Sunday, September 20, 2009

Knoxville the Fourth

Knoxville Double Century, 9/19/09

The Knoxville Fall Classic Double Century has an excellent reputation among the CalTripleCrown riders, for plenty of good reasons. No wonder it's also one of my favorites. Come to think of it, nearly all of those doubles are among my favorites. But the Knoxville is special, because over the last three years John C. and I made it into our personal tradition to ride it together. And it's special for me because I have always been handicapped one way or the other with deficient health when we went there. With John's help and patient waiting, I managed to finish each time (albeit slowly) and I always felt better at the finish than at the start.

This time, three things turned out to be different:
a) I felt I was in good health and form
b) John called on Friday evening telling me he had a sore throat with fever and could not come
c) the weather forecast promised much higher temperatures than ever in the three past years.

One thing didn't change, however: I still finished slowly.

Here are some more photos from the ride - by somebody much faster than I ...

The profile below indicates that it's not a particularly easy ride. Units are metric; if you prefer body parts for measurement: 900 meters ~ 3000 ft. The total elevation gain is somewhere around 13000 ft.

The ride is not timed, and the start time is "open": as soon as you are signed in, you can start. In the past, we always started between 4:30 and 4:45. This time (I don't know why; hubris?) I started at 5:00. I rolled along, alone, waiting for the fast guys who started later to pass me. But there were not many - even the stronger riders had left before me! It didn't matter; I felt confident and enjoyed the ride. At the first rest stop in Napa Valley, I could catch up with a bunch of riders and leave before them - I definitely was not the last on the road.

The lengthy Howell Mountain climb at mile 50 (km 80) also felt a little easier than in the past. Unfortunately, my rhythm got broken by the rear tire losing pressure. When I removed the wheel and tried to locate the culprit, I found it immediately and painfully: a hair-thin wire stuck out and stuck itself into my forefinger. It hurt for at least 30 miles.

Still, I arrived at the Lake Berryessa rest stop on schedule, caught up on some calorie and liquid deficit, and went on my way over the lonely and pittoresque Knoxville Road to Lower Lake. I would be lying if I didn't acknowledge some tired leg muscles by now; but this was to be expected and not troublesome (yet). With the help of a gentle tailwind, I felt stronger than I was.

The idyllic pleasurable climbing was not to last, however. At least as far as the idyll is concerned - because the climbing became more and more accentuated and eventually outright barbaric. I remembered that from the last years and expected it. But this year, we had some scorching heat to go with it, well symbolized by the scorched grass on the road side:

At work, I have nearly every day lunch with my coworkers at the company cafeteria with outside seating under sun shades. My coworkers know that I can make good use of heat adaptation training and always reserve me a seat out of the shade, in full sun. - Well, now I can tell them that this still wasn't nearly enough. By the time I arrived at the water stop at the top, I was cooked. It would have been unsafe to continue into the descent without recovering first, regardless of the time I had already lost during my super-slow climb.

Instead of arriving at the lunch stop in Lower Lake around 2 p.m. as expected, I was now 45 minutes late (in my defense: I must have lost about ten minutes for fixing the flat). I allowed myself another 30 minutes of recovery anyway, with a burrito and three bottles of sugary icy liquids - I needed it.

The last major obstacle was the upcoming infamous Loch Lomond climb. I knew I was now mainly in company of riders who were virtually candidates for not finishing, and so I made the point of climbing steadily (if still slowly). I must have done something right, because I passed several riders who I didn't see any more later. It helped that most of the road was in the shade, and that at 4 - 5 in the afternoon, the sun had become much less aggressive. On the way back through Pope Valley, I felt lucky that the wind was mostly favorable, and I tried to make some good time again and started evaluating whether I could still arrive before 11 p.m. for a sub-18 hour time (I know that sounds pathetic to many of my readers).

I don't venture a guess whether this was a realistic goal or not. It doesn't matter, because I decided to stay with Karla when I caught up with her somewhere on the 128 towards Winters. My legs were grateful for not pushing quite so hard any more; and some friendly chatting (I knew her from last year's Borrego Springs Double, and we have some common friends) made the miles through the dark night go by much faster. Eventually, we checked in at 11:30 p.m., under the big applause which is usually reserved either for the first or the last. In our case, it turned out to be the latter...

1 comment:

  1. Salut Joseph,
    Avant que tu partes pour New York, je te souhaite bonne route sur ton EM1240. J'espère que ce sera une belle expérience et que tu y prendras beaucoup de plaisir (même s'il y peut y avoir des moments difficiles!).
    Mes salutations à Ghislaine, j'espère qu'elle va bien.