The Terrible Two this year was held for the 35th time. The Terrible Two was without much doubt the most difficult double century in the United States until Scott Halversen introduced us to the Devil Mountain Double. Now it's a continual debate which is the tougher of the two. Terrible Two wins on the steepness of the climbs and on the potential for hot near-solstice weather, while the Devil Mountain Double has more sustained climbing and less daylight.
I first tried the Terrible Two in 1999, when I flew in from Austin for the pleasure. I'd participated in part of the Texas Hell Week that year, a March endurance training camp of eight days at close to 100 miles per day. I'd also been doing long weekend rides including Texas Randonneur Brevets. These long miles plus the near-daily exposure to Texas heat really gave me a lot of confidence I'd be able to handle what T2 had to offer. What I didn't expect it to offer, however, were flat tires. Two flats, plus the inability to deal with the tight tire-rim interface of whatever clinchers and rims I was using on the ride cost me around a half-hour relative to the field. I spent the rest of the day playing catch-up, managing to finish right before sundown in a group of six tied for 78th place. My time: 14:41. I knew I'd been capable of more, so vowed to return.
However, an issue with Terrible Two is it essentially conflicts with two other excellent events, the Climb to Kaiser out of Fresno (held too close to be competitive in both) and the Pescadero Road Race which is typically the same day. I love both of these as much as I respect Terrible Two, so years slipped by before I managed to return to Sebastopol.
2005, and I was ready to go again. Now I lived in San Francisco, so I had a lot more time training in the hills. On the other hand, I was doing a lot fewer long rides. So would the trade-off be a favorable one? I never really found out, as the lingering cold which affected me in my Santa Rosa motel room the night prior turned into deep chills in the uncharacteristically cool and foggy conditions on the course. I finally arrived at lunch near mile 110 exhausted. I lay on the ground, barely able to move, until Roxeanne Robinson, who was there supporting her husband Dick's attempt to realize his dream of finishing the ride, drove me back to the start. There I got to see Dick cross the finish line and accept congratulations from his several friends there waiting for him. I was glad to be there to see it, even though I was deeply disappointed to have not finished myself. Sure, I had the excuse of being sick, but there's always an excuse. Still, even today, I can't imagine how I could have finished the ride that day. I ended up being sick for the following six days, the clock on my "lingering cold" getting fully reset in the damp, cold air on the course.
So two Pescaderos and two Climb to Kaisers later, it was time to try again this year. I'd only been focusing on bike training for the preceding two months, since the Skyline to the Sea trail marathon in April. I'd wanted to do Davis Double in May as a training ride, but at the time it was obvious I was not ready for 200 miles: my running training wasn't translating as seamlessly into cycling endurance as I'd hoped. Davis is considered a flat double, definitely two notches below Terrible Two in difficulty, so is a good test to provide respect for the distance and test out hydration and nutrition policy. You don't want Terrible Two being your first double in 5 years, for sure. Or that's how I felt back in May.
So no Davis, no Terrible Two, right? Well, maybe. I had a pair of hard training rides, 210 km and 220 km, this past month. In each case, especially the second, I went hard on climbs, didn't pay particular attention to nutrition, and still came through okay. Add in a taper the week before, a pre-ride massage, a religious aversion to zones 4-7, and a regular water, carbohydrate, and electrolyte intake and I should be able to extend that distance out to 200 miles.... I hoped. Anyway, I had to try.
So on Friday off I went with Cara to Sebastopol, trying my best to ignore what lay in wait for me the following morning.