Alta Alpina Challenge 2010

At the top of MonitorMy toughest double of the year! This is the like the infamous Death Ride on steroids, 8 mountain passes instead of 5, resulting in 200 miles with over 20,000 feet of climbing. The start was just outside Markleeville, at Turlte Rock Park. I was also camping there so I didn't have to go far for the 5am-5:15am start window for 8 pass riders. I despite my proximity to the start, I was the last to start. Some of the riders had choosen to go as early as 3am! I had a long day of catch-up ahead...

My timing was good from the prespective of daylight, the sun was coming up so there wasn't much need for the lights. The route starts out with a decent into Nevada, with a flat run through the valley to the first pass, Kingsbury Grade. As I got near the bottom of the climb there I could see the first riders of coming back in the opposite direction. The first climb up Kingsbury grade was great, with a stunning view on both the climb and descent. Next up was Luther this really wasn't too bad. Carson Pass was tougher and by now I'd started to pass a number of people. Followed by an out and back to Blue Lake which was rolling hills and due to the road not being open all the way, they added Airport Rd. Now over 100 miles in Airport Rd, was short but tiring and thankfully followed by lunch.

After a short break for lunch it was time for Ebbetts and Monitor, this is what you call a long afternoon. Ebbetts was definitely a challenge and by the time a I got the first part of Monitor I had nothing left in my legs. The West and East climbs on Monitor were slow, but once up at the top of Monitor for the second time I was ready to bring it home, before the sunset. It was pleasant surprise to find I was the third to finish all 8 Passes at the end.

The Climb... Mount Diablo

Today I tried my new gadget, a SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger unit. The Spot is a GPS tracking device that transmits you location, anywhere you are. I had used one once before on The 508 so that and friends and family could track me from afar. The original model I used was a little bulky, but last year they launched a more compact model perfect for the back pockect of cycle jersey.

I enabled the Spot tracking widget on this site and set off for my ride. As I have a another double coming up in at the end of the month I want to refamiliarize my self with the first climb of the ride, Mount Diablo. The last time I did this climb was on the Devil Mountain Double back in 2008. It really hasn't changed a whole alot in the last couple of years, still the same height and still as steep :-)

The one thing that was different was the weather, a dark cloud covered the peak. Nothing says a have great climb better than the wind pushing against you as you climb up. The climb as a even grade to it for the most part, except for the last few hundred yards. It is extremely rare that I've ever got my heart rate above 200bpm, but a couple years ago, this was the climb for it. Today, I can't say what it was, as I was preoccupied with my new gadget I forgot my beloved heart monitor. There are some things you just need the feel for and I sure felt in that last hundred yards, as I was getting out of breath. At the top of the an awesome climb, there is only one thing to do, take picture to prove your there :-)

The decent was a whole other story, which starts with me being cold at the top and nearing freezing half way down the mountain.


Back to Triple Digits

My training over the past couple months had been greatly lacking. Today the weather was on my side, even if time was not. I got a late start to the day, but I was going to let that stop me getting in the distance. I drove over the hill to Santa Cruz, for my own Century ride up Highway One. The route is as simple as gets 50 miles up and 50 down with the turn around point at Halfmoon Bay. In afternoon the problem is always the wind and today was no exception. I battle the wind for the first thirty miles, but I kept a steady pace going. When I hit my turn around point it was already 4:30pm, I knew the sunlight was not going to last th return journey.

The chase for daylight began and was ready, prepared with lights. I certainly wouldn't recomend this ride at night, but I knew the road well. At mile 75 the the moon was now lighting the way. Headlights behind me helped while those in front were an obstacle to over come. With the Moon straight ahead through the clouds like movie, however didn't seem like movie I wanted to be in, so I forged a head. Finally the lights of Santa Cruz were in front me, which meant so was dinner :-) ah, pizza.

Into the Cloud

No I'm not turning this into a tech blog. On my ride today I litterally went into a cloud. The weather continued it's unreliable nature, on what was supposed to be a rainy day it turned out to decent at least for the morning, so I headed out for a quick climb on Serria road. It was actually fairly warm out, but the sky was turning. The climb up Sierra road was good. At the was the Cloud, just waiting there for me. As I started my decent towards Calaveras the rain came. As my speed was aproaching thirty mile per hour, road conditions were rapidly changing becoming slippery. I slow my pace to maintain control and to prevent becoming another puddle on the road. However just mile along the road the changed again returning to mild conditons I started with. Back at the car I was slightly chilled and soaked to the bone, but good ride none the less.

