Posted by: angrybeesound | September 10, 2008

death ride aftermath

so it is now the first part of september, the death ride was almost 2 months ago. i had originally wanted to do a short, concise writeup, but i cant do that, so its a big rambling runon writeup, but hey, pictures and messed up video! i think writing it took longer than riding it.

oh what a difference a year makes. last year i did the death ride for the first time and i didnt ride real well. i squeaked in just under the time constraints and had an average of 11.5 mph. granted i was pretty deep in the day not solely because of  slower riding, but because of stopping for long periods at rest stops. this year i was at the top of the final climb before 3 pm and held an average of 14.6 for the whole* day.

this is the course map

and heres some elevation vs distance with grade thrown in to mess with your head

it is a starfish out and back. the first two legs – monitor lower right, then ebbetts lower left, have two climbs each. up the front side, down the backside, turn around to go back up the backside, then descend the front side. the upper leg – carson, is an up and down. stickers are awarded and placed on your bib number after completion of each pass, but on the backsides of monitor and ebbetts the stickers are given at the bottom so there is no cheating.

keith (hes famouse) and i had flown into reno the day before and with the help and hospitality of michelle had a spot along the road, a vehicle, a full cooler and were full of basque cooking.

the sky from the raging northern california fires were looking like a problem, a dense haze hung low in the sky. mountains that were visible last year were dim shapes this year, everyone was filled with a sense of dread, not enough that the death ride is super hyped, and it is hard. but now along the 5 passes we face dealing with poor respiration and higher temps from smoke retaining the days solar radiation.

the turtle rock campground was being redone so was unavailable for riders that night. everyone was on sideof the highway 89, usually used for overflow parking. the highway kinda sucked, its dusty and noisy, but it was what we had.

id gotten my number off a lady from sacrementos craigslist, so there was a slight pang of nervousness when i went to collect my packet, but all was fine. got a stern look from the cytomax people for using a water bottle to drink their free samples instead of the tiny little cups they wanted us to use, what the dude didnt know was that was my 4th trip, the fruit punch is good, still pefer gatorade, but not enough to haul the powder with me all day.

the pre ride pasta dinner was what youd expect- friendly volunteers serving lackluster food. like the highway it did the job.

everyone tries to get to bed early. even on my second go around i was excited and with the high altitude, had trouble dropping off. so i lay in the back of the flatbed truck and watched the stars that were more and more becoming visible. though i didnt realize it, the smoke was clearing. by morning it was as clear as it had been last year.

keith woke up and was gone just after 4 with our neighbors, trapper and his buddy, both air force mechanics. they were concerned about making cutoff times later in the day and wanted to climb in the cool. i waited till just before 5:30 to get going.

the ride to the bottom of monitor is longer than i had remembered. you descent as ghosts in the gloom, blinky lights. and then you start, you go up. monitor 1 is about 7 miles and you see about 2,700 feet of gain. the novelty of the ride quickly wears off, the first climb lets you know the pace of the ride early on. there is a 2 milish section of 10% in the middle, and at 8 miles an hour youre looking at (does the math, has roommate check the math) 20 minutes of burn that you might not want to be having at a time of the morning when most coffee shops are closed.

first glimpse

the front side of monitor goes through a big change, in the begining youre climbing it in the predawn gray, but the sun comes up and the scene changes.

came up through the middle there, the hard part of the pass is over

after this picture was taken i started talking up mitch. turns out mitch is a cycle (and corporate exec life) coach. my advice to anyone on any organized ride- when you start chatting someone up and they say theyre a cycling coach, DONT LEAVE THEIR SIDE, even if they say theyre also a life coach. mitch is radonneur and pbp finisher, he was on a sweet steel atlantis, no decals. throughout the day mitch would give me some great tips about climbing, descending and overall riding. they were all very helpful all given freely, thanks dude, im still using what you told me.

at the top we get our stickers and both blow through the rest stop, with the ominous medi-vac chopper on standby. after the stop there is a little more climbing before you go down. we descended the backside of monitor before we could really get into the tips section of the day and mitch out descended me. that descent feels like the ground is dropping out from under your front wheel. there is nothing that long in my neck of the woods.

