We sprinted up to Hollywood and, no surprise, only one other rider was present. The four of us enjoyed apple-cinnamon cake and strong black pour-over coffee before heading out. Ed texted me that he and the Randos wouldn't make it. Turns out they were different riders altogether and the two I took with me were out on another ride after all.
We headed east on Halsey. It was chilly and sprinkly, but the pavement was dry. Stopped for Atomic Fireballs at the General Store in Troutdale, but they're still on order according to the clerk. On down the hill, over the bridge and onto the Crown Point Highway, which closes before you can get to Crown Point.
The Randos rode off before the highway closure, leaving two of us to ride up Larch. We passed the sign warning of ice. The air was cold, but the pavement wasn't icy so we continued. There's a funny kind of paradox to climbing a big hill in the cold. You're hot and sweaty and cold and shivery all at the same time.
The snow gate was closed, but there wasn't any snow. There were two other riders on their way down who said it was snowy higher up. Onward. Past the gate. My achy knee and fear of ice found me uttering "I'm satisfied, let's turn back" a mere mile or so past the gate. So, back down again. The down part is the hardest, especially when it's cold and wet.
Drinking my second cup of hot tea at the Corbett store, I felt pretty bullet-proof. If only I could figure out why so I could duplicate this feeling for future challenges. Maybe it was Saturday's rest day. Maybe it was the chill in the air. Maybe it was that strange feeling of control over my own fate, which, of course, is an illusion. Maybe that's all strength is, an illusion. It's not rest or rhythm or intervals or calorie deficit or heart rate, it's just perception.
Sprinted home on the flat parts, stopping to change headlight batteries. Looking out at traffic on the busy four lane road, filled with cars and bleary headlights and rain spray, it struck me how frightening this sort of terrain can be. Getting back out there, turning right and continuing at a breakneck pace, I felt like I was somehow contained in a little bubble of safety. Finally home, I sank into a steaming hot bath and played paceline with rubber ducks.