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.

Feeling a Bit Sluggish on the Bike? Perhaps You Need a Plan!

MY fitness was flagging. There was no “go” in the gams. The brain was befuddled and my slumber was sub-standard.

a roaring lion

AND in addition to all of that I was a bit cranky.

YUP, you guessed it! I was overtraining. Over reaching. Well, just over.

IT was time to find a training plan I decided. I’ve done a few structured plans in the past (click here to read about one I did a couple years back that is climbing focused) and they’ve always done me right.

ZWIFT Academy had some options as did TRAININGPEAKS. I tried one of the workouts on Zwift and it was really good. I’ve done quite a few of the other generic workouts on Zwift as well but I was looking for something or someone to tell me what to do, and mayhaps more importantly, what NOT to do, or when NOT to do it. 😉

I needed some structure and I couldn’t really afford a coach. Frankly, I don’t feel I’m at the level where having a coach is even justified, anyway.

SINCE I’ve been using TRAININGPEAKS for some time now, and digging the feedback, I decided to go with one of its plans.

FTP FOCUS 2021 – Power/Threshold Improvement – 4 Weeks’ Training Plan

WAS the plan I chose. I went with it because it was only four (4) weeks long and I had a good base fitness. My new job starts on March 1st too (so stoked!) so I didn’t want to go with a longer program. As it was, I’d be doing that last week during my first week of employment, but in looking at the plan particulars I could see that was do-able; the last week was the easiest and least time consuming.

THE other reason I went with it, and this is a biggie IMHO, is that it syncs with Zwift. Once you purchase the plan you can access each day’s workouts in the training area of Zwift! You can pick any course and then just select the workout you want to run. Zwift will run in ERG mode, provide the prompts for each interval and “yell” at you if your watts are too high or low or your cadence is too fast or slow.

Get those watts up! Not low enough to get “yelled at,” though. The intervals that have been completed, and those that are coming, are displayed on the left.

HELPFUL tip: Pick a flatter course if you want to get more miles in or a hilly course if you want to get the elevation. Since you’ll be in ERG mode the trainer won’t adjust based on the terrain. Instead the resistence will be set according to the workout parameters.

Doing the Work

THE week before I started the plan I noticed my VO2 Max was flat. If I’m doing things right that doesn’t happen; it typically rises as the week progresses. That was another sign (of over-training) as was my steadily rising resting-heart rate.

SO, to kick things off I took two (2) days off, one of which was Day 1 of the training plan. Every Monday is a rest day. Each week ramps up and culminates in a tough weekend. The day before each workout I get an email reminder with the necessary details and the sessions also appear in my TRAININGPEAKS calendar (image below) so I’m prepared for the next day and focused on the current day’s nutrition, recovery and hydration.

My trainingpeaks calendar for this week. The calorie info. is there because TP also integrates with MyFitnessPal, yet another cool feature.

SO it was that on Tuesday, February 9th, I jumped in, or on really. That first week was fairly difficult. It started with a “Power and Fast Cadence” workout, some sweet-spot training (SST) on day 2, a two (2) hour endurance/tempo workout on day 3, some more endurance work on day 4, three (3) max FTP efforts on day 5 and it finished off on Sunday with a two (2) hour SST and endurance ride.

Let’s just say I was happy to have a rest day this past Monday.

UP to this point I’ve done all of the rides on the trainer, which for me is better because there just aren’t that many flat roads here and trying to maintain certain watts and cadence while hitting the rollers, for example, is problematic. Mentally, though, it’s hard being on the KICKR for two (2) hours and I find it somewhat formidable when the sessions are focused on maintaining the same power for a long period of time, like the endurance workout I did on day 4.

203 watts at the same cadence for an hour took some discipline!

WHAT about that four (4) hour ride that’s coming up this Saturday, the 20th? I’ll be doing that one OUTSIDE. In Monterey. The bonus: it will give my wife and me a chance to smell some seaweed, feel some fog and gorge on some good seafood.

