Saturday, August 10, 2013

Summer Riding

It's been almost a month since I updated the blog and for a good reason.  A few days after finishing the Ocean Shores Half-Iron a friend visited me in Bham.  We took a drive up to Artist Point to get a view of Mount Baker in all its up-close glory.  We hiked around, threw rocks off cliffs and even did some butt-sledding down a few snowy slopes.  One of them was extremely steep and long.  Below is a clip of Brett sliding down after me.

You see that big rock on the right, sticking out through the snow?  Well, I started drifting toward it, so I used my hands to direct myself away from it.  In the process I hyper-extended my elbow and I've been in pain since.  Even now I can barely curl a ten-pound weight without some pain.  Needless to say, I haven't swam once since and I'm just now getting out of my depressed funk.

Since I can't swim, I've been really focusing on my bike and run workouts.  In the past I always had a hard time dialing back the intensity on long rides/runs but, lately I've taken a more disciplined approach to my training regimen.  Oh I still skip days when I'm not feeling up to it or when my legs don't have the zip.  I think it's a good thing to not blindly follow a training plan.  Duties get in the way and stress occurs.  In the end it's better to enjoy the workouts than have them be sub-par.  Which brings me to two bike rides I did this week.

Tuesday I drove down the North Cascades Highway (SR 20).  It's an stunning road, traveling from Sedro-Wooley, through wilderness and eventually making its way to the Methow Valley.

I parked my truck in Newhalem and made my turnaround at Rainy Pass.  It's 38 miles one-way and it climbs about 5,000 ft in elevation.  Every way you look there are mountains, waterfalls, rivers and lakes.
Diablo Lake
Frisco Mountain.  Rainy Lake is tucked in off to the right.
Don't know the name but this is just from the road.
Newhalem to Rainy Pass and back.

The ride was beautiful but also difficult.  There are two climbs on the route.  The first one is through the Skagit gorge and tops out at Ross Lake.  It's only 15 miles of 2-3% grade.  It's a nice warm up and the views of Diablo Lake are distracting from the work.  The second climb is a doozy.  It's about 20 miles with an average 3% grade.  There are a few short sections of 6% and 7% grade tossed in there.  The length of the climb is really the tough aspect.  If you're training like me, staying mentally strong and keeping a steady rhythm is difficult.  If you're on a leisure through the park, a a break or two at one of the many trailheads would help.  I definitely recommend cruising through the park.  Try a weekday when there are fewer cars.  Remember to bring plenty of water.  More than you think you'll need.  I ran out at the top of the pass.  Luckily, a hiker I was talking to at the trailhead filled all four of my bottles up.  They barely made it back to the truck.  I'll bring my camelback next time.  All said, the total trip was 75 miles with over 11,000 feet of elevation gain.  Easily the biggest training day of my life.  I was feeling so good the next day, I was dreaming of the next adventure.

And it happened during yesterday's sufferfest up to Mount Baker.  This glaciated volcano in the upper North Cascades lies at the end of SR 542 from Bellingham.  I parked my car at Silver Lake, which is a few miles north of Maple Falls.  It's rolling hills along the Nooksack River until the beginning of the Mount Baker climb.  It's 10 miles of switchbacks with an average 6% grade.  There's a few 10% sections from Heather Meadows to Artist's Point.  At the top, you're treated to some close views of Mount Shuksan to the East and Mount Baker to the West.  Tough stuff, that's for sure.  Since I rode easy early on I wanted to give this climb a good effort.  I was spent once I reached the top but, it's all downhill from there.  I now know what it feels like to bomb down a mountain like the pros in Tour de France.  Finding the right line speeding down a switchback takes a hard nerve and lots of focus.  Don't let the bugs distract you because the slope on the other side of the guardrail looked very unforgiving.
Mount Shuksan
Silver Lake to Artist's Point and back.
There will be some more epic rides like these before Summer ends, that's for sure.  But before those I gotta see what Idaho has to offer next weekend.  Five days of golfing, trail running, mt biking, oh yeah and a wedding thrown in there too.  I'm pretty excited to meet up with a bunch of HS buddies for the celebration of my friends Kyle and Katie.  Let the dance battle begin, if my legs hold up.