Author: Mike Hassur
Thursday was supposed to be hot (~90 degrees). I had decided to get in a long ride doing hill repeats on the last 2 kilometers of The Climb. In the back of my mind, I thought that I might attempt to “Rainier” (i.e. climb 14, 411 feet – the height of Mt. Rainier – in one ride), but that was questionable given the high temperatures that had been forecast. I figured that I would just get to The Climb early, start going up and down, and see what happened. My main goal was simply to get in a long ride. My wife, Kathy, and I were planning to go to Portland for the weekend; and this gave me the opportunity to get in some mileage before the weekend.
I parked my van at the base of The Climb’s final 2K where it would be available to me at the finish of each hill repeat. By 5:45 AM, I was on my bike and starting my ride. Since I was riding alone, I figured that I would just ride a nice, easy pace and try to enjoy myself and my surroundings as much as possible. I used the first couple of repeats to measure exactly how many feet I would be gaining with each ascent – 344 feet per my Garmin. At that rate, I figured I needed to do approximately 42 hill repeats if I wanted to get in 14, 411 feet of climbing. Soon, I had a plan. Six repeats would give me just over 2000 feet of climbing and would take me roughly one hour and twenty minutes. I would break my ride up into parts (each part/interval comprised of six repeats). At the top of each climb segment, I would take a swig from my water bottle. At the end of each interval (six repeats); I would give myself 5-10 minutes to stop at my van, refill my water bottle, and drink and eat while resting at the back of the van where I had stored all of my supplies.
I tried to simply concentrate on where I was on each set of six repeats (for example, repeat #1 of six, repeat #2 of six… until I finished repeat #6 and stopped at the van). Also, I kept track in my head of how may intervals of six I had completed knowing that, if I could manage seven of them, I would be just over my goal of 14,411 feet. Somewhere in the 4-5 hour range, I started to feel sleepy and sort of lethargic. When I finished that particular interval of six repeats, I made sure to take in some Clif Shot “goo” that had caffeine in it as well as swigging quite a bit of a bottle that I had mixed up using Perpetuem powder which, again, had some caffeine in it. That seemed to remedy my grogginess in fairly short order.
I had “mini-goals” along the way. First, I think that the most elevation that I have ever done on The Climb in one ride is 7,000 feet; so I felt a sense of accomplishment when I met that goal sometime around hour five. After that, I kept telling myself that any additional climbing was sort of a bonus which would add to my personal best. As I passed through 8,000 and 9,000 feet; I was starting to think about 10,000 feet of climbing. At the beginning of the ride, I would have been very pleased to get 10,000 feet in. I reached (and passed) the 10,000 foot mark during my fifth interval. By this time, I knew that I was probably going to make it to my “Rainiering” goal; because the heat didn’t seem to be bothering me the way that I thought it would and because my legs still felt good. I think that things were going well, because I wasn’t pushing it on the climbs – just smooth and easy – and because upper 2K of The Climb has shade on one side of the road or the other throughout most of the day.
My sixth interval took me up past 12,000 feet (with about 400 feet to spare). After that sixth interval, I was sitting at my van getting ready for the last interval. After a short break, I mounted my bike to find my Garmin cycling computer saying “Low Battery”. This was very disappointing!! I knew that it would not last for the entirety of those last six repeats. How could I verify that I had “Rainiered”? This was a real bummer after all of this work. Then, the solution dawned on me – when my Garmin shut down, I would simply start the Strava App on my phone and use it to record the last part of my journey. It would mean that I would have to make two posts to Strava to verify that I had achieved my goal; but, at least, the evidence would be there. All right!!! Those last six repeats seemed pretty easy. I did one extra "half-lap" up the hill at the end just to make sure that I would have enough elevation to get to 14,411 (because of the Garmin dying, I wasn't exactly sure where I was with respect to elevation gain). The ride ended up being around 110 miles long with just under 14,600 feet of climbing - perfect!!
This ride taught me some things and reinforced other notions:
1. It taught me that, when my goal is to make it to the end of a grueling ride, speed is not very important – in fact, it is probably counter-productive. The fact that I was riding by myself meant that I was never pushing to keep up with faster riders and wasting energy. I was shocked by how good I felt for this entire ride (and the next morning), and I attribute that to staying with a comfortable pace for the entirety of the ride. Also, I think that this was why the 90 degree heat was not more of a problem.
2. It taught me that, when you are really regimented about eating and drinking on a long ride, it makes a big difference in how smoothly your motor continues to work deep into the ride. I suspect that the short breaks were helpful as well. I should know this by now, but I don’t always practice what I preach.
3. It reminded me that The Climb is an awesome place to ride a bike:
a. It is a beautiful 5 mile climb with very little traffic – that, alone, makes it special to me.
b. As the trees have grown up, there is more shade for those hot days.
c. The final 2K is the perfect place to attempt something like “Rainiering”:
i. It is very efficient (i.e. there are not flat places where you can waste energy – you are either climbing or descending). For example, to “Rainier” using the entire Climb; you would have to ride over 140 miles. Using the final 2K requires about 110 miles.
ii. The grade is mostly between 4 and 6 percent (with a couple of short pitches of 7%) which is perfect. I was not using particularly low gearing (compact front: 50 x 34) and 11-25 rear. Going uphill, I used the 19 and 21 cogs probably 80% of the time and the 23 cog the other 20% of the time. I never used my 25 cog, and I never felt like I was struggling or wasting energy.
iii. I’ve already mentioned the shade, but it is particularly pronounced on this part of The Climb and was much appreciated.
Well, there you have it. What was meant to be a long training ride turned into one my most memorable rides.
I'm hoping that we can post some RAMROD related thoughts soon from the guys that did it (Les, Dwaine, Mario, Kurt, and Scott).
Can’t wait for our next ride!!