The Deathride Cometh to the California Alps

I still can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last post and that the Deathride is less than a week away! Certainly my day job has been taking a lot of my time, but that’s understandable, especially lately (typical mid-year craziness combined with regular craziness- I won’t bore you, you likely have similar woes) but as I cast my mind back (RIP Paul Sherwen) to the past few weeks (months?) I realize the time-warp is mostly due to training for the ride itself. Well, okay, here at California Alps Cycling we’ve also been doing a bit of prepping for the exposition (can you say “cool schwag?“), and we’ve been getting our ducks in a row for the bag drop, too. Check out our Deathride page for more information on that and THANK YOU to those that have signed up!

Okay, Before I Continue – The Roads are Ready!

I’ve spotted the Caltrans crews out and about our local highways recently doing a bit of sweeping and other clean-up. The place is looking good!

I rode up to Ebbett’s Pass on Sunday, June 30th, and other than a few errant rocks (it’s a constant here) the road looks great. The snow was mostly gone, and no doubt will be completely gone come next Saturday. Oh, and Kinney Resevoir is no longer an ice rink!

Just this past Saturday, I rode both sides of Monitor Pass; it was a glorious day! I’m not saying it wasn’t painful, it was, especially that eastern side. BUT…the weather was perfect (it’s probably going to be a bit hotter next Saturday) and the wildflowers were popping! There should still be plenty left for the ride next week. I’ve lived here almost three years now and I’ve never seen Monitor looking so pretty so if you’re riding next Saturday be sure to look around.

As for Carson Pass, well I have to admit I haven’t had a chance to ride that one lately. Member and co-founder (and wifey) Pat, drove over to the Bay Area today (poor thing) though, and she reported that the road was good. It will be even better Saturday the 13th since it will be “staffed” with volunteers and riddled with riders. I did ride a portion of Blue Lakes Rd. last month, however, and thoroughly enjoyed the descent therefrom!

Training in the Sierra

Alright, I feel better now. You’ve got the latest intel and I’ve whined about how busy I’ve been. So, onward we go. Preparing for a ride of this magnitude takes months. My wife has been so supportive, as spouses and partners of cyclists have to be, and I’m grateful that the ride is under a week away.

As you may recall from one of my previous posts, I’ve done a bit of research and in applying said nuggets I’ve become stronger and faster, and I have more endurance too. So in the last several weeks, I’ve done an organized ride and a bunch of other “tests” to keep those legs lean and mean and keep my confidence high.

Tollhouse Century (part of the Climb to Kaiser)

The “organized test” took place on June 22nd. I was joined by my brother from another mother, and CA Alps Cycling Legacy Member, Scott (aka Scotty) Keno. It was a really fun day on the bike, made more so because we were joined by three other riders: Dan, Robert and Scott. It was great having the company; it made the day go faster, and so did the pulls! Click here for a Relive video of our day, including a couple “interesting” moments/photos. Short answer = We passed the test. I was really stoked that I was able to do the ride so quickly, and with fewer and shorter rests. All that training definitely paid off! Check out this post; it’s a little reminder of how I got here. You can follow the same plan and perhaps get the same (or better!) results.

The other tests

This ride was the first test, if you will. The other two tests were Ebbett’s and Monitor. So, I’ve done three out of the five and I’m feeling good. Now, it’s on to those other trials: recovery, rest and patience. The latter is not one of my strong suits but I’m learning. Learning how to pace myself. Learning how to take better care of the bod’ and most of all, learning how to enjoy my time on the bike more. Did an active recovery ride today and tomorrow it’s a rest day. I’ll do a couple walks this week and maybe an easy spin on Thursday so I’ll be rested for Saturday. Then I can let these horses outta the gate!

What about you?

You coming to Markleeville next weekend? Perhaps you’re already here? If you answered in the affirmative to either then we look forward to seeing you Friday at the Expo and Saturday on the road. If not, then we wish you well in your next adventure, crucible, challenge, or whatever it is you want to call it.

Now…Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses!

Update on Two Passes in the California Alps

Just this a.m. I spoke with CalTrans about the current conditions on Monitor Pass (Hwy. 89) and Ebbett’s Pass (Hwy 4). Here’s the latest:

Monitor Pass

CalTrans is hoping to open it by this Thursday. There’s about 6″ of snow up there now and with this a.m.’s snow (yup, more of the white stuff fell just this morning) it’s not likely it will be open before then.

Ebbett’s Pass

With the water on the road from the recent rains and snow melt, sheets of ice have formed making it a bit more time consuming to get the equipment up to where it needs to be. In some cases, the crews need to wait until later in the a.m. to begin their work.

