I woke up today in a very cranky mood. I did not sleep well and even after downing my cup of coffee, my mood remained the same. I was hoping that my bike ride, which was happening in an hour, would get me in a better state of mind and I believe my husband was wishing the same thing.
My friend Alison & I set a mini-goal for ourselves for the month of September. We decided that each week we would tack on an extra loop to our Battlefield ride and when we hit 4 loops, we will treat ourselves to a fine lunch.
One of my personal goals this summer was to not use my “Granny” gear. I have a 3-ring set on my bike, which means I have a big chain ring for high gears, a middle ring for cadence and a small gear that is the easiest gearing (aka-granny) and can be used on hills. I seem to use this gear a lot in the beginning of the season to go up any hill because my legs are not used to the climbing. One frustrating thing this season is that I cannot move my chain into my big ring. Something is wrong with my derailleur and I have been stuck in my middle ring all season long. The bright side to this is that I have learned to spin extremely well, but I so want to know what I am capable of in my big ring. I can throw a pretty good hammer down right now. Imagine how fast I could go if I could get in my big ring. Ahhh, something to look forward to for next season I guess. Ok, I got sidetracked there for a moment. So, my goal for my rides as of late is to not use my “granny” gear on ANY hill. I have been true to this for about two months, but today I would be tested.
This ride is short in distance (only an 11 mile loop), but very challenging. Cyclists often call small inclines “rollers”. They’re not quite a hill, usually short and just high and long enough that you can maintain your current speed with a few clicks of gears if need be. This course is loaded with them. Some more snotty than others and more than a few, I guess you could say, are actually hills. The only time your body is allowed to recover is on the slight downhill from the crest of each “roller” or an actual decent from a hill. The road ahead may look flat, but don’t be fooled, it’s a constant incline. It’s the perfect ride for testing your strength both physically and mentally.
My husband has come along for the second week in a row and I am glad. Alison & I both agree that he pushes us, especially when we really need it.
Our ride started out fine. I noticed that we were the only riders on the course this early and we rode past what seemed to be an unusually high number of runners. We shared our greetings of “good morning’s” and “hello’s”. We were soon near the second roller/hill and my favorite spot on this course. You climb past a monument to the left and to the right and when you get to the top of the hill you crest and see this vast mountain landscape in the distance. The view is awesome and I never get tired of it. We make it through half the course and are preparing for “The Hill” on the course. It’s steep enough that it hurts and also makes me practice getting out of my saddle to climb. My husband rolls up beside me and says “you seem very focused today.” I am. I know I have 2 more laps to go and I don’t want to ride too hard because I will be toast. I’m trying my best to keep my pace around 16-18mph, any faster and I’ll be in trouble later and my mood is still cranky. We make it up the hill (no granny for me, either!), I feel pretty good and so does Alison.
We have a steep downhill, a sharp right turn and we are faced with the true beast of this ride. It is a long slow 2 mile climb back to the parking lot.
We began our second loop. A quick shot of Gu and healthy drink of water and we felt great. Muscles were warm and my mood was finally turning around. We rode this lap a little harder than the first. I decided that I was going to try to hang on my husband’s wheel for as long as I could while climbing the hill. I shocked myself after matching his cadence and climb. He stood, I stood. He clicked gears, I clicked gears. I made it ¾ of the way up and he was gone and I sat. I was so excited to have done that! And in the middle ring! When we all met at the top I was so excited- then I learn that he climbed in his BIG ring! Nice!
We made our turn for the last climb and our legs were feeling it now. I stayed side by side with Alison so that we could encourage each other to finish this climb. At the top, she said she wasn’t sure she could do another loop. I told her she can. It’s just one more than two.
The third loop was hard. I was tired. Alison said she was tired too. A cyclist passed us going the opposite direction and would soon make his way through the roundabout we just rode through and be behind us. This thought was making my husband’s legs twitch. Alison and I both said, “Go get him” and set my husband loose to get a head start to be the cyclist’s carrot. The rider caught up to us on the next hill and blew by us like nothing. His legs were fresh and ours were burning. I tried to stay in his slip stream for as long as I could because he smelled so good- like a big bottle of Coppertone! Alison and I both agreed we loved that smell. Both my husband and the cyclist guy were soon out of sight and the girls rode the rest of the ride together. We clawed our way up the hill, both of us agreeing that the last climb hurt. Before we knew it, we were turning right.
When you are near the end of anything in training or racing, I believe it is always the test of one’s self. The last lap of your 1500m speedskating race is painful, the last ½ mile of a running road race is painful, the last 30 seconds of a dryland exercise is excruciating. You know it will end- you can see the end- but your mind is screaming stop the pain but your heart is saying-No! We must finish strong! Your body is listening to your brain, but is in love with your heart and keeps going, trying to fool your brain for just a little longer to make it to the end. Maybe it’s where the phrase “A heart of a champion” comes from.
Alison and I always groan when we make that right hand turn because we are tested by our mind and our hearts. Who will be the victor today? The first test we passed. The second test we passed. The third test we were struggling. The first tiny roller and Alison said “I’m out of gears.”, meaning she could not get into an easier gear. I said “Me too.” And here is where the brain tried to trick my heart. I still had granny I could go to. I thought, “I don’t think I can make it. I think I’m making a granny visit today”. But then I said “No. It’s a tiny hill and you CAN do it.” Middle ring prevails. We struggle through. Then the sign that marks just a little bit farther and the pain of the climb will end. Again I’m tested. Granny flashed through my mind again. No. I can do this. I look over my shoulder and Alison is in her own battle as well. I see the parking lot and yell back to her “You Rock!” We completed our goal for today of three loops. Hearts were victorious!
My face is gritty with crystallized salt. I am completely spent, but my mood is now happy.