DMD is a VERY TOUGH ride. The information on their website states: THE COURSE WILL SHOW NO MERCY! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!! It’s all in typed in caps so it’s screaming out at you. It’s best to heed the advice. Despite this fact, 205 people paid to play and take their crack at whipping the Devil.
The route starts out in San Ramon and takes you through Danville, Clayton, Livermore, Milpitas, Sunol, Castro Valley and back. You cross three county lines; Contra Costa, Alameda and Santa Clara. You also get the treat to climb the Bay Area’s two highest peaks; Mt Diablo and Mt Hamilton, all in one day!
Michael and I set a realistic goal of completing the course in 20 hours. The only strategy was to meet the 2 cutoff times and just be able to finish the ride. The Mines Rd rest stop (RS) cutoff at mile 91 is at 1:00PM and the other is at 4:30PM for leaving the Junction RS at mile 115. Once that’s met, Quackcylclists will do all they can to support, encourage and enable you to finish the ride within 24 hours.
We arrive at the Marriot Hotel in San Ramon at 4:00AM. That’s enough time to use the facilities and get ourselves ready for the 5:00AM roll out. The roster shows that 13 GPC members are signed up to do this ride. I see and say “hi” to Mark Abrahams, Ernesto Montenero, Mark Homrighausen, Jack Holmgren and Bruce Berg. After a brief announcement by Scott Halversen, (the organizer), everyone is sent out en masse from the hotel’s front outdoor lobby. I hear all the riders clicking their cleats to their pedals. Because of the close proximity of all the riders exiting, someone takes a fall in the back of the group.
We head out on Bishop Ranch Rd to Crow Canyon before going up the south side of Mt Diablo. Diablo stands 3849’ tall. The average gradient to the junction is about 4.5% for about 7 miles. It’s another 4.5 miles on to the summit with the average gradient increasing to about 7%. The last 200 yards to the parking lot, aka “the WALL” is steep. It starts off around 12-13% and increases to a max gradient of 16-17%. Along the way, Mark A. is chatting with me for a bit before dropping back to do something or chat with someone else. Michael is already riding ahead in the distance. I see Zach Kaplan and say “hi” before the right turn on Mt Diablo Scenic Blvd. The potholes have gotten much bigger on that stretch of road before the entrance to the gate. I look at my odometer and it’s 5:35AM. The temp is in the low 40’s as I start the climb. This is my first time going up Diablo in the dark and it’s quite surreal. It’s pitch black and all I see is the line of cyclists making their way up. It’s like seeing duckies in a row. Everyone has reflective gear and all their lights on, front and back. I see Mark A. several times on my way up. I get to see the sunrise and notice that there are no clouds in the sky; it was definitely going to be a nice day. I also take the time to glance around and take in the spectacular views. I can still see Michael ahead of me. Before I even reach Juniper, there are riders already making their descent. I see Ernesto and give him a shout-out and he smiles in return while munching away on some food. As I’m making the left turn at the devil’s elbow, a little fox scurries across the road right in front of me. I spot Mark H. descending and give him a wave along with a shout-out. I also see Debra Sellers and Jack Joseph descending. Veronica Tunucci, with her signature pig tails, gives me a shout-out on her way down. Of course, I holler back at her. I make my way up the wall to RS#1, mile 19.6. It’s 7:05AM. Michael, Mark A. and Bill Monsen were already up there. Rob Hawks is working as a volunteer and greets me with a hug and steers me to the food table. I refill my Camelbak with water and replenish my water bottle with more malto mix. I eat a few potatoes and pack some in my Bento box along with 1/4 piece of PBJ and half of a peeled banana. While descending the north side, I get a view of all the flowering bright orange poppies along the sides of the road and also spot a group of turkeys with their large feathered tails fanned out. They were strutting around and gobbling. Michael passes me and we regroup at the bottom.
