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· Bacon!
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Ms. Ridgetop and I rode the Death Ride this past weekend and I thought I'd post some pics, feelings, and comments on the whole thing. For those of you who don't know what the Death Ride is, check out www.deathride.com. But, in short, it's 129 miles and 15,000' of climbing in one strenous day including five passes and lots of little hills in between (for those who complete it). We had signed up for five passes, but ended up completing only four which resulted in just under 100 miles of riding and 11,500 of elevation climb. It takes place in Markleeville (Alpine County), CA and includes 3000 riders who have to win a lottery to participate. Myself, my wife, and my friend Doug were all lucky (or unlucky) enough to win a spot. For myself and Ms. Ridgetop, this is the first time we have ridden all the passes in one shot. We live roughly 1/2 hour away so we have been training on them for the past couple of months, but never more than 3 in one shot. The passes consist of Monitor (8314 ft), Ebbetts (8730') and Carson Pass (8580'). You do Monitor and Ebbetts twice and then hit Carson if you still have the desire to continue.

We started out at 5:00AM in Woodfords with the idea that we would be worth the extra four or so miles to be closer to the end if we were going to complete all five passes. Starting out in the dark we passed hundreds of cars already parked and the people long gone on the start of the ride. It was actually fairly warm overall for this area and we were soon dumping our jackets for just leg and arm warmers. The route rides up and past Markleeville (the county seat and neat little town - try the deli on the East side - good food) and up Highway 89 to the Monitor Pass turnoff. Continuing up Monitor you climb up through an old mining district and to the top of an Aspen covered pass. You then descend rapidly down to Highway 395 where you turn around and do it all over again. The heat was pretty tiring coming back up the East side of the pass and was getting to a lot of people. We had one fellow just fall over in front of us when he couldn't push his double anymore. After Monitor we still felt pretty good as we flew down the West side back down to turn onto Highway 4 and to begin the climb up Ebbetts. This climb fools you. Instead of starting out steep like on Monitor, you find yourself on a fairly gentle climb for a few miles. The all of a sudden you hit the dreaded cattle guard and it's a 10% grade after that. Up you go! This is where a lot of people begin to have problems. We started to pass a lot of riders who were either walking their bikes or just sitting in the shade. I didn't blame them though. I still felt good, but Ms. Ridgetop had been really pushing herself to keep up at my pace. Before you say anything, I was letting her do her own thing. This is how we normally ride, but I think with the cut off times at the various points along the ride sitting in the back of her head, she was pushing herself harder than she normally would have. I could tell she was getting overheated and we had to stop several times to cool her down. The other problem, which I didn't catch onto quick enough, was she wasn't eating enough at the rest stops in order to save time. I was hitting the stops about five minutes ahead of her and was eating everything I could find and when she rode up she would just grab a little and would then want to ride on. This began to affect her about 60 miles into the ride. Anyway, continuing up to the top of Ebbetts the route enters the open sun and rock and is very warm. By the time we reached Mosquito Lake people were stopped all over and looking pretty unhappy. We plodded on and hit the pass about an hour later than we had planned. We ate some food and raced down to Hermits on the West side of Ebbetts where Ms. Ridgetop and I decided we'd better rest a few minutes before climbing up the much hotter Western grade. It was slow going back to the top and the heat was beginning to get to both of us I guess. We stopped and talked to one of our friends working the rest stop. He had seen our friend Doug go by a little earlier. Doug was hurting pretty badly (he's 64 years old) and had been plagued by flat tires. Ultimately,he would only make 4 passes but only because they wouldn't let him continue onto the 5th pass. As we sat on the 4th pass we could see large thunderheads forming in the North near Carson Pass. We still had plenty of time to make the 5th pass cut off time, but after a brief discussion decided it wasn't worth going against the weather and our own growing fatigue. So, we descended the east side and headed back towards Markeleeville where we had a slight drizzle to cool us down. And then, all hell broke loose. The heavens opened up with hail, flash flood rains, and more lightening than I am at all comfortable with. I'm a desert dweller and don't do the rain thing well. It was raining so hard that as we descended from Turtle Rock park I was spitting out mouthfuls of water and was feeling like I was trying to look through a swimming pool. Lightening was hitting the trees about 50 yards off on either side and many riders were scrambling toward whatever cover there was. We continued on to the truck where we pretty much just started laughing. We couldn't help it. What a way to end the Death Ride! Anyway, enough rambling by me. Enjoy the pics!

Starting out at 5:00am required lights. But, it was the nicest part of the day to ride temperaturewise.



Climbing up the west side of Monitor was nice and cool with a continous view of the Sierras to the West. We had caught up with the last 1/4 of the peloton at this point. That's Ms. Ridgetop with the big smile. Still feeling good at this point.




The reststops were pretty good. Very crowded, but that was to be expected. I have to give some major cuddos to the crews manning them. These were some of the nicest volunteer support staff people that I have ever met on an organzied ride. Very cool!!!!


