Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

The Best Performance Enhancer for Cycling: Drafting

For years now and in my past 39 double centuries, I have retained an iconoclastic individualistic sport ethic: soloing (no drafting) . I captured my thoughts on this topic and how it does not differ in principle from an electric motor in How is Drafting in a Paceline Different from an Electric Motor?. That is, it is external assistance.

The very mention of those two things in a sentence (electric motor, drafting) is enough to invoke severe cognitive dissonance among many riders, resulting in anger or denial or other brain-frying results. And yet not one rider has ever made any meaningful counter-argument to refute my assertion.

I acknowledge that in a race where drafting is a given, one does what one has to do, and it would be idiotic to do otherwise. Still, I recall in the Everest Challenge where some riders drafted other classes of riders (e.g., a man drafting woman or a tandem, a rules violation). Such is the ingrained rationalized cheating mentality that stems from not seeing drafting for what it is: an external assist. The inability to see the common principle correlates with the removal of mental barriers to real cheating, which I observed regularly in the Everest Challenge.

My position that if one is to claim an individual ranking in a double century, then showing up with a budy or two or three and pacelining through it is a group win, not an individual win and is thus at best misleading, if not outright fraudulent (a de-factor or real team shows up and competes, team members then claim individual finish times, which is fraud IMO). This is routinely done in double centuries, with absolutely no mention of the massive energy savings from doing so*.

* Witness for example 3 riders finishing at exactly the same time (3:26 PM) in the Joshua Tree Double Century—I stopped pedaling so they would stop drafting me, and let them go on by so I could resume my solo effort.

I want two things: (1) a fair contest and (2) a personal best effort, not a group effort. As to (1), it is “fair” in the sense that that I could potentially find (by luck and timing) a group to paceline with. But that would violate (2), which I deem antithetical to my conception of the achievement of a double century. I don’t see the point of such an extreme effort when the actual individual effort involved can vary from 100% to 30% or even less.

I’ve estimated, based on my SRM power meter readings, that drafting a single person can result in a 25% to 50% energy savings, depending on wind speed, e.g. 25 mph with no wind or 15 mph with a 10 mph headwind are similar. At 25+ mph, the savings rise exponentially and with more riders the savings increase.

Modern research on power savings

Along comes modern research which finds up to a 90% savings in the belly of the peleton, a figure that is consistent with the massive reduction in effort any cyclist can feel with even a few riders.

Cycling’s Best Performance Enhancer: Riding in the Peloton

For most of the riders most of the time, the view is the same: a mess of bikes, brightly-colored jerseys and exhausted skinny men. That’s because they spend the majority of the 80-plus racing hours from the start of the Tour to the Champs-Elysées tucked inside the peloton, the main bunch that coagulates in every stage and moves like a school of fish.

The peloton exists by practical necessity. Riding in a big group reduces drag and saves energy for the people in the middle. Cyclists have known this for a century. But only now, in 2018, is anyone able to put a number on just how efficient it is.


According to a new study published in the Journal of Wind Engineering and Industrial Aerodynamics, riders in the belly of a peloton are exposed to 95% less drag than they would experience riding alone. Which explains the sensation all riders describe of being sucked along by the bunch while barely having to pedal.

As for this study, it seems rather obtuse: outfit every rider with a power meter, and then just read out the average power for each of them (the power meter can record at half-second intervals to within 1% accuracy). With 121 riders, that would be much more accurate than a 1.5 year theoretical study requiring a supercomputer. Even the author is quoted as saying “We have a problem now, because no one is going to believe us”. Well, yes they will if empirical data is obtained as I just suggested—prove or disprove your calculations in the real world, Mr. Blocken! Because all models have flaws and in the real world there can be other factors not thought of in simulations.

Below, a not very efficient paceline into a ~12 mph headwind, but still a big energy savings for those doing it. I moved up close enough to use the 2X camera on the iPhone. I left all these riders behind but one by mile 100.

Lead pack just past Millpond (2X camera, pedaled closer for picture)
f2.8 @ 1/560 sec, ISO 20; 2018-06-02 06:16:24
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 6.6 mm f/2.8

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2018 Death Ride report updated with an analysis of the effort: power in watts, heart rate, elevation, time, temperature

I’ve updated my 2018 Death Ride report with an analysis of the effort.




I won’t be chugging 24 oz or ice cold drink in ~15 seconds ever again—diaphragm spasm left me able to take only very shallow breaths all the way up Carson Pass.

