1996 > Eastern Sierra Double > Lisa and KenS's Report
Ride Report for the Eastern Sierra Double Century
Keywords: hill, uphill, high altitude
Most quotable quote: "According to the route sheet, it should be all downhill now!" (this phrase was repeated over and over by 140 riders between 11:00 AM and approximately 10:00 PM...)
Chronic Bikeaholics Lisa Antonino and Ken Straub, intent on ridding themselves of the intense physical suffering and emotional pain of gastro-intestinal distress experienced on previous "ultra" cycling events (see ride reviews for the Death Valley Double, Grand Tour, and Markleeville Death Ride), set out to examine their training and diet regimens and make adjustments, as necessary. Intense research during the four week period following the Markleeville Death Ride revealed several options, many of which were undesirable but several of which might be classified as "do-able". Among those classified as "undesirable" were (1) choosing a less stressful sport (bowling, golf, and croquet were all investigated in some detail) or (2) checking into the Bikeaholics Detox Center to begin the 12-step program. These options were ultimately rejected in favor of participating in a privately funded research program on bike nutrition.
Preliminary investigations on the Internet led us to several sources of information. Discovery of an ultra-cycling discussion group and "home pages" for a number of commercial liquid nutrition products convinced us that alteration in nutritional intake before, during and after long rides would be the key to our success. So we set out with our charge cards to mail-order and beta-test some of the commercially available liquid sports aids. While waiting for these products to arrive, Ken initiated an experiment by mixing up some Exceed "Hi-Carb" that had been sitting in his garage for an indeterminate period of time for testing on a local long distance ride (note: this particular can was stamped: "Lot 0020-xxx: best if enjoyed before Aug 20, 2050"). It just so happened that this day coincided with the hottest day in recorded history for the Los Gatos/Santa Cruz Mt. region where we were riding. The Exceed "Hi-Carb" performed remarkably well in keeping the Bikeaholics energized in spite of the heat, and the pleasant orange flavor, relatively low viscosity, and tolerable sweetness led to a high rating of this product for use on future ultra events. (Unfortunately, we discovered that this product has apparently not been an overwhelming commercial success with the rest of the cycling world, and it is now difficult to obtain).
The first product to arrive was the Seana-Hogan-touted "MET-Rx". Along with the sample packets of "Extreme Vanilla" and "Extreme Chocolate" came samples of the "Extreme Vanilla" and "Extreme Chocolate" nutritional bars. (Peeling the vanilla bar off of the mylar wrapping was a feat in itself, and the flavor could be best described as "chalk-like, with hints of cardboard and new carpet"; the chocolate bar was marginally better.) The contents of the envelope of MET-Rx Extreme vanilla drink were carefully poured into a large water bottle, and bottle was brought to volume with tap water. In spite of vigorous shaking over a 15- 20 min. period, glops of flocculant material persisted in clogging up the nozzle, thus not only making it difficult to drink, but adding complication to the already slimy, chalky texture. Several people in three research groups were given the option to test the material, but only two people consented. They immediately began to gag and choke, and questioned us as to why we would ever want to drink the stuff. It was with this trial that the Gastric Amplification and Gagging (GAG) rating system was introduced, and MET-Rx received a 9.4 (0 = no gagging, 10 = extreme gagging and death). We tried to imagine what it would be like mixing and drinking the stuff on the road and decided instead to use it as a pre- or post- ride supplement. Besides, Lisa had 19 more packets to get rid of. So, she whipped up a batch in the blender with some ice, Rice Dream and Hershey's chocolate syrup. This concoction proved to be relatively palatable and was tried off and on for the three week period before the Eastern Sierra Double. Ken, following suit, tried to mix up some vanilla MET-Rx with ice and Kahlua. This combination received a "DNF".
The following week, Ken received a large shipment of "Metabolol". Several times were posted for tasting, but only the 3:30 PM slot had enough applicants to make it cost-effective. Dixie cups were partially filled with samples of the freshly mixed product, and the volunteers formed a taste and evaluation topology (i.e., gathered around in a circle) to discuss the results. Lisa began gagging even before the first sip had been swallowed, but this was primarily due to a laughing fit. Tasters came to the consensus that the creamy orange-vanilla flavor was pleasant; one (non-cyclist) tester summarized the product as "Not bad, except for the slimy aftertaste!". In this beta test, Metabolol received a GAG factor of 3.5, and was thus advanced to On-Road testing.
