Since I'm an old guy, I posted this report on the 50+ Forum, but since it was so much fun to ride, I thought I should share it with the Long Distance forum riders too. It's a long read, get comfortable!
Hemet Double Staff Ride, Dec. 13, 2008
Staff Ride for Volunteers
One of the side-benefits of working a double century here in CA, besides helping all those other riders, is that there is usually a "Staff Ride" the following day (or weekend). Since I had worked the Hemet Double in March (at the last checkpoint!), I was looking forward to the Hemet staff ride. Unfortunately, we had trouble agreeing on a date so this ride was postponed, scheduled, re-scheduled, put off and back on again for various reasons (and ride/date conflicts) numerous times (I lost count!) before it was finally agreed to be ridden on Dec. 13th.
Schedule and Reschedule
By that time a number of the workers (many of whom had caused the prev. re-scheduling) had decided they didn't want to ride it at all. That left three of us (all over 50!). Jim Henderson is 65, Dan Crain is 63 and I am 58, so this ride is applicable to the 50+ forum on bikeforums.net (as well as the Long Distance forum). Dr. Jim Watrous, the organizer of the Hemet Double and Frank Neal from the CAL Triple Crown staff, traveling the course in the comfort of Dr. Jim’s Toyota Camry, would support the staff ride.
"Before" photo, left to right, Jim Henderson, Dan Crain, Me, Frank Neal (one of our support drivers).
4:30 AM We’re On the Road!
We assembled at 4:00 AM, and by the time the cars were loaded and we'd met at the point of departure, it was 4:30 AM. Dr. Jim took a "Pre-Ride" photo; just in case (I guess) anyone had trouble believing we would actually ride a double this late in the year. The temp wasn't quite freezing at the start (38 deg. F) but it felt cold, plus there was some wind, which didn't help.
Dressed for the Cold
I was dressed for the cold, so in addition to the usual shorts and jersey I had a wool turtle-neck base layer, wool balaclava, arm warmers, knee warmers, wool tights, wool socks, toe covers for my Sidi shoes, a skull cap (over the balaclava), long finger gloves and a Sugoi jacket. I thought I would take some of those things off as the day warmed up, but that never happened.
Here Comes the Rain
Just after dawn (about 6:30 AM) we had our first of many rain showers. Thankfully none of them were really downpours, but just about the time the roads would start to dry, another one’d hit us. Riding through Lake Elsinore (after Tom's Farms for those that know the area) we stopped to refill our water bottles (and my Camelback). Dan took off first, and I was right behind, but Jim stayed at the car for a little longer for some reason.
Our first “Bonus Miles”
Jim is a local, and he wouldn't get lost out here, but since Dan was telling me a cyclist story (about the local woman who won the World's time trial) as we rode along, we totally missed the left turn onto Lakeshore drive. By the time we realized it, we'd gone most of the way around the lake, and so were able to add a few bonus miles before joining the route at Lakeshore Drive on the opposite side of the lake. Still no sign of Jim. Turns out, Jim had a flat tire, and while the SAG guys were helping him, Dan and I were following the route sheet. We were okay until the turn onto the Domenigoni Parkway. The route sheet said to turn right, so we did.
Added 11 miles, Lost an Hour
But that was wrong . . . only we had no way of knowing at the time. After going 5-1/2 miles in the wrong direction we realized that "This just doesn't look right!" and phoned Dr. Jim. We gave him our location and he drove out to us, trying to figure out how we'd gone wrong. Apparently he'd emailed us the wrong route sheet! So . . . we picked up the right route sheet, and rode back 5-1/2 miles to get back on course. Total time lost was probably close to an hour. Plus, just standing there, waiting for him to find us, we were getting cold!
Sage and Rice
Back on the course it was warmer (since we were moving!); still dark gray overcast with the occasional rain shower, all the way back into Hemet. Jim was just leaving that checkpoint when we rolled in, so we let him go ahead as we got some things to eat (Cliff bars, bananas, etc.) before taking off for the two difficult climbs of the day, i.e. Sage and Rice Canyon. I did okay on Sage, staying with Dan (who was probably going slowly just so I could stay with him), but I was mostly dead on Rice Canyon.
Subway Sandwich for Lunch!
Most likely, I just wasn't drinking enough, which is a problem for me on cold days. On hot days, no worries, but on cold days it just doesn't occur to me often enough. Jim and Dan were waiting for me at the top of Rice Canyon, and I managed to stay with them until we hooked up with the SAG car again. Dr. Jim and Frank said they'd found a Subway sandwich shop nearby where we could have lunch. This was approx. the 115-mile point. The Subway was a little off the course, but eventually we found it. Thankfully it was warm inside (and yes, we all ordered hot sandwiches!), and very kindly, Dr. Jim paid for them all!
Twelve Hours In
I got a Pepsi to drink, but didn't add any ice to it; I was still that cold. I wanted the caffeine and sugar, but no extra cold! We probably stayed there for an hour or so, drying off, eating, and talking about cyclists we knew who'd had terrible crashes (great subject matter, aye?), but eventually it was time to ride those last 85 miles. The time was ten minutes after 4:00 PM, so almost 12 hours had gone by since the start. Back outside it seemed colder than ever, plus we hadn't generated any body heat for a while. Back on the road I felt better, and was able to keep up with Jim and Dan all right, i.e. without using far too much effort like I had been before lunch.
