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Saturday, June 19, 2010

5x + 112 = 17000



My attempt to include the number 5, my bike, and the summit of Mt. Diablo all in the same picture.

I've been keeping this goal under my hat (or helmet) for the last few months.
I think my wife was the only one who knew I was considering this insanity.

Well, I did it.

In a successful attempt to better last year's Death Ride training ride, I summitted Mt Diablo 5 consecutive times in one day.

112.22 miles
17,040' in elevation gain (Though it's more than that because I did a fair amount of circling back to collect stragglers early in the day.)
Summitted 5 times (3 times up North Gate Rd. and 2 times up South Gate Rd. - not in that order)
12 total hours - 10 hours on the bike.
Started with Mickey, Dianne, Vince, and myself.
Mickey and Dianne both settled for 1 time up to the top, while Vince kindly kept me company and finished strong on the first 3 summits.


A mylar balloon that has made its way from who knows where up to about 1,500 up the mountain side.


Mickey and I arrive at the top first, after a rather lengthy first climb.
(You can see the top of the fog through the corner of the guard rail. It was much nicer at the top above the fog than riding in it.)


This fog is the batch that rolled in late in the day. It was no warmer than its counterpart that plagued us on our first ascent and descent at 7:00am.


A very curious little fellow who would have loved a ride on the bike.


So this is the breakdown...

#1
6:45 am
53 degrees
Breezy out of the east.
Arrived at the base of the mountain on North Gate Rd. in my truck around 6:45 am, prepped my bike, and met Mickey and Dianne as they showed up. Vince rolled up 6 minutes late. Our group isn't very patient. V. almost got left behind. We traveled slowly so that the group could stay together, but at the ranger station Mickey and I pulled out first and didn't see the other 2 till the top. 2 hour climb. I felt basically like I hadn't started riding yet, as my times usually run nearer to 1 hour 15 minutes. I descended the outbound side of the "wall," (the final 1/10th of a mile that rises at nearly 20%, but is divided into a loop with an incoming and an outgoing lane separated by rocks and radio towers.), met up with the latecomers, and ascended the "wall" again with them. I decided to use this extra climb as my "get out of jail free card" in case I didn't feel like climbing the "wall" later in the day.

We descended together to the R.S. and then split up, with V. and I going down South Gate Rd. and the gals heading back where we had come from. The early morning fog, plus the elevation had plummeted the temperatures into the low 4o's at the top, so our descent was frigid. Most of us had dressed for valley temps with nothing more than arm warmers. How many times will we be fooled before we finally get it?

#2
Approx. 10:00 am
60 - 65 Degrees at the base of S.G. Rd.
Windy from the East.
V. and I were both veritable blocks of ice as we turned the bikes around. Our toes finally resumed communication with the balance of our anatomy about the time we climbed past the R.S. the second time. We had gotten there in a hurry though, because the wind was stiffly at our backs, making the south western approach a dream. Above the R.S. the roads merge into 1 and we maintained a brisk pace on that stretch of road I would see 4 more times in the next 10 hours. Refill water bottles, add Cytomax and Accelerade, Eat another energy bar, and bomb back down. This time we took N.G. road at the split, and ended back at my truck slightly warmer. I ate and shared half my lunch, drank a Dr. Pepper, and convinced V. to ride up a third time.

#3
Approx. 12:30 pm
65 - 70 degrees.
Steady wind
Somewhat uneventful, though I set out on my own somewhere along the way, and waited for V. at the top. He rolled by after I had descended the "wall" where I waited impatiently for him to round the top and return. My patience ran out and I started back down - but not so fast that he couldn't catch me, as he did just below Juniper campground. Back down to the truck again, where I finished lunch and bid adieu to my companion.

#4
Approx. 2:30 or 3:00 pm
70 degrees.
Increasing wind.
The wind was head on for most of the N.G. road ascent. I drafted off a rider who didn't like the fact that I had just passed him. He came around me pretty fast, so I just sat in his slip stream until he blew out and I passed him again. I intended for him to draft off me, but he had blown up in trying to show me up so I left him. I pressed on following 2 riders that had also breezed by me earlier. I slowly gained on them hoping to work into their drafting, but soon noticed a rider gaining on all of us rapidly. She passed the 3 of us just as I was within reach of my prey. I couldn't help it. I jumped on her wheel and blew past them like they were standing still - well, she pulled me past them like they were standing still. I asked if I could come along for awhile, and she didn't mind, but awhile was more like 3/4 or a mile, and then I was back on my own again watching her ride away. I shouted thanks, and never saw her again, so she must have gone past the R.S. and then back down S.G. Rd.

