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.

Related Posts

110 Replies to “Return to the Pain Pool”

  1. @Mikeweb

    Nice ride! In my head, as you described your experience and expression while looking up the hill, I pictured the son saying, “Daddy, why does everyone on a bike say that when they get to our front yard?” with the dad smiling wryly.

    I’m jealous of you guys who live with hills around. I’m in central Ohio where the hills are naught.

    @frank

    I’m already inspired by the V you’ll lay down, Frank. Vive le Pain Pool!

  2. UPDATE: Just as an epic stage comes to an end in the Pyrenees another is set to begin in the hills of the Emerald City. Here’s what I know so far – I managed to convince Frank to ditch the Sigma for the V-meter (convince may be too strong a word) when I told him the only number you need to know is V. He’s also got a loaner wheelset from his favorite LBS, Speedy Reedy. Sounds like a pair of carbon tubs. Most importantly, it’s pissing rain there today. This lead to a conversation about tyre pressure but more importantly the Rule #9 condish will suit our big Dutchman well. It’s fun being Frank’s DS. Allez, Allez!

  3. Here’s the machine of choice for the day sans Sigma and resplendent with climbing wheels. But what I really wanna know is, is that G-rilla’s bike in the background?

  4. 13:35 sorry but just in case you have an off day or the weather effects time badly.

  5. Been in radio silence mode all day because I left for the race before the Tour was over. Just finished watching that and, because I was paranoid about seeing Tour race results I didn’t even dare jump online to find my time. Now it’s off to dinner, but here’s the update as I understand it now:

    As Krabé would say: My 19 was clean as a whistle. Sadly, my 26, 23, and 21 were dirty as a prom date on jello shots. Felt really strong and in control of my effort, which may explain why I went about 16 seconds SLOWER than last year. Bugger.

    My strategy was to ride the bottom a bit more conservatively and really hammer the top, which I did. I even moved Sur La Plaque on the rollers, but it was more ornamental than it was functional. I think in retrospect that the bottom is hard enough that you should go a bloc there because you just can’t make that time up on the top. I’ll have to wait another year to test that theory.

    The course was very wet, and overall, the times seem much slower with only nine riders doing under 13 minutes.

    My VMH cheered G’rilla and me at the steepest turn, which was very cool. Lots of riders slipping, one rider actually crashed.

    Photos:

    Cougar Mountain’s toughest corner. I swing wide on this because I’m willing to get hit by a car if it means I get to ride an easier gradient. Riding up the inside is a bitch.

    This guy started a minute back and passed me for before I got to the turn. What an Asshole.

    Here comes Frank with G’rilla in hot pursuit.

    That BreathRight strip did shit for me. But it looked fucking PRO.

    Soldiering on.

    G’rilla with his carrot. While he beat me by 14 seconds, at least he didn’t pass me; that would have meant war.

    Here I’ve descended back to the car, and we stopped G’rilla on the way down. Obviously we had to pose and flash the Sign of the Merckx.

  6. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I regretted starting the race within about three turns of the cranks. Merckx that sucked.

    More photos; the VMH Representin’:

    Frank and G’rilla showing pre-race optimism (oblivion):

    Gun check. Turns out the guns on the right were starter pistols. Bugger that again.

  7. Wucked bro, good work! D’you reckon the rain helped, (apart form the guy who fell off)?
    And who’s going to throw down for the Welluminati Makara challenge? I was waiting for Bretto to get rid of his compact before suggesting that

  8. 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.)

  9. Chapeau, Frank and G’rilla!

    In honor of your suffering yesterday, I did my own hill repeats on 1 of our hills in the area that tends to hurt my feelings.

    After the 3rd repeat (SUR LA PLAQUE!), I got to the top and couldn’t see anything. Any of you have that white-out thing happen? Sort of like a black-out, but all you can see is white? Then I almost threw up. Then I sat on a rock and felt sorry for myself that I’m not as Bad-A as Voeckler while trying to keep my breakfast where it belongs instead of the grass in front of me. Then I did 2 more repeats b/c I knew you guys were going to be suffering more than I.

    The Velominati continue to inspire!

  10. Effort, photos, guns, all good. Lanky fellows have to work extra hard to get definition. Way to exert your second amendment rights.

