Saturday, May 4, 2013
I like climbing.
Climbing goes part and parcel with cycling in Colorado It doesn't matter what kind of cycling you do. You have to climb around here. We have these Big Things called the Rocky Mountains. They're kinda high. Because we live close to those mountains the terrain here isn't flat. At least not for very long. Sooner or later, on any given ride, you have to climb.
Yeah, it hurts sometimes.
If you ride a bike around here, climbing is something you have to make peace with.
I have a love/hate relationship with climbing. As I approach a climb, there's a certain loathing I experience. Something in me doesn't want to do the Work. I think about walking the climb, or I'll consider possible alternatives. However, at some point, usually just before the slope changes, something automatic kicks in and I just start working.
I start enjoying myself.
When I finally summit the climb, even a short one, I feel an exhilaration. I feel like Caesar.
Veni. Ego ascendit. Vici.
It's kind of silly-sounding, but climbing with a bike is serious business. It takes strength, endurance and intelligence. You have to have strength to push yourself ever higher, be able to carry on to the end, and smart enough to do it right.
I find climbing a useful tool. I ride a number of climbs regularly and I find that as time goes on I get through these climbs faster. It's never easier, either. It's like Greg Lemond said.
It never gets easier. You just get faster.
Climbs that a year ago, would kick your ass, still kick your ass, but the difference is that as time goes on you don't have to endure the ass-kicking for as long.
And that, dear friends, is progress.
It shows that I'm getting stronger, my lungs are improving and maybe, just maybe, a tad smarter.
I like that.
I also find that once I make it to the Top, that I've been having fun.
I like that, too.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Not far from our house is one of the best climbs in the city of Denver. I named it "Loretto Backside" after the old name of the nearby college campus, Loretto Heights.
The Backside begins at Knox and Hampden and climbs for just under a mile. There is an elevation gain of about 200 feet over that distance which works out to an average grade of about 4%.
Don't let that number fool you. The Backside qualifies as a Categorty 5 climb. It starts out easy, but gets progressively steeper reaching a brutal 20% grade in the last third of a mile. It's a great climb, a fantastic workout, and one of the most challenging short climbs I know of.
I make this climb regularly as a part of two commuting routes I take home. The Backside looms over the last few miles of my commute, so when I get to the bottom I'm warmed up and ready for some work.
And the Backside provides it.
I take it slow, staying in the saddle until I pass Dartmouth where I stand up and "dance" the rest of the way to the summit. My ass is pretty much kicked by the time I get there.
And it feels great.
Although I'm not a great or strong climber, I still get a lot of satisfaction from making a tough climb like Loretto Backside.
If you find yourself on Bear Creek Trail and want challenge to liven up the ride, simply turn north when Bear Creek crosses Lowell, cross Hampden, and head on up
.... and I get to collect cancers.
We all know about the Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma I have. About a year ago my doctor diagnosed me with two more. One is a Basal-Cell Carcinoma and the other is a Squamous-Cell Carcinoma. Both are skin cancers. Both are related to sun exposure. They're fairly common.
I decided i really didn't want to know a whole lot about these additions to my "collection". I just wanted the fucking things gone. Fortunately these cancers are fairly easy to deal with. I had the Basal-Cell and one occurrence of of the Squamous removed late last summer. I had another Squamous-Cell removed from my right temple just the other day.
I went through what's called "Mohs Surgery". It's fairly straightforward. They numb you up with Lidocaine. In my case they used a Lidocaine cocktail of sorts, tailored to reduce the bleeding that would occur because of the Coumadin I take. Anyway, they numb you up, and then proceed to cut away the affected skin. They bandage you up and send you back to the waiting room for a couple hours while they send the tissue to the lab for analysis. If the lab says they got all of the cancer, they stitch or staple you up and send you home. If the think some cancer was missed, they repeat the process and continue with that until they get it all.
They got mine on the first try.
So they stitched me up. They had removed an area about the size an almond. Fortunately the doctor is a plastic surgeon and does a great job making sure I don't end up looking like Frankenstein's monster. They covered it with a dressing that made it look like I'd been gun-shot, gave me a prescription for Vicodin and sent me home with instructions.
The instructions were of the usual sort. They included things like keep the area dry, no bending over, keep my blood pressure down ......
And stay off the bike. For two weeks.
Two fucking weeks.
I was pissed. Bad enough to loose a day's pay to have somebody dig a almond-sized hunk of flesh off your head. But to leave the office with instructions to cease a beneficial and fun activity was bordering on the intolerable. I have a couple centuries in June to train for. The weather is starting to warm up. It's glorious out there, and I'm stuck with doctors orders to take it easy.
But what can you do?
You contemplate your growing collection of cancers and follow doctor's orders.
On the bright side it's less that two weeks till I'm back in the saddle. I have a dressing change on Friday and maybe the doctor will see that I'm healing beautifully, relent, and let me get back on the bike.
With my luck they'll want to biopsy a suspicious spot on the other side of my face and plan the next Mohs Surgery.
I can hardly wait.