…award-winning, beloved internet cycling superstar celebrity blogger Elden Nelson. (aka Fatty, feel free to call him Fatty. He’s not actually fat, at all.)
I’d been doing cycling events for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for several years as part of their Team in Training program. I was feeling like a seasoned cyclist, which I was not, and felt up to the challenge of America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride. As I said, I was feeling like a seasoned cyclist. This little bear of a ride would prove me wrong, so terribly, utterly wrong.
Let’s set the stage a bit. My first Century Ride was the Seagull in Salisbury, MD. It is flat as all hell on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It’s a great ride for a neophyte rider. It’s not a race, there are no time chips. They sweep the course at around 10 pm. This ride, while almost completely flat, was complicated by the fact that the day of the ride the weather was bad. We completed the ride in the tail of a huge tropical storm that hovered over the Eastern Shore for 3 days. And we completed it on big, fat, heavy mountain bikes.
Second Century? Actually 109 miles of Tour de Tucson. It was hilly, with one remarkable section of actual rollers, the likes of which we do not see in Ohio. But we finished this one too, this time on shiny new, skinny road bikes. I only cried twice out on the course. And I only threatened one girl scout. So, it was a win. And we finished before the sweep.
So, in my misguided excitement to do another fundraising/endurance event for Team in Training, I signed up for what I like to call Tahoe of Hell.
Team in Training, it has to be said, is a fabulous organization. They take you from a non-cycling, out of shape “normal” person to someone who can complete a Century Ride, Marathon or Olympic Triathlon in 6 short months. We’d completed two of these before, so why should this one be that different?
We’d been Super-Hydrating for 2 full weeks, which allegedly helps compensate for the difference in elevation. Super-Hydrating is simply drinking at least 1.5 gallons of water per day. Try that on a 4 hour flight to Reno. The lowest elevation of the Tahoe of Hell ride is 5000 ft. above seal level and the highest is around 7700 ft. (I live at 791 ft. above sea level)
We leave on a Thursday morning bright and early. We have to be at the airport at 4:30 am. Really. I think I slept 3 hours the night before the flight. I’m not really a good sleeper and am used to getting by, on occasion, on as little as 4 hours of sleep.
So, we’re all on the flight, all 45 of us. And we are all peeing like race horses. The line to the johns is constant and quite long. When you’re done using the facility, you leave and join the end of the line. No kidding.
We get to Reno and board a bus. It’s noon Ohio time and we’ve had no time to eat. The bus ride is blissfully short but we do get a taste of the route Tahoe of Hell will take us. There are real mountains here. Unlike any I have ever seen. I’m from Ohio and Pennsylvania seems mountainous to me. And we’re hungry, all 45 of us, and peeing and tired. And peeing.
We get to the hotel, dump our bags and eat. Then run off to pick up our bikes from the semi truck that’s brought them to us. And then we eat again. And pee. Again.
Except I can’t eat a ton. The elevation is making me queasy. I have a headache too. But I’m still drinking my blessed water, so boy, am I hydrated. And peeing.
We have 2 days of prep, acclimate, shake down ride, team dinners, big team dinners and the obligatory “oh Shit!” meeting the night before the ride. The “Oh shit!” meeting is where the coaches go over, in graphic detail, every possible opportunity to get lost, every crack in the pavement, every pile of debris on the roadside. And how the road is extremely dangerous, narrow and includes jaw dropping, no guard rail drop offs.
Wait? It’s pretty in Tahoe? I had no idea, really. I didn’t notice. My lack of sleep, slight elevation sickness and lack of food left me dwelling on nothing else but me. And how I was doing. And at the moment, I was doing not so hot.
The rest of my story, Tahoe of Hell resumes tomorrow…