As an entry level cyclist we are prone to make mistakes. Shoot even world class cyclists make mistakes. While everyone makes cycling mistakes it is important is to learn from them. Learning from other peoples mistakes is also a great way to learn. So in the spirit of sharing and because I like to spin a good yarn, let me tell you about the first time I rode up The Nate Harrison Grade…
It is early August and we are in the middle of heat wave number three or four. Inland temps are hovering in the low 100’s and I want to go for a long ride. I have my eyes set on my first Hors Categorie climb called “The Nate Harrison Grade”. Strava lists the stats at 1,281 meters (4,203′) of elevation gain in 13.64km (~8.5 miles) with an average gradient of 9%. It is mostly a gravel road with a few sections of pavement and even some fairly rough dirt road segments.
My alarm goes off the morning of but I am tired from staying up too late and drinking one glass of wine too many. So, I hit the snooze button. A more palpable time rolls around and I stumble out of bed. Breakfast consists of eggs and a hash brown (to help soak up the alcohol). I drink a little water to down my vitamins and head out into the heat to load the car.
The drive goes smoothly and I park a hundred meters or so from the beginning of The Nate Harrison Grade Strava segment. I have a Yeti cooler in the trunk loaded with ice, cold beverages and my two 20oz bottles for the ride. I stuff a few organic bars that I purchased at a gas station into my pockets as I forgot my Clif Bloks and Stinger Energy Chews at home.
The time is a little after 10am when I pedal away from my car and already the temps are hovering near 90. Within the first kilometer I consider bailing as my legs feel like lead and it is INSANELY hot. However, my stubborn streak comes through and I push on. Every 20 minutes or so I come across shade from a random bush but for the most part there is no shade and I am exposed to the full brunt and furry of the sun.
Just past the half way point I start to feel dizzy so I lay down in the middle of the road under the shade of a large oak. A truck comes by and I jump up. They ask if I am alright I stammer out a reply that I am. Am I really? I ask myself as they drive away.
Two kilometers from the top I run out of fluids.
One kilometer from the top there is a loud clunking noise coming from the rear end of my bike. I stop to investigate but cannot find the source, so I push on.
I finally make it to the top and I am in desperate need of water. I ride around a little looking for a water spigot. Rather than waste my precious little energy searching for water I give up. It is a little cooler at the top, maybe low 90’s and high 80’s in the shade.
I find a shady spot and flip my bike wheels up and do a full diagnostic check. Eventually I discover that my rear derailleur hanger bolts have come loose, which is causing my derailleur to wobble side to side – the cause of the clunking noise. Unfortunately, at this time I discover that my new multi tool’s 2.5mm allen wrench is not a perfect hex shape but more like a squished square. Holding the tool at a 45 degree angle to the bolt though I am able to tighten it just enough to keep the derailleur from wobbling.
The ride down is brutal. It is hot, the road is rough, I am wrecked, and my full rigid bike is beating my already pulverized body into smithereens. I stop occasionally on the way down to let my brakes cool off. At this point I have been an hour + with no water.
Finally back at the car I sucked down an ice cold Powerade from my cooler and rub ice over my head and neck. I start up the car and crank the AC while I load up and change out of my bike clothes. Jilberto’s Taco Shop is just down the street so I stop in for lunch. Most of the bars I bought are still in my jersey pocket. They were too dry to eat with no water. After recharging with beans, rice, an enchilada and a taco I head home. On the drive I reflect on everything I did wrong, and what I should do differently next time.
Mistakes in chronological order:
- Dinner the night before, while healthy had very little carbs.
- I drank too much wine.
- I went to bed late.
- Knowing full well there was a heatwave I decided to sleep in.
- Breakfast was low in carbs.
- I did not drink enough water in the morning.
- The car was parked too close to the beginning of the climb.
- I only brought 40oz of fluids (20oz of water, 20oz of BCAA).
- I forgot my on-the-bike nutrition at home.
What I did right:
- I brought a cooler with ice and filled it with cold beverages.
- Eh… I cannot think of anything else.
That night my wife and I go out for dinner. It was a beautiful evening spent with lovely company over a delicious dinner. Among many things we talked a little about my ride. My wife said I was crazy. I agreed with her – but only because I was anxious to apply what I had learned to my next big ride.
To be continued…