Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Part 3/Final Report: Oct 2010 Death Valley Ride

START: So we set out at 7AM, wet and cold. After a few miles of chaotic formation, we were warmed up, but the Adobos were already splintered because each individual had varying times required to warm up.

No problem: The weather dried up, so Francis stopped the front group to remove raincoats, and wait for the rest.

Stoppage to regroup

MORNING ADOBO PACELINE: After regrouping, we formed an Adobo paceline. The stronger riders took turns in front. I must mention them and thank them: Francis, Jesse, Louie F., Elpidio, Pete. It was SILENTLY UNDERSTOOD that the other riders were to CONSERVE and not put any work in front. The ADOBO TRAIN overtook countless riders and even other groups along the way. Some of them joined our paceline.

We were intact for the first 50 miles, and then splintered during the last 20-miles (featuring climbs) to Scotty's Castle. Arriving in the front group were "A" riders Francis, Pete, Jesse, Louie F., Elpidio, who carried other non-Adobo cyclists whom they picked up along the way. Behind were Dennis, Jun, Manny, Rosalie, Louie N. Then Julius and Shangrila. I myself got dropped to last place. I begin to doubt my training.

The century riders Ricky, Lester, and Victor were already at Scotty's waiting for us 2X riders. All the Adobos regrouped there. It was Mile # 50 for the century riders, and Mile # 70 for the 2X's. We had lunch. We saw Reggie of Sta Clarita Velo there, he joined our group.

From Scotty's Castle the century riders u-turned, while the 2x riders headed to Nevada to Mile 100 checkpoint (we would come back to Scotty's later on the return trip.)

Francis and Elpidio waited at Scotty's for Reggie to finish lunch.

EARLY AFTERNOON ADOBO PACELINE: The rest of us went ahead. The start of the stage was a 5 mile climb. We had cold muscles, stiffened legs and full stomach, thus magnifying the difficulty of the slope. The group splintered. Pete and Dennis were strong and slowly pulled away. I got my 2nd wind and started to chase them. Dropped behind were Jun Usi, Rosalie, Manny, Shangrila and Louie N.

Later I saw Pete and Dennis stopped for photos. I plowed ahead, all the way to the Nevada Mile 100 checkpoint all alone. Pete and Elpidio overtook me along the way, and as they did I stuck with their wheel, but only for a minute (which was all the energy I could muster). Then I let go.

Way behind me, everyone else regrouped, and rode in a paceline all the way to Mile 100, pulled variously by Francis, Louie F. and Jesse. We all regrouped at Mile 100.

The narrative of the next 26 miles back to Scotty's was told in part 1.

At Scotty's Castle we regrouped. The more difficult stages were ahead, and we already had 126 miles in our legs. We still had to climb up to the crater , and Hell's Gate.

BUT WHY? Sometimes I'm asked by my non-cycling friends/relatives...Why? Why do a gruelling 200-mile bike ride? If it hurts, why do you do it again and again? The same question is asked of people who climb Mt Everest. The answer offered is, "Because it's There."

I stumbled upon a theory on this ride: While admiring the desert scenery far from civilation, I wondered about life before civilization.

Like Pre-Civilization

Before Man invented agriculture, he hunted for food far away from home base.

Prehistoric man's foraging strategies were no different from long distance biking (although his was a matter of survival, not recreation). But the point is, it must still be deep in our DNA thousands of years later.

Prehistoric man arose before dawn with his buddies, rain or shine, and set out to hunt. Check.

To seek out prey they walked (easy pace), ran (hard pace), and sprinted (full-out). Check that too.

Occasionally they stopped to rest, eat, or take a dump (sorry, there's no gentle way to say it). Yeah Check that. And IF they were a close-knit group, they must've told stories and jokes . Perhaps that's how speech got started. Other tribes that were less close-knit took longer to develop speech. Must've been boring in that tribe.

Team work was needed to corner and overcome prey. Check that too.

They hunted until the sun set. Then they u-turned and headed home with their catch. Anyone hurt during the hunt would be carried home. Finally they arrived late at night. Check, Check. Check, and Check.

Heck, even Neantherthal's crouched position was aerodynamic, just put a road bike under his legs.

Point is, it's in our DNA: We can keep going the whole day and into night.
Endurance and the need for camaraderie is in our DNA.

