Miles: 53.2 Climbing: 4128’Route: Downtown—Mercer Island—Factoria—Honda Hill—Newport Way to Issaquah—Mountain Parkway climb on Squak Mountain—Zoo climb or 164th on Cougar Mountain—Newcastle Golf Club climb—Coal Creek Parkway—89th—116th—Mercer Island—Downtown Attrition Rate: 0% (Carl E. admitted after the ride that he was in a little over his head and he wisely stayed off of the front, but he never once complained and toughed it out)
Despite the near perfect fall weather, we had a very small crew of five riders on the ride today. I thought we might have a large group now that we are riding at an easier pace than we do in the summer. One never knows. At times the ride was mellow, and at times it was pretty hard, and I guess that blend is what we think of as “winter pace”.
As we started up the 2.1 mile/1000’ of climbing on Mountain Parkway at Squak Mountain, I spontaneously made the decision that if I felt good I would go for it, and try and break my own PR for the climb. I felt strong on the initial steep pitch, and so I tried to set a solid pace. About halfway up, no one was around me, and I glanced at the interval timer I had set at the start of the climb. My legs hurt from the effort (and the steep climb) and I instantly eased up when I deduced that I must be off of “record pace”. With no one to chase or stay in front of, I didn’t have that to motivate me to keep cranking hard. When I was about 75% done with the climb, I looked at my timer again and thought “Holy ____, I can still do it”, so I stepped on the gas. I wound up 17 seconds over my PR, which I set in July of 08, right after a three week trip climbing in the mountains of Italy and France. Needless to say, I was a little disappointed in myself, and I guess some lessons have to be learned over and over (see my Personal Records Part II post).
As our small group cruised up Newport Way, my legs felt bad, and I wasn’t even on the front. I thought that I might have burned too many matches back on Mountain Parkway, and that I would pay the price for the rest of the ride. Instead of Montreaux, three of us went up 164th while Tom N. and Jim W. hit the Zoo climb, and I took it easy. The plan was for a group rendezvous at the top of the Newcastle Golf Club climb.
Once we got to NGC, I was again trying to take the pressure off of the legs, but Dan K. would have none of that. He went around me just as we saw Tom N. and Jim W. up ahead of us. Dan dropped the hammer pretty hard, and I jumped on his wheel. Even when the draft doesn’t help much on a 9% climb, it always seems easier to push yourself if somebody else sets the pace. Why is that? By the time we reached the top, not only had we closed the gap on our friends; I noticed that my legs were feeling better. For the rest of the day, I had good energy, and my legs actually felt pretty darn good.
Normally when my legs feel bad, they stay bad. Perhaps the pain in my legs after Mountain Parkway may have been due to the fact that it was the first really hard climb of the day. Even though we were well warmed up from riding 20 miles out to Issaquah, sometimes it helps to precede a very hard effort with a hard effort.
My Mantra has always been that whenever you have a problem on the bike, it can be solved by riding harder. Let’s start with the obvious. Late? Ride harder. Cold? Ride harder. Not motivated? Ride harder. Sad? Ride harder. Someone catching up to you that you don’t want to? Ride harder. Drenched? Ride harder. Mad? Ride harder. Something off the bike troubling you? Ride harder.
Now I can add a new one. Legs hurting? Ride harder. Go figure.
I hope to see you on the Tarmac (that will mean it’s not raining).