Riding Less but Getting Stronger – How’s That?

THE short answer is that I’m getting more rest and better sleep. I’m listening – to my body and to my gadgets.

GADGET may not be the best descriptor I initially thought but upon looking up the definition (a small mechanical or electronic device or tool, especially an ingenious or novel one) I realize it is apropos.

THOSE gadgets to which I refer, and about which I recently blogged, include my Garmin Fenix 6x and my Whoop strap.

LISTENING

THIS morning I had planned on getting in a fairly hard training session before work. However, my tech was suggesting otherwise. And after a month of wearing said strap and “comparing notes” with the Fenix, as hard as it was, I decided to listen.

I need more rest and frankly I find that part of training to be the most difficult. It’s easier to just ride.

OUR cat Ditty (nothing knows how to rest and relax better than a feline, right?) consistently shows us how to get it done so I figured I’d follow her example, and actually pay attention to what my devices, and more importantly my body, were telling me.

THE Fenix’s display indicated that I need 31 additional hours of recovery and that my recovery was delayed by poor sleep. Indeed, I was up late, celebrating my wife’s birthday and so was not able to get my usual Zs.

WHOOP’s recovery screen advised that I was only 18% recovered – my resting heart rate (RHR) was up and my heart rate variability (HRV) was “33.1% below its typical range, indicating that your body is not fully recovered.”

IT seems counterintuitive, at least to me, but since I’ve been focusing more on rest and sleep and mixing up my harder workouts with walks, runs, Kenpo workouts, easy e-MTB rides, and long endurance rides, I’ve been getting stronger.

GO figure! Putting in fewer hours (and miles) on the bike yet getting stronger…And, having more fun in the process.

ON April 1st I was following my new guidelines and I jumped on Zwift for an easy 45 minute spin. It took me a minute to realize what was going on (that’s my avatar with the yellow wheels) but rather than stress about not having my “real bike” (one rider chatted “this isn’t funny anymore Zwift, give me my bike back”) I just enjoyed the ride and the memories that came flooding back. I had one of those Big Wheels when I was a kid, you know?

I was smiling and giggling almost the entire session; in the past I would have whined about it.

PERFORMING

THE reason I’m still in need of more recovery is three-fold.

  • An intense HIIT workout last Friday
  • An endurance ride on Saturday
  • A virtual climb (focused on a new personal best – which I attained) on the Ebbetts Pass North Ascent on FulGaz on Monday.

FOR the HIIT workout I went with rocket drills. My workout consisted of six (6) sprints, two (2) minutes each at full throttle, from a standing start, up a small hill on Hot Springs Road. The rest interval was five (5) minutes, by the way, and I did that by doing a bit of easy spinning farther up the hill as well as back down to the starting point.

ON sprint #5 I hit almost 900 watts – the highest I’ve ever done on the road and it was the penultimate interval!

SPRINT #6, however, was almost a hurl-fest. Thankfully, though, no technicolor yawn.

SUNDAY, after Saturday’s approximately 90-minute endurance ride, I joined the wife for a short and easy ride on our e-MTBs.

THAT set me up for Monday, where I was able to set a personal best on the entire climb, as well as one of the segments, and hold a heart rate of 159 bpm for 60 minutes (per Trainingpeaks), a 2021 best.

RESTING and SLEEPING

AND so it was that I scheduled yesterday as a rest day and joined the wife again on our e-MTBs, this time for an easy ride up to Grover Hot Springs State Park, where my wife got her first taste of gravel on her new Rail.

AS for sleep, that’s where WHOOP is really helping. Now that I’ve been religiously wearing the strap for over a month I’m finding that what I like most is the focus it provides regarding sleep. From the after-action report in the morning, to the alerts the night before, it is teaching me (and it’s validated in my performance results) that sleep is just as important to training as the actual workouts.

WHEN I pay attention to the feedback it provides, as well as the input from the Fenix and Trainingpeaks, I perform better.

WHEN I don’t, I don’t.

AND so while I find myself champing at the bit to ride, or do something else hardcore today, I’m not going to do that.

I’M going to heed the warnings and try to be more like my cat. And in the process I know I’m going to get even sturdier on my steed.

THE Deathride is just over three (3) months away after all and it’s going to be a doozy.

