Alta Alpina Challenge – 3 Pass Wild Sierra Century (Saturday – June 30, 2012)

(update:  a few more Photos now posted…. slide show to come… still need to upload from Ben’s computer!)

Today i reached my training goal for completing the 110 mile, 11,000 ft elevation gain, bicycle ride, the most miles and greatest amount of climbing in one day i’ve ever done. Notwithstanding some of my fellow Grizzlies who accomplished much more (i.e., 5 passes with 134 miles and 16K ft, or 8 passes with 200 miles and 20K ft!!), and I’ve ridden plenty of centuries in my time, but those have topped out at about 8K ft elevation gain, except for last year’s Grizzly Century (Bass Lake) which was 93 miles and 10,000 ft, or the Medio course of the Maratona dles Dolomites last July which was a metric century with 10,000 ft climbing. So for me the Alta Alpina was a slight increase in both distance and elevation gain, a personal best, as they say.

The day started somewhat eventfully, with an early, but not ridiculous wake-up time (5:00), and Coach Ben had already made me a very tasty caffe mocha to go in the big Thermos travel mug while I showered and dressed in my GPC kit (choosing that over my light-weight Maratona jersey in favor of showing off our Grizzly colors in the far Sierra. Up Kingsbury Grade from the Tahoe side, we see the summit rest stop already in full swing at 5:45 a.m., with cyclists approaching from the east side and some beginning their descent. We notice that almost everyone has long leggings and jackets on, even for the climb in this early morning chilly air. I look for Mark A and other familiar faces but don’t see anyone I recognize.

At the bottom of Kingsbury, as we make the right turn onto Fairview/Foothill, we see another reststop at the intersection of 207 (Kingsbury) and 206 (toward Minden/Gardnerville), and go past Ben’s old house set in off the roadway on the opposite corner for the 2nd time in 3 days, and proceed in the direction of Woodfords. More and more cyclists start to come into view along this stretch, in both directions. We pass a group of 4 or 5 and right afterward, I look from right to left just in time to feel the car slowing and swerving to the right as Ben brakes to avoid a large Doe who is heading straight at the car from the left at a diagonal. Ben brakes hard, and as the car is coming to a complete stop, the stupid Doe is also stopping, then she sort of backs up in sideways directly into our left front bumper and against the front of the car… oh SH…!!! Thud!! She gets up and immediately scampers off into the brush and down the road on the ride side of the road. She doesn’t seem to be limping at all, but most of us beings don’t until later when the adrenaline has worn off a bit, so we can only hope she doesn’t have any injuries in her hip or shoulder. We get out of the car to check for physical damage to the car and find a nice, volleyball size dimple and cracked paint in the left side of the frame, just above the headlight. Fortunately, the headlights and the rest of the front hood seem to be OK. Just as we’re getting out of the car, here comes Mark A in a large pace line group of about 12 riders; he also recognizes us and shouts out greetings.

I am thankful that the deer was not going faster, that we were not on a speedy downhill section with less controllable circumstances, that no cyclists were in the path of any of this excitement, that we didn’t have more serious damage to the car, that the deer seems to be OK, and that we didn’t have any errant hoof or heavy bodied tail coming through our windshield into our laps. That would have been a really crappy day! (or as our friend Mr. Phil would say “but how is the bike?”  Just FINE, thank you!).  As it was, we were able to continue on our trip out to Turtle Rock Park, with Ben pointing out Diamond Valley Road where I’d be riding, and other landmarks.

We arrive at the park by 6:30, just a few minutes later than planned but still early enough to check in and get my earlyish start. The two parking attendants put a huge smile on my face with their comical mamba dance wave, directing us into the parking area. We take the bike down off the top rack of the car, Ben mounts and sets the front wheel for me (ever grumbling about the “lawyer lips” on my fork), while I change out of sandals into my cycling shoes. Walking up the driveway to the registration building, we see Chris B and say hellos. We look for other Grizzlies but spot none. I know there is a whole herd of bears staying at various dens around the Sorenson’s and Woodfords area, so I’m wondering where they all are this fine summer morning. It’s an unbelievably simple and speedy check in process, and the Alta Alpina volunteer seems genuinely friendly and interested in my day’s ambitious goal, he hands us my bag of swag (water bottle and literature for upcoming events), I grab a package of Hammer recovery powder for later, we go outside, Ben gives me a good luck hug, I remove and stow my cleat covers, clip in and i’m good to go. 6:50 a.m.

