Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Finally a Climb - Aaron West

With a little more than a month of training before the big event, I imagine that most people are out climbing as much as possible. I was witness to a large group of Freewheelers out this weekend. My guess is there were about 30 of them, who swiftly passed us as we prepared to climb Caesar’s Head Mountain. 

My challenges are a little different. Having spent a few months off the bike due to injury, I have only been back a little over a month. Most of that has been easy riding, and I’ve been careful not to overextend myself and possibly force a setback. It is hard to believe, but until this past weekend, I had not ridden up a significant climb of even a mile.

I chose the Assault on the Carolinas for my first climb, partly because I’ve done it the last two years and it’s one of my favorite rides. I also knew I could go at my own pace, and that the event is organized well enough that I would be safe. If the injury prevented me from finishing, a wagon would come around to take me to my car.

The first climb is Walnut Hollow -- a beast that peaks at around a 15-16% grade. It was a struggle, but I made it to the top. After getting through some mini-climbs on Highway 178, the route planted me at the base of Caesar’s Head, with 6.5 miles of climbing until I reached the top.

I wasn’t out there for speed. I knew this would be a weak attempt, as my muscles have not healed and developed enough to climb efficiently. This was about enduring and succeeding, just reaching the top under my own power without stopping. I was careful not to go too hard (not that I had a choice), and it took me 1:15 to finish. My Strava report shows that I was stopped for over 6 minutes. Not so. That was just from my Garmin auto-pausing when I was below 3 mph. Last year I would have been embarrassed by this type of showing. This year I felt pride for finishing.

Even though this was a challenge both mentally and physically, it gave me some assurance and confidence. I’m convinced that despite these obstacles, I can still complete Mitchell. I’ve found that if I pace myself and ride with a good group, I can get through the rollers. Marion is no cakewalk, but I can get through it with some help. After I leave from Marion, I’ll be on my own. Even though I’ll probably climb slower than I’ve ever climbed, I can get there.

It will not be easy. Fortunately this ride isn’t easy for anyone. As they say, it doesn’t get easier, you just ride harder. This time I’ll be inverting that phrase. Even though I’ll be riding slower, that doesn’t mean it will get that much harder.

Assault on the Carolinas - ride report

Aaron West

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