Death Valley Double - II
May, 1998

(Posted to the Touring List)

For those of you who aren't on the touring group list-serve....I posted this this morning. I attempted to do the Death Valley Double this past Saturday. Riley is a 'bent rider on the east coast who used to live in California and loves DV and posted a comment about it...I cut in my "trip report" around some of his comments...

> Riley writes (and, in my opinion, says it beautifully): [much snipped]
>Memories of my own 'moment of truth' regarding
>long-distance cycling during the Death Valley Double back in early 1994.
>I also found that I
>tended to enjoy the ride and the scenery a whole lot more when I wasn't
>trying to keep pace with anyone, so eventually I stopped worrying about
>maintaining speed and reverted to my more usual solitary style of riding.

I didn't do this on this ride, but rather tried to stay with a (slow) paceline group. Which may be the reason for the physical problems today.... Sigh...another DNF (did not finish). That was okay this time...more okay than the 400k DNF. :-) This was a training ride. :-)) Well, it wasn't supposed to be just a training ride, but...

1) Came home with "cyclist's palsy" so pinky on right hand isn't working too well...bear with me if the typing seems to be missing some "p"s and other letters usually typed by a strong right pinky. :-(( Hope it goes away (gets better) soon. ("Ulnar nerve palsy generally affects the last two fingers, causing numbness and sometimes lack of strength" according to my "Cycling Ailments booklet.") In my case, my whole right hand (and I'm right handed) has been affected. Right (no pun intended) after the ride, I couldn't even hold a pen, much less write. And trying to use a fork and knife was a very frustrating experience. I discovered a few talents with my left hand that I never realized were available to me...eating, holding a toothbrush, things you never realize! (It gave me a whole new appreciation of people who recover from stroke damage and their rehab for muscle use. Small abilities, like getting food on a fork was a major step toward recovery.) Within 12 hours there was some strength back in my thumb and two fingers; ring finger is getting better, and 36 hrs. after the ride, I see progress (slow) in the little finger. It isn't permanent damage, I don't think, but surely is scary and gets your attention! My old stem may be back in my future, and a reverting to a less aero position. (Causes of this affliction include too much time on the drops or top of the bar, and stem just a little too long (not tall). Best position for avoiding this is on the brake hoods...a position I use a lot under normal riding conditions.)

2) The probable reason for the above...on the drops far too much. But, with 97F temps all day long and 30mph *head*winds gusting to 40 (nearly couldn't pedal occasionally) (weather condtions courtesy of the roving ranger in Death Valley Nat'l. Park), it made the 20mph winds at Davis last week seem like a tailwind. So, at 127 miles (60+mi straight into that raging south wind) and at 5:30p.m. with 70 miles to go, 5 more into the wind, 25 up two long (9 mi & 15 mi respectively) grades (4-5%) and 30 miles with some (night) tail breezes, I didn't want to keep going. (Average speed on this ride had rachetted down to the 9.0mph [including stops] - a new low.) Getting in at 2:30a.m. just didn't appeal. (I had left at 4 a.m. to be a successful-night-riding-dragon slayer. :-) ) (The group I was in a paceline with got in at 2:30 a.m. :-((( )

>Upon leaving for the return
>trip though, I soon discovered that nearly all of the slower cyclists I had
>expected to be riding back with had decided to pack it in at Tecopa instead
>--none of them wanted to face the 70 miles worth of headwinds that lay
>before them, not to mention the climb back over the passes.

That's what about 10 of 35 (or so) riders finally did at one time or another...some got rides to the top of the last pass...some just packed it in after 100-131 miles. Our route was different from what Riley descibes. We went from Longstreet Casino in NV (just across the border) west down to Furnace Creek (the best average speed all day long! :-)) ), tail wind north to Stovepipe Wells, back south through Furnace Creek to Badwater and Ashford Mills, up over Jubilee and Salsbury Passes, and then mostly north back to Longstreet.

>Once headed back to >the north, the real trial began as we had to grind out each mile in the
>face of a 15-20 mph headwind that showed no signs of lessening as night
>closed in around us.

Our winds were there when I arrived in Death Valley in the evening, were there at my 4 a.m. start, and didn't abate one bit over night. I thought they might.

>Unlike most cyclists, I actually enjoy riding after
>dark, particularly when traffic is light enough not to worry about being

My night riding (in the early morning dark) was beautiful. One cyclist passed the desert, I could see his red tail light for miles. The lights of Las Vegas, about 150miles away looked like a false dawn in the east. The night sky (no moon) was simply awash with stars. Magic! >I discovered I enjoyed riding

>at my own leisurely pace far more than trying to measure up to a particular
>speed standard as calculated by event organizers--even if that meant carrying
>everything I needed with me instead of being able to count on well-stocked
>rest stops along the way.

This ride was instructive in reminding me of the same thing. I mostly was going my own pace, but not entirely. (Even so, we were a pretty slow group!)

>My Moment of Truth was in realizing that it was more important for
>me to simply enjoy the ride I was on rather than try and meet an artificial
>time constraint that had no real meaning to me; and that if I really wanted

This, in a slightly convoluted form, was why I DNF'ed at mile 127 (well, actually, we had 4 miles to the final en-route rest stop, but my riding partner of the moment was having insidious saddle problems and he just couldn't make we just sat down under a scrubby bush and waited for Lee The Incredible Sag Wagon Driver).

>It's not how fast you go that counts, but how far you really get;
>For the race goes not to the swift or strong, but to those who never quit!

And we all define "quitting" versus "stopping" differently. :-))

My major concern before (and during) this ride...something that kept me tossing and turning, trying to sleep only somewhat successfully, before the ride: Hydration. How to maintain enough in 90+F heat, nearly no humidity, and constant winds. I knew that I could handle the heat (105F on the Davis Double last year). But it was other two factors that I had no experience with when combine with the heat. And even with some sag support (there could have been more vehicles, in my opinion...), there aren't many margins for error with heat stroke. "I drank like a fish" as the saying goes. I think I filled (and completely drained) my 70oz. C'bak every 20-30 miles. I know I filled it 6 times...maybe 7. I was Well Hydrated, as it turns out, with the therefore requisite private moments in the scrubby bushes and sand about every 1.5 hrs (maximum).

I've concluded that all of these rides, completed or not, go into that great "experience bank" that one can then draw on when there are "unusual situations" in the next ride. The "been there, done that, know what to expect" is, for me, incredibly valuable.


Judy & Rufus