Category: science

Searching for Other Passions – Thanks to My Prostate

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

BPH and Me

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

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

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

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

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

Some History

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons Learned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the Gut?

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

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

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

The Small Intestine

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

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

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

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

Nope, it’s that little bowel!

Osmosis

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s All…For Now

THIS is only part one after all.

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

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

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

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

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!

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!

Aches and Pains When Riding? Consider a Bike Fit!

If you’re like me, and most of the riders I know, you have some sort of issue with some part (of your anatomy) when riding. Sometimes it’s numbness in the nether-regions, sometimes it’s numbness in the hands, sometimes it’s burning in the feet and sometimes it’s some other nit somewhere else.

In the past I’ve dealt with several of these problems. Thanks to finding the right equipment and most importantly finding the right fit, though, that hasn’t been the case. Until recently…

Last year I ordered my first (and only) Project One bike from Trek: my boy Blue. Yup, that’s him below.

Blue, the wild mustang of Markleeville, named after Blue, one of leaders of a band of wild horses in the Pine Nuts.

It was an awesome experience, made even better thanks to the collaboration I had with Big Daddy’s Bike, Ski & Board (aka Big Daddy’s Bike & Brew I believe) in Gardnerville, NV.

Keith and crew did an awesome job helping me pick certain parts and speccing the bike and of course they assembled it as well. We pretty much nailed it! We did the basic bike fit — you know, elbows bent, not too extended in the cockpit, knees over the spindles using a plumb line — all that stuff, and the bike felt really good. I then double checked some measurements on my Domane and tried to replicate those as best I could on the Emonda.

After several thousand miles, however, I was still getting too much numbness in the hands and so I decided to quit putting off that professional bike fit.

I had one many years ago when I lived in the Bay Area and it was during those sessions that the bike fit technician suggested (among other tweaks) that I should invest in Speedplay pedals. Those pedals allowed for more set back than most (there’s a special plate that helps).

I have really long (14.5) feet and was getting too much hot foot because, as it turns out, the spindle was in front of the ball of my foot, thereby putting too much pressure on the toes and the nerves therein. I’m still riding Speedplays today and have been able to find some Euro size 15s that are Speedplay (aka 4-hole) specific, so no more need for that extender base plate and therefore the stack height that goes along with it.

Fast forward to today; last week to be more precise. After doing a bit of research I decided to go to Barton Ortho and Wellness in South Lake Tahoe, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Blue and I met with Harrison, a physical therapist and professional bike fitter. After a short interview it was on the bike for a look-see.

Harrison set up lasers to check knee alignment first and noticed my knees were coming in towards the top tube on the upstroke. We then checked my feet – yup, I’m a pronator – happens when we get older. Those arches go away. Some shims inside of the shoes and a re-check and it was much better.

We then took a look at my knee extension and seat position. Guess what? My seat was just a bit too high (we dropped it about 1/4 inch) and the nose was down 3 degrees. Both of those things made me put more pressure on the hands. And, as it turns out, that seat position was also putting a bit too much stress on the hips and lower back. Ah, that’s why the sore lower back maybe? Notwithstanding the knee issues it could cause… Seat down, nose up. Good to go.

A Bit of “Table-work”

Off the bike I got and on the table I went for a leg length and flexibility check. Both legs measured the same length so that was good. Flexibility was pretty good too but Harrison did notice some tightness in the left hip as well as the right ankle. A couple things to work on, certainly.

Next…I have a follow up appt. in the coming week and among other things I’m going to get fitted for some orthotics and report back on how things are going so far. Unfortunately, due to the smoke, I’ve not been able to ride outside but thanks to FulGaz (see last week’s post) I’ve managed to test out the new fit every day.

Here’s What I’ve Experienced so Far

While hand numbness is still there it’s MUCH LESS than it was. With my upper body size I put more weight on the bars than those of you who are much lighter and that’s not going to change. What could change, though, is my abdominal strength. Another reason it’s good to talk with a professional: I’ve been working on the lower back thinking that pain was due to lack of strength there. On the contrary, and somewhat counterintuitively, it’s my abs that need the work.

In other news…Back pain? Gone! Power? Up! Left/right balance? Better! Connection to the bike over all? Much improved! Oh, and the price? $250.00. For both sessions.

A bargain IMHO.

So if you are having some of these same botherations than you too are a candidate for a professional bike fit.

