Monday, June 13, 2011

Ride Report: America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride

Thank you for your kind words of "congrats" on my last post.  I have seriously been on cloud 9 since May 13.  I had no idea the stress and anxiety I was carrying around waiting for my results.  On June 3 I was sworn in and can now legally practice law in the state of California.  It is crazy to think I am ACTUALLY an attorney!

Anyway, I have officially began training for my next big event (and separate post to come) but on Sunday, June 5 I had what was supposed to be my 3rd century ride - "America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride" planned in Lake Tahoe.  The ride included 72 miles around the perimeter of the entire lake as well as an out and back of 28 miles to Truckee for the complete 100.  I absolutely LOVE Lake Tahoe so I was very excited to ride this ride.

We registered for this ride back in February.  I remember being worried when I registered that it would be hot in June and the ride might be miserable because of the heat (as I have mentioned before I don't do well in the hot weather).  I never in a million years dreamed that as the date crept closer I would be worried about the possibility of snow (we have been experiencing some crazy cold weather in northern California this year - the fact that I am still wearing jeans and sweaters in mid-June is awesome but totally unexpected).  

All week I watched the weather.  They predicted showers all week with Sunday (ride day) expected to have a 40, then 50 and finally 60% chance of rain.  We debated all week whether to even go but I knew with my luck it would end up being sunny and beautiful and I would miss out on the chance to ride.  Saturday morning we awoke to down pouring rain.  I was determined to give it my best shot though and if I had to SAG, then I had to SAG, but at least I would know I tried.  We packed all the warm rain gear we had and headed to the mountains.

When we arrived in Tahoe I was pleasantly surprised to see the rain had stopped.  We had a wonderful dinner and enjoyed this beautiful view from the restaurant.

I can handle clouds, I can handle cold, so as long as the weather stayed like this I knew we would be just fine.  After dinner we went back to the room (after a quick stop at the casino for a little craps and roulette), got all our stuff out, set the 4:30 am wake-up call, said a little prayer for good weather and went to sleep.

4:30 am came in no time and the first thing I did was look out the window.  To my dismay it was raining.  I told myself that we still had and hour and a half until the ride started so it could definitely stop by then but as 6:00 am crept closer and closer there was no signs of it clearly up.  Kevin looked at me like, "are we really going to do this?" but I was determined to at least try. We did make the decision to drop down to the 72 mile ride that just went around the perimeter of the lake.  I was perfectly fine with that as we would still get in the challenging climbs I wanted to try.  

The weather at the start.
I decided we should re-name the ride "America's Wettest Ride" or "America's Craziest People Who Decide to Ride 100 miles in the Rain."  Surprisingly, despite the snow in the background and the fact it was 47 degrees at the start, I was not that cold.  Although, I did have on 3 layers plus a rain jacket, my winter wool socks, shoe covers, ear warmers and leg warmers but still.  At 6:30 am in the drizzly rain we were off.

Miles 1 - 14

These first 14 miles were wet.  We also must have seen at least 25 people get flat tires within these first 14 miles.  I questioned my sanity at least 20 times.  

This was a huge Team in Training event and every chapter seemed to have their own "symbol" on the top of their helmet based on what state they were from - "Coors" cans from Colorado, "peaches" from Georgia, "hershey kisses" from Hershey, PA, etc. 

Right around mile 11.5 we started the climb to Emerald Bay.  The road ended up looking a lot more daunting than it really was - we were even passing people.  The view from the top was just gorgeous!  I am slowly learning that no matter how hard a climb may be the view from the top is usually worth it.

Halfway up the climb - I LOVE the contrast with the snow in the background.

The bay is behind me.

Miles 14 - 26

Just as we reached the top of Emerald Bay the sun came out!

Loving our "matching" rain gear.
Despite being dumped on for 14 miles we were surprisingly dry - minus our feet.  With every pedal stroke I felt the water squishing through my toes.  Kevin took his socks off and was able to ring water out of his socks.  Poor guy - he didn't have wool socks on so his feet were freezing!   Even with my shoe covers my feet were soaked but at least they were warm. 

We enjoyed the sun and the beautiful views for this stretch of the course.  It made me happy we stuck it out.

Miles 27 - 43 

At mile 26/27 we hit our second rest stop.  I was SO excited to see what has become my FAVORITE ride snack:


I first experienced them during Levi's Ride last October and there is nothing that compares to the delicious salty carb

Lunch came at mile 43.  Look at all the wonderful food!  No wonder you can't lose weight during these bike rides.

Lunch at King's Beach
Right as we pulled into lunch, (and just as I had finally dried out), it started pouring again.  I actually welcomed the rain as crazy at that sounds.  After riding over 30 miles on freshly rained on roads my bike and myself were COVERED in mud.  I wish I had a picture to show you.  I went to a very bike friendly college and we used to make fun of the freshman when they would ride their bikes in the rain without a fender because they would have what we called the "freshman stripe" down their back from the mud being kicked up from the roads.  Well, we all had "freshman stripes" and we all looked liked we pooped our pants because the mud was being kicked up on our rain proof jackets and then running off and collecting on our shorts.  We were quite a sight.  Anyway, the rain was like a nice shower to rinse all the dirt away.

