It started with a nice Thursday midday drive from the Bay area up to my AirBnB on the Truckee River, that is, until I noticed that my driving directions were telling me 1hr and 40 minutes for the last 45 miles. Hmmm, must be a crash ahead. Sure enough, just 9 miles from my destination, I hit this-

Not to be deterred, I ditched my car and mounted my bike, I wish. Despite the crawl to the AirBnb, I was so pleasantly surprised at the beautiful view and accommodations in my little home for the weekend –

From there, I walked the short distance to Downtown Truckee, and had an awesome pasta dinner at Jax by the Tracks, including a little extra carb loading, not sure Coach Ruben would approve of that, but he did sign off on the fueling plan for Saturday, composed of much less palatable but even higher carb options…as my friend Rich says, endurance events are really just eating contests!

After dinner, I met up with my friends Sally and Jon, for more carb loading at a local pub. No photo evidence for that little sidetrack. However, Sally and Jon did meet me Friday AM at the pre-ride with pro Anna Yamauchi . As you can see, Sally and Jon, who have a home in Truckee, fit right in with the Truckee crowd, where I look like a cycling tourist!!!

The pre-ride was anything but easy! Unfortunately, Sally felt a bit off, and Jon and she turned back not long after the start. I on the other hand was pleasantly surprised by the not so easy climb, and not so pleasantly surprised by the single track descent! I come to gravel from the road, and have next to no mountain biking experience, so I descended the “flowy” single track pretty cautiously. Anna pulled behind me and I got some nice tips on handling the terrain before we stopped for an uphill rider, and then I let the 7 or 8 folks who were piled up behind me pull on through. Here’s my Stava from that ride: (link here to see it live and follow me)

Pre-ride done, I went back to my AirBnb and out for a quick pasta meal before coming back and walking down to the river with my book and last carb-laden beverage. The river was running very fast, and the train roaring by and except for a few bugs, it was a nice way to end the evening before turning in early for the main event Saturday AM.

Race Day :

  • 5:30 – Rise and shine
  • 6a Breakfast of oatmeal and berries and coffee
  • 6:30 – Fill bottles and USWE hydration pack, pack food
  • 7a Dressed and ready to go
  • 7:15a Out the door for the 1.8 mi spin to the start line

The race was epic!!!! I was doing the 54 mile route which was 45 time with a 9 mile roll-in. Here’s what it looks like, and here is the Strava route if anyone wants to do it themselves (which, with a few caveats, I highly recommend, on a mtn bike for reasons to come…)

As the graphic shows, the race was really 3 distinct sections, as demarcated by the rest stops, but in reality, for me, it felt like 4 (or kinda 5):

  • Section 1 the first 17 mile mixed terain “rollout” ending at rest stop 1.
  • Section 2: the roughly 10 mi climb leading to and up Babbit Road
  • Section 3: the 6+ mile descent climb descent ending at rest stop 2
  • Section 4: The paved then dirt 12 mile fast ride to the finish line
  • (section 5: the last 9+ miles of paved untimed “roll-in”)

Section 1 for me was uneventful save about 2 minutes spent on a dropped chain. After a hand from a course “Marshall” (BTW, the entire EventMonkey team and volunteers were AWESOME) I rolled into the stop averaging over 15mph, a good speed for me.

I was feeling awesome on the climb up Babbit, passing many riders and never felt too strained. Topping off at over 7K feet, I was quite pleased to see that neither the heat nor the altitude were causing me any distress or fatigue. Score one for fitness there!!!

Section 3 was BY FAR the hardest thing I have ever done terrain wise on my bike. Not being a mountain biker, the double track rock garden was so scary. I had to “pucker up”, take my time, and trust the bike. I managed not to death grip too much, and made it down with the toll of one stop to shake the hands, one waterbottle cage rattled off (remember to tighten those next time Ken!) and one cool picture, where I look a lot more controlled and calm than I was on the inside. Check it out:

The end of the long 6 mile descent, yes it was rocky

Rolling into the last rest stop, several of the pro men, who were on the long course, roared by me grabbing bottles on the way through. Having the descent behind me, I was feeling fresh and reading to ride hard on the last section. Ruben and I had targeted a “negative split” for this section of the course, and I managed to roll through to the finish line averaging 15.8 mph for the last 12 miles. It felt great.

Another highlight of the last section was catching up to my old friends Chris and Martina. We all worked together at Netscape decades ago, and I had ran into them at the start line. We rolled out together, but I lost them when I dropped my chain. With about 3 miles to go, I caught them and we had the fun of both rolling out and finishing together. SO FUN AND MEMORABLE. Here we are at the finish line and later stopping to ham it up in front of Boca Reservoir during the non-timed roll-in.

Friends, old and new, definitely was a theme of the weekend. It was really a pleasure to meet Haley Smith, the woman’s winner, at the finish line. Haley rolled in right around when we did after completing the long course, yes, that was 20 miles longer than mine, wow she’s fast!!! Haley, Chris, Martina and I had a great chat and she was friendly, funny, kind and gracious enough to pose for a picture with Martina and I. You are now my fave rider on the Gravel Pro Circuit, cheering for you Haley!!! (and Anna too, heal up from the crash and get out there so we can cheer for you!!!)

Sally and Jon who I really got to know better had done the short course, but waited at the festival to greet me, and then treated me to a super yummy meal at their home that evening. Here’s Sally and I at the festival, I am a bit dusty for sure!!!

Overall, I had a goal to complete the timed portion in 3.5 hours, including stops. Here’s my TrainingPeaks data for that portion of the ride. I “missed my goal” by almost 27 minutes. However, if I had known how technical the climbing and descending would be, I think I would have aimed more for like 4hrs. So overall, I was pleased with this finish. From a race perspective, I finished 22/34 in the Men’s 60+ and 132/198 in the overall Men’s finishers. Since this was my first race ever, and so technical, I am super pleased. I am on a journey to be a top 10 age group finisher, and this was a great first step in that journey.

Wrapping the ride up, here’s my Strava screen and link

After that amazing BBQ dinner at Jon and Sally’s I headed back to the AirBnb and my head hit the pillow hard. I was up bright and early and decided to skip the organized post ride ride and drive back home. The ride home was quick and uneventful, and I was left with nothing but awesome memories of the weekend.

Next up is my big event in Steamboat Colorado, 100 miles of “Champagne” Gravel on August 20th. I won’t miss the Tahoe rocks, and am excited for the longer and higher challenge of SBTGrvl. Until then, this OldManRolling will be training in the Menlo Park and the surrounding roads, trails and bridges. You can get more regular updates by following on Instagram @oldman.rolling Until then, keep the tires rolling – Ken

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