Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Solstice Smash

A couple times a year, I plan on putting together a week of training that's far above and beyond what I'd normally do.  I see great benefit from these weeks, even though they're a pain in the ass to get through.  Literally.  You see, for a variety of reasons, it makes the most sense to focus heavily on the bike as the primary source of suffering.

So a couple of weeks ago was Big Bike Week.  It goes something like this:

Thursday - 3hr including 6x10-min hard intervals
Friday - 4hr flat (and windy, grrr) nice and steady, constantly begging my UCI Class 1 Women's Pro friend to not crush me like a bug
Saturday - 6hr of death and destruction...if you're familiar with Reno/Tahoe, this ride includes 4 laps up Gold Hill behind Virginia City, each one faster than the last
Sunday - 5.5hr of gleeful disregard for my legs chasing the Serbian Sledgehammer up some of our big climbs
Monday - 3hr of limping around Reno in the wind, riding as slow as I could
Tuesday - 1hr of still-painful easy riding; Thursday through Sunday have taken their toll

And all this leads up to...

Thursday - riding to work, coffee, and a meeting, all in the same part of town

Whoops.  Skipped Wednesday.  Sorry 'bout that.

Wednesday - Summer Solstice, longest day of the year, and usually quite a depressing day for me, as it signals the slow march of shortening days in the coming months.  I had the idea of spending the entire day on my bike, riding as far as I could.  Perhaps putting together a route that wouldn't get me home by sunset, as I'd be loathe to ride away from home with an hour of daylight left.

And in case you're wondering about the odd collection of photos that follows, I started with a photo at sunrise and continued with one photo every hour thereafter as close to the :32 (sunrise time) as possible.  Thus, 15 hours of daylight and a photo for every hour of it.

Barely awake

Ethel and I clip in at home at 5:34am, two minutes after official sunrise.  We ride across Reno and then approach our oft-cursed behemoth, Mt. Rose.

Our Patron Saint of Pain, Mt. Rose, beckons

Over the years, Mt. Rose has dispatched enough lactic acid into my legs to stop a brontosaurus in its tracks, but today will not be a fast ascent.  We have enough riding left to do to firmly call Rose a warmup, so Ethel sets a comfortable pace as I...enjoy the view :)

One of many elevation signs we'll see

After climbing about 3600' to a summit of 8900', we descend towards Incline Village and the gem-like Lake Tahoe.  The lake is calm and the air has a nip to it; we've gotten lucky with the weather as we've been inundated with wind in the past weeks.  We start clockwise around the lake; this keeps us closest to the water and is also better from a traffic standpoint.

Tahoe's depths lie in wait

We pass along the shallow azure shores between Incline and Sand Harbor, wave-beaten granite boulders beckoning us to play.  We decline, though, and begin the climb along SR 28 from Sand Harbor up to Spooner Summit (not quite), which then allows us to swoop down Hwy 50 through Glenbrook and along to Cave Rock and Zephyr Cove.

Decomposing granite high above Sand Harbor

This is a fast section of the circumnavigation, and before we know it, we've arrived in South Lake Tahoe, where we grudgingly cross the state line into the land of less-available booze and pesky laws against prostitution.  Thankfully, we'll be back in Nevada in a few hours!

They have air conditioning; first of two visits to Stateline

Winding through the forest to Camp Richardson, it's not long before we find ourselves climbing the big and steep hill to our first view of Emerald Bay.  This climb is followed by a quick descent and then another healthy climb out of the Bay; we're now at the furthest corner of the lake from our warm beds in Reno.

Murphy climbs the steep hairpins above Emerald Bay

We continue along the West Shore, which has thankfully been resurfaced from its prior condition of Death Pothole Alley, and pass through Tahoe City around 1pm.

Perfect water near Homewood

From TC, it's another 16 or 17 miles around to Incline, where we started our circumnavigation, and those miles include a handful of short but steep climbs that get our attention.  A good chunk of this section of road (although in reverse) forms part of the bike course for Ironman Lake Tahoe, recently announced for next year.

Wavelets lap at Carnelian Bay

As we roll into Incline for our second time that day, we stop at T's for a quick taco break:  these are truly rocket fuel for the miles ahead (and in an early sign of delirium, I fail to photograph the delicious tacos and opt for the sign instead).  So 106 miles into the day, Ethel and I go our separate ways; she tackles the long slog over Mt. Rose and back to Reno, finishing her day at about 145 miles, nearly twice her longest ride ever.  I saddle up after Ethel leaves and begin riding clockwise around the lake again.  At this point, I haven't totally decided on my route for the remainder of the day; I have several options, all of them desirable and devilish in their own way.

