Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Death Ride (July 14, 2012)

The Death Ride:  Tour of the California Alps
December 14, 2012


Some time last fall, some cyclist friends put the peer pressure on me to sign up for the Death Ride this year.  Of course, it does not take that much persuading to get me to agree to some crazy endeavor.  Javier also had me hooked when he said they had cold soda at every rest stop.  ;-)

Prior to registration opening, quite a number of my cycling friends had said they were going to do the ride this year.  This made me more excited to be able to do the ride with friends.  Having such a great bonding experience training and finishing a marathon with my running friends, I looked forward to the bonding experience of training and finishing the Death Ride with my cycling friends.  I hoped for a similar experience.

On December 14, 2011, when registration open, my friends and I sent numerous messages of excitement to each other as we counted down the minutes to registration opening.  Then, there was quite the buzz of excitement as we all got in.  Javier, who has done the ride three times prior, had already had a cabin arranged for a group of us to stay at the days prior to the ride.  (Craig registered in the second wave in March and later, I persuaded Javier to let him stay at the cabin too).

Javier set up numerous training rides.  I managed to go to a few but my crazy training schedule made it difficult.  For me, a few double centuries were happening the months leading up to the Death Ride.  Those doubles satisfied most of my Death Ride training.  For one, I developed the endurance to spend all day long in the saddle.  Also, I find in many doubles, they like to give you the big climbs later in the ride so I got used to climbing on tired legs.  Climbing has definitely become one of my strong suits in cycling.  I am not so fast on the flats but I think I can climb pretty decently.  With each double I did, I got even more excited for the Death Ride.

A couple days prior to the ride, Craig and I headed out to Markleeville to join the rest of the group at the cabin.  12 of us would be staying at the cabin over the next few days.  The days prior to the ride were nice with a rather fun, and somewhat wacky group of people.  It was fun and mostly relaxing hanging out together.

Death Ride Day

On Saturday, at 3:00 a.m., an alarm goes off.  Sharel sits up in her bed and announces, it's time!  She is all peppy now.  The rest of the cabin starts to get up and get ready.  We get on our gear.  Some of the group goes straight for the coffee.  Kallie had made us yummy waffles the evening before and has them sitting out for us.  I eat a few and drink a can of Coke.

All of us got our bikes ready yesterday evening.  They sit all lined up in the garage, just about ready to roll out.   Javier and Craig pump up the tires on a few bikes and we get together the last of our things.  It is a little nippy outside but know it will get warm.  I opt to not wear the jacket but to take my full-fingered gloves.

It is pitch black outside.  We get our bikes onto teh road and turn our lights.  Kallie, Sarah and Mica hang out watching us.  Sarah and Mica plan to leave a little later in the morning (since they are faster).  

At 4 a.m., we are all lined up ready to start our Death Ride adventure.  Everyone seems excited.  We sit for a moment.  Finally, Todd says "someone start already!"  Then, Craig rolls out.  I follow shortly after.  

We all roll down the hill from the cabin into Markleeville and turn right onto the ride course.  We follow the road towards Monitor Pass.  A number of other cyclists are out starting out early too.  I follow behind Craig, Alex, and Jacob for a bit.

We roll down pass the Carson River.  Javier had warned us that it gets cold when you get down by the river.  As we pass the river, I feel the cooler air and am glad I have my full fingered gloves on.  As we continue on, Craig, Alex, and Jacob slowly drift ahead of me into the darkness.

Pass 1 - The Front Side of Monitor

I reach the base of Monitor and see Craig, Alex, and Jacob standing there waiting.  As we wait, we see Todd ride by without stopping.  He says "I'll see you on the other side!"  Javier then joins up with us.   Not seeing some of the others after a bit, some of us start off up Monitor.  Craig says he'll wait on Jim.  Craig has me a little worried today as he's been trying to recover from an injury for the past few weeks.  I worry that he may over exert himself and injure himself more.  I wish him good luck today and remind him to not go too hard.  He says he won't.  I then go on ahead with Jacob to start the climb.

