Yesterday was my first weekend in town since the end of February. The first weekend of March I drove up to Chicago (I was the keynote speaker at the Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network’s annual workshop), and the second and third weekends I was either driving to Lake Tahoe for Spring Break or driving back home. Spring break was great – cross country skiing, alpine skiing, lots of hiking in some of the most incredibly beautiful places one can possibly imagine (Eagle Falls, Emerald Bay, Pyramid Creek were particular standouts), and just enough time to forget about work and the daily grind back home and refresh the mind.
We drove to Lake Tahoe, and I seriously considered bringing my road bike. A few months before I moved back to St. Louis while living in Sacramento, I joined a group and rode the entire perimeter of Lake Tahoe. At 72 miles with around 4,000′ of climbing, it’s not a ride that today I would characterize as extraordinarily difficult. But in those days, being a newbie road cyclist and thinking that 1,000 miles in a year was a big accomplishment, that ride was the most difficult thing I had attempted to that point. My memories of the challenge, the companionship, and the unbelievable scenery keep it high in the ranks of my most epic rides. Ultimately, I decided not to bring my bike because of my memories of the significant amount of snow at lake level on our first Spring Break trip to Lake Tahoe last year. Pity that I didn’t this time – while there was snow at lake level, the roads around the entire perimeter were clear and dry. I would have loved to have gotten out the bike and popped off a perimeter ride one of the days I was there.
So, I found myself back in St. Louis on a weekend for the first time in quite a while, and I was really itching to do a long ride. Saturday’s rain made Sunday the obvious pick day, but that looked to be in real jeapardy when I awoke to several inches of snow Sunday morning. Clearing skies and rapidly rising temperatures, however, make quick work of the snow, and by early afternoon I was on the roads – yeah! I immediately headed for the hills, climbing right up Ossenfort at mile 1.2 in the ride. Hitting Hwy 100 from Melrose, I made an immediate, illogical decision to climb Woodland Meadows. Okay, I’m not that crazy – I circled around to the east end and climbed it westward, no piece of cake to be sure, but not the savagely brutal climb that it is going eastward. Down the double descent on Melrose to climb Wood and then St. Paul after the rollers of Ridge. Climbing the hills was like visiting an old friend – it was good to see them again.
All said and done, it was a nice 50-miler. I thought back to that ride around Lake Tahoe so many years ago – how I anticipated and trained for that 72 mile ride, and the sense of accomplishment I had after I did it. These days, with several years of racing and formal training now behind me, my base fitness is an order of magnitude higher – I can go out and pop off a hilly 50 miler after not doing so for a month and hardly give it a second thought (in fact, go out the next day and tempo another 25 miles or so – with fresh legs). There’s a sense of accomplishment in that, itself.
A shout to former teammate James (whose wife is faster than him) – we caught up at a stoplight today while I was out on the bike. Maybe someday James will buckle down and actually get faster than his wife 😉
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2009