Going up the first 15 mile hill...
Master Yoda says "Size matters NOT! Do or do not, there is no try!"
Man, I gotta lose that gut!
Tony Climbing the fist 15 mile hill
Dave and Me at finish. Notice Dave has already changed! He finished 1.5 hours ahead of me!
Thanks to Chelsea for the photos!
Unfortunately when I got to Lake Isabella I realized I had no idea where I was supposed to go! I forgot to bring the directions to the staging area near the Johnsondale Bridge. Crap. Luckily I had a weak cell signal in Lake Isabella, so I tried calling home. No answer. Hmmm... Tried Annette's cell phone. No answer. Then I called my brother Leo, figuring if anyone, he would be close to a computer. Sure enough he got online, went to the FAQ page and gave me directions. I had to call him one more time because I still wasn't quite oriented but finally found my way over Johnsondale Bridge. Wait, the start was supposed to be just BEFORE Johnsondale Bridge. I saw a parking area, but it looked empty. I turned around and went back and there was only one guy sitting in a very large truck. Hmmm... He looked like he might be a cyclist, but the big truck didn't quite fit the image. I looked at my watch, it was 5:40pm. Registration was supposed to be between 5pm and 9pm. Well, couldn't hurt to ask, so I went over and asked if he knew anything about a bicycle ride that was supposed to be going on. He said he was wondering the same thing and that last year they had a tent and registration tables set up. Not good, not good at all. Turns out that this guy was Dave Morse, the guy with the fastest time from last year. Wow. We chatted for a few minutes, then another truck pulled up and a guy with no shirt and a lot of chest hair jumped out, walked over to us and said the dreaded words "Didn't you guys get notified?? The ride has been officially cancelled!"
My heart sank! Two big rides cancelled in one year?!? That's just not possible! The weather was nice, there weren't any forest fires! I had checked the website earlier in the week and Leo had just looked to get me directions when I was in Lake Isabella! This had to be a bad joke! "Apparently there were 3 times as many riders registered this year, so they couldn't get a forest service permit to do the ride." Crap, crap, crap!
Then he said the magic words "Ya, it's disappointing so a small group of us are going to ride it anyway! Chelsea is going to drive SAG and you're welcome to throw an ice chest in the back of the truck if you want!" How could I turn down an offer like that?! Dave and I very gratefully accepted! The ride savior was Anthony Martinez. Chelsea (Tony's girlfriend, sorry don't think I ever asked her last name) said they call him "The Yeti." Trust me, it's an appropriate moniker! Tony was planning on being on his bike by 5:30am and we were to meet at the parking lot. What a relief! He invited Dave and I to dinner, but I still needed to get settled into my campsite, so I didn't go.
There was a campground just around the corner and luckily there were still 4 spaces left, so I took one. It was right next to the Kern river and the sound of the river was quite nice. I went to bed early because I knew it was going to be a long day. About 10pm or so, two large Ford F350 diesel trucks pulled in and set up camp at the last two available spots next to me. By 10:30 the people were drunk enough to make quite a bit of noise. It was a long night.
My alarm went off at 5am and I very quickly broke camp and headed back around the corner. There were a surprising number of people there! Tony and Chelsea showed up at about 5:15 and I put my ice chest in the back of their truck. It was still quite dark, so Tony decided to wait a while before leaving, which gave me plenty of time to get ready. A number of people had lights for their bikes and left early. Dave showed up close to 5:30 and also passed along an ice chest. We were all set. Tony and I left at 5:52, just as it was getting light enough to see the road. Dave was still getting ready, but we both knew it wouldn't be long before he passed us.
The ride starts with an immediate 15 mile hard climb. I rode with Tony for maybe a mile when I noticed my Polar wasn't registering speed. I put my Topolino wheels on for the ride and must not have had the magnet lined up quite right, so I stopped to fix it. Tony wasn't too far ahead, so I just rode my own pace. It was a tough hill and we started passing some people who had left earlier. There was one section that wasn't quite so steep and I caught up to Tony for a few minutes, but when the road turned up again I let him go. Somewhere along there, as expected, Dave breezed by looking pretty strong. I didn't even try to get on his wheel! It was a long grind to the top, but when I got there Dave and Tony were still with Chelsea. By the time I filled my bottles and hit the latrine they were ready to leave, so we all left together.
