One week

Climb to Kaiser is one week away from today. If all goes to plan, I’ll be on Big Creek Road climbing 2,000 feet in 4 miles before Huntington Lake and a short break. From there, it’s up to Kaiser Pass and its 9,700-foot summit, then a massive descent and flat passage through hell. The ride is an annual way to remind myself how lucky I am to pedal. To be in the mountains is to witness beauty, to share in the struggle. To come back to civilization is to have convenience. As we dig to make the goal to the top, we’re all insignificant on the mountain. The mountain doesn’t move for anyone. And each year, it seems bigger than we remembered it. Climbing high mountains on a bike is a high calling. I hear it in the distance. And I’m drawn to it.

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Pedal, climb, descend, repeat . . .

Climb to Kaiser is just four weeks out. Time to emphasize steep climbs and more weekly elevation before starting the taper June 23.

This afternoon was repeats on Highland Valley Road, which includes three main climbing sections as you roll east. The pro peloton gobbled up the first section of climb during this year’s Tour of California before turning left on Bandy Canyon Road.

I kept plowing toward Ramona.

Three times.

Three repeats on Highland Valley easily gets you total elevation gain over 4,000 feet but not at high elevation. It also throws some 15%+ pitch in spots.

Such steepness is necessary to prepare for Big Creek Road, the most critical section of Climb to Kaiser. There’s no substitute, but try we must to prepare.  

 highland valley 3x

Doing, not saying . . .

Kicked off the build of http://www.bikecrave.com today. Official site launch is June 15. 

BikeCrave is an idea that has been in my brain for over a year now. It’s become a labor of love and shared project (with cyclists around the world) as a place to celebrate all things cycling, and the cycling lifestyle. I’m providing blog updates here (and DMs and emails) as a way to share the “process” and demystify the “social media” thing. Too many buzzwords and not enough reality. Let’s strip it down to the pure essence. 

BikeCrave? It’s real. URL secured. Host secured. Design direction and architecture complete. Brand guidelines done. WP template for customization complete. Plug-ins chosen. Designer and coder hired. Chief content producer (me) hired.

One thing I enjoy about cycling is the near-zero tolerance for fakery. You either climb the mountain, or you go back and reach a fitness level that will power you up the mountain. Or you pick a smaller mountain, also known as a “hill.” The point is, you’ve got to start somewhere. It doesn’t really matter where as long as you reach the goal, and you enjoy the journey. You may only want to ride flats in Tuscany and sip wine. Or work on your glove tan lines along Highway 101. Way cool, each.   

But no faking. 

We can’t talk ourselves up the mountain or down the coast in a 20 mph headwind. We can’t slog through a cold rainstorm without something deep inside. I’ve been there, digging about in an empty suitcase of courage, harkening back to times when the legs were stronger and the heart more capable of carrying red blood cells to hungry muscles. 

Doing, not saying.

That’s top of mind this afternoon before I kit up and do my ride.

A tad cliche? Yep.

The best route? Always.

Hope you’re having a great weekend and doing what you love, which may even include two wheels.

Breathing and Agonizing…

Let me start with just two words: Great ride.

If that’s all you need to know, you can stop reading now. If you want texture, a bit of flavor, and some weird commentary, then plow onward.

Breathless Agony, which sells out very fast in advance, is a fabulous ride. It’s got some beautiful roads, plenty of climbing (12,000 feet officially), and a personable host in Chuck Bramwell (love the guy).  

Onyx Summit — the ride’s highest point — is at 8,443, according to the sign on the side of the road. You’ll smile when you reach it. Take a photo with the grim reaper, who seems even more grim because he’s at least 6-feet-8-inches, no kidding. Party with friends made along the way after you plop your bike down on special mats.

The timer turns off the second you get there.

My total pedal time per Garmin was right on 6:05 (it was beyond 7:00 counting for rest stations, but more on that later).

So, Onyx Summit is above the snow line? A grim reaper nearly the height of SHAQ? Breathless and Agony together?

What the h#&%!

It’s not as bad as you think.

I swear to you on my white Fizik Arione saddle and a stack of freshly laundered and folded DeFeet Levitator socks.

Here’s the deal: Yes, there is 12,000 total feet of climbing, and nearly 98% of it you’ll tackle in fewer than 80 miles. But the majority of the climbing is on managable grades. You will not encounter sustained 10%+ stretches that turn your legs to dead stone and your back to shattered glass. You will be in the saddle for long stretches as you make your way upward, but you won’t be blowing chunks on the side of the road (a la Mullholland Challenge in 2008 and 100-degree heat, according to hardcore locals).

Just climb.

Oh, and be sure to stay topped off with fluids and your food of choice. Very important.

Warning: There was no Hammer Nutrition at feed stations for this ride.

