Monday, May 18, 2009

5-17-09 Hills of the West Coast Ride report

Miles: 56 Climbing: 5000’ Route: Downtown—Mercer Island—Honda Hill—Newport Way to Issaquah—Olympus climb on the north side of Squak Mountain—Issaquah-Hobart Rd. south—132nd climb on Tiger Mountain—May Valley—112th-171st climb on south side of Squak Mountain—89th—Mercer Slough--Downtown

Luke led his inaugural HOWC today, and he did a great job. The ride went smoothly, and it helped that most of the 11 strong riders were somewhat ride regulars (see the end of the post for Luke's comments).

After six years of leading the HOWC, I have come to realize that it is a rare Sunday when I don’t learn something. What I learned today (not for the first time) is that if you ask your body to do something; no, tell your body to do something, it’s amazing how often it will respond. Yesterday I rode 70 miles, and almost every one of them was at a very hard pace. After I rode in the first group on the Team HPC ride, David Longdon and I added another 30 miles with Justin Angle, and miles with Justin are never easy miles. Luke had offered to lead today’s ride because I wasn’t sure I would show up.

On Friday I had done 40 miles, including a jaunt over Cougar Mountain, and today I capped off a tough four straight riding days on a trip to Vashon Island with Reg. I fell into the hurt locker just a little toward the end of today’s ride and Reg did most of the work on the front, but hopefully my “block” of hard rides will pay fitness dividends as it has for me in the past.

Even if a cyclist is a little worn out from the previous day’s effort, it’s possible to have a very good day if you fully warm up, judiciously measure out your energy until you see what you have available, and pick your spots. I found that by the end of the ride I felt surprisingly strong, and no one remembers who birdies the first hole anyway.

There were an incredible number of bicycles out on the road this weekend, and that is certainly a wonderful thing to see. The only downside is that using a bicycle trail was even more dangerous than it normally is. At times it looked like the cycling version of New Year’s Eve, so obvious was it that many riders were out for either the first time of the year…or the first time, period. One of our riders mentioned that on Saturday while riding on the Burke Gilman, he came upon three cyclists who had crashed independently of each other, all between Fremont and the Ballard Fred Meyer.

It’s always a pleasure when Chris Ragsdale makes the ride. Not only is he an incredibly strong rider, he’s a great guy and a lot of fun to ride with. Coming back westbound across the I-90 Bridge, a rider wearing Cucina Fresca (spelling?) kit passed our group as we casually rolled down the ramp to the bridge. Chris and I were chatting on the front of the ride, and neither one of us paid any attention to this guy. The bridge was busy, and I settled in on Chris’s wheel as we went single file. Mr. Cucina took several glances backwards, I guess to monitor the situation as Chris steadily reeled him in, not by design, but simply because Chris pretty much reels everybody in.

When the Cucina rider realized he had been caught, without hesitation and unprovoked, he put his head down and dug in for what appeared to be his biggest monster effort. After waiting for some oncoming bike traffic to clear, we were now on the uphill ramp leading to the tunnel, and Chris moved around and steadily applied the power. By this time, only Hugh remained on my wheel, and now it was our turn to dig deep, as we were going with Chris, and there was no turning back.

Chris then dropped the hammer, and by glancing in my tiny little mirror, I could imagine the steam rising from Mr. Cucina as he responded with a furious, futile thrashing of the pedals. Chris dropped this guy like a bomb, and I saw 550 watts as Hugh and I fought to hold Chris’s wheel…to no avail. Chris looked like he was shot from a cannon as he blasted away from us, but at least we were smartly moving away from Cucina.

Like several of us on the ride, Chris was using a mirror, and after he told us that he uses it in his endurance races, I have finally come to the conclusion that the obvious geek factor of a little mirror is far outweighed by the many advantages, not the least of which was watching Mr. Cucina’s reaction and facial expression.

