Sunday, May 24, 2009

Day on Bald Mountain

If I didn't feel like I was in Ironman training before I certainly do now. Today we did a ride up to Mt. Baldy Village. Even if you're not in Southern California, you can probably figure out what kind of ride it was considering that the word "Mountain" is in the name of the town.

This is the elevation (we came back along a different road, so it's not quite symmetrical):

Like a triathlon, the Baldy ride is basically 3 parts. The first segment (up to East Fork Road) is about 10 miles of moderate climbing with wide open turns. I wouldn't call it "easy", but I've done that ride many times.

Stage 2 (to the top of Glendora Mountain Road, and there's that word "Mountain" again) has a bit of a traversal road, and then you begin... The Climb. This is the hard part. It's 6-7 miles of steep, non-stop climbing with tight switchbacks all the way up. To make matters worse, dozens of motorcyclists go screaming past you, taking some turns wide and some turns tight and you never know where they're going to be on the road. We've been warned to stay far away from the yellow line to keep away from stray motorcycles, but it's really hard to do when you're doing a steep winding climb.

Stage 3 brings you another 13 miles or so to Mt. Baldy Village. This had the mildest climbing, and by itself would be considered the "easiest" part of the ride. Ah, but there's the rub. In a triathlon, the run isn't typically a killer by itself, it's just that you have to do it after a bike ride. And a swim. Similarly, Stage 3 of Baldy is excrutiatingly hard because you're already dead when you start. And to top it all off, Stage 3 had another man-eating snake. This time I didn't have any damsels to save me.

Maybe it was the ultra-thin atmosphere at such altitude, but my mind started playing tricks on me in those final miles. I would climb a bit and then reach a crest and try to coast down, but I would start slowing. I wasn't going downhill, it's just that the climb became so much less steep than it had been that it looked like a downhill in comparison. I was cruising up what should have been almost trivial hills at 6-7 mph.

We weren't at the top yet when this photo was taken, and we had already done some climbing to get to where the arrow is, but this is the basic terrain/view:

We stopped at a restaurant in town and to put it mildly I was not a happy camper. As Ride-Leader/Sherpa Evil Gerald told me, "I saw fear in your eyes." He was right. I honestly was not sure how I was going to make it back. Even though it was basically a 30-mile downhill return, on any mountain road there are short sections when the road will turn uphill for a short distance. And the thought of those 1/2 mile climbs terrified me.

Well, a funny thing happened. I had 2 Cokes at the restaurant; they were cold. They were yummy. And they were caffenated. With my Mountain Dew diet (and there's that word "Mountain" again) I respond very well to caffeine. So like Popeye with his spinach, I kicked butt on our first climb.

The ride down was very fast and a little scary. By the time we reached the bottom we were all complaining how much our palms hurt. The pain is partly caused by gravity pulling your body weight forward against the handlebars, and partly caused by squeezing the bars for dear life.

As much as I hated it, all-in-all it was a good ride, if that makes any sense. We had a really good group doing it and that makes all the difference. That doesn't mean if the same group does it again next week I'll join in; I'm not stupid.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

and just for the record, I said it would be "~65 miles." So, I actually UNDERestimated the distance!
-Ride-Leader/Sherpa Evil Gerald

9:33 AM  
Blogger Iradoman said...

Oh come on that's an awesome ride!! I can't wait to have legs again and join you guys....

5:11 PM  

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