Gaining Altitude (and perspective)
Over the past few years, there have been several key rides which have defined "killer hill" for me. Here are several rides, all to scale with altitude relative to each ride's starting point:
The first was "visiting Mr. Griffith", represented by the green ride above and illustrated here:
The next killer hill was the first time I "turned left" on to the river trail; that's the blue ride above, with a photo here:
On Sunday, we did the red ride. I won't bore you by trying to describe how bad the climb was; I'm hoping the chart speaks for itself. Big Hill. Sucked Bad.
The plan was to stop at a restaurant around mile 40 (the only sign of civilization for 30 miles in either direction) and I had to start rationing my water bottles around mile 30. They were empty by mile 35 and I was dying. I knew the climb would be bad but I don't think I was quite prepared. I knew that we were doing a completely insane ride when we rode past Ski Lifts and saw actual snow on the ground. This is the end of May, in Los Angeles, and we were high enough that were still some patches of snow on the ground. That's not good.
The downhill parts of the ride gave me little comfort because if I stopped pedaling I could feel my legs starting to tense up so I always had to keep them moving. Or at least I tried to. During lunch, I stood up a lot and walked around to stretch out, but at one point I got a cramp. Now then, we all get cramps but THIS was a pain the likes of which I have never felt before. The best way for me to describe it is that it felt like someone injected a baseball into my inner thigh. It really, really hurt. Gerald told me to straighten out my leg; I respect Gerald, I trust Gerald, but no matter how many times I told my leg "straighten out!" it just wasn't moving. After a minute or two I was able to grab on to my ankle and use my arms to move my leg. Most of the pain went away, but for the rest of the day I could still feel a knot in my leg.
I ate about 1/3 of my hamburger and stopped because it was making me sick and then it was back down the mountain. I know it sounds like it would be an easy ride back but we still had another 30 miles to go and just sitting on a bike for that long was painful enough. My back hurt, my butt hurt, my hands hurt... I was aching all over.
The ride itself got rave reviews from everyone. It's a spectacular climb with magnificent views. The air is clean and fresh and you can smell the pine forests. The restaurant, Newcomb's Ranch, is a popular motorcyclist hangout so it has a pretty cool vibe to it. This route has everything you'd want for a great ride but truth be told I can't say I enjoyed it. Through my own fault, it's pretty obvious now that I was dehydrated and salt-depleted. I had the bad cramp in my leg and was just feeling generally slow. At no point during the ride do I recall being actually "happy". That's not the fault of the course nor the great group I was with; it's just that I was physically not feeling good.
After last week's Baldy climb, I said I wasn't stupid and wouldn't join the same group for another ride. Well apparently I AM stupid. But NEXT week is going to be an easy ride if it kills me.