Category: climbing

A Tale of Two Towns – One on the California Coast, One in the California Alps

It’s been over two (2) years since I’ve been able to ride near the ocean so when I had an opportunity to head to Petaluma for a company BBQ last Friday I brought my bike so I could go for a pedal the next day. I’m lucky enough to work from home but I do make the pilgrimage to our corporate offices several times a year. In this case, not for a board room style meeting, or meetings, but instead for some fresh (and BBQed) oysters, burgers, good beer and great conversation. What a deal!

The next morning it was off to the little town of Marshall, including a trip down memory lane and up the iconic Marshall Wall.

From Petaluma to Marshall, down to Pt. Reyes Station and back past Nicasio Reservoir.

Back in 1998 I did the “Aids Ride”, now called the Aids/LifeCycle, and rode from San Francisco to Los Angeles over the course of a week. I raised some ducats for the cause as well. While training for that event I was introduced to this area north of The City (that’s what natives call San Francisco – don’t call it Frisco, k?). I’ve done a few rides in the area since but it had been quite awhile so I was pretty excited to ride “the wall” (that’s it in the profile above – at the 20 mile mark), and sniff Tomales Bay. The kelp, the sea (er, bay), the oyster farms…All combine for a wonderfully briny sensory experience. Add some fog to the start of the ride and I was in heaven. What a great morning on the bike! Made it back to the hotel in time to pack up, take a quick shower and get out of dodge so I could get home for cocktail time! Below are some images of that first adventure of the weekend, and here’s a little video to check out (including a few more pix) .

Some good grub and conversation awaited me at the Chalet (as we call it – hey we’re in the Alps after all!) thanks to my Mom and wife, and after an evening of story telling it was off to bed so I could get some rest before the next day’s adventure.

This time (no offense coastal hills) I was off to do a “real mountain” and I was curious to see what kind of shape the road was in.

I decided to milk it a little and went for a late morning start so I could let it warm up a bit. We’d been getting some thunderstorms recently (and still are) so I didn’t want to get caught on the pass too late in the day, though. Based on the weather forecast I thought I could squeak in my ride after the temps rose but before any chippy weather showed up. It didn’t quite work out the way I had planned, though. Read on.

From Markleeville to the start of the pass is fairly passe’ (ooh, like that pun). The real climbing starts at about mile 11 (from Markleeville, not Monitor Junction), with a pitch of about 10-12% just before Raymond Meadow Creek and the 7000′ mark. I had a great view looking south and could see some fairly ominous clouds forming. I kept telling myself that I could just bail if things got too hairy but I really wanted to get up the pass; it had just opened and I felt it was my duty!

I was excited to see Kinney Reservoir (images 6, 7 and 9 above) but when I came up over the rise, expecting to see a blue alpine lake and the reflection of the surrounding mountains and sky, I was instead greeted by an ice-rink! WTF? The lake was still frozen?! Now the temp had dropped significantly since I started but it was still a very manageable 55 degrees, and so I was surprised yet again, this time by the amount of snow still on the pass. Notice the snowbanks? Many of them were still covering signage and trailheads. In fact, because of that snowy obscurement I arrived at the top faster than I thought I would – I didn’t have those visual cues that I was used to.

I quickly ate a snack at the pass because it appeared that the weather was indeed coming in. Had I blown it and left too late? Would I be caught in a deluge, or worse yet see some lightning? So after an expeditious message to the wife (thanks to my Garmin inReach Mini, a bad-ass piece of equipment, btw) I headed back down the mountain. There was still some gravel and other detritus on the road so I was cautious on the descent and for the first few miles I got lucky – no rain. That changed though as I got to about the 7500′ mark. Down it came. At those speeds, raindrops sting! Thankfully it did let up so I wasn’t too spongy when I got to the homestead.

What a fantastic way to cap off my week! Here’s a few stats from the weekend:

Miles ridden: 90.6
Feet climbed: 7169
Hours on the bike: ~6

I’m hoping you’ve had, or will have, similar weekends of wonder. If you have, or do, and would like to share them by posting up your own adventure on our blog, let me know!

Ride safe and let’s kick some passes’ asses! this summer!

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.

Givin’, Fixin’, Ridin’, and Spectatin’ in the California Alps

The last several weeks have been a lot of work, but with lots of fun times, too. I haven’t had much time to blog but I finally came up for air so here’s a run-down of our recent activities here in the heart of the Sierra Nevada.

Markleeville Spring Clean-up and Cinco de Mayo Celebration

It all started on the anniversary of that famous (infamous?) day, which commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. It is not a celebration of Mexican independence, as some mistakenly think. Okay, there’s your history lesson for today. Thanks Wikipedia!

