My friends Steve aka @Highmountain4 and Kurt aka @M2Tiguy all got up very early to join me on my very first mountain ride since my heart attack in June of this year. They showed up bright and early this morning and after some good natured ribbing our bikes were stowed and we drove to Encanto Park in Duarte a great jump off point for all kinds of road cycling adventures into the San Gabriel Canyon. Plenty of parking, well maintained restrooms and very close to San Gabriel River Cycling trail.
Our plan was to ride up Hwy 39 to the East Fork Bridge, turn right and go to Glendora Mountain Road (GMR) and climb up to the T-intersections, hand a left and climb to Mt. Baldy. We were early because we new it was going to be a hot one. Leaving Encanto park means leaving the flatlands behind. With the exception of a few short downhills our route would be all up hill from here. I rode this route once in June of ’09 (link to ride story) and back then the entire ride was in a cold, dense fog with very low visibility.
I knew going into this ride that it would test me as it throws 6400′ feet of climbing at you on about 35 miles of up (the entire loop is 62 miles). I have not ridden a serious climbing challenge in several months, and my expectation was that I would hurt and be slow, but, I would finish the ride.
We set out at an easy pace to warm up and to get those legs going. Steve is by far the strongest rider, feather light and in great condition, and these roads are build for him – a regular mountain goat. Kurt is a big guy, but powerful legs, which he keeps in great shape between skiing and cycling. I took an easy steady pace for the first 15 miles, climbing around 1200’ft, before we got to the General Store, used by all cyclists to refill water. It was before 9 am when we got there, and the thermometer at the store was showing already 86 in the shade and 106 in the sun. This was going to be fun! We ate a little, drank a lot and moved off for the long climb up GMR. This climb is actually not that long, about 7 miles and climbing 1800′ feet, with unobstructed views (read hardly any shade). Feeling good we set out and very shortly after the turn up GMR, I mis-shifted and jammed the chain solidly between the bottom bracket and the crank. Steve stayed back and tried to help, but we could not dislodge it. A young man stopped, offered help and gave us what he called his ‘Mexican tool’ which he pulled out his saddle bag. It was essentially the handle of a large strong serving spoon with the spoon end removed and the shaft cut to maybe a 4 inch length. All sharp edges removed and super strong, strong enough to serve as a wedge to dislodge my chain. 10 minutes later I was once again ready to start the climb, sweat dripping down my face from the effort, sun screen burning around the edges of the eyes, the sun hammering us.
From here on out I could never find a rhythm again, my cadence was dropping rapidly and with it momentum forward. I found myself fighting to stay around 60 cadence, running out of gears, getting no help from my core and my legs were saying good by!! It took everything I got to get to the end of this climb when GMR dead ends into Glendora Ridge Road (GRR).
Before we even crested this portion Kurt and Steve were waiting up for me, and I offered for them to ride to Baldy and I would turn and wait for them at the car. They would have none of that; as Kurt put it:” that’s why I rode 52miles yesterday, I knew you wouldn’t make it!” – leave it to your friends to make you feel good. Bottom line, it is the truth and sometimes that hurts – but, not as much as my legs. Actually, it was not as much hurt or pain, simply there was no power – just one agonizing slow revolution after another.
Just before GMR dead ends into GRR a sign proclaims “Baldy Village – 12 miles”. For those in the know that means a 24 mile loop (you have to come back to that intersection in order to get off the mountain), dishing out another 3000′ feet. Last chance for me to make a decision, and putting 2 riders at risk to satisfy my pride was not it – I bailed, something I have not done in a very long time. I got served a nice slice of humble pie, because 3 weeks from now I am riding the Eastern Sierra Century, with plenty of altitude and climbing. So as soon as I get off my soap box and writing this blog, the next two weeks must include some serious core workouts and riding, if I want to finish that mountain century. Clearly, I am not in the shape I thought I was, but bailing on the Eastern Sierra Fall Century is not an option – see you on the road my friends.