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Doug McKenzie's Alta Alpina double century report

Wednesday, August 06, 2014 1:36 PM | Bill Oetinger (Administrator)

Alta Alpina Double Century Report

It seems as if all we're reporting so far in our new Backroads and Breakaways blog are outrageously long, grueling rides. That is not our intent. We would be happy to publish reports from any other club rides, if only the ride leaders would send us the reports (either directly to me--Bill Oetinger--or to the chat list). But for the time being, the reports are all about big rides, and here's another one, this time from Doug McKenzie...

200 miles, 20,800'... at altitude.


Sherry Adams tells me she'll be camping up there so I try to hook up. I see her at the campground and we wish each other luck. I'm thinking Sherry has a better chance of finishing than I. Queen of pace.

Early start Saturday, 5:05. Managed to get my ass to the start in plenty of time. No warm up, but hey, no need for extra miles. A good friend, Andreas, was at the start. He is a very strong doubles rider. The type that can average mid-20's on the flats all day. Nowadays, he can drop me on the climbs; he's gotten a bit stronger, me the other way.

We start off at exactly 5:05 and Andreas sets the pace (no one to start us, self start). The pace is way too hot for me. We are at 5500' and I can feel the lack of air. I tuck in behind him and settle down a bit. Andreas wants to chat a bit, but I can only ride beside him for short periods before I start overworking.

We get to the bottom of the first climb and there are only 5 out of the dozen 5:05 starters. (Most start a lot earlier, 3 or 4 AM.) I have to pee so I let them go. As I climb, I can see them about a minute or two ahead. I'm not catching them. As the air thins on Kingsbury Grade, I'm not speeding up. I give up the chase. An Alto Velo rider catches me about 2/3 of the way up, setting a nice pace. I grab his wheel. He decided our early morning pace was too hot and did his thing and caught me. At the top, it's been renamed "Queensbury" grade. About 4 drag queens in full makeup and dress are "manning" the rest stop. I had my vest on at this point, still early. "Unzip, bend over and I'll stick it to you" one says. You get a sticker for each pass, they stick it on your number. Good stuff. You have to laugh.

I'm about to head out...no wait, something else has to "head out". My body is now awake. After taking care of some porta potty business, I'm off, lighter and happier. Fast descent. I try to catch onto some draft from cars but it's too dicey, 45+ mph, bumpy road. I solo down without a draft and pass some of the later arrivals from our 5:05 group.

Next up: Luther pass. Two guys pass me going up Emigrant Trail, I grab on. Good team of two, 30-year old youngins. Once we hit the Hwy 88 climb, I let them go…too fast. It's a long day and my lungs want more air. I have a good climb up Luther and now am passing more people who started earlier and some doing fewer passes (you can pick and choose how many passes you want to complete).

Fun descent, 50+ mph. Next up: Carson Pass. Beautiful scenery, a bit dicey toward the top, no shoulder, moderate traffic. By this time, Andreas is about a half hour ahead of me. I see him descending as I climb. Also, I see Sherry heading down and she is singing. At the top, I see John Marengo, a guy who I've raced against, and his buddy Cal. They get the jump on me at the rest stop. Again, fun, fast descent to Blue Lakes. At the turn, you have 12 miles of rolling up. I see them, John and Cal, catch them. But then John punches it on a climb and I let them go. We regroup at the rest stop. On the descent, Cal takes off and John is left behind. He passes me on the big climb out but I catch him on the descent. We work together to catch Cal, then group into a fast, fun paceline back to 88.

Next up: lunch stop at the start point, then the real fun begins. I do a quick in and out at lunch, drop off extra clothing and off I go. I'm ahead of John and Cal. I hook up with Adam Barker out of Reno, a young 32-year old. He likes my pace and grabs on shortly after Markleeville. As I start the climb miles later I see he's still on my wheel. "You like this pace, huh?", Yep, he replies. Then as we climb we start to chat, which makes the climb go a bit easier. Talk about music, etc., good stuff. I tell him I'm feeling the altitude and to take off when I slow. Sure enough, around 8K', he's gone. Somewhere along here I finally catch Sherry.

At the top, I'm feeling funky... should I go on? Sherry comes in and is out before I decide to head on. You go down the west side 5 miles of steep as crap road, then turn around and back up. At this summit rest I see Andreas. He's been there about 40 minutes. He says he's done. "No way," I say. "You're killing it!" He says he'll join me for the next one and see how he feels. Again, fun, fast descent. At the bottom, get the West Ebbetts pass sticker and back up. Andreas has to slow for me, which I appreciate. And we blow past the top rest stop. Apparently Sherry was there. Super long fast descent again and we are picking people off. I pass John and Cal again. They came and went at the top of Ebbetts.

We refill at the bottom of Monitor and off we go. Andreas warns me of the extended 10% section. I suffer up. The 8-mile climb takes about an hour. Both John and Cal pass us on the way up, Cal is kicking some ass, flies by me! Get our sticker and off we go, John and Cal are still recovering from that effort.

As we descend the E Monitor pass, I'm thinking I may not be able to make it back up. 11 miles and 3300', taller and a little shorter than Pine Flat to the top! Luckily no 20% sections! At the bottom, I'm feeling dicey, shaking and doubtful. I refuel as best as possible, gels and liquids only. John and Cal get there and are in need of some recovery. Sherry comes in, refuels and reloads and off she goes, steady, steady. They have hot dogs and Andreas wolfs one down. What a nut We head up the climb and Andreas has a front flat. I tell him I'll ride my slow pace and he'll catch me. I catch Sherry and two riders. After hearing Sherry has been serenaded with "Sherry Sherry" too many times already, I decide to sing a verse from "Tie me Kangaroo down, Sport." One in the group remembered the song...good fun for a long day.

Andreas catches me, after some effort. He slows and we are going at a steady pace. Now we are racing daylight. We have about 2 hours until dark and the climb can take 2 hours. We wick it up as much as possible and I find I've recovered some. I'll drop Andreas, slow, he catches then I'll do it again. Towards the top, Andreas calls out for me to wait. That hot dog has no business in his stomach and he expels it. ep, I watched, up and out it went. "Andreas, should we stop at the final rest stop?" "No way, we are almost there," he says. I tell him that's the way to HTFU: launch everything in your gut and say fuck the last rest stop.

We again fly down the descent, almost 50 mph and then off towards the finish. One last climb to the finish and I'm doing OK. I take off and pass a half dozen others. I've gapped Andreas toward the top, but for the last steep pitch, he comes flying by me. The guy is a monster. I wick it up and we ride in together. 15.5 hours out there, 13.5 hours ride time. John and Cal come in about 20 minutes later.

The Death Ride is for pussies! Hardest ride to date for me.

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