Saturday a group of us met to do one of my most favoritest rides. Mines Rd in Livermore which goes out to The Junction and back. It’s a great country road with very little traffic and some good climbs. It’s about 60 miles out and back with lunch in the middle.
The funny thing is, it wasn’t always one of my favorites…..as a matter of fact, the first time I did this ride, I hated it. Pretty sure I chalked it up as a ride I would NEVER do again.
The first time I did this ride, I wasn’t really in very good shape. Actually, when I first started riding, it seems every ride I went on was over my head. I used to think that it was me. I figured my friends wouldn’t take me on rides I wasn’t ready for and that I must be a weaker rider than they thought or at the very least, weaker than I should have been at that point in my riding.
What I later found out was that it wasn’t me…..all my riding friends are just liars. When they’d talk about a ride and I’d innocently ask if they thought I was ready for it, the answer was always, “oh yeah….you can totally do this ride”.
This usually led to me on the ride, suffering and wishing I was dead while they just cruised along chatting and having a great time. Afterwards, it was always followed by “what a great ride” or “man, wasn’t that an awesome climb coming out of the canyon” or my favorite “boy, I just wasn’t feeling it today, I was dying”…..that one really used to get me since they were always chatting and laughing and obviously have no idea what it feels like to really be dying…..
The funny thing is, that at some point, things changed. I still suffer on many of the climbs and I still feel like I’m dying on many of the rides, but at some point my attitude has changed. I really do like the climb coming out of the canyon and I really do enjoy the challenge of making it to the top of a climb wondering what will stop first, my heart or the climb…
Scott Martin, who used be an Editor at Bicycling Magazine, summed it up perfectly….."To be a cyclist is to be a student of pain....at cycling's core lies pain, hard and bitter as the pit inside a juicy peach. It doesn't matter if you're sprinting for an Olympic medal, a town sign, a trailhead, or the rest stop with the homemade brownies. If you never confront pain, you're missing the essence of the sport. Without pain, there's no adversity. Without adversity, no challenge. Without challenge, no improvement. No improvement, no sense of accomplishment and no deep-down joy. Might as well be playing Tiddly-Winks."
In the beginning, I obviously didn’t agree with this train of thought. I thought suffering was something to be avoided at all costs. My logic was that if something was hard, or hurt, then you probably shouldn’t do it.
The longer I ride though, the more I look at cycling as a contest. Not against other people, although beating your friends is also a fun experience, but a contest against the hills and the roads themselves.
We always talk about conquering the hills when in fact, we never conquer the hills. We instead conquer ourselves. We keep pedaling when what we really want is to quit, we go faster when our legs cry out for us to back off, we continue to push harder up the hill when our lungs are screaming for us to stop…..and the benefit? We win. We end up stronger or faster or we lose weight or we finish our first century or we beat our friends to the City limit sign.
Saturday was definitely one of those rides. The climbs worked me, the downhills thrilled me and the flats as we headed back to the car at 26 mph definitely took me to the point where I had to choose to keep pedaling instead of backing off.....