We make our way out to the next climb; Morgan Territory via Marsh Creek Rd through the town of Clayton. It’s starting to warm up, the temp has crept up to the low 60’s. While heading up the two little climbs on Marsh Creek, I could feel and hear someone behind me, so I take a quick glance and it’s Bill. He passes me on the descent before making the right turn onto Morgan Territory Rd and catches up to Michael. I’m actually feeling really sluggish at this point and can sense that my body is trying to fight off some kind of bug. I just have to stay focused and do my best. My mantra for the day is “eat, drink, keep pedaling and don’t stop-too long” Morgan Territory Rd is about a 7 mile climb with an elevation gain of about 1700 feet. The average gradient is about 4-5 % with several steep pitches of 12-14% as you near the summit. This road is absolutely gorgeous! You climb under a canopy of trees that follow a natural creek. The sun is peeking through and creates many shadows. It’s about 8’ish now and it’s such a joy to hear all the sounds of the beginnings of a new day. There’s the trickling of the water along the creek, the rustling of the leaves and the birds are chirping away. I see a few turkeys crossing the road and get passed by a bunch of guys in their Wells Fargo kits. Up to this point, there’s been another female rider wearing a blue jersey that’s been kind of leap frogging me. I get to RS#2 at the summit, mile 51.8 at 9:35AM. I park my bike and head straight to use the facilities. I stock up on more water and food. Ivan Peterson is there working as a volunteer. He warns us to watch out for turkeys on the descent. He also signals me to look up to my right and I immediately see a couple of llamas on top of the hill. It’s warmed up quite nicely and now was the time to strip off the jacket, arm & knee warmers. I just stuff it all in my Camelbak and jersey pockets. It’s a blasting descent on the south side down to Manning.
I tuck behind Michael as we make our way through all the side roads out to Altamont Pass. At the intersection of Greenville Rd, our route joins up with another bike event; the Wente Road Race. Several packs of racers pass as we’re making our way up. I glance over to my right and see all the dirt bikers riding around The Altamont Raceway. With the winds picking up a bit, I catch a huge whiff of the sweet smell of decomposing garbage. We get a little tailwind going up and Michael is going strong. I’m finding it difficult to keep up to his pace. I’m starting to get a headache. We reach the summit and Michael pulls off to make a pit stop. He motions for me to keep going on and I do. The temp is now in the mid 70’s. I make a turn on Midway and pass the aqueducts. There are a few short climbs before you cross I-580 to head west towards Patterson Pass. I immediately get hit by strong headwinds as I make the turn onto Patterson. The climb here is about 4 miles long with a false summit. I glance back and don’t see Michael at all. I’m pretty sure he was going to catch me soon, I wasn’t moving too fast. Near the base of Patterson, there is a huge PG&E substation that looks out of place. It’s something you can imagine seeing in a Sci-fi movie. I’m eating while passing the Altamont/Patterson Pass Wind Farms. Everywhere you look, the hills are lined with windmills. I noticed that many weren’t even operating. I make it to the mini-stop at the false summit at mile 79.7. I turn around and see that Michael is right behind me. We top off our water and eat a few slices of watermelon, which was very refreshing. I took an Advil for my headache and we continued on to tackle the “Oh-My-Gosh” summit. The final climb up is just nasty! It stair steps a few times and hit stretches of 12-15%. Remember I talked about the woman in the blue jersey earlier? She started off ahead of me after the mini-stop. I thought I was climbing slowly, but she was going even slower. I glanced over at her bike and noticed that she had a standard double crank with corn cob gearing. It looked like her lowest gear was a 23. OMG, good luck with that! Michael catches me on the descent and we make the turn onto Cross Rd. Once there, the DMD route intersects with the Wente Road Race course again. We’re going along Tesla and a guy rides up behind us and all I can hear is loud acid rock music playing. He has open speakers attached to the handlebar of his bike. Personally, I’m an R & B gal, but come on, play that stuff in the privacy of your own home or in your car. I shouldn’t have to be subjected to that. We make the turn on Mines Rd and the guy actually ask if we like the music. Michael replies “Man, we’re just trying to tune it out”. The next thing you know, it’s quiet again. I guess he took the hint.