2018 Death Ride performance: power in watts, heart rate, elevation, time, temperature

How Does 16.9 Fluid Ounces of GU Energy Gel Fit Into Two 5.1 ounce Flasks?

That bulk package of GU energy gel to the right has had all but a tiny amount of gel squeezed out of it.

Maybe someone over at GU Energy Labs can explain to me how 16.9 fluid ounces of GU Energy Gel (“15 serving pouch”) fits into two 5.1-ounce 5-serving GU HydraPak soft flasks? Fluid ounces is not weight ounces but it appears that GU Energy Labs has badly goofed in labeling the SoftFlask containers in totally different units from the bulk package.

The soft flasks are stated to be 5 servings (“Holds 5 servings of Energy Gel”) and the bulk container states “15 serving pouch”. Last time I checked, 10 ≠ 15.

Since I track calories/food by the gram, this doesn’t trouble me much except that I hadn’t realized this discrepancy before, so my calories-consumed figures are now off for many months. GU Energy Labs ought to fix the mistake is—seems like a marketing error.

Nutirtional information froom 16.9 fluid ounce package of GU Energy Gel

Either these flasks hold 8.4 ounces each (7.5 servings each), or GU is supplying less than claimed in the bulk package, which makes little sense and is easily verified. I’m guessing that someone in marketing screwed up between servings and ounces, fluid or otherwise. When I’m home I will weigh the stuff on a gram-accurate scale and find out.

I wish GU Energy labs would sponsor me like TheBeefAuthority.com and OWC / MacSales.com. I use a lot of GU energy gel and swear by it (and swear at it when a softflask bursts, which has happened twice OMG what a mess). See my day’s supply of GU energy gel in my Death Ride writeup.

Measuring it

Using a gram-accurate scale, I measured the bulk GU energy gel at 500 grams (entire package and its contents). I was able to extract 470 grams of gel (container 500g ---> 30g empty) into two of the HydraPak soft flasks, falling just a wee bit short on the second one from full.

With a claim of 480g of gel in the package, that implies leaving 10g of gel behind in the bulk package, a waste of 2% (10 / 480), but there is nothing for it; I’d already used a flat instrument to get all I could out of the package.

The SoftFlask is misleading; it claims “5 servings”, but these servings are fluid ounces, wildly different than the “servings” on the bulk package.

Bulk: 32 grams * 15 servings @ 100 calories/serving = 1500 calories
(~1468 calories extractable)

SoftFlask: 240 grams implies 240/32*100 = 750 calories per flask

Since two of the GU SoftFlasks can together hold 480 grams of Gu energy gel, each SoftFlask actually holds 7.5 servings for a total of 750 calories each—wildly different than the 5 X 100 = 500 calories I had long assumed.

The foregoing matters when planning for nutrition for ultra-endurance! It explains why this year I almost always used only 2 of 3 SoftFlasks, in calorie terms a close match for the calories I thought I should consume (2/3 * 750/500 = 1 = what I had planned on needing).

16.9 fluid ounces of GU Energy Gel fits Into two 5.1 GU HydraPak soft flasks = something not right
f1.8 @ 1/40 sec, ISO 25; 2018-07-13 19:12:40
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0 mm f/1.8

[low-res image for bot]
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The 2018 Death Ride 5-Pass (129 miles, 15000' of climbing) — a popular shorter/easier version of Alta Alpina

UPDATE: see my 2018 Death Ride report.


I’ve never done the Death Ride before (129 miles, 15000' of climbing), but this year I am doing it this Saturday July 14. It should be “easy”, since it is 5500 feet less climbing and 71 miles shorter than Alta Alpina 8 Pass Challenge, which I completed two weeks ago. Plus Monitor Pass west and east are the first climbs, in the cool of the morning, a major difference versus doing them late in the day when it can be baking hot.

As far as I know, the Death Ride draws more riders by an order of magnitude than just about any double century (4000 riders, I understand).

Not all riders do the full distance and all 5 passes, but that’s a lot of riders. So many that riders enjoy a rare luxury: the California Highway Patrol closes some of the roads:

From 5:00am – 7:00am, the road will be closed to traffic from the Markleeville Courthouse to the junction of Highways 89 and 4.

Monitor (Hwy 89) & Ebbetts Pass (Hwy 4) will be closed to vehicular traffic starting at 5:00am. Monitor Pass reopens to vehicular traffic at 12:00pm. Ebbetts Pass reopens to vehicular traffic at 3:00pm.

Highway 89 from Woodfords to the Markleeville Courthouse will remain open.

Please adhere to posted speed zones and early morning parking crews.

