Thursday, June 5, 2008

Spring Storm, Part 1


It's been roughly three months since my last ascent up Pumpkin Ridge Road.  During that time I've trained hard, raced hard, and seen some great results

Pumpkin Ridge Road, North Plains Oregon
across the board with my fitness.  I decided to use Pumpkin Ridge as my measuring stick for my fitness right now.  The climb is roughly 6.5 miles, containing a few moderately steep sections and a good number of false summits.  It's the type of climb that wears you down over time if you go out too hard too early, but also allows you a bit of recovery and respite if you work the sections correctly.

Back in March, my wife and I rode out on an oddly sunny and cool afternoon, skipping out of work a bit early to get the climb in.  We rolled out to the base of the climb, not stressing our bodies too much to put in a full blown effort on the climb.  At the base of the climb I gave her a good luck, set the interval on my CPU and started my way up.  About 28 minutes later I hit the top, lungs searing, legs burning, and thrilled to have shaved a minute off of my PR on the ascent.  I was greeted at the top by a trio of friendly dogs who live at the last house before the road goes gravel, along with a chorus of the dogs kenneled there who are not allowed to say hi to the bikers who stop at the top.  Their howls are my victory chorus, and my affirmation that my training so far this year has been on track.

I spend a minute or two at the top, don my wind vest and roll back down the hill to meet up with Traci.  I'm shocked and thrilled to run into her much further up the hill than I originally expected.  I slow as I approach and see a big grin on her face, she's spinning along at a great pace and breathing comfortably.  "You're doing great!  Really close to the top!" I call out as I turn around and catch up to her.  We ride together to the summit, me settling into the position I normally ride with her on the climbs.  I call out encouragement, letting her know how many false summits are left.  As we get to the final rise in the road, she pops out of the saddle and powers to the top, eager to finish the climb strong.  The dogs come out to greet us once again, forgetting I was there not 5 minutes earlier as dogs often do.  Traci's time is much faster than her previous climb and she feels great.  It's been a good day for both of us.

We sit at the top for a few minutes to enjoy the waning sunlight.  It's still early in the spring and the setting sun's rays are not as strong as they were when we set off.  We check our bikes, and roll down the hill.  Traci's a strong rider on the descents and I let her take point.  She cuts fast lines through the curves of the upper section.  Halfway down, the pavement changes from the smooth road all cyclists love to the chip seal we loathe.  We both sit up and share a look of disappointment.  The bottom section has the best corners, but the road conditions aren't safe to take at the speeds of the upper sections.  We hit the flats and roll home, happy to have had a great ride.

Today things are different.  It's June, and it should be Spring.  The sun should be out strong and late into the evening.  I should be leaving work early to sneak a ride in, but it's 4pm and I'm still at work and heavy grey clouds are visible as far as I can see.  I manage to make it home by 4:30, and frown at the few raindrops that have fallen on my windshield.  Traci greets me at home, she's been nursing a knee injury over the past four weeks and is seeing some progress in her recovery.  I change into my gear, deciding to try out some new embrocation that was recommended to us this weekend by Dimitri at Veloce Cycles.  I get into the garage, and open the garage door.

I'm immediately greeted by the scent of rain on warm pavement.  "Yeah, I'm going to need my jacket." I call over to Traci, who is standing in the doorway.  I'm already changed into my gear, with this minty smelling goo on my knees...  I might as well ride.
I strap on my helmet and affix my taillight to my bike, setting it to flash in the most annoying way possible.  Checking the time, I work out a rough estimate of how long I'll be out.  Its 4:50pm and I figure I should be back by 6:30.  I roll out of the garage and into the muggy air.  The rain is light and relatively warm, but steady.  The jacket was the correct choice.

The warm up ride over to the base of the climb is lonely.

(Part II will be posted soon!)

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