Monday, March 17, 2014

2014 Joshua Tree Double Century


My 120th Triple Crown Double Century was quite a challenge. My second double of the year would again be the great Mountain High Cycling event which goes around Joshua Tree National Park.
Last years event was quite the challenge with unusually hot winds being the main course for the day which made it a death march.
This years event was supposed to be done through the park but someone at the park service forgot about the re-paving being done on the main road so they cancelled the permit to go through the park.

I drove in from home the morning of the event and got their a little early. The forcast called for quite a warm-up where I live in the San Fernando Valley. I was hoping it was not going to be blazing hot in the desert.
I got a couple hours sleep before checking in at 4:30 am.
I waited around for a few of my friends to start. The plan was to tag along with friends Roland Hoffman and Teresa Beck who were riding Roland's tandem.
Many of my friends rolled out earlier. Some as early as 4am. We left at 5am in the dark under a beautiful setting moon on the horizon.



There is quite a bit of gradual climbing on the way to the first check point and we already had a head wind out of the west. It was about 50 degrees in the coolest spot. I was carrying everything but the kitchen sink again.....prepared for about anything. I was too heavy, I knew, but justify it by calling it good training. With HooDoo 500, solo, coming up in August, I just figure that anything to make these early events tougher is just good training knowing how the Southern Utah Mountains can be.
It was a nice spin to the first check point. Now.......the fun begins.

We stopped for about 10 or 15 minutes at check point one before heading down the hill toward Desert Hot Springs. 
Now the fun......50 plus MPH descent behind a tandem. Well.......I was so over dressed and had my vest unzipped so it acted like a parachute. I could not stay behind Roland and Teresa. They just disappeared and left me and Jeff in the dust. Jeff was doing his 100th Triple Crown Double Century.
Jeff started a little before us and we caught up to him at the first stop.
Jeff stayed with us most of the day although we did all get separated here and there on climbs.
Roland and Teresa with The "Green Horse" and Jeff in the back

After descending that incredible chute down to the Coachella Valley we turned on Indian Canyon Drive for a sunrise spin into Desert Hot Springs. I had to stop at the light where we turned so I lost Jeff and the tandem. Still descending, now it was with a tail wind.
I caught up with them on a climb going through Desert Hot Springs. I passed as I was talking with another friend and then I made a big mistake....I think....on my part as far as conservation of my energy for the day. I kept going and put the hammer down.
Climbing into Desert Hot Springs with Dale Capewell. Dale did The Race Across The West, (RAAW) last year and is doing The Race Across America (RAAM) this year.

Heading out of Desert Hot Springs toward the Indio area. Roland and Teresa are back there somewhere.
I forgot about the long descent going to Coachella. I should have stayed with Roland and Teresa. I was almost to town when I saw them coming behind me. I started to sprint and hoped to get into their draft. No luck.....I didn't have high enough gears to get up that type of blazing speed. They blew by me like I was standing still.  (my friend John Clare and I have talked much about this same scenario).
I could have just enjoyed myself and took it easy on those hills then rolled down hill with them, conserving considerable energy for later.

I arrived at check point number two in Coachella just after them. I said hi to many friends including Colin and Julie Stokes who were supporting the ride at this check point and others.
The wind since we turned east-bound was at our backs and it was a cool wind. Not hot like last year.

I was excited about the climb to Chiriaco Summit on Interstate 10. Since the wind was cool, the long, 26 mile, climb would be somewhat cool, not blazing hot like last year. After the summit we had another 16 miles on the interstate for a total of just over 40 miles. Last year, after the first summit, it was a blazing tail wind to Desert Center where we turn North.

I paced myself and slowly crawled my way up the first part of the Chiriaco climb. It was warm on the first part with the tail wind. As the semi trucks passed we would get a blast if cool air. I really thought that was great. I would grow to hate those trucks in a little while....stay tuned!!
I passed by and said hi to my friend Isabelle Drake on the way up. She looked like she was really steaming hot and I was starting to feel the same whenever the wind would die a little.
I saw Roland and Tiger up ahead and slowly pulled up behind them. They were climbing this grade really strong and were a force to be reckoned with whenever they jumped out of the saddle. I also ran into and rode with my friend Doug from Northern Cali. We rode up together to the summit with the tandem.

