Sunday, July 15, 2007

Gasping for breath

Date: July 15
Mileage: 10.5
July mileage: 411.8
Temperature upon departure: 66
Inches of rain today: Trace

I completely blew up on a climb today. Imploded. I was following Geoff up the Salmon Creek trail, the first part where you really have to take the full brunt of an average Juneau slope, mashing my pedals and promising myself that I would ride the entire climb. The dark shadows crept along my peripheral vision, and that was OK; the red dots starting shooting across my line of sight, and that was OK; the gasps and whimpers started to come out involuntarily, and even that was OK - until breathing ceased to be an option. I nearly tipped over sideways before I slammed by foot down.

That was probably the furthest I've ever fought before giving into inevitable defeat. It was also a good reality check about my fitness level. I thought I'd gotten into pretty good shape since spring, but it's obvious that my lungs are nowhere near peak performance. My fear of injury continues pressuring me to hold back. I've put in a few long slogs this summer, but I still haven't done anything hard.

A quick solution? More hiking! All of the good trails involve at least a short, bikeable stretch where I'm required to put in 100-percent pedal effort. After the trails become unbikeable, they're wickedly nearly unhikeable. Good, steep stuff that prevents me from faking anything. Today was my first time on the upper stretch of Salmon Creek. There's a reservoir up there, which means lots of weird infrastructure on the trail - rickety stairs, pipes and a giant holding tank. You'd think the stairs would make the hiking easier, but the wasn't really the case with me. I still struggle when walking down stairs - seems stairs are my bad knee's last bastion of pain. Plus, wet wood has never quite agreed with the bottoms of my shoes. After I slipped out a third time, I started thinking up headlines - "Graceless hiker tumbles to death on backcountry staircase." "Mountaineering experience no match for stairs."

The downward hike was strenuous, but the return ride was effortless and fun. I need to combine these ride/hikes more often. They involve more of a time sacrifice than I'm usually able to make during the workweek, but I expect the dividend will be a nice spike in fitness.