Thursday, June 11, 2009

Eastern Sierra Double Century Craptacular Conclusion

"You descend like a man!"

"Um, thanks?" I said to a newfound cycling partner--a Berkeley-educated engineer whom Robyn and I had swallowed up on our way up the mother f'in final climb.

The 7-mile out-and-back had no official ending, and none of us had cycling computers. We thought we had reached the top, so we put on our jackets, peed behind rocks, and got ready to descend when a few cyclists came by shouting, "Only 200 meters to go! Turn around at the car!"

Are you kidding me? least I didn't moon them.

Turns out the magical turn-around car was Laree. Coachubby had climbed up on some rocks to cheer, but we hardly paused. We shouted "bye!" to him and began the final stretch to the end of the evil.

Where did everyone behind us turn around after coachubby jumped in the car to greet us at the final rest stop? We'll never know--the final mileage of the whole day was very approximate.

(Laree and I at the turn-around, as seen by coachubby.)

(On a completely unrelated note, somebody has been playing the same Seal album all day long, over and over again, while building a house next door. I liked Seal. Until now. If the Seal-loving construction worker had waited until evening for his Seal extravaganza, everyone in my building could've used it to romance their special someones. Seal will never be sexy again.)

Robyn and I turned onto Highway 6 to grind out the final 36 miles back to Bishop. We still had faith that we'd make it back before dark. Robyn took off. I tried to let that massive headwind that was now a tail wind blow me all the way back without pedaling, but a funny thing happened: the wind died down.

No. Freakin'. Way.

Can't a girl get a break? At this point, I concluded that absolutely nothing about this ride was "fun". N-o-t-h-i-n-g. And as I mentioned before, I don't have a bike computer, but I do have eyes and I watched the mile markers on the side of the road count back down from 36 to 0. Very slowly. I counted every one as I rode by. For hours. 4 miles to go was the most painful 4 miles I have ever ridden.

I arrived back at home-base to little fanfare. A few people sat in lounge chairs at the entrance to a motel, leftover pretzels were strewn across the table, and a 3 Snickers bars sat in a large box, staring at me.

"Name?" someone asked.
"Yeah. You made it."
"Right. Thanks."

Then I did something I didn't think was within my capabilities. I changed into new cycling clothes in the parking lot, mounted a bike light, and began to ride out the first 30 miles of the course again.

That's right. 60 more miles to go. I had an 18 hour ride on my training schedule, and figured I'd only spent 13.5 of the last 15.5 actually riding my bike. I left the hotel at 9pm with coachubby following and Laree lighting my way on back country roads.

In my delirium, I saw (and no, these weren't hallucinations), in this order, a skunk, a mouse, tons of suicide rabbits, a giant spider, lots of beetles, cows, and a raccoon.

And a cop.

At midnight, I turned onto the 395 15 miles south of Bishop. I watched a cop flip a u-turn and knew he was coming for me.

Oh crap, what'd I do wrong? Am I not allowed to be riding out here?

He stepped out of his car. When he spoke, I realized he thought I was the absolute last person in the day's ride. Like I was a poor, lonely rider who just wouldn't give up. Which was partially true, but he really thought I was getting my arse kicked. He felt sorry for me.

"You need anything? Some water?" he asked.
"No, I'm alright. Thank you!" I croaked. How about an inhaler?

I had made an important, life-altering discovery about an hour earlier: I couldn't breathe. Maybe it was all of the cold air I had shoved into my lungs all morning, or the ridiculous amount of breathing I had done all day, but my lungs weren't having it. I felt like I was breathing through a straw. And my exhale made me seriously believe that someone with squeaky brakes was following coachubby and me. But no, it was just me wheezing. Like a smoker.

Due to my diminished air capacity, I pedaled for approximately 10 revolutions then coasted as long as I could to try to suck in enough air to keep on going. For miles and miles. Poor coachubby.

I could see the stoplight in Bishop for EVER. I thought I was so close,then I'd ride for 10 minutes, and it wouldn't get any closer. Pure evil.

I finally knocked on the hotel door at 1:45am. I was done. Did it. Couldn't breathe. Totally disgusting. And Robyn was still awake!

I wish I could say I passed out and slept for an eternity, but I couldn't sleep; I hurt too much. And you know, the breathing thing.

And so now, we draw several conclusions about the day's ride:
1. There is absolutely no way in hell the original route could've been as bad. Seriously.
2. Mr. Toyota Tacoma has since been renamed Mr. Woodcock; Robyn and I should be happy he didn't let us give up on ourselves...But he's still an a-hole.
3. If race directors know the race is going to be cold, have soup and heat at the aid stations. Duh.
4. Porta-potties at the aid stations would've been nice, too. I know the route was redone at the last minute, which was the excuse for having none, but the final aid station was along the original route, and there was no porta potty there, either. I felt like somebody took my $120 and ran.
5. If you ever plan on doing a Planet Ultra double, and the weather's looking nasty, but you're still going (don't ask me why), get a GSM satellite phone and someone to be your personal SAG.
PU doesn't like taking responsibility for much when ice hits the road.

