Thursday, May 21, 2009

Riding at Elevation…..

This past weekend the wife and I were in Tahoe for a wedding… least that was one of the reasons we were there. The other (and most important as far as I was concerned) was so that I could experience some of the infamous Tahoe singletrack….

We got up there late Friday night and checked into the Marriott Timber Lodge. (VERY nice btw) Saturday morning, I woke early and loaded up the bike. I had a general idea of where I was headed, but having never ridden up there, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had talked to a guy on the mt bike forum and he mentioned a couple of trails and a good starting point.

So, with Mapquest in hand I headed out looking for the trailhead. It was actually pretty easy to find and knowing that the first part of the ride would be a road ride of approx 3-4 miles uphill, I left that arm/leg warmers in the truck and started pedaling.

At first the riding was nice and easy. It was a slight uphill grade and paved so the 34/18 gear on the SS seemed to be working fine…..until I turned the corner and the road headed uphill at a more serious angle.
No problem, I thought, I ride an SS. I’m used to standing and pedaling for long periods….besides, I’m a finely tuned cycling machine… I stood and kept grinding…..until it got steeper…..ok….this is…….getting….tough…..I’m….totally…..winded….and have gone…..less than …..2….miles…..

It was about that point that I realized I was kinda hungry…maybe eating something before the ride would have been a good idea…..hey there’s a clif bar in my camelback, sure it’s a couple seasons old, but that’s ok……besides….saying I stopped to eat sounds much better than stopping because my heart was going to explode…..

So, with my heart pounding in my ears and my breath coming in ragged gasps, I pulled over and unclipped….here’s something you may not know…..2 year old clif bars are HARD AS A ROCK!!!
Here’s something else you might not know….trying to chew, while you’re gasping for oxygen is tough….at one point I almost choked on a chunk of my clif bar and started coughing so bad I thought I might actually hurl…..

Well, being the cycling god that I am… heart rate actually came down pretty quickly and my breathing returned to an almost normal state so I started off again determined to not stop again until I reached the trailhead…..little did I know I had yet to get to the steep part….

I took my time and drank lots of water/Gatorade from my camelback (still trying to wash down the 2 year old clif bar) and although the road went up and down and up again I was feeling pretty ok. (note – the red face and ragged gasping for breath were strictly a result of not being acclimated to the elevation and is no way a sign that I might not be the cycling machine that I claim to be)

Thankfully a few minutes later my phone started ringing and I had yet another excuse to stop. It was my daughter calling to say good morning. I’m sure I was pleasant and witty on the phone as I always am, but to be honest, things were kinda fuzzy at that point (again a symptom of elevation sickness not a reflection of my fitness level) and I may have actually been a little gruff…
So, the phone securely stashed back in the pack, I was pedaling again…’s funny the things that go through your head when you’re out in the middle of nowhere, by yourself, starved for oxygen…I actually started playing rhyming games in my head….poetry if you will….
Gasping and panting
Needing more air
Must keep pedaling
Please God, am I almost there?

Trees and hills
I thought I liked hills
But, instead of riding my bike
I wish I was at Bills
(Buffalo Bill's brewery for those of you that don’t know)

Actually, there were many, many more that I came up with but in the same way a woman blocks out the pain of childbirth remembering only the joy, I’ve pretty much blocked out most of that climb…..

The funny thing about riding a new road or trail is that you’re never sure where you are in relation to where you want to be. Sure I probably could have been more prepared and actually gotten a map of the area, but hey, where’s the adventure in that…..Eventually though, I came to another gate and the sign telling me I was finally at the trailhead. (was that really only 3 or 4 miles?)

Well, the work was over and the fun was about to begin…..

The trail was amazing….granite sand, kind of damp, lots of rocks…..traction was perfect…I hadn’t gone very far when I saw another rider pedaling up the trail. Turns out it was the guy I had been talking to on the forums….what are the chances that out in the middle of nowhere I’d run into this guy….he gave me some ideas for making a little bit longer loop and we parted ways.

After leaving him and being so stoked to be going downhill instead of up, I railed from swoopy, banked corner to swoopy banked corner with the biggest shit-eatin grin you can imagine…..

It was about half way down the hill after launching off a nice little granite rock that it dawned on me that, should I crash, my wife has no idea where to even look for the body….I decided to slow down a bit after that.

After getting to the bottom of Corral trail, I hit Powerline and headed back uphill…..(idiot) I rode up for a while, came across the entrance to what I think was Incense Cedar Trail, took that back up to the intersection with Corral and railed back down that for a second time (same trail, same shit eatin grin) which took me back to Powerline. Powerline btw, is much more fun going down than up and eventually I made it back to my truck….

Total ride time, 2 hours…total fun factor….10+++++

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