100ft per mile

After yestersday's short ride it was time to get some real mileage in along with some good climbing. In change from my previous hydration method of taking 4 bottles with me, I decided on one plus a Camel Back. I always found that mounting two bottles on the rear of the saddle leads chasing after bottles that have jettisoned them selves, which isn't a fun past time. The Camel Back works well and is secured with multiple straps, as I move it moves, just not fashsionable :-)

I started in Los Altos on Foothill Expressway and headed past Steven's Creek reservoir, over Mount Eden to Pierce Rd finally reaching Highway 9. The climb up Highway 9 felt slow with the extra weight on my back. From the Saratoga gap, I continued to 92 and looped back to King's Mountain, via Canada Rd. Now over 60 miles into the ride I starting to fell fagitue as I ascended King's Mountain. Once back on Skyline I started to pick up the pace.  It was getting dark, so I finished the ride down Pagemill, the decent froze my legs. I warmed up again on Foothill with a couple sprints to the end.

Today was indeed a day of climbing, with 8,000 feet of climbing.Details: 81miles / 8318ft / 14.4mph

Sierra Rd, my friend it has been too long...

Today's training ride, was short but good. It was late afternoon, the day had been grey and the clouds were starting to break. In had been a while since I had done the Sierra Rd climb, so I headed out to see if the climb was as painful as I remembered. In short it was :-) I've the climb a number times before, the first being at mile 160 of a double century. The certinly wasn't as bad as the first but left much to be desired. The views however were great and the down hill was fun but chilly :)

California International Marathon

Back in August I had this misguided goal that I would train for the Califronia International Marathon (CIM) and proceeded to sign-up. Of course this training would over lap with the Double Century I had in October. Cycling or Running? Well of course, it was cycling that won in the training stakes. After not running for a couple months while riding every weekend, I finally start back with my Marathon training with just a month to go before the big event. I built up to 13 miles and declared, it was time for taper. With that said my expectations were low, very low. However this would not stop me trying to beat my last marathon time, from Big Sur earlier this year. The CIM course had a net downhill so it is known as a fast course, with it being early December, it is also known as a cold one. The day before the race I was frantically looking for some cold weather running gear to keep me warm, for the 32F starting temperatue.

The morning of the race we were all up early to catch the shuttle bus to the race start. The temperature predictions were acurate it was in the low thirties and I had three layers on top plus, running tights and gloves to keep me warm. With several thousand people at the start line it was packed. I started with the 4hr pace group and after weaving my way the crowd within the first mile I was managed to keep ahead of them. Along the road people were discarding there excess layers, by mile 2 I starting to think I was going to be to hot, but aired on the side of caution. Although a net downhill there are rollers throughout the course, when I turned a corner to see my first uphill in front of me, I decided it was best to focus my mind on the downhills. I had my iPod blaring some upbeat music for commpany. I saw a couple people I knew along the way and said hi to them. My pace was constient and I was feeling good at the 13 mile mark. Just another 13 miles to go I thought to myself, somewhat unreassuraningly. I had been carrying a bottle of Gatorade and been eating glue along the way so hadn't need to slow down at any of the waterstops.

At mile 19 I was now starting to feel the true effects of my lack of training, but I was now right alongside the 3hr 45min pace group. Mile 20 the pace group were escaping and my heart rate was rising. Things appeared to be turning bad quickily my legs were rebelling and I knew if I stopped it would be the end. The last few miles got longer and longer, but there I was on the final straight still running as fast as I could, that just happened to be a lot slower than at the start. Finally there it was the turn for the finish and right in towards the State Capital building. I could see the finish line at last, it truly is the best feeling. I had beaten my previous time by a few minutes and was just pleased to be done. The ending tempurate was 40F, it was one hell of cold race :-)

Back to Death Valley... For the fall Death Valley Double

After six short weeks of training it was time for my first Double Century of the year. My expectations were in line with my training, I knew it was going to be a long day and a hot one with a forecast of 93F. The key to survival was going to be staying hydrated.

