I finally got a taste of some climbing on my bike. It was both harder and easier than I expected. It was harder in that I ended up in my granny gear much sooner and for much longer than I had hoped ofr. It was easier in that having the granny gear to use didn’t absolutely kill my legs. I was thinking that after the ride I would be absolutely worn out, but that wasn’t the case. Sure I was tired and my legs were a little sore (and my “saddle area” even more sore) but I wasn’t the basket case I had feared I would be.
The ride itself ended up being an out and back of about 12.6 miles. I had created an event on Facebook hoping to attract several people to the ride. It ended up being just Mary and I, but that’s OK. I realized quickly after we started that I was much slower than she was and I know that would also have been the case with anyone else who might have joined us. I do thank you Mary for your patience and encouragement to make it to the top of the hill.
We started just about right at 6:00 and the sun came up shortly thereafter. The first part of the trail was along the old railroad line to the boulder dam so it was gentle curves and an easy slope heading up hill. I stated a bit fast and soon paid for the quick start when some of the steeper grades arrived. About 2 miles into the ride was a short downhill section with some wicked, tight turns. Had to be hard on the brakes, but it was fun. That’s when gravity stopped being my nemesis and was briefly my friend. Of course just after the short downhill the climb really started.
The downhill took us from the old railroad path to the drainage along US 93. The next few miles followed the drainage path uphill along the road. It was nice and paved, but there was actually a little water in a stretch and it wasn’t nearly as smooth as I would have thought. Whether from the water eroding it slightly, or maybe it was designed this way to disrupt the rushing water, there were like ripples in the concrete. It was through here that my granny gear became my only gear.
We stopped for a momentary rest and to get a drink a few times on the way up. I needed to catch my breath and get feeling back into my hands. Seems the bar across my palms without gloves isn’t a good idea since I tend to lean on them so much. It was a lot of work, but we eventually made it to the River Mountains/Historic Railroad trailhead and then up to the Bootleg Canyon trailhead. Just after this, making the turn up the hill I was feeling it. I voiced my opinion that I was about done. Mary encouraged me and said we were close to the top and it would be a shame to turn back now. I agreed and I put my head down and just keep my legs pumping, turning the crank. We passed several cyclists heading down and I couldn’t wait.
I once again caught up to Mary who was waiting by a bench at the top and she informed me that we had made it within 50 yards or so of the top. Silly me thinking it was going to be a lot of work on the way back suggested we turn around and head down. Obviously it was the doubt and the hill talking as I only pedaled on one short stretch the whole way back to the car. What had taken an hour and 20 minutes on the way up, took only 23 minutes on the way down. Looking back on it after the fact, I realized that I could have gone on and made it all the way to the Railroad pass casino as I had originally planned. You know what they say about hindsight being 20/20!
I truly expected to be hurting from the relatively long climb. It was by far the longest, hardest climb I had ever done. Surprisingly I wasn’t. Not Saturday evening. Not Sunday. Not even this morning when I got up and rode. I do have to say my climb on Saturday has given me a new appreciation for the flats. I even managed to ride my fastest average this morning - completing 10 miles in 42:27 which equates to 14.17 mph.
My plan is to complete the ride I had mapped out at least 4 times between now and Pumpkinman. Every other Saturday you’ll find me at 6:00 in the morning, getting on my bike and heading up the hill from the trailhead near the visitor center. As they say – the only way to get better at climbing is to climb, so that’s what I’m planning on doing.