Here is video I took while we still had favorable wind for pulling out a camera and riding with one hand.

Roland and Teresa hitting it hard on the climb up to Chiriaco Summit on Interstate 10


As we approached the summit.....BOOM!!!....the wind swithced to a terribly strong crosswind!

We all had to slow waaaaaaaaayyyy down as we were literally being blown off the road. I believe I was listing my bike close to 30 degrees to the left (north) at times with the stronger gusts.
Remember when I said I would start to hate those big rig semi trucks??
Well...Strong cross winds from the left and semi's passing you on the left...do not mix when on a bicycle. I would be riding along leaning and just trying keep from blowing off the road and a semi would pass......I would get sucked into the vortex created.....then.....BAZINGHA!!!...The cross wind would hit me again and I thought the next thing people would see is me and my steed flying through the air like a hang glider into the desert before kissing the ground on the embankment.
 I saw a number of people ahead of me nearly get blown completely off the road.
We had about 10 miles of the most intense cross winds I think.I am not sure if we just were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was wondering how the people in the rear were doing. I could not imaging someone weighing under 150 pounds having to negotiate that. I am 173 pounds and I was having major trouble. Some of the worst cross winds I have ever had to ride through. Roland had his sun glasses blown off his face and down through a fence on the side of the road. He had to stop and climb down a hill I think to retrieve them. He was behind so I'm not totally sure how far he had to go.

We made it to rest stop three which was along a frontage road and under the freeway. Thank God we were protected from the wind there. We filled up with water and were on our way for more punishment.
Heading out after a much needed break from the winds
We headed back onto the freeway for another 11 miles or so to the lunch stop at Chiriaco Summit. The wind now was a little more of a crossing head wind so it was not quite as bad. I stayed with the tandem all the way to lunch. The road was great and it was relief to be out of those cross winds.
We had a great lunch with sandwiches and such. I again saw more friends. We stayed about 30 minutes before rolling out. The food was great and the wind was still blowing but it was not quite as bad.
Now.....back on that noisy freeway again for another 15.8 miles. This section went pretty fast but I was really anxious to get off there in Desert Center.
We had an uneventful roll to Desert Center for a stop at the smoothie stop. I didn't have a smoothie but the stop was nice. The wind seemed to be calming a little.
Rolling into Desert Center with the RoHo-Tiger tandem team

We turned left (north) on Hwy 177 for the 13.6 mile slog into the head wind and mostly climbing to check point 6 at 29 Palms Hwy. This climb was grueling last year in the heat. This year it was much cooler. The wind was not too bad and we were maintaining over 20 MPH behind Roland and Teresa until we reached the better part of the climb.

Heading up Hwy 177. Notice that I caught Teresa texting on the back of the tandem
 It just keeps getting steeper and steeper until you reach the turn but it is never really that steep like our rides in the Santa Monica Mountains. The long desert alluvial fans are very deceiving though. Many times it looks like a descent but you are climbing a 3% grade. Many times the climb you see in the distance looks terrible but it is only about 3-4% and not that bad. They are traditionally very long climbs though. They keep going and going and going.
I started developing the dreaded "Hot Foot" on this long climb to the turn. I just wanted to put my feet into a bucket of ice. By the time we got to the check point, I had so much pain in my feet that I had to loosen my shoes considerably but it didn't help much. I could not have gone much longer.   OUCH!!!! That was one of the worse cases I have had. I had a bad one on the Inyo Ultra 466 but my crew was there to ice down my feet and it really helped. 

On the way to the turn we ran into my friend Steven Burns. Steven had started at 4am and was looking really good. He stayed with us for awhile in the tandem train as we climbed.

We all rolled into the check point at mile 131.4 along with Gerry Brown who was on his tandem with Richard Hoff. He has a really nice carbon fiber tandem that I drool over every time I see it. Those two are strong on the tandem.

