Beach Cities Double Century

On September 22, 2018 George Vargas and Lori Hoechlin completed the inaugural running of the Beach Cities Double Century with 9,900 feet, in a total time of 12:56 on the tandem.  For those of you that keep track of ride time only, 11:39. We had a mechanical and flat-free day!   This was George Vargas’s 51st and Lori Hoechlin’s 36th  Double Century and our 4th of the 2018 season.  The two biggest hurdles of the day were TRAFFIC LIGHTS and a never-subsiding HEADWINDS.

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Before getting into the ride report I would like to thank Jim Cook for taking the time and immense effort to create a new double century right here in Southern California.  Next, I would like to thank all the volunteers for being out on the course all day ensuring we were well supported.  Thank you!


I had my reservations about doing this double century.  At first I thought there are going to be a lot of traffic lights.  When we checked in at the finish Kermit even said, “How did you like Tour de Lights?” LOL! As Lori and I discussed whether we were going to do it, I told her I just needed to prepare myself mentally that we are going to be stopping a lot on this double.  You see you have to think of the tandem as that big semi you see on the road.  In the city, they are slow lumbering beasts that clutter the road and are almost always in your way.  But on the highway, they are a picture of beauty with all their lights, fairings and effortless speed based on their momentum.  Yeah we are something like that 🙂

I then thought I might as well do the double since it is a local event and I would like to give a local guy, Jim Cook, a shot at succeeding.  Furthermore, the event would benefit many worthy causes addressed by from the event website – “FINDcures a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit charity that supports research for Alzheimer’s Disease, Autism, Concussion, Epilepsy, Major Depression Disorder, MS/ALS, Parkinson’s Disease and Stroke, and provides transitional support services for individuals impacted by any of the above neurological diseases. NdZONE will donate at least 5% of all Beach City’s proceeds to FINDcures.”


From the Beach Cities DC website:

“The Beach City event starts and finishes in Irvine, California. Irvine offers a system of bicycle lanes and trails to encourage the use of bikes as a means of transportation. It has 44.5 miles of off-road bicycle trails and 282 miles of on-road bicycle lanes.  The City of Irvine is one of the most bicycle friendly and safest communities in America”

Sounds great! Sign me up! The reality is that you can’t do a DC exclusively in Irvine.  Well you could I guess by doing laps … something I abhor.  It is the very reason I have never signed up for any 24 hour races.  They are usually held on looped courses.  The largest loop in the daylight hours with a shorter loop usually after sunset.  Although if you follow my blog you will know that I have no problem Everesting.  When Everesting you do repeats up and down the same hill until you reach 29,029 or 8,848 meters on one ride. So you would think I would be able to tolerate a looped 24 hour course but you would be wrong.

I digress, back to the event.  The route turned out to be a great route not what I expected so I was pleasantly surprised. It was billed as quite the scenic tour see below:

Popular cities:

Laguna Beach
Corona Del Mar
Newport Beach
Huntington Beach
Sunset Beach
Seal Beach
Long Beach
Lake Forest
Mission Viejo
Dana Point
San Clemente
and more…

Legendary course highlights:

Surf City, U.S.A.
Queen Mary
1984 Olympic Cycling Road Race Course
Florence Joyner Olympiad Park
Ole Hanson Beach Club
San Clemente Casino
Western White House


Saturday morning we launched out at 6:07am.  Yes that’s an odd start time – we were late for the 6:00 start — oops!  MY BAD! It was still dark but luckily Lori could read the cue sheet just fine under the street lamps of the main roads.  Additionally, because she resides in Orange County we stayed on course without incident or wrong turns until sunrise.  Lori and I had discussed the advantages/disadvantages of the different start times.  The organizer gave the riders the option to start between 4:30-6:00 am   Here is my opinion regarding the advantages and disadvantages of the different start times.



Early start leads to an early finish – in the fall and winter months daylight hours are shorter.  Mentally, I like finishing a double before sunset.


Lighter traffic – Saturday morning at 430 you should have much lighter traffic I mean who else is crazy enough to be up that early although you would be surprised.

Major thoroughfares are green-lit — major streets are green, green, green while the feeder streets which have less traffic will most likely be red.


More hours/miles ridden and climbs completed before the heat of the day sets in!


Headlight use in the morning eats into the total burn time available for your headlight.  If you have flats or mechanicals during the day and your progress is delayed then you may run out of burn time on the tail end of the ride.


Night navigation – reading the cue sheet and reading street signs pre-dawn, let’s face it night time, can be especially tricky.  Missing a turn can add unnecessary miles and added stress and frustration to your already long day.



Usually a daylight start – easy navigation and great visibility for you and your visibility to motorists.


Warmer start – it’s usually coolest/coldest just before dawn.  The later the start the warmer the start and the less clothing you will need at the start and quite possibly a short time and then have to schlep it around for the next 12 hours or longer.


Chasing down the early starters – it is motivating for me to know there are other riders ahead on the course.  I like the feeling of chasing them down throughout the day.