When I had done the Grizzly Century last year, I didn’t start until a bit after 7:30 a.m., maybe even 7:45 or 8:00 a.m., then spent a long time fiddling around on the first climb removing and stowing many clothing layers, and my riding mate, Eileen, and I finished together straight up at 6 p.m. (DFL!!!), so I figured that starting on this slightly longer, slightly hillier, ride before 7 a.m. would put me at the finish by 6:30 or 7:00 p.m. — plus, although I’d retained my strength after our Italian adventure for last year’s Grizzly Century a few months later, by this year, I’d worked hard and had actually become stronger and also had kept off 10 pounds of extra body weight, and my somewhat chronic injuries were also more under control. So I felt pretty primed for the Alta Alpina. Still, a new course, on new roads, is always a roll of the dice. I had suffered greatly on Kingsbury a few days earlier, and had only ventured on Ebbetts and Monitor in the past – and somewhat distant past – by automobile, so didn’t really know what to expect or how to measure whether I had what it would take to complete the whole ride. But I’m feeling in good shape, starting early in the day to beat some of the sun, and in my mind repeating the mantra of friendly advice from other club members which is the gold standard for any endurance event: “start early, minimize breaks.”

Well, that all goes fine, and dressed in my lightweight Salomon leggings over well-padded SheBeast cycling shorts, snuggly long-sleeved, SmartWool base layer under GPC short sleeved jersey and lightweight “Laugh-In” pattern Sheila Moon arm warmers, topped off with my GPC wind jacket, lightweight long finger gloves under fingerless Gel gloves, and i’m well braced for the cool temps and almost flat initial 18 miles.

In the early section of Diamond Valley Road, I stop to snap a few photos of the serene high dessert valley. Once again, I am reminded how much I love this landscape, and thankful that Ben ignored my resistance to continue directly after our Tahoe/Alta Alpina portion of the vacation out to Rattlesnake Gulch in the eastern Sierra high dessert, as I now look forward to opportunities to ride my bike in those beautiful and more familiar roads yet to come in the second portion of our time off.

Lovely, bucolic High Sierra range, early morning view from Diamond Valley Lane

I am also glad that I had done my pre-ride loop up from Tahoe to Luther Pass and down past Woodfords, Emigrant Trail, Foothill, etc. on my way up to Kingsbury Grade a few days earlier, as I immediately recognized an error in my “personalized” Alta Alpina cue sheet the ride organizers had prepared for me for this day’s event. Crossing Hwy 89 from Diamond Valley Rd, the cue sheet tells me to X Hwy 89 then S onto Foothill…. or possibly i’m just delirious!  In my mind, it’s Nope, sorry, you can only turn left or right ONTO Foothill. The solo cyclist who has been about 1/4 mile ahead of me most of the way along Hwy 89 out of Turtle Rock Park and Diamond Valley Road also seems to be confused and has made a left turn and then an immediate U turn, passing in front of me as I reach the intersection. In retrospect, the cue sheet might be accurate, but it seems there is no extra transition at all from Diamond Valley/Hwy 89 to Foothill. You are suddenly just ON Foothill. There is a rest stop tucked away up a side road and to the right off of Foothill immediately after the turn onto Foothill. Since I am only about 5 flat miles from the next stop (at the foot of Kingsbury), and I still have plenty of liquids (although making a concentrated effort to sip periodically as I pedal along), I continue on Foothill. Still no Grizzlies! Where IS everybody?

