Category: fitness

Deathride Dreaming? Need Some Ride-Inside Options? Check These Out!

As you likely know by now I’m a FulGaz devotee. That’s not to say I don’t use other “inside apps”, I do. Lately though, FulGaz (FG for short), has been my go-to. With the FulGaz French Tour now complete — my stats: 26:53:40 hours, 221 miles and 50,017 feet of climbing — and the smoke for the wildfires still lingering somewhat, I’m now looking forward to riding all of the Deathride climbs (and other local rides) from the pleasure of the pain cave.

And next week (Tuesday the 29th to be precise), I’ll have my chance and so will you!

Every Tuesday, FG does an email entitled Top Up Tuesday and yesterday I received a preview of ours! The library includes all five (5) of the current Deathride climbs (Monitor East & West, Ebbetts North & South, and Carson East) as well as the climb up Blue Lakes Road and some additional nuggets:

  • Markleeville to Snowshoe
  • Diamond Valley to Markleeville
  • The Alta Alpina Cycling Club (AACC) Markleeville Time Trial.

So here’s your chance to virtually explore some of the rides of Alpine County, and you can do so for very little, or no, money.

How can I do that? you ask. FulGaz offers a 14-day free trial so if you want to hit ’em all up in two (2) weeks you can definitely go that route (no pun intended). After the trial period, it’s only $12.99 per month or $108.99 per year. And no, I don’t work for, nor am I being compensated by FulGaz. I just wanted you to be aware since the application is so bitchin’ and I’ve found that a lot of riders just don’t know about it.

The email will go out to subscribers next Tuesday, September 29th, and the rides will be live that day as well!

Now I put in a lot of miles (~6000 per year), mostly outside, so riding inside isn’t my first option – most of the time. I do find it a great way, however, to do certain workouts in a more controlled environment. By that I mean FTP tests, HIIT work and so on; some of those external forces (e.g. wind, heat, rain, smoke, etc.) can wreak havoc on that day’s plan.

So why not take them out of the equation?

For example, yesterday morning, when I wanted to do some sprints, every two (2) miles, on flat roads, I turned to Zwift. But, when it comes to hill charges, hill repeats or the like, I prefer FulGaz. There I can find steady climbs, or rollers, or both. The steady climbs, like those on the Deathride, are much more conducive to steady efforts if you get my drift. It’s hard to maintain a certain power level when you have to go downhill.

I’ve found it to be an immersive experience, too!

Put on some tunes and put your fine-self in the heart of the California Alps without the need to stuff those jersey pockets, figure out where you’re going to get water or worry about traffic.

And, if you’ve not yet experienced the climbs of the Deathride and so you’re not sure what to expect, these rides will allow you to get a bit of practice in before next year.

Just be sure to put down that sweat mat, turn on those fans and if you’re like me, have an extra kit standing by.

Enjoy the rides and…Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses!

Smoky Where You Are? Here’s How You Can Mix Things Up

I’m a California boy, born and raised, and like you I suspect, have never seen anything in my 56 years like we’re seeing now with these fires. I’ll leave the hows and whys to the scientists and instead offer a glimpse into how I’m continuing to ride as well as what else I’m doing to stay engaged and fit.

The FulGaz French Tour

This tour has been my primary source of entertainment since the end of August. BTW, I’ve previously published a handful of posts that mention FulGaz so check those out too if you’re so inclined. It’s a great application and currently it’s even better with the addition of the FulGaz French Tour.

The Tour kicked off on August 28th, the day before the Tour de France started, and the idea, as you can imagine, is to ride twenty-one (21) stages by September 18th. Virtually. Just like the “real tour.” Not the same stages, no (there are some), but no less challenging, at least so far.

Last week I climbed over 17000 feet, with all but 3000 of it from the smokeless confines of Chalet Schwartz here in Markleeville!

