Around Lake Tahoe
My longest ride to date.
Last week held a couple of memorable moments for me including turning 25 and the 1 year anniversary of my knee surgery. For months I had been saying that I was going to do something for my 25th birthday, because honestly I don’t like getting older. I like to think that I’m getting wiser with age, which I don’t mind, but the whole issue of your body not being to handle the things that it used to was the real point that I wanted to avoid. Case in point, the wake up call of completely blowing out my knee last year screams, “You’re NOT invincible anymore.”
So when 25 rolled around, I wanted to prove to my body that I could still get out there and push myself to new limits. With the set back of rehabbing from surgery, road biking had become a pretty big hobby of mine this past year. I wasn’t doing any serious rides, but quick 15-20 milers after work, kept me in shape and pushed me to get outside and take advantage of the long summer nights. The idea came into my head that a century ride would be the best way to ring out the 25th birthday. It was quite a stretch. About 3x longer than anything I had ridden in the past. So I started to do my research.
I was watching videos on biking, taking to coworkers, talking to friends, all about what it would take for me to do a century ride. I would push myself on my short, after-work rides, to make up for the lack of miles that I was able to get in on the weekdays. I was getting my miles in at least 3 days a week during the summer and I was feeling good about the ride. I was excited to do it.
And then fall came along. The days got shorter so I started running less. I ran a lot in my spare time to make up for the workout, but I really wasn’t riding nearly as much as I wanted to.
I originally had a plan to ride from the Sacramento Area down to the Bay Area, but was unfortunately turned away from that due to the fact that the ride would be unsafe or too slow. Then my bike started to fall apart a bit. I was popping tires left and right, my derailleur wasn’t working properly, and overall my bike was just too small. This century ride was looking like it was going to be a bit of a stretch to complete. But during our hike up Half Dome, Trevor offered up his bike for me to complete it. I would have been stoked to ride a nice bike that would’ve have actually fit me, but I had kind of lost interest in the ride and so I (regretfully) declined.
So my birthday came around and I had nothing planned yet. It looked like it was going to be just another day on the calendar. Molly came up to visit for the weekend, and we ran 2 out of the 3 days she was here. I completely blanked and of course, we made our rest day, the anniversary of my surgery. Alas, there was still hope to make it all up on Veteran’s Day.
Trying to decide what I was going to do was really giving me a lot of stress. I wanted to snowboard, but there was no snow. I wanted to ride, but the smoke from the Camp fire was think and would not have been healthy to be outside in. So I’d go to Tahoe to take pictures. And I’d bring my bike just to get a quick ride in. I was in so much denial as to whether or not I was gonna go. A hopeful text from Molly gave me just the push to make the decision to set my alarm.
4:45. My alarm goes off. My blankets are keeping me nice and warm in my cold room. I laid there and came up with every excuse that I could think of to just stay in bed. It’s too cold. My bike’s too small. The rear cassette is too dull. It’s too cold. I don’t have pants. I can’t find my glasses. I don’t feel good. I’m tired. But I got up. I finished my morning routine, packed up the car, stopped for gas, and headed to the mountains. My first stop was going to be at Donner Pass, a spot in the area I had frequented multiple times over the past few years. I took some pictures of the sun coming up over the ridge as I gulped down a cup of coffee. I had to drink it fast because the 18 degree temperature was taking the warmth straight from my hands. My plan was to finish up at Donner, drive to Tahoe City, ride to Emerald Bay, take some more photos, and then head back.
I’m not that great at sticking to a plan. I was off. I was gonna go down to Emerald Bay, turn around, head to Truckee, get some coffee. Easy.
After mile 10, I was feeling great! And if you can ride 10 miles, you can ride 72. Right? I made to Emerald Bay, 17 miles from the start. I was feeling good. I brought my full-frame DSLR, of course, to take pictures. Which I got a few at Emerald bay, and then never used it again. I was determined at this point. Why turn around now when I could easily make it around the lake.
And this was the point where I hit my favorite part of the ride. The downhill from Emerald Bay toward the South Shore was made up of winding S-Turns that had me hooting and hollering the whole way down. I was stoked! you couldn’t wipe this smile from my face!! Or so I thought…
The South Shore became a little less than the first section. Lots of cars, stoplights, casinos. I was ready to get to the next section. I was starting to get hungry at this point too. I had an apple and two Clif Bars left. Looks like I was going to be rationing the rest of the ride. Little did I know the most difficult part was approaching. The Spooner Junction.
I went slow. Very slow. The one thing that the short sprint rides don’t train you for is riding in first gear. It felt like I wasn’t going anywhere. But I kept thinking all about what people had told me, “Spin, don’t grind.” So I stayed there. Slowly making my way up. Looking for the downhill. Looking for it. Still looking for it. Almost there. Oh wait not yet. There we go. Time for a sweet downhill. Cue my s^*t bike and I get a flat.
My tires are a pain in the ass so after about 10 minutes, I’m back on the downhill. I’m thinking to myself that I’m making good time and I’ll be back in no time. 25 miles is just like my after work rides. Unfortunately, sitting on my ass at work wasn’t at all like riding 50 miles before riding another 25. Not at all. And now I was really hungry. I stopped at 7-11 picked up a cookie and protein bars, just like Trevor told me, “You need to get your calories.” (Who knew riding 72 miles burned 2,700 calories.)
At this point, I wasn’t really spinning anymore. I was grinding. Riding without my hands on the bars on the flats, and giving it all I had on the ascents. I was so close. At this point I was ready to get back to the car. From my memory of driving through North Lake, I didn’t remember all of these hills and turns. It seemed a lot more disconnected after mile 68. Around every turn, I would hope for the end, but the hills seemed to keep on coming.
After the energy from my cookie finally kicked in, I had made it to the home stretch. One last mile and I’d be at the car. I started to go over the ride in my head and there were really only a few key moments that stuck out to me. The rest seemed to just fly by. It felt good to push myself mentally to the point where 6 hours on a bike really didn’t seem that long. It might not have been the fasted time to circumnavigate the lake, but I was proud of myself for getting it done. To me I crushed turning 25 and felt pretty damn good to be doing this just a year after not being able to walk. I can now look back and give myself that extra push to do more awesome feats in the year to come.