Tuesday, April 30, 2013

some reflections on Devil Mountain Double

Results were posted today for the 2013 Devil Mountain Double Century. I was 14th. I thus met all of my goals: don't bonk, finish strongly, finish in under 14 hours, place top 20.

I tend to focus on things which went wrong, but it's important to also embrace what went right, so to not forget them and relapse the next time. Some things which worked well for me at the Devil Mountain Double, as well as some things which worked out okay but could be improved:

  1. I'd checked the weather report and specific weather station data. I knew it would be chilly in the valley, warm on Diablo summit, hot in Livermore, temperate in San Jose, and no rain. This affected how I dressed on the start and what I left at the Morgan Territory rest stop to be sent back to the start.
  2. I stayed in the Marriott instead of trying to head out morning-of. The Marriott was fine, the staff were super-courteous and helpful, I slept well and was in no rush in the morning. Had I carpooled with someone in the morning it would have added to the day's stress. With the event discount the Marriott was only $89: an excellent deal. And as a result I got to shower after the ride, which was wonderful.
  3. I didn't feel like eating much the night before, but I ate a package of gnocchi (thanks to Cara for getting this!) and a sweet potato anyway. It helped that I rode around 10 miles total on the various bike portions of my trip from work to home to the San Ramon Marriott. This helped stimulate my appetite a bit, without appreciatebly depleting glycogen stores due to the low intensity.
  4. Given my relatively large dinner, I wasn't hungry in the morning, either, but ate a banana along with some steel cut oats cooked in black tea with added honey and peanut butter for breakfast. It's best to eat three hours before a hard ride, but I didn't eat until around 4:30 am. On an event this long it doesn't matter much.
  5. I set the Garmin 500, via the training menu, to provide a "time alert" every 15 minutes. During the ride this would give a loud ring every 15 minutes, which I used as a cue to drink. If I'd just recently drunk I didn't worry about it, but around half the time I felt I could drink when it went off, so I took a drink. This helped me stay on a good hydration schedule. I weighed myself immediately after the ride and was 123.0 lb. I'd not weighes myself since the morning two days prior and was at that time 125.5 lb. Since there's some fat loss on the a ride this long, this represents a water loss of at most 2%. This indicates to me my hydration went quite well, despite the heat.
  6. I like relatively efficient rest stops, but not to the point of skipping them since the mental break is good. But important to quick stops is to go in with a plan. So in my muddled mental state, I'd rehearse going in what I needed. For example: swallow six Enduralytes, fill a bottle, drink it, refill both bottles, one with Perpetuum and one with water, eat some fruit slices, apply sunscreen, thank volunteers, leave. My stops weren't super-fast, and I flubbed a few times, but I did fairly well. I did a few "better safe than sorry" moves like putting on sunscreen at Crothers even though the sun was well past it's peak at that point and putting on my light at Pet the Goat even though I finished with plenty of daylight. But when in doubt, be efficient.
  7. Another factor on rest stops: 1. Always be doing something productive, never stand around. 2. Never sit down. I had plenty of time sitting on my bike saddle, I didn't need to sit at the rest stops.
  8. I checked the bearings in my bottom bracket, which needed to be replaced, before the ride. The old bearings, which were ceramic, got contaminated and were spinning with significant resistance. On the other hand, I did not switch my tires, Michelins with only modest lifetime, despite signs of moderate wear. I ended up with a flat tire the next morning, the result of a slow leak suffered during the ride. I got lucky this wasn't a serious factor during the ride, although perhaps rolling resistance toward the end was a bit higher than optimal. Additionally I optimally would have ridden with latex tubes, which according to Al Morrison's tests have lower rolling resistance (Jan Heine's tests show higher resistance for latex).
  9. My bike fit from 3D Bike Fit worked well. I had made some changes from the original: raising the seat 1 cm because that felt better to me and was consistent with literature recommendations, and also removing a shim from my shoe, which I will describe. The fit is very comfortable and I felt little discomfort throughout the long ride. I additionally felt in control on descents in the drops. With my previous bike position I was more prone to discomfort on extended descents.
  10. 3D Bike Fit had switched me from Speedplay pedals to Shimano SPD-SL pedals. The Shimano pedals, despite the substantially different design, felt solid throughout the ride. However, I have much more difficulty clipping in to the Shimano SPD-SL pedals than I did with the Speedlays. On one occasion, this may have caused me to miss a traffic light I otherwise would have made. Even on a double century, a few seconds here and there can result in significant differences. I ended up behind the next rider by three minutes. The light was less than three minutes, but I prefer being able to clip in quicker.
  11. 3D Bike Fit switched me from my well-worm Sidi Megasole shoes to new Specialized S-Works. For the double, had I stuck with Speedplays, I would have used my Bont shoes instead of the Sidis. The Specialized shoes, however, are remarkably light and the twin-boa adjustment is fantastic for fine-tuning the tightness. There's just two issues. One is the toe box is slightly tight for my feet, and I had to remove a shim 3D Bike Fit had inserted into my right shoe to neutralize the varus adjustment on that side. In my judgement the extra varus adjustment was less of an issue then abrading knuckles on my right foot. The other issue with the Specialized is they have a prominent ankle feature which, on my left foot, creates a painful point of contact. I tried padding out the shoe with Dr. Scholl's moleskin to reduce the prominence of this point, but I wasn't able to solve the problem. Instead, I found I can completely eliminate the problem by inserting an old expired health care card (basically a credit card) into the shoe at this point. This is obviously a kludge. I'm tempted to cut away the prominent extension at the top of the heel. This is a permanent modification, but if it works I suspect that there will be little risk of the foot coming out. The other potential risk is it will compromise the shoe and cause damage to extend from the cropped portion. Obviously inserting ad hoc shims into the ankle is undesirable. But the shoes are surprisingly comfortable otherwise: they are designed to comform to the foot.
  12. I taped over the front vents in my helmet for a combination of warmth on cold mornings, aerodynamics, and reducing the likelihood of stinging insects getting trapped near my head. The downside, of course, is that the risk of overheating might be a concern. I got hot climbing San Antonio Valley Road, but so was everyone else. But perhaps with the vents exposed I would have been able to climb the hill faster. On the other hand, I experienced less wind drag for the entire course, so I draw no conclusions about this. If it was signfiicantly hotter I think I would have perhaps been better off with the tape removed. But insects were an issue: a large insect which could well have been a bee bounced off my closed mouth. I don't know how many bounced off the tape.
  13. My Garmin Edge 500 battery lasted without problem. I lost a bit of time when it provided a false "off course" error on Tesla Road past South Vasco Road, but since I knew the route fairly well I was able to ignore the numerous other erronious "off-course" messages. I'm going to try a forward mount for the Garmin, I think. Tracking navigation with the Garmin mounted on my stem loses view of the road ahead even in peripheral vision. With a forward mount, I should retain more of the road in peripheral vision.
  14. The Powertap power meter definitely pulled its (considerable) weight. Since I started pacing by power I've finished strongly on all three of the doubles I've done. And it's great having solid numbers post-ride to analyze how I rode at the end versus the beginning (answer: quite well).
  15. My light wasn't a factor since I rode completely in daylight. However, the revised mount which NiteRider sent me after my persistant stability problems with the initial mount has worked out extremely well. I hurredly mounted my light at Pet the Goat and it never budged from there to the finish. This was one decision which potentially cost me a place as I ended up not needing the light and the delay caused me at least one painfully slow light cycle in San Ramon. But I wasn't sufficiently certain at that point I'd make it to the finish without unforseen delay.
  16. I showered and changed before eating at the finish. I brought a sweat suit specifically for this purpose. Since I'd stayed the night before, I was able to access the fitness center at the hotel and shower. Then I was able to enjoy my post-ride lasagna in comfort (relaxing my personal wheat ban), instead of feeling as if I was fermenting in sweaty cycling clothes.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Devil Mountain Double: Success! (very long ride report)

Fear is a good thing.