HAPPY hump day! I hope you too are conquering some of those training humps and as always your comments are most welcome.

It’s Another Springtime Thang Here in Markleeville

WE’VE been in denial here at California Alps Cycling HQ, aka Chalet Schwartz. Well, at least we were. Not anymore, though. Reality has set in and so has spring!

WHILE we had hoped for a miracle March, unfortunately we had no such luck, and so we’ll just have to accept the fact that spring has come to the California Alps (and elsewhere). It’s a tough thing, enduring spring here in the heart of the Sierra but we’ll just have to persevere.

The Birds are Back in Town!

IT all starting hitting home, so to speak, last Thursday evening as our local coyote – we named it Wiley of course – made its way along Hot Springs Creek and our meadow, without having to trudge through the ice and snow that recently finished its ritual thaw.

FRIDAY brought in our resident pair of California quail and on the same day we saw the chickens. No, not wild chickens. They belong to our neighbors (Linda & Gordy) just west of us and they let the girls out to scratch around the meadow. It seems though that they’re doing it just a bit more gleefully than usual.

THAT same day, the hummers showed up. Anna’s first, as is the norm, but soon the Rufous’ and Calliopes will be here.

THE Mallards too, have arrived. Mrs. Mallard is just out of the frame as Drake Mallard stands guard.

ROBINS, crows and Steller’s jays are all gathering nesting material and the chipmunks and ground squirrels have recently come out of hibernation, too. No bears yet but I’m sure that will change soon enough. And, we’ve got flickers, turkeys, herons, vultures and dippers as well!

YUP, in case you didn’t know before, you do now. This is a great place to do a bit of birding.

Ahh, Riding With Less Layering

MY gravel bike ride up Hwy. 4 (towards Monitor Pass) to, and a bit up Leviathan Mine Road on Sunday was glorious! There were a few other riders taking advantage of the closed road, too. I did have a chance to connect with one rider who had just come down from the pass. Clear all the way to the top, he said.

Whispy clouds over the Carson-Iceberg, and Hwy. 89, as seen from just above Heenan Lake.

THE gate will soon be open (saw those gigantic snow blowers on the side of the road Sunday) and then it’s just a matter of time before Ebbetts (and other Sierra passes) opens too.

YESTERDAY I partook of my second gravel ride of the spring season – a short but sweet trip up to, and in, Grover Hot Springs State Park.

AS you can see, the sky was as blue as my jersey and both Roscoe and I were very happy to be gravelin’.

Can You Say Fishing?

FISHMAS starts April 24th but that hasn’t prevented people from fishing now. The river is a bit chocolately (another sign of spring) but it should soon be its clear, cool, self. Click here for a few more particulars courtesy of the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce.

ALPINE county will soon be opening up to the public I’ve heard and we’re all excited to welcome you!

SOCIAL distancing and masking is still required inside our businesses but it’s pretty easy to deal with when outside, and there’s lots of outside here in Alpine Co.

OOPS, I almost forgot to mention the spring wildflowers that will soon be popping. Don’t miss that either!

BE safe, stay healthy, travel respectfully, and we hope to see you soon.

Searching for Other Passions – Thanks to My Prostate

I’M one of the lucky (NOT!) men over 50 with BPH. While I won’t go into too many gorey details here, suffice it to say that it has had, and continues to have, a major impact on my life, especially my cycling life.

BPH and Me

ONE of the worst side effects of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia for me has been somewhat regular bouts of urinary tract infections and prostatitis. Yes, men can get UTIs! BPH makes it difficult for sufferers to completely void their bladders thereby allowing that pool of bacteria to brew nicely (at least as far as the bacteria are concerned), which can lead to UTIs.

FOR those that have had a UTI you know it is not pleasant and can be a bit scary.

AND so it was that I found myself, ironically, suffering yet again (4 in 6 years) with a UTI the day after I had a cystocopy to see what was really going in with the bladder, prostate and urethra. The fun started on March 9th and went on for over a week. On top of the fever, headache and general feeling of shitiness (pardon the lingo but it works here) let’s just say that things aren’t happy in the region of the taint, and so sitting on a bicycle seat, or any seat for that matter, isn’t very comfortable.

