Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Southern Inyo Double Century (Triple Crown Test Ride)

I have been looking forward to this ride since I heard about it from my friend Hugh Murphy. We worked together with others to get a good group of veterans as well as some who are fairly new to endurance riding to critique the ride. Of course we had the big man, Mr. Triple Crown, himself, Chuck Bramwell on the ride with us.
Having driven by car many times up Highway 395 through LonePine, I have never riden any of the roads by bike. I have never even driven up Highway 190 to Death Valley or around Owens Lake, all parts of the new course.

I car pooled up to Lone Pine with my friend and tandem partner, Teresa Beck.
When we got into town we ran into Seana Hogan who was doing the test ride also. Seana is a 6 time Race Across America (RAAM) winner and transcontinental record holder not to mention many other accolades.
I went over to the start location to check it out about 6pm and saw Seana riding down Highway 395 Southbound. Jokingly I told someone that I bet she is out doing the course through the night and is going to join us on the regular course in the morning for a little 400 mile training ride.
A whole bunch of us went out to dinner and had some great discussions about the ride and then we sacked out for the evening.
The ride started a little bit after 6am Saturday morning.  We started with around 25 riders or so.
The wind was howling overnight but I expected that. I don’t know the last time I had calm wind in the desert or mountains on a ride. You have to expect it, especially on a 200 mile event.
It was chilly at the ride start. The temp was around 45 degrees. We all checked in at Lee’s Frontier Store. This was a great place for the ride start. They had a great store and deli. The course would go by Lee’s two times during the event so we could access things from our vehicles or get food from the deli if we wanted. This is a great way to do a ride.

At the ride start

We all rolled south with a nice tail wind on Hwy 395 at 6:15am. The temperature was perfect for our spin to the south. As we rode out of town we saw Seana riding back into town. Turned out she had done the entire course during the night hours. Looked like she was doing just what we all thought. 

 We all stayed pretty much together for the run to the first water stop in Olancha at the Ranch House Restaurant on 395 at mile marker 20.6.
We stopped and all talked for a while then headed out for the first check point.  We did a lot of stopping, talking and hanging out on this ride. 
The view was spectacular at sunrise on this southbound jaunt with the Southern part of the Sierra Range to our right and the sunrise over Owens Lake to our left.
Sunrise over Owens Lake
We stopped at check point one for a little while at mile 37.5 Coso Junction. We were averaging almost 22mph at this point with the gradual descent and tail wind to Coso Junction.

There was a lot of picture taking going on right from the start. There was a vehicle leap frogging us most of the day taking SLR pics from the road as we passed and all the cameras people had along for the ride.
 I have not seen any of those pics yet but I bet they will be nice!!

This ride was being very well documented for The Triple Crown and all to see.
We turned around now and headed up Highway 395 Northbound. Now we had a head wind. We all stayed in a pace line for this next 15 miles to the next water stop near Highway 190. A slight uphill grade heading north with a headwind in the pace line.
The shoulder on 395 was great for bike riding. No traffic on Saturday, butter smooth pavement, a very large shoulder to the right of the rumble strip. This allowed us to have a double pace line with riders shedding off the front to the rear from each side with no problem. It was great!!
Rolling north on 395 with Mark Dolginoff (in the 508 jersey) and Rick Jacobson leading the charge into the wind

Back in Olancha area we now turned right on Hwy 190 and headed along the south side of Owens Lake toward Death Valley. We had some pretty challenging wind through this next 14 mile section. We had challenging crossing headwinds from the north and sand blowing across the road in some sections.
Fighting the wind on an empty road.

We tried to get into a echelon pace line but the cross winds kept shifting so it was tough.
We really needed the next water stop, after that, at mile 54, the Hwy 190/136 junction.
To this point on the ride it almost seemed effortless to me.
For my friend Teresa and I this would be our fourth consecutive double century in 4 weekends. She did three of them on a tandem bike. Just the week before we did the Mulholland Challenge Double Century (staff ride) on my tandem with about 17,000 feet of elevation gain. I was carrying everything but the kitchen sink with me in my hydration pack and I still felt light after doing that one on a tandem! 

  I had all my food with me and was fully self-supported with the exception of added water which I took on at the check points.  I again used “Scratch” hydration powder exclusively in my water, with no stomach issues or cramping, along with solid food instead of liquid food.

