2011 High Sierra Fall Century – Ride Report


What a great ride!  This is my 2nd year doing it, and although it is a road ride, I really enjoy tackling it on my single speed mtb.  I knocked 1 hour and 4 minutes off of last year’s time, which felt awesome too.  I ran 33:17 this year, as opposed to 32:17 last year.  I kept a higher cadence as well, and was able to average 15.3mph vs. 14.2mph.  Check the Garmin Data here.  When I signed up for the 2010 HSFC, it was the first long distance event I had ever attempted.  I fought cramps 2 1/2 hours in, and could barely stand up at the finish line.  This year, it’s great to feel/see tangible results after one solid year of training and racing.  I was more confident, had more knowledge of nutrition and pacing… and my legs were wishing there was more climbing.  When I finished, I had a lot left in the tank… but on such a relatively flat course (5,600k climbing over 95 miles) it was hard to empty my tank, since much of my time is spent spinning at 100+ rpm’s on the flats fighting to keep 16mph.  Next year, I’ll have to try a steeper gear or two, and force myself to do all of the climbs out of the saddle so I can keep a higher speed on the numerous flats.


This year, I had an opportunity to volunteer with setup the day before the ride.  I met with John Armstrong and a crew of 10 others at Canyon Lodge on Friday at 8am.  We loaded and filled over a hundred 7 gallon water tanks and put them in a stakebed.   Then we loaded tents, bike racks, picnic tables, benches, chairs, etc- and took them out to all the aid stations and start/finish.  This took over 5 hours.  Then more crews came in to set up and organize the stations, build the tents, etc.  After the event, another crew came in to break down and take back all the gear.  It gave me a great appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes of every well-organized event… And this is one of the best organized events I’ve done.  Registration was hassle-free, thanks to the awesome folks at Footloose Sports.  When you finish, great food and drink await, and any gear you left at the aid stations has been alphabetized and waiting for you in a bag with your name on it.  Great people, great scenery, great times.  Huge shout to the whole crew and volunteer force that helped put this event on: High Sierra Fall Century, Footloose Sports, Mono County Sheriff/ Search & Rescue, Town of Mammoth Lakes, Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra, Linda Wright/ State Farm, Mammoth Mountain, and everybody else I forgot to mention- Rock on.


I took off the squishy XX fork and threw on the niner carbon fork for this ride.  Obviously, I don’t need squish on the road, and it drops 3lbs off my bike weight.  I also take off my beefier tubeless tire setup and switch to Schwalbe Furious Fred‘s with Specialized Ultra Lite Race Tubes.  The Furious Fred’s are super light, in fact at 29 x 2.0, they’re lighter than any other skinnier slick mtb tire I could find.  I would go tubeless, but since I run them at 50-55psi (on my Stans Crest wheels) I use tubes.  All in all, my bike is weighing in the low 17lb range before water bottles, etc.  I decided to carry 2 water bottles (filled with gu brew) and strapped a spare tube, levers, and 25g co2 to my bar stem.  Usually I’d just carry a 20g, but with the high psi, I decided bigger would be better.   In my jersey I kept: a couple mint chocolate gu gels, some endurolytes, a clif bar, a protein power bar, a pack of strawberry chomps, and essential tools (Topeak 9 Multi, Park Chain Tool, and a spare KMC master link).  The temp in the morning is mid 40’s, but quickly warms up in a couple hours to high 60’s… so I decided to wear arm warmers and a light jacket, as well as full finger gloves.  I knew I could drop the warmers and jacket at an aid station, and I don’t mind full finger gloves… after all I’m a mountain biker!


My goal was this- don’t cramp, don’t blow up.  Use this ride as a gauge for my fitness after having limited training time and being away from altitude for 5 weeks.  Another goal was to cut down my “idle” time at aid stations, etc.  Last year, I spent 40 minutes stopped at aid stations and lunch break.  This year, my total “idle” time was only 9 minutes- 1 of which was pulling my jacket out of my cog teeth (I was trying to take my jacket off while cresting Deadman’s Summit, and an arm flew down and got lodged in the teeth… note to self, don’t do that again).  I also spent 2 of those minutes peeing like a race horse right before the Wildrose climb… so I’m pretty stoked with how little time I spent off the bike.


