(Me climbing Fargo, 32% grade. Photography in this post by Ingrid Peterson)
On the 14th I participated in Swarm!'s annual Feel My Legs, I'm a Racer. This is basically an insane stage race, but instead of each stage being a variety of terrains, every stage is a short distance ridiculously steep hill. All are done in a day riding casually between each of the 10 hill stages, which actually felt great as recovery to be riding normal grades for a bit between each race. When I say ridiculous, I really mean it, who the hell thought it was a good idea to pave these things. Two of these streets, Eldred St. and Fargo St., are on the list of steepest streets in the world, taking spots 3 and 4 respectively. Looking at Fargo from the bottom, it appears almost to be some kind of launch ramp into outerspace. People tend to think of San Fransisco when they think of hills, but L.A., where it is hilly, has some monsters that put anything in S.F. to shame.
You might think with the intimidation factor of over 30% grade climbing, that's 30 ft up for 100 ft forward, and this being an underground sort of event, that you wouldn't see much of a turn out, but there were plenty of eager souls curious of the pain that lay in wait. Some came to race up the hills, some came just to see if they could do them at all, and some came just to watch other people hurt them selves. In all I think there were probably at least 40 at the start, and maybe 25 by the finish.
At the top of Baxter, one of the steeper of the 10 hills that day, a school bus beached it self at the top like a whale, unable to handle the sudden change in grade. We also watched a motorcyclist get just short of cresting Baxter when his rear wheel started spinning out. He had to get off and push the bike while accelerating to get it that last couple feet. It made the accomplishment of doing it on a bicycle feel a little more special.
After a brutal 10 rounds of quad exploding excitement, it came down to a tie for points between Swarm! riders Jack Lindquist and Brian Davidson. Some 1 on 1 tie breaker scenarios were envisioned by some, but it was decided best to leave it as two victors.
Needless to say we were all starving for food to put in face after such a ride, and what better than a giant vegan potluck to subdue the pain. The food was all delicious, and what a sight to be so hungry and see home dipped vegan corn dogs being handed out like candy. I give huge props to all the kind folks who prepared food and treats for us very hungry cyclists. As much energy as we burned climbing those hills I'm pretty sure I broke even for calories on all the yummy, yummy foods. Mmm vegan cupcakes. Eat to ride, ride to eat or something other, how ever that saying goes.
Watching the talented individuals who made up the front of the pack on every race, I learned a valuable lesson in the need for more hill training. I consider my self a pretty fast sprinter on flat ground, and I thought I was a pretty strong climber too, but not strong enough. It was quite a different sort of racing to be all up hill the whole time. Maybe next year I can be in the running for some bragging rights, because that is all you get, no entry fees, no prizes, it's only for the glory.