In not too long, Alex and Craig pass me.  I ride behind Jacob for a bit.  Jacob is riding a borrowed a fancy, expensive, fast bike and slowly gets farther and farther ahead of me until he disappears into the darkness.  It is pitch black outside and I cannot really see too much ahead of me.  I do not think about how much of this hill I have to climb.  I just pedal away.  Dale spots me the dark and says hi to me.  I hear his voice but do not really see him.

I continue pedaling away up the hill.  Pedal, Pedal, Pedal.  Javier had said that to us when we were out driving the course a couple days ago.  In my head, I hear his voice saying Pedal, Pedal, Pedal.  Shortly after this thought, Javier comes riding pass me saying "Pedal, pedal, pedal."  This gives me a little chuckle and I continue to pedal away.

I start to breath a little heavily.  Not too much but then, I realize what I had forgotten.  Something is always forgotten.  I had left the inhaler back at the cabin.  I got an inhaler about a month ago after having a few breathing problems at some events.  I think I may have exercise induced asthma.  Craig had insisted I get one before Death Ride so I did.  I had some slight concerns about whether my lungs would be okay during this ride.  So far so good though.  I have survived through tough climbs while struggling to breath.  I tell myself that I just need to be extra careful about pacing myself.  For the time being, I feel okay and the elevation does not seem to be bothering me.

The sky starts to lighten a little bit as we get higher and higher up the hill.  I see a number of cyclists pulling over to the side to de-jacket or change gloves or take pictures.  One cyclist I see riding far to the right and into the shrubs and topple over.  I keep going along.

At some point, we pass an aid station, which does not look open.  I continue riding along.  I don't like to stop mid hill.  But, there is enough light now that I turn my Garmin screen to show the elevation I am at.  I see I am nearing 8000 feet.  This means I am almost to the top.  I cannot remember how long the climb is, mile wise, but I remember the summit being around 8300 feet.  I just tell myself a few more hundred feet to the top.  I look down the side of the mountain and can see a line of lights weaving their way up the hill.  This is neat to see.

Finally, I come to the rest stop at the top of Monitor.  I roll in and get my first pass sticker put on the bib on my back. First one down!  woot!

At the rest stop, I see Jacob.  As I approach him, he tells me Alex, Craig, and Jim went down to the bottom and Javier is in the bathroom.  I quickly use the bathroom and refill my water and hurry back out hoping to see the guys at the next stop.

I roll out of the rest stop and there's a small incline.  I shift and my chain falls off my bike.  I get my chain back on and glad this didn't happen in the middle of a big climb.  I then ride along for a bit and then start the long descent to the bottom of the backside of Monitor.

I am grateful that we did the extra early start as it is not so crowded on the mountain pass.  It would be scary to try to descend this fast while trying to watch out for people. In this early hour, I am able to just fly down, getting over 40 mph at some points.  I only see about three cyclists as I descend down.  Whee!!!

As I near the bottom, I see Todd pass me in the other direction, as he is climbing up the backside of Monitor now.  I then hit the bottom and see Craig, Alex, and Jim just about to roll out.  I yell at Craig but he doesn't hear me.  I see the three of them start going back up Monitor.

Pass 1 - The Back Side of Monitor

Here, they give you the sticker before you do the second climb.  I hurry up and get my sticker put on and then make a quick u-turn and charge up the hill trying to catch up to Craig since he is still in sight.

I catch up to Craig, Alex, and Jim but have to really catch my breath.  I talk to Craig for a bit as we ride up the hill.  The four of us mostly stay together for about a mile or less.  Then, Jim says he has a flat.  He stops to change it and the other guys stop momentarily too.  I continue on ahead knowing they will catch up to me.  Moments later, Craig and Alex pass me up and disappear up the hill.

I pedal away up and up and up the hill.   I spot Sarah descending down the hill.  Oh my goodness!  She is definitely flying since she started an hour after we did and is already descending down Monitor.  I look to see if Mica is shortly behind her as she had said that her plan was to ride with Mica all day, have Mica pace her.  Of course, Sarah can never really hang back.  And, I see that she has already left Mica in the dust.