Here in Markleeville, it was our chance to do our first clean up of the year and do a bit of commemoratin’ ourselves (after the work was done, of course). Eighteen (18) intrepid volunteers, including your truly, my wife and California Alps Cycling co-founder, Patricia, joined us, as did our club mother (and my Mom), January. In fact Mom gets the kudos for the excellent salsa and guacamole that we munched on post-work day. I brought the cerveza, though.

We mowed, weed-whacked, lopped, trimmed, picked-up and well, you get the idea. We tackled Markleeville Park (as we have affectionately named a vacant lot in town), Coyan Park, and Heritage Park. We picked up a bunch of limbs, branches and such that had accumulated by one of our welcome signs and we picked up trash – on the section of highway we’ve adopted between Turtle Rock Park and Camp Markleeville, which includes town.

Several bags of trash, a bike helmet and a totally thrashed mile-marker (snow blower got it I think) were part of the haul. We made about three to four trips to the local bio-mass pile, too. Lots of mass to bio, if you will. A shout out to Karrie and John Baker, of Alps Haus and Al’s Got Gas, Bait & Tackle, here in town for their support (as always). Quick plug – We have some CA Alps Cycling schwag for sale (it’s a consignment ‘thang) at Al’s so stop on by and grab some (and get some gas and tackle while you’re at it)!

Washoe Earth Day Celebration

The following Saturday (last weekend, May 11th), Chris (Schull, legacy member) and I met at the Hung a Lel Ti gym as we had lots of bikes to repair. The day had been a long time coming with the associated planning that comes with such big events. Susan Jamerson and team did a bang up job getting ready for the event, with a bicycling focus added to the day. Part of that included a repair station so that kids could get their bikes fixed up for the races that were to come. I spent the previous week or so gathering donations (prizes for the race winners) from local merchants and friends as well as prepping and packing the gear, tools, stands, tables etc. that we’d need for the repair center.

Chris & I arrived about 8:30 a.m. and we already had some repair candidates waiting. Hung A Lel Ti Chairman Irvin Jim met us upon arrival and he and a few of the riders helped us unload and then we set to work. Was quite the trip down memory lane as the bikes we worked on were not what we were used to riding, at least now that we were old (er). These were bikes we rode as kids! Too fun. We mostly fixed flats and such but there were other repairs needed too – from brakes to derailleur hangers and many points in between. We figured we wrenched on about 12-15 bikes and we got them all done in time for the races, which started at 10:00 a.m. It was great watching the kids race and we basked in the knowledge that we helped them be able to do that.

What an awesome place to ride

After our hard, but oh so rewarding day acting like bike mechanics, it was time for some us time! We headed up Ebbett’s Pass to Raymond Meadow Creek for a “chat n’ ride” as I call it. Nary a car was seen so we were able to yak and take in the scenery without much trouble.

Then, on Monday (just a few days ago), we took it one step further and rode Monitor Pass; my second trip up the mountain since the Friday before. It’s a hard climb but we figured it would be a good way to start the day because we planned on finishing it by watching the Amgen Tour of California come into So. Lake Tahoe for the finish. Get it? We suffer in the a.m. and then drink beer and eat while we watch the pros suffer in the afternoon!

The Amgen Tour of California

Off to Tahoe we went. We kicked things off with some suds and sammies at Artemis; we hung out at the bar and enjoyed the vibe before we walked a couple miles up to Heavenly to avoid the crowds, or so we thought. Fortunately for us (and other race-watchers) there wasn’t much of that. Unfortunately, if you get my drift, there wasn’t much of that. Too bad – seeing these athletes do their thing is an amazing experience. Anyway, compared to last year it was a piece of cake. In fact, we realized about 2/3 of the way there that we could have just driven on up and parked near the start/finish/festival. By then, though, it was too late. We were committed!

We got to the start/finish in plenty of time to have a brew (see above) and check out the vendors and schwag. The weather was perfect and I don’t think there’s a better place to watch a bike race. You still have some time to check out some of the race, yourself. The women’s race starts today which means you can watch two races! And, of course, there’s the Giro happening too! And, on top of all the wonderful cycling coverage, there’s basketball and hockey playoffs for those so inclined. I’m into the Warriors but have yet to watch the Sharks play. I will though; I have to represent since I’m a San Jose native. Exciting times for sure! At least for some of us, right?

Check us out on Facebook!

That’s right, we finally got our arses in gear and set up our FB page! We also have a Twitter feed and have begun setting up our Instagram page. It’s not easy trying to find the time and I appreciate your patience, loyal reader, as we continue to build and “social-ize.”

