In preparation for our biking odyssey I have gone to bed and awoken earlier than usual.
Two months ago I got up at this crazy hour to ride for two hours indoors on my rollers before work. Then it was dark outside and cold downstairs. Now we are less than a month from the solstice and there is a bit of light starting about five am.
Now the bike sits idle. The beanie I would wear to take the chill out of the first fifteen minute sits atop the towel that I drape over the handlebars to keep the sweat from making my bike a slippery mess after I get warmed up.
When the days got longer I was happy to trade the miserable mornings on the rollers for the warmth of an after work ride on the roads.
As I wait for the day to start so I can get my ass over to France I cannot help but reflect on the training time I have invested to get here.
My bike sits there like a monument reminding me of those hours spent sweating, waiting, dreaming of this trip.
Reluctantly I have become better at lowering the bar to
account for my declining abilities as I get older.Still, deep down, I always hold out hope that
I can feel young again. Sadly, when preparing for these adventures, I typically
feel my actual age.
I have found the formula for these epic adventures is a
stunning amount of riding volume, with intensity being very useful, but
ultimately, optional.In years past, as
the departure date approached I was a pile of aches and pains.In response to one of those aches, my knees
specifically, I typically would be forced to phase out running.
Intervals, the secret sauce of every sport, do make you
stronger, but if the goal is just to finish each five to seven hour day, one tends to focus on the
volume of rides and thus, intervals sessions often get compromised or
This past winter after one of our miserable rain filled
rides, El Jefe’ mentioned that he had found that the more he does off the bike, the
healthier he is on the bike. Obviously his comment stuck with me and I made a
goal to keep a lot of variety in my training.
A typical day at Squatty Potty Boot Camp
When my knee acted up last month I attacked it with ice
and Aleve and it got back in line like a nervous recruit. I have managed to
continue to run and do stairs and maintain a bit of core work. I’ve done
intervals and hill repeats.Four trips
up Washington Pass spread across three straight weekends mandates a certain
level of intensity in addition to the volume.
This year I finally followed the preaching of McWoodie
with back to back to back long days.I
did this a few times and survived.I have become a believer.
Last weekend I went for seven and a half hours of steady, though not strenuous, riding.That ride seemed
to confirm that I had managed to load up my endurance bank account.I felt ready for the trip.
This week and next I reduce the volume and keep a bit of
intensity while my body recovers and my muscles build up in response to the big
workload they have seen.It is a fun
time as the rides are shorter and I start to feel fresher than I have in a
Last night I went for one of the most amazing rides of my
life.Although I have run and done core
work since Sunday, it was my first ride after my all day epic.
Just sitting on the bike it felt magic.It seemed to fit better and feel lighter than
ever before.It reminded me of when I
get on my fast bike after riding my commuter or cyclocross bike and the lack of
weight and rolling resistance makes me feel like I can fly.As I rolled out I had to hang on to the bars as it seemed
as if the bike wanted to take off without me.
It was shifting perfectly, running smoothly and everything felt fast. My
legs felt zippy.My knees and forearms
are now tanned which I always associate with fitness.I couldn’t help but go fast.I wasn’t watching my HR or cadence.I was just riding.
Soon I was down on the Burke-Gilman trail and
spinning.Without intending to do so I kept
increasing my speed. After turning around I felt loose and decided to leg my
legs do what they wanted.
These puppies can RUN!
Whenever I have wanted to do a hard effort I have had to
do so on a climb.On the flat the big gears either
felt too hard, begging for a downshift, or I found myself spinning fast, but
not wanting to upshift. This day I kept upshifting and just letting the power
Soon I settled into a rhythm and I felt good, really
good.I checked my speed.Thirty eight kilometers per hour.I was surprised at the speed and more
surprised at how easy it felt.I felt
like I had more power than I have ever had.
I was expecting that my training would have resulted in
endurance, but this amount of power was a total surprise. Frankly, it felt like
a dream and I didn’t want it to end.
As if I was turning a dial- I increased my power and
speed.I felt like I had even more in
the tank.Turning off the trail I knew this was not the day and time
to go for a PR on the climb up from the lake because twilight visibility and
people rushing home made the roads less than safe.Still, I made good time.
The stoplights on my return forced more than one stop and
start. I accelerated with purpose when
the lights turned green. In each case I
felt like I had more horsepower than I knew what to do with.
On a climb Hottie and I refer to as Alpe d’YMCA I approached
it with my chain in the middle of my cassette.I thought to myself, “I don’t even want to downshift.”I powered up and over the short and
ridiculously steep hill.I’ve been
riding that hill for fifteen years and I’ve never done that.
I can only assume this is what it feels like when you’re
Once you go DOPE you never go back!