The Data Points

HERE’S what I’ve noticed so far, after completing eight (8) workouts:

  • My VO2 max has gone from 45 to 49
  • I feel stronger
  • I’m sleeping better
  • My resting-heart rate is back to where it should be (low to mid-40’s) and is stable
  • I’m not “that lion” anymore
  • My Garmin watch is providing validation – I’ve been “productive” since I started the plan whereas before I was in unproductive mode for quite awhile.
  • FTP – Currently it’s 290. I’m certainly interested to see how (if?) it improves. The plan does include a test on the last day.
  • Weight – Currently about 218 pounds. Getting it down further, and FTP up at the same time, is an important bench-mark as to the overall success of the plan.

SO, whether it’s TRAININGPEAKS, Zwift Academy, TrainerRoad, or some other application, I suggest you give it a try if, like me, you were somewhat stagnant on your steed.

What are You Doing?

EVERY body (and mind) is different so please feel free to dole out your advice by commenting on this post.

IN the meantime, ride on, stay safe and healthy, and let’s train, so when the weather allows and this virus has been sent packing, we can kick some passes’ asses…together!

Looking for Balance on the Bike? Think Yin & Yang

“IN Ancient Chinese philosophyyin and yang (/jɪn/ and /jɑːŋ, jæŋ/Chinese yīnyáng, lit. “dark-bright”, “negative-positive”) is a concept of dualism, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.” — Wikipedia.

AS a martial arts practitioner from a dojo that focused on this give and take in its teachings I may be more comfortable than most with this somewhat abstract idea. In fact, I often remind myself, my friends, my colleages, my family, and anyone that will listen to my nuggets of wisdom (IMHO) that “it’s all about balance.”

Yin/Yang can be simply described in day to day concepts that we’re all familiar with: e.g. good v. evil, black v. white, day v. night, etc. yet it can also be described more intricately, as it is here in this image from Yinspired Yoga.

But How Does That Apply to Cycling?

IN many, many ways Grasshopper. 😉

FOR this post, however, let me speak to something that struck me while I was on the trainer this morning doing some sweet spot training. I was focused on maintaining that power at a certain level (the sweet spot), watching my cadence, paying attention to my heart rate and contemplating my breathing. In other words, I was locked in on the data. The Yang.

LAST Friday, though, I wasn’t. Instead I took Beast (a Trek Rail eMTB) out (or it took me out, you pick) for an OaB to Diamond Valley, one of my favorite rides here in Alpine County.

MY legs were sore from the previous week’s training but I wanted (needed) to ride and so I thought an eBike ride would be just the ticket; I’m still pedaling but the bike is helping so much that I can make it a recovery ride.

  • I rode without a power meter.
  • I didn’t focus on my heart rate.
  • I cared not one iota about my pedaling circles.
  • It was wonderful!

I just enjoyed the time, and the scenery. It felt like it did when I used to ride as a kid. And when I got back on the trainer the next day I felt more symmetry. I was more joyful and I was grateful that I had taken the time the day before to just have fun; to just be a dude riding a bike.

NOW this was my balance exercise. It doesn’t have to be yours. Hell, maybe you don’t even have an e-Bike. Maybe you’re a purist and would never ride one, let alone own one. No worries! You could also do an easy walk after a hard ride. A mountain bike ride after a walk with the kids. A yoga session one day instead of hammering like you did the day before. You get the idea.

THE point isn’t that you should do this or that or shouldn’t do that or this.

INSTEAD, we might all spend some time practicing getting out of our own way (i.e. not being so focused on what should or shouldn’t be) and just enjoying the moment!

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…

Riding in Peanut Butter – Gravelly Lessons Learned

MY ride last Thursday was quite an adventure: a slippery, sloppy, peanut-buttery, very short (as it turns out) ride on the East Carson River Trail, just outside of Markleeville.

“Gravel remains largely undefined, which is exactly the point. It’s supposed to be an adventure.”

NO doubt Selene! Yeager, that is… Her words from “Gravel! The Ultimate Guide to the Gear, Training and Grit You Need to Crush It” certainly ring true. More so today than last month when I wrote another post about gravel. That post, “A Brief What and Where,” didn’t include the trail to which I’m writing about today so do give it a read when you get a chance; it has a few more gravel grinding factoids for you.

It All Started Innocently Enough

ROSCOE (II, a 2017 Domane 600 Series Disc) and I headed out from HQ here in Markleeville on an almost 60 degree day knowing that some mud was possible — but unlikely or at least navigable we thought after a couple weeks of dry weather.

