Saturday, July 11th, 2009

Road: My First Century — 2009 Death Ride

The short here-are-the-stats version:

It was 40 days ago, I found out, OMG, I Would Be Riding the Death Ride in 40 Days and I had not done a ride longer than 70!

During the five weeks leading up to DR, I did four training rides (I’m a weekend worrier) all in the Bay Area — a flat land:

  1. A Pleasant Spin in the La Honda Hills (92.6 mi / 11,777 ft)
  2. I will just Ride up to Skyline Blvd (80 mi / 11,181 ft)
  3. My Mini Death Ride #2 (85.4 mi / 10,047 ft)
  4. Can you beat that? (89.3 mi / 10,787 ft)

Finally, July 11, 2009 arrived not a day late and ten hours of it went into my personal history book like this:

P.S. (June 2013) This ride happened in 2009 before Strava existed. I just rode as I felt comfortable trying to avoid the Sierra storms and took my time to enjoy the ice cream while relaxing at Carson Pass. Who would have known that I pulled a Strava QOM time on the Death Ride that stood past 2012! A pleasant surprise. But the 2013 Death Ride is coming up, and I’m sure there will be some serious contenders out there gunning for the QOM, so I won’t be surprised to receive an “uh oh” email.

Okay, now, here is the long OMG-I’m-so-excited-I-can’t-shut-up version:

During the past 40 days, my mind went through roller coaster changes. In the beginning, I panicked. For three months between Feb and mid May, I did not touch my road bike, and it’s not like before that I had done any big rides anyway (my longest was around 70 miles more than a year ago).  How in the world could I get ready for DR in time?  When the panic wore off (Erik’s confidence in me helped easing it), I entered a planning mode — I would progressively do longer rides (up to at least 129 miles) and should plan a weekend up in the Markleeville area to ride at least part of the route. Then the reality set in — it was always hard to get up early enough in the morning to get a long ride in and it’s too much hassle to pull off a trip to the Sierra. Eventually, I settled with what I got — four training rides ranging from 80 to 92.6 miles around home. I was pleased about how I felt on my first long ride. After having done the ridiculous mini death ride #1 on two bottles of Gatorade and one cliff bar, I started to wonder if I was a reincarnation of a camel. And this ride also gave me confidence that I had enough madness in me that I should be able to tear myself away from the car to leave for yet another, the final 5th pass.  I then decided to make Death Ride my very first century just to make it special. Of course, from 92.6 miles to 124 mile (or the official claim, 129 miles) and from 11,777 ft to 15,500+ ft, it would take quite some leap of faith. Would I be able to handle it? What about the altitude? Guess I would find out on July 11th.

We had known that Erik would be up in Washington States for three weeks around this time, so it was even more fitting for me to do the ride this year since he had done it before and I wanted to experience the same cool thing he had experienced before. My friend at work, Bryn, conveniently (from my point of view since the CR-V went up to WA with Erik) signed up for the ride a week ago after his other friend bailed on him on a planned Tahoe MTB trip. Since this would be his 5th or 6th time doing it, he got all the logistics down. My luck just kept getting better from then on.

We left the bay area on Friday, and took a casual lunch stop in Murphy (had great sandwiches and coffee at Aria Bakery). We also took another stop at Bear Valley to chat about MTB trails and had another coffee break there. We arrived at Turtle Rock, the DR event site,  for our registrations somewhere around 6pm. Then we checked in to our motel in the Minden area and had a humongous pre-ride carbo-loading dinner at Hamdogs. It was past 10pm when we went to sleep. We made a mistake by leaving the windows open for fresh air (instead of using the AC). There were a lot of noises outside that kept us awake for a long time.

The alarm went off shortly after I finally fell asleep (it felt that way anyway). Bryn wanted to start riding at 4:30am just like what he had always done before, and neither of us being the most efficient person, we got up at 3am. That was brutal!!!  (Note: I was not going to start my ride until the official starting time at 5:30am, but despite all other things subject to negotiations, I fully respected all the conditions he felt he needed in place to make his ride successful.) We got a parking spot on the road right at the entrance to Turtle Rock. Another lucky sign. Bryn hit the road with his lights at 4:30 am just as planned.

