Eric’s VERY Heavy Recap
My 2020 Heavy Ride is in the books, and I’m feeling back to normal, so it’s time to do a post-mortem on the ride. I’ll include some of the data analysis at the end for my fellow data nerds but I won’t make the rest of you suffer through that.
The ride itself started off perfectly. The weather was excellent and I had a nice crew of five to escort me out to Kalkaska from Timber Ridge. Course conditions were about as good as you could ask for at the end of June with only a handful of sand traps to contend with. The ride out was at a friendly pace and gave us all an opportunity to ride and chat. Given the last few months, it was extremely nice to be riding with friends and just talking.
After the ride to Kalkaska, we started the Iceman course proper. Sand was expectedly present and the singletrack still bears the scars from the “Mudman” last November. We made good time through Dockery and arrived a little early to Make it Stick. I enjoyed the company of Mr. Heavy Ride himself, Patrick Cotant on every ascent. I was sure to keep the pace reasonable as I knew I still had a long day ahead. Over the top for the last time, I bid part of the crew adieu and made my way to Sand Lakes Rd.
Sand Lakes Rd climb saw the arrival of my support crew. They were a welcome sight and nice to get some fresh, cold nutrition. The climb itself passed fairly quickly with the only issue being a large sand pit at the bottom. It was critical to have the crew there to spot cars as I was coming down because that sand pit was not conducive to evasive maneuvering. Finishing up Sand Lakes, I was trading the sand pit for the sun-exposed gravel of Broomhead Rd and the true start of the hard stuff.
Broomhead was the lone addition to the Iceman-centric course. I wanted a longer climb to replicate the Columbine climb at Leadville and its 3k+ feet of elevation gain. The positive is that the climb is a very tame ~3% on average and only pitches of 5%-6%. The bad side is that the climb is almost completely exposed to the sun…and the sun played a role here. I was on this one climb for almost three hours. My crew was fantastic and supplied me with cold water and also a little hack I learned watching road cycling on TV. My wife bought me some nylons and filled them with ice. Tying them off at the top, I now had a nice little sack of ice that I could put down the back of my jersey and let slowly melt over time. It was fantastic in the heat. I had some additional riders come and do some repeats with me including Crosley Robinson, who I swear was taunting me with his smiling face as he accelerated past my pace and dropped me! My favorite moment of the climb, and the ride overall, came when my daughter Mackenzie decided to do a lap with me. Mackenzie doesn’t exude natural confidence when trying “hard” things. However, she is beginning to learn that she’s much stronger than she initially thinks and is consistently surprising herself with what she can accomplish. This day was no different. About halfway up the climb, her legs started to burn. She looked at me with a very unsure expression and just said “daddy?”, as if to express her discomfort and lack of confidence. I reassured her that she is stronger than she thinks she is and take the climb one pedal at a time and focus on the road ahead of her, not on me. She grit her teeth and picked up her pace. Seeing the cars lined up at the top of the climb of family and friends, she began to smile and realize she was going to do it. The cheers were the loudest of the day and it was awesome. She crested the hill, we stopped our bikes and I gave her a big hug. My average time up that climb for the other 27 attempts was a bit over 3 minutes. This lap took me 6:50 and it was the best additional 3 minutes and 50 seconds of the entire day. After the high of my daughter’s accomplishment on Broomhead Rd, I was 77 miles into the ride and it was really just beginning. We were off to Anita Hill.
I had recon’d Anita’s significantly in the lead up to the ride (76 times to be exact). I knew my line, the pitches, the sandy parts, the roots, etc. All of these ascents had been on training days where ~25 ascents was the goal for the day. I didn’t know how my legs would react with 80 miles and 7.5 hours in them while doing these repeats. I had an idea…and I was right. Anita Hill has pitches of over 20% and you have to push well over your threshold just to keep your bike upright. Each ascent was like a body blow but I was handling them well through about 17 ascents. As I started to tire, I started focusing on my bike computer that is affixed to my handlebar stem. This is when I started to notice an “issue”. Anita Hill, on Strava, is 49 feet of elevation. While I’m sure this is not extremely accurate, I think it is close. While staring blankly at my computer, the “issue” was that it was only giving me fractions of that 49 feet of gain. Sometimes 20 feet. Sometimes 5 feet. This issue plus fatigue put me into a pretty dark place as I was approaching 20 ascents. I ended up doing 27 total and the last 10 was in a complete haze. This was completely evident when I crested for the last time and the DeVogel family was at the top cheering. I have no idea what I said to them (I think it was thank you…I hope) and I rode on. 10 minutes later as I got some more calories into me and started to come back to life I was so mad at myself that I didn’t stop and thank them properly for hiking out to support me. So, I hope they read this and we can meet properly at a Vasa Domingos ride in the very near future!