No cars to worry about, but tired riders on Ebbetts Pass are a much greater risk in my experience—riders who weave across the entire width of the road because of the steepness, a bad mix for those coming down fast—I plan on keeping my downhill speed modest given the huge number of riders as all it takes is one clown to cause severe injury in a crash.

2018 Death Ride patch
f1.8 @ 1/900 sec, ISO 20; 2018-07-12 19:32:18
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0 mm f/1.8

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Below, Hwy 89 is off to the right and switchbacks and curves its way down the valley just before the hills. Average grade is about 8% and climbs from about 5500 feet to 8314 feet / 2534m altitude at the summit. Ebbetts pass is harder, climbing about 3200 feet to 8730' elevation.

The landscape on the east side of Monitor Pass (Hwy 89)
f2.8 @ 1/2100 sec, ISO 20; 2018-07-12 14:35:08
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 6.6 mm f/2.8

[low-res image for bot]

I’ve been working hard, so I’m sleeping here tonight and mostly resting Friday. A Sprinter van and 4WD do have their benefits—no camping neighbors and a pristine spot in the Toiyabe national forest.

Camping site high in the Toiyabe National Forest near Monitor Pass
f1.8 @ 1/2000 sec, ISO 20; 2018-07-12 19:31:46
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0 mm f/1.8

[low-res image for bot]
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Counting Up My Double Centuries and Double Centuries in 2018

I am starting to lose track of how many double centuries I’ve done (well, I have all the training recordings but I keep forgetting exactly.

2011: 1 Everest Challenge (205 miles in 2 days)
2012: 5 = Death Valley Double, Solvang Spring Double, Devil Mountain Double, Alta Alpina, Everest Challenge
2013: 1 = Everest Challenge
2014: 1 = Solvang Spring Double, Everest Challenge (aborted 2nd day, lungs)
2015: 7 = Southern Inyo Double, Joshua Tree Double, Solvang Spring Double, Devil Mountain Double, Central Coast Double, Marin Double, Alta Alpina
2016: 8 = Southern Inyo Double, Joshua Tree Double, Solvang Spring Double, Devil Mountain Double, Central Coast Double, Davis Double, Eastern Sierra Double, Alta Alpina (to mile 165 7 of 8 passes, severe cramping)
2017: 8 = Camino Real Double, Southern Inyo Double, Solvang Spring Double, Devil Mountain Double, Central Coast Double, Davis Double, Eastern Sierra Double
2018: = 7 done, 1 more planned

I’m being slightly liberal here, counting the 2-day Everest Challenge as a double century and also Alta Alpina 2017 where I had issues and completed only 7 of 8 passes last year (severe cramps, sufferfest for passed 5/6/7).

Total as of July 2018: 38, or 34 if strictly counted as single-day 192+ mile events.
Expected total for 2018: 39 or 35 if strict

Double centuries in 2018

Updated list as of July 2018.

Shedding fat went well early in the year, but post-concussion weight gain and ongoing brain-fade challenges have ruled out a lean 8% body fat as in 2012, which makes me non-competitive for rides with lots of climbin.

I had an ambitious year planned for at least 11 double centuries. The hamstring injury healed up fast, but the concussion interrupted that plan. Still, I should still finish with 8 double centuries for 2018, plus the Death Ride, 7 being now in the bag.

Ride notes:

See also my letter to Chuck Bramwell on solo vs de facto teams that game the placement system.

Continues below...

Double Century schedule for 2018

Getting it done

What follows below was written early in the year, and is here verbatim from then.


The cycling double century schedule shown below should be a lot easier with the comfort of the Mercedes Sprinter adventure van, not to mention being able to work efficiently before and after with no rush to get home.

My goal this year is to place well in the 2018 California Triple Crown which this year consists of:

These are perhaps 3 of the top 4 hardest double centuries in the state in my view, having done all the hard ones. I rate Alta Alpina 8 Pass Challenge as the hardest due to high elevation and sometimes very high temperatures.

By “placing well” I refer mostly to personal best efforts with no glitches; something close to what I can do on my very best days. I don’t hope to win, only to finish well for my own ability. I do hope to win at least one of the other double centuries this year (I’ve one the Central Coast Double once, and the Eastern Sierra Double once, so that is not unrealistic if training goes well).

This year, the series has all three events within 90 minutes driving of my home, so I have no excuse for not doing it (in past years it was too far to travel).

Why so many doubles so early?

The trick is getting in shape early, which means dropping 15 pounds of body fat by April 29, or just under one pound of body fat per week.