After a long work week and long travel to an event sleeping-in 1.5 hours more hours feels amazing!


If you have any flats/mechanicals you could easily go into the night and have to finish in the dark.

In the end we chose a late start 6am of the 4:30-6am window- to minimize night time navigation and feeling confident we would move briskly through the course and finish before dark.  We just barely made it in before dark.

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Sunrise through Santiago Canyon – the first climb of the day.

I lived in Orange County for several years logically you would think I would remember the sequence in which the major intersections come at you and when to anticipate a left hand turn but I really don’t remember much.  Whenever I had free time I would leave town and ride either in the San Gabriel Mountains, Eastern Sierras or the mountains of San Diego.  It can’t be overstated enough how important it is to not miss a turn during a double century!  This DC had 2 pages front AND back of directions!  Thank you Lori for your excellent navigation!

The weather was a pleasant 63 degrees F on a late September morning.  We felt a slight breeze as we were climbing through the first real climb of the day, Santiago Canyon.  Little did I know that slight breeze would strengthen and become our nemesis the for the remainder of the day.

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The Shadow Selfie 🙂

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A walking/bike path summiting a steep climb just before descending to Rest Stop #2

We rolled up and down through many hills in south Orange County and eventually we made our way to aid station #2 in San Clemente.  What happened to the first aid station? We bypassed it since we didn’t need anything within the first 25 miles.  Immediately following aid station #2 was the toughest hill of the day for us – Avenida Salvador!  It had ramps over 12-15% and it is a bear on a tandem.

Up down up down more hills and familiar roads as we were doing large loops back to earlier aid stations.   I’m sure that made it easier for the event organizer to provide support for us.  All was going fine until I started having twinges in my legs that eventually became cramps.  I rarely cramp.  Lori says never say never.  I was just about to type I “never cramp”.  I was so surprised and wondered what the heck was going on! I started taking sodium supplements at each aid station and taking extra capsules with me.  Throughout the day I was fighting off cramps in my legs.  It was actually quite annoying.  My nutrition was the same as always — concentrated bottles of Spiz Nutrition . Lori and I ride 90% liquid nutrition for our doubles with Spiz being our primary fuel. It is an amazing product that provides the calories, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, electrolytes and amino acids for you to sustain hard efforts for hours on end.

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Lunch stop – so many people were surprised we stopped. The truth is I had enough calories for 12 hours but the first 100 took us longer than I expected and started to think we were going to go way beyond the calories I had onboard so we picked up a few more calories and a Coke!

The on and off cramping was nothing compared to the headwinds we experienced all day.  Anytime we turned West or North the winds were unrelenting.  On Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) there were times that we were barely going 15 mph on flat sections.  Let me tell you that’s disheartening as a tandem lol!  We pushed through it and finally made our turnaround in Long Beach immediately across the harbor from the Queen Mary.  I had told Lori on the way up that I had never been to the Queen Mary.  She was surprised probably just as much as I was lol!

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Just 3.5 miles from the turnaround point TJ Knight and Brook Henderson took such great care of us!

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Once we made the turn for home we were treated to a wonderful tailwind from Long Beach back to Newport Beach, approximately 20 miles.  We turned inland and headed for Irvine.  Funny how so often we are racing the sun to finish our doubles in fall and winter doubles.  Sunset for Saturday was 6:48pm.  We pulled into the Hotel Irvine just a couple of minutes after 7pm.  Sub 13 hours was the goal and we were right on target! At first it was a conservative goal with hopes of beating it but with all the winds during the day and the cramping it ended up being a struggle just to make the sub 13 hour goal.


Finishing photo several minutes after finishing still a little daylight left 🙂 Thank you to Irwin Cycling for the 38mm Disc Brake wheels

Thank you to Lori for being so steady on the bike with power and grace.  I’m sorry for rushing you through lunch!  She gets all the photo credits too lol!

What’s next for me/us?  Lori and I will be doing the Knoxville Double Century (200 miler with 12,000 feet) on September 29th.  If all goes well it will be our 5th Double Century of the season.  On Sunday morning there will be an awards breakfast where I will be inducted into the California Triple Crown Hall of Fame for having completed 50 Double Centuries.  Stay tuned…

You can follow me on Strava here


#everesting #everestchallenge

Malibu Grand Tour Highland Double Century SPOT Link

Tomorrow I will be doing the Malibu Grand Tour Highland Double Century withLori Partridge Hoechlin on the tandem follow this link to my SPOT transmitter during the double century. We will be rolling about 530am

TIP: When the link opens up on your computer or Smartphone you may want to zoom in or out to actually see the streets.  I have found that every time I go to the shared link it is zoomed all the way in and you can’t see street names.

I wish to thank Brad Horton with Global Star for his unmatched customer service and SPOT sponsorship!!!

