Saturday, October 11, 2014

Whitney Classic Ride Report

Whitney Classic 2014 Ride Report
"On the Edge of Epic"
 September 27, 2014


Each year there is the internal debate; should this be the year the 16 year streak ends? With many nights and weekends spent at the office over the past year, if there was a year to take a pass, this was it. But alas, an email from a long time supporter Mary Gibbons, wondering when this year's appeal letter was coming, and Debby's encouragement to ride the Whitney again, found me on the website registering for the the 33rd Annual Whitney Classic.

The National Park Service is not issuing permits for events in the park this year, so the organizers changed up the course, 20 fewer miles, but 4,500 feet of additional climbing. Two laps up to Horseshoe Meadows, a couple of loops along Turtle Creek and the classic slog up Whitney Portal road to the trailhead. Three HC climbs makes for 20,000 feet of climbing over 115 miles. Not wanting to share that fun with a team, the solo box was checked on the registration form and it was planning time.
The 34T cog for the Triple setup
Who might want to share the fun?  Carlton van Leuven also was thinking about the ride, and with the new route was also interested in riding solo. The plan was set, we would drive out to Lone Pine together after work Thursday night, work remotely on Friday from Lone Pine, ride the route Audax style (ride together with minimal support at checkpoints only) Saturday, and return Sunday. Carlton's wife Ruthann joined the fun to provide another driver and drop bag support at the main checkpoint.

A late start and rush hour traffic in Phoenix slowed our start on Thursday. We arrived at the Dow Villa Hotel a little after 2 am on Friday morning. With the lap top and cell phone set up in the lobby at 0800 Friday morning, it was six hours of nearly non-stop conference calls!

With the work box finally checked, it was time to start the weekend! We mounted the steeds and pre-rode the Turtle Creek and Granite View portions of the new route.
Great sign!
Leaving town, the route passes the BLM campground and heads into the Alabama Hills. These hills provided the backdrop of many western movies, old and new. From John Wayne classics to django Unchained, these rocks have provided specular movie settings.
"This road is awesome!"
In all the years of the Whitney Classics and climbing Mt. Whitney, this was the first time to roll along this very scenic road. Steep climbs, new road surface, and different views around each corner, made the shakedown ride very enjoyable indeed.
Could be Joshua Tree National Park
We rolled past the intersection of Lubken Canyon and Horseshoe Meadows road (the main event checkpoint #'s 2, 5, 6, 10, and 11) and headed up the short rough steep climb up Granite View road. The organizers added this climb to the two Turtle Creek loops to 'round up' the total climbing to 20,000 feet. The grade was steady, but the road was rough, and very annoying, especially on the descent.

Rolling back into town, it was time to complete the rider check-in. Mike, Kathy, and Little Mike Rollinson had just arrived at the Dow as we arrived. We exchanged greetings and made plans for a pasta dinner at the Pizza Factory after the check-in. Service was slow, but the company was awesome for the traditional pasta fest.

One of the best parts of the Whitney Classic is the Friday night worship service. Seeing old friends, and meeting new ones as Summit Staff, riders, volunteers take over the band stand in the Lone Pine park. Tremendous musicians led the group in song and praise, and Executive Director Tom Smith shared inspiring scripture and provided information about the ride.

Whitney Time!

Since the route starts in Lone Pine, and there was no need to drive 100 miles to the traditional start in Death Valley, so the start time was moved up to 0900. We were up early making last minute preparations, getting a light breakfast, and heading to the VFW Lodge for the pre-ride briefing.

Jair Drooger outlined the rules of the ride and answered questions. Your humble corespondent provided pointers for SAG (support and gear) drivers, some tips from previous rides, and advice handed down from former Summit Executive Director, Dave Kelly: "Start slow, and back it off from there!" With all the climbing, this year is more like; 'Start slow and go backwards from there!"
Jair providing the pre-ride brief

We don't allow their Kind in here!
The final instructions were provided at 0845 at the corner of Brewery Street and Whitney Portal road, start photos, taken, and finally its Whitney Time.
Here we go!
Rolly leads us in prayer before the start
The winds were strong out of the north, providing a stout cross as the route heads west, up the portal road, but after a few miles the course turns south on Horseshoe Meadows road for the first climb and the tailwind was perfect!
The 100 meter flat section is at the start!
We fell into the lead group, but since most of them were riding as a team, by the time we rolled through the first checkpoint they were out in front. It was enjoyable to have the teams cheering us along as they re-racked their bikes and raced on ahead in their SAG vehicles to prepare for the next exchange.
The route follows those switchbacks to the top!