As I climb away, I see a few folks that are descending on the other side singing as they head down the hill.  One guy is bellowing some song loudly for all of us on the mountain pass to hear.  Another guy sings quietly to himself.  Odd.  But, interesting.

At some point, I ride around a curve and come out of the shade into the sun.  It feels nice.  My descent was a wee bit cold.  A cyclist near me makes a comment on how nice the sun feels.  We ride together for a bit chit chatting.  He is from Reno.  He has done the Death Ride 5 times.  He does the ride with his family and friends but they are all scattered as they all ride different paces.   He gives me a few tips about finishing the Death Ride.

He makes mention his brother just got his California Triple Crown.  I tell him "me too!"   He says those long distances are not for him.  He then says "You're a California Triple Crown winner, eh?  Then, it is an honor to be riding with you."  That's nice.  In a bit, he rides on ahead and starts another conversation with another cyclist.  Super friendly guy.

I ride along and then I see Mica descending on the other side.  We say hi to each other.  I see Ralph descending too and wave to him.  I do begin to wonder where Sharel is as I have not seen her.  It starts to get a little warm so I take off my gloves.  I am glad I did opt for the full fingered gloves as it was a bit nippy in the dark.

As I head up the hill, I see this water stop.  I see a group of boys yelling excitedly.  I see a couple boys taking bottles from the cyclists, sprinting up the hill then refilling the bottle and handing it back to the cyclist as it passes back by.  This is neat and I am very amused by the excitement of the boys.

My bottle isn't too empty so I drink some more water as I want to see them refill the bottle.  I get up to the boys all cheering and hand one boy a bottle.  I watch him sprint ahead of me as I continue to climb up.  The other boys are yelling "go, go, go!!"  Another boy with another cyclists bottle runs pass me as well.  Another boy pumps the water and they screw the cap back on and hand me the bottle as I pass by.  Everyone here is cheering excitedly.  Quite a process but fun to see!

After a bit, Jim and Jacob catch up to me.  I chit chat with Jacob for a bit.  I ask him how he likes this bike he's borrowing.  He tells me how much he is enjoying it and how it is making him faster than he would normally be.  I can just see how he's just loving his new (temporary) toy.

We finally reach the top of Monitor Pass (again).  Two passes down!  Woot!

Jim and Jacob just descend down the front side without stopping at the top.  I roll up to the water table to refill my bottle and scan around looking for Craig.  I then spot Craig and Alex waving to me.

I roll over to them.  I tell them I do not need to rest and let's just go down.  Alex, who's not the biggest fan of descending, says he'll be hanging back.  Craig and I then roll out and start the descent down the front side of Monitor.

One of the few things, possibly the only thing, on the bike I can do almost as fast as Craig is descend.  On this descent, I stay mostly behind him  except when we are passing others.  The passes are starting to get a little more crowded but we are still towards the front of the main crowds.

We just fly down.  I catch a glimpse of bike computer reading 48-49 mph.  I wonder if I'll break 50 mph.   A group splits Craig and I up for a bit.  But after I get around them, I get right behind Craig's wheel.  Craig glances back and I am pretty sure he knows I am right behind him.  Me being able to descend well is a random thing that seems to make Craig proud.  I am certain he is smiling at me now.

As we reach the bottom of Monitor, we spot Kallie.  Kallie (Javier's wife) is being our awesome support to us Hammerin' Wheels riders today.   She has ridden out here with a little trailer, bringing our bags of stuff of things we may need.  We unload our lights and extra layering.  I take a couple Motrin pills as my knees are starting to bother me.  I grab a few more GUs to stuff in my jersey as I want to be a little more diligent about my fueling from here on out.   In addition to having our drop bags, it is also nice to see Kallie as she gives a little update on who she has seen so far.  And of course, always nice to see a friendly person cheering you on when you're on these kinds of adventures.  :)

Pass 3 - Front Side of Ebbetts

As we leave Kallie, Craig takes off towards Ebbetts.  Alex and I roll out after a bit.  We ride to Ebbetts passing the Carson River.  It is a pretty day out.  Not too hot, so far.  Ebbetts is a long climb so I tell Alex that I may put in my headphones and listen to a podcast for this next climb.  Alex talks about what music he plans to listen to.

