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My Death Ride report (spoiler: I'm a big wuss)(16 posts)

My Death Ride report (spoiler: I'm a big wuss)CHRoadie
Jul 14, 2003 7:53 AM
Good morning, fellow RBR'ers. Just got back from Tahoe--what a ride! Here's my story:

I met a couple of friends at Turtle Rock Park at 5am and we started riding at 5:15. Yes, it was still dark, but the authorities were being pretty flexible. Before long we were at the foot of the first climb, going up Monitor Pass. One of my friends was not completely prepared, as he had not gotten in as much training as he should have, and he only had a 12x27 to go with his double. I had the same cassette, but with the addition of a triple (which I would use extensively throughout the day!).

I spun up the front side of Monitor and felt really good. Going down the backside I noticed a sign that said "8% grade next 3 miles". Wow. Hey, a straightaway--let's see if I can hit 50mph. I do. I've never hit 50 before (coming down from Angeles Oaks, the best I can do is about 35). I'm thinking "coming back up is going to hurt". Down to the bottom, fuel up, take off again. I'm trying to minimize my time in the stops to maximize my ride time before the 4pm cutoff at Woodfords. Back up the back side of Monitor and I'm still feeling really good. The weather is still cool at this point and I'm trying to take advantage of that for as long as I can. This is where I see one of the cooler groups of volunteers: a group of guys take your water bottle, then sprint up to the water station, fill it up, and have it waiting for you by the time you get there. Very nice. I reach Monitor Pass for the second time before 9am. Back down the front side (I hit 50mph again) and over to the start of Ebbetts Pass.

Ebbetts suckers you in, starting with some nice rollers. Then it gets evil. I'm in my granny and using my 25 & 27 exclusively, but I'm still passing some people. It's still cool, and there's no wind, so I'm pleased with the weather. At check-in the day before it was 97 degrees at Turtle Rock Park, and that would have been brutal on a climb like Ebbetts. The last 3 miles are especially tough with spots up to 12%. The volunteers have marked the last 12 kilometers on the road with promises of heaven at the top. Finally reach the summit (over 8.700 feet), and there are girls here wearing wings and handing out licorice (am I halucinating?). I get my sticker and head down the backside. This decent scares me as it is fast, windy & bumpy. I actually get launched out of the saddle on more than one occassion. Down at the bottom I fuel up and rest for a bit before trying to tackle the 4th climb of the day. This one is only about 5 miles, but it's steep and I'm tired. For the first time I have to pull over and rest during an ascent, but I make it to the top by 12:06pm. I rest for a bit to get my legs back before trying the very tricky decent back down Ebbetts.

The road to the start of Carson Pass is long. This is where the weather turned against us. It got very hot and the wind picked up. Was it just me, or was there a headwind no matter what direction I rode in? Passing through Markleeville, the folks are lining the streets in lawn chairs and cheering us on. This was nice. I finally reach Woodfords at 1:32pm. When planning for this ride, I set what I thought were realistic time goals for the different cutoffs, and I also tried to figure an optimistic goal. I realistically thought I could get to Woodfords by 3pm, and optimistically I hoped for 2pm. I was very excited to have reached this point by 1:30. At this rest stop I get hosed down and fill my bottles with ice water. Up I go.

This is where the story gets sad. Fighting the headwind and 7% grades, the wheels fall off. My legs start to cramp, which I've never experienced before. I stop to rest a few times and massage my calves, but things are not getting better. Then, about a mile before Pickets Junction I nearly throw up. I stop for about 10 minutes but don't feel any better. At this point I am on empty. I make the tough decision to turn around
Rest of reportCHRoadie
Jul 14, 2003 7:54 AM
I make the tough decision to turn around. I know that if I could have reached Picketts I could have rested and cooled down before tackling the final climb, but I also know that I was completely spent, and if I had rested for any period of time I probably wouldn't have wanted to get back on the bike at all. I decide that I can live with the shame of a dnf. I'm so tired that on the final little hill back to the parking lot I have to pull over twice.

Well, that's the end of my story. I gave it my best shot and came up just a little short. According to my computer, the final stats were: 103 miles, 12,600 feet of climbing (if I'd done the whole thing, it probably would have read about 14,000 feet of climbing as I'd passed the 7,000 foot mark on Carson).
Rest of reportMellowVelo
Jul 14, 2003 10:03 AM
We probably saw each other out on the ride at some point. If you saw an unhappy guy sitting in his green ford escort along 89 past Turtle Rock - that was me comtemplating a DNF.

