So I’ve been training at the Slowtwitch.com headquarters – Xantusia – out in Valyermo, CA in preparation for the Clearlake OneOOne race next Sunday, June 10th. Last time I was out here, following my non-start at the California 70.3, I took on the local hillclimb challenge, which is a nasty 11.8 mile road that goes from about 4,000 ft. in elevation to 7,000ft., with about 3500 vft. of total climbing over the route. Last time, the locals didn’t think I had much of chance (I discovered after the fact), but I went ahead and nabbed the uphill (and downhill records) from Paul Thomas and Mark Montgomery, respectively. Following this visit, the mighty Swede – Bjorn Andersson – came up to the ranch to train, and he grabbed both records for himself, shaving about one minute off my uphill record and a whopping 2:30 off the downhill record courtesy of a strong wind coming down the mountain (and, I’ll admit, superior bike handling skills). But, I was determined to take my record back. I’d been sick leading into the attempt last time, and also naive as to what lay ahead of me. But this time, I was much more ready on both counts.
So, after a good warm-up, I headed off up the mountain. I paced a little more conservatively in the early goings, as I had blown up hard last time. The day seemed a bit slower as well, as I rolled through the intersection after Mile High Cafe in 20:12, about 30 seconds slower than I had gone through the first time. Looking back, this initial climb is the steepest, so it really is my best chance to gain time, since I am light and steeper is better for light guys. So next time, I think I’m gonna go a bit deeper into the well early. But 20:12 was good enough to crack the record, if I could continue to ride strong. I’d also come equipped with better gearing – 53/39-12/25 vs. 55/42-11/23 – than the previous time, and this helped a HUGE amount, since I was able to maintain a much better cadence.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have Mark spotting for me, so I was left with only the mile markers to help me with my pacing. I was able to surge on the steep pitches, and keep my power going. Coming into the last section, I thought I really had it nailed, with a potential <46:00 time in sight. Of course, the last section is always longer than you remember it, and I started to get unnervingly close to 47:00. Then, suddenly, I saw the final stop sign, and put on my final surge, but I wished I'd known it was around that bend, since I could have (and should have) picked up the pace sooner. I ended up squeaking through in 46:52, taking my record back by a mere two seconds. I'll blame that on my bike being heavier than Bjorn's (which it is, dammit!).
Overall, it was a great ride, and it felt awesome to regain the record from one of my good friends and the most respected (feared?) cyclist in triathlon. I am sure Bjorn will come back and lower it further, which will give me all the more reason to train to do the same. Afterwards, I ate a very filling dinner from Mica’s in Litte Rock, which is a wonderful hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant with great food. And then I slept. And I slept well!