Wednesday, August 22

The Alpine Odyssey: Murder Face

I've discovered a new training tool I am going to intensively employ in my AO training and then in subsequent LV100 training over the coming year.

On North Table Mountain, on the north slopes, there is a steep gravel road. Steep. S-T-E-E-P. I'd never ridden up it, but the handful of times I've crawled down it with my bike I've had a distinct sense of vertigo and horror at its steep and loose nature. I didn't believe you could ascend it on a bike because of all the loose gravel. No traction.

Earlier this week I forgot discretion and prudence and thought: I've lived a good life... No, actually I thought: What if I rode UP that road? I plugged the route into MapMyRide and then promptly avoided looking at the specific elevation split for that 0.8 mile section of a 15.5 mile mountain bike commute.

I battled traffic, second-day-of-school-crazed-soccer-mom-traffic, to get to the start of the trail off W 58th Ave. Then I was moving upward.

The long gravel road snaked up through the steep prairie to a break, a gully, that surmounts the caprock barrier at the top of the mesa. It's probably a good thing that I couldn't see the entire route from the bottom.

The lower section is less steep but surprisingly steep all the same. Things seemed to be going well until I turned the hill and was confronted with the bottom of the last climb. The Last Climb? Nah, but still a doozy.

I wanted to swerve off on the loop trail that would take me over to highway 93, but I heard Ken yelling in my head: Put your nose down on that handlebar, watch that front wheel...

So I did. I tried not to wuss and unclip, but as I began to see clouds through my spokes I panicked slightly and slipped my left foot free...just in case.

I've really begun to learn that "just in case" can be the kiss of death. Soon enough I strayed into deeper gravel and plowed to a halt. At least I had my foot free... (heavy sarcasm)

Standing, precariously, at a dead stop, my chest heaved with labored breaths. I contemplated calling that point my high point, retreating to the lower loop trail, and coming back to try it again on another day. After all, I had no idea how I'd get the bike moving again on the loose steep gravel

I shook my head, threw a leg over the top tube, clipped in my right pedal and shoved off. I continued into the prairie sky.

I pedaled through the rest of the steepness, a 10% average grade, until the angle eased off. Then I settled into a sane cadence for the final push to the top of the mesa. Until...The One spontaneously dumped it's chain into the spokes. The second time I ground to a halt I was clipped in both pedals. Miraculously (heavy sarcasm) I got free and got a foot down.

No more mishaps plagued me and I attained the rolling summit. I'd made it all the way with two impromptu stops. Next time I'll do it in one push.

In a fit of melodrama I'm calling the climb Mordwand after the treacherous north face of the Eiger.

I descended the other road, on the western side, that's crazy steep, too. Made me glad I had put new pads in my rear caliper. Made me realize the front pads are way too far gone, too. I've descended so many hard thousands of feet this past year...it's no wonder.

LATE ADDENDUM

Today was Bean's first day of kindergarten. I took the morning off and rode to Westminster with the family to see her off to school. Of course we subjected The One to the indignity of being hauled on Gump and I was faced with a minimum 20 mile commute this AM.

What the heck! Why not throw in a slog up North Table to boot?

I got through northern and western Arvada no problemo. Then I contoured around the North Table Loop trail to the new TH off highway 93 where I started up the stupid steep western access road to the top of the mesa.

I didn't make it to the top.

Hate to spoil the ending, but I didn't.

No, I crawled at least halfway up, nose dutifully planted on my handlebars, eyes locked on that front wheel, shoes smartly clicked into my pedals...

Near the halfway point I did catch a glimpse of another cyclist coming in off a side trail, but I couldn't spare the attention to study my fellow sufferer.

I made it another dozen yards or so and hit the muscle failure wall. I skillfully got free of my pedals and stopped. I gave a valiant effort to get back on the bike and get moving but it was no use. The road Is just too steep. It's a one shot deal. I decided to call it my high point and return another day.

Finally I could spare a glance back. The new cyclist was a tall guy pushing a Salsa fatbike up behind me. As I turned to head down we met.

Jason has recently moved to Golden and has been out enjoying the local trails on his fatbike and seems to be enjoying it. We talked bikes and commuting for a few minutes before I had to beg off to get to work.

Now I want a fatbike. Wait, I already wanted a fatbike. I guess I just want one more now.

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