Monday, November 1, 2010

Part1-Death Valley Oct 30 Century & Double Century Post-Ride Report (by Mandy G)

The Adobos were excited. On the eve of the ride, they pose here for photos. The following day they would ride ADVENTURECORPS' 2010 Fall Death Valley Double Century (some will do the century), one of a series of tough ride organized by ex-RAAM finisher and cycling evangelist Chris Kostman. The course features 10,000 feet of climbing, including the crater and Hell's Gate. For this ride, Chris Kostman hires an ambulance (which is very expensive in the middle of nowhere).

Francis set the tone before the ride: "We ride as a group, and finish as a group." Just like the drama last year.
So first let me narrate the drama of last year. In 2009, at this same ride, one of the riders missed a crucial turn going to the crater, which is one of the required checkpoints. If you don't get checked in, you don't get ride credit. All that riding for no credit would kinda' suck, wouldn't it? So if you miss a turn, you have to ride back and make sure you check in. That rider was me, Mandy.

Oct. 2009 Death Valley Double Century
Rosalie, Victor*, Louie N., Mandy, Ricky*, Pete, Francis, Manny (*century)

I (along with Louie N) were debuting our first double century then, in Oct 2009. In my excitement, on the downhill after Scotty's Castle (Mile # 126), I broke away from the group. I was a quarter mile in front, going fast downhill, and missed the turn leading to the crater. After 2 miles, I realized I missed the turn because no one was behind me. Later I learned that Francis tried to chase me, and was shouting until it hurt. But I was so far ahead. So Francis let me be. When I realized my mistake, I u-turned to look for the road leading to the crater, and made ANOTHER WRONG TURN into Mesquite Camp, a 3-mile downhill that reached a dead-end. I had to CLIMB back to the main road, and ride the opposite way (away from homd finish line) to find the correct turn. I was kicking my self. I thought my chances of now completing the ride on time were toast, because I'm not really a strong rider.

Adobos during the morning portion of the ride

Finally I found the road to the crater, but lost a lot of time and energy. I saw the other Adobos coming down from the crater, heading home. I still had to climb to the crater to get checked in. Francis turned to join me. If he hadn't, I would've turned around, because I was at the edge of my capabilities, and I had no familiarity with what was ahead. I was going 3 MPH on the climb to the crater. At one point I even veered onto the gravel shoulder and fell to the ground. I was already wasted and close to quitting. But Francis said we still had enough time. So I carried on. At the top, the volunteer recognized Francis, but took one look at my ghostly expression, and asked Francis if I was in any shape to finish. Francis replied yes, he knew my capacity, and said we were going to finish.

Meanwhile, the other Adobos WITHOUT HESITATION waited for me at the corner of the main road for almost an hour! They chatted and told jokes as they waited, with the sun setting into dark. They were oblivious to the fact that they were risking their very own chances of making the cut-off time at 12 midnight. If they missed the cut off time, they would be DNF'd (Did Not Finish).

Adobos bored waiting 45 mins. at bottom of Ube-Hebe Crater Road for one of their riders

It was past 7pm by the time I rejoined them. There was still 70 miles to go and a whole lot of climbing to do. I would never forget them: FRANCIS, PETE, MANNY, LOUIE, ROSALIE. That was in 2009. They waited for me. When I rejoined them, I felt the pressure to finish, because they put themselves on the line. I had to haul ass now.

Francis said we had to be at Mud Canyon (the start of the 7-mile climb) no later than 9PM. That meant covering over 35 miles in 2 hours. Francis rode with me, while the others went ahead. Thanks to a long downhill, I made it to the Mud Canyon rest-stop at EXACTLY 9PM. The other Adobos already got there way way earlier, and were enjoying hot Cup O Noodle soup.

I was hungry, but Francis told me not to stop, we had no time. He said I had to reach the top of hell's Gate at 11pm. Once you reach the top, then you have exactly 1 hours to cover 20 miles (9 miles downhill, 11 miles rollers). But I wanted soup. BUT NO SOUP FOR ME.

Like a domestique, Francis took my bottles and re-filled them. The others, when they saw that I wasn't stopping for soup, gulped their soup and jumped on their bikes.

On the climb up Hell's Gate, I stopped over 20 times from exhaustion. It took me 2 hours to get to the top, I arrived at exactly 11 PM. There was no time. We took off almost immediately after that.

Finish Line 12 Midnight: Manny, Mandy, Rosalie, Louie N., Pete, Francis

With no time to spare, there was no rest for me. We downhilled 9 miles. Then there was 11 miles of flats and gentle rollers to the finish line. At first I took off, only to bonk after only less than a mile on the flats.

Everyone was now in jeopardy of missing the cut-off if they were to wait for me. I kept thinking, if they were to miss the cut-off, they would be DNF'd. Finally Francis said, go-go-go! Every-man-for-himself. I'm glad they did so. I would feel so guilty if they all DNF'd.

The white van of ADVENTURECORPS was cruising back and forth along that stretch, radioing status in to the finish line. "Hey there's still a bunch of Adobos here".

Every time the white van passed me, they asked if I was OK. I must have been going really slow for their taste. Maybe they thought they should radio the ambulance. I would nod my head to signal I'm OK. I wasn't going to ride in the van after having gone this far. The truth is I know my limit, and I was feeling good, relaxed, but just slow.

