A month farther into summer and for some reason the weather forecast is calling for cold, wind and rain. Luckily, I’ve had a birthday since I last attempted to buy cold-weather gear so now I’m fully equipped thanks to my generous friends and family.
The plan was for the Descenders to ride Mt. Palomar three times in preparation for our Monster Climbs trip which is just two weeks away. But with the weather chilly, climbing to 5,240 ft didn’t seem all that smart of a move. Instead, we mapped out a course closer to home that still managed to afford some elevation. Here’s the elevation profile (click to enlarge)
Those who’ve ridden with me can guess that I went off the front on the first climb of the day (Poway Rd). I have a hard time holding back. The rest of the team (there were 8 of us) let me go and I rode a steady, even tempo to the top. I stopped at the bottom of the second climb up Scripps-Poway Pkwy to remove my jacket and ended up way behind the group. I tapped out a quick rhythm though and managed to summit third with Rob, but predictably behind Voris and Rick (who are the group’s “Supermen”). Rob and I chased for awhile on the descent into Lakeside but used an early turnaround to catch the supermen. As the climb began, I fixated on Voris’s back wheel and promised myself that I wouldn’t let go.
It’s around four miles of climbing on Hwy 67 out of Lakeside and I must have been popped at about the halfway point. All it took was a minor (and probably unintentional) acceleration and I was gapped. I tried to fight back and did, but then did not have the power to stay with them and went right back off. Rob soon closed whatever gap there was between us and we finished the climb together.
After regrouping, a water refill and time for Guido to change a flat, we headed down Highland Valley Road – one of my favorite descents and climbs in San Diego County. It’s a twisty, pitchy climb that gains around 1,500 ft with some sections as steep as 18%. I was last on the descent (just wasn’t feeling it) but made sure to lock onto Voris’s wheel when we started back up.
Rick took off on the early, steep turns, passing Voris and I at nearly twice our speed. I think Dave’s remark was that there was no one in San Diego County who could compete with that kind of climbing and I think he’s probably right. Rick waited for us about halfway up the climb and I’m guessing it was just because he’d rather ride with other people than alone.
I focused on keeping up with Voris as the climb went on. Climbing like this sometimes seems more mental than physical. I’m 100% focused on staying with Dave and alternate between telling myself that I can do it and despairing that I’m about to go off the back. Of course, Dave was hurting too, but it’s hard to tell and you imagine that he’s climbing at around 50% while I was at 99%. At one point, I looked up the road and it was steep where I thought it would be flat and my legs stopped pedalling (they gave up without permission). A little gap opened and I saw myself climbing sadly alone saying “I almost kept up…” That’s all I needed to motivate myself to close the gap and hang on just a little longer. I’m very proud that I managed to hang on to the top and when Voris turned around to go back down for the others, I went with him (there was an agreement that the second semi-ascent had no KOM points associated with it – thank god!).
It was a beautiful day – the weather had stayed nice, but cold and a little breezy at times. Heading back into town from HVR earned us some sprinkles, but not enough to wet the ground. The group split up on our various paths home and Rick, Voris and I set a really smooth paceline back to Scripps Ranch. Hey Mark, it was really cool how we all shared the pacemaking in a smooth, well-run paceline (I gotta give Mark some crap cause he always lets me take the wind at times like this).
As usual, my final climb of the day is Pomerado Rd and this time Voris and Rick wanted to come with to get some extra elevation. We started the climb nice and slow so I went to the front to kick up the tempo a bit. This is my home-turf climb and I know all the nuances. Of course, I’m up there gutting it out and the boys are behind me chatting about a patio or something – sure gives you confidence in your form. I measured out where I should sprint for the top and gave it everything I had to drop them in the last few meters. Thankfully, the light at the top was red so I got to stop early or else I think my legs may have given out. We said our goodbyes, the guys took a right at the light, and I headed the final bit home.
It was a great day in the saddle made even more fun by the competition in my own head. It’s not like we were really racing, but pushing yourself and riding with people stronger than you is a really fun way to get strong yourself. I would not have pushed so hard up HVR if I had been by myself, that’s for sure. So thanks guys!
Some notes about my new cold-weather gear:
- Love the full-sleeve jacket, it’s very warm (Pearl Izumi’s lightest weight shell). I get to the top of a climb drenched in sweat, put on the jacket and keep myself from freezing up on the descent. Absolutely critical on a cold day.
- Have been skeptical of how leg warmers would feel while pedaling, now I love them. They make a huge difference on the descents. My legs felt warm all day.
- I worried that full-fingered gloves would be uncomfortable and it was a bit more difficult to rifle around for GU (loss of sensitivity) but having warm fingers more than makes up for that.
- I got one of those beanie things for my head and it was great on the initial descent to Dave’s house at 6:45am, but once I warmed up it was too hot. Maybe if it was colder or raining.
- Don’t have shoe covers and have to admit that my tootsies were a little chilly.
And by the way. It’s freaking MAY ALREADY! Enough with the sub-60F weather, alright? Isn’t this why we pay “sunshine tax” in the first place?