Sunday, June 14, 2015


With a semi-solid endurance base under my belt, it's time to improve my climbing prowess. My goal: Improve my performance at the 2015 Silver Rush 50 MTB and the 2015 Leadville Trail 100 MTB. While I was temporarily satisfied with my 2014 LT100 performance, it's my nature to want to improve. Both races are a climbers dream, and climbing faster is my focus.

2014 Silver Rush 50 MTB (5hrs:52:min)

With 4 weeks to up my ascending game, it's time to head for the mountains, Ozark mountains. Specifically the Buffalo National River area. Saturday, June 13th. I wake to a 3:00AM alarm, somewhat aggravated, confident I had just closed my eyes. A quick snooze reprieve and I slowly realize that 5 hrs elapsed in that blink. I dress, gather gear, load my bike and meet a group of friends in Springfield at 5:00AM, friends well versed in the self-flagellation that is the Jasper Disaster Loop. By 6:40AM we're grinding up the Hwy. 7 hill out of Harrison, AR.

The 18.5 miles from Harrison to Jasper serve as a great warm-up period for the day's work, a nice rolling section of pavement. At just over an hour, we cross the Little Buffalo at Jasper and take a left on Hwy. 74. The 10 mile run down to Piercetown is a roller coaster workout and helps me determine the kind of day it's gonna be. Luckily I was reaping the benefits of last weeks thrash at the Iron Horse 100 Gravel Race, and feeling good, in a "fingers-slammed-in-a-car-door" sort of way. At Piercetown we turn right on 74/123 for a scenic cruise along Big Creek to Vendor, AR a small town consisting of office......that is all. Vendor is a key turning point, literally and figuratively.

This is the start of the the 374 climb. I use the "boiling frog" anecdote to describe the climb. You're immediately climbing, but the intensity of the climb kind of creeps up on you. Then, it what seems like a split-second transformation, you're on a 14% wall of pavement, with every corner bringing another 2 digit pitch! Below is a picture representative of the 374 climb:

NOTE: Not the actual Hwy. 374 Climb. 374 is MUCH worse.
Hwy. 374 Climb Stats.

I sit and pedal, I stand and pedal, I shift and pedal, shift, sit, pedal, stand, shift, sweat, pedal, sweat and then, arrive at the steep section. It's at this point I feel as if I'm riding this rig up the mountain......and there's a Sumo wrestling team riding in the tag-a-long!
My rig for the Hwy 374 Climb. The Sumo wrestlers are off screen right, eating.

The Hwy. 374 Climb Summit
After a day and a half of climbing, I summit, we regroup, and enjoy the plunge back down to Jasper.  We find sustenance at a Jasper convenience store and all too quickly we're working our way up Mt. Sherman en route to Ponca. 

Mt. Sherman is a 3 mile climb with a few double digit pitches, but it seems somewhat "easier" after 374. The entire group makes good time on the climb and we're all ready for the winding descent down to the Buffalo River. My friend John Long and I carve the switch backs together and we join the group in downtown Ponca.

Ponca is a place to rest, fuel and dread the climb out. This day is not one that has me trying to improve my PR on the climb. I'll just be happy with that 132nd KOM position a while longer. The weather produces a light shower, and it feels oh, so, good to cool down some after this effort. In short order we are all on our way to the last pit stop of the day. Compton store.

On the final climbing curve up to Compton, there's a brassiere on the shoulder of the highway. I know it's been there for about 3 years now, maybe longer, it's missing a cup, stained dark, and tattered a bit. I look forward to seeing it on every Jasper Loop. It has been the subject of much discussion. How did it get there? How long has it been there? Why is it STILL there? I always look forward to seeing it, not because I enjoy seeing bras on the roadside, but because it means the majority of the day's climbing is done. It was a VERY welcome sight this day.

We ride the next 9 miles on the ridge, then make the screaming 40-50 mph plunge toward Harrison. I push myself on the last 7 miles into Harrison. I know that Neighbors Mill awaits and I'm hungry.
Good workout, great day.


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