A New Years Day ass kicking

Posted by SuperClydesdale on January 1, 2012 under Commentary | 8 Comments to Read

The elevation profile from my New Years Day sufferfest.

I resumed a tradition today that was interrupted last year by bad weather and a momentary coming to of senses.

It started in 2009:  my bike club goes to a nasty stretch of road called Beatty hill in El Dorado Hills, CA.  It’s 3/4ths of a mile of pure nasty climb (12-16%), and the tradition is to appear on New Years Day, and climb the damn thing one time for every year after 2000.  So, in 2009, I did it 9 times.  In 2010, 10 times.  Last year, it was rainy and cold, and I threw in the towel.   Not a hard call.  Probably 45 degrees, rainy, and I am going to get up at the ass crack of dawn to go and torture myself for 2 hours?  Not something to easily wake up for, particularly after a night of drinking.

This year was different.  It was an actual race.  2 hours to see who could do the most repeats.   Immediately spotting this as an evil plot to make the big guys look bad, I signed up, but with the intent of boycotting  the actual “race.”  My goal was to do 12 repeats, whether it took me 2 hours or 2 days.   12 repeats up Beatty for a guy my size is aggressive.

My conditioning is has slipped this year.  I had a very busy summer, a time normally spent going from one endurance ride to the next.   This year,  I decided to make a traditional brick pizza oven in my yard.   I’ve always wanted one, and once I started the foundation, I felt like I had a gun to my head to finish it before the Northern California rainy season arrived.

[ Turns out, I had plenty of time.  This winter, following one of the wettest years on record, is turning out to be extremely dry. ]

The pizza oven is mostly done – just aesthetics to complete in the spring.  It’s sweeeeeeet!!!   Gets up to 900 degrees and cooks authentic Italian pizzas in 90 seconds.    Unfortunately, it sucked a lot of my riding time up, as I could only really work on it during daylight hours.  So, as my pizza oven went up, so did my weight.  Probably at least 10-15 pounds over where I would have finished the summer.

I had a New Year’s party at my house last night, and it was a pizza party.   It takes 60-90 minutes to get the oven up to the proper heat.  The bricks inside burn turn from black to “clear” which means that you see the true color of the bricks.  When the entire dome of the oven is clear, it’s ready to cook pizza.

My  evening started off by lighting the fire on the floor of the oven chamber.  My own private tradition is to have a drink as soon as the fire is lit – that sounds safe, right?  Fire and drinking are always a safe combination.  So, I am two beers into the night by early evening – and the party doesn’t start for another hour or two.  I slow my pace down a bit – I’ve got a big ride tomorrow, so I have to be thoughtful right?  I switch to wine, and have a glass of a nice Miraflores Zinfandel.

Once the fire is going, it’s time to prepare for tomorrow’s big ride.  Given that I am heavier than I should be and not quite as fit as normal, I make the decision to use my Death Ride Bike – my old climbing bike.  Since switching to the extended (195mm) cranks on my S-Works,  I haven’t ridden this bike.  Not one time.   I don’t need it – there’s so damn much power with the long cranks.   But, my fear is getting the best of me, and I cannot stand the thought of failing to do the 12 repeats.  I told a bunch of people that I was going to do the 12 repeats, so it had to happen.  I decided to dust off my Rocky Mountain.  It had literally been 18 months or so since I last rode it.   Both tires were flat, the thing was caked with dust.   On it, I installed my life-saving 13-30 cassette that I ordered from Harris Cyclery specifically for the Death Ride.  It has a low gear as big as a pie plate, so it can be my safety net.  I cannot fail.  I’d have to move.

But back to the pizza/New Years part.   As people show up for our small New Years get together, everyone is bringing nice wines, and we ended up with a couple of bottles of Champagne (er, California sparkling wine).  Of course, this cannot go to waste.  Nor can a bottle of Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet (93 points – kick ass) that I opened to celebrate the occasion.   Needless to say, I was drinking quite a bit.  I probably had at least 6 glasses of wine and 2 glasses of Champagne (er, California sparkling wine).

It was hard to say no.  So I didn’t.

  • Jack, have another glass of wine? Uh, yes!
  • Jack, want some Champagne?  Certainly!
  • Jack, another slice of pizza?  Of course!

