Return to the Pain Pool

I forget all maner of things these days. I forget that climbing isn’t fun; it hurts. I forget that I’m not good at it. I even forget what hurting feels like after it’s over, which I think might be at the root of why I keep going back for more. I forget my vows never to do a climb again (I’m having a re-match with Haleakala in August.) But most of all, I forget how hard this particular climb is.

Zoo Hill. It has a reputation around here in Seattle as being one of the hardest local climbs around. Naturally, some twisted ass decided to do a race up it as a fundraiser for cancer research. It’s not long, but at a length of 3.4 km and an elevation gain of puke, it’s a stinger that puts you squarely into the hurt locker for a lifetime-seeming quarter hour. Every time I ride it, I’m surprised by the same things.  The first ramps are steeper than I expect as, unfortunately, are the secondary and tertiary sets. By halfway up, you’ve finished the twisty bits on rough roads and switch to the less steep section where I expect to take advantage of my comparative strength climbing rollers better than 15% ramps. This is where I’m surprised by how long the top is, and how steep it is, and how cooked I already am.

The top, in my estimation, is the hardest part. There’s not much of an art to the bottom. It’s steep. It’s twisty. It’s ugly riding, but there’s not much room for anything, and morale is reasonable since switchbacks will make you feel like a Pro even when you’re going as slowly as I’m bound to. But the top is a long straight road with a few sections that ease off where a strong rider will move Sur La Plaque and make big gains. But there is something about a long straight road that makes a painful climb even more agonizing. I think it’s the fact that every pedal stroke only serves to beat one simple fact into your head: you are not at the end yet, and that last pedal stroke didn’t bring you nearly as close as you’d liked.

After the race was all said an done last year, and the last memory of pain had left my feeble mind, I remarked that I’d like to go sub-13, which is a lofty goal. Even with the weight I’ve lost this year, I’m thinking that’s a tall order, and I’m even a tall guy. I also said I’d try and go top ten, which is more than lofty. I’m really wondering what I was thinking, as I’m pretty sure I don’t take halucaknogetics. But goals are made to be broken, so I’m going for them both, and vow to leave everything on the road in my effort. It is likely to rain, too, which will make it even more interesting.

The pain I’m sure to endure will be made a bit better knowing that the ride is for cancer research with donations going to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, which represents one of the best hopes we have in our fight against this terrible disease that touches so many of us. The Climb4Ccancer Charity has organized several local businesses who will match any donation made by the racers on race day, so if you’re riding, bring your checkbook. Also, many thanks to Joel Blatt who organizes the race each year, and to Branford Bike who is the sponsor and will be providing prizes. Doug at Branford acted as my consigliere during my TSX build and even rebuilt my Ergo levers for me. Great guys, and vehement followers of The Rules.

Special note to G’rilla, who is starting 30 seconds after me: if you pass me, I’m taking back your V-Kit and demoting you to a permanent Level 4.

*Note: the map above is in miles and feet.  Despite my best efforts, MapMyRide refused to display this in metric. Shame on them.

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110 Replies to “Return to the Pain Pool”

  1. @brett

    Oh yeah, and I fitted a 36t on my compact… that’s the big meat, buddy!

    As a chainring or in your cluster?

  2. I overheard the organizers mention that the event raised US$10k for cancer research.

    No word on how much money was donated per cog tooth used on the course. I think dividing by 36 would be a good estimate.

  3. @frank

    I live way northern WI but my wife is from Wabasha, MN. My friend lives south of La Crosse where he organizes the ride. It took over 7 hours of ride time last year. OUCH

  4. @Mikeweb

    Agreed on the dead straight road climb thing – especially when it’s steep as shit. Last week I did a solo century ride from Lake Winnipesaukee over the Kancamagus highway and back while on vacay. The cat 2 climb over the Mt. pass was at the 55 mile mark and was prepared for and done enthusiastically. The climb that hurt the most? Oh, that was the cat 4 mile long climb at a 12% average that came at mile 99. I rounded a curve, looked up to see this thing in from of me and said out loud, “Fuck me!”. Then I looked to my right and saw a father and his kid playing in their front yard, possibly within earshot. Oops! I gave them a slight wave and pedaled on up this thing into the pain zone.

    That’s an awesome area to ride. I remember doing the “Crank the Kank” ITT back in the late 80’s and lovin git. Hard V men are forged on those roads!

  5. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    Merckx, you really do live in the Emerald City. These photos are BEAUTIFUL.
    Congrats to both of you. Well done!
    And now back to my regularly scheduled program of 36C with 70% humidity. (Oh, and we’ve been in a drought for a year. Everything’s already burned or is dead and waiting to burn. This place really is Hell.)

    Yeah, cannot wait to join you in August! :)

  6. @brett

    Oh yeah, and I fitted a 36t on my compact… that’s the big meat, buddy!

    Mexckx wept are you bragging about the inner ring on your compact now? Really? Here? I think GPhant said it best


    Don’t get your dress caught in the bike seat Dorothy

  7. Anyway back to the original point, and that is that for Welluminati, Revolution Cycles is organising a tour de peak with a point system for the difficulty of the climbs: you need photographic evidence from the top of said peaks and have most of the day to do it. Since this is remarkably similar to my proposal to run a timed tt up the back of Makara hill, but doesn’t involve me organising anything and gives riders a chance to throw down buckets more V, I’m going to make a hearty recommendation for this event.

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