Going into Devil Mountain Double I was uncertain of my fitness. I'd really not done anything even half the difficulty of this ride, so it was hard to be able to say I was prepared. Indeed had I not run into promoter Scott Halverson on the summit of Mount Diablo a few months ago, where I told him I'd not recently done the ride due to it being relatively early in the year for such monumental difficulty and I wasn't ever adequately prepared, he recommended to stop worrying and ride it anyway. So I took his advice.

Getting there was fun. I went home from work, got my stuff together, then rode my bike to BART. BART was pretty full due to baseball and basketball games in Oakland, but I was able to stand with my bike at the "bike priority" spot on my car. Once in Dublin, I rode the bike lane on the obscenely freeway-like Dublin Blvd where someone tossed a lighter at me from a moving car (not sure why -- it bounced off the spokes of my front wheel). But after a mile on this monument to grossly broken suburban planning I turned onto bike trails for a nice 6 mile spin northward to San Ramon and the hotel. Except for the heavy backpack, it was a perfect warm-up for the next day's fun. Here's the Strava record.

The first real decision was when to start: the 5 am early start or the 6 am start. There were numerous advantages to the 6 am group: more time to sleep, more time to digest breakfast, spending the opening half-hour in a group of faster, stronger, more skilled riders, no risk of having to wait for the Diablo gate to open if it's a few minutes after it's 5:30 am opening time, an hour of extra warming for the chilling Diablo descent, and the extremely important reason: more likely to be able to use the toilet before the start and not have to deal with the delay of porta-potties. So that's what I chose, despite my concern the pace of these riders would be too hard on Diablo. Not too hard as in "I can't keep up", but too hard as in "I wired my bike to explode if my Powertap reads 250 watts continuously for at least 10 seconds". Fear was my guide. Fear of going into the red until at least Palomares, the second-to-last climb on the course. It's the red zone which would drag me down, and the red zone which I wanted to avoid. And if I was dropped on Diablo, there was every possibility I'd be denied any useful draft the entire following ride. In contrast, starting at 5 am with a larger group including a broader spectrum of climbing speeds, I'd hope to get at least a good group out to Morgan Territory Road. But I picked 6 am.

We gathered outside a few minutes before 6. Scott gave opening instructions: the usual, be careful, etc, and instructed us to go. Then something strange happened... nobody really went. Each rider looked at the others, waiting for one to take the initiative. Tick, tick, tick... then finally someone did. And we were off.

The opening miles were paced by a sag car, which was first to the intersections to guarantee lights would trip. I ride in the pack, fading back a bit on the surges which pointlessly occurred on brief grades, but easily rejoining after. I felt really good. I'd eaten a good dinner the night before (plain gnocchi, a sweet potato, and a banana) and a good breakfast (oatmeal and a banana), all brought from home. Since I don't usually eat so many carbs, I felt super-energized.

Eventually the lead car pulled aside and we were on our own. The only adventure came when first one, then another water bottle was dropped by riders ahead. The bottles skitter across the road, gain traction, then cut impressive small-radius turns to change direction. I managed to avoid both. But having survived this challenge, I had no issues hanging with the group until the the base of the climb.

The base of Diablo used to be a nightmare of potholes, the result of a dispute between local homeowners and government over who was responsible for repair. The government claimed the short section was officially private, but the locals claimed the damage was from through traffic which they were forbidden to prevent. So it the road got worse and worse until the Tour of California bike race decided to pass through, and the road was fixed.

I knew what was coming next. The leaders took off fast. I was moving backward. I felt fine, but looking at my power meter I saw 260 watts. Way too high, I cut back on the throttle, and was gapped. I glanced back and only a single rider was behind.

The climb was magically effortless. I managed to catch a few riders along the way, at least one re-gapped me after I did so but I eventually recaught him. Junper Campground, normally a point of crisis, arrived before I expected. I started to feel a bit tired in the closing miles, but not much, then there I was at the steep bit. By this point I'd started catching a few of the 5 am crowd. One guy, who I think was one of the 5 am'ers, jammed it on the steep portion, gapping me. I kept my eye on the power number to keep it at 250W. As soon as we reached the parking lot, however, he stopped pedaling, and I swerved around him to reach the check point on the opposite side. Obvious he was riding hard just to end the pain.

It had been cool in the valley: I'd seen 46F at one point. But I'd checked the weather station at the summit before the ride and seen 64F for 3 am: hard to believe. But the summit of Diablo, while it can be freezing cold, if there's fog in the valley it can be considerably warmer than civilization below. And indeed, my Garmin ready 70F in the sun at the summit. Balmy.

Despite this I put back on the vest I'd removed during the climb. We'd be descending back into the valley, and even if the fog had burned off, the valley had started the morning a lot colder. This was an excellent move, since I was chilled on the descent, almost shivering, but unlike my last two times doing this, in 2000 and 2002, I never became truly cold, and I never had to attenuate my speed to avoid shivering. I did perhaps slow a bit more than necessary when passing two rangers on North Gate Road, for fear they were monitoring rider speeds relative to the 25 mph speed limit, and not soon after this I was passed by a rider who I was unable to recatch. My descending has improved a lot versus where it once was but I still carry a lot more caution into corners than I need to. It would turn out he was the only one to pass me on the road all day.

When I reached the bottom, I realized I'd made a mistake at the summit aid station. My bottles had been empty: I'd begun the ride with Cytomax in one, Hammer electrolyte tablets in the other. But for the rest of the ride, I was going to rely the Hammer products provided by the organizers. I'd put Perpetuum Moca flavor in one, plain water in the other, and taken a handful of Enduralyte tablets. This was a good strategy, but the 3-scoop-per bottle Perpetuum is good for calories, but a bit thick for hydration, so I was drinking the water too quickly. The solution, I realized, was to get more of my hydration by drinking a bottle of water at the stop, then refilling it. Riding towards Ygnacio Valley Road, the urban sprawl horror which began our eastward trek toward Morgan Territory, it was clear my water wouldn't last to the next rest stop, at the Morgan Territory summit. But it was still early, still cool, and I could afford to make the mistake at this point. But I resolved to drink at least a full bottle at every stop from here.

