Posted by: pointlenana | October 12, 2012

Knoxville Double Century

After a month of lots and lots of running, it was back to the bike for a double century near Napa.  It was a hot day and it’s hard to get my phone, er, camera out of my jersey when my Camelbak is filled with ice, so no photos.  A few links instead.

The Knoxville Double Century is another in the California Triple Crown series of double centuries in CA.  Each is about 200 miles (doh!), and most have a fair amount of climbing.  I did the Central Coast Double and Alta Alpina in May and June, and blew up in the heat during my attempt to repeat Terrible Two in June.  Knoxville is a little different in that they don’t keep times so in theory it isn’t a race, the cutoff is very generous so you don’t feel like the sweeper is right on your tail the whole ride, and they design the route so most (2/3) of the climbing happens before lunchtime.  I had done it once before with Janet’s sister Jeanie, and Jeanie did again this year also in her quest to get a super-cool 5 ride jersey.  You get to declare yourself a Triple Crown winner if you ride 3 in a year (and can get a winner jersey), but if you ride 5 and volunteer at another, you are a Gold Thousand Mile Club winner.  Unlike with runs, you have to buy the jerseys – a bit too expensive to give away given that the “organization” is essentially 3 volunteers.

The ride starts in Vacaville CA – between Sacramento and Marin – just up the road from Jelly Belly headquarters.  Unfortunately my schedule didn’t permit to stuff myself full of jelly beans, although they did have small cups of jelly beans at some of our rest stops on the ride.  When we did Knoxville last time, it was my second hard double century and I thought it was hot, about 95 degrees.  It was “hot” again this time – about 95 – but after Terrible Two (111 degrees officially in Cloverdale when we passed through) and Boston (90 degrees for the marathon), 95 was totally acceptable.  On a bike that just doesn’t feel too bad unless you are riding up a steep hill.

The route is a big figure eight, heading north and west up into the Napa Valley, then back east past Lake Berryessa, north to Clear Lake, and then south through the eastern part of the Napa region (Pope Valley).  Two years ago it took 15 hours and change, this year we finished in about 15 hours.  Not much faster but I think I hung out at rest stops more and generally had a nice time.

The double centuries typically break into 4 50 mile stages for me, with pretty dependable experiences:

Miles 1-50:  Over before I know it.  Often we start in the dark, and the first rest stop happens between miles 35 and 50.  Any dark miles pass quickly, usually on very quiet roads.  At Knoxville I was worried about a detour on a “big” 2 lane road that we’d ride again late in the day, but the truck/boat traffic to Lake Berryessa hadn’t started yet.

Miles 51-100:  This is the fun part of the ride.  Full daylight, usually a couple rest stops to look forward, typically into the hills, and not too tired.  The big long climb for Knoxville happened here, up a very untravelled road north of Lake Berryessa.  I remembered that section being hot and steep, but it turned out it was pretty moderate except for a mile or two at the end with some short steeper sections.

Miles 101-150:  These are the 50 miles of despair, every time.  Lunch typically happens in here, and it’s always 5-10 miles and 30-60 minutes further than I want it to be.  Everything that’s going to hurt starts hurting in here and you know you have a LOT of riding left ahead.  At Knoxville, I thought I was doing well on time until the lunch stop didn’t materialize and didn’t materialize and then suddenly I seemed to be on the same schedule as last time.  The big short ugly hill on Knoxville is also right after lunch – a 1.3 mile section that maxes out with a 13% grade, full sun, 1:30 in the afternoon when it’s really hot.  I hated that last time.  This time it was just hard.  Terrible Two has totally redefined steep and endless for me.

Miles 151-200:  50 miles of things steadily getting better.  Things that are hurting stop hurting more and more and just settle into a steady ache.  You go from having 3-4 hours of riding ahead to 2 hours then 1 and then the finish line somewhere ahead.  The sun heads to the horizon and things cool off.  As we did 2 years ago, Jeanie and I rode this section together and had a very nice moonlit ride on a quiet road for the last hour.

Some highlights for me:

– Somehow we got exactly the same moon we did two years ago.  Full or nearly full.  High enough in the western sky in the morning that it lit the roads for us but rising in the evening almost as it got dark, so also lighting our way at the end.  Pretty amazing.  Apparently the moon is on at 2 year cycle that I didn’t know about.

– I finally got my wish and saw and actually got to ride with Ann Trason for a few minutes.  Someone passed me while I was in a slow group, so I took off after the person.  When I saw “Ann Trason” on her bib I rode up and said “I was hoping I’d finally see you on one of these” and then something not very articulate about her running.  She said “that’s a different Ann Trason – I’m not that one”.  I totally bit, fumbled around for a moment and said “uh, sorry”.  As I was dropping behind her again, she told me she was kidding.  As I told her, even though I was pretty confident it doesn’t seem that brilliant to argue that you know who someone is better than they themselves do.  Anyway, I managed to keep up with her for a little while and then she dropped me.  She claims she’s not a cyclist, just someone on a bike.  Yes, and she’s probably just someone who runs, not the world’s most amazing ultrarunner.  Basically, the Wayne Gretzky or Michael Jordan of ultrarunning.  Very nice as well – Jeanie ended up riding with her for a while also and I think Jeanie managed to hang with her longer than I did.

Hubcap Ranch:  I love that place.  After hours and hours of boring vineyards and wineries and open hillsides and lakes and all those tedious things you see in CA, you ride past this place for a mile or so.  I think was in the 50 miles of despair too.  It’s a cool thing to happen upon.

– Riding with Jeanie in the moonlight at the end – worth a repeat.

– Unlike some of these rides, I didn’t see or hear of any falls.  Traffic wasn’t bad at all.  A safe successful ride.

So this is my 2nd year as a Triple Crown winner.  Jeanie has to do one more double – Death Valley which is great but with unpredictable and sometimes nasty weather and/or Solvang.

Thanks to the organizers and the volunteers (including Barry) for making this possible.

Some photos from someone else’s ride a few years ago.

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