Seven of our Dolomite-bound brethren gathered in the Methow on a perfect weekend to lay down some serious training for our cycling trip to Italy that happens….. (Say it with me)…. next month. The plan was to do long road rides up big mountain passes on back to back days. A heaping helping of hurt for all to enjoy.
We expected such an endeavor would highlight any shortcomings be they physical or equipment-related. The trip is still six weeks away which is just enough time for minor corrections to training and the repair or replacement of any equipment that shows itself to be “unworthy.”
Serious training (or shall we say……. Deliberate Practice) on a bike involves going harder and/or further than you are comfortable going and then recovering. When that no longer hurts then you go even harder/faster again and recover. Repeat until just before departure then back off. This practice of “stressing” your body is a time proven method and can be viewed as simply as “No pain, no gain” or as complex as periodized training per Joe Friel.
During the weekend pretty much everyone revealed they were testing some piece of gear (gloves, saddle, gearing etc) by riding the some or all of the equipment they planned to take on the trip. This shake down was a good idea. A couple of gear failures revealed themselves which could have been viewed as bummers on this trip but were instead considered as “better now than in Italy.”
Yep thats me.
Saturday we rode from Mazama up Washington Pass. A last minute cassette change by Einmotron delayed the murders (Einmotron, McWoodie and Whiplash) departure so the mortals had a head start. I settled into a nice rhythm riding with The Cheetah. KB and el Jefe’ weren’t far behind. We were caught by the murders and The Cheetah grabbed a wheel and I jumped on as well. The combination of esprit de corps and fresh legs allowed us to hang on as the five of us made our way up the valley. I watched my HR and kept it real. Tempo riding at its finest. The kilometers ticked by and the meters started adding up.
After several kilometers I was looking around and let a small gap form. I didn’t want to dig too deep so I let it go. Avoid Z5 at all costs was my rule for the day. The gap grew and then held at about 35 seconds all the way past the hairpin.
The air was cool and crisp and the blue sky and bright snow almost hurt my eyes despite my sunglasses. The air tasted clean. My legs felt strong but I didn’t want to push it. I found my mind wandering as I took in the glorious scenery and when I looked up the road the gap had grown in the final kilometer to the summit. I was still pleased with my effort.
At the pass we regrouped and filled water bottles from some cached water and then dropped down the west side to ride up Rainy Pass. At Rainy Pass we high-fived, turned around and rode back down then back up Washington Pass now from the west side. At Washington Pass there was no KB so we rode back down to find him attending to bike that had decided it was done for the day.
This is what dead looks like.
In the clearest example of divine intervention I have ever witnessed; when KB declared that he could ride his damaged bike back to the pass and coast down to Mazama his rear tire spontaneously popped with a loud bang. Reluctantly he acquiesced to what seemed to be Gods’ will. After flagging down a truck KB was on his way back to Mazama.
After bidding farewell to KB we rode back up to Washington Pass for the third and final time whereupon we descended eastward to Mazama.
From Mazama the more foolish among us scarfed some carbs as we dropped our vests, arm and knee warmers in bags and then pacelined to Winthrop. Just to be clear the other three Cat 1 and 2 riders pacelined and I sat in (a polite term for hanging on for dear life while teetering on Z5).
From Winthrop, we rode the first twenty-some kilometers of the Winthrop Gran Fondo route up the Chewuch then up NF 37. To be clear when I say up I mean “up” as in uphill. The murderers slowed a couple times to keep me in contact and I thanked them for the gesture and threatened them if they did not leave as I feared my ego would fight to stay in contact and I would blow up in a cramping heap. Mercifully on NF 37 they dropped me and I was therefore free to set my own pace and turn around when I saw fit.
Another half hour or so my Garmin told me I had been riding for over five hours and had accumulated over 2,000 meters of climbing the fact I was still riding AWAY from the cabin and had a big day tomorrow struck me as absurd. In a rare moment of maturity and judgment I stopped, spun around and headed to the cabin. Moderation is not one of the arrows in my quiver.