And then there was a “desert pizza” which is a normal pizza crust with a sweet sauce, topped with pears and figs.  Of course, I am all for eating several servings of fruit per day, so I have to have a couple of pieces of that.  I ate like a bear.  It must have been a spectacle.

All the while, I had this little voice whispering to me.  “Jack, you have to haul that fat ass up Beatty 12 times tomorrow.”  I think that’s what some people call a conscience.  Or common sense.  I’ve never been accused of having either, so I kept going.  I think of it as a gift.

My saving grace what that the ride started late this year:  10AM start time.  I could get a reasonable amount of sleep and have a shot at being somewhat fresh.

I got to bed at a reasonable hour, but woke up at around 5AM.  Still buzzed.  I knew that this was a huge red flag, but went back to sleep and got up at 8AM.  Actually, felt fine.  Whew!  Despite my relative lack of conditioning, and the copious amounts of alcohol and food consumed the night before, I appeared.   I was shocked.  I think when I showed up, some of the people who don’t know me must have thought, “yeah. Right – this beast is going to do hill repeats up Beatty?”  I picked a couple of these nay saying gawkers out of the crowd and ate them – that seemed to shut everybody up, so I never heard a peep.

I parked around 3 miles from Beatty to give my legs at least a few minutes of warm-up.

I began my first ascent up Beatty and realize that I hadn’t lubricated the chain. It’s incredibly dry.  So, the damn thing immediately starts that creaking whiny, clanking noise like a Sherman tank in the North African desert in the movie “Patton.”  Great – that won’t get old.  It’s not shifting the best either.  I consider climbing off to make adjustments, but I was determined to stay on the bike, stay pedaling, and just keep moving to get this torture over.

Whenever I am undertaking an endurance event, I have learned to stay within myself.  I need to keep the pace manageable, and not be influenced by outside forces.  My pace was…. slow.

At one point, I discovered that these two women in yoga pants were actually walking up the hill on the opposite side of the road, on a morning fitness walk.   They appeared to be going about the same pace I was.  Hey, they did look fit. But, the fact that they seemed to be keeping my pace was a bit humiliating.  I had to beat these walkers up the damn hill!  That went without saying – but, I needed to keep my pace.  I couldn’t abandon my strategy.     I looked over and could tell that they were fairly attractive ladies, and when I speaking to them, I’m afraid that I ended up in a bit of a Freudian slip.  I meant to say, “hey, don’t make me look bad in front of my team!”  but instead it came out as, “Hey, you f—ing whores!  I bet you aren’t doing this hill 12 times are you? Well I am!  And I had a lot to drink last night!”

Slowly I did inch past them.

Another low point was being passed by someone on a Bike Friday – one of those folding travel bikes.  All I could think of was “are you kidding me?”   As it turns out, that person was there to watch the repeats, not do them (at least not all 12).  So, pace was not a concern to them — that took a bit of the sting out of it.   Still, that’s the sure sign of trouble.  Any time someone on a folding travel bike passes you, you’ve got issues.  It felt like I was driving in a Nascar event, and getting passed by a Prius.   It’s not right.  I probably could have knocked them over, and beaten them to death with their ridiculous bike, and the police would understand (it was simply overtly disrespectful – I had to do it).   Of course, I’d have to catch them first.

Me about 15 pounds heavier than normal, grinding out a hill repeat up Beatty. Ug!

I was definitely among the slower ascenders out there.  People actually participating in the race were all 150-170 pounders.  Some less.  I know for sure that I was the biggest guy out there.  By far.  There’s pride in that.  Not everyone did 12 repeats either.  In fact, a lot of people just did “the most they could.”  I don’t even know what that means.

While I was likely one of the slowest ascenders, I was probably the fastest descender.  Gravity is funny that way:  just as it has its claws into me as I fight my way up the hill, it virtually sucks me down the road.  My top speed was 53.2 MPH, the thrill of which certainly made the brutality of the climb somewhat more palatable.

After 10 repeats, I could really feel the muscles tightening up.  I texted my wife and told her to fire up the hot tub.  I’m going to need it.  On number 11, I’m thinking, “wow, I feel pretty strong.”  Maybe I can do more!   But, once I started 12, I knew that was it.  12 was very tough.  I think knowing it was the last one made it tougher for some reason.

