Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dirty Dozen 2011

The Dirty Dozen (DD)was an event I had been thinking of for several years, and this was going to be the year. The problem was was that I hadn't been riding very much in November. Not the kind of lead up needed to do the DD. Though I still wanted to give it a try as a lot of the hills were ones I grew up around.

The DD is held each year in Pittsburgh around Thanksgiving. This year, over 300 riders decided to try and take on 13 of Pittsburgh's steepest hills. I was just hoping to ride a few of the hills before cramping up completely.

I called Mark and told him about the ride. He had been riding even less than me, but I guilted him into it (and the nice weather forecasted didn't hurt). We drove down to the oval and registered. Met up with Jeff, and the three of us shortly headed out of the parking lot. We were bringing up the rear of the group which gave us a great view of just the huge number of riders as we entered on to the Highland Park Bridge. The bridge was completely ours.

We quickly exited off the bridge to Aspinwall. We turned left on Center Avenue (#1) and began riding the first hill of the day. Of all the hills, this was probably the easiest, or would have been the easiest if it hadn't been only three miles into the ride. The fake summits also made it a bit tougher. Before we knew it, we were at the top of hill number one.

A neutral pace was held as we headed down into Sharpsburg. We rode the back roads until we turned on to Sharp's Hill (#2). This was a real hill. It kept getting steeper and steeper, and then toward the end it turned uphill with a vengeance. This was the first hill where I saw people walking their bikes. And it was great to have family members and friends cheering us on.

We made it to the top, and Mark announced that he was done. Well, I would have none of that. As the group rode on, we latched on to the back and quickly weaved our way to the mid-pack. Took a quick left down a steep hill. We were supposed to get a run into Berry Hill (#3), and the intersection was blocked for us by volunteers, but a good number of people didn't realize this and slowed way down. I was pretty familiar with this road, so I made my way through the riders and got a decent roll in to the hill. I've driven this hill in my car, and it seemed much to steep to ride a bike up. Though the hill is extremely steep, it was a short hill. I just got out of the saddle and pedaled the best I could keeping my eyes on my front tire. Lots of people walking up this hill. If you mis-shift, there is no way to make up for it.

I waited for Mark to catch up to me, which was a bad sign. Mark is faster than me, and it's not often that I'm waiting for him at the top of a hill. Though Mark was tired he was starting to warm up a bit.

We headed down Middle Road to Route 8 and turned left toward Etna. Turned right toward Etna, then took a right up High Street (#4). This hill was not so bad; it had a lot of switchbacks that gave me a break just as I needed it.

We went down the back side of the hill to Route 28 and then to Riverview Park for the first organized break. Well-organized with lots of fluids and food, but the downside was that my legs starting cooling down too much.

We then headed toward Logan Street (#5) which took us up the backside of Troy Hill. Jeff warned us that this hill was miserable. I really worry when Jeff says that kind of thing as he rides way better than me. But he was right, it was miserable. You could see the whole length of the hill, and it just went straight up in some kind of impossible looking angle.

We started up the hill, but then a support van decided to weave it's way through the riders, but there was just no room. It cause a lot of us to have to put a foot down. Not what I wanted to do. Restarting was really tough. I barely made it to the top of this hill. Mark said he was really done and would put his bike in a relative's car.

I headed toward Rialto Street (#6) otherwise known as Pig Run. I met my wife at the top of this hill and got a phone call from Mark asking to put his bike in her car as it wouldn't fit in his. When he arrived, I told him it would be no problem to take his bike, right after he did Pig Run with me. Grudgingly he agreed.

This is a down and back hill. We had to walk our bikes down the hill, get on the bikes and ride back up the road. There was no easy start to this hill as it was closed due to construction. Again I stood up out of the saddle and just looked at my front wheel. When I didn't think I could go any farther, I looked up to see a small leveling of the road that arrived just in time. I was then able to finish. This hill was tough, but luckily it wasn't too long.

Also, I really loved the party atmosphere at Pig Run. The residents were all wearing pink pig noses while cheering us on. After completing this hill, we called it a day. I can't wait until next year to do the whole DD. It was a lot of fun, though I may need to train a bit next year.