2011 Spring Death Valley Double Century Race Report

Wow, I don’t know where to begin. Saturday’s win was very emotional for me.  When I found myself off-the-front of the race for the last 150 miles I kept telling myself “you deserve this! you’ve trained hard. You’ve trained through this winter – in the wind, in the rain, at night, and woken up to ride in the pre-dawn morning cold.  You deserve this! Don’t do anything stupid! Don’t fade! Stay strong! Stay fueled! Stay on the bike! Shorter stops!” Yes I talk to myself lol!  I end up being alone in most events.  It is the life of an Ultra Cyclist… being alone – alone in your training,  alone in a race since drafting is often prohibited,  alone at night,  alone in the worst weather conditions alone in the wilderness…


Above you will find the results from the event.  The finisher’s list is really only 9 riders because the other 300 riders Did Not Finish (DNF)

I digress, this win has been a long time coming.  I began doing the Death Valley Double Centuries in 2003. Since then my results have consistently improved year after year. I would have been a good investment if I was stock in your portfolio.

2003 Fall Southern Route official results 14:42   my report 14th

2004 Fall Southern Route official results 12:46   12th

2004 Spring Northern Route official results 12:31  my report 11th

2006 Fall Northern Route official results 12:11  my report 10th

2009 Spring Southern Route official results my blog report— Tandem (not racing this year)

2010 Fall Northern Route official results– 11:38 –   3rd

2010 Spring Southern Route official results my blog report–11:07 –   2nd

As recently as the 2010 Spring Double I placed 2nd (11:07) to Phil Kelley. In the 2010 Fall Double I placed third (11:38) behind Brian Davidson, Emperor Moth, and Daniel Eitman.  This year’s Spring Double will be remembered for its stormy weather.  You can actually tell your friends and coworkers that you rode in conditions that provided headwinds in both outgoing and return legs.  It will also be remembered as the day hundreds of cyclists fought Mother Nature but only a handful had the temerity to accomplished their goal.  Many different things have to go right, especially over a 200 mile distance, for a win. I was fortunate, determined, and ultimately victorious.

I didn’t hurt more than any other time.  I was suffering sure, but the pain felt proportional to the effort and the weather conditions.  You know how sometimes you’re riding and you feel like your tires are sinking into the hot tarmac?  Or you feel like your brakes are dragging?  I didn’t feel any of that.  I just felt like I was working really hard and I was seeing the results of my efforts.  I thought about Pete Penseyres and his 1986 RAAM when he said nothing hurt.

For those who don’t know the name he is a legend in the Ultra Cycling community. In 1986, he set the record for the fastest average speed (15.40 Mph) in Race Across America, a record that still stands 25 years later! In that year, he said nothing hurt, he didn’t need much sleep and he was just riding his bike.  I will never pretend to compare myself to Pete.  What I will say is that when I ride there are things that I replay in my head such as: articles I’ve read, songs I love and conversations I’ve had.  One such conversation I replayed over and over on Saturday was speaking with Pete at RAAM start 2009.  His recount of his 1986 RAAM experience kept me turning those pedals.  Not only is he a great Ultra Cyclist but a great guy to boot!

Cervelo Soloist SL or Cervelo SLC-SL with Zipp 808’s, Shimano Di2, SRM 7900 Wireless Power Meter, Fizik Airone Versus

Did You Know?
Badwater Basin, in Death Valley National Park, is the lowest place in North America and one of the lowest places in the world at 282 feet below sea level. The Dead Sea, between Israel and Jordan, is the lowest at 1371 feet below sea level.



BIKE- Sasha my Cervelo Soloist SL AKA Cervelo SLC-SL. Crankset 53/39 Cassette 11-23.  Zipp 808 Tubulars, Shimano Di2 components, SRM 7900 Wireless Power Meter with Power Control 7, Profile Design CSX Clip-on Aerobars.  Fizik Versus Saddle

CLOTHING- Bike Religion Bib Shorts made by Santini with gel chamois, Woolistic Long Sleeve Base Layer, Short Sleeve Simple Green/Bike Religion team jersey and Swiftwick Merino 4″ socks

NUTRITION- Maintained an average of 250 calories per hour.  My calories came from Infinit Nutrition in my bottles at the start, homemade gel made with Infinit Nutrition, and supplemented with the nutrition provided by the event.

Notice the time for wheels not rolling is only about 11 minutes.  I stopped at six aid stations.  That means my average stop was about 1 min 45 secs per aid station.  Not bad but I have to get faster than that. I didn’t go potty for almost 14 hours either. Honestly, I can’t believe I was off the bike that long.  How can I have been off the bike 11 minutes when I thought I was only at the stops 30 seconds refilling bottles?

The first wave rolled at 6:10 am from the Furnace Creek Ranch.  As soon as we made the right turn onto Hwy 127, one mile from the start, I felt the really strong headwinds (steady 20mph-30mph).  Heading out to Ashford Mills (Mile 45.5) we quickly established a small breakaway of six riders.  We, Red Rooster, Escape Goat, Wolverine, Daniel Eitman, a rider I didn’t recognize, and myself, the Red-Eyed Vireo. worked well together.  Do you notice something?  Four out of the six man breakaway are Furnace Creek 508 solo veterans or 508’ers as some call us.    I took very short pulls and hid behind bigger riders.  We were doing between 12-15mph fighting that damn headwind.

