Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tour de Tahoe (Part 2)

When last we met, I was discussing our ride down Millionaire Mile. Man those were nice houses.

Once through that neighborhood, however, it was back to the highway. Amazingly the narrow two lane highways we were on most of the day never seemed as nerve racking as I thought they would be. Apparently, having already passed 500 riders cars had figured that there would be more, were looking for us, and gave us plenty of room.

Soon we were riding by all the cars parked above Hidden Beach (Lake Tahoe's nude beach for those not familiar with the area). So focused were we on the goal at hand, however, that even if the Hooters swim team had come hiking up tho their cars in the buff we would just have continued on towards the finish line. OK, you're right, it would have been rude not to stop for at least a couple pictures... Not an issue at any rate, there was nothing to be seen but crystal clear waters, mountains that looked like they were cut out of the sky and awesome granite boulders

After that came Sand Harbor which looked pretty busy and then the climbing began in earnest which earned this leg of the ride the theme song, AC/DC's "Highway to Hell". It was almost Johnny Cash "Ring of Fire" but after Ken suggested Highway to Hell I came up with a perfect tie in to the next leg so Highway to Hell it was.

I'm sure you're wondering how any part of this beautiful ride could be given such a tortuous sounding theme song. Let me explain. First, remember we're over 50 miles into the ride at this point. Regardless of how beautiful the route the legs are starting to tire. Second, at this point we started the LONG climb up Spooner Summit. Spooner is over 1000 vertical feet of climbing. Third, because of the time of day and the direction we were headed (south)the sun was beating directly down at us and there was very little shad despite the tall trees growing to either side of the road.

Ken had indicated that the next stop was at the top of this climb so I kept a mantra going in my head, "Just make it to the rest stop, make it to the rest stop, all down hill after the rest stop..." Of course, Ken rode on ahead to find a tree that looked like it was need of irrigation leaving me to contemplate the meaning of life and the chances this hill had no end. To say this hill was a grind was an understatement. Not only that but I kept passing and being passed by the same people. I'd pass them and a few minutes later they'd pass me, and then I'd pass them. Time seemed to stop and the only thing that still existed was the heat and the pain in my legs. But if I could just make the rest stop...

And then there it was, the shining city on the hill. Bikes were pulling off into the most beautiful oasis I had ever seen. Yes, it was just a pullout with a few tables setup but to me it was like seeing the rescue helicopter having been adrift in the ocean for weeks. I had made it! We were there! And then it happened... Ken walked up and said "Hey, how you doing, only a few more MILES to the top. Exsqueeze Me? It sounded like you said a few more MILES to the top. Red lights flashed in front of my eyes, voices in my head urged me to find the nearest large rock and bash Ken in the head repeatedly.

Luckily, more rational voices won out and I think I said something like "Oh, really, I thought you said the rest area was at THE FRIGGIN TOP OF THE HILL". At which point Ken informed me this was a new rest area they didn't have last year. Good thing I didn't listen to those voices... Anyhow, the rest area did do me some good. I downed generous quantities of liquid and felt a lot better and ready to push on.

Here's a few pics from that mid-climb rest area:

Here's the bottles of water I finished off while at this rest stop! :-)

After that it wasn't that bad a push to get up to the summit where another rest stop awaited.

At the summit some were saying it was all downhill from there. Ken urged me not to believe it as there were some more shorter uphill sections left. Having been up at Tahoe a couple days before when my wife, son, and I did a boat tour on the MS Dixie I already knew it was somewhat rolling from the bottom of Spooner back to stateline.

And so we pushed off, headed down the south side of Spooner Summit. The first few miles were a relatively steep downgrade with nice wide turns making for one smoking descent. The theme song for this section of the ride was Meatloaf's "Bat Out of Hell" (get it, Highway to Hell followed by Bat OUT of Hell?). Man was that a fun descent. The air was blowing past my face so fast my eyes were tearing like crazy and it felt like we were practically falling into the lake below us. It was sweet!

After the screaming descent it was a quick succession of ups and downs back to Stateline and the finish line at the HoHo. The one highlight was Cave Rock. At Cave Rock the highway goes through a tunnel drilled into this giant granite outcropping. Here's a picture:

As we approached the tunnel Ken called out "Make sure you honk your horn as you go through". So, there we were, riding through the tunnel, me calling out a low "HOOOONNNNKKK" while Ken chose a higher pitched "BEEEEEPPPPPP". It's the simple things that amuse us the most!

At the finish line, we rode under the FINISH arch together, then got out the camera and got pictures of each of us riding under the finish arch separately. It was an incredible ride, one that reminds you why you ride a bike in the first place. I've driven around Lake Tahoe dozens of times in my life and always been impressed but it just doesn't compare to having biked around it. And to cross the finish line with as good a friend as Ken, makes it even better.

