Monday, September 3, 2012

the final five

millcreek canyon is not for wimps.  unless you're using someone else's engine, that is.
it's eight and a half miles of winding, narrow road that is at times unconscionably steep.
a scant half mile into the canyon the road turns up at a 9-10 percent grade for just long enough to make a cyclist question his decision to ride the canyon . . . then the road eases and begins a game that pulls said cyclist forward by tilting up, then relaxing, then testing, then easing, over and over in a way that lulls him into thinking he can do this, after all.
at porter fork the road tilts up so severely breath is robbed, and then the next quarter mile is pleasant enough to convince one to continue past the gate and up into the narrow upper half which is always shaded, green, cooler than the rest of the canyon by 5-15 degrees.
the next few miles have one awful stretch (elbow fork), one delightful flat bit, and one almost-awful stretch (alexander basin), mixed in with some tolerable and some breath-stealing moments.
and then comes the last mile.

I use the word "rise" to describe a short-ish uphill, usually a tenth of a mile or less.
the last mile contains 5 of these rises, all of them in the 11-20 percent grade range.  (or something like that: my garmin isn't quite accurate enough to pinpoint brief stretches like that.)
there's recovery time between each of these 5 rises, but not much.  I feel excitement to reach the first one--as it means I'm almost to the top--mixed with the dread of knowing how tough they are, each time I get there.
I count them down every time, too.
by the time I reach the last one I have little oxygen left, my heart is pumping madly, and my breath comes out louder than a harley, and I think to myself, one.  this is it, I'm done, I'm there, thank you God.

each canyon I ride has it's own unique signature.  emigration has the u-turn where the wind always changes direction, big cottonwood has its interminable last 3 miles above silver fork, little cottonwood its 3-mile grind to tanner's flats, city creek its rotary park signs for me to count, and millcreek, the final five.

hey, you've got to play some kind of mind games to keep from conceding to the pain.

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