It would appear that all of my training has paid off in a
big way.Even if I get dropped five
minutes into my next ride with my team I will always have this one ride to
My friend Todd says the secret to happiness is to
continually lower the bar. I can’t really argue with that, but I do want to
know exactly where the bar is at any given time.
Late last year I reviewed my training history and
realized it had been years since I had ridden a hundred miles.I had logged more than ninety five a couple
times, but even after adopting the, “all metric all the time,” cycling
lifestyle- the lack of an imperial century was haunting me.
In 2017 one of my goals was a metric century every month
and I did it but frankly I struggled getting in a hundred k some months.I set a goal and a carrot in January and
circumstances seemed to conspire against me.It didn’t look like it was going to happen.
With two heart surgeries in the past thirteen months I
had some even more basic questions about my ability to backpack, climb
mountains or ride my bike all day long. I know it sounds selfish or foolish to cherish
the ability to flog oneself, but I never professed to be logical.
I had been logging some good miles and had a pile of four
and five hour rides.What I didn’t have
were any long, six to nine hour rides. The other, and most important thing, was
that I wanted to know that I could still do an all-day physical adventure.I had been steady in my build up and had felt
strong of late, but still I wasn’t sure.I wanted to prove to myself that the second surgery was a success and
that I had reinstated my warranty to do epic, stupid things.
At the last minute the events lined up for the chance to
go long.It would be hot and that would
also tick the box of a hot ride before our adventure in a couple weeks.
I have come to believe that hydration is more important
to me than most people and my attempt would require that I be able to drink
enough to keep me running smooth. This required a change in route to allow
access to water.Even so I expected I
would be carrying more than just my two bottles.
Tux made sure we were up early and after a bowl of rolled
oats and kissing Hottie goodbye I was out riding in the mountain air at six
thirty in the morning.I wore arm
warmers as it was below 10C (50F).Most
of the first twenty kms were in the shadows on the eastern side of the valley
as the sun was coming up.I saw deer
feeding on the abundant spring foliage. A yellow bellied marmot dashed across
the road as I approached. Cows looked at
me as if they knew I had eaten beef last night. I had the road to myself.
Soon the climb up to Loup Loup Pass was in the sun and
the arm warmers came off.Eagles circled
overhead riding the thermals.I kept the
pace mellow because this was an all-day adventure.I finished my second bottle just before the
top. I was over the pass, zipped up and descending before nine.I saw a dead fox but refused to treat it as
an omen.I spotted several snakes
sunning themselves in the early morning light. “You won’t be cold for long,” I
said out loud.
There was very little traffic on this sleepy Sunday
morning.Soon I was in the hamlet of Okanogan
and found the only market and purchased some food and eighty four ounces of
water. I filled my bottles, drank some and stuck a forty two ounce bottle in
the back of my bib shorts.
With my jersey completely unzipped I retraced a bit and
headed down the Columbia toward Pateros, fifty kilometers away.It was still early but the sky didn’t have a
cloud and the sun made it warm even though it was still before ten.
This was “Old 97” and there was virtually no
traffic.Early on I was close to the
river and it was wide and slow moving.Before long I spotted a big ring climb that snaked above the river
short-cutting a peninsula.I slowed on
the climb and the sun beat on my back.I
drained and refilled both water bottles.
In Brewster I threw the empty 42 ounce bottle into the
trash can at a gas station and rolled onward. By the time I reached Pateros my
bottles were empty again and I was hungry.I had one hundred and twenty kilometers done and I guessed I had at
least sixty to go.I would be getting a
lot more than a hundred miles if I managed to live.
I found a bakery and had a sandwich and a coke and
refilled my bottles.I set off up the
canyon toward the cabin.
As I passed the mile parkers I tried not to count them, but
I could not help myself.Twenty two mile
markers later I reached Carlton and stopped at the general store and put a buck
in the tip jar as the kid filled my empty bottles with water.As I pulled out I had 160km behind me and
still had close to thirty km to go.This
would be a full day.
I was on familiar ground now that I was back on the
Twisp-Carlton road.It seemed like
forever ago that I was riding this road wearing thick tights, a heavy jacket
and hamburger helper mitts just after the snow was off the road.Back then the loop from the cabin to this
point was a solid ride.Now it is the
frosting on my cake.
I was feeling tired (like I’d ridden a hundred miles or
something), but when I got out of the saddle, there was some strength in my
legs. Nice.I rolled though Twisp and before long I was
on the climb up toward our cabin.I
rolled up and stepped off the bike.
I had 188.5km and had climbed over 2,300 meters. That is 117 miles and 7,800’ of climbing in
old money as Phil says. I calculated
that I had drank 240 ounces of liquids. I ate everything I brought and bought
more.I knew I had done something but I
wasn’t shattered.Very nice.