The day after the first time I ever rode the Alpine Gauntlet (77 miles, 9350 feet of climbing) was a regular workday. I was tired and planned to do an easy, short, flat spin on the road at lunchtime to keep my legs loose. A recovery day.
And so, of course, Dug and Rick suggested the three of us do the Alpine Loop together: 42 miles, 2700 feet of climbing. Not exactly a recover ride.
I don’t know about you, but I find it nearly impossible to turn down a ride with my friends. And so I didn’t. I did, however, ask them to take it nice and slow. I was wiped out from my big ride the day before. They said that would be fine.
So we rode up Provo Canyon together at a nice, easy clip. Nobody shot off the front; everyone took turns pulling. And since it was just after noon (the Provo Canyon wind predictably blows South in the AM, North in the PM), we even had a bit of a tailwind.
My legs felt a little wooden, but I figured that as long as we stayed at an easy pace like this, I’d be OK.
The hardest part about riding the Alpine Loop (starting from the Provo Canyon side, that is — starting from the American Fork Canyon side is a completely different set of obstacles) is the first 2.3 miles after you turn out of Provo Canyon and ride up to the Sundance (yes, that Sundance) ski resort. It’s just brutal. At my best, I’ll go into the second and third gears for parts of it — and that day I was not at my best. I dropped into my granny and tried to spin as easily as I could, not worrying about the fact that I was going no faster than 6mph. I still took my turn up front, but I was in no hurry.
And that, of course, is when Dug and Rick attacked.
Together, they stood up, ratcheted up two gears, and shot around my left, working together. Taking fifteen-second pulls, they quickly put an enormous gap on me.
I admit it: I was demoralized.
As Rick and Dug built their lead, I saw three options: I could turn around and go home.
I could continue at my current pace and see them when they wait for me at the top.
That might be OK.
Or, I could “enter the tunnel,” as I called it. That year, I had learned that I could push myself much further than I had ever expected. Specifically, I had learned that pain in my legs didn’t mean I needed to back off. I had learned that hearing blood in my ears didn’t mean I needed to back off. And in fact, I had learned that getting tunnel vision didn’t mean I needed to back off, as long as I didn’t let the tunnel get too dark.
The tunnel is a fast place, but it isn’t a happy place. I don’t think in words when I’m in the tunnel. I think in whimpers and pain.
Anyway, I shifted to fourth gear, stood up, and pedaled into the tunnel.
Fine. Be That Way.
I’m guessing that if Dug and Rick had seen me coming, they could have held me off. But the attack had taken it out of them, and they had backed off. And they didn’t expect me to try to bridge. So when I ripped by them — way on the left side of the road, so they couldn’t hop on easily — they were caught off guard, and without a sufficient quantity of whoopass jam to counter.
I kept on going, staying in the tunnel until I got to Sundance, then I backed off enough that I wouldn’t completely blow up and soloed, victorious, to the top of the Alpine Loop.
When they arrived, we did not speak of the attack. To acknowledge an attack even took place on a friendly ride would be poor form.
But I had triumphed. Big time. On the day after I had done a big ol’ epic ride.
The Part of the Story I Don’t Tell
While I didn’t expect Rick and Dug to try to blow me away on the climb, I did take some precautions so I wouldn’t fall too badly off the back. You see, this all happened back when I was experimenting with ephedra/caffeine/guarana/aspirin stacks. So before we took off, I doubled up my dosage, meaning I doubled beyond the already mind-blowing quantities of stimulants I normally took.
So while it’s true I beat Dug and Rick to the top of the Alpine Loop, it’s also true that I was unable to stop shaking the rest of the day, or get to sleep until about 3:00 AM.