Quick chest thump…

Thanks to the extra climbing that comes with the FulGaz French Tour, I was numero uno in climbing for the week in Alta Alpina’s 2020 Social Distancing Road Race Series. Sweet!

So far I’ve ridden the following stages:

  • Stage 1, Col de Turini – 9.29 miles, 3555 feet of climbing
  • Stage 2, Monaco Grand Prix Circuit – 16.21 miles, 1089 feet of climbing
  • Stage 3, Col du Galibier – 11.17 miles, 3998 feet of climbing
  • Stage 4, Harrogate Street Circuit, UCI Worlds 2019 – 8.48 miles, 821 feet of climbing
  • Stage 5, Luz Ardiden – 8.39 miles, 3379 feet of climbing
  • Stage 6, Ninove to Ghent – 23.03 miles, 785 feet of climbing
  • Stage 7, Lac de Cap de Long – 8.39 miles, 3398 feet of climbing
  • Stage 8, Els Angels – 9.05 miles, 1490 feet of climbing
  • Stage 9, Col du Chaussy, 6.19 miles, 2457 feet of climbing

I’ve still got eleven (11) more to do by September 18th and those stages include the Col d’Aspin, the Col d’Izoard, the Tour of Romandie TT, Six Laps of London, the Col du Telegraphe, and Mont Ventoux (that one’s going to be the hardest and longest I fear). It all wraps up with the Alpe d’Huez!

A challenging stage race to be sure. Oh, and did I mention that there is live tracking as well as stage results for each stage, and a GC too? After nine (9) stages I’m 94th out of 115; 11h 41m 44s of time on the bike so far. The leader of the GC after the same stages: 6h 26m 13s. Overachiever!

Other Options

Don’t forget strength training! I try to get two (2) workouts in a week, focused mostly on my upper-body and core. In the above pic are some of the systems of suffering I utilize. Take note of the red medicine ball, a “no-bounce,” which among other things lets me do squat and slams without the ball bouncing up and hitting me in the mug. Some Bowflex dumbbells, an inexpensive bench, a regular medicine ball and some kettlebells are the other items you see.

On the cycling and running front there is of course that ol’ standby, Zwift, which has certainly been getting a lot of press (and paying heavily for it I would imagine) during the Tour de France. I’m so thankful for my DVR – watching all of those commercials would be painful.

I’ve recently started using TrainingPeaks and it too has workouts of which one can partake. Coincidentally, I’ve been reading “Training + Racing with a Power Meter” by Hunter Allen, Andrew Coggan and Stephen McGregor and it syncs up nicely with TrainingPeaks.

Wahoo’s application has some “good grinds” (not the food kind, sorry) too and there are myriad others, including TrainerRoad and Strava. And, here’s an article from PC mag that provides some additional data.

I should mention that the FulGaz French Tour allows riders to do more than one stage a day, and out of order, if you so choose. I’ve taken advantage of this on a couple occasions by doing a flat(ter) warm-up stage before a climbing stage. A double whammy!

Some Additional Suggestions

Especially if you’re going to put in some long rides/hours on the trainer:

  • Extra kits, or at least a jersey, depending on how much you sweat, that are accessible from the bike so you can change mid-stage if you need.
  • Same with water – fill some extra bottles beforehand.
  • Food is good. I made a turkey and cheese sandwich after one stage and to save time ate it during the next stage. It also made it feel more like I was doing a “real event.”
  • I hooked up a portable A/C unit because without it, things got a little steamy in the cave. Combine it with a couple fans, especially if you have a smaller workout room like I do.
  • Lastly, speaking of fans…I just started doing this and it works well: Put a fan behind you and one in front. That backside breeze lessens the drips and it just feels nice.

One last bit of advice: Get a bike fit. I spent a couple hours doing just that yesterday. The fitter, also a physical therapist, made some adjustments to my seat and my shoes and after just one ride I can already feel the difference. The jury is still out on whether or not what we did is good enough or if I need more; time will tell. Still, it was something I had been avoiding because of the time it takes but I thought why not do it now? it’s too smoky to ride outside anyway!