I arrive at the foot of Kingsbury and there are a few riders, my timing is excellent for using the “small room” so I lay my bike down on the ground and I start shedding layers. The ground around my feet looks like a rummage sale with all of my clothing items spread out below me by my bike: two pair of gloves, wind jacket, long pants, headband, arm warmers, wool base layer (yes, being part Swedish I can remove this long-sleeved and somewhat snug-fitting shirt off somewhat modestly without first removing my GPC jersey). Then I use the facilities. I leave my stuff on the ground and then go explore the refreshments table. There is a large pile of crumbly remains of home-made cookies in an aluminum pan (gee, maybe THAT’s another reason to keep using the college to bake ours???), some packaged snacks, oranges, banana pieces and potato chips, along with several varieties of Hammer products. Some of the other riders, including one 69-year old guy who is doing his 10th Death Ride this year in a few weeks, has recommended Perpetuum for longer rides, so I take that cue. By this time Estella has also arrived, made a short break and headed off on her way up Kingsbury. There’s also a large contingent of Alameda Velo guys, one of whom – Warren – I’ve known casually for years as a fellow employee at LBNL, and they all come and go, along with many other riders who have arrived well after me. I am still messing about with my gear, and also decide to use the WC a second time before heading out on the 7.9 mile ascent of that beast of a hill. I have done well to start the ride early, but … so much for “keep the breaks short”…!!

It is warming up, but still early enough to be riding in the cool morning, assisted greatly by the morning shadows crossing the road from the slopes of the mountain leading up to Heavenly resort and Daggett Peak. I’m glad I took off those warm layers, but as I see many cyclists descending in the opposite direction dressed in their long-sleeved and many long-legging costumes. A few fellas start to pass me on the lower portion of the climb, and one guy in particular (Steve from Walnut Creek) stays and chats for about the first 2 miles, encouraging me in my climbing abilities by stating right off the bat that he can tell I would have no problem doing the Death Ride. We exchange info about various rides and adventures, i talk up the benefits and glories of riding in the Dolomites, and then at around the 5000 ft mark, I feel the need to push a little less hard. Somewhere between here and 6000 ft, I see Estella up ahead. Steve has gone on and passes her in the distance, and several other riders who have glided past me also go on to pass Estella. Many very strong dudes on this ride! A few fast women, too, but mainly fast, strong guys. Speaking of fast, strong guys and gals, as I ascend, I see Nancy and Michael in their spiffy bright orange “Ride Chronicles” jackets, bombing down the hill. I reach Estella shortly before the 7000 ft mark and the “Draggett Peak/ Queensbury Grade” rest stop at the Heavenly Summit Inn.

Lovely ladies at “Queensbury” rest stop at Daggett Peak summit rest stop. Gotta have a sense of humor, no?

Many bikes already racked up, and the place is in full swing. Volunteers are attired in ladies dresses and house coats, two have rainbow Afro wigs and one has a brown wig with pink foam/plastic curlers. I ask if “she” stole those out of my drawer, and “she” thinks I am referring to her balloon boobs. “Oh, not those” i say, “but it makes sense that you might have, since I have none ON me!!

This rest stop has potato chips and fruit/nut gorp, so I stand around making merry and pounding handfuls of salty Ruffles. Estella is talking to a rider I recognize as Craig of the “Red Team” from the Hopland Harvest Ride 2 years ago, when climbing the big grade on that course, wearing our Grizzly colors, near the top we were joined by two guys in red/white kits and all four of us had passed two gals who were wearing white jerseys. The six of us had ridden together the rest of the course and dubbed ourselves the “Yellow Team”, the “Red Team” and the “White Team”. After that ride we’d also shared conversation and beers over the post-ride meal and we’d enjoyed Craig’s lively company. Since that time I’ve run across Craig on other organized rides, and sometimes just on private rides, looping from Martinez up toward Pig Farm hill, etc., as he was is on a final, fast stretch toward home. So it’s fun to cross paths again on this event. Estella is long in conversation with Craig, so my greetings are short and sweet. As usual, everyone takes off from the Queensbury rest stop, and I finally head to the green porta potty, then step off to the side to put on my wool under layer, arm warmers and jacket, heeding the good advice of one of the volunteers that i will be fine without my long pants.