We turned South-East now with a little tailwind for the climb up “Gun sight Pass”.

Chuck Bramwell
Tony Mosorafite heading up toward Gun-sight on his fixed gear bike!!
 This was an awesome and beautiful little climb. It got a little bit warm since we now had a tail wind. The wind was still very cool though. I left my base layer on all day.
Up and up we went until we had a little short descent, then we started climbing once again. Nothing was very steep, just long.
A self-ie of me heading toward Death Valley

It was right about here that I noticed something felt squishy. I had a front wheel flat tire.
 I had help fixing it and got back on the road fast. (Thanks Al!)
Kermit came by with his car and had a floor pump so I got it pumped up fast.

We rolled over a little summit and were about 5 miles from the Death Valley Park Entrance sign when something happened that got all our adrenaline going.
 An F-18 Super Hornet out of China Lake buzzed us right on the deck then made a very tight right turn around a small hill up ahead. Scared the heck out of us but was quite exciting, especially for this aircraft buff.
We got up to the water stop and mile 86 for a nice long break. They were all talking about the jet. It had made that turn right over them.

Tiger hamming it up as usual. Mark and his friend Al, both from Vegas, were some strong men on the ride this day!

Left to right: Terry Boykins, John Clare and Chuck Bramwell. ( John was acting as Terri's personal domestique all day and night......what a guy!!!)
We turned around at this point and back-tracked our course over “Gun Sight Pass” in the opposite direction to Owens Lake. We now had a head wind again.
After that break I started getting my second wind.
Once we got to the pass the view was spectacular looking over the top down toward the lake. What a spectacular day!!
Gun-Sight Pass northbound

Gun-Sight Pass.
When we got to the intersection of 190/136 again, we went straight on Highway 136 for about 20 miles toward Lone Pine. We went through the small town of Keeler along the east side of the Owens Lake with a very, very challenging crossing head wind again. This time it was blowing massive amounts of sand across the road right at us. Quite the experience!!
A really nice guy,  Al from Las Vegas, did this section together with me. We really worked hard in that wind. He is a small guy and just cut that wind. I could not believe it.
The view of the Sierras and Mount Whitney as we approached Lone Pine was spectacular.
Heading back to Lone Pine with Mount Whitney and its sister peaks in the distance.....WOW!!

Al taking the lead as we head back into Lone Pine

Al kept commenting about the amount of sand in his mouth!!  LOL!

We pulled in to Lee’s place again for a break at mile 120. I went to my car to check on a few things and make sure I had enough food. Everyone sat down and had some food. Chuck Bramwell and I headed out for the climb up Lubken Canyon to Horseshoe Meadows.
  I have never ridden any of the course before and especially the area west of Lone Pine toward the Mount Whitney area. 
Chuck and I cruised south on Hwy 395 once again for a little over 2 miles. We then turned right on Lubken Canyon Road. We then had a 3.2 mile climb up the canyon to Horseshoe Meadows road.
This climb was just amazing. Rocky crags, Meadows with farms and cattle, a steep climb of about 14% at one point but not too long, and all along being at the foot of Mount Whitney and the adjoining peaks surrounding it.                 AMAZING VIEWS!!

Chuck heading up Lubken Canyon road toward Horseshoe Meadows and Mount Whitney.
Chuck was singing to his music and talking to the was hilarious.....I dont think he heard me there filming.....LOL!! Wish I could have captured it.

This was the most beautiful part of the ride. It was just spectacular! 

We rolled up Lubken real slow and enjoyed the view, all the while, huffing and puffing on the climbs. The views just made it all worth it.

Climbing Lubken Canyon. Photo by Hugh Murphy
Chuck about to summit Lubken Canyon

When we got to Horseshoe Meadows Road the view got even better.
Horseshoe Meadows road
Horseshoe Meadows Road

 You could see the Horseshoe Meadows Climb way up ahead. When you are driving on 395 it is the road you see zig-zagging up the side of the mountain. Chuck thought that according to the route slip we had more miles until the check point and that we would most likely be doing the climb. (I would not have minded that. I was feeling great like I was getting a third wind!)
The Horseshoe Meadows climb zig-zagging up ahead. Believe it or not......I was hoping we were going to climb this!! Am I nuts??
 We got up ahead and saw a car up on the hill. It was the check point and turn around. I had a quick Cola and bombed down the hill toward Whitney Portal road.
Descending Horseshoe Meadows Road. Photo by Hugh Murphy
This was a nice gradual descent to the turn and all the time seeing the sun setting behind Mount Whitney on our left. SPECTACULAR AGAIN!!
I turned on Whitney Portal Road toward Lone Pine again. It was an e-ticket ride descent to town.
Mile 143 and I was back at Lee’s in Lone Pine again.

