Wednesday, March 20, 2013

3-16-13: The Inaugural Joshua Tree Double Century



This ride really sparked my interest as I have never even driven in many of the areas on this ride. What a great way to explore the area. By Bike.
I had heard for a few years that my friend Anny was trying to get this ride on the Triple Crown Event Roster and boy am I glad she did.

I drove out on Friday afternoon and helped with the rider check-in duties until about 9pm then hit the sack. As usual, I was not able to sleep much.

The temperature was around 55 degrees so I thought we might be in trouble as the sun came up being so close to Palm Springs and knowing what the temps can be like in the area in the summer. I think it is kind of unusual to have such warm mornings in the late winter but not unheard of.

I rode from the hotel to the start for about 3/4 of a mile for the 4:30 am start.

We rolled out of 29 Palms about 4:31 am.
29 Palms in well known for the very large Marine Corp Base located there.

Heading out of town, west bound, toward Joshua Tree and Yucca Valley.

We had a mild head wind already as we headed out of town. The first section of the ride is rolling terrain to the highest point on the ride which is just above Morongo Valley. There are some pretty good climbs on this first 32 mile section to Check Point #1. We had one blazing fast descent to the first stop.

I descided to kind of try a different pace scenario on this ride. I have always been the type of rider who goes out kind of hard but I really suffer later. Now, being over 60, it is getting harder and harder to do that type of thing. I did most of the ride spinning more than pushing the bigger gears and it really paid off I think.
I really had the perception that I was not working that hard for the first 100 miles. I know that some tail winds and descents had something to do with that but I was mostly just relaxing and soft pedaling on the descents, not pushing the pace much.
My average speed at Check Point #2 in Coachella was 18.2 mph.
Sunrise while heading down into Indio and Coachella
On the way down to Coachella I saw my friend Roland with Temecula Valley Velo Cycing club. I met Roland at The Grand Tour Lite ride in Malibu when I was working the check-in desk for the event.  He is from Switzerland where my dads side of the family is from. His wife is Dutch Indonesian like my wife Ginny. Small world.
Roland with the Palm Springs area in the background.

 As the sun came up we had a nice tail wind heading into Desert Hot Springs, Indio and Coachella to the second rest stop. It was starting to get warm already so I knew we may be in trouble. I also knew we had to return back north and westbound to get back to the ride start in 29 Palms. The winds will only get stronger as the day goes on while the desert heats up and the temps are cool on the coast. Its like a vacuum for high wind when the conditions are like that. I would really be happy later that I decided to pace myself on this one!!
As I was about to leave Check Point 2, Joel Sothern caught up with us who started at 4:30.  

He started with the 5:30 group and made up the hour difference catching us at mile 71. He would go on to beat all the check point set up times and basically had the Check Point 6,(final checkpoint), crew of Keith and his wife Esther having to leap frog him to their set  up of #6. WOW!! Another blazing finish by Joel. 

Now came the fun....or not so fun...part of the ride depending on your attitude. The 26 mile...hot...climb to Chiriaco Summit on US Interstate 10 and lunch. It was blazing hot on this section with only a tail wind so the air flow was dead and there was no cooling on the skin. I think I suffered the most on this part. I would take some wind on a climb in the heat any day over a tailwind on a hot climb....that is what I was thinking at this point....I would be cursing in a few hours!!
I was now all by myself, the climb was not too bad, just hot with sun in your face the whole time. Whenever a semi truck would pass you would get a little bit of cooling but only for a few seconds.

All by my lonesome self heading up Interstate 10 to Chiriaco Summit
After the steepest part was done the ride was real gradual climbing with the tailwind to the summit. Over 20 mph speeds and real nice. I got to lunch and enjoyed one of my favorite sandwiches. Tomato, avocado with lots of mustard. I scarfed it down and didnt stay long.

Back on the interstate now for another 16 miles of smooth road and blazing tail winds before heading north on Hwy 177. But not before stopping at "The Smoothie Stop" Check Point #4  at Magoo's store.
I would here from the staff while haveing breakfast Sunday morning that without that store the ride would have been in trouble. Many many many trips were made to that store for ice required on the stretches to come on the course. WOW....thanks Magoo!!


Now I knew we were all in trouble. The winds were howling out of the north-west and I was heading due north. I was now in the Chuckwalla Valley and I noticed my  front tire feeling a little squishy. Darn.....I had a flat tire. As I was fixing it a few people passed by, all asking how I was doing. I said I was fine and finished the repair. Chuck Bramwell came along too and asked how I was doing as he went by. It is always great riding with Chuck out there. Always up beat  with an amazing positive attitude.

In the Chuckwalla Valley where I got my first of 3 flat tires.
Finally after kind of a long repair, I was on my way. The wind was getting brutal and it was hot. At  about this point my Garmin GPS computer made a  weird beep and I looked down and saw something strange. I had just miraculously ridden an extra 20 miles with an average speed over 20mph....WOW. Must be a satellite glitch or something.
I could see Chuck way up ahead so I got in the aero bars and just paced my way up to him.
You can barely see Chuck up ahead
Now I really knew I had made the correct decision to pace myself for the first 100 miles. It was real windy and I know that if I had really pushed, I would already be in trouble. I had no pain in the legs, no cramps and I was feeling very good mentally. Everything seemed to be working good.