This Madman (Jair Drooger) designed the course!

 All smiles on the first lap up to Horseshoe Meadows!

It is about 23 miles and 6,500 feet of climbing from the start in Lone Pine to the top of the first climb at Horseshoe Meadows. Jair added a checkpoint about 15 miles into the climb at a pull out just above the switchbacks. This was a great place to reload water bottles and take a short break. It also enabled us to ride without carrying an extra water bottle. We reloaded and warned the volunteers at the checkpoint that we would be rolling through on the way down and not stopping.

The food/fuel/ride plan estimated it would take 3 hours to reach the checkpoint at Horseshoe Meadows, we rolled in a few minutes after noon, right on time. With bottles refilled, we pointed our steeds downhill and prepared for an E ticket ride back to the Lubken checkpoint.
Lubken Canyon Checkpoint
3 hours to go up, only 30 minutes to go down, with a top speed of 44 mph! Not bad with the switchbacks and headwind from the north.

Ruthann met us at Lubken for our first resupply. We reloaded the bottles and headed out for the loop up and down Granite View road and back to Lone Pine for the tour de Turtle Creek and back to Lubken.
On Granite View Road
As we headed up Granite View, storm clouds started to pour over the mountain tops. It was sunny and warm in the Alabama Hills, but looked nasty up in the mountains, where the ride took us next!

The loop took about 1.5 hours and Ruthann was still at the Lubken checkpoint when we came through again. With the clouds continuing to pour over the ridge,  it was time to gear up. With a polypro base layer and arm and knee warmers on board, we set up for the climb #2 to Horseshoe Meadows.

We caught 'Team Lactic Acid Trip' on the climb and enjoyed their company until one of their strong climbers took a pull and left us in the dust, and building drizzle!

We cleared the switchbacks checkpoint and as the false summit came into view, so did the snow! It was time to pull off and gear up. Sitting on the ground gearing up, Tom Smith and his team and SAG rolled by on their descent. At first they thought your correspondent had crashed, but with a thumbs up and a shout out of; "This is awesome!" they figured I was out of my mind, but otherwise in good shape.
Early accumulation on the bike
Its all fun and games, and then it starts snowing!
Geared up, and with Carlton riding off toward the checkpoint, it was back on the bike, wondering why my rain pants, shoe covers, and wool socks were back in Arizona, only a little out of reach!

Nearing the summit, the snow was coming down wet and heavy, it was in the mid-thirties, so thankfully there was only an accumulation of slush on the road, but the landscape was spectacular!

Team Rollinson rolled by and offered additional gear as the checkpoint came into view. Warm from the climbing I declined and rolled into the checkpoint. Carlton was there waiting and shivering from the cold. There was no need to wait, so he took a hot chocolate and rolled out. I quickly added arm warmers and kicked the accumulated snow from my legs and shoes. The Good Sam volunteers whipped up several cups of hot chocolate. With a water bottle full of hot chocolate, and soaked from the waist down, it was time to descend!
Kathy Rollinson sampling the 'Manna from Heaven'
The road was wet, but the real problem was wind chill. While the temperatures were in the mid-thirties, anytime the speed reached over 25 mph, the wind chill put the temperature in the low 20's! To prevent uncontrolled shivering, it was time to grab a big gear and pedal downhill against the brakes. As added benefit, the rims and brakes stayed dry and effective, especially helpful on the 180 degree switchbacks.

At this point in the ride, we were on the 'Edge of Epic.' Exposed, wet, and descending in a snow storm, this ride was headed toward Epic proportions. About halfway down the descent, the snow was replaced with drizzle, and then hitting the valley floor, the rain stopped and temperature warmed. Ruthann was at the Lubken checkpoint with the van warmed up. Rolling in and diving into the van, the wet kit came off, dry kit and the winter jersey stopped the shivering. Another hot chocolate and we were back on the road for the second lap of Granite View and Turtle Creek.

The climb up Granite View was a welcome opportunity to warm up. Had the rain continued, this Whitney may have become an Epic event (as defined by Lonnie Epic Wolff), however with the sun setting and temperatures holding, it was just going to be another brutal Whitney!

