Tuesday, July 1, 2008

5430 Boulder Peak Old Stage vs. Me - Rnd 1

The 5430 Boulder Peak triathlon is less than 3 weeks away and I still haven't rode up Old Stage. Old Stage is the famous 15% grade, 600 ft vertical climb over 2/3 of a mile that starts about 5 miles into the bike portion of the race. I've driven it once and it scared the heck out of me. I've been wondering if I could do it and how I would feel mentally & physically. I've been figuring that I need to ride Old Stage at least three times before the Boulder Peak, to get my legs under me and prove to myself that I can do it.

Old Stage is a very interesting section of the course. As urban as Boulder is, heading out on US 36 and out towards Old Stage you get back to nature really quick, where it's not uncommon to see deer, fox or black bears. Yes, black bears. In fact I know of at least two occassions where cyclists have HIT black bears on their bikes and lived to tell about it. Here are a couple of stories here and here. I can't imagine hitting a bear at 45 MPH on my bike, feet clipped into pedals and flying end over end.

Back to me. I decided that yesterday would be my first attempt at Old Stage. My goal was to just ride Old Stage once and get up with no stopping. I started at the open space trail parking lot on Lee Hill Rd. I took a quick lap around the neighborhood to get the blood flowing and then headed up. The incline is steady and annoying at first. If you were driving, you probably wouldn't even notice, but on the bike it's just annoyingly steep and continuous. I shifted down, down, down on the way up, wondering how I'm possibly going to make it up the hill when I'm already on the small ring? Finally I made it to Old Stage and the hardest part of the hill was facing me dead on. I continued to turn the crank continuously & steady, firmly in granny gear now, breathing heavy and just taking it one turnover at a time. I don't know if this is good or bad, but the hill is deceptively long, where you can't see the next section as your climbing. A rider could be easily fooled into thinking the climb is shorter than it is. I was by no means tearing it up, averaging about 5 mph, where I started to wonder just how slowly do you have to be going to fall over? I continued to push the pedals round and round until I finally made it to the top. It took almost 20 minutes from the trailhead (about 2.5 miles), but I made it with no walking or stopping.

I celebrated for a moment, snapped a couple of pictures and head back down. I quickly picked up speed and started to ride the rear break very hard as to not exceed 25 mph, which isn't easy. At one point I was squeezing down on both the rear and front brakes and still moving at a good clip. I returned to the trailhead in under 7 minutes after an uneventful ride down.

Summary: Round 1 goes to me.

Although I won round one by making it up the hill, I know that race day will be an entirely different challenge as I'll have swam 1500 meters and rode just over 5 miles out to the hill. I didn't see any bears, but I did see two deer. I haven't decided what Round 2 will be yet, hill repeats or riding the entire Boulder Peak course, but I will do both. I definitely want to do the hill at least 2 more times before race day to build up strength and confidence.

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knopfler said...

It will be much easier in the race. There will be tons of cyclists around you, lots of loud, bell-ringing spectators and a fair dose of adrenaline.

I haven't seen anyone fall over, but there is lots of swearing going on.

Scott said...

You've done it once and you'll be surprised how much easier it is next time. Don't try it within 1-week of the race so as not to psych yourself out...or risk injury. On race day, just relax in the saddle, breath as easy as you can, and have fun w/ all the sideline cheering which is the BEST!!! I'll be somewhere in the pack with ya!