In rare turn of events I had actually managed to get a good nights sleep and felt well rested for the earlier start. Adventure Corps (the race organizers) all put together a good race. We started if the customary speech wishing the racers luck and obliviously going over what not to do also. Before I knew it we were off..


The race started off in a giant pelaton but quickly started to thin out within the first 10 miles. Death Valley is an awesome place to ride, at least first thing in the morning when it is still cool. The first part of the course is a out and back to Stovepipe Wells, for the first stop. Out and back was at a good pace and now I was on the main part of the course and started a gradual climb up to Scotty's Castle. As I got near to castle, the heat was rising and it was good to get into the canyon area with a little shade. Into the canyon, began a steeper stretch of climbing, but that was better than what was coming.

After reaching the other side of the canyon and the peak of the climbing I was presented with a nice downhill with a strong headwind. I thought with the placing of the stops I could use a one bottle strategy, so I've filled up at every stop. This strategy work well until this point, when I realize I was nearly out of fluid heading into a head wind on a long straight stretch to Nevada. This out back to Nevada was the toughest part of the race, I was over 100 miles in and beyond the limits of my 6 weeks of training. I could see the turnaround way off in the distance, but it didn't seem to be getting any closer. My salvation came when a group of riders came along, with some conversation and a bit of draft I was on my way again. At the turn around rest stop I filled up two bottles, so I could properly re-hydrate. 

With the wind at back I start-off well, 30mins later I was slowing down again with more doubts. 90F was not feeling good, but the canyon was back in site and there would be a descent towards Scotty's Castle, which was the lunch stop. After took a couple pictures I carried on up the uphill and soon enough it was lunch time and I was ready for a break.


Lunch rejuvenated me and I was back on the road with one more detour, the crater. A bumpy road to get there, but definately worth the trip. A stopped a the crater brielfy for a picture and then continued back. Rolling hills then reaching second last rest stop just before the last big climb of the ride, totaling around 2000ft. I took the climb in my stride and ended-up passing a couple of people on the way up. By the time I reached the top the sun had faded away and I had to start my descent into the darkness. I had a couple headlights but they weren't up to the task of a high speed descent. I was straining eyes to see the best I could, following the yellow line in the middle of the road so not to stray off the edge of the road. Now safely at the bottom of the climb I was energized to pull in the last 10 miles. 


Finish Time: 13hr 11min, 16.2mph (Moving Average), 9,000ft of Climbing  


After a long night, we made it out of Death Valley. Nick went strong climbing out of the valley in the dark. He took a few cat naps, but was never out of the saddle for more than half an hour. We made it into Shoshone as the sun was coming up. There was wind leaving TS#4, but he kept a steady pace. He had a breakfast of turkey sandwich and that got him into Baker.
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Race Conditions

Back from Louisville and recovering from a cold, this really was my last chance for training before taper. It was hot, very hot. The difference in humidity was very noticeable, I had acclimatized to mositure in Louisville and now the air felt very dry.

To simulate the race conditions, I headed out 10:30pm with lights and a support car behind me. I choose Serria Rd, for my night route. Let me first say, I regret the large dinner I had, it was good but not the best thing before steep climb. So i started the ride, it funny how having a car constantly behind pushes you faster. Of course we also had to be mindful of other cars on the road and be sure to let them pass. The night was clear a view of the lights of the valley was great. As I was about halfway up the hill I could feel my stomach turning, but I told myself this just meant for better simulation afterall by this stage of the race I wasn't going to be feeling great. With the car behind I continued with a strong pace. This being the first time I had done the climb in the dark, I found myself constantly looking down at my Garmin to check the mileage and the elevation to get my bearings. The twists and dips in the road meant that all of sudden I could lose the light from the car's headlights, which was part of chalenge and something we would also face during the race, though it did make for some scary moments.

After reaching the top of Sierra Rd, I continued along the road and turned in towards Calaveras resevior. That steep turn is no better whether it can be seen or not. It felt just like I was on the race even though I'd only been out there just over an hour. It sounds a little crazy when you think about it. I could just see someone saying "What were you doing Saturday night?", to I'd need to reply "Well I was conducting some race simulation by riding my bike till midnight with a support car following me" :-)

The Louisville 300

It was now for something completely different, Louisville!! The team were doing Ironman Louisville and I was out there with my bike to support. 


