Ascent #7

This one was not pretty.  Even though it’s a practice ride and not the actual race, I still approach it with a sense of seriousness.  It’s too much money and time invested to get all the way up there and not try like hell.  But a lot of things did not work out, and better they happened on a day like yesterday.

Holy hell was it hot.  Before we went up, I heard the winds were 50mph up there, and I figured two things.  One, that it would be rugged above treeline.  Two, that things would cool off.  It was rugged for sure, but the cooling off thing never happened.  It was weird.

So the nutrition plan was to not eat before the ascent.  I stuffed my face the day before with an almost inhuman appetite, as if my body was keenly aware it wouldn’t be getting any fuel the next morning.  I was so full.  At 2am, I got up and downed a Myoplex shake, as was the plan.  This was supposed to keep me topped off.  When I woke up for real at 4am, I definitely wasn’t hungry.  I drank some really lame instant coffee, kept fueling with Skratch drink mix, and we were out the door within a half hour.

My warmup was pretty inadequate, but I wasn’t that concerned.  My plan was to go easy the first half, and ratchet it up around mile 4.  I figured I’d ease into the effort anyway, so a soft 20 minute warmup wouldn’t be that big a deal.  170bpm first half, wherever it happened to land in the second half.

I was starving and I hadn’t even taken off yet.  This was not good.  I pacified myself with a few dates, and threw some more in a back pocket.  Even though I wasn’t sure eating them on the hill would do any good.  It was highly unlikely that, given the level of intensity up there, that they could do anything for me once I had started.  I never ended up touching them as a result.

Right up the first pitch, 170bpm, things are looking fine.  I am hot, and salty, but I’m banking on it getting a lot colder at treeline and I’m not too worried.  The bike is shifting flawlessly.  The fit, even though it was kind of cheesed together, feels good.  I am definitely holding back to keep things at 170.  I get out of the saddle routinely to break things up, it shoots my HR up about 5-6bpm, but I’m always able to settle it right back to 170.  The first few miles I’m feeling alright, not great, but alright.  I’m starving though, and I am constantly wondering if that is going to work out.

I think getting into mile 4, I can tell it is not working out.  I’m also growing confident in the fact that I’m not going to want to ratchet my effort up at mile 4.  I feel like I will blow up if I do that, and if I just maintain the same level of effort, I’ll finish with a time somewhere in the 1:30s, which is all I wanted out of today.

The wind starts at mile 4.  44-51mph, right in your face at the 4 mile marker.  It was so loud in my ears that I had to keep turning my headphones up.  Only one point did I feel like it was helping; there was a brief stretch  where I could angle into the crosswind just right and it didn’t feel completely stifling.  But otherwise it was just loud and not helpful.

5 mile grade was just tough.  My cadence was so pitifully low here; 40s and 50s I think.  The guy who parked next to me had conventional gearing and he was off the bike at this point.  Could have been this guy or another, but Kristen (driving our support car) stopped to ask a guy if he needed any help and he replied “I’m just humbled.”

I had definitely not been here in a while.  The dirt was a lot longer than I remembered, and harder.  Compounding the problem was that I had squarely bonked by this point.  I was nearly there by mile 4 and toiling through 5 mile was the end of it.  My HR couldn’t get out of the low 160s.  I was just trying to pull this thing into the garage with something near a 1:45, which was the first time I ever recorded here.

I rode these 25mm tires, and they were certainly a help.  The pavement is really beat up in spots from the snowcat and they took the edge off.  It left me to wonder how the 21mm Tufos would fare.  I suspect I’d need to be a lot more choosy about my lines with them.  The dirt would be interesting.  I spun the 25s in the dirt a few times, but that was a technique issue more than a tire issue.

The downtube shifter performed solidly, and it’s a quaint idea, but I’m going to need more practice with it.  I would never downshift when standing, which is a horrible habit that gives away time.  It’s super easy to do this with STI, but requires premeditation with this setup.  Once you’re up and out of the saddle, you’re up.  So next time, I have to remember that just before I stand, drop two clicks.  Then get up, dance for a while, then sit down and throw the lever back.

Things are just starting to feel eternal.  I’m processing a lot of thoughts.  That I’m way too tired to be doing this.  I’m not even sure I want to come back after Newton’s to do this two more times.  I feel nothing at all like I did five years ago.  I don’t have the time or even the initiative to ride like I did back then.  I just want to finish.

As I get up 6 mile, things are getting really foggy.  I usually try to sight the summit in places to gauge how far out I am, and I can’t see anything.  It starts to get so bad that I can’t even see past the next turn.  Now I’m totally lost.  I’m still moving forward but have no sense of where I am.  I pass Kristen at a turnout and the grade gives me a little something to work with.  I figure I must be close to the final pitch, so I start ramping it up.

My chain comes off the front and buries itself underneath the K-Edge.  I am trying with all my might to bend the thing in a way that will allow me to pull the chain back onto the ring, but it’s impossible, and I can’t even figure out how the hell it could get under there.  I’m going mental.

Just as this happens, Kristen passes me in the car and I wave frantically to get her attention.  She backs up, I fetch a multitool from the emergency repair bag I left on the passenger seat, and start working the K-Edge loose.  In order to remove it, I need two wrenches, and only have one.  I loosen it enough to free the chain, but it’s sort of just dangling from the front derailleur mount now.  Hopefully it will stay out of the way, but I easily see how it will rattle around and interfere with the chainring.  I so don’t care right now.  I’m so, so fired up.  I probably have a quarter mile to go and I’m ready to sprint the whole way.

I jump back on and the bike goes nowhere.  Somehow the chain has wedged itself between the cassette and the spokes.  I sternly place the bicycle on the ground again and start pulling the chain as hard as I can.  It won’t come out.  I try rotating the wheel back and forth, and it accomplishes nothing.  The thing is totally fucked.  I take off my shoes, put the thing on my shoulder, and start running.  I ended up past the line in 1:49:47 according to Strava, having lost about 6 minutes trying to fix the bike.  The net time was 1:44:16, which would have been somewhat shorter had I actually been on the bike the entire time.

I got home and pulled the bike off the car.  The front tire was dead flat.  I have no idea when that started to go down, but it’s quite likely I picked something up in the parking lot or on Route 16 during my warmup.  Likely it was losing pressure the entire time.

Hot, tired, starving.  Definitely not a good showing.

At least before the actual race (9am start), I will have time to prepare and eat breakfast.  Really hard to do that for an event that starts at 6am.

Less than 6 hours of sleep was not good.  Not only that, but waking up in the middle of less than 6 hours to
drink something was not good.

More testing is required with this shifter.  If I can’t get disciplined with it, I can’t use it.

More work to do.

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