Delta Century

The night before the Delta, I do some basic bicycle maintenance… tradition, you know. But alas, time flies, and it is now 1:00 in the morning. After a half-hearted attempt to sleep a little, I pack up the MGB and off we go to Stockton. Highway 84 is so pretty at night, under the stars and through the mountains.

I arrive in at Ken Loo’s house in record time, traffic being as light as it was, and had a primitive urge to, er, relieve myself. Darnit, Ken won’t be up for another hour or so, and so I go for a nice walk in the neighborhood. Hey, over there is a public tree. At about that time a local opens up his front door in preparation for a 4:30 a.m. jog, and his dogs come running after me. “Come back!” yells the man. “Sorry oh so sorry, sorry…” he apologizes, and I think, now’s a good time to go back to my car. If the dogs didn’t wake up the entire neighborhood, then Goldie did, as I accidentally set off her alarm when I returned. This time I am the one saying “sorry oh so sorry.”

I do manage to sleep for 45 minutes or so in Goldie’s comfy driver’s seat. Then Ken comes out of his house and wakes me up, no problem…

Off we go

Ken picks up his friend Anthony, a first time century rider on a cool Marin mountain bike, and they get a ten minute headstart while I am still unloading at Bear Creek High. I figure I would catch up to them in another ten minutes or so. Wrong. Soon I became a little antsy, wondering where they are, and was riding at speeds >22 mph, with my heart rate >165 bpm. Er, not exactly how I planned on pacing myself in the early going.

I do manage to catch up to my friends after half an hour, but only when Anthony drops a water bottle. We make it to the first rest stop together. I notice my average speed is 18.0 mph. Not bad.

And the thrill begins…

After 20 minutes of chatting and munching on some food, we leave the rest stop. Soon, a group consisting of 3 tandems and a Sacramento rider whizzes by. I quickly look at my friends and ask them if they want to try to keep up with them. They reply in the negative but tell me to go on. Pumped up by “the chase” in the first leg of the ride, I couldn’t resist…

I sprint up to the group and suddenly a tandem is dropped. The two remaining mixed tandems, and the sole rider, were jamming. It had been a while since I had ridden in a paceline, and had almost forgotten how much faster one can ride. We are maintaining a steady 25 mph, passing everyone, but I feel bad that I am letting the riders do all the work. So I volunteer to pull.

At about this time an obnoxious wind turns against us, as it usually does in the second stage. Also, a couple of stray dogs are wandering in the middle of the road, and quickly I work my way up to 30 mph. Our group is totally apart now, and I am winded. Moments later, though, our group rejoins, and the tandems are pulling again.

Now it’s the Sacramento rider’s turn, and this guy is strong. We are maintaining 23 mph in the headwind, which is brisk enough that the tandems are drifting back. Suddenly we both realize the folly of losing the tandems but keep on going, not wanting to lose any speed. No problem, the tandems eventually catch up and we are pacelining together again.

What a glorious feeling, “time-trialing” into a headwind, zooming by everyone, with nobody able to catch us. We reach the 2nd rest stop at 48 miles into the ride, and I notice my average speed is now 19.5 for the entire ride. Meaning we must have been averaging ~22 mph over the 30 mile “leg”… never have I gone so fast for such a distance.

And here comes a surprise…

At the speed we were going, I expected to wait for my friends for at least 40 minutes at the rest stop. I chat with the other cyclists when suddenly I hear my name yelled out.

Anthony waves. I look for Ken, and then I look at my watch. Ken apparently didn’t arrive, but Anthony made it only 20 minutes after I did. This guy must have been riding at a pretty high speed, and I was most impressed as he was riding a mountain bike without the standard cycling attire… didn’t even have toe-clips and straps.

“The Mount Diablo group passed us shortly after you left, and I hung on. They were going so fast, it was incredible.” They were incredible, and he was incredible. This was his first century and already at the half way mark he was joyous and feeling strong.

Ken comes in another 20 minutes later. “After you two left I thought, might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.” Ken has always been a good pacer. And his choice to “take it easy” proved to be a judicious one, as the next 50 miles would prove.

A lonnnggg 2nd half

Being content with the “time-trial” of the 2nd leg, but feeling a little bad about ditching my friends, I resolve to stay back with them for the rest of the ride. Anthony is raring to go with the Mount Diablo group again, and we take off when they do.

Around 60 miles or so it is Anthony’s turn to pull, and he seems strong and is maintaining a good pace. He pulls for a long time, and it wouldn’t be till a couple of miles later when I would realize that it took quite a bit out of him. He can no longer keep up, and is really hurting. I let the group go to stay back with him.

We rest a bit and he asks me what to do in such a situation. I can’t think of much to say, but I tell him that his courage was admirable and that he was doing remarkably well for a first century. The wind is still heinous, and I try to offer him a slipstream as we head for the ferry that would take us across a section of the Delta waterways.

He makes it and eagerly chucks down a couple of fig bars at the ferry rest stop. Ken makes it too, looking for a bag of trail mix. For the rest of the ride we would joke about how he thrives on this stuff. It is pretty good.

And here we come…

We are spending more and more time at the rest stops, but for once the 3 of us could relax and just chat away about everything from college life to “did you hear about the person with 3 nipples?” (And no, not spoke nipples.) The food and support, as always, is excellent. Enthusiasm is high. We had a blast.

At 4 p.m. I come rolling in to the finish, and my friends come in shortly afterwards. We had great fun, and as Ken would be studying at UC Davis next year and Anthony who knows where, I realize that this would probably be the last time doing this ride together. Kind of nostalgic… it was the ride that started it all, 3 years ago, and though we have come a long way since then, the Delta Century will always have a permanent place in the memory book.

One last note…

Eek, the post-ride meal and the lack of sleep the night before was beginning to take a toll on me, as I was feeling my eyes getter rather heavy on I-5. Fortunately I had the sense to pull off an off ramp in Lathrop, and took a nap across the street from the Chevron station. I had slept in the MGB for 10 minutes when a concerned motorist woke me up to make sure I was all right. I was, and the “power-nap” had refreshed me well enough to get me back to Stanford okay. It was refreshing to see that there are still some decent caring people out there, even in the Central Valley.

Ride Summary

  • 101 mi, flat as a pancake
  • 17.0 mph rolling average
  • 6:30-16:00 overall
  • Mechanical problems: none
ostrich, green farmland, Delta region, California

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