Day one, I set out on my own to do some recon on the course to see what they would be facing. It was a two loop course and an out and back. No long step climbs, just rolling hills, this course is all about maintaining momentum. I was sweating within the first couple of miles (heck I was sweating the moment we landed). The humidity was very noticeable.  I rode about 150 miles on the course, doing three loops on the loop part of the course. It was course going through my lush grassy fields with horses roaming and huge ranch style houses. I fueled at convience stores along the way. I finished the ride in the rain as a thunderstorm started.

Day two, I put in another 50 miles going off the Ironman course into the surrounding area.

Day three, having already nearly 200 miles over the couple I was looking for more relaxing day, plus it was the day of Ironman Louisville, so I had my spectating duties to peform. I had planned on riding out on the course and taking some shortcuts to see the whole race. I hadn't banked on very exit of the course being blocked by the police. I didn't want ot try and explain though I looked like a racer I was only there t

o watch. What to do? Well ride the whole course :-) which is eaxtcly what I did. I was able to take pictures of team and track everyones progress in person. It was awesome! It was also a very hot day, as I was coming in on the last loop I was racers resting on the side of the road. I certainly had better day supporting than had I actually been doing the race.

The Great Loop

A number of the team were up in Canada for Ironman and the rest were in taper for Iroman Louisville, so I was left alone to my own devices. One route I had always wanted to do was to loop over to the coast and back the long way. This was my longest self supported ride of the year and the most challenging. I had never actually cycled over to Santa Cruz from the valley before. I kept the route simple Highway 9 to Santa Cruz, Highway 1 to Half Moon Bay, 92 to Skyline and back to Highway 9 to the start.

Of course I had climbed up Highway 9 many times before but have never continued across to the other side, I found there is a good reason for that, cars. While I didn't feel in any great danger I did grea the distinct impression that the cars/SVUs did not appreciate the opportunity to share the road with a cyclist. 

Once at Santa Cruz, is was just a straight shot up Highway 1, with a stop a filling station to get some more fluid. I was carrying 4 water bottles so I had a good range. However I had to stop on a couple occasions to retrive the rear bottles as I hit the odd bump in the road.

Highway 92 on this side of the hill was also new to me. I did find it to be a little cramped to begin with, but a good shoulder appeared for the climb up to Skyline. Reaching Skyline really was just the begin of the climbing, of road that has as many ups and downs as a roller coaster. At 100 miles in, the climbs just kept coming. However it was the perfect day for the ride, not to hot or cold, just ride. I was up for the challenge and kept on going to the end. I celebrated my victory with a nice Burrito at the end.


Ride Details (Click here to view on Google Earth):
135 miles
8hrs 24mins
10,920 feet of Climbing



Heart Rate:
136bpm Avg.
181bpm Max



16.1mph Avg.
44.5mph Max

Into the Fog (Part 2)

 After failing to avoid a short but unaturally cold dip in the bay at Aquatic Park I headed out on a short ride. The picture really says it all. Fog was clearly (pardon the pun) the theme for the weekend and where better to expierence it than San Francisco. I headed across the bridge over Golden Gate National Recreation, where I managed to find my way up some hills quite litterally get lost in the fog. Obivously I made it back to write this :-)     


Ride Details (Click here to view on Google Earth):
1hr 12mins
2,103 feet of Climbing



12mph Avg.
27.5mph Max

Into the Fog (Part 1)

The rest of the team were in taper and were doing a short ride, followed by a short run. We started off at Edgewood and Canada Rd (definately a favorite starting point for the team) and headed through Portola Valley to towards Page Mill Road, team route had him turning back part the way up. Naturally I had other plans, I was going to the top with the aim of looping back via Skyline and 92. It is funny how I always seem to forget much climbing there is left to do even after I have reached Skyline Rd. One of Skyline Rd's peak is at the top of Page Mill, but much of the gain is lost you dip down at 84 with climb picking up again towards King's Mountain.

