State Capital To State Capital Record Attempt
I had the pleasure of spending three days with fellow ultracyclists Chris Davies, Robert Baldino, and Ken Van Dyke talking bikes and ultra racing and looking to set WUCA state capital to state capital records, in this case, Sacramento, CA to Carson City, NV. For those not familiar with this category, as the title specifies, records can be established between state capitals in each direction and for the out and back combined (double crossing). The plan was for Chris to ride Tuesday with me as official and Robert and Kevin as crew and then I’d ride Wednesday with Kevin as official and Chris and Robert as crew and on Thursday Robert would ride with Chris as official and Kevin and me as crew. Chris and I got off as planned, but unfortunately due to a family emergency Robert wasn’t able to ride – we all wish Kathy a speedy recovery.
The idea for this record attempt came up a while ago. We all live in close proximity to Sacramento so this was somewhat of a ‘local’ ride making the logistics easier. We are all in different age groups and as no one had yet attempted the record so as long as we finished at least one leg and complied with the rules, we would all get at least one record. While we knew it would be a challenging route, which was part of the appeal, we also knew the route would be scenically stunning. Chris put a lot of time into getting us all organized and planning the route. Robert rides many of the roads in the area and so had local knowledge and was able to help Chris out. Kevin did a lot of work preparing the logs to track rider progress as required by the rules as well as setting up the GPS files for navigation. I did nothing but show up with my bike so I am very grateful to Chris, Robert, and Kevin for their hard work leading up to the record attempt as well as being crew and officials for my attempt. They were also great company and this was a fun adventure!
The route took us out of Sacramento (elevation 30 feet) on Route 16 cutting over on to Route 49 and Route 104 (Ridge Road) before taking Route 88 over Carson Pass (elevation 8600 feet) and then on to Route 395 for the final miles into Carson City (elevation 4800 feet). The first 30 miles out of Sacramento is basically flat followed by 60+ miles of climbing up to the top of Carson Pass. The climb up is essentially a series of steps, so some climbing followed by a bit of downhill, followed by more climbing. Nothing particularly steep, but a long grind. There is a long downhill off Carson followed by 20 flat miles into Carson City. Reverse for the return with the mileage about 147 each way with over 12,000 feet of climbing outbound and 7,000 feet on the return. This is a beautiful route once out of Sacramento. The scenery is spectacular and the views, especially as you get close to the top of Carson Pass, are stunning.
Chris finished his ride just before 10 PM Tuesday night having left Sacramento at just after midnight Tuesday and laid down a marker for me. Knowing little of the route it was really helpful to get to see it close up as Chris rode the route with me as official. To ensure we all had enough rest, I departed the State Capital Building, Sacramento, California at 9:09 AM on Wednesday morning and arrived at the State Capital Building, Carson City, Nevada at 7:07 PM for an elapsed time of 9 hours 58 minutes. After a 10-minute break I departed back for Sacramento at 7:17 PM arriving back in Sacramento at 4:47 AM Thursday morning for an elapsed time of 9 hours and 30 minutes. Total time for the out and back was 19 hours and 38 minutes. It will be a while before we get formal notification of whether we have set records.
Road conditions were mixed with some having good wide shoulders and smooth pavement, but others had no shoulder to speak of that created some challenges for the crew that they dealt with admirably. Route 16 had long stretches of rough pavement (caused a flat 5 miles in that lost me a little time as I changed bikes) and long sections of Route 88 were beaten up due to winter conditions in the Sierras that made for some uncomfortable riding. Route 88 into Nevada was in good condition as was Route 395 into Carson City although that stretch was a major highway, but a good shoulder. It also turned out that Route 88 had three long stretches undergoing repaving that had one lane closed and traffic being ferried through by a pilot vehicle. I got held up at one of these sections on the way to Carson City waiting with a long lime of traffic that added about 16 minutes to my time. On the return the only construction issue came as we neared the turn back onto Ridge Road. We arrived just as the pilot vehicle was leading traffic through (got lucky), but at the turn for Ridge Road the road was covered in fresh oil and the flagger pulled me to one side. I had to wait for traffic to clear and then walk across the oil and carrying my bike to get through the intersection.
The plus side to my start time was that rush-hour traffic had ended in Sacramento and also meant traffic was light out on Routes 16, 49 and Ridge Road and also into Carson City, both going out and coming back. In contrast, Chris had a lot of construction traffic going up Route 88 in the early morning hours as he ascended (for me that traffic was coming back down by the time I reached there and so on the opposite side of the road) and commuter traffic on Ridge Road and Route 49 on the return. Being midweek there was little of the boat and RV traffic often experienced on this route up into the Lake Tahoe area which was good. The mid-morning start did mean warmer temperatures going up Route 88, but it never got above 90F. It also meant descending Carson in the dark and with the rough roads that required caution and some feathering of my speed. On the descent the temperatures didn’t get that cold (it was 52F at the top of Carson Pass) and as I descended they warmed up getting to the upper 60s by the time we got to Ridge Road and Route 49 and then into Sacramento.
The only part of the route I had ridden before was the climb up Carson from the Nevada side, from Woodfords to the top. This is a steady long climb with a few steeper pitches and a false flat section. I was apprehensive about pacing given the 60+ miles from Route 49 up Route 88 to the top of Carson and the total amount of climbing, close to 20,000 feet. I decided to use my power meter and on any climb keep the power to around 250 watts that marks tempo riding for me. I was able to do this pretty much for the entire ride although on the return climbing the last 6 miles up Carson Pass I ended up closer to holding 200 watts as I ran out of gears and was getting tired. The climb up from Sacramento turned out to be a series of steps with climbing followed by some downhill before climbing again that helped recover from the climbing efforts. The climb was also steady with no steep sections. The descent down Carson to Nevada was fast and fun and aside from a pesky side wind the flat section into Carson City and out again was fast. The climb back up Carson from the Nevada side was a long grind. Being pulled over by a Highway Patrol Officer, who seemed more intrigued by what we were doing than any driving infraction, did break it up. On the return I took 10 minutes at the top of Carson to change all my clothes, as I was about to do a lot of descending I wanted dry and warmer layers.
Overall I was very pleased with my ride. I was lucky with the traffic and avoiding the construction delays and mechanicals Chris had to deal with (Chris had three flats, a broken spoke, and about 20 minutes construction delay). I was also pleased that I was able to keep my time off the bike to a minimum with one ‘forced’ break waiting for the construction, a break at the turn around to get the bike ready for night riding, and then at the top of Carson to change clothes. A few short bio breaks were the only other times I was off the bike. It was also great to share time and stories with Chris, Robert, and Kevin and I recommend undertaking a record attempt and doing it with fellow riders. Last, but not least, my sincere thanks to all of them for their support and encouragement during this adventure.