Our guest poster Don Blount has checked off another item on his bucket list: a double century. Here’s his account of riding 200 miles in one day.
Huh? The headline refers to a post earlier this week, when I gave up on a repair and decided to take my bike to our club mechanic. Sure enough, he did the repair in his driveway in about five minutes. Total cost: $5 for his labor, $3 for a new brake cable. A bargain, I thought.
But guest poster Don Blount is more adventurous than I. He chimes in with his own view on doing your own work.
And I did. I also bought some bar tape.
Well, I had the shifters for about a week. The mechanic said to bring the parts and the bike by his shop and he could install. The only problem was his shop was closed on Sunday and Monday and I literally had no time to get my bike there during the week.
So I decided to take the job on myself.
I measured where the old shifters rested on the handlebars and removed one.
I started the install of its replacement and hit the same roadblock as you on how to remove one of the existing cables. I could not find this step anywhere in the instructions. So I scoured the Internet. It took me a bit but I eventually found instructions on how to remove that blasted cable — a small screw removes a panel and then after that panel is removed the old cable comes out and the new cable can be routed in.
Of course that would not be the only roadblock I encountered.
I discovered the front brake was moving oddly. It was loose. That more than likely explained a grabbing action and squealing I was getting from it. The decision to replace it was easy as it broke in my hand as I removed a fastener. Fortunately, I had an old brake set on hand and used one of those until I could get a replacement.
I have had this new set up of shifters and brakes for a few weeks now. They work fine, although when I get a chance I would like to take it to a bike shop to have my work checked.
A moral to this story would be to review the directions beforehand, decide if you can actually do the job. In my case, I had removed shifters and installed brakes. But I had never changed cables.
Also, take your time as you work and keep in mind that the Internet can be a font of information full of videos and instructions on a number of jobs.
And keep a good bike mechanic on speed dial in case you get in over your head and need a professional to finish the job.
Our friend Don Blount treated us to his training rides f0r the Tour of California Alps Death Ride…and now, he’s got the story of the ride itself. Spoiler alert: He survived.
For seven months I had been training for the Tour of the California Alps Death Ride. I have ridden more than 3,600 miles (5,794 kilometers) and climbed more than 117,000 feet. I have ridden a metric century, two double metric centuries, a century and a near century.
And when the ride came on July 12, I was as ready for a long, hard day in the saddle. At its most simplistic level, the Death Ride is a double metric century (200km) with 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) of climbing. But of course, that’s like calling a lion a large house cat.
The Death Ride’s route covers five mountain passes at altitude. Starting at about 5,800 feet (1,767m) elevation and climbing to near or more than 8,000 feet (2,438m) elevation five times was a challenge. It would have been easier to ride with a gag stuffed over my mouth and a clothes pin clipped over my nose.
Did I mention that this was hard?
This is how the day went:
I was up at 2:15 a.m. and departed the place where I was staying in Bear Valley, Calif. a little after 3 a.m. I had an hour-long drive and wanted to get started before sunrise. I arrived at Turtle Rock Park and was ready to go at about 4:36 a.m. except for one small detail. I could not find the necessary mounting bracket for my headlight. I searched for 20 minutes. By now, it was nearly 5 a.m. and sunrise was less than an hour away. But first light would occur in about 20 minutes. I put a small blinker light on my bars and set out.
I had ridden the first four climbs during a training ride a few weeks earlier and was so glad that I had done so. About halfway up the first climb, Monitor Pass, someone said “I think the top is up there.” Little did he know how much farther away it was. The first climb was easier than I had remembered and I hoped that would be a good sign for the day.
It took about 1 hour 40 minutes to ride 15 miles to the second rest stop. I had gained about 2,200 feet (671m) of elevation. My reward? My first sticker, a blue one. Stickers are put on your bib to show that you have completed a climb. In two places, they are actually given before the climb because they begin on the opposite side of a pass; you’re in a place where you have no choice but to climb out. This was the only sticker I remember noting the color as I received it.
The descent down Monitor was long and the climb out of this canyon was about nine miles with 3,000 feet (914m) of elevation gain. It would take me 98 minutes. What made it more difficult is that this type of ride, with some 3,000 riders, is akin to driving on the highway at rush hour. I would get into a nice climbing rhythm, end up behind someone even slower than me, look over my left shoulder for an opening, pull out and accelerate past the slower rider, then get back over to the right and try to regain that rhythm again. Plenty of people passed me as well, so I did not have the option of staying to the left.