There is also a lot of sand, rock and mud on the road, and between Hermit Valley and Lake Alpine, there’s still about 6′ to 8′ of snow, including a bit of Sierra cement, and ice, in places. The CalTrans crew based in Woodfords has made it through to Hermit Valley and the crew on the other side is making its way there now with the hope that the two crews will meet in the very-near future.

The initial plan was to have Ebbett’s open by Memorial Day but that’s now up in the air. You can get up to the 7000′ mark (Raymond Meadow Creek) currently, though. There’s a couple nice pitches just north of the RMC bridge so don’t worry, you can push some watts and get that heart rate up.

Stay off the passes when the roads are closed

A reminder from CalTrans that those road closures are there for everyone’s safety. There are crews and heavy equipment up there and they’re not looking for cyclists or hikers, so it’s a bit dicey to go behind those gates. It also may get you a ticket if the CHP catches you – and it would be a moving violation too, meaning traffic school or points.

Be cautious – they’ll open eventually

There will be time for us all to get up there and enjoy these, and other passes in the California Alps, so please be patient. For me that means a bit more trainer time. I’m taking advantage and doing some HIIT and steady-state intervals to build my strength and stamina for what’s to come. I wish you well on your training and remind you to ride safely.

We’ll be able to kick some passes’ asses soon enough.

Spring has Sprung Here in the Heart of the Sierra

Finally…The Brewer’s Blackbirds have arrived here at California Alps Cycling HQ! A sign of spring for certain!

A Brewer’s Blackbird showing off the iridescent blue that is so cool.

We’ve also seen robins, yet another sign, and just this week, our first hummingbird visitors – an Anna’s and a Rufous.

The Aspens are starting to bud and the rivers and streams are flowing (almost raging). There are waterfalls a plenty and the lakes are starting to thaw. And, that shiny, bright orb in the sky can be seen most days.

Most importantly, at least from my perspective, I can get some serious riding in – outside. Just last Sunday, fellow CA Alps Cycling member Chris Schull and I, did just that! We started in Genoa (best bar around), went up to Spooner Summit, around part of Lake Tahoe, up Luther Pass and into Hope Valley, back down Woodford’s Canyon (Hwy. 88) and then, after fighting serious headwinds most of the day, we were blessed with a screaming tailwind all the way back to Genoa. We both PR’d 40k in about 57 minutes! My previous was about 1:07. We froze our hineys off for most of the day but that last leg was wondrous – you probably could have scraped bugs from our teeth due to our ultra-wide smiles.

‘Twas a great day indeed!

Click here to check out my Relive video of the ride.

So, if you haven’t made plans to come up to the Sierra soon, I strongly recommend it. Fishing season on rivers and streams opens on April 27th and there are myriad Earth Day celebrations, clean-ups and festivals happening everywhere.

In fact, as part of our mission to “help the communities in which we live, work and ride” we are taking part in a clean-up day on May 5th. We’ll be doing some garbage pick up on the 3-mile stretch of Hwy. 89 that we’ve adopted, as well as some other work around Markleeville along with other members of the community and the Markleeville Enhancement Club (founded by my friend, and former Co. Supervisor, Mary Rawson and me). We’d love to have you join us. Let me know if you’re interested by commenting on this post, or send me an email (mschwartz@californiaalpscycling.bike) if you prefer.

In other news…

The Alpine Trails Association is making plans to work on the Thornburg trail, once the snow clears, and I’ll be out there doing what my crew chief tells me to (with my new Pulaski). Al’s Got Gas has recently opened (used to be Markleeville Gas) thanks to our friends, and local philanthropists John and Karrie Baker. They are getting ready for their grand opening on the 27th and not only will they have fuel, but also fishing supplies, fun things to do for the kids, and FatBike rentals (with tours led by yours truly).

I’m also VERY EXCITED to announce that we’ll be opening our first retail outlet at Al’s. We’ll have tees, jerseys, bibs and vests, cinch packs, and decals for sale. Stop on by and get some fuel, munchies and cycling schwag!

Another plug for the Bakers…They also own the Alps Haus Cafe (awesome sammies and soups, and cold beer) so you can get some good grub, too.

Hope to see you soon…

We hope you too are partaking in the wonders of Spring and hope to see you soon here in Markleeville. Let me know when you’re coming up. I’d be happy to show you around.

Climb! the California Alps

For years, like many of my friends, I have been riding bikes. Mostly road bikes but I do some mountain biking as well and have been known to ride my wife’s hybrid as well – especially when I don’t want to gear up.

I’ve gotten to be a better rider over those years, mostly because I’ve lost some poundage but also due to the shear volume of riding, with the associated climbing that comes with living and riding in the California Alps.

