Spring Death Valley Double Century  

By Peter Pop

Freezing rather than cooking was the operative word in this years "spring" edition of the Death Valley DC. At midnight I stopped at the top of Towne Pass and admired the incredible clear sky and was all geared up for  the usual magnificent scenery Death Valley presents early in the year. Alas, it was not to be. After rousted out of the van at 4:15 am by fellow RAAM competitor  Reed " Flamingo" Finfrock, I enjoyed a pleasant 50 miles to Stovepipe Wells and back, discussing  Reed's triumphant entry in RAAM 2000 and its challenges. Back at Furnace Creek I followed Reed's example and dropped my warm clothes. Big mistake! In my back pack I brought a windbreaker and legwarmers but those are not enough for me to withstand really cold weather. From Badwater onward the ride turned to "sh--"with strong, bone chillingly cold, headwinds slowing my speed to 9 miles per hour. This will be another long day. I failed to jump on the tail of a three person tandem. I even couldn't stay with two regular tandems, one of which was captained by Furnace Creek 508 veteran Mike Mosely. I really have to do some more quality/ speed training, otherwise this years two man team RAAM will be a joke. Not wanting to stop to put on my long pants I just suffered to Ashford Mills, getting colder and colder by the mile. Starting the climb to Jubilee, there is Reed, in the aero bars, coming back. He tells me he turned back at Jubilee where it was raining and  looking  really nasty towards Salsberry. Of course Reed doesn't even have legwarmers. I was sorely tempted to follow his example. By now I am hating this ride with a passion. However I really don't want to quit, especially since finally we have arrived at the part I enjoy most in the ride: the climb to Salsberry Pass. The wind actually tapers off and in a mild drizzle I climb to Jubilee. Half way someone passes me, riding in just a jersey and I wonder how on earth he is going to manage in this weather. Cresting Jubilee, I take a good look towards Salsberry and see rain and ?snow. After some soul searching I finally chicken out, I can ill afford to get sick with my work schedule, etc, etc. (the list of excuses is long and gets longer by the day) After 1/2 mile I nearly turn back to climb back up again, but I have done this ride so many times, it is just not worth the risk loosing control on the descent because of hypothermia. All that to prove you can do it one more time.

With a roaring tail wind I am back to Furnace Creek in no time. After a while more riders show up, all having turned around at Ashford/ Jubilee or partway up to Salsberry. Even the tandems with Mike Mosely decided to turn around after climbing part of Salsberry Pass, making me feel a little better and even able to enjoy that great chili at the end!! My friend Charlie Griffice , time keeping for Hugh, is all worried whether or not anyone is going to finish. I am sure some will. The tenacity to finish a Double Century and the capacity for suffering are without parallel in the California Triple Crown crowd.

Thanks Hugh for organizing the ride, better next time. 

On my way back I encountered snow and very dense fog going over Towne Pass. So much for my plans to ride from Stove pipe Wells to Towne Pass the next day.



Death Valley Double Results 

As related to me, unofficially,  by Charlie Griffice, time keeper


(Feb 24 , 2001)

12 out of 181 starters for finish rate of 6.6%


Rider Name (number) Elapsed Time Start Time Finish Time
Wayne Walker (#269) (1st male) 11:37 3:40 15:17
Scott Chenue (#135) 12:43 3:53 16:36
Jennifer Carrasco (#130) (1st female) 12:57 3:53 16:50
Dave Parker (#316) 12:57 3:53 16:50
(#246) 13:10 3:11 16:21
(#207) 13:13 3:08 16:21
Harold Felice/Gary McGain (1st tandem) 13:49 3:00


Mike Greer (#301) 14:03 3:31 17:34
Doug Patterson (#214) 16:23 3:21 19:44
Kevin Main (#290) 17:10 3:00 20:10
Todd Trzcinski (#258) 17:10 3:00 20:10

7 out of 181 starters finished

From the Spring Death Valley Double Century Results Page

Scott Chenue

Mike Grier

Kevin Main

Doug Patterson

Todd Trzcinski

Wayne Walker

Ray Williams


More Death Valley Double Stories:

Kevin Griffin

Bill Palmer and Emmy Klassen

Dave Watkins

Scott Chenue

By Kevin Griffin

I was one of those who fought their way over to Shoshone last Saturday.  The wind out to Ashford Mill was such that it brought a 3 man paceline down to a little over 6 mph on occasion as we dipped in and out of protected recesses in the hills bordering DeathValley to the east.  Miraculously, as we turned the sweeping corner to the east toward Ashford Mill, we discovered the wind was really coming from the southeast not just the south and so had headwinds all the way to the stop at mile 93.

