When Bad Rides Go Good

04.26.2006 | 5:59 am

I got a piece of good news during the weekend: Kenny, Chucky, Brad and I all got into the Cascade Cream Puff.
There’s only one little problem: I am fat. And I have been riding only occasionally. I suspect most people would give me some credit for the quality of my excuse — I just changed jobs and have been busy selling my house, buying a house, and flying back and forth between where I live and where I work until the move is complete.
The thing is, though, the Cream Puff trail won’t care about excuse quality. I’ve done this race one time before — when I was much lighter and fitter — and barely finished (right around 14 hours, I think). It was, in fact, the only time I have ever seriously considered quitting a race.
So. I now have a really good reason to get in really good shape in a really short period of time.
Yes, I know I already had lots of really good reasons, but this one puts a knot in my stomach in a way Leadville no longer does — maybe because I know that even in the condition and weight I’m in right now I could still at least finish Leadville. I don’t think that’s true of the Cream Puff.
And that’s my long-winded introduction to why I did interval climbs on Monday.
I’ve been picturing a good climbing interval course for some time: from my house on the Sammamish Plateau, descend and then climb each of the roads that drops down off of the plateau. That’s six climbs, each between half a mile and a mile, each fairly steep.
Monday, I finally went and did it.
The first descent is practically out my front door, so I don’t really get warmed up until I begin climbing back up (the road is 244th or something like that, for those of you who live in the Sammamish area). It’s a good first climb because it starts off very steep to force some intensity out of you, and then gives you a quick rest before dialing up the steepness again. As expected, I did this climb with no difficulty at all. Hey, it’s the first climb. I’m always a good climber on the first clmb.
The second descent and climb, though, is Inglewood Hill. This is just over half a mile at a 12% grade (that’s what the warning sign at the top of the hill says, anyway). Back when I worked at Microsoft, I did this climb every day as part of my homebound commute, and it’s a good gauge of my strength and fitness.
As soon as I reached the bottom of Inglewood Hill and turned around, shifting into my small ring and the third biggest ring on my cassette, I could tell I was in trouble. It was a harder climb than I remembered it being. Could it be that I was already tired out from just one climb?
I looked forward, putting into practice my new riding philosophy: don’t look at your pedals, look at where you want to go. I looked up, suffering, and kept pedaling. I wanted to go into my second gear, but I didn’t. "I should be able to do this climb in third gear," I told myself. "A month ago, I was doing it in third gear with my messenger bag on."
But I was suffering.
I focused on turning a smooth stroke, pulling up with one leg even as I pushed down with another. But it felt like I was about to fall over at the top and bottom of each stroke.
And then, finally, I was at the top. I had made it, but only just. What was wrong with me? I let my head drop down, looking at my pedals.
And that’s when I discovered I was in the big ring.


  1. Comment by Unknown | 04.26.2006 | 6:53 am

    Oh man! You’re not alone! That seems to happen with far too much regularity on my rides! But well done on kicking that hills butt!

  2. Comment by uncadan8 | 04.26.2006 | 11:14 am

    Awesome! Now go do it again just for fun.

  3. Comment by cawddup | 04.26.2006 | 11:16 am

    Have you been brushing your teeth with Red Bull?

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  5. Comment by barry1021 | 04.26.2006 | 12:32 pm

    Yeah, I just HATE it when I find I have done 12% grades in the big ring. For some reason the bike is so much easier to walk up the hill in the small ring.

  6. Comment by Zed | 04.26.2006 | 2:04 pm

    Is that how it’s done–just ride with a single-digit cadence the whole way up?
    No really, congrats on getting into Cream Puff, and on being in better shape than you thought. If you have any hillclimbing secrets you wanna share, I’m okay with that.

  7. Comment by Unknown | 04.26.2006 | 3:08 pm

    odd, that’s so unlike you.

  8. Comment by Unknown | 04.26.2006 | 3:20 pm

    three letters…
    ssshhhh, wait for ‘em…
    and morphine, caffine.
    you know, any of those ine words.
    yep, that’ll do it.
    blog on!

  9. Comment by Unknown | 04.26.2006 | 4:47 pm

    Hey, great accomplishment.  But were you going to let your readers know that your triple’s chainrings are 36-32-28 teeth, respectively?
    And before you get that head swolled thingy going, I’ll ask the question asked of me every time I say I climbed well. 
    "Really?  Well, what was your average speed?"  
    Buzz K. Ill 

  10. Comment by Unknown | 04.26.2006 | 5:11 pm

    i’m pretty sure fatty has no triple. if fatty had a triple, i would have used that as grist long ago.
    don’t get me wrong, i’m not saying fatty is some kind of he-man. i’m just saying, al, accusing fatty of the dreaded triple is stooping pretty low, even for you.

  11. Comment by barry1021 | 04.26.2006 | 5:56 pm

    OK True Confessions:
    Yeah, I just HATE it when I find I have done 12% grades in the big ring. For some reason MY TRIPLE is so much easier to walk up the hill in the small ring.
    PS Have I mentioned I am old and the ONE TRUE FC?

  12. Comment by Unknown | 04.26.2006 | 6:34 pm

    And Dug, my friend, you misunderestimate me if you think I was stooping to insult Fatty in that manner.  Anybody who knows me, knows that it was reaching up from my usual position. 
    Besides, who needs a triple, when you can roll with a compact double.  All the bottom end of a triple and more top end than a double.  That’s much more wussy, and more manly than the traditional double *at the same time.* 
    53:19, I’m guessing?  73 gear inches?  Don’t be shocked if zombies make their way out to that hill to harvest chunks of tendon and bone chips from the road side.  It’s not healthy to climb in that combo unless you’re doing *at least* 17-18 MPH.  And if you’re climbing a 12% grade at that speed… well, you’re not healthy to begin with, something wrong with you.

  13. Comment by jim | 04.26.2006 | 6:46 pm

    I have made this mistake one time before.  The nice thing about finally making the realization of the problem is that you go from thinking yourself a pansy to thinking…"damn, I’m a stud."

  14. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 04.26.2006 | 8:22 pm

    Is cadence=IQ a temporary condition?

  15. Comment by Jim | 04.26.2006 | 8:30 pm

    Next up: hill repeats on Novelty Hill (the snoqualmie side).
    If you got into RAMROD and it sounds like you won’t possible be in shape to do that, can I have your ticket?

  16. Comment by Unknown | 04.26.2006 | 8:58 pm

    I smelled it coming…big ring, my fat ass.
    I have had the same problem…sorta…I was cruising along thinking how Eurofesh I was and how easy it was turning that 52×17 over at 100 rpm when I looked down and saw it was on the 42…"whoopsie", followed by despair and a quick stop at the Java store/B-R 31 Flavors.

  17. Comment by IronFast | 04.26.2006 | 10:11 pm

    So you like biking, huh?  Cool!  Lots of bike info here.  This might be the nexus behind the matrix…I’ll have to look around more to substantiate that comment, but it might just be true!

  18. Comment by Andrew | 04.27.2006 | 1:36 am

    If the Seattle area were truly bike-friendly they would have rope tows at hills like that.

  19. Comment by Unknown | 04.27.2006 | 10:48 pm

    So am I missing something? Hill repeats are done on multiple hills. So what happened on the other four climbs? Did you go up them in the big ring? Inquirying minds want to know.


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