I have so much stuff to write about that I think I’ll have to do a giant Hump Day Miscellany. I have yet to say anything about my version of CdA and then there’s the bittersweet experience of having my kitty sent to the great yarnball in the sky and I think there’s some other stuff. It can wait.
For today I’m going to write about the amazing thing I did yesterday because I did something I would never have done 2 months ago and this speaks to the power of training. Almost everyone who reads this blog trains for stuff so you can relate and if you are not an athlete maybe you can derive some inspiration to reach for something you’ve always said you could never do.
I missed my long ride 2 weeks in a row due to going to Canada and Couer d’Alene. I would have missed my long ride yesterday had the WS-100 not been cancelled but it was so in honor of the athletes that got aced out of their big event and in an effort to stay strong I wanted to do a really, really good long ride.
I started out with the FoMo Foxes as it’s known which is the Sunday Ladies Ride. The Ladies ride sometimes includes men but no matter. The point of the ride is to be sociable and to provide an opportunity for people who can’t hammer out the miles at 18 – 20 mph (which is what the Saturday ride is about) to go on a group ride. It is lead by one of my favorite riding partners who has also done quite a lot to help me get stronger and more fit (and she doesn’t even know it!).
She asked what people wanted to do and I said I thought the air was kind of bad so we shouldn’t climb Diablo because it made me engage in too much heavy breathing so we headed out for a relatively flat 34 mile ride out to Livermore. It was awesome. This area is nothing but cattle farms and brown hills and open space and there were almost no cars on the road. I felt that I was riding well, as opposed to my awful ride on Thursday. As it turns out my average speed was no better but I felt better and I’m pretty sure that my moving speed was much faster.
When we got back to Danville I still had about a hour on the plan and was trying to figure out what to do. Monica gave me a route that is flat and easy and works well to fill the time. And then I said, “or maybe I should go home via the junction”. Monica lit up and said “I would be SO proud of you if you did that” so really, there was no turning back.
For the uninitiated, ‘the junction’ is where the roads leading up the south side and the north side of Mt. Diablo meet. It’s a 2200 foot climb with the grade going from 6 to 12 percent most of the way. There are a couple of flat spots and a little bit of down but it’s a climb, for sure.
artwork by John Finger
A couple months ago there is no way in hell I would have attempted this. I would have been sure I couldn’t do it. I would have said my legs were too tired. I would have thought it would make me too tired to train the rest of the week or I would get injured or blah, blah, blah. Yesterday I knew it would be a challenge, and it was, but I was determined.
I was alone – I had no peer pressure – it was hot – my legs had almost 40 miles on them by the time I got to the base of the hill, I was having stomach issues and yet I was determined and so I just started climbing. There were many, many times when I thought about just stopping, turning around and heading down the hill but I did not. I pushed on. I stopped once at about 1500 feet to let my heartrate go down. I stopped at Rock City to use the restroom and was moderatly alarmed that I barely needed to pee in spite of having consumed 3 water bottles full of either water or Infinit but I wasn’t sick or light headed so I didn’t worry about it. I stopped at about 2,000 feet to ingest a Gu because my legs were on fire. And then I headed up. And then I was there!
I was pretty wrung out and there were a couple of older guys there so I said “Ta Da! Made it!” they said something about it being a tough climb and of course I just HAD to mention that I’d already ridden out to Livermore from Walnut Creek. They were appropriately impressed – mission accomplished! I got some water, drank some Nuun and then headed down the North side reaching a maximum of 32.1 mph which is very brave for me.
Total round trip was 60 miles. Total boost to my confidence was 100% – at least. Thursday was a horrible training day and I felt dead and incapable and it made me worry a lot about my ability to do Vineman in a reasonable timeframe. Yesterday’s ride was yet another reminder that some days you are the dog and some days you are the hydrant. The ride wasn’t fast but it was hard and I know it will make me a stronger, better rider. It reminded me that with determination and focus and a willingness to suffer a little bit the things we could never do come into reach and then fall behind us. Mostly it reminded me that never is a very, very long time and you just never know where your limits lie until you reach out futher than you ever thought you could and turn ‘I could never….’ into “I used to think I could never….”. Chances are, you can.