Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hello Again, Mount Lemmon....

... you rotten bitch, you.

Just kidding, of course. I can't blame my embarrassing lack of biking stamina on Mount Lemmon. Tim and I rode up there this morning. I think it's been about a year since I actually rode all the way up Mount Lemmon. And yes, I DID reach the top that time, even though I wanted to quit when I got to the final mile of the road to Ski Valley. (I would have quit, honestly, except that I was moving so slowly that it was impossible to unclip without falling over, so I had to just keep going.) That day was a triumph, since climbing Mount Lemmon is a milestone that every Tucson cyclist must pass. But I hadn't climbed it since then, or even gone up it at all since the ill-fated Mount Lemmon Marathon. (26.2 miles of fun on a stress fracture. Wheeeee!)

I had been lazy on the bike, and in the pool, during the last few weeks leading up to Boston, so knew I wasn't in the greatest shape, especially for hills. I did manage to ride 30 miles on both Thursday and Friday, and felt pretty good when I woke up this morning, so figured I should at least be able to make it to Molino Basin, which is not quite 6 miles up the mountain and just 2000 feet of elevation gain. We set that as our goal. (Our earlier goal was going to be Windy Point, which is halfway up the mountain, but thank God we got a late start so I did not have to suffer the shame of abandoning a goal -- because there was no way Windy Point would have happened for me today unless someone drove me up there in a car.)

We rode from home and were almost 10 miles in when the climb started. In the first 1/2 mile I was already gasping for breath and in my easiest gear. Tim was on his mountain bike and dropped me immediately. Oh, the shame. Every so often I would try in vain to shift to an easier gear, like one might have appeared while I wasn't looking. Didn't work. I wanted a drink but was moving so slowly that I was afraid any movement like reaching for my water bottle would unbalance me and make me fall. I could have run this hill faster than I was riding it. Not only were my legs dead, but -- and I would put this delicately but I don't know how to do that -- my crotch felt like sandpaper from the previous 60 commuting miles, all of which were done in jeans. I did have on my bike shorts this morning but still, with every pedal stroke I became more and more convinced that my seat had been turned into a cheese grater -- sharp side up.

Tim waited for me at Babad Do'ag about 3 miles up. He could see how much I was suffering and asked if I wanted to go back. I snapped at him that NO of course I did not want to go back, so we kept going. He dropped me again and I started moving even more slowly than I had been before. I wouldn't have thought forward motion on a two-wheeled vehicle at that speed was possible, but it was. (Actually, even slower motion than that was possible. I know this because I did actually pass one other cyclist -- an old woman or maybe an old man -- couldn't tell -- on a mountain bike with a gigantic backpack.)

The last couple miles up to Molino I remembered vividly from the Mount Lemmon Marathon. Interestingly, I remembered exactly the place where I decided to drop out and also the place where I decided to keep going. That was a cheery thought because no matter how much I was suffering today, it couldn't hold a candle to the suffering in the Mount Lemmon Marathon. That was by far the most painful endurance event I have ever done. I sure hope nothing ever tops it.

I got to Molino and felt better right away once I stopped. Then I realized I now had to ride down, and at that moment I would have gladly kept going the remaining 20 miles to the top if it meant someone would appear at the top and drive me down. I HATE riding downhill. I'm scared of it, period. It is terrifying to think of riding faster down that road than the cars can drive, on a two-lane highway with no bike lane. I'm afraid of all of the following: getting a blowout, sliding on a patch of gravel during a turn, hitting some road debris I didn't see, getting hit by a stupid driver, getting my tire into a groove in the road that makes me fall, zoning out and crashing into the side of a hill, and having my brakes burn out. The only way I will ride down hills is riding my brakes. (I am afraid of DRIVING downhill too, so don't think this is something that will go away with practice.) I hate this downhill because it is long, and by the time I get to the bottom my hands have always frozen into brake-squeezing claws. I'm sure this reduces the life of my brakes too. And it is beyond embarrassing to be passed by dozens of other cyclists who are not afraid.

I did, of course, make it to the bottom of the hill intact, except for the crotch problem which didn't get any more comfortable on the rest of the ride home. But, seriously, how do I stop being afraid of downhills? I plan on riding Mount Lemmon every single weekend and going higher every time, but that's going to be rough on my brake pads and ego unless I can find out some way to stop being such a baby.

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