Monday, December 1, 2014

So there's this climb

Climbs are legend in cycling.  I only know of one sprint that is truly famous, the Tour de France finish on the Champs Elysees.  There are many famous tracks, the velodromes Roubaix, Mexico City, and the Velodrome du Lac in Bordeaux to name a few.  But it's the mountains who's names everyone remembers.  Alpe d'Huez, Galibier, Ventoux, Stilvio, Koppenberg, Vail Pass, Independence Pass, Oakville Grade, Columbine, Powerline...

It is the climbs where the Grand Tours are won.  It is the climbs where a cyclist suffers, and it's the climbs that make or break your day at Leadville. 

Then there's the other climbs.  The ones named in local clubs routes, local races route lists, or even individual cyclists brains.  They have names like Nine Mile, Skull Valley, Chain Breaker, Spring, Sunset, Sunrise, Anita's, Mt Gary. 

In 2011, I found a climb by chance.  My wife's parents had moved to Corona Hills, CA.  When visiting for the first time, I was expecting a random LA exurb, golf course, mall, boring.  I expected flat roads, lots of traffic, and no fun for a cyclist.

What I found was magic.  A neighborhood at the base of Santiago Peak, right on the border of the Cleveland National Forest. From their house, I can roll out, cut through a walking path, hop a curb onto "Forest Boundary Road" and climb dirt for miles.  Being a national forest, there's not much single track accessible, but the road is not very "improved".  A road yes, but a road with lots of rocks, ruts, and turns to make a real mountain bike (vs a cross bike or gravel grinder) required.  

According to maps, if i climb for about 7 miles, I can intersect the Main Divide Road, which runs along a ridge separating Orange County from Riverside County.  I could ride the Main Divide road all the way North, and have a ripping descent into the town of Corona, then take the paved roads back to the house.

This climb I'm talking about is not used much.  I've never seen another bike on the road.  Strava only has 10 people listed as doing the climb.  You see it's steep.  In about 6.4 miles, it climbs 3000 feet.  That's a 10% grade.  Average.  That's steeper than Columbine, and longer than the real climb bit.  The climb has become a marker of progress.

In 2011, the first time I tried the climb, I made it about 1.5 miles.  After hopping onto the Forest Boundary Road, I made it up the half-mile paved section with my heart exploding through my chest.  There's a left turn about 100m after the road turns to dirt, then a .5 mile climb at 11% before a hairpin switchback.  I made it about 2/3 of the way to the switchback before I had to walk.  So I walked to the switchback, turned, and tried to ride.  This is where the grade increases to 12-13%. I made it about 50m, and walked again.  Made it to the Forrest gate, pointed the bike downhill, exhausted.  Took my an hour to go about 2 miles.

Spring of 2012, I made it to the first switchback.  Then I stopped, doubled over, and puked.

Fall of 2012, I made the first switchback, rested for 10 minutes, then made the gate. Rested, grunted out another 100-200m, rested.  In that fashion, I made it about 3 miles up the climb.  Took about 75 minutes.

Spring of 2013.  I'm in for Leadville.  I made the gate without stopping.  Since the gate was closed to cars, I rested a bit, then continued up.  I made it about 4 miles.  Discovered that after 3 switchbacks, false flats begin occurring every 50m or so

Winter 2013.  Post Leadville.  4.5 miles morning after relieving my father-in-law of a couple bottles of wine.  Made it all the way to a descent that twisted around the mountain further than I could see.  Worried about how far down it went, I turned around and made it back before all the bacon was eaten.

Spring 2014.  5.25 miles up, past the descent, and up a steep little climb to another false summit.  Took me an hour to get up there as the sun came up over the mountains far to the east.  15 minutes to get back to the house, made it back before the kids were awake. 

Fall 2014.  Post Leadville II.  5.5 miles.  No stops. Under an hour.  2 quick descents on the way Had to turn around when the sun dropped below the mountains.  I had strength left.  I could have made the Main Divide Road.  

That's the goal for Spring 2015.  6.5miles up.  More elevation gain than Columbine. In the same distance.  

I've found my training hill.  It's me vs the mountain.  Solitude above the urban sprawl of LA and the Inland empire.  The climb makes my heart want to explode through my chest.  Makes my quads burn fierce, and my calves strain just to keep the bike moving on the truly steep bits.  I know there's no reason to do this, other than to get better.

Makes me feel like a cyclist or something.  

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