“What have I gotten myself into?” wrote my friend-and-aspiring-triathlete Dan, who had earlier this year committed to riding his first double century in Davis. Quite frankly, I had complete confidence in Dan, whom I seen make remarkable progress early in the cycling season, especially after riding numerous centuries on consecutive weeks. Yet he expressed just a bit of nervousness a week before the ride over this “crazy” idea. After all, this is 200 miles, the distance from, say, Palo Alto to San Luis Obispo.
Having riding ten doubles in the last few years, including Davis three times already, I tried to convince him that when you’re in as good shape as he is, it’s mostly a mental game. I, on the other hand, was mainly concerned about the weather… Davis weather has always been nasty for me, ranging from the shivering wet climates of the 1998 DDC and the first 1999 200km Davis Brevet to the record heat of the 1997 DDC. Indeed, earlier in the week, the weather forecasters were predicting showers.
Thankfully, however, upon arrival in Davis the evening before, no clouds were evident anywhere and the weather forecast was optimistic. And as with my last few rides in Davis, I got a good night’s sleep at a friend’s place (thanks Pin-pin!), after a scrumptious dinner with my old high school buds. So far everything was pointing towards a great ride.
Dan and I meet at the start and are arollin’ by 5:40 a.m. The air is classically crisp and cool, and the sun was peeping just enough over the horizon such that our lights were unneeded.
Dan initially makes some comment about “taking it easy” in the early part of the ride, as “we are going to ride 200 miles!”, which is totally okay with me. No thoughts of going for a personal record are in mind at all; just helping Dan to the finish while having fun was my main goal for the ride.
Whoops, there goes “taking it easy.” After a little conversation with the other cyclists and perhaps just 10 initial miles we find ourselves in a long paceline going at a decent clip. Soon the wind howling in our ears caused by our rapid forward propulsion was making conversation difficult. But woohoo, we are making good time before we have even hit the hills yet.
And the pace of the paceline only gets faster. At Mile 20 the paceline I’m in has whittled down to only 7 or 8 riders, and I’m not sure where Dan is anymore. Ah well, he can’t be far behind, I think, and I’ll see him at the first rest stop. So I keep the hammer on, and the first rest stop at mile 26 is soon within sight. I check out the average speed on my cyclometer: 19 mph. Woohoo, not bad.
At the rest stop, I fill up my waterbottles and only have to wait a few minutes before I see Dan. He looks to be in good shape despite the quickness of the first leg of this double, although he seems to be a little zoned as he does not notice me at all despite my snapping a picture of him just 10 feet in front of him. Finally, though, he does see me, and in no time we are ready to go. One strategy we would stick to for almost the entire ride is spending absolutely minimal time at the rest stops.
As we will be approaching the hills shortly, including the famed-but-overrated “Cardiac Hill”, once again we agree to “take it easy”. Once again, though, we are swept up by another paceline and trading pulls. At least until we get to the hills, when the paceline strings out. “Well, it was nice riding with ya,” says one of the riders in this paceline, who is no longer keeping pace.
But I am still feeling strong and evidently, so is Dan who is not far behind at all. I do stop at Rest Stop #2 at the Monticello Dam to join the long line for the Port-O-Jets, and less than a minute later, I hear Dan yell out to me while still powering up the hill. “I’m going to skip this rest stop,” he says, “but I’ll see you later…” Woah, he seemed to have more confidence than I had that I’d eventually catch up. Seeing him go, I really want to take off too, but I am forced to wait in line as I really needed to take a leak.
As I leave the rest stop I check out the time since I last saw Dan… 5 minutes. My gosh, Dan is probably 1.3 miles ahead already, I guess. I think back to the 1997 Foxy Fall Classic (also in Davis), when it took me over 40 minutes to make up that amount of time on my cycling partner Ken. So I decide to put on the hammer.