Get one and there’s no doubt you’ll be more blissful on the bike!

Let me know how it goes.

Wind, Wind and More Wind

Why is it that the headwind on the way out isn’t a tailwind on the way back? How come those crosswinds turn to headwinds? Why does wind seem to come screaming down one little canyon from the east but on another canyon just up the road it comes from the west?

As a local rider and friend, and member of CA Alps Cycling said to me some time ago (and he’s lived here for decades): “The wind can be a bit vexing here, can’t it?” So, true, Rich. So very true.

I originally published this post in November of 2018. After some recent “howlers” here in the California Alps though — including a ride just last week where the crosswinds were so strong I had to lean in so much I felt like I was riding at a 45 degree angle — I thought it might be time to re-post it. So here ’tis, a little trip down a windy, memory lane.

As a San Jose native, I was very familiar with the wind patterns. I lived in South San Jose for many years and could plan my rides knowing pretty well how the wind would blow: Go out early and get the tailwind on the way home. Go out later in the afternoon and get the headwind on the way home. Certainly this did depend on the direction of my ride but for the most part I could easily predict the patterns.

So, what’s the deal with that moving air here in the Sierra Nevada?

Well, thanks to “A Sierra Club Naturalist’s Guide” by Stephen Whitney, we’ve got some answers. 

Mountain winds: “Winds and breezes passing over a rugged mountain range such as the Sierra follow tortuous courses over and around ridges, up and down canyons, through gaps in the crest. Eddies set up by the irregular terrain blow here and there in vigorous gusts that rattle trees and shrubs one minute only to abruptly die down the next. In the protection of a large boulder or grove of trees there may be scarcely any wind at all, while just a few yards away, in a more exposed area, it howls furiously.”

Wind-driven clouds in the CA Alps

Okay, so that makes sense. It’s somewhat analogous to the flow of a river. Rocks = rapids. Eddies are often downstream of those big rocks and flat water can be seen where there aren’t any big rocks to interrupt the water’s flow.

Let’s dive a little deeper, though. Why is it that I can head up Hwy. 4 (towards Ebbett’s Pass) with a headwind and then not get that tailwind on the way back? Okay, sometimes I do get the tailwind but it’s not consistent like it was in Silicon Valley.

Well, Mr.Whitney gives us a bit more information: It’s about mountain breezes, valley breezes and the mountain ranges “intrusion” into the tropopause

“On a warm summer morning the air next to the ground surface is heated and rises. Cooler air nearby moves in to replace it and rises in turn. This movement is felt during the day as an upslope breeze.” Typically, he writes, this starts about three hours after sunrise and reaches its peak during the hottest hours of the day and then it tapers off again around dusk.”

This is a valley breeze.  

“At night, cool air flows downslope, creating the mountain breeze.”

Dust off those cobwebs and cast your mind back

To those high school science days (daze?), that is…

Here’s some additional data: “Wind speed increases over mountain crests and through canyons and passes because air – like any fluid – accelerates when forced through a narrow passage. As a volume of air moves upslope, it is increasingly squeezed between the mountains and the tropopause, the inversion layer acting as a lid on the lower atmosphere.”

“Since the volume of air remains the same as it squeezes over the mountain crest, it becomes elongated.” Okay so that means it picks up speed. Seems reasonable…He goes on to write that “air forced to squeeze through a canyon or mountain pass is accelerated in much the same way.”

In doing a bit more googling today, I came across this article from the Smithsonian. I don’t recall discussing the Bernoulli Principle in Bio 1 (or any other bio or science courses I took in high school or community college), but if I did it’s been too many years or perhaps it’s due to mistakes of a misspent (not all of it, I swear) youth. Nonetheless, it’s on point! The principle, not the misspent youth…

Mountain winds, valley breezes and mountain breezes

So, there we have it! Mountain winds, mountain breezes and valley breezes combined with the myriad canyons, crests, passes and that ol’ tropopause challenge those of us who cycle in the California Alps.

It’s a rare day when we have no wind and due to the topography you can’t count on consistency. If you ride here then you, grasshopper, like me, need to learn to embrace the wind. 

Ride safe out there and let’s kick some passes asses!™ Even the windy ones…

Climbing Mountain Passes – 5 Key Things to Know

I’ve lived here in the heart of the Sierra Nevada for about 3 1/2 years now and in that time I’ve tackled our “Big 3” (Carson, Ebbett’s, Monitor) a bunch of times (well except for Carson Pass), and I’ve done some of the lesser known climbs as well. The below tally is by no means a comprehensive Sierra Nevada list but it gives me enough experience to offer some advice as to what to be wary of when you’re climbing big mountains here in the California Alps.

