I've been humiliated by a hill.
I'm not a great climber. At the Niagara Duathlon, which I did a couple of years ago, there was one big steep hill that the organizers called "The Beast of the East".
|Not exactly like this.|
In preparation for the race I checked out maps & elevations, and though it was bigger than anything convenient to where I ride, I figured I could prep for it by doing repeats of my local hills.
Not actually riding the real thing, however, was a big mistake. I didn't really know what I was in for, and if I had, I would have done a lot more hill work than I did. Which was not much. And is it turned out, it was absolutely not enough.
It was a long hill, about 2 km – that got steeper in the last 400m or so. About halfway up, it started to get hard. Really hard. Before long, I started having Doubts.
When that steeper section hit I had to stand and grind, mostly trying to use my body weight to keep the pedals moving. Looking up that hill I started to think: I'm not going to make it. I could see other people walking their bikes up it. I can't be one of those losers! I am gonna be one of those losers!
Snap – it was over.
In shame and despair I swung one of my dead, lactic-soaked legs over the bar and walked – walked! – the bike up the last 200m or so. The tik-tik-tik of my slippy cleats on the road was the sound of Pure Humiliation.
And here's the really lame thing: according to Map My Ride, that hill is just a Cat 5. Wow, dude. Weak.
Now I'm motivated by Humiliation Hill every time I come up to a climb, like every time I go up a hill I'm looking for some kind of personal revenge on hills generally.
I think that there is a really big mental component to climbing. You have to beat the hill at the bottom of it. Doubt, concern, trepidation, fear: any of that as you approach a big climb and you've lost before you've started.
Anyway, it was clear that if I was going to do Real Bike Racing I was gonna have to start taking hills seriously. So now I try to get in at least one or two hard hill-repeat rides every week. I'm not sure how much stronger my legs are, but my mind is definitely having an easier time getting to the top of those climbs.