Back into Climbing Shape

I think I’m back, or at least on the road to climbing shape again.  I guess I was trying to regain confidence that I can do those long climbs again.  Last week, I did do Page Mill, but I feared I didn’t quite have the confidence that I can repeat this, like I did on my weekends, where I did consecutive climbing rides on back to back days.

I definitely was going to do Mt. Hamilton on Sunday, so I figured on climbing Hwy 9 to Skyline would be good to do on Saturday.  Actually, my original plan was to go south on Skyline (after climbing Hwy 9), and go out to Gish, then Black, then turn back to Hwy 9 again.  The “back” route does include an extra 1000 feet of rolling hills.

I didn’t want to push it too hard, so it was a grind it out pace.  It wasn’t fast, and I was careful to ease the pace, the moment I found any slight tweak in my back.  By the time I made it up to Skyline, I just decided to just turn back.  I’d still get in just under 40 miles, so that’s a good number to start with.

Sunday, I did the meetup ride, going up Mt. Hamilton.  This is 19 miles straight up, to elevation of 4000 feet.  I was originally going to ride to the start, but when I woke up, I can tell I needed some food, as my head felt pretty light.  Look in the fridge … gah … empty.  Looks like I gotta rely on Starbucks for breakfast.  As I was preparing everything, I quickly found myself running out of time (due to forgetting to bring one thing or another).  This always seems to happen when I drive to the start of a ride.  Maybe that’s why I always prefer to ride to the start.

The meetup ride had a really good turnout.  Since this is a 19 mile climb, I had to make sure I didn’t go too hard in the first 10 miles (very easy to do).   I was content to just let a large number of people pass me by … they all seemed to be stronger and fitter than me anyways.  The key here was to make sure my back didn’t feel any extra strain.  I eventually hooked up with a group of 3 other riders, and we were doing a conversational climbing pace (yes, that is possible).  That kinda helped pace myself, and make sure I didn’t blow myself up.

At around 17 miles up, I started to feel my back flare up a little bit … but then I realized, I was only in my middle chainring … damn, I’ve got another chainring to shift into.  Ah, that felt better.  I knew when I was at the last switchback, and that’s when I started to push deep down.  The good news is my back wasn’t aching, so I just had to concentrate on pushing the pedals, and getting my heartrate up.

I made it to the top in 2:17, about 10 minutes slower than my personal best.  It actually surprised me how well I did … if it weren’t for that potty stop, mid-way on the climb, who knows how close I would have come to my personal best?

At this point, I feel more confidence in my climbing.  I think I’ve built up my core strong enough that I can go more aggressive on climbs.  Now all I have to do is bump up the mileage.  Strange how confidence can really change the way you ride.

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