My day started with Beck lyrics "I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me" jolting me to a state of consciousness. Kevin Buckley and I both had to laugh. I set the clock radio in our Red Roof Inn room to a random station and turned the volume up to maximum. It went off precisely with these words. This chorus stuck with me for the rest of the day, and by the end of the ride, I felt like a loser and wanted somebody to put me out of my misery.
A few of us planned to start the ride a little later than 6am so that all the hammerheads would be gone and we could ride at a little more civilized pace. Wouldn't you know it, all the guys that I feared would pummel me decided to roll off at exactly the same time. This included no less than two national cyclocross champions. In the pack were a large contingent from Corner Cycle, including Jonny Bold, Kevin Hines, Sammy Morse, BOB riders Dave Foley and Chris White, Dave "Pain Cave" Penney, Kevin Buckley, John Funk, Jay Gump, John Mosher, a few strong CCB riders including Paul Richard, teammate Mike Harris, and many others. I was surprised Jonny decided to come out. He's just a couple weeks into fractured collarbone recovery among other injuries he sustained at nationals. Crutching up a mountain with a broken ankle entails little pain and risk. Bombing down 15% grades of loose, washboard gravel at 40mph couldn't have felt nice on that shoulder. That is hard core.
It was a pristine morning. The forecast suggested that weather-wise, this would be the best D2R2 ever. Temps rising into the 70's and minimal chance for rain. There wasn't even any early morning fog that is characteristic of the area. The only caveat is this. It has been an extremely dry summer. Many of the roads were loose and wash-boarded up pretty badly. Event organizers encouraged roadies to reconsider 25mm tires. I wasn't chasing speed this time around, so I put some fat 35mm knobby tires on my bike. These were Schwalbe Racing Ralph's at 70psi. I really liked them for Ironcross last year. For gearing, I went with 34x32 minimum ratio.
Our pace was very civilized to start. Our large group stayed largely intact through the first full food stop about 37 miles into the ride. When we hit Archambo Road, loose sandy gravel at a claimed 27% grade, things got serious. About 30 riders sprinted into this single lane climb at once. Even though this was a very select group of riders, it was obvious not everybody would clean it. Every time I've seen the domino effect on this climb. A rider spins out, causes another to dab, all of a sudden the entire road is plugged up with riders catching themselves and walking. Today was no exception. I have yet to dab on this climb, so I was determined to have a clean shot. But when guys sprinted for the bottom, I thought I was screwed. Sure enough, several guys dabbed right in front of me at once. Somehow I found traction in the poorest line up the middle and kept it going. I made it. That is four for four on this climb, and today was the most challenging conditions. It hurt though. Must have pushed over 400W for a few minutes just to go 4mph.
Archambo thinned the ranks out a bit. I was now riding beyond a pace I surely felt was unsustainable. Multi-hour endurance efforts aren't my forte to begin with, and I'm still coming back from injury. I knew Hillman Hill was coming right up, and these guys were warmed up now.
The Hillman climb thinned our ranks a bit further. My bungee cord to the group stretched precariously thin. I was a wee bit off the back as the grade finally let up. I got back on. We get a breather on a long descent. Not even to the half-way point yet, I'm really starting to feel it after the back to back hard efforts. There was still another huge climb before the lunch stop.
I think it was near the top of Franklin Hill Road, much of the group stopped to top off water from jugs placed there. There was still a bunch more climbing before the lunch stop, still 12 miles away. I was good on water and figured I'd soft pedal until they caught me. Dave Penney, Kevin Buckley and I did this several times throughout the ride, playing leap frog with the rest of the group. The final descent to the lunch stop was nuts. No brakes, just wide-open gravity throttle. We passed a few other riders that caught up with us at the lunch stop and they were impressed with our speed (or foolishness). I was very happy to be riding real tires this time. I did not feel intimidated on the descents.
My stomach was feeling a bit tweeky already. I debated whether to eat a sub sandwich or not, but I needed something. I caved in. The lunch stop is in a beautiful setting with a host of food selections, but riders are faced with a nasty climb immediately rolling back out onto the course. The route bombs down and then goes up another even bigger climb. Not good on a full stomach. I did ok this time. I even scored a Dr Pepper to wash my sandwich down. That was all I ate. The lunch stop also had Gatorade powder. This is my preferred sport drink. The first stop had HEED, which I've had very bad experiences with. I used it anyway, hoping I wouldn't have to for the whole ride.
