Last September 25th, on my attempt to ride my third double century of the year to qualify for the California Triple Crown, Matt Pro and I ended up getting lost at mile 150 and not finishing. How frustrating! The details of being stranded in the cold and the dark are not all that exciting, but I decided then that I would do the first three doubles of 2005.
Double centuries (DC) are ranked based on the amount of climbing (called total elevation gain) that is done in the 200 miles. The ones I did last year were actually rather difficult, with Mt. Tam being the most strenuous at 15,000 feet. The Butterfield DC with its 8100 ft of climbing is only moderately difficult and, as the first DC of the year, is a great ride to loosen up your legs. Starting and ending in Orange County, the set route was through some territory I had ridden on. And I wouldn’t have to travel super far to get there.
With a borrowed car from my boss and the day off I headed to my friend's house in the OC around mid-day on Friday in the pouring rain. That night, after searching for my lost keys for about an hour, I found them under the couch (and was then able to tighten my Kryptonite skewer) and was asleep by 1130pm or so. The sound of pouring rain was evident as soon as my alarm went off at 415am. It was also evident when I had to put dollars into an uncovered machine to pay the tolls on the stupid freeway twice! Off of the freeway I notice a pack of blinking lights; the early DC group had left the hotel and were on their way!
I got to the starting point at a hotel (late!), threw my bike and gear together and for a minute considered not even wearing rain gear. Would it really matter after 14 hours in the rain if I had it on or not? I went with it and think I made the right choice. Just caught the twilight (ha!) main start and was off. Later I found out that less than half of the 216 registered riders even left the hotel.
The fast pack took off and I hung with the middle group. A moderate climb separated us further, but I was with about 10 people who were just above my ability. People were chatting; someone said they did 5 doubles last year and then someone else said the person next to them had done 10. He followed that statement with ‘Yeah, and he is 71 years old.’ Gerd, a retired chemistry professor, has been riding about 6 years since his wife bought them mountain bikes when he was 65. Amazing.
From the 615am start till about 1030am it down-poured. That didn’t stop the pack I was with from averaging speeds around 21-22 MPH. Early on the ride I was thinking about what could make riding at 30 MPH more dangerous. I came up with 3 things: 1) In the dark, 2) In the rain, 3) In a pack of people that you do not know. We were doing all of them.
At the lunch check point at mile 95 or so they informed us that there was flooding and wash-outs in Temecula; we had to turn around and return the way we came. By this time the rain had slowed, and then stopped, and the sun was creeping out. Rolling with a pack of four, we were pacelining (riding in an aerodynamic line alternating the front rider) and making great time. Our rain gear had time to air out and the intense head winds we faced earlier in the day now pushed us on from behind. Most of the route was through Southern OC on bike lanes, routes, and paths on, or near, the coast. Despite much of it, there really are beautiful sections of OC.
When we turned inland, around dusk at mile 150 or so, the rain started again. Our pack was holding strong and I played my part in the pace line by pulling us up some of the bigger hills through the never-ending sprawl that is urban OC. At the final check point we were told that as many as 40 people had dropped out! I pushed down my tenth or eleventh PBJ sandwich with two ibuprofen (I had a wisdom tooth pulled earlier in the week and could barely eat even soft food) and we started out on the final twenty-five miles.
Laughing at the rain was the best way for me to deal with it. Really, would sitting around watching TV be any better? Eventually, I adjusted to it and it no longer mattered that is was raining. Most people I talk with about double centuries think it is about the physical challenge, but to me that is only a small component of it. Once you are capable of riding that distance it is no longer as important as other factors. Much of it is mental and, while spending all day on my bike, I have time to draw parallels and symbolism with the rest of my life.
Finishing at the hotel our crew said our good-byes (‘See you in Solvang!) and I met up with Morgan to drive back to Los Angeles. Straight to the BikeSummer party at Basswerks for some chilling before a much anticipated good night of sleep. Two weeks till Death Valley!