The Current Count

  • Carson Pass = 1
  • Ebbett’s Pass (N. – the Markleeville side) = 14
    (my favorite climb as you can see)
  • Ebbett’s Pass (S. – the Bear Valley side – from Hermit Valley) = 2
  • Geiger Grade = 1
  • Luther Pass = (S. – the Tahoe side) = 2
  • Kingsbury Grade = 2
  • Monitor (E. – the Topaz side) = 5
  • Monitor (W. – the Markleeville side) = 7
  • Spooner Summit (Hwy. 50 – E. – the Carson City side) = 2

That’s a total of 32 climbs on local mountains (or passes as they are also referred) for approximately 112,000 feet of climbing, or the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest almost four (4) times! Here’s some of what I’ve learned in all those hours and pedal revolutions.

Climbs up Mountains are Steep

Yeah, this may seem like a no-brainer but just last week, as I was climbing the west side of Monitor (the first 3.5 miles of which average close to 10%) I came across a few cyclists struggling to maintain any kind of cadence. I noticed that several did not have the right gearing (I ride a 50-34 in front and a 30-11 in back).

Lesson learned #1: make sure you have the right chainrings and cogset.

The Air is Thin

A couple riders told me as I passed (and they gasped for air) that they didn’t realize how hard it would be and that it was difficult to get any air. Some riders I’ve talked to like to come up and spend time here before they hit the climbs. Others come right up and do their climbing before their body realizes they’re here. In any case, be do your homework!

Lesson learned #2: address acclimatization.

Winds Can be Vexing

One of our members, Dr. Rich Harvey, commented on this post (which I wrote some time ago) and it was he that used the word “vexing.” So appropriate because here in the mountains there really are NO reliable wind patterns. Just yesterday I rode part-way up Ebbett’s Pass, into the wind. Did I get the tailwind on the way back? Nope. The wind shifted due to, among other things, the valley winds (explanation in that post).

Lesson learned #3: It’s a rare day that there is no wind and so set your expectations (and plan your wardrobe) accordingly.

The Climate can Change Quickly

There can be a temperature variation of 10-20 degrees between the start of the climb and the summit! And, in the summertime there are often afternoon thunderstorms. During the 2018 Deathride several of our riders were pelted with hail and rain on Carson Pass. This was in July and it was sunny here in Markleeville!

Just last Saturday I climbed Monitor. I brought an additional neck-gaiter and hat for the descent but it wasn’t enough. The wind came up and the temperature dropped while I was still climbing up to the summit. I did have a vest on, and arm-warmers, but I should have brought another jersey or vest. In the past I’ve done so (using a cinch-pack). This day, though, I didn’t follow my own advice and I was so cold on the descent I started to shiver badly enough that I had to stop and warm up before I could continue.

Lessen learned #4: Bring the necessary gear, or layer up, so you can deal with any adverse conditions that may arise.

There is No Cell-Service

We’ve all come to take cell service for granted. Here in Markleeville it’s really only Verizon that works. My wife and I had AT&T in San Jose but when we moved up here we quickly switched to Verizon. That doesn’t do diddly-squat up on Ebbett’s Pass, though, or even in some of the lower elevations. I carry a Garmin inReach Mini on my rides. Admittedly, I already had it before I moved up to the mountains because I’ve got a yellow-jacket allergy. But, had I not had it before I moved here I would have gotten it afterwards. Among other things (including an SOS feature) it allows me to send texts to my wife from anywhere in the world.

Lesson learned #5: Get a satellite communication device if you can and if you can’t (and I do this also) make sure you have clearly communicated to “your person” your route, your approximate return time and what to do “if you don’t hear from me by such and such a time.”

Cycling in the Mountains is an Awesome Experience

And one that is made that much better if you are prepared for what you’ll experience. Understand the topography; prepare for the thin air, wind and climate; and address communication. By following some of my lessons learned you too can have an awesome experience cycling in one of the world’s most amazing venues – the Sierra Nevada, and our little slice of heaven within, the California Alps.

A Walk on the Wildlife Side

As a follow up to my last post, and since we recently installed a wildlife camera here at California Alps Cycling HQ, I thought I’d regale you with some photos of the wild things that we see here in the California Alps.