At the bottom of Ebbetts, I put in one earphone and start playing some downloads I had from ultrarunningpodcast.  Alex decides to go use the bathroom first so I head out to start the climb.   Alex eventually passes me and rides with me for a short bit before he says he's going to try to catch up to Craig.  I watch him disappear.  I just truck away at the hill listening to my podcast about ultra running (still a runner at heart even when I am disguised as a cyclist).

At some point, Sarah comes flying pass me.  I see she is very focused and really hammering away up the hill.  I yell "Go Sarah!"  as she flies ahead of me.  She continues riding hard and yells back "Who said that?!....Helen?"  She continues charging up the hill in classic Sarah fashion.

I ride along and see the waterfalls that Jacob had pointed out to when we drove out here the other day.  Nice to be a little familiar with the climb.  Despite the slightly steeper grade, Ebbetts is really the prettiest of all the passes.  I enjoy seeing the trees and such all around.  I listen away to my podcast and pedal away.

I pass some silly girls dressed kind of in Hawaiian themed outfits and they cheer cyclists along. They kind of look drunk.  I keep going.  Then, the road curves a bit to the left and I am riding with a little sun in my eyes.  I cannot quite see clearly but I see a cyclist on the side of the road.  He looks like he has on a Hammerin' Wheels jersey.  I see him bent over throwing up on the side.  But, I think I know him.  I get closer and realize it is Todd.  Oh no!  This really worries me.  Todd does not look so good.

As I get closer, I ask him if he's okay and I get ready to unclip and stop.  Todd straightens back up and says "I'm okay. I always throw up."  I ask him if he needs anything.  He says no and that he's fine.  So, I keep going.  Though, Todd has me confused with his comment that he always throws up.  I don't remember him throwing up at other events we have done together.  I hope that him throwing him just clears his system and he can start riding again.

Ebbetts is a bit longer than Monitor and some steeper pitches here and there.  I have to really work to get up some sections but I keep plugging along listening to my podcast.  The podcast definitely helps the time pass by a bit as I pedal away up the hill.

Finally, I reach the top.  It is chaotic at the top with tons of cyclists all over the place.  I get my sticker.  3rd pass who-hoo!  Just too more to go!

This rest stop is so crowded that I think it better I keep going and rest at the rest stop at the bottom instead. As I roll through the rest stop, I quickly scan to see if Craig is here, not wanting to miss him.  Not seeing him, I figure he's at the bottom so I roll on through.

Ebbetts is getting more crowded though.  The road on Ebbetts is much more narrow than Monitor so you really have to watch out for cyclists climbing up as you are descending down, especially when you come around corners.  But, I make it to the bottom safe and sounds.  The backside of Ebbetts is a bit shorter than the front side so it does not take me too long to descend down the back side and reach the next rest stop.

At the rest stop, I see Craig and Alex.  I catch up with Craig on how the ride is going for him.  He seems in good spirits and more importantly, not having any pain.  He tells me some of the people he has seen so far.  As I wander over to the food tables, Bill spots me.  We catch up a little.  Craig and Alex decide to take off.   After snacking a little on potato chips and drinking half a Coke can, I get ready to ride again.

As I am getting to my bike, I see Mica roll into the rest stop.  He tells me who he's seen so far.  He tells me how Sarah left him as soon as they turned into Markleeville.  I ask him if he's seen Todd and he tells me he saw Todd by the lake throwing up.  Oh, poor Todd!

