Pushing Gears, Facing Fears

April 16, 2012

Some time ago, fairly early in my cycling days, I bit off more than I could chew at the time.  Way more.

I tried to attack the rolling hills that present themselves on Highway 59 north of Ottawa. To an experienced rider – or someone with better cardio than I had (which isn’t a tall order) – those hills are manageable.  Or even someone in my then-shape, but with good riding strategy (smart gear-shifting, keeping energy replenished), would be ok.  But, in what was destined to be a big-time learning experience for me, I charged ahead, very out of shape, with little energy in the tank, with little concept of gearing strategy, and with a full head of steam.

I bonked, bigtime.  Still to date my most epic bonk.  (my non-cycling friends: see this link)

I threw 100% of my energy away charging up the toughest hill.   Just hell-bent to reach the top.  Once there, I realized I had an energy deficit in the tank.  Riding home was highly unpleasant.  I can still recall the feeling of being actually afraid of the final mile or so in town, which is up an innocuously (on any other day) mild grade.  I had nothing left.

I retained a very healthy respect for hills following that.  I’ve since integrated hillwork into my rides, but in a controlled manner and with an eye toward using it to improve my cardio and technique.

I’ve also been extremely wary of that specific stretch on H59.  Fully confident that I would one day lick it, I nevertheless chose to just let time pass and fitness/experience improve before returning.  I didn’t realize today was the day, but that’s how it worked out.

I started out heading north out of town on Montana road, returning to the same area I visited on this ride.  After a while, instead of continuing north where I’d already been, I turned down a long road headed west.  After a time I turned off that, headed north again.  My surroundings started looking familiar and I realized I was headed for the locale of my biggest downfall.  I could have turned back, but I’ve been feeling very good lately and felt ready to tackle this thing.

One day I’ll roll hills like this up.  One day I’ll look back and smile that I found these particular hills so daunting.  But, for now I’m in the present and these hills are in fact still very tough for me.  I won’t claim that I made it up the biggest one easily today, or with no difficulty, but I did make it, and with considerably more in reserve than the previous epic fail.  So what was the best way to prove to myself that I had not simply conquered this hill by again blowing out my energy and needing to head home?  Well, to ride for another 20 miles after that point, of course, and that’s what I did.  I turned in a 28.6 mile ride, one of my most satisfying to date.

I feel so happy and satisfied that I conquered this hilly area that has been haunting me.  Again – still not easy for me, for sure.  But no longer the 9-headed monster it was after it crushed me, and I know that time is very much on my side.  As I continue to lose weight, add strength and improve cardio, this area will positively shrivel in stature in my mind’s eye.

Below, several pictures from today’s ride.

Above:  Absolutely beautiful day for a bike ride.

Above:  At the courthouse in the center of Ottawa.

Above:  Montana Road.

Above:  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have a “thing” for old abandoned buildings.  I can’t put my finger on why, but they have a beauty that appeals to me.  I’m going to enjoy documenting this interest through the lens of my cycling journeys.

Above:  Reminded me of the scene in Nightmare on Elm Street (II, I think) where he finds the glove in the boiler room.

Above:  Another odd interest I have – roadside grave markers.  On the one hand I feel odd photographing them, but on another, I truly do mean my publishing of them as a way of honoring those lost, whom in basically all cases I do not know.

Above:  Looking back down some of the smaller hills toward Ottawa.

Above:  I love this view.  Looking back down the stair-step hills heading south toward Ottawa.  I’m on an overpass here, same one I took pictures from in this post.

Above:  At the Zarco gas station/c-store at the northeast of Ottawa.  “Vertigo” by u2 was playing on Pandora just as I was leaving.  Uno, dos, tres, catorce!!

Above:  Back on Montana road again, close to the end of the ride.

Above:  Another adventure winds down…a new one awaits just around the corner…

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