planning little things

It was a couple of weeks prior to this trip that, as always, planning which days to leave and return that make the trip.  GV knows I like to rollover weekends in Colombia as it helps change up the outdoor activity picture.

Medellin, where I frequent, sits in a valley even though the city is as high as Denver (about a mile above sea level).  The airport is up above Medellin several thousand feet.  The view during decent into the city from the airport is worthy of a postcard.  Although there are different ways up and down, this main road is called Las Palmas.  From the bottom to the top it’s 3,200 feet, about 10 miles.  (it’s further and higher to the airport, this is just the main accent/decent portion).

Years ago when I had my Marin hybrid bike there, I’d ride up from the bottom up and occasionally slip into the granny gear.  There weren’t as many riders then as the last couple of years, but still plenty.  But yes, the Marin had a triple crankset but regular 700 rims.  It was a true road-bike hybrid.  I tried to resist going into the granny gear (they call it the lady gear in Spanish) but was sure glad she was there many times.  Unless you are mountain biking, very few road riders use triples.  Still, I didn’t drop into the granny gear often.  My middle crank was a 42 with a cassette that topped out with a 25 ring.  I was satisfied then, when I could get up Las Palmas on the Marin without using granny.

Since those days 5-6 years ago, I’ve been up Las Palmas maybe 100 times.  Some guys go up five times per week.  Once per week is enough for me.

What’s the point?  The last time I was in Medellin I rode up the day I traveled and I was floored.  I almost didn’t make it and at one point, I felt a dizziness coming on.  It was a little scary and slightly concerning.  Bottom line, Palmas kicked my ass that day and intimidated me.

For the last two years I’ve kept a BMC aluminum frame (opposed to my BMC carbon in NYC) with a double crank 53×39 and a 28×11 cassette.  The cassette prior topped at 25 but I needed a new one last year so I bumped it to 28.  And I’m so glad I did.  Age convinced me.

Anyway, the last dizzy trip up I had to use the 28 gear in the back.  I never had to do that on this bike as I always saved that for stiffer inclines (although Palmas is still not for faint of heart).  I’m in the 28, standing and grunting and dizzy.  It played with my head.

I usually start from the bottom.  Many guys (and some girls) start at mile three, at least the more affluent, who live in up off the city in the spread of high rises sprawled up the bottom of the mountain with each building competing for more beautiful views.  Mile three there is a country club so most guys measure their time from the CC to the top.  If you are in the biking scene, you’ve done Palmas.  If you do Palmas, you know your time because that’s what guys talk about.

Two trips ago I visited a very nice denim jeans factory and the commercial director had a picture of a bike in his office.  We started talking biking.  Where did he end up?  His time going up Palmas.

From mile three, it’s about 2,500 feet to the top.  There are no flat parts.  It’s all up.  A couple of easier grades and mostly stiffer ones.  I heard a pro made it up in 36 minutes.  I know of a couple of guys who, on their good days, get close to 40 minutes (but have yet to break 40).  The commercial director of the jean shop was proud to be at 55 minutes.  I’ve hovered around the 55 minute mark when I was in the swing of things, but I’ve been happy lately not measuring.

Yesterday, because I rode with my Colombian associate, I timed it because he is a timer.  He has somewhat of a  typical Colombian physique, but because he’s inconsistent he smartly uses a compact crank (50×34).

The fact that I simply made it was thrilling after the last time’s head trip.  In fact, I said to GV while planning this trip, that I wanted to arrive on a Friday, so that I could walk Palmas Saturday, accomplish a 62 mile ride Sunday, hit the gym during the week early before work with a spin class of two thrown in, then conquer Palmas on the bike the day I travel back, which was yesterday.

Those little plans, the fact that I did exactly as planned, felt so satisfying.  Even though my time today was just under 65 minutes, I was elated.  Perhaps what also helped was that I stopped the antibiotics a few days prior, after after 23 days.  I was supposed to finish them to 28 days but 23 seemed like enough.

But I’m getting off track.  Some times it’s the bigger plans that provide a memorable satisfaction, like the ride brother P and I did a few years ago from Chicago to Lanc-hysteria.  That trip was extremely satisfying.  Even though we could have never predicted what would happen between the beginning and end, it was a plan and it was executed perfectly and provided a load of satisfaction.

What I accomplished this past week was nothing close to the cross country trip plan, but another type of plan nevertheless.   Especially given my seemingly fragile, at times, condition, that small little planned target was rich.  Anything to take my mind off the pending jawbreaker.

So if I bored anyone with this post, honestly, I wasn’t planning on it.

on the way up (or down) Las Palmas

7 thoughts on “planning little things

  1. peterforney

    Well sorry, you didn’t bore me. I love this stuff. 🙂 I, like you, have design specific gear. I also went on better then you on the hills. I have very light climbing wheels, weighing in at 1275 grams and I run a 12-29 cassette. The wheels I run on the flats come in at 1740 grams and I us an 11-23 cassette. You know why I don’t ride climbing wheels on the flats. The crank is the same as yours, 53-39. In Chicago I ran a 53-42 because it was soooo flat. The arm length is 172.5. Did you go to the 175? So going up hill is not so simple when you want to do it quickly. Every ounce counts and you gear for it like the difference between a truck and a car. You and I know so well how easy the first mile of the century is compared to the last mile. Every ounce and piece of friction adds up over time.

    Not sure stopping the antibiotics was a good idea. They need enough time to do there job. I’ll be thinking of you!

    1. Freddie Spaghetti Post author

      thanks for the comments pf. On the Marin hybrid I ride a 175 crank. On the traditional road drops I’m riding 172.5’s. I’d only wish I could ride w/your efficiency and strength. It’s crazy how many Colombians are now buying deep dish carbon wheels for climbing.

      re the antibiotics, the term was 14 days and I did 23. I was just saying that I did 9 days overkill instead of double dose. But, with what’s going on now, maybe you are right and I should not have stopped.

  2. Anonymous

    Fred: Thanks for your depiction of another stunning adventure–albeit for you, one you have done many times before. I am one of many who admies your energy and commitment. Keep composing those plans and sharing with us their execution. Luv ya mon, Stryker

  3. Richard Lake

    God, I forgot how hard that ride was. Up Balsos to my apt. from Avenida Pobado was even worse! I can remember crawling into the elevator afterwards and hyperventilating all the way up to the seventeenth floor. If anyone is reading this, I am the friend that owns Fred’s Marin hybrid and the Granny saved my ass countless times on those Andean hills. I’ve still got it in my apt. which is the unfortunately located on a rather steep hill. Fred will tell you how brutal our returning legs were on treks out west.

    1. Anonymous

      Hey Richard, good to hear from you after a while. Los Balsos was (and still is) a natural stress test. At least the marin is well kept and ready for your return some day. Maybe after your tenure in Chicago we’ll get back there. fs


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