The next section had some pretty big rolling hills and we each rode to our own strengths. Dave was strongest on the hills and would get ahead when going up. Tony was probably the most consistent across that terrain and, of course, being a naturally gifted down-hiller, I was able to catch and pass them on the descents. Chelsea planned to be waiting at a place called "Black Rock." Dave and I didn't know where that was and shot past it without stopping. I had pulled a little bit ahead of Dave by the time we started the next climb, but it wasn't long before he went by me again. I didn't see Tony behind us because he had stopped at Black Rock.
There were a number of riders at a Country Store that's about half way to the turn around, but I didn't stop. I was going up the last long climb before the big descent down 9 mile hill when Chelsea pulled up to see if I needed anything. I stopped and filled my bottles and we chatted a bit. Turns out she is a professional Down Hill racer (and 2003 NORBA DH National Champion! She didn't mention that during our chat! Very Impressive!), recently recovered from a nasty spill that caused a number of broken bones (OUCH) and is about to come off of a suspension for taking a weight loss supplement that she didn't know was banned by the UCI (double ouch!). She's never done a long event, but she and Tony are thinking about trying a tandem. Good luck to both of you! They say a tandem will make or break a relationship, so be prepared for the test! Anyway, Chelsea planned to wait just before the descent so Tony could have a lunch break before going down. I thought about it, but decided I would rather wait until that big climb was done, so I just waved when I went by.
The road was narrow and rough in places, but not too bad and I was able to average over 40 mph going down. Near the bottom I passed Dave who was on his way back up and still looking like he was making good time. At the 395 intersection I stopped for a couple of gels and a clif bar. It was getting hot so I looked at my Polar and it showed 100 degrees. It was going to be a long, hot slog back up to the top. But I took my time, remembering that there was still a very nasty climb after this one. There were occasionally very brief tail winds that felt oh so good, but for the most part it was calm and hot. I think I might have been 1/3 up when Tony went by. Now the heat was really starting to get to me. There were points where I would turn my crank a few times and coast almost to a track stand, then do it again. Somewhere along there another support crew came by and offered me water. I gratefully accepted since I was down to my last few swallows. I knew Chelsea was at the top, so I poured a little over my head to cool down some. Chelsea came by once to let me know that she was in search of a latrine, but would be back at the top shortly. She came by again to let me know she was going to look in the other direction. I got to the top and another support car was there with a lady waiting for her husband (I think she said her name was "Bea." We chatted for a few minutes and she offered me a peanut butter sandwich, but I had a lunchable waiting in my ice chest, so I passed on the offer. I had only been waiting for maybe 5 minutes when Tony pulled up. The guy is an animal to have made up that much time on me climbing that hill! Impressive!
We waited another minute or two, then I decided I had better get moving before my legs decided they were done. Tony wasn't quite ready yet, but said he would meet me when I found Chelsea. I had only gone couple miles when she came over a hill towards me and pulled off the road. I told her Tony was right behind me and sure enough he pulled in within a minute. I had my lunchable and Tony gave me half an orange, then we started off again. We rode together for a little while, but I was glancing at my heart rate starting to go up again and I still remembered that I had one huge climb left, so I thought I'd rather conserve energy and told Tony I was going to drop back a bit and then watched him disappear in the distance.
There was a nice descent before that country store, so I got in my hyper tuck and built up quite a bit of speed. I thought I saw Tony off in the distance once, but wasn't sure. But when I pulled into that Country store, he was in line to buy some water and a soda. I got myself a bottle of water and a Chocolate milk. We didn't stay long and I didn't even try to stay on his wheel when we left. This was the start of that big climb I was worried about. I was definitely feeling tired and the heat and effort had sapped most of my energy, so this was a very long, hard tedious climb. At least it was starting to cool off as the sun moved to the west.