I took a short nap and then got myself ready slowly. After everything was in place and it was bright enough that I could see with my sunglasses on, I clipped one foot in the pedal, gave a strong push, and then pulled the other foot in, I was on my way — at 5:27:04 am!  It was not until noon that I saw the car again, and it was not until 3:21pm that I returned with my 5-pass finisher’s pin after almost 10 hours from when I started. I had seen great scenery along the way. I had chatted with various friendly riders (although most, like 95%, of the time, I enjoyed the solitude of letting my mind wonder more). I said Hi and Bi to Bryn when we were climbing up the back side of Monitor pass. I spotted (I think) my friend Jeanne’s brother when I was descending from Ebbetts. I enjoyed all the screaming descents, even though I refrained myself from screaming out of joy because I did not want to irritate the people who were still ascending. I also set my personal record for descending at 50.3 mph (Imagine I was still terrified of any descents only a few months ago). This has been my longest and fastest ride ever. Talk about making it special!

Since I saw a note from Bryn at the car that he left for Carson at 2:20pm, I knew I had a lot of time to relax. I had two big plates of dinner and walked around the Expo. What people say about the crazy weather in the high country proved to be true — at one point, the clouds rolled in, the wind got very gusty, and it even dropped some rain drops. I looked up in the Carson direction and knew that many riders were battling with the changing weather up there. I heard later that the rain did come down, but it was not as bad as it could have been (like the hail storm last year) because it came and went very fast and did not last long enough to make the road too slippery.  It sure turned nice again fast at Turtle Rock. I chatted with Steve from Massechusstes for a little while (and he was so kind that he let me use his cellphone to call Erik). His friend David, a BA local, later also returned and joined us. I could not get enough of DR talks and really enjoyed the friendly chats with people I met randomly like Steve and David. But Bryn was the opposite, which he did warn me about ahead of time. As soon as he returned (around 6:30pm I think), he jumped in the car (I drove), and we returned to the motel. His reason was he wanted a shower right away. He is a Brit. (Shhh… don’t tell him I said it.)  I was very impressed with his five-pass finish because he got even less training than I did before the ride, and he just got stitches in his forehead after a nasty trip-and-fall in the office building on Thursday!

Okay, that was my Death Ride story. Where is yours?

The drum band started playing very early.

Many riders started their ride when it was still dark. (As early as 3am from what I read.)

Another band at the dinner tent.

Riders at dinner

I saw three of these on the ride. Peculiar thing. They were trying to promote this new innovation. Wonder how their descent was.

Post Ride shot at the motel

Bryn said the cuts were ideally located so that they did not hurt under the helmet. (I have his permission to post this picture.)

My bib number plate and finisher’s pin.

Oh, and since it was my first time in the area, Bryn and I did a mountain bike ride at Bear Valley the next day. See the photo album.

Ride notes

17 Responses

  1. Patrick Herlihyon 13 Jul 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Congrats Mei! What a way to do your first century 🙂

    I saw you twice but both times we were going in the opposite direction – no way to stop and say hi 🙂 Amusingly, we also stayed in Minden and had dinner downtown (although we chose an Italian restaurant).

    I started from Turtle Rock Park at 6:20am so I was already way behind you. I guess most started at 5:30am since we climbed up Monitor with very few other riders. We saw the big pack climbing Monitor as we descended the back side.

    Reconstructing from your times..

    – I hit the top of Monitor at 7:54am so I must have passed you while you were climbing back up as I descended to I-395.
    – I was back at Monitor Pass at 9:31am as you were half way up Ebbetts
    – I saw you at 11:15am as you descended the front side of Ebbetts (that’s when you heard me, I think)
    – My first summit of Ebbetts was at 11:47am while you were climbing back through Markleeville
    – My second summit of Ebbetts at 12:59am while you were on the lower part of Carson
    – We had a fairly long lunch so didn’t start Carson until 2:45pm
    – I spotted you not longer after that about 2:50pm as you neared Woodfords
    – I summitted Carson at 4:50pm after a very slow ascent (it was very difficult to pass slower riders and there was a very strong headwind as the storm rolled in)
    – I didn’t get away from Carson until 5:20pm because of the storm
    – Back at the car at 6pm.

    I couldn’t break 50 mph on the backside of Monitor so was thrilled to get 52.2 mph coming back down the front side! It’s quite a thrill riding at 50+ mph, isn’t it!