The first 15 miles are a great warmup… pretty flat with a slight uphill grade to the Crestview Aid Station.  Unless you’re overheating and need to shed layers, there’s no point to stop here.  I started with two full bottles, so I knew I had plenty to make it to the Mono Mills Aid Station at 36 miles.  Crestview marks the start of the first climb of the ride, up to Deadman’s Summit at 8,046′.  This climb is not too bad, but it does get the blood pumping.  You can ride it pretty hard, knowing that after Deadman’s there’s 10 miles of fast descending and ample recovery time before turning on Hwy 120 to start east towards the 2nd major climb up to Sage Hen Summit.  By the time I got to Mono Mills, I had just finished draining my second bottle.  Perfect.  The weather had warmed up, my toes and fingers thawed out… so I dropped my arm warmers and jacket there.  I grabbed a banana and filled one bottle with Cytomax.  I knew the climb up Sage Hen wouldn’t take long, and then there’d be a fast descent down to the next Rest Stop at 55 miles – so I’d be fine with one bottle, and save some weight on the climb- something I learned from following XC superstar Todd Wells‘ blog (he always carries just enough liquid going into climbs… the weight savings helps power to weight ratio more than you think).  Luckily, many of the expansion cracks had been filled the day prior to the ride, but there were still a few miles of “da duh, da duh, da duh” rhythmic jarring of bike and body… one rider came around me on a flat section here and said, “Here’s the only place where you must be happy you’re on a mountain bike.”  I responded, “I’m always happier on a mountain bike.” Anyhoo, by the time I hit the Lunch Stop at mile 55, I reassessed myself.  Body was feeling great.  Nutrition was working.  So I filled one bottle, grabbed 2 bananas for the road, took a few endurolytes and was off in less then 2 minutes… knowing that the hardest climb of the ride would be starting in 12 miles.  These next 12 miles are pretty flat, with a few short hard efforts mixed in… so I knew I could cruise with a pretty low heart rate, eat my two bananas, and enjoy the recovery time to mentally prepare for the Wildrose Climb.  It wasn’t that bad at all.  It’s about 6 miles and 2,000’ elevation gain.  It’s pretty gradual and then picks up steam at a couple spots…  I was able to ride most of it sitting down.  I’d get out of the saddle here and there just to switch it up, and work different muscle groups for a bit… the last 1/2 mile or so is definitely out of the saddle, but you’ve got the mojo by then, because you know you’re near the crest of last hard climb!!  Mentally for me, this is where the home stretch starts- I know I’ll see Rick Dodson at the State Farm tent, and he’ll make me laugh… and it’s downhill from there… .  Wildrose Summit is about 73 miles into the race, and you turn and start heading back towards home.  Other than a few short climbs, and one underrated effort up to Watterson Summit, there’s a lot of fast descending all the way back towards Crowley Lake.  Luckily the winds were tame, and the rest of the ride was smooth as silk.  One last stop at 81 miles to fill a bottle, and a flat cruise to the finish at the Whitmore Ball Fields where Angela and Lucy were waiting with coconut water, popsicles and my lounge chair.  Add a burger to the mix, and I was on cloud nine.  Oh yeah, the 2XU compression race socks I wore were fricking awesome.  I swear by compression socks these days.  I’ve been putting them on after long days at work, on airplane flights, etc… I really feel they make a difference with me… especially with recovery.  This was the first time I wore them during a long effort, and my calves and feet felt GREAT!  Thanks, Jeremy McGhee for hooking me up with 2XU!!

The weather was amazing.  I bumped into my friend Devin from Disabled Sports near Wildrose… he was doing the 50 mile ride on his handcycle… what a BRUTE!! I rang my bell at him, yelling “get some”… He later facebooked my and said, “Knew it was you out there Alan when I saw a mad man with five foot wide bars cranking away :)”

Your couch knows where to shove it.

Note: I stole this photo from the photocrazy.com website – (obviously it has their watermark all over it).  It’s the only pic that was taken of me.  I could not get myself to spend $25 for this generic photo.  You can see me riding over the “trip wire” that triggers the locked off camera.  This is the only spot on the course where photos are taken.  Super lazy style of photography and mediocre shots for a very high price.  I race all year long, and am used to real people taking great pics- and for cheaper.  I think HSFC should hire a better company or a few talented individuals, instead of a such cookie cutter, $$ hungry operation.  There are so many beautiful spots on the course… I think they’d sell way more photos if they actually scouted some better spots.  Sorry photo crazy, just my opinion- If you’d like me to remove the photo, let me know.


So next… due to financial considerations, I’m gonna be staying near home for a while… travelling and racing is expensive… but guess what??  After the HSFC, I’m inclined to do the Everest Challenge on my SS MTB… Sept. 24-25… 29,000′ climbing… I’m not going to officially “race” because it’s a USA Cycling event, and if I “race” I can’t use my bar ends.  Bar ends are pretty critical for me and my one gear.  I can’t imagine riding without my Ergon GS2 grips.  I get horrible pains in my right elbow during extended climbs without bar ends… Anyway, I understand the rule… they don’t allow aerobars either… but it’s obviously not intended for SS guys like me… I think being on a monocog mtb offsets the advantage of bar ends when I’m paired against 14lb carbon road steeds.  Anyhoo, now that I’ve vented, I can still “recreationally” enter the race… and officially complete the race… my time just won’t be considered against other racers.  Which is fine for me.  I just wanna finish the 2 day grind within the cutoff times, and become the first Single Speed MTB’er to complete the Challenge!!  Stay tuned…

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2 Responses to 2011 High Sierra Fall Century – Ride Report

  1. Angela says:

    The weather was indeed perfect!!! You finished so early I didn’t even have my camera ready to take a picture!!!


  2. jpmcghee says:

    Thanks for the shout! Have gotten a couple hits on my site from your post. The 2XU arm sleeves save me. Love you, Snaps!


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