Knoxville Double Redux. In a word, “OUCH”. In two words, “FUCKING OUCH”. This double really put the screws to me. It’s been 4 days since the ride and my legs are just starting to feel normal again.

Leading up to the Sunday before the ride, I’d been putting in a lot of saddle time. Nothing longer than 80 miles, but a lot of speedwork and fixed gear saddle time. 9 out of 10 days are spent riding, including a brutal fixed gear climb up Centennial and an atrociously hot fixed gear ride from Oakland out to Calaveras, By Sunday I’m feeling a little cooked and, even though I don’t want to stop riding, I know it’s probably the smart thing to do a week before the ride. Of course compulsion takes over, and I decide to hit the Wednesday night crit training ride at the Port Of Oakland. Not only that, but I decide to bring out my vintage Mercian, which is made of lugged 531, period correct Campy bits and weighs in at a hefty 23 lbs. I manage to hang in there, but know I’m working harder than I should. I get home tired but figure I have 3 days to recover. Not a big deal. I feel like I’m ready for this one.

Friday rolls around. It’s the day before the ride and my head hits the pillow by 7:00pm. Amazingly, I wake up 5 minutes before the alarm goes off. 1:25am. Good. I’m not too tired. I still haven’t prepped anything so I spend the next hour readying the bike, nutrition, water bottles, saddle bag, etc. I hop in the car and head off to pick up my friend Nicole who is attempting her 2nd double (the first being LAGT). I arrive and start loading her stuff into the car. “Did you sleep?” I ask. “Nope” she replies. Anxiety got the best of her, and she spent 6 hours lying in bed waiting for her alarm clock to go off. Same thing happened to her on LAGT. Ugh. I’ve done doubles on 3 hours sleep, but can’t imagine doing them on ZERO.

It’s about an hour’s drive to Vacaville. Registration is brisk. It’s an un-timed event so people are leaving at random. We arrive at about 4:20, unload the bikes, get our numbers and route sheets, turn on our lights and hit the road by 4:45. As we’re leaving I run into a fellow I’d met on the Tam Double (his first double). Shar is his name and he’s ridiculously fast. He was going to wait for fellow friend Bryan but decides he doesn’t want to wait around the parking lot so he joins us and about 3 others.

And we’re off! No pre-ride jitters for me this morning. I’m feeling pretty good about this ride. I’m hoping to make a personal best and ride into the finish before sundown. Totally possible as I’d missed a daylight finish by only 15 minutes the year prior and it was only my 2nd double ever. I could easily shave that much time if I don’t dally at rest stops, don’t miss the turn on Atlas Drive, and avoid the cramping I suffered the year before.

The morning whizzes by. I’m flying along, effortlessly pressing up the first climb (Mount George) and finding a good paceline. I remember gassing pretty hard last year on the initial climb. If the rest of the day goes this well, I may make it under 14 hours! I hit the first rest stop, top the bottles off and head straight back out. On the way out, I see Nicole rolling in. I yell out “You made it!”, and catch up to friend Kitty Gourselle, who’d just rolled out. Before I know it, Isabelle Drake is on our wheel. Good company to be in. Kitty had finished the 2009 Gold Rush Randonee and Isabelle is a really strong Ultra rider. She also towed me into the Bradley rest stop on CCD, which is where I’d first met her. We eventually catch up to 3 more riders. “Hey Jason. No fixie today?” the rider in the Davis Double jersey yells out. “Not today!” I reply. Hrm. We’ve obviously met before so I look at the name next to his number. Mick Jordan. I’d friended him on Facebook, but I don’t remember him having an English accent. Doh! I’ve friended the wrong person. But he still knows me from someplace. I won’t figure from where til later.

The second significant climb of the day comes. This one is up Mt. Howell. I fall off the back of the back of the pack and end up riding with a fellow in a Tam jersey. We chat all the way up the hill. Then we crest and I barrel down the backside. Going fast. Way too fast. Shit-eating-grin, dangerously fast. I end up catching up to 2 riders who’d passed me earlier but can’t find a line around them, for all the nasty switchbacks. I finally find a place I can “safely” tuck and I whiz by the first one. Coming around another corner I close on rider 2. Before I can yell “coming around your left”, she pumps her brakes and I nearly slam into her at 35mph!!! “Sorry, I didn’t see you!” she yells. Ironically, she was wearing a helmet mirror.