In 2010, on my 10th one, I was convinced that I couldn’t do more.  That was 2 years ago, when I was in much better shape and at least 15 pounds lighter.  Obviously I could have done more than 10 – but knowing that I only had to do 10 made doing any more seem improbable.  I think I did learn one thing this morning:  the higher the goal, the higher the achievement.  By aiming lower 2 years before, I had artificially restricted myself to a lower total than I was capable of.  I’m sure next year, when I have to do 13, the ceiling that I set today at 12 will seem much easier.

Today was quite strange, participating in this event thought up by small people for small people:  I only passed one person in 2:30 minutes.  Yet, I got passed by almost everyone.  It was a total suspension of the no pass rule (which I expected), and made me feel like I was in some strange opposite universe, where up is down and the good guy wears black.   Very disconcerting.

But, despite the agony, I did grind out 12 repeats.

Some statistics:  22.4 miles, 4612 feet of climb.

  • wisco said,

    Congrats on the ride! When we lived in St.Louis, I used to do a NYD ride every year. The weather isn’t so cooperative where we now live in Wisconsin. The challenge is as you stated, can I do this after a night of partying, with low fitness, with high fatness and with gearing that makes sense in August not December.

    The bigger issue is why do use SuperC riders keep signing up for these insane climbing rides? Around here you either race USCF or do “challenge rides” of 50-300km with 5000 – 15000 (not a typo) feet of climbing. I can ride nasty hills, but since I climb a lot slower than a 140 lbs cyclist, I’m out there for a long time… and frankly it isn’t fun when you’ve been on the bike for 8 hours and you still aren’t done.

    What do you guys do to have a challenging goal, but without the need to torture yourself climbing 10-20% grades all day long?

  • wisco said,

    Congrats on the ride! When we lived in St.Louis, I used to do a NYD ride every year. The weather isn’t so cooperative where we now live in Wisconsin. The challenge is as you stated, can I do this after a night of partying, with low fitness, with high fatness and with gearing that makes sense in August not December.

    The bigger issue is why do use SuperC riders keep signing up for these insane climbing rides? Around here you either race USCF or do “challenge rides” of 50-300km with 5000 – 15000 (not a typo) feet of climbing. I can ride nasty hills, but since I climb a lot slower than a 140 lbs cyclist, I’m out there for a long time… and frankly it isn’t fun when you’ve been on the bike for 8 hours and you still aren’t done.

    What do you guys do to have a challenging goal, but without the need to torture yourself climbing 10-20% grades all day long?

  • freighttraininguphill said,

    I am the rider who passed you on the Bike Friday. I bought that bike to use when it is impractical to transport a full-size road bike. I went to this ride with a friend, and I wasn’t sure we would be able to fit both our bikes in her little Kia Rio sedan.

    This bike has mtb gearing, and I replaced the stock 30t small chainring with a 24t, for a 16″ low gear. Perfect for climbing Beatty, although I never needed anything lower than the third or fourth largest cog in the back.

    I was there because I love climbing and recording sufferfest videos. I had front and rear cameras recording, and I climbed Beatty a few times to get video. Between climbs I stood on the side of the road and recorded the riders going by.

    I’m sure you will see yourself in these :)

    Rider’s view (me climbing Beatty): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WjAVfsj6q8

    Spectator’s view (standing on the side of the road): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YJPDO5NOIo

    Don’t feel bad about being passed by a woman on a Bike Friday. The important thing is that you’re out there trying to better yourself, unlike most lazy people who won’t even throw their legs over a bike, let alone climb a sufferfest hill. :)

  • freighttraininguphill said,

    I am the rider who passed you on the Bike Friday. I bought that bike to use when it is impractical to transport a full-size road bike. I went to this ride with a friend, and I wasn’t sure we would be able to fit both our bikes in her little Kia Rio sedan.

    This bike has mtb gearing, and I replaced the stock 30t small chainring with a 24t, for a 16″ low gear. Perfect for climbing Beatty, although I never needed anything lower than the third or fourth largest cog in the back.

