Hemet Double Century, 2013
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Another Crazy Double Century Report
I haven’t written a double century report for awhile, and even though I know most of you 50+ riders think we double century riders are crazy, I keep writing reports anyway, hoping that someday one or more of you might decide to try to ride a double . . . just to see what this crazy double century adventure is all about. This particular adventure began in the small town of Hemet, California and more specifically at the local Motel 6 which was the headquarters and start/finish for this event. Unlike most doubles, the Hemet Double is made up of two loops, mostly different but sharing a few roads around the start/finish.
Motel 6, Hemet, CA
My wife Jackie joined me on this adventure, our first double of the year (she’s ridden 23 doubles over previous years), driving out together on Friday afternoon, fighting the usual Los Angeles area traffic, but arriving in time for Friday registration and check-in to our room at Motel 6 followed by a pre-ride dinner at Marie Calendar’s, conveniently located right next to the motel. Jackie wanted to get on the road by 4:00AM, so that meant we awoke at a Very Early 3:00AM for a quick breakfast, then trying to dress correctly for the temperature at that early hour. I walked out on the balcony for an outside temp check and dressed appropriately but failed to remember that once out of the immediate city area, the temperatures would drop!
Way Before the Crack of Dawn
Jackie was meeting up with her riding buddies, Penny and Jacques, for the 4:00AM departure, so I decided to ride with them, at least until it got to be daylight, as I sometimes manage to get lost on these adventures, conspicuously more often in the dark than in the light of day. My wife, however, never gets lost. After checking out at Event Headquarters, the four of us departed into the dark and foggy morning. We didn’t really expect fog, but there it was, as we rode along, depositing its misty self on our clothes and glasses and making the cool pre-dawn feel even a bit more chilling.
Suffering in the Cold
Not much to see beyond the beam of our headlights as we rolled along the rural countryside, pretty flat roads with just the occasional slight rise and fall, realizing that I was near shivering but thankfully, not quite there! For sure, I was under-dressed (wool short-sleeve base layer, jersey and bib-shorts, arm and knee warmers, balaclava, glove liners plus a light jacket), just suffering along hoping for an early dawn and bright sunlight. Note to Self: Learn from this experience!
Checkpoint #1, Mile 35.0
We rolled into the first Checkpoint at mile 35 with just a hint of daylight in the grey skies to the East. After giving the young man with the clipboard our numbers, we set about grazing at the food items table, the usual cookies, bars, bananas, orange slices and muffin pieces. The organizers had also provided paper bags so you could send your lights and/or no longer needed clothing items back to the start/finish but I was still needing all my clothes, plus I decided to keep the lights on the bike for the duration since they don’t really weigh that much.
Into the Passing Peloton
The next stage was mostly through urban areas, which Jackie knew well, as we encountered other riders who had gotten lost but had since been found, while the faster riders (pairs, packs and pelotons) passed us by. Somewhere near Riverside we were passed by a large peloton which contained two tandems and maybe twenty single-bike riders, one of whom was my friend Isabelle Drake. We were right at 50 miles here, and while these riders had started an hour after us, it took them only 50 miles to catch and pass us; such was the differential in speed! So . . . at this point I bid my wife good-bye and rode off to join the passing peloton. I should probably explain; my wife rides a lot slower than I do. She really doesn’t like for us to ride together since, A. she thinks she’s holding me back and B. she doesn’t want to have to speed up to try and match my pace. Hence, it was fine with her for me to go off and ride with Isabelle.
Leaving My Wife to Ride Off with Another Woman
Plus, big picture, Jackie and I had discussed this exact possibility (riding with Isabelle when she passed us) on the drive out. While, on the surface, it may look like I was leaving my wife to go off with another woman (and this may have been superficially true) it was totally okay with Jackie and simply a matter of riding with someone of a similar speed.
Checkpoint #2, Mile 65.5
All that said, I really did have to up my tempo after riding relatively slowly for 50 miles, feeling now like I was really working and only fearful that I might be using up too much energy too early in the double. Balancing all that out, of course, was the huge draft I was getting riding behind a well populated peloton. As we turned onto Temescal Canyon, I actually knew where I was, since this is a familiar training ride area. Several miles later we all rolled into Tom’s Farms in Temecula, Checkpoint #2 at mile 65.5. Isabelle had “warned” me earlier that she is as “quick as possible” in and out of Checkpoints unlike me (and most others) who like to stand around a rest a bit and chat with the Checkpoint workers as we sample the local carbohydrates.