Up and up I went until I spanned the gap to Chuck and then I rode with him for a little while. He was feeling the pain big time like everyone else. No getting away from it on this one....that's for sure!!
Chuck riding that beautiful Volagi and pulling out the camera for what I would find out later was a video
Chuck got this shot of me as I passed
 Here is the great video Chuck Bramwell made of the ride:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2A76G_0Q_Vg

I really knew he was feeling the pain because he was unusually quiet. I have never known him to be so quiet. I knew and could tell he was digging real deep. We....who do these kinds of events...have all been there many times.   I was blabbing my mouth off as usual when my endorphins are going strong. He probably wanted me to shut up.
We worked together a little and came up on to 3 more riders, tried to work together but the winds still broke us up. We all just slogged our way up to the next turn and rest stop on Highway 62 only to see this beautiful sight...............
It just looked like a never ending climb up that alluvial fan. Not for the faint at heart!
Check point 5 was great. Plenty of ice, good food and great people. The salted peanut butter pretzels really hit the spot. I threw a handful in my pocket, filled my camel-bac, didnt stay long and hit the road.
CP #5. Hwy 62 at Hwy 177

Chuck and I headed out for the grueling, 26.6 mile trudge to the final rest stop at mile 171.6.
Ohhh....would you look at that. You....the road....nature.....and a bike. Doesn't get any better than that!!
This section was the toughest of the ride. We still had a pretty strong head wind and my Garmin computer was reading about 100 degrees on the bike. I was told by people in their cars that they were getting a actual 95 degree reading in the air. Either way....it was blazing hot with that wind. It just sucked the life out of you.

The grades never much got over 5% but with the wind, the heat, the distance in our legs and the length of the climbs, they felt like they were 10% grades.

The summit in the distance above in the picture just seemed to take hours to reach.....THEN....just to find out it is a false summit and we are still climbing. I think there were three or four false summits on this section to the last rest. It was brutal!!
Looking back toward Check Point 5 as we start the climb.
One thing I have not mentioned yet is my nagging eye problem. With my facial nerve damage on my left side I have not been able to totally blink my left eye fully closed for many years. This ride was to be the first real test of my new Wiley-X glasses with the eye gaskets. I purchased them about a year ago after my DNF in the Death Valley Double where the winds were so bad that I was going blind in my left eye. I was so disappointed on that ride because, other than that, I was still feeling great at mile 140 where I had to quit. Under 20 people finished the full 200 miles of that event and I knew I could have finished. A bunch of people that were behind me finished it. I was bummed!!
The glasses worked flawlessly on this awesome test of the worst eye drying/cross wind/headwind conditions. I had no eye issues all day and only had to use my eye drops once about half way through.
My Wiley-X glasses. Full transition lenses that turn full clear in the dark and look how dark they get in the sun. I highly recommend them for anyone, eye problems or not.
Looking back east bound as I reach another of the "false summits". Getting very lonely

Finally I reached the final checkpoint and I was not feeling all that bad other than a bad case of "hot foot" in my left foot. It was great to see friend Keith Jensen and his wife Esther there manning the stop..

Keith got this pic of me looking like giant salt lick. Thanks Keith!
Keith and his wife Esther. Great support.....thanks guys!!
I put some more peanut butter pretzels in my pocket, had a very refreshing mountain dew and headed out for the finish.
The final 24 miles were not too bad other than the wind. It was getting a little cooler so I felt better. It still seemed never ending though. I just kept the thought in my head of how easy doing a 24 miler at home is to put it in perspective.
About 10 miles out I saw Roland Hoffman coming up the hill in the support vehicle. He was making an ice run and he asked if I wanted some. I said yes and I filled my camel-bac with ice. Really cooled down the core.
I got two within 8 miles of the finish and I got a flat, fixed it and then at about 6 miles I got another. Both of them took me forever to fix because I was so mentally tired.
At a little before 7 pm I came into town and the finish.

There is 29 Palms at the bottom of the hill.....woooohoooo!!!
Thanks to Anny Beck and Mountain High Cycling for putting on such a great event. I love it.

A big Kudos go out to all the volunteers. We could not have survived out there without you guys!!

There were about 113 people entered and I think around 83 finished.

Here is the link to the ride results.
http://mtnhighcycling.com/Ride_Results/JT2013/2013Riders.aspx

All the pictures can be viewed HERE

Strava data:
http://app.strava.com/activities/44984647

1 comment:

  1. Great article Steve. That was one of the toughest days I've had out on the road so far. My Garmin had more than 3 straight hours with the temps in excess of 95-degrees. There was a spike of 116 degrees at around mile 100 but not sure if that is for real. I road 15 miles with a flat front tire in the dark before realizing the problem. Turns out it's so much easier to ride with inflated tires.

    Will I see you at the Hemet Double?

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