MAN THATS PRETTY!! yes, thats the route. i hit 50 on the straight away.

at the bottom my attitude is great. i got my second sticker. someone calls out “GO FATTY” turns out it is keith, he has taken to riding with his fat cyclist jersey on big rides.

two happy dudes, but it was still early in the morning WIN SUSAN!

i also saw the velo loco crew of spencer fame at the stop, chatted with matt about a jersey, then promptly forgot about it until i wrote this in september, sorry.

i eat some food, nice to not have the stomach problems i had last year.  i turn around and head up.

when the bottom drops out from under you on the way down the way back up is going to be a bithc. were in the sun but its not hot yet. i see mitch again and latch onto his wheel, like the GE rider of last year i talk my way up monitor 2. mitch imparted some tips i got on this climb and the descent-

* when i climb i throw my right knee out at the top of my pedal stroke, its been causing my back of the knee pain
* my upper body is way too tense when i climb

* lean early into turns, and dont be a grabby sissy with the brakes

* my bars are low, yeah its racey but it causes shoulder pain

* im too far forward (and tense) when descending

* learned how to get rid of various pains that come on longer rides, lower back, tricepts

* he had the advice that you need to ride how you feel, if you feel good, ride well, if you don’t dont force it. dont go on numbers- heart rate, speed, its all junk and suspect.

* his biggest tips and most passionately given ones were on active recovery- to be able to tone down the amount of work done just a little during an effort and regroup mentally and physically.

the football team is there filling water bottles on the road and then running them back to cyclists, its neat, not as dramatic as last year. we hit the top, i stop again for a little bit. last year i waited a long time here for keith, didnt do that this year.

with the newly gained tips i descend the front side of monitor strongly, keeping up with mitch this time. leaning early avails my urge to use the brakes, i dont go down brakeless because i think that is impossible, but i hit 50, or close to it.

get to the bottom, and make the turn up river, there are some rolling miles before you hit ebbetts in earnest. the front side of ebbetts is tough, i think it is tougher than carson, which is only difficult becaue youre spent. ebbetts starts out along the river, but then treats you to some switchbacks and threads up into a rocky section.

compare that to this picture last year

kinda freaky huh?

ebbetts ascends about 3,000 feet in 10 miles, the grades all look about the same, but it feels like it gets alot steeper towards the top, esp right before the lake where there are some rollers that burn. this is where i hit my first ebb of mojo. hit the food stop at the top, get a sticker and a couple of cokes, this is the first stop with coke, glorious coca cola.

i take the descent fast, its only 6 miles, but i think it took all of 8 minutes to get to the bottom, i see mitch on the turn around, top off bottles get a sticker and head back up. 6 miles back up with 1,500 feet of climbing and despite a small little flatish spot its a grinder. fortunately there are trees really close to the side of the road, you can pull over and lean against them. its a nice place to grab a drink, i was breating hard enough on this one that it was much nicer to drink with not moving.

everyone loves a ‘big arm’ shot

grab another coke and fill the bottles at the top of ebbetts (coke count 3) and begin my lovely descent of the front side of ebbetts. i see the carnage coming up the front side. the death ride is a ride where you see people who are hours behind, or ahead of you. as i was reaching the top of the front side of ebbetts i saw the first descenders, now as a descender i see the mass of people coming up, some look to be in pretty rough shape, i have a huge grin on my face.

you descent ebbetts long enough you get used to descending and you can get sloppy, and sloppy at 35 with granite on one side and a drop off on the other is a bad mix.  towards the bottom there was an ambulance ahead  of me (i followed it, staying 100 yards behind) of and behind me (never got close) thatll mess with your head a little, but it will also cure you of any sloppy descending you might be acquiring.

the lunch stop is mile 77 or so out of 124. 60% of the milage done and youve done 4 out of 5 passes. the 2nd half of the ride is very much different when you arent rushed. this year i was able to take an hour lunch where last year i was eating quickly and nervously (coke count 5).

the soup and potato chips were good and salty, but if need be i had an alternative source of sodium

i made my way back to markleeville in the full bore of the sun. while id been climbing it has gotten downright hot on the valley, its windy. we start seeing cars for the first time, the road is no longer ours =(

people cheer in town, and gods bless them. cheering all day for perfect strangers, waiting for their loved ones to show up. kids are along the route giving high fives. one guy ahead of me almost took a kids arm off, he was a little too pumped up. climbing up to turtle rock i start chatting up a guy who thinks he only has 4 passes in him. i ask where he is from, hes from klamath falls. i tell him the drive home will go alot faster if he goes for 5. i know from driving home with keith last year that the ‘what if?’ game sucks. i make the same case to santa cruz. both go for 5.

i had time so i stopped at turtle rock washed my face, put on a clean pair of socks, dropped off the stuff id needlessly been carrying but had not put in the drop off bags.

the rollers to woodford are easy, i go fast on one of them, im between masses, riding by myself, there is a hot wind. this guy will take care of you as you come in. i had a camera so i passed,,,that was until i could put the camera down

again, rotated wrong, you get the idea

ah woodford, plenty of time, grab some food, fill bottles (coke count 6) and head up the monster

its not really steep, but its 15 miles with 2,700 feet of climbing. carson has a flat spot in the middle, which is nice. none of the other passes have a spot that is conducive to active recovery.