THE trail starts at Hangman’s Bridge, just about two (2) miles from Markleeville, and I had hiked it before. A few little rollers to kick things off, and a couple others about half-way out, but other than that it’s a fairly flat, non-technical out-and-back trail that tracks the East Fork of the Carson River for about 3 1/2 miles or so. Click here to check it out on All Trails.

THAT first pitch wasn’t rideable (at least for me) so I kicked things off with a little hike-a-bike. Little did I know then that I would get a bit more of that (hike-a-bike that is) pretty quickly.

I was having a great time riding through the squishy, pine-needley (is that a word? not sure) muck and was really enjoying the sound of my tires hitting that squishiness. Some fish-tailing, some mud-splattering, some big ol’ rocks and some pine cones; all of which made for some serious, shit-eating grin kinda fun. Roscoe and I were really enjoying ourselves and then we hit IT and as soon as we did we knew we were in a bit of a pickle.

The path from whence we came – that track that looks a little like a thread was ours. ‘Twas okay as long as we were moving. Then we hit that patch of thick peanut butter mud.

Now What?

THERE was no more progress to be made and I had to dismount. It all went very much downhill from there and it was a veritable laugh-riot. I was cackling like a madman as I surveyed the scene. I had seen mud but I had never experienced THIS MUD.

MY wheels would not move. No problem, I thought. I’ll just grab one of these sticks and clear ’em out. Snap. Okay, let’s try another one. Snap. No joy there. I need a better (not necessarily bigger) stick. Again I tried. Crack.

OKAY, let’s pause for a moment, I said to myself, and look at the shoes. Holy sludge Batman, this stuff is incredible! There was no way any stick was going to clean out this caca.

I realized at this point that we were doomed, Roscoe and I. And yes, that is hyperbole. We weren’t really doomed but the ride sure was. At least we were fairly close to the trailhead. So, I swallowed my pride and called for extraction. Luckily, I still had cell service so that made it easier. I also had, if needed though, my inReach Mini. So if I had too…

For more on that little gadget of wonder, by the way, take a gander at this post. I think it’s the most valuable thing I carry when I’m riding, or hiking, or snowshoeing, or pretty much doing anything here in the California Alps, or any adventurous location for that matter!

We then did a little hike-a-bike, Roscoe and I, laughing (just me) all the way, and my lovely assistant (and wife) Patricia was there lickety split.

Those Lessons Learned?

THE ride that I hoped for instead turned out to be an afternoon of shoe and bike washing and the first thing I learned was that regular water (i.e. from a garden hose) does not work on this stuff. That cold water just made the mud harder.

LESSON #2: When you are riding a road bike (albeit an endurance-oriented, Paris-Roubaix tested model) made a gravel bike with the simple addition of some gravel tires, mud is a problem. It wasn’t designed with enough clearance like today’s true gravel bikes. Sand, check. Loose dirt, check. Rocks, check. Gravel, check. Mud, negatory. Better clearance is better!

LESSON #3: SPDs can be problematic in the muck. I did have a small swiss-army knife in my kit but it would have been a long slog to use that little thing to clear out everything to the point where I could actually ride. I should have installed those hybrid pedals (SPDs on one side, platform on the other) before I left.

LESSON #4: Use warm water (and brushes) to clean off the caca. Like I said earlier, that cold water just made things worse. I even had to use a steel brush to clean off the tires. Thankfully I have a big ‘ol laundry sink in the bathroom off the garage so I was able to apply that hot H20 liberally. Still, it took a surprising amount of time.

LESSON #5: This one I had applied before: wadded up newspaper in those wet shoes make for fast, efficient drying. I cleaned the shoes before I started on Roscoe, by the way, and did so in the sink, with warm water and a nylon brush.

IN case you’re wondering…Yes, I did clean the chain (I use Park’s Cyclone Chain Scrubber) and lubed it as well. Roscoe needed a bath anyway.

  • Time actually riding the bike: ~ 22 minutes
  • Time cleaning the shoes and the bike: ~ 2-3 hours

ROSCOE and I are still laughing about that day’s adventure. It was pretty much an epic failure of a ride I admit, but those lessons learned? Priceless.