No problem, I thought to myself, because we'll have a nice little push up Jubilee after making a left turn out of the wind!  But as you know, shortly after making the turn, the rain started.

I didn't think the conditions were any more than disagreeable until about half way up Salsberry when the temperature dropped lower and lower.  (On the way back the car showed the outside temp to be 34)  I looked at my legs - I had only shorts - and they were bright pink.  I remembered Andy Hampsten's account of the 1988 Giro di' Italia and his win on the Passo di Gavia through the snow - legs turned pink or red or something.

Still, my heart rate was around 140 so I was generating some body heat and thought, "Okay, this is bad, but I'll warm up/dry out in Shoshone, no problem."  But when I crested and started descending, I realized my fingers (I was wearing ordinary half-finger gloves) had lost a lot of feeling and the heat drained quickly out of my body.  I was wearing arm warmers and a vest but when wet they offered no help.  

I worried that I might lose my grip without knowing it and crash, so it seemed best to stop and try to regain some feeling in my hands.  I'm sure I cut a pretty forlorn figure at the side of the road in the sleet and wind.  

I finally sucked it up and cruised slowly down, clenching the bar as best I could.  When I got to Shoshone, a friend of mine was in a car with 3 others with the heat on full.  I jumped in and shook violently for about 20 - 30 minutes.  Others were worse.  

A triple pulled in a little later and the guy in the middle didn't even have a vest - just a jersey!  They dropped the bike so fast you heard it hit the ground. A guy in the car with me said workers nearly called an ambulance for him because he couldn't speak, couldn't answer them if he was okay or not!  

People staffing the Shoshone rest stop were extraordinarily helpful.  We were driven back to Furnace Creek about an hour later by someone my friend and I refer to as "the angel".


By Bill Palmer

Hi Peter: You missed the fun. Emmy did hero pulls all the way to Ashford Mills, we never went below 12 mph, we started the climb into the rain and then as I went over the top of Salsberry - snow.                    

The descent to Shoshone gave me new experiences that I had never felt before, first my hands got cold, then numb, then they started to hurt intensely - high level biting/stabbing pain, then the pain went away and with it all feeling in my hands. It became very difficult to bend my fingers, and when I could, weird shocking jolts would shot up my arms. Otherwise I felt fine and hoped to find something in Shoshone to protect my hands for the return descent, I could not find gloves so I dropped out in Shoshone. Emmy also reported similar problems with her hands, she also withdrew in Shoshone. We had been making good time, as we got to Shoshone about 12:30, started about 3:45.

By Dave Watkins, copied from his Homepage

Training for the event
The winter 2001 here in Northeastern Ohio has not been very friendly to long distance cycling. Most of my riding for Dec, Jan, and Feb has been done on a spinning bike. My weekday routine was 1.5 hours on Tue, Wed, and Thur. Saturdays I would spin for 2 hours and Sundays were the long spins starting at 4 hours and working up to 8 hours. The long spins on the weekend I would ride at 65-70% Max HR. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I would do interval work for 45 min then spin at 60-65% for the remaining time. Wed I would spin at 65-70%. Initially I started out trying to maintain 70-75% Max HR for the long spins, but John Hughes (UMCA director and Ultra Cycling Coach) recommended cutting back on the intensity but to increase the time spent on the spinning bike. He said that to train for a 15 hour ride, I should work up to a 10 hour ride (about 2/3 the length of the event). Now don't think I enjoyed all this time spinning, in fact I really don't care to ever spin again! But if the weather is too bad to ride outdoors, there's not many other choices.

The Goal
My goal was to complete the Death Valley Double Century in California, part of the California Triple Crown Series. The goal was just to finish, not to have the fastest time! It would also be interesting to see how well indoor training compared to "real" road miles.

The Ride
Saturday, February 24th, at 3am (yes that's 3 in the morning) was the official mass start time. All riders had to be on the road by 6am. I chose the 3am start because I had no idea how I would be riding, since I had not ridden any real long distance road miles since October! I was also warned that there are sometimes serious headwinds in the valley and you never know what to expect. All riders had to be climbing Jubilee pass by 11 am (93 miles) or they would be turned back.

The first leg of the route left Furnace Creek (elevation -190ft) and headed North to Stovepipe Wells (24 miles elevation +5ft). It was pitch dark but very warm, probably about 60 degrees! I was wearing shorts with leg warmers, a jacket, and a thin pair of glove liners. Shortly after 3am, I checked in with the official time keeper and I was off! The only view as I started was a trail of red blinking lights as far as you could see! The route started off relatively flat but there was a gradual climb to about +200ft then a drop into Stovepipe. The next leg of the route returned South to Furnace Creek. This leg was also fast until about 3 miles from Furnace Creek, the wind picked up out of the South at about 20mph and the temperature dropped into the low 50's. One thing I learned about riding in the desert on the return trip, is how much water you can consume. I completely emptied my 100oz camelbak bladder and was drinking out of my water bottle before 48 miles was up!

