Tahoe Sierra Century Ride

This past Saturday was my last race/event for the year.  I’ve been busy this year with a sprint, olympic, two 70.3’s, full IM distance aquabike and now two century rides!  I’ve never felt more comfortable on the bike and was excited to see how Tahoe’s elevation and nasty climbs would treat me.  My neighbor and training buddy Ed joined me for the ride.

Tahoe Sierra Century

Most of my training throughout the year consisted of rolling hills given the races I was trained for.  Once I finished my full IM distance aquabike, I shifted to cycling only, as to not burn out.  I was hitting my stride in cycling and loved feeling strong.  Last month I rode the Marin Century ride a week after my aquabike.  I loved the ride, but I also knew I needed more hill training for Tahoe!  I pushed pretty hard the last week in August and into September averaging 11+hrs on the bike for three weeks straight.   That is the most I’ve ever cycled and I was really enjoying the training.  It’s amazing how just an hour bike seems like it takes 10 minutes after training so much throughout the year!

I was also able to find a couple of great hilly rides around town!  I know Mt Diablo is only 10miles away, but I focused on other rides.  My favorite is a great 30mi ride up Palomares canyon, down and then back.  It has a solid 2,700 ft elev gain with the reward of two downhills.  I was able to ride it 4 single times and one double whammy!

Ed and I took off just after dinner on Friday night.  It took about three hours to get up to Tahoe.  We stayed right there at the Village in Squaw Valley, as that was also the start location.  Throughout the week, I had seen forecasts of high 80’s and 90’s in Tahoe.  It seemed amazing that it could be that hot in late September in the mountains.  Give the forecast, we both just brought our jerseys and a long sleeve shell. Thank goodness we brought at least that, as it was 35 degrees at 6:30 in the morning!!!  Luckily they told us we could drop clothes at any of the rest stops.

The first 20 miles was uneventful besides my freezing fingers!  We turned out of Squaw and heading along Lake Tahoe to Kings Beach.  There was a scary Coyote that came within 4ft of us that woke us up a bit.  It was pretty flat and there were some idiots out there riding.  We were glad to see most of those peeps stop at the 19mi rest stop…really, you’re tired already?!

We then turned to head up to Brockway summit up near Northstar Ski Resort.  Ed likes to go out hard on these climbs, so I just held back and kept a good cadence some 30-50 yds back.  Only one person passed me here and Ed stayed with him to the top.  I made up some nice ground the last 100yds and topped right behind Ed.  The next four miles were straight down and the road had just been tarred.  I wished for my tri bike and aero bars here, but still hit 51.4 mph, which was my fastest speed ever!

Tahoe Sierra Elevation

The next climb had been advertised as a slow and steady 8mi climb…um, not so much!  It was a 1,500 ft climb that steadily got steeper.  The last mile must have averaged 12% to top out at Ski Slope way.  Ed again pulled away fast, but I kept him within sight.  On a side note, I shouldn’t have given him my extra First Endurance liquid shot flask, as he had more energy than ever after that!!!

The last mile was the toughest and I thought Ed was going to be waiting at the top for me.  I decided to do my best to catch him before the crest and I went even harder once I saw him serpentining on the steepest parts.  I had a few more gears than he did and it showed here.  We crested together and were excited to ride down to Donner lake to the 50mi rest stop!

Donner Lake Climb up to Sugar Bowl Ski Resort

We only stayed here for 5 or so minutes to ditch our jackets, refill out bottles and snack on some grapes.  Then we were off for the last real hard climb of the day.The climb to Donner pass brings you from the lake to the ski resorts at the top of old highway 40.  The views are awesome if you’re lucky enough to have the energy to pick your head up.  It’s only three miles, but you climb 1,600 ft and it gets steeper as you climb.  I didn’t hold back on this one and climbed astride Ed for the first two miles.  There was this one girl that literally flew by us going up.  She asked how we were doing and Ed commented that we’d be better with her motor!  Two miles into the climb, we passed this other girl that commented she was only riding the 60mi course, as she had a 22mi paddleboard race across Tahoe the next day!  At that point I hit the gas hard and crushed that last mile.  I was surprised that Ed stayed with me, but he was in some pain!

Donner Pass

We then had a nice 19mi decent to the turn around point and rest stop.  The rest stop was at mile 67ish and we were excited to stretch and grab some grub.  A turkey sandwich and coke later we were off on the moderate climb back up to Donner pass.  It wasn’t that challenging given the earlier climbs.  The decent down to Donner Lake is a fun ride.  It’s only those three miles, but it is curvy and has  awesome views.

Once we hit the Lake, we were only 15mi away from squaw and it was mostly flat until the last two.  We were both fried at this point and were running low on water.  I pushed hard the last two miles working on only fumes!  Ed was only a minute or so back at the finish.  I finished in 6:04:51 and was psyched with that time given elevation, climbing difficulty and the significant temp gain from 35 degrees to 87 at the finish!

It was a great day and end to a great season.  I need to thank coach Jeff from PRS Fit for keeping me healthy and injury free.  My biggest accomplishment this year was dropping my Vineman 70.3 time from 6:01 to 5:22!  A close second would be my Full IR distance Aquabike, which confirmed my fitness and ability to go the distance.  I still don’t have any interest in full IM unless I win the Kona lottery…

I’m looking forward to starting to run again after two months off and building up for Oceanside 70.3 in April and Hawaii 70.3 in June!!!

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