The descent down Granite view caused my headlight to vibrate loose, slowing to fix it, Carlton nearly crashed into me! Recovered, and with a nice backlight from Carlton, we quickly descended this annoying stretch for the last time.

Rolling through Turtle Creek at night was tremendous and soon we were back at the Lubken checkpoint. One last reload, and a switch of bikes (the old Trek 5500 has a triple and mountian bike gearing) and we were off.

Riding past Granite view and turning left on Whitney Portal road for the last section, we were accompanied by Ruthann and Team Rollinson all the way up the Portal road.

Its a steep slog to the finish; 9 miles at an average grade of 8.6% with grades reaching 14%+ near the finish, each rider finds their own pace. Soon all I could see of Carlton was his tail light!

With encouragement from Ruthann and Mike Rollinson, I settled into a steady pace, often wondering, why such a great event has to end with this exclamation point/uphill finish. Soon the lights of the finish line were in sight and 13 hours and 51 minutes after the start, it was finished!
At the Finish!
Hugs, cheers, and relief! Rolling in about 20 minutes after Carlton, the volunteers told us we were the last riders on the course. All the others had either finished or abandoned, leaving your humble corespondent the honors of the Lantern Rouge!

Thank You!

At this writing, you, my support team have contributed over $10,000 to Summit Adventure. I cannot thank you enough!

Click here if you would like to donate (there is still time) to Summit!

Click here for the gory GPS ride details.

All the best,

Steve Atkins

I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)

Lantern Rouge!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

End of Pavement (EOP) Whitney Classic Training Ride

Whitney Classic Appeal

The Whitney Classic is now only 2 weeks away, so its time to get in another long ride with some climbing; and update the Blog with a final fund raising appeal for the Whitney and Summit Adventure.

Click here to go to my fund raising page to learn more about the ride or to donate to Summit Adventure. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to all those that have donated so far, you are awesome!

OK with the groveling for Summit out of the way, lets get to the ride!

Ride Report

I was thinking of starting this ride early to beat the heat and be home in time for the noon Mass. Happily, Michael stopped by for dinner and to watch the ASU football game last night, so it was football, pizza, wings, and staying up with Mike, bag the early start! Since Mike is serving at the 7 pm Mass at the Newman Center, there was no need to get going early (cue the ominous background music), I would grab that Mass!

I woke at 0517, made some coffee, and was on the bike at 0543. It was already 80 something, but with the light blazing into the predawn darkness it was time to start. It was calm making progress through through Tempe, and Mesa. As the sun came up, so did the wind. Reached the 202 on Brown road about an hour into the ride, it was really blowing strong from the northeast.

A quick bottle fill at the Chevron at Ellsworth road and it was back into the wind.
The Elks Lodge in Apache Junction
Turning onto the Apache Trail, the wind was right on the nose and strong. The Elks Lodge was a good spot to grab a photo of the flag in the wind. The parking lot was clear, so being downwind, if there were any Elks to be found, they would not be warned, but alas the parking lot was empty!

Reaching the switchbacks and the steep climbing the wind would come and go, alternating strong on the nose, then a nice push from behind as the directions changed. Soon, reaching the top of the first climb, it was back on the descent to Canyon Lake. Happily there was little traffic on the road, because the only smooth part of the pavement is right along the center line! Reaching the lake, other than a few jet skis playing in the white caps, there was very little boat traffic at the lake.

A few whitecaps on the lake
Another climb and descent just past the marina carries the route past Tortilla Flats. With a full bottle, there was no need to stop and refill, so it was on to the next climb. The route crosses Tortilla Creek, climbs briefly and then descends sharply back to the creek before the last 5 mile climb to the EOP. In the spring the water generally flows over the road, but rarely in the summer/fall.

After last weeks record rainfall of over 5 inches in one day, the Creek was still flowing, but not at the flash flood levels evidenced by the sand on many parts of the road way! 
Safe to cross today!

Nice pool on Tortilla Creek
The road turns right and all protection from the wind disappeared and it was a classic 'uphill into the wind' pull to the top!
Note the vegetation

This looks more like April than September!

Just past the EOP on the dirt!
The Garmin read 3 hours 23 minutes to the EOP, 69 minutes of climbing from Tortilla Flats. With the wind, and eager to put it on the tail, there was only time to take a few quick photos and get back on the road. The Garmin recorded a top speed of 53.4 mph on the 15 minute descent back to Tortilla Flats!!!

