Sunday, August 3, 2014

Climb Like a Girl: Mountain Biking at Spooner/Tahoe Rim Trail

It is perhaps the toughest thing I've done all summer yet, the most grueling mountain bike ride ever for sure.  As stubborn and unyielding as the rocks under my 29" tires (and there were countless of them), I always get chastised for not using my lowest gears.  "You're not yet on the lowest gear!", The Dutch would bellow as we would climb.  Yes, I am aware and it's done on purpose.  Part laziness (I'm still new at the sport and I still have to give shifting my left gears a conscious thought - ascending, push down, descending, push up), yes, but also partly because I dislike spinning my wheels, which is how I feel when I use the lowest gears.  I would rather feel the resistance under my feet, burning my legs, but at least I'm going somewhere.  But like I said, I have a tendency to be obstinate as a rock.

But this ride was different.  We went in cold, which means, devoid of any semblance of a warm up, we started a steep ascend on the mountain right away.  To me, that means a punishingly breathless, reprieve-less ascend, all the while pedaling, muscling through rocks, gravel, sand, tree roots.  The Dutch seems to manage just fine, perhaps because he's done this many, many times.  I think of myself a good climber considering, but this was just excruciating.  I had a heart monitor on and when my heart felt like it would burst (over 180+ for me), I have to stop and catch my breath for a minute until it went down to 150 again.  I would cycle through these high intervals for the next two miles and never for a second did I felt giving up and turning around was an option.

The total was eight miles long, 4.1 miles of which were straight climbing.  The first mile was at a 10% grade.  Meaning there was a 500 ft. elevation gain just on the first mile alone!
The views up top of Lake Tahoe were rewarding for sure, but honestly, there is no better reward than affirming to yourself that you are alive, healthy, and well, able to do these things.  I couldn't have been prouder of myself.  It takes a certain strength and stamina to pedal your way up and although it could have taken me quicker to climb, it was my first taste of a real climb, the kind that only boys do (and some boys cannot even attempt to do), and I am mighty proud of what I accomplished!  With all the starts and stops, the whole trip took 2 hours and a half and I burned 1,426 calories in the process.

We could have gone further, but after taking a break for a quick snack, I felt I've cooled down more than I wanted that I just didn't have it in me to keep climbing.  So we headed down and never before have I appreciated the laws of physics than that day.  What comes up must oh-so gloriously come down.  I have a Specialized 29er Myka, a mid-range women's hardtail mountain bike, and I LOVE that thing.  It bombed down that trail through gravel, rocks and roots, sometimes in loose soil, sometimes in narrow singletracks.

And in between yelps of "wahooo!!!" in exhilarating speed, I was extremely grateful that I have The Dutch to drag me to places and experiences considerably extreme in my standards.  There are some misses (namely, skiing), but mountain biking has been one huge hit.  After I've gotten to know my bike, tested it on a variety of trails of varying undulations, I have learned to trust what my hydraulic brakes can do.  My learning curve for this sport has been very short (and very sweet indeed) and I cannot even imagine what other adventures await on the saddle!

P.S.  The world is still a wonderful place despite all the conflict happening in many places in the world right now.  We ended the afternoon on the beach in South Lake Tahoe with a couple of friends.  Lady Gaga has an outdoor concert that evening and although I am not a fan in any sense at all, I appreciate real talent and hard work.  We were hanging out outside the Lady Gaga concert venue when a girl randomly approached us and asked if we wanted two tickets for free.  She had bought them and just couldn't go anymore.  We offered to pay her, but she didn't want any money.  She just gave us the tickets and left.

If you've seen a show at Harvey's Lake Tahoe, it is one of the most intimate venues I've watched a concert in.  The capacity is only 7,000 people and if a big name like Lady Gaga comes to perform, it is a must-watch since you can get really close to the action.  Like I said, I am not gaga about Gaga, but she put on a great performance.  Her talent is amazing and although the profanity is at times too much, she does balance it out with a strong and vocal stand on gender equality, beauty in art, and that elemental pursuit of dreams.  Artists have such an influence on their impressionable fan base and it was a welcome surprise to know that Lady Gaga (who I didn't know anything about prior) at least tries to put something positive out there outside of her pop craziness.

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