Question- when can a breakaway be established while only going 12-15mph?

Answer- When the wind is over 30 mph! Riders at the start of the 200 miles did not want to exert too much energy so they got dropped and the six of us pulled away.

Incredibly the wind was so strong that there wasn’t any advantage to drafting behind another rider.  The wind just wrapped around the rider in front of you and hit you squarely in the face, chest everywhere.  We tried echelons right and echelons left, we tried straight pace lines nothing  worked!

Three Furnace Creek 508 Solo veterans off-the-front George “Red-Eyed Vireo” Vargas, Eric “Red Rooster” Wilson, Josh “Escape Goat” Talley

George “Red-Eyed Vireo” Vargas

As you can see from the photo above I was riding Zipp 808 tubular wheels which are 82mm deep.  I was having troubles keeping the front wheel under control when the wind would shift direction very quickly and become a crosswind.  Needless to say I spent very little time in the aerobars.  My position relative to the wind AND the rider in front of me were both very important.  Not just because I was looking to be shielded from the wind but because I needed to hold a good line for the rider behind me.  When the wind would shift slightly it would violently take me off my line and startle the rider behind me.  The key for me over the first 45 miles was to ride smart, stay covered and conserve energy.  The Zipp 808 wheels were unquestionably the worst wheel choice for that day but that is what I packed for the race and I didn’t have a choice.  I had made homemade Infinit Nutrition gel and stayed on top of my fueling regiment.  I already had an idea this was going to be a longer than normal double and being more aware of my fueling needs would be the key just to complete the event.  I had planned for 12 hours of nutrition but as you will see it took way longer than that. I was going to come up short with my self-contained nutrition strategy.

As I learned years ago, the lead group blows past the Badwater checkpoint at (Mile 17.7) and doesn’t take any support (fuel or water).  When you line up at the start you should be prepared to ride from Furnace Creek to Ashford Mills (45.5 miles) if you want to ride with the lead group.  Under normal weather conditions that’s not usually a problem.  Typically there are tandems at the front and the pace is fairly high.   Spring 2010 I was part of the lead group and we reached Ashford Mills in less than 2 hours.  This year with the winds it took us 3 hours and 6 minutes to cover those first 45 miles.

At Ashford Mills (Mile 47.7) I made every effort to be the first to pull in and the first to roll out of the stop.  Three scoops in each bottle for the long trek (time wise) from Ashford Mills to Shoshone (75 miles).  I had a small gap from the aid station and saw two riders approaching.  It was Escape Goat, and Daniel Eitman.  I spoke to them about working together to stay away for the rest of the day.  However, each time I got to the front to set tempo on the climb I would pull away.  So I rolled off a couple of times, sat behind them and let them set the pace.  After the third time of me rolling off I just told them that I had to go.  I was feeling good on the climb and knew this is where I needed to make my move.  I climbed Jubilee Pass (El 1290) and Salsberry Pass (El 3315) alone with no one in sight behind me.  When you feel good and you feel like you are on a good day you make your move.   We are a close knit group in the ultra community.  You ask and encourage your breakaway companions to come with you.  But there comes a time when a gentlemen’s agreement is formed and you take your leave and pursue your dreams and your goals.

I was in and out of the Shoshone  aid station (Mile 74.4) as quickly as possible.  My goal was to get back to Ashford Mills as soon as possible BEFORE the winds shifted to take advantage of what should be a tailwind.

On my way back from Ashford Mills (Mile 103.2) I caught a tailwind for just a few miles. I was going 25-30 mph.  I was so happy to not be fighting the headwinds anymore.  I had fought them for 100 miles already!  I was thinking “awesome my strategy worked”.  Killing myself over the previous 50 miles over the climbs had put me back on the valley floor with a tailwind.  I thought I could really make time while the others were still climbing.  But then BAM! all of a sudden I hit a wall of wind.  The scary thing was I could see the storm front moving in.

In the valley, there is nothing to stop or even slightly slow down the wind.  No buildings or trees at all.  Death Valley is basically a funnel or more appropriately today it was a wind tunnel. Riding in the wind is more mental than physical it wears on you and wears on you and wears on you some more!  Of course, it’s harder to push the pedals against the wind but what’s much tougher is looking down and seeing that all that effort is only moving you at 6 mph. Yes, that’s how slow I was going for extended periods of time.  It’s so discouraging.  I was doing the math in my head calculating my current average speed and the miles I still had left to ride in the double.  When I ran the numbers it was quite daunting.  I then thought, “I just need to get to Badwater (Mile 130) and reassess”.

You can see the storm front moving through the valley in these pictures.