Next ride - The Maywood Earth Century this Saturday. Updates to follow. Until then, Ride On!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tour de Tahoe

Mark Twain once said, "To breathe the air that angels breathe, one must visit Lake Tahoe." It really is that beautiful. If nothing else I was eager for the Tour de Tahoe for the beautiful country we would be riding in. No cornfields on this ride!

I would like to say the day started bright and beautiful but that was not the case. No, the day started rather black. You could almost say it was night. OK, it was still night. We had to drive for over an hour just to get to Stateline where the ride started so we were up well before dawn, downed some breakfast and headed up into the mountains.

We arrived at the Horizon Casino Hotel (I wonder if they ever call it the Ho Ho)with a little bit of time before our scheduled start. We got the bikes out, made sure we had everything ready to go, and took a picture before the start. (WARNING: In all these pictures, Ken looks like he's ready for a Bicycling photo shoot, while I look like a swollen lemon. If you get nauseous easily, you may want to skip the pictures.)

No group start here, you got to the start and took off headed south towards the first big climb around Emerald Bay.

As we rode the route I realized that each section of the ride had its own flavor, if you will, and that a particular song described each section. For instance, the first part of the ride had me thinking of "Here Comes the Sun" by The Beatles. The reason I had this song in my head was because it was COLD, high 30's cold, at the start line and I knew if the sun would just make it above the ridgeline all would be good. I also knew that, sun or no sun, come the first climb I would be plenty warm.

The first part was relatively flat and Ken and I were both spinning pretty high cadences just trying to get the muscles loose and ready for the day's effort. I noticed there seemed to be ALOT of riders (as if the fact that I had number 1794 wasn't enough of a clue - YES, they started at 1).

We passed through the town of South Lake Tahoe and soon the first climb of the day loomed large before us like some menacing creature of the deep into who's venomous fangs we must ride as if the hounds of hell were at our backs (just wanted to throw in some cool alliteration (or whatever that's called) for fun).

We began the climb and I was feeling pretty good. Both of us were in our middle chain rings at the turnoff for Fallen Leaf Lake about which time Ken indicated he was going to go ahead and get in rhythm and promptly took off like a shot out of a cannon. I was able to keep him in site for awhile, however, and was just starting to think the climb wasn't too bad, and maybe I could just middle chainring it to the top when the road suddenly went up in such a manner that it made the climb up to that point look downhill. I was soon in my little chainring, big cog and pushing for all I was worth just to make forward progress. The middle of the hairpin turns felt almost vertical.

The song for this portion of the ride was REO Speedwagon's "In My Dreams". Not for the title but for the chorus, you know the part that goes:
We climb and climb and at the top we fly
Let the world go on below us, we are lost in time.

Very fitting I thought. At any rate, I felt really good to reach the rest area at the top of the climb with no stops. I was definitely breathing deeply (some might call it "sucking air" I suppose) but I felt pretty good.

Ken had been there for about 5 minutes or so already, so I found him, hit the snacks table for copious quantities of carbohydrates and large quantities of fluids (Cytomax was there sports drink of choice). The food was very good with a wide assortment of fruits, gels, bars, and even baked potatoes. Here are a few pictures showing just how many bikers there were and also what an incredibly awesome day it was.

The one bummer about this rest area, is that there's another short but fairly steep climb right out of the gate when you hit the road again. But it's not long and once you reach the top it's downhill for a few miles. There is but one song that fits the bill for this section of the ride and that is Led Zeppelin's Rock and Roll! It is a rocking and rolling good time.

I will admit I was a little tentative on the downhills and a few riders blew by me as if I were standing still, but after riding in Illinois for a few years I had forgotten how intense the acceleration is and just how fast you can get going. Ken went around me and I believe he said his max speed was 46 mph. SMOKING!

The next rest area was at Homewood Mountain Ski Resort on the West Shore and it was amazing how quickly we were there. I couldn't believe it when I looked up and saw everyone turning in. Not that I was complaining about another chance to refuel.

It was at this rest area that we heard the story of the rider who had a bee fly down here jersey and stung her in the breast. Ahhh, the perils of biking. You should've seen the line of cyclists offering to suck out the stinger for her though!

This would also be a good time to mention that it was during this ride that I became aware of a certain bond that Ken and my dad share, probably without realizing it. You'll know from my earlier posts that my dad loves to visit every restroom of every stop on the bike rides we're on. Ken also visits every port-a-potty on the route. In fact, the regularly scheduled stops were not enough for Ken, throughout the ride he'd often ride on ahead so he could "water a tree" along the road when convenient.

