It was supposed to be easy… one of the easiest of the California Triple Crown events. I had already done the DDC last year, and completed the grueling Death Valley Double just a month and a half before. This year I had upgraded my wheels and gearing, and sunny skies were forecasted unlike last year. “I’m going for a personal record!” I tell my friends.
But it should have been an ominous sign that during the 3-hour gridlocked drive the day before, I was sweating all the way to Davis. Goldie was getting pretty close to overheating at times, and so was I. I don’t think much about it though, and rather I am thinking about whether I will arrive in Davis on time to meet a couple of friends I have not seen in ages.
It is good to see them (hi Ken and Pin-pin!). And this year, we find Baker’s Square to get some dinner. The food is ok, and we talk for 3.5 hours. And then we go hang out at Pin-pin’s place for a few more. It is getting really late, and my friends are wondering if I’m going to be able to stay awake during the ride. I am very sleepy at this point but proclaim it is impossible to fall asleep on a bicycle, pedalling at 90 rpm and heart rate at >150 bpm. I site the past rides I have done without getting much sleep the night before, and nearly convince myself that sleep deprivation won’t be a problem.
In fact, back at Ken’s place, I opt to replace Canny’s old 7-speed RX100 rear derailleur with a new 8-speed 105SC that I just received in the mail today. Setup is pretty simple, and shifting is much better. But I get no sleep whatsoever.
And soon it is 4:00am. I say my goodbyes and depart for Oak High School, the start of the ride. It is still warm outside, even at this time of night.
It’s 5:20a and we’re ready to roll. The air is cool, not cold, and the sun is ready to snap out of it’s long night’s rest. Remembering that last year I did not have to use my headlamp, I leave it in the B. Hey, this year we’re surely going to finish earlier than last, right? The winds seem tame and I am feeling okay. Typical of the first and last 30 miles of the DDC, barren farmland is abound and nothing is really memorable or noteworthy. Relaxing for sure.
But oh no!, perhaps too relaxing. To my dismay, I am newly discovering that it IS possible to fall asleep on the bike! I was constantly, especially during miles 40-70, and I end up taking 3 20-minute naps during the day. It is not a good feeling to fall asleep on the road, only to be woken up by a speeding car or a rider who suddenly shouts, “on your left.”
But sleep deprivation is not the worst of my problems. As noon approaches, the sun is in full fury and the temperatures are approaching near-record levels. The 100+ F heat is heinous! I am totally struggling going up hills I didn’t even notice last year. I keep on thinking, “They MUST have changed the route for this year!”, but others assure me that they didn’t. What a humbling experience, and I am truly miserable.
But as stubborn as I am I refused to join the busloads of riders who quit this year. And FINALLY, after hours and hours of low energy, thirsty mouths, and near brain-dead levels, things suddenly get better after 160 miles. Temps are back to normal, the terrain was flat, and I am feeling strong again. And I am re-energized when a fellow Palo Alto native comes along and we ride together with some others until the end. It was good riding with you, Mr. Jim Michaels!
We did the last 22 miles in one hour, but I still only got back at 10:10. This was definitely the worst ride I’ve ever done up to this point.
- 201 mi, through Solano and Napa Counties
- 14.0 mph, moving average
- 16.8 hours overall; 5:20-20:10. This is
2:20 more than my 1996 time.
- max speed: 46.0 mph
- food tally: >20 bottles of water and
Gatorade, and still only had to go to the bathroom once
- favorite treat: chicken noodle soup
(again), 35 mi from the finish
(1=ho hum; 5=best)
- Scenery: 3-
- Support/Organization: 5-
- Food: 2+. The lack of ice and cold drinks
severly hampered their rating this year.
- Relative difficulty: 4 Too hot!
- Overall Rating: 2 This one was
If you enjoyed this article, please consider receiving my weekly newsletter. I typically write about endurance bicycling, world travel, self improvement, Colorado living, marathon running, and epic adventures.