and the miles in our legs made it feel worse than it was. On one of my short or cool weather rides this would be a baby hill and nothing. Today Montgomery pass seemed like a beast. You have to be prepared for anything on one of these events. You can be feeling fantastic and then "boom" you start cramping, get sleepy, who knows what. I really did feel fantastic on this ride until this final climb. I don't think I was alone. Many were dragging there heals.
Doing one of these events is all about mental stamina and listening to signals your body is giving you.
This day I was hydrated really well and never got any of the cramps I usually get on rides in arid climate like the desert. I think I over fueled and my stomach hated me for it.
When we got to the top of the pass we had a great descent into California. Very fast but windy. It was then that my worst fear was realized....Headwinds!!!
Our speed went down to about 14 mph as we got on flatter roads heading into Benton. My stomach was really feeling bad now. I couldn’t even drink without it telling me. "I'm going to come back up if you do that again". The rest of me still felt great. Legs were strong! I just wanted the stomach thing to end.
I had some really good salty chili at the final stop hoping it would help my stomach. It was not until we had about 25 miles to go between Benton and Bishop that I really got sick. The headwinds got pretty bad and I couldn’t even stay in the pace line with John and Rob. I stopped and almost keeled over on the side of the road. John kept telling me I should stick my finger down my throat and make myself spew but I just couldn’t get myself to do it. I haven’t thrown up since my bachelor party 33 years ago and this wasn’t going to be the time. I told them to go ahead and that I would walk for awhile until I felt better. I told them I
would get a soda at the store a few miles ahead.
|From my bent over vantage point walking on the side of the road. The Sierras. Arrrgghh#@*&@^|
I got back on my bike and just pedaled in a real easy gear maybe making 6 mph into the headwind until I reach the top of a small rise that felt like a mountain in the wind. I then went a little faster on the downhill section and saw the store up ahead. I was feeling better now somehow. I don’t know what happened. I was going to just keep spinning past the store when I looked to the left and saw the figure of John lying out like he was sleeping on the cement next to the store. I rode over and said hi to him and he was OK but not feeling too good either. Rob was inside the store.
What amazing guys! They waited for me at the store and I can't thank them enough because we actually finished pretty strong after all that. I went in and got a Pepsi. I drank it, gave some to John and immediately it helped me recover and my upset stomach went away. I usually don’t drink soda too often but wow at this point in a ride like this, I guess your body can really use the sugar and caffeine.(a good old belch helped too!!) The store proprietors told us that a bunch of riders had stopped at the store and called SAG support to pick them up with only 12 miles to go. I am really glad I stuck it out because it was worth all of it.
We ended up getting back into Bishop not long after sunset where we had pizza and beer waiting for us around the pool at the host hotel. Wow.
Many thanks to Jim and Fred of NDzone and the entire support crew for putting on one of the most beautiful rides I have done in my many years of doing these events.
Time on the bike 14:11
Overall time: 15:58
Elevation gain 11,644 feet
Av climb 4%
Max climb 14%
Min temp 36 degrees
Max temp 100 degrees
From my VDO computer/altimeter
For all my pictures go to: http://www.stevemeichtry.myphotoalbum.com/