Our day begins with a 5am alarm. My friend and roomie, Eileen, and I go about the morning business in that blurry silence which happens when you are trying to be functional at an hour best suited for sleeping. I eat a banana and some bread and down a cup of awful hotel coffee in attempts to force my eyelids open. By 5:45 we are amid a buzzing group of cyclists in the hotel lobby ready to roll.
Shortly after 6am, the 5 of us roll out the door and begin our ride merging into a mass of cyclists already on the road. America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride (AMBBR) has about 3000 registered cyclists, 700+ of which are part of Team in Training across the county. It's a fairly spectacular site to see hundreds of purple jerseys pedaling away. Even more amazing is the fact that the 700 of us raise over $3 millions in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Our chapter raised over $171,000 as of last week. It's a great feeling when you know you contributed to this amazing effort of good in the world. And when you see so many people dressed in TnT gear, it's like a real life data visualization of the impact.
Anyhow, back to the ride. Here's what the day had in store for us. 100 miles and just under 5000' of climbing, 72 miles around the lake + a 28 mile out and back jaunt to Truckee. This is a fairly flat route by Bay Area standards, and I knew we were ready for the adventure. Our group included our trusty Coach Jim, Eileen, Morris and myself all seasoned riders, and Todd, who was embarking on his very first century.
Emerald Bay (Mile 1-32)
After a nice flat warm up, we round the west side of the lake and begin climbing up by Emerald Bay. I had been to this spot once before on my bike back in 2011 after an unfortunate incident of my car breaking down and stranding me in South Lake Tahoe for a few days. What I remember about that ride was how scary it was with all the traffic and then the absolutely stunning views. So upon my return, it was a delight to find they had closed traffic on our side of the road for this 5 mile climb. It was not to my delight, though, that it was strangely foggy that morning. A heavy layer of fog, a la San Francisco, had settled over the lake, and all you could see as you climbed was the familiar white layer. Hrmph. As we get to the top 45 minutes later, the sun starts to burn a hole into the fog and clouds, and miraculously, we are treated with this amazing view. I retract my hrmph-ness, mother nature. You win!
Out and Back to Truckee (Mile 32-60)
At about mile 32, we take a turn to do an out and back to Truckee. On the way out this is an ever so slight downhill, which is great for pacelining and fast riding. We all tuck in behind Jim, and start cruising along. As the last in the line, I was enjoying all the benefits of the pacelining and taking in the views a bit.
Up ahead, I see two cyclist suddenly stop on the side of the the road, even though there is no shoulder. The rest is in slow motion. Jim swerves, Todd breaks quickly and falls, Morris crashes into him, Eileen swerves trying to avoid Morris and the traffic next to us, and I slam on the breaks. We all stand and lie there stunned for a few seconds as traffic and bikes race past us. I turn towards the road and start signaling for cars to slow down. We all help Morris and Todd stand up. Thankfully no one is seriously injured.
Morris's bike, unfortunately did not fare as well. A broken derailleur and shifter and some pulled muscles put him out of commission. So we move off the road, and begin the hilarious process of trying to call SAG. After a serious set of miscommunications and an hour of sitting on the side of the road, we finally get some help and transit for Morris and his bike. We are able to continue on to Truckee down one teammate. :-(
[Side note: the guys who essentially caused this giant tumble, didn't even bother to ask us if we were okay. They simply looked at all of us lying on the ground and then rode away. Jerks.]
North Shore (Mile 61-75)
Back from Truckee, we round the north shore of the Lake. This was a fairly long stretch, where we are able to paceline a bit more (safely!) and go through a series of rollers. Eileen, who had done the ride before, had said lunch was at mile 70 or so. I vaguely remember looking at the map earlier in the morning and seeing the same information about lunch being at King's Beach at 70. For me when doing 100 mile rides, mile 65 or so is when I start to get tired and very hungry. But since I knew lunch was at mile 70, I didn't bother eating too much knowing that we had a lunch stop ahead.
Let's just call miles 70-75 the Hangry Miles of the ride. At this point, you are riding fairly close to the shore and can see the lake and the beaches. At each turn you think you are going to pull into one of these beaches for lunch, but you don't. You are also rolling through a fairly developed part of the lake where there are hamburger joints and pizza parlors and ice cream stands every few feet. And you are very, very hungry and getting very, very angry that the lunch stop was not at mile 70 as promised. This is also when you think you may have missed the lunch stop and get silently angry at everyone else around you.