I’ve found, though, like many of you I suspect, that I pretty much “just ride.” Yeah, I’ve used a heart rate monitor for years and I’ve been active my entire life, even when I weighed over 300 pounds, but I never really paid attention to the data and until about two (2) years ago I never had a power meter.

So, as I added my big events to the calendar this year, the first one being the Wildcat 125 in Chico next month, I decided I needed to do more to improve my climbing. An ad or an email, I can’t remember which, that I received earlier in the year touted a new book: “Climb!” by Selene Yeager and the editors of Bicycling. The sub-title reads: “conquer hills, get lean, and elevate every ride.” So I went ahead and bought the book and read it from cover to cover.

What an awesome book! It has several plans in Chapter 12 and I decided to do “The 8-Week My-Base-is-Built-So-Let’s-Roll! Hill-Climb Plan.” It’s a combination of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), steady-state intervals, endurance rides, easy rides, and rest days. In other words, exactly what I wasn’t doing! By the way, as it happens, just yesterday Selene posted a blog article on HIIT workouts. Click here to check it out.

Well, I’m in the middle of week 5 and it’s making a huge difference. My power is up, my endurance is up and I’ve learned some new skills as well. Because of the weather here in the Sierra over the last several weeks I’ve had to do many of the workouts inside but thanks to Zwift and FulGaz, and my smart-trainer, that hasn’t been a problem. Last Sunday I got outside for my first ride in awhile and I killed it! Extra poop on the climbs, lower heart-rate while generating more watts, and I PR’d my Max Avg. Power (20 min.)!

So, if you haven’t checked out the book, and if you want to be a better climber, I recommend that you do. It’s a good read with lots of nuggets, and no, I’m not getting paid a cent by Bicycling for this “review.”

And if you have any climbing tips for your fellow riders, comment on this post and share them.

Last but not least, I wanted to let you all know that you can FOLLOW US now on Twitter! @bikedalps is our handle and we’d love to have you join the conversation!

Snowbound California Alps Cyclist Found in Australia

Well, okay, you got me. I’m not really in Australia, at least physically. I don’t know, is it still real if you’re there virtually? Don’t get me started on that philosophical discussion.

I did, though, ride the entire month of February, INDOORS! Crazy! The winter of ’16-17 (our first winter here) wasn’t this frozen or at least it didn’t seem that way. Reminds me of Game of Thrones. And as it turns out, I have yet to get outside for a ride this month. Yet…

Can’t even get this far up Hwy. 4 right now. This is the gate at Hwy. 4 and Wolf Creek Rd. in January. As of today the closure is 4 miles North of Markleeville, at Monitor Junction! So much snow…

The title of this post is somewhat of an ode to my latest recommended app, Fulgaz. Different from Zwift, it allows you to do solo rides all over the world, including Australia. It’s not as competitive (I’ve yet to try the challenge feature as I just recently subscribed – after my 2 week trial) but it’s a nice compliment to Zwift, and vice-versa.

After riding a bit over 400 miles in February I was grateful to have both apps. And with an Apple TV combined with a bigscreen in my paincave, apps running on the Mac or the iPad (fewer, if any connectivity issues I’ve learned) – I set up a tripod with a laptop tray and so I’ve got a bit of mission control – and good tunes on the earbuds it’s not too bad at all. I go with Apple Music but there are myriad music options out there.

Here’s a little glimpse of my pain-cave, which doubles as a guestroom. Notice the high-tech fan and the custom towel rack? Hey, whatever works, right?

Here are some stats from my February:

Miles ridden: 425
Feet climbed: 24,703
Hours in the saddle: 21.73
Calories burned: 16190
Locales visited: Watopia (Zwift virtual “country”); Queensland and Victoria, Australia; New York City; Belgium; Marin Headlands (Marin Co., CA); Richmond, VA; Innsbruck, Austria; Buckinghamshire, UK; Colorado

What about you? What do you do to stay in shape when it’s too chippy to go outside? We’d love to hear from you. Comment on this post and share your advice!

In the meantime…Ride safe and Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses! Even if they’re virtual. That’s what I’ll be doing today because guess what? It’s snowing. Again…

Crazy Weather Daze

My wife and I moved up here to Markleeville in October of 2016 – just before that winter kicked into high gear. My original plan in dealing with the snow was to shovel it. It would be a great workout I thought. That lasted about two (2) weeks. The call to Sears for the snowblower went out one morning and we picked up the ‘blower that afternoon. Major kudos to the inventor of that little gem!

Fast forward to this year, after a low volume winter of snow and rain last year, and as Yogi Berra would say, it’s deja vu all over again! I don’t have any hard data to compare this year to last but from our persective (not just mine and the wife’s but other locals too) this year has been snowier and colder than that epic winter. As I write this post this morning it’s 2 degrees. We’ve seen several days of negative temps too yet I only recall one “minus-day” in the winter of ’16-17.

