Wednesday, July 31

I Hart Steep Hills!

I'm into recycling

After three attempts on Hart's Orchard hill it seemed like I had a long way to go before I could ride it in a single effort.  My best performance was with only one stop on my first try, but I'd not been able to pull that off in two subsequent tries.

Then I got a new cassette with a 34 tooth cog versus the 32 tooth cog I'd been running all along.  Those magic two teeth...

Yesterday morning Mark and I were on dawn patrol.  We rode out to Slade and back.  It was much easier to pace with him geared as opposed to single-speeding it.  That was 28 miles of good riding.

Then I went to Veterans at lunch and pulled off three PRs and a couple second best times.  I felt like I was flying.  On one section I was going down a fast flowy hill and it literally felt like I was floating a few inches above the ground.  I ticked off 6.4 more miles there.

Tonight I got home and did my pre-Leadville mowing and weed eating (I have a very comprehensive training plan) finishing up around 7pm.  The kids had fixed supper.  As I sat with them eating I hatched a scheme...

"Okay, you guys sit tight, watch TV, I'm going to go ride Hart's Orchard."

"Okay Dad!" They chorused.

I grabbed my helmet and my iStrava and took off at a moderate pace.  The top of Hart's is only 3 miles from my front door.  I wouldn't be gone long.

Big guys like us have to take it slow.

The first time I attempted the steepest hill in my holler I think I pretty much assumed it was in the bag.  How could I not be able to ride it?  I'm the Dave Weins, the Lance Armstrong, the Levi Leipheimer, the Matthew Lee, the Eddy Merchkyx of Hatton Creek.  I'm the best cyclist in a five mile radius of my house.  Hands down.  Well, that's not really been confirmed, but in my mind its true.  

Actually, in my mind the radius goes out to like 12 miles (sorry Jeff!).  In reality I'm not sure where we'd draw the line.

Anyway, on that first attempt I did hit the bottom of the climb with an energetic pace.  Andas much as I'm paid to admit itJeff's right, you have to pace yourself slow on something so steep when you’re fatter than average.  Getting a good run at it won't benefit you one micron.  Any momentum you build up is lost long before you need it.  Better yet to approach the base in a state of near meditation.  You should be breathing solidly, keeping a firm, but reserved cadence, and have your mind cleared of all extraneous non-cycling, non-sound bite-esque mantras.

Right away Hart's is steep.  It's in your face like a wall of death metal music.  But quieter and more serene.  It's loose after a few dozen yards and steeper.  It was low down where I hoped that my super-low gearing wouldn't cause spontaneous wheelie-ing or a catastrophic loss-of-traction event.

There is a reprieve after that, but it’s hardly worth mentioning, except that’s where I’ve hit my mental/physical barrier every time.  The grade lessens.  It doesn’t get flat.  It doesn’t really let up; only in a technical sense.  But again, that “easy” section has thwarted me three times. Each time my lower back muscles would begin to smolder after the loose crux at the bottom, and then just below the near vertical section the fire would intensify and I’d drop the cussed foot.

Last night I started up slowly but with intent.  I assumed because I had a belly full of dinner I would fail.  Extra weight, the feeling of fullness…disastrous!  But it was never a problem.  Maybe the extra fuel made a difference.  Maybe the 34 miles I’d ridden earlier in the day had me limbered up.  Maybe I was inspired by only being 10 days out from Leadville.

Or maybe it was those two extra teeth.
I climbed the crux with only a small fire in my lower back.  It never neared critical and I kept right on pedaling.  At one point I remember thinking that it was in the bag unless I broke traction somewhere.  My body wasn’t going to hold me back with the current gear ratios.  I slowed my mind a bit, eased back on the anticipation of success, and I focused on perfect tire placement, even pedal strokes, and holding my line.

I crossed to the outside of the last righthand curve.  I momentarily worried about oncoming cars, but then I shoved that thought out of my mind.  I was there!  I was going to finish and no SOV was going to stop me.  I’d roll right over it.

The last few yards are impossibly steep.  You can see the edge of the pavement above.  You can almost reach the lip by standing on tiptoes.  It gets steep enough that years ago in a 1972 Chevy Silverado I broke traction with my front tires on the blacktop and couldn’t make it.  I had to back down a third of the way until I could turn the truck around and drive out.  I pushed The One on, ever so slowly, balancing the power I felt in my legs with the patience I knew I needed to apply to keep the wheels turning true.
There was a slip—a skipped heartbeat—and I eased off again.  Just a few more pedal strokes…

And then I was over the crux.  I kept pedaling along the pavement until I reached the true apex of the climb a few hundred yards further, but once I was off the gravel I was golden.  I’d climbed Hart’s Orchard hill. It’s no Powerline or Columbine, but it’s possibly the hardest road climb in the county.  There are two others that are potentially harder, and Pot Holler used to be insanely steeper and more technical until the Forest Service destroyed it for no good reason, but it’s a climb that would be hard to exceed on a public road whether paved or not.

I’d given up on the idea of riding it before Leadville, but for whatever reason the stars aligned yesterday and it fell unexpectedly.  Maybe it was a two tooth fluke, but I think I’ve really just been working harder to have the stems to do it.  I wish I had time for Cobhill before Friday.  Alas…


Something occurred to me this morning as I was driving in to work.  A couple of weeks ago I finally got up the gumption to ask for a new office chair.  When I started nearly eight months ago I got a conglomeration of old office furniture including a wretched chair.

The only way I could sit in it was slumped.  And my back was JUBAR all the time.  By the time I would get in the car to drive home I couldn't even sit up straight in the car and at home I was a blubbering wreck of knotted up backpain.

I got a new office chair last week and ever since my back pain has steadily diminished.  I would venture to say that the improved back strength had something to do with my successful ascent of Hart's.

1 comment:

  1. I road the Boulevard today. Does that count?

    And I am still in the Green corral ;)