Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Road Fangs

Along the line of the recent “sweatpants” anecdote, I want to update about the circumstance of my Saturday, March 1 ride. This one took me along Nelson Road to highway 36 and the mouth of Lefthand canyon. On a good day with fair weather I can get to the canyon in about 45 minutes. With the strong winds on this ride I made it in 50 minutes. I proceeded up Lefthand to James canyon and turned around at what I call the “paved summit”, as there is a definite point before which the climbing is continuous, and after which the road begins to roll up and down before it turns to gravel and eventually connects with the peak-to-peak highway. I reached this point two hours and four minutes into my three hour ride.

The interesting part of this summation is not in the details of the route but in the thoughts scrolling through my head as I rode. As it happens during most of my early season rides but especially in the wind, it felt like I was going backwards along Nelson road. However, one judgment of my perceived ability is the number of other riders I am either passed by or whom I pass. Along this section and especially in the canyon all the way to Jamestown I realized that I must have gone by about 30 other riders without anyone catching or passing me. A person has to do what they can to motivate themselves, and making it my goal to “beat” as many other (probably casual) riders as possible was helpful. Looking ahead to other riders I estimated their pace and attempted to calculate how long it would take me to catch them. At no point did I feel the usual labor of keeping a decent pace on a climb. Usually I get to a point fairly early where I can’t keep the same rhythm and I have to back off. On this day I seemed to increase my pace with every person I caught. To continue this motivating force I imagined myself to be at the head of a peloton, catching riders from failed breakaways. I let this one continue to the point where I was imagining myself as the head of a snake, attacking the riders ahead. Soon I was imaging myself as that snake, with my (here’s where the thought scroll comes in) “legs as fangs, stabbing the pavement and injecting my power, read “venom”, into the road and into the other riders as I passed them by”. I was laughing to myself about this as I was thinking it, but I’m sure the families riding with their children and the old men’s club riders who witnessed my venomous abilities firsthand were not laughing.

Arriving at and then passing Jamestown however, changed my tune. This part of the road becomes much more steep and eventually turns to switchbacks before the summit. It isn’t the steepest road around, but compared with the ascent to Jamestown it takes a different kind of riding to do it well. I often have a mental block when I get to sections like this, because I am not the greatest mountain goat and my riding buddies often leave me behind at sections like these. Most of the riders who ride the James canyon stop at Jamestown, so there were no other riders this day for me to spot ahead to motivate my continued fast pace. I had definitely let off some steam and was merely thinking about getting through it, not “winning” it. At around the second to last switchback I looked back to see a rider who had fangs at the ready and on pace to catch me before the summit. I was thinking that this would be a shame, since no one else caught me all day, but I wasn’t feeling like I could hold him off. I put in a good hard effort at the last switchback though, and managed to arrive about 30 seconds ahead of him. Had the “paved summit”, or my turnaround point not been so close I’m sure he would have caught up to me. It was somewhere in Jamestown, I think, where one of my fangs must have broken off in the road, and I was lucky to salvage this unbeaten ride.


The image here is of my Tarmac. One can see that I don’t wash bicycles after every ride in the winter.

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