For the love of the Hills

This past Saturday I joined a local group and went on a 20 mile loop to the west of Madison. I’ve heard that west of Madison is pretty hilly (that’s where the “Horribly Hilly Hundred” is), but for some reason I thought that it was a different “west” of Madison. Ha. I was wrong.

I ended up doing the loop myself – everybody else who showed up wanted to go on the 50 mile ride (the group had a 20, 35, 50 mile rides planned) – I’m not there yet, especially with those hills. So I went alone. I had checked on the route – – and for some reason thought that besides the scary looking hill around mile 13.5, it should be a pretty easy ride. And it was, for the first ~5 miles.

Have I mentioned that it was hilly? Bigger hills than I have done yet, and one after another. The scary one at 13.5 was long, and not as steep as I thought it would be, but the road had recently had gravel put down on it. I had never ridden on gravel before (road bike + gravel = 1 scared Clyde), so I was taking it real slow.

I made it up the scary hill, finally, and prepared for a nice ride back. That wasn’t to happen. It was just the beginning of the hills! The next one I went up beat me. I hadn’t had a hill beat me yet, but this one did. Still gravel, so I was trying to go slow still. I made it 75 to 80% of the way up, and gave up. I was doing all of the positive talking I could to get myself over the hump, but I just couldn’t do it. I’m pretty sure that my heart rate was at 110% of maximum. I was beat. I couldn’t even dismount. I unclipped and waddled, hunched over the handlebars, the rest of the way up. Then I got back on and made it back to the car – there were more hills, but on pavement, and none that were big enough to beat me anymore.

So. I had a hill beat me. What do I do now? Way inside, in the deepest corner of my emotional fear closet, I apparently had begun to form a nice place for hills. I was afraid of them. I didn’t know it consciously, but it came out this morning on my ride.

I was riding with Jason, and he was taking me on a pretty flat route. about 3/4 of the way through it, he said, “Do you want to do a medium hill, or a big hill?” I said it didn’t matter – I was up for either. At that point I was. So he decided on the big hill. Then he changed his mind and thought the medium hill would be better. Okay. “Let’s do Hillcrest.” Okay. I’ve done it before. And it was the one hill that came close to beating me before the one on Saturday.

So here’s where this lengthy post redeems itself. As I approach the hill (a two parter, not that big really), I realize that I’ve made a cozy place in my fear closet for hills, and this one is sitting there staring at me. I also realize that until I saw it, I had been fearing it, and preparing for the worst. I was thinking, “Okay, gear down and spin early so you can make it up. You can make it, right?” Then I changed it. I had a “BING” / lightbulb-over-the-head moment, and decide that I’m going to beat this hill.

I changed my attitude towards the hill. You know what? I beat it! I had a plan of attack (assisted by Jason), and I executed it. When I got out of the saddle to power up the last bit of the hill, I used my big ‘ol clyde thighs for what they’re made for – POWER!

Once we got over the hill, Jason offered some congratulations to the effect of “you owned that hill!” It was great. I did own it. I’m not afraid of it.

So, use this as some sort of encouragement – despite being a Clyde / Athena (as us overweighters are called in the biking / triathlon community), you CAN do the things you’re scared of. Whether it’s a hill that beat you, a longer route, a different group to ride with (or without), or even just the idea of getting on a bike at all – change your attitude about it, USE what you’ve got to your advantage, and reap your results!

Whew! I’m pretty pumped up. Sorry, people! Thanks for putting up with me! :D

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