ESPECIALLY as we gear up and train for more gravel riding. Lots more learning to do, to be sure.

YOU?

Training & Racing With a Power Meter – Will it Make You a Better Rider?

THE short answer is YES! It certainly has in my case and I’m willing to bet it will help you improve too.

I’VE recently finished reading the 3rd edition of the book “Training + Racing with a Power Meter.” It’s a lengthy and technical tome, and I first mentioned it last October in a post I published about fitness apps.

CLICK here to read that post.

THE book is full of juicy bits (and myriad workouts) and I’ve been practicing what it preaches for several months now, with my most recent efforts focused on pacing. If you’re like I used to be (and most cyclists are I suspect) than you’ve probably been using your heart rate for your focal point, and that’s a decent option, especially since some power meters can be a bit pricey. And if you don’t have one…

Don’t get me wrong. I still pay attention to my heart rate but now it’s in comparison to my power numbers, not vice-versa. Let me explain.

PACING and POWER

Typically, cyclists just ride. We ride hard if we feel good. We ride easy if we don’t. We’ll watch that heart rate and let it settle down if it gets too high and we’ll push harder if we think we’ve got some beats to give. And yes, you can pace yourself using those criteria. I have and sometimes still do.

However, if you take the leap and instead make power the cornerstone of your cycling workouts (after you test yourself and figure out your FTP) then you can instead set your pace based on the watts you’re producing.

FTP, or Functional Threshold Power (no, not File Transfer Protocol you computer nerd) is defined as “the highest power that a rider can maintain in a quasi-steady state without fatiguing for approximately one hour. When power exceeds FTP, fatigue will occur much sooner, whereas power just below FTP can be maintained considerably longer.”

THAT’S pacing in a nutshell: Don’t go all out early. Save some matches (also defined in the book) for later in the race. For most of my cycling-life I’ve been this guy: Go as hard as you can until you get tired and then rest more often, and longer, in order to finish the event or workout. Holding back is hard. Especially on a time-trial and especially when other cyclists are passing you or you’re riding with a stronger rider.

I’ve been working on my pacing, mostly inside on the trainer, by doing a couple rides I’ve done many times before, one on Zwift and one on FulGaz: Alpe du Zwift on the former and the Alpe d’Huez on the latter. The former by the way, is Zwift’s version of the latter. They both have their advantages, or likes as the case may be, but I won’t bore you with those distinctions. Suffice it to say they are difficult climbs, with specific sectors, that easily translate to pacing practice or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).

When I’m working on those “two- P’s” I focus on keeping my power number down in Zone 3 for most of the ride and as I get closer to the finish I continue to push harder through the other zones so that I finish in Zone 5 or 6.

THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING

Yum! Pudding! It’s been awhile since I’ve had some good pudding. I have to make some and put it on my post-ride list. I’m salivating now but will move on. Apologies…

Last week I was reading one of the last chapters (chapter 13) and came across the section(s) on time trials. Last year, as you may have read in my “Social Distancing Racing” posts (use the search box on my home page to find ’em) I participated in some racing, and due to Covid-19 all the races were essentially time trials but I didn’t know then what I know now. I would have done better had I read the chapter sooner.

THE section(s) to which I refer delve into flat TTs, hilly TTs and more. There is great advice to be gleaned but I’m not going to regurge it all here. Instead let me just say that I took the author’s advice and applied it (last Sunday as it turns out) on an 18-mile TT (with rollers, and coincidentally, a headwind).

Drum roll please…

I paced myself at my FTP (290). I didn’t worry about speed or heart rate.

I kept my power close to my FTP when hitting the rollers. In the past I would instead push well over my FTP, sometimes into Zone 6 on the climb, and then try to rest a little on the downhill.

AS you can imagine, I didn’t fare too well towards the end of the races. I was coming in 10th, 11th, or worse. I was burning WAY too many matches WAY too early.

THIS time though, I didn’t do that and the above screenshot of the segment (the entire TT) from Strava says it all!

AND what you can’t see is the TT within this TT that I had done twelve (12) times before. It’s approximately 9.5 miles long and on this effort I beat that previous time by OVER 3 MINUTES, and my average power was 70 WATTS HIGHER!

