I took this 5 years ago during one of my visits to Southern California, and it seems like just yesterday. This was on our way up Hwy 39, on our way up to Hwy 2, but I never made it all the way (quit about half mile from the top). This guy did make the trip memorable … I mean how many times do you see a guy doing an epic climb, on a mountain bike, with skis? And he was going skiing too. Wonder how he did?
We all know about the climbfest (Baldy, Crystal Lake, Dawson Saddle come to mind), but I just heard a newly coined term, heatfest. I guess this all comes under the category of sufferfest. I might as well add my 20 year old, Diamond Back, which weighs about 25-30 pounds, with harder gears (53-39, 11-26) … and this is a recipe for pain. Maybe we should call this painfest?
Karen sent an invite for another epic ride, up Hwy 39, to Crystal Lake, with various options to go along with it. Since I am carrying an older, heavier bike, I let it all be known I will be doing the minimum … Crystal Lake only. Last time I tried, we did Baldy Village, then attempted the climb … only to succumb to heat. But we also had a lot of climbing and miles in our legs … this time, figuring that we’re heading straight for Crystal Lake first, my chances of success may be greater.
Everything was fine up to East Fork Rd. After we all re-grouped (water re-fill, bathroom), that was probably the last time I was actually riding with the group. This is where the combination of climbing distance, climbing elevation gain, and heat got the best of me. This road was very open … by that, I mean there is no break for coverage at all. What little trees there were was few and far between.
As I started getting higher in elevation, fatigue really set in. Cadence was slowing down, but since I didn’t have my Garmin on my bike mount, I couldn’t tell how slow my cadence was, nor did I know how slow I was going. Additionally, I had no idea how hot it was … but the heat was intense, so I had some idea it was bad. Each time I saw a tree, I wanted to stop, but I didn’t want to concede, as I kept remembering my motto “I’m in it to finish it”.
Finally, I succumbed to the heat, and stopped under not one, but two trees. It did feel good, with a little faint breeze. This was just enough to help me recover, and continue on. Each time, a part of me was all ready to turn around, but being in a group trumped that, and made me continue on. Water was not an issue, and I wasn’t dehydrated … It was just the heatfest!
I got a pleasant surprise, seeing my old friend John, who I used to ride with all the time back in my old Foothill Cycle Club days. Been a really long time. Seeing him come up behind me after making the right turn towards Crystal Lake was enough to get me going all the way to the Crystal Lake Cafe. I finally made it … and low and behold, I see my friend Ken sitting there having a Fritos Pie. Mmmmm.
While chowing down there, I saw some other strong riders, who had gone up further on Hwy 39, to Mt. Islip, then made their way down. Now they were on their way to go to East Fork, then over to Camp Williams, then onto little GMR. Me, I’m just going straight down Hwy 39. It was hot enough as it is … then, when I went back to the cars, it was showing 103 F. What??? Later, I heard it was 114 F at Camp Williams. Just thinking of it makes me hot.
I was trying to get a video of my descent going down, but I spend too much battery taking still shots and some video earlier on. What was left is the video below:
Stats? I ended up with 51.1 miles, 6791 feet climbing … nice clip, eh? http://www.strava.com/activities/75446129
This weekend was my turn to visit my dad in LA, and coincidentally, I got an invite to do a ride, starting at Encanto Park, going up Hwy 39 up to Hwy 2, then back. Now how I got the invite is quite interesting. Ken Mathis sent the email. He got my name originally from a ride invite from Teresa Beck, who I know from Facebook, and who I met once at the Awards Breakfast for Ca Triple Crown. Now how did I get Teresa’s name via Facebook … well, who else …. Lynn. She knows everyone!
Anyways, there were 4 of us to go on this epic journey (epic for me at least). There was Mike, Ron Hanson, Ken, and I. As we went out on the bike trail, we were greeted by fierce headwinds. It seems like everytime I head out on the bike trail, I am greeted with headwinds.
Once we got on Hwy 39, the headwinds weren’t that much of an issue. We could concentrate on climbing, which is really what we’re here for. At 7 am, it is a bit crisp and just barely requires a light jacket. However, the sun came out pretty early. I didn’t want to stop either, and lose my momentum. One thing I did notice though, is there was plenty of bathroom stops along the highway. So I didn’t have to worry about finding a bush somewhere.
The pace leading out was not the usual pace I’m used to when I ride with Ramon, or Chris … I was in the middle of the pack, climbing-wise. However, perhaps it’s because Ron and Ken were pacing themselves. This is 6000 feet up … straight up, after all.
Heading out, my Garmin kept turning itself off … oops … low battery … damn. I guess I’m going to have to ride this the old fashioned way … by feel.
Previously, when I climb Hwy 39, I usually hang a right on East Fork Road. Usually it’s because I am on my way to either Glendora Mountain Road or Mt. Baldy. So this is the first time I’ll climb beyond East Fork Road … I’ve always heard about this climb, but never really did it.
As Ron Hansen says, past East Fork Road is where the real climbing, or the fun begins. Translation … hard climbing. By this time, the sun was out in force, and it was gorgeous. How can anyone look at this and not want to live in California?
As we got to steeper climbs, I ended up in the back again. My shoulder blade started getting stiff at this point, making my climbing a little weaker. Since I didn’t have my Garmin to rely on, I had no idea how far we had come, or how far we have to go.
Halfway up the climb, we get to the Hwy 39 Road Close sign. This was a nice break from the climb, and gave us an opportunity for a little bit of rest, at least. What’s nice here is we have the whole road to ourself till we get to Hwy 2, at least.
Here’s something you don’t see everyday … even on a bike ride. Here was this guy, in ski boots, carrying his skis, with the ultimate intentions of skiing. I mean, he’s in his ski boots. Later on, when I was descending, I saw him hovering around the Crystal Lake turnoff (which is closed by the way … weird).
Anyhow, the climbing continued, and it would just be continuing, at about a 5-8% grade for about 30 miles. We had done about 20 miles already, and this is where fatigue started to settle in. Before this, the longest sustained mountain climb I did was Mt. Hamilton, which was 20 miles … but we definitely surpassed this.
This is definitely a ride that categorizes as HTFU … but one thing that kept me going is the amazing scenery, mixed in with an almost perfect weather day. We got to a point eventually where we passed some black ice. Funny how a harmless little wet patch of road can cause such horror in a cyclist. I could tell, as I rolled over that wet patch, I felt my wheel slip, but luckily it wasn’t too bad, and I did not end up on the ground.
I was really struggling at this point, but I wanted to go as far as I could possibly go. My shoulders, back, knee … were all screaming out in pain. Unfortunately, I forgot my Ibuprofen and my electrolyte pills, so I couldn’t replenish myself. All I had were clif bars, perpetuem, and water, and I was constantly going through those. I got to one point where I just had to throw in the towel. I saw one more climb, and that was it. I was really bummed, as I did not want to “give up”, but I just could not take any more of it. Later on, I found out from Ken that I had < 1 mile before the top. I kind of figured that, but I just didn’t have it in me.
So I turned back, and was descending really slow, especially with that patch of black ice. Plus, it’s another opportunity to enjoy the scenery. However, it was not all completely downhill. The section below East Fork Road had some uphill pitches, and after climbing 6000+ feet climbing, my legs were definitely feeling it.
One oddity .. the original ridewithgps plot showed 57 miles, and 8100 feet climbing. Not sure about that, since the peak of the climb was at 6670 feet. I’d be fine with 55 miles, and 7000 feet. Great day for a ride.