Isabelle, Rick, Isabelle and Rick departing Checkpoint #2, photos by Ken Hanis
Trying to Stay with Isabelle
I was afraid Isabelle might ride off without me since I needed to take a rather desperate restroom break here, yet luckily she was in similar need, so we were able to regroup and take off together. Before departing I grabbed a Chocolate Power brand Protein bar from the table, and since I was able to unwrap it and eat it while riding along, this became my food of choice throughout the day, such that I was able to switch to Isabelle’s quick as possible in and out Checkpoint plan.
Around Lake Elsinore
There was a good bit of climbing coming out of Checkpoint #2 so this gave me a chance to rest since I am a bit better climber than Isabelle. I can’t match her on the flats or the descents, but the climbs give me a great opportunity to recover. Eventually we were riding around Lake Elsinore, then out into some local community and up the climb known as Railroad Canyon in the Canyon Lakes district. By this time the sun was out, the temperatures had risen to the mid 60’s and I was ready to shed some clothing. I devised a plan whereby I would hammer up Railroad Canyon at maybe 80% effort, which would give me enough time at the summit to change from my normal glasses to sunglasses, remove the balaclava, glove liners and arm warmers, before Isabelle popped over the top.
Isabelle climbing in Canyon Lakes area.
Isabelle the “Tandem”
Awhile back, another friend of ours (Karin Huber) had told Isabelle that she was “like a tandem.” That means, essentially, that she’s slow on the climbs but strong on the flats and an absolute rocket on the descents. Karin got it right! If I wanted to still be with Isabelle at the bottom of a descent I had to make darn sure I was on her wheel before the descent really started. Once I worked all this out, the ride was really a lot more fun for me! When Isabelle told me what Karin had said about her being a tandem, it really made the whole double a lot easier for me! Back to the ride and after a bunch of pretty easy rollies we cruised into Checkpoint #3 at Pete Perterson Park at mile 87.8, which I think is on the outskirts of Mettarie, but I could be wrong. Regardless, after giving our numbers to the nice lady with the clip board we filled our bottles, I grabbed yet another Power Protein Bar, and we were off. Just like that!
Isabelle Drake "Just Riding Along"
Old People Talk
No worries though, since the streets in this community were fairly flat, we hammered along, though not full speed since we were talking almost all the time, mostly sharing stories of cycling adventures of the past but also spending some time discussing our children and grandchildren. Old people talk about things like that (I’m 63 and Isabelle is 59). After the well manicured suburban communities the route dumped us onto the shoulder of the Domenigioni Parkway. The bad news . . . lots of high speed traffic. The good news . . . a nice wide and very smooth shoulder!
Life on The Domenigioni
It was along here that we hooked up with a couple of cyclists who would end up riding the balance of the double with us. Tom and Alex (we learned their names much later) had been stopped at the light to get on Domenigioni Parkway when we rode up behind them. The light changed and they charged off, whereas Isabelle and I got going at a somewhat more leisurely pace. There are several traffic signals along the Domenigioni Parkway and we had several similar meetings with Tom and Alex before they gave up and started riding with us, instead of sprinting away from us. We subsequently learned that they were on their 2nd double ever and they were quite amazed when they inquired how many doubles I’d ridden (Hemet was number 56). Then I listed off a few of Isabelle’s accomplishments on RAAM, Furnace Creek 508, Race Across Oregon, PBP, etc. and they were duly impressed!
Lunch and Photos
So there we were, the four of us pretty much hammering along Domenigioni , then finishing up our first loop (at 109 miles) after a left turn onto Sanderson, checking into the Event Center at about 11:30AM. Isabelle was kind enough to allow me a few minutes to go to my room (at Motel 6 remember) to drop off some clothes and pick up my re-charger card for my Garmin. I need to recharge my Gamin 800 on a double century since it runs out of power at about 125 miles without the recharge. To save time, I just stuffed it into my pocket, hoping to have a minute or two to plug it in later in the ride. I dropped by the lunch stop and grabbed a barbecued chicken leg, having failed to find any Power bars there!