i get some very slight cramping before picketts junction, nothing like last year, but it happened in the exact same spot, i got off the bike and gave myself a few moments.

last year i got cut off by the big green truck, before i could yell a lady got out and was handing out ice. i was chatting up a guy and told him that story, turns out it is his wife and she does it every year, i asked him how he got an angel to marry him.

i hit picketts, have some watermellon and a coke (coke count 7) the meadow is nice, as a group of us starts the 2nd part of the climb we start hearing thunder and see this off to the side of us.

bad sign

the cramps come back for the last little bit, right side, i try and pedal through them, i curse, it doesnt make the cramp go away but sure makes me feel better.

then the top.

i am dumb, i dont know much about alpine weather. had i known that that cloud mean shitty weather i would have headed down quickly, i felt alright at that point.  i stupidly took my time eating 4-12 ice cream bars, i lost count. it clouded up and turned to crap, least it cooled off, it went from high 80s to the 60s instantly. started raining, then hailing, then both increased in ferocity. it got nasty and dangerous. i was huddled under a pop tent with 300 other people, for an hour as i watched people finish in the crap. a brave volunteer sat and recorded every finisher, she must have been freezing. keith finished in this crap.

ok, no matter what i do, youtube rerotates my video back to the wrong orientation, must be an aspect thing,,,kinda annoying, i think i could fix it in final cut, but well…its a you tube video.

you can see people finishing in that crap, the hail was actually thinker, big fat stuff, they quickly ran out of plastic bags.

i screwed myself up to ride down, i thought i could make it. keiths dad had come to see him ride and both werent a fan of my riding down. keiths dad had a truck. much to my vocal protests i was convinced to take a ride down the hill in the angel of the apoclypse weather.

I hit most of my goals except i didnt hit 60 on the carson downhill,  it kinda hurt not to ride the best, more wide open pass on the entire ride, it was unsafe but still i feel like i cheated.


damnit, i forgot my favorite pictures

for lucy, for susan, for carrol, for spencer

totally hulking out, i think i lost my neck there somewhere

here are the pics they take of you and try to sell you later, thinking of getting the 3 pass one


see you all next year.


  1. That is an awesome writeup of an awesome ride. Fixing the video is easy, you just turn your laptop on its side.
    Good critique from the cycling/life coach, nice that he didnt start telling you what needs improvement with your life too. But whats with you descending too far forward– I thought you were a mountain biker! You know better than to do that 🙂

  2. actually he was fond of my life choices, the conversation went like this-

    ‘so let me get this straight, you work 25 hours a week in a restaurant where you have very little actual responsibility?’
    ‘you dont own an alarm clock, and you have most of the day to ride and 3 days off?’
    ‘you make enough to go to ride your bikes for all these rides, and youve toured europe by bike two times?’
    ‘but do you have health insurance?’
    ‘yup, 401k too’
    ‘you accepting applications?’
    ‘were always looking for good people mitch, and dont take my bike parking spot in the basement’

    as for the descending yeah, the low bars helped contribute pulling me out, i think it was a bad position i got used to.

    and i never said i was a very good mountain biker =)

    youll have do come out west and do the death ride with your flash new (non existent?) bike

  3. yeah now I want your job too! Not bad.
    The death ride sounds like fun based on your description– though the name makes me think it may be kind of less fun than you are letting on.
    Nonexistent bikes are the easiest to check as airline luggage. They are super light too.

  4. the list about notes all the positive aspects of my job. there is little long term satisfaction and im getting to the point where i am capped with income without being a server, which would mean more pay but would get rid of my of the things i like about my job.

    heres a secret- i hope the death ride organizers (Death eaters? dont clamp down on me) but the death ride is alot of hype. yeah, its a long day, but everyone who rides THE DEATH RIDE is in the hype, we perpetrate the hype.

    yes, it is a long day, but roads can only be so steep, cars have to go up (and down) them. you have all day to do it. if you take your time and sip on your energy stores theyll last all day, or at least theyll get you to the bottom of carson where ill give you shit and youll get pissed and bingo getting pissed gives you some juice, and youll get up carson.

    i think the plan is to do it again in 09. not just keith and i, i think well be doing the ride with at least one other first timer – tri guy kevin. im totally serious that you should do it, pick up you at the airport and everything. then you can be in on the hype and let everyone kow what a bad ass you are

  5. […] was cold, the car thermometer said 46, i really didnt think it would be cold. 2 weeks prior was the death ride and i just associated this ride having the same hot […]

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