I am seriously intimidated by Devil Mountain Double tomorrow, mainly because I’m just recovering from a severe loss of energy and a body weight too high for 18,500 feet of climbing. The Wheat Belly diet might or might not be to blame, but the past 10 days really threw me for a loop, and undermined my confidence.
I’ve done DMD twice, and it ranks as extreme difficulty with times approaching. Last year’s DMD, I struggled with cold and fueling issues, and did not do so well, taking over 15 hours to finish, a full hour slower than 2012. Even at my strongest result in 2012, it is a long, long day, taking me over 14 hours (clock time, 13:29 roll time).
The Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge is in theory the hardest due to another 2000 vertical feet of climbing, but I rate DMD as hardest, because conditions are generally less favorable, involving humidity and cold and strong winds, and sometimes rain (altitude is a non-issue for me).
2016 post ride notes
About 190 participants for 2016, down from ~270 last year. Maybe last year’s cold is responsible? The weather for 2016 outstanding—not really possible to be better, as compared to last year’s unpleasantly cold conditions (10-15°F colder).
Start time: 6:10 AM, finish about 21:30 = 15:20. Time is clock time including stop time and the wasted time of a few short navigational errors.
Given my extreme weakness less than a week prior (hardly able to do half a ride without being wiped out afterwards), my only goal was to finish in a respectable time. Given that 2016 clock time is ~12 minutes faster than 2015, I feel good about it. However, the roll time (time on the bike) of 14:39 was 18 minutes longer in 2016 than 2015. Weighing 180 pounds (should be 173 by now) is a huge disadvantage with so much climbing. Moreover, the vigorous wind pushed us down Mines Rd quite strongly. So 2016 is probably actually weaker than 2015 in spite of the shorter start-to-finish time (clock time).
I started in the 6:00 AM group (actual start time 6:10 AM). A friend and I were quickly dropped at the first small hill—the group was mostly young and lean guys—and I am neither! My power meter read 330 watts, and I was not gaining; that’s way too high a power output for a double. So I dropped back to 220-240 watts.
Hitting the climb up Mt Diablo, my friend fell behind, pacing himself due to a back problem he knew about in advance. His 49th double in 4 years! As it turns out, he would have completed nonetheless but his front brake pads vaporized by the Calaveras section about mile 160, so he ended up aborting.
Mt Diablo is one of these endless false summits—you keep thinking you are almost there, but it’s always “another 500 vertical to go”. About half-way up, I started encountering 5:00 AM riders descending, so I thought I was making great time. But what looked like only another 700 or so vertical turns out to be more like 1500! On and on I went, picking off only a lonely rider or two to the summit.
Descending Mt Diablo I saw no other riders until I passed one semi-lost rider down near the base. I proceeded apace but it was lonely riding until Morgan Territory, where I started passing intermittent riders and some more by the first rest stop. Thereafter I went on past 10-30 riders at each rest stop, making good headway (many riders linger at rest stops, so a quick stop and go at a rest top means passing 10/20/30 riders!). No one passed me; I only passed. Which is a psychological boost when riding slower than usual. However, I wasn’t “all there” descending Mt Hamilton so I was braking too much, and a rider or two passed me, but I believe I re-passed them later in the course.
In general, power output was disappointing, particularly the Mt Hamilton climb. But after a cup of noodles at Crothers rest stop, I rocketed up Sierra (relatively speaking), catching and dropping 3 riders who had passed me as I halted to fiddle with food/clothing. I remained fairly strong to the finish. Was it noodles, salt? Seems weird. As usually I have no real idea why power output is variable like this, or what to do about it.
Sierra Grade is a big plus for me—the steepness is not at all an issue and whatever has preceded, I always seem to find it a relatively brief non-event. Rather, it is the most efficient way to climb (steeply). It never bothers me, and I really don’t understand why other riders find steepness difficult, since most have ample gearing. Weird.
I ended up losing the most time backtracking—as it gets dark, I have a darned hard time reading the map in dim light (presbyopia in part), and I misread a turn, so I had to ride back to check the previous road signs. That cost me ~10 minutes or so, just after I had busted my ass putting 10 minutes on some riders! Frustrating.
I have mixed feeling about rankings. DMD is very tough, but Alpina Alpina 8 Pass Challenge is more climbing (figures for DMD are exaggerated by 2000' IMO). Given heat and altitude, I have to rate Alta Alpina as the #1 difficulty, and DMC a very close second. I would rate both as superb courses, but Alta Alpina gets my vote as #1 on route and scenery and minimal traffic.
Final note: my car died and I was left stranded at the hotel, unable to return home. AAA rejected my premier service status as unpaid, and ran me through the ringer (my bank verifies payment was made last August). I had to pay again to get (degraded) service, but by 1:00 AM I was fed up and instead went and got a room, and here I remain until Monday morning, so the billing team at AAA can fix their mess and get my car towed to the dealer across the bay. A day from 5:00 AM to 01:00 AM the next day with a 208 mile double in there is a very long day.