What about you? What are you doing? Any suggestions for your fellow readers? Let us all know by commenting on this post.

Want to be a Better Climber? Here are 5 Nuggets of Wisdom

For those of you who have met me you know I don’t have the typical climber’s frame – in fact I don’t have the typical cyclist’s frame either. At over six-feet tall and about 220 pounds I climb better than most cyclists even though I weigh more than most cyclists. I don’t say this out of braggadocio, and I’m never going to be a Pantani or a Froome, but if I can improve my climbing prowess, so can you!

Now if you’re a loyal reader you know I’ve waxed on about climbing in the past, including a post back in September of 2018 where I wrote about some of these same principles. Recently, though I’ve had somewhat of an epiphany so I wanted to share. Again!

Nugget #1 – Work on the Weight

Yup, it’s somewhat of a no-brainer but I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on other things, many of them productive, at the expense of this one.

I just wasn’t improving as quickly as I wanted, even with all the other work I was doing, so I set a goal to get to my lowest weight since high school. I had that “Denial is d-longest river in d-world” moment, you know?

You can tell by my shadow 😉
that I was a bit porkier back in November

I realized that goal and lost 20 pounds. Granted, the weight does fluctuate day-to-day but I know my base weight is a helluva lot less than it was and that’s making a difference, and not just on the bike. Can you say power-to-weight ratio?

Nugget #2 – Eat Better

Most cyclists I know, including yours truly, drink a lot of beer. We often take the approach that goes something like this:

“Hey, I’ve burned 1000 calories today, I can eat (or drink) 1000 calories more.”

This one has been the bane of my existence and still is to a certain extent. Today, however, I focus more on the what and not as much on the how much. Sure, sometimes I over do it but when I do I back off the next few days.

In general I eat more fiber than I used to (especially in the a.m. – it “holds” better) as well as lots of yogurt and other high-quality, lean proteins and most importantly I focus more on the after-workout nutrition. That 30 minute window post-ride is crucial. Get some good protein and carbs in after that ride.

My biggest challenge is snacking, especially after dinner. When I don’t do that the scale is happier and I sleep better, too. Go figure.

Lastly, it’s the little things…Every once in a while I choose less over more. For example a 1/2 a sandwich instead of a whole, some pasta and cottage cheese instead of that sandwich – I can live off of those things, I swear! – or no 2nd breakfast or mid-morning snack and a chore instead (gotta keep my mind off my stomach).

Nugget #3 – Get More Rest

This one is probably the most challenging for me and I suspect it may be for you as well. So much to ride, so little time. I’ve been somewhat immersed in racing season (see my April 23rd post about Social Distancing Racing) and so every week it’s another challenge. Early on I kept riding, in some cases fairly hard) between races (all TTs), and it began to take its toll. I wasn’t sleeping well some nights, my heart was pounding some mornings when it didn’t used to and my average resting heart rate was climbing.

Once I added in a rest day or two per week I slept better, my RHR got back to a more normal range and I wasn’t so cranky. Denial is d longest river…

Nugget #4 – HIIT it

High-Intensity Interval Training is what HIIT stands for and as painful as it can be it is SO WORTH IT!

The book “Climb!” (see my March 21, 2019 post) by Selene Yeager was life-changing for me. Among other things it includes several HIIT options (it’s by no means an exhaustive resource on the subject, though) that I find can be done inside or outside. In fact IMHO some of them are more easily done on the trainer since as it is a more controlled environment.

HIIT also includes lifting heavy weights. When I lift (twice a week ideally) I go with the circuit training model – I keep the heart rate up and use weights that allow me to do 12 reps per set and 3 sets. I often alternate push, pull, legs, arms, etc. so I can rest some muscles between sets.

I now throw in some weights that are so heavy I can only lift them 5 times or so. The muscles don’t know what to do initially but they figure it out and I’ve gotten both stronger and more lean.

