I was scheduled to do a ride with about 20 minutes worth of single leg isolation drills. Don't get me wrong - isolation drills are great and I believe that they are imperative for developing an efficient pedaling stroke. But when I do them, it's at the gym on a spin bike that I can put my pedals on, and then the workout is purely about the drills. Today's drills were scheduled to be part of an overall longer ride. To be fair, the session was designed to be done on a trainer. But I don't have a trainer and the weather was too nice to be in a gym. So I blew off the scheduled workout. And to offset the potential for some serious guilt I decided to do something harder - find as much climbing as I could in a 20 mile loop.
There were a few logistical challenges created as a result of my decision. Since I only had about 90 minutes available to go off the grid and have to drive about 15 miles south to get into the hills, I needed to do some multi-tasking. The second I jumped in the car I dialed into a conference call. A half hour later I had successfully killed two birds with a single stone and was parked with the conference call ended and my bike off the roof rack. It was noon and I wasn't needed on another call until 1:30. Perfect.
I decided to start along Newport Bay until the UCI Irvine Campus. I then rode through the campus and into a neighborhood called Turtle Rock. This is where the climbing begins. Once through Turtle Rock, it's over and up to Newport Coast Drive, which climbs and then crosses the spine of the San Joaquin Hills. At the top of Newport Coast, a left turn puts you on to Ridge Park Drive. Ridge Park is the hardest part of the ride. While I had spent the last 7 miles climbing up grades anywhere between 4-6% with false flats in between, Summit Ridge raises the ante - it's a mile long with an average grade of 12% and a maximum of 20%.
|Ridge Park - It's way steeper than it looks.|
When it comes to the super steep stuff, I'm not a great climber. More specifically, I'm not a very fast climber. For example, the fastest speed up Ridge Park by a strava.com member is just under 10 MPH. Today I managed it at just under 6 MPH. But in the last couple months, I've come to love climbing. Sure, it hurts. But once you learn to control the pain you suddenly find that pushing beyond it is quite easy. You replace the pain with a rhythm that is wholly unique to climbing. Even though riding a bike is all about rhythm, the climbing rhythm is definitely it's own special thing. If you are riding correctly and not grinding away, it's still a smooth rhythm. But it's not as fluid as it is on the flats. There is more urgency to it, especially if you are out of the saddle. It's also the rhythm I now find myself remembering long after the ride is over.
I reached the top of Ridge Park. I could have gone longer and actually wanted to, but I was out of road. This is still an odd feeling for me, embracing the climb. But it's a good feeling. Even though running a fast pace-line along PCH is still my favorite cycling activity, climbing has pushed the post-ride bagel out of 2nd place.
Descents are fun too, and I had a long one - about 6 miles back to the car with 15 minutes to spare. Between the high point of 1,100 feet and the undulations throughout, I climbed about 1,700 over 20 miles. Though this is not what I consider a big climbing day, it's certainly the most climbing I've ever done on a short ride - usually I amuse myself with an out-and-back on PCH when I'm going short. All in all it was a much better use of 20 miles. So it was no surprise when about halfway through the ride it occurred to me that I should really be doing these sorts of rides more often. And I think I will - as long as I can schedule my calls correctly.
By the way the Fizik R3 shoes are as awesome as the box they came in.