Another similarly-priced option in the same area with way more swag (free race photo, tons of aid stations, race t-shirt, etc...) is the Everest Challenge. I've never done it, but it looks sweet.

There was one fun, good thing that came out of the death ride that was the Eastern Sierra Double Century '09.

And it's coming tomorrow...

Ride on, homies!


  1. They aren't usually so disorganized. I'm pretty sure that most of the chaos was caused by not being on the normal routes. All of the other times I've done PU rides, they've had portapotties (or indoor facilities), plentiful water, plenty of SAG vehicles (often driven by family members of riders, and this time many didn't show up), etc...

    Of course, that doesn't excuse all of it. We certainly paid for a supported ride. And yes, hot soup at the rest stops would have been a 'normal' thing for a cold (or any!) double.

  2. Glad to hear it! I was so impressed with Heartbreak (and it was such a perfect day that day) that the contrast made it seem like an entirely different organization put ES on!

  3. How does a MAN descend? Oh, and way to stick it out Tridiva...sounds brutal. You rock!

  4. You forgot to mention that you earned your Cal Triple Crown! Now you can be a dork like the rest of us and get the jersey! Although I do like your sense of style on the bike, so maybe you shouldn't! :) Leave the boring/mundane/conforming to the rest of us, coz you're far from it!! :) Again - AWESOME job out there! I still can't believe you trudged on and did another 60 miles!

  5. I have spent a lot of time doing outdoor sports in cold climates, but I have rarely seen two colder, most hypothermic looking human beings than you and your friend when you reached the 2nd Checkpoint. Couldn't believe you didn't climb into the SAG - especially since many who looked nowhere near as bad off as you two threw in the towel.

    I'm amazed that you were able to recover from that and complete the ride so strongly - and astounded that you were still willing to throw in another 60 miles.

    And BTW, bad as that was, the passes on the regular route are a thousand feet higher and the weather (at least on Sagehen) was a good deal worse.

  6. Dude, you are SO not a dork. In fact, you are my ultracycling hero/mentor, and I have an entire post in my mind coming dedicated to you! The upside to everything was getting to meet you and Mike! You are truly amazing!

  7. TD, you know they have pills to control this kind of thing! Wow! I can understand sucking up the whole ordeal to finish what you start...well done. They'd have to drag my limp corpse off the course before I ever gave up on race - even a bad one. But it would NEVER EVEN OCCUR to me to then go out on a training ride afterward!! I'm seriously impressed (even if you weren't so replete with manish descendability...WTF is THAT about??!!). Anyway, it's been a while since I posted, so I just wanted to say hi and let you know I'm still lurking around. Hope all is well!

  8. Hi Keith! I can't believe you recognized us! (Or maybe I can...I guess two chattery blondes aren't hard to ignore :) I'm glad to know the other passes were worse. It was a true mental victory/breakthrough to finish the rainy-day course! In some weird way, I actually kind of liked the challenge--even though if Mr. Woodcock had agreed to pick us up, at that point, I would've gotten in the car.

    Hi Joe! I'm so happy to hear from you! I completely agree. We are either very dedicated or seriously mentally disturbed to rather get pneumonia than quit. :)

  9. 60 more miles after that #*&@%^! Ok Erin, you're a confirmed nut . . . a funny, cool nut granted.
    Coach Hubby, what a HERO! to follow you at tortoise mph 'til 1:45am!!
    A bit surprised you could function at Shat's and the hotsprings the next - oops - later that same day! Great recuperative powers or miserable (in some cases a blessing) short-term memory.
    Some day when you're even older than I (it's possible), you'll still remember this ESD . . . fondly or nightmares, don't know.
    Everest Challenge (and Alta Alpina) under serious consideration.♠

  10. Ha! You nailed it--I have terrible short term memory. :) Alta Alpina looks totally rad...but it's tomorrow! I'll have to remember it for next year!

  11. Incredible write-up for an incredible ride. Saw you a couple of times on the way up Death Valley Road, and at the second rest stop; I was waiting for a friend of mine to come down from the pass. We rode back to the start and decided that we'd had enough. What you did- the rest of the route plus a bunch more- is truly impressive. Way to go!

  12. Haha. Thanks, Tom! You did the absolute worst part, though! A certifiably cruel century if there ever were one. I'm beginning to think my adventure was a pretty stupid idea--I'm still tired and sore from it!