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Thursday, August 19, 2004

I Came, I whined, I quit

I Came, I whined, I quit

From the directions in my guidebook I only got lost twice on the way to the Mount Thurston/Mount Mercer Loop ride. I know the metric system is different. I have actually lived places that use it full time, places that have never heard of feet and inches. I know it’s different but I still look at meters and kilometers and think feet and miles. The good news is this loop is 34 kilometers. Kilometers are less than miles so this route was shorter than my first-glance estimate. The elevation gain is 1,220 meters, and meters are longer than feet. When you are ascending, meters are a fuck of a lot longer than feet. By psychologically misjudging feet and meters and miles and kilometers I was definitely going to lose the “Who Needs the Metric System” game.

I still had not registered 1,220 meters in my mind as I started this ride which started on a bitch of an incline. No warm up at all. No foreplay whatsoever. I had just spent the past three weekends riding mountain roads in Washington so I thought I had built up an immunity to hills. I love hills, right? This was a forest service road and not only are forest roads steeper than paved roads but they are not paved. Unpaved means you lose traction and traction isn’t something you want to lose when you are grinding up a seemingly endless and brutally steep hill. I also ride a full suspension bike so that means I lose traction. What makes the back end give when you hit bumps also gives when you apply torque to the back wheel. When you are applying torque to the back wheel for all you are worth you don’t want an ounce of this energy wasted by the suspension, but that’s the trade-off for a smooth ride down.

I don’t think about it much—perhaps for a only few minutes each time I am out by myself—but there are plenty of mountain lions and bears in these areas. I’ve seen a few bears myself while out biking. I’m sure a lot of cougars have seen me. I wasn’t too worried about being attacked on this ride because I figured that no right-minded wild animal would eat anything as old, out of breath, and as foul-mouthed as the guy on my bike today.

This road was so steep that not only was it over-taxing my cardio-vascular system, I think I spit up some blood. The road was so steep in parts that if you stopped, you had a hard time getting enough traction to get going again. And it kept going up. And then I did something I’ve never, ever done before. I got off my bike and walked for a while. I did something I haven’t done many times; for lack of a better word I ‘bonked.’ I was done, out of gas. I looked back and remembered that all I had to eat all day was one puny little taco at a taqueria somewhere back in Washington. Under-eating isn’t usually one of my vices, believe me.

Bonked or not, going downhill is always a breeze. Before leaving I meant to replace my brake pads but the shop by my house was closed on Monday, so old clapped-out brake pads would have to do it. Bombing down a rough road like this is what makes riding a full suspension bike worth the effort on the climbs. Even a chicken-shit like me can get fairly reckless on descents when every hole you hit is sucked up like a vacuum by your shocks.

One thing that kept me going—if you can call walking your bike like an old hag ‘going’—was that I knew that I was going to go swimming in the Chilliwack River when I was done for the day. If you haven’t taken a dip in a mountain river lately, take my word for it; it’s really, really COLD. You can also take my word on this: If you want to feel about as good as you possibly can feel, try humping up some lung-busting steep mountain roads on a hot August day and then go swimming in the river you’ve been listening to all afternoon. If you can do this once in your life then consider yourself a lucky person.

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