Training begins for The Highlander

Having taken it easy since returning from my vacation in Canada, today I started my official training for the Highlander Cycle Tour. The Highlander is billed as the toughest century in the east, with courses ranging up to the 115-mile “Death Before Dismount” with 11,000 feet of climbing. [ MapMyRide ]

I’ve actively avoided the Highlander in other years, mainly on the basis of its reputation. Plus, I used to work on Saturdays. Bikerjohn roped me into it this year.

We’ll be doing the wimpy version—the 70-mile cut of the Corkscrew Century. Sounds just about right for me since five-hours is my limit for just about any activity before I have a strong and irresistible need to be doing something—anything—else.

John has mapped the Corkscrew with the 70-mile cut, and the full Corkscrew Century is here.

None the the rides look nearly as challenging on MapMyRide, BTW. I’m not sure why they seem so conservative there. For instance, the legendary Bopple Hill Road climb starting at 23.98 miles into the DB4D is a measured 23% grade. MapMyRide shows is as a gentle 4.7%. Hell, even I can do that in the big ring. But I’ve looked down Bopple Hill Road from the top. Made me dizzy.

While my flatlands commuting keeps me in shape for club rides and served me well on vacation, I don’t think it’s quite enough for the Highlander. Today I started training for it. I’ll ride my “hills, parks, cemetery and trails” route to work more often, and on the weekends I’ll be doing hill repeats.

Despite being flatlands, there are a few select hills around, and I laid out a course that links several of them. Today I wanted to get a feel for the course, to see if it would work on the bike like I thought it would in my mind.

I decided I’d try two repeats of each hill today, just to see how it feels and how it measures out. The plan is to add one more repeat each week until the event next month.

I also did this with Jeeves’ standard double and my flatlander 12-23 cassette. For the event itself I’ve ordered a compact double and I’ll mount the 12-27 cassette.

Jeeves and I set out from home for Ellison Park. Off North Landing Road, just south of Blossom Road, Rich’s Dugway drops down into the park. It’s a less-traveled alternative to Blossom Road and perfect for hill training. We did two repeats of the climb out of there.

Then we rode south on North Landing to Penfield Road, cut thorough some side streets to Clover Street, and hung a right on Highland Ave. Crossing Winton, the next right is Cobbs Hill Drive. We went over and back twice.

Next, the climb from Highland Ave to the Cobbs Hill Reservoir itself. Twice.

Then we traversed Pinnacle Hill from Monroe Ave to Mt Hope Ave using my “hills, parks, cemetery and trails” commute route, which itself is derived from the Ten Parks Tour. It climbs and descends and climbs and descends along the north face of Pinnacle Hill, through residential neighborhoods and Highland Park.

At the cemetery’s North Entrance, there is only one choice of direction, and that’s up—although there are three choices for gaining altitude. I don’t usually do the asphalt-paved one all the way around to the left, so that’s the one I started on. It’s a bear because it starts at only 4%, then slowly ramps up to 13%. Down the other side, turn around and come back. Then repeat.

Finally I did two repeats of my favored cobbled and washed-out dirt and gravel climbs. It’s three hills one after another, separated by asphalt descents, all fairly short, but steep. I returned to the North Entrance, and repeated them, but then continued to the Elmwood Ave exit.

Home from there through the University’s freshly-paved River Campus, then on to the flats of the Riverway and downtown, all at an easy spin to pump out the legs.

I arrived home 95 minutes after starting with 25 miles on the odometer and 2186 feet on the altimeter. Better still, I felt like I could do more.

If doing two repeats of those hills is about 2000 feet, then next week we should do 3000 feet in three repeats, and work our way up to 5000 feet in five repeats the week before the event. The Corkscrew is 6000 feet of climbing, so it’ll fall right into the progression nicely.

I think I’m satisfied with this. None of the hills compare to anything we’ll encounter on the ride, but it’s the best I can do with the hills we have within a few miles of home.

Next time, I’ll get a few more warm-up miles in before hitting the Dugway. I felt a lot better climbing Cobbs Hill than the Dugway, mainly because by then I was warmed-up. I like riding the Dugway, but it wasn’t enjoyable this morning. All I can come up with is that I wasn’t warned-up. So we’ll try hat next weekend.

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