Featured photo for Butterfield Double Century

Butterfield Double Century

Torrential thunderstorms, mechanical problems, and organization that was almost like a disaster makes for an epic now fondly referred to as “Butterflood.” What an amazing adventure! What a mind-boggling experience.

Below are some notes. They are taken from an email I wrote.

You may have heard about unusual weather conditions in Southern CA. (Apparently, people have died.) The drive down wasn’t too bad… just lots of thunderless lightning and intermittent downpours, and I got to the start at about 1:30 a.m. I managed to sleep in the car for a couple of hours and then get ready for the 4:30 a.m. “early bird” option. (The normal start time was 6:15 a.m.) I thought that with the weather and not having been biking much, I would want to give myself the maximum amount of time to take it easy and still make the time cutoffs.

Well that turned out to be a pretty good call, I think. So this is how it went:

  • Apparently, of the 220 cyclists who had already sent in their $75 to register, only 110 showed up. Maybe they were the smart ones, as it rained so hard that at times I couldn’t even look straight ahead because so much water was flying at my face!
  • When I got to the first checkpoint (Mile 26, 6:45 a.m. or so), several other cyclists were there already, but no race organizers. Finally, one of them showed up, but only had a few bottles of water—the food vehicle was nowhere to be found. This was really too bad because for one of the few times in my life, I had neglected to bring any food whatsoever, thinking that I’d just pick up some at the first checkpoint. Eventually I gave up on the race organizers (after wasting 20 minutes) and headed for the second checkpoint at Mile 55. (I did end up stopping at a market for some mini-donuts, however.)
  • I got my first flat tire (rear) at around Mile 48. I normally can fix flats in five minutes but because the tire was so wet and dirty, it took me about 30 minutes for this one. In the process I managed to cut my thumb (costing me 5 minutes in first aid… it is amazingly hard to apply a bandage when your hands are all wet) and break my air pump. Though I did not realize this until:
  • Mile 78, when I got another flat. Someone had just yelled out “glass!” and my front tire instantly went flat. It took me 20 minutes here, since my pump was broken… though at the time I thought I must have had a bad tube, so I wasted some time trying to confirm whether it was the tube or the pump. Fortunately a SAG wagon came by with a pump.
  • I got a 3rd flat at Mile 87 (rear tire again). When the roads are that wet, debris just sticks to the tire and stays there until you roll over it and puncture the tube. Fortunately, though, this had only happened some miles after having to ride 8 miles on I-5. Yes, that’s right, we had to ride on an Interstate highway with cars whizzing past us at 75 mph! I think that was my least favorite part.
  • At Mile 92 (the lunch stop) we were informed that a TORNADO had torpedoed part of the race course. Actually, the organizers knew as early as 4 weeks ago that that section of the course would likely be flooded. (They kept mentioning on their website how they might have to change the course due to flooding.) So they went to the premeditated contingency plan, which was just to have everyone go back the way they came. However, they did not print a route sheet on doing the route in reverse, and believe me, it’s very hard to follow a route sheet backward. You end up subtracting all the wrong numbers, all the while having to figure out whether to turn right or left. Also! We were to follow the route sheet backward EXCEPT for a 6-mile stretch, in which we were to detour, and were given VERBAL instructions on how to do so. Yes, we had to memorize the directions—it’s not like the course was marked! We had to hope we didn’t miss the roads where we were supposed to turn, and somehow find our way back to the “correct route.” Part of the detour was going on yet another highway!
  • Due to subtraction errors I missed a few turns, one time ending up in Camp Pendleton where a GI Joe guy stopped me and asked for ID.
  • It turned out that the next checkpoint after that had to be relocated because the campground it was at was going to close at 5:00. So it was moved that afternoon to a Carl’s Jr. 7 miles up the road.
  • It became dark and it started raining again and I was looking at my route sheet like every 3 minutes to make sure that I was following it backwards correctly. I really did not want to get even more off course. Eventually, I latched onto a group who seemed to know where they were going. Unfortunately, they entirely bypassed the last checkpoint and I did not realize they were going to do so until we were well past it.
  • Then some hills came which totally stunned me since they seemed really really steep. Or so they felt. Apparently, my shifter cable had seized and my rear derailleur was stuck on the smallest cog (highest gear). So there I was, standing on the pedals yet turning them very slowly, trying desperately not to lose contact with this group (mainly for safety reasons) trying to keep up with them on these hills in my highest gear.
  • Finally, with just 3 or 4 miles to go, I hit a pothole and my rear taillight flew off and split into pieces. Whoops. I also lost my glasses somewhere too.
  • I did make it back past 9:00 p.m., which made it one of my slower double centuries (and because of the changed course, this turned out to be only 184 miles, not 200).
  • I think that is about it. Oh wait!, I got a speeding ticket down on 101 south of San Luis Obispo. Too bad, as I was driving like a grandma for most of the weekend when it was raining. At least the cop was nice. He wrote me up for only 80 so that I could do online traffic school. (Don’t ask me how fast I was going. :-))

