Sunday, April 11, 2010

Death Valley Double, Prelude - Towne Pass and Emigrant Pass

There's something special about Death Valley. There's a reason Chris Kostman of AdventureCorps chooses to hold almost all his events there. "Epic" is a favorite, albeit overused, description pervasive of ultra events - but Death Valley seems to fit the bill here. The desolation, vastness, towering peaks, extremes in weather, temperature, elevation, and otherworldly terrain set it apart. The Death Valley Double course is an out and back entirely along the route of the 508. Apart from a 3,000 foot climb out of Death Valley, and a 1400 foot climb back in (and their requisite descents), the terrain is all flat to rolling: perfect for fixed gear riding.

Death Valley is a long way from San Diego, so I headed up a day early - to get some riding in the day before (on my standard road bike), and hopefully stave off my high heart rate issue - I have found that I do not have difficulties due to overly high heart rate if I have done a hard ride before. I'm still not sure of the mechanism at work here - it could be that my electrolyte levels are evened out by the exercise - or the fatigue and recovery process suppresses the heart overactivity. In any case, it gave me an excuse to ride some awesome terrain on Friday - both sides of Towne Pass, and Emigrant pass, for 9300 ft of climbing in about 60 miles. I tried to climb steady, well within my capability, and target for endurance climbing at around 4 w/kg. I knew something was wrong pretty quickly, as my heart rate jetted past my target endurance threshold HR (165-170) immediately, and then shot into the 180s, beyond my 20k avg HR only a few minutes after that. I was in for a tough ride.

I was able to push on, my heart rate far too high, yet my perceived effort much lower, as I really was at what should be a very sustainable pace.

What surprised me most was the difficulty of the backside of Towne Pass. The frontside is well known as the most difficult climb in the 508 - yet the backside is certainly harder. I only started the climb from 2200 feet, which is at the junction with the road to Emigrant Pass, and it still is a 7.5 mile climb averaging 7%, with many steeper pitches. No wonder it's such a fast descent! As I was struggling up the climb, performing far worse than I would have liked, I thought of the masochists in the Badwater Ultramarathon - taking this climb on foot, in July, after already having spent the day travelling through Death Valley. Ridiculous. Someday...

The last climb up the frontside of Towne Pass was painful and the road was steeped in memories from last year's 508. By that point in the race, I was a cracked shell of myself, crawling up the mountain in over 2 hours, then spending 7 hours puking, and finally, recovering. This time was slightly less dramatic, and much faster, yet still my HR was insanely high (189!) and my power fell of quickly, averaging only 259. I could only hope that this would break my body in for the following day. It wasn't to be.

No comments:

Post a Comment