Pass 4 - the Backside of Ebbetts

Jacob and I then start climbing the backside of Ebbetts.  I think I will try to stay with Jacob as long as I can.  In not too long, I see Jacob is really starting to struggle.  I think his fancy, fast loaner bike made him too excited and he might have started off too hard and feeling it now.  I pass up Jacob and continue my way up the hill.  Shortly later, I spot Javier coming down Ebbetts.  Oh good, I think.  He'll probably catch up to Jacob (his son).

I climb up the backside of Ebbetts enjoying the scenery.  I no longer have my podcast playing.  I just pedal away up and up.  A guy passes me by and makes some sort of "good job" comment.  I thank him.  As he passes, I notice he is not wearing a bike helmet on.  His helmet is hanging off one of his shifters.  I think how that's a good place to have your helmet especially as there are numerous cyclists starting to descending on the other side of this narrow road.

I see Todd flying down the other side.  He looks like he's doing okay.  I am glad to see him riding his bike.  Blaine later comes flying down the hill and sees me and hollers loudly "HELEN!!!!"  I look up and realize it is Blaine and yell back at him.  Right after, a woman behind me passes me and says "Good job Helen!"  I guess she figured that's my name since Blaine yelled it so loud.

At some point, Jim comes up behind me.  He rides with me for a bit.  Jim is just like an excited kid.  He's very energetic and just so excited to be out here.  I love that joy he has.   He comments on how neat it is to see other folks out wearing the Hammerin' Wheels jersey.  It is rather nice that we can see other at various places in the ride.  We ride together off and on as we head up the hill (Jim passes me at one point but then stops at another point when I pass him but he catches back up).

I spot Sharel as she descends on the other side.  She is smiling at me as I yell out to her.  I am really happy to see she seems to be enjoying herself.  I knew she was super worried the day before but glad she seems to be doing well.  In a short bit, I see Jeff as he descends the backside of Ebbetts.

Jim and I reach the top of Ebbetts together.  The top is even more chaotic and we slowly roll through, trying to weave through all the crowds of cyclists.  One guy nearly knocks me over as he walks out in front of me without looking.  I think about how I am done with the four passes!  Just one more to go!

We finally get through the crowds and are behind a couple of cyclists that are about to start the descent as well.  The two are chit chatting away and occupying the width of the road.  I ride behind them for a bit waiting for one to move over.  They continue chit chatting away until I finally say can one of you move over!

The lady moves over and I pass and start the descent!  The front side of Ebbetts is a very technical descent.  It has some steep grades so you can pick up speed pretty quickly but there are some technical turns.  Also, there are quite a bit of cyclists climbing Ebbetts that you have to watch out for.  I descend briskly but take my turns cautiously.  Most of the cyclists that are climbing on the opposite side of the road are pretty good about staying on their side of the road allowing me to pass them safely.

At one point, halfway down the hill, my bike begins to wobble.  Then, a little more.  The cyclist behind me asks me if I am okay.  I say I am going to slow down.  He passes me up and says good idea.  I slow myself down to 15 mph and my bike stops wobbling.  I start descending a bit slower.  The annoying couple from the top (the ones chit chatting and not moving over) as well as Jim pass me.

I come around some sharp turns that had signs saying "slow, slower, slowest."  Then, things are not quite as technical and I pick back up my speed.  I catch back up to Jim and ride behind for a bit.  He is behind the annoying couple.  They start to slow down.  The girl is riding kind of to the rear left of the guy so making passing tough.  I want to pass but not sure about passing all three of them.  So, I just hang back behind Jim.

At one point, Jim finally seizes the moment and passes the annoying couple.  I stay right behind Jim's wheel so very proud of him as to the way he attacked pass the annoying couple.  We then start flying down Ebbetts.   A few other guys come passing by and I chase a few of them, just having fun on this descent.

As I get down the pass, I spot Diane (Jim's wife) on the side of the road with her camera looking for Jim.  I must be near lunch as Jim told me Diane would be about a mile from the lunch stop.  And sure enough, a mile later, I roll into the lunch stop.