Here’s “Yogi” in action!

This time of year we see more eagles than usual. While there are a couple regular mating pairs of baldies at two (2) of our local lakes, during the winter we tend to see more of them, as well as some Goldens (alas, no good pix of them yet) due to the calf-birthing that takes place nearby in Carson (aka Eagle) Valley. They are here for the after-birth (births?). Yeah, somewhat gross but I like the fact that the eagles don’t mind cleaning up after the mama-cows. I suspect the ranchers like it too – nothing worse than stepping in a gut-pile!

We’ve got a rafter of wild turkeys that hang out nearby too. While I am a hunter (and have taken one in the past) I don’t hunt anything here on the property – we enjoy the company too much. I can’t speak for the resident coyote(s) though.

Many people don’t know that if Benjamin Franklin had his way the wild turkey would be our national bird. While they are beautiful birds (and big too), and have the vision of an eagle, I personally think the Founding Fathers made the right choice.

Speaking of coyotes…There’s a sizable number of them here in Markleeville and they’ve been known to work together to take outdoor pets. Just last week we saw three (3) of them here at HQ just after dusk. Last summer, one of them took one of our neighbor’s chickens. They are wiley (pun intended) suckers.

Caught this guy on our wildlife camera just last week.
SQUIRREL!
Looks like it’s thinking about what to do next or perhaps trying to figure out where it put those pine nuts.

We’re pretty sure we’ve got a mountain lion in the area and so I’m hoping to get a shot of it soon. I’ll keep you posted!

We knew there were WILD animals here, no doubt, but to see them, or evidence of them, in person, makes it much more real. Have any photos of wildlife you’ve taken while on a ride or hike in the California Alps? Feel free to post them on our Facebook page (@bikedalps) if so!

Stay wild my friends, and ride safe!

Another Successful Adopt-a-Highway Event in the California Alps

Success on an Adopt-a-Highway day is a mixed bag, no pun intended. It’s great to be able to give back to the community but I wish we didn’t have to pick up trash in the first place. It’s mind-boggling to me that people still litter at all!

Bailey, Henry, Pat, Mark & January with the day’s haul from Saturday’s clean up.

Now to be sure, some of the littering was likely accidental – for example the Kenworth branded mudflap we found, or the socket wrench, with a couple sockets, likely left there by a distracted, or perhaps hurried, repair-maker (there’s not a whole lot of shoulder on that particular chunk of Highway 89 where this stuff was found).

Other than those “special” items, we found the typical beer cans (mostly Coors light and Chelada), numerous cigarette butts (seriously?), a filled (ew!) baby diaper, one-half of a plastic Easter egg, numerous plastic bags, various plastic car parts (headlight lenses, pieces of wind deflectors, taillight lenses, etc.), myriad bottles, including a few Sierra Nevada Summerfest, and other “fun” items.

The California Alps Cycling crew was joined this time by two folks from Sparks, NV: Henry and Bailey. They reached out to us after seeing our last blog post advertising the event. Chris (legacy member, Chris Schull) and I met them a couple months ago. We chatted a bit in town (Markleeville) as we were coming back from a ride and they were heading out. Henry and Bailey felt that it was important to give back to the community where they ride quite often and we can’t agree more. That’s one big reason we do it.

One of the other reasons we do it is to help keep our watersheds clean.

“As an interconnected system, an impact to any part of the watershed affects the rest of the system downstream.”

Did you know Alpine County includes the headwaters of five (5) watersheds?

Yup! The American, Carson, Mokelumne, Stanislaus and Truckee Rivers all get their start here and so it’s that much more important to prevent garbage and other nasties from getting into these rivers.

And, we aren’t the only ones that take this seriously. The Alpine Watershed Group does too. As their tagline reads, they are: “Working to preserve and enhance the natural system functions in Alpine County’s watersheds for future generations through collaboration, education, and proactively implementing stewardship projects.” We’ve donated to the AWG before and today we became a sustaining member. Perhaps you can help out, too? Just go to their website and donate, or volunteer, or both. They, and we, would love to have you!

Speaking of healthy watersheds…We have been frequented here at CA Alps Cycling HQ recently by an osprey! We saw it fly over town a couple days ago and then noticed it on Sunday, perched on a branch here, eating a snake.

“Our osprey” checking out the scene.

Was that a thank you? We’d like to think so.

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!