Lights On, No Party for Me!
Half an hour later the SAG car stopped and the guys told us it was time to re-install the lights on the bikes. I had trouble fitting my Nite-Rider headlamp, just because it's a little fiddly anyway, plus my hands were very cold once I took my gloves off. That said, even with all my fumbling about, I got my light and battery fitted before the other guys. I took off saying, "You guys will catch me soon enough!" With the headlight on I could see the misty rain drops in my light beam, and I admit my mood was pretty dire at that point. It was dark, cold, raining; I was tired and still had what . . . 75 more miles to ride? Note: This was about the time the O.C. Rebel (the club I ride for) Holiday Party began.
But whatever, it was a double century and I had waited since March to ride it, so I certainly was not going to give up now. Plus, in the cold-hearted reality of the situation, Dr. Jim's Camry was fully loaded with our "stuff" (food, clothing, batteries, etc.), and there was no bike rack fitted, so I couldn't have abandoned if I'd wanted to! So . . . I took another drink from my Camelback and tried to think positive thoughts. First, my core temperature was good (thanks to wool!), my hands and feet weren't cold, and I was riding along fairly well, so . . . just keep going. Through Endurance We Find Victory . . . something like that?
Yes, AMP is good!
Dan and Jim did eventually catch up to me, about 20 miles out of Hemet, but at least we could see the lights of the city in the distance. It rained again as we were approaching Hemet, but stopped before we got to the actual checkpoint (thankfully!). It was cold in Hemet, but Dr. Jim said it would get warmer as we rode back toward Riverside. I was hoping he was right! I refilled by Camelback in Hemet, dumped the water out of my water bottle and filled it with AMP, which is some kind of energy drink I'd purchased at the grocery store the night before. It had lots of caffeine, so that had to be good! Plus I took some electrolytes and calcium pills that Dr. Jim had brought along. Didn't know if they would help, but thought they probably couldn't hurt!
Only 35 miles to Go!
Back on the road the last 35-mi. began with 16 miles on the Ramona Expressway shoulder, lots of high-speed traffic but no issues, and no rain along here either. Dan was letting me draft him, but the wind was changing directions (as was the road, occasionally), so it was difficult for me to find the most sheltered place behind Dan's rear wheel. I still wasn't feeling super-strong, but I was holding on all right, thanks to drafting Dan so much. Little body-aches started to pop up, so tried to stretch a bit as I rode to loosen up the muscles and it seemed to work somewhat. I started to drink more AMP and less from my Camelback (Sustained Energy mixed with Hammer Gel Expresso), which helped a bit too.
Don’t Say That!
Just after Dan remarked, "Looks like we won't get any more rain." the rain started up again. A bit harder this time, but only for about 15 minutes, approx. By this time we were about 15 miles from the finish, so it was time (I guess) for my first mechanical. Basically, the nuts that held on my seat-tube bottle cage (yes, Calfee uses nuts, not bolts) must have loosened and fallen off, because crossing an intersection the whole thing dropped off the bike, taking the battery and pump with it. I was not a happy camper. I yelled up to Dan "Stopping!" and he'd heard the parts hitting the pavement, so was looping back anyway.
Enough Excitement for One Night
A kind pedestrian recovered the battery from the middle of the wet intersection, and we managed to get it all working again by putting the battery in the front bottle cage, and putting the bottle into Dan's jersey pocket. The SAG vehicle, we found out later, was helping Jim with his 2nd flat tire of the day while we were dealing with the bottle cage incident (about 9:15 PM by this time). Thankfully, that was about it for excitement. As we rolled into the finish, the rain actually let up quite a bit. Oh, wait, one more thing.
Where Oh Where is the Van?
We had parked in a shopping center, in Riverside, in the morning with almost no other vehicles in the lot. Coming in after completing the course, we were totally confused about where, exactly, in the vast shopping center, the cars were parked (hundreds of cars now!). Dan and I rode around for another ten minutes before we found his Sienna van parked across from Jim's Ford Explorer. I phoned Dr. Jim from there, and he said they were only a few minutes away (after dealing with Jim's flat).
Dr. Jim's "After" photo.
Warm Shower Time!
Dr. Jim took another photo; this one showing the weary travelers (quite the contrast from the morning photo I would think!), and then Dan gave me ride back to the motel. Too late to call my wife (that would wait until Sunday morning), but that long hot shower sure felt good!
Latest, Darkest, Tied for Most Rain
So yes, as doubles go this was the latest (in the year), probably tied for the wettest (with Butterflood 2005) and certainly the darkest, i.e. 8 hours of riding in the dark. Would I do it again? No, probably not. Not this late in the year. Dan called it "An Epic Double Century Event" as in, the kind of ride we won't soon forget. So this is the last double report you'll read (from me) until the Camino Real double in Feb. of '09. Hope it's warmer!
Rick / OCRR
Note: For those of you familiar with the Hemet Double Course, we started in Riverside, about 34 miles into the first loop. So we rode two thirds of the first loop, then the 2nd loop, then the last third of the 1st loop. Why? Because both Dr. Jim and Jim Henderson live in Riverside.
PS: Both Dr. Jim and Dan Crain have ridden RAAM (Race Across America). In fact Dr. Jim's CA license plate on his Camry reads "RAAM" so say 'Hi!" to him of you see him on the road.
For total miles, I got 214.4, Elevation Gain a little over 7,500 feet.