biking hills

One upon a time, I was really good at biking. I covered hundreds of miles a week, and my two wheels felt like an extension of myself. I was strong. I was confident. I had a bike shorts tan line, and a semi-permanent grease mark on the inside of my right leg. Thirty miles was a “short ride.”

These are not those days.

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2008: en route Miami to Key West

I largely gave up biking when I moved to Boston. It was cold. The roads were bad. The drivers were bad. I had a job that required me to be in at 9 a.m. So I quit, and eventually took up running. When I got back on the bike earlier this spring I couldn’t believe how out of sorts I felt. I was nervous. I felt off-balance. I was slow.

Biking if a different animal from running. With biking you’re in it for the long haul… 45 minutes is a warm-up. There’s less impact, but you use your glutes and hamstrings a lot more. Most people think biking is just pushing down, but it’s also a lot of pulling up. So while I’ve been building up my running muscles the past few years, my biking ones have sort of atrophied.

While I’ve been doing some riding on my own, the real way to build strength and get faster is to ride with others. So I was sort of excited when my friend Katy asked if I wanted to join a hill repeat ride Wednesday morning. Wednesdays are usually stadium days with November Project, but with my hip feeling the way it has climbing lots of stairs didn’t seem like a great idea. Katy’s nursing her own injury, and we’re both training for tris. So an alternative workout seemed like a great plan.

We met in Arlington just before 6 a.m. There’s a hill there that makes Summit Ave look puny. About a mile long, with varying grades. the idea was to ride up and down as many times as possible in an hour.

I should have taken this sign at the bottom as an omen.

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The hill started like this.

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And then it kept going, and going, and going. It took me eight minutes to reach the top the first time. When you got there, you turned your bike around and barreled down. On the way up I think I averaged about 4.5 miles an hour. On the way down I hit 32 mph.

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almost at the top

I managed five hill repeats in the allotted hour. I was the slowest one in our group, and while I didn’t feel weak, I also didn’t feel particularly strong. I keep trying to remind myself that this whole thing is a journey, and that one day I’ll look back and remember these initial months of struggle and be proud of my hard work.

Right now though, it just feels hard.

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