Descending down the East side of Monitor is one of my favorite runs. The views of the Sweetwater mountains (another great ride) in the background is just breathtaking. Plus, it's fast, wide enough to avoid oncoming riders, and roaring fun.



But all good things must come to an end, and then it's back up. Hot! Long! Watch out for those people making sudden exhausted stops! But, still beautiful.




But then, after a false summit (I hate those) the Sierras suddenly start to peak over the horizon and you know you're there!



And then, it's back to the bottom where you ride along the Carson River before heading up Ebbetts East side. Don't let it fool you. It may start out all gentle and tree covered, but it's not going to stay that way!


 

· Bacon!
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9,193 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
The Death Ride Part Deux

:D After you pass an old cattle guard the climb suddenly really starts to go up. People hit that first grade with a lot of cussing and OMGs! But, what scenery!!



Mosquito Lake provides a moment of rest for those who want it. Not sure why, but this lake always smells like old dead fish. But, it's scenic!


The reststop at the top of Ebbetts was a blessing. Ms. Ridgetop and I spent a few minutes here just getting our heart rates back to normal. Our friend Dave took the pictures. He's with the USGS volunteers. Great folks!



And then it's down into Hermit's Valley and back up. Lots of sun, lots of heat. . .and oh, oh. Thunderstorms forming up all of a sudden. This is a long hot climb though and to me, the most miserable 1500' of elevation climb ever.




But then, again you make the crest and get a screaming downhill back to Highway 89. As you can see, the thunderboomers are forming up pretty good now. We decided that this would be our last pass.




Passing through Markleeville we hit the heavy rain. Yikes! No brakes on the descents, no visibility, and being attacked by lightening and hail! The last picture was taken from our truck as we provided a ride to a half drowned rider who had had enough.




And to end it, how about a pink covered moose?:D
 

· Registered
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Great story

I enjoyed the pictures you took along the ride. I also brought my camera, but I ended up forgetting about it as I was either negotiating the fast descents or counting my heartbeat on the climbs.
I live in San Francisco, where there is hardly much elevation compared to the Sierras. My friend and I have been training since early this year, seems like the whole year. The Death Ride did not disappoint. It was brutal doing 5 passes, but the views, the roads, and the spiritual uplift of the experience is priceless. I could write on about what it was like, but I could only communicate a fraction of the emotions and physical joy/pain on that ride. The pictures and stories are all we have to share. Thanks.
 

· Bacon!
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9,193 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Even just making four was an awesome experience for us. We learned a lot also on how to do it next time (assuming we get in). More riding beforehand, more eating during, and better pacing. I think we actually did ourselves a disservice during our training. We got used to pacing ourselves based on only 2 passes. Next year we're going to slow it down a little on Monitor and also going to get a cassette that will allow us to spin easier. But all in all it was a fantastic experience.
 

· Bacon!
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks MB, it was nice, but I'd still love to get out into your neck of the woods. Maybe once we sell our home and get into the new one we might drop by to say hi.
 

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This was the fourth time for me. I finished all five passes on three of those rides. The one time I could only do four I was severely disappointed and trained with extra dedication for the next year. This year I didn't get in the lottery and was suprised at my disappointment. So I went out and rode the passes a month ago with undiscovered country tours (highly recommended) and found a ticket for sale. I wound up finishing about 45min faster than my best previous time (in 8:35 riding time), so I was pretty happy. It's a special ride.

The weather was great this year, assuming you finished before the rain! It was kind of hot when I was on the bottom of Carson, but not too bad.
 

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I was there as well. Good pictures, I didn't think to bring my camera. I must have passed you along the way, started at a little past 6 am. Finished in 8:21. Only problem I had was not eating enough and bonking hard right at the top of carson. I did hit the thunderstorms in the car on the way back over Ebbetts pass, glad I wasn't still on the bike! Next year I'm shooting for a sub 8 hour ride, didn't push it that hard at all this year so it should be doable.
 

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It wasn't raining on Carson Pass

luckily. The downhill is scary enough when it's dry. From Carson Pass it looked like lots of dark clouds and lightning at Turtle Rock, though. I got rained on near Woodfords, but not bad. I guy at the finish said it hailed earlier. It was a cooler day than I expected. A guy said it was 93 the day before.
 

· Bacon!
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
You missed all the fun :). I wasn't too happy with the slight downhill from Turtle Rock back to Woodfords in the rain. I probably would have hid somewhere and waited it out if I had had to come down Carson Pass. I just don't like that brakeless feeling the heavy rain creates.
 

· N. Hollywood, CA
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pix?

ridgetop - did you post photos? i only see a map and elevation profile.

we did 4 passes last year. i think the elevation got to us since we only arrived at midnight before. woulda been nice to have a day to acclimate...
 

· Bacon!
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Sorry, it looks like the site hosting the pics is having difficulties. Not sure why. I'll see what I can do to fix the problem. You can always check them out on my blog at www.wilddescent.blogspot.com but there is some other junk to pick through (like pics of our new house being built). Death Ride pics are at the top.
 
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