At any rate, here's a a few pictures of the Homewood rest stop.

We were soon back on the road and headed around the Northwest portion of the lake. This was probably the flattest stage of the ride with some nice views of the lake. Temperatures were good and we were able to push a pretty big gear through this whole section. For the most part this portion of the ride was pretty relaxing and you could really pick any piece of classical music as the theme for this section.

There was, however, one piece of excitement in this section. As we rode along at a good clip we were passed by a highway patrolmen with his lights going. A little farther ahead we found where he was headed. There had been a bike wreck of some sort. There was a pickup truck that already had 4 or 5 bikes in the back, presumably the bikes of injured riders, and paramedics were tending to a female rider on the far side of the guardrail. We're not sure if she landed there after the crash or if they moved her there to get her out of traffic. At any rate, they were applying a rather large bandage to her thigh. Hope everyone was alright.

We soon arrived at our next stop, King's Beach, where our lunch was waiting for us. Lunch was advertised as submarine sandwiches, but these were more like mini-subs. Light on meat and toppings, but they hit the spot none-the-less. And what a great view we had while eating our lunch. Tahoe is one beautiful lake and it reflects the color of sky so perfectly, and on the day of the ride the sky was a deep, cloudless blue. Here's a few pictures to show what I'm talking about...

Check out what a great photographer Ken is, I think this is the best picture of me of the day!

To sum up the ride so far, everything was going extremely swimmingly. I felt energized, our pace was good, and the scenery was beautiful. You can insert the ominous, foreboding music here.

The next section from Kings Beach to the top of Spooner Summit began innocently enough. The route could be described as rolling. There were a few short climbs followed by mellow downhill sections that allowed you to put it in the big ring and crank away.

At Incline Village, we bypassed Higway 28 and rode along Lakeshore Blvd. This section of rode, nicknamed Millionaire Mile, lives up to that nickname. There are some incredibly nice houses along this section of the lake. I can't imagine what it would be like to live in that area (or to pay one of their mortgage payments for that matter).

I think I'll break here for right now and pick up the saga again, hopefully tomorrow

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Five days until Ken and I participate in the Tour de Tahoe. It will be very interesting to see how my body responds to being back at altitude.

We arrived at my sister's house Sunday afternoon. Monday morning I went for a ride from her house up and over the hill into Lemmon Valley, rode down to the end of the road and then turned around and came back. On the way out I passed my sister returning from her early morning training run for the half marathon she'll be running in later this fall.

I hit the hill and the very cold morning suddenly felt a little warmer as my body began to feel the steepness of the climb. I was breathing in deeply but it didn't feel like I was getting much oxygen. This side of the climb is the steeper climb and I soon found myself in the little chainring big cog but I made the summit without stopping.

I zipped my windbreaker back up and started my descent to find another surprise, my brakes were woefully out of adjustment. Especially the rear brake, GREAT! I never realized this in Illinois because who uses brakes in Illinois? I stopped to adjust my brakes only instead of adjusting the barrel adjuster for the brakes, I was adjusting the barrel adjusters for the derailleurs. So now I had a bike with no brakes that wouldn't shift properly.

I coasted down to the bottom of the hill, scrubbing speed as best I could when needed. At the bottom I was able to correct my derailleur adjustment and then adjust my brakes so I had a lot more stopping power.

The trip back up the hill on the other side went pretty well, I even had a couple gears left at the top and the availability of brakes made the trip down much more enjoyable. From there it was a nice flat, quick sprint back to my sister's house.

Tomorrow, Ken and I are going to head out mountain biking. I'm looking forward to it. Maybe up in the higher country my allergies won't be bothering me quite as much as they have been here in the valley.

I'll update more tomorrow if I have the energy!

Ride on!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

102 Reasons to Hate Centuries

So September 15th was the day of the big century. A full summer's worth of training would culminate with my dad and I departing Maywoods Environmental Park in Sheboygan, WI for a 100 mile bike ride. You know it's really funny how 100 miles really doesn't seem like that long a distance when you first sign up for the ride and yet, when the day of the ride finally comes, you find yourself thinking "What fool in his right mind would sign up for a hundred freaking mile bike ride?" My legs sometimes cramp up DRIVING 100 miles. As my dad pointed out during the ride, it's only 15 miles shy of riding from Milwaukee to Green Bay... that's a long ways!