On Morgan I was still chasing the guy who'd passed me on the Diablo descent: I could see him ahead. The gap would grow or shrink with the undulating terrain of that curious yet spectacularly gorgeous climb, which seems to go on for far longer than its altitude difference suggests. But suddenly I saw him get off his bike and rotate his pedal. His chain was dangling, broken. Did I have my chain tool with me? I normally do. But while on a normal ride I'd have stopped to help, with the heavy support, including sag vehicle, I kept going. Perhaps I could have checked for the chain tool and given it to him, costing me at most 2 minutes. But this was a competitive, timed ride, and I knew it wasn't so long a walk to the rest stop, so I kept going.

The same can be said of gel wrappers. Too often I saw one on the road, hopefully dropped unintentionally, but I fear not. Pro cycling has recently clamped down in this, threatening to fine riders who are observed dropping wrappers on the road, or worse, tossing them into the brush. I can't comprehend why people think this is an acceptable behavior. But today, I left gel wrappers where I saw them, resolving to make up the karmic price by picking up more litter on my next untimed ride.

At Morgan rest stop I again did Perpetuum Moca in one bottle, water in the other, rapidly gobbling down some fruit slices as well. The volunteers were amazing, filling bottle, holding your bike. It really facilitates rapid stops. But with the warming temperature I'd decided to remove my wool undershirt. I'd planned on this by putting it over, rather than under my arm warmers, the latter my usual practice since it's more aerodynamic. But what I'd neglected to do was put it over my bib straps. So after removing my full-zip jersey (I'd intentionally worn a full-zip today since removing a partial zip with stuffed pockets is much more cumbersome) I had to pull the straps off from my shorts. Then I pulled off my shirt, put my jersey back on, struggled a bit with the zipper, then removed my knee warmers and hat, and was ready to go except I realized I'd forgotten to put my straps back over the shoulders. So off came the jersey again, I replaced the straps, and then back on with the jersey (which zipped up easily this time) and I was ready. I hate frittering away time like this and need to remember to put my undershirt over my shoulder straps next time. A volunteer had graciously provided me a bag and labeled it with my name and number for transport back to the start. I wasn't afraid about getting cold at any remaining point in the ride. I kept my vest, though, balled up in my pocket, although I'd not wear it again from there on.

The descent of the south side of Morgan Territory Road is a blast: high speed corners with descent sight lines. The air was really heating up at this point, and with just my jersey, white compression arm warmers, compression calf sleeves, light socks, gloves, and shoes I was warm.

At the bottom of the descent begins the arid portion of the route: the terrain of the Wente Road Race, Altamont Pass, and Patterson Pass before the long slog up Mines Road and San Antonio Valley Road to the Hamilton summit... a very long way. I made the T-left onto Manning without issue but was soon after overtake by a group of numberless riders. I was engulfed and found myself sucked along by their cumulative draft.

Now I had a conundrum. They weren't going that fast: I didn't want to intentionally slow to keep them ahead of me, but I wasn't sure if I should be drafting them since they weren't part of my event. So I moved to the front and set tempo, but they were right behind me, and soon a line came up to my left.

I decided then there was nothing in the Devil Mountain Double rules against drafting outside riders (except for racers at the Wente Road Race, which I was approaching). So decided to follow the crew. They seemed to be following the same route, as I could clearly see from the "DMD" arrows freshly painted on the road.

However, all of a sudden I saw such a marker indicating a right turn, onto Broadmoor from Dalton to avoid riding on busy Vasco Road, while the crew was clearly continuing straight. I veered to the right to make the turn, then was relieved to note that I'd been in the last in the line. That could have caused a crash if I'd been mid-pack.

Soon I was on Altamont Pass Road, which despite the name is barely a bump, then onto Grant Line Road where we finally joined the Wente course. I had to pause here at the request of course marshals to let two racers by, then I continued on. But not long after I was overtaken by a race pack. I stayed to the right to give them plenty of passing room. "What category are you?" I asked. "55+ cat 4" was the immediate response. It shows how popular masters racing is if you get a full pack of 55+ cat 4's. I immediately wondered if I could hang with these guys despite having ridden so far already, but I pushed those thoughts away and cruised at a steady pace to let them by. But we came upon two other Double riders on the right. "I need to pass these guys", I said, and pointed to the left. "Don't mix up with us!" a rider sternly warned, but I assured him I wasn't going to do that. I got past the two other double riders without incident and soon the cat 4's didn't need to deal with me any more, as I was off the back of their group.

Midway Road took me away from the Wente course, then Patterson Pass Road. Approaching it, I passed the sag vehicle ont he side of the road, initially occluding what was apparently an emergency water stop. I was by it before it I had time to stop. I was almost out of water, so could have used a fill, but I recalled there would be water on Patterson Pass itself (a "mini-stop") so pushed on.

Patterson Pass is a relatively minor climb in the Devil Mountain Double but it's memorable. After a relatively steep climb you appear to reach the top, but then after cresting, the truly steep portion looms ahead. This is "Oh My God" hill, and well named, or perhaps "Holy Shit Hill" is more appropriate. I've done Patterson several times, and indeed it is on the 2013 Low-Key Hillclimb schedule, but I was still a bit surprised this time. Fortunately, however, the water stop was at the crest of the prelude climb, so that gave me an excellent excuse to recover a bit before the steep bit.

No drink mix here, but they did have water, so I drank two full bottles and then filled both. I also downed a handful of Enduralytes and ate several slices of fruit. That this was a "mini-stop" as opposed to a full stop shows the high level of support at this event.

After being refreshed, the climb to Patterson Pass was easy. Then it wasn't much more than 10 miles further to the Mines Road stop. Patterson Pass Road led to Cross Road to Tesla. Cross Road was again part of the Wente course, but I encountered only two riders who were cruising, obviously dropped by their pack, so I had no issues.

Tesla crosses Vasca. Approaching the intersection, there's a prominent "DMD" arrow pointing straight through the intersection. So on I went. Despite this, I have a borderline neurotic paranoia about navigation, so I checked my Garmin Edge 500. "Off course" it said. Now it often says this: the GPS on the Garmin Edge 500 isn't good enough for its navigation algorithm. But for some reason I panicked. I pulled over and fumbled for my route sheet, which I had to remove from the plastic baggie since we'd moved to the second half, which was hidden by the fold. During this fumbling I was passed by a smiling rider, so put the sheet back in my pocket and followed, but he zipped through light I then just missed. This disturbed me because it was more time frittered away. I should have stuck with what I should have known was the route longer. And instead of fumbling with my route sheet I could have gone to either the line drawing page or the waypoint page of the Garmin. But I don't think super-clearly on rides of this distance.

I was soon the Mines Road, which has a preliminary section then there's a left on the main section which goes towards Mount Hamilton. This is where the next stop is. It wasn't long since Patterson Pass, but I wanted to make sure I was topped off, so drank, added this time plain Sustained Energy instead of the flavored Perpetuum to my "calorie bottle", and refilled with water. I was super-pleased to find some dried prunes of which I ate two and saved a few more in my pocket, popped more Enduralytes, and finally remembered to ask for some sun screen ( the exposed fringes of my arm were beginning to burn). I was pleased to see Ruth and Marco Palimeri there, a famous local tandem team. Marco had a "Hoodoo 500" T-shirt on, and he told me (as I was spraying on the sun screen) how he'd ridden that in a 2-tandem relay, alternating 30-minute pulls for 500 miles. I was super-impressed, but didn't want to spend any more time here then necessary, so after a sprint to the porta-potty to pee (I thought it would be bad form to pee on the side of the road close to the rest stop) I was back on my bike not sure I was ready to tackle the long slog to the Junction, which is lunch.