Later the same week, Lisa discovered that the "diet and weight gain" section at Long's Drugs had several liquid and powdered products for diet supplement, most of which had a higher percentage of protein than we were looking for; however, one product, Sandoz "Resource", looked promising and a three-pack of Swiss chocolate flavor was purchased and tried at 4:00 PM before our Thurs. night ride up Page Mill Rd. The "Resource" did not cause any gagging, the taste and texture were not too artificial, and we noticed a substantial improvement in our climb and general fatigue level on the ride.
The Pajaro Century on August 3rd was our last chance to test our liquid nutrition before the big double on the 10th. It was decided that Metabolol and Exceed "Hi-Carb" would be used on the ride. (Lisa had a hearty MET-Rx shake the night before the ride in addition to the usual pasta dinner). This event was also used to beta-test Lisa's new Night Rider lighting system, since we decided the day before, in a fit of irrationality, to ride to the start (we left Palo Alto at 3:30 AM and arrived at Soquel High School at 6:30 AM). Like all well-planned scientific studies, a control group was included. In this case, the control consisted of fellow Bikeaholics Marc Nix, John "E-mail" Emmel, and Don Bennett. At each rest stop, the control group ingested large quantities of fresh-baked fruit pies, fat-laden cookies, Poptarts, pizza, cheese, non-dairy topping, and other miscellaneous foodstuffs. During a pie eating contest at rest stop #4, this control group looked on in horror as Lisa & Ken studiously slurped Met-Rx, Metabolol, Exceed, and Gu. Both the control and study groups finished the ride in apparent good form, resulting in an "inconclusive" finding as to which dietary products were better.
The drive to Bishop for the Eastern Sierra Double was truly one of the most scenic trips ever undertaken (rated up there with Death Valley, but with more trees and less swirling sand). The alpine meadows and lakes along Tioga Pass were picturesque, and the view of Mono Lake on the way down was breath-taking. However, the temperatures in the foothills at lower elevation were in the low 100's, and we feared the day of the double was going to be sizzling. The temperature in Bishop at 5:30 PM was 105°! Because of the unavailability of Exceed "Hi-Carb" during the weeks prior to the double (we had nearly run out of the first can), Lisa used a double-concentrated solution of regular Exceed, and a large bottle of Metabolol was mixed up and refrigerated the night before as well. Ken decided to rely on the last of the Exceed Hi-Carb.
Bikeaholics John Emmel and Marc Nix joined us for the main event. Their interest in liquid nutrition and other long distance riding aids had not changed noticeably since the Pajaro Century, although we detected tubes of Lemon-Lime "Pocket Rocket" sticking out of Marc's pockets, and John was observed wearing a CamelBak for the first time ever (purchased two days before). Team TNT was also present in full force, and Captain Dick again reminded us of the rematch for the MegaMonsterPinnaclesEnduro time trial. The ride began with a mass start at the fairgrounds at 5:30 AM, and included a police escort out of town. Even at that early hour, the temperature was warm enough to discourage the use of tights or arm warmers. Jackets and plastic bags were brought along in case we encountered a rain shower. The route was designed so that we would do a minimal of riding on the main highway, 395, and the view of the Eastern Sierras in the dawn light was spectacular. The route started with a fast-paced flat section in a southerly direction for about an hour. The rest of the morning was spent climbing gradual grades on old Sherwin Rd that took us from 4000 ft to over 8000 ft. Metabolol and Exceed were sipped in moderation to supplement the usual bike food found at the rest stops. In fact, Lisa found the now warm Metabolol to be "comforting". By mid-morning we had reached Mammoth Lake, and we continued along the beautiful June Lake loop to 395 and began the final stretch to lunch. After the continuous climbing all morning, we welcomed the descent to the lunch stop at the upper end of Mono Lake, but knew we would have to climb back up to Lee Vining with full stomachs. Both the route description and various lunch stop volunteers implied that rest the of the ride would be downhill, so we didn't worry about it too much. Cumulative climbing before the lunch stop was close to 8000 ft.
Hot, aching feet were relieved by soaking in a stream that ran through the park at the lunch stop as we filled up on turkey sandwiches, melon, cookies, Coke, Gu and other delectables . Moderate stomach discomfort was experienced by one of the Bikeaholics, but it was "not as bad as the Death Ride". After 40 minutes, we were ready to round 'em up and roll 'em out, but not until we had all brushed our teeth . It turned out that Joyce the Orthodontist, last seen on the Big Sur ride last October, was also on the ride and treated us all to disposable toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste . With mouths refreshed with mint-flavored Colgate, the climb back up to Lee Vining that we had dreaded turned out not to be all that bad, and soon we were on our way along East 120 toward Benton.