NOW it wasn’t my intent to provide so many particulars here; this is after all a blog about cycling, not men’s anatomy.

BUT I wanted to put things into context and hopefully I’ve set that stage without being “too medical.”

Some History

I’VE ridden bikes my entire life, and it has been one of my most fervent passions, and so I found myself having the “could cycling cause or exacerbate the problem” conversation with myself, my family and my friends. Again. Oh yes, I’ve had that convo. with my doctor and done some research too and what I’ve found is that there is a correlation but not necessarily a cause and effect.

NONETHELESS, this most recent challenge forced me to ask myself What if? What if I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, ride any more? I’ve been in denial in that regard for quite some time yet this time things were different. My cycling friends were, and always have been so supportive, whether that meant hanging out while I took one of my many breaks while riding, or providing shoulders to whine on. This time was no different.

Interestingly though, I ended up having a heart-to-heart with my new boss (whom I’ve known for years and coincidentally was my boss at a previous gig) who is also a martial artist (Tai Chi). We have a unique connection in that regard as I am also a martial artist (Kenpo Karate) and have been for over 40 years. He too has been extremely supportive, especially in light of the fact that this latest bout occured during the second week of my new job.

Enjoying Independence Day in Bridgeport during its 2019 4th of July parade. That’s my wife, Pat, my FAVORITE passion.

‘TWAS he that pointed out that I do have other passions. Kenpo being one. Hiking another and fishing yet another. Like you I suspect. Riding bikes has almost always been my go-to. It’s my happy place I told myself. The place where that monkey brain stops yakking at me for awhile. But you know what? It’s not my only happy place and in some strange way I’m now content with that. Okay, maybe content is the wrong word. Accepting, perhaps? Resigned, maybe?

GIVING up cycling? Not yet and hopefully never. Open to that possibility, though? Yes. Finding and reveling in my other passions? Definitely!

Lessons Learned

AND that’s the moral to my story. Since I’ve recovered from this latest adventure I’ve found myself riding less. Not a whole lot less admittedly, but less.

Yours truly at the mouth of Thornburg Canyon. The canyon/meadow and mountains in the background.

MORE significant though is the fact that I’ve realized that cycling has not made me what I am. I’ve discovered that I can do other things that excite me. In the past two (2) weeks or so I’ve done some hiking. Last week I took advantage of the amazing weather we had here in the California Alps (wish we had more snow but…) and practiced my katas (aka forms) in the meadow behind my house. And yesterday, gasp, I went for a run! Well, walk and jog more like it but I did get in one entire mile for one of the intervals and I did it in under ten (10) minutes! Pretty good for a large and in charge non-regular runner if I do say so myself.

MY legs are sore, but in a different way. Cool!

I’VE forgotten some of what I learned at the dojo (I attained the rank of Saisho Kuroi, Juichi-Kyu, Black Belt, in 1999, but haven’t been in a dojo since the early 2000’s) and so ordered a few books on Kenpo in order to re-learn some of the things I have forgotten.

Reading some of Master Ed Parker’s Encyclopedia of Kenpo last night got me passionate about practicing more and during that quick walk/jog yesterday I had an epiphany!

YES there can be other passions in life besides cycling, or mountain biking, or gravel riding. I just have to get out of my own way (thank you, Sensei), re-discover some, and be more cogizant of others. Some of those others include doing good deeds in and for my community, this blog, and my new job, which is awesome! And yes, Mr. Prostate deserves some of the credit for me looking at things in a new light. I thank you for that Mr. P!

AND I thank you for reading, and for letting me cry on your shoulder a bit. I hope I wasn’t too much of a downer.

MOST importantly, I hope my story was helpful to you, or someone you know, in some way.

RIDE on! Or run, or walk, or hike, or do whatever floats your boat; and if you have any suggestions for me, or other readers, we’re all ears.

A More Holistic Approach to Fitness? WHOOP May Be Your Answer

AS you know I’m a bit of a data junky and between Trainingpeaks (TP) and Garmin (Fenix watch) I’m getting some pretty good information. But I’ve found that I just don’t have the time to jump into the TP data and with the Fenix, IMHO, the feedback is lacking.

AND so it was that I found myself getting a WHOOP strap earlier this month. I’d heard of, and seen (on Strava), some of my fellow athletes, including pros, using this unobtrusive little band and so when I got the special-offer email I thought I’d give it a try.

