Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The 12% Solution

What is it like to pedal up a 12% grade? What is it like to pedal up a 12% grade while using
one hand to hold a little iPhone to make the video? It's difficult to put into words - and I'm
still out of breath - so here is the video, with some audio, and a look at a wonderful hair-
pin curve.

I've been in casual training for my 100 mile ride coming up next week, in AZ, with
cyclists sponsored by the Rapha cycling apparel company. I've ramped the training
up with some serious hill climbing, and I've tried to gain some strength by riding steep
hills in higher-than-usual gearing, at least for me.

Despite gaining strength, I'm annoyed that I'm still slow on any sort of grade despite my
training. Glaciers move faster than I do. I think it's partly due to age - maybe mostly due
to age - and partly due to weighing 168 lbs, about eight more than I'd like to weigh.
However, I find it difficult to lose weight, and I've gained weight recently, I think because
I'm adding some muscle mass and because my increased biking makes me more hungry
than usual, and I want to feed that hunger. At least I'm not feeding it with donuts and ice
cream, which would have been the case not so long ago.

Oddly enough, although I'm older and heavier and slower, I feel as good as I did when I was
25, and I'm far better physical shape than I was at 15.

This hill, in Beverly Hills, came at the end of my climbing session. I topped out at about
1500 feet about 6:30 p.m., after cycling up a few steep streets, including one that took me past
Tom Cruise's secluded house (the t.v. trucks there after the birth of his child were a tip-off),
and another past Ozzy Osbourne's home, in front of which constant stream of sight-seeing
vehicles parade. Most of the streets, though, were quiet, and devoid of traffic.

Today, Tuesday, I'm going to work on distance training: I'll ride about 50 miles, with a few
thousand feet of climbing. Of course I say I'm going to work on my distance distance training
everyday. Failure to put in some long miles between now and the ride in Arizona will mean
I'm going to hurt on my 100 mile ride. Of course, I want to hurt, because I want to earn those
100 miles - but I don't want to hurt so badly that the outcome would be in doubt.

Since my heart attack on December 6th, with the stent that is keeping my right descending
artery open, I've wondered how my now-bionic body would respond to serious exercise. It
wouldn't be wrong to suggest I'm a little fatalistic about what might happen. Apparently, no
matter how hard I push myself, nothing happens, except that my cardiovascular system seems
to be stronger, along with my desire to document what I'm doing with some shaky videos.

In other words, I'm discovering what is it like to grow ungracefully old as I gain a true sense of
my own mortality.

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