Month: September 2018

Climbing. It’s What We Do in the California Alps

My newphew Ryan, who lives in the Santa Cruz mountains, says something like: “I’m climbing as soon as I leave my house.” For those of us who live in the mountains, including the “real mountains” of the Sierra (sorry Ryan), climbing is indeed what we do, and I, like Ryan, start climbing pretty much right out my front door.

Now, if you’ve met me you know that I am not the typical climber. At 6’2″ and 225 pounds (1.88 meters and 102.06 kilograms for you euro-purists, and for my own edification) I guess I’m more a sprinter than a climber. But I’ve always been a big boy and I’ve prided myself in not conforming to that stereotype. So, I relish the climbing (most of the time) and I’m trying to get better at it. Sometimes I prefer the climbs to the descents (sometimes) because I could be a better descender too and up here in Markeeville, 50 mph (80.47 kph) descents are pretty common.

Looking up the road to blue skies and dappled sunlight on the road - Hwy. 4 Ebbett's Pass at Chalmer's Mansion
Looking up hill (southwest) on Hwy. 4 (Ebbett’s Pass) at Chalmer’s Mansion

Our local pride & joy, the Deathride (July 13, 2019), climbs five (5) mountain passes (so 5 descents too) over about 125 miles, including both sides of Monitor Pass, Ebbett’s Pass (the entire northwest side and the other side to/from Hermit Valley) and the eastern side of Carson Pass. Add the many bumps and rollers in between and it presents a daunting challenge of approximaltey 15,000 feet of climbing. I’ll let you euro junkies do the km and meter conversions this time. 

“It’s not just Markleeville, though, right?” You ask. You’d be correct. The California Alps cover more area than that but Alpine County is really the heart of our Alps, hence the county name. Check out this recent article by the Sacramento Bee for more info. and here’s a link to an even more recent Los Angeles Times article. No shortage of things to do here in M’Ville and surrounds…

Okay, back to my point: climbing. While I may not have as many flat choices as others might, I do have some. Even those (Diamond Valley, for example) have some decent elevation gain, though.

So, how does one become a better climber? Okay, full disclosure, I’m no expert but after years of athletic endeavors (California’s Aids Ride back in 1998, Black Belt, Kenpo Karate in 1999, Deathride finisher in 2017 to name several) I’ve learned some basic tenets:

  1. Eat less
  2. Drink (beer) less
  3. Weigh less
  4. Climb more
  5. Work the core
  6. Lift weights.

Those last two bullets, while they may seem counterintuitive, have really made the difference for me, especially the core work. Fit balls and Bosu balls have become my friends. Try doing some dumbell work on the former (use the ball as a bench) and some squats on the latter (stand on the flat side). Takes practice but after awhile you’ll lose the wobble. My balance is better, I’m a better climber and I’ve increased my average power and my stamina. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Mark coming up the hill to the finish of the Medio version of the Mammoth Gran Fondo. Flashing the hang loose sign with tongue hanging.
Finishing the Medio (70 miles, 3500′ of climbing) on Sept. 8, 2018

After the Mammoth event I decided I needed to do more. I need to lose more weight so I can get my power to weight ratio up and I need to get even stronger. How do I do that? Well, I just started reading it but so far Bicycling’s “Climb!” is encouraging. Chapter 3, “Goats and Grinders” has some great information (you guessed it, I’m a grinder) and I especially love this quote from author Selene Yeager: “It’s not just the size of the rider but the power in the pedal stroke.” And, no, in case you’re wondering, I’m not getting any kind of stipend or the like from Bicycling. I’m just a knowledge junky and now that I live in the heart of the CA Alps I figured I better get REALLY serious about my climbing prowess. Not sure, have I earned the right to use “prowess” yet? What the heck, it’s my blog after all!

Got some advice you’d like to pass on? We’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses!™

 

 

 

 

My lawyer told me I need to tell you this too: Please check to make sure that any trails, roads, hikes etc. that you use are suited to your skill set. CAC is not responsible for any injuries whether you are riding, lifting weights or doing anything physical. Know yourself and what you are capable of.  Any information provided on this website is subject to change and CAC is not responsible for the accuracy of that information.  

California Alps Cycling Members Hit the Slopes of Mammoth

Last Saturday, a few of us rode the Mammoth Gran Fondo out of Mammoth Lakes, CA. Members Mario Carmona and Chris Schull, along with yours truly (check out our Strava profiles on the CAC Membership page), rode from one of the southern points of the California Alps, still in the heart of the Sierra Nevada though, into the Owens Valley, and back.

An image of the route taken by a rider on the Mammoth Gran Fondo
Map of my “Medio route” at the Mammoth Gran Fondo.

Mario went for the Gran Fondo distance (i.e. the century) and Chris and I decided to do one of the shorter (the Medio, 70 miles) rides so we could drink more beer on Friday night. I had never been to Mammoth and so was pretty stoked to get a glimpse into what the place was all about. Unfortunately, due to my crazy schedule, we were only able to experience the vibe for a short time. Nonetheless, we made the best of it!

Chris and I arrived just in time for “beertails” and after meeting Mario at our hotel to give him his CA Alps Cycling jersey (yes, they’re in – if you pre-ordered one I’ll be in touch soon), we headed to Mammoth Brewing. Had some good beer and fine grub (those chicken tacos on naan were lip-smacking good) and then decided to make one more stop for a “beerpertif.” Yeah, I know, I’m taking some liberties with the english language here…Can’t help myself!

Okay, enough about the night life, which after all of our talk, really wasn’t much. We’re in our fifties (well Chris isn’t quite there yet but will be in a couple weeks) ya know and we did have a ride to do tomorrow. So, in the end, we were responsible adults and went back to the hotel fairly early so we could prep. our bikes for the next day.

We had brought plenty of cold-weather gear for the start, but as it turned out, the day was a bit balmier than normal. About 45-50 at the start with bright sun, as you can see from the pix below.

The blue in our jerseys works nicely with the sky, don’t you think?

After a short climb out of town we had a nice, long twenty (20) mile descent or so and then it was back the way we came, into the Owens Valley, back out to Hwy. 395 and then back into town. Here’s a few shots I took while on the bike:

And here’s a bunch more from the Owens Valley, including a couple rest stop pix.

As you can see, it was an amazing day. I still can’t get over the color of the sky in these images. Sometimes it looks almost purple. It’s that color that inspired us on the design of our kits.

I should mention that the organizers did a great job. The rest stops were well-staffed and stocked, and that made to order turkey and cheese sandwich really hit the spot. Thanks!

What else can I say? Another great day on the bike. Kudos to Mario (yup, he finished) and Chris (he had a rough day on the bike but perserved nonetheless) and hey, what the heck, I’ll give myself kudos too. Anyday on the bike…