At the lunch stop, I plug my garmin into the charger and then go looking for some of the others.  I see Craig, Alex, and Mica.  I grab some food and join them.  Lunch is okay.  The food isn't that appetizing to me.  I eat some of a cheese sandwich and a bunch of watermelon.    We hang out for a bit.  I see Javier, Jacob, and Todd come in.  When I talk to Todd, he says he's doing much better (he looks much better too).  I am relieved he's doing better.

From Ebbetts to Carson Pass

From Ebbetts, you have to ride to Carson Pass.  Just getting there can be tiring for some.  It's a bit of a ride to get over there and you have to pass through Markleeville and the start of the ride.  Some people opt out after four passes.

As I get ready to roll out, I think Craig and Alex are going to just roll ahead but Craig tells me that he plans for all of us to stick together at least until we get to Carson.  That's nice.  Then, Craig, Alex, Mica, and I start riding back towards Markleeville.

Alex and Craig head up a nice paceline.  I hear a few cyclist behind Mica ask to tack on.  He says go ahead.  We go along at a nice brisk pace out of Ebbetts, pass Monitor and back towards town.  At one point, we hit a small(ish) hill and my pace drops a bit.  It is hard for me to keep up with the guys when we start hitting hills.  So, I fall back.  I just continue along as the rest of the pace line passes me.

As I crest the hill, I feel myself huffing and puffing heavily.  I am starting to hyperventilate a bit.  Now, the breathing issues I was worried about are starting.  I worry a bit about Carson Pass, as it will be 17 miles.  Also, the day is warming up and hills, heat, and me are not a good combo.  I ponder about going to get my inhaler since it is back at the cabin.  I think about telling Craig that I am starting to have breathing problems but he's gotten a bit ahead of me and seems to be enjoying himself so I decide not too.

As I start rolling down the hill, I see Craig and Mica slow down a bit and it looks like they are telling Alex to do the same.  Aw, the guys are waiting for me.   I catch back up to them and they pick back up the pace and shortly later we roll into Markleeville.

As we roll in, we spot Kallie and Ralph standing on the side of the road cheering us on.  Though none of us need anything, we decide to stop to say hi.  Ralph had opted out of the ride after the second pass feeling today was not his day.  The other guys chit chat with Kallie for a bit.  Kallie is telling them who she's seen go by and such.  I then decide to talk to Ralph about how I forgot my inhaler and how I just started to have breathing problems.  He says he can hear it in my voice.

Craig, Alex, and Mica get ready to roll out again.  I tell them to go on ahead as I am working out how to get my inhaler.  Telling Kallie and Ralph about my inhaler, they decide to have Ralph go get it and use Kallie's car to drive it to me later down the road.  Ralph says go on ahead, I'll find you.  I then start riding out to Carson Pass with a bit of relief that I will be getting my inhaler.

I roll out of Markleeville enjoying seeing all the people out along the road cheering cyclists on.  I then pass Turtle Rock (where the ride start is) and see some more people cheering cyclists on.  I also see quite a number of cyclists that are packing back up their bikes.  These must be the folks that opt out after four passes.  At one point, I ride pass a spectator lady.  She seems rather excited to see that I am a girl and gives me some extra cheering saying "right on!  nice to see a woman out!  great job!!"

There are a few roller hills from here to the bottom of Carson pass.  I get over them mostly okay but can feel my lungs tightening up at moments.  I try to take it easy.  My chest hurts a little and I can feel my eyes watering a bit.  I am starting to worry a bit.  Every vehicle that passes, I look to see if it is Ralph.  I have moments where I have to gasp for air and I try to do what I can to calm my breathing down.  I know Ralph will find me in not too long.

As I get closer to the next rest stop, Ralph finally comes pass me.  What great timing as there is a parking lot shortly ahead of me that he is able to pull into.  I am so happy to see Ralph.  I roll up to the driver's window and before he hands me my inhaler, he says "now tell your grandpa that you're going to be okay."  (we have an ongoing joke about how Ralph is my grandpa, just like Javier is my father and Sarah is my sister).  I tell him I will be fine, especially now I have my inhaler.  I thank him so much for it.  He tells me I am doing great.

