87m: A Big Hard Sun

by Arlyn on May 29, 2008

After last weekend’s duo of short and sporty rides, I was ready to go long and get some elevation. I headed to Julian under clear skies and warm weather (finally!).

I honestly felt really good and thought I might even add some bonus elevation on the way back (HVR!). When I stopped to take that last picture, I realized I was riding with a 5-10 mph tailwind, which would become a headwind on the way back. No bother, it’s all downhill from Julian, right?

I flew through Ramona and felt good climbing Old Julian Hwy, remembering where I bonked so severely two weeks ago with Mike. The couple of rises on the way to Santa Ysabel were not much trouble either. Pretty soon, I was looking down at Santa Ysabel and up at the hills in which Julian resides.

My legs started getting sore climbing into Wynola but soon I was on Wynola Road headed to Julian, one of the most beautiful climbing roads in San Diego County. It’s a heck of a great descent too, which is a bonus.

You’ll notice that there’s a great picture of Wynola (click to zoom), that’s because my legs started hurting bad enough that it seemed like a good idea to stop and snap a pic. It’s for the blog, right?

Finally, I was at the top and making my way into town. Legs still hurt. Maybe what I needed was some pie and coffee. Caffeine is supposed to be good for endurance sports.

I really wasn’t that hungry, but I ate the pie and it was good. The coffee was good too. I stretched a bit and hoped that since it’s basically all downhill from Julian, I’d be ok. Last Monday and Saturday were both really hard days and I was beginning to wonder if I needed a bit more rest.

The descent down Wynola was fantastic. I’m starting to get good at this descending thing. The key is to learn how to lean properly (knees in, thank you) and use the apex of each corner. I zoomed back down to Santa Ysabel and was then on the rolling section back to Old Julian Hwy.

I could tell that I had climbed into what Phil Liggett calls the “House of Pain”. My legs were on the verge of being utterly trashed and it was only the fact that I was descending that was keeping me from a full-tilt bonk. Once I hit the flats of Dye Rd, the real pain settled in. It felt like my legs were on fire and actually began to hurt more resting than it does to spin. I began to feel generally uncomfortable on the bike and no amount of stretching or position adjustment could get it right. I also began to feel naustious and had to force myself to choke down the GU that I knew would get me home.

I started telling myself that pain is imaginary. It’s all in our heads, right? It’s a “feeling”. You can’t fill a bowl with pain, so it must not actually exist. This all started to make some sense in my pain-induced delusions. I focused on just making it to the next little milestone – bottom of Ramona climb, top of Ramona, Poway Rd, Scripps-Poway Pkwy, etc. It sucked. For well over an hour, I just suffered, suffered, suffered. I could have stopped and called Romy for a pickup but (as Lance says) pain is temporary and quitting is forever. I just kept pedalling, saying, “pain is imaginary!”, sometimes out loud.

I’m a little embarrassed to tell you about the next part, I don’t really understand what happened myself. But in the spirit of being honest in these pages, here it is – please be kind. I began climbing the last hill to my house – Pomerado Road. It’s steep, like 7-8%, but short, maybe 0.75 mile. I shifted all the way down to 34×27 (I have a new compact crank) and settled in for a slow spin to the top.

That’s when “Hard Sun” by Eddie Vedder came on the iPod. Now, I’ve seen the movie, “Into the Wild” and loved it (and the book), but otherwise I have no real emotional connection to this song. But as it started playing, I all of a sudden began to get VERY emotional. I actually started doing that pre-crying thing that guys do and I also began to feel very, very pissed off. I think I actually said “F*%& this!” out loud and that’s when I started shifting into higher and higher gears. Up one, two, three gears. Out of the saddle, up 2 more. “F*%& this hill! F*%& the pain! I won’t stop! You can’t make me! F*%& you!” I’m crying and pissed and racing up this hill maybe as fast as I ever have. I look down at my HRM and my pulse is at 98% max. I haven’t been able to get it above 85% for the last 20+ miles, now I’m maxing out. Here’s a chart of elevation and my heart-rate. You can see the bonk and my “moment” clearly.

I crested the hill and pedaled the last 0.25 mile into my garage. I still have no idea what happened. I guess it was a Big Hard Sun.

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