At the cabin following quick showers we set to making dinner and before long we were all at the cabin and spaghetti, salad and fruit were spread on the table. To my personal satisfaction all were showing the signs of a hard day.
Breakfast, but you get the idea.....
By eight we were all fighting to stay awake and there were long pauses in the conversation. By nine we were in bed. We may have been party animals back in the day but those days are long past.
Based upon the moaning, wincing and general reluctance to get out of our chairs that I saw Saturday evening I think we all managed to push ourselves effectively. The distances and speeds were varied among our group but I think all are on a path to Dolomite success.
Sunday dawned clear and it looked to be another great day. With most of our group planning on departing later that afternoon we had an earlier roll out planned. By nine we were moving slowly southward toward Twisp with Loup Loup Pass, the targeted high point of the day.
The sunshine helped bring our tired legs to life and ease the lingering soreness from the previous day. When the climbing began we all found our “all-day” pace. I was hanging with El Jefe’ and The Cheetah.
KB was our Lantern Rouge for the day riding his “B” bike which is a single speed so he earned double suffering points on the climb.
We settled in for a long grind and about half way up the climb a coyote darted across the road in front of us and disappeared into the woods. We debated if it had been a wolf or a coyote and although declaring it a wolf would have made for a better story; a couple minutes of post-ride googling convinced me it was a coyote.
Just before the Pass the Creamcicle and McWoodie passed us on their way back. At the top we explored the ski area, ate a bit then bombed back to Twisp. We picked up KB who earned the maximum bonus points for reaching the pass on his SS.
Sunscreen for the medically inclined....
At Twisp we raided Hank’s and with full bottles and happy bellies we headed up Twisp River Road. Eight kilometers up the road we turned onto Elbow Coulee and got our wheels dusty. The gradual climb was hot and dry and our legs were feeling the thousands of meters of climbing that was now behind us. The washboard forced us to weave back and forth searching out good lines on our skinny tire bikes.
I’ve ridden Elbow Coulee dozens of times over the past few years and as we rounded a corner The Cheetah asked me, “What is the name of that lake?” I replied that it wasn’t a lake. He accurately answered that “it sure looks like a lake.” It was bigger than a football field and deep enough you could boat in it. It wasn’t supposed to be there.
The heavy snowfall and warm spring had conspired to make a lake where a marshy valley had been in years prior. Knowing the topography I figured the lake is about twenty to thirty feet deep. Sounds a lake to me. In the spirit of Lake Sammamish Cyclocross when we encountered a few inches of water on the roadway we rode though without flinching.
Evo dipping in both wheels
When we exited Elbow Coulee onto the Sun Mountain Road instead of heading down to the cabin and calling it a good long day we turned left and climbed to the top of Sun Mountain. Logic can be a scarce commodity when it comes to training. Some bonus km’s and more elevation sounded plausible. Our congenial pace picked up near the top and this provided the frosting on top of the cake of leg pain.
At the top we gladly rounded the turn and shot back down and soon we were back and the cabin.
Following showers and hastily packed bags my brethren were headed back to the west side of the Cascades. I washed sheets and towels and tried to return the cabin to its Hottie-level cleanliness. I spent the afternoon alternating between cleaning and sitting and saying, “Whoa.”
I was tired but not quite destroyed. To my great pleasure I had not experienced adductor cramps or low back pain that so often prove to be my limiting factor. My neck wasn’t sore and while my quads and hamstrings were tired and tender I didn’t have any glaring weakness. The plan seems to be working. Frankly it is working much better than I had expected.
I passed the 3,000 kilometer milestone on Saturday. My goal is to hit 4,000 before I depart. I also have a ten day trip planned with no biking coming up fast.
On my return to the west side I retrieved the remains of the water cache and left no trace. That would leave KB high and dry.
After going for an introductory ride on Friday KB stuck around and went for a fourth day of fun on Monday. Washington Pass on his single speed. This is a man of Exceeding Gnarlness.
Dolomites I challenge you! -KB
By the way, 5,477 meters (pictured above) is like 18,000 feet or something……..
That’s my story.