Nugget #5 – Core, Core, Core

It’s all about balance and it’s the core that is responsible. As a martial artist I know this but I have to remind myself fairly often. It’s easier to just get on the bike.

My core-efforts, if you will, include a lot of kettle bell work as well as balance exercises on the Bosu ball and most recently I’ve hung some straps in the garage so I can do leg-curls and leg-lifts from the bottom up, if you get my drift. This approach really works the lower abs and hip-flexors.

I’ve also added other, non-traditional exercises to my repertoire. These include scorpions, weighted jump squats and bird-dogs.

Oh, and speaking of non-traditional…Check out this post: “Find a few extra watts,” from pedalWORKS. I too was skeptical but I kid you not I immediately saw the watts go up when “breaking the bar.”

Show Me the Money!

Coming up the eastern side of Monitor during the 2018 Deathride

Alright Cuba (Gooding, not the country) here are a couple rides I’ve done recently that validate this approach.

Kingsbury Grade (Daggett Summit) – 7.75 miles, 6% avg. gradient, ~2500′ of up

First ridden in April of 2017 and ridden three (3) more times since, the latest being last May (the 29th).

On that May ride I improved on my previous best time
by over thirteen (13) minutes!

Monitor East (Monitor Pass) – 9.25 miles, 7% avg. gradient, ~3100′ of up

First ridden in May of 2017 and ridden six (6) more times since, the latest being June 26th of this year.

On that June ride I improved on my previous best time
by over fourteen (14) minutes!

Granted, this improvement didn’t happen overnight and frankly I’ve still got some more work to do but by focusing more on rest, losing some weight, strengthening my core, hitting those intervals and keeping a better eye on my nutrition I’ve become a much better climber and a better cyclist overall.

Sure, some of this stuff may be obvious (e.g. weight loss) but in my mind it’s the combination of all of these things that have made me a better mountain goat.

How about you?
What have you done to be a better cyclist,
gravel rider or mountain biker?

Do tell!

In Cycling it’s All About the Data – or is It?

Garmin, Wahoo, FitBit, Apple Watch, Lintelek (haven’t heard of that one until today), you name it, most us of have one, or more, so we can track our rides, runs, hikes, sleep, Vo2 max., oxygen saturation, heart rate, caloric intake and on and on and on.

Is it worth the hassle?

Well after yakking with my BFF (and CA Alps Cycling member #3) Scott yesterday about the issues he was having getting his new Wahoo Elemnt Roam to upload to Strava I asked myself that very question.

My answer = YES.

My Experience

I’ve run an Apple Watch (it’s been awhile) and found it wasn’t rugged enough. At one point I used it for work and my Fenix (Garmin) for play. It became too much to manage both systems and I also found in the frequent switches that I would have “button-confusion” (the process whereby you push one button on one watch thinking it was the other button on the other watch and therefore not get the data you were looking for). I just made that up but I think it works. Hello Merriam-Webster! Next edition perhaps?

Image courtesy of Know Your Meme

Finally I decided to simplify my life and I sold the Apple Watch and went with the Fenix. Since then I’ve upgraded a few times to newer Fenix models and I absolutely LOVE this watch (Fenix 6 Pro) and with just a couple of exceptions (I’ll let you guess) it never comes off.

This watch gives me the tools and feedback to monitor and improve my health and fitness. Among other things it’s helped me lose 20 pounds this year and increase my Vo2 max and FTP. It also lets me keep an eye on my pulse ox and resting heart rate – two key indicators that can tell me if something’s awry in the ol’ bod.

What about on the bike?

But…the watch doesn’t work on the bike, at least for me. While I do wear it while I ride, and use it as a back up — which, you’re correct, adds another layer of data complexity and management — I prefer a larger, bicycle specific computer on the two-wheeler, or wheelers. The larger fonts help me see the data that matta betta.