But getting to Badwater wasn’t easy. The wind was so strong (steady 35mph- 40mph) and gusting to 50 mph that I didn’t receive any help from the century riders on their return leg.  You could see the storm front coming down the valley.  It was an awesome sight! This white wall of water, ice and sand moving its way south through the valley as you were heading North — eventually this wall smacked me in the fasce. My thoughts were, “Brace for impact lol! This is going to hurt!” Headwinds in both directions are very discouraging but remember stay the course and things will turn for the better.

The wind was blowing so strong it reminded me of the 2009 Furnace Creek 508 – a 508 mile non-stop ultra with 35,000 feet of climbing.  I will never forget how strong the headwinds were that year.  Let me set the stage.  The Furnace Creek Ranch is Mile 252, Time Station #3 during the Furnace Creek 508.  It was around midnight when I left the Furnace Creek time station en-route to Shoshone.  Little did I know it would be mid morning before I would reach the next time station.  74 miles took me 10 hours and 41 minutes!

It was dark and the only thing you could see were the blinkies of bikes and the amber flashing lights of the follow vehicles in front of you.  The winds were steady at 40mph and they were gusting to 60+ mph.  Here is an excerpt from my race report of my 2009 Furnace Creek 508. Remember I said that I replay things in my head  — one of the things I replayed in my head was Isabelle Drake and I leapfrogging each other and motivating each other to ride through the windstorm to the other side.  When you get a chance you should read the rest of the post.

“Daybreak did bring slightly better conditions but only slightly. Or was it that I was refreshed from the hour off the bike? One thing I’d like to mention is the tenacity and will power Isabelle Drake, who was part of a 2X Sandhill Cranes, displayed while on the Furnace Creek to Shoshone leg. She battled through the night in short spurts just like I did. We would leap-frog each other and give each other motivation to continue. One time when I pulled over exhausted she even said to me,  “Don’t you stop [quit] and leave me out here!” Isabelle you’re an inspiration. I’m proud of you and glad to have witnessed your ride!”

Here are comments made by the Race Director regarding the winds at the 2009 edition of the Furnace Creek 508

“Turning east onto Towne Pass, the 10-mile, 5000 foot ascent which is the entryway to Death Valley, the (wind) began to blow in a less favorable direction. By the time the racers started to traverse Death Valley proper, near the giant sand dunes at Stove Pipe Wells, the wind was blowing a steady 30mph from the south, with sand blowing across the road like a river.

As the race route turned due south on the way to Furnace Creek (the halfway mark) and beyond to Badwater, the wind was blowing straight in the racers’ faces at 30mph or faster, with gusts up to 50 to 60mph. Some racers walked their bikes into the wind. Many averaged no more than about 5mph through the night. Race leaders required over six hours to cover the 73 miles from Furnace Creek to Shoshone. The wind truly terrorized the competitors in this year’s race, easily outblowing the “thermonuclear headwinds” of the 2004 race.”


“29 of 59 solos finished = 49.1%. That is the lowest finishing rate in a decade (finishing averages went up when the race organizers implemented a selection process, rather than first come, first serve, to determine the race field). The historical solo finishing average is 58.6% (638 of 1088 entrants) after 25 races on this race route.   Source

It might have taken race leaders over six hours to complete the Furnace Creek -Shoshone section during the 2009 Furnace Creek 508 but it took me over 10 hours. The race leaders were far ahead of me as they entered Death Valley as such the avoided the worst part of the windstorms that us midpack riders had to experiences.

Now here I was in 2011 in Death Valley again battling headwinds…IN BOTH DIRECTIONS!  Tell me again why I have to be present during such epic wind conditions during my races in Death Valley?  Oh right because doing an 1 hour Criterium (going around in circles) in an industrial park doesn’t do anything for me.  But they call that “real racing” when I talk to them ha!! Oh OK got it now 😉

You may be asking yourself why am I talking so much about 2009 Furnace Creek 508 when this is a 2010 Spring Valley Double Century race report?  Right?  Well the main reason is that the wind conditions were far worse on the 2009 Furnace Creek 508.  Knowing I had survived that horrible windstorm in 2009 allowed me the mental strength to keep going.  Again, something else I replayed in my head was how bad I suffered on that night.  I thought about how much I doubted myself and my ability to continue.  I thought about how much will power it took for me to get to Shoshone.  And once I put things in perspective, I realized that the winds I was experiencing were not as bad as they were in the 2009 Furnace Creek 508.  There was no way I was going to DNF this Double Century.  Ever since the 2009 Furnace Creek 508 , I no longer look at headwinds the same way I used to.  Now when I hear people complain about headwinds (less than 30 mph) I think to myself “man they need to HTFU”. People need to experience 10, 12, 16 hours in 60 mph gusts after already being on the bike for 250 miles and 18 hours before I will feel any sympathy for them.  Rule #5 HTFU Finish what you started.

Here is a video from the 2009 Furnace Creek 508 of the morning after when the winds had died down significantly.  But you can see they are still bad.  I’m going less than 10 mph.