Holy frijole Batman! As I told my wife via text when I was done: “I guess that book was right! Check this shit out! 2nd out of 168. All time! It actually works!”

THE moral of the story is that training and racing with a power meter DOES WORK and it can make you, like it has me, a stronger rider and a more formidable racer.

IF you’d like some 411 on power meters and what I’m using, shoot me an email with your contact information and I’ll get in touch. I’m currently running two different power meters (both crank-based) on two different bikes and have experience with a third single-arm meter. Here’s a link to a good article as well.

Wishing you a happy and powerful new year. Stay safe and healthy and let’s kick some time trials’ asses!

With Insurrection in the Capitol How Do I Blog About Cycling?

What’s taking place in our country right now is heartbreaking. Our president is fomenting insurrection.

So called patriots (terrorists, really) are breaking windows, entering the U.S. Capitol and threatening violence. They were smiling and high-fiving each other like it was some sort of party. A woman who was shot inside the building earlier today has died. This on a day that is sacred to our constitution, our democracy…

This is not how I was raised. Not what I learned in school. Not what this country is about. And our president is doing nothing? In fact he said he loved these people. Oh, and by the way Mr. Trump, there’s still a pandemic raging that is killing thousands of people a day.

Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley just said (and based on the tweet I just saw from Trump I agree), that he thinks Trump is sick. “Out of his mind” is what an unnamed source close to Trump just said.

How do I blog about cycling after seeing and hearing this? I can’t. It would cheapen or lessen what’s occurring.

I don’t have thousands of followers so I understand that I, unlike others who do, won’t necessarily make an impact by writing what I’m writing. But I have to “say” something.

I’m a registered Democrat. Two of my closest friends are registered Republicans. But…we are AMERICANS FIRST AND FOREMOST. We like the friendly discourse we have over politics, especially after a few shots of tequila.

These people though, including our president and a few other political leaders, are not about balance. They are about taking care of themselves and their cronies. They don’t give a shit about us!

At least Vice-President Pence had some guts and told these crazies to leave. That took courage. Thank you Mr. Vice President! Unfortunately they’re not listening, though. On one hand I hope they do go home and on the other I think that maybe their attention will only be grabbed by being arrested. Or worse.

AS President Bush just wrote, and I paraphrase, this is what happens in banana republics, not what happens in a true democracy. There is now talk about invoking the 25th amendment. I hope the cabinet does that.

This man is no longer fit to hold office!

It’s time to pray for our country. Blogging about cycling will have to wait.

Godspeed to you all and please stay safe!

Mark in Markleeville – How a San Jose Native Ended Up in the California Alps – Part Two

MY saga continues…’Twas day three (3) of my Markleeville stay and I had some business to attend to today: a visit with the staff at the Alpine County Superior Court.

AS I mentioned in last week’s post, working with the courts (mostly in CA but also in other states) was my day job and so I had planned to stop in and introduce myself to the CEO (in court parlance CEO stands for Court Executive Officer) and the clerk(s) at the Markleeville Courthouse.

Unfortunately my timing was off a bit so my check-in would have to wait a day. I did, however, snag this image from the steps of the courthouse.

SINCE I had some time to kill I thought I’d stop in at the Intero Real Estate office a few doors up, and just for shits and giggles (my actual thoughts at the time), ask about the house on Hot Springs Road. I met Sarah Chichester that day and we talked about the house (it had been on the market for some time) as well as land in the area. It was she that gave me a reality check about the expense of putting in water and power on a vacant piece of property. I told her why I was here and that at this point I wasn’t at all serious about buying the house but I asked if I could take a look anyway.

SHE was so friendly (just about everyone here in Markleeville is that way I later learned) and immediately picked up the phone. “Sure,” she said, “we can head on over. The owners are both home and are expecting us.”