I also remember that I was able to ride a bit more outside during our first winter. Some of that was behind the locked gates at the junction of Monitor and Ebbett’s passes, which by the way I no longer do. I was a bit naive when I first arrived in the Sierra but after a couple mechanicals behind those gates I quickly realized that it wasn’t such a good idea – what if something went seriously wrong? Nonetheless, I was able to get up those roads that year. Not so, this year. There are feet of snow now whereas in that winter there was none!

Rocking the Mapei jersey on Monitor Pass. Winter of 2016.

Thankfully, there are cycling apps like Zwift and FulGaz that allow those of us who live in the colder climes to get those miles in. Sure, it’s not nearly the same as riding outside but it’s riding at least. Combine the apps with a smart-trainer and it’s pretty cool. In the interests of full disclosure I must admit that the technology can sometimes be a little frustrating. I’ve been going through some major gesticulations with my current trainer – getting the power calibrated correctly or making sure I have the right dongle can be a bit trying. In fact, my new trainer arrived yesterday. BOLO (be on the lookout) by the way for a future post on my (and other California Alps Cycling members) timely trainer tips and tribulations.

So my story of woe continues…I’ve not ridden outside at all this month. While there have been a couple days where it might have been warm enough (if you call 25-30 degrees warm enough) there was either too much ice on the roads or too much snow on the shoulders (the road’s, not mine). I’ve logged just over 300 miles this month and have done so in such places as Australia, Belgium, Innsbruck, Watopia, London and the Marin Headlands. All virtually of course.

Happy Saturday to you all! Today I think I’ll go to a new destination – after I set up my Wahoo Kickr. If you hear me cussin’ you’ll know why. I’ll leave you with this little ‘cicle, as opposed to cycle, video. Ride safe and Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses! Even if they’re virtual passes.

I’ve seen lots of icicles in my days here but none quite like this one.

Current Road Conditions in the Heart of the California Alps

One of my Strava friends recently asked on one of my posted rides if the gates for Monitor and Ebbett’s Pass were open. That question made me realize I hadn’t posted an update on the local road conditions lately. So, here’s one!

Four recent rides

Since last Sunday I’ve toured the area around Markleeville and ridden in or to Diamond Valley (Hwy. 89 between Markleeville and Woodfords), Wolf Creek Road (Hwy. 89 between Markleeville and Monitor Pass and Hwy. 4 from Monitor Pass up a portion of Ebbett’s Pass) and Crystal Springs Road (Hwy. 88 from Woodfords up a small bit of Carson Pass) and have this to report:

  • Diamond Valley – Snow on the sides of the roads but no ice on the roads themselves. Lots of “snow plow dirt” and other detritis on the shoulders though.
  • Wolf Creek – Ditto – heading up Ebbett’s to Wolf Creek you’ll see some small slides, with assorted rocks and boulders, though. Not too “bouldery” on the roads themselves but certainly some. On one ride earlier this week I heard, and then saw, some rock coming down one of the hills onto Hwy. 4. A bit disconcerting…
  • Wolf Creek Road itself is gated/closed.
  • Crystal Springs – Easy going on Hwy. 88 with only the plow detritus on the shoulders. No ice on Crystal Springs Road.
  • Monitor Pass is closed for the winter. The gates at Hwy. 395 and at Hwy. 4/89 are closed.
  • Ebbett’s Pass is closed for the winter. The gate at the Hwy. 4/89 junction is open, and the sign nearby reads the road is closed seven (7) miles ahead (Raymond Meadow Creek), HOWEVER, the road is actually closed 2.5 miles from the junction (at Wolf Creek Road). It’s likely that the gate will be closed at the junction at some point in the near future though, as more snow is forecast for this weekend.
  • Carson Pass is open.
  • Luther Pass is open.

Pix of some of those roads

The lucky shot

Sam (could be Samuel or Samantha) the bald eagle (as we’ve named it) posing for a pic near the Hwy. 4 and Hwy. 89 junction.

Have a great Friday and a wonderful weekend! More snow is on the way so please remember to ride safe and let’s kick some passes’ asses!

The disclaimer

The information and content on this page, as well as any other California Alps Cycling (CAC) page or materials, is general in nature and must be used with an understanding of your capabilities and expertise. Please be sure that any trails, roads, hikes etc. that you use are suited to your skill set as CAC is not responsible for any injuries to you, your companions or your equipment.  Additionally, while we strive to provide accurate, timely and complete information, it is subject to change and therefore CAC is not responsible for the accuracy thereof.