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Report: Mt. Shasta Summit Century - From the Fat Guy in the Peloton

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Road Cycling It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle. -- Ernest Hemingway

Report: Mt. Shasta Summit Century - From the Fat Guy in the Peloton

Old 08-06-12, 01:15 PM
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Report: Mt. Shasta Summit Century - From the Fat Guy in the Peloton

Took part in the Mt. Shasta Summit Century yesterday. A beautiful venue for such a cauldron of suffer. But I wax lyrical…let’s get to the ride report from the fat guy in the peloton.

Due to the high forecast temperatures, we elected to meet at 0430 to start the first climb. Met Banerjek of BF in the parking lot, another youngster whose name escapes me, and my ride partner Gary, and we rolled out at 0444. Banerjek was on his 10th iteration of the ride, and rode with me explaining the route in detail. He soon discovered that Youngster’s light was faster than mine, so we kind of split up a bit and Gary and I rode the old and slow way toward the first summit of our pain.

I was having issues with warming up – had a hard time catching my breath, seemed I was working way too hard for the flat approach to the climb. Later in the day I found that one doesn’t judge grade very well in the pitch dark with just a headlamp, and as we rode out mid-morning we had some real good fast downhills – that we climbed in the dark during my warmup “problems.”

The first climb was about 10 miles of “official” climbing, with a total of just shy of 4000’. Not much in the way of heart-stopping steepness, but it never, ever let up. One just slogs along, watching the fast and skinny leg-shavers fly past you, and rejoicing when you get to a less steep spot and can actually hit 7 or 8 miles an hour. It was balmy/muggy, unusual for this part of the country, and I found myself sweating as only a fatty can. Consumed lots of water on the way up, hoping to stay ahead of any dehydration issues.

About a mile short of the top (unknown to me, my computer sensor was out of position due to time in shop for my bike trying to solve wheel problems), I could see a serious set of switchbacks. Just about the time it looked like we were to veer left to climb said switches, there was the most welcome rest stop I had seen in my life (up to that moment…).

Rehydrated, at fig newtons, and began the descent. Descent. I hate big descents, am not good at them, and this was a technical and crappy road. To tell the truth, the awful road surface on the Park Creek and Mumbo climbs is enough to have me not return – but more on that later.

Now, from the elevation sheet, and the ride description on the website, there is some nice flat riding for recovery between the first and second climb. Don’t believe it. There was no respite – you might get a touch of decline, but then you’d have to pay it back to the hill. The rest stop was welcome, but about 60 miles in we pulled off at the lunch stop to drop rain jackets, lights, and other stuff we had found we didn’t need.

Now on to Mumbo. Mount Doom (spelled Dumb, pronounced “doome”). 12 miles and 3300 feet. Not so bad, average grade will be just fine, right? Well, average grade is worth far less than average speed. See, on the way to Mumbo summit, there was lots of barely steep roadway – spin away with plenty of gears left. To the Fawn Creek rest stop, it actually wasn’t a terribly unpleasant climb. But at the rest stop one had best rehydrate, refuel, and get ready for going to that special place.

One stretch was a pure second-to-second negotiation with myself – to give up or to just ride another few yards. It was heart-stopping steep (in the teens) and LONG! No shade that lasted more than a second or two. And just straight up.

I adopted the procedure of making myself drink a lot (about a bottle every two miles) by stopping and downing a bottle. Mostly because I was stopping to drink the water. That helped my legs – the 45 second break seemed to have helped.

One more astonishingly steep pitch, though short, and it was pretty much a regular climb the rest of the way in. But steep enough that my front wheel came off the ground while I was in the saddle. Yep, steep. And then a beautiful lake view (excuse for a stop to take photos), and 400 yards to the summit. Number 2 of 4.

Positioned myself in the shade with my camera to catch my buddy as he came up the hill. And waited. Maybe a flat. And waited. Maybe a mechanical. And waited – still no word. So I hustled to my bike and jetted (for me, jetted) down the hill, to see my sheepish riding buddy in the shade six miles down at the rest stop, having had cramps about 10 minutes from the top. At least he wasn’t on a gurney! (See, we old guys worry about that kind of stuff…).

Due to his cramps, and the increasing heat, we determined to head back on down to the lunch site. Fortunately, the downhill didn’t require him to do a whole lot of pedaling, so the cramps didn’t return and we pulled into the park. I made some statement about feeling like I could handle the third climb up to Castle Lake, and turned down a ride from Gary and his wife in exchange for riding the four miles to the finish.