I focused so much on preparations for rain (that never materialized), I didn’t take a few Ziplock bags of my own stash of Perpetuem (prefer not to eat on hefty climbs; it disagrees with my stomach).

Combine that blunder with a meager dinner of a low-cal veggie burrito the night before, and less than 3 hours of sleep (worrying about the no-show rain), and you get less ride enjoyment, more work and a few leg cramps to boot.

Huh?

What a damn minute here. I had more than 2,700 miles and 225,000 feet of climbing in my legs for calendar year 2009 before Breathless Agony. I was out of breath and in agony on Palomar Mountain many times already to ensure the ride would be a smooth, uneventful cruise.

Such is the cruel and unusual nature of cycling and the beauty of learning.

This time, I got a lesson in humility. Maybe this blog post was a precursor.

A sharp cramp in my left inside quad greeted me at mile 50. That put a giant kabosh on plans to rip the ride in the saddle the entire way up. I alternated saddle time with odd standing intervals to the top. On less than severe grades, standing just doesn’t feel right unless you’re putting it down in the big ring and trying to drill it.

Instead, I was the one being drilled — by the moutain. 

Regardless, an experienced cyclist should know better than to:

(a) Show up without his own Perpetuem

(b) Try to expect something special on less than 3 hours sleep

(c) Eat a low-calorie veggie burrito the night before as “fuel” a serious effort

Despite my goofs, the ride remains a great one. I harbor no ill will toward it, the veggie burrito that I ate or the friendly people at the feed stations. I powered a few PB&J sandwiches before the top and turned on my low-RPM diesel engine. A fellow rider gave me his stash of Perpetuem, and two others handed me Endurolyte tablets from elaborate plastic cases pulled from their jersey pockets. These nice folks saved me from my own stupidity. And to them, I am indebted.

Here are my ratings for the 2009 Breathless Agony ride:

Overall: 9/10 

Scenery: 8/10 (don’t miss the snowcaps in front of you between miles 80 and 90)

People: 9/10 (very nice long-distance riding type crowd; no attitudes)

Pros: Climb from Angeles Oaks to Onyx Summit is quality; Jack Rabbit Trail just rough enough to give you fantasies of Paris-Roubaix (without the Belgian flags and frites).

Cons: A 2-mile piece on Highway 60 with semi-trucks; the last 10 miles backdoor Redlands after a glorious descent.

Pics below at mile 45, mile 74 and mile 82 (approx).

Note: elevation profile is missing 4 miles where I failed to turn on Garmin after stuffing face with said PB&J sandwiches.

Mile 45

Mile 45

At the top

At the top

Mile 82 (approx) on descent

Mile 82 (approx) on descent

Profile minus 4 miles after Angeles Oaks Feed Station

Profile minus 4 miles after Angeles Oaks Feed Station

How Climb to Kaiser looks on GPS

The Climb to Kaiser was Saturday. A bit of smoke (from wildfires to the north) and heat never hurt anyone. My Garmin’s battery went out with less than 2 miles to the finish. Total rolling time was about 11:25 and total saddle time a bit over 12 hours. No records set. No health destruction. Got a nice 30-miler in Sunday late afternoon in San Diego to loosen up. Below is how the C2K looks to the Garmin 305. (Click on image to enlarge.) Total elevation gain shows at 14,787 feet.

Until next year, congrats to all the riders who got out there and after it! Next stop on official long rides, Bass Lake Power House Double in October. And lots of Palomar, Laguna and Idyllwild in between!

Kaiser weekend…

Cloudy, windy drizzle puts a crimp into this morning’s ride. Weekend looks like 120-155 miler for Saturday (without Palomar Mountain). Really need the weather to warm up or may have to hit Borrego Springs in the desert for some Clovis/Fresno acclimation.

One of the hardest things about Climb to Kaiser? The final few dozen flat miles with an occasional roller that feels like 7% grade. Especially if the temp reaches triple digits.

Less than 4 weeks…

Here’s what a 100-miler door-to-door from Poway to Palomar Mountain looks like on Garmin 305 with heart rate monitor feature. Made the intentional decision to ride the Moots with Open Pros up South Grade Road, as well as Cole Grade Road climbing in Valley Center from Pauma Valley. A bit like training with combat boots before a marathon. Got 9,400 feet of elevation gain in.

Pareto’s Principle…

The 150-mile/14,000 feet of climb plan for Friday and Saturday was tossed aside by work deadlines. But managed to log 8,000 feet in 50, then cool down with a flat 20. Good vertical-gain-per-mile ratio, but not the huge day in the saddle required to help the body adapt for full day of rolling time up and down at Climb to Kaiser.

Had a blast with Mother’s Day and Gracie’s B-Day. Plenty of time to get in two big base rides of 100+ in the local mountains without fraying the edges.