  11. You both deserve much credit for showing up at the event, flying the kit and doing an honorable ride. So no, no records broken but that is what makes the training for next year so much fun!

  12. Hey Frank – good ride and nice photos. But I think you should call the cops. Looks like a crime has been committed.

    Somebody stole your calves.

  13. G’rilla looks a bit confused in that one picture of you guys flashing the sign of Merckx.

  14. Great effort both of you. Now waiting, with some trepidation, for @minion’s plans for the Welliminati Makara equivalent…

  15. First Sunday in Spring, timed TT up Makara hill from the chruch to the Overhead wires before the descent begins, is one idea. The other is to do the Makara loop from the Ngaio/JVille end, taking every turn. It’s a ripper, and you finish with a race up the back of Makara hill.
    I’m currently too fat to climb, 2 months from peaking, working on the sprinter’s muscle and while not breeding I am blimping. So I’ll happily stand at the top with a stopwatch, provide witless insults whil you’re in oxygen debt, and tell you you missed the time cut so you have to go again.

  16. I also like how Fronk is standing downhill of G’rilla in that photo and is still half a head taller.

  17. @minion
    I vote for Makara Hill. My mate Andy, who lurks here, has agreed to participate too. And I am sure Brett could be tempted. And that should be enough to ensure you turn up, too. Which makes four – which is almost half the population of Wellington.
    (Did I mention my depressing conversation with my mate Dave? I did 9:45 up Makara Hill (from the Makra side), which I thought was OK for a chap of my age who had been doing no interval training at all. Then I found out it takes Dave about seven minutes. The key, apparently, is to ride the first half in the big ring. Good grief…)

  18. @minion @G’phant @brett
    I’ll be in for a Makara Hill challenge. My best is only 9:53 though, so we may have to catch up at the cafe.
    7 minutes???!!! FFS!
    I also have created a new excuse – “building fast twitch for sprinting, not slow twitch for climbing”. Does that work for anyone?

  19. @brett

    @G’phant
    We’ve discussed this, you don’t have a big ring, just a compact. So yeah, big ring that shit…

    On the other side of the Tasman, I believe I just heard G’Phant’s “ooof!” as Brett kicked him in the balls…

  20. @frank

    Just out of curiosity, do you know what the fastest ascent was? Wondering if my formula worked …

  21. @Marcus
    My lowest ratio (34/25) is (just) higher than Brett’s (39/29). So neither of us have the required leg strength to do any serious damage to anyone’s gonads. I assume that’s why he got deported from Australia.

    @Bianchi Denti
    I was momentarily enthused by that excuse. Then I remembered that I sprint even worse than I climb. (Refer above disclosure of absence of leg strength.)

    @Steampunk
    I’ll see your physics and raise you a biology. (Again, refer above disclosure.)

  22. @frank @G’phant
    I keep the 39 on my bike as extra weight for training. The same goes for most of the cassette that isn’t 11.

    @Bianchi Denti

    “building fast twitch for sprinting, not slow twitch for climbing”. Does that work for anyone?

    Brilliant. I sprint like Schleck and climb like Cav. Or sprint like Wiggo, climb like Cav, descend like Jens, and have the tactical acumen of a Schleck.

    @brett
    Boom goes the dynamite!

  23. @Steampunk

    @frank @G’phant
    I keep the 39 on my bike as extra weight for training. The same goes for most of the cassette that isn’t 11.

    You know what they say, if a joke’s funny once, then it’s funny a thousand times.

  24. @Michael

    @frank
    Just out of curiosity, do you know what the fastest ascent was? Wondering if my formula worked …

    The winning time was 10:46. So,

    time = winners time * (1 + n * pi/10)

    Gives

    t = 646s * 1 + 1 * pi/10)

    Which is

    t = 646s * 1.314

    Which is

    t = 848.94s

    Converted from seconds to minutes is

    t = 14:15

    Wow. Off by four seconds. Amazing.

    The winning time (same rider) was a full 36 seconds slower than last year. In fact, your question inspired me to look through the results and, while there were a whole host of non-starters (few participants) due to the weather (Rule 9, anyone?) it appears that every rider I see who did it this year and last year went slower, often at least 10 seconds slower, if not upwards of 30 seconds to a minute.

    I guess that puts a welcome perspective on my 15-second decrease in time. Last year I was 3:54 back on the same winner and this year 3:33. I guess that makes me a little less suicidal.