Anyhow, once again we must back it up to get the full story of where I was at coming into the ride. In a word the answer to that question is Hawaii! Yes, my wife and I spent over a week enjoying the beaches and scenery of Kauai and Oahu. A great time! Unfortunately (as I knew would happen) I never got around to renting that bike and taking a ride to "keep my legs fresh" as planned. This meant my last ride was Sept. 2nd, in Minnesota which is a story in itself (let's just say that 30 mile an hour headwinds while riding past field freshly covered with pig manure does not make for a good time). So Hawaii was great for relaxation but not so great for getting ready for a century.

We arrived back in Minnesota on Thursday morning, drove to my brothers house on Friday and the century was on Saturday. When we left for Hawaii the temperatures were in the high 80's, I prayed it wouldn't be that hot for the century since, as previously mentioned, I hate riding in high heat and humidity. God sometimes has a funny way of answering prayers. I know this because the forecast ride time temperature was 37 degrees (yes thats Fahrenheit). But of course I planned for the possibility of cold weather and packed cold weather riding gear right? Well, not so much. But I at least did have a windbreaker right? Again, not so much yes as no. So... when my dad showed up at my brothers house we headed over to Wal Mart to see what they might have to help out. Selection wasn't great but I did find a long sleeve jersey and a pair of camouflage gloves. The gloves were under $3 so I figured if they got too warm I'd chuck them into the ditch or something.

The next morning we were up early to head to the starting point. It was butt cold. I mean see your breath and watch it freeze and fall to the ground cold. OK maybe not that cold, but it was freezing if you were dumb to enough to show up in a long sleeve jersey and camouflage gloves (oh yeah, I was wearing shorts too!). There is only one word that would describe the first 12 miles or so, that word being Brrrrrrrrrrrrr! My legs just turned blue remembering the experience.

Anyhow, because it gets light later this time of the year, the ride had a relatively late start time of 7:30AM. They announced in the pre ride briefing that they would like to have everyone off the course by 5PM if possible. That's 9:30 hours for you non-math types or a little over 10mph average including time spent on breaks. Based on our times for our previous shorter rides I figured this would be close to when we would actually be finishing.

So 7:30 AM we headed out led by a rider in a giant Badger costume (only in WI). The first 12 miles were, because of the immense cold, quite miserable. It was so cold nothing would loosen up and my heartbeat was about 200 bpm just trying to pump enough blood to the extremities to keep my body alive. I have to tell you that if I had been asked after the first 12 miles what are chances of finishing the century were I would have put them at about 10%. At least for me... My dad was chipper as ever talking about how cold it was but looking excited enough to ride a double century.

Luckily not long after the first rest break a couple of good things happened. Number one the sun came up enough that the icicle hang from my thighs started to warm up enough that they were dripping a little. Number two I caught myself worrying about how cold it was, and worrying about my knee that had been bothering me the last couple of rides, and worrying about my "nomads" and if they were going to give me trouble today. So I said to myself, "Self, cut that out. Look around, check out the great WI scenery, and just ride to have fun." So that's what I did. We really were in a beautiful part of Wisconsin. We headed out of Sheboygan past a number of dairy farms and headed into the Elkhart Lake region. My dad was hoping they'd let us do a lap of the famed race track there but we were thankful they didn't once we heard a race going on. That would've been interesting, race cars at 160 mph 500 cyclists at 15mph.

There were a number of challenging hills. I remember a couple of the better ones were on County MM only because as we were ascending one of them one of the other rides was talking about "oh yeah good old MM". I think by that they meant #@*!!& MM.
They were pretty fun hills though, more up then down on this particular portion of the ride.

After Elkhart Lake we were off into the Kettle Moraine forest (important note: I make no guarantees that any of this ride actually happened in the order I give here as by the end of the day I was required to completely shut down and deprogram large portions of my brain in order to finish the ride. The one exception is that I know the beginning came long, long before the end.) The Kettle Moraine Forest was beautiful. This alone made me glad we did the century as only the century riders completed the Kettle loop. We passed a number of lakes and streams and did quite a few more hills.

Lunch was being served at the half way point which was good because I was starting to get hungry. With about two miles to go to the lunch stop, however, (lunch was at the half way point) my left knee started to hurt BAD. What was worse the last section before the lunch stop was all uphill and uphill made my knee hurt REALLY bad. Just make it to lunch I thought and with a little rest maybe I can go on, but I wasn't feeling real confident at this time. But I did make it to lunch where we were able to refuel on some tasty subs along with the other typical rest stop food (bananas, gorp, etc).

Off we went again. My knee wasn't doing great but better than before at least. My dad's knees were bothering him some as well so I figured if he could do it so could I. The return trip was long! Much longer than the ride to the half way point. There were hills that I KNOW weren't that steep but it was all we could do just to get up them. There was one stretch between rest stops that was about 18 miles but I'm sure we actually rode 75 miles to get there. After that rest stop though (I think it was around mile 78) I think we both started to feel a lot better. We could finally envision ourselves actually finishing this ride.

