Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Death Valley Primer - 2014 edition

In exactly one month (October 18th) we will be riding in Death Valley. As Coach Did pointed out in his last post, we have 10 people who have never ridden there before. We also have about 20 more that haven't ridden in DV in at least three years. With that in mind we are posting the following tips for riding in Death Valley. These were originally written back in 2010. This version has been updated with new information and contains addendums that were added as comments to the original post. If any former DV riders have additions to this list please feel free to add them in the comments.

The Death Valley Primer - 2014 edition

1.    It will be hot. Very hot. Inside your oven kind of hot. But it is also dry. Very dry. 4% humidity kind of dry. Dry heat is wonderful in the sauna, not so great on the bicycle. This leads to point number 2…

2. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. Have some type of fluid (water, Gatorade, water, juice, water, watermelon, water, etc.) nearby at all times. Because of the lack of humidity your sweat evaporates instantly. So you are losing water all the time, but you don’t feel it. Always have a water bottle with you, even next to your bedside table while you sleep. Drink a lot and drink often. In fact, start now.

3. There is now cell phone coverage in the desert. Actually, it’s mostly just near the Ranch, but you are no longer digitally cut off from civilization. Although if you want to disconnect from the grid Death Valley is the place to do it.

4. Friday afternoon is free time, enjoy it. Go on a hike. Rent a jeep. Sit by the pool. Play golf. Just make sure to wear sunscreen and drink plenty of fluids.

5. Hydrate. That means drink things, like water, ice tea, lemonade, Propel, and XS.

6. The ride will start before sunrise and, if the wind is calm-ish, end shortly before sunset. Plan on spending 9 to 11 hours out in the sun. As weird as it sounds, put on sunscreen before you come to the starting line. Yes, that means you’ll be slathering up in the dark when you can still see the moon. Once the sun pops up over the Funeral Mountains you will be in hot sunshine until the ride is over.

7. Speaking of sunscreen, bring a BIG tube and a small tube you can use on your bike. Use it often. Coach Did suggests you also use some moisturizer. His actual quote, “Your skin will thank you for it.” Bring some good SPF15+ lip balm stuff too.

8. “Drinking!” You will hear this call frequently on the ride. It means one of your team mates is drinking. Whenever you hear call of “Drinking!” you should respond in kind and take a drink. You’ll want to finish a solid 24 ounces of fluid every hour, at least – you should have to pee at every break point.

9. Breakfast starts at 5:00 a.m. Our first year in DV Mike Clark suggested eating early so that your body will have enough time to “properly digest” breakfast, if you know what I mean. It’s 17 miles from the start to the first break point without a tree to be seen.

10. Death Valley is a starkly beautiful landscape. At times it feels like you are on another planet. The air is so dry that you can see for over 20 or 30 miles down the valley. At times this can become a mental challenge. When you’ve ridden for half an hour and the scenery looks exactly the same you begin to wonder if you’re in an episode of the Twilight Zone.

11. The hotel accommodations resemble a college dorm more than a Marriott. This is a good thing. The very dorm-y post-ride, post-dinner hall party is something of a tradition.

12. Things to bring – Sunglasses, wide brimmed hat, swimsuit, light jacket or sweatshirt for the cool mornings/evenings, camera (have you seen the photos? The sky really is that blue out there).

13. What to Wear – T-shirts, tank tops and shorts will get you through most of the trip. For the Friday tune-up ride wear your West Michigan JDRF jersey. For dinner Friday night wear your team t-shirt. For the main ride Saturday wear your 2014 JDRF jersey. It might be a good idea to pack these in your carry-on.

14. The shuttle bus from the airport will stop in Pahrump for “supplies”. These “supplies” are usually found in the liquor aisle. Sadly, these supplies are not a particularly good way to hydrate, but you don’t want to be buying them at the convenience store at the Furnace Creek Ranch – they’ll cost twice as much there.

15. Other “supplies” you might want to grab in Pahrump: food for Friday lunch (that’s the only meal for which you’re on your own – there’s a restaurant at the Ranch, but it’ll be packed and expensive), non-water drinks other than the aforementioned booze, snacky foods, etc.

16. In case we haven’t mentioned it, it is very important to stay hydrated.

17. Maybe bring a flashlight. The Ranch is well-lit in public areas, not so much elsewhere.

18. If you’re a stargazing type, maybe bring binoculars. You’ll see why the first night we’re there. In fact, we’re hoping to get a mess of people up to Zabriskie Point Thursday night for just that purpose.

