Monday, January 04, 2010

The Climb to Kaiser Jersey

Back in 2001, I didn't want to wear the Climb to Kaiser jersey until I had given all I could to finish the ride, until I had strained against gravity, felt my pulse pound, and the sweat pour off my forehead.

And what is the Climb to Kaiser? It's a one day bike ride sponsored by the Fresno Bike Club that begins and ends in the heart and the heat of the Central Valley of California, and in between climbs high into the Sierra Nevada mountains. It includes 150+ miles of backroads, 13,500 feet of elevation gain and loss, and ultra steep grades reaching more than 15%. All the miles and the elevation are required to survive both the climb to Kaiser Pass, 9,200 feet above sea level, and the return to the Central Valley.

Having ridden my bike consistently in the months prior to the ride, I was in reasonably good shape. But this is a ride for which people train for months. I couldn't find anyone to serious train with, and so I put it off, until there were just two weeks to go before the event, not enough time to prepare for such an arduous adventure. With just three hard practice rides, (but with an enormous amount of climbing in the local hills north of my home), I assumed I would only make part of the C2K, and would take one of the support vehicles down the mountain. Also, I thought I was too old to be able to sustain the effort I would have to make on so long and difficult a ride. In truth, I don't think I believed in myself.

Yet I did complete the ride, which was indeed the most difficult, sustained effort of my life. It proved the power of perseverance to me, and re-affired what we know but don't always believe: together, the mind and body, working in tandem, can accomplish almost anything. It proved, to me, that we need to believe in ourselves.

And so I earned my C2K jersey. For days after the ride, I experienced a psychological high so powerful that it has been matched only two other times in my life, neither connected to cycling.

For my January 3rd ride, I pulled on my C2K jersey, and rode up into the Santa Monica Mountains. Along the way, I passed "The Blue Whale," otherwise known as the Pacific Design Center, on famed Melrose Avenue. Next to it is a second, newer building, "The Green Center." Both structures house shops that cater to professional interior design decorators.

The clarity of the winter air in Los Angeles for the past several weeks has been nothing short of remarkable. Those trees that are bare of leaves - most trees manage to hang onto their greenery throughout the year in this city - offer one of the few ways the residents of this city know what season they are supposed to be enjoying.

I know I enjoyed my excursion and I enjoyed wearing the jersey that brought back the memory my most remarkable ride.

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