Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor — Alexis Carrel
Glory through suffering — Rapha
I am in love with the suffering — Fizzhogg
Dateline Cycling Mecca, nineteenth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand and twelve:
I rolled up to the start of our club’s weekly rides all happy and peppy and bursting with love (100 pts if you know that reference without Googling). I was prepared and planning on doing the Gold ride – about 36 miles, about 3000 ft of climbing. A nice, strong yet safe Saturday ride.
Then Harlene showed up.
Let me tell you about Harlene. Harlene is in her 60’s, rides a sinister black Franco, and climbs like a Himalayan sherpa. Meaning, she might not be the fastest up the hill, but she will climb anything and everything without stopping. Ever.
I love Harlene. She is fun and smart and always up for extra miles… or extra elevation gain.
Harlene convinces my happy and peppy self to ride the Orange ride with her. Telling me it’s not that much more than the Gold… “Something like 45 miles with about 4000 ft of climbing.”
“It’ll be great,” Harlene says. “We’ll go at our own pace.” Then she goes and recruits four other unassuming Gold riders like myself to join her in this Sufferfest.
So off we go… little lambs to slaughter.
But after my fried chicken debacle, I wanted to suffer. I needed to suffer. I had been punishing myself for over a week by eating healthy, now it was time to punish myself on The Goat.
As we cruised along toward our destination – a nasty 6.4 mile climb (avg 7.2%) known as “Piuma” – Harlene reiterated how much fun it would be, how we’d go at our pace, and how it’s really not that bad.
The several rollers we had to navigate in order to get to Piuma, because Harlene “accidentally” led us down a wrong turn.
I checked Hal 9000 as we refilled our bottles at the base of the climb. We had already done almost 1600 ft of climbing. Just to get to the climb.
Then, one of the actual Orange riders mentions that we should take care to watch out for the false summit.
Yes, after you’ve climbed and climbed and climbed, there’s a descent. About .4 of a mile. You’re way up high so you think you’re at the end of the climb.
But you’re not. Because after the descent, there’s a left turn and then another 1.7 miles to the actual summit. “And the last part is the steepest.”
Thank you, Orange person. Please go away from me now.
As much as I did not want to hear that, I was thankful he told us. Because there is little worse than thinking you’ve completed a climb, only to discover you have nearly two more miles of climbing.
We started the climb, and Harlene – true to her word as always – led her little lambs at the back of the Orange group. All of whom very quickly disappeared up the climb. Just us lambs now.
I decided I would conserve as much energy as possible in the beginning so as to save it for that final ascent. I rode at the back of the lamb group for the first mile or so, and I must say, while I was not going fast, I was enjoying the climb. The more we climbed, the more I realized we were headed for the clouds.
That’s not fancy writer talk… I men we were riding literally toward a cloud which engulfed the summit of the climb. At one flat part about 2 miles in, I paused for a Steve moment:
That’s where we were heading.
On I pedaled.
Up, up, up. Suffer, suffer, suffer.
But I was feeling good. I had not pushed myself this hard in a while – not counting that idiotic day I blew up within 6 miles of my place.
And the views were spectacular. As we hit the point where the descent started, I managed one more “Steve” – of course, the real Steve would never get his finger stuck in the frame:
We were in the cloud now, and could look back down from whence we pedaled.
I did well on the descent, passing all the lambs, and gathering strength – mental and physical – for the assault on the final section.
As I climbed that last section, I watched Hal 9000’s report on my heart rate, and tried to stay at what I guessed was just below my redline.
The last 300 yards of the climb is only about a 3-4% grade and you can see everyone waiting at the summit. Seeing everyone waiting, seeing it grow closer, is nearly as inspiring as when people cheer for you along the road. I hammered it.
At the top I felt great. Great in that I challenged my lazy self, suffered, and came out alive.
I’d gone from lamb to sheep.
We descended the other side, and I was FLYING. I managed a glance down at Hal and saw I was over 38mph and gaining speed, leaning into and out of the corners like Sammy Sanchez. I was back, baby! I am a cycling beast! I could crush Little Joey Choo Choo!
I tapped the brakes just before another corner, let off, put my weight on the outside pedal, and leaned in at nearly 40mph… damn, I must have looked so cool.
That’s when a guy passed me so fast it was as if I was standing on the side of the road with a cowbell.
Oh, and he passed me with one hand.
How do I know he was riding with one hand? Because, as he zoomed through this corner, the hand that was not on his bars was outstretched, giving me a big thumbs up.
Like, “Good job, Fatso!”
And once again, the old Fizz is put in his proper cycling place.
In the end it was a 47-mile ride with 4400 feet of climbing. Not a bad day.
I suffered. I hurt. But it felt so good… that fried chicken from two weeks ago felt like it was months ago.
Sometimes you have to wreck yourself in order to check yourself.
And now the best for last… the weigh-in.
That’s right, people. I’m on the descent again.
Thanks to Harlene for pushing me to push myself.
Ride your bike.
Climb to the clouds.
Watch out for the road idiots