One of the tests of my training I've been eagerly anticipating this season is the Alpine Loop. I only even considered doing it last year, and managed to pull it off once--well, I only tried once. I tried it last year in the middle of the day, after doing some yard work. I started out dehydrated. It got up to 103 that day. Also, I was in bad shape. I think that it ended up taking me 4:30 (including all my stops for water and rests along the way).
I wasn't prepared at all for it.
I'm in much better shape now, so I decided I'd try and do it in 3:00. I also planned on doing it the other direction--that is, Provo to American Fork. I gave myself 3 hours--planning to leave at dawn (around 5:30 am) in hopes of making it home around 8:30 am and only about an hour late to work.
It began all bad with me not getting out until closer to 5:45 am. The wind coming down Provo canyon was brutal, as well. I was having a hard time keeping a good pace before I even got to the mouth of the canyon. I figured, however, that if I got to the top of the Alpine Loop by 7:30, I might just be able to make it home by 8:30.
By the time I turned on to the north fork/alpine loop road, I was tired. It's been said before, and looking back, I'd have to agree, that the first bit (below Aspen Grove and Sundance) is the worst. For me, the problem is that it doesn't look that bad. The road is fairly straight without too many bends. In my mind, at least, if a road has to switch-back up a mountain, it MUST be steep. By the time I arrived at Aspen Grove, I was feeling a little better--having pushed past my pain--but not looking forward to the switchbacks to come.
I felt fantastic after this point. The sun finally came out and I was warming up. The gate is closed to motor traffic so I had the whole road to myself. The switchbacks weren't steep. In fact, I managed to shift up a few gears and pick up my pace.
I made it to the summit at 7:28 am. To me, this was the victory. I was ahead of schedule and I had made it without dying. In fact, I felt much, much better than I did on my previous attempt last year. MUCH better.
The descent was fun--except for when my fingers started to go numb from the cool air. American Fork canyon is on the west side, so the sun hadn't reach most of it yet. Once I got lower, however, I dropped the hammer and kept the pace fast. I made it home right at 8:30 am. 2:44 was my ride time. My average was just a hair under 16mph.
I know, this is really kind of slow. I won't start looking for sponsors, yet. For me, though, it was a victory--one for which I've been working on for about 10 months. Now that I've won, I plan to make that ride a regular part of my training.