Oh, but I need to back up for one of the funniest parts of the ride. As we passed the mileages of our different training rides we would take note of it and talk about the ride that we had done to that mileage. So at mile 50 we talked about the Ride for the Arts our first big ride of the season. Then at mile 64 we talked about the Pedaling for Kicks ride, the 64 miler we did by our house here in Normal, IL. My dad was hurting at the end of that ride. Apparently he was hurting even more than I had realized because as we hit mile 64 of the century he said something to the effect of "Man, if I felt that bad right now knowing we still had 38 miles to go I'd just aim for the nearest ditch and chuck myself in and end it." It was made even funnier because at the same moment we both looked to the right and the dropoff to the side of the road was about 50 feet and he quickly said "Well, maybe not this ditch..." Delirious as I was from having already ridden 64 miles I about drove over that dropoff I was laughing so hard.

So back to mile 80 where we find our two idiots, er , uh, heroes chugging along at a painful 10mph and now outside the 5:00PM finishing window but liking our chances of finishing none the less. We gutted the last 20+ miles out somehow. There was a good deal of downhill in the second half of the ride which made sense since there was so much uphill in the first half. In all I think our elevation varied from 600' up to 1100'+. We even managed to skip one of the last rest stops as they had 3 rest stops in a 15 mile stretch or something like that.

It was pretty exciting to watch the last few tenths of a mile tick down towards 100 on the GPS and finally see it roll over to 100. Even more exciting was riding back into the Environmental Center at 102 miles and making it back to the car. That was a great feeling knowing we had both made it. We discussed how we had both prayed frequently throughout the day and I'm sure we did it on alot more God power than on our power. I joked that next year we should shoot for a sub 8 hour time and my dad replied that he didn't even want to think about getting on a bike let alone riding a century for awhile. Pretty good for an almost 61 year old to ride 100 miles though. Just glad we both finished as I would've felt really bad if he had finished and this 34 year old hadn't!

Anyhow, gotta go. I'm riding my bike to work tomorrow so I should get some sleep! Ride on!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pain, pain, and more pain

This is a tale of pain. Lots and lots of pain. The pain was incurred during the Planetarium Ride on August 11th but to begin the story properly we must go all the way back to August 10th.

My dad came down from Milwaukee the afternoon of the 10th. After dinner we decided to go to the local bike shop. I wanted to see if they had a replacement bladder for my CamelBak. The old one had developed a leak around the closure. At any rate, I ask the salesmen where they are and he shows me what they have (which was not what I needed). While I looking at what they have my dad approaches the salesmen and asks in his very loud voice "Hey DO YOU HAVE ANY CHAMOIS BUTTER?" Does he not realize some questions are best asked in hushed tones e.g. "psst... buddy you got any chamois butter?"

Anyhow... now might be a good time to mention I had not been doing a ton of riding since our Reno trip but I wasn't too worried. I had been doing 60+ mile rides all summer so it didn't seem like the 70 mile ride would be a big deal...

This might also be a good time to mention that temperatures for the next day were forecast to be in the high 90's with a heat index of 100+.

As a follow on to that I might mention I HATE riding in extreme heat and/or humidity. It just seems to sap energy out of you like nothing else.

Also, because the starting location for the ride was over an hour away we had to get up at 4AM in order to make sure we could start riding as early as possible (6 AM).

Did I mention I hate getting up super early the day of a ride? Can you see where this is all leading?

So we arrive at the middle school where the ride was to depart from dark and early. The temperature is in the mid 70's at 6:00AM and the humidity is about 1500%. OK, I may be off by a percent or two but I don't think so.

We get our registration packet, get on bikes and head out. The ride starts out with a long stretch of mostly uphill riding (I should mention here that I hate rides that start out uphill). Nothing felt right, I felt like I was riding in jelly. I was sweating like mad and could barely manage 12 mph (which later in the ride would seem like break neck speeds, cue the ominous foreshadowing music).

But after the first rest stop I started to feel alot better. The terrain seemed to have an equal amount of uphill and downhill sections and the route was quite scenic. Plus as the sun rose it knocked a lot of the humidity out of the air and it started to feel quite pleasant.

This lasted until about mile 42. At mile 42 two things happened. Number one a certain portion of my anatomy which we won't mention by name but will say it rhymes with nomad (the right one if you must know) began to hurt. Luckily it only hurt when I pedaled (by that I mean bad luck seeing as I was continuously pedaling and still had 29 miles to go). Number two was that the temperature began to soar. In fact it was so hot the tar on the road started to bubble and you could hear the bubbles pop as our bikes rode over them. It was HOT!

