When Bad Rides Go Good

I got a piece of good news during the weekend: Kenny, Chucky, Brad and I all got into the Cascade Cream Puff.
There’s only one little problem: I am fat. And I have been riding only occasionally. I suspect most people would give me some credit for the quality of my excuse — I just changed jobs and have been busy selling my house, buying a house, and flying back and forth between where I live and where I work until the move is complete.
The thing is, though, the Cream Puff trail won’t care about excuse quality. I’ve done this race one time before — when I was much lighter and fitter — and barely finished (right around 14 hours, I think). It was, in fact, the only time I have ever seriously considered quitting a race.
So. I now have a really good reason to get in really good shape in a really short period of time.
Yes, I know I already had lots of really good reasons, but this one puts a knot in my stomach in a way Leadville no longer does — maybe because I know that even in the condition and weight I’m in right now I could still at least finish Leadville. I don’t think that’s true of the Cream Puff.
And that’s my long-winded introduction to why I did interval climbs on Monday.
I’ve been picturing a good climbing interval course for some time: from my house on the Sammamish Plateau, descend and then climb each of the roads that drops down off of the plateau. That’s six climbs, each between half a mile and a mile, each fairly steep.
Monday, I finally went and did it.
The first descent is practically out my front door, so I don’t really get warmed up until I begin climbing back up (the road is 244th or something like that, for those of you who live in the Sammamish area). It’s a good first climb because it starts off very steep to force some intensity out of you, and then gives you a quick rest before dialing up the steepness again. As expected, I did this climb with no difficulty at all. Hey, it’s the first climb. I’m always a good climber on the first clmb.
The second descent and climb, though, is Inglewood Hill. This is just over half a mile at a 12% grade (that’s what the warning sign at the top of the hill says, anyway). Back when I worked at Microsoft, I did this climb every day as part of my homebound commute, and it’s a good gauge of my strength and fitness.
As soon as I reached the bottom of Inglewood Hill and turned around, shifting into my small ring and the third biggest ring on my cassette, I could tell I was in trouble. It was a harder climb than I remembered it being. Could it be that I was already tired out from just one climb?
I looked forward, putting into practice my new riding philosophy: don’t look at your pedals, look at where you want to go. I looked up, suffering, and kept pedaling. I wanted to go into my second gear, but I didn’t. “I should be able to do this climb in third gear,” I told myself. “A month ago, I was doing it in third gear with my messenger bag on.”
But I was suffering.
I focused on turning a smooth stroke, pulling up with one leg even as I pushed down with another. But it felt like I was about to fall over at the top and bottom of each stroke.
And then, finally, I was at the top. I had made it, but only just. What was wrong with me? I let my head drop down, looking at my pedals.
And that’s when I discovered I was in the big ring.

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