2011 Devil Mountain Double Ride Report - by ratpick
The 16th Annual Devil Mountain Double Century took place on April 30th, 2011. Forum contributor ratpick rode it for the first time and wrote up a beautiful ride report we thought we’d share with everyone. Especially those of you who are thinking of riding a similar long distance endurance ride. Enjoy!
Warning – This is long! I learned a great deal from reading the reports from other riders so I thought I’d contribute my own to the internet machine and maybe help out future riders.
My first double century in the bag! So much anticipation with lots of “damn that was hard” ride reports out there, and the Quackcyclists capital-letter warning, “THIS SHOULD NOT BE YOUR FIRST DOUBLE” and, of course, the sobering thought that Tom Milton, an experienced long-distance rider, died on the course last year.
Meh, I thought, challenge is my middle name! I was considerably more comfortable when ukbloke also signed up. I know from experience that long, suffering rides like this are so much better as a shared experience. Ukbloke, with whom I’d done the Death Ride in 2009 is much stronger than me, but I was better prepared for a long-distance ride so it was good match for this ride.
I’ve done some big rides before – 156 mi solo and unsupported on the road bike and my biggest ride to date, a 100 mile 21:30 hr Henry Coe mountain bike epic. But this was a different challenge altogether. Most of the climbs I was not familiar with at all. So I did several long training rides either for distance or cumulative climbing. I think both are important – you need to be comfortable with your bike fit to sit for 14-16 hours on it, and you need to be able to climb repeated long, steep climbs all day. I also managed to do training rides that took me over all of the course except the last 15 miles. So I felt well prepared.
With a 2:30am alarm, I managed to get about 4 hour sleep after mandatory watching of the Sharks game the night before. But it was good sleep, unlike the previous night where anticipation of the ride made me restless all night! I love driving Bay Area freeways late at night when they are almost deserted – on this night, roadworks caused a significant unplanned detour but I had left plenty of time so it wasn’t an issue.
I checked in and received my number and route instructions. The DMD spends a lot of effort on rider safety, requiring check ins by number at every rest stop where they radio it back and make sure everyone is ok. Really, really impressed by this. It also, presumably, stops people cheating and taking shortcuts since it is a timed ride.
The start weather was warmer than forecast – about 55°. So of course I had doubts about whether to take a heavier jacket or not. I decided to take it, not knowing how cold the tops of the peaks would be. Good call in the end. I was also outfitted with a MagicShine light on my bars, as well as a light, cheap Knog 2-LED light as a backup and a blinky. The MagicShine battery is relatively heavy but I figured its light would be perfect if we end up descending Palomares in the dark. I’d taken it on my training rides to get used to the weight and presence of it on the bars and found the battery, normally strapped under my top tube, to be annoying on bumpy roads. So this time, I used an extension cord and ran it to my saddle pack which worked really well.
I found ukbloke in the parking lot and we joined the other 200 riders at the start. The majority started with us at 5am with an elite group of around 20 starting at 6am.
Riding Out – 5:03 am
After the mandatory safety talk and 30 sec silence in memory of Tom Milton who died on the ride last year, we rode out on a mass start at 5am. Immediately the plan of “start slow and taper off” was forgotten as the pack sprinted towards Diablo! Winds were high but in the middle of the “peloton”, it was easy riding so we went with it. I was surprised to see folks putting out so much effort right at the start of the ride; there were clearly some very strong, experienced double century riders here.
Diablo climb was easy; we set a comfortable, but not slow, pace, battling the strong winds but in awe of the sunrise. I was a little worried we would end up chasing the very fast climbers, but we settled into our own comfortable pace. A cloudless, clear day, we could see all the way across the bay to home on the peninsula. Only my 3rd climb of Diablo but the first time I had seen the breathtaking views.