Mines Road is truly desolate. Parched, exposed earth abuts the long, gradual climbing which dominates the next 25 miles. Vultures fly overhead, and at one point I passed two next to a dead squirrel on the road. One was plucking at the squirrels exposed, bloody flesh while the other extended his wings. All the while, the temperature creeped upward. I was glad I'd done this in March, on Murphy Mack's Spring Classic ride, because I had a good feeling for the magnitude of it all. But in a way, the Zen quality of just slogging along on a single straight road with no navigation concerns makes the distance pass easily, and I arrived at the rapid descent to the junction.

The lunch stop was crowded. And with two tables here, one for sandwiches, the other for the Hammer product. With the crowd, it was relatively slow reaching the Hammer table, since I wasn't interested in the sandwich stuff. The Sustained Energy wasn't going down as smoothly as I'd hoped, and I wasn't feeling the urge to switch back to Perpetuum, so I decided to switch to gel and Heed. Due to an unfortunate over-consumption of Hammer Gel a few years ago at the MegaMonster Enduro, I haven't been able to stand much of the fruit-flavored stuff, but I quite like the chocolate, so went with that. But after half-filling my flask with gel then half with water to thin it (the gel is too viscous for easy removal from the flask) I was slightly distressed to see the two appeared nonmiscible: the water remained fully separated from the brown gel sludge in the bottom. I didn't want to waste time with it, so put the flask into my pocket.

I was leaving when I decided to add more gel to the flask, having experienced a bit of doubt I had enough to get me up the challenging climb of San Antonio Valley Road. So back I went, adding a bit more gel. Then I was leaving again and decided I needed more sun screen, my upper arms starting to weep from the burn which was appearing there. Evidently the spray-on stuff didn't survive the sweat. But I asked at the sandwich table and was told the sun screen was back at the Hammer table, and didn't want to make the trip a third time so set off. I was able to deal with the sun burn by pulling my sleeves higher, exposing previously-spared sections of my wrist instead. I resolved to absolutely make sure I got sunscreen at Crothers, the next stop.

The mile markers on the road clearly show it's 19 miles from the stop to the Mount Hamilton summit, but I knew from experience it's only around 5 miles from Isabel Creek, the bottom of the final climb. That left 14 miles of rolling terrain before beginning the climb proper. I remembered how painful this section was riding the opposite direction in the Mount Hamilton Road Race: punchy climbs taken at full blast after the 18+ mile climb from San Jose to the top, then a frightening descent on twisting roads down to Isabel Creek. But eventually I arrived there.

All of this time I noted my Garmin temperature number rising, first significantly passing body temperature where the diffusive heat flux switches from outward to inward, then to the magical 100F point. It maxed out at a remarkable 100.4F as I began the climb. I could only hope that it would start to drop a bit as I gained altitude. 100.4F seem hot, and it is, especially living in San Francisco regularly makes it cold 12 months a year: it's a very rare ride I don't start in knee warmers and a long-sleeve undershirt if not more. But I also knew there's a huge difference between 100.4F measured in the sun and measured in the shade. When I lived in Austin, I would have been sucking down the coolness of 100.4F in the sun, especially given the virtual complete lack of notable humidity. There wasn't much air movement, which hurt, but this was a far way from the "blast furnace" feeling I well remember from living in Texas.

Still, I felt the effects, and my power here was at least 15% below what I wanted. Was this terminal fatigue, or was it an effect of the heat? I hoped the latter, and that would prove to be the case. The mileage markers ticked by slowly... first 4 (near a memorably tight turn from the road race descent), then well after I thought surely I'd missed marker 3, it appeared. The grade was unrelenting, never super steep, but in the heat, a steady 10% or so was mentally challenging. I passed several riders standing on the side of the road. Indeed, this is where I succumbed in 2000, stopping several times along the way, and it was much cooler that year. I suffered, but never exceedingly, so I knew I was already on my best DMD ever. I just needed to not blow it, as there was still much to come.

The road levels out after mile marker 1, and soon I was at the crest. I was almost sure we didn't take the out-and-back to the true summit where the observatory is, but I scanned the road carefully for markers to be sure, then checked my Garmin for off-course warnings. None. And so I began the descent.

Mount Hamilton Road has a reputation as a technical descent but I find it easy in comparison to Diablo. The pavement quality on the upper portion is the worst I remember it, but below this it's freshly paved and smooth. There were numerous gravel patches, bits of rock broken away from the mountain side, and in one case I hit a rock with my front tire, but the 25 mm tires handle that sort of thing fairly well, and I didn't puncture. I would have really hated to have flatted at this point, since I was doing well and wanted to continue making good time.

The Hamilton descent contains two significant intermediate climbs which sometimes cause distress to tired riders. But I know these well and expect them, so to me they provide a nice break from the monotony of what would otherwise be a long descent. I was able to pass several riders on these rises, which I rode strongly. The contrast to 2000 was remarkable, where I was in death march mode at this point, virtually crawling to the Crothers stop.

That year instant soup at the Crothers stop had revived me, and I was thinking of getting some this year for nostalgic purpose. But other than having been out of water since the early stages of the descent, I was feeling good, so after turning off onto Crothers Road (I heard at least one rider missed this turn, despite it being well marked: I've made a similar error in Terrible Two), I did the short climb to the house hosting the stop without problem.

Pulling in there a rider was enjoying the very soup I'd been contemplating. But it was full of noodles and looked like slow going. So I decided in the name of expediency I'd have to pass on that, sticking with the usual Hammer options. I was also able to hose down my handlebar, which had become sticky due to various incidents with not-fully-screwed-down bottle caps and a bit of a misfire on a gel flask. The Crothers stop is absolutely incredible. They not only offer to do things for you, they passionately require it. And prominently displayed were two options on sun screen: spray on and squirt on. I was really relieved to have the latter, and took the time to apply it not only to the exposed portions of my skin but also portions near the edge of my arm and calf sleeves. I also did my previously neglected ears and neck. It was getting late: it was already after 4 pm, and the sun was past its peak, so maybe this was somewhat horse-left-the-barn territory, but I preferred being safe since I'd already gotten burned on my upper arms. All things considered though, I ended up doing fairly well on the sunburn side: I've been much, much worse.

I left fairly quickly and prepared myself for the next challenge: Sierra Road. I knew Cara was volunteering at the Pet the Goat stop just past the top fo that climb (historically named, as the series of goats at the farm near the stop have all since died). This inspired me to make good time, as I looked forward to seeing her there.

Soon after rejoining Mount Hamilton Road from Crothers, though, my Garmin gave an extended "off course" error. This lasted for probably a mile before eventually going away. I can only think it was confused by the short out-and-back. It's a good thing I was 100% sure of my navigation at this point. Or rather, 99% since I am never completely sure about my navigation...