With both bottles empty, and a vending machine with cold water on the wooden sidewalk at the Mercantile, it was a welcome stop. A new 'fortune telling' machine has been installed nearby, because suddenly, you hear; "Howdy Partner" as a talking head comes to life welcoming passers by to Tortilla Flats. He goes on to say the Flats were named because a group of cowboys were trapped here during a flash flood for weeks with only a sack of flour for provisions. Hence "Tortilla Flats!" For another dollar he will share some more 'history.'

Ready to roll and eager to continue before the typical mid-day wind shift and building heat, it was back on the road for more one short and one longer climb out of the Canyon Lake area.

Nearing the top of the last climb, a sedan appeared in the rearview mirror. Not wanting to get caught behind a car on the twisting descent, I took the lane and hammered over the last few meters and started the descent. The sedan disappeared quickly and did not reappear until the road straightened and leveled out.

The run down Apache Trail went quickly with favorable winds and with one last stop for water at the Dash Inn at Brown Road, it was back into the trailer parks and horse corals that is Apache Junction! The temperature was building, and is typical the morning wind finally started it journey across the compass. Reaching Tempe about an hour later the route turns South for the last 2 miles. One last punch from the snake, the wind was right back on the nose!

Rolling into the driveway, the Garmin read 100.4 miles, 6 hours 15 minutes, 4400 feet of climbing, and 5383 calories burned. Lastly the temperature read 102 degrees!

Recovery drinks
Pouring a couple cans of Mountain Dew over ice, stripping of the salty kit, it was into the pool to cool off. Of course; Rocky, Tina, and Rex hate to see anyone swim alone, so add three tennis balls and it was party time!

Very happy Labs
An earlier start would have taken some of the headwind out of the equation, and most of the mid-day heat, but it was well worth the extra suffering to enjoy the football game with Mike and Debby!
Next week, the schedule calls for one or two repeats on the End of the World Hill to check out the equipment on high angle climbs, and then its off to Lone Pine California for the Whitney Classic!

Thanks again for your support!

Steve Atkins

Here is the data from today's ride!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

8 Days and Two Fantastic Maui Rides

After we cancelled the Van Isle 1200 ride/vacation due to temporary priority confusion (work), Deb and I decided we should use the tickets to head to Maui for our vacation. Plus, we could take the new Calfee, test out the S & S Couplers/travel case and I could do a little riding.

Ride #1 Haleakala Crater

I read about this ride years ago and rode it in 2003 on a rental bike during our last Hawaiian vacation. The route; 35 miles with 10,000 feet of climbing is supposed to be the most climbing in the shortest distance of any paved road in the world. It is also the location of the annual Race to the Sun.
A blob of parts in the travel case
Fully assembled Calfee Adventure, enjoying the view toward Molokai
The S & S couplers allow the frame to break into two parts, pull the crank, handlebars, and pedals and into the travel case it goes. Packed, it weighs about 40 pounds and is within the dimension limit for standard air baggage. Not only is it cool, but it saves the $200 fee each way for a standard bike box!
Shortly after our arrival on Saturday, the bike was reassembled, and other than some bar tape that was cut by the bladed spokes in the case (repaired with a little duct tape) the machine was ready to go in about an hour!

I had not picked a day for the ride, but we settled on Monday, since a snorkeling cruise we wanted to take was the following day, and would be a good 'recovery' day. Plus being Labor Day, traffic should be light. I woke before the alarm went off and slipped into the Jeep and drove to the start town of Paia. I parked in the municipal parking lot and was on the road just a few minutes before 0600.
The ride starts in Paia

Fr. Damien Chapel outside Paia
The sun was coming up just as I rode out of town. The town ends quickly, and soon I was surrounded by sugar cane plantations and rolled past the Father Damien Chapel. The road was familiar and the weather was perfect, I didn't even think to check the cue sheet tucked into my bento box.
From here the top is about 30 miles and 9500 feet of climbing away
Riding through the 4-way stop sign in Makawao brings the first steep ramp of the climb, clearing that I passed the rodeo grounds and continued up Olinda Road. The road seemed steeper and rougher than I remembered, but the scenery was interesting, and since the road was still going up, this must be the route. After an hour and a half of climbing, and encountering a Dead End sign, I decided to pull out the cue sheet. DOH! The first turn was 4 miles and 1800 feet down  from where I stood. I flipped around and covered the 4 miles back to my missed turn in about 9 minutes!
Roadside wild flowers
At the park turn-off
Back on the correct route, the road was again familiar and I continued on to the general store. Initially I thought it might be an optional stop, but with my 8 mile/50 minute detour, stopped and topped off my bottles and grabbed a Frapachino at the Kula Marketplace.

