Let’s start off with a little bit of honesty. I’m not in the best shape of my life. Far from it. But I am in better shape than at any point last year, and that feels pretty good.
This past weekend, some friends of mine invited me on a medium-length ride of 75 miles or so, and the ride included Sierra Road. I was actually thankful that the ride didn’t fit into my training schedule, because I’m not in good enough shape to get up and over Sierra without having to stop a time or two. And when you ride with people like my friends, that’s just a layer of judgment I’d prefer to avoid at present.
Yesterday, though, I hit Sierra Road on my own, and I was quickly reminded just how far I have to go to be in shape for The 508. I have until the first weekend in October to be ready to go. And I’m going to need every day of it!
Sierra has some steep pitches. I’m not entirely sure of the grade, but I heard tell it hits 20% for some very short stretches. It averages 12%-15% over 3+ miles. And it is, in a word, my nemesis. The nice thing about Sierra is knowing that none of the climbs on The 508 are as steep. However, they’re a lot longer, and equally tough. I don’t want to jinx myself here, or make people think I’m somehow not worried about the 35,000 feet of elevation gain in October.
While I was slogging my way to the top yesterday, I had to stop twice. The first stop was about 1/3 of the way up. I pulled off into a driveway and just took a couple of minutes to catch my breath and let my heart rate settle back down into the 130s (I was pegging at 192) before clipping back in and heading back to the top.
The second stop was a tougher one. At about 2/3 of the way up, my shoulders were actually as fatigued as my legs. Not only did I have to stop, but also had to walk my bike for 20-30 meters before I could clip back in and continue to the top. While I was walking, I got passed by a flea-sized man on a mountain bike with two of the smallest front chain rings I had ever seen. I wanted to shove my pump through his spokes. But I didn’t. I was good. I just told him he was doing good, clipped back into my pedals, and passed him up to the top. I have a double chain ring. I refuse to use a triple. So, I wasn’t trying to be a jerk, my slowest was just fastest than his.
The point is that I did make it to the top of Sierra yesterday. And I had a less-than-stellar descent to get back down. I’m not really a great climber or descender, but I was so fatigued after the climb, I fought the descent the entire way down.
So, I have work to do. I’ll get stronger, better, more confident. It’s a process, and I recognize that process. By October, I’ll be doing repeats on Sierra. For now, it’s enough to get to the top, no matter what it takes. That road isn’t going anywhere, and neither am I.