To my satisfaction, I am still feeling very strong… clearly, the more-than-usual training early in the season and having done 3 doubles this year already were paying dividends in my conditioning. Soon I pass ten riders, then twenty… thirty… maybe even forty or fifty? And on the long sweeping downhills–my forte–I am making up more time.
And finally… aha, there in the Stanford windbreaker is Dan! I am relieved to see him and also happy that I’ve felt so strong at this point. “I knew you’d catch up on the downhills,” Dan says. He is still looking strong too.
From this point on to the next rest stop are only a series of small rolling hills, and once again we are at the rest stop in no time. “We’ve done 60 miles already and it’s not even 9:00,” we realize. We are blazing right along.
During these miles the terrain is similar to what we have done before–no major hills with a series of rollers–and our pace is still very decent. I even think we skip the Pope Valley Grange Hall Stop at Mile 75 altogether, and we are clearly in a zone. Smooth, steady, yet fairly fast. I’m not even sure of what I was thinking about during all of those miles, if I was thinking about anything at all. One thing that always happens to me during these ultramarathon rides is becoming “meditative”, where the mind is at total ease, not really thinking about anything, just watching the surroundings rush on by. It’s during these moments that I am most relaxed and the time goes by most quickly.
Before we know it… there’s Middletown High School which marks the rest stop at Mile 95. We do stop at this one, and I can’t help but remember this same place back in the 1997 Davis Double. Back then, the heat was almost at its peak, and the Davis Bike Club thoughtfully set up “mist showers” to help people cool off. Not this year. The weather was absolutely beautiful. What a welcome change from years past.
And now there is something on my mind: the upcoming miles. Traditionally, it would be the next 10 miles which I would find the hardest and the steepest. The subsequent 30 miles are usually no joke either. Up to this point, the ride has been smooth sailing. But how would we fare now?
After my “warnings”, Dan and I once again agree to take it easy. In a few miles, however, is where Dan really starts to show his strength. I think with half the ride practically over and still feeling good really boosts his confidence at this point.
“Okay, here’s the start of the climbing,” I shout out. Nothing is really steep yet, but it is a steady, long ascent. Soon we are catching up and dropping people, while Dan makes some comment that he is still feeling good. I’m okay with our pace, but what’s really on my mind is a relatively steep climb up the Big Canyon just ahead. To my surprise, though, at the pace we are going we are at the base at the Big Canyon in no time, where there is a water stop and some riders stopping to take a break. “Let’s keep on going,” Dan says.
Which we do. These grades–which lead to the Top of the Ride–are not exactly laughable. But Dan is hardly even breathing as we blaze by some more riders. Phenomenal.
And soon… it’s a beautiful descent. “That wasn’t so bad,” Dan says, to which I can only agree. Soon we are coasting down this downhill all the way to lunch. I am almost mind-boggled at how fast and easy that climbed had seemed this year, though. Up to that point, making it up to The Top of the Ride was the highlight of the ride… but pleasantly, even greater things were yet to come…
We spend 40 minutes at lunch, but are ready to hammer afterwards again. Coming up was a series of moderately steep, long climbs dubbed “The Ressurection”. For the novice double-century rider having 120 miles under his belt now, the Ressurection can be daunting. Yet, Dan is looking absolutely unperturbed and totally confident. It is during these upcoming miles I would realize just what a phenomenal rider he is.
“I’ve never felt so alive in my life!” Dan says to another rider. This, I think, was hardly an understatement. To try to put it in words would not do the experience justice. But, I think an email I wrote immediately after the ride captured the scene pretty well:
Let it be known that this was Dan’s first double century (he is an experienced century rider and aspiring triathlete), and yet he was absolutely phenomenal. In fact, the most memorable experience for me was The Resurrection, the name given to one of the more challenging 2500-ft climbs that came after 130 miles. Here we were just blazing up this mountain, dropping scores and scores of riders who were straining, grimacing, and panting. Heck, I was rather quiet myself, as Dan and I were climbing this mountain fast, and I can’t talk and do anything else effectively at the same time =) Yet, here Dan was actually SINGING (and very LOUDLY and even quite harmoniously might I add) all the way up this hill. Imagine this scene and the look on the faces of 50 or so highly trained cyclists totally struggling up this hill, and then us just whizzing past them all while Dan the Tri-guy is singing “America the Beautiful”. It was awesome.