Longest four miles of the day. Realized that I was totally whipped by the heat – still sweating, but just not a drop of energy left (not a bonk, was careful all day to eat right). My 25 pounds of extra insulation does not suit me for that kind of climbing on that kind of day, and even if skinny it might have been too much.

After our tiny meal of lasagna and salad, a slice of bread and a cookie, headed home – I usually cannot sleep after a long day like that, so I just hopped in the car and drove the 6 hours home, in the rack about 1215.

End result: 97 miles, between 10,100 and 11-something, depending on how you calculate it, 8-1/2 hours in the saddle. I do make up for being old and fat by being slow…

Observations:
• The early start is the way to go, at least for me. 0430 may sound extreme, but it was the right choice on the hot day.
• One climbs better if not fat.
• The 11/34 casette was a life-saver. There were several points where I was buried in the 34, and my 11/28 would have killed me.
• Rest stops were well equipped. But on a hot day, at least for me, they were spaced too far apart for two water bottles. I carried four, and probably drained a dozen in addition to that I drank at the stop. Carry extra water!
• The traffic on the way to the Mumbo Summit was very heavy near the lake. That was not pleasant, not many drivers appreciated our presence.
• There was a lot of traffic on the narrow Forest Service roads – they didn’t seem to get the concept that there were riders coming down as well as going up – I saw several squeezes that were closer than I would have cared for.
• The roads on the first two climbs were very poor – scary on the descent. Enough that my descent-loving ride partner Gary won’t return.
• Dinner was underwhelming – after paying >$80 to ride, burning X-thousand calories, riders probably should get more than a small square of lasagna, a bit of salad, a cookie and piece of bread. Easily enough cured later in the evening, but I was sure hungry when I got done.

All in all, hard to call a fun ride, except for the fact that cyclists define fun in kind of a sick way. Glad it is in the memory book. And I will return better trained, fitter, lighter, and am going to ride the whole doggoned thing!

Last edited by david58; 08-06-12 at 07:06 PM.
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Old 08-06-12, 01:20 PM
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Nice report. Well done.
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Old 08-06-12, 04:28 PM
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Interesting reading. Thanks for posting your adventures.
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Old 08-06-12, 05:58 PM
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That was a fun ride. Hitting 48mph in the dark with no light is a record for me (in stupidity anyway). Though I must say riding 20 yards behind someone who has a great light doesn't feel that crazy when you're doing it since you can see that much further ahead and you don't need to see directly in front of you if the surface is good.

Rough descents are an acquired taste, and I'll grant that the Parks Creek and Mumbo descents are a handful. I have come to like them because they occupy you physically and mentally in a way a smooth ones can't. You do have to be vigilant against chowderhead drivers and uphill riders who don't realize that swerving in front of cyclists bombing down crappy surfaces at 40+mph is a rotten idea.

You rode the best parts of the ride, though I think you would have enjoyed the Castle Lake descent. Except the very top which is a little bumpy, that one is smooth with sweeping turns so you can securely hit speeds in the high 40's. The climb up Shasta itself isn't particularly interesting as the scenery is mediocre and the pitch isn't enough to get do justice to the smooth wide road when you're coming back down.

I DNF'd myself. Matt is stronger than me, so holding his pace up through Mumbo combined with the heat to make me start feeling icky a couple miles from Castle Lake. Even though I've felt much worse far earlier, I skipped the final climb. I considered finishing, but at some point it's a question of how bad do you want to finish and how much are you willing to suffer? In my case, it was not that much, so I bailed while I still felt OK so I could enjoy the rest of the day.
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Old 08-06-12, 06:16 PM
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Great ride report!
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Old 08-06-12, 06:36 PM
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Originally Posted by banerjek
That was a fun ride. Hitting 48mph in the dark with no light is a record for me (in stupidity anyway). Though I must say riding 20 yards behind someone who has a great light doesn't feel that crazy when you're doing it since you can see that much further ahead and you don't need to see directly in front of you if the surface is good.
My speedometer was not working - I put the magnet on the wrong side of the spokes for my Polar, and the shop bumped my other computer sensor so it didn't work - and couldn't tell in the dark. I suppose we were close to you on speed - your taillights were in view most of the descent. I love it - descending faster in the dark than I have the guts to in the light.

Originally Posted by banerjek
Rough descents are an acquired taste, and I'll grant that the Parks Creek and Mumbo descents are a handful. I have come to like them because they occupy you physically and mentally in a way a smooth ones can't. You do have to be vigilant against chowderhead drivers and uphill riders who don't realize that swerving in front of cyclists bombing down crappy surfaces at 40+mph is a rotten idea.
I was surprised at the number of cars on the road - and more power to you descenders that like the rough roads. I probably buy more brake pads than you do....