My dad on the other hand was looking down right chipper. He looked ready to take off on Lance's wheel if the opportunity presented itself. Every time he looked at me, however, he got a really worried look on his face and gave me encouraging comments like "You want me to call the SAG wagon?" or "You don't look very good."

I don't remember much of the rest of the ride except for constant pain and the urge to stop and just chuck my bike into the nearest field ( I think the only thing that stopped me was I didn't have the strength to chuck a pebble much less my bike). Even when we got within two miles of the finish I wasn't fully convinced I was going to be able to ride the whole thing. My speed had dropped to the point where as I leaned over the bars trying to ignore the pain and heat, I could watch ants slowly pulling away from me. I tried to latch on and draft behind them but those ants are just too fast...

Finally, we arrived back at the start point and I slowly got off my bike and made my way inside for the lunch. I've never been so glad a ride was over in my life.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A visit to the old haunts

The last week of July found our family all together in Reno, NV for my sister's wedding. I grew up in Reno, living there from 1980 - 2005 minus six years while I was in the Navy. I'll always love Reno especially given the plethora of recreation options, my favorites being biking and snowboarding.

Monday (July 30th) I was able to get together with one of my best friends, Ken, for a ride up Keystone Canyon. Ken and I started biking at about the same time. We both started out mountain biking and didn't get into any serious road riding until much later. Over the years we've accumulated a proverbial butt-ton of great stories riding together. Most involve something bad happening to Ken or something stupid happening to me.

A couple of quick examples before continuing... One of our first mountain biking trips was to Mammoth Mountain a few hours south of Reno. (Cue sound of angels singing) Mammoth has some of the best riding (both mtn biking and snowboarding) I have ever seen. Miles and miles of singletrack await and even better you can take the lift up and ride down which is great since the summit is at an oxygen deprived 11,000+ ft.

We timed out trip to coincide with the NORBA championships which at the time were held at Mammoth every year. The first day we got to see all the greats of that time including Ned Overend and Julie Furtado. At the bottom of the run they came down a short but pretty technical section that was followed by a little rise. Ken was explaining to me how it really wasn't that big a deal just let it flow through the technical bunny hop off the little rise and off you go. I had never seen Ken bunny hop anything prior to this trip so I challenged him to give me a demonstration. One thing you need to know at this point is that if you tell Ken he CAN'T do something he will do one of two things:

A. Do it and prove you wrong
B. Hurt himself in the process of trying to prove you wrong

In this case it was a combination of the two. He nailed the technical section, completed the bunnyhop, but landed off balance and veered off the trail into a section of fencing laying of to the side. Luckily the injuries weren't too serious and we were able to ride the infamous Kamikaze trail the next day where I did an endo and landed on my head (thank goodness for helmets).

Another time we decided to rent full suspension bikes to see what they were all about and take them up to Squaw Valley for a day of fun. Upon reaching the top of the mountain, as is usually the case, we immediately missed one of our turns and ended up in some pretty gnarly terrain. Ken took off ahead of me and made it all of a quarter of a mile before I looked up and found him rolling around in pain on the side of the trail. A ditch (he later referred to it as a small waterbar but trust me it was a ditch) ran right across the trail and he though he could let the suspension absorb it. This in the day when 2" of rear travel was great. Despite the intense pain he wanted to ride his bike back down. Fortunately the front tire was extremely tacoed. So the Squaw Valley staff brought him down on a quad while I rode down. Then we got in the car, drove to Tahoe City, returned the bikes (he had to pay for the tacoed tire as well), drove back to Reno and straight to Washoe Medical Center. Nothing major... just a punctured lung and broken collar bone.

But I digress, back to the current story... Ken picked me up at 7:15ish and we headed off to Keystone Canyon parking in a nearby subdivision. I immediately realized I had already committed my stupid act for the ride when I went to put my riding shoes on and found in my rush to get out of our rental house I had grabbed one riding shoe and one of my brother's sandals. Great... Luckily I was using Ken's wifes bike and it had pedals with wide platforms around the cleats so I would be able to get by with tennis shoes. Ken was also riding a full suspension he borrowed from a friend of his.

I have to admit I was pretty worried about this ride. As is the case with most rides around Reno, Keystone is almost non-stop uphill until you turn around and come back down. Plus we were starting at roughly 3700' higher than here in IL. But I figured I could probably hang and if nothing else now I can blame any substandard performance on my lack of proper shoes.