Thanks for reading, especially this post. I know it’s a bit long-winded.

We’d love to know about your adventures! Comment on this post so other followers can partake and perhaps live vicariously through you.

Be safe out there

In closing, just a little reminder to be safe in whatever outdoor activities you do. Have the right gear, get the right training, do the right research and you’ll have the right fun! Ride on!?

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!

L’Etape California – A Good Yet Hard Day on the Bike

A few of us California Alps Cycling members had signed up but we lost a couple, one to injury and one because he became a new daddy last year and so has not been able to put in the miles.

So, it was just Scott Keno and I representing C.A.C. a week ago Sunday (the ride/race took place on October 28th). I made the trek east from Markleeville and Scott made the trip north from Clovis. We met up Saturday at the Expo where we picked up our bib numbers, timing chips, t-shirts and schwag bag. John and Diana Velez, two hard-core local riders, and friends of Scott’s (and now friends of mine) also came by the Expo, along with their standard poodle, Studly (what a cool dog).

An image of Mark with a dog licking his ear.
Studly introducing himself to me, while his Mom, Diana, looks on approvingly.

We spent a bit of time checking out the gear at the Assos truck where John, and the Assos boyz, turned me on to some cool bibs (I bought the Equipe and wore them on the ride the next day – man were they commmmffffyyyy).  The five (5) of us then bailed from the festival, but not before checking out some TDF history at the Expo’s museum (mouse over the images and the captions will pop-up. Dig that wool jersey!),

and headed out for some pub grub and a few cervezas. Later that night, we met up with a couple more friends for some good eats at the Corner Tavern and Grill.

After dinner it was time to get the gear ready, put the chips and numbers on the bikes and our jerseys and get some rest.

The day of the ride started well. Nice weather – not too cold – and so we didn’t have to wear “the warmers.” I did, though, add a light base under my jersey and wore a neck thingy too. You’d think that since I live in the Sierra that I wouldn’t be such a cold-whimp, but alas, that’s not the case.

A couple pix from the start – That’s Scott doing “the Kilroy” and me chatting with another rider in that image on the right.

We took off with an escort (always cool) about 8:00 a.m. and after just a short bit of flat roads, the climbing started. For those of us doing the 90 mile ride, we had about 8000′ of climbing to look forward to and we did about 7000′ of that in the first 50 miles! As is the usual for L’Etape, the course was a difficult and challenging one but hey, as we’ve all heard, if it was easy, anyone could do it!

Three riders smiling for the camera.

This was my third L’Etape and I had a goal of placing in the top 200 riders, a ride time of 6 (six) hours and an elapsed time of under 8 (eight) hours. I felt pretty good about hitting those goals since I was peaking fitness-wise and I had a really strong rider to pull me (and push me, if you get my drift) around the course. And John met us early on and rode with us for part of the course too (that’s him in the middle of the above pic.).

Rider pointing to his location on the elevation profile of L'Etape California.
Yup, I was there.

For those of you who haven’t done a L’Etape before then you’re probably not aware that the TDF organization does a bit of timing on certain sections (KOMs) and on this particular ride there were three (3). Now this big boy is never in the top of those standings but it’s always fun to compare myself to others. Scott is a big boy too (not as big as I but not your “typical” rider) but we climb fairly well and always enjoy the looks we get when we pass smaller riders while climbing.

Anyway, as it turns out I was 221st out of 394th on the climbs (cumulatively), 27th (out of 38) in my age group (55-59) and for the “classic challenge” (.3 miles at 12% average but let me tell you there were some 18-20% pitches in there!) I came in 99th out of 207 riders! Overall, I finished 165th so really stoked about that! There were 295 participants on the 90 mile course so I’m pretty happy with that. Time on the bike = 6:14:20 (almost hit my 6 hour goal) and elapsed time was 7:08:01.  Click here to see my official results, and click here to see Scott’s. Note: he would have had some much better results if he wasn’t letting me suck his wheel all day long. Well, I did do one good pull towards the end of the ride. Thanks Scott for taking care of me. You are the man!

L'Etape Course Map and Profiles
The course map and my elevation, speed and HR profiles for the day.

Hopefully I didn’t bore you with too many stats and such. I was just trying to give all of you, especially those of you who haven’t participated in such an event, a good sense of the day. I’ll leave you with one last picture…

Me and Scott after finishing the 2018 L'Etape.
All smiles now that we have our finisher’s medals, which (GOOD IDEA) also double as bottle openers.

And bid you all a happy Monday and remind you to challenge yourself and ride safe.

Now Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses!™

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.