I've begun to perceive a tendency if not an actual theme - A look in a listener's eyes communicating something between "what for?" and "You poor fool." I've even begun to hold out and omit some of the enormity of an otherwise splendid tale if I see that the listener is bereft of an overaggressive sense of adventure.
But on Saturday I finally met a fellow who understood. Yes, he got it. He likewise had summited Mt. Diablo 5 times consecutively in 1 period of daylight. On my 4th ascent of the day - which happened to be up the South side of the mountain - I paced with a gentleman sporting a '99 Death Ride finisher's jersey. He commented that it was rather late in the day, on such a warm afternoon, to be climbing all the way to the top of the mountain. I tried desperately to achieve nonchalant as I let him know this was my 4th pass. He was unfazed and retorted with simple frankness that his record was 5. Today however, he was content to achieve the Ranger Station - half way to the top.
It was at that point that in spite of a fitful 4 hours of sleep the night before, temperatures 10 degrees warmer than expected, and a growing numbness of mind and body, I decided I must at least match my own 1 year old record of 5 summits again this day.
Indeed I succeeded, and was pleasantly surprised to find myself finishing in somewhat better shape than I had a year ago. I could see, spit, and walk straight - often 2 of them at the same time. Let's just say - last year I was dangerous driving home.
However, in the face of triumph there was also a conceptual defeat. I had been hoping for 6.
4 in 2009
5 in 2010,
and now in 2011...
My arithmetic proved to be superior to my resolve. At 120 miles, 17,800' of elevation gain, and 10 hours 30 minutes on the bike, I was tired. My friends were all gone, showered, cool, and sipping... sipping - yes sipping, not guzzling bottle after bottle of warm translucent agony lubricant. I entertained the hope of at least a half summit of number 6, but the arguments in opposition were increasing faster than I could keep up with them on that long slow ascent of Number 5. I was rapidly becoming incapable (more mentally and emotionally than physically) of a 6th pass. If 6 was victory, then I was destined for defeat.
The conceptual defeat was ameliorated only slightly by an early morning stroke of genius. Yet indeed the genius may have also been the demise of that half summit of number 6. I had arrived early and spent my first 30 minutes climbing to the 1000' marker - 8 miles round trip and 750' of elevation gain. On returning to the valley I met my friends and we then proceeded on our way up the first real ascent. I tucked that solo ride, a little piece of brilliance, away in a side jersey pocket for the outside chance I didn't make it past 5 - I would at least have bettered last year.
The presence of that knowledge rapidly became a weight and a burden more than a crutch. I began to reason...
The half summit of number 6 was pointless if I didn't go all the way.
Was a half summit plus my early solo climb of 750' really any better than the 750' alone?
I had still fallen short of 6.
5 plus a little more, was only 5 plus a little more no matter how much more I chose to go, short of 6.
6 wasn't happening.
5.5 is pointless if 5.2 is already bagged.
Ok so it would actually be 5.7 - but I've already given up on 6.
If I give up on 6, is 5.7 really any better than 5.2?
I reasoned, No.
So this year I summitted 5.2 times. Though a marked disappointment, it reigns as my second greatest cycling achievement ever.
And at home, my Coca Cola was chilled perfectly for sipping.
The car struck by a cyclist (with broken driver's side window) and the helicopter that took the cyclist off the mountain. That's not the ride he had planned.