How do you spell birthday fun? I think this picture pretty much sums it up for me:
Grade. That’s how I spell birthday fun nowadays. I just can’t decide which is more fun. Going up or coming back down.
On Thursday I turned nearly 40. Old. That’s what that is. And to celebrate I rode my bike. Surprise, huh? I rode my bike from my home at about 355 feet of elevation to Independence Mine in Hatcher’s Pass State Recreation Area — the pass tops out at 3886 feet, though I’m not sure of the exact elevation at the mine. Gold Cord weather station is 4050, so let’s say that the mine buildings are ~3900. A climb of 3545 feet in 24-ish miles.
Not too shabby.
And the funny thing — or at least I thought it was funny at the time — were road bikes. They are funny machines ridden by funny people.
So, the set up: I pull off at the Government Peak campground/picnic area to use the restroom and grab a snack. Just below the start of the real climb. As I’m pulling out, I see a road biker coming up the road. Cool. I know he’s going to pass me so I just keep telling myself to ride my ride and not worry about keeping pace because I’m going to make it to the mine come hell or high water.
So he passes me, of course, and I keep riding at my pace. He never gets quite out of my sight and I can see where he makes the curve at Gold Mint to start the real, real climb. I remember thinking to myself that he’s going a bit slower than I expected based on how quickly he caught up to and passed me. And he’d already been out of the saddle and climbing on a couple hills, even before stuff was going to get real.
I keep pedaling.
About a quarter mile before the Arch Angel road parking lot I catch him. He’s out of the saddle climbing. I let him know I’m behind him and that I’m just going to wheel suck for a bit because I just know that if I pass him he will just have to pass me right back. And probably soon, too. I know that the climb before the Mile 16 parking area is even harder than the one to Arch Angel, after a brief flat to slight declamation.
So I hang on his wheel to the apex and then he gets back on the saddle and picks up some speed on the flat bit. As soon as the road starts to climb again, though, he is out of the saddle and slowing. I catch him less than a quarter mile into the climb. I’m on my seat and cranking. Not hard. I’m not pushing it. Which surprises me. I always find myself trying to run down riders in front of me — I think they call it Cat6ing. Today, though, I am just riding. I’m keeping my pace and I’m on his wheel and if I intend to stay on his wheel, I’m going to have to slow way down.
Eventually, I decide that I have to pass. It’s a slow pass. Slow enough that we have time to share a few words. I quip that the ride would be so much nicer if they’d install a few more flats and remove some of the hills. He chuckles and then as I start moving ahead gives me a “way to go” or something to that effect.
I push on. I don’t look back because I know, at this point, if he moves to pass me, I’ll pick up the pace and likely ride myself right out of the ride.
I do look back when I get to the Fishhook parking area. Not so much to see where he’s at, because it seems weird to me that he hasn’t passed me back yet, but rather to see how many cars I have coming up behind me. Three. But no cyclist. What?
So I keep my pace and make it to the mine. I call the wife and arrange to meet her at Turner’s Corner thinking that ice cream was in order, eat a snack, stretch a bit, and have a drink before hopping back on the bike to head down. And who do I see coming up to the mine? Road bike dude.
I realize that he was probably riding a training ride with a specific pace and specific goals and that he probably pulled off at the 16 Mile parking area so that we wouldn’t get into that awkward situation where our paces caused us to continue leap frogging each other, which is what I should have done earlier, but… well it is what it is.
The story I like to tell myself, though, is that he pulled off because he was embarrassed about getting passed in the middle of a climb by a fat guy on a fat bike.
Maybe my wife hired him to be out there for my birthday. A way to make me feel a little bit more potent? Maybe.
Though I still like to think it’s just that I’m a freakin’ beast.
Not a bad way to spend the morning. Not a bad morning at all.