Friday, May 13, 2011

A Tale of Two Suncrests

aka 'the Beast From the Southeast' (cause you know us, we have to have 2-3 names for everyone and everything)

"Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer ..." - Richard the III

Hey, but before we get started, let's hear it for Spring!

May 13
12 pm
71° F

1 pm
73° F

2 pm
74° F

3 pm
75° F

4 pm
75° F

5 pm
74° F

6 pm
74° F

7 pm
71° F

It's like a switch has been tripped. No more covering my entire body in gore-tex, no more skull cap head warmers to hold in body heat, no more pounding my left hand against my thigh at red lights, trying to drum up sensation in my fingers so I can do basic fine motor movements, like use my brakes to stop or unlock the door at the clinic when I get to work. Muscles that were cold and reluctant, that had to be coaxed to respond are now moving willingly. I no longer feel like my heart is pumping 30 weight motor oil on any pre-dawn ride. And best of all, I don't feel like I'm lying to myself (and you) when I say "this is really, really fun, you should try it."

K, back to the blog. In the words of rapper Ice Cube (Is it just me or does he look like Darryl from the Office?):


"[Yesterday] was like one of those fly dreams, didn't even see a berry flashin' those high beams."

I'm not sure what the second half of that quote means, and I'm only half certain the first part means something good, but like Ice Cube I have to say: "[Yesterday] was good day ..."
(for a bike ride he forgot to mention).

And yes it was a glorious day. The entire day off, boys back in school and perfect weather. That confluence of conditions happens maybe half a dozen times in a calendar year. La Canadienne wanted a fifty mile ride "with some hills". At some point we agreed to do the Suncrest loop. It's a forty five mile ride to the clinic where I work, I figured without much effort we could make it an even fifty.

We had only done Suncrest once before, back in October of 2010. We did it as a consolation ride.when the vicissitudes of life got in the way of La Canadienne's Tour de St George dreams.

A few stark differences stand out for me on that ride compared to yesterday's ride. First, that ride started in the Smith's parking lot in Draper:

and it only covered 25 miles. This ride was going to be twice that distance. We did have the benefit of great weather (no chance of rain unlike October 2010).

Yesterday's ride started in our kitchen with the appropriate pre-ride warm up:

La Canadienne demurely dismisses the idea of King/Queen of the Mountain competition with Rodzilla and simply hopes "to do it" by that she means make it to the top non-stop. A feat thrice accomplished by 'zilla. La Canadienne's last attempt ended at the summit but not without a stop and stand at the steepest part of the climb.

I strap the Garmin to the venerable Fuji Team RC and we're (almost) ready to roll.

La Canadienne asks if I 'fixed the rubbing sound' to which I responded "Couldn't hear it, are you sure it's there?" She takes matters into her own hands (good move)

and finds that the lining inside her wheel has migrated outside and is rubbing on her breaks, we deflate it, fix it (good thing too, 'Zilla & I often discuss the 'worst case scenario' we can imagine which is always a blowout durring a 45mph Suncrest descent) and we're rolling:

We're fighting a bit of a head wind (OK to talk about it because this is La Canadienne's ride and as she has oft pointed out, she has no pact to not discuss, complain or credit the wind on a bike ride) but La Canadienne tucks in behind me and I take it easy per her request. We still make it to the Draper Walgreen's at a 16.3 mph average. Not bad for not pushing at all.

I use the facilities at my friendly neighborhood drug store; always a good idea to empty the bilge tanks before a climb. Like dregger says "the less weight you carry up a mountain, the less weight you carry up a mountain". This is also Rodzilla's standard defense position when discussing the subject of climbing hills on a bike. His real beef is with Sir Isaac Newton, and carbohydrates, not his fellow cyclists. Gravity is what it is (more on that later). We roll out of Walgreen's and I give La Canadienne one last pep talk before I leave her to climb on my own that's just the way climbing goes, it's a solitary endeavor. Swedish wife will tell you as much, when there's a hill to be climbed better find you zone and get in it, there's no other way, that goes double when you're the cameraman tasked with documenting the climb*.

La Canadienne (2010) climbs the double bend, passes the gas station/church on the corner and climbs toward the temple

An older/wiser (and stronger/faster?) La Canadienne retraces her route on a sunny spring day in 2011

The second steepest part of the climb is this stretch of road after the Draper Temple turnoff. La Canadienne makes steady progress and looks positively placid as she pedals onward and upward.

As you round the corner you're rewarded with a quarter mile stretch of road that you would call a hill if you were riding in the valley (3-6% pitch) but is as refreshing as a drink of cool water on a hot day when you've been climbing double digit grades. Your appreciation is tempered by what (even if you had no prior knowledge you can now see) is ahead:

We've nicknamed it the Catherine Wheel after the torture device used to systematically break the limbs of its victims in medievil times. The comparison seems hyperbolic only after you've reached the summit, but not while you're on it.

This is the most difficult portion of the climb. 14% grade is blindingly difficult and more than the average cyclist can overcome when there's no end in site. A fact that I experienced first hand in May of 2010 and La Canadienne (2010) experiences here, as does her fellow sojourner:

Unlike light blue lady cyclist (a four time veteran of Suncrest climb), La Canadienne is still pedaling, albeit at a greatly decreased pace. The last time I made this climb with Rodzilla I (very reluctantly) circled back from the top and joined him at this point for the rest of the ride to the top (yeah, up where those houses are). It seemed to me he was making better progress at this point than La Canadienne is. I begin to think 'Zilla's personal best ascent time is safe, for today at least.