So off we went. Keystone was a bigger blast than ever. It was a great day for riding and it was great to ride with Ken and catch up on what was going on in Reno. We had barely started when we came across a pickup truck rolled onto its side. A notice from the local police dept. indicated it had been stolen and driven down the canyon until they rolled it.

The bottom part of the canyon wasn't too bad. It's not too steep and except for a couple of short technical sections that I've ALWAYS had problems with I was doing pretty good. Then we got past the radio towers and into some of the real climbing. It was like someone had sucked every atom of oxygen out of the atmosphere. My heart was pounding, my ears were pounding, and despite the fact I was breathing in 76 Liters of air with each breath I was light headed. I'm sure my hear rate was 185+. Knowing Ken always wears his heart rate monitor I asked him at the top of this climb what his heat rate was. 150 he tells me. 150!!! I don't think he realized how close he was to being hit over the head with a rock and left to die in the desert at that point!

But soon we got to the section of very tasty downhill singletrack towards some old mine tailings. It was a blast and I was really starting to like the Marin full suspension I was on. After the downhill it was one more lung busting climb up a fireroad to the pond that is our official rest / turnaround point for the ride. The road was EXTREMELY dry and very loose powdery dirt. Traction was hard to come by and right before the pond it gets really steep. More dizziness and heart pounding ensued but finally we made the pond. Some type of large bird (heron maybe) was flying around the pond as we crested the final section.

We headed over to THE tree to catch our breath and take a breather before heading back down. As we were discussing how deep we thought the pond was Ken told me to take a look at my 11... er... 1 o'clock. I looked in that direction and there standing in the shade of a tree just a stone's throw away was one awesome buck. He had an 8 point rack and was just standing there looking at us. Ken called out and told him we weren't going to hurt him and, as if he understood, the buck walked out of the shadows down to the lake and started drinking and drinking and drinking (apparently he was thirsty). He then took a long look at us and slowly turned the other way and walked up and over the hill. It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen.

Having had our fill of wildlife we headed down the trail. Now I REALLY started to like the full suspension. Almost the entire ride back to the car is downhill. Let me say here I'll never be accused of being the fastest on any section of downhill, but with that full suspension, I felt like I was breaking the sound barrier the whole way down. Being able to just fly downhill and keep going downhill for literally miles is one of the great things I miss about Nevada.

As we descended the bottom portion of the trail, Ken decided to make the ride a complete success by performing a nice endo on a little technical drop. To further top it off he then got mad at the little drop and headed back up the trail so he could come back down the drop again this time cleaning it quite nicely.

All in all, it was a great day that made me really miss being able to ride virtually any type of terrain you want within minutes of Reno and even more so, being able to ride with a good friend like Ken. There are alot of things I love about riding, being able to challenge yourself to make it up that climb or clean that technical section... but riding with someone else who shares your love of cycling just makes it all that much better. Maybe that's why I haven't ridden since I got home... or maybe it's the 95 degrees w/ 90% humidity we've been having. Probably a combination of the two.

Note: I just read that two days after we rode Keystone a mountain lion was spotted in the lower reaches of the canyon. Story can be found here:

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pedaling for Kicks

Last Saturday my dad, brother Jeremy, and I rode in the Pedaling for Kicks just north of here. We were all signed up for the 64 mile route but Jeremy was unsure if he was actually going to do the whole 64 miles but the way the routes were set up he had the option to bail about 35 miles in and do the 40 or 50 mile routes.

We got an early start heading out from the start at White Oak Christian Church at 6:20AM which was good because it was forecast to be hot (near 90) and HUMID. Surprisingly the day started off feeling quite comfortable although I had to resist the urge to knock my dad off his bike when he said, "You know it's actually almost too cool... " I'm convinced that as soon as those words came out of his mouth the temperature rose 20 degrees along with a 30% increase in the humidity.

At any rate the route was a terrific one. We started out heading toward the northwest over lightly travelled roads bordering the farmlands of the area. We then turned due north towards Lake Bloomington. The roads near Lake Bloomington were nice and windy and it was a great day to be near the lake. The first rest stop was also at Lake Bloomington. Bananas, trail mix, pretzels, home made cookies made up the solids while Gatorade and H2O were available for liquid refreshment. As expected dad immediately headed for the restroom while Jeremy and I consumed large quantities of calories ("I'm sure I'll burn it off and I need the energy for later"). Upon returning from the restroom dad had a peanut, half a pretzel and a swallow of Gatorade and I'm sure felt guilty about the extra Weight Watchers points involved (just joking, it was two peanuts and a raisin).