THE SIGNS CONTINUE

SO off Sarah and I went, about a mile from town to the house. There I met Pat and Rich, the owners. Oh, and the sign? It was Pat (her name, really). Pat is my wife’s name! They gave me a tour of the entire house and property and a bit of history too. Pat and her first husband built the place in 1976. After about 40 years here she was ready for warmer climes, she said, and so they were going to move to Florida, where they already had a beachfront condo. But, she told me, they had to find the right people first. They felt very strongly that the next owners had to care about the land and surrounds as much as they did; there was a lot of history here and not just theirs, but generations of settlers, and before that, the Native American Peoples.

Chalet Schwartz before it was Chalet Schwartz. We took this shot about 3 weeks after I first saw the house and property. Just past, and a bit left (south as it turns out) of the white trailer, is Hot Springs Creek, fka the Middle Fork of the Carson River. As you can see, Pat and Rich were prepping the U-Haul.

IN fact, there is a grinding rock on the property and yes, that was yet another sign. My wife and I love Native American lore/karma/energy, whatever you want to call it!

MY FIRST TRIP UP

I had meetings beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, August 3, 2016, so I had to get moving early so I could get up to Ebbetts Pass and back. I had estimated about two (2) hours round trip (not too far off) and so was on the road about 7:00 a.m. It was hot that summer so the morning was cool, not frigid, like it is today. Still, I did have some arm warmers and a base layer on, and a shell for the descent.

MY wife and I talked the night before about the possiblities. Could we afford to buy the house now as a second home? We decided that no, we could not keep our San Jose home and have a 2nd home in Markleeville (or anywhere else for that matter). She floated this idea, though: perhaps we could move there? She only had about a year or so left before she retired and I was already a remote worker and accustomed to working from home. Nah, that’s crazy. We can’t do that! Still, the thoughts kept coming…

ANYWAY, off I went. I stopped for a photo at Monitor Junction (the image at the top of this post) and as I got back on my bike I remember thinking: could we actually move here? I kid you not that right at that moment I had my first eagle sighting (a bald eagle it was) here in the CA Alps! It flew directly over head as if to answer my question. Yes, you could, said the eagle. Yet another sign…

AS I road up, and up, and up the mountain I was astounded by the beauty of it all. The river, the mountains, the trees and THAT SKY…

Man, what a place!

EBBETTS PASS – AND YET ANOTHER SIGN

THAT last mile or so from Kinney to the pass isn’t an easy one but I knew I was close and so it didn’t matter how tired I was. I did have to go to work, even if was in the river cabin, so no more dawdling allowed, I said to myself. I arrived at the pass and took the requisite selfies to document my success. As I was taking a few more moments to revel and reflect, a pickup pulled up next to me and the driver asked if I knew where the trailhead to the PCT was. No, I said, it was my first time in the area and I had no clue. The passenger then leaned forward and cocked his head to say thanks and I couldn’t believe it, it was my friend (and former dentist) Mike!

“Mike Forster!” I said and he then recognized me. It had been several years since I had seen him; I knew he had a place in South Lake, though, and over the years he was often there. He was just as surprised as I was and said he didn’t recognize me at first because I had lost quite a bit of weight. What are the odds, eh? For us to connect again at this exact moment in this amazing place.

If that wasn’t a sign (and a BIG ONE) then what was!?

WE yakked for a bit but as I already told you, and then I told him, I had to get going. I had a meeting. I let him know where I was staying and he promised to stop by before he headed back to his place in Tahoe. He then took a better photo of me at the marker and his buddy took the photo of us (both below) before we parted ways.

THE TALE TERMINATES…NEXT WEEK

I hope you’ve found the story entertaining so far. I am certainly enjoying the re-telling of it but alas, I must keep you waiting for the conclusion until next week. I don’t mean to belabor the “sign thing” but there are still a couple more to come, mostly related to the specific hows of our exodus from Silicon Valley.

Until then, be safe, stay healthy and let’s kick some passes’ asses!

Mark in Markleeville – How a San Jose Native Ended Up in the California Alps – Part One

‘TWAS a warm (ok, hot) summer day in July of 2016 when I packed up my bike and other necessessities, and headed for Alpine county, for a week (almost) at the Carson River Resort.

QUICK pause before I get into the meat of the story so I can give a shout out to my fellow blogger (I don’t know his actual name I realize) at Half Fast Cycling Club for prompting me, in his recent “Pandemic Tree post” of just two days ago, to write this story. He’s done the Deathride before and we were looking forward to meeting at this year’s ride but, well, you know how that ended.