Miles 43 - 52

Right after lunch we had a small climb followed by a long descent.   On the descent down I could tell something was off with my tire - I had a flat.  It must have been all the dirt on the road because there was an unusual amount of people getting flat tires.  I called out to Kevin to come back to change it.  Yes, I know, I know, I need to learn to change a tire.  Actually, I take that back - I am 90% sure I could change a tire but if you have a man with you, well, take advantage of that.  He really was a trooper - my chain and tire were covered in road grime and mud.  

Around mile 47 the sun came out again and we rode through an absolutely gorgeous neighborhood on the north shore.  If I could buy a vacation home anywhere it would definitely be Lake Tahoe.

The base of mile 53 was the start of the biggest climb of the day - about a 1000 ft. climb up to Spooner Junction.  Knowing the climb was coming combined by the fact I was actually getting warm, we pulled over around mile 50 to shed a layer.  Climbing was only going to make me warmer. 

Miles 53 - 72

We were not more than a mile into the climb when the sky turned black, the clouds opened and dumped hail!!!  Now, if you are going to be hailed on I would much prefer it to be when I am going 7 mph than 20 but at that point all I could do was laugh.  Despite the hail we were riding along the cliffs and we were treated to spectacular views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.  It hailed for a good 5 miles and just as fast as it started it stopped and the sun returned.  We crested the climb at mile 60 and pulled out the map to see it really was going to be all downhill from there.

Still full from lunch, we decided not to stop at the last rest stop and push forward to the end.  For about five miles straight I kept a pace of 20 - 25 mph.  We were actually riding on the freeway at that point.  The weather cooperated the whole way back and we pulled into the finish with a hearty welcome from spectators.  

Final Stats - I love the outline of the lake!
While the ride was not one of my fastest, I truly felt bad ass when we crossed the finish line.  We endured rain, wind, hail, elevation and a flat tire in 72 miles and we pedaled every mile.  After we finished Kevin told me he had had no desire to ride that day when we woke up to the raining weather but he wasn't about to let me go alone.  Despite that, he was so glad we did.  It was one of those events that really tests your mental and physical strength.  Moreover, next to Levi's ride, it was one of my favorite organized rides I have done - some of the most beautiful scenery (it really earns its name "America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride), a great mix of climbs/flat roads/descents, awesome SAG and crowd support, and well stocked/supported rest stops.  Other than the weather I couldn't have asked for anything more.

I have never really ridden in the rain before but here are some of my take away points/advice:
  • BUY a waterproof rain jacket!!  Those yellow rain jackets were our lifesavers!!  I was so happy my parents picked them up for us on their way up, otherwise, we would have been drenched and I think the ride would have been much more miserable.  I had a jacket on underneath the yellow one but it was not waterproof. 
  • A shower cap makes an excellent cover to your helmet to keep your head dry.  I wish I would have been smart enough to think of this on my own but saw many people with them on.  I scoured the hotel room for some but couldn't find any in our room before we left.  Note for next time.
  • I packed my cellphone in a plastic baggy and put it in my jacket pocket underneath my water proof jacket.  It remained safe and dry the entire time. 
  • I wished I would have packed an extra pair of socks in that baggy.  Really my only complaint was my soggy socks and if I could have changed them halfway through I would have been a happy girl. 
  • As I mentioned, this ended up being one of my top rides to date despite it was not my best performance time wise.  Physically I felt strong the entire time but the weather kept me from reaching my full potential.  Some rides allow you to succeed physically, some allow you to succeed mentally.  Both are important in terms of making you a better cyclist.  
Up next - my new training plan!
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  1. Huge congrats to you on completing that ride. Wow~!

  2. Welcomed the're a crazy lady! Great job on another awesome ride. That 70 miler I did last year had about 3000 feet of elevation gain and I thought I was going to die. Yours looks to have almost 1000 ft more plus you were already at elevation---YIKES!

    So what's the next big event?

    And, for the record you don't look bad in suits---cute choice!

    Miss you! I'll be in Sac/Paradise/SF for a week in July, things are already getting pretty booked but we'll be in the city for two days (I'm taking Justin to two Giants games for anniversary/birthday) would love to see you!!!!!!!! I'll send you our proposed itinerary and maybe we can work in lunch or something...the games are night games so we will have all day.

  3. I think it so amazing you guys stuck this out. Wish I would been have there to hear some of the funny comments I am sure your husband was tossing out. ;-)

    Riding in the rain can hurt when you get up to a certain speed...I can't imagine what hail feels like against your face. WAY TO GO!!

  4. This sounds like a totally epic adventure! Nice job. And it doesn't sound like the altitude was that huge a deal for you. I'd have been huffing and puffing and walking my bike up the inclines!

  5. Wow this is awesome!!! I can't believe you tackled that in the rain - the scenery still looked amazing tho.

    I think that would be a really fun century to try... I've only done the Cinderella Classic but maybe someday. Definitely would not be prepared for any extreme weather conditions tho *_*

  6. great write-up! I'm doing it this year and was looking for something EXACTLY like this to give me a good idea. sounds like your level of bad-assery increased after this ; )

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