There was some relief descending Monitor again and heading for Ebbetts Pass. Like the second climb of Monitor, Ebbetts is long but it also has steep sections and hairpin turns to navigate. By the time I reached the summit and received my third sticker I was talking to myself – sometimes aloud – to keep moving forward. I descended to Hermit Valley where I received my fourth sticker. I lingered a bit here, trying to recover, telling myself I had four of the five stickers, just one more to go.
The climb out at about 5½ miles (8.9km), was by far the shortest climb of the day. It is not a terribly difficult route when fresh. However, I was far from fresh, my stomach was rumbling and it was hot.
A few experienced riders had advised me to skip the lunch line because it could be long and time consuming, instead I had my lunch packed in a cooler in my car back at Turtle Rock Park, about 20 miles (32.2km) away.
By the time I reached my car I was beat. I have come to expect this feeling during these endurance rides. I think it is just my body’s reaction to the physical stress.
I tried to eat a chicken panini. It tasted so awful that I nearly gagged. I ate a boiled potato and a banana and drank about three-quarters of a liter of warm sparkling water. I sat there trying to gather myself. I thought seven months of training for this. Seven months of work and a number of people who I would have to go back and explain what happened if I had quit. My stubbornness would not allow me to do that. I thought that if my body broke down officials could drag me off the course but I was not going to quit. At least being dragged off would give me a better story to tell.
I headed off toward the climb to Carson Pass in hopes of getting that final sticker.
I was well ahead of the cut off times as long as I kept moving at a reasonable pace. I rode next to one rider wearing a 2013 Death Ride five-pass finisher jersey. I asked him how long the climb was and then went ahead of him. I came across another rider in a five-pass finisher jersey. He told me that we would be well-within the cutoff times. I then went ahead of him. I figured if I was ahead of those two then I was in good shape to finish.
At Pickett’s Junction, the final rest stop before the Carson summit, the most marvelous volunteer helped me. She brought me watermelon – which for some reason I wanted. She filled my water bottles with ice and most importantly informed me that the summit was 9½ miles (15.3km) away. The time passed ever so slowly. It seemed that the summit was 1,000 miles away. I just kept turning the pedals. Pedal circles, pedal squares, pedal parallelograms, octagons, whatever it took to get there.
And finally I did. It was an indescribable relief. It took me 10 hours 21 minutes of riding time to travel the 105 miles (169km). I got my fifth and final sticker. Volunteers scanned my bib number, I got an ice cream sandwich – I rarely eat ice cream but it is part of the tradition of making the fifth pass and signed the poster.
I ate, hydrated and felt good now. It would be a long but fun descent back to my vehicle. Overall, I had ridden 124.21 miles (200km) with 15,030 feet (4,581m) of climbing in 11 hours 19 minutes, 41 seconds, at altitude. It was by far the hardest ride I had ever done. You can view a map and elevation profile of the ride as well as my Garmin stats here.
The day after the ride I celebrated a very happy 53rd birthday.
I have been asked if I would do the ride again. I would and already have ideas of changes I would make to my training. But before I get to that I need to prepare for my first double century in October.
Our pal Don Blount is at it again, as he prepares for his big ride of the year. Here’s his account of a little(!) training ride.
To prepare for big rides, you have to train for big rides — and often that training is painful. On Saturday, July 12, I am riding the Tour of the California Alps Death Ride. It is 129 miles (207.6 kilometers) with 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) of climbing over five mountain passes.
I have done a number of “big” rides to prepare for the Death Ride, including two double metric centuries and two century rides.
But I had never ridden at altitude, so two weeks before the Death Ride I headed up to the mountains to do a few training rides.
I joined my buddy Paul, who is also my doctor, and is experienced riding up in the mountains. He also climbs like a billy goat. The most I would see of him would be his back as he climbed waaaaay ahead of me.
Our plan was to do an 83-mile ride (133.6km) with 11,000 ft (3,353m) of climbing over four of the five mountain passes that are included in the Death Ride – both sides of Ebbetts Pass and both sides of Monitor Pass.
We started at 8:55 a.m. from Hermit Valley, Calif. at about 7,100 ft. (2,164m) elevation and we gained just under 1,600 ft. (487.68 km) within the first 5 miles (8km) to the summit of Ebbetts. Riding at altitude was difficult. I felt that no matter how deeply I breathed in that I could never take in enough air. This would be more problematic later in the day.