Badwater (Mile 130.9) I stopped and had a Coke.  I couldn’t believe how many people were sitting there.  They looked defeated and yet they were only 17 miles from Furnace Creek.  17 miles from the sanctuary.  Not the finish line mind you, because as a Double Century rider once you arrived at Furnace Creek you still needed to ride another 50 mile out and back to the North end of Death Valley National Park towards Stovepipe Wells and back.   But for century riders it would be the finish line.  I wanted to put each rider back on their bike and send them down the road.  But riding against strong headwinds is something you have to WANT  to do not have to do.  You have to WANT  it.  They didn’t want it bad enough.  I thanked the volunteers, gave Emperor Moth a high-five and rolled on.


Saturday’s ride was definitely a war of attrition.  I received motivation from seeing other riders DNF (Did Not Finish).  Allow me to explain it’s not because I’m gloating that other people have failed to achieve their goals.  Or that they lost their fight with their demons, gave up and quit.  No that’s not it.  It’s because when I see SAG vehicles loaded up with bikes on every hook and people piled into every crevice in the bed of a pick-up truck, illegally of course, I think, “yep it’s really tough out here but I’m still standing!” I remember seeing many vehicles with bikes on them.  I later found out that people (family and riders that DNF’d) volunteered to shuttle riders back to the finish because AdventureCorps’s SAG vehicles had reached capacity. Remember we are talking about 100’s of riders DNF’ing!!  I remembered the CNN overhead shots of the mass exodus from Baghdad during the Gulf War. Yep it looked like that!

As I neared Furnace Creek I remember passing a recumbent rider who said “just one mile to go” I replied “for you maybe! I still have another 50 miles!”  I then looked back and said “Well done…”  I wonder if he heard me over the din of the wind.  He was one of the few centuries riders to finish! Good for him!!

2011 Brain Bike ride with Carla Ryan of Garmin Cervelo on her Cervelo R3

The week preceding the Double I spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at Cervelo Brain Bike.  It is a three-day course where Cervelo educates their dealers on everything from frame design to aerodynamics and more. We spend time in lectures, sharing our meals and yes riding new model Cervelo bikes.  At every opportunity that I had I sat down with Phil White, co-founder of Cervelo.  I’ve known Phil for several years now and it’s nice to know that even though Cervelo has grown almost exponentially over the last 10 years that he is still approachable and down to earth.  One such time, we were having a drink and talking about the Cervelos I own and how hard it has been for me to sell them. I own four of them – three road and one time trial.

I still have a 2007 P3 Time Trial bike, an 2008 R3-SL somewhat dedicated climbing bike (I say somewhat because it’s so awesome to ride anytime 😉 , and a 2008 Cervelo Soloist SL or Cervelo SLC-SL as it is also known.  I mentioned to him that I had stripped down my Cervelo Soloist SL, taken pictures of it to post the bike on eBay, but just couldn’t pull the trigger to post it.  He replied saying the frames were rare and that he didn’t know if he would sell it.  I added that I was interested in selling the Soloist SL for the new and improved S3.  As I looked into his eyes I saw a glint of proud ownership.  I then realized that the SL projects, R3-SL and SLC-SL, were projects he was personally involved in.  The Cervelo Soloist SL was his baby.  He shared with me how important the SL projects were to Cervelo.  How the R & D from those projects made huge advances in Cervelo’s technology.  How the lessons learned from the SL projects really set the ball rolling for more advanced carbon fiber design. My conversations with Phil are another example of things I replayed in my head during the race.

Phil White, co-founder of Vroomen-White Designs, Cervelo Bicycles

Well that was all I needed, I wasn’t going to sell Sasha!  I rebuilt Sasha on Thursday night after work (after 7pm) with my Shimano Di2 group, SRM 7900 wireless crank power meter with Power Control 7 head unit.  I did a short test ride in the parking lot at almost 9pm.  I slept in Friday morning.  I needed the rest more than an early morning ride on the bike.  So essentially, I built the bike and raced it on Saturday without performing a proper test ride before Death Valley.  Risky?  Nah  I am meticulous, careful and precise.  I believe somewhere in my lineage there has to be some German or Swiss genes in me 😉

Back to Death Valley

Once I arrived at Furnace Creek (Mile 150) I refueled and picked up my long sleeve 100% Merino Wool jersey from Woolistic.  From Furnace Creek you do a 50 mile out and back loop to Stovepipe Wells.  As I was returning from Stovepipe Wells I started to see riders on their way to Stovepipe Wells.  I hadn’t seen the Double Century riders for many hours.  I had been off-the-front of the race riding alone since Ashford Mills mile 43.   I was now 175 miles into the event.  I saw  Escape Goat only three or so minutes behind me.  Wow that was way too close with 25 miles to go.  He yelled out “You’re the man!”  He is really a good sport, a worthy adversary and a good friend.  It was several more minutes before a saw a few more riders.  And then it hit me — I realized I now was THAT  guy!  The guy that I always see going the other way to the finish with a huge time gap on me.  I was just 25 miles from the finish but I couldn’t let up.  I couldn’t get complacent and I couldn’t get caught!