    @Bianchi Denti

    I also have created a new excuse – “building fast twitch for sprinting, not slow twitch for climbing”. Does that work for anyone?

    I was thinking about that…I have been training for Haleakala Round Two, not focussing on short, steep climbs as much as last year. Working on different kinds of efforts is a great excuse. Must find a good way to state this comprehensively.

  25. @frank

    Ha! The rule of pi works again. I’d say we’re of similar ability with respect to the local studs. I’ve stopped aiming for a goal time, too many independent variables. I just look at ratio to the best time on individual events. As you noted, just looking at the raw time obscures the fact that you are probably more fit on this climb than you were last year. Well done.

  26. @frank

    @Bianchi Denti

    I also have created a new excuse – “building fast twitch for sprinting, not slow twitch for climbing”. Does that work for anyone?

    I was thinking about that…I have been training for Haleakala Round Two, not focussing on short, steep climbs as much as last year. Working on different kinds of efforts is a great excuse. Must find a good way to state this comprehensively.

    Actually, kidding aside, interval sprints have been proven to help with endurance work and might be a more efficient method of training. I’ll see if I can dig up the original research (some of it done here at McMaster).

  27. @frank
    Superman wears Jens Voigt pyjamas to bed.

    Jens Voigt was originally cast as the main character in 24, but was replaced by the producers when he managed to kill every terrorist and save the day in 12 minutes and 37 seconds.

  28. @Steampunk

    Actually, kidding aside, interval sprints have been proven to help with endurance work and might be a more efficient method of training. I’ll see if I can dig up the original research (some of it done here at McMaster).

    I’ve read the same or related/similar studies, too. Interesting stuff. I think Carmichael also has a book on it, something about a time-crunched cyclist. Cool that some of that research was done at your school. I think there’s truth to it, too, except I’m always skeptical when people say “only do hard workouts” for the same reasons I am of people saying only do low-intensity. (Same goes for diet.). The body loves variation, so mix it up, be sensible, and ride lots.

  29. @frank

    @Steampunk

    Actually, kidding aside, interval sprints have been proven to help with endurance work and might be a more efficient method of training. I’ll see if I can dig up the original research (some of it done here at McMaster).

    I’ve read the same or related/similar studies, too. Interesting stuff. I think Carmichael also has a book on it, something about a time-crunched cyclist. Cool that some of that research was done at your school. I think there’s truth to it, too, except I’m always skeptical when people say “only do hard workouts” for the same reasons I am of people saying only do low-intensity. (Same goes for diet.). The body loves variation, so mix it up, be sensible, and ride lots.

    I’m in week 2 of his program. It’s a mix of ‘endurance miles’, ‘steady state’ intervals (8-10 minutes, sub-threshold) and variations on 3 minute ‘power’ intervals. If I can figure out a way to quantify it I’ll let you now how
    it works.

  30. @Steampunk

    @frank

    @Bianchi Denti

    I also have created a new excuse – “building fast twitch for sprinting, not slow twitch for climbing”. Does that work for anyone?

    I was thinking about that…I have been training for Haleakala Round Two, not focussing on short, steep climbs as much as last year. Working on different kinds of efforts is a great excuse. Must find a good way to state this comprehensively.

    Actually, kidding aside, interval sprints have been proven to help with endurance work and might be a more efficient method of training. I’ll see if I can dig up the original research (some of it done here at McMaster).

    Um. I think you guys are missing my point. I’m trying to excuse my lack of pace, not explain why I should be faster!

    @frank How many teenage boys turned up to the event on Cougar Hill and were disappointed to find it was just a bike race?

  31. @brett

    @G’phant
    29? Are you talking about my mountain bike? 29! WTF?

    Maybe he was referring to your Specialized Roubaix with the Compact s works crankset (oooohhh the ironing) and a 15 – 29 cassette you had on the back of that thing. You can beat the shop minion with a stick as much as you like but they remember, do they ever remember.

  32. Funny, I was feeling like Gollum writing that, and IIRC he found the ring while fishing…
    PS I wasn’t kidding. He’ll deny it till he blue in the face but he’d climb cross chaining in a less than one to one ratio. Along with his taco holder of a saddle and feminine bibs he was nearly the hottest chick I’ve ever ridden a bike with.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.