A hill too far. Almost.

16 07 2016

Everyone has a hill they’re willing to die on.

Today mine was Cypress Mountain.

Earlier this season some ambitious members of the FRF signed on to do the annual Triple Crown for Heart, a charity ride that ascends the three mountains that comprise the North Shore: Seymour, Grouse and Cypress.

It’s seemed an audacious ride; more than 2300 metres of climbing on a 70 km ride, but if we rode to and from the ride, the mileage would more than double.

What the heck, I thought; I’ve done all three climbs on their own, the descents are a lot of fun and there’s plenty of time between the mountains to recover.

My hubris almost killed me.

Even with the ultra-early 6 a.m. roll-out, spirits were high on the ride to the ride. We were a sizeable contingent, all looking very pro in our matching FRF kits. The weather was perfect; overcast, humid but not too warm.

Ten members of the FRF reported for the Triple Crown but only nine rode it as one member was still paying the price for his ambitious ride last weekend.

Ten members of the FRF reported for the Triple Crown but only nine rode it as one member was still paying the price for his ambitious ride last weekend.

As the 170 or so riders departed from a community centre in North Vancouver, the damp air turned to light rain.

Into the Misting; the clouds descend quickly on the climb up Seymour.

Into the Misting; the clouds descend quickly on the climb up Seymour.

As we climbed into the clouds, the rain became a cold curtain of mist. Nothing a gillet and arm warmers couldn’t temper. Although I wished for wipers on my glasses.

I should have packed windshield wipers...

I should have packed windshield wipers…

I beat my personal best up the mountain by about 10 minutes.

The descent had to be dialled down a bit because of the wet, slick road. But it was still fast enough to dry my damp shoes, blow the drops from my lenses.

Dean wrings the rainwater from his socks at the bottom of Seymour.

Dean wrings the rainwater from his socks at the bottom of Seymour.

The climb to Grouse isn’t long, but it does have some nasty pitches that can throw your Garmin into pause mode because it thinks you’re no longer moving.

Again, a PB. And my legs were feeling strong.

Two climbs down, one to go. Oh how my hubris would come back to haunt me.

Two climbs down, one to go. Oh how my hubris would come back to haunt me.

At the bottom of each descent, our group reassembled to recover en masse, fly the team colours.

But the ride to Cypress is no lazy roll to the base of a mountain. In fact, before the mountain even officially begins, you’ve had to climb about 300 metres from sea level.

It’s that progressive climb to the climb that sapped my legs.

At the official start of the Cypress climb I rolled past one of the half-dozen aid and refuelling stations set up by the ride organizers. My legs turned to inert logs.

I had stayed hydrated and I had plenty of food on board; fruit and energy bars from the aid, a stations, a good breakfast at the start of the day.

But the start of Cypress was almost 100 km into our ride and my legs were crying “Uncle.”

Of the three North Shore climbs, Cypress is considered the least challenging. It’s the longest, about 12 km; but it rarely pitches steeper than five per cent.

Today, the back end of three major climbs, it was anything but easy.

My cadence slowed, my average speed dropped precipitously. My thighs screamed. My hamstrings protested. A guy ski-poling his way up the road way ahead never seemed to get any closer.

The clouds closed in, bringing with them more cold mist to compound my misery.

Riders who’d already finished the climb and were now screaming down the opposite lane seemed mocking; I so wanted to be them.

But for that speedy descent, I’d have to reach the top. And so my legs kept turning the pedals over. Slowly. Grinding out each agonizing kilometre as other riders passed.

I wished for a bigger cassette. I wished for a triple chainring (who rides those anymore). I wished for a burger. Oh yeah, those were awaiting us at the top.

To distract my despairing legs and flagging spirit, I focussed on catching ski pole guy, which I eventually did. I focussed on joining the sinewy lines of speedy descenders snaking down the opposite lane. I focussed on that burger; my belly heavy with bananas, oranges and energy bars, it craved meaty sustenance.

One word: shattered.

One word: shattered.

The cold mist penetrated deeply this time, finding purchase in my depleted state.

But amazingly, the legs kept turning over.

And when I got to that burger, it was the best burger I’d ever had. Even if it wasn’t.

After 153 kms and 2700 metres of climbing, I earned this badge!

After 153 kms and 2700 metres of climbing, I earned this badge!

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