Bike Shock Session: Mt. Rainier

snowbanks are still high near Paradise

snowbanks are still high near Paradise

I did my first shock session of the season on April 19th, where I biked with a buddy on a mild ride (@400' climb/30 miles) using my classic Gary Fisher hard tail mountain bike, then continued on to Mt. Rainier National Park to hit the West Side Road for another 1000' climb and 9 miles, then continued to Longmire where I biked to Paradise for another 2600' climb and 22 miles, for a 100K day with 4000' of climb. If you are interested on my philosophy on shocking the body then refer to this blog post from 2010: Going Longer: Shock, Body Memory and Mental Toughness. When I shock my body I go at least twice as far as my longest session since last summer/fall season. I have been doing some occasional rides and gym sessions that generally don't exceed 50K. This is one of the techniques I use to keep all the moving and thinking parts in working order with the goal of enjoying an active lifestyle after retirement, still 4 years away.

But this session was far more than a training ride. I got to hang with my STP buddy for a few hours, enjoying the recent record breaking heat (my vehicle thermometer still read 82 degrees F when I entered the park at 2 PM), yukking it up and stopping halfway through for a coffee shake. Then the bike up the West Side Road, checking the snow levels and enjoying solitude on the road (road is still gated until opening to vehicles for the first 3 miles on April 29), checking out the washouts, enjoying teeth rattling sections where I wished for full suspension, and ending with a speed limit busting romp back to the vehicle. By now the heat was subsiding and I tried to time my descent from Paradise just before sunset, and indeed the traffic thinned considerably. I started uphill at 5 PM and there were only 4 vehicles in the Paradise parking lot when I blasted off at 7:15 PM...not one car overtook me on the way down so I basically had the road to myself, reveling in alternating icy breezes, warm pockets, setting sun and a dry road. I even had to keep my mouth closed on the final miles as the bugs were a flyin', hard to believe this was April.

Mt. Rainier National Park is certainly my stomping ground, and has been for over 30 years, but I never tire of its environs, whether on trail, off trail, or on road. As I get older I also like to incorporate more biking in my training; the hills give me long duration aerobic workouts without the pounding of running or trail trotting, my quads stay in shape, and my reward after all that pseudo suffering is the romp back downhill. I'm looking forward to when the paving project is done for the Longmire to Paradise section when I might have a hankering to bring my road bike and go, let's say, slightly faster.

This short video are some of the highlights from biking the roads in the park: Longmire to Paradise (or sometimes the entrance to Paradise), the West Side Road (closed, except the first 3 miles, to non park vehicles), Highway 410 from Cayuse Pass to the gate at Crystal Mountain turnoff (last year I was able to bike this section all the way to the White River entrance when it was closed for the season, as there was no snow on the road in February), and finally the Ipsut Creek trail, which was a vehicle road but closed due to recurring wash outs and is now open to hiking and biking only. This year I will video Highway 123 and the Stevens Canyon road to complete the series. Vive le bike Rainier!