Inspector Gadget

YUP, it does feel a little bit like that with the Fenix on the left wrist and the WHOOP on the right but after thirteen (13) days I’ve gotten used to the set up.

THE WHOOP strap is minimalistic – a strap with a clasp.

What It Does (and Doesn’t)

DO, that is.

  • It doesn’t have a watch face.
  • It doesn’t track your steps.
  • It doesn’t track your pulse ox.
  • It does track your sleep (better than the Fenix does) and gives you specific feedback.
  • It does track your recovery and gives you specific feedback there as well.
  • It focuses on what it calls strain and what level of strain (load) you are under currently, and more importantly what kind of strain you can or should undertake that day.

SAYS WHOOP — “By balancing your daily recovery, strain and sleep, you will train optimally and unlock the secrets to your body’s true potential.”

I’M finding that to be true.

The overview panel provides a quick glance at recovery, strain and sleep.

The strain dashboard assesses your current strain and suggests the level of strain needed for optimal training.

The recovery dashboard gives you feedback on your current recovery and readiness for strain.

The sleep dashboard interprets and reports on your sleep performance.

Sleep is Key

AT least I’m learning that it is for me and WHOOP is driving me to focus and prepare for sleep like I do for workouts and training.

MY goal is to be able to sleep like my cat, Ditty. That’s her in the image at the top of this post.

All Together Now

  • The Fenix gives me the ability to capture my workouts and such while at the same time assures me that my resting heart rate and pulse ox are good. I find this especially reassuring when I’m not feeling 100%, especially in light of Covid-19 and the fact that those two data points are often key indicators of something being amiss.
  • Trainingpeaks lets me dive deeply into the specifics of my rides while at the same time mirrors nicely with WHOOP when it comes to things such as Acute Training Load (ATL), Chronic Training Load (CTL) and Form.
  • The WHOOP strap, and associated app fills the what-should-I-do-about-it?-gap and so far this is what I like most about it.

IN the end, what I’m seeing is that the COMBINATION of these three (3) pieces of technology, with their amalgamation of data and interpretations thereof, is giving me that global view, if you will, that I didn’t have before.

WHAT about you? What do you do to keep yourself honest and focused? Please share!

Your Gut and How It Relates to Your Performance – Part One

LET’S face it. We’ve all had gut issues at some point or another while on the bike. I know I certainly have. I’ve also dealt with cramping too, although thankfully not as much as other riders I know.

NOW I’m no expert on the gut, not by any means, but thankfully they’re out there and my recent foray into the world of digestion and nutrition has been via the book “The Athlete’s Gut – The inside science of digestion, nutrition and stomach distress” by Patrick Wilson, PHD, RD.

ADMITTEDLY I just started reading it. I’m about fifty pages in, on chapter two (2), but I’ve already picked up a few nuggets and wanted to share them with you right away because in my mind they are surprising.

What is the Gut?

THE gut (aka the alimentary canal), an approximately 30-foot long system, starts at the nasal cavity, includes the mouth and the salivary glands; and as it heads “south” includes the esophagus, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, large intestine, small intestine, rectum and finally, the anus.

I won’t go into the nitty-gritty of each piece of anatomy but Dr. Wilson does so if you want those details order the book or do a bit of googling.

On a side note and and speaking of the gut…The photo of me at the top of this post is from 2013. I weighed more than 300 pounds then and as you can see definitely had a nice (er…large) belly.

The Small Intestine

THE small intestine is really where the magic happens! It is the longest portion of the gut and as you likely know, in order to fit all of it into your stomach cavity, it does a bit of coiling. Typically that sucker is about four (4) to eight (8) yards long and “that’s about the same length as a female green anaconda snake!” Not sure why Dr. Wilson goes with that particular reptile but it’s his book so I guess he’s entitled.

A bit more anatomy here…The small intestine is made up of three (3) segments and they are the duodenum, the jejunum and the ileum. Okay, I’ve heard some of those terms over the years on various medical TV shows but didn’t really have a clue they were part of the small bowel.

“In addition to serving as a location for digestion, your small intestine is the alimentary canal’s most important site of absorption.”