All in all it was a great adventure, though! And when I got back to Fremont I felt I had somewhat redeemed myself for the speeding ticket. You see, I went to get gas and when doing so a Mexican dude came around to watch how I was pumping gas. It turned out he couldn’t work the gas pump and spoke no English. He did not lift up the pump lever and we had to talk at length in Spanish for me to figure that out. I was quite proud of myself at that moment (for being able to converse with this guy, not for being able to work a gas pump. :-)) I think this is the first time I had a whole bona fide conversation (instead of just bits and pieces) with a REAL Spanish speaker!

Ride Data

  • 185 Miles
  • 4:30 start, 21:09 finish -> 16.7 hours
  • Average speed: 12.8 mph rolling, 11.1 mph overall
  • Max speed: 38.5 mph
  • Climbing: 8200 feet



  • Scenery: 2
  • Support/Organization: 1
  • Food: 2
  • Weather: 1
  • Relative Difficulty: 2
  • Overall Rating: 2
[Mile 0, 4:29 a.m.] At the Butterfield Double, a bunch of us opted for an early start on this very wet day.
[Mile 26, 6:51 a.m.] Felix Wong at the first checkpoint, fairly comfortable despite being drenched in several torrential downpours already.
[Mile 26, 6:59 a.m.] Other riders at the first checkpoint, standing out of the rain wondering what I was thinking: is Planet Ultra going to arrive with some food?
[Mile 27, 7:12 a.m.] After waiting for 20 minutes I gave up on Planet Ultra arriving with food and started riding again.  Fortunately, just up the road was this quaint market, where I bought some Hostess mini-donuts.
[Mile 48, 9:08 a.m.] My first flat tire ended up being costly time-wise (about 30 minutes).  It would be the first of three.
[Mile 65, 11:14 a.m.] Ever wonder how it feels like to ride on I-5 with cars whizzing past you at 75 mph?  Try to imagine being one of the riders in this photo.
[Mile 89, 1:38 p.m.] The nice thing about all of the recent rains in Southern Califronia was how verdant the land was.  Palm trees are abundant in this landscape.
[Mile 92, 1:48 p.m.] At lunch we were reminded to go back the way we came from (instead of following the original planned route) and just "follow the route sheet directions in reverse.  Oh, except taking North River Rd. turn right on Highway 176..."  Yikes.
Butterfield Double Century.
[Mile 123, 4:15 p.m.] The light at the end of the tunnel: at least it was dry out here!
[Mile 133, 4:59 p.m.] Nice rainbow near Camp Pendleton at this makeshift checkpoint where the SAG vehicle only had just arrived with everyone's lights (well after most people had come through already).  Yikes, I was glad I kept my lights with me.
[Mile 135, 5:11 p.m.] You are what you eat, and truth in advertising: Fatburger!  (Motto: "The last great hamburger stand", originally from Louisiana.)  Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I did not have time to go inside.
My poor Cannondale back in the Garage Mahal the next day, just totally thrashed.  You can see the gear the rear derailleur was stuck on for the last 20 or so miles.  Lots of cleaning and repairing to do, but the adventure was worth it.