From the bottom, we turned left for a short distance on Alum Rock Road, then wound our way to Piedmont, which leads to Sierra. It was a bit surreal riding this road because I knew what lay ahead. It also reminded me of the Tour of California two years ago when the riders did a similar route, where Chris Horner crushed all on Sierra. I had no crushing plans for this one: just surviving.

Sierra Road begins suddenly and dramatically in the still residential section near its bottom. The grade change, from 0 to 14% virtually instantly (see the profile here), is a shock. You learn instantly whether your legs are good or bad. And mine, surprisingly were good. I got past this opening steep pitch without any crisis. I knew more steepness followed, but on Sierra the steep stuff is never sustained for long, so having gotten past the opening bit I knew I'd be fine.

As I climbed, I noted my Garmin was reading in the high-80F's. Although sweat was freely dripping off my nose, the air was refreshing in comparison to San Antonio Valley Road had been. My average power for the main climb was 182 watts (Powertap), and this included recovery portions where the grade was relatively small. On the steeper portions, I was pushing it into the low-200W's without problem. This gives me some hope I'll be able to do an Old La Honda in the 280+ watt range, with fresh legs, a power level I'll need if I want to meet my Strava goal of sub-18 minutes I set for myself on that climb.

Anyway, I enjoyed the climb of Sierra, not only because I was so pleased to have recovered from the difficulty of San Antonio Valley Road, but also because of the wonderful views from the climb, the beautiful day, and also because I knew Cara was at the rest stop not far from the top.

As I reached it a rider ahead on whom I was gaining gave a victory salute, relieved to have finished what on paper is the most challenging climb of the ride. I reached the top soon after, and the Garmin flashed "top of Sierra".

It was a bit more rolling-climbing to Pet the Goat, something I suspect my new companion failed to admire, but soon I saw the sign, then the stop. Cara initially didn't see me but when she did she hurriedly got her camera ready to take photos.

She was especially excited to give me food and water, but really it hadn't been long since Crothers, and other than water and some fruit slices I didn't need much. They did give me my "Pet the Goat" pin (which I handed to Cara to take for me) and my bag with lights. Cara was excited by how well I was doing, but I noted I'd hoped to get here by 5 pm, and it was now much later. She told me it was only 5:11 pm, which surprised me: I'd obviously made quite good time from Crothers. I decided on the spot to take the front light but not to take the time to put on the flashing rear light. I figured at this point I should make it in during daylight but a few flat tires, perhaps a crash, maybe even a late bonk and delays could push me into darkness, and I didn't want to be stuck in the canyon roads in the dark without light. So I spent the minute or so attaching my light, hoping that wouldn't cost me any places.

Pet the Goat
At Pet the Goat, Cara Coburn photo

I thanked Cara and the other volunteers, and set off, feeling invigorated and ready to finish off this thing, which had now entered end game. Only 45 miles to go.

I blasted down Felter, knew to downshift before the sharp turn onto the steep lower portion of Calavera, cruised through the rolling hills of Calaveras (giving thumbs-up to the finishing riders of the Mount Hamilton Challenge, riders I'd already seen going the opposite direction on Mines Road), then smoothly navigated to the Sunol rest stop. It all seemed to go very quickly.

But along the flat stretches of Calaveras leading to Sunol, I came across a lone rider moving very slowly, staring at the ground. I passed him, thinking that was the end of it, but then sensed a rider behind me, and it was him. No problem: I continued on. But then he rolled past and took an extremely powerful pull. Just sitting on his wheel was difficult. Incredible. Was this the beginning of a 2-man time trial all the way to the finish? Would I even be able to take useful pulls with this guy? Finally I pulled next to him, ready to try, and complimented him on his strength. "I have my moments," he replied, then immediately faded behind. Ah, well. In a way it was a relief to not have to match his pace, although having someone to work with would have helped my speed considerably.

At Sunol I made a quick stop. I really didn't need much since I had my gel flask and 1.5 of the two Pro Bars I'd started the ride with. I indulged in an orange slice in addition to the water I took. They complemented me on the efficiency of my stop and I was off. Next challenge: Palomares.

But first I had to survive Niles Canyon. Niles Canyon Road follows the rail line, and is super-flat. But it's a 2-lane road with high-speed traffic, a main through-way to Fresno and on to the Palo Alto. Niles became a bit more dicey recently when rumble strips were put along the center of the road. These were designed to discourage riders from crossing the center line. This is good to avoid head-on-collisions, but also discourages drivers from giving cyclists enough room when passing. Additionally there's a few narrow bridges where the shoulder disappears. Really the deal with Niles is the cars should be slowed down. I felt good to be here when it was still bright out: many riders would be here at dark.

I reached the turn to Palomares, a climb Low-Key did in 2008. My pre-ride plan had been to eliminate the 250 watt limit starting here, although I knew it was hopelessly optimistic that I'd be able to exceed it at this point. I remembered what it was like climbing this in the fast group at the Low-Key climb, and it was full-on top-throttle the whole way, a total blast. I wasn't close to that this time, obviously. But while I did the first half at close to 200 watts, I was able to ramp it up in the second half. Strava data are here.

After reaching the top of Palomares, I could smell the finish. It's a fast descent which follows, then a few flattish miles to the end of the road. This marked 10 miles to go.

And back to suburban hell. Palo Verde Road bridges to E Castro Valley Blvd, the super-wide super-highway. Intersections with gated communities are signaled with traffic lights, creating needless delays for relatively light cross-traffic (I saw none). After 1.7 miles of this horror, I turned onto Crow Canyon Road. I have always considered Crow Canyon to be one of the climbs of this ride, but really it's hardly a bump: there's many more significant bumps along the way which are clearly not counted. Then comes the turn to Norris Canyon.

The Norris Canyon, on the other hand, is a legitimate climb. I felt good here, and went as hard as I could. Indeed, my power was solid. Two riders appeared ahead on the road, one further than the other. I thought I had a chance to catch the first, but the second was out of reach. But the climb was longer than I'd remembered from 2000, when I'd surreally climbed it in a group back when lights were much, much weaker, and I was able to pass both. I then hit the descent as hard as I could, slowing at stop lights, but I got stopped by a red light with what is typical of suburbia, a seemingly endless red cycle. They build the roads so you can drive 70 mph on local streets, but then they put traffic lights at virtually every major intersection, and drivers spend lose all the time they gained with the ridiculously high travel speeds. I kept glancing back to see if the guys I'd passed would catch me, and in fact one was approaching as the light turned green, and I sprinted off. The evidence shows the wait was only 40 seconds, but it seemed forever so close to the finish.

Soon I was at Bishop and the final right turn from where it was 0.7 miles to the Marriott and the end. But here was the final challenge of the ride: how to find the check-in? I turned into the Marriott but wasn't sure where I was. I asked a guy nearby where the Marriott was and he said "this is it!" pointing to the adjacent building. Then I remembered the stairs I was looking at from 2000 and 2002, went down the stairs, and through the door. I'd entered the building on the opposite side! So I sprinted to the salon where the finish was. A rider was slowly walking there. I asked him if this was the check-in and he said yes. It was one of those clumsy moments where I was running, he was walking, so I pulled ahead him at the last second to check in first. I sort of felt like a jerk for doing this but I figured he was probably one of the riders I'd pulled away from and I felt justified in checking in ahead of him. But this wasn't a race, right?