What? It’s not the stomach? I always thought it was the place where that takes place.

Nope, it’s that little bowel!

Osmosis

REMEMBER that word, and those experiments from science class? Here’s a quick refresher:

“OSMOSIS is movement of a solvent (such as water) through a semipermeable membrane (as of a living cell) into a solution of higher solute concentration that tends to equalize the concentrations of solute on the two sides of the membrane.” – Merriam-Webster

PER Dr. Wilson: “The bulk of water absorption–perhaps up to 80%–takes place in our small intestine and occurs via osmosis. Ah, there it is!

WHY should we care? What’s the practical application for cyclists (really all athletes for that matter)?

WHEN you down a beverage full of carbs or electrolytes osmosis will move water from your blood into your small intestine lumen, which is exactly WHAT WE DON’T WANT when we’re working out!

SO, on days when you want to optimize the SPEED at which fluids are absorbed, don’t go hypertonic (where osmolality is higher than your blood plasma – apple juice and pickle juice are two examples) as these beverage types delay water absorption.

That’s All…For Now

THIS is only part one after all.

I’M definitely no scientist but for those of you who’ve been following my blog for some time now you know that I am into science. Especially this kind of science!

A better understanding of how things work internally leads to a better athlete and a more healthy individual over all.

STAY tuned for more on this fascinating and oh so important aspect of just how that gut affects our performance. Like I wrote earlier, I’m just getting started so I know there’s much more to learn, and therefore share with you.

RIDE on, stay safe and healthy and instead of kicking our own asses (due to a lack of alimentary knowledge) “let’s kick some passes’ asses!”

Take Aways from the Training Plan

LAST Sunday I finished up the Trainingpeaks 4-week FTP-Focus 2021 plan. On one hand I’m happy it’s over but on the other I’m going to miss the structure of just doing what the coach (Paul Ozier – Peaks Coaching Group) tells me to do.

AND so the challenge: how to keep the vibe going! I’ve been pondering that for awhile now; this after I just rode (on Zwift) Tuesday. Per the coach’s recommendation this is to be a week of just riding the bike. It was nice and I felt strong.

LUCKY me…I am finally employed (I started March 1st)!

However, that puts a serious damper on this former professional cyclist (dripping sarcasm here), so named by my brother from another mother, Scott Keno. I’m likely not going to be able to keep up the pace but maybe, just maybe, I can come close. The plan was designed for weekend warriors. I’ll just have to re-think how, when and where I’m going to execute it, right?

AND perhaps most importantly, I don’t want to lose the gains that the workouts brought my way.

What Improved

I hit one power PR on the last day, the FTP test, and some twos and threes, too.

  • I can produce more power at a higher cadence. The plan focused a bit on this since in a sprint it’s necessary to keep up the power while that cadence goes up – especially if you’re smoking and on your lowest gear.
  • I can breathe more efficiently (fewer breaths) at threshold (and everywhere else, really).
  • I can keep a high cadence (90-100 rpm) for longer and much more easily. A lot less rocking.
  • MY overall fitness improved. I was productive more consistently.

What Didn’t

  • MY FTP (290 or 287 – 2.87 or 2.90 w/kg depending whether I listen to Zwift or Garmin) went nowhere. I was surpised by this but am going to hold out on final judgment until I get the WKO files to the coach. My last test was in November (should have done a more current one, doh!) and I followed that test to the letter. I should mention that I am rather large for a cyclist (220 lbs – 100 kg exactly) so certainly dropping some lbs would help and I’ve been working on that: at the start of 2014 I weighed 307 pounds!
  • FOR this test, the coach had me go ALL OUT on the five (5) minute Vo2 max interval that was just before that ten (10) minute rest which was just before the twenty minute test. 🙂 That had to have made a difference (fingers crossed), right?

What Was The Most Challenging?

  • That’s an easy one to answer: the endurance rides. They were hard to endure!
  • As I read in the spring issue of VeloNews this a.m.: “Many riders underestimate the value of long endurance days, which in my opinion are the MVP of training.” – Coach Julie Young, former U.S. national team member and founder of JulieYoungTraining.com.
  • Those long days in the saddle at fairly low watts (205-ish for me) are interesting, especially the four (4) hour versions. It takes some focus to not let loose the hounds.

