Them Thar Hills by Trina Jacobson
I came to the realization that I have never actually completed a true off-season; I’ve never really done base miles and I’ve certainly never done any rides longer than 4 hours or any rides with sustained climbs. Here I was feeling smug that “I’ve tried it all” this season and call myself a roadie, but yet I avoid going to the hills.
We could discuss for hours why I should or shouldn’t or when I should or shouldn’t do monster rides with hills. This I know: 1) I suffered at the state road race in June and 2) I’ve lived in San Diego for almost 7 years and have never ridden to the top of Palomar Mountain. So, I will spend some time climbing this winter and I expect it to hurt.
After a couple of weekends of longer than normal endurance rides, I agreed to meet a small group for a 5-hour ride, which included the Great Western Loop. The last time I did this loop I drove most of the way out there, making it a 3-hour ride; it floored me. That was over 2 years ago. The time before that, it took two guys pushing me up the hills to keep our little group together. It was like I dropped an anchor and it got caught on a sunken ship, but these two men were determined…to…just…keep…going.
So, after suffering so badly at the state road race in Bakersfield (report here), realizing I have a great opportunity to improve my weakness, and getting an invite to join a small mellow group, I decided to do a 5-hour hilly ride. This ride made my Bakersfield suffering look like a vacation.
To start, fall and winter don’t really exist in Southern California. Currently, we are in the midst of Santa Anna winds, which is really hot and dry air from the deserts to the East of us. It got up to 95 degrees on the ride.
I wasn’t surprised that I was bringing up the rear on every climb and I wasn’t surprised that no one pushed me; I’ve been around long enough to fend for myself, I suppose. I was surprised that I fit a whole peanut butter and banana sandwich in my pocket and ate it while riding. I got painfully swollen feet, sweat enough electrolytes to brine a turkey, and had the most excruciating quad cramp ever. I cried in the middle of an intersection. Thankfully there was a slight downhill for me to roll to the sidewalk to fall off my bike…I purposefully fell off my bike.
Despite the woes of mega-watt riding in mega-heat, I learned some things: 1) the new cleat position helped but wasn’t enough to eliminate hot foot, I’ll try something else/do more research; 2) I need MORE electrolytes; 3) my season of trying new things has paid off. If it weren’t for making the state road race in June a goal, I would have had all of the freak-outs I had back then this weekend and probably would have needed to call a cab to get back to my car. Instead, I was mostly prepared for the ride and had a new perspective on why I should spend some time in the hills: Every time I do something, it becomes more familiar. As something becomes more familiar, the stresses and fears subside. As the stresses and fears subside, the real work begins.
I maintained this zen attitude for most of the ride. About 3 and a half hours into the ride, zen turned into survival. Then, when the cramp happened I had to take a time out to collect myself and reset not only for the rest of the ride, but for the rest of my day. I knew my 4 year old would be ready to play when I got home; there wouldn’t be any down time in the car like after a race for me to regroup.
Wow, yet another lesson in hardening up!
As I gracelessly put my bike into my truck, I laughed at myself: I chose to torture myself so that the subsequent torture (road races) wouldn’t seem as torturous and I was already planning more torture.
After a good shower, a good meal, and catching up with my son, he was ready for a nap. Napping together counts as quality time in our house. Despite the nap, it was still hard for me to hold a marker for Halloween decorations later that evening – so very, very hard.