I like to race and as much as possible at that. It continually gives you that fulfillment you’re always craving as a cyclist as well as the benefits of pushing your limits further and further, thus making you faster. When not racing I do love crushing long hard rides but don’t do so well with the specific interval based training otherwise required to step your game up.
Following the incredible Cascade Cycling Classic (NRC) in Bend, Oregon in July I didn’t have any racing until September with the Tour of Alberta (UCI 2.1). I knew that in order to be at my best come September I had a lot of hard work to do but being me, I’d do it my own way.
The day after Cascade (a hard 6 day stage race) I climbed the 3rd highest peak in Oregon, South Sister (10,358ft (the one NNW from Bachelor if you did the race)). It was awesome to say the least and was my introduction to the coming month or so that I would stay in Oregon.
Supposedly one of the best was to improve your athletic performance is to sleep high and train low. This allows your body to adapt to the higher altitude while recovering thus producing more red blood cells but training low so you can still hit your maximum during your workouts with the higher oxygen content (actually it’s the same but higher pressure to force it into your lungs).
Bend isn’t too high or low, just under 4,000ft, but the top of Mt. Bachelor is at about 9,000ft. This would give me the perfect setup to be able to train relatively low and sleep relatively high without a hypoxic tent or any of that jazz. The only disadvantage, which I used to my advantage, was that to get to the top you had to ride 1hr30 or so depending on how hard you were going, from town to get to the base of the ski lodge, and then ride up a fairly gnarly ski-access road that took you half-way up the mountain. The remaining half was another 45 minutes or so of pretty steep and rocky climbing via the hiking boot. And then you could eat dinner and go to bed under the stars with an incredible morning view to wake up to. I can’t say that hiking is the best way to train for pedaling in such a limited motion but hiking on a steep uphill is actually fairly similar to the pedal stroke so is decently good for strength building. The contrary to that is hiking downhill, which is hard on everything; your knees, ankles, hips but luckily there was still quite a bit of snow down off the top of the mountain so I could boot-slide pretty much all the way down to my bike in the morning. Perfect. And then I’d ride back down to town and do the same the next night.
To further add to my climbing of Bachelor, I did some awesome backpacking trips that included some more awesome mountains, such as Middle Sister (10,047ft), some incredible lakes and waterfalls, and an old abandoned mountain lodge; Old Santiam Lodge. I’ve always had a knack for old buildings imagining what they used to be like back in their hay-day and what brought them to their current state.
This lodge was built in 1940 by the CCC and was a mountain retreat that could house up to 80 people. You could stay there for $1.25/night (link1) and then ski at Hoodoo Ski Bowl, as it was called then. In 1959 it was then run by Ed and Alice Patterson, who were associated with United Presbyterian Church, (link 2) and who lived at the lodge for 18 years, running it as a place for youth as well as a hostel for hikers and skiers and anyone looking for a retreat. The price by then though increased to $12.75/day which also included 3 meals. Ski rentals were also available. With a seemingly limited documentation of its history, other than occasional newspaper articles, it seems to have been sold in 1987 by the Presbyterian Church and was then presumably owned by the US Forest Service of which it is still owned. With still a descent structure and a relatively new roof put on, it would be a sweet place to remodel and open to hikers, skiers, and outdoor enthusiasts. The only issue with it now, which might have been part of the reason why it was allowed to deteriorate, is that it is close to a busy main road that runs through the pass from the Bend Area, east to Portland. If this was further from the road out in the middle of nowhere in the mountains, it would be quite the place that I personally would be willing to remodel given I had the money…
With so much awesome riding, climbing, camping, and pretty much everything in Bend, it was hard to leave. What did make it easier though was that I then headed to Colorado where my brother just moved. The riding and everything down here is definitely different but awesome in its own way. It has some incredible mountain riding with climbs that are freakishly long and steep along with some good group rides and races to balance your long interval days. Furthermore here, I could continue my sleep high, train low approach except being a bit higher on both ends. Also, I was a bit spoiled in that I didn’t have to ride/hike to altitude to sleep as my brother graciously let me use his truck to drive up dirt roads above Nederland to camp at 10,000+ft. Waking up, not quite every day but most days, was awesome with incredible views up to the continental divide along with some cool old mines to check out on morning hikes along with views of a moose and a bull elk at about 10yards. One thing that being out here in Colorado and in Oregon the past 2 months has made me question is how have I not lived in the mountains for such a large part of my life. Definitely something that is to be changed.
Hopefully this unconventional approach to getting fast does actually make me fast at Alberta. I know I’m the lightest (another awesome benefit of being at altitude is that you lose weight without even trying) and fittest I’ve ever been in my life. But the sweetest part about my approach is that this is the most fun I’ve had in quite a while doing what I love on all fronts. So whether or not doing all this actually makes me fast is half irrelevant as you’re always going to perform better when you’re happy and doing what you love. So next week at Alberta I’ll be giving it my all; 1, to make all the hard work I’ve put in worth it, 2, prove to myself that I belong at this level, 3, I can’t keep chasing the dream forever even though the road to that dream is a dream in itself, as not actually living anywhere for 7 months out of the year on practically no money does start to lose its luster, so I have to get results enough to achieve a contract enough at the level I want, and finally, we have a pretty solid team that has more than just potential to do something big. We all seem to be on the cusp of something big so hopefully we’re able to pull it together for the last big race of the season to go out with a bang. Here are some stats from the beginning of July to round out an incredible summer.
Stats from the previous 2 month:
Nights slept on an air mattress: 30
Nights camped: 15
Miles ridden: 2700miles
Feet Climbed (on bike): 155,666
Miles Hiked: 40, not much but a lot was uphill or downhill at over a 45% grade.
Number of ice cold swims (in water seemingly in the 30’s): 5
Number of beers drank: Probably triple the previous 6 months. (Beer is awesome, why’d I ever limit myself…)