It was an experience I will never forget, and definitely one of the most glorious and euphoric moments of my cycling career. Attached is a a pic of Dan and I taken right after we conquered The Resurrection.
Dan was still looking alive, calm, and content, while I am absolutely awestruck. Bravo, Dan. What a phenomenal climb!
After the Resurrection is a long, rewarding downhill. Now entirely confident Dan can keep up with whatever pace I go, I get into an aero-tuck, shift into the big ring, and lead us downhill. My cyclometer is registering speeds in the high 20s and mid-30’s, and it sure feels like we’re going a near-time-trial effort.
We continue at these speeds for the next 20 miles, where there is a noticeable paucity of riders now in contrast to the first 75 miles or so of the ride. And whatever riders we do see, we catch. An absolutely blistering pace.
Alas, the road does finally begin to level out and I am finally starting to becoming exhausted. Dan might have been too because he is reluctant to trade pulls anymore. Fortunately, however, a few miles earlier 2 or 3 riders had launched onto our formerly 2-man paceline. Seeing that I am tiring, they take a few turns at the front and hence we are still moving right along. Thanks.
With our five-man train, we even decide to pass up Rest Stop #9 at Mile 165, although at this time, both Dan and I are now only pulling for less than 30-seconds at a time. Okay, so maybe from Miles 135-165 I was setting a pace that was a tad too fast. The good thing about this pace, however, is that the miles–and the corresponding time spent on the bike–passes very quickly.
And soon enough, the Forbes Home marking Rest Stop #10 at Mile 178 is in sight. Just 22 miles to go.
At this point, finishing is long a foregone conclusion, and hence we spend more time than usual (~10 minutes) at this rest stop. Dan also needs to pick up his lights here, which we realize we totally will not need. My gosh, it’s only 5:00 p.m. or so… the sun wont’t be down for another 3 hours or so.
Once we do get going again, however, we are are quick to join yet another paceline. We meander through the plain yellow farmlands of the area west of Davis, with the only real excitement occurring when, on a left hand turn in which half of us had to stop, our paceline is suddenly split into two distinct groups. Not wanting to lose the first group, I go in an aerotuck and, with Dan, catch them after a couple of minutes or so. One last Herculean effort for the day.
And soon… the businesses and residences of Davis are in plain view. Just a few miles to go, and now Dan and I are now going a much more relaxed paced. Euphoric, we roll into Davis High School on Oak Street, marking the end of the ride.
It would only be then that we’d fully comprehend what we had accomplished on that day. “Dan”, I yell out, looking at the time on my heart-rate monitor. “12:57. We finished just under 13 hours.”
At that point we were just ecstatic. Before the ride, the main goals included Dan finishing his first double century ever, and just having a fun time. But by the end, not only had we together finished under 14 hours (something I have never done), but under 13. A new personal record for me, and tremendous satisfaction for both of us. We did it!
- 201 mi.
- 5:40 a.m. start, 6:37 p.m. finish—12:57 hours
- Average Speed: 17+ mph moving, 15.5 mph overall
- Max Speed: 46+ mph
- Total Climbing: 6,600 ft
(1=ho hum; 5=best)
- Scenery: 3+ Seemed more green than normal
- Support/Organization: 4+
- Food: 5 Well stocked!
- Weather: 5 For the first time 6 rides I’ve done in Davis, the weather was wonderful!
- Relative Difficulty: 2
- Overall Rating: 4+ A beautiful, fast, and glorious ride!