We passed a guy who had written “eat” and “drink” on his bars. I complimented him on the idea – it’s so easy to forget, especially at the start when you’re feeling good. I immediately ate some of the food I had brought with me I also ran into Tom from Western Wheelers, whom I had heard was on this ride. Although we rarely rode
together, we always seemed to catch up with eachother somewhere along the route, right to the final rest stop.
A rider with a heavy-looking commuter bike, complete with rack and a bag that made it look like he was trying to be self-sufficient for the ride, passed us. It was a bit too much for us considering all the angst about what to take and what not to take to keep weight down for such a long ride! So we jumped on his tail and got a bit of shelter from the wind.
And the wind was really blowing as the sky lit up. I heard later that someone was actually blown off their bike!
About a mile from the summit, the first descender passed us. Wow, we weren’t that far behind the leader! We only counted about 15 ahead of us before the road split. We guessed we were about 20th place.
As we neared the summit, the guy with the heavy bike seemed to tire and we went ahead to attack the final wall. People moan about the wall but it’s not that bad – about 17% for 500 or so feet. And there were volunteers with cow bells cheering us up – how could we not feel good?
Mt Diablo Summit – 6:51am, 20 mi, 1:48 hrs
So, first climb done in a respectable 1:11:37, just under 4K footies and 20 miles in the bag and feeling great. It was warm at the start but very chilly up at the summit so I was finally glad I had taken the weight penalty of a heavy jacket and full-finger gloves. I was also carrying normal gloves and a light wind shell for later so was quite heavy on the first two climbs.
I felt sorry for the volunteers up at the summit – very windy and very cold. But the food was very good – the potatoes they provided were the best I’ve had – boiled (I think) with oil, some herbs and, I suspect, some salt and sugar. These became my favorite rest stop snacks all day. I had sucked down all my starting Perpetuem + Heed mix knowing that they had Hammer products at the stops. I filled one bottle with water and the other 2 scoops of Latte-flavored Perpetuem + water as I did at every future stop. Without extra Heed, I worried a bit about electrolyte replenishment but never had a problem all day (I did take 2 endurolytes later just as a precaution when it got warm).
We spent about 12 minutes at the top, although it didn’t seem that long. Time for the bathroom, water bottle refills and eating some food. A large pack of riders arrived about 7-8 minutes after us and the rest stop suddenly got quite full; we decided to try and stay ahead of this group to avoid long lines at rest stops down the road.
Dry roads meant a fast descent, although the gusty wind did require caution. Not half a mile from the summit, we passed a woman who got an ominous clicking noise from her rear wheel (sounded like a broken spoke to me) then bang, her tire deflated. At least she was only a 5 minute walk back to the summit to have someone take care of it.
As we descended, some motorcycles accompanied a peleton up the climb – these were the 6am starters, the very fast group that aimed to finish in the 12-14 hour range. They looked serious! I wondered how long it would be until they passed us.
The descent otherwise went quickly. Everyone was taking it very slowly on the descent but I was feeling great and conditions were good, so I let it fly. I was still very cautious passing others, not wanting to ruin anyone’s day with an early crash! ukbloke took a pull as the road flattened out and soon we were climbing Ygnacio Valley Rd.
We began to play leapfrog with some other riders from here; mostly they seemed to push the smaller climbs while we caught and passed them on the descents and longer climbs. It was fun to catch and greet the same folks throughout the day.
Riding through the small but quaint town of Clayton, the route was blocked, or at least disrupted, by the setup of a farmers’ market. It was here I was glad that I had pre-ridden and realized that there was an easy bypass. I saw other riders wondering around not sure where to go where we didn’t lose a second!
Morgan Territory climb – 8:10am, 43 mi, 3:00 hours
I had set the course into my Garmin with an average speed of 14 mph which was what we figured it would take to get us in around 16 hours (14 hrs riding, 2 hrs stops). So we watched our average speed to see how we were doing. By the time we turned onto Morgan Territory Rd, our average was at about 14.5 mph. With breaks, this put us pleasingly right on schedule.