I met a group of 4 riders a mile or so from the top, and rode to the top with them. The 2 guys were part of 2 or 3 other riders on the mountain all attempting to summit the 3 Bay Area peaks in 1 day - Hamilton, Diablo, and Tamalpais. They were taking the Bay Area transit trains between the mountains. The 2 gals with them had just summitted twice, having ridden 2/3's of the way down to meet the guys coming up. I was happy to realize I wasn't the only overzealous cyclist on the mountain.

The ride down was becoming noticeably cooler again, and the fog could be seen creeping down the hills on the far side of the valley to the southwest. Too bad I was running out of get up and go, because I still needed to go back up and get. I chose to climb S.G. Rd. twice, and N.G. Rd. three times, because of the tail wind on S.G. Rd. and its higher elevation at the turnaround. It seemed like cheating to binge on the easy side and worked against my nature. I had left the second S.G. Rd. ascent for last.

#5
5:00 pm
65 degrees
Cold tail wind (Isn't this supposed to be June?)
At nearly the bottom of descent #4 I had caught 3 guys on skateboards descending nearly as fast as I was. No brakes. They told me they "drifted" around the corners, or in other words slid the boards sideways, with their bodies approaching parallel to the roadway. They loaded up in their escort vehicle at the bottom (looked like one of their girlfriends driving) and headed back up the mountain. So did I, but I was prepared to pull out the camera - and wasn't disappointed. Sorry, the quality is crummy, but I did get a short video of their fun.


video

From here on, the final climb was lonely. As I rode through 99.99 miles I was pleased to note how well I felt. No cramps all day. My shoulders and back were still pliable. My legs though sore, were still turning the cranks and I could accelerate when I needed to.

But I was getting cold. I climbed through 3,000' with the first wisps of fog interlacing the trees around me. The thought briefly crossed my mind to submit my "get out of jail free" card and make for the bottom before the "wall," but I knew that would never happen. I jokingly prayed for a miraculous blanket of warmth to surround my descent, but realized I was praying for mercy from self inflicted punishment. But that prayer did change things. It's as if God winked and said, "buddy, you don't need a miracle, you just need a plastic bag or something." Mickey had mentioned her lifesaving plastic bag on the Death Ride a few years back, and I now knew what I needed.

I came over the top of the wall feeling awesome in so many ways. A minivan load of tourists had patiently monitored my final ascent, and only their presence kept me from fist pumping the air as I coasted into the parking lot for the 5th time.

There was no time to waste though, as I could now see the fog spread completely across the valley below me and moving up the mountainside rapidly. I rolled toward the nearest open door and asked a kind family in another minivan if I could have a plastic bag. After some quizzical looks and a brief reallocation of contents, they rewarded a rapidly cooling cyclist with the makings for a fine white windbreaker. Tucked in an alcove out of the wind I filleted the bag, doffed the jersey, turned the bag handles into sleeves and wrapped my torso with a Dollar Store windbreaker. With my jersey back in place the change was imperceptible. Imperceptible to anyone else that is. I now had my armor to face the 50 degree foe one last time.

I remember last year, descending from the 4th climb and how fast I was flying. Not this year. I took it easy. I had passed "Scott's Corner" (as it is now affectionately called by my riding buddies) 5 times that day already, and each time reminded me of another aspect of an ill fated ride only 6 months ago. I frankly took it easy on all 5 of the descents for the day, to the point that V. even noted that I seemed a bit more tentative than usual. I guess 2 months in a wrist brace, and a broken bike will do that to you for a while. For a while...

At the bottom I loaded the bike back on the truck and flipped through the functions of the bike's computer just to make sure it was for real. I was having a hard time remembering all of the ascents all of a sudden. As I unloaded my jersey pockets I smiled as I did remember... I still had my "get out of jail free" card. I suppose it will be good for another day.