Palomar Mountain

This past weekend was the last big weekend of training before Ironman, and I wanted to make it a good one! Instructions on my training plan read long ride with 2.5 hours of tempo on rolling hills to long climbs—find something that simulates the course. The IM France course is nothing if it’s not hilly; after the first 10k, it heads straight into over an hours worth of steady climb. Hilly is not actually the right word–it’s more like mountainous. Rolling hills and our usual climbs were not going to suffice. There was only one ride that was going to make me feel like I was out on that IM France course, and that was Palomar–all 5500 ft of it. After a failed attempt to talk my riding partners into it (it’s ok, guys, you’re forgiven. . .), I split off and headed inland.

Possibly the hardest part of climbing Palomar is getting there. Forget about the hills along the way that usually counted for our long climbs, the heat because you’re heading straight inland, and the cattle grates perfectly positioned in the shade so that you don’t see them until the last split second. Forget about them, because the really harry part about Palomar is the narrow casino lined road that brings you to the base of the South Grade. Between the large buses hauling packs of gamblers to the casinos, and–even scarier–the cars leaving the casino parking lots mid morning, driven by people whom you suspect probably SHOULD be riding one of those large buses, it is a dicey stretch.

But, finally, I arrive at the bottom. After a quick (longer than Bree’s 45 second sushi stop last week, but as fast by my standards) stop at the store to refill water bottles, I was ready to face the challenge. Someone told me once that Chris Horner’s record is 52 minutes, so I knew I had well over an hour of climbing in store. Up and up and up. The road stretched on forever, steadily upwards with lots of switchbacks. I settled into a good rhythm, feeling the burn and accepting the pain of the climb. Pretending I was on the Ironman race course, I pictured the crazy French spectators and their chants: “Allez, allez, allez!!”. I pass the 3,000 ft marker, still feeling good and strong, HR in the right zone. I keep climbing. It starts getting hard, and somewhere along the way, I convince myself that I must have missed the 4,000 ft marker. . .only to see it about 5 minutes later. Argh!! The day’s workout is just as much mental as physical, I remind myself, and refocus on keeping the pedals turning. Finally, finally, I see the 5,000 ft marker, and know that the end is (almost) within sight.

I am rewarded with amazing views as well as an awesome technical descent. . .and some Hot Tamales, my favorite candy, from the corner store down below.

As my friend, Greg—a pro bike racer for the last 50 years (ok, not quite, but close) and who rides more miles in SD each year than I likely will in my entire lifetime—put it, “I remember each and every one of my Palomar rides”. Now I have one more Palomar memory to add to the bank: )

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2 Responses to “Palomar Mountain”

  1. Bree Says:

    Oh my gosh, did you really ride down that thing… and I bet if you ate sushi you would have ridden it in 51 minutes 🙂

    Hope to see you next month… LOVE that you are on the way to Kona… VROOOOOOOOOOOM!

  2. E Says:

    Thanks for forgiving us; I was surprised Big Bill didn’t want to go with you.

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