Switzerland is a dream vacation or home for most cyclists. Unfortunately, I haven't been cycling as much as I'd like because cycling gives me the crazies. Seriously. When I exercise very hard, my heart rate goes up, naturally, just like everyone else's. But unlike everyone else's, it doesn't come down after I stop riding-- for days. Then the insomnia sets in and a downward spiral of sickness follows. Don't bother Google diagnosing this. I've been pursuing several paths with doctors and I still have lots of other tests to go through. But I refuse to let it stop me so I indulge my passion two or three times per week, staying within an easy heart rate.
That being said, it's a challenge to find any easy flat areas to ride in Switzerland. Imagine that! Luckily I'm true to my astrological sign, the goat. I love to climb. I'm not a particularly great climber. In fact, if I'm not training for something, I'm usually the proud lantern rouge. I mean, why rush these things, right? Especially when you get to see scenes like this ancient town above, Romainmotier.
Nearly twelve years ago, Mr. Wild Dingo took me on a cycling date up one of Santa Cruz's challenging climbs, Mountain Charlie, a 3-mile, 1,800-foot climb with three very steep sections. After the third steep step, I pulled my bike over and told Mr. Wild Dingo that I was about to toss my cookies. And even though he almost made me vomit on one of our first dates, I still married him. To this day he still thinks I was furious with him. True, barfing doesn't make an ideal date for either person, but what he didn't know is that I'm a masochist and anything that makes me want to retch is worth doing again and again.
Over the years, I rode Mt. Charlie weekly, using it as interval training and pretty much as my go-to climb. Charlie also holds good memories as it's where Mr. Wild Dingo proposed to me on one autumn evening, on the bike of course. Because I didn't hurl when he asked, he took it as a yes and before you know it, we're married.
So when we came to Switzerland, one of the first climbs Mr. Wild Dingo took me up was Col du Marchairuz. I can't tell you how badly it sucked, even for a goat like me. The climb from Biere begins with a complete mind f*ck: a long steep 10% grade section with the illusion that it's more like a 3% grade. I swear whenever I ride it, it feels like I'm pedaling in peanut butter or at best going backwards. It's the kind of climb that you can't ride gently. You pretty much have to ride it fast in order to minimize the time spent in the mind-f*ck . And it wouldn't be so bad because I don't mind suffering on the bike. But I really hate the days of insomnia that follow when I ride too hard.
So I avoid riding the Col du Marchairuz and stick to whatever rolling climbs I can find around here. Like the ride in the photo above, in the Rolle vineyards. Which you have to admit, isn't exactly an eye-sore.
I have to tell you Internet, that Mr. Wild Dingo is not a nice man on the bike. He's inpatient and doesn't see the point of lolly-gagging or coffee-shop riding. To him, unless you're suffering, you're just wasting time. It's funny: when we ride together, I'm the one doing all the suffering. And he's the one always threatening to put my heart rate monitor on his bike just to make sure I'm suffering enough. In our 12 years together, I've only experienced two or three precious moments where he admitted that I punished him on the ride. Usually because he's jet lagged. But hey, I'll take what I can get. And yet, I'm still married to him.
But riding with him lately is out of the question. Because neither of us are able to suffer each other's whining.
Still, I miss climbing. So a few weekends ago, I decided to ride the Col du Mollendruz, the climb parallel to the Marchairuz and connected to it by the Valleé de Joux. A 2,400-foot climb from the start of our house, it was surprisingly gentle with just a few steep steps that lasted just the right amount of time. It was invigorating to be able to climb that high again.
At the top, I found plenty of mountain bike and snow shoe trails. It was a perfect climb. Here's a pretty video of the exact ride but shot from a car. The trees obscure the views of the country, but it looks like I found my Mountain CHarlie in Switzerland. Now I just have to cultivate the perfect training plan so I can open a can of whoop-ass on Mr. Wild Dingo without getting the crazies.
Because Internet, that is true love.