Once back at the start, I quickly refilled my camelbak, and was on my way South to Badwater, (elevation -282 ft) the lowest point in the US. The road ran along side the mountains and shielded us from the wind. The 18.5 mile trip went fast. Once at Badwater, I had to stop and top off the water, the next leg to Ashford Mill was 28 miles with absolutely nothing in between! I felt great at this point, about 66 miles into the ride.

Here comes the wind!
South of Badwater, the valley began to open up, now there was no protection from the wind. At this point the wind was out of the south at about 40mph! The next leg seemed to go on forever, I was maintaining about 9mph in the flats and would accelerate to 11mph on the down grades! A couple of pacelines passed by, including a line with 3 tandems. I didn't want to overdo it so I paced myself and did not jump in to any lines.

I finally made it to Ashford Mill around 10am, about 7 hours for 93 miles. The sky was now overcast with clouds hanging all around the mountains that were to be climbed. Even with all the wind, I still felt great! I refilled my water, took in some food, I would need the energy for climbing 2 mountain passes before arriving in Shoshone, only 29 miles away.

Get ready to climb
South of Ashford the road turned east, out of the wind, BUT... The next 7 miles was all up hill, Jubilee Pass, a 5% grade from below sea level to just over 1200 feet above. A fully faired recumbent caught me on the climb, it was fellow UMCA'er Barclay Brown, we chatted until we reached the top. The next 1 mile was all down hill, SURE, why not just lose several hundred feet of elevation that you just worked so hard for!

Now for the long climb! The next 10 miles was Salsberry Pass, a 4% grade climbing up to 3300 feet elevation. This climb was deceiving, it looked flat, but it was work to maintain 6.5mph. The temperature continued to drop, though I didn't really notice because of all the climbing. About half way up, the rain started. It continued to fall harder as the temperature continued dropping.

I thought this was the hot and dry desert
Now call me crazy, but I came prepared for the day with shorts, sunscreen, and a light colored jersey! After all this is Death Valley, the desert I thought! About 1 mile from the top, I realized how soaking wet I was, then it started snowing! Another funny thing I noticed, why weren't there any riders returning from Shoshone? Once at the top of the pass, I started the 11 mile descent! Now that's a combination soaking wet, temperature 34 degrees and an 11 mile down hill! I learned the meaning of wind chill and hypothermia! It was a cold like I have never experienced, my hands instantly began to sting with extreme pain just before going completely numb! I had to stop about every half mile just to get the blood flowing again. I couldn't tell whether my fingers were pulling the brake levers or not. Everybody I passed, or who passed me on the way down was experiencing the same problems. Worse yet some of the riders were coming down the pass weaving all over the road because they were shaking so bad! I finally did see one person return up the pass from Shoshone, but he said he was going to flag down a car for a ride back! Once at the bottom of the pass, state routes 127 and 178 intersect with the only stop sign in 120 miles!

When I eventually made it to Shoshone (122 miles) and hopped off my bike, one of the volunteers grabbed my bike and set it with all the other bikes. Before I could even speak a word, he told me they were going to load the Ryder truck with all the bikes and take them back to Furnace Creek in several hours. He also said that some riders were being shuttled back and would return with vans and cars to transport everybody else back! He then pointed me to the gas station to go and warm up with everybody else. About 3 hours later, cars and vans started showing up to shuttle riders back. There were about 30 riders stuck in Shoshone. I lucked out and caught a ride with Liz and Mike Currell, they also had room to transport my bike.

So who finished with 200 miles?
There were actually 3 nuts who used trash bags for ponchos and plastic food handling gloves and made the trip back! Most of the other 180 riders realized that the clouds and rain meant SNOW on the pass, and they had the sense to turn around on Jubilee Pass. Many riders abandoned at Ashford Mill because of the wind! The unofficial count of 200 mile finishers was somewhere between 3 and 12 out of 181 riders!

If only I had brought my goretex pants and goretex gloves! I was really disappointed because I was not at all tired and my legs felt great. I had the energy to finish, even though all my training was on a spinning bike! I was just too cold and wet, even 2 weeks later, my finger tips are still experiencing numbness!