Dave and I rolled out a few minutes before Jonny Bold and crew rolled out of the lunch stop. Kevin called me names for not waiting for him to finish a quick porta-potty visit. We did go really easy. I was hoping to at least let the sandwich settle before getting pummelled some more. We pedalled a pedestrian pace up the next two climbs, yet the calvary never came in sight. We go over a third climb and drop down to Green River Rd. A large posse of riders were gaining on us. Perfect I thought, they can pull my sagging butt along this fast section of the course. It was not our posse though. It was a group of fast 100k riders. We certainly didn't turn down the opportunity for a tow.
Next up was Nelson Rd. This one always kicks my butt. You get into a groove gradually descending along the river, then a wall climb. The 100k group fragmented into little pieces on this climb. We were still taking it pretty easy on this climb. Then the ice cream truck came into view. Oh yeah, this was totally happening. Bart's Homemade Ice Cream. How can you pass that up 85 miles into a beast of a ride? Kevin and I partook. I got Bada Bing. So there we were standing, savoring our treats, when our posse of riders came steam rolling by. I felt like I got caught with my pants down. Nobody in that group succumbed to the temptation. For me, it was one of the highlights of the ride.
Dave left and Kevin all grins. Kind of bizzare to see icecream
truck parked in middle of nowhere.
I didn't think we'd see those guys again based on how they were moving. But we did. We leap-frogged yet again when somebody flatted. This was just before the dreaded Patten Hill climb. My legs were deteriorating quickly. I thought cramps were eminent. Dave wasn't slowing down in the slightest and Kevin was still going strong. This was going to be a lonely climb, and surely I'd get passed part of the way up like I was standing still by guys in Stars and Stripes jersey's. The last food stop of the ride was at the top, at least giving me a chance to get back on.
Well, Dave quickly vanished out of sight. Kevin was not far behind him. No red necks ran us off the road this year. I was completely smoked, barely able to go fast enough to not fall over. I was feeling like a loser at this point and wanted somebody to shoot me to end the misery. That tune we awoke to became my mantra for the ride. I made it 90% of the way up before guys from the rest of the group caught me. A few others were already up top waiting. I was out of water, and my stomach was now at the point of where I could only handle pure water. And watermelon. I had at least 5 or 6 large slabs. It was heavenly.
Again, Kevin, Dave and I rolled out just ahead of the others. After another bony descent, we were all together. Then I think Jonny flatted. I thought about waiting with the group, but Dave and Kevin kept going, and I knew there were several steep rollers coming up. If I waited, I'd probably get popped on those and then I'd have nobody to fall back on. So I scrambled to catch back up to Dave.
That last stretch of gravel, Hawk's Road I believe, wasn't as gnarly as two years ago but still the roughest and trickiest part of the course. Did anybody hit that hidden wheel sized hole in the middle? I almost did while sucking Kevin's wheel. At over 100 miles into the ride, we were ready to be done with this stuff. Hawk's beats the crap out of you, first climbing, then a long descent on essentially a jeep road. In 2008, many people flatted here. Once through it though, you are home free with some easy pavement back to the starting area. The rest of the gang caught us just as we rolled up the the start area, meaning they made up five minutes on us in just the last few miles.
Measured barometric altimeter data from Garmin Edge 705.
Hillman Hill is at 45mi, Patten Hill 95mi.
Total climbing: 12,910 feet.
I finished with 111 miles and nearly 13,000ft of climbing in 8hrs riding time flat on the Garmin Edge 705. Total time was 8:49. I was pretty happy with that, thinking that was way faster than I planned to go and other groups probably weren't much faster. Until I talked with Alex Combes. He started at 6am and logged a 7:40 riding time. He's one of those genetic slow twitch mutants like Dave. I think he and Dave did a 7:15 riding time last year. Either way, I held up better than expected. This ride shouldn't be about comparing finishing times anyway. The cool day and riding at a relaxed pace much of the time certainly helped me out. I didn't cramp. I didn't even get cranky towards the end. This is four D2R2's now without flatting. It was my most enjoyable D2R2. Couldn't have picked a finer group to enjoy a day in the saddle with. This ride should set me up well for big rides in Colorado a week from now.
Part of the gang after finishing. Left to right myself, Dave Foley,
Jonny Bold, Sam Morse and Kevin Hines.
(forgot who took it, Dave posted it here)
One of the cool things about D2R2 is that it would be hard to do this ride unsupported. You'd have to beg for water from someone's garden hose. There's just not much else out there. The food stops are fabulous, including fruit, cookies, PB&J, trail mix baggies and several kinds of sandwiches to choose from at the lunch stop. Despite explosive growth in popularity, the event appeared to go smoothly. Registration max'd out at 650 several weeks before the event. Next year it might be a race just to get in.