I take a couple hits from my inhaler.  My lungs open back up and I feel such relief.  I am ready for the fifth and final pass of the day!

Pass 5 - Carson Pass

I roll into the Woodford's rest stop just wanting to refill my water and start climbing.  A guy is standing on a later with a hose spraying cyclists.  I roll myself under him and get sprayed.  Feels nice as the day is starting to warm up.  I then roll myself to the water table to refill my water bottle.  A volunteer insists on parking my bike for me so takes my bike away as I go refill my bottle.

After getting my bottles filled and locating my bike, I start riding out to Carson Pass.  Someone said it is a 17ish mile climb.  Though the grade is not too steep on this one.  It is just a lot longer.  Since it is going to be a long grind, I pop in my earphone and play my ultrarunningpodcast.

I pedal, pedal, pedal away for a number of miles.  At one point, I catch a glimpse of Sarah coming flying down Carson Pass, nearly done with her ride (she's a fast one!).  I continue along just listening to my podcast and pedaling away.  There is nothing really too exciting to see during this climb.  It is just a long grind.

The day prior, a group of us drove Carson Pass.  As we were driving, Jeff commented how one of the mountain peaks to the left looked like a crooked nipple.  We then made jokes about "boob mountain."  So, as I ride along up Carson Pass now, I start looking to the left for "boob mountain."  Trees are blocking my view.  I continue on and on, still wondering how long will it be before I see "boob mountain."  Good grief, this hill is a lot longer than I remember it being!

Halfway up there is a rest stop, Picketts Junction.  I roll past it just wanting to get to the top of the hill, still wondering how much longer until I see boob mountain.  But, I continue pedaling, pedaling, pedaling.  The hill continues to go on and on and on.  Though, it does level out for a little bit but things seem to be slow going.

After a good while, I finally spot the two mountain tops that Jeff and the others had joked about the day prior. Yes, I finally see boob mountain.  I am making progress up this hill!  Pedal, pedal, pedal.  I see Joe flying down the hill and attempt to say hi to him but a passing truck blocks his view of me.  A little later, I see Bill heading down the hill.

A little later, I see the sign for Red Lake.  I know I must be getting closing having seen the rather green looking "Red" lake the other day.  I am mentally picturing the top of the pass and know I have to be getting close.  Pedal, pedal, pedal.  My pace starts to slow down some more but I continue to pedal away.

Finally, some spectators on the side yell out "good job!  just two more miles to the top!"  Oh good, just two more miles.  I look up and see the road wind to the left.  Man, that's one long looking two miles.  But, I eventually pedal my way up and up and up.

As I come around the final switchback, getting oh so close to the next rest stop, my breathing starts to get heavy.  I start gasping a little bit for breath.  My eyes are starting to water too as my chest is tightening.  I make my way into the next rest stop.  A lady puts the fifth and final sticker on my bib and hands me a Death Ride pin.

I hear all sorts of people saying congratulations but I just want to get off my bike right now.  I ride over to a corner of the parking lot.  Craig comes over to greet me but I am having a hard time breathing.  He takes my bike from me as I grab my inhaler and take a couple huffs.  I then take a seat under a tent until my breathing returns to normal.

I rest for a bit enjoying some soda and ice cream sandwiches.  Craig seems rather tired and tells me that last climb was mentally grueling.  Alex grumbles a bit about Carson Pass.  Mica hangs out for a little and then takes off.  Shortly later, I see Gil and Javier have made it to the top too.   I think we all have mixed feelings of happiness to be done with all five passes as well as exhaustion and un-eagerness that we still have to ride all the way back to the cabin.  

Returning to the Cabin

After a bit, Craig, Alex, Gil, and I head out of the rest stop.  We start the descent and somehow Alex gets in front of an SUV.  Craig and I are stuck behind the SUV.  Alex, the SUV, Craig, and I ride like this for a bit. Craig and I both want to be going a bit faster.  Alex is going at his moderate descending pace and the SUV is stuck behind Alex.  