We also took a moment to photograph Isabelle’s Joshua Tree Double jersey, since the pockets and sleeves are dedicated to Lee Mitchell, a dedicated and devoted SAG driver (and 70+ RAAM winner) who has helped countless endurance cyclists over the years. He is currently recovering from cancer treatments (radiation and chemo), so Anny Beck (who runs the Joshua Tree Double) designed this jersey in honor of Lee. Isabelle wanted me to take the photos so she could send them to Lee in an email.
Back of Isabelle's Lee Mitchell jersey and Front of Joshua Tree jersey, modeled by The Very Famous Isabelle Drake. Jersey design by Anny Beck, photo by me.
The Much Dreaded Sage Climb
All that done and having collected Tom and Alex, we were back on the road again. The first part of the 2nd loop is relatively flat, and while we did have a bit of wind to contend with, these flat miles are merely a prelude to the (Much Dreaded) Sage Climb. As we approached the climb I tried to warn Tom and Alex about its severity but Tom especially had a “Bring it On!” attitude since no matter how steep and brutal my description of the climb, he was all, “Wow, that sounds good!” That got me thinking, “This guy must be a real climber (age 30 something); don’t even try to stay with him when we hit the steep part.” We had already dropped Isabelle and Alex on the first part of the climb, and as the road angled up (several 14% sections) I honestly expected Tom to come around me . . . but it never happened! When we pulled over at the summit (to wait for Isabelle and Alex) I told him that I’d kind of expected him to pass me. His reply was, “I probably could have, but I wanted to save myself since we still have 80 miles left to ride today!” In other news, I did pass 3 of the Bullshifters (from Arizona) on the way up, and saw Dwight (az_cyclist on bikeforums) who is also a Bullshifter, waiting for them at the top.
And the Descent Off Sage
I used this opportunity to plug in my Garmin recharger card, managing to clip it onto the same clip as my route sheet and get it plugged in. Fortunately, I was able to get this all done before Isabelle hit the summit. Once over the top, Isabelle (like a tandem, remember) was on her aero bars and hammering down the descent like the proverbial rocket! Having anticipated accurately, I was able to get on her wheel and follow her down the descent, failing (by just a little!) to warn her of an approaching right turn. All my screaming and yelling did finally connect, however, and since Tom and Alex had seen me make the turn correctly, we only had to soft pedal for half a mile to allow Isabelle to turn around and catch back up.
The lovely descent off the Sage Climb
Grain & Feed?
We were out in the countryside now, lots of rolling hills and a couple with fairly sharp inclines, but no problem for me, other than anticipating Isabelle’s “tandem” effect on the descents. Riding past the vineyard that used to be the first Checkpoint on the 2nd loop, I began looking for the new checkpoint, a Grain & Feed Store (which indicates just how “out in the countryside” we were!). We were riding in a pace-line, with me in front as we approached the Checkpoint. It was a bit hidden, but they had a sign out, and I yelled out, “Right turn!” and pointed to the right with my right hand to alert the other riders.
Unfortunately, the rider directly on my wheel (Tom) didn’t process this information quickly enough and I took out his front wheel as I made my turn. In every other similar situation, this would have put Tom on the ground with plenty of road rash, possibly a broken collar bone (clavicle) and who knows what other misc. address’s in the painful World of Hurt. But no. Somehow, and don’t ask me how, as the bike was going down, Tom actually stepped off the bike (how he unclipped that fast I’ll never know) and began running down the road at about 15mph! What the checkpoint workers saw: A cyclist, in full cycling kit, just running along . . . and they couldn’t believe it either. When Tom was finally able to stop (and yes, he remained upright the whole time) and walk up to the Checkpoint (having retrieved his bike) he was greeted with standing ovation. To call his performance “Amazing” doesn’t begin to say it. In fact, superlatives fail me. A little scuff on the brake lever and some extra wear on his cleats were the only damage. Oh, and this was mile 139 for those of you taking notes.
Life of the Very Famous Ultra Cyclist
The other cool thing about this Checkpoint was that the workers recognized Isabelle and greeted her with, “You’re the Very Famous Isabelle Drake!” So that was fun too, since Isabelle seems to be a little embarrassed about being an Ultra Cycling celebrity. I think it’s great! All that fun and excitement said and done, we were back on our bikes and while there was an occasional tail and side wind, it seemed to be mostly head windy through this next section. Also, at this Checkpoint we picked up another rider for our group and that would be Kurt. Kurt is also an experienced Ultra Cyclist, and he and Isabelle had a wonderful time sharing stories about the Furnace Creek 508 (a race across the Mojave desert, via Death Valley, 508 miles in 48 hours or less) as Tom, Alex and I listened in.