We headed down the other side of Ebbetts, dropping about 2,800 ft (853km) in 13 miles (21km). The views would be spectacular, the downhill riding fun.
Monitor Pass was next. These two climbs were difficult. The first gained 2,400 ft (731.52km) in about 9 miles (14.5km), then dropped into a canyon that we had to climb back out. This back side of Monitor Pass was a bear. It would take me nearly two hours to ride just nine miles. But that nine miles included 3,100 ft. (945m) of elevation gain.
I learned or was forced to learn to keep moving; to not stop and lean over the bike but to get off and walk. Mentally this was tough to accept but pushing my bike at two miles (3.2km) per hour was better than standing still; at least I was still moving.
After climbing the last side of Monitor we headed into Markleeville, Calif. for lunch.
The final climb, over the other side of Ebbetts, would be the toughest of the day. It was hot and long. Starting from about 5,604 ft. (1,708m) of elevation, we would ride 17 miles (27.3km) and gain 3,000 ft. (914m). It would take me nearly two hours and 22 minutes to summit. Again, I stopped and walked several times. And three times someone stopped and asked if I needed assistance. I declined in part because I wanted to “HTFU.” I also wanted to punish myself by not taking the easy way out. And I did not want the mental image of quitting when I came back on this route for the Death Ride.
I was more than happy to reach the top. Paul was waiting, anxious to escape the mosquitoes that nagged him.
Returning to Hermit Valley and the car was bliss. The ride took about eight hours and 10 minutes. Total time out was just under 10 hours. Click here if you want to see my stats for the day.
The following day we did another ride of about 21 miles (33.8km) with 2,000 ft. (609.6m) of climbing. I actually felt much better this ride. Here are my stats for this “recovery” ride. Over the two days we would ride 104 miles (167.4km) with 13,000 ft. (3962m) of climbing. I left anticipating that the Death Ride would be hard. I guess that would be expected for any ride with “Death” in its name.
Guest poster Don Blount continues his account of his metric double century, a ride he’s using to prepare for his killer “death ride” next month.
I was nearly halfway through the Tierra Bella Double Metric Century in Gilroy, Calif. as the voices began getting louder in my head. I had been riding for nearly 4½ hours, which is a long time to spend with your thoughts. When doubt takes a seat in there, strange things happen.
And as I thought about being able to stop if I had a mechanical problem with my bike, an unsettling crunching sound came from my cranks and they jammed.
I got off the bike, looked and tried pedaling them again. Nothing.
The front derailleur had fallen into the big chainring. As I fiddled with it, one rider stopped to help and another. One held the bike, while the other chatted. The talker was local and told me that a bike shop was not far away.
And then the SAG van pulled up. By that time I had gotten the front derailleur into the low chainring. Instead of hopping into the SAG wagon, I pedaled to the bike shop. I was not the only Tierra Bella rider there, several others were also getting repairs. A mechanic there confirmed that my derailleur was broken and that the bike could be ridden within the small chainring without worry.
And now that I had an excuse to quit the ride, I did not want to. I had too much time and effort invested.
I decided to do the last part of the ride in the small chainring. I still had a lot of climbing to do and would spin on the flats.
So I spun. And I spun and spun and spun for the next 25 miles (40km) before reaching the final climb at Hicks Road.
This climb gained 739 feet (225m) in about two miles (3.2km). It would take me about 20 minutes.
On the return trip I missed one turn but traced my steps to get back on course and ended up with a group of riders that I would stay with the rest of the way.
It was good to ride with someone as the afternoon winds in Gilroy picked up.
I rode 127 miles (204km), and my Garmin showed me with 8,632 feet (2,631m) of climbing in 8 hours 54 minutes. That does not include the hour of time I lost while fiddling with my front derailleur.
The Tierra Bella Double Metric Century was a challenging ride that I would do again. I learned how to deal with adversity and work through those negative voices that creep into your head during challenging rides.
I had a long car ride in front of me and just wanted to get home for a hot shower and to unload my gear. I also wanted my quads to stop screaming at me.
Guest poster Don Blount is gearing up for a big, big ride — and he’s using what a lot of us would consider a big ride to prep for it. Here’s his account.
I have other things planned after that ride but my preparation has been geared toward the Death Ride.
