Death Ride 2010 – a guest post by Brent Ruybalid
The texts were coming fast and furious from Jon all day on Thursday. Questions about equipment, nutrition, what would be available on the course…? I had all of the same questions before my first Death Ride. It was fun to remember that… It was Jon’s first attempt, Sandie’s second, and my third. I had already made up my mind, as had Sandie and Jon… we were doing all five passes!
Friday July 9th, I had taken the day off to catch up on some sleep and get the bikes ready, Jon took a half day and was going stir crazy while we waited for Sandie to get off work at 3:00. We hit the road at around 4:00pm to Turtle Rock Park to get our packets and do a little shopping at the expo. While there, I came across my friend, Paul Taylor of Taylor Bicycles. I talked to him for a bit and he told me that he was doing Tech Support at the top of the 5th pass and would have a beer waiting for me when I got there. That settled it, I was doing 5 for sure! People have told me every year, “They have ice cream at the top of the 5th!” To which I always replied, “That doesn’t do it for me. If you want to motivate me, have some cold beer up there!”
After the expo we drove back to Carson City, dropped Jon off at home, and went to B’Sghetti’s for dinner. Pasta and red meat! Yum! After dinner we went home and packed up our nutrition for the day and got everything ready to go. We got into bed before 9 and drifted off to sleep. Up at around 4am and loading the car, Jon showed up and we got his bike onto the roof rack and we were on our way! We listened to the new Slash album on the way and when the song “Carry Me Back From Cali” came on, I couldn’t help but think that’s how we will feel tonight…
We found our parking space and got the bikes ready then headed for the port-a-potty to relieve ourselves of the morning coffee. As we began our ride at just before 6 am, I could not get clipped into my pedals! I had just replaced my worn out pedals and the new cleats needed to be adjusted. I went back up to the expo area and borrowed a screw driver from the mechanic, made the adjustments and took off to catch Sandie and Jon. They were waiting in Markleeville not knowing what happened. We continued on to Monitor Pass.
We climbed along at a pretty good pace and I found my place in between Jon and Sandie just to kinda bridge the gap and keep us all within range of each other. It stayed that way for a majority of the day. Jon would push ahead, Sandie would fall back, and I would be the bridge. I would ride up top Jon for a while, then fall back to check on Sandie, then ride back up to Jon, and so on. Sandie was riding strong and never fell too far back.
Once at the top, we stopped and refilled water bottles and got a little to eat. Then back on the bikes for the decent to Topaz Lake. On the descent, i was keeping an eye on Sandie in my mirror and Jon was right behind her. At one point I looked down and didn’t see her. To my surprise she came flying by me on the left and I had to smile! She was MOVING! So I chased her the rest of the way.
At the bottom, we shed some layers of clothing and started the climb back out. Once again, this was a long HOT climb. The only climb of the day that had me dripping with sweat. I rode with Jon for a majority of the climb because we could hear Sandie just behind us having a conversation with another rider. Just after the photographer point, we kinda lost contact with her, so I went back to my role as the bridge. We reached the top at around 10 am, refilled bottles, had a snack and a bathroom break, then back on the bikes for the descent down the side we climbed just 4 hours before.
At the fork to go up Ebbetts Pass, Sandie wanted to take off her wind vest and arm warmers (she put it all back on before the descent) so Jon went ahead while I waited for her. We got going up the gentle almost flat incline to the base of the mountain. It’s a really nice shady little ride for a few miles with small kick ups every now and then. I stopped at a water station to make sure I had enough for the climb and had to chase Sandie down. The climb was not as hard as I remembered it from the year before and it was over much quicker than I had expected. Don’t get me wrong, it was still hard. I saw a descending rider almost get taken out by a rock slide… that was scary! I could hear it start, I saw the rider coming, I yelled “ROCK SLIDE!!! SLOW DOWN!” He slowed just in time as the rocks tumbled into the roadway just a few feet in front of him and he was able to maneuver around them.
At the top, we found Jon, grabbed some Cup O’ Noodles and sat down in the shade for a bit. I think we spent a little too much time at this stop before we refilled with some cold water, put in some various Hammer Nutrition powders, and headed down the other side. Once we reached the bottom and got our stickers, we just turned around and headed back the way we came.
The 4th pass is the shortest one at just over 5 miles. That does not mean it’s easy! It was pretty hot and we were starting to feel like we had been overdoing it with the food. Slightly bloated and tired. When Jon and I reached the top there was a kid handing out Red Licorice! We ate that while we waited for Sandie. A few minutes later, she rolled up and started cussing about how hard that was. I tried to find her some cold water and at some point Jon said, “We are NEVER doing this again!” Then a few minutes later, “Let’s DO this!” and down the mountain we went…
We stopped at the lunch stop long enough to refill the bottles then headed out. Shortly after that, the roads were opened to motorized traffic. We got a nice pace going and hammered out a few miles until Jon latched onto another group and Sandie started to drop, so I became the bridge again. It was a hot and windy climb to get to Markleeville where we were being cheered on by the locals. Then it got steeper as we climbed out of the canyon to Turtle Rock Park.