Morgan Territory Rd starts out double-laned, with more traffic than you would expect for such a road. Again, I was glad for my pre-ride so I knew what to expect; a long (9 mile) climb with steadily increasing grade, some steep parts at the end, but always short. I knew we could push these climbs since each came with a recovery landing. We covered the climb to Rest Stop #2 in 45:19 mins, 3 mins faster than when I had done it solo the week before!
On the way up, we were passed by a couple of riders both of whom we caught up to and passed without accelerating ourselves. The climbing felt really good. It was still cool and I began to wonder if it would be too cool to ditch my jacket at the rest stop. DMD provides an excellent service to bag your lights and cold weather gear and send them onto a later rest stop. It was one of my concerns that we wouldn’t make the Sierra Rd “Pet the goat” rest stop by sunset and I’d have no light and no warm gear.
Morgan Territory Rest Stop – 8:55am, 52 mi, 3:45 hrs
So, we pulled into the rest stop, hit the restrooms, and refilled bottles. I took off my heavy light and decided to strip my jacket off and see how it felt. With my light wind shell on it actually was plenty warm, even if very windy, so they all went in a bag and were sent forward to Pet-the-Goat.
Somehow, we spent another 12 minutes at this stop (it really felt like we were rushing!), which probably explains why so many riders we passed on the climbs ended up back in front of us. Still, taking time to eat was important and paid off.
A little more climbing to the summit then the famous “Plunge” off Morgan Territory. Unfortunately there were quite a few cars coming up and worse, a large pickup going down. Fortunately, the pickup driver was careful and willing to let us cyclists pass; ukbloke got ahead fairly quickly and disappeared down The Plunge out of sight.
About 3-4 mins later, I got my opportunity and also let fly.
When I pre-rode this part of the course, the wind was a headwind which made getting speed difficult. On this day, it was favorable or cross, so speed came easily. And I found out why folks rave about this descent. I managed to hit over 50 mph without realizing it! Quite a thrilling descent. From when I passed the truck I averaged 34.3 mph for 5 mins. Tons of fun!
The next section is a series of 90° turns heading over towards the base of Altamont Pass. The wind was blowing hard here, from a strong cross wind to an awesome tailwind. UKbloke had the legs and flat riding skills to push the pace on the cross-wind sections but it was taking more energy than I wanted to use to keep up so I dropped.
Ukbloke saw that and dropped back, keeping our pact to ride together (which I would later inadvertently break!). He pushed us up to over 30 mph on the downwind sections so by the time we rolled into town to begin the Altamont Pass ascent, our average was at 15 mph. We were making excellent time.
Altamont Pass – 9:43 am, 65 mi, 4:20 hrs
Traffic lights bunched us up with other DMD riders so we had a 6-7 rider paceline headed up to Altamont Pass. Ukbloke led out, with some other riders jumping in front to share the pull. Unusually, the wind was in our face over Altamont making it a harder climb, but giving me much hope that Patterson Pass would be without the usual headwind challenge. About half-way up Altamont, something happened up front and the brakes were used; there was quite a lot of dodging and weaving but nobody went down – well done all.
Near the summit, I jumped in front of ukbloke and pulled us over the top then down the other side to Midway Rd. With a strong tailwind, Altamont had taken me just over 20 minutes on my pre-ride, but over 30 minutes today.
Nevertheless, I was excited, now sure that we would have a good tailwind up Patterson Pass. It had worried me that this pass would zap our strength for the climb up Mines Rd.
With a tailwind, we completed the Patterson Pass climb in 32 minutes, 5 minutes quicker than my wind-blown pre-ride time. On the climb up, we were joined by a rider named Jeffrey who was rider #1. We chatted with him a bit and it turned out he received #1 as an honor from the club for assisting with CPR on Tom Milton, the rider who died on Mt Hamilton last year. Dude is a hero – really nice guy, very strong rider, and we would meet up with him often from then on.