 I decided to wait there for the group so I took a break and talked to Hugh Murphy who had followed me down the hill into town.
Seana Hogan was there and we all talked for a while. She had decided not to do the Double Century again since she got so cold doing it during the night. That had to be tough!! 36 degrees with the howling wind. Who knows what the wind chill was!
Taking a break at mile 140. Getting some Hoodoo 500 advice from Seana.

Teresa, Mark and many of the rest showed up shortly after and took a break also. Chuck and Al kept going without stopping.
The next part of the course took us east-bound in reverse of the course from earlier in the day. We turned east on Hwy 136 toward Death Valley and again around the east side of Owens Lake. THIS TIME WITH A CROSSING TAIL WIND……WOO HOOOO……FINALLY A BREAK! 
Rick, the two Tony’s, Mark, Teresa and I rode together on this stretch of 19 miles with John Clare and Terri coming up in the rear not far behind.
It was effortless for a change getting to the 136/190 junction again. At that point we had a water stop with Kermit and Brutus again.
Teresa and Mark heading back out of Lone Pine for the final loop.

Rick Jacobson heading east on Hwy 136 back tracking toward Death Valley on the final loop.
We turned right on Hwy 190, this time with a full tail wind in the dark where we were dealing with nasty cross head winds in the morning. It was a good gradual descent too!!
We made it the 14 miles to Hwy 395 pretty fast. We turned right and then made it to the final check point at The Ranch House Restaurant again. The wind was fully calmed down in Olancha at the restaurant!
We stopped for about 20 minutes then headed back North for the final 21 miles to Lone Pine and the finish. The final miles are all uphill but quite gradual. We were all excited that we had no wind. We were flying up the road for the first few miles.
Then we got out of town and guess what. Crossing head winds again from the left. Strong enough to blow us periodically to the side so it was difficult. Al moved up ahead and Teresa, Mark and I worked together in the wind trading pulls.
It seems never ending in the desert darkness fighting a headwind for just a few miles. We could see riders up ahead that we were catching but never seemed to get any closer.
The miles ticked down and we caught up to Al and Chuck. That is when Teresa smelled the barn and just sprinted the final half mile to the finish at Lee’s! WOW....where did that energy come from. Now I see how she got the nick-name Tiger!

That was a great ride.
The challenges of the wind were greatly outweighed by the beauty of this ride.
The Southern Inyo Double Century, like most doubles with less than 10,000 feet of elevation gain, is harder than it appears on paper. You have to expect that the desert will throw you a curve. Conditions on a double century are rarely perfect throughout the entire ride. You are covering so many miles so weather conditions just change.
My opinion is that this ride is like a cross between the Eastern Sierra Double and the Death Valley Double. Beautiful mountain and desert views all day.
I would highly recommend this event to even newbie double riders. You just have to know how to pace yourself especially when conditions warrant it. The extended time limit means you don’t have to push yourself over your limit to make a cut off. (Just remember that no double is an easy double. You still have to be prepared and in shape)
Thanks to Hugh Murphy and Kermit Garnier of Inyo Ultra Cyclists for putting on the event.
Thanks to all the support drivers and photogrophers. I never saw such a well supported ride with so few people before. We were responsible for our own food but there was always water and sodas available when we needed it!
 Thanks to Chuck Bramwell for testing this event for entry into The Triple Crown. I hope it becomes a successful event for years to come.
Last but not least…..thanks to all my friends for being there for this ride! We had a great time didn’t we?

Garmin Data for the ride:

All the pictures can be viewed by clicking here.

Finally.....Here is the long 12 minute compilation video of the ride:

We had a great breakfast together the following morning. We all were reminiscing about this awesome ride.
Many of the riders and crew met for breakfast the following morning

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