But I was done. I changed, found a shower in the fitness center, then went back for some delicious lasagna. I chatted with riders for a bit until Cara arrived to pick me up. All in all, I was very pleased with how things went. I was the 37th finisher (and was also number 37, which is prime number, so that's all very lucky) but I'm not sure how many of those who finished ahead had started at 5 am. Results should be posted here.

In the end, fear was my friend. It kept me from going out hard, it kept me focused on hydration and nutrition, and it contributed in many ways to having finished strongly. Could I have gone faster? Very likely yes. But it's way, way better to go out a bit too easy and lose a little time then to lose a huge amount of time falling off the sheer cliff that is the dreaded bonk.

Next? I'm thinking of the Alta Alpine 8-Pass Challenge, which I've not yet done, although if I can do both that and the Terrible Two which preceeds it by only two weeks I qualify doe the "Triple Crown Stage Race". That seems like a bit much, however, but I've already underestimated myself a few times this year, this day included.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Modeling time difference between Devil Mountain Double and Terrible Two

I previously described a heuristic but fairly comprehensive bike power-speed model. This was based on trying to model speed directly from course features, rather than going through power, since riders typically don't ride at a constant power, although that represents a physiological constraint. The model assumes riders have a given cruising speed on flat roads (I assumed 30 kph), a theoretical maximum rate of vertical ascent (I assumed 1300 m/hr), and a safety-limited rate of descending (I assumed 14 m/sec = 50.4 kph based on conditions on these courses; perhaps this was slightly low). I assumed a rate of fatigue of 0.5%/hour, which affects climbing rate (directly) and speed on the flats (1/2 as much). The model further assumes riders lose distance versus time when they turn: 40 meters per radian of cornering at max descending speed, much less when cornering slower (proportional to speed squared). I have compared this model to actual rider data and it seems to match fairly well.

With these assumption, I get the following ride times for Devil Mountain Double versus Terrible Two:

Terrible Two:313 km in 13 hrs 15 min 28 sec
Devil Mountain Double:330 km in 14 hrs 2 min 36 sec

So Terrible Two is definitely faster, as promised by Quack Cyclists. The difference for this sort of pace, however, is 47 minutes, not the two hours warned by Quack Cyclists, although their focus group for this warning is riders at threat for not making the course cut-off, and for longer times the gap will be larger, not necessarily in linear proportion.

Here's more detail: time difference

Devil Mountain Double falls almost 40 seconds behind by the Diablo summit, then gains some back on the descent, but then loses time out to 100 km. Terrible Two loses time here with the tough Geysers climb. DMD falls behind again, but Terrible Two does the hard section of Skaggs Springs Road, and DMD actually pulls ahead by up to 7 minutes. But T2 has a relatively fast run on the coast (the model isn't considering the wind here, which is typically a tail wind, making Terrible Two even faster here) while Devil Mountain Double deals out the challenging climbs of Mines Road and Sierra Road. By 297 km, DMD is ahead again, falling only slightly behind by the time Terrible Two completes at 313 km. But there's still 17 km left in DMD at this point, so DMD end up being 47 minutes slower.

Of course many factors affect this result: wind, heat, cold, darkness (although 14 hours is fast enough to finish DMD in light). An additional factor favoring T2 is more opportunity for pacelining, as was pointed out to me by John Murphy. The basic conclusion, though, is differences in terrain are a relatively small factor: DMD takes longer because it is longer.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Grade comparison: Devil Mountain Double versus Terrible Two

Back in January I proposed that road grades tended to follow cosine-squared probability distributions with the maximum grade as a parameter. Different roads could then be characterized by their maximum design grade. The choice of cosine-squared over the Gaussian which would be suggested by the Central Limit Theorem was because roads aren't random, they're designed, and designers impose a maximum grade beyond which the probability is exactly zero. This was important because I had proposed a heuristic speed formula for how long it takes a cyclist to ride a given road, and even for the rapid attenuation of probabilities associated with a Gaussian distribution, the cycling time would have been dominated by pathologically steep grades. Using cosine-squared this issue went away.

Anyway, I got curious as to how the Devil Mountain Double course compared with the Terrible Two course in that regard. Which is steeper, and do both tend to follow the superposition-of-cosine-squared probability distributions I proposed?

In each case, I did the fits "by eye". I made no attempt to match the total climbing in the actual profiles with the total climbing from the analytic fits, except for a crude check on Devil Mountain Double due to a fit that wasn't as good as for Terrible Two (more on that a bit later). I smoothed the profile with a bi-exponential smoothing function of characteristic length 50 meters, then partitioned the profiles into 50 meter segments, and did a histogram of the grades from these 50 meter segments. These thus don't represent the maximum peak grades on the courses, for example at particular switchbacks, but rather the grades which are sustained over at least 100 meters or so.

For Terrible Two, I had previously done a crude fit to the grade distribution. I redid the fit more carefully here:

Terrible Two grades

I modeled the grade for the Terrible Two course assuming a trimodal distribution: there's three types of roads:

  1. 52% of the total distance is steep mountain roads, where the maximum grade is 18%.
  2. 32% of the total distance is rolling roads where the maximum grade is 4%
  3. 16% of the total distance is flat roads where the maximum grade is 2%.

The distribution is fairly symmetric, with the climbs similar to the descents.

In contrast, here's the result for the Devil Mountain Double course:

Devil Mountain Double grades

The first thing which you might notice relative to Terrible Two is the strong asymmetry here. The climbs are steeper, in general, then the descents. This is essentially due to the two climbs: Mount Hamilton and Sierra Road. For Mount Hamilton, the particular requirement that heavy hardware be hauled up to the summit for the creation of the Lawrence Livermore Observatory imposed an imperative on gradual grades on the western side (Mount Hamilton Road). The eastern side, free from such a requirement, was able to be built (as San Antonio Valley Road) taking a much more direct route up the hill. The other is Sierra Road. Sierra, the climb which follows the descent from Hamilton, is a steep climb which is followed by the more gradual Felter road descent. These two climb-descent pairs weight the distribution in favor of steeper climbs and more gradual descents.

I separated climbs and descents to yield the following:

  1. 44% of the total distance is mountain descent, where the peak grade is 13%. Note the hump which rises from the shoulder of this distribution. That's Mount Hamilton Road, which has a particularly uniform grade for each of it's three primary descents. I did the fit as a compromise between the Mount Hamilton Road hump and the rest.
  2. 7% of the total distance is essentially flat but descending, with a peak grade of 2%
  3. 14% of the total distance is essentially slightly rolling but climbing, with a peak grade of 3%.
  4. 35% is steep climbing, where the peak grade is 15.5%.

So with this approximation, 48% of Terrible Two is flat or rolling, while only 21% of Devil Mountain Double is. But the climbs and the descents of the mountainous portion of Terrible Two is steeper, with a maximum grade of around 18%, while the steep roads of Devil Mountain Double max out at "only" 15.5%, and the descents avoid major steepness with a max grade of 13%. The initial descent from Mount Diablo summit clearly peaks steeper, but it's so short that the rounding and interpolation scheme used to generate the plot reduces the peak a bit (the focus is on sustained grades, which are more significant).

