Miles: 61 Climbing: 6000’ Route: Sam Smith—Honda Hill climb—Horizon View/Summit climb—Cougar Mountain South climb—descend Montreaux—Olympus/Squak climb—Tiger Mountain North and South climbs—May Valley—112th/Licorice climb on Squak—89th—Mercer Island—Sam Smith Attrition Rate: 0%
Triple Bypass x 2 x 12= two times each up Cougar, Squak, and Tiger Mountains with 12 strong riders= one hell of a HOWC. I’d like to say today’s HOWC was one of the best of all time, but it is so hard to do that. There have been so many incredible days since I started the ride in 2003. What I can say is that today’s ride was simply superlative, as much for what it wasn’t as for what it was.
First of all, it was great to see some faces I have not seen for awhile; Reg is back in town, Bill Temple and Tim Shields were on the ride, and Chris Ragsdale was with us. It’s unusual that we don’t have at least one newcomer, but it’s nice to be surrounded by familiar faces. Rachel was back for her second ride with us, the first since an epic ride last summer. Despite the time gap, Rachel was easily recognizable mostly due to the fact that she is the last woman to have ridden with us, and last summer the first woman to ride with us in a long time. Just what do we do that scares off the ladies?
As always, at the ride start I went over the route, explaining that it might be best to use a pacing strategy that would enable one to survive an hour+ of climbing some quite hard ascents. Usually a competitive fire comes over most of the riders, they disregard the “advice,” and several (or more) crack hard during the ride. Perhaps the inclusion of Chris at the starting line was enough of a deterrent, as sanity prevailed, and no one seriously attempted to go with him. The only time I have finished a climb with Chris is when he let me because we were having a conversation.
The pace on the flats was relatively mellow today, likely due to an attempt by all to conserve some energy for the vertical. Chris took it easy on us. It’s great to note that Chris obviously read and respected the ride description, which calls for a “strenuous” pace this time of the year. It’s also great that Chris can cool his jets on the flats, and still get something of value from the ride. During the summer, when we are doing 25mph+ in pacelines, if Chris shows he is inevitably doing a lot of the work, and I never ask him to back off. After all, in the summer, the ride is what I think of as open class, and if you have a guy willing (and able) to do almost all of the work, by golly, more power to him. Let the bird out of the cage, and let him fly!
I felt good today, but not quite as sharp as I did on Thursday, when I did a similar ride totaling almost 5000’ of climbing, using some of the same climbs as today. Perhaps I had just a wee little bit of Thursday left in my legs. In any case, I figured a little boost wouldn’t hurt, and at the Tiger Mountain Store I ingested 58mg of caffeine via a 20oz. Coca Cola. While the miracle working legal substance didn’t turn me into a Chris Ragsdale, it certainly did help me finish a hard ride strongly. I’d like to know just how this stimulant is not on the banned substance list. I don’t drink coffee, and the only time I ever have a Coke is on a hard ride, so I think the effect hits me fast and hard.
I asked Chris, of 24 hour endurance racing fame, if he ever uses caffeine. He replied, “What, are you kidding? I taper off for a few weeks before a race, and then I hit the Super Juice during the race.” When I queried as to how much he might use during a long race, he responded, “As much as I have to.” Well, there you have it, both a confirmation of just how potent a drug caffeine can be, as well as just how “insane” racing a bike is for 24 hours.
We had a few people drop into the Hurt Locker late in the ride, but waiting a little bit never really seemed to hurt the flow of the ride. No, it wasn’t one of those perfect days where we have a group of riders moving together all day in a perfectly synchronous formation, but we all had a blast anyway. I think everybody was able to derive some pretty good training effect from today’s effort.
We were back a little later than normal, partly due to the fact that we did quite a few hard climbs. There were options to eliminate some of the climbs, but few took the option and “shorted” the route. We re-grouped on every climb, and hung around a lot longer than we normally do, sharing stories and talking about the various ascents.
Honestly, I wish we could have rides like today’s in the summer. I get some enjoyment (and a hell of a workout) from those maniacal summer pacelines, but I like to climb, and you just can’t do everything. When we do 70+ miles at a full nuclear pace, I always reduce the amount of climbing on the ride. The summer rides are often a survival contest anyway; throwing in huge amounts of climbing with the hard pace on the flats would guarantee more of a death march.
As long as these pacelines roll safely, I let them go, and I know that a lot of our riders really enjoy this type of riding. Were I to list and describe a lower pace for the summer, we would have more riders show up, we’d still wind up riding super hard, and I would feel guilty of false advertising. When we get large groups, managing the ride becomes a pain, reducing the fun quotient for me and the other Ride Leaders. The nature of the ride changes, we have a lot more waiting, and sometimes we have to have The Talk with riders, which is never fun.
It’s not too late to change my mind about the summer; I have to list June rides soon. Attempting to lower the pace at this point would be difficult as everyone is pretty used to what we have been doing. Besides, the summer HOWC is the cornerstone of my fitness plan. I don’t race, and there is simply no other way I could gain fitness like I believe I do from the weekly summer grueling HOWC. Maybe I’ll send out an email poll to a core group of ride supporters to get their opinions.
On the way home downtown from the tunnel, I always ride by the big Fran’s Bakery, and on Sundays the sweet aroma of a cherry jelly donut is what I ride through. On other days, it might be the delectable scent of buttered toast. Today I was treated to both, which has never happened previously.
It was that kind of a day.