That turns out to be a fine strategy, and I sail down Kingsbury, I am both amazed and gladdened at the wonderful road quality and nice wide shoulders. Amazed because of how these rural roads in sparsely populated communities with presumably less operational budget, always seem to have $$ in the coffer to properly maintain the roads, whereas in Berkeley and other cities in our home domains, we tend to talk about repairs and watch them NOT get done and consequently our roads are literally death traps for cyclists. Anyway, I feel lucky today to be riding on beautiful pavement on nicely graded and banked highway 207 as I descend back toward the Carson Valley. At the bottom there is no need to cross the road for the rest stop, so I make my right turn onto Foothill/Fairview. A few hundred yards later I am heating up, so stop to remove and stow jacket, wool base layer and long-finger gloves. I have passed Estella on the downhill, so she catches up to me while I am doing my costume change. We will be riding together for the next stretch, and she takes off to get a small head start while I finish rolling and stowing my warm layers.

While we ride along Foothill, Estella regals me with comic stories of her lodging at Sorensen’s, rooming with Craig and Chris B, who has made the reservation. Sounds like Chris successfully found a roommate (two!) and they all had a fine dinner cooked by Estella. The flat stretch on Foothill is beautiful. We debate whether there will in fact be a right turn onto Fredricksburg Road to go westward to the Emigrant Trail and both agree it doesn’t exist and this is another example of a mistake on the cue sheet. However, we soon approach an intersection clearly marked “Fredricksburg Road”. AHA! We stand corrected, and off we go. Fredricksburg Road turns out to be a lovely lane. We enjoy this stretch and then make the left turn onto Emigrant Trail… rollers but nonetheless a bit more challenging than in the opposite direction I had traveled a few days earlier on my Tahoe – Luther Pass – Kingsbury training ride. Soon we are joined by two other riders, Velo Girl and her male riding partner.

Estella, “Velo Girl” and partner Dennis on Emigrant Trail, hot-footin’ it to the next rest stop (hey, it’s noticeably harder in THIS direction than when I did the pre-ride a few days before!!)

It’s a nice few miles to the next rest stop on Emigrant Trail, where we find Craig hanging out enjoying the sunshine and company of the boy scout volunteers and other riders. Craig tells us he has been there for about 1 hour, but doesn’t seem to mind the extra wait.  As on all rides on which i’ve encountered Craig (first on the Harvest Ride out of Hopland 2 or 3 years ago… as part of “the red team”), he is amazingly strong but easily swayed to just hang out…

Grizzly Estella (she’s sooooo shy!) and our bike-riding pal, Craig (displaying his characteristically jovial and patient personalilty!), taking a break at Emigrant Trail rest Stop

We stay there for a while. I feast on potato chips and some nuts, and fill my bottles with water and Perpetuum. Seems like we’re yukking it up there for quite some time, and I busy myself with taking photos of the landscape and the rest stop scene. Lastly, I remind myself to use the port potties, then we’re off. It’s a short jog on Emigrant Trail to the Pony Express Road which loops down to the stop sign to cross Hwy 89 and then become Hwy 88/4 back to Turtle Rock Park for lunch. It’s a quick 4 or 5 miles. Shortly before we are within a mile or so of Turtle Rock, Estella realizes she has forgotten her Camelbak at the last rest stop. Craig gallantly offers to ride back and do a ReCon trip for the Camelbak. Estella and I arrive at Turtle Rock, grab some lunch. I have a sandwich with one slice of bread, two kinds of cheese, turkey, ham and all the fix ins…. three pickles. And LOTS of salty potato chips. Margie is there, too, so joins us for lunch. Soon Craig arrives, looking energized but his efforts in retrieving the Camelbak are evident in his sweaty brow and cheeks. “Wow! You were just jamming!” I say. Yeah, i guess so….
We hang around a bit more finishing lunch and talking about the various routes. Margie has finished her ride, she just went out Carson and Blue Lakes, and reports that Blue Lakes is strikingly beautiful. Estella has conspired at the last rest stop to do “another pass” which means a 4th pass, as opposed to an “alternate” 3rd pass. I say I am just fine and probably maxed out with the 3 pass route as scheduled. After lunch the three of us (Craig, Estella and I) mount up and head out of Turtle Rock Park. I make the right turn and keep looking back in my rear view mirror. For a long time I don’t see any sign of Estella and Craig. There has been some talk of Craig thanking Estella for proposing alternate route options, as it is more in keeping with his timing and overall enjoyment of the ride. It will turn out that I don’t see them at all for the remainder of the ride, and suspect that they might have opted to make a left turn from to Turtle Rock park with the express intention of exploring Carson Pass and/or Blue Lakes instead of Ebbetts and Monitor. (I will need to verify this, as I haven’t seen either of them since… Ben and I are now in Rattlesnake Gulch for the July 4th holiday, having left Tahoe the morning after the Alta Alpina.