Normally half of the climbing would be done here
Back on road, the route leaves the trees and heads into the switchbacks. Along the way, the organizers of the Race to the Sun have painted these progress markers on the road. I checked my Garmin at this point and was reminded by my 1,800 foot detour.
There are about 24 switchbacks in this section, the traffic and winds were light. As the climbing continued, the clouds rolled in, or rather the route rolled into them! There were not as many 'downhillers' as I remembered from the last ride. In 2003 it seemed another 'string' of them would be around each corner. Maybe it was the time of year, or perhaps because of Park rules that prohibit the downhillers to drop from the very top; but this year there were only a few groups. In fact, I saw more individual riders heading down from the top, than groups of downhillers. The downhillers pile into a van, are driven to the top, check out the crater, hop back in the van and ride back down to the park boundary 10 miles from the top to roll back to Paia. 

Park entrance, still 10 miles and 2000 feet to go!
The park entrance is at about 8000 feet, and 10 miles from the summit. I rolled up to the guard station, paid my $5 entry fee and climbed another mile to the visitor center. With both water bottles refilled, I pressed on for the last 9 miles to the top.

Winds were light, and the temperature was dropping, but with the work I was comfortable, but soaked from the humidity in my normal kit. The grade was steady and the vegetation gave way to volcanic cinders. Finally the road straightened out and the summit came back into view. The last 1/3 of a mile feels like its straight up, for an added kick to the summit parking lot. I rolled into the summit shack and found a tourist to take the summit photo.
At the top!
I scurried into summit display hut and plopped on the floor to eat and layer up for the descent. Soaking wet from the work, I pulled on long gloves, skull cap, wind vest, and arm and knee warmers.
Added layers, ready to start the descent
In no time I was bombing down the hill. The few cars I encountered in the park, pulled over and let me pass on the switchbacks! Instantly I was frozen and shivering for the first third of the descent. Breaking back through the clouds I finally warmed up, and with little traffic I was soon at the point of my errant turn at the 8 mile mark. Back in the tropical heat, I stripped off the layers for the last few miles back to Paia.

Back at the Jeep in Paia
6 hours and 20 minutes to reach the top (43 miles) , 1 hour and 14 minutes to reach the bottom(35 miles) since I decided not to repeat my 'bonus detour miles'!

Click here for the data.

Ride # 2 West Maui Loop

I wasn't planning on this ride, but one of the local websites, said this ride was more impressive than Haleakala Crater. OK, hooked, I convinced Deb, I could cover this one in about 4 hours, starting in the early morning. She could snorkel around the hotel, I would be back in time for a late breakfast, and then we could tour South Maui and catch a massage at the Grand Wailea Spa!

I left the hotel at 0525, before dawn,with my blinking tail light, but wishing I had brought along a headlight. The first 7 miles were a repeat from my shakedown ride, so the road was familiar, and with early morning traffic, there was enough light from the passing cars to follow the fog line until the sky illuminated.

Sunrise on Honolua Bay
Once past the last resort at Kapalua, the traffic disappeared as the dawn neared and the landscape was illuminated with predawn light.

Light traffic, perfect weather

Sunrise on the road

Stunning views of the north side
The route continues with many steep climbs and descents and the road winds around ridges and down into drainages. The views were stunning!

Typical road section, no traffic, fantastic views

The 2-3 miles before and after Waihee were on a very steep single lane road. Soon I reached the highest point of the route and started the descent back into the city of Wailuku. After spending several hours in a beautiful rain forest on a coastal road, it was quite the contrast rolling back into 'The City.'
Downtown Wailuku
The route skirts the airport area and heads south. The trade winds really picked up and with a great tailwind and ample bike lane, the miles clicked by very quickly.
Highway 30 Near Maalaea
Back on the coast, it was a relatively flat run back to Lahania. Traffic picked up considerably, but except for a construction zone, the bike lane was smooth and wide.
I rolled back into the Sheraton a little before 0930, just in time to clean up, shower, and meet Debby for breakfast!!
Back at the Sheraton
The local website was right. I would highly recommend this route for an awesome sampler of West Maui!

Steve Atkins

Click here for ride data