I wonder what this cyclist would think if he was aware that the person he was trying to ride off of his wheel is capable of riding a bicycle 510 miles in a 24 hour period? I couldn’t feel sorry for this guy; he dug his own grave. Maybe it’s better to pick battles with a little beta in hand, rather than routinely attacking anyone who dares to catch you? At least I am fully cognizant of just how strong Chris is.

It’s ironic that twenty four hours earlier I was digging deep at this exact same spot, and scrambling to hold the wheel of my friend Justin Angle. I put in a pretty solid effort that came towards the end of a hard ride, but I lost that wheel as well. The reality is that if I can remain in the same zip code when either one of these guys really drops the hammer; well, I must be doing OK.

Life is pretty darn sweet.

I hope to see you on the Tarmac.

From Luke:
"The folks that showed up Sunday were strong and skilled. It made leading my first ride real easy. The ride basically featured three stout climbs on Squawk and Cougar – all were optional up-and-backs. Squawk via 12th to Mountainside Dr. was the first target. All those who chose to do it powered up that monster in impressive fashion. We had a good ride on our hands!

The table was set for the 132nd climb up Tiger. The group started hard, but most of us were digging deep just to finish. This little 850 ft gem features a 20% + ramp late on the climb. Even on my best day – and on my triple – it would be a stand up finish. I happened to be within eyesight of Chris and noticed he never left the saddle! The relatively shorter and less intense Licorice assent of Squawk was still pretty tough if you just survived the previous two climbs. Jim tells me the view is really nice if you climb that final loop to the left/west. I was sufficiently tired from climbing the other way – I will have to take his word for it and see myself at a later date!

Leading the ride was cool and a great learning experience. In some ways, HOWC is a heck of a first ride to lead. But when you factor in how solid the riders were Sunday, a trained monkey (a strong one) probably could have done it. Thanks to the group for being so kind with a few wrong turns.

While I’ve ridden with the HOWC pack near a dozen times, I still suffer some route finding amnesia when I don’t have someone calling out the turns. I think this comes from 1.) Never having to worry about where we are going ‘cause Tom has it covered and 2.) So much mental focus on these rides is spent on safety and intensity. I appreciate what you do, Tom and Jeff, to guide the pack so smooth."

2 comments:

LB said...

The folks that showed up Sunday were strong and skilled. It made leading my first ride real easy. The ride basically featured three stout climbs on Squawk and Cougar – all were optional up-and-backs.

Squawk via 12th to Mountainside Dr. was the first target. All those who chose to do it powered up that monster in impressive fashion. We had a good ride on our hands!

The table was set for the 132nd climb up Tiger. The group started hard, but most of us were digging deep just to finish. This little 850 ft gem features a 20% + ramp late on the climb. Even on my best day – and on my triple – it would be a stand up finish. I happened to be within eyesight of Chris and noticed he never left the saddle!

The relatively shorter and less intense Licorice assent of Squawk was still pretty tough if you just survived the previous two climbs. Jim tells me the view is really nice if you climb that final loop to the left/west. I was sufficiently tired from climbing the other way – I will have to take his word for it and see myself at a later date!

Leading the ride was cool and a great learning experience. In some ways, HOWC is a heck of a first ride to lead. But when you factor in how solid the riders were Sunday, a trained monkey (a strong one) probably could have done it.

Thanks to the group for being so kind with a few wrong turns. While I’ve ridden with the HOWC pack near a dozen times, I still suffer some route finding amnesia when I don’t have someone calling out the turns. I think this comes from 1.) never having to worry about where we are going ‘cause Tom has it covered and 2.) so much mental focus on these rides is spent on safety and intensity. I appreciate what you do, Tom and Jeff, to guide the pack so smooth.

Cascade Cyclist said...

I need to keep this in mind:

"...no one remembers who birdies the first hole anyway."

I only have about 3-4 strong bursts in me in any given ride, and I usually take the bait way too early and blow my wad...

Chris will be riding in a 4-man Race Across Oregon team--definitely a race to watch same weekend as STP via text updates on the RAO web site.