The result? Devil Mountain Double ends up with more vertical feet, but the descents are faster (more gradual grade means less of the potential energy wasted in safety-motivated braking). And without the real leg-breaking climbs of Terrible Two, pacing on hills is easier to control. What isn't shown here is the wind generally blowing riders down the coast to Fort Ross in Terrible Two. This, combines with less total climbing, makes Terrible Two net faster.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Devil Mountain Double: Am I Ready?

the jersey

Early in my cycling life I developed a criterion: compared to what you can do without any particular care such as tapering or pacing or careful nutrition, you can in one day go up to twice as far as you can in one day, and as far as you can normally go in a week, whichever is less, assuming on the long ride you do these things (tapering, pacing, and careful nutrition). This principle, established in a state of youthful enthusiasm, seems ambitious, but I've never been able to disprove it, even if I've often doubted it as I've gotten older. For example, for doubles, I don't have confidence in my fitness unless I've done at least 200 km in a day, and ridden back-to-back 100 milers without issue. These criteria are obviously stricter than my earlier ones.

In March I did Murphy Mack's "Spring Classic", advertised at 100 miles but revealed the day before to be 117. At that time, it was obvious I wasn't ready for such a ride at the race pace the leaders would be pursuing. Yet after the brutal opening climb of Marin Ave in Berkeley, where I was near the front, I paced myself to Mines Road near mile 80, and from there, after eating my final food bar which I'd just dropped, unwrapped, onto the tarmac, I got a burst of energy and was able to turn up the intensity for the final 37 miles, finally dropping the other survivors of a fast paceline to finish "in the prizes" (a nice pair of sunglasses, which I like).

This was a nice boost to my confidence. It was well over 100 miles, close to the 200 km goal I'd established before, and contained a level of intensity I'd dare not approach in a double century. Eating on that ride hadn't even gone particularly well, since I'd passed on the food selection and the caffeinated gels of the rest stops, relying mostly on the few bars I'd started with (including the one which was tarmac-enhanced).

While this was confidence-boosting, I needed more climbing to get me through Devil Mountain. I had a good ride with Team Roaring Mouse teammates on Mount Tamalpais, which included some friendly climbing competition, but then I followed the ride up with four laps of the hilly Marin Headlands loop. Then this past Saturday I did something I'd wanted to do for years but never had the fortitude: a triple Mount Diablo. I find even one Diablo a mental trial, and have done two a few times, but after two climbs I'm typically ready to be out of there. But this time I sucked it up and did three, feeling strong at the top each time.

So I should in theory be ready. I'm reminded of one of my double Diablos last year where Scott Halverston, the DMD organizer, was at the summit. I told him the problem with DMD was it was in April and I never felt I'd had enough long rides in me at that point for such a super-challenging ride. "Don't worry about that," he responded, "Just do it."

Well, here I am. Saturday looms. I admit I'm a little bit scared. But that's good.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

GPS options for Devil Mountain Double

I'm getting ready for the Devil Mountain Double, and it's a good time to review GPS options for the ride. Back before Strava, GPS was a bit of fluff for rides like this, but the social networking + power analysis + segment timing of Strava provides so much value I wouldn't consider skipping GPS today. The following are the strengths and weaknesses of the various GPS options available to me:

Garmin Edge 500:

  1. Mine had the tabs snap off on me, so using it would require putting it in my jersey pocket. But I can borrow Cara's for the day.
  2. Battery life is likely adequate: it should last the double century if I start with a full charge. I will make sure auto-pause is on to limit battery consumption during rest stops (which will be minimal, but every bit counts). Smart sampling is unavailable due to the power meter (and I wouldn't use it anyway).
  3. It's light: only 58 grams without the mount, 66 grams with the mount.
  4. It's compact: mounted on my stem it won't be in the way.
  5. GPS accuracy is inerior to the other options.
  6. Altitude accuracy is good.
  7. Temperature is good.
  8. It reads my ANT+ power meter (with speed and cadence)
  9. It has navigation, but is prone to false "off course" warnings due to GPS errors. Fortunately I know the course. I will still use navigation, however, just to be sure.
  10. Mode buttons are super-easy to find and hit, since they're physical buttons on the sides of the unit.
  11. No text messages.

Garmin Edge 800:

  1. The tab appears to be more robust: I have heard of many examples of Edge 500 tabs snapping, but never Edge 800.
  2. Battery life is very marginal. I might risk it for 10 hours, but for the 14-16 hours this will take me, I can't risk it without a backup battery.
  3. It's heavy: 97 grams without the mount, 105 grams with the mount.
  4. I have an auxilliary battery I could use, which would add 84 grams + 9 grams for a cab = 93 grams bringing unit up to 208 grams with the mount. I could send the auxilliary battery, with my light, up to the top of Sierra ("Pet the Goat" rest stop) to spare having to carry it up most of the climbing. But it's one more thing which could go wrong.
  5. It's bulky: mounted on the stem it barely fits, but mounted on the handlebars it gets in the way. A BarFly type mount would work.
  6. GPS accuracy is excellent.
  7. Altitude accuracy is probably also good (I've not checked)
  8. Temperature is good.
  9. It reads my ANT+ power meter (with speed and cadence)
  10. Navigation is the best of all of the options.
  11. The display is difficult to read.
  12. Mode buttons are difficult to find and hit, since they're widgets on the hard-to-read display and there's no tactile feedback. When riding, attention available for this sort of thing is extremely limited, since most attention needs to be directed towards riding the bike.
  13. No text messages.

Garmin Forerunner 610:

  1. It mounts on my wrist, which is simple.
  2. Battery life is around 8 hours nominal: not enough for the double century, and not compatible with my auxillary battery.
  3. Mounted on wrist, it's 76 grams.
  4. GPS accuracy is excellent.
  5. Altitude accuracy seems to be okay, but I need to verify this.
  6. Temperature unreliable, since it's next to my wrist.
  7. It in theory reads my ANT+ power meter, but I've not tested this.
  8. I've not tested navigation. Here's a video.
  9. The display is relatively easy to read, especially since it's on my wrist so I can orient it as I need.
  10. The touch display is somewhat cumbersome, but simpler than the Edge 800, since it's so compact there's not room for much.
  11. No text messages.

HTC Incredible phone with Strava Cycling app:

  1. I don't have a mount, so it needs to go in my pocket.
  2. Battery life is at best 3 hours in the present state of the phone, down from perhaps 5 hours when the Android app was first released (due to battery fatigue). It may be acceptable with my auxilliary battery, but this is untested.
  3. 138 grams with no mount, 231 grams with my auxilliary battery and cable.
  4. GPS accuracy is excellent, from experiments.
  5. No altitude (rely on Strava to use Google data based on position).
  6. No temperature.
  7. It doesn't read my ANT+ power meter without third-party hardware.
  8. No programmed courses on app, but app plots position on Google map, which is clear and easy to read. This would be a navigation aid if I knew where I was trying to go but, for example, was trying to figure out if I needed to turn left or right.
  9. The display is relatively easy to read, especially since when held in my hand it can be tilted to optimize visibility.
  10. The touch display is fairly easy to use, since switching between data and maps uses swipes rather than widget hits.
  11. I can send email, text messages, phone calls, etc. I wouldn't take my phone unless I was using it for position recording, due to the weight and bulk.