Originally Posted by banerjek
You rode the best parts of the ride, though I think you would have enjoyed the Castle Lake descent. Except the very top which is a little bumpy, that one is smooth with sweeping turns so you can securely hit speeds in the high 40's. The climb up Shasta itself isn't particularly interesting as the scenery is mediocre and the pitch isn't enough to get do justice to the smooth wide road when you're coming back down.
I might have been able to pull off Castle Lake if we hadn't lost the hour with Gary's cramping situation. But given the way I felt riding the few miles to the park hint at the fact that it would not have been much fun. Next year.

Originally Posted by banerjek
I DNF'd myself. Matt is stronger than me, so holding his pace up through Mumbo combined with the heat to make me start feeling icky a couple miles from Castle Lake. Even though I've felt much worse far earlier, I skipped the final climb. I considered finishing, but at some point it's a question of how bad do you want to finish and how much are you willing to suffer? In my case, it was not that much, so I bailed while I still felt OK so I could enjoy the rest of the day.
As we age a bit, the ego actually listens to reason if we let it. I've fallen asleep in my first beer from exhaustion before, and I much prefer to enjoy my barleypop, at least the first couple, consciously.

At least next year I'll have some idea of what is on the way.

Did you notice what the bear thought of the idea of riding a bicycle up to Parks Creek Summit?
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Old 08-06-12, 07:27 PM
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I have two daughters that live in Mt. Shasta and have cone Castle lake oodles of times but never attempted to go up mt. Shasta. I was afraid I would run out of air in the altitude. The ride to McCloud it a nice ride and plenty of climbing for me. I only did it once and that turned out to be a hot day and nearly did me in. No water stops along most of the way.
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Old 08-06-12, 08:35 PM
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Originally Posted by david58
My speedometer was not working - I put the magnet on the wrong side of the spokes for my Polar, and the shop bumped my other computer sensor so it didn't work - and couldn't tell in the dark. I suppose we were close to you on speed - your taillights were in view most of the descent. I love it - descending faster in the dark than I have the guts to in the light.
Devon (the young guy) was a madman on that descent. Since I've done it many times before, I told him about the surface, curves, and that it was safe to bomb at full speed so we got a good run on it and went in full aero tuck. Only afterwards did I mention that I almost collided with a couple deer there a few years ago. BTW, we did see a few deer by the road at different places.

Originally Posted by david58
I was surprised at the number of cars on the road - and more power to you descenders that like the rough roads.
A lot of it is knowing the course. The same spots are crappy year after year so you can figure out lines that work and you know where to be careful. Plus I look for smooth/bad spots on my way up. In all honesty, it looked like they fixed a few spots.

Originally Posted by david58
I might have been able to pull off Castle Lake if we hadn't lost the hour with Gary's cramping situation. But given the way I felt riding the few miles to the park hint at the fact that it would not have been much fun. Next year.
You'll be amazed how much easier it is when you know what to expect.

Originally Posted by david58
As we age a bit, the ego actually listens to reason if we let it. I've fallen asleep in my first beer from exhaustion before, and I much prefer to enjoy my barleypop, at least the first couple, consciously.
Precisely.

Sleep induced by heat exhaustion = bad
Sleep induced by beer = good

Originally Posted by david58
Did you notice what the bear thought of the idea of riding a bicycle up to Parks Creek Summit?
Oh yeah. Since it hadn't been there long, I was hoping we'd get a glimpse of it. Preferably not behind us on the way up.

Originally Posted by Phil85207
I have two daughters that live in Mt. Shasta and have cone Castle lake oodles of times but never attempted to go up mt. Shasta. I was afraid I would run out of air in the altitude.
Mt Shasta itself is almost a junk climb. Total elevation gain is decent as is peak elevation, but the pitch is gradual. The view from the road is really not much. The road is smooth and wide, so you can take it at full speed. No thanks to the pitch which doesn't exceed 6% for any reasonable distance, you'll never get going very fast. Frankly, Castle Lake is a far better climb even though you only get about 2K elevation gain.

If you're looking for a better climb in the area, go for Parks Creek. Great scenery and the pitch is better. As David mentions, it is rough so be mindful. If you're looking for more challenge, do Mumbo. Not as scenic, but especially the top half is more challenging and way better than Shasta itself.
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Old 08-07-12, 10:12 PM
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I love that - Mumbo is "more challenging." I can't describe myself it without lots of ***s in the description...
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