What Was My Biggest Takeway?

I can see why having a coach makes athletes better. Paul was responsive and helpful when I had questions, and as I wrote earlier, it’s pretty groovy when all you need do is what the coach, and the plan, “tell you” to do.

THANKS coach!

I can’t wait to see what he has to say about my FTP test. In the meantime, now that I have a job, I’m thinking some more coaching is in my future.

Most importantly, I hope some of my take aways resonate with you, fellow rider.

Let me know, will ya?

Deathride News – Virtual and Actual

AS I mentioned in last week’s missive…COMING to a theatre near you: a virtual version of the Tour of the California Alps – Deathride. It begins on April 2nd!

I’VE also got some news about the real version, which takes place on July 17th.

Read on McRider…

Virtual Version

MEMBERS of California Alps Cycling, including yours truly, will be taking part in this epic event and we hope to see you as well. Be on the lookout for an invite to our Strava club so you can earn some bragging rights, and CLICK HERE to register. And if by chance you can spare a few more ducats (there is a donation option) we’d sure appreciate it. Ruptured vinyl here…Our little community, like many others, perhaps even yours, has taken a big hit event-wise due to the pandemic and the Deathride, which was canceled last year, is our biggest revenue source at the Chamber. Thank you in advance for your support.

LET me give you just a bit more background…

LAST year I filmed all of the climbs of the Deathride. GoPro mounted on the stem, top tube pack with an extra battery and a bit of trial and error. I rode them on my Emonda so had to pay the piper if you will, and if you listen closely you can hear my cycling gesticulations as I grind. I promise though, nothing X-rated. I recorded them so that riders, including me, could tour the area anytime, from anywhere – the beauty of FulGaz. For a complete list of all of “my rides” take a look at last week’s post.

I’VE participated in a couple FulGaz Fondos and they are fun! Leaderboards and a course map on your display, while you ride through the scenery, make it an immersive experience. If you haven’t tried FulGaz, whether it be as a subscriber or a “Fondo-er”, you really should check it out.

BY the way, you will not need to be a FulGaz subscriber to particpate. The Chamber will send you a code once you sign up for the Virtual Tour.

Again, starting the 2nd day of April. And again, you can get more details AND register here.

Actual Version

ALPINE County’s Planning Commission recently approved the permit for the Deathride to be CLOSED on both Highway 89 (Monitor Pass – like it has been) and Highway 4 (Ebbetts Pass – like it has been).

WITH one exception…

THE ride will NOT INCLUDE CARSON PASS this year but instead will go farther down Highway 4 to just before Lake Alpine and then back up and over, to eventually finish at Turtle Rock Park. Yup, Pacific Grade x 2. Ouch! The route will be shorter (just about 103 miles) but will still have ample climbing (~14000 feet) and therefore lots-of-weakness-leaving-the-body opportunities. 😉

IT’S going to be so sweet to only have to worry about cars between Turtle Rock Park and Monitor Junction. Alpine County Public Health has been a partner throughout this process and continues to be. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that the ride is dependent on our progess with the pandemic. Fingers crossed we’ll all be climbing on July 17th.

WE’RE currently working on an extra event or two around the Deathride as well. Part of our mission it to bring back that fondo-like experience and while we don’t want to over-promise right now we’re looking to host a kids/family type event the day before, or even the day of the event, to give rider’s families something to so while we’re out there enjoying the beauty of the California Alps.

A kid’s MTB race (maybe even one for the big kids), a safety clinic/fix-it clinic, a yoga class, and a course on Native American art, culture and influence are all being discussed. We’re hoping to have this event at the Hung A Lel Ti reservation here in Alpine County.

Some cool giveaways are also in the mix!

IDEALLY your appetite is now whetted!

HERE’S hoping we’ll all have some images of our own to add from this year’s Tour of the California Alps. I’ve never ridden Pacific Grade so am really looking forward to that. And, to signing the poster!

Remind me I said that when you see me on the course in July, k?

IN the meantime, we’re looking forward to seeing you in April. So please be safe, stay healthy and get those climbing legs ready!

Bike the California Alps Virtually? Here are Some Options!

FIRST and foremost I’d like to announce the Death Ride Tour of the California Alps – Virtual Tour! We’ve (the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce) been working with FulGaz to put together this event and it takes place starting April 3rd!