I was going against the clock, I wanted to finish around the same time the team was going to complete their run. As emerged from the tree on Skyline near 92 I realized the fog and rolled in and visiblity was extremely poor, nothing like a great downhill when you can only see 20 feet ahead of you :-)

Ride Details (Click here to view on Google Earth):

2hr 43min
46.68 miles
6,242feet of climbing



17.1mph Avg.
40.4mph Max

A Day of Skyline

Yesterday had proved to be a great ride, so how could I top it? Well with even more climbing on a equally warm day :-)

The team were off swiming at Redwood Shores, and I a new idea for a ride. Instead starting my ride at the bottom of hill I thought I'd start at the top, this would make for a long climb to finish the day. So I found place to park up on Skyline and headed down towards Redwood shores to meet up with the team.  After meeting the team I headed back over to Skyline and up Kings Mountain and then down 84 towards the coast. I turned off 84 halfway down to take Pescadero Rd, which of course lead to more climbing: Stage Road, then up Tunitas Creek, back long to 92, down to Crystal Springs and up Kings Mountain one final time.. Did you follow all that? well the route is below if you didn't :-)

Ride Details (Click to view on Google Earth):

7hr 56mins
112 miles
10,957feet of Climbing



Heart Rate:
146bpm Avg
178bpm Max



14.1mph Avg.
50mph Max

Heating up, Mount Hamilton

 The team was nearing the end of there training for Ironman Louisville, so I had one last special ride for them, a nice climb up Mount Hamilton. I had done the same climb myself on the Devil Mountain Double back in April and found it to be great climb. The out and back route I had planned started at on Mines Rd, near to entrance to Lake DeValle, with the round trip distance totaling just over 80 miles.

I knew Lousville was going to be hot and I wanted to prepare the team the best as I could. With a few exceptions I would say that most of our training rides rides had been fairly temperate. The forecast for the day had temperature peaking just under 90F and for a long exposed climb it was not going to be easy. I knew this ride would be the perfect challenge for the team. 

The climb to the top was indeed challenging, especially the last few miles. The good thing was I had a support stop organized for the top. One of the team would had recently completed Vineman was out to lend a hand (thanks Jeremiah). We all regroup at the top, this when the 'kind words' and 'appreciation'  for me creating the route of the day began :-) I knew then my job had been accomplished and it was time to head back down..

 Ride Details (Click here to view on Google Earth):
5hr 19mins
84.5 miles
7,183 feet of Climbing



Heart Rate:
138bpm Avg.
183bpm Max



15.9mph Avg.
35.7mph Max

Return to Sierra Road

Time for another evening ride and Sierra Road, was my mark. I had first encountered the climb a few months back on the Devil Mountain Double. It was the hill at mile 160 that just just plain mean. Today of course I was starting it fresh and the heat was not even close to madness I had encountered before. I naturally the climb was not tough as before but I still wouldn't call it easy. Also when I had it previously done it I had lower gearing especially for the task, this time I was running my regular 11-23 cassette. After the climb up Sierra Rd, I headed north towards Caleveras reservoir and did a quick out back there before completing the loop.



Ride Details (Click here to view on Google Earth):

1hr 27mins
3,320 feet of climbing



Heart Rate:
142bpm Avg.
196bpm Max



14.7mph Avg.
40.5mph Max

112 Miles, Santa Rosa to San Francisco (the Ride back)

 Yesterday was truly exhausting, we had started the day at 5am and finished it at 1:30am, needless to say no one was getting up early the next day. I was on the road by 10:30am and even that felt too early, but I had another long day ahead, I wasn't driving back home, but riding.

 I started from the hotel the team stayed at in Windsor and headed out towards the coast. I hadn't really planned out the route, I had just had a sense of where to go from the yesterday's ride. I knew once I hit Highway 1 all I would need to do was follow it south until I reached San Francisco. The weather was great, a little cooler than yesterday making for idea conditions.

 I weaved my way down the coast past Bodega Bay at which point the route I was following took me inland, but all I need was to keep my eye out for the signs. As I was on my own with no support close at had I came out with a Camelbak to keep me hydrated. With yestersday flat fresh in my mind I not only was carrying a spare tube, but a spare tire for extra measure.