The VASA CC climb (last ascent) was next on the docket. My bike computer was still giving me fractions of the 61 feet I was expecting and I had to make a decision. My decision was based on the fact that I signed up to climb 11,000ft for more kids on bikes. I was certain that I was climbing more than that, but I wasn’t in a state of mind to do the mental math to be SURE I’d hit 11,000ft without seeing it on my computer. I decided then and there that I would keep going until I saw the actual number of 11,000 and that’s what I did. After the 23rd trip up, I was on to Icebreaker.
Icebreaker brought the welcomed sight of my full support crew and a few more supporters. The Schmidt family brought a boom box and that was a HUGE mental boost as I climbed my first rep. Up and down I went. Over and over again. My computer continued to play with my mind and even was so nice to literally give me 0 elevation gained on one ascent…LOL. Right when I was getting frustrated, my kids and the Robinson kids ran down the hill. On my next ascent, they ran with me screaming all the way up. It was awesome and probably the closest thing I’ll ever get to the feeling of riding the Tour de France. They took turns smacking me on the way up and the boombox and cheers made me feel like I was approaching Dutch Corner (or I was hallucinating from heat and fatigue…either way it was fun!). Up and down I continued until my computer read 11,014 feet. I stopped. I leaned on my bike. I looked up and told everyone I was done. I was done because the devil inside my computer said I was done. 104.6 miles and 11,014 feet of climbing. $3,000+ raised for more kids on bikes.
What am I taking away from this? I’m choosing to focus on all of the little things that made this ride so memorable for me. The ability to share those little things with family, friends and community in a healthy way is very important to me. Being healthy allows you to continue to create new “little things” far into the future until your legs won’t let you keep up anymore. Then…go buy an e-bike so you never miss out!
That’s what we’re all really striving for with Norte’s advocacy, right? It’s not to put a rider in the Tour de France or produce a local Iceman winner. It’s not to inspire adults like myself to do some crazy ride. It’s to celebrate that the bicycle provides you an opportunity to go just fast enough to produce a thrill but slow enough that you’re able to take in the details. It also allows you to do something that is hard. Riding up a hill is hard. Your legs hurt, your lungs burn and your brain tells you to quit. If you don’t quit, there is immediate satisfaction of accomplishment when you crest that hill. Your body adapts and you can ride a bigger hill or ride the same hill faster. It is athletically satisfying. However, I encourage everyone to search a little deeper because I think there is more there. The bike allows you to do hard things in a controlled environment. If you push your body to do hard things and you persevere, you’ve earned the ultimate reward of experience. You can draw on this experience not only in athletic feats, but when life becomes hard. You’ll KNOW that your mind can overcome. Searing pain in your legs and burning lungs become the metaphor of whatever bad card life has dealt you. Your mind becomes conditioned to function while under stress and you KNOW you can persevere. This may sound simplistic and maybe even a little crazy, but know that it works for me. It works for many other people I’ve talked to. It works, if you allow it to work. I’m hoping my daughter Mackenzie put Broomhead Rd somewhere in the back of her mind and she’ll be able to draw on it one day soon. Norte provides so many things to so many people. I would argue that the opportunity to learn how to persevere is as important as any. Thank you Norte, for everything that you do!
You’re still here? You ready to dork out? Good. Me too. Here we go:
Total Time: 11 hours, 22 minutes
Total Moving Time: 10 hours, 37 minutes
Total Distance: 104.6 miles
Total Climbing (Wahoo Computer – Barometric Altimeter): 11,014
Total Climbing (TrainerRoad Analytics – Google Maps GPS): 13,123
Make it Stick Ascents: 16
Sand Lakes Climb Ascents: 16
Broomhead Rd Climb Ascents: 28
Anita Hill Ascents: 27
Vasa CC (last hill) Ascents: 23
Icebreaker Ascents: 28
TSS (Training Stress Score): 516 – Low to mid-500’s is what I shoot for during my build-up weeks. So, hitting that in one day is pretty big for me.
Kj (Calories) Burned: 5,601
Calories Ingested: 4,170
Carbohydrate Ingested: 905g
Carbs/hr: 81g – For the 1st 10 hours I was closer to 90g/hr. My next big ride, I’m going to shoot for 100g/hr and see if my stomach can handle it.
Normalized Power: 176 watts
Intensity Factor: 0.67
Average Power: 137 watts
Max Power: 612 watts
Average Heart Rate: 137
I was trying to replicate my expected Leadville effort (accounting for elevation obviously). I was targeting an IF of 0.65 but knew I would take some breaks to hang with the kids and that the steep pitches of these climbs were more than what Leadville offers. Obviously, the additional 2k feet of climbing and ~2hrs of riding threw things off, but I felt good the entire ride except for about 20 minutes on Anita’s. My nutrition was good, while hydration was OK. Looking back, I’d increase my plain water intake. Other than that, I think I’m in line to achieve my goal of a sub-9 Leadville 100. If you have any questions feel free to reach out. Power profile below. Go Norte!
Can’t ride this year? Throw some money at your favorite rider who will carry the torch.
Vamanos and GRACIAS, Eric.