A Few More Event Details

YOU loyal readers know that I’ve filmed a bunch of rides for FulGaz over the last year or so. Part of the library includes all five (5) climbs of the iconic Death Ride (formally known as the Tour of the California Alps):

  • Monitor West Ascent
  • Monitor East Ascent
  • Ebbetts North Ascent
  • Ebbetts South Ascent
  • Carson East Ascent

COME April 3rd you’ll be able to conquer all of these climbs from the pleasure of your pain cave! (If you’re a FulGaz subscriber you can tackle them already).

IT’S a great opportunity to do a bit of training, and if you haven’t done these climbs before, it’s a great chance for you to get a glimpse of what’s to come (fingers crossed) this July 17th. Heads up that this year’s “real ride” won’t include Carson Pass (at least that’s our plan) and will instead offer Pacific Grade. We’re still working out those details and of course the ride is dependent on how things progress pandemic-wise but we are cautiously optimistic, and we hope to see you this summer in Markleeville.

IN the meantime we’d love to have you fondo with us beginning April 3rd. They’ll be some cool prizes (winners will be selected randomly) and some bragging rights to be had as well. Registration isn’t open until March 1st, and we do have a few minor details to work out, BUT it’s sure to be a good, and relatively inexpensive ($35.00) time. You’ll be able to register here.

AND…as the title of this post mentions, there are some other alternatives too.

Markleeville Area

IN addition to the DR climbs noted above, you can also ride from Markleeville to the Snowshoe Thompson memorial out in Diamond Valley. There’s also a return route from Diamond Valley to Markleeville. The Alta Alpina Markleeville Time Trial is in the library too.

FOR a bit of context…these rides were all filmed in the summer of 2020, as were the Deathride climbs.

Lake Tahoe aka Big Blue

These rides went live just last week!

THE screen grab above is from the announcement email that was sent to all FulGaz subscribers. Here’s what’s available:

  • DL Bliss State Park to Camp Richardson
  • Meeks Bay to Incline Village
  • Incline Village to Glenbrook

Unfortunately, due to a my error, I didn’t film the section from Glenbrook to Meeks Bay. I thought I did but you’ll have to read that post for the back story. Suffice it to say it’s on my list.

Other California Alps Virtual Ride Options

YOUR sharp eyes may have caught the reference to Hope Valley in that screenshot above. I filmed that ride on October 22, 2020 and even though the fall colors weren’t as glorious as I’ve seen in the past, they were/are still pretty awesome. You’ll definitely want to check it out!

YOU can also do just the Blue Lakes Road Ascent, which is part of the Hope Valley to Lower Blue Lake ride, but shorter, and not quite as vibrant color-wise since it was filmed in July, 2020 (on Independence Day actually). If you pay close attention you can catch some shots of Old Glory on this ride.

How Can You Do These Rides?

LIKE the last sentence reads…

JUST search “SCHWARTZ” on FulGaz for the complete list. I thought of saying “May The Schwartz Be With You” here but I’ll leave that up to Mel.

YES, you do need to be a FulGaz subcriber to enjoy these rides. Keep in mind that there is a 14-day free trial though so you can check them out relatively risk free. FulGaz offers some great rides, including group rides, as well as coaching and training options too, so if you’re like me and doing a lot of riding inside, it’s another great option, or addition.

BTW, you WILL NOT need to be a subscriber to ride the Virtual Deathride. You’ll get a special code that will give you access for that event.

Feedback Has Been Positive So Far

Chris from the United Kingdom wrote that “those rides have made me feel really connected to a place I love.”

Curtis from Michigan said “It’s great to relive the Death Ride and riding around Tahoe even though I haven’t done them in person for a decade now.” Curtis also asked about that “missing link” from Glenbrook to Meeks Bay.

Jim from New England had this to say a week ago: “Great ride Mark, did the Meeks bay one last night and it was super nice given the current winter in New England. Thanks for uploading it!”

Lastly, a bit of praise from Bob (whereabouts unknown): “Mark you made me homesick. I lived in South Lake Tahoe for 12 years riding every single mountain bike trail, every dirt road, and every road event from “America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride” to the “Death Ride “. Thanks for giving me the chance to ride Tahoe again. 👍👏”

I can’t thank you enough Chris, Curtis, Jim and Bob, for taking the time to ride ’em and especially for letting us know what you thought. It makes the effort so worthwhile when I get this kind of feedback.