Red-Eyed Vireo and my friend Escape Goat at the finish of 2009 600km Brevet 375 miles and 18,000 feet of climbing in 27 hours


In the end, all my efforts all my pain and suffering were rewarded with my first win at the Death Valley Double Century.  Yes all those conversations with myself paid off 🙂

My equipment and clothing choices were almost perfect.  The only thing I would have done differently is the aforementioned poor wheel choice.  A lower profile wheel like the Zipp 404 might have been better.  The difference between the 404 58mm and the 808 82mm would have made the front end more manageable in the winds.  It was tough riding in a paceline and holding a good line.  It takes plenty of experience and skill to ride Zipp 808’s in a paceline with the wind conditions we had.  I could hear, my friend Wolverine, exclaim when I was blown off my line and he was behind me.

EPIC TRAINING TIP: In bad weather you just have to persevere, endure and eventually you will be rewarded with better weather or even better THE FINISH LINE.  The challenge is staying mentally focused and realizing that something has to give to get better.  That something shouldn’t be you, it can’t be you, it HAS to be Mother Nature, she has to relent and allow you to pass and continue on your journey.  One thing you must do when riding is to embrace mother nature you can’t fight her.  She is a worthy antagonist and she brings out the best in you.  As the protagonist in this story you will prevail.  The hero always prevails.  Learn to flow with her not resist her.

People often ask me “who do you ride with?” I often reply with “I train alone”.  Why do I train alone?  Well let’s take Saturday’s double century as an example, I rode alone for 150 miles.  For a lot of my friends that’s a full week of training 😉  On many of my double centuries I have been in no man’s land just behind the fast group and ahead of the slow group.  I spend lots of time alone at Double Centuries and of course on the Furnace Creek 508 there is no drafting in packs or pace lines it is a essentially a 508 mile time trial.

EPIC TRAINING TIP: If you aspire to be an ultra cyclist then I recommend you train alone at least once or twice a week.  You want to be pushed, or need motivation to get out of bed fine join a group ride.  But I suggest you ride to and from the group ride.  I strongly recommend you ride a solid six-hour training ride ALONE.  Why do I train alone? Because 150 breakaway is a lonely time on the road! But it doesn’t have to be.  Replay the conversations you’ve had and relive the memories of your dearest friends, your idols, or your family.

I have and idea for the 150 mile “option” of the Death Valley Double Century-why not call it the Furnace Creek 150.  It’s interesting to me how many riders DNF (Did Not Finish) the Double Century.  It’s a pretty powerful vortex that sucks riders into the Furnace Creek Ranch and doesn’t let them escape 😉

On Sunday the weather was ideal for racing.  What a difference a day makes right? 24 little hours ….

Huge thanks to all the volunteers.   AdventureCorps for putting together a well supported event.  Even with the huge DNF rate AdventureCorps seemed in control.  Chris Kostman is a true leader and it showed on Saturday.  Huge thanks to my sponsor for covering my entry fees and lodging in Furnace Creek.  So many more people to thank: Simple Green/Bike Religion, Swiftwick Socks, SRM Power Meters, Fizik for their saddle and awesome insoles, Woolistic for their 100% Merino wool base layers.  Adobo Velo thank you for always inviting me into your family and sharing a meal with me.  You guys rock!

George “Red-Eyed Vireo” Vargas places first at the 2011 Death Valley Double Century Southern Route. Finish line photo

One last thing– I had a Police song stuck in my head the whole day and night.  The simplicity of this song: three chords, a groovy baseline, steady back beat and the lyrics make this a great song for me.  It’s from 1980 – When the world is running down you make the best of what’s still around…  Adopt that attitude find things that are positive and still working “when the world is running down..”

Don’t miss Sting in his Speedo’s at 1:20 😉

Turn on my V.C.R.
Same one I’ve had for years
James Brown on the T. A. M. I. show
Same tape I’ve had for years
I sit in my old car
Same one I’ve had for years
Old battery’s running down
It ran for years and years

Turn on the radio
The static hurts my ears
Tell me where would I go
I ain’t been out in years
Turn on the stereo
It’s played for years and years
An Otis Redding song
It’s all I own

When the world is running down
You make the best of what’s still around
When the world is running down
You make the best of what’s still around

Plug in my M.C.I
To exercise my brain
Make records on my own
Can’t go out in the rain
Pick up the telephone
I’ve listened here for years
No one to talk to me
I’ve listened here for years

When the world is running down
You make the best of what’s still around
When the world is running down
You make the best of what’s still around

When I feel lonely here
Don’t waste my time with tears
I run ‘Deep Throat’ again
It ran for years and years
Don’t like the food I eat
The cans are running out
Same food for years and years
I hate the food I eat

When the world is running down
You make the best of what’s still around
When the world is running down
You make the best of what’s still around

When the world is running down
You make the best of what’s still around
When the world is running down
You make the best of what’s still around


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Preliminary Race Results posted for 2011 Spring Death Valley Double Century Southern Route

My friend, Daniel, passed me the link to Montana Timing for the preliminary results, here. Looks like only 11 Double Century Riders finished.  Now that I’m home it’s back to life back to reality 😉  (who remembers that tune?)   I will get a report together soon.  Thank you for all your comments they are very much appreciated.