Don't feel bad - I finished the ride last year & cut the ride short at only 90 miles tis (4 passes & stopped at my car which was parked on the highway)

I don't know what went wrong. I think I just didn't get enough sleep friday night. My rib muscles were getting tight and making it painful to take deep breaths.. My legs were still strong but I just didn't want to deal with 15 more miles of climbing in 100 degree heat. My bike computer said it was 106 when I stopped. That may not be the "official temperature" but it was that hot on the pavement in direct sunlight. I might have been going too hard on the first four climbs - I was passing people left & right on all 4 climbs but I never put myself into difficulty. I ended the ride about a mile from woodfords at some time around 1:30. I would have liked to have finished again but I'm glad with what I did do.
Rest of reportCHRoadie
Jul 14, 2003 10:20 AM
There's always next year! I plan on trying again. My friends couldn't believe I'd quit so far in, but there comes a point when you're just toast. bragging rights are only worth so much. :-)

Congrats on the 4 passes!! This is one tough ride!
No wuss factor with you guysPaulCL
Jul 14, 2003 10:42 AM
You guys didn't 'wuss' did a hell of a long ride, lots of climbing, in painfully hot weather. You should be commended.

As an experienced early-season cramper, the cramps are usually due to not drinking enough water. Skip the gatorade, etc...and drink more plain old H2O next time. On long rides, I have one bottle for water and one for a sports drink.

I, too, had the "wuss" feeling a few weeks ago - but got over it. I just got back from a week in Colorado of riding (Pedal the Peaks 'challenge' tour). 530 miles in 6 days, plus one day off. On the last day, my back was cramping, my butt hurt with every stroke, so I sagged it with 50 miles to go. I, too, felt like a wuss until someone put it in perspective. A fellow-sagger reminded me of the facts: I had just ridden 480+ miles in 6 days (> 3x my average weekly miles) over about 8-10 mountain passes and into horrible Wyoming/Colorado winds - and he said that there was no shame giving up while in real pain when you're doing it for fun. I was on vacation, so what if my body said "NO" to the last 50 miles.

Once again, congrats on what you accomplished. Next year, plan to do more. Drink that water!
No wuss factor with you guysCHRoadie
Jul 14, 2003 11:07 AM
I went through 4 bottles of Sustained Energy and a full 70oz CamelBak, plus a bunch of e-caps. I was trying to eat and drink everything I could get my hands on. Part of the problem was how dry it was. I heard the weather report the next day, and it said that the dew point was below freezing, which means that the air was just bone dry. I was trying to sweat, but I think all I was doing was pushing salt straight out my pores. I got hosed down at Woodfords and was dry again in about 3 minutes.
In that weather....PaulCL
Jul 14, 2003 11:24 AM calves and quads would have turned to stone.

Apparently, the water was being sucked out of your system. Next year, ride with an IV solution stuck into your arm. The hospital usually puts the poles on wheels to make it easier to have the patients mobile. Borrow one. Now..does Mavic make low spoke count, campy-hubbed, IV-pole wheelsets??? hmmmm.......
Congrats on what you accomplished. My first time..Brooks
Jul 14, 2003 2:39 PM
on the Death Ride this year was about what I expected (except for the wind and the heat from Woodfords to Picketts). I used a double crank with a 12-27 cassette. Sitting in the 27 for most of the climbs, drop a couple of cogs to stand on the pedals for brief bits, then back in the saddle. Some of those grades on Ebbetts were the few times I had to stand on the 27, but made it ok. I took full advantage of the massages at Ebbetts (first time over) and at Picketts Junction. They also hosed you off at Picketts. Spent a bit of time at lunch (my wife volunteered there and our vehicle was there). I decided to complete the ride and not burn myself out, so I was taking breaks now and again on some of the climbs where there was a bit of shade. Hit Woodfords at 3 and Carson around 5pm. Total bike time was over 9 hours, about 3 hours of stops, 13.1 mph ave. I carried Electrolytes with me and used them every few hours. I think it made a big difference with the heat. A hamstring started to cramp just before Picketts, but rest, massage and electrolytes with lots of water seemed to do the trick. I finished feeling really well, giving it my best sprint (which isn't anything, anyway).

To all those who even did one pass, way to go! It was tough out there. And a big thanks to the organizers and volunteers (especially the massage folks!)
No you're not a wussB2
Jul 14, 2003 10:33 AM
That was one hard ride! Sounds like you have no regrets and that's more important than anything.

I did the ride for the first this year as well and I must say it was one of the best organized and supported rides I've ever done. We took a different tact than you and took full advantage of the rest stops with our time split 2/3 pedal time and 1/3 rest stop. Even though we had to wait about ½ hour, the massage at the top of Ebbets Pass was the best. The ice cream bars at the top to Carson Pass was a close second though.