That’s incredibly hard to do, as it means a 500 calorie per day deficit (a pound of body fat is 3500 calories since it includes some water). Since back in 2011 I lost weight at the rate of 1.25 pound per week for 12 weeks. the goal has an existence proof, though 7 years later it will be harder to do. In 2011 (Sept 13) I got down to 7.9% body fat (168 pounds).

As of Jan 1 2018, I have reversed those last two digits: 168 now up to 186 = about 17% body fat.

  • Each double century typically loses me a full pound of body fat. It varies; it can be 3/4 to 1.5 pounds of body fat, depending on difficulty and self discipline in recovery eating properly.
  • There are two back-to-back (1 week apart) pairs of doubles 3/10 and 3/17 plus 4/7 and f/14. This early physical stress sets things up nicely for stronger results later in the year. Then a 2 week recovery prior to DMD on 4/29.

Why body weight is a BFD

The reason I need to drop 15 pound of fat is that Devil Mountain Double even 5 pounds of extra body fat costs half an hour of riding time: if total riding weight (TRW) is 196 pounds (rider 171 , clothes/shoes 3, food and water 5, bike 17) then 15 more pounds is a 7.6% increase in TRW. Devil Mountain Double with its 20000' of climbing means that ascending is about 60% of the riding time. Since it takes about 15 hours, that’s 9 hours. Adding 7% or so to the time, that adds 38 minutes to the riding time—around 14:20 versus 15:00. But it’s worse than that: if it’s hot, more fat means more stress (heat). Higher weight forces lower cadence on climbs, stressing legs and burning them out prematurely plus demanding higher energy expenditure, which means burning off glucose stores faster (higher exertion level for same pace). So I deem the difference more like an hour. And that means daylight finish versus night finish, which saves another 10 minutes (much easier to see/navigate). So that 15 extra pounds really means 70 minutes more riding time.

Losing body fat

Fat comes off most easily at first as the body is less cranky about losing fat. For me that means I should be able to get down to 179 on or ahead of that schedule (I’ve done that before), but 179 to 175 gets harder, and 175 to 171 the body fights back, big time (appetite, more efficient metabolism).

Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

Reader Comment: Using Carogna Effetto Mariposa tubular tape for Tubular Tires

See also tubular tire articles.

Jim Thurber writes:

I can report that I have put Carogna's Effetto Mariposa tubular tape (hereinafter referred to as EMTT) to the test and it has succeeded, beyond all expectations, passing with flying colors.

I've used Mastix glue for the last two years to affix my tubulars to alloy rims. The Rolf Prima rims were my first carbon and I decided to use the EMTT instead of glue, not wishing to use a heat gun to remove left-over glue when I changed a tire. The tires were mounted roughly 10 weeks ago.

Today my Veloflex Vlaanderen tubular flatted (with about 2,000 miles on it) in the middle of a lengthy, training ride. There had been a lot of downhill braking at speeds up to 40 mph.

With no air in the tire (and a "gap" located opposite the air valve) it took a fair amount of effort to remove, very similar to a tire secured with a professional Mastix glue job. Note that the tire came off clean - all the tape remained on the rim.

Here's where this gets interesting. I partially inflated the spare (a Continental Gatorskin 700 x 25) and stretched it into position on the wheel before inflating it to approximately 80 psi. It was (fairly) easy to align. I then rode home - another 10 miles.

Removing the Continental tire I found it was as well SECURED to the rim as the Veloflex had been. This was a spare that had been installed 30 minutes earlier. Yet it was WELL affixed to the rim.

I removed it and then "rolled" off the EMTT with my thumbs - leaving a perfectly clean, ready to use rim. The fact that the rim was absolutely undamaged is a big deal. But . . . The fact that the spare was (near instantly) well secured to the rim is a HUGE deal.

Anybody wishing to ride on real tires (to wit: tubulars) should consider using EMTT especially if you like having tires perfectly aligned on the rim AND being able to change tires on the road / continuing to ride with what appears to be relative safety.

ciao and best to all

Jim James Thurber
Chief Mechanic FAsT Monkeys Racing Team
1406 Snow St
Mountain View, CA 94041

WIND: tubulars using tape might be just the ticket for riders without a skilled local bike shop.

Veloflex Vlaanderen 700 X 27C tubular tire
Veloflex Vlaanderen 700 X 27C tubular tire
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RAAM Team Bemer Sets Two World Records using Bemer Vascular Therapy

I have been using the Bemer for vascular therapy intensively for nearly three months now. It works, indeed, the Bemer helped me recovery from the toughest double century in the country in just 40 hours.

