The excitement state – it had been awhile since I last participated in a racing event. This year I set a goal to finish a 200 miles ride with 20,000ft of vertical elevation called Devil Mountain Double (aka DMD). It’s been on my bucket list for a long time but every year it rained on the event day. Given this year is an El Nino year, I hit a jackpot with the weather. The ride is on.
I’ve shared hotel room with other athletes before but they have always been the nervous/anxious type and most of the time they kept me up at night. This time I shared hotel with my friend Brian. To make sure we get up on time, 3.45am, he set his phone alarm, my phone, hotel wake up call and a back up one from his wife in San Jose.
At the start with 150+ riders, I started to wonder what will lay ahead of those 200 miles. Will the wind be gentle? Will I be ok on those steep climbs. I’ve ridden 200 miles before and it was never an easy task but I have always manage to finish. I was nervous but excited at the same. Excited to be ridden on a 2nd hardest 200 miles ride in the California.
The cautious state – about 14 miles into the ride up Mt Diablo, we saw a big tree went down and blocked the entire road. We all had to get off the bike and walked around the fallen tree. The wind might have been at least 30-50mph. At higher elevation the sun rise was beautiful with the view of the Bay Area below. People were still deep in sleep while we were fighting the wind and inched up the hill like ants.
After the second rest stop at Morgan Territory, mile 35, I came to a road block by the firefighters. Apparently 30 minutes before that a rider crashed and needed to be helicopter to the hospital. Words went around that he was ok. The road was opened again and the ride resumed.
The loneliness state – at miles 85 I came to a rest stop on Mine Road in Livermore. That was 12pm. I am close to 50% of the ride. The gap between riders are increased. Most people myself included were riding alone. Mine Road turned into San Antonio Valley Road going toward San Jose. It’s probably the loneliest road I have ever ridden my bicycle on. On a regular day you can be out there all day and maybe, just maybe, you might see a few motorcyclists go by. I turned on my music to keep myself company. I let my thoughts and emotion drifted to different phases of my life. Sometimes I cried. Other times I laughed.
I wondered what the other 7 billion people on earth are doing at that very moment.
The anger state – around mile 135 and 4pm I made it to the top of Mt Hamilton and still felt pretty strong without any symptom of giving up. I bombed down the mountain safely. From the bottom of Mt Hamilton to my house is only 5 miles but it’s only 75% of the ride. I wished I could go home and forget about this torture I am doing to myself.
Perhaps the hardest part of the ride is climbing Sierra Road. With only 3.75 miles long, it erected in 1,900ft vertically. That’s around 11% grade average and to climb that at mile 155, it’s pure torturing. I cursed on every pedal stroke. My face covered in sweat and tear. I fucking hate Sierra Road. About one mile up Sierra there’s a large group of Filipinos cheered us on. There was one guy with a LARGE gong and he would hit it real loud as a rider rode by. My frown turned into a smile. At least someone care to give us a mental boost. Someone can appreciate the hard work on the hardest road of the ride.
I was no longer angry once I reached the top. On my best day I was able to climb Sierra in 34 minutes. On my worst day like today, it took only 44 minutes. I told myself “I am home free”.
The happy ending state – around 10pm (17 hours later) I rolled into the finish line with 4 other riders. Two hours before that the sun set when I approached the rest stop in Sunol. I made a pack with other riders to make it safer to ride at night. This was my first time EVER riding at night so I have zero experience. Good thing is I have been to this area before so I know what to expect.
During one of the turn one guy slipped on the gravels and went down. He was scraped up a little bit but nothing broken. His rear derailleur was bent but still good to ride. We all stopped to make sure he was ok and together we continued on.
17 hours was probably the longest sport event I’ve ever done. I was tired by the time I crossed the finish line but if I had to do another 100 miles, I think I would be able to. I was not in any joint pain, though I took a couple of ibuprofen at mile 100. As a first time doing DMD I was very proud of my accomplishment. It had been awhile since my Ironman event in 2012 that I felt like I have accomplished something challenging and meaningful. Something worth mentioning. Most of our days, weeks and years go by without any challenges. Mine included. Perhaps that’s why I seek out to these events because that’s all I know these days. I need some kind of stimulation. A normal person wouldn’t spend 17 hours on a bike, yet I am fine with it. Enjoyed it very much actually.
I finished climbing one mountain just to realize there are more to climb and the next one is harder then the one before it. As much as hundred of people gathered at the starting line I found myself alone and the only noise I heard was from the early summer dried grass dancing in the wind. I constantly asked myself “what am I doing out here?” I kept my hope up that I would find the answer around the next bend on the road. And that kept me going.