Intensity, climbing and saddle time are all components of my training. And yes, I used to hate hills but a 30-pound weight loss (13.61 kilograms) and improved fitness changed my attitude toward them. I can proudly say that I am a decent climber.
Through mid-May I have ridden about 2,800 miles (4,506 kilometers) with 71,000 feet (21,641 meters) of climbing in about 164 hours.
As part of my training, I took on the Tierra Bella Double Metric Century in Gilroy, Calif. in April. The 200K was listed as having 9,600 feet (2,926m) of climbing.
Gilroy is about 1 hr 45 mins from my home in Stockton, Calif. The early start required an overnight stay in Gilroy, which bills itself as the garlic capital of the world. The Ramada Limited was not five-star but it was fine for a night. I spent less than 12 hours in the room.
I rolled out from the Gavilan College starting point at 6:51 a.m. It was cool and I started out wearing a vest and arm warmers. I thought about wearing a long-sleeved jersey and for the first three hours of the ride I wished I had, but one thing about long rides in the spring is that the temperature can fluctuate by 30 degrees (16 degrees Celsius) or more and that is what the forecast called for. In a few hours I would be grateful for the short sleeves.
I rode at a comfortable pace, speaking with a few people along the way. Yet I was still thinking of the climbing that waited ahead.
By the time I reached the first rest stop at Gilroy Hot Springs, I was still cold but felt good. My goal was to finish in less than nine hours.
I had never ridden in this area before this day. However, I noticed how many areas reminded me of routes where I ride regularly. I felt fortunate to live in a good biking area and felt confident about being able to handle what waited ahead.
The real climbing began at about mile 38 (61 km) on the way to Henry W. Coe State Park headquarters. Over the next 11 miles (18 km) we would gain nearly 2,300 feet (701m). It would take me 1 hour 16 minutes to complete the climb.
I was spent by the time I reached the rest stop. I lingered as I waited to recover. A friend had told me about eating some chicken soup at a rest stop when he was not feeling well during a ride. Son of a gun, there was some Cup Noodles soup. I never eat this stuff but I did this time. It was hot, salty and won’t be a regular on my menu anytime soon. But it helped.
Eventually, I started the descent. I exited the park and thought about the remaining 62 miles. I specifically had two thoughts: 1) If a SAG van came by right now, I would be tempted to get in. 2) If I had a mechanical, I could quit now and blame the bike.
I would soon be reminded to be careful what I wished for.
In his next post, Don recaps both the mechanical and mental challenges of the ride.
Guest poster Don Blount is back (he’s been blogging here more often than I have lately) with a look at his January biking miles, and how they’re helping him build for the coming year.
My previous high was set in July; I rode 573 miles (922 km) that month.
Winter is when we get the bulk of our rain in Northern California. However, this winter has been dry. So dry, in fact, that we went more than 50 days without any rain and when it finally rained to break that streak, it was a fairly insignificant amount.
However, those dry days provided plenty of opportunities to ride outdoors.
And I took advantage of that.
For the past nine months I have been riding about four to five days a week. I continued that in January while also adding quite a few longer rides, of about 50 miles (80 km) a week.
To put this in perspective here are my previous January mileage totals: 2013 – 260 miles (418 km); 2012 – 291 (468); 2011 – 313 (503); 2010 – 220 (354).
Another change I have made these past few months is riding for time instead of distance. Instead of planning a 40-mile ride (64 km), I will plan a 2 ½-hour ride with the distance dependent on the pace.
And also, I have changed how I use my bike. I ride for fitness and performance. It is part of my cardio activity for staying healthy but I also ride to become a stronger rider. That change may be just semantics or attitude. But it has worked for me.
A bike mechanic once told me that it was more important to focus on the time you spent in the saddle instead of the distance. Distance will build as you put in the time he said (and no, he did not look like the Ancient Mariner).
I did not understand what he meant then but I do now as I go about preparing for rides I have planned for later this year. The only way to prepare for longer rides is to spend time in the saddle. Some of those rides I am targeting will require about 12 hours of saddle time. The longest ride I have done was a full century that took 6 hours 39 minutes.
I feel comfortable and confident spending time in the saddle, I just need to continue building.
In January, my long rides were three to four hours. They will be getting longer this month. I already have planned a ride that I am told will take six hours, it is 87 miles (140 km) with 7,000 feet (2,133 meters) of and a metric century too.
I do not expect to ride 600 miles (965 km) every month, but I take satisfaction in getting off to a good start in building a strong foundation for the year.