The Registered Nurtz received a temporary upgrade today. I was feeling pretty frustrated because our local riding group was shredding at Gasworks Park and I had too much work to do to make the trip downtown. After several hours of sweating over the keyboard, I decided to pop out for a muni ride in my local trail system.
Things felt pretty good right away, and I decided today would be a day for some climbing. After a light uphill on the trail out of my neighborhood, I dropped down a short hill and into the woods trail that circles the Queenslake Bog, a low-lying swampy area of forest that’s been mostly unchanged for the last 10,000 years. Not far into this loop, a paved trail drops in from a nearby neighborhood to join the dirt trail. The paved trail isn’t long—50 yards or so—but it’s super steep. My first/last experience on this hill was trying to ride my muni down it on a damp day…I hit the steep part, tried to slow down, and the damp moss on the pavement just slid my wheel out and I landed HARD on my arse. Ouch! That was a year ago.
But today was dry, and I was at the bottom of the hill instead of the top. Decided to give it a try, with zero expectation of making it. The Moab climbing last month must have helped, because I was able to dig in and roll it all the way to the top. There were a couple places where I b-a-r-e-l-y got the pedal over the top, and I was pulling on the handle with all my strength. It was easily the steepest sustained climb I’ve made, so I rode back down to the bottom (with no arse crunch this time) and tried it again to see if first time was fluke. Nope. Topped it again, then once more just for the sake of the workout. I’m certain if it was dirt or gravel, I’d never get up it.
Deciding to quit that one while I was ahead, I jumped back onto the woods trail. The first mile or so of this trail has always given me a hard time. Lots of short curvy uphills with roots, a combination that always seems to take me down. Today was different…I still had a couple good UPDs, but got through the challenging section without having to stop for air, and with only three root- or log-induced dismounts compared to my usual 8-10. Yeah, feeling good now. Pedal on Garth. After clearing the rooty section, the trail smooths out for a mile or so, eventually crossing a set of ball fields where I practiced a bit of curb-riding to test out the “balance with your core instead of flailing your arms” advice from a recent RSU post. Seemed to work, although I was incapable of doing one without the other. Flailing is still the default…
But on to the next hill. The trail now enters an area of heavier jogger and b*ke traffic, and changes from dirt to paved. There’s one hill here I rode a lot in preparing for Moab…the sidewalk climbs the hill via a series of six switchbacks, while a gravel/dirt trail goes straight up beside it. You can see this gravel trail—and my son riding down it—here: http://gallery.unicyclist.com/albuw44/munishots10007. The paved trail winds back and forth just out of sight off the left side of the photo.
To prep for Moab, I’d ride up the long paved hill, then down the shorter, steeper gravel trail. Then one day in mid-March I decided to try to climb the gravel hill, with zero expectation of making it. I surprised the heck out of myself when I rolled it all the way up, and in the month since, I’ve been using that as my training loop: Power up the gravel hill, then ride down the paved switchbacks to catch my breath, then up the gravel hill again. Repeat until nauseous. Today I decided to run it a couple times, and started right in. It’s not real long, but climbs about 40-50 vertical feet over a couple hundred yards (I think). The first part of the hill is steepest (photo), and at the crest of this section there were four youth, age 17 or so, standing in the trail. They had clearly just finished some illegal smoking (yeah I can tell) and had moved on to more legal Marlboros. I was fully expecting a “dude where’s your other wheel” as I rode through their cloud of smoke. Instead one of them said “Hey, is that hard?” “Brouftht!” I replied as I passed them, sucking wind so bad from the climb that I couldn’t even say the word Yes. As I continued pedaling away, desperately trying to stay on the pedals, another one yelled “That’s savage! You’re savage, man!”. “Thamfts!” I huffed, this time able to get slightly closer to the word I was looking for.
That left me feeling pretty good, so I headed for the final climbing session of the day: the Impossible Hill. It’s this one dirt hill that has always given me a terrible time. It’s easily accessible from my neighborhood trail system, so I’ve had many opportunities to try to climb it, and just as many opportunities to fail. So many failures, in fact, that my son and I gave it the Impossible moniker. The nickname made me feel better about my continuing string of failures, until the depressing day last autumn when I took some better local riders—Harper, Unirene, and John Childs—out on these trails. “This hill’s tough", I said. "I’ve never made it all the way up without falling”. “What?” they said, as they all rolled it without missing a beat. I’m amazed I ever found the motivation to try it again. But I did…and did…and did…again and again without success. The little train that couldn’t. Insert Card…Credit Declined. But the persistence finally is paying off. As of last weekend my record was 59-0. As of today it is 63-2. Things are moving in the right direction.
Miles: 5.01. Average speed: 5.4. Top speed: 9.2. Pedal Time: 55 minutes. It was nice to hit the trail today, and for a change not have the trail hit back.