In the saddle I’ve used a Garmin most of the time (1030 is my current model) and a Wahoo Elemnt Bolt some of the time. Recently though, just before Scotty did as it turns out, I purchased a Wahoo Elemnt Roam. Why?

I was tired of the resets and screen freezes on the 1030 and I happened to notice on Strava that Levi Leipheimer was running a Roam. I had also just watched a FulGaz “How to film amazing bike videos” clip on YouTube and it suggested that the Wahoo was the best computer to use to record your rides.

I must give credit where credit is due though: Garmin support has been awesome and they have sent me two replacements. As I think about it, Wahoo support has been great too – I had problems with my original Kickr awhile back and they too sent a new unit my way and knock on wood, no further issues. Maybe I’m just too hard on shit? Or is it just that shit happens? I’m going with the latter.

Talking about confusing data…A cow with horns and an udder?

The downside(s)

Of course being the data-nerd that I am, I had to compare the difference between the Fenix and the Roam. After pairing the same speed sensor to both off I went for a ride up to Raymond Meadow Creek (northern side of Hwy. 4/Ebbetts Pass).

Guess what? The Roam “said” I was faster but the Fenix gave me more credit for elevation gain. Seriously? I have to pick? C’mon man!

As I alluded to in the beginning of the post, there can be upload or download issues, too. While the 1030 uploads seamlessly, even when not on wifi, as does the Fenix, I’ve had challenges with the Roam (but not the Bolt – go figure) uploading when not on wifi. Wahoo support gave Scott some guidance this a.m. though (they also said that a patch was forthcoming) and so we’ll continue to compare notes. Perhaps we’re the exception, Scott and I, as Charlie, CAC member #6, has had no problems uploading via cellular.

Ignoring the data

Part of the feature-set for the Garmin models that I run is the post-ride feedback, e.g. Productive, Unproductive, Maintaining and Peaking. But I’ve had conversations like this with my watch: “What do you mean I’m unproductive (as it displayed yesterday)? How can you say that if my Vo2 max is up and I rested yesterday?” I’ve even been known to give it the finger when I don’t like what it displays.

It’s a similar dynamic that I sometimes experience when using GPS to navigate in my car. What, that’s not the correct street! I shouldn’t turn that direction. I’m going this way!

So are these things worth the trouble?

To me the key is finding the balance and realizing, as I read recently, that these data points are just that – the data helps us make decisions or gives us insight that perhaps we don’t have or couldn’t get. Note to selves: That doesn’t mean though, that we have to pay attention to our various devices like they were oracles!

In spite of all the data and equipment management, upload and download challenges and button confusion, however, I still believe these “widgets” are worthwhile.

How about you? Do you have similar challenges? Perhaps you don’t even run a bike computer (like a friend of mine here in town). Do you have some recommendations? Funny stories?

Please…I need more data!

Checking in from Deathride Town, USA

First and foremost, all of us here at California Alps Cycling hope this post finds you and yours doing as well as possible in this new “pandemic-age.” Yup, we’ve had ’em before and we’ll have ’em again. So “says” a recent article in the San Jose Mercury News. Full disclosure: I’m from San Hoser – born and raised – so I still get “the Merc.,” the digital version of course. My wife and I came up to the Sierra in October of 2016. In any case, the article was good reminder – been there, survived that. At the same time I realize some haven’t. Or, won’t. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them. And their families.

Speaking of the pandemic – Gawd, I sound like one of those characters on that Don Henley song “Dirty Laundry” – Alpine County was just added to the tally; we’ve had our first Covid-19 case here in the county. It was determined that the the disease was picked up in a distant location, not via community transmission, so that’s good. What’s MUCH better is that the patient is recovering well and did a good job of self-quarantining (and the family did too).