In Race Across America (RAAM), Team Bemer used the Bemer for recovery, setting two new world records and beating the next closest team by over two days:

TEAM BEMER Wins the 8-Man RAAM Race and sets 2 new world records!!!

Overall Time Record #1 (5d:3h:43min)
Distance Over Average Time Record #2 (3069.8 Miles @ 24.9mph)

Race Across America (RAAM) is one of the most respected and longest running ultra-endurance events in the world. RAAM is seen as a pinnacle of athletic achievement not only in cycling circles but the greater sporting community as well.

It is just about incromprehensible to me how they could average 24.9 mph when there is 150000 feet of climbing, not to mention wind and heat. I can do 25 mph steady on flat ground for a few hours, but it is not an easy pace at all.

To get a Bemer, you need to buy one through an IBD (Independent Bemer Distributor). I am an IBD; contact me about Bemer (San Francisco Bay Area). I also visit the Eastern Sierra frequently.

Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS)

I suffered a moderate to severe concussion in a bike crash at mile 87 of the Solvang Spring Double Century:

Lloyd’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI / concussion) Experience and Log

Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) is a term used to describe lingering effects of a concussion.

From Guidelines for concussion/mild traumatic brain injury and persistent symptoms:

2.3 The patient should be advised that a full recovery of symptoms is seen in the majority of cases.

In most cases, patients who experience mTBI will recover fully, typically within days to months. The concern is that up to 15% of patients diagnosed with mTBI will continue to experience persistent disabling problems.

The consequences for these individuals may include reduced functional ability, heightened emotional distress, and delayed return to work or school. When symptoms persist beyond the typical recovery period of three months, the term post-concussion syndrome or disorder may be applied.

This is very good advice (2.3)—an expectation of full recovery (to be distinguished from hope) is critical. But it doesn’t mean that full recovery will be realized in the proper sense of zero lingering effects.

I am now sure that I suffer from Post Concussion Syndrome in several ways, 3.5 months after the incident. I am “fully recovered” in most senses, but life-altering limitations remain. In particular my ability to work long hours is diminished to the point of causing financial stress (being self employed). Along with emotional distress and handling of stress in general, greater sleep requirements.

Maybe six months or a year will slowly repair things, maybe not.

I suspect that few concussion victims having a concussion of a severity like mine (or even somewhat less severe) are ever going to ever be the same nor will they have zero after effects months or years later. I say this because not one of perhaps 30 emails I received from concussion victims indicated as such; not one indicated recovery in every way back to pre-concussion functioning. On the positive side, most all reported regaining mostly normal functionality eventually.

Medical science has few ways to fully evaluate post-concussion functionality and at best a handful of qualified clinics to do so (and what of a baseline?). Then there is the expense, prohibitive for me at least (even though I pay $3300/month for health care!), and surely for most people.

IMO, medical science remains ignorant about concussion recovery: blind men feeling different parts of an elephant, and clueless about what “full” means. There is an incentive for doctors to be authoritative and appear knowledgeable when real knowledge is severely lacking. In my view, the concussion guidelines provide fodder for such doctors (read the whole thing), and thus does a disservice to patients. Still, there is much good in it also.

Finally, if medical science is so smart, why is research only now emerging on fundamentals? See Exercise may be best medicine to treat Post-Concussion Syndrome. My answer is that the medical knowledge about concussions is a vast desert wasteland by and large.

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Exercise may be best medicine to treat Post-Concussion Syndrome

I suffered a moderate to severe concussion in a bike crash at mile 87 of the Solvang Spring Double Century:

Lloyd’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI / concussion) Experience and Log

Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) is a term used to describe lingering effects of a concussion. From the 2017 concussion guidelines:

In most cases, patients who experience mTBI will recover fully, typically within days to months. The concern is that up to 15% of patients diagnosed with mTBI will continue to experience persistent disabling problems.

The consequences for these individuals may include reduced functional ability, heightened emotional distress, and delayed return to work or school. When symptoms persist beyond the typical recovery period of three months, the term post-concussion syndrome or disorder may be applied.

I have long felt that exercise was the key to good health, and I am more certain than ever of that regarding my concussion. In my concussion recovery log I gave great credit to excercise in speeding my recovery.

In Exercise may be best medicine to treat post-concussion syndrome, researchers at Canisius College report findings that dovetail with my concussion log and my own objective observations.

