Tuesday, July 13, 2010

loops and hurdles

sunday I had an epic adventure.
as usual, it didn't really start out to be one.
the plan was aggressive; it would be my longest, toughest ride since the fateful crash. but it wasn't a 100-miler, and it wasn't a four-canyon challenge. it was just a significantly challenging ride that I was hoping I'd be able to complete.

bill has this thing about the alpine loop. he loves the topography, he loves the challenge of riding up to the summit, and he especially loves taking a break at sundance resort. if you're not familiar with this area, let me explain. first of all, my eyes are rolling as I type this: it's not a loop. to me, a loop is remarkably similar to a circle, where one ends at the same place one begins.
this loop starts in american fork canyon, and to be honest, I'm not sure where it ends, perhaps at the base of provo canyon? no one in their right mind would begin at the base of american fork canyon, drive (or ride) all the way up and then down provo canyon, then wind their way back through provo and pleasant grove and linden and all those other little places to end up back at the mouth of the canyon where they began; the first half is stunningly beautiful, and the second half would be like sightseeing in your own neighborhood.
no one in their right mind makes a literal loop of the alpine loop.
but I digress.
american fork canyon takes one up past the entrance to timpanogos cave (a national monument, so less) and then up (and I mean up) over a narrow summit and then down past sundance ski resort, down another handful of miles until one reaches provo canyon, which one can then take east toward heber or west toward provo city.
the summit is only 8060 feet, but the base of american fork canyon is 4566 feet, and the ten miles between the two progress upward almost relentlessly.
when one drops into sundance at 6100 feet, one on a journey like ours knows one must turn around and climb those nearly 2000 feet again.

bill said let's ride the alpine loop, and I took a deep breath and said, okay.
I called it an experiment, not knowing if I'd make it, partially because we planned to start in draper, thus climbing the suncrest hill both on the way to and on the way back from the canyon.

sunday morning dawned bright and sunny, and then the clouds moved in and the rain began. it wasn't a serious rain, though, and the clouds seemed to be collecting to the north. we were headed south: out of the rain.
for a while.
it first started raining on us near timpanogos cave, maybe ninety minutes into our ride. it wasn't enough to make us stop, and after a couple miles the sun came out to join the rain, and the whole world around us sparkled and glistened, from the gently rustling tree leaves to the damp and shiny granite walls to our left. soon it dried up and the heat poured back out. It didn't rain on us again until we'd reached the summit and started down toward sundance, as we wound our way through the twisting pavement cut through a seemingly endless aspen grove. this rain was a bit more insistent, and we finally had to take shelter under the eave of a road-hugging pine, and I was shivering in my sleeveless jersey and arm warmers.
when this happens I'm always torn between hurrying to my destination to get out of the weather and warm up, and going slowly so that I won't get too much colder. wet pavement plays into the possible-speed equation as well.
this time we waited until the rain lightened, then moved on down the next four miles.
at sundance we ate, I shivered and shook and finally warmed, we watched a brief but heavy deluge come and go, and eventually hit the road again.

our hour-long climb back up to the summit was dry, and the rain didn't catch us again until about a third of the way down american fork canyon. I had been noticing all the nice cars coming up who had their lights on--how thoughtful--and then I finally realized it was because they had come through a storm, which was just about to sideline me.
this time we huddled in the shelter of an outhouse roof, watching sheets of rain fall earthward.

the rain finally eased, and a tailwind pushed us out the bottom of the canyon, and then it was down to the final climb up over suncrest, a fast cruise down the other side, and then the last, flat leg back to the car.

bottom line: I survived. it was a mental hurdle for me to clear: a tough ride with many hours in the saddle (that would be over 5 and a half).
more important bottom line: my saddle parts hurt! this area is still in its retraining phase, as well.

so, epic. rain, thunder, sunshine, dense and rich forests, a splashing river, a sea of pine, clouds and shade and goosebumps and rest, sweat and exhaustion and no small amount of conquering whatever appeared before us.

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