There is Snow in Them-thar Hills

On a lighter, weather-related note, we had some good snow up here the first couple weeks of the month – helped with the snowpack. I heard we were up to ~70% of normal. Not bad considering it was closer to 45% at the end of February. Ironic, certainly, that the ski resorts were (and still are) closed due to Covid-19. My wife, Mom and I went for a great hike last weekend (and the weekend before) at Grover Hot Springs State Park (see photos below). Note: The park is closed but hiking is still allowed, although our Sheriff’s office is recently told us all that DOES NOT MEAN BACKPACKING or other backcountry endeavors. He doesn’t want to potentially strain resources on rescues and the like. I’m definitely going to get a bit of snowshoeing in soon, though, before what’s here melts. Not sure what the lay of the land is in Carson Pass and the trails up there. I suspect they are open. Highway 4 (Ebbett’s Pass) is closed just south of Silver Mountain City (and the snowmobilers are happy) and Monitor Pass is closed (and has been, for the winter). Pssst…I heard Monitor was going to open soon but I have yet to get confirmation from Clinton the CalTrans guy.

Cycling, Hiking, Skiing or Snowshoeing and Social Distancing

Had to point it out, if for no other reason than to get the phrase in there so the search engines pick it up and rank me higher. In all seriousness though, I’ve seen some folks up here riding their bikes, enjoying the views by car, snowshoeing, hiking and snowmobiling. Great time to get outdoors, more like a necessity nowadays but I’ve been picking up mixed signals about that and so I thought I’d reach out to our County Health Officer, Dr. Richard Johnson, with a few questions.

Dr. Johnson Says…

  1. Is it okay to hike as long as we keep our distance?
    Absolutely!
  2. We’re not backpacking or anything like that – just day hikes, if not hour hikes. 
    Go for it!
  3. I am a cyclist and just yesterday went out to Diamond Valley and Emigrant Trail – I live here in Markleeville. Was about a 2 hour ride.
    Perfect.
  4. I’ve been furloughed (indeed – the courts, how I earn my living, are hurting) and so am planning on doing some longer rides here in the next few weeks. Is that cool?
    OK to sweat!
  5. I also do a cycling blog so anything you’d like me to share about cycling, mountain biking, etc. here in Alpine Co. would be great. 
  6. Should I tell folks to stay away?
    Yes.
  7. Partake but be safe?
    No.
  8. The issue we are having is visitors coming to recreate, buying up gas supplies and groceries, pooping in public because restrooms are closed. We also do not have emergency services capability to handle accidents. Therefore, we are discouraging all visitors – not residents – from coming to Alpine County for recreation. That also violates the Governor’s order to stay at home.

So, there you have it. A bit of green light, red light. Another irony, unfortunately. We like visitors. Visitors like us. There’s no one around and even less traffic than usual. Sadly, it’s just not a good idea right now and we’re all suffering for it. I’m planning on re-doubling my efforts to help with that damn curve. Flatten baby, flatten! Save lives, stay home. Or perhaps: Save lives, stay away (works both ways as far as I’m concerned – We Markleevillians, and Bear Vallians, and Woodfordsians, need to stay the heck away from you too! Hey, I’ve seen this one before…How about: Save lives, ride a bike.

I like this one best: Stay Away – BUT just for little while; looking forward to seeing you one day soon!

Deathride Update

As this point, the Deathride – Tour of the California Alps, is a GO! As many of you know, tons of cycling events, including UCI races, have been canceled or postponed. I was going to ride the Wildflower Century in April in Chico, CA but it was canceled. The Truckee Dirt Fondo, on the other hand, scheduled for June 13th, emailed me to say it was a go. I suspect, based on the recent extension of the social distancing guidelines, that it might not fly, however. It’s hard to say at this point if “the DR” is going to go for sure but we here in Alpine Co. sure hope so. It’s our mainstay event and keeps our little Chamber solvent and more importantly it puts TONS OF DUCATS into our local economy, which relies primarily on tourism. Fingers crossed; the eternal optimist…We will of course be having that conversation soon and any updates will be forthcoming. In the meantime…

Please be well and do stay healthy and let’s all kick some viruses asses!