There you have it…some virtual choices for you and your faithful steed.

So let’s kick some passes’ asses! Virtually…

Right now, with the exception of Carson, they’re all closed for the winter anyway, but the gates are open and you won’t see any snowplows in your pain cave.

Major Taylor – An American Champion You’ve Likely Never Heard Of

MONDAY was the first day of Black history month so in homage to all athletes of color I thought I’d write a bit about Major Taylor.

I’M guessing you may be asking yourself: “Major who?”

MARSHALL Walter “Major” Taylor (born 1878, died 1932) was an American professional cyclist. By winning the sprint at the 1899 world track championships (held in Montreal, Canada) he became the first African-American to acheive world-champ status in cycling and the second African-American world champion in ANY sport.

THE first, in case you’re wondering, was George Dixon, a bantamweight boxer born in Canada, who won his title in 1891.

Marshall “Major” Taylor
By Jules Beau – This file comes from Gallica Digital Library and is available under the digital ID btv1b8433366m

MR. Taylor was also an American sprint champion (1900) and a member of several teams, including the See-Saw Cycling Club (love that name, so apropos), an amateur team; and the Iver Johnson’s Arms & Cycle Works (a professional team). Gotta love that too! Iver Johnson manufactured guns, bikes and motorcycles; an interesting combination but oh so American in its diversity.

HE did most of his racing between 1896 and 1904 and after a 2 1/2 year break he returned to competition for a short time in 1907. He retired at the age of 32 to Worcester (Massachusetts), where he moved as a teenager after being raised in Indianapolis.

HE accomplished a lot more than I’ve mentioned in this post. To learn more about him click here, and be sure to take a look at the “Major Taylor biography at a glance.”

WHAT a stud! I can’t even imagine the rigors of professional cycling today, let alone at the end of the 19th, and beginning of the 20th, century. And as a Black man he must have withstood prejudice that most of us cannot even contemplate. As a person of Jewish heritage I experienced some bullying early in my life but being white I know it wasn’t anything close to what people of color had to endure, and still do.

THANK you Major for being a pioneer not just for American cyclists but for all athletes of color. I hope to meet you some day in that great velodrome in the sky.

IN the meantime I’ll wear “your shirt” with pride and remember those athletes like you who paved the way and still inspire us to be better versions of ourselves.

Today’s Forecast? Blizzard Conditions With a Chance of Zwift

Fulgaz is an option, too. Perhaps a Wahoo or Garmin workout instead? I dunno. I do know this, though:
the chance of moving lots of snow today (blowing, shoveling, etc.) is extremely high!

FOR now, since I’ve finished moving some of those flakes (so I could get the images for this post), I’m content to just blog away, watch the snow fall and revel in the fact that we finally have a shit-ton of that white stuff. About a foot or so since last night, with a lot more expected. Hallelujah!

AS a professional cyclist — written with tongue firmly planted in cheek — I have the luxury of not being too hasty in my decision making this morning (or any morning for that matter). “Professional cyclist,” at least in my case, is code for unemployed. My most excellent friend, Mr. Keno, gave me that moniker, around the summer of 2020 I think it was, because I was able to spend an extraordinary amount of time (and still am) training.

ALAS, I wish the situation was different. I do need to earn more ducats than I am currently but am appreciative of the EDD help and oh so cognizant that there are people far worse off than I.

Indeed, I continually wonder how I held down a full-time job, got those many homestead chores done, stayed involved in the community, and trained.

I did it, but as my wife points out, I was a lot more stressed. And admittedly I didn’t spend quite as much time working out then as I do now. That’s something that will change at some point; either I’ll be back into the corporate grind or working at the California Alps Cycling shop, or both, in the near future.

IN the meantime, I wish you a happy hump day and hope that you too got the weather you needed or wanted.

I’m off to the pain cave.

I’LL leave the icicles alone for now.

MAYBE later, when I’m doing some serious snow-moving, I’ll pull a few of ’em down and start my ‘cicle garden.

Decisions, decisions…