Purveyors of glorious tacos

In the first mile or two of my post-taco ride, I do some quick math and figure that I've backed myself into a corner of needing to keep going around the lake and climb Rose before it gets too dark; on some of my other potential routes, I run the risk of getting stranded on a climb or will otherwise be stuck making laps around Reno until it gets dark.  Also, it's a hot enough day down in the 4500' "lowlands" that dropping out of the Tahoe Basin before I have to will probably be uncomfortable.  My math tells me that I've got -just- enough time to get through this route if I ride hard, although climbing Rose will certainly be the crux of the whole day.  But I've saved all my proverbial matches up until this point, and I'm feeling good, so what the hell?  I light the wick and begin the long descent into delirium.

At this point in the day, dick jokes don't seem inappropriate

I fly along the east shore and through South Lake, covering the first 24 miles in an hour (this is a fast section, though).  The climb through Emerald Bay softens me up a bit, but I'm still feeling pretty superhuman and am a bit scared of getting marooned on Rose when it gets dark.

View down into Emerald Bay and Vikingsholm

Sometimes, the winds at lake level don't match the winds aloft, and today is one of those examples.  The prevailing wind is from the south, but I was wind-aided riding south along the east shore and find myself wind-weary riding north along the west shore.  Thus, my progress isn't as good, but I'm still on track to make it over Rose and into Reno by dark.  Somewhere along the west shore, I pass 155 miles and am thus breaking new personal ground with every pedal stroke.

Of COURSE the sign got stolen...hooligans

I blast through Tahoe City, and the now-shaded north shore towns of Carnelian Bay, Kings Beach, and Stateline barely register as the task of beating the sun now carries a sense of urgency.  I make it back to the 7-11 in Incline at about 6:50, enough time to fill bottles, grab a quick snack, and roll out at my self-imposed deadline of 7:00, figuring that I'll then clear the Rose summit by my second self-imposed deadline of 8:00, hopefully making it deep into Reno by sunset at 8:30 thanks to the 4000' of descending I'll get to do.  Of note, my second lap around the lake went by in 3:44, tying my all-time record from a few years ago.  Not bad for the big warmup ahead of time!

Thank heaven indeed

It usually takes me about 45 minutes to climb Rose from Incline, and much faster yet when time trialing, but that's simply not in the cards today.  I'm crawling up the gentle grade at about 7mph, every pedal stroke burning and tempting me into hallucinations.

Day wanes at the same lookout; 11 hours later

I creep up to the summit sign at 7:59.  Longest.  Climb.  Ever.  The balls of my feet are so sore from pushing on the pedals all day that I can't stand; I can only be clipped in and pedaling.  I take a minute to slap some sense into myself before I start the winding 40+mph descent, figuring that I'd rather not end my day on the wrong side of a guardrail.  Fortunately, the air is cool enough up there that it wakes me a bit and makes the descent fun instead of terrifying.  The free miles whistle by, and I roll up to the front door of our friends' running store at 8:32 (sunset was 8:30, but I wanted to pick up the two minutes that we clipped in late that morning).  I've covered something like 18 miles in the last 30 minutes, regaining those precious vertical feet Ethel and I gave up so early in the day!

The digitz

I shower at their store, have a shivering fit (kinda scary) and limp off to a nearby restaurant (Ethel and d^2 have arrived with the Sag Wagon) for pizza and beer.  With 14:58 of daylight, my only saving grace is that I don't live farther north...

The Solstice Smash caps off Big Bike Week at 36 hours in the saddle, along with some bonus swimming and running...you'd better believe this silliness was followed by an easy week to heal up!



Jesse said...

Awesome! Thanks for sharing the journey with us.

Anonymous said...

Wow Eliot!! I loved reading about your adventure. In my current physical state, I would never dream of attempting something like this. But I guess anything is possible. Glad to hear you smashed your personal record of total miles and matched your best time in the section around the lake. Congrats! Thanks for sharing.

Eliot said...

Jesse and Jenna-
Thanks! All in the name of good fun...

Monkey said...

Man Eliot that is so damn awesome and the vivid account of your smashing day is awesome in its own right, Again great pictures and the best in a quality well written blog. I feel like I could have been riding with you but only if I were in a BOB trailer or something...

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