DMD had a mini-stop just below the final mile to the summit. It felt wrong to interrupt a climb but we didn’t want to leave ourselves short of water or food so made a brief 3 min stop to refill. It was here that the majority of the fast 6am pack passed us. We tried to stay out of their way – these guys were on a mission! I felt good to have stayed out in front of them this long, but ukbloke pointed out that they had already taken an hour off us in just over 5 hours of riding – sobering!
At this rest stop there were some figs. Seemed like good riding fuel so I ate a few. Tasted good. But 10 minutes later, my stomach started to get upset. I switched to just water until the next rest stop and it went away – had me worried for a while!
We pushed to the summit, enjoying the scenery then ripped down the descent. It helped to know the course because here we were intersecting with a road bike race that shared some of the roads. They had marshalls all over waving cyclists to their course which wasn’t always our course. The nice part was that they stopped any cars at intersections so we were able to blast through safely.
Mines Rd – 11:24am, 91 mi, 6 hrs
I figured it was time for me to take a pull at the front so I pulled us through to Mines Rd. On Mines Rd, we relaxed for the first 4 miles until the rest stop, getting ourselves into climbing mode again. We spent only 6 minutes at this rest stop, eating and refilling bottles. It was 25 miles to The Junction and lunch, but there was a mini-stop mid-way.
Mines Rd is somewhat deceptive – it has long periods of flat or almost flat (1-2%) which lull you into riding faster than you should. It climbs from 667′ to just under 3,000′ with a couple of steep sections. We took our time up the first steep part so that when it flattened out then made some time back on the flatter sections. The whole climb to The Junction took us about 1:41 hrs, only about 4 mins slower than my pre-ride where I thought we had hammered it!
Fairly early we started passing Mt Hamilton Challenge riders coming the other way so I had my eyes open for Don and some others I know were on that ride. I was pleased to eventually see him and hours of anticipation went by in half a second as we waved to each other!
Lunch at The Junction – 1:16pm, 115 mi, 7:40 hrs
We had planned to take a good lunch stop at The Junction. We had maintained our average speed at just over 15 mph so had plenty of time to eat real food and relax a little. I took my one and only photo here having not had any time at other rest stops. I did regret not having my camera, even if it did mean extra weight.
The wonderful volunteers were making sandwiches or we could order from The Junction. I chose a terryaki chicken burger from The Junction and it was worth it. Perfect for what was to come. I also downed a Mountain Dew, having experienced its magic recovery powers on recent rides.
Actually, at this point I was beginning to wonder how it could be that I felt so good. No tiredness or pain in my legs at all. I put it down to all the training, eating just the right amount, and taking it easy on all the climbs.
We spent 32 mins there before heading off to Isabel Creek and Mt Hamilton. The 13 miles between The Junction and Isabel Creek are very scenic, with large green meadows, streams and ponds and farm houses. Unfortunately wildflowers weren’t plentiful as they would normally be about this time of year – it has been a strange year for flowers.
So we rode along at a comfortable pace, making sure to keep about 15 mph to keep our average up, but again taking it easy on the 2 climbs just before Mt Hamilton began.
Isabel Creek – 2:40pm, 128 mi, 8:31 hrs
The rest stop was on the west side of the bridge, which was a bit annoying because it meant that the Strava segment would have “rest time” in it. I briefly toyed with going back over the bridge before beginning the climb, but then got my priorities back in order! The last thing I needed was a reason to not pace up the climb!
The climb starts almost immediately, but we took it really slowly. We still passed a few other climbers. I had so much energy at this point that I wanted to just go! I’d never felt so good 120 miles into a ride! UKbloke was doing a much better job of pacing himself which helped me to reign in my desire to push.
The nice part about taking a climb easily is that you have time to look around. The bridge over Isabel Creek remains in view up much of the climb, giving you a great reference for how far you’ve gone. There are some really great views of the road from above, snaking up the ridge.