    You were faster than me up all the climbs except the front side of Ebbetts 🙂 My riding time was 9:36 hrs.

    What an experience!

  2. Jeanne Waldmanon 14 Jul 2009 at 10:33 am

    Congratulations! While reading about how great you felt at the end, I felt a split-second twinge of desire to try it next year. Then poof, the desire was gone. You are an endurance queen. Good job!!
    Allen said he saw a lot of people on the side of the road throwing up. He said he kind of felt like doing the same.

  3. Patrick Herlihyon 14 Jul 2009 at 11:03 am

    Oh yes.. I saw a few stopped to clear unnecessary food from their stomachs too (forgot about that). Quite a few resting in the shade mid-climb despite it not being all that hot.

  4. mudwormon 14 Jul 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Hi Patrick, Hamdogs had TdF on big screen when we ate there. It was great! Both sides of Monitor are my favorite. So beautiful and the road condition was great! Congratulations on a good time at Death Ride.

    Hi Jeanne, oh come on, you can do it! Even just once in your life time. It’s quite an experience. Hmmm… I guess I was so focused that I didn’t really see any one throwing up on the side of the road. I did see some one pushing his bike going up the back side of Monitor with miles to go to reach its summit. It seemed like a long walk to me. Yeah, in these endurance events, if one can avoid cramping and upset stomach, that’s half of the success already.

  5. Alison Chaikenon 14 Jul 2009 at 9:47 pm

    Congratulations, Mei. I knew you could do it!

  6. Eric Murrayon 16 Jul 2009 at 4:25 pm

    9:15 is pretty good! I might have been the no-hands Webcor- its about the right time and I usually ride no hands at the top of climbs to eat or zip up or put on clothes.

  7. mudwormon 16 Jul 2009 at 5:17 pm

    Oh, I meant to say, that’s just crazy! 😉 No, really, I wish I could do that. Working on it…

  8. Jeanne Waldmanon 16 Jul 2009 at 7:25 pm

    What, no self-portraits? I want to see a picture of Mei on Death Ride day!

  9. mudwormon 17 Jul 2009 at 8:22 pm

    There were supposed to be professional photographers all over the course. I’m waiting for their pics still.

  10. Patrick Herlihyon 20 Jul 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Looking for my photo and came across rider number 550 on the West Monitor climb (first of the day)..

  11. Patrick Herlihyon 20 Jul 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Hmm.. my last comment didn’t work.. here’s your Monitor West descent photo

  12. Patrick Herlihyon 20 Jul 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Ebbetts East climb..

  13. Patrick Herlihyon 20 Jul 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Carson Summit.. (2 of you)

    I did see your Monitor West climb but couldn’t locate it when looking a second time..

  14. mudwormon 20 Jul 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Hey Patrick, thanks for the links! It seems that we can’t search by bib numbers yet. It’s a bit tough to search by time, so it’s helpful that you found my Ebbetts picture because I have no idea when I rode by their camera (didn’t think they had it set up at the summit). My favorite is the one at Carson Summit: .

    These are just thumbnails, but they are still much bigger than what you get at Sequoia Century. We saw that automated camera at Stage & Hwy 1 and were quite amazed by it. Later we found our photos on their website, and man, they are tiny!
    P.S. I edited the links in your post so they work now. (Nice to be an admin.)

  15. Patrick Herlihyon 24 Jul 2009 at 9:12 am

    Oops.. image didn’t work..

  16. Patrick Herlihyon 24 Jul 2009 at 9:11 am

    Yeah.. I think the Sequoia folks realized people were “stealing” their thumbnail. At $35 for a photo, it’s not surprising. What they should do is include a “free” photo for every rider and add $2-3 to the registration cost to cover it. That’s $8-9K guaranteed for the photographers and everyone gets a souvenir. I did end up splitting the cost of one photo from the DR with ukbloke from RBR since it was, after all, a special ride 🙂

    Yeah, that Carson photo of you is excellent.. you’re looking strong. Compare to mine..

    From Death Ride – July 2009

  17. mudwormon 24 Jul 2009 at 11:59 am

    I like your idea of charging a little premium from everybody to provide one free photo. When I saw your photo, I laughed. It must be the rain. 😆 I was standing up a lot (more than I was used to) on Carson because the saddle was killing me.