And we needed them in spades. From Scotty's Castle, we had to climb to the crater. It was 4:30pm. By now the century riders Ricky, Lester and Victor, in that order, had arrived at the Furnace Creek finish line. The 2x riders had 70 miles to go.

The crater is a stunning site, but getting there is a short but steep climb. When we got there, it was getting dark.

From the crater, it's a 40 mile trip to the bottom of Mud Canyon road. The stage featured a mix of rollers, some long descents. But there was a headwind.

Our target next stop was Mud Canyon where hot soup waiting.

THE HAPPIEST CLUB ON EARTH - At the start of the stage we were joined by a cyclist named FRANCESCA, who was riding alone until we came along. This was Francesca's 5th 2x of the year. She saw that our group was fun, so she joined in with us. I told her our group of Adobos were riding together and finishing together, and waiting for the weaker riders. As we rode, I told her the story of what happened to me last year (getting dropped big time), and how the group pulled me through. She observed that the group was relaxed and always joking among ourselves.

We were the happiest bike club on Earth.

After a few miles, Manny cramped up and dropped back with Julius and Shangrila. Francis and Louie F stayed with them to pull them.

In the front group were Pete, Jesse, Elpidio, and Dennis trading pulls, with Jun, Rosalie, Louie N, Reggie, Francesca, and myself drafting.

Later Pete, Jesse and Elpidio inched away. Jun and Louie N decided to chase and stick with them. I couldn't, plain and simple. So I dropped back to conserve for the climb later. So did Rosalie and Reggie and Francesca. We rode together. Reggie pulled most of the way.

Meanwhile, in the front group, Jesse and Pete spent many miles pulling, then eased up a bit. At that point, Louie was feeling great and didn't feel like slowing. It so happened to be on the downhill, so he sling-shot himself and dropped everyone!!.

Elpidio, Dennis and Jun watched, not reacting right away. Unfortunately for Louie N, it made Jesse mad. So Jesse immediately gave chase and established contact. The other bad news for Louie was that he underestimated the hill . He ran out of steam before reaching the apex, and was overtaken, and then unceremoniously dropped. (We joked about it later at the hotel.)

Jesse plowed ahead with Pete and Elpidio. Dennis behind, then Louie N and Jun.

We all regrouped at Mud Canyon (the rest-stop before the most difficult stage, the 7-mile climb to Hell's Gate). The SAG volunteers Lina and Erika (Jun's wife and daughter respectively) and Imre set aside hot soup for us.

We had LOTS of time. The climb started. This climb is the race of truth. There is no drafting.

Soon the usual suspects pulled ahead: Pete, Jesse, reached the top first

They were followed by Elpidio, Dennis, Francesca

Followed by me. (Last year I stopped 20 times, this time it felt like an ordinary training lap on GMR.)

Later came Rosalie and Jun. Further behind them were Shangrila, Louie N, Julius, and Manny. With them were Francis and Louie F, two of our strongest riders, who purposely stayed behind to shepherd them.

We regrouped at the top of Hell's Gate.

Then we downhilled 9 miles.

The last 11 miles, we rode a tourist pace to the finish line, in the dark, as a united group, telling stories, laughing, joking, singing.

With less than a mile to go we saw the lights of the finish line. We started to whoop it up. If you were dead tired a while ago, not anymore. The camaraderie was real. There is a feeling, it's called "exuberance". No matter how empty your physical reserves, you feel invincible and on a "high". Perhaps it's a chemical reaction. Defintely an emotion. Whatever it is, it's one of the reasons I went along for this ride.

Most clubs arrive splintered according to individual ability. Nothing wrong with that. Competition is one of the primary reasons for doing this ride. But we arrived together, carrying the proud Adobo colors, along with some friends picked up along the way.

The elite competitors (NOT US) finished in impressive times of 10+ and 11+ hours, riding solo. Adobos came in at 15 hrs 42 mins. We had about 2.5 hours of cumulative stoppage time at rest stops, regrouping. If you're an elite rider with a chance of placing top 5 or 10, of course you should not wait, you should go all out and compete. But none of us were going to place. Might as well ride together and finish together. It was more fun, even for the strong Adobos who had to pull our pack most of the way.

The end (mandy g.)

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