To climb, to reach, to strive valiantly…to come up short again and again…to push yourself to your limit and hold it there, balancing on the precipice of sanity and cruelty, to exercise your demons and blast away your fears of death and challenge the almighty to take you if now be the time, to go into the void of your soul and find a way to keep pushing when nothing in you wants to continue. To give everything that you have, and watch as others dance by and take the prize from you without effort or toil. Then the next to find you have the grace, the gift, the favor to be the one at the front, setting the pace, driving the machine toward the summit and able to respond and then push back on your limits again and again to a place beyond your mind and fly with the Angels toward the heavens and taste the heat of the sun as Icarus did…and yet not be burned…to fly, to be free of the chains of this devilish coil and taste the sweet refreshing dew of the high and hallowed mountains, having bent them to your might and courage and resolve as you scaled heroically the peaks on your life on a bicycle.
Hmmm, I get kinda emotional when I think about climbing, what it really means to me. I just finished our first night of Hill Climbing boot camp and I am reminded that I was fortunate to start my riding career in Steamboat Springs, where climbing was what you did on a bike. When you live in the mountains, you learn how to climb. I remember my first time getting to the top of Rabbit Ears pass, I felt like I had found a new world, the summit meadows of freshly melted of snow, the quiet deer grazing and still little ponds of pure mountain water, it changed my soul and MAN do I miss it!
I usually make the climb from the Crystal turn where we park up to Sunrise or Chinook or both, but for me Chinook is the best climb between here and Colorado.
Skip the warm-up
When the temperatures are at or above 80-90 degrees, there’s really no reason to put in much of a warm up. You’ll probably find that it won’t take long for your muscles to warm up so I would recommend trying to stay cool. Stay in the shade, pour cold water over your head and onto your shorts and jersey. In even more extreme temperatures, I have used ice in my jersey as well as in stockings stuffed down the back of my jersey.
When you’re racing in temperatures over 90 degrees, heat exhaustion is a real health concern that I’ve personally experienced and is not to be taken lightly. If you start to get nauseous, dizzy or foggy/start to black out, then you are past ‘the point of no return’ and you should stop riding immediately and get cooled off as soon as possible. No matter how acclimated one is to the temperature, there is a maximum amount of time in those temperatures one can exhaust themselves in so don’t take temperature extremes for granted under any circumstance.
Part of staying hydrated also has to do with the proper amount of electrolytes in the liquids that you’re ingesting. The hotter it is, the more sweat and electrolytes will be drawn from your body. If you start a ride, whether it’s hot or not, already dehydrated, there is no physically possible way for you to make that up during the ride. Always start any physical activity properly hydrated and again, listen to your body for how often you need to drink.
Sipping more frequently is better than gulping infrequently for several reasons: it’s easier on your system to absorb water and electrolytes if taken in smaller and more spaced out amounts and also if you’re already taxing your body in extreme temperatures, adding another ‘pressure’ of having to deal with GI distress is only going to make your body’s ability to sustain the endurance &/or effort that much harder.
For a complete description of signs, symptoms and preventive measures to take for heat exhaustion, heat stroke and other heat stress conditions the Center for Disease Control has a complete list here
*”Heat Acclimation improves exercises performance” published in the October issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology
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School of fish. Pack of wolves. Flock of birds. Surfer on a wave. When you decide to race your bike, you are assigning yourself to this kind of obedience and lack of control. Group think, primitive reflexive response to the flow and changes of the herd and conditions. You know what I am talking about? Then maybe you haven’t raced, cause when you decide to ride with a group of riders without the formality of pacelines or ride leaders, chaos ensues and the rules of how you thought you should ride your bike are out the window, and you need to become “subject to the herd”.
The good news is that once you learn the subtle art of riding with the pack, you will enjoy it and find much satisfaction from being able to fly along at twice your normal speed for hours on end, rocketing over the hills and dales of the country until the next climb starts. You will be able to take advantage of the turbo speeds, and launch yourself to the stratosphere of bike speed and performance, there is no other way to fly. The bad news is that not everyone makes the jump to good pack riding, and some of you will give up long before you ever accumulate enough skills and experience to truly enjoy the experience. There is always racing Time Trials, Triathlon, Mountain bike and Cyclocross, so don’t worry.
One of the joys of riding a bicycle is using this machine to get exactly the most amount of speed from the energy you put into it. When we teach our hill climbing bootcamps or private lessons, one of the biggest things we teach people is how to shift correctly to maintain momentum, utilize all your cycling muscles at the right cadences and to be smooth so you don’t strain yourself with sudden changes. This is the art of cycling. Using the bicycle as a machine to propel you smoothly to go faster with less effort.
Here is an example of what I am talking about. As I was riding to work, going down a steep hill which led into an uphill, I had to keep it in my big ring and my cadence slowly dropped as I was going through the bottom of the hill, and starting to go upward. I then started shifting with my right shifter 2 gears at a time to make it easier, pedaling as I went, with the goal of keeping my cadence around 80 rpm and applying pressure to the pedals to carry speed
We just finished our annual pilgramage to the best riding in the state of Washington, Lake Chelan. You could argue that the Mount Rainier area has the most epic climbs up beasts like Chinook and Sunrise, but you can’t swim there. You could suggest that Orcas island or any of the other San Juan islands are the best, but the roads are narrow and the only good climb is Mt. Constitution. Bellingham and Olympia have their magic, as does Seattle and Tacoma, but true cycling paradise is east of the mountains where the air is dry, the roads are smooth and the traffic is light.
Here are my reasons why I love our Chelan camp:
1. Warm dry weather, some days I feel like I am in Mexico.
2. Wide shoulders and light traffic.
3. The road quality is nice, often smooth.