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Club Longo Home Official Death Ride Site
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Los Padres MTB Video
The Flume Trail MTB
Stevens Creek Canyon Mnt Biking in Los Padres

Tips for Surviving the ....

Since 2007, I've completed 7 Death Rides, all 5 passes each time. This year will be my 8th DR. Back in 2007 I had only 4 weeks of preparation. My friends told me that I'd need 3 months or more of training, but as I found out, with the proper training it can be done. All you need is the right approach and a focus on the important training pointers. Here are ten tips that will help anyone finish the Death Ride:

  1. Training: Hills vs. Distance:
    With limited training time, I had to make a choice between training for the long distance (endurance) vs training for the daunting hills (strength). Most enthusiast riders can probably complete 130 miles on a flat course without too much difficulty. But climbing 15,000 feet is a different matter. My strategy was to ride hills similar in distance and grade to the Death Ride passes. I didn't see the value of riding really steep grades for long distances, as I figured that would just wear me down. Instead, I got comfortable with 5,000 foot climbs over several hills in a single outing. My longest single ride was 72 miles over approx 5,000 feet. I witnessed my strength building significantly over 4 weeks.

    My favorite training hills in the SF Bay Area are:

    • Monte Bello, Cupertino: long, strong grades
    • Old La Honda, Woodside: short, good grades
    • Page Mill Road, Palo Alto long, reasonable grades (but rough surface)
    • Mount Diablo, Danville: probably the climb that most resembles Ebbett's pass in the Death Ride. Great training ride.

  2. Hydration: Proper hydration is the most important tip I can give you. Even mild dehydration will cuase muscle cramps, reduced endurance and longer recovery periods. Carry two bottles and be sure to consume 16oz (one typical water bottle) every 30 minutes. Train yourself to take sips from the bottle every few minutes.

  3. Nutrition:
    • Protein: Eat more protein than usual: nuts, fish, milk, beans are all good sources. Lean meats such as chicken and turkey are ideal. Apart from the power bards, I would snack on slated almonds during the ride. Almonds are an excellent source of proteien & vitamin E.
    • Carbs:For short rides (under 25 mi), I limited my carb intake to the meal before the ride and the meal right after. Combined with a high protein diet, this helps develop more lean muscle. For long rides, I would eat lots of carbs along the away. of all the power bars I tried, the cliff bars are consistently the best. I avoided high-sugar products like donuts.
    • Vitamins | Minerals: I consumed two tabs of Vitamin E, D and Magnesium, Calcium & Zinc, before and after the ride. These vitamins and minerals help with muscle recovery. Trader Joe's sells Magnesium-Calcium-Zinc and Magnesium-Calcium-Vitamin D tabs at reasonable prices.
  4. Avoid Cramping: I had a tendency to cramp on hot, long rides. The solution was to take Hammer Endurolytes. I take 3 every hour.

  5. Heat Training: Expect temperatures in the 80s & 90s during the D.R. As part of your training, get acclimatized to riding in high temperatures, but ride casually. It's not a race. Survive by drinking lots of water and using plenty of sun screen.

  6. Rest Days: Plan a recovery day after each strenuous training ride. I trained 4 days out of 7. Mondays, Wednesday & Friday were my rest days.

  7. Camp vs. Hotel: I slept overnight at the Turtle Rock grounds. I'm glad I did. That's the only way to get started right at 5:30am. Turtle Rock is not a real campground and spots are limited. I suggest arriving before 1pm. I staked my tent and drove back to our rental for the afternoon. Another benefit of Turtle Rock is that they provide coffee and breakfast (for a small fee) at the start.

    In 2008 I slept in Tahoe. The drive isn't long - about 30 minutes, but we needed to park a couple of miles from the start and didn't get rolling until after 6am. That's a waste of precious time because you spend more time later riding in the heat.

  8. Eat during the ride: Eat Bananas, watermellon & nuts. Especially bananas and watermellon. They have the carbs and minerals that you desperately need. Add supplements for vitamins, electrolytes and minerals. Try drinking one or two V8's - plenty of salt and lots of nutrition with a few carbs.

  9. Don't Dawdle Ride: Avoid the urge to socialize while cooling down at rest stops. By the time you've reached the rest stop, your metabolism is in a steady-state of producing energy. Once you cool down, you've slowed-down this process. Restarting is hard and can lead to cramping and soreness. Refill your water, grab food and turn yourself around within 5 minutes. You can socialize with other riders while you're pedaling.

  10. Take a Friend: You'll dramatically improve your chances of completing all 5 passes if you ride with a friend. You'll help one other through the times of desperation.
  11. Preview for 2015: In last year's DR, I tried a different approach for nutrition and hydration. I ate mainly fruits (watermellon, bananas, oranges). I drtank two V8 vegetable juices (lots of salt) and I carried just one full waterbottle per pass, with Cytomax. At each rest stop, I drank one more waterbottle, and rode with just one. This not only saved weight, but I also noticed I had a little more power. Why? Seems that over-hydrating can dilute your blood, reducing nutrient deliver to your muscles. This is entirely subjective - some people perspire more than other - but with plenty of water stops on each pass, I never ran dry. As for the food, I found it much easier to digest fruits than other solids such as power bar. I also skipped the lunch stop for the same reason. It all worked in my favor - I comfortably climbed the 5th Pass, Carson, better than in most years.

    Update for 2009: I completed all 5 passes in 2009. But I started training as early as April. On the day, I ate mainly power bars, bananas and almost nothing else. But I ate lots of them! I finished strong. The extra training (over 4K miles this year) and the right nutrition and hydration on the day made it possible.

    Living in the SF Bay Area? Train with us. Sign up for our weekly rides at
    Suggestions or tips? Let me know and I'll publish them here.
    Have a great ride

    Joe Longo
    Pinarello Prince & F3:13 | Wilier Mortirolo | Tommasini Sintesi
    Saratoga, CA
    E: joelongo @ mac .com

    Last updated May 2, 2015