Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Finding good help

With the warm weather we’ve been having, it’s time to get back out on the bike. I did a couple of lunch rides last week, but every day driving up the North side of Suncrest made me really want to test my legs on a real hill.

Those of you who live on the Wasatch Front know what I'm talking about when I describe Suncrest North as a real hill. I think a case can reasonably made for it as the 3rd hardest climb in the Salt Lake Valley, after Little Cottonwood Canyon and Butterfield Canyon.

Nominally, Suncrest North is steeper than Little Cottonwood. According to the highway signs, at least. Suncrest North is listed as a 10% grade, while Little Cottonwood is supposedly 9%. However, based on my ASWC (Average Speed While Climbing), Little Cottonwood feels steeper because I can’t go as fast. I don’t know if that’s because it’s truly steeper or because you just never get a break and fatigue sets in. Either way, LCC is hard.

My other measure of steepness, my LTWC (Likelihood of Throwing up While Climbing—what, did you think I was actually going to measure Lactate Threshold or something seriously scientific like that?), also suggests that Little Cottonwood is a much harder climb. Suncrest North may result in a little bitterness in the back of the throat, but Little Cottonwood requires a sustained effort to keep everything down.

Since my commute is 26 miles each way, finishing with the Suncrest climb, I decided to drive in yesterday with the bike, ride home, then ride back to work this morning.

All in all, yesterday’s ride wasn’t bad. The wind was pretty fierce and right in my teeth, especially the last half of the ride. Would have been nice to have some help with that. The climb, though, went as well as I could expect for the first attempt of the year, especially considering the extra 10 pounds I’m hauling up the hill. The relatively easy transition to cycling gives credence to my assertion that skiing is a better workout than cycling.

As hard as I worked yesterday fighting gravity and wind on the way home, I made up for it this morning. I had a tailwind all the way in. I thought I was making pretty good time, sustaining 26-27 mph on the flats. Then about the time I got to Revolution, I got passed by an absolute motor on a ‘cross bike (with road tires and no helmet).

I decided to latch on the back, and we held about 32 mph until the next stoplight. I pulled up and told him “I’d be happy to work together, but I don’t think I’d do you any good.”

“I’ll have you pull here in a minute,” he responded. The light turned green and off we went. We were cruising in the mid 30’s when he took over again. On his next pull, we got up to 40 mph. On the flats. For the record, I didn’t even go that fast coming down from Suncrest.

At that speed, we chewed up the miles quickly. Unfortunately, we also got to his turnoff quickly, so I was on my own again. And my legs were pretty blown—just enough left to keep it in the low-to-mid 20’s the rest of the way in.

Time from work to home on Monday: 1:59. Time from home to work on Tuesday: 1:09. Thank you helmetless-stinky-‘cross-bike-riding-motor-with-big-headphones-and-no-helmet!

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