Posted by: fizzhogg | July 18, 2010

Making Lemmonade

Mt. Lemmon. As in mountain. Not hill. Not knoll. Not mound, nor hump nor bluff, butte or dune. Mountain.

Like MOUNT McKinley. MOUNT Rainier. MOUNT Whitney. MOUNT… okay, I’m overstating. But you get the point.

And last week while in Arizona, I didn’t just ride up a hill… I climbed Mount Lemmon. Okay, not the entire 21 miles. I climbed half of it. Almost. Over nine miles. Up a mountain.

Oh, and did I mention the headwind? Yes. From the very start I was pedaling straight into a headwind.

Remember the road by my house I refer to as the Pyrenees? I call it that because the hills are oh, so tough. Oh, so difficult. Guess what? They’re HILLS. I climbed a mountain. Therefore, this will be the last time I refer to that road as the Pyrenees.

So, did I mentioned I climbed a mountain? Yes. Well, nine miles up a mountain. The Unfat Machine carried its 20 pounds, plus my 216 pounds over nine miles… up a mountain.

But it’s funny how much of this cycling stuff is psychological. Prior to my journey to Arizona, the road-formerly-known-as-the-Pyrenees scared me. I only attempted it on those rare occasions when I felt particularly strong, and/or the weather was particularly comfortable.

Yesterday I rode the RFKATP. It’s approximately 6 miles. The two previous times I’ve ridden the entire 6 miles it took me at least 30 minutes each ride. Yesterday I rode it in 24 minutes. Never feeling cooked or exhausted. My fitness level might have been slightly better than it was before, and my weight might be a pound or so less, but nothing to explain the huge difference in time and well being.

Except that I knew it wasn’t a big deal. The other times I rode it, I thought it was a big deal. So, yeah. Cycling is 30% physical, 70% mental, and 25% psychological. But enough about my fat head, lets get back to Mt. Lemmon.

Led by our faithful Sherpa guide HOVA:

The UM and I began our assault on Mt. Lemmon with a four-mile flat ride straight into a raging head wind. And loyal readers know how much we love head winds. It was my vast cycling experience coupled with my  seal-like shape that helped me crank up an 8mph pace as I assaulted that totally flat stretch leading to the base of the climb. And then it began.

This is the point in the story where I should pause for a Public Service Announcement… about the dangers of climbing too hard too early. Don’t do it, kids. Especially when you’re on your first ever mountain climb and you’ve got a head wind similar to the one the Edmund Fotzgerald battled.

A better cyclist than I warned me that the first mile of the Mt. Lemmon climb was the worst… and that it was all uphill after that. I wish him luck on his stand up comedy career. The following photo shows me and the UM going way too hard on that first mile. And for those of you wondering – yes, that is a casaba melon I’m carrying inside my jersey. Just so, you know, the climb isn’t too easy.

As stated, the head wind made what was the toughest physical challenge of my fat ass life even tougher. After what seemed like several miles and several hours of riding, I rolled past a rather disturbing sign… mile marker two.

Two. As in one more than one. And seven less than nine.

I managed to crank a little more then glanced back to see where I’d been.

A little farther up the mountain and I could see the flat road we rode to get to the climb.

Seeing that I had made it that far (did I mention the head wind?) gave me renewed energy… until I looked forward to where Hova was leading the UM and me next…

But I kept pedaling. We stopped only once – about five miles up – to grab fresh water bottles… and for me to try to tip over the Unfat Machine, hoping it would break and I’d be forced to abandon the climb.

Alas, I didn’t have the strength to do it. So we rode on.

Around the seven mile mark, Hova was forced to come back so I could get on his wheel and he could pull me up. Apparently, 2mph wasn’t his idea of an ascent. What’s not included in the photo is when he actually got behind the UM and used his hand to give me a gentle push up the climb for maybe 50 meters. Damn, it feels good to have a sherpa guide.

Eventually I made it. Over nine miles up Mt. Lemmon. More than 2500 feet of climbing. The same mountain route that Team Radio Shack trained on for this year’s Tour de France. I doubt any of them needed a push from Hova, or did it with a casaba melon in their jersey.

To the victors go the spoils – GU!

It was an incredible accomplishment for me. Less than a year ago I was a slug – having more desire to sit and eat an entire bag of chips than to go outside and do anything reasonably active. Now, I’m 15 pounds lighter and wake up every day wanting to ride.

Climbing Mt. Lemmon has turned my nervousness and trepidation about my season-ending goal of riding the 109 miles of the El Tour de Tucson into excitement and anticipation.

And I didn’t even talk about the descent. Scary? Yes. Incredibly fun? Yes. Fast? 42.9mph… I know I can hit 45 next time.

Eat better.

Keep climbing.

Lose the gut.

Watch out for the road idiots

all photos copyright Alesha Guyot

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