Isabelle leading the pace line in front of four strong guys (the photographer, Rick, is the 4th guy).
Kudos to Our Domestiques!
Before too much longer we were in a huge sweeping right turn that led to the next Checkpoint, this one near an ARCO station at mile 159.4. This Checkpoint stop was not quite so quick due to a restroom break, but otherwise it was just fill bottles (Checkpoint folks added ice too!), grab a Power bar and hit the road. This time, as we headed out, we adopted a couple more riders into our group. Or maybe, they adopted us. The latter is probably more accurate as these two fine gentlemen proceeded to pull our double pace-line into the wind for mile after uncomplaining mile. At one point, Kurt yelled out, “Hey, great job; thanks to you guys in front!” and that pretty much sums it up. Never once did they indicate that they wanted another of us to take a pull. We started referring to them as “our domestiques” and I cannot thank them enough for their selfless suffering into that relentless wind . . . unfortunately we never learned their names.
Checkpoint #6 at Mile 182
Wind aside, this was a fairly easy stage, getting into mid afternoon by now with the temperatures beginning to drop again. We were also getting into more traffic but not really a problem since there were adequate bike lanes and (mostly) smooth shoulders. Nothing exciting through here (thankfully) as the five of us traded off pulls, eventually rolling into the final Checkpoint (near a 7-11) at mile 182.6. There we were greeted by Grand Tour Double organizer and overall SAG coordinator Kermit Ganier who serenaded us with “24 miles to go” to the tune of 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. No, I have no idea why; just because he wanted to, I guess. While Isabelle was off to the restroom I gave Kermit our numbers (#122 for me, #85 for Isabelle), grabbed yet another (thankfully my last for the day) Power Bar, and had a short conversation with “Burrito” Bob Davidson who was only slightly chagrined not to find any burritos at this Checkpoint.
Leaving this Checkpoint it was a short downhill leading to a 90 degree left which put us onto a long, but not very steep climb. Looking at the route sheet, we noticed that we would soon be getting back onto the Domenigioni Parkway yet again. I relayed this information in my best Italian accent, which caused Isabelle to reply in her best Italian accent, and we carried on conversing like this for awhile, indicating just how goofy we can become after spending 14 hours on a bike! Through here also, we were passed by a good sized (and fast moving) peloton which contained several of Isabelle’s friends. She tried to keep pace with them for awhile but ultimately decided they were going too fast, even for her, so we reformed back into our group of five (Kurt, Tom, Alex, Isabelle and myself) before making the right turn onto Domenigioni for the final sprint back to Hemet. Unfortunately, about this time, either Tom or Alex (not sure which) had a flat tire, and they both stopped but told us to go ahead . . . which we did.
Kurt got a little spunky for awhile here, moving away from us and pulling out maybe a ¼ mile lead before we all regrouped at the traffic signal for the left turn onto Sanderson. It was early evening by now, as we finished in the last of the daylight, right at 7:15PM. After our final check in, Isabelle, Tom and Alex sat down to dig into the Absolutely Wonderful post-ride dinner (barbeque chicken, potato salad, tossed salad, pasta plus cookies for desert) whereas I decided to wait until Jackie finished to have dinner with her.
Hot Shower Time!
Back at the room I took a long and (I thought) well deserved hot shower. For some reason, that post-double shower is just so good! That done I got dressed and walked back to Check In (finish line) to greet other riders, several of whom I knew from previous doubles. I was rehydrating on all the free Coke and Pepsi at the finish, plus I phoned my friend Linda to see how she had done on the Mulholland Challenge Century (scheduled on the same day) and tell her of my adventures on the Hemet Double. Not too much else to do, really, until Jackie finished, long about 10:30PM. As Jackie and I were eating dinner she was happy to see many other riders were finishing after she had, thereby allowing her to escape the dreaded DFL finishing position!
My lovely wife, Jackie at the finish at Motel 6, Hemet, CA.
So, overall, a fun double, not too difficult and on what became a very beautiful day in Southern California.
My Garmin data for the day: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/297970944
203.92 miles, 6,125 feet of climbing
Rick / OCRR