How far can you ride in 12 hours? How about 24 hours? On Saturday May 2, 2009, I lined up at the start of the Davis 12/24. Riders leave solo at 15-second intervals to attack the “day loop.” There is no drafting allowed, it’s basically a 12 hour (or 24 hour, your choice) time trial. There are age categories and team relay divisions as well.
When you’re a Double Century Superstar, chicks come out of the woodwork
Adrienne Ruggles (l), supported me on Furnace Creek 508 2005
Janet supported Michelle Santilhano (r) on Furnace Creek 508 2008
The day loop is basically the hilly part of the Davis Double Century course. It’s 162.5 miles in length and includes about 8400′ of climbing, including Cardiac Hill, Cobb Mountain, and Resurrection grade. Once the rider completes this day loop, it’s time to head out on the flat “night loop.” The night loop is 18.4 miles in length and the rider races on the night loop until time runs out. On the last lap, the rider records his/her last mile marker on the night loop when the time is up and the mileage is totaled.
I rolled out of the start at 6:39 AM, under cloudy skies and feeling great.
Weather called for 50% chance of rain with a high of 69 degrees. I figured even if it rained I’d be plenty warm, so I donned a skin suit and arm warmers. I immediately began catching riders, and by the time I reached the bottom of Cardiac Hill at mile 11, I had passed a half dozen riders. By the top I had claimed another half dozen after dancing up the climb effortlessly.
My goal was to ride a minimum of 200 miles. The record for my age group is 220 miles. I made a small cheat sheet with time goals and mounted it on my stem. I had two times for each checkpoint. The first time was what I needed to do to make 200 miles, and the second time was “record pace.” 70 miles in I was well ahead of record pace.
But then everything took a turn for the worse. The rain had started just an hour or so into the race, and was becoming heavier. The temperature also plummeted. At the bottom of Cobb Mountain, the hardest climb on the ride, I was really cold. I elected to add a light vest as I thought that anything more would cause me to overheat on the strenuous climb.
As I neared the top at 3,000′ I was borderline hypothermic. Curious about the temperature, I checked it on my HR monitor…47 degrees. Not exactly the predicted 69 degrees. I was drenched from head to foot. At Loch Lomond, mile 77, Janet stopped my support car and I jumped in with the heater blasting. I was shivering uncontrollably and in bad shape. I couldn’t unzip my clothing to change into dry gear. Janet had to help me with everything. It took forever to get myself ready for the rest of the ride. I watched a dozen or so riders pass as I fumbled with my clothing with numb hands. I was basically finished for the day, losing all the time I had worked so hard to gain.
I got back on the bike and shivered down the descents. Visibility was poor, and the roads were slick. Caution was in order. I finally made it to the aid station at Resurrection grade (mile 109) after a long, slow slog. There I had planned a bike change. It was time to switch from my super light Scott Addict, to another bike equipped with aero bars and set up for more of a Time Trial position as the climbing for the day was done at this point. Seemed a little futile though, as my tired legs could barely manage 19 mph on flat terrain.
I slogged down the canyon along Cache Creek, then rode the flats toward the finish. I stopped in Guinda (mile 132) for a bit, then got on the bike for the final push toward the finish. It was windy and slow. I finally made it back to the finish at 4:30 PM. I had about two hours to cover the needed 38 miles to complete a total of 200 miles, my minimum goal. I suffered badly on my two laps of the “night loop.” I could only get my heart rate up to about 120 bpm, but that was enough to deliver lap times of about 1 hour. After completing two laps, I had a few minutes remaining, so I sprinted for one extra mile lest I be left with the dreaded 199.3 mile total, which is the total of the day loop plus two complete night loops.
The weather, and the fact that I’ve only done one 100-mile ride this year (a week ago), threw a wrench in my soup for a good performance, though I am content with the 200 mile accomplishment in the tough conditions. It’s a great event and I will be back to fight another day. Speaking of soup, the organizers supplied nice hot soup for the riders at the finish. Janet gave me a cup of soup before I headed out on my last lap. Without it, I’m not sure I’d have made 200 miles!
Special thanks to Organizer Patsy Inouye and Course Director Lee Mitchell and all the volunteers for putting on this epic event with great spirit and support for this hearty group of riders. Also thanks to Janet DeHaven who supported me on the ride and took all these great photos.