Mt Hamilton Summit – 3:30pm, 133 mi, 9:18 hrs
We completed the climb in a respectable 47:30 mins, just 5 mins off my pace from 3 days earlier. Not bad and I was still feeling good at the top. I began to think this ride could end up being “easy” given we only had one big climb to go. But my struggles were to come!
Water refill at the summit and ukbloke led the way down. He is an excellent descender and we made great time down the mountain to the rest stop near the bottom. This descent was when I began to feel a bit sore (being tucked into the drops for long periods hurts my back – need to work on this). With ukbloke’s lead, I had set a new PR for the Mt Hamilton descent segments!
At the Crothers Rd rest stop, someone’s home that they open up for this event each year, I began to start feeling some pain. My upper back was sore and my feet began to hurt. For the first time, my legs began to feel used from the jarring descent and accumulated miles and footies. But I resisted taking vitamin-I since it wasn’t that bad yet and we had some further easy descending and flats before Sierra Rd.
Sierra Rd – 4:45pm, 156 mi, 10:29 hrs
We traversed the streets to Sierra Rd somewhat leisurely. I took a pull into the wind since ukbloke had done all the work down the mountain (and it was work into the wind at the bottom).
We turned onto Sierra Rd. I admit I was quite excited about this climb. It is the real test of this ride, being so steep and coming after so many miles and so much climbing. I was feeling good and wanted to attack it. Ukbloke even taunted me to do that, jokingly. But I kept it slow. we were joined on the climb by a few other DMD riders and what I didn’t realize was that one had attached to my wheel. I thought it was ukbloke and that he was feeling good so I lifted the pace just a little. He stayed with me so I maintained it. It was a good 5-10 mins later when I turned to say something to him and realized that I’d dropped him! I felt bad, but decided to press on and regroup at the top. So, I caught back up to the other “fake ukbloke” and marked him up the rest of the climb at a good pace. At the last half mile, I saw him start to suffer so without even thinking, I dropped the hammer and rode to the top. Just under 37 mins for the climb – I was elated! Only 6 mins slower than my PR!
Pet-The-Goat Rest Stop – 5:38pm, 161 mi, 11:12 hrs
I continued on down the other side almost euphoric to the “Pet the goat” rest stop. I had to collect my jacket and light and refit it to my bike so I figured it might actually work out well that I got ahead of ukbloke (he had not dropped anything off).
I got my bottles refilled, retrieved my bag and fitted my light back on the bike. I was still quite hot from the climb and not relishing having to wear a heavy, warm jacket. So I sat in a comfy chair to cool down. That was when I realized that something was wrong. When I push really, really hard on a climb, my body can get to a point where I can’t eat and that’s what I was feeling. This was bad news because there was still 44 miles to go with some small but not insignificant climbs to come. I needed more fuel!
Ukbloke arrived a few minutes later and congratulated me on my climb. I apologized for abandoning him, against our plan. I still felt bad about that, especially since he had slowed deliberately when I fell back earlier in the ride. UKbloke pet the goat while I sat and panicked about not being able to eat. I thought about forcing something down but even the thought made me want to gag! I settled for a Mountain Dew which actually went down reasonably easily. Yay for sugary sodas!
I realized as I was fitting my light that I hadn’t recharged my Garmin at all yet. I had thrown an external battery in my saddle pack to make sure that I would capture the whole ride but forgotten to charge the Garmin at rest stops (I had intended to do this at lunch). So I attached the battery and threw it and the Garmin into my jersey pocket for the whole Calaveras segment.
We were only at Pet-the-Goat for 13 minutes, but it felt like half an hour. Rolling out just before 6pm, the sun was still high and I began to feel good that we would complete Niles Canyon and Palomares in daylight.
Starting down Felter Rd, the temperature suddenly dropped leaving me very happy that I had my jacket. Apart from not being able to eat, my body was otherwise feeling good so we kept a good pace up down Felter and then Calaveras.