At some point, Craig gets frustrated and tries to yell out to Alex to move over.  The SUV eventually slides over to the right and lets Craig and I pass.  We then bomb down the hill.   Alex would catch up to the two of us here and there.  But, we would then pass him again.  The three of us kind of shuffled ourselves about as we headed down Carson.  

After reaching the bottom, we turn towards Markleeville.  There are a number of roller hills to get back.  Alex zips ahead and disappears in the distance.  Craig and I continue to ride together.  

We pass Turtle Rock, where the official ride start/finish are.  We see less vehicles than earlier but still a number on the side of the road with people hanging out, somewhat tailgating or camping.  

As we get over the last roller hill, Craig ends on the tail of some vehicle and starts drafting behind it all the way down the hill.  I think the vehicle was not so keen on that as it started to accelerate a bit but Craig keeps up with it for a bit.
In Markleeville, Craig waits for me.  We then make our way back to the cabin, not looking forward to having to climb a few more little hills back.  The climbing back to the cabin is not as bad as anticipated and in not too long, we see the cabin.  We roll in.  And, we are good with being done (Craig maybe moreso than me).  

So, that's the Death Ride.  I got my five sticker for finishing all five passes.  And, I didn't die.  So, a pretty good ride.  ;-)


I had a really enjoyable time out at the Death Ride.   I think I had more fun at the Death Ride than at my doubles.  I enjoyed most of the climbing.  Carson got a little tiring towards the end of the day but Monitor and Ebbetts had some amazing views.  It was fun seeing various friends out along the ride.  The support was excellent.  Great volunteers out!   And, it was fun having spent a few extra days hanging out with good friends at the cabin.  This is definitely something I would consider doing again.  Not sure about next year as I have other crazy plans in mind.  ;-)


First and foremost, I would like to thank Javier for encouraging me to do the Death Ride.  Thank you for sharing your prior experiences and answering whatever questions I had about the event, the training, etc..  Thank you for ALL the training rides you set up for myself and the others.  I did not feel nervous about completing the ride and I think it is because you really helped me train well for it.  I thank you for arranging such a comfortable and convenient place for all of us to stay at before and after the ride.  The cabin was fantastic.  Also, thanks for squeezing Craig into the cabin after you said it was full.  As always, I will continue to thank you for all your support and encouragement and for how much you have helped me become a better cyclist in the past year or so.  Thank you!

Thank you to Kallie!  You were fan-freaking-tastic to myself and the others at the cabin.  Thank you for preparing such wonderful meals for us.  Thank you for taking care of us.  Thank you for riding out with our drop bags to monitor and for cheering us on throughout the ride.  I also thank you for all your support and encouragement in all my crazy adventures!

Thank you Ralph Keith for peer pressuring me into this crazy endeavor last October.  It is been fun getting to know you more during the process too.  And, I cannot thank you enough for being my life saver in bringing me my inhaler to me while I was riding out to Carson.

Thanks to the rest of the cabin folks -- Sarah, Sharel, Alex, Todd, Jacob, Jeff, and Mica.  It was fun training with some of you all and fun getting to hang out with some of you for a few days in Markleeville.  Made for a really fun experience getting to do it with friends.

Thank you to the rest of my Hammerin' Wheels friends that I trained with and/or rode with.  It was fun getting to train with you and seeing so many of you out there on the ride!

Lastly, I thank you Craig for becoming such a wonderful and significant person in my life during my journey to the Death Ride.  This ride has a funny connection with you.  At a training ride at Mount Diablo, you caught my attention.  I am grateful you were able to get into the Death Ride in the second wave.  I thank you for all the fun times we had training for the Death Ride.  I thank you for helping me out with my bike for various things including but not limited to replacing my brake pads, cleaning my bike, etc...  I thank you in general for the many ways you take care of me and look out of me, such as make me go get an inhaler.  :P I thank you for waiting for me throughout the ride and that we got to ride some parts of the ride together.  I am really happy we got to share the experience together and look forward to many more fun adventures with you.  :)

No comments:

Post a Comment