Devil Mountain Double ride report part one: Mines Road

picture with grass and road

The riders were off and after about 30 seconds of riding in the pitch black surrounded by other slightly sketchy double riders, my mood lifted and I became happy again.  I am usually quite happy on these rides.  (unless I am at a rest stop-  Rest stops make me cranky.)

The Devil Mountain Double is a 205 mile ride that does about 20,000 feet of climbing and includes:  Mount Diablo, Morgan Territory, Patterson Pass, Mines Road, the backside of Mount Hamilton, Sierra Road, the stupidly steep pitch up on Calaveras, Palomares, and Norris.  For some reason, Mines does not make the list of climbs when the DMD lists its hardships, but Norris does make the list.  I think Mines a rather difficult stretch of road.  It never really appears that bad, but it is quite a bit of a climb.  Your mind tells you that the slope isn’t much, but your body seems glued to the ground, refusing to climb at any reasonable speed.  The problem is, of course, your perspective.  It is not a mild climb.  It has over 2000 feet of climbing and it goes on for a bit.  Moreover, it is usually hot.  I think I have only done it once when it wasn’t hot.  Snow covered the hills along the road that day and I slipped on some black ice on a climb. It wasn’t hot and I had a particularly good ride that day, until much later on the return, after nightfall, in complete darkness, worried about ice.

In my mind, Mines is the first major climb of the day.  The hardest part of the DMD starts at Mines.  I have done Mines a lot.  I have done Mines exhausted, bonked, overheated, tired, injured and just plain cranky.  I have ridden slowly with MarkN, who had broken his rear derailleur off and was crankier than I think I have ever seen him (which does not really say that much, the man never really seems to be cranky.)  I have learned that Mines is simply doable under all sorts of lousy conditions and if you keep on going, you are likely to finally get to the end and be able to get a coke at The Junction or, if going in the other direction, somewhere in Pleasanton or Livermore.  I was more than able to deal with Mines when I got to it on the day of this double.  The Mines/Del Valle rest stop had no coke and I solved that problem leaving, heading toward the junction under the glaring sun in search of cold soda.

The Mines cut-off looms large in the minds of the denizen in the back of the pack.  I was sort of hoping to not make it.  My average times have slipped recently and I was as likely to miss the cut-off as make it.  However, I didn’t really want to have to do this ride again, so I didn’t really want to miss it.  On the other hand, I could easily head home from the Mines rest stop, catch bart, and have dinner at my favorite restaurant with my friends.  That scenario would be nice, too.  Well, perhaps, I should not kid myself, -nicer might be a better choice of words.  The first part of the DMD is simply lovely.  Diablo, Morgan Territory, and Patterson pass make a beautiful ride.  It is challenging, but in a good sort of way. You are challenged, but failure isn’t particularly likely.  It is hard, but doable and you can go home and have dinner with friends at your favorite restaurant afterwards.  Further, I was completely unwilling to put on any extra burst of speed to make that cut-off.  I actually would have been disappointed if I didn’t make the cut-off, but I didn’t want to go into an energy hole and then have to do the second half of the ride, the harder half, after having gone into an energy deficit on the easier first half.  I left the Mines Rest stop with 8 minutes to spare and all was good.  (Except for the lack of coke.  I had never drank a Mountain Dewopr a Dr. Pepper and was unwilling to have my first encounter with either of these concoctions of chemicals be on the DMD.)

I didn’t realize that the water stop on along Mines road between Del Valle and the Junction was a DMD rest stop.  I thought it was a Mount Hamilton Challenge rest stop.  The Mount Hamilton Challenge was riding in the opposite direction.  I loved seeing all the Mount Hamilton Challenge people.  I saw JimS, Jim and Bonnie, Mick, and I think Barbara McQ.  I probably saw many others, but the ride was about 3 weeks ago and I have forgotten.  Seeing the other riders was great.  They cheered us on and many wore DMD jerseys.  “Yay!!  Go!!” they screamed at me.  It was fantastic.  I felt great. -Except for the heat and climbing part.  Jason and I did the Mt Hamilton Challenge several years ago and I have never gone back and done it, because it was too hard of a ride.

I loved all the cheering and encouragement I got from other people all day.  Not only did the Mount Hamilton people cheer us on, but others did, too.  The Wente race was being held on the same day and we overlapped their course in several places.  The court marshals took one look at me and yelled “DMD That Way!! GO!!!.”  That was great.  A woman riding back from Altamont pass in the opposite direction yelled at me “Good job!” for no reason at all.  That was great, too.  The really fast men on the DMD start an hour later than everyone else and many of them say “good job” as they pass.  And that’s great, too.  “Good job,” I repeated to myself all day long.

Mines was hot.  I was sweltering and was just trying to get through it.

I traded places back and forth a couple of times with Anny Beck along this section.  I rode out of the hotel behind Anny.  Even in the dark, she casts a distinctive profile.  She is very small, rides a very small  beautiful Calfee, and is always in her aerobars.  I don’t think that her regular bars are even wrapped.  She climbed Diablo in her areobars. She told me that it was her 70th double.  She says that she has slowed down a lot since she hit 50 doubles.

I passed PegM along Mines.  I had passed her on the climb up Diablo and I wasn’t particular surprised to have passed her on the Diablo climb.  She is overall a much faster rider than I am, but I am a faster climber than my overall speed would indicate.  I was fully expecting her to pass me on the descent, which she later did and then she was gone and out of sight.  However, I was surprised to have caught her on the climb on Mines.  I guessed that she might have been being affected a bit by the heat.  I know I was.  I was out of water when I passed Peg.  My goal was to go as fast as possible in order to limit my exposure to the heat and to get water as quickly as possible, but without getting too hot by the effort.  I rode a bit with some guy during this section.  I rarely ever ride fast enough to warrant anyone trying to catch my wheel, but this guy rode with me for a little while and I was quite pleased with myself along Mines.

That pleasure was short lived.

At the junction, people with cast-iron stomachs ate pulled pork sandwiches and hamburgers in anticipation of climbing the backside of Mount Hamilton in the blistering heat.  I stood around at the Junction feeling straight-up stupid.  I was tired and overly hot and I had no way out.  I had to either climb out via Mt Hamilton or Mines.  Hamilton was, of course, harder, but I had just done Mines and I certainly did not want to repeat that again.  Moreover, I didn’t want to have to do any of this ride again and I needed to finish it, so I wouldn’t have to do this again next year.  Hamilton seemed the more reasonable choice, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing something important and that I was being a bit stupid.  At least I had plenty of iced coke and a camelback full of cold iced water.  I ate a peanut butter sandwich and then left this oasis, heading out toward San Antonio Valley and Mount Hamilton.

Diablo

A careful observer might notice that neither of these pictures were taken on the day of the actual event.  The first picture was taken on a training ride I did with Jack a couple of weekends before the DMD.  Jack also did the DMD and is one of the organizers of the event.  The second picture was taken by Jason during a ride with MarkN and me up Diablo.  

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