So next time I saw their headlights behind me, I just gave them a thumbs up. Then they would pass me.

In the end, EVERYONE made the the cut-off with only minutes to spare. That is, everyone except me. I missed it by 3 minutes! But Chris Kostman took consideration of the fact that I got lost. So he credited me the ride anyway. No DNF for me.

I shook every stranger's hand at the finish line from sheer joy. I vowed to do better the next time around.

Now for the 2010 edition.
Rosalie was dressed in Holloween costume as Snow White.
The Red-White-Blue-Yellow colors of her dress coordinated perfectly with the Adobo kit.

In any race, the half-way mark is always a good place to take stock of the situation. So I'll start in the middle of the story.

For us week-end cyclists, a century ride would be a very good day's work. So when we arrived at the Mile-100 rest stop in Nevada, somewhere in the middle of the Mojave Desert, the unspoken lament among us riders must have been "Dang it, this is a good day's work, I don't need to keep riding anymore." But it was not to be, because another 100 miles was left to be pedalled.

Although we were tired and cold (temps were in high 60's's, skies overcast), we had a lot of "internal eneregy" because we were riding as a group. Just like last year. The camaraderie was very tight. We were all looking out for each other. Morale was very high.

Even if we got splintered on hills, we always re-grouped at all rest-stops, and that made a huge difference to everyone's morale. The slower riders felt assured because they could tuck in behind the draft. The stronger riders took pride in riding in front to shepherd the weak riders. We were carrying the Adobo colors with pride.

Adobos have too much fun / They wait at all the stops for their dropped riders / Here they're pretending to raise the flag (ala Iwo Jima) at Stovepipe Wells (Mile # 25)

From the Mile-100 rest-stop, the next stop was Scotty's Castle, and it was going to require a GROUP EFFORT because of headwinds.

A double-paceline was formed. There was a slight incline, and strong headwind. The pace was 15 MPH, and it was tough for the tired ones who were trying to hang on in the back. Occasionally the back riders would fade, and the middle riders would yell to the front to slow down, and back riders would regain contact.
Not yet a paceline (jockeying for photo)

After yoyoing like this many times, the back-riders JULIUS and SHANGRILA (a new member they met at the Grand Tour in September) faded back for good. Soon we could not see them when we looked back. So LOUIE F, a strong rider, sacrificed himself and dropped back to them, and he pulled them the rest of the way to Scotty's Castle.

Meanwhile, in the front group, FRANCIS was pulling a wicked pace in the headwind. Behind him were ELPIDIO, PETE, JESSE, DENNIS, and REGGIE (our very good friend from Sta Clarita Velo club). And right on their wheel behind them were 4 other riders barely struggling to hang on: LOUIE N, MANNY, ROSALIE, and myself (Mandy).

After several miles Francis decided to kick it up a notch. In that instant, 3 riders (Manny, Rosalie and me) got separated from the main pack by a few bike lengths. That was enough to feel the brunt of the headwind. The gap quickly grew within seconds.

As any veteran paceline cyclist knows, if you get separated from the pack, you have to strike quickly and summon some kind of "turbo" (if you have any left) to regain contact with the paceline, because every second of that you face the wind alone without a draft takes precious energy. Drafting is worth an extra 3-5 miles per hour for the same amount of effort. So if you get even half-a-bike-length of separation, you must react quickly to close the gap.

So Manny stood up, turned on his turbo, and bridged the gap. I was watching all of this. I was right behind Rosalie, and I saw the gap grow even larger. I was worried about losing the paceline for good, so I stood up, summoned some energy, and rode up next to Rosalie, and signalled her to stick to my wheel. I intended to bridge the gap, and bring her with me in the process. I kept looking back to make sure my speed was within Rosalie's grasp. But I saw the main pack pulling further away. At that point, I decided to accelerate with or without Rosalie. She dropped back. I managed to bridge the gap back to the paceline.

But that effort would cost me a lot. My legs and lungs burned. Obviously I didn't belong in this paceline. I paid for it only a few minutes later, when I said to Louie N. that I was wasted, and that I wanted to drop back. I was checking to see how he felt. He told me to hang in there. So I did. We still had 15 miles to go. But a few minutes later, Francis saw a group of 4 cyclists up ahead, and kicked the pace even higher to overtake them. I tried to keep up, to the point that I felt like throwing up. I had no choice but to drop back. The paceline pull ahead. I could only watch. Bye-bye main pack. Bye-bye DRAFT.

They overtook that group of 4. Francis pulled the main Adobo pack all the way to Scotty's Castle.

Although I separated from Francis' group, I also overtook that group of 4, but only briefly. Later I faded, and that group of 4 caught up with me. The leader invited me to join them and share pulls. We became a merry group of 5, and took turns pulling in front.

Later we saw Manny riding solo. He had also gotten separated from Francis' group. So our merry group of 5 became 6 after swallowing Manny. By the time Manny's turn came to pull, it was the downhill to Scotty's Castle. Lucky bastard.

The Adobos all regrouped at Scotty's Castle rest stop, Mile # 126. Thanks to Louie F's effort, the last group of Adobos did not lose too much time. We were 1 hour ahead of last year's pace. It was 4 PM.

NINE HOURS EARLIER: At 7AM, the start of the ride,we had GRIM WEATHER. It was raining. The road was slick and muddy. It was somewhat chilly.

To be continued. (Mandy G.)

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