Flash back to Christmas Eve. I sat down at the a table with my aunt, uncle, and my immediate family. I thought I was just eating holiday dinner, little did I know, with a bit of holiday cheer encouragement, four of us would agree to ride 72 miles around Lake Tahoe.
Now flash forward to a week before the race and life happening – a back injury, a new business, and a well-timmed soccer championship game and now it’s just me riding 72 miles around Lake Tahoe. I trained for months working up to 50 miles, then seeing what hills were all about, and then trying out foothills. I would ride for all four of us and do them proud.
Going on a bike ride with 3,000 other folks was a bit intimidating, but as Bike The West points out – this is a ride, not a race. With that in mind, here are a few thoughts, tips, whatever you want to call them:
Riding windy roads is always safer in a group. As someone who normally rides by myself, this organized ride was a fantastic opportunity to ride a route I wouldn’t brave alone.
Acclimate! Since I hadn’t trained at 6,000+ feet I wanted to arrive for the ride early to get used to the higher elevation and thinner air. The ride was Sunday and I went up Thursday for plenty of acclimation time. Aspen and I went on a couple of hikes and I rode my bike to pick up the registration packet, all the while preparing to ride between 6,300 feet to 7,100 feet and climbing a total of 4,024 feet over the 72 miles.
After each rest stop, I found myself in a new group to leap frog with. Folks would settle into their groove and I’d figure out who had a similar pace and stick with them for a while. Then they’d fly past me on a downhill or I’d get frustrated being in a pack on an uphill and push on until the next group. Then it was time for another rest stop and a new group of riders to mesh with.
To be honest, I can hardly hear friends while riding my bike due to the wind rushing by, it’s a lot of whats and huhs so I don’t mind riding alone. However, the lunch break would have been nice with a friend. That’s when my support team came to the rescue! They were parked less than a mile up the road in a shady spot and even brought Aspen. I shoved lunch in my jersey pockets and road up to meet them. There was even another support pup parked next to us cheering on her owner.
If all else fails, get a little silly. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training had all kinds of silly helmet toppers including coozies, fish, and I think I saw a tomato somewhere in the mix. Then there was the guy riding in loafers and stripy socks. Needless to say, I was jealous. Next time I think I’m going with crazy socks, but I’ll have to think on this.
If you are lucky enough to have a buddy to ride with, please do what the 50 signs we just rode past say and ride single file already! Congratulations on having someone to share this experience with, but you’re creating an unsafe passing situation by sending the rest of us farther into the traffic lane than necessary.
Regarding the Spooner climb, while it’s a long an arduous climb, it’s not eight-miles of just up. While waiting in one of the restroom lines I overheard one guy setting us all straight; it’s a mile or two up here and there, but there are some flats for respite. This guy was my new best friend. However, after reaching the top and texting my support team that I was done with climbing, I learned just how wrong I was on the final stretch back to Stateline. So please note, there are a few more annoying climbs after Spooner. As opposed to the popular saying, it is NOT all downhill from here.
Above all, enjoy yourself. Here are a few things that made me smile along the way… I started out the ride in a sizable group and as we slowed to a red light the sound of the simultaneous pedal clip out. Heading toward Emerald Bay we were riding into a bank of fog, then we climbed out of it, and could look back toward the fog, our start, and 72 miles later – our finish. Passing guys with legs of pure muscle that look as though they should have lapped me by now. Turning the corner to the finish line, seeing yet another cranking hill, and having the exact same are you kidding me reaction as the rider next to me. Also, having circumnavigated Lake Tahoe on foot via the Tahoe Rim Trail and now bike, I had fun thinking about the next mode of transportation. I don’t think Aspen will go for dog sledding as Basil suggested. To if by lake?
Ride Your Own Ride,