During the course of the week, the Palo Alto skies had turned gray and a steady stream of raindrops was softly grazing the window of my room. Good sleeping weather, as Steve Young would say, but good cycling weather? I had never done a rain ride of more than 30 miles, and being a native Stocktonian who witnessed the recent 7-year drought, I possessed no cycling-specific rain gear. But being an optimist, I figured it would be nice and dry farther north in Davis by the weekend.
And when I left Stanford Friday evening, at least the roads in the Bay Area were wonderfully dry. Halleluyah, like every other 5 hr+ bicycle ride I’ve gone on, maybe the Davis Double will be nice and sunny! I left Goldie the MG’s top up just in case as we drove down Interstate 680 to 80. Good thing, as we were about 20 miles from Davis when the rain really started beating down. And the weather forecast on the local country radio station was rather bleak…
Davis: a peaceful, but lonesome, town
As I arrived in Davis I noted the similarities between it and Stanford. Both are huge campuses with buildings acres apart; however, there was something most serene about Davis. Heck, it was Friday night and the entire campus looked like a ghosttown! Not a soul stirred anywhere. I was to have dinner with a friend whom I had not seen for three years at 8:00 p.m., and since I was over an hour early, I decided to check in for the Davis Double first. Apparently, there were going to be 1300 riders in tomorrow’s ride, and the Davis Bike Club wanted riders to check in as early as possible.
Registration only took a couple of minutes and I was free to check out Davis for half an hour. Houses were everywhere with an occasional commercial site here and there. Ho hum.
But finally 8:00 p.m. rolled around, and I quickly found the dorm of my friend. “Just follow the scent of the cow manure,” she had told me. She was right.
For the 45 minutes or so we cruised the streets of Davis looking for a restaurant. Not necessarily a good restaurant, mind you, just any restaurant! Finally we settled on a Chinese restaurant in “downtown” Davis, which consisted of, oh, two blocks of stores or so. The food was atrocious! But we had a good time, and it was good seeing my friend and catching up on old times.
At 10:30 or so I settled in on a Motel 6 in Davis. Normally I would just sleep in the car, but armed with the excuse that “I needed to be well rested,” I splurged (?) a little today. Naively, I never made a reservation, but fortunately there was just one room left. “Just give us 20 minutes for us to clean it,” the clerk said. The room of course was very basic but, just like the commercials said, it was clean, comfortable, and cheap. I liked it.
I asked the clerk to give me a wake up call at 4:30 a.m., but I naturally woke up at 3:50 and took a shower. I took a peak outside, I was happy to see other cyclists already loading their bikes in the parking lot. But perhaps more exciting was that it was entirely dry outside, unlike just six hours before! I couldn’t believe it, and proceeded to put two pairs of Coolmax socks on with plastic bags sandwiched in between them. The bags were provided by Motel 6, perhaps for toiletries? Anyway they were a near-perfect fit, and I could hardly tell I was wearing plastic bags.
I arrived at the start (a high school) at 4:45, but it took me 45 minutes for preparation. I brought along a ton of granola bars in addition to my seat bag of emergency tools and my heart rate monitor. Oh, I also brought along my Vistalight headlamp plus four extra AA batteries. I figured it would be good for seven hours of darkness, if needed. By time I left the newborn sun had provided enough light that I only switched on my trusty Vistalight taillamp for half an hour or so.
From the start to “Cardiac”
I started out spinning easily, as I had not ridden any significant distance since the Delta Century two weeks ago. I paced myself behind two guys on titanium bikes, reminding myself that my goal was “just to finish.” We were doing a pretty good clip, about 18-19 mph or so into a headwind. Still, it seemed like everyone was zooming past us, with some pacelines consisting of 15 riders or so. It was quickly obvious that the riders in this 200-miler were much more serious than the usual cyclists doing 100-milers.
It was only after about an hour and a half that I really started getting into a good rhythm, which was a good thing as we were quickly approaching the mountains. I formulated a strategy as we approached the first rest stop: I would pass up every other rest stop, only stopping to fill up water bottles, grab some food, and take a leak. So I passed up the first rest stop. And then came the hills…
I had heard that the ride was relatively flat, but the night before I looked at the map provided by the Davis Bike Club, which prominently displayed a not-flat-at-all elevation chart. The start was at sea level and the top of the ride was at 2500 feet! The first 30 miles were flat as a pancake, but now was time for “Cardiac,” the name given to the first major climb of the ride.
It actually wasn’t too steep, as I pedalled away in my 42 X 19 gear, but the skies were turning grayer by the minute. Soon it was sprinkling. Then it was pouring! A fellow cyclist mentioned it rained every Davis Double in these parts of the mountains… no one had told me that before the ride! My helmet visor kept my glasses from getting wet for half an hour, but after some quick descents I had to take my glasses off in order to see. But you know what, I actually stayed warm and comfortable, and I thanked myself for putting on the two pairs of socks and plastic “sock liners.” My feet stayed relatively dry, and unlike cotton (the worst material in wet weather), Coolmax apparently retains quite a bit of heat when wet.
At last the rain stopped and I was actually a bit disappointed. As long as I was warm, the rain just added a little more excitement to the adventure. It would never rain again for the rest of the ride, and I missed it.
After Cardiac to Mile 95
The terrain was rolling but nothing was too steep. I noted that my average speed was 17.0 mph at one point, and I figured that if I could keep up the pace, I would reach the 100 mile point by 12:00 p.m. As it turned out I arrived at the 95 mile point by 11:30 a.m., and as usual I grabbed a bunch of granola bars at the rest stop.