By Scott Chenue

How to “Win” a Double Century 

I’ve been riding double centuries since ’95, done PBP and brevets, four Leadvilles, six Death Rides and so on. I’ve managed to steadily improve my riding, but seeing an event up at the front is a whole different story. It seems there’s always somebody who can outride you. How do you transform yourself into the guy who can come in first? Here’s how…

First of all pick a double that suits your strengths. In my case I do well on flats and gradual climbs. At a 185 lbs or so, it takes me  into late summer before I can climb the steep stuff fast. So Death Valley is always a welcome ride to kick off the year. It’s also sunny and warm, a nice break from the SF rain. Yeah right.

I started at 4am with a buddy, Rob Heather ("Robocop", because for some reason he just looks like a cop). My first hint of a bad day was the 3:30 am wind. I figured that if it’s breezy before the sun comes up, we might really be in for it. We did get going smoothly, although Rob’s mothership high beam was casting a great shadow of my broad ass across the group of three we were drafting. They weren’t sharing the pull so I decided to pass and Rob didn’t come across. Oh well, I thought, I’m feeling fine and slippery in my aero shifters and Zipp wheels, so I let it rip. Little did I know that when I would see Rob again, things wouldn’t be so pleasant. I was steadily working through the sea of earlier starters when I hit the Stovepipe turnaround. Of course the tailwind became a headwind that ranged from light to brutal all the way to Ashford Mills. I was a little shocked to see a buddy near Badwater who had an hour and a half jump on me. We call Jeff “Alpha Dog” and “Silverback”, our fearless leader. However his recent flu left him looking pretty ragged. At this point it was getting windy enough that it was hard to balance. I kept trying to bait Jeff with my wheel, but no dice. So I peeled off again, sucking (praying for) every aero advantage out of my new equipment. Into the climb, the headwind turned to a vicious crosswind and then…the rain...and the cold. A little past Jubilee Mark Casartelli passed me riding strong (c-ya), so I figure I had just seen the winner. I was a little surprised to pass him on the way down to Shoshone. He was so cold he was running along the flat halfway down the other side. With a lot of determination I managed to “clean” the descent. I was screaming quite loudly to make up for the lack of clothes I had left in Badwater, including full fingers, heavy jersey, goretex socks, etc. Dumb ass.

The surprises continued in Shoshone where the normal shelter was being used by a cow pattie convention, so Mark and I were standing in the rain killing soup and sandwiches when the station volunteer let us climb in the Uhaul with the heater. Two minutes later he shut off the heater to conserve diesel. Damn!! Shivering, I told Mark I was going to bail. He said he was too. There were plenty of cars coming over the pass, so I figured I would warm back up on the climb and thumb a ride. Great idea. Except the six cars that past me just kept cruising. Next time I’m going to try lying down in the road. About half way up I see a rider cruise to a stop and stand there shaking his hands. I asked if he was all right. “Got any gloves?” was his quick reply. Rob! I didn’t recognize him at first. Maybe it was all of the rainwater cascading over his hooded jacket. I talked him into turning around. Shoshone was just not a fun place to be. Still raining, a triage. We got to the summit and I figured my only shot was to not hesitate at all, conserving the generated heat. This lasted about a mile. So I stopped four more times, jumping and dancing to regain just a little feeling in my hands to control the bike. Once I got below the rain I was home free. That’s when I jumped on the tailwind of my dreams. The speedometer spent some quality time over thirty. That’s what we like to see. Furthermore, having been the first rider into lunch, and not seeing a return rider over the pass or getting passed, I knew I had the lead. What a feeling. To be ripping along so effortlessly, knowing I would be first in. My only fear was that triple I had seen heading down towards Shoshone. I knew they would burn up the flats, but would they bail first? The dude in the middle seat had short sleeves so I figured they were done like most others.

One final surprise. I got to the finish and proudly exclaimed “I think I’m the first double finisher”. Wrong. Apparently, three others had come in before me. By several hours, they claimed. A little steamed, I presented my case to the guys at the table. They gave me a “sore loser” response, and I went and cried into some beer. Obviously DNFs were being counted as finishers. I’m sure it was not intentional on the part of the riders. However, times were not recorded at either turn around, making proof impossible.

So now, more than a month and a half after the event, there is finally some acknowledgement by Hugh Murphy. His website claims the results will be posted in another two weeks. Meanwhile, I have heard that, unofficially, there were only three finishers out of 184. That’s about twenty days per finisher to put times for three people on a website. I guess that’s not too long to wait for your very first, first place finish. I love this ride, and hope it will be around for years to come. Apparently, though, “HMP.COM” has gone the way of the rest of the dot coms back here in SF.










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