So I head up Ebbetts, first through the small town of Markleeville and then past the turnoff onto Monitor Pass (bypassing the water stop on the southeast corner of that intersection — on the left hand side of the road) and on toward Silver Creek ascending the pass. About 1/2 way up Mark A comes up from behind and has cheerful greetings, remarking on my long braid. He wants me to pull over and stop so he can snap my photo…unfortunately, i cannot oblige, as I don’t trust my uphill skills enough to be able to start riding again if i dismount or even stop on an upward incline. So he pedals a few quick strong strokes to pass me and stops about 20-30 ft ahead, positioning the camera to take my picture as i roll by.

crawling up Ebbetts Pass (#2 for me, #5 for Mark A).
Photo credit: Mark Abrahams

I have my small camera also in my belly pack, and feel slightly guilty that the hill is just hilly enough that i don’t dare break my rhythm to fiddle around in my bag and return the favor. We continue on and Mark stays for a bit before motoring away on his naturally speedier pace. A while later i slow down even more, instead of wavering between 5 and 7 mph on the climb up Ebbetts, suddenly decreasing to 3.7, 3.5. 3.2 mph. About 2/3 of the way up, I again see Nancy and Michael on their descent. I soldier along until i am approaching then passing the reservoir, and sense I am near the top. On the last left turn, there is a table set up on the right hand side of the road… I ask the guy sitting there if he is our cheering section, and he says, “nope, greeting the hikers on the PCT.” Alrighty, then! Shortly, the rest stop is in view at the top on the left. Many riders are sitting about in the shade. The stop is equipped with tables of sweets and salty snacks, my favorite potato chips and one of the volunteers offers a cup with mashed potatoes. Later, another volunteer gets an idea to stack a dab of the hot mashed potatoes on top of potato chips and THAT is a special treat, with me at least (i see it is not so popular with most of the riders… perhaps they are not as adventurous with food, or perhaps just not as much of a glutton as me). I have looked around for Mark A with no luck, but suddenly he materializes out of thin air with his trusty camera, and snaps a photo or two of me yakkin’ it up with the volunteers.

happy and sated at the Ebbetts Pass summit – still enjoying hot mashed potatoes!
(Photo credit: Mark Abrahams)

The gal who invented the potato chip/mashed potato h’ors d’ouerves keeps calling me Brenda… and recollecting some pictures i have recently seen of Brenda Giese on the Alta Alpina website for pages reporting on training rides… and realized at that time how some people might mix us up from afar, both of us with northern European looks and longish burnt blondish hair.

Eventually, i realize i’ve had enough chips and sufficiently talked up the doubtless benefits of vacationing and cycling in the Italian Dolomites, I use the porta potty, don my warmer layer (jacket), and prepare myself for the somewhat speedy descent down Ebbetts. Meanwhile, as I had already learned on our meeting 1/2 way up, Mark A was on his way down the other side of the valley and perhaps already back up, making his 6th pass of 8 (while I had proudly completed my 2nd of 3). Uh huh… different buckets!

Speaking of which, Ben has been up and back to the top of Ebbetts for a hike this day, and on the way he’s captured some photos of riders and the whole scene up and around this massive hill.

PCT “Greeters” or “SAG” for hikers near the summit at Ebbetts

“ready-to-go” self-serve portions of Hammer products… I found my favorite was the unflavored Perpetuum!!

Ebbetts Pass rest stop. The ultimate luxury and reward for a hard-earned climb… chairs in the shade!! (note the quads on rider “Dena”…. no wonder she made it up with the early group!!)