We caught up to the guy I had paced up Sierra Rd and a very strong woman rider on Calaveras. They were strong on the rolling climbs but slow on the descending and cornering which might have annoyed me at another time. I was happy this day as it gave me some recovery time to ride easily. I let them get a little ahead on the climbs then caught them in the descents – perfect! I began to feel quite hungry so knew that I was back in the game again.
We caught up to a rider with a Death Valley 508 jersey. He seemed a slow descender but I knew nobody wearing that jersey was a slow rider! Sure enough, once we hit the flat part of Calaveras, he took the lead and steamed to the Sunol rest stop at unbelievable speed; so grateful for that! Unfortunately, I couldn’t find him at the stop to say thanks!
Sunol Rest Stop – 7pm, 181 mi, 12:14 hrs
I was very hungry at Sunol so had a hotdog and other food. We were thrilled because we reached this spot while the sun was still up. All the ride reports I had read said that Niles Canyon was unpleasant if not dangerous after dark. We would easily get it done in good daylight.
With the strong pull from the 508 rider, we had covered the 20 miles from Sierra Rd in an hour. I took my Garmin out, a little worried that I might have accidentally hit a button and stopped it from recording, but finding all in order and the battery back at about 2/3.
At Sunol, the Niles Canyon train has a station and there was a wedding reception party about to pull out. It looked like a great way to celebrate a wedding! The bride and groom arrived just as we began our descent.
I took the pull down Niles Canyon since I’d been in recovery mode on ukbloke’s wheel the whole way down Calaveras. But I didn’t have the legs to fight the wind at high speed. Our friend from Patterson Pass, Jeffrey #1, jumped in front of me at speed and I immediately jumped onto his wheel. He pulled us to Palomares at a new PR pace for me.
We thanked him as he took off up Palomares, and ukbloke and I climbed at our comfortable pace. Palomares is steep at first but then a very comfortable grade to its summit. Apparently it is quite interesting to ride in the dark with a lot of animal noises. I felt a little bad at missing out that well-documented part of this ride but still very happy that we would get the backside descent in the light.
I asked ukbloke to lead the descent rather than hold him up. He led us down and over the small rollers to the side streets next to I-580. It was now 8pm and daylight was just beginning to fade. Only another 12 miles to go!
We began our climb up Crow Canyon with light fading fast. I was feeling strong again, and with the better light thought it would be best to lead so jumped ahead of ukbloke. We made the turn onto Norris Canyon which would be our final climb of the day. Hard to believe it was nearly over!
Darkness descended upon us as we climbed the final hill. I hadn’t pre-ridden this part of the course and my light could only see so far, so I didn’t know what to expect. The climb was steep but not all that long. We didn’t rush it and some other riders with small (or no) lights attached to us.
At the summit, I let out some kind of growl of success! 3-4 miles to the end, all downhill. I had a burst of energy and no there was no reason to hold back! With the strong light, I led the way down Norris Canyon and caught up to a few riders ahead who had to ride more slowly; lugging the heavy light finally paid off!
Although we weren’t riding to compete, it occurred to me that the riders I saw up ahead were all places ahead of me and they were all catchable. I put everything into it, catching and passing them. Unfortunately we hit a red light on a major intersection and regrouped. I think everyone was ready to sprint, however – I got the jump and was the first to make the final turn. Sadly, I didn’t know these roads and didn’t know where the finish was so was passed trying to figure it out. Oh well, just a few places lost
Finish – 8:45pm, 206 mi, 13:52 hrs
Ukbloke and I checked in at 8:45pm, 15:42 hours after the start. We did not miss any check ins at rest stops so we expect to be official finishers.
Good lesson for me on this ride on the benefits of pacing on doubles, even if I’m feeling good enough to push. I’m eager to reach for the CA Triple Crown now (3 doubles in a year). As my first double century, this was one of my biggest challenges to date and I’m very pleased to have pulled it off in a great time and with only one hiccup.
In the end, it was all about getting the jersey..