On top of my family being in California and with all of the holidays, military leave and passes I have not been working very much this later half of December, instead I have used this time as a sort of solo pre-season training camp.
I'm starting to get to know the rangers at the Shenandoah National Park. Like many fellow bloggers, I have been going there often - 3 times in the last 4 days, the other day I did a loop with Dave Fuentes that included Mount Weather and 3 other climbs.
I am surprised not to see more riders on Skyline Drive climbing into Shenandoah. Although I have read other peoples accounts I have only seen two, neither of whom I knew. Last year at this time I avoided hills, the three short climbs on the 7am ride on Saturday seemed epic! Working through the suffering and the accomplished feeling of completing back to back to back climbs on Skyline (and the views) has me addicted to climbing.
The ride I did with Dave was pretty cool. With all of those great roads and climbs in his backyard no wonder he is so fit! We started out into a head wind, and just rotated pretty hard and steady across the flats through the rollers and up the climbs. Great roads, very little traffic. He dared me to big ring Mount Weather.
His dare had the air of a triple-dog-dare, so I had too.
When we swung off the highway and onto the road leading to the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center I was in my 53x14 out of my saddle tapping away. As that long strait into heaven climb extended before me, my cadence dropped and soon I was in my 15.
Tapping away in my 15, I looked up to the summit - which now seemed farther than when I first started and dropped to my 16 for comfort.
The ache started to set in my legs and I could feel my heartbeat in my teeth but one look at the summit and one look back at the dot which was Dave and I knew I was half way.
Soon I was in my 17 and before I knew it in order to maintain cadence I was in my 18.
OK, three gears left and I'm starting to cross my chain. At this point I can see a county line sign - if I could just make it there, the summit is meters after it - I'm going to use my 19.
By the time I got to the sign I was sweating rivers and pedaling about 40 rpm. Those last few meters were insane and I was starting to wonder if I was going to be blown for the rest of the ride and have to sit on Dave's wheel the whole way home, but it took him FOREVER to get to the top so I was completely recovered. Just kidding, but not really.
We rode home pretty steady and rotating and didn't let up until we got to a bike trail which we rode for about 5 miles. While we rode the trail I was reminded why I hate bike trails as a steady barrage of recumbents came shooting around the corners like heat seeking missiles trying to take us out. Exiting the trail, his house was right there and I thanked him for the ride. My legs ached the whole drive home.