The sun was just rising in the sky, and though it was a bit chilly, it looked to be a great day for riding.
I biked past the barn at Dimple Hill and headed toward Skillings. I've had a goal to ride up to the top of McCulloch peak in under 40 minutes, and recently Scott threw down the same challenge to folks. Today was the day I'd give it a go. The climb is up the south side of the mountain, and is entirely on gravel roads. It's 3.3 miles and has over 2000' of elevation gain. It's a real grind of a climb. My previous best had been over 42 minutes, and taking 2.5 minutes off that seemed doable. So I put some Depeche Mode remixes on the iPod and started up.
40 minutes is a long time, especially when you're trying to push it the whole time. I didn't have anyone with me to keep me honest. Every couple of minutes I'd realize I was spacing out and had slacked off, so I'd up the tempo again. The whole thing averages a 9.6% grade, and it ends with the last 0.7 miles being nearly 16%, with brief spurts of over 25%. I gritted my teeth and pushed on.
The view from the top was mediocre as there was some haze in the distance and I couldn't see the Cascades. I cracked open a Clif bar and caught my breath. I hadn't really paid attention to what time I'd started, so I wouldn't know the result of my climb until I got home and put it on Strava. ooh, the anticipation.
I threw my coat back on and headed down the new singletrack to the north of the peak, thoroughly enjoying the sun beams streaming in, lighting my way. I headed over to Iris Meadow (oddly named because there's really no meadow, and I didn't see any Irises today) and I hit all the single track I could, descending down into Sulfur Springs.
I tried a singletrack trail that juts off Road 720 that Joe had pointed out and was treated to yet more idyllic trails. These pictures don't do it justice, but this is the kind of trail I rode down for the majority of the ride from McCulloch:
The whole time I was riding I just couldn't stop grinning. The trails were perfect, the weather just right, and I felt strong and fast on the bike.
Once in Sulfur Springs I had to do yet another climb. It's just a third the length of the McCulloch climb, but is almost half again as steep. I took it "easy" and tried to relax my way up. It looks like I kept my heart rate down, but it didn't feel very relaxing going up.
I had one last goal - and that was to push myself going down the Horse trail. As I've mentioned, my descents are my weak point in racing, and I'm working on them as much as possible. I blasted down Horse, climbed out the little bit of a hill toward Timberhill, and then cruised on home.
This particular ride has to be about my favorite loop through the forest when the trails are dry. I'll try to hit it a few more times before the summer is out. I did the Dimple Hill/Dans loop probably 30 times this winter and I need to give it a little bit of a rest.
It turns out, I crushed my goal climbing up McCulloch and did it in 36:44, nearly 6 minutes faster than my previous best - and 9th best overall (woo-hoo!). I also jumped into 3rd place on the "Two Bridges" trail, and into 10th going down Horse trail. A pretty good day overall.
Wouldn't it be great if I could get paid to ride?