This weekend I’m participating in a bike event so intense that they call it the Death Ride. It’s a 129 mile ride through the California Alps with 5 mountain summits to pass and more than 15,000 feet of vertical climbing. Their website includes this disclaimer: “Many places on the course could require helicopter evacuation depending on injury. Be sure to completely fill out your personal information on the backside of your bib and bike number.”
What would inspire me to do such a thing?
I was asking myself that question last night when I was looking at the elevation map for the ride.
And this morning when I drove over a few of the passes so they would be fresh in my mind for Saturday.
The truth is that I’m quite nervous about this ride. It’s not just the climbing. I’m always wary of steep descents. I’m an extremely slow and cautious downhill rider. These very long descents are going to be mentally taxing on me. I feel like while other rides are cruising down and catching their breath I’m going to be gripping my handle bars and fearing for my life!
I also don’t know if I’ll finish. This is simply bigger than anything I’ve ever done, or attempted.
When I was closing in on the end of my 500 mile ride from Stockholm to Copenhagen I decided I wanted to take on a physical goal I only had a 50% chance of succeeding. Stockholm to Copenhagen was amazing and challenging in many ways, but barring a mechanical breakdown I knew that I would finish. All I had to do was keep pedaling. Sure, 500 miles is a lot, but it was pretty flat terrain. In 500 miles I had only 11,000 feet of vertical climbing. I’ve ridden 130 miles in a day before (Day 2 of Stockholm to Copenhagen) but that day involved only 2,800 feet of climbing. So Day 2 of Stockholm to Copenhagen was 130 miles and 2,800 feet of climbing. Death Ride is 129 miles and 15,000 feet of climbing. Big difference.
The most intense ride I’ve ever done in terms of both miles and vertical climbing was back in November of this year on a ride through Big Sur to Monterey. That day I rode 82 miles climbing 8,700 feet. That’s similar in intensity per mile to the Death Ride, but falls far short of being on the same level. But I am in better shape than I was back in November. I’m about 20 pounds lighter and better riding condition.
The bottom line is that I don’t know what my physical limit is. Is my physical limit 13,000 feet of climbing in a day? At 13,000 feet do my legs simply say, “No mas.”? Or is my physical limit 12,000 feet. Or can I actually go the distance and finish the 129 miles and 15,000 feet of climbing?
I’m about to find out.
By the way, if you’re on Stava and would like to follow me you can find me here: https://www.strava.com/athletes/clarkvand
Check out my book, unWorking, available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.