I reach the base of the descent and am feeling frisky. If memory serves, it’s just a series of about 10 miles of rollers. I get into a tuck, grab my hoods aero style, and drop the hammer. I start gobbling up riders like a vacuum cleaner. About 5 miles in I pass 2 guys who jump on my wheel. Thank God. I pull for another 2 minutes or so, and then rotate out. They maintain the pace and I’m able to jump back in line. This goes on for the next 3 or 4 miles til things pitch up. I’m still feeling punchy and I can see another group of riders ahead. I pass them on the climb like they’re standing still. I drop again, then climb again, about 3 more times until the last roller. I’m starting to fade and I dump my gears and spin to the top. I crest the hill, and drop down to Rest Stop 2.

I scan for the person taking the numbers and recognize the fellow. It’s fellow clubrider Jason McPhate. He’s been out of action with a back injury, and lack of decent saddle time has allowed him to volunteer for this event. I pull up to the water coolers and before I know it, my friend Alfie is holding my bike and buddy Mike is filling my water bottles. But that’s weird. Mike is supposed to be riding this ride. I ask him what’s up and he says he crashed and broke the downtube on his bike. “Earlier in the week?” I ask. “No, this morning.”, he replies. “On the descent?” “No, barely 5 miles into the ride.” Doh! Apparently a mutual friend of ours lost a light, panicked, crashed, and when Mike went to hit the brakes, the reinforcement gusset under the downtube (the very gusset that certain builders use to reinforce a frame) gave way. The bike folded and he flipped over. A bit of a swollen thumb and a sore hip but not too worse for wear. The bad news is he’s got The Furnace Creek 508 coming up in 2 weeks and is without a bike! While I’m there, I make a quick adjustment to my bars, which had dropped when I hit a pothole.

Well, enough dallying. I want to get rolling before my legs get cold. So off I go. My legs are kind of tight though. Perhaps I stayed at the rest stop too long? I get about 1 mile and my left thigh seizes up. Oh shit. What’s this? A cramp? Not at the base of a 25 mile climb! Maybe I wasn’t taking enough enduralytes? I’d been drinking plenty of water. I ease up on my stroke, the pain subsides and I pick up steam again. Ow! This time I have to stop and shake the leg out. A couple guys pass me and ask if I’m OK. “Cramps.” I say and they reply “Hang in there!” I guess I’m not mashing up this sucker. I drop to my 40/26 and spin out the next 10 or so miles. Amazingly, I feel ok doing this. I guess all that speedwork at the Port has helped my cardio, because I’m able to maintain a silly cadence and barely feel like I’m working. As I’m climbing, I’m actively scouting the ride to see if it’s “fixed gear friendly”. So far, everything I’ve encountered seems doable in my preferred 50x19 gear. Then I hit a pitch. I don’t remember this from last year. I drop to my 40x29, then my 30x23, then my 30x26. Leg starts to twinge a bit so I bail out all the way to my 30x29. I crest before the leg goes limp. Grumble. I’m barely 80 miles into this ride and I’m suffering already. Not good. I hit at least 2 more pitches like this and am forced to spin them out.

I’m taking in water like crazy too and am down to about 1/3 a bottle. Fortunately a Quack SAG vehicle had actually noticed my bottles as she had passed me earlier and pulls up next to me. “You need any water?” she asks. “I’ve got about 1/3 of a bottle left. How far to the next rest stop?” I reply. “I’m not sure. 3, 4…maybe 5 miles. Better safe than sorry!” she warns. I nod and we pull over. She tops off both of my bottles. A handful of riders who’ve bridged up to me take advantage of this impromptu rest stop as well. Testament to how awesome the Quackcyclists are. I should send her a dozen roses.

As I’m hitting the last pitch before the next rest stop, a tandem comes screaming by me. “Hi Jason!” a voice booms. It’s Peter Burnett, stoking the same tandem he rolled on Tam. “Hey Peter!” I reply, but they’re already out of earshot. How a tandem can climb that fast, I’ll never know. I don’t see him again until the end of the ride.

I grind my way to the next rest stop. Surprisingly enough, I run into “Yellow Trek” Chris. I originally met him on the Solvang Spring Double and have seen him at every other double he’s ridden since (Solvang, Eastern Sierra, Mount Tam and now Knoxville). “Not riding today?” I ask. “Naw. Did this staff ride last week so I could volunteer today.” “How was it?” “Brutal” he replies. I inform him of my cramping issue and he warns me that there are a few more miles of rollers before the descent to lunch.