I find the downhill on Ebbetts refreshingly smooth, and with minimal motor vehicles either direction, i feel pretty much in my element. Yes, on the descent. How did THAT happen? Sweet…

I cross through the Silver Creek area and over the cattle guard, and a mile or so later am at the water stop at the base of Monitor. They have some banana slices and some water, not much else… though nothing is needed as Ebbetts was well stocked and from the top of that there was only the descent to here. They do, however, have a porta potty, of which i am pleased to avail myself before the climb up Monitor.

Monitor today, at this time of day, is in full sun, and starting at mile 86.7, with the summit (and for me, my 3rd and last pass), at mile 93.9 (on the cue sheet) but more like mile 94.8, feels like Kingsbury of my hot afternoon training ride a few days earlier. At the bottom, a few guys are riding with me… some with 2 summit stickers, others with 3, 4, 5 or 6. Wow!! They pass me then keep stopping on the stide of the road for inexplicable reasons. Cramps? Who knows, i see they keep fiddling with their equipment. One comments “there goes Sherie on her pretty little purple Serotta” … a type of comment i hear often on these rides, an am happy i went with the subtle purple-silver fade paint scheme when i had her built 11 years ago. She has served me well all these years and promises to hold out many years to come. More and more riders pass me on the way to the top. Monitor has no particular steepness, but its difficulty comes in its high level of exposure of the afternoon heat. Suddenly i realize it is almost 5 pm and I have anticipated being done with the ride around 6 or 6:30. I am not going to make it. It’s possible that i will not even make the time cutoff for my 3rd pass completion reward sticker. But i am motivated to finish my ride, in any case. As riders pass me they ask if i know how many more miles remain to the top. Four, i say… then eventually it’s down to two. Or if I have miscalculated, only one mile. I err on the conservative side, just in case my math from the bottom (mile 8.7) is correct, and if i’m wrong, then everyone has a pleasant surprise reaching the summit earlier. I come across Justin (who had arrived at the first rest stop same time as me, then was up at Kingsbury, later stopped on the side of the road near the top of Ebbetts, but eventually reaching that summit before i left), who is again stopped on the roadway. Come on, Justin — only another mile to go. Let’s go. He does join me and we arrive together at Monitor summit. I learn then that this is his FIRST century! A friend had talked him into doing the ride, telling him he thought he was strong enough to do it. Still… 11K for a first century attempt. Incroyable!! Formidable!! Well Done, Justin!! We get our 3rd pass stickers and head to the food tables. More chips. Yay. and Perpetuum. In both bottles. I drink down one full bottle in the heat and then refill a 2nd time. Porta Potty is across the road and further up about 50 yards. I venture there for my last break, then head off for my final stretch toward Turtle Rock Park. Ouch. I note that after hanging around the rest stop a while and after more than 10,000 ft of climbing, the slight uphill grade from the Monitor Rest stop feels like a cruel joke. As I labor slowly to the apex of the hill before the descent begins, I see Mark A coming the opposite direction. He is earning his 7th of 8 passes. The eighth sticker will come after his run down the mountain to Topaz Lake and a brutal, long ascent back up westward to the summit again. I am in mile 94.6 of my ride. Mark has almost double that distance and double my amount of climbing.

As with both Kingsbury and Ebbetts, the descent down the face of Monitor is lyrical and smooth. Near the top third, I hold off for several turns before passing Chris B, who seems less bold on downhill since his recent mishaps. Or maybe the bigger factor is that my own comfort level is becoming somehow and sneakily faster and less fearful. I ponder this as I reflect on the recent email threads regarding Strava, and our own GPC Strava group’s policy on “no racing on descents”. I have suddenly found myself curious about matching and bettering my own descent speeds, from an avg 30 mph a year or so ago to the mid-thirties to high-thirties more recently to 40.3, 40.6, 40.8 mph max speed for any given ride. 15 years ago, I remember looking down at my cyclometer and seeing 43.6 mph on Lake Herman Road with a tailwind, and one time on a Marin Century or Holstein Hundred loop on Hwy 1, i hit 49 mph, and that felt way too fast. At any rate, I am somehow comfortable now descending at 40 mph, letting the angle of repose of the hill and the gentle curves of the road dictate my speed, feathering the breaks occasionally, rather than riding the brakes in a white-knuckle grip the entire way down. At almost 60, i’m feeling a sense of pride in reaching a state of relaxation and confidence in my cycling life.

