Monday, June 15, 2009

Gravity is Losing its Grip

I have long joked that I'm very gravity-bound. Let's face it, enough normal weight people avoid hills. Suggest that they strap on an extra fifty or so pounds and fight the hill and they'd laugh themselves silly. And yet, that's the world I currently live in. So, yes, I am very gravity-bound.

Nevertheless, I went out for a fairly hilly ride yesterday. I modified a ride listed on the local bike club's website so that I would start and stop at my home. The good news is that I had plenty of options to cut the ride short if needed. At the same time, starting from home causes a problem.

You see, I live on the side of a mountain, so to speak. That means that, when leaving from home, I have two options: Go screaming downhill and hope I'll make it back up, or push it uphill a little and then putz about the rolling valleys, still having to deal with some uphill before making it back home.

The original ride works it out perfectly: Work slowly uphill, putz about in the valleys, then cruise leisurely back down to the start.

Why, oh why, couldn't I live in the valley? (Ironically, the North Valleys are all higher than Reno proper, and somehow that's not a valley. Too bad, I'll call a spade a spade and Reno a valley.)

Ultimately, however, living on the side of a mountain/hill can become a positive as it forces me to work harder at the end of a ride. See? I can make lemonade when need be.

I wouldn't have even attempted this if it weren't for the fact that a while ago I got brave and proved to myself that I could make it back up the big hill down into the valley. This tested my bravery so much that I had to break it up into pieces. I went down a third, I went back up a third. Survival check? Clear. So I went down two thirds, and came back up the two thirds. Still breathing? Yep. Resolved, I went down the whole thing and came back up the whole thing. I was tired, I was worn out, and I was proud. My father, honestly, was surprised at my accomplishment and stated, "Hmph. You're in better shape than I thought." (That's his way of saying he's proud. He's German. That's as good as it gets.)

Sidenote: This is the hill that reduced an out-of-shape, under-prepared, and ill-equipped (bike-wise) me to tears. Literally. I was bawling like a little girl who lost her mommy at Disneyland by the time I got home. (Note that the plan was to take the bus once I was "done", but that plan failed miserably, forcing me to walk/ride the whole way.)

Back to the point. This planned route would take me uphill a bit, then out East, which guaranteed, no matter how I sliced it, that I would have to trudge back uphill to get home.

Have I mentioned that I'm very gravity-bound?

Nevertheless, I had escape plans. Plenty of options for cutting the ride short.

So, I trudge out. Honestly, from the very beginning, I'm wondering if I'm just going to cut this planned ride, guessed to be 25-30 miles, down to an easier ten. I'm tired. The littler hills are already getting to me. I finish the loop around the valleys north of me, about a ten-mile loop, and then I stop here:

This is the view down the gentle, sloping hill I just finished climbing. That quick left you see? That leads quickly back home. I had a decision to make: Go back home, or face this:

You see where it looks like the road (world) drops off? It does. It's not the going down that worries me; it's the coming back up, albeit elsewhere. I've actually climbed that particular hill and it's a bear. But it's screaming fun to go down.

So I do.

Cursing my insanity the whole bloody fun way down.

I'm going to pay for this, I tell myself. What am I thinking? I ask myself.

Screaming down the curvy hill at about 35 mph, I don't have any responses other than, "Wheeeeeee!"

So I make it down the hill and am now in the valley east of my home. To get back, I have to do some climbing, but nothing I've never done before. Decision number two: Take the shorter, known way back, or go forward into the unknown?

Surprising myself, I go forward. I'm somewhat reassured because I have to do some climbing again. This, I reason, is a good sign. See, I reassure myself, I'm not digging myself into anything I can't handle.

And then the road (world) drops off again.

Now, screaming down a much longer descent (both in altitude drop and length), I peak out at only 29 mph. This gives me a little more brain power to think with. I wonder to myself, How much will a cab cost to come drive me out of this hole I'm dropping myself into? Luckily, I didn't complete the math for an answer, or I might have begun literally screaming.

So now, I've made it into the next valley. This ride will be quite an accomplishment, I think to myself. Now I just need to go south through the valley, then back across and fight the long climb home. I wonder how much climbing I'll have to go to get out of this valley. Then I realize that I'm still going downhill. Gently, yes, but still downhill.

This, I realize, does not bode well.

I hit the bottom of the valley, finally, and it's all straight uphill back home. Sure, there are a few little downhills to act as reprieves, but somehow there's always a red light waiting for me any time I gain any momentum. True story. Every single time. Ugh.

I don't realize it until I look at the data after arriving home, but I've effectly doubled the distance and climb of "my" hill. That's a heck of a lot of climbing (for me).

On one of the little peaks, I take a quick break to finish off my clif shot bloks and survey the area. Don't get me wrong, but this picture sums up a lot of Reno to me.

A Wal-mart in the lower right corner. Downtown with casinos in about the center. Beautiful mountains and gorgeous blue sky above. The clouds are somewhat unusual for Reno, but what are you going to do?

Oh, just for the fun of it, here's a shot of what I love about Reno. This was in the farthest valley, just before I realized that I was still going downhill.

What a beautiful green valley. There are, most certainly, gorgeous parts of Reno. (Despite what many tourists, never stepping foot out of the casinos, think.)

So, anyway, I made it home. On my bike. The whole way. No tears, no cab ride, not even any walking.

I'm damned proud of myself.

Here are pictures of the route and the elevation profile.

Yes, some riders eat this type of route for breakfast; however this is, undoubtedly, the hardest ride I have completed in my adult life. And I completed it! Gravity is definitely losing its grip.


Cidtalk said...

You are awesome!!

Karen said...

I don't necessarily think I'm particularly awesome, but I sure appreciate the sentiment! :D