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The View from Rattlesnake Point

May 22, 2012

Today’s Ride: 90lm—Rattlesnake Point, down to Lakeshore, back up the escarpment, and down again

Weather: Warm, muggy

I found myself ruminating on Johnny Cash’s rendition of “Hurt” on my ride this morning. It occurs to me that “I hurt myself today/Just to see if I could feel” serves as something of a badge for most cyclists. Cycling is most glorious when it’s painful—when sensations are at their most heightened. Being able to suffer the pain and overcome it offers a kind of physical success that many contemporary cyclists—in their white-collar lives and worlds—can rarely experience in other facets of everyday life. It’s a curious juxtaposition that my body does its hardest “work” in the saddle rather than at the office. That I can feel my muscles and lungs during exertions on the bicycle is both painful and wonderful at the same time. It is a reminder that this body is meant to work, meant to strain. And become stronger in so doing.

I climbed Rattlesnake Point this morning for the first time this year. It hurt. But pain is temporary. Too quickly, I found myself in the lowest gear, and worried that I still had a long way to go. I tried to control my breathing as best I could, but even that was soon ragged, and I hadn’t yet hit the hairpin turn, after which another 200m would get me to the top. Rattlesnake Point tops out at 22%, but it’s not the steepness as much as it is the unrelenting grade, much sooner than you imagine. From Derry Rd., the road starts to climb—slightly at first, but already quite noticeably before you hit the trees. At the first turn, you’re already fully immersed in the climb and the pitch is fierce. 500m away, the Bell School Line offers an alternative ramp up to the same point. It’s milder, with two steps of roughly 100m each at 17%, but the break in the middle allows the rider to recover just slightly in order to assault the second ramp. Not so on Appleby Line, where the climb is fiercer and longer and unremitting.

From the top of Rattlesnake Point

The leafy green belies both the steepness and the length of the hurt required to get to this point. It almost looks serene. To compound the discomfort, I’ve been struggling with a sore throat and a bit of congestion this week; neither could have done much for my breathing.

The main objective of today’s ride was to take in this climb and continue on. I feel I passed the test. Sydenham was not troubling today and I maintained a good pace up that. And within a minute or so after getting to the top of Rattlesnake Point (and the briefest of stops to snap the picture above), my breathing and heart rate had recovered and I was back on pace for the rest of the ride. In keeping with recent rides, I’ve been wanting to shoot for roughly 100k on each ride; this one came in a bit short—90—but I enjoyed the ride down to the lakeshore and then back up the escarpment before wheeling down Sydenham Rd. into Dundas. Pace, speed, and power were good, and but for a bit of congestion and a chesty cough, sensation felt good.

Sunday will bring the Velominati Ontario Cogal, which will start at Café Domestique in Dundas and make its way up to Erin for lunch—via Rattlesnake Point. And then back again along some interesting roads and up some fun climbs. Roughly 185km in total: that should be a good test.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 23, 2012 11:54 am

    Ahhh, that photo is scary! I don’t like that view at all. And you can even see the hairpin turn down there, meaning you come around that thing and then see that wall of climbing pain. Jeez.

    Reminds me of hearing a local bar owner telling an LBS mechanic that he preferred running to cycling because “cycling doesn’t get my heart rate up.” Umm, I’m guessing he hasn’t ridden Rattlesnake Point.

    • May 23, 2012 12:19 pm

      That bend is only 90 degrees, and 100-150m down (quite steep) to a 180 degree hairpin turn, which hits when you’re already pretty much at your limit. Being able to see the bend in the picture from below is reassurance that you’re almost there; I found yesterday that was enough to get myself out of the saddle and finish the climb.

      Here’s a preview from the 2011 National Road Race, which took in this climb. It doesn’t help that they speed up the video of the climb, which makes it look pretty easy:

    • May 23, 2012 12:26 pm

      Highlights of the Men’s Road Race below. Nice to see them suffering on the hill, too:

      • May 23, 2012 12:29 pm

        …and the Women’s Road Race negotiating the hairpin turn:

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