19. Ride day advice! Here’s the thing: assuming you’re doing the whole 105 miles, the halfway point in mileage terms isn’t necessarily the halfway point in terms of time. You might only be a third done, in fact – here’s some thoughts:

   a. Wind will more than likely be an issue. And it’ll be stronger in the afternoon. And it’ll probably be a headwind then, too. To minimize your exposure to that, the best “how to ride” advice we can give is get south fast. Now, don’t hammer in the morning and wipe yourself out – you gotta ride smart. But the further south you can get before the sun pops out from behind Funeral Peak, the better you’ll be.

   b. Don’t get overexcited in the morning! The first 18 miles to Badwater is a net downhill. It’s cool, you’re in the shade, and you’re with 349 of your closest friends – it’s waaaaay too easy to find yourself going faster than you ought to. Go fast, but not too fast!

   c. Climbing Jubilee Pass is all about rhythm – find a pace you can maintain, then find your Happy Place and keep chuggin’ and drinkin’. Take breaks if you need to. It’s a loooong climb, and it’ll be getting hot.

   d. Eat smart. There’s gonna be LOTS of food out there – if it weren’t for the dehydration you could gain weight on this ride! Don’t overstuff yourself or experiment with foods you’re not sure about.

   e. In the afternoon, especially if it’s windy, find a group to ride in and get a nice paceline going. Keep an eye on each other, especially as people fall to the back of the line – don’t drop anyone!

20. Did we mention the need to drink lots of water? No? Well, drink lots of water. Always!

21. More than anything, enjoy the experience.

The Katie Clark Addendum

1.    I found dumping some ice cold water on my body (head, shoulders, legs, arms, feet, WHOLE BODY) at each break point made for a refreshing first few miles out of each break point.

2.  One year they had towels stored in an ice chest. Get one, put it on your shoulders, tucked into your jersey and leave it there. Re-dunk at each checkpoint (and if you are dying and see a SAG vehicle - they had the coolers of ice in there as well). Refill water bottles too!

3. The name of the game is keeping your body hydrated and cool off at each break point. You will roll in thinking you are going to die, but if you can cool down and rest for a few minutes with a cold cloth on your head, you will be fine.


5. For those who go up Jubilee, come back down and continue onward... You are going to think you are dying between Ashford Mills (bottom of Jubilee) and Mormon Point. You'll be around 70 miles into the ride and it's going to be HOT. And straight. And you can see forever. Did I mention HOT?

6. Plan on just an extra minute or two under the tent at Mormon Point out of the sun. Drink an entire iced water bottle there and then refill it. Dump some ice water on your head. Redunk your towel in ice. This is make or break point at Mormon Point. This is the mentally challenging part. Cool down, breath deep and know that you can do this.

7. If you can get back to Badwater (17 miles from finish line), you will finish. But you have to be mentally prepared to go in and out around those bends about nine times before you get there. You'll see cars go by and you'll see them for a long distance.

8. This game is physically challenging. It will be far more mentally challenging than you ever thought possible. But you can do it, and if you go slow, I will do it with you.

The Mike Howard Addendum

1.    My mood changes as I dehydrate. I get depressed. If you find yourself getting that way stop and drink. It's not a race. If you see me scowling tell me to drink! Bring Ibuprofin too - I may need to ask you for some!

2.    On the way back from Mormon Point to Badwater it seems to take FOREVER. You think Badwater is around the next bend and it's not. I have 2 pictures from 2005 in that stretch, one from the front and one to the back and there's nobody in the pictures. I use it as a time of quiet reflection on what has brought me to that point ... and then Badwater appears around the bend.

The Derek Dykstra Addendum

1.    At the Ashford Mills break point before the Jubilee Pass climb, make sure your bottles are totally full and, if they have them, grab extra bottles and stick 'em in your jersey pockets.


Jason Sigal said...

Don't forget to "make a Bee line to the Pee line", as Coach St. Claire reminded us in 2011! :)

In other words you should be drinking so much that you have to go to the bathroom at every rest stop (which pop up on average every hour along the route).

ZipMike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Linda TP said...

I suggest looking only to the right on the way out, and then only to the right on the way back in...that way you have fresh scenery!
If you start crying for no reason-drink something.
If you think coyotes are speaking to you-drink something.

J D Stone said...

Getting in on a Ranger guided tour is a great experience and not too technical of a hike. Highly recommended for Friday afternoon.

If you are riding behind Linda TP howl like a coyote and watch what she does.