Cycling and running both require an ability to wear funny looking, tight-fitting clothes out in public. So naturally, I have found that taking a jump from running to cycling wasn’t all that difficult. Just pull on a pair of ridiculous looking spandex shorts, strap on a bulbous helmet and I’d be on my way. Simple, right?
It turns out that if you want to devote the time and energy, cycling can be as nuanced and varied as running (hooray for me!) Both sports are two sides of the same endurance-oriented coin. Each requires a minimal amount of coordination but encourages a maximum amount of discipline and determination. Both foster OCD-like behavior. And by that I mean both cycling and running attract those of us who find satisfaction in spending hours and hours doing the same thing, over and over again. Is it any wonder then that I’ve begun to pour myself into cycling? To date I’ve logged over 1700 miles on my road bike. Here is recap of my most recent long ride.
Ride Title: Little Switzerland
I decided to tackle this ride partly because of the name and partly because the website described it as “enthralling” “challenging” and “a favorite.” What I underestimated was just how steep and just how brutal this ride would be. Little Switzerland, your hills were neither petite nor neutral.
Alternative Ride Titles: The Tour d’Never Ending Hills, The Perpetual Head Wind Slog, or The Thank God for Peanut M&Ms Ride
Distance: 97.1 Miles
Pre-Ride: My running shoes sit and stare at me longingly as I prepare for Sunday’s ride. Just be patient, I tell them, you’ll be back on the road soon. Before setting out, my directeur sportif writes down turn-by-turn directions. There is a lot of zigging and zagging and the directions take up full sheet of papert. I carefully fold it in a square and stuff it into my jersey pocket. This paper will be my analog GPS device. I find room in my other pockets for the following:
- 1 Extra Big Packet of Peanut M&Ms (essential)
- 1 Bag of Pomegranate Chomps (tasty grown-up fruit snacks)
- 1 Lemon Lime Sublime GU (in case of emergency)
- 3 Nuun Tablets (tasty)
- 1 Set of Wool Arm Warmers (scratchy but nice)
- 1 Cell Phone
- AAA Card, Credit Card, Drivers License, and a few dollar bills.**
** Did you know that AAA Oregon offer road assistance for bicyclists?
In my small saddle bag I pack an extra tube (I’ve had 6 flats in the past two months, no joke!), tire levers and lipbalm (handy for slipping on stubborn tires). Additionally, I put two large bottles of water in my cages. Before I roll out, I put my hair in pigtails and sigh as I look in the mirror. Could these shorts be any less attractive? I leave the apartment feeling supremely unfeminine.
The Ride: The first 20 miles are ugly. Very ugly. I cross the entire city, bisect several unsavory suburbs and head for the hills. At mile 25 I consult the directions, eat some Chomps and prepare for my first descent of the day. I fly down the swerving hill at 42 mph. My tires grip the pavement, I swoop around the bends, but too quickly the adrenaline rush is over and I’m back to pedaling on flat land. My Cannondale and I are moving smoothly over the road and I’m starting to settle into the ride.
I pass a lone Chevron Station and measure my distance by asphalt covered between splotches of roadkill (squirrel, raccoon, squirrel…) . I almost miss the small sign for Wildcat Mountain Drive. The directeur’s directions indicate that I should turn left. However, his directions fail to indicate the steep, rolling terrain I’m about to encounter. I would have appreciated if the directions has said: Left on Wildcat Mountain Drive. Suck it up. This is going to hurt. Wildcat Mountain feels like a mountain. My progress is silly slow and choppy. The road goes up, dips down and then up again repeatedly. I am fooled multiple times by false summits. Little Switzerland, I’m not going to let you conquer me!
Eventually I make it through the Mini Alps and reach the intersection with Hwy 26. I get a glimpse of Mt. Hood. It is beautiful to be sure. However, I’ve been pedaling for 3 hours nonstop and clearly time I break into the Peanut M&Ms. I pull over, peel myself off the saddle and rip into the bright yellow bag. I pop a handful and delight in the mix of sugar, fat and candy shell. So tasty!!
The Slog: I merge with Hwy 26 which is busy with traffic and definitely not the best part of the ride. The only upside is that it’s steadily downhill and that I avoid getting hit by 4 gigantic RVs. I cross the highway and head up through a series of rolling hills. It takes forever. The hills get steeper. A headwind picks up. It is slow going and I’m only 60 miles into the ride. My body is starting to voice concerns whether we’ll be able to make it the entire way. The headwind is exhausting. The rolling hills are exhausting.
Soon, I get to Dodge Park and feel like I’ve made it through the worst of it. There are two more major hills I need to get over, but I know I can do it. I down the rest of my Peanut M&Ms. Again, they are like multi-colored bits of heaven. The ride back into town seems to take much longer, but I don’t even care. I ride past the local bike shop to say hi to my directeur sportif and let him know I’ve survived. I pedal back to my apartment and see 97.1 on my odometer for the trip. I briefly contemplate riding around my neighborhood for 3 miles just so I can get to the magic number. My legs sternly tell me absolutely not. No way. Not even a possibility. I agree that all I really want to do is not be on the bike another second.
I roll the Cannondale into my apartment and I am finished! Hooray! I want to eat a dozen cookies. I want to mel under the hot spray of a showerhead. I want pizza and a coke and a foot rub. Instead I settle for a glass of water and a spoonful of almond butter. Little Switzerland, you were tough and I can’t wait to show you that I can be tougher.
Rolling hills can be much worse than one or two big climbs.
Cycling shorts are amazing
You can spend a whole lot of money on powerbars and whatnot, but if you’re going for value and bright orbs or happiness, stick with the Peanut M&Ms.