A treatment program for patients who suffer from post-concussion syndrome is being pioneered, showing that gradual exercise, rather than rest alone, actually helps to restore the balance of the brain’s auto-regulation mechanism, which controls the blood pressure and supply to the brain.

...While confident the new treatment can help reduce concussion symptoms, Kozlowski emphasizes that it's too soon to call the exercise treatment a cure, as some patients respond faster or better than others.

I built up from 60 to 90 minutes per day starting after the acute phase starting 17 days in, did that for several weeks, but I could not ride for more than 60-90 minutes most days without suffering what I termed “brain fade”, an inability to focus on either pedaling consistently or watching for road hazards effectively.

The brain fade finally seemed to pass, so I resumed double centuries starting with Central Coast Double. and that was a problem at The Terrible Two for sure (I did several things to compensate), but not at Alta Alpina or Eastern Sierra Double.

See also: Concussion Guidelines: Pure Rest is a Bad Idea and other concussion articles.

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Recovering in 40 Hours After Finishing Alta Alpina = Unprecedented — Using Bemer® Vascular Therapy Intensively

2018 Alta Alpina Challenge 8-Pass Challenge bib

Update: two weeks later, I had no soreness after The Death Ride in less than 24 hours. However, due to smoke air pollution I have no 'read' on recovery in terms of a ride; I did not ride for 3 days for fear of lung issues from the smoke (even so I ended up with phlegm in my lungs).


I’ve been holding off on fully endorsing the vascular therapy device (Bemer) that I have been using for 2.5 months because I wanted to be absolutely certain of its value before making any claims. It has solved various aches and pains for me and seems to help me sleep better, but that doesn’t make for convincing argument. Mainly I have been using it for faster athletic recovery and there it has been steadily impressing me.

The evidence that vascular therapy speeds recovery up for me has been piling up; when I used it intensively after the Central Coast Double I recovered in a bit over 2 days; it rapidly eliminated muscle soreness in spite of hours in the car.

When I failed to use it much after the Terrible Two (due to pressing web site issues) I took more like 5 days to recovery—which has been typical the past 8 years of doubles.

The other factor is protein; while I use and mix several protein sources, my “go to” protein after a double century or hard workout is Primal Feast as the dominant protein source for the first two days. Primal Feast seems to correlate strongly with regaining muscle strength and never upsets my stomach.

Recovering from Alta Alpina

The Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge is the hardest double century in the country; see the notes on that page and my 2018 Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge ride notes.

Normally, recovery for me takes 4-5 days (96 to 120 hours) for a double century, certainly 5 days for Alta Alpina given its difficulty.

This year, I was totally wiped out after doing Alta Alpina. I couldn't eat more than two slices of watermelon after finishing and did not eat anything else until the next morning, so unpleasant did I feel (this happens with the really hard ones). The next day I was toast (listless and tired), probably due in part to the pine pollen allergy taking its toll.

But using vascular therapy, all soreness disappeared at 40 hours, in spite of no exercise and (worse) sitting in a car (driving) much of the day. At 43 hours after finishing Alta Alpina, I had complete recovery, unprecedented in 7 years of 39 double centuries.

“Complete” recovery

I define complete recovery as follows:

  • No soreness or tightness in legs or glutes.
  • Ability to spin comfortably and fluidly at 100+ rpm.
  • Ability to do a hard-effort workout for 2+ hours and have it feel good.

Basically, complete recovery mean I am ready to train again normally without reservation.

What I did to recover

I was so tired after completing Alta Alpina that it was all I could do to drive to my campsite and lay there like a dead thing starting at 11 PM, waking next morning sometime. So I had very little vascular therapy that night. Here is what I did to recover in the 40 hours following finishing:

  • On Sunday (the next day) I drove a few hours, using vascular therapy the whole time. I covered my entire back and front as well as the quads and gluteus muscles; just kept going over and over on the highest settings for a total of 7 hours or so. I napped and rested that day and slept early, though I had bronchospasm difficulties. That evening, I took the first of two 10mg prednisone tablets because I could not sleep due to discomfort in my lungs ( the next one the next day, and even as I write this 5 days after finishing, my lungs are still impaired).
  • On Monday, I headed for home (6 hour drive). I repeated the vascular therapy process, using vascular therapy continuously as I drove (not exactly good for blood flow to just sit there!). Three hours in, all soreness vanished. This was startling—I thought wow.
  • On Monday I arrived home about 15:30 (42 hours after finishing Alta Alpina), got on the bike around 16:30, sensed full recovery, and did a hard workout starting around 16:30, which is 43 hours after finishing Alta Alpina.