Heading east from Lake Bloomington we pointed our bikes toward another local reservoir, Evergreen Lake. This is an area I frequently ride both on my road bike and on my mountain bike as there is some excellent single track near the lake created and maintained by the local Comlara mtn bike association.

At the far end of the lake was another rest stop. We repeated the drill, Jeremy and I sampling (aka scarfing) some of the food while dad headed for the rest room. I knew dad was burning some calories because this time he had some banana w/ his two peanuts and raisin. This rest stop was also as far as Jeremy could go if he wanted to bail early and he decided to just do the 50 mile route (what a pansy!). This may have been one of the smartest decisions Jeremy has ever made in his life. This might seem like I'm exaggerating but if you're familiar with the rest of Jeremy's decisions you would know it doesn't take much. He promised to wait for us before eating his lunch at the finish line (remember this for later).

My dad and I continued on. We were now headed into an area I hadn't ridden in yet from Evergreen Lake to Congerville. Right off the bat we had some fun with roadkill as we passed a dead skunk. The smell was like riding into a wall. Yuck! It was immediately followed by another dead animal of unidentified species.

As we approached the next rest area we started to encounter some hills, some pretty steep hills. Alright I thought, hills are great! And we really need the practice for the Maywoods Earth Century we're doing in September in Sheboygan, WI. After three or four of these hills we got to the next rest area. This rest area was actually in the shop behind someones house. I rode by it before realizing it was the rest area and had to do a quick u-turn in the road to get back to it. The house itself looked huge from the outside and the food was setup in one garage of a huge shop / multi-car garage area that may have had more square footage than my house.

My dad's first stop at the rest area was, can you guess, the restroom. While he was doing his business I sampled the food (I hate to be rude after all the effort they went to to prepare the food). This rest stop had pretty much the same type of food as the other stop with fresh strawberries added as an additional bonus. One thing I also noticed at this rest stop was as soon as we stopped riding the sweat stopped evaporating and a sweat flowed liked water during monsoon season. I'm sure by the time the last riders arrived at that rest area they needed a rowboat to get to the food.

While my dad savored his 1/2 a strawberry and a full glass of Gatorade (the pig :0) one of the attendants was talking about how the hills up ahead were unlike anything we had seen so far in the ride. Steeper and longer, yee ha!

The next 10 miles get a little fuzzy as to what happened when. I remember a lot of climbing, and then doing some climbing, and then climbing some more hills. Along the way there was a deer that had to have been dead for at least a month, a possum that smelled like a skunk had crawled up another skunk's a** and died., and lots of pretty colors that danced in front of my eyes at the top of the longer climbs. During one stop to catch my breath I remarked to my dad that Jeremy was starting to looking like quite the genius for bailing early.

The next and final rest area was in Congerville where dad made a beeline for the bathroom (he really needs to work on staying hydrated during the rides I just don't think he drinks enough fluids). While I socialized in the food area I heard some comments to the effect of we were done with the hills and it was pretty much an easy ride back from here. I'm glad I don't know who that person was which is good because I think by the end of that ride I may have hunted down said person and put a hurt on them because they were WRONG.

Immediately after leaving Congerville we started up another hill. And then another, and then another, and then another... They weren't quite as long or as steep as the others but we were at mile 55+ at this point. My legs were hurting and dad was starting to look like I might have to carry him the rest of the way. But we pushed on, we laughed, we cried, and we climbed more hills. Having averaged around 15 mph early in the ride we were now doing about .75 mph. At one point I looked down and saw an ant blow by me like I was standing still (OK, that may have been heat exhaustion talking I'm not sure).

Finally the church came into view and we rode into the parking lot and started looking for Jeremy so we could all have a great lunch together. We found Jeremy standing by the car EATING A BOWL OF ICE CREAM! He explained that he just couldn't wait any longer and that he just had to eat... blah blah blah. So dad and I went and got our lunches and sat down to eat. The seating to eat was inside and the main dining area smelled SOOOOO BAD from the large group of extremely sweaty riders in the same place that I seriously considered going into the bathroom to eat there as it had to smell better. Unfortunately dad got to the bathroom first (he just had to go he didn't eat in there). Instead we ate in the church's gymnasium which smelled slightly better, I'd put it somewhere in between dairy farm and pig farm. But the food was great and hit the spot after a long ride.

I was very impressed at the effort my dad put in to finish the ride. He admitted afterward that it was the most effort he ever had to put forth to complete something. All this from a man who's old enough to be my father... wait, he is my father! And how Jeremy completed his 2nd 50 mile ride without any practice boggles my mind. It sure makes the ride more fun, though, riding with them.

Next up... The Interplanetary Bike Ride in Peoria, IL in August.

Ride On!