I thought it was a bit too crowded to really let loose on the descents, although that didn't hold back everyone. Then there was that one left hand hairpin turn on the descent off the front side of Ebbets that would have launched you off into eternity if missed it – Whoaa Nelly. Like a dumb sh*t I didn't check my tire pressure at the start and did the first descent with about 85psi. The bike felt wierd when I hit 50mph so I immediatley toned it down for the rest of that descent. I really liked the descent off Carson Pass though. I hit 56mph on one straight section (a record for me). The bike was absolutely rock solid.

I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Hats off to organizers and all the volunteers, not to mention all the people on the side of the road blowing horns, ring bells and screaming words of encouragement. Very well done!
No you're not a wussMellowVelo
Jul 14, 2003 10:48 AM
I've never yelled "bikes up" as many times as I did Saturday going up the front side of Ebbetts.. still a favorite ride - I'll be there again if I can.

I did not like staying in South Lake Tahoe though.. I was stuck in traffic for 3 hours on the 3 days I was there.. horrendous. I'm going to make a point of staying elsewhere if I get the cance in the future.
No you're not a wussCHRoadie
Jul 14, 2003 11:03 AM
Try Minden. I was in South Lake Tahoe, too, but a friend of mine says Minden is an easier commute to & from the ride.
My Hero!!! (No wuss!)jtolleson
Jul 14, 2003 1:55 PM
Having experienced all the same symptoms on a much less taxing event (Colorado's Triple ByPass, in which I had a DNF one year due to desire to barf and too much heat), I can say that you have MY admiration for a great ride in an absolutely daunting event.

Of all the recreational cyclists, only a percentage (well under half, I suspect) ride centuries. Of those, a MUCH smaller fraction ride hard climb-oriented centuries, and of those, a select few still attempt the Death Ride. And as you saw, a huge chuck of Death Ride folks DNF.

It is easy when we hang out with the hardest core roadies to always see our shortcomings and not our strengths. You, my friend, are a strong one.
You just made my day!CHRoadie
Jul 14, 2003 3:38 PM
Great report!PseuZQ
Jul 14, 2003 4:14 PM
Good job on four passes...that's pretty epic. I think I'd rather ride in the rain than in the heat -- especially if I'm climbing. Various things start to shut down under those conditions, notably my gut, so I can totally empathize with your nearly ralphing. Sounds like you had fun for most of it, though!
good jobDougSloan
Jul 15, 2003 8:50 AM
I know exactly how you felt. When I got to the last mountain, it felt like a "death march." I was dehydrated, ready to puke, exhausted, facing a stiff headwind, and the thought of a couple thousand feet of climbing was nearly unbearable. It messes with your mind, and it is very difficult to make clear, objective decisions at the time.

I think what you'll find is that after you do a number of these types of events, you'll learn that you can survive those times, and if you push through the abyss, you bounce back and finish ok, and then become a stronger, tougher, more confident person as a result.

It can take several times of hitting the wall, bloodied and all, to find out when you can push through the wall and when it is stopping you in your tracks. Each time, try a little harder, push a little longer, and I think you'll be glad you did.

When I hit about 410 miles into the Furnace Creek 508 two years ago, I was totally bonked, dehydrated, nauseous, couldn't see out of one eye, demoralized, and then began passing out on the bike. On a descent following a 20 mile climb, I got severe tunnel vision and then could not steer the bike. So, I stopped and slept for 30 minutes, and then magically found that I was good as new, and finished the remaining 100 miles in the 106 degree desert heat in relative fine shape. In other words, I pushed through the wall, and popped out on the other side ok.

I'm not saying you shouldn't have turned around this time, but I'd bet that this ride toughened you quite a bit, and next time when you hit that same wall, you may recognize it as a hurdle, instead of a barrier, and push on.

Good ride.

No wuss in my book!STI
Jul 15, 2003 10:30 AM
I'm 51 yrs old and should know better. But I still do these rides anyway. I didn't get anywhere near the training
I should have this spring due to circumstances beyond my control. This was also my first year at the Death
Ride so I really didn't know what to expect. I did both sides of Moniter and to the top of Ebbetts Pass. It was further than I actually expected after driving all three passes the previous week. By the time I hit the top of Ebbetts Pass I was toast. I had the wind but not the legs. I rode back to Turtle Rock and my wife and dogs. I don't feel at all bad about not doing all 5 passes. I now know what to expect next year and the training involved.
I WILL be back. And yes, my wife thinks I'm nucking futs. I love it!