    I was there because I love climbing and recording sufferfest videos. I had front and rear cameras recording, and I climbed Beatty a few times to get video. Between climbs I stood on the side of the road and recorded the riders going by.

    I’m sure you will see yourself in these :)

    Rider’s view (me climbing Beatty): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WjAVfsj6q8

    Spectator’s view (standing on the side of the road): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YJPDO5NOIo

    Don’t feel bad about being passed by a woman on a Bike Friday. The important thing is that you’re out there trying to better yourself, unlike most lazy people who won’t even throw their legs over a bike, let alone climb a sufferfest hill. :)

  • SuperClydesdale said,

    Ha ha! I did find myself in the spectator’s view. I’m at 3:49-3:54, then at 6:44-6:47, then again at 11:10-11:15. In looking at the suffering of the other riders, I think I did pretty well!!!

    Now that you posted a comment on my article, I am happy now that I was much more kind than my instincts would have had me. I only proposed beating you to death with your Bike Friday.

    On the “rider’s view,” you can witness just how bad my shifting problems were. Dirty chain on a wheel that I had just put a different, much larger cassette on — and every time I tried to up or down-shift, it would mis-shift. You can see and hear it on the video. What a frustrating day from that perspective.

  • SuperClydesdale said,

    Ha ha! I did find myself in the spectator’s view. I’m at 3:49-3:54, then at 6:44-6:47, then again at 11:10-11:15. In looking at the suffering of the other riders, I think I did pretty well!!!

    Now that you posted a comment on my article, I am happy now that I was much more kind than my instincts would have had me. I only proposed beating you to death with your Bike Friday.

    On the “rider’s view,” you can witness just how bad my shifting problems were. Dirty chain on a wheel that I had just put a different, much larger cassette on — and every time I tried to up or down-shift, it would mis-shift. You can see and hear it on the video. What a frustrating day from that perspective.

  • freighttraininguphill said,

    I agree. You did 12 repeats. Looking at the results from the other bike club that did the climb (The Hammerin’ Wheels), you did more than many of them did. :) Good job!

    Your comment had me laughing my ass off! I read your “Gravity is Cruel” blog entry last a couple years ago and loved it!

    You can hear my suffering on all the front camera shots. At 1:05 I think a rider I was about to pass heard me coming, as he looked back briefly LOL!

    At least some of the riders that passed me had to suffer to do it, judging by the rear camera views.

    Yup, I heard your mis-shift at 3:26, right as I passed you. The rear camera picked up the sound of your chain. I feel for you. My chain started chirping slightly last summer on the last hot, sufferfest 10-mile climb up Mosquito Ridge Road in Foresthill. It drove me nuts! Good thing I had music to listen to (in the right ear only, of course).

    I saw you again at 5:46.

    I have several bikes that are set up solely for climbing. Triple cranks with 24t small chainrings, and Shimano MegaRange 11-34 cassettes. I am still at least 20 pounds overweight, so I’m not a strong climber. I credit the climbing with helping me lose 71 pounds since May 2010. I started climbing again at Athena weight-214 pounds.

  • freighttraininguphill said,

    I agree. You did 12 repeats. Looking at the results from the other bike club that did the climb (The Hammerin’ Wheels), you did more than many of them did. :) Good job!

    Your comment had me laughing my ass off! I read your “Gravity is Cruel” blog entry last a couple years ago and loved it!

    You can hear my suffering on all the front camera shots. At 1:05 I think a rider I was about to pass heard me coming, as he looked back briefly LOL!

    At least some of the riders that passed me had to suffer to do it, judging by the rear camera views.

    Yup, I heard your mis-shift at 3:26, right as I passed you. The rear camera picked up the sound of your chain. I feel for you. My chain started chirping slightly last summer on the last hot, sufferfest 10-mile climb up Mosquito Ridge Road in Foresthill. It drove me nuts! Good thing I had music to listen to (in the right ear only, of course).

    I saw you again at 5:46.

    I have several bikes that are set up solely for climbing. Triple cranks with 24t small chainrings, and Shimano MegaRange 11-34 cassettes. I am still at least 20 pounds overweight, so I’m not a strong climber. I credit the climbing with helping me lose 71 pounds since May 2010. I started climbing again at Athena weight-214 pounds.

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