At some point, someone made a comment about how we were climbing again. We thought this was impossible, since the rest of the route was supposed to be "all downhill", but after careful measurements had been made and the data analyzed and discussed, the four highly educated Bikeaholics agreed that it was indeed a hill that we were on, and it wasn't likely to end for some time. Ken, in particular, was quite upset and responded to any encouragement, such as, "but it's so beautiful here", "I'm sure it will end soon" and "I've never seen forests like this before", with a brusque, "This road SUCKS"! After what seems like hours of grinding uphill, we finally made it to the top of Sage Hen Pass (8250 ft.). Our lighting systems had been delivered to this rest stop, and after we'd forced ourselves to eat some solid food (our liquid nutrition bottles were getting low), we assembled our lights and slowly headed out. Marc and John were eager to make as much headway as possible before dark and took off ahead of Lisa and Ken. This side of the mountain was very barren, with a little scrub brush in patches here and there. Something about the vegetation turned out to be highly irritating to Lisa's respiratory system, and she suffered a runny nose and mild cough. The large rolling hills, classified as small bumps under normal circumstances, were negotiated with our 39 X 25 gears as fatigued legs and saddle-sore rears kept down the pace. After an interminable series of rollers, we were finally rewarded with a number of downhills, including one truly awesome descent that resulted in top speeds well in excess of 50 mph. Eventually we arrived in Benton and talked with Marc and John for a few minutes before they took off. Amazingly, they continued to ingest large quantities of junk food with little apparent ill effects.
After sponging off her face with a handkerchief soaked in ice water, Lisa felt rejuvenated enough to eat some pretzels and cute little yellow cookies (editor's note: they neither looked nor tasted "cute"). Ken, on the other hand, was having a disagreeable day, and sat on a lawn chair with a 50 lb. bag of ice on his head . He eventually perked up a little and started eating some microscopic yellow cookies. The temperature remained fairly moderate, and it looked like the rest of the way to Bishop would indeed be "mostly downhill". The route at this point took us through the beautiful Chalfant Valley, to a final rest stop in the town of Chalfant. By the time we got to this last rest stop, however, Lisa was feeling miserable. She could hardly force down a tube of Gu, and Hugh Murphy himself, who was staffing the rest stop, went into the mini-market at the neighboring gas station to find her a non-carbonated drink. Ken finally ran out of Exceed Hi-Carb and was forced to drink a Diet Pepsi. With a great deal of effort, we got back on our bikes for the remaining 15 mile stretch to Bishop, where we would qualify - at last - for a Triple Crown patch!! We watched the sun set over the foothills, its orange glow replaced by a purple halo against the darkening sky. When the road became hard to see, we switched on our lights, and pedaled our way in the direction of the sodium-light glow of Bishop.
By 8:40, we rolled into the fairgrounds, and were greeted at the finish line by John, Marc, and Larry & friends of Team TNT . After the initial stun had worn off, we staggered our way to the check-in table and made our finish official. We didn't feel as sick as we did after the Death Ride, but intestinal discomfort made it difficult to eat much after the ride. We did manage to drink some Coke and eat some of the overcooked spaghetti (a glop of starch in a large pot) after a while, and we chatted with other bike enthusiasts as we watch more cyclists ride, trip or stagger through the finish line. Of particular note was Team TNT's Dick, who, while performing an impressive rodeo-dismount at the finish line, almost managed to take out $20,000 worth of parked bikes before pulling off a miraculous recovery.
The Experiment: While results from this research study on bike nutrition are still being finalized, a few preliminary conclusions can be made: (1) liquid nutrition aids can be used on double centuries without fatal consequences; (2) we really didn't feel as sick as we did after Markleeville or the Grand Tour!
We are still somewhat puzzled by the apparent "good" performance of the control group (Marc & John) in this study, who finished about 15-20 min ahead of us with little or no apparent ill effects. We suspect their relatively good performance can be attributed either to (a) a statistical fluke (future experiments will include a larger number of subjects to rule this out); (b) cheating (i.e., clandestine ingestion of Met-Rx or Metabolol while pretending to eat junk food); (c) luck (again, future experiments will include a larger number of subjects to rule this out). Further studies are of course dependent on the availability of renewed private and federal funding.
The Ride: the Eastern Sierra Double is truly one of the most scenic and pleasant rides in California. The event was very well-supported, and, as double centuries go, relatively easy (that is, harder than Davis and the Grand Tour, but easier than Death Valley). We heartily recommend it! Total climbing is around 10,000 ft., distance is 203 mi.