Adventures in life and photography out West

Posts tagged “Climbing

Moving Forward

So, I’m a little wiped out and getting pretty inconsistent with my posts. Sorry. It’s hard for me when I don’t have an editor asking me where the hell my column is. I still hold out hope that I will work into some consistency as I go.

I headed up Lookout Mountain outside of Golden, Colorado, last week. The climb has long been a yardstick for locals. Tommy Danielson is credited with the fastest ascent of the five-mile climb from the pillars just west of US Hwy 6 to the gates at Buffalo Bill’s grave; I believe it’s something ridiculous, like 15 MINUTES. For mere mortals like me, the 32 minutes it took me was blazing fast.

Generally speaking, locals like to time “Pillars to Post” from the stone pillars at the bottom to the sign announcing the grave at the top. Officially, it’s 4.55 miles. It averages 5.4% with a maximum grade of 6.8%. Riders like to cut it into thirds – pillars to where the road curves under the big School of Mines “M”, “M” to the Windy Saddle and the steepest section from the saddle to nearly the sign at the top. The ride is nearly always windy and the views are nearly always spectacular.

The descent is fast and technical. Be careful when riding in spring. I carry scars from misjudging gravel in the tight curves. Once back in Golden, refreshment options are plentiful. It’s worth the suffering.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding!


The pillars at the start of the Lookout Mountain climb.Image

The view from the Buffalo Bill’s Grave and Museum Gift Shop at the top. You can see the entire Denver metro area.


I was sitting around the office, daydreaming about our upcoming
spring break trip, reading e-mails for upcoming rides, reading about
the Cannibal showing signs of his age, he’s had a pacemaker put in,
when a friend posted a video on Facebook that changed my day. The
video was entitled “The best coin ever spent” and start in Spain with
a little girl putting a coin into the hat of what seems to be an
extremely talented and well dressed classical base player. As the
video goes on, musicians stream out of a door in what I assume is the
bank sponsoring the video, along with some well-placed and
inconspicuous choral vocalists in the crowd. The all come together to
perform Beethoven’s final movement of the 9th Symphony, or “Ode to

The tone of the music and voices brings an exuberant
smile to faces in the video and to mine. I love this piece. I
regularly soften the suffering in my indoor training class with it. I
hum it to myself while climbing. It is the musical incarnation of my
Happy Place.

Climbing is challenging. That’s just the nature of
it. If it were easy, everyone would do it. We’d have bike lanes on
Trail Ridge Road. Climbing shows us what we can be, what we are
capable of, how hard we can push ourselves. It is a psychological
exercise as much as physical. Sometimes I have to play games in my
head to get through.

I think I’m just used to TRR by now. The
climb from either side does not seem as difficult to me as
Independence Pass. I was certainly humming for that climb. I also pick
out land marks. This is an old trick. When really tired, or really
challenged by the terrain, pick out a landmark. In your head, imagine
throwing a rope around it like a pulley, and drag yourself to it. When
you reach it, pick out another and keep going. 

Once on the Elephant Rock metric century, I had to help a buddy by telling him, “Okay, just ride to that tree. Okay, now ride to that big rock. Okay now just get over the top.” Painful and obvious, but effective.

Between the humming and the mind games, I can’t help
but smile. This is good. Smiling has a measurable positive effect on
performance. Smiling, whether you mean it or not, sets up a positive
cycle in the endocrine system. The positive feeling associated with
smile sends even more endorphins into the blood stream, taking a bit
more of the edge off of the pain. Even telling yourself that you enjoy
climbing, just another mind game, will start this virtuous cycle into

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

This weekend marks the start of the Spring Classics season. The Ronde van Vlaanderen, or Tour of Flanders, is Sunday and should be a showdown between Swiss superman Fabian Cancellara, Belgium’s favorite son, Tom Boonen, and Slovak up-start Peter Sagan. Boonen has had a rough go so far this season. He fell behind on training after narrowly catching an infection in his elbow before it got to the bone. This could have cost him the arm. Boonen bonked horribly while trying to chase down Cancellara in last week’s E3 Harelbeke semi-classic. Spartacus attacked exactly where everyone knew he would, but no one could do anything about it.

Relative youngster Sagan won last weekend’s
Ghent-Wevelgem with such a lead that he had time to pop a wheelie
while crossing the finish line. This sets up what could be the best
race that won’t be televised in the US this year.

NBC has shown no hint that they will broadcast this Monument, forcing guys like me to find a feed online. My suggestion is a web site called They will find a feed, though it may require the scaling of a paywall. I think this year, it will be worth it. At this point, we will be adding another ten miles to the weekly total heading

toward Ride the Rockies. This is added to the weekend ride, which is
beginning to resemble a real spring ride. This week, as of Saturday,
we should ride 30 miles, then distribute another 50 miles over three
days. Nine weeks left, I’m getting excited.Again, if you feel the need
to ride, say Sunday, shoot me an e-mail.

Have fun, be safe. I’m
going riding.