Thank you for choosing to read my blog!

Finally a First Place Finish at Death Valley

I’ve been coming to Death Valley for the Double Centuries since 2003.  AdventureCorps holds two doubles a year with different courses. Today, under some of the worst winds I’ve encountered since 2009 Furnace Creek 508, I came in first.  I guess it’s true what they say, “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again.” I will get a race report together and post it soon… stay tuned.

2011 Spring Death Valley Morning Weather Report

Low: 41°F



Next up- Death Valley Double Century Spring Southern Route February 26

On Saturday February 26, I will be participating in the Death Valley Double Century Spring Southern Route. Many thanks to my sponsor for making it possible for me to ride in Death Valley, one of the most spectacular places on earth.  I hope to do well.  I placed second last spring to a very fast Phil Kelley.  Here is the race report for last year’s event.  I was also in much better form than I am today.

In October, I placed third on the northern route.  First was Brian Davidson, second was Daniel Eitman and then me.  Daniel is on the roster to ride and Brian is volunteering thank goodness 😉  But my friend, Adam Bickett, Rock Rabbit, another very talented rider, is on the roster.  Looks like I will have to ride really smart to stay-in with those fast guys.  It’s early in the season so my goals are a top ten finish and a sub 11:30 time.   Anything better than that is all gravy as they say.  Stay tuned for the race report.  As always thank you for choosing to read my blog.  Please pass it along to you friends!

2010 Fall Death Valley Double Century- Quick Post

October 30, 2010 I completed the Fall edition of the Death Valley Double Century.  Unofficially my time is 11 hours 39 minutes.  Unofficially, I came in 3rd place.  It is my Personal Record for the northern route.  My previous best was 12:11 back in 2006.  I am happy with my result.  After the Furnace Creek  508 I hung up Felicia and I haven’t ridden her since.  Basically I have been off the bike for a month.

I will post a race report soon.  In the meantime you can check the AdventureCorps  site for the official results.

2010 Fall Death Valley Double Century T- Minus 2 days

Saturday October 30th I will be riding the Spring Death Valley Double Century.  It will mark my 22nd double century in the last eight seasons.  In my first couple of years I did a lot  more double centuries.  But over the years I branched out and starting doing brevets (unsupported events) and eventually I focused on the Furnace Creek 508.  I became interested in brevets because they were unsupported.  The shorter brevets like the 200km (125 miles) are just a fast century plus rides.  But the longer brevets like the 300km (187 miles), 400km (252 miles) and the 600km (375 miles) really test your stamina, nutrition and endurance.  I became interested in brevets but I fell in love with the 508.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that while I started in Ultras doing double centuries I really enjoyed the difficulty, and solitude of the longer events so my double century count is really low.  By contrast, my focus in the Furnace Creek 508 allowed me to finish five consecutive solo races and an invitation to the Furnace Creek 508 Hall of Fame.

Death Valley Double Century

Brandy and I did the Death Valley Double Century on Feb 28, in a sub 15 hour time. It was much tougher than I remember it when riding it solo. The climbing was much tougher on the tandem. It marks my 19th Double Century.

I love riding in Death Valley. The scenery is spectacular. We were fortunate to have a very mild day. It was slightly overcast and I don’t think the mercury rose above 85F.

Brandy was a real trooper as she suffered from undercarriage issues. We both suffered from nausea but that expected at least once in a 200 mile event.

Chris Kostman puts on a fantastic event. It is very well supported. The aid stations are all in the right place. Thanks to Hammer Nutrition we felt well fueled all day.

If you haven’t ridden in Death Valley you have to put it on your short list of rides to do. AdventureCorps is offering yet another opportunity to ride in Death Valley on April 18th. It is a century ride with other activities. It is called the Hell’s Gate Hundred. There will also be a Fall Double Century and if you are an Ultra Cyclist you should try and tackle the Furnace Creek 508!

I haven’t done a slide show for the Death Valley Double Century. But here are a few pics from the weekend.

On the drive in to Death Valley we took Chris Kostman’s suggested a more adventurous route up through Emigrant Pass. It was a very good suggestion and we thoroughly enjoyed the “off the beaten path” directions. I longed to get on my bike as we climbed up to Emigrant Pass.

The morning of the double century.

The highest point of the event don’t forget to add the an additional 282 feet– the amount of feet we were BELOW sea level at Badwater.

On the drive home we took a different route and took Townes Pass out of Death Valley.

Ever wonder why the climb up Townes Pass hurts so much on the 508? Well this sign tells quite a story doesn’t it?