Saturday morning, June 19th and it's 3:45 AM and after another short night it would be a long day in the saddle as I'd be on the road in less than two hours on the Terrible Two. Coming off of the AAC 8-Pass Challenge the previous weekend wasn't going to make this ride any easier as my goal was to complete the last of the Stage Race Series and my fourth double century of the season in less than two months.
I arrived at the start of the race about 4:30 AM and while it was still dark signs of daylight were not far off as this was expected to be one of the longest days of the year and little did I know, but the road conditions we'd been warned of would make it seem like that as well. Just after 5:00 AM and all the usual suspects of the Stage Race Series and other Double Centuries start gathering for the mass start that would be led for the first 13 miles out of the city limits by the pace car.
After a relatively short speech by the ride director of the Santa Rosa Cycling Club the start was announced and 250+ riders rolled for the city limits. I was up in the second or third row at the start as we rolled at an average of 20-22 mph. Nearly seeing a couple of crashes in this tightly woven peloton within the first couple of miles, I decided to fade back a bit so as not to become a casualty before even getting out of the city limits. Further back in the pack I met up with another friend Mark Horminghaus whom I would later find out crashed further into the race. Mark's a super strong rider and genuinely nice guy so it was great to catch up with him until he'd inevitably drop me.
As we hit the first relatively small climb the pack started to thin out and coming down the first descent we'd find a rider stopped in the middle of road and the descend. To this day I can only assume that he either had a death wish or was just inexperienced but I'll assume that it was the later. After a few relatively easy climbs we hit the first of the big ones called the Geysers. The Geysers was no only the highest climb of the day but as we'd find with other climbs in this event it had a double summit which is always fun (in some sort of sadistic way I am sure) when you have never done the climb. After reaching the top of the second summit I refueled at the rest stop and then headed for the descent which should have been a reward for the climb but I'd find out quickly that the roads resembled something more of a city that had been bombed vs. the quick beautiful descent that I was expecting.
Further up the road as we climbed out of the canyon large sections of paved road would be missing and replaced with gravel. This went on for a series of miles and when there was road the surface was similar to a back job of applying a chip seal surface which made this section extremely slow. About 112 miles in I hit the lunch stop and while my original plan was to blow through all stops only getting off the bike for re-fuels and mandatory breaks, lunch seemed like a good idea and I also thought I'd call into the team manager (a.k.a. Paula). After what seemed to be a relatively short lunch stop officials noted that anyone not leaving within the next 5 mins would be required to abandon the race and take the shorter route back to the finish. Good enough for me, I slammed the rest of my drink down and took one last bit of that sandwich and it was back on the bike.
It's now 1:45PM and it's warming up and in my opinion we are heading for the toughest climbs on the ride heading for the coast. After 2 hours of climbing over the past 15 miles there's another climb coming just beyond a nice recovery over the descent ahead. Just before the climb I see a series of riders abandoning the race and taking the SAG wagon back. As I make this last climb before a series of rollers to the coast, I am definitely feeling not only the effects of 143 miles I have ridden today but also the 200+ miles and 21,000 feet of climbing from the past weekend on the AAC. As I summit I see that the rest stop is ahead on the right. After a dozen orange slices, a Pepsi, and refilling the water bottles I am off for the coast.
Descending it is now getting cooler and I decide to put the arm wamers back on and zip up the vest for a cool ride down the coast to the last climb which will be Fort Ross. As I am pretty much ready to be done with this ride I am thinking about this climb which I am told is brutal especially considering it's at the end of the event. I make it down the coast at a fairly descent pace with the exception of a couple of stops to make sure that I have not missed the left turn for Fort Ross. Once there I check in with my buddy Jason (who decided to ride the first 150 miles that day to break in a new bike and then volunteer at the Fort Ross check point) and there's no time for stopping as it's after 6 and my goal is to be in before dark.
As I get to the foot of the climb I am ready to nail this last one and stop to get rid of the arm warmers and unzip the vest and jersey. As shot of Hammer Raspberry Gel and gulp of Perpetum and I am ready...let's do it! The climb is at a steady pace and while I wouldn't say that it's easy it is definitely not the most difficult climb of the day. As I reach the top it's now a quick descent down with some rollers and gradual climbs to the next rest stop.
While rolling toward the next rest stop I meet up with one of the riders that I had met at the rest stop just before the coast and we decide to roll the rest of the way in together. After another Pepsi at this last rest stop and refill of the bottles we are headed for Occidental up the Bohemian Highway. As we make the next left into a canopied climb it is dark and I hit the lights even though we have plenty of daylight once we crest this climb.
As we hit a fork in the road ahead it's a quick stop and backtrack to make sure we did not miss an unmarked turn. During this time we pick up another rider who'll ride the remaining few miles with us as his light is out. Rolling in the timer reads 09:30 and we are done. A final check of the Gamin notes just under 201 miles and more than 18,400 feet of climbing as opposed to the 16,000 feet of climbing that is noted for this ride. With a goal of completing the ride in 16:00 my official time is 16:08. With a rolling time of just over 14:56 I was off the bike a total of just under 01:12 - Garmin stats.
After checking in and receiving my official "I did it" t-shirt (given only to finishers that arrive before 10:00 PM) I called Paula and got some fantastic news that we had received a significant donation from a foundation that now put us well over our $5,000 fund-raising goal for the end of June. This was fantastic news and with total donations at more than $7,500 I am confident that we can make the personal goal that I have set of $10,000 for the One Tough Ride Project.
Meeting this goal for June also meant that I needed to make good on the challenge that I set against that $5,000 mark so I have added a 7th event to the One Tough Ride project and entered the Mt Tam Double. This 200 mile event with more than 17,000 feet of climbing will be yet another tough day but I am hoping this will inspire more of you to support this project and make that donation today. With the Death Ride in July, Mt Tam Double in August, and the Furnace Creek 508 in October I would love to not only hit that goal of $10,000 but exceed it. With the Jeffrey Modell Foundation matching all donations raised "WE" can make a real difference in the lives of those with Primary Immunodeficiency diseases with this money going directly to the Jeffrey Modell Diagnostic and Research Center at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford.
The Death Ride is just a couple of weeks away and I am excited to have Paula, Rachel and Nicholas (the One Tough Ride Team) there with me in Markleeville as I ride for all of the children and adults that live with Primary Immunodeficiency Diseases. This will be my 3rd Death Ride in a row and I look forward to seeing a lot of you there as well.
Enjoy the ride...