Those of us who live in the Illinois part of the Midwest know that hills are a rarie-sh commodity. In our section of Kane County we have Johnson’s Mound, a glacial esker rising some ninety feet over the surrounding flat landscape. That’s about six miles from our house. There is also Campton Hills, a rise in the greater landscape visible from miles away that tops out 800 feet above sea level. Not exactly Alpe du Huez, but it’s something.
I live at about 550 feet above sea level. That means that the most climbing we can achieve in a single shot around here, albeit in a long stretch of riding, is about 300 feet.
By contrast, it’s possible to get that much elevation in a single climb up in Wisconsin. That’s why we go riding up there. The area west of Madison is known as the Driftless Region. It is called that because the glaciers that slid down from the Arctic during the last Ice Age gouged out the Great Lakes and flattened much of Wisconsin and Illinois, but left the northeastern portion of Illinois and Southwestern Wisconsin alone.
Hence, the hills originally formed of limestone deposited by inland seas are still there.
We ride out of Verona, right at the edge of all those hills where the Military Ridge trail shoots west from Madison through Mt. Horeb and on to Dodgeville. But we don’t ride the trail. We ride the roads of the Ironman Wisconsin triathlon course. For eight years now, we’ve started either in downtown Madison or parked at the Rocket Bicycle Studio that sits on the “stick” of the course. The climbs start quickly from there, with flat or rolling sections filling the valleys as you head out toward Mt. Horeb, an arrival that includes a mile climb going into town.
It’s a beautiful, somewhat epic place to ride. Already this spring we’ve ridden in another section of the Driftless Region out by Galena, Illinois. The Ups And Downs ride has some 18% grades on it that require full concentration and smooth pedaling to ride. Plus there were 20-30 mph winds that day. Ooof.
My wife is building strength toward racing in the Ironman World’s 70.3 this fall in St. George, Utah. I’m building strength for whatever else I choose to do this year, which may include a race (or two) in August or September. The Ironman loop we’ll be riding tomorrow is just over 40 miles. She’ll ride two loops for 80 miles. I’ll probably do 40-50 depending on how the legs feel. I rode really well up in Madison doing 56 miles last September in my first 70.3 effort. My time in the first ever 70.3 was just over 6:15.
Sue’s going to be on her new Trek tri-bike and I’ve adjusted my road/tri-bike seating and tri-bars this year so that I’m riding more efficiently. For the climbs, I’ll miss the additional gear I just added with a new cassette on my Specialized road bike, but down the road (pun intended) I’m working on a solution to add clip-on tri-bars to that bike as well.
It’s going to be a moderately warm day, with temps in the mid-80s by about noon, so a good day for riding most likely. We’ve ridden up there on beastly hot days, so we know the deal. Sunscreen will be called for, and I’ll bring my Roka shorts to do some swimming after the ride.
Then I’ll sit down in the Rocket Bicycle Shop or a local Verona eatery (it’s a really cute town) and finish working on the bibliography and references on my upcoming book. I finally finished the corroborative research and listing of references to list in the back.That’s taxing work and now it’s done. That means Honest-To-Goodness: Helping Christianity Find It’s True Place in the World is finally finished and I can prep the book for publication.That is my first big writing goal this summer. Then comes the completion of my other book, Nature Is Our Country Club.
All other avocational activities come second to these two goals. But riding helps me think through the writing and inevitably stokes ideas for improvement. See? There are many reasons to ride in this world. That’s what I’ll be doing among the hills of Madison, Wisconsin. The mind scenery is beautiful and the mind is free to flow and explore. This cycling thing? It’s not all about racing. That can come when it comes.