Lunch (Mile 75)
So it turns out they moved lunch a few miles from the last time Eileen did the ride, and I was very tired at 5am. We did not miss lunch and had a gorgeous picnic table view. We even met some locals who had been doing this ride for 20 years, and had their sweet teenage daughter join them for the last 5. My whole outlook on life was changed by a ham sandwich, a bag of chips, and a cookie!
Hills, More Hills, and a Big Hill (Miles 75-94)
Fully refreshed with calories, cold water, and a lot of chamois butter, we return to our bikes. Immediately after lunch, you face a two mile climb that takes you back into Nevada. Normally, this hill would not be a problem, but after gorging yourself of lunch and various snacks, everything feels a little sluggish and your stomach is not thrilled with you. Frankly, it's very mean. But then you are treated to bopping along through Incline Village, a very wealthy neighborhood on Tahoe. The houses are enormous and the views just grand.
Then we begin the climb to Spooner summit. This is a doozy of a 9 mile climb, fairly steep at parts, and hits you around mile 82, which, again, is just mean. This goes on for a good long time. At this point, it's the warmest part of the day. While it was just 78 degrees, it felt like a billion degrees with the asphalt and all the sweating and all the complaining that was coming out of my mouth. However, just when I would get really tired, I would look to the right and see the amazing views. Here's a peak of Carnelian Bay and it's crystal blue waters. If we had been closer to the lake, I would have jumped right in!
At these events they set up cameras on the hills because you are going slow enough that they can capture a non-blurry photo of you. These are also, sadly, the moments when you are most likely suffering the most. Here is one where I am trying to be happy for the official race photo as I climb up Spooner.
We finally all survive the climb and regroup for the last 12 miles. The descent is 6 miles down Hwy 50, a 4 lane highway. The roads aren't closed, but because there are so many cyclists on the road, the traffic generally was giving us a full lane. The road is smooth and clear and fairly straight. I hit close to 50 mph on my trusty bike. What a thrill!
What?! (Mile 94-100)
The last 6 miles are a series of rollers. As I am cruising down a hill, I hear a sudden pop and ssssssss.... flat tire! Luckily there is a wide shoulder and I pull over. My rear tire is completely flat.
Slightly defeated, I hop off my bike and get to work changing the tire. I take it off and start examining the tire to see what caused the flat. On the first go around, I don't find anything but some white feathers in the tire that look like they blew in there when I was taking the tube out. I go another round and find nothing but the feather. One more time around and I stop at the feather. Well what do you know! It was the feather! The quill was stuck through the tire and had a pointy bit which punctured the tube. I pull it out and try to get the feathers out as well with no avail. Who in the world gets a flat tire from a feather?!
Meanwhile Jim pulls up having come back to help me. Dozens of riders zip by me yelling out, "Bummer!" Jim gives me a patch and I cover up the feather holes, and put it all back together. The official ride SAG shows up right then. They pump my tire back up and help me get it back on the bike. We rejoin our teammates and see that not 200 feet from where I got my flat, the finish line is in sight. We were less than a mile from the finish!
We all roll in together with big smiles on our faces. Hooray! Todd completes his first century, which was strangely emotional for me. His wife was there to greet him, and I had a wave of emotions remembering what it was like for me to complete my first century, too. It's a great sense of accomplishment mixed with exhaustion, the fuzziness of dehydration, and then the wave of knowing you just rode 100 miles. This time, I was just pleased as punch to be part of Todd's accomplishment and know that we did all of this in support of an important cause near and dear to me. Also I was very very very hungry. We end the night with lots of food, beer, and smiles all around!
When sitting down to write this, I was trying to remember all the emotions that go with training and completing an event like this. I've done it several times now, but each time there are always a handful of special moments that warm my heart, ones that are hard to describe although I always try. There's not a word or a phrase that captures it well enough, so I am always looking for a good German word or some photos that can help in the description. To that end, I tried to google "bike flat tire from feather" to see if I could find a photo to support my story. Not to flatter myself too much, but I am an *excellent* googler. If it's on the Internet and indexed by Google, I will find it. But after 10 maybe 20 different boolean search variations, I came up with not one entry about someone else getting a flat tire from a feather. Not a photo, not a story, nada! So there you have it -- the perfect metaphor. Doing century rides with Team in Training is an Ungoogleable Experience.*
Many many thanks to all that supported me in my fundraising and training. You guys are the best!
As always, much love and gratitude!
** Strangely, spellcheck recognizes ungoogleable as a word