Anyway…the story begins

IT had been a very stressful few weeks work-wise and between that, and the noise of the city, I was in desperate need of a mountain hit. Having grown up in San Jose I was used to heading to our local hills, or the Santa Cruz mountains on most occassions, but every year or so, like many Californians (or Nevadans for that matter) I suspect, I was privileged to be able to head to the Sierra.

THIS particular level of tensity warranted those big mountains but knowing what I knew about the summer season I feared I would find no accomodations. Camping would have been preferred but I had no vacation time so my compromise was to bring the necessary tech and work during the day and ride in the a.m., p.m. or during lunch. First, though, where to go?

Caples Lake as seen on my first trip to Markleeville.

YOSEMITE was my first choice. It is my wife, Patricia’s, and my, happy place. Well, it was. Now we live in our happy place. Not that Yosemite still isn’t…

AS you might have guessed, though, there were no rooms anywhere in the park.

MY next option was Mammoth. I had always wanted to go there so I did some searching and found a couple possibilities, but none of them had kitchens (or even “ettes”) and that wasn’t going to work. I wanted to cook my own meals.

HEY, I thought, how about Markleeville?

Before I continue with my saga, let me take you back a bunch of years, to my elementary school days (daze?), which is when I first learned of Markleeville.

MY grandparents on Mom’s side had a cabin in Arnold, CA (Lakemont Pines to be specific). We spent quite a bit of time there, both in the summer and the winter. During the winter we would often head up towards Lake Alpine for a bit of tubing and tobagganing. Traveling up Highway 4 towards Ebbetts Pass we would pass the mileage sign which showed the distance to Markleeville.

OF course being a young’n I said things to myself like “that town has my name” or “that town was named after me.” I remember thinking (did I ask? I don’t remember) it would be cool to see my town. I really don’t recall much more than that but knowing what I know now we couldn’t have gone to Markleeville very easily as Hwy. 4 would have been closed. So, we never made it and until this trip, I had never seen Markleeville before.

Back to present day, or 2016 to be more precise

I did some googling and called both the Creekside Lodge (no dice) and the Carson River Resort. When I asked the dude who answered the phone if they had anything available, especially on the river, he sort of chuckled and I sighed. No luck here either. Shit! But then he said: “Wait a minute…It looks like we have a cancellation. The river cabin is available but only this Sunday through next Thursday.” I’ll take it, I said!

AS it turns out, that was the first sign – from nothing anywhere to something in Markleeville. My town! 🙂

SO I packed up my gear, my bike, some food, of course some tequila and cerveza. I also brought some “nice clothes” as I planned on visiting the Alpine County Superior Court (building and maintaining relationships with courts throughout the state, country really, was part of my job description at the time) while I was there. I also loaded up the laptop and two monitors so I could fulfill my other employment-related duties.

A Sunday afternoon arrival

AFTER an uneventful, but longer trip than I expected (Markleeville, it could be said, is in B.F.E.), I arrived at my destination. The cabin however, was not ready, and Angel (the owner at the time) was very apologetic. No worries, I told her, I’ll just go for a ride up to that park in Markleeville that I saw the sign for – Grover Hot Springs.

BACK towards town I rode and I hung a left at Montgomery Street. At the fork in the road I stayed right and that put me on Hot Springs Road. As I headed towards the park I noticed a house (more like a cabin) for sale and made a mental note to pull the flyer and check it out on the way back, just to satisfy my curiosity.

THE park was pretty sweet. I made another mental note to check out the hot springs before I left town and back down towards town I went. I stopped at the house and pulled the flyer. Being born and raised in San Jose I was blown away. That’s all? Seriously? I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t going for two to three times that! It sat on just under 1/2 an acre and there was a creek (Hot Springs Creek, formerly known as the Middle Fork of the Carson River) in the backyard. My wife and I had talked for years about having a little place in the mountains, on a lake or river, when we retired.

THIS was that place! Now we weren’t ready to retire yet but it got me thinking, is this another sign?

APOLOGIES but I’m going to have to stop here and leave you hanging. My saga, as it turns out, is just too long for one blog post.

NEXT week, part two.