The journey was by no means flat, as I headed back out to towards the coast a few hills were in my path.  Over the hill the sky was overcast and it appeared I had reached a different climate. It was fitting that I was aproaching the town of Inverness. The scenary is diffinately reminisant of Scottish Loch I know well.

I took a lunch break at Point Reyes Station and quickily inhaled a sandwich there. Back the road there were a few more hills between me and the coast.  The route continued parallel to the coast though I was in valley with no site of it on my left.

Now at mile 83 I had reached Stinson beach and with a blue sky back again I was crusing. The biggest challenge lay ahead, Mount Tamalpais.

As I continued on Highway One, I started the grind up the side of the mountain, I was on twisting roads with a sheer drop on my near side. To add to the fun, people were returning home from the beach adding to the cards on the road. Not too fast and not to slow was the game, make sure I'm seen and safe. Despite the very literall downside to the road, the view were breath taking! It was not long before I was safely into the hills heading towards Sausalito.

Remember I said I didn't have the entire route planned out? Well here is where the adventerous part comes in navigating through the city the to reach the Golden Gate bridge. It wasn't too bad, I followed the coast line and with some directions from another cyclist found my way to the bridge's bike path. I hadn't been across on bike before and certainly wasn't prepared for the evening breeze, but it is a spectacular crossing and highly recommended.





Once on the other side the sun was starting to set, so I cycled across town to the train station. I don't envy the bike messengers of the city, the roads seemed a little more dangerous than fun, I can't image what it whould be like midweek at rush hour. At the train station I concluded my journey, perhaps the next time I'll start earlier enough to make it all the way back before dark :-)

 Ride Details (Click here to view on Google Earth):

6hr 58mins
113 miles
7,000+ Feet of climbing



Heart Rate:
133bpm Avg.
174bpm Max



16.2mph Avg.
41.6mph Max

Day of the Vineman

This weekend I was up in Santa Rosa area to support the Ironteam who were doing the Full Vineman (Ironman distance). The morning started as earlier as the racers, a bunch us were volunteering at the first transistion area. My job was to make sure no non-atheletes entered the transistion area to keep it secure. By around 9am the area was closing down as the last swimmers were coming out of the water. It was now time for those of us who were not doing the event to get our training in for the day done.

We headed out on our bikes away for the Vineman bike course towards the coast. Coach Dan and created a bike loop that would take us out to Highway 1 and back. The ride started off great, a fairly flat route and simple directions. Once we reached the coast we continued south on Highway 1, there was a small tailwind which made for a fast ride. I had a cat and mouse chase going with a team mate until we both realized we had missed the turn and we weren't the only ones. We regrouped and headed back north, eventually we found the turn, which lead us an extremely steep climb. The day was heating up and climb was exposed, no better way to max out your heart rate than this. It should be noted this was described as a little hill, though Coach Dan, addmited afterwards he hadn't ridden the route himself :)

The rest of the route was easy to folow. The downhill had a couple of Cattle grid, which is always a great way to verify everything is attached correctly. With about five miles to go, I got a flat. After a quick repair, a less than a mile later I had second flat. With a through check of tire and second tube I was back on my way and glad to be close to end. Overall I have to say it was a great route and nic change to be cycling in a new area.

In the evening we headed over the run course to cheer on the team, the weather had hit the high nineties earlier and it was still hot. The team on the course were going strong despite the conditions. The run course was a three loop course which is great for spectating.  By 10:00 it was dark and there was only an hour to go before the official cutoff. There were still a number of the team out on the course, we ran in few people and cheer them on.

By midnight a few of us were in the car waiting for the final parcipant to finish, we strugling to stay awake and it was cold outside now. Yet even one hour after the official cut-off there was one person still going. The person was Stefanie, this was heard third attempt at an Ironman race and this was as further than we had ever been before, she was stopping for nothing, but the finish line. Nearly the whole team gathered at the finish line with car headlights to brighten the dark and abandoned finish line. This was the finish the team had waited for, well desvered and long time coming. The team cheered was she ran in, she had won her race against the distance...


Ride Details (Click here to view on Google Earth):
3hr 41mins
5,000+ feet of Climbing



Heart Rate:
143bpm Avg.
188bpm Max



14.6mph Avg.
37.6mph Max

Copyright Nick 2013. All right reserved.