The Markleeville Death Ride - July 10, 2010

Dave Wyman's Blog spot on the Ride

This was a late "go" for me - Dave Wyman had this as his major goal ride for 2010 while for me my big races were the Ironman St. George, and the Vineman Half Ironman. But it's such an iconic classic, and opportunity was knocking.I didn't think I could handle the full Death Ride, which is 129 miles and 15,000 ft of climbing. I've done such rides over 2 days (e.g. the Big Sur Ride), but not one day. And not one week before my Vineman race. So my plan was to do just 2 passes.

Dave left his L.A. home early Friday morning and I left Santa Cruz at 11:30am. We met at the Best Western motel in Santa Nella, crammed our bikes and stuff into my RAV4, and headed north. We HAD to arrive at the Turtle Rock Park check in outside Markleeville by 7pm or Dave's entry would be sold off. Driving over Ebbetts Pass was sobering, as the road was single lane, windy, steep, with plenty of cliffs. But, beautiful too. We arrived with a half hour to spare, Dave checked in, and we wandered the expo.

Over 3,000 riders challenged themselves on this mother of all California single-day rides. Markleeville has rooms for maybe a few dozen, so most people camped along the sides of the roads - legal in this national forest. I had my Astro 28A class at Markleeville back in 1998 and remembered there were some good spots along the road to Indian Creek Reservoir very close by, and I drove us to a great spot a half mile from the start, overlooking a pond and with a great view out into Nevada, and we shared this pretty spot with just two other Death riders.

I brought my little Nikon Lumix F3K pocket camera, which fit nicely into my fanny pack


We arrive at the rustic town of Markleeville and quench the heat with a Drumstick ice cream cone for each of us

Dave "Mtn Man" Wyman, next to my 22 year old and still fine Sierra Designs tent

It was a beautiful sunset thanks to a thunderstorm north of camp

Dave puts in a new tube in my front wheel while I fix us dinner - vast amounts of pasta with chicken and tomato / olive oil and cheese

4am - wake up time

I'd bought a tub of Trader Joe's oatmeal cookies, for after the ride. But.... I ended up munching them all afternoon and evening. Yes, I can't believe I ATE THE WHOLE THING! That, and a huge amount of pasta, and my stomach was overwhelmed. Beyond carbo loading, this was carbo avalanching. Big mistake! By morning, I couldn't eat. My stomach was a big cramping knot at even a hint of swallowing anything. So, no breakfast for me...

I was a little addled in mind and stomach here at 4:45am. I told Dave to take off and not wait - he had a very long day ahead. I got started 5 minutes later. This and the next picture were shamelessly lifted from Dave's excellent blog entry on the ride

In hindsight, it was too bad we didn't stick together at least for a few miles - Dave met up with one of my best most favorite students this past semester - Denali Schmidt. What are the odds on a ride of 3600 that Dave would talk with a random rider who knew me so well? Meanwhile...


...6 miles into the ride, and I'm feeling so rotten I try and ralph into the bushes. Unsuccessful, here I'm returning to my Serrotta, with headlighted riders in the background

Halfway up the climb up Monitor Pass, at sunrise

Sustained 8-9% grades are evident on this rider's face

Pass #1, bagged!

I turned around at the top rather than go down to Lake Topaz like most riders. Here, looking west to the Sierra crest. There followed a 10 mile fast downhill on a great road surface - Dave and I agreed this was the most fun stretch of the whole day. At the bottom, at the Carson River, I turn left and begin heading up the steepest pass of the day - Ebbetts.

Yeeeaaaahh... bring on the Wild Women of Ebbetts Pass!

We've been winding upward steeply for miles now, below Kinney Reservoir

Kinney Reservoir. Good place to stop and try and force down some food. Stomach still knotted, I got down one small bite of a PBJ sandwich - that's all.

Pass #2, bagged!

I spent 20 minutes here at Ebbetts Pass. Didn't eat, just rested and drank water...

... and looked for photo op's

A mile from the finish, I stop and have ice cream and get some photos

These girls handed out licorise to all riders - how sweet!

The cheer section camped out on the county courthouse lawn

Burrito feed at the end

An ice cream truck lures Dave

After I finished, I drove back down a mile to the delightful river running through Markleville. It had a couple of picnic tables and I spent the afternoon there, cooling off in the river, reading, napping. About 2:30pm, Dave rode by and saw my car, stopped and said hi, and told me he was going to do the 5th pass (Carson; another 45 miles of riding). At 7pm he finally made it back to the start, looking better than I thought he would. He's tough!

Nothing hits the spot like ice cream after 129 miles and 15,000 ft of climbing

Post script: The ride was tough, but Dave was tougher. He looked and felt fine on the drive back, but... he suffered significant muscle breakdown and kidney issues (myoglobinuria) a couple days later. Nothing permanent, but the doc advised drinking a LOT of water during those couple of days to prevent his kidney's from clogging up and failing. I was tired, and my back was sore pushing those long steep climbs on my 39 chain ring, but no muscle self-digestion at least. But if I'd done 15,000 ft and 129 miles? Well, probably I'd have spontaneously combusted! I have done such numbers over a 2 day period (The Big Sur Ride), but I was younger and with two strong legs, not one.

Final numerics: Dave did all 5 passes: 129 miles and 15,000 ft of climbing in 14 hours start to finish. I did 2 passes: 59 miles and 6,500 ft.