The tension mounts as I head to the top to record the finish.

No need to turn down the volume, I keep the overheated breathing to a minimum in this recording of "La Canadienne makes it to the top".

We settle in the park for an snack and debriefing. She can't say for certain (understandable since the oxygen that would have helped her do minor tasks like focus her vision has been shunted to her quads and hamstrings for the last 3/4 of an hour) the finish time, but "definitely in the 40's" which means Zilla's personal best has bit the dust (and as it turns out is only 4 minutes off the pace I recorded when I first started timing my ascents of Suncrest and not just surviving them).

We take the obligatory "we own this hill" self portrait:

La Canadienne flexes her not insubstantial biceps (probably larger than mine, like Swedish Matt I haven't allowed anyone to take a definitive measurement)

and we make a rapid descent.

This is where gravity swings its pendulum squarely into Rodzilla's corner. Assuming our picnic in the park took longer than three minutes we would see the last of the man who refuses to accept the "biking is for waifs of the world" conventional wisdom. As a veteran of several Rodzilla group descents I find it's best hunker down and brace yourself. I assume what I feel at those times is similar to what midwestern farm families feel as they hunker in the basement and wait for a category 5 tornado to pass by, praying it doesn't destroy everything they hold dear. Cannonball doesn't do him justice, he's a force of nature (when nature's laws as described Newton) are brought to bare. Our descent is nowhere near as dramatic but that lets us take in more of the scenery (and La Canadienne hits 39 mph in a semi-tuck, plenty fast enough thank you).

The wind is scheduled to shift from Southeast to Northwest, but make it to Point of the Mountain before it has a chance to do so. Even the fact that the "Sharing of the Road" is being done mostly with the ubiquitous double trailer gravel trucks can't kill the pleasure of sailing home on the favorable trade winds around the Point.

A short detour into Daybreak assures us a half century (80km for our neighbours to the north and embracers of the metric system ... pretty much everyone but us) ride. La Canadienne continues to pedal on strong and smooth. She looks like she could do the loop again ... well maybe all but the Suncrest part, I'm not even up for that again at this point.

One micro hill remains, at the end of Skye drive. After a long day in the saddle, this can seem like the cruelest climb, but not today. We're running free and easy. The miles disappear under our wheels faster than the snow is melting on the mountains.

2.75 miles of 48th West and we return from the battle field with honour and glory (averaging 17.8 mph over the final 30 miles ... honourable by any metric)

So a great day all around, and hopefully the first of many such days this (official now) cycling season.

Talk/blog soon,


*Wow, who new that a little 30 second video could usher in such a firestorm of controversy (See Rodzilla's less than cogent, written in the middle of a night robbed of sleep by his guilt over not training for LOTOJA like he ought to be, rambling blog entry he's calling Justice). As seen in the video, whenever I climb Suncrest I always hit the synchros at the flagpole. I'm fairly certain I've told Rodzilla this on at least one occasion. It's an easily visible and apropos starting point that conveniently marks the spot where the road begins to pitch upward. Rodzilla is calling foul because apparently he starts his clock at the Walgreen's parking lot, thereby DQ-ing La Canadienne's stellar mountain climb which beat his personal best ascent time by a full 3 minutes, by reason of a foot fault (to use the Olympic long jumping as analogy) or 'toe over the line' (in bowling) for the blue collar athletes.

The Dude, Donny and Walter
Walter Sobchak and Rodzilla favor a strict interpretation of the rules. No exceptions.

In her defense, La Canadienne offers exhibit A:

Google Maps

That's right. It's exactly 0.2 miles from Walgreen's to the flagpole. I'm pretty sure La Canadienne could push the family mini-van (full of kids and Costco groceries) .2 miles in less than 3 minutes, certainly she's going to cover that much ground on her bike in less time, but I'll let you rewatch the video again and judge for yourself. That said, I understand where you're coming from from 'Zilla, I truly do. If it's any consolation you're not the first red-blooded, chest thumping American male to have his pride laid low at the hands of La Canadienne:

Yep, if you look closely you can see the balding pate of yours truly tumbling on the asphalt of the parking lot outside the Red Rooster Waffle House, and yes that's La Canadienne taking the tape in our impromptu 40 yard dash.

I'm not trying to prove that I beat Rodney... well, I guess I am. But not for the reason he thinks.

You're ruining this beautiful moment.

The incident really merits its own blog entry ... let's not get bogged down in details, we'll get to it later. For now I stand by the comment I left on your "she didn't actually beat me though" blog entry. Suck it up I say, and be glad that your defeat at her hands cost only your pride and not the skin on your knees and a perfectly good pair of blue jeans.

"I'm not trying to prove that I beat Rodney... well, I guess I am. But not for the reason he thinks.
You're ruining this beautiful moment." -La Canadienne


  1. El deebs, told me..nah promised that there would be some glorious write up about the big mans descending skills, which I am maxing over 50 mph heading down.

    I guess the second re-write robbed him of any desire to praise the big man.

    I say this, Big people everywhere unit. Lets discuss this over some donuts.


  2. 'tis true, I had crafted an eloquent 500 word mini essay featured as a sidebar within the blog post. The title was "Why Rodney goes downhill faster than you: Physics and the modern cyclist". It was quite complimentary and deferential, just the thing to salve his wounded pride, but for some reason he deleted it before publishing, I can only assume out of a sense of guilt.

  3. Oh Canada, My home and native land... That sprint was the coolest thing I have ever seen.

    Nice Blog,