Ah, granola. I really think it has made the difference between this year’s rides and last year’s… this stuff can power me forever! A female cyclist noticed that I was stuffing my pockets with them by the handful, and said, “Wow, this stuff must be good, I must try some!” I then realized I was eating three or four granola bars an hour. A quick calculation: If I finished in 15 hours, I would have eaten 45 to 60 of them! Kinda gross, but as I also figured that I was burning about 600-900 calories an hour, I would need to ingest 10,000 calories or so during the ride.
I looked at the map and saw that there would be a rest stop every ten miles until lunch. Which was just after the top of the ride, at 2500 feet. Meaning, another major climb was about to begin!
To the top of the ride
The next 25 miles seemed to be all uphill. Though it was not especially steep–perhaps a gradient of 150-200 vertical feet per mile–but it was long and after riding for six hours of riding it was challenging. I hadn’t used my granny gear up to this point, but Canny seemed to be a little disagreeable as she automatically shifted the chain off the 42 tooth to the 30 tooth chainring. No kidding, she did this twice! So I resigned to the granny and slowly pedalled to the top of the ride.
My overall average speed was now down to 15.0 mph, and I was grateful when the ride finally started going downhill and lunch rolled around. By that point I was physically a little tired and mentally very tired of just eating granola bars! At lunch I stopped long enough to enjoy a Cup ‘O Noodles. During my teenage years I used to live off of this “fast food.” Not exactly the healthiest stuff with >10 grams of fat per container, so I stopped over the years, and today I considered this a “treat.” Ah, the life I live, in which I consider everything from Motel 6 to Cup ‘O Noodles a treat!
I stayed longer than initially planned but the warm soup was good. I had some pasta too. It was nice having some real food for a change. Finally I forced myself to go, as I was cooling off too much. I soon found that I was lagging due to the half-an-hour break. After seven miles I even got a flat, my first of the year. No problem, I thought, but I was losing momentum fast. It didn’t help that I never successfully used the Zefal CO2 tire inflator before, which I had purchased to replace my old trusty Superflate CO2 cartridge inflator. By the time I figured how to use this thing a sag wagon rolled around, and the driver asked me if I would like to use his floor pump. Sure, I replied, might as well spare a CO2 cartridge.
So after a 20 minute delay I was rolling again. And once again the ride was going uphill. A rider asked me if this was “the Ressurection,” the third and last major climb of the ride. I replied I didn’t know but I sure hoped it was so we would be descending once more!
By that point I was fully resigned to the granny gear, and the next 20 miles passed by slowly. Suddenly I was faced with a long downhill in which I was going 40+ mph for a few minutes. The Resurrection was over, hallelujah!
The last 60 miles
Once again I was feeling very good, and the thought that the rest of the ride would be all downhill just heightened my spirits. I joined a paceline and we were going at a good clip. The end was still 60 miles away, but relatively speaking, it didn’t sound like much to me after doing 140. I felt good enough to forget about pacing and just go hard.
It was about 5:00 p.m. when we passed a fire truck and ambulance attending a cyclist on the side of the road. I didn’t dare look and just went straight ahead, but later learned that the rider had fallen and had broken a collar bone. Or he dislocated a shoulder, no one seemed to know for sure. Regardless I hope everything turned out okay.
At around the 160 mile mark I noticed that my hamstring had fatigued enough that I couldn’t pull back or up on the pedals too much, but otherwise I was comfortable and feeling well. It was actually very sunny by this time, although not warm enough to take off my arm warmers and tights. Or perhaps it was just the long period of time on the bike; it seems like every time I ride for over five hours or so my body temperature drops a little.
By the 180th mile I stopped long enough at a rest stop to enjoy some chicken noodle soup. Not the processed Cup O’ Noodles variety, but some wonderful homemade concoction. This was the last rest stop I stopped at.
As we headed south we faced a really storng headwind, but whenever we headed east we seemed to have a bit of a tailwind. At one point a 60ish-looking man passed me up. He was strong. Inspired, I tried to keep up, going 20+ mph. After five miles he was half a mile ahead of me. I was impressed; it gave me hope that at 60 years of age I will be stronger and in better shape than I am currently at age 20. Incidences like these make me realize the possibility isn’t so far-fetched…
The sun was starting to set and now eager to get some dinner I was going as fast as I could comfortably go. During the last 5 miles I entirely had a tailwind and I found myself racing cars! I believe I got a little off course as I didn’t see any other cyclists, but I knew where I was going and got to the finish at 8:00 p.m. Total time: 14.5 hours, at a 16.0 mph rolling average. Not bad, far better than I expected and good for my first 200-miler. Didn’t even need to use my lights.
The dinner room was rather crowded but I gratefully munched on a rice/soup concoction served by the Davis Bike Club. It was a good day, a pretty (albeit crowded) ride, and I would not hesitate to do it again.
The Day After
When I woke up at 9:00 the next morning my back was a little sore, but I was very pleased that I otherwise felt very good. Good enough that I got some breakfast and proceeded to go down to neighboring Dixon for the annual All British Car Day before heading back to Stanford. Kind of a small meet but the cheery MGAs, MGBs, Triumphs, and Austin Healeys can always bring upon a smile for me. If you’re a sports car lover or just somewhat intrigued by these little beasts, be sure to stop on by next year. It is at the county fair off of Highway 113, south of Highway 80. There’s also a vintage bicycle show in Davis on the same day, as an “encore” to the Davis Double, but if you go to the Brit meet instead, you won’t regret it.