Considering all of these factors, the Edge 500 is the clear winner. You really don't need to look further than the battery life. I've not tested the battery on my particular unit but previous Edge 500's have lasted for the double century distance, and there's plenty of Edge 500 data on Strava from previous DMDs. Using a bulky auxilliary battery is obviously undesirable.

It's curious Garmin, in releasing an Edge 510 which, from the numbers, suggests a successor to the Edge 500, went with someone closer to the weight, bulk, display, and battery life issues of the Edge 800 than the compact efficiency of the Edge 500. I find the Edge 500 much more suitable for events like this.

So how does my choice stack up? I did a search on Strava for riders who did the Devil Mountain Double (rides starting in San Ramon, extending over 300 km). I then took the first 20 and counted what they had listed for their GPS source. This included results from 2009 through 2012, with no obvious sorting order. Here's the result:

Edge 50013
Edge 7052
Edge 3051
Edge 8001

So Edge 500 was the overwhelming popular result. It's clear the battery is up to the task, at least for these finishers. The older Edge 305 and Edge 705 also had some representation. And finally, there was a single Edge 800, so at least that unit had the battery power to survive the ride, but it didn't have any ANT+ Sport data and was set for "smart sampling", so these may have contributed to a relatively extended battery life. Three rides were listed as "mobile device" which means the data source was unidentified (so marked on the table). This can happen when loading a file exported from Garmin Connect, for example.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Registering for Devil Mountain Double 2013

A week ago I mailed my check and entry form for the Devil Mountain Double. I ask myself: what have I done?

riding Patterson Pass in 2000

The first time I did this ride in 2000 (ride report). That year I froze on the Diablo descent, bonked on San Antonio Valley Road, was saved by a cup of soup at Crothers, recovered remarkably, then managed to grind out Sierra Road, Calavera, Palomares, Crow Canyon, and finally Norris Canyon to finish. Just finishing was enough.

The second time I went in with a bit too much confidence and rode strongly to the base of Mines Road, where I was suffering badly. Low on energy and deterred by reports of hail from the summit of Mount Hamilton up ahead, I turned back, finishing the day with 150 miles with major climbing but with only a DNF to show for it.

That was 2002.... a long, long time ago.

Every year I note its approach. Every year I know I must return: to get it right, to prove I can ride smartly, finish strongly. Time really doesn't matter. What matters is riding every hill as strongly as the others. To go out at a pace I can sustain. To drink on a regular schedule, calories on a regular schedule, and electrolytes on a regular schedule to avoid the need for intravenous soup like the first time.

I'll start with the second group, because my last two doubles say I deserve to. But I fully expect to fall well off the pace of that group when the fireworks begin on the lower slopes of South Gate Road. The time to rage, if any, is Norris Canyon, maybe Palomares. But I have no plans for raging after more than 16 thousand feet of climbing in my legs by that point. This is about surviving intact, with minimal idle time, finishing hopefully in daylight but that not being the focus.

The Devil Mountain Double is a ride which demands enormous respect, fear really. Go too hard, and there will be a terrible price to be paid in the end, assuming optimistically I make it to the end. But go too slowly and, well, I'll be slow. Steady: that's the key.

But back to the original question: why? I don't look forward to the ride. It will hurt. I will feel despair. It will leave me broken, requiring at least a week before I feel moderately good again, two weeks before I feel fresh. There's other things I could be doing with my time. But it will feel so very, very good to finish, if I do. That's the addictive part.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Garmin Edge 500: broken tabs

As I rapidly descended Panoramic Highway toward Highway 1 from Mount Tamalpais with my Roaring Mouse teammates, I passed by some sticks on the side of the road. Suddenly something hit my foot. That didn't feel like a stick... I felt my pockets and nothing seemed loose, so perhaps it had been a stick after all.

Seconds later one of the riders behind me shouted "computer!" And then I knew. My Garmin had fallen. A quick look at my stem confirmed it: the bracket was empty, a white sliver of a plastic tab the only remaining sign of my Edge 500.

Fortunately after a bit of searching we were able to find and retrieve the computer. Honestly I was as worried about losing the ride's data as I was about the computer itself. A quick inspection showed the problem: the plastic tabs on the back had sheared off. Indeed one of the tabs had already come off during a previous ride. But the one remaining tab seemed enough to hold it in place. I'd taken to using a piece of rubber cut from an inner tube to secure it, but when that didn't seem necessary, I started just putting the computer in the mount as usual. The other tab had decided to give up the ghost during the descent.

Here's the back of the Edge, tabs gone:

The curious thing is I've had this happen to me before, not just once, but on two separate units. So this is the third. Additionally, I've heard of others having the same issue. It's clearly a design flaw: a lot of stress is placed on these plastic tabs, which extend outward at a right angle, and that creates a stress peak at the corner.

I've heard this is a particular problem with the K-Edge forward mounts, which are metal and harsher on the Garmin's plastic. I'm not sure if this is true; the stock plastic mount seems harsh enough.

Is there some aspect of my use pattern that makes me particularly prone to this failure? I don't know. I am glad I got this one back and the data were spared: it was an excellent ride and I'd hate to have lost it.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Scott releases 2014 Addict Ultra Limited: World's lightest production frame

After replacing it's long-time weight-weenie favorite, The Addict, with the aero-optimized Foil, Scott has finally returned the cutting-edge Addict frame to its lineup.

This was first revealed at yesterday's Tour of Flanders, the bike ridden with some success by the IAM team who placed sixth with Henrich Haussler.

pro version

However, that was just a prototype. It wasn't until today the production model was leaked. The following is the press-release, which was sent to me by one of my extensive list of industry contacts.

Scott Addict Ultra
click photo for larger resolution

Here's the text of the press release:

Scott USA, 01Apr2013: Scott Sports, the cycling world's engineering leader, today announced the launch of the 2014 Addict Ultra Limited frameset. Building on the legendary Addict, the Addict Ultra Limited makes the lightest even lighter (with a world record effective mass[*] of 599.9 grams for 54cm) while maintaining optimal stiffness, comfort, responsiveness, acceleration, and appearance. The Addict Ultra Limited also introduces OptimizedLayup™ tube design with AllDayComfort™ geometry, drawing on design lessons learned with the category-leading Addict R-series, as well as future-proof internal cable routing. The Addict Ultra Limited frameset is available now for RRP $9,999.
[*] paint, hardware, and head-tube omitted.

At Scott, we recognize that most of our customers aren't racing for the top spot on the World Tour podium. Far more important is feeling as comfortable at the end of a challenging ride as you were at the beginning without cumbersome spacer-stacks or inverted stems. That's where our cutting-edge AllDayComfort™ design comes in. With head-tubes carefully optimized to the rest of the bike's fine-tuned geometry, the Scott Addict Ultra Limited will allow you to attain and exceed your cycling goals with style.

I'm super-excited about this bike. Hopefully they'll send me my test bike soon, so I can return a first-hand ride report. Expect that soon.