The proof

The graph below shows the high intensity workout I did starting 43 hours after finishing Alta Alpina, having just driven 6 hours to get home as per above.

Power levels including burst power were high (graph rounds bursts off but many bursts over 300 watts for short periods). The sustained wattage for me is as high as I’d do in this type of workout when fully rested, and the calorie burn (2000 calories) is no short or easy ride. I felt strong. The only problem: I got dehydrated and had only two GU energy gels, so I dialed it back starting around the 2 hours mark.

Contact me if you want to learn more about buying the vascular therapy device I am using. Especially if you are an athlete, I can provide guidance on how to use it for recovery from intensive training.

Hard workout only 43 hours after Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge
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Finished: Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge

2018 Alta Alpina Challenge 8-Pass Challenge bib, complete with all 8 stickers

The Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge is the hardest double century in the country; see the notes on that page.

As Larry O'Conner of OWC / MacSales.com (highly recommended) might say: “onward and upward”.

Well, and downward too, as what goes up must come down in the Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge Double Century.

This year’s challenges

This year’s Alta Alpina was particularly difficult for me, for multiple reasons:

  • 10 pounds heavier than in 2012, my training season having been interrupted by my concussion. Ten pounds is the kiss of death, so to speak, for 20,500' feet of climbing.
  • Nagging back pain as discussed, caused by tight gluteus medius the weeks prior, but I focused on resolving it (following the incredible overall fix by Dee Sickles), and got it sorted out prior with a day to spare. I did have to stop and stretch the gluteus medius 5 or 6 times to keep it from pulling on the lower back and causing pain, but after mile 65 everything settled in.
  • Concern about post-concussion brain fatigue as per The Terrible Two made me cautious about my pace, so I stopped much more often and longer than my wont.
  • A two-day post-concussion event (I won’t go into that here) ending only the 10 hours prior to event start; I wasn’t sure I could even do a single pass, let alone 8. It cleared up.
  • Downtime prior to Alta Alpina from the Terrible Two double century, with a full 7 days needed for my brain to recover from the , a lingering side-effect of my concussion.
  • I took off quite a bit of speed versus other riders (braking downhill), still being very cautious descending due to my recent concussion.
  • Unexpected: ongoing breathing issues due to repeated bronchospasms caused by pine pollen. Twelve (12!) puffs of my bronchodilator during Alta Alpina barely kept bronchospasms in check. I was unable to wear my N100 face mask on the higher/steeper climbs because it would collapse with deep inhalations. My lungs and diaphragm were tired and uncomfortable by the time I was done. I had similar but less severe issues back during the Eastern Sierra Double; I suspect the same pine pollen issue though it might have been something else (pines bloom earlier at lower elevations and later at higher elevations).


I didn’t know if my brain could handle one pass, let alone 8 given the two days prior; I had a post-concussion 'event' that I won’t go into here but it is/was like a storm that blows through—fortunately it blew on through by 8 PM the night before. Still, I felt the need to be cautious particularly on descents. So this was my strategy:

  • Go out at a steady pace with modest power and try to pace that way the whole time. I did not want to over-exert and tax my brain or get back pain going.
  • Descend taking off 5 to 10 mph, so my brain would not have to deal with too-fast visual input (too much visual processing is what seems to fry it, as in the Terrible Two).
  • Stop and stretch the gluteus medius any time I felt tension in my back. I did this 6, maybe 10 times (rest stops plus special stops just to stretch). After mile ~65 I did not have to do it anymore, and no back pain even at the finish.
  • Caffeinated more than usual (for brain), so I had three Mountain Dews: Ebbett Pass summit (both ways), plus summit of Monitor Pass West. This was in addition to the caffeine in the GU energy gel.

The strategy worked; I finished, which given the setbacks was a stretch goal (finishing 8 passes).

What I did not expect was the worst bronchospasms in at least a decade. I wore my N100 face mask for the first ~60 miles, but it began to collapse with the force of intense breathing up Carson Pass, and I had to stop using it. That proved an ill choice; I ended up using my bronchodilator about 12 times, which is at least 3X the daily max. But I had no other way to control the bronchospasms. How much did my lungs impede me? I’m not sure, no way to know.

2018 vs 2012 charts

My best ever finish: 2nd place in 2012 took 13:46 with roll time of 13:02.

Power output in 2012 was (normalized power) 216 watts versus 189 watts in 2018—27 watts higher, which is of course huge. Six years older, 10 pounds heavier (more stress), lungs, etc all contribute to that difference.

