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