I’ve been on long bike rides where I just hit the “wall”, scrape my way home, just hoping my legs can keep turning the cranks. There have been bike races where I could not even stand on the pedals for about an hour because of searing knee pain or it’s taken everything to not collapse right after the finish line. This weekend entered a new demented feeling: that feeling of “if this was flat, I could totally keep riding, but this is not flat”.
See, the boys over at Team Seagal put on a killer road ride, titled “Death By Hills”. I propose that next year the name become, “Death by Evil, Leg Breaking, I should have brought rock climbing gear hills”. But that might be too long. Next year I may need to look into compact gears!
The ride opens with Bartizan Drive. Only about 230 feet of climbing? Easy! Except the road bends to an insane 20+% grade. I put a foot down on this beast. Next on the hit list was some roads off Old State, which seems innocent for awhile until suddenly you’re grinding out at least a 13% grade. Followed by Alt Road, the “Allenton” loop (Hunters Ford Rd), and Allenton Road. By the time I left Allenton, most of the lead group had finished the Scenic Loop (and the Wall), so I “missed” that. Several times over, we were reaching 13% and higher.
Things were getting weird. The truly steep stuff wasn’t approachable for me any more — I couldn’t really stand anymore and sitting in the granny gear felt like pushing a big gear up smaller grades. Hill climbing is a whole body workout. I can feel soreness in my arms almost as much as my legs. I unknowning rode Wild Horse Creek in the big chainring (at that point I just assumed I was in the small chainring!), but that was the last of truly climbing for me. As the group headed to Babler State Park to climb the Beast and then Doberman, I called it a day. Heading down Wild Horse Creek to Baxter, I could still feel some power/fitness on flats, but the hills down Clarkson brought things back into reality. Training has allowed me to feel fine with cardio demands of a 5 hour ride (at my pace), but the legs can’t quite hold up to demands of a ride like this. Next year, I’ll tackle the entire thing!
This season I began really working on hills and finally conquered the first hill that had always beat me in the past (Doberman). Looks like I need to spend some more time in hill country this summer!
Some resources for hills in St. Louis and a few hills not mentioned there:
- St. Louis cycling hills
- The climb up Wild Horse Creek from the intersection with Ossenfort is also a nice climb. Not necessarily steep (except at the beginning), but a nice effort.
- Woodland Meadows offers another worthy kick in the rear
- I will definitely return to the Melrose/Highway T/Bassett/Old Manchester/Bouquet loop
- I have a score to settle with the hill’s near Old State
- I balked at the sight of Cremin’s Road (off Bassett)