We make the cutoff time at Mines Rd, RS#3, mile 90.9 at 12:35PM. We’ve already done 10,000’ of climbing. I’m greeted by a woman volunteer who recognizes me from the Mulholland DC. She had asked about my lipstick color down in LA. All the volunteers are very encouraging. One guy fills up my Camelbak and says to me “Nancy, you still look very fresh; you’ll have plenty of time to make the next cut off at the junction and pet the goat at the top of Sierra”. I’m thinking how does he know my name? Well I forget that my DMD number is pinned onto my pack with my name on it, of course! I stuff more food into my Bento box and we’re back on the road. It’s another 25 miles on Mines Rd to the Junction Café. It a long gradual climb up the backside towards Hamilton with some flat sections in between. Wildflowers are everywhere. By now, the temps are in the mid 80’s. It’s quite warm. There are many cyclists coming down from the opposite direction. They’re the Mt Hamilton Challenge folks. I hear someone shout out “Nancy, way to go!” and immediately give a big wave back at Jeff Oh. A little further along the way, a female cyclist yells out at me too. I think it’s Laurie, but not sure. So, whoever you are, much thanks for the shout-out! I guess Mines Rd is a great place for bird watchers. There were several cars that pulled out along the side of the road. As they stopped, everyone inside the car pulled up their binoculars at the same time. I also spotted a guy with a camera and huge zoom lens taking pictures of what looked like a little big horned sheep. More Hamilton Challenge folks are coming down the road and we see Wyatt Wood and Sharon Hanes on the tandem. Big smiles, waves and hellos are exchanged in both directions. I’m still feeling a bit off and Michael continues on ahead of me. I lose sight of him after a few climbs and he reaches the Junction Café before me.
I get to the junction, RS#4, mile 115.6 at 3PM. We both make the final cut off. Yes, that takes the mental strain off my mind. Now the only thing left to do is finish the rest of the ride. Michael’s already eating some lunch and relaxing. I hear a person calling my name, I turn around and it’s Kirk Hastings. We exchanged greetings. He’s out doing the Del Puerto Loop with Frank Carothers and Gabrielle Friedly. Michael and I spent half an hour at the lunch stop eating and talking with them. It felt good to be off the saddle for that duration. I stuff my bento box with a few pretzels, pickles and some chocolate chip cookies. Kirk laughs at me and Gabrielle finds it very amusing too. She takes a photo of me and my overly stuffed snack pack. They wished us well for the remainder of the ride as we started to roll out. As we exit the junction to continue on Mines, I hit a bump in the road and a few of my cookies flew out of the pack, I forgot to close the top. It’s mostly flat with a few climbs in between as we head out on San Antonio Valley Rd. Wildflowers are everywhere, it’s absolutely beautiful out there.
It’s about 18 miles to the eastern side of Mt Hamilton. Mt Hamilton stands 4209’ tall. You gain over 2000’ from the Isabel Creek Bridge to the summit. The last 5 miles gets steep. The average gradient is about 9-10% with a few pitches of 12-14% here and there. I tell Michael that my stomach doesn’t feel too good. Maybe it was the mixture of Cheetos and pickles that I had at lunch. Who knows? We also get bombarded by lots of flies buzzing around us. Now I know what a pig feels like. Before we reach mile marker 6, there is a volunteer on the side of the road asking if we needed water. We stop, Michael asked for some ice too. The guy reaches into the cooler for the ice with his bare hands and proceeds to fill up his bottle. This was certainly a bad sanitation practice. A pair of gloves or a cup would’ve helped. I give Michael a look and he looks back at me. No ice for me, I ask for a cold V8. We continue on and I catch sight of a helicopter up on the left side along with a CDF truck. I initially thought they were there for some training exercise. Lee in his BIKEVAN passes us. Just as we go around the next bend around mile marker 3, I see Lee’s van parked on the side with several emergency vehicles. There was a cyclist laid out on the ground, covered from the head down. The police waved us through and I overheard them talking and saying that it was a fatal heart attack. My chest suddenly tightens up, my gut was in knots and I felt really nauseated. An overwhelming sense of sadness came over me. Michael and I rode the rest of the way in silence. There was a water stop one mile before the summit. We ate some banana and stocked up with water. We get to the summit at 6:05PM, mile 133.9. I check my odometer and the elevation gain was already over 14,000’. We stop to layer up for the long descent down Hamilton.
Michael’s best idea of the day was to bring some newspaper to block the wind off his chest. It works! The descent down Mt Hamilton Rd is 16 miles long. It was still daylight, the views of Silicon Valley was awesome. There were a few cyclists leaving Crothers as we were entering.
