I’ve never been a fan of hills. To me, they are the vegetables of cycling. I need to try them. I need to take them on if I’m ever going to get stronger as a cyclist, but they are not enjoyable to me. It’s no wonder, either. I’m packing around 40-45 pounds more than I ought to be packing. I’m sure that if I lost that weight (which I’m not exactly working diligently on), my attitude toward hill climbing on my bike would be different. Maybe. Truth is, I like to work out just enough. I like to work out just enough to feel good, but when the burn lasts too long, I cave. There’s this point in cycling, where the ride goes from really fun and ego-building, because you’re successfully handling the terrain, something easily accomplished on the greenway where there are no hills, to this incredibly terrible situation where you wonder how/why you ever even thought attempting this would be a good idea.
This is what hills do to me. They ruin a perfectly good ride.
That being said, I have to say, that lately, I’m more inclined to choose a route with some hills. I know I sound like a cycling schizophrenic when I say that, but the truth is hills are a necessary part of the cyclist’s diet. Sure, I could ride the greenway to Ashland and back, for.ev.er. and have a perfectly wonderful time. Problem is, like any other exercise, even like the exercise that the Gerbils do in the gym, if you don’t change it up, you will plateau.
I want to ride in a metric century this fall. I will never be prepared for that distance, if I don’t challenge myself. The challenge is in the hills. (It’s also in a number of other areas, as you could probably surmise, but more about that later…in another post…maybe.) The hills are my vegetables. If I don’t make them part of my cycling diet, I will never improve. I won’t get stronger. I won’t build stamina. I just won’t. I gotta make myself do ’em. Long gone are the days back in 2010, when I just brought my bike home all shiny and new, after 30 years of not riding and I had no idea what I was doing. Long gone are the days back in 2010, when riding the greenway to Ashland and back was an accomplishment.
Challenges can do us in. Even the most innocuous challenges can demoralize us, if we are not careful. Personally, the one thing or person that has kept me focused during my rides this last year is my son. He’s 17. We (my ex and I) only bought him a real bike in 2011. Strangely, he took to it like a fish to water. He’s always been small for his age, and though he sprouted up during the last year, he’s still in the “lightweight” category. I should have realized it before now, but I didn’t. My son has the perfect cyclist physique. Not only that, when the weather’s decent, hills are his jam.
I’ve walked a long way around the proverbial block to get to this point: while hills might be the vegetables of cycling, encouragement is the tri-tip steak on the barbie. My son is my encouragement. So many times the last year, I would have quit a ride, got off the bike and walked or simply not pushed myself. Fortunately, my son was there every time, rolling out ahead of me, insisting that I keep on, or sneaking up behind me on a hill, just at the moment I was considering giving up and announcing, “C’mon, Mom. You got this!”
“You got this.”
Those were his words to me this last ride as we worked up hills that, interestingly, weren’t as difficult this last weekend as they were a year ago.
It’s amazing what those words do to the psyche. When you’re at that point, just before giving up or taking an easier route, and someone whispers, “C’mon…you GOT this!” your whole mindset changes. When my son mutters those words as he’s passing me on a hill, I know, at that point, I can make it. I will die trying, because when he says, “Mom, you got this,” I sure don’t want to disappoint.