When you've worked this hard the mind starts playing games. I started to hear Paul Sherwin saying "Did you see that Phil? I do believe he's cracked! Yes, yes! He has! He's totally blown!" And Phil replying, "Oh he's losing massive amounts of time now! Can you believe this? He's all over his bike now, this is not good." At least their conversation kept me occupied while I struggled up the hill and got back to those rollers. Somewhere along there I passed a sign that said 31 miles to the Kern River. Ok, so I knew the first hill was 15 miles long going up which meant I had 16 miles of big rolling hills before getting to that much anticipated descent!
At one point my right leg started to cramp. I was going up a pretty good hill and rather than try to ride through a cramp going up hill, I decided the wiser choice would be to get off and walk it off. So this is the second ride I've done where I've gotten off my bike and walked up a hill. That's saying something about the difficulty of this ride because I'm pretty darn stubborn! At the top of the hill my leg felt ok again and I started riding a bit stronger. I kept an eye on the distance on my Polar knowing that the ride is supposed to be 132 miles long, so when it showed 117 miles, I would be descending!
I stopped once for a pee break, but it was on a hill and I had trouble clipping back in. I was just trying to get my foot clipped in when a support car full of people pulled up. They had ice and water, so I filled my bottles again, then was able to clip in without a problem and kept going. Not 5 minutes after that Tony pulled up from behind me! What? He said he stopped at a ranger station to fill bottles and use the latrine. Apparently he saw me go by. I thought for sure he would have been miles and miles ahead of me at the rate I was going! He pulled ahead again and we continued through the rollers. There is one more significant climb before the descent and my polar showed 115 miles, so I knew I was on the last climb!
I eagerly watched my distance close in on that magic 117 miles when the number came and went with no top in sight! This can't be right! 118 ticked by. 119. Now Tourette's Syndrome was starting to kick in. 119.5. Tourette's got worse. 120. What the...!?? 120.5 and there's the sign showing a Vista Overlook 1/4 mile away! Finally! That was the longest 1/4 mile I've ever ridden!
I pulled into the overlook to use a latrine. A guy who just pulled in said Tony was only a mile or so ahead of me. I figured he would have been finished! Then I got the final surprise! This wasn't a pleasant descent, but one of the hardest, most technical, roughest descents I've ever experienced. There were potholes around almost every corner, some with sand. Saying the road was rough is putting it mildly. I was making good time, but my feet hurt on every bump and my hands went numb. This was supposed to be my well earned pleasant descent to the finish. I was making good time though and caught a glimpse of Tony a bit farther down the hill. When I caught up to him, I stayed behind him and tried to get some feeling back in my hands. It was even hard to use my brakes! The slower speed certainly helped, so I used Tony to help pace myself down the rest of the way. When we got to the bottom Tony waved me up with him. We started the ride together and finished together.
We compared notes at the bottom. I showed 137 miles, Tony showed over 140. I showed 17,178 feet of climbing and Tony showed just over 17,000 feet (he has the Garmin 305 GPS). All I can think is that the official ride doesn't go all the way to the 395 intersection, but must turn around at the base of the hill. I don't know why the climbing is off by 2,000 feet but I don't think I would have been able to do another 500, much less 2,000! Compared to the Death Ride, this ride is significantly harder. It may have a similar amount of climbing, but climbing in the Death Ride is more evenly spaced. Up, down, up, down, flat, up, down. This ride felt like it was up, up, up. Even going down was a fight. What a ride! Hopefully they will be able to do it as an official ride next year.
The official jersey for the Son of Death Ride include these quotes by Nietzsche:
"That which does not kill you makes you stronger"
So here are Enfield's corollaries/revisions to Nietzsche:
"That which does not kill you makes you stronger or it drives you completely insane!" (Everyone does know Nietzsche lost his sanity before his death, right? True -- look it up).
"If you stare long enough into the abyss, the abyss stares back and laughs with a voice that sounds strikingly like Phil Liggett!"
But my new favorite Nietzsche-ism is:
"I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain, torture it endures and knows how to turn to its advantage."
We'll see how well I can turn this weekend's suffering into advantage at the Colorado Last Chance 1200k in two weeks!
Tony and Chelsea have my sincerest thanks for their assistance and kindness! They are great examples of the people that make cycling such a great sport!
Copyright © 2006 by Mike Enfield. All rights
Revised: 04/06/09 11:29:48 -0700.