I took some Advil for the hot foot, took my shoes off for a little bit, had a Coke and one of my Oatmeal/Greek yogurt/fruit, burritos from the "Feed Zone Portables" cook book. That cycling cook book is awesome. I went through dozens of those things on the 466 event with not one bit of stomach upset.

The tandem train left a little before me but I had to rest my feet a little bit more.

I rolled with one of my fellow Adobo Velo Club riders who I don't know yet. There were allot of Adobo's doing this event. Over 30. Adobo Jerseys everywhere. I was not wearing my Adobo Jersey since it was dirty but some of my buds still recognized me and said hi.

Now came the most beautiful and challenging part of the ride as far as climbing is concerned. The climb out of Check Point 6 is EPIC. A long alluvial fan with never ending false summits that, last year, just about killed me as far my mental state was concerned. Not that steep but never ending. 
The long road ahead. Teresa and Roland I can see already on the climb ahead. I better get going......but my feet hurt!!
I got into the aero bars and just cruised up to the start of the climb at an easy pace then I slowly pulled myself up to them. We stayed together the entire way to the finish. We had about 40 miles to go at this point.....allot of it on rolling terrain and climbs....with one real good descending section.
The 5 of us climbing out of check point 6
I noticed that my heart rate monitor on the Garmin stopped working so I thought it needed a new battery. Turns out that it was something wrong with my computer though because not long after that my Garmin froze on me and never came back. It only recorded about 160 miles of the ride before quitting.

We made it nicely over the never ending climb still fighting a head wind the whole way although it was not as bad as the devilish winds we had on the interstate and the climb to check point 6.

It was cooling off nicely as we topped the long climb for a great descent for what seemed like quite a few miles. The next check point, number 7 was at mile 144.7 then one at 160.2 and the final one was with about 15 to go. This was the perfect place to have many rest stops. Just when you need them.
Bringing it home to the final rollers into town
We rolled over the final climbs which were not easy into the setting sun and we were all getting tired. It was about this time that my friend Kevin Walsh caught up to us. He started an hour or so after us and caught up to us. What an animal. Kevin is a Furnace Creek 508 Hall of Famer with so many finishes I have lost count.


Kevin and Jeff with the Roland/Tiger tandem

My friend Kevin. A beast of a rider.

We were celebrating Jeff's 100th Triple Crown Double Century...WOW...welcome to the club Jeff!!
Riding into town at sunset

Roland Hoffman and Teresa Beck. These guys crushed this very tough ride on the tandem!!
We all finished while there was plenty of light left. 

Start time: 5am
Finish time: 6:55pm

Moving time: Approx. 12hrs
Overall time: 13hrs 55min

I had a great time on this ride.
 It was the first double century that I tried the "Scratch Labs" electrolyte powder in my water. I used it almost exclusively in my camel-back and water bottle, after training with it for some time, instead of liquid fuel. I ate only solid food on this ride and had absolutely no bloating or stomach upset in the desert conditions. Not one sign of a cramp the entire day and I pushed pretty hard at times. I only had a couple of bottles of pure water. If I would have done that with other sweet electrolyte drinks, I would have been cramping and tossing my cookies on this one!! 

I used Hammer Nutrition's, Anti-fatigue Caps and Endurance Amino Caps as usual.  Those thing work fantastic for me!

Thanks to Anny Beck and Mountain High Cycling for another great event. You never know what to expect in the desert and Anny, the amount of check points on this event was just perfect.

Thank you to all the volunteers!! Without you guys we would really be in trouble out there.....especially..... on this type of course. You all did a awesome job out there.

Congratulations to all my friends and everyone else who completed this very tough double century.

Last but not least.....A big congrats goes out to Jeff Dewey. This was Jeff's 100th Triple Crown double. Jeff has been doing it as long as I have and we both have quite a few doubles before the creation of The Triple Crown.
We all finished about the same time

Jeff looks pretty fresh after his 100th double



No comments:

Post a Comment