Freakshow: Descending Mountains

twentyfourcarat.net + the mountains are calling
twentyfourcarat.net + the mountains are calling

Endless adventures, unlimited miles and climbing mountains.

Those are the reasons why I love cycling.

The mild seasons in Vancouver makes it such a great city for cyclists, which conveniently allows us to cycle all year round— I know I do and the hundreds of cyclists I ride by on my commute to work every day. Sometimes I count just for fun and I get up to at least a hundred cyclists even on cold, rainy days… that really makes me thrilled! On the days where I don’t hit 100, I’ll extend my route by a few blocks so I can ride by more cyclists… I think I may have an OCD cycling-problem or too much time on my hands…

With year round riding comes many dangers: trying to stay off the bike when you should probably think about cross-training or forcing yourself into recovery rides rather than fast centuries as the sun rises …or looking for tall mountains to climb in the morning fog before riding blissfully into the office. And then there are the physical dangers such as black ice during the icy winter months and the slippery cement paired with limited visibility in the pouring rain and fog. But that’s all child’s play.

The one thing I really despise about cycling is descending mountains in any season that’s not summer. Is it sad that my dream is to be able to climb mountains in the winter and then have a chauffeur to drive my bike and I down? I get anxious thinking about descending in the cold due to past experiences… but I find myself doing it over and over anyway. Our “real” summers in Vancouver last less then 3 months where we can comfortably ascend and descend our many local mountains in shorts and a short-sleeved jersey.

The rest of the year, don’t you dare forget your merino base layers and to stuff your jersey pockets with extra wind-blocking gloves, jackets, scarves, booties and whatever you can squeeze in there because you are definitely going to suffer (times a billion)!

I Fucking Love Fitness
My extra wind and water proof thermal jacket looks just as cute as my pink Rapha waterbottle!

Have you ever descended a mountain in a shit-storm of snow, rain and hail? The deceiving sun would keep you in the dark from freak storms that would suddenly roll in once you arrive at the top. The feeling of trepidation will undeniable when you realize the only way down is by bicycle so you have no choice but to suck it up and ride.

Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.

The 15 minute descent will seem like an hour or two where the rain and worse, snow will feel a like a gazillion needles stabbing you in the face and any exposed skin, as if getting a full-body tattoo. Your extremities will be numb and you may have trouble shifting gears and braking as you meticulously try to hide your fingers behind your brake levers to protect them against the wind. Your expression would be frozen in agony while trying to keep control of your bike descending at over 50km/hour but your body is shivering uncontrollably and doesn’t seem to be cooperating. You will start to second-guess your limited vision as elements continue to force itself into your eyes.

First Seymour Climb of 2015
A typical early morning on Seymour blanketed with fog.

Yet, there is nowhere to go but down and the faster you go, the colder it gets as the wind slices through you. All there is left to do is dream about hot chocolate and to remind yourself, the faster you get to the bottom, the sooner it will be over. When you get to the bottom, your body will never seem to warm up and the only desire you will have left is to go home, peel off those wet socks and desperately find ways to warm up.

And once you are warmed up, you suddenly get that urge to jump back on your bike again.

Did I make it sound dramatic and terrible? BECAUSE IT IS! I feel like death every time and even on the days when I think I am prepared for descents, I will never be. I will ALWAYS be cold. The guys I ride with sometimes don’t get bothered by the cold and warm up really quickly and that makes me so envious …or they just don’t complain as much as I do. That is my experience anyway and I blame my low body-fat and the fact that my body takes forever to warm up (and too quick on cooling down).

I did my first real climb this year up Mount Seymour a few Tuesdays ago in the dark and cold morning and my lips were literally blue when I arrived at the office. Then I let my evil friend talk me into a spontaneous climb up Cypress Mountain after hitting up Lions Bay that weekend— prior to the ride, I was at home pondering if I should bring extra gear because Cypress was on the way and I just had a feeling! My instinct is rarely wrong but I always choose to dismiss it.

Yet at the end of the day, my friends and I have gone through this torture countless times yet we refuse to learn our lesson and will continue to spontaneously climb mountains even when a storm is forecasted that day …totally unprepared against the elements because we love riding so much. The pain is worth every second of the triumph and satisfaction we experience conquering mountains by bike.

Our problem is that we like to live in the moment. But I don’t think I’d change a thing.

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