Power in watts, heart rate, elevation profile for Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge (2012)

Below, 2012 graph of my effort. I was ultra lean (8% body fat) and in peak condition. I finished strong as the green line for power (watts) shows.

Power in watts, heart rate, elevation profile for Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge (2012)

Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge

Update: it was hard, very hard, but I finished in spite of several challenges.


This Saturday’s Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge is the hardest double century in the country, with (true) 20,500 vertical feet of climbing*. Plus Alta Alpina is at relatively high altitude with most passes hitting 8500 feet or so, and never dropping below 4800 feet elevation. So average elevation is about 6600 feet, higher if the time is properly factored in (riding slower/longer at higher elevation).

* Not the wildly inaccurate Garmin elevation figures some riders post for other doubles with deviations of up to 4000 vertical feet among different riders Garmin units. My personal experience with a Garmin Edge 500 proves Garmin altimeter to be junk (not always, but frequently).

Basically, the Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge is the Death Ride plus two more major passes: Monitor Pass West and returning on Monitor Pass East. The temperature can be 105° at the bottom of Monitor Pass, but a cold front has blown in and so I am hoping for cooler temperatures than usual. Both Alta Alpina and the Death Ride start in the lovely backwater of Markleeville, CA.

It took a full 7 days for my brain to recover from the Terrible Two double century, a lingering side-effect of my concussion. It was a crummy week, feeling unfocused and not able to concentrate well. While my back was fine during the Terrible Two, the quadrilaterals were re-irritated and tightened up again after getting fixed, though not as tight as prior. It’s too bad I had only 5 days after getting things fixed before the Terrible Two; I could have used more time to let the muscles settle in and Be Happy. Still, during the Terrible Two I felt more symmetric on my bike than I had in years, so I now know what is possible as to fit/feel—really nice when it’s working well. It is only in the days after the ride that the muscles reverted to old muscle memory and tightened up again.

I’ve nursed my back all weak [sic] with the PEMF device I use, rolled it with foam roller, used Arnica Gel cream on it, along with (at times) a muscle relaxant to try to get the gluteus medius in particular to “let go” as it seems to be the main source of the issue. The muscle relaxant does work, and let me roll out the gluteus medius effectively. I’ve had good luck with notable improvement, but it is not 100% gone. I do not know if the back will act up the first climb or the 5th or the 8th.

The main thing is brain recovery has been excellent (after 7-10 days), but then I felt strangely tired yesterday again (and not physically). I don’t know what to think. If my brain gives up again, then I’ll abort after N of 8 passes rather than fry the circuitry again—just not worth it. The good news is that the pavement for Alta Alpina is on the whole excellent and mostly not shaded, so it is much less demand on the visual cortex (but beware of heading east to Hermit Valley where there are some nasty bumps).

Given these issues, and being 10 pounds too heavy, my goal this year is just to finish without brain-fry, and as a bonus, feel good enough to eat when done.

My best ever finish (2nd place in 2012) took 13:46 with roll time of 13:02. If I can do 15:00 this year I would consider that excellent, given the aforementioned issues, and being 6 years older.


Below, 2012 graph of my effort. I was ultra lean (8% body fat) and in peak condition. I finished strong as the green line for power (watts) shows.

Power in watts, heart rate, elevation profile for Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge (2012)
Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

Reader Comment: Tubular Tires

See also tubular tire articles.

Jim F writes:

Excellent work this year - congratulations on your successful Double Century finishes.

Thanks to Wind in My Face I've become a total tubular convert. I'm currently wearing tubes on all my road bikes - mostly Veloflex Vlaanderen. They're a bit of a squeeze on my bamboo road bike so that's wearing 25 mm Victoria Corsa. The ride? Superb.

One difference is that I've switched exclusively to tape (from Mastix glue) and do all mounting myself. I'm not adventurous but I am cheap. The Effetto Mariposa Carogna tape appears to be doing a great job. The following article uses Tufo tape but the difference between tape and glue is slight, 9%.


My younger son (39 - not very young) has also switched exclusively to tubulars.

When other riders see my wheels are wearing tubs they smile and wonder, aloud, who I telephone if I get a flat. I'm tempted to show them how quickly you can swap one tire for another but usually resist. I've had ONE flat on tubs while riding over the last two years and swapping tires took, as you know, not very long.

I'd also like to comment on your outstanding photography, which I enjoy.

WIND: tubulars using tape might be just the ticket for riders without a skilled local bike shop.

Veloflex Vlaanderen 700 X 27C tubular tire
Veloflex Vlaanderen 700 X 27C tubular tire
Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

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