Don't worry Stef hiked it back to the car for me.
From the starting line you race across the flattest tenth of a mile for the next 7.6, usually you hit your max speed in this stretch, which was 17.6 mph for me. The climb starts immediately after and in earnest! Before you know it, you're at twelve percent or more grade. As I hit the initial slope, I had made it to the front and rushed up and away from all the other riders in my wave with just two or three others. A random memory I have of this was about a half mile up, looking back and seeing a huge peloton of riders strung out across the whole road, slowly crawling up the slope and all bundled up together. I was happy to have escaped that mosh pit! One guy who I rode with all the way up, stood while riding for most of the climb, he was pushing a standard set of road bike gears! Surely I though he would crack, but he managed to hang it and we kept passing each other the entire way. The other guy we also stayed with for most of the way up, but just after mile seven he surged ahead very rapidly, but further down low, the three of us were passing the slower riders in the wave that started five minutes ahead of us. I finished mile one in eight minutes with a 7.4mph average speed, my second fastest time. Aside from the first mile, I set personal records for every mile after, keeping my heart rate under control the whole ride. My breathing was rhythmic and my mind focused, legs spinning efficiently ticking the pedals over like a finely tuned set of valves in a Porsche driving up the Autobahn. Not once on the ride up did I even question why I was putting my body through such physical difficulty and it honestly didn't feel as hard as the year before. I'd say I finished quite strong and feeling like I could have kept climbing for another 7.6 miles. I was keeping track of my distance and average speed along with the elapsed time and I knew around mile five that I would at least achieve my time goal, but I had a pretty good feeling that I would finish with an even better time than I ever imagined I could finishing the ride with an official, 'Top Notch' time of 1:15:25.
Unlike last year where I started out way too hard and maxed out my heart rate from the start then never really recovered, this year I've discovered my optimal power output in certain gears, at a certain heart rate range, on a particular grade of climb. This whole hill climbing thing really comes down to science for me. I've really learned so much about my physical ability this season and I know that I can continue to improve from where I am today with continued training. Below is a stats comparison from 2011 to 2012 taken from my Strava training logs.
Sharing a few photos from the ride and a final thanks to you all and my support staff for the day. Stef, Heidi, Kathy, and Brian. It was awesome to share this day with you all and thanks for taking the time to enjoy it with me.
It's the place to be you know.
*Photo courtesy of Heidi Spiller.
Finally, check out this raw little video Stef made. It's going viral shortly!
Thanks for reading!