Wednesday, June 8, 2011

2011 Eastern Sierra Double Century

Early in the week I looked at the weather report for Bishop/Mammoth/Benton and what I would need for the Eastern Sierra Double Century on June 4.

What I saw was not what I wanted to see. A chance of SNOW in Mammoth, chance of rain, and strong winds. As the week progressed the chance of snow diminished, and the percentage chance of rain dropped. But the wind was in the forecast. Not breezy, but flat out windy.

I got up to Bishop on Friday in time for lunch, and it was already blowing. Saturday morning it was still blowing, and it was only going to get stronger.

I was prepared for below normal temperatures, and a slight chance of rain, but there isn’t much you can do for wind. So we headed out for the 30 miles around the Owens River Valley. Going east you could feel the wind a bit, going south you could definitely feel it. But now, we were mostly going north up the Old Sherwin Grade. Then toward Mammoth Lakes. The Mammoth Scenic loop is recently repaved. Wow, what a treat to descend on fresh blacktop. This was the highlight of the day for me, a wonderful loop, great road, and I like descending!

Up and over Dead Mans Summit on highway 395, and into the third aid station. Then the June Lake loop. Smack, there’s that wind, but we’d be turning soon enough. Drip, drip, drip, Shower! All of the sudden it was raining. Then back to a drip, then done. Short and sweet it rained, and it was done. Back on 395 to Mono Lake and the lunch stop. Nice and fast up to Mono with a good tailwind.

Lunch was over, and we had about 90 miles left. Most of which would be into the wind. 11 miles back south on 395, then a left on highway 120, a short fun descent. Then the last climb of the day, up Sagehen. 8,136 feet, the highest elevation, and third 8,000 foot plus summit of the day.

My favorite part of the ride last year was descending Sagehen. I hit 52 MPH last year. With a very strong head/cross wind, I “only” hit 46.4 this year, and didn’t really enjoy it, as I was worried about the wind pushing me over. After the descent we were going due south, into the wind on rollers. Ugh, that was slow. Finally a short descent into Benton. 35 miles to go.

35 miles due south. Into a wind that was now sustained at 25 MPH with gusts well over 40. Last year I did this stretch in about an hour and 40 minutes. Instead of describing the agony of riding 35 miles into that kind of wind, I’ll just let you know it took 3 hours and 45 minutes.

I love this ride. It is my favorite double century route. Beautiful scenery. But having ridden in cold, rain, fog, and now rip-roaring winds, I can say, wind is my least favorite. It really messes with your mind. Knowing you are on roads you can hold 20 MPH on; and now you are going less than 10, and hurting more than you did when you were going fast.

At one point a group of six riders came on me, I latched onto the back. The shelter seemed to make it easier for a bit, at a whopping 10.5 MPH. After five or six minutes I couldn’t even hold on to the group. I finally realized I had bonked, since I hadn’t eaten anything after leaving Benton. I stopped and dug out a Fig Newton. Washed it down with some water and started again. About 10 minutes later I felt quite a bit better and picked up the pace a little bit. Finally the road curved and the breeze was a helping cross wind for a couple of miles. It didn’t last long, but it did enough to lift my spirits as the road turned back into the wind I could see Bishop. Not much longer and I reached Hwy 395 a left turn and a right into the La Quinta! Done, dusted, wiped, spent, exhausted.

Chatted with a couple of the speedy guys, Keith J and Colin S, then headed to the motel for a much needed shower, change, and trip to Denny’s.

My next “major” event will be the Longhorn 70.3 triathlon in Austin, TX on October 23rd. I am now in a 20 week training block leading up to it that will include three sprint triathlons for practice.

Total elevation gain 10,223 feet
Bike: Specialized Roubaix Expert
50/34 compact crank; 11-28 cassette

Huge thanks to all the Planet Ultra volunteers ya’ll were great!


  1. I was volunteering at CP1 and CP6 (Benton). I felt bad for all of you that had to face that wind back into Bishop. It was brutal! Beautiful course however...

  2. Darrell, Thank you for being out there for us! Its amazing how hard the wind made it.