Jon was waiting at the top of the hill at the entrance to the park. I passed by and said, “Let’s go get some ice…” He followed and when I turned and stopped at the car he kept going. I called him back, he thought I meant we would get ice at Woodfords. I stuffed his bottle with ice and asked if we had to make the cut off by 4 or 4:30? He looked at the map and it said we had to make it by 4. It was 3:50! I said, “Go! Don’t miss it. I’m gonna wait for Sandie.” Just as he turned around, his wife Shauna and son Gavin had parked across the street and jumped out of the car yelling for him. They had our friend Scott with them too. He rode by and tried to give Gavin five, but he was not going to stop. Scott came across the street as I was dumping off some extra gel packs and my arm warmers, anything I wouldn’t need just to lighten my load. Sandie rolled by at around 3:53 and I yelled at her, “Do you want some ice?” She said, “I’m not stopping,” and went on down the road. Scott looked at me and said, “She ain’t stoppin…” we had a laugh and I downed the last of my Jelly Belly Sport Beans and jumped on my bike to chase her down the hill.
I caught her just as we were pulling into the stop at Woodfords, 2 minutes before the cut off! We rode on. The climb out of Woodfords Canyon is a tough one! Sandie fell behind but I wanted to catch Jon to let him know we made the cut off and that he was not alone. Once I caught him and let him know, I rode along behind him for a few miles. He was just latched onto a train of about 4 riders. Finally I geared down and got up out of the saddle. As I went by him I said, “Let’s go, sucka.” He jumped in behind me and away we went up the hill, passing slower riders until he got caught behind some others. You have to pick your times to pass because of the cars and narrow road and we didn’t time it right. Eventually he caught back up and we did some more passing.
We hit the stop at Picketts Junction with plenty of time to spare and waited for Sandie. We refueled like madmen, eating orange slices and sucking down energy gels and V8. Sandie rolled up and I went to her side. She was hugging this lady that we had met the year before and had ridden with on and off throughout the day then and this year. I told her to give me her bike so I could park it. She said, “I can’t move!” Once she settled down and got off the bike, the cussing started again. We got some cold water and food, sat in the shade and tried to get ready for the end of the climb. I was actually having dizzy spells at this point, but I was not turning around now! The volunteer said, “You have 20 minutes before cut off!” Sandie replied, “I’m taking every last second of it too!”
The count down started with 3 minutes to go, 2 minutes to go, 1 minute to go… we grabbed our bikes, walked them out of the rest stop area and took our time getting saddled up. Off we went to finish this out. It was a nice fast moving ride with only a slight incline through Hope Valley and we were making good time and having fun. We stopped at 100 miles to take a photo. It was the first time any of us had ridden a century and we wanted to capture the moment.
The fun turned into pain once again though as the road kicked up to 6 percent, 7 percent, 8 percent and variations of that…. At one point, we were strong and passing slower riders, then Sandie got caught behind a slower group and Jon told me she was dropping. I said, “I can’t go any slower, it hurts.” I just pushed on leaving Jon to be the bridge.
I finally thought that I should stop and wait. I found a spot where the shoulder was wide enough to stop and I waited. Pretty soon Jon rode by and I saw Sandie a little farther down the road. She rode by and I got in behind her. I passed her after awhile and went up the road. I looked up the mountain and could see where we were going… It looked like we were climbing to Heaven! It was WAY up there. I didn’t want to look because I knew it wasn’t as tough or as far as it looked but it was unnerving to look at. I really wish I had snapped a photo of it. There was a turn out in the road and I stopped again to wait for Sandie. I made her stop and rest there for a minute, then we pressed on. I just geared down and cranked slowly while up out of the saddle and stayed behind her. I rode along telling her how proud I was to be married to her and that we were almost there. I tried to make her laugh and keep her mind off of things and before we knew it, we rounded the bend and there was the sun! Up over the hump and there was the photographer! He told us we had 500 feet to go. I said, “Down that hill?! What the … why do we have to go down there?!”
We pulled into the lot, got our 5th sticker and our 5 Pass Finisher pin. I saw Paul and said, “Where’s that beer?!” He reached in his van, pulled out a Corona, popped the top and handed it to me. It was the BEST beer I have ever had! I shared it with Sandie and Jon. We put our bikes away and found some food. We signed the poster, took some photos, congratulated each other, and had some hugs. Once again, Jon said, “We are never doing this again.” I said, “Now that I have done all 5, I don’t need to do it again.”
We put on our warm clothing and headed off down the mountain. Some of the drivers we encountered were passing way too fast and it made it quite scary. I kept Sandie in front of me so that I knew where she was at all times. Once we got to Woodfords, we had to make the climb back to Turtle Rock Park. WOW! After everything we did that day, we had one more climb to do. We topped the hill at right around 8 pm to the flash of Shauna’s camera. When we got to the car we had cold beer waiting for us. We mixed up some Hammer Recoverite and drank that too. Baby wipes and fresh clothes, then up to the park for fajitas and beer. More talk of never again… even when Scott said he wanted to do it next year.
We were so happy that we had people waiting for us at the end of a long day. It was nice that Scott came out to support also because he was on every one of our training rides and was a big motivation for us. So thank you Shauna, Gavin, and Scott for all of your support!
The next day, Sandie and I had coffee in bed with our puppies and watched the Tour de France and the World Cup Final.
We had dinner at Jon and Shauna’s with Scott. I was on my second beer when I said to Scott, “Don’t tell anyone else, but if you really wanna do it next year, I’m going with you…” Jon and Sandie said, “We’re right here! We heard that!” So the planning has begun… Shauna might even go too…