We make it to RS#5, Crothers Rd, mile 150.9 at 7:05PM. This RS is staged at a volunteer’s private residence. How great is that? The owners lay out carpet remnants so that all the cyclists can walk through the house to use an actual flushing porcelain toilet. WOW! I replenish my malto mix and ask for a hot chicken cup o’noodles. I’m slurping it up and Michael then ask to have some. I could’ve eaten the whole thing! I tell him to save some salty soup for me. We talk to Lee for a bit and thanked him for supporting us. We also thank the owners for their hospitality and set up our lights on the bikes to continue our descent down Hamilton. I’ve climbed Sierra Rd before, but not at mile 156. Sierra Rd is 3.6 miles with an elevation gain of 1800’. The gradient averages a steady 10%. We stop at the bottom of Sierra to turn on all our lights, front and rear. I know both of us are tired by now. Sierra’s going to be a grind! The sun was setting and we’re both just churning away. I was getting very damp from the climb. As we continued on, I see a silhouette of a couple standing atop the ridge. This must be a very popular spot to stop and take in the views of the city lights. It was very dramatic! There were a few parked cars too, if you know what I mean. As we head further to the top, it’s totally pitch black. I then observed a street light in the distance and it’s situated right in front of somebody’s home. I’m thinking that the homeowners must’ve had some pull with the city to get that up there. We hear all the crickets and frogs croaking. We come across a few little frogs just sitting still in the middle of the road.
We reach “Pet-the Goat” mini stop at mile 161.2 at 9:05PM. We’re greeted by the same volunteer who filled up my Camelbak on Mines Rd. He says “Nancy, you’re doing great! I’ve been looking out for you guys. You’re going to finish, go and pet the goat” which I do. Apparently the original goat named Alto passed away last month. His replacement Alto 2.0 was doing a fine job. At this time, we find out that only 2 other cyclists were behind us. As we’re leaving, the 2 guys show up.
We pull into RS#6 at the Sunol Train Station, mile 181.2 at 11:00PM. The volunteers took down our numbers and helped us refill water and offered us food. A hot dog sounded good to me. Maybe the salt & nitrates will help me finish the last 25 miles of this ride. I ended up just eating half a dog with mustard, ketchup and relish, no bun. Michael ate the other half. With only 25 miles to go, we’re getting close to finishing. Riding along Niles Canyon Rd at night is crazy! There are still a lot of cars out there. I can only imagine because it’s a Saturday and the night is still young after 11:00PM. That 4 mile stretch of riding went by pretty fast. Michaels calls out “gravel” as we’re approaching the right turn onto Palomares Rd. Palomares Rd is a 4.5 mile climb with a 1000’ elevation gain. I would say the gradient averages 5-6% with a few steep pitches thrown in. The 2 guys that were behind us pass us on this road. We find ourselves to be the last 2 riders out on the course. My stomach is feeling like crap, the hot dog I ingested earlier wasn’t sitting too well. I had to stop and try to up chuck it and couldn’t. Michael says “you can’t stop now, we’re too close to finishing, and you can do this” Michael’s been riding much stronger than I today, but he would never leave me. “Nancy, keep your form and just pedal through this”, I’m like “okay”. By now, the SAG driver is right up behind us. It’s so tempting to wave him down and get into a warm car, but we’re less than 15 miles from the finish. I feel my toes getting cold, the temp dropped down to the low 40’s. It feels much colder because of the creek running along the side of the road (mental note: buy toe covers). All this time, the SAG car stays behind us with his high beam on to enhance our visibility of the road. We get to the top and it’s another cold fast descent into Castro Valley. As we’re heading towards Crow Canyon, the SAG driver pulls ahead of us and trips all the traffic lights for us. I thought, this SAG guy is amazing! On Crow Canyon Rd, the SAG guy is still behind us with his flashers on. All the while, cars are passing him on the left and we’re practically shielded from traffic. We reach the turn onto Norris Canyon, the last climb of the day, or should I say night. The climb on Norris is a little over 2 miles with a elevation gain of over 500’, but in the dark, it seemed like it went on forever. We get over the top and know for sure that we’re bound for the home stretch. As we’re headed down Norris, we see a cyclist stopped ahead of us, we pass her by and the SAG car stops to check on her. Apparently she got hungry and just stopped on the side of the road. She didn’t realize that it was only another mile back to the finish. The three of us got back to the hotel together. It was 1:21AM. We were the last riders to finish the course.
I see Bill Monsen and Jack Joseph at the end along with a few other cyclists. It felt great to take off my shoes and helmet after a very long day of riding. Spoke with Jack for a while and ate some warm meat lasagna and a bit of salad. Michael claimed it to be the best tasting lasagna he’s ever had! After dinner, I went to the hotel lobby to pay for the day's parking. The clerk programmed a key card to exit the lot. He didn't take my money and gave me FREE parking.
P.S. The cyclist who passed away while doing this ride is Tom Milton. My heart felt condolences to his family and friends.
Avg Speed: 11.3