I am also aware of the setting sun and know I am past my originally anticipated 6 – 6:30 pm finishing time. At the bottom of Monitor, I see Ben heading toward me in the opposite lane, and as I brake for the stop sign, I see he is attempting to SAG me in. No way, I am so close to the finish with less than 10 miles to go. Ben reminds me there is a hill between Markleeville back to Turtle Rock Park. Another rider has also commented on this hill, and between the two of these course experts, my mental image and reply has been “well, that hardly counts”… In reality, as a reach that stretch, I realize that it does count. Chris has caught me right before Markleeville and we ride together.. “hey, we did it!” he sez, yeah, 3 passes for me… 5 for Chris. And while eager to finish, even with my relative lesser accomplishment, I am conscious of a slight fatigue on this somewhat flat but still uphill section. Another mean trick. Chris passes as we reach Markleeville. Ben is staying close with the car, still asking occasionally if I want to SAG in. He is more aware of the time than I. No way, I say, after all this and so close to the finish. I am determined to do the entire ride honestly and under my own power. The small rollers between Markleeville and Turtle Rock Park seem endless, but I know, as I count down the miles on my cyclometer, that the finish is indeed very near. A final slow bend in the road and in the darkening sky I see the sign in the distance on the right hand side of the road and the orange event cones ahead on the left, and finally the gentle grade uphill to the left intersecting Hwy 88, and I am home free. I climb past the parking lot and make a final left turn up to the dinner building with the biggest, proudest smile I’ve had since finishing the Maratona last year. I have done it. A personal best in both distance (almost 110 miles) and climbing (11,000 ft). And I feel more energized than exhausted.

It has been a long day for Ben, some of it spent chauffeuring me around to the start in the early hours, some of it hiking on Ebbetts, and a large portion sitting around Turtle Rock Park waiting for me and worrying whether something has gone terribly wrong with my ride, while I have been out, working hard physically, but basically goofing off riding my trusty velocipede on a wonderfully sunny early summer day in the High Sierra.

The Alta Alpina Bicycle Club has proven once again to put on an amazingly well-organized ride, and I will be back next year. I have a sense, at this point, that I will continue to keep and probably build on my strength and possibly set higher goals for myself in the coming year. Maybe I will even attempt the 5-pass challenge in due time. No doubt, this will be in the cards only if I work on my speed (admittedly limited mostly by my tendency to be lazy rather than push hard on the climbs) and definitely to heed the advice of the other cyclists to minimize time at rest stops!! Being a somewhat social creature by nature, this last bit may prove more of a challenge than i can meet, as the hangin’ around, shooting the breeze and meeting the volunteers an other cyclists is definitely part of the fun for me and what makes an organized event such a different experience compared with a solo ride.

Congrats to my fellow Grizzlies and all the other riders for the efforts of today. As Chris says, “Hey, we DID it!” Yes, indeed, we surely did. And it feels great.

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3 Responses to Alta Alpina Challenge – 3 Pass Wild Sierra Century (Saturday – June 30, 2012)

  1. DoloresApton says:

    “I can’t believe I read the whole report”; but it was interesting so I do believe it.
    Congratulation Sherie!

  2. jim O'Melia says:

    Congratulations, Sherie!! You challenged yourself, did the training and reached a ‘worthy’ goal! You also wrote an inspiring chronicle of the event and even included some cool pix. Keep it up!
    jim O

    • nuptiopter says:

      Thanks, Jim…
      kudos go to Mark A for the two pics of me. I still need to go through our vast collection, now downloaded (although not so many from my own ride, i stopped shooting after Emigrant Trail; but Ben had the good camera while hiking and spectating and i think got some photos of other riders and the general event, i think). i encourage you to try it next time…. ANY of the routes… and in addition to the 5 standard routes available (family fun ride, metric, 3-pass 110 miler, 5-pass 134 miler, 8-pass 200 miler), the Alta Alpina lets you “build your own”… so conceivably, you could do Blue Lakes, Carson, Ebbetts, Monitor, I suppose any of them both UP and DOWN the other side and back UP, or whatever, as long as you get to the rest stops before the cutoff times….. Cool!!!

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