"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


San Luis Obispo: Day 2

March 8th: The Grade, Las Palitas, Creston Loop

We're lucky this year. We get to do The Grade out and back twice this week. No easing into Camp in '09.

Three miles up along the shoulder of Highway 101 at six percent. I sat at the front with Randy, idly chatting away as my wattage and heart rate steady climbed with my body. As long as I stayed below 310 watts I knew I was all right. Coming up to the top, however, the wind hit and pitch increased with about half a mile to go. I went over 350 and began to blow up. I pulled off to the right and let the line fill up while I tried to get my breathing under control. Luckily, JT was coming up before I slipped to far back and gave me a bit of a push. That little assistance dropped my heart rate nearly to endurance level in less than a minute. 100 yards to go.

Recovered. Down we go.

The first real climb of the day, with tempo, attacks, and generally pistol-whipping the group until it shatters hit us another 20 or so miles in. I am strong this year. But so is everybody else. Again I keep the lead group in sight, but the pain is killing my form and I can't quite catch on. We crest in pieces, trying to come together, and slip into a pace line of five or six, with the leaders still about 200 yards up.

We're driving strong, with every ounce of my focus needed to grab Newt's wheel coming back on. For two rotations I simply sit at the back and recover. On the uphill rollers I need over 400 to stay with it. It finally gets the better of me. I gap on Newt by only a couple of feet, but soon it's slipping through my fingers, drifting away, like a life preserver from cruiseship.

More of the same after the first rest stop.

I need a few seconds of recovery at the top of a climb, and Ed comes by with saying, "Come on, Morrissey! Don't stop moving now..." Gapped. Wrangling in front is Randy, churning and wrenching out his steady tempo, trying to get on himself. I am flopping behind until Seguin and a couple others come by with wheels. We bridge up at the stop sign, finally.

Yet right away, the juice goes the next the climb, I am gapped, and then alone. I stay like that for another 10 minutes of so, watching them slowly move away until the group behind picks me up.

We rode hard, but not hard enough, needing to stop every so often to consult the map. We shed a few riders, and pulled into the park, our designated meeting place about 20 miles early. Wrong turn city. Shit. Out we go in search of the leaders coming the other way and the missing miles. We end up shorted by about eight on the day. Not bad considering.

Down the grade for the first of two times this week, as I mentioned. A screaming descent down the six lane highway - just take the lane baby. Top speed of 45. Seth hits 52, according to his computer. I'll try and push it a bit more on Wednesday after Black Mountain, but I want to take a bit safer, as that bike's seen exactly two days outside, and I have a life and a job to return to next week.

Today is Peachy Canyon and Atascadero 50. Arguably the hardest day of camp. I've been awake since 5am thinking about it. As I wrote yesterday's entry at this time, 6:30, there was one other person in the hotel's common area. Today, there are 12.

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