How fast (or slow) will that be?
Last year, at the fastest and lightest point I had been in years and years, I did the climb — 10.5 miles, 3000 feet of climbing — in 53:11.
Of course, I weighed 156 pounds back then — as opposed to 162 right now. That’s not going to help. And that was back at the end of the season, when I was as strong as I get. This time, it’s early in the season.
So I’ll be slower, certainly. The best I can hope for, really, is a 56-minute climb. I’d be very happy with that, in fact.
Heck, I’d be happy with a 58-minute climb right now.
Obviously, The American Fork side of the Alpine Loop (from the toll booth to the beginning of the parking lot turnoff at the top) has become one of my most important personal yardsticks — a measuring device to help me get a sense of what kind of cyclist I am right now.
My Collection of Yardsticks
The Alpine Loop, though, is only one of my yardsticks. In the next couple of weeks, I’m going to go as hard as I can up a number of different local climbs:
- North Side of Suncrest: 3.6 miles, 1300 feet. It’s as brutal as it is brutish. Last year, my best time was 18:57. Which tells you that during the last three minutes I was genuinely at my limit. You don’t come that close to under a minute mark without feeling like you are about to barf. Or explode. Or barf, explosively. If I recall correctly, I cried when I got to the top of this climb. If I can beat this time by even one second sometime this year, I will be very proud.
- Clark’s: This one’s a mountain bike trail. I don’t know what the distance is, and I don’t know what the altitude gain is. But I do know that when I finished it in under ten minutes last year (9:50), I texted every single friend I have letting them know what I had just done. This year, the trail’s been rerouted; people are guessing it’s about 30 seconds longer of a course. Which means I may never see a sub-10 time on that trail again. Alas.
- Sundance: This is a peculiar yardstick. I try to do the road climb from the Provo Canyon turnoff to the Sundance ski resort without ever dropping my speed below 8mph. I have succeeded in doing this exactly one time. This is also an interesting yardstick because I haven’t actually tried doing this in more than six years — when I was in my 30’s. Now that I’m in my mid-40’s, I wonder how I’ll do. Honestly, I feel like I’m no slower than I was five years ago, but I don’t know if that’s true.
- Squaw Peak : This is another climb I haven’t actually timed myself on in at least six years or so. In fact, it’s been so long since I’ve kept score of my speed up this road — 4 miles, about 1800 feet if I remember correctly — that I don’t even remember what my best time was. I’m pretty sure, though, that I was always trying to get up in under half an hour, and I never did. Judging from this year’s best times, though, it looks like Rick Sunderlage (not his real name) has easily eclipsed that half hour mark. Which just goes to show something I knew anyway: Rick is much, much faster than I am.
Of course, all of these yardsticks are just ways I track how I’m doing as I get ready for what is in fact my most important annual yardstick of all: The Leadville 100. This’ll be my 14th start…and hopefully, 13th completion.
I’ve wanted sub-9 for so long — more than a decade — on this race. Never got it, though I’ve been close — 9:13 once, 9:14 another time — a couple times.
“Maybe,” I think every year, “This is the year.”
And this year, it may even be true. I think I’ve got a good enough start to the season that I may be able to drop the remaining winter blubber, get fast, and finally get that big belt buckle — you know, the one Kenny has almost a dozen of — instead of yet another little belt buckle.
It’ll be close, that’s certain. Close enough that I’m thinking I may go ahead and go with a geared bike instead of a single speed. Close enough that I’m thinking hard about whether a suspension fork buys me more than it costs me, time-wise
Yes, these are the things that keep me awake at night.
The Yardstick Doesn’t Matter, Except It Does
The thing about having these yardsticks is, they’re scary. I’m nervous for my Alpine Loop Climb TT right now — like for a big race — even though it’s just me. And there’s no prize. And honestly, nobody in the world (except Mark, because I know he’s going to try to outdo me) cares about how I do.
They’re totally meaningless, really.
But they also couldn’t be more important.