Cycling in Britain and France on the Same Day

I did it virtually, courtesy of FulGaz, but I guess it could be done physically via the Chunnel train (added to my list). I however rode in both countries last Sunday from the comfort (kinda) of my pain cave.

I got the idea after getting an email from FulGaz telling me that Alpe d’Huez was now available on their app. I had started it on Zwift one day last year but wasn’t able to finish – life got in the way. Then I had forgotten about it until my brother from another mother, and California Alps Cycling member, Scott Keno, did it (or shall I say “smoked it”) last week. Now Scotty is a freak of nature and so I knew there was no way I was going to even come close to his time but I thought I’d give it a whirl, until I realized I couldn’t figure out how to get there in that virtual Zwift world.

As it turns out, I was more into the solo, non-game ride anyway and having seen “the Alpe” so many times while watching the TDF I wanted to see and ride the real thing (or as real as it could be if I wasn’t on the actual pavement) not the cartoon version. So, rather than try to figure out the right path on Zwift, I went with the FulGaz version.

The summit looms – just over an hour into the climb.
At the top. Pretty cool, eh?

Okay, so you’re asking: “What about Britain?” Well, that was my warm up. I did the Tour of Britain 2019 Stage 6 Pershore iTT and it was a kick. Again, fun to see real roads, real trees and real cars (that can’t hit or door you).

‘Twas a bright and sunny day in Pershore!

So, when you can’t get outside, and you’re looking for an alternative to gamification, check out FulGaz and you too can ride in two (2) countries (or more) on the same day, or even the same morning! Happy New Year!

My combined stats from both rides…Perhaps you want to give it a whirl and see if you can do better?

Last Weekend’s Adventures in the California Alps

After a crazy week of work, community activities and training it was great to take a day for my head and just relax a bit. The weather was about to turn cold (it has as of this a.m. – 5 degrees fahrenheit here this morning) so we wanted to take advantage of the mid-70’s we were supposed to have, (and did!) on Saturday.

Footprints tell the story…

My wife, Mom and I headed to Curtz Lake here in Markleeville for a bit of hiking and birdwatching. The former was the plan, the latter was a bonus. As you can see by the many prints on the trail (there are some deer and other animal prints in there – look closely) lots of folks take advantage of this loop trail that was built, and is maintained, by the Alpine Trails Association.

It’s a nice easy loop and good for all ages and levels of hiking, and for me personally it was a great rest/recovery day after a hard week of riding. I did mention birdwatching… Here’s a few of the birds we saw (and that I could actually identify – not a professional birder by any means) on the hike:

  1. Clark’s Nutcracker
  2. Western Bluebirds (male and female)
  3. Red-breasted AND white-breasted Nuthatch
  4. The ubiquitous Steller’s Jay

We were surprised by the amount of activity, especially the nuthatches. They were all over the place and so fun to watch with their telltale downward “walk.”

After that taxing (not!) stroll we were in need of sustenance, so off to Genoa we went. A blood mary at the Genoa Bar (Nevada’s Oldest Thirst Parlor – founded in 1853) is always an excellent option and some good grub at the Genoa Station Bar & Grille was a nice follow up.

Amazing light and fluorescent aspens

Later that afternoon it was time for a ride. I hadn’t planned on it since it was supposed to be my rest day but the weather was glorious (mid-70s) and it was supposed to (and did) turn cold the next day, so of course I had to partake. So glad I did because the light coming through the East Carson River canyon was fantastic.

We’ve still got a bit of leaf-peeping left here in the California Alps so come on up if you’re so inclined.

We’ll be doing a bit of peeping ourselves this weekend. A few of us are doing a ride up to Ebbett’s pass Saturday (weather should be good – 65 or so by late morning or early afternoon). If you’d like to join us give me a shout!

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the pix and that your riding, or other planned adventures, are feeding your head, too.

Climb! the California Alps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snowbound California Alps Cyclist Found in Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some stats from my February:

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

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

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

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.