Posted by: fizzhogg | November 9, 2010

Making the Grade

Hal 9000 and I have now spent about a 100 miles together. The following are my thoughts (Hal has posted his own on some blog but refuses to share the link with me)…

One of the main reasons I wanted Hal 9000, aka the Garmin Edge 500, was for his gradient measurement. In other words, he can tell me what percent grade I’m riding up or down. As loyal readers know, I love hills. I love climbing. I love suffering. Yes, I am a Hill Slug.

I suck at hills. But I dig climbing. I love the mountain stages in the TDF. The sprint stages, eh… take ’em. Give me suffer fests.

So, being obsessed with hills, I wanted to know how steep my climbs are. I know that the Tour de France guys are climbing 7-10% grades for 15 miles, with some stretches hitting 13%. That is steep. But think about doing it for one entire mile. Then think about climbing that for miles and miles and miles.

But I digress.

So… Hal 9000 tells me the grade percent. Is he accurate? Who the heck knows? I know Hal has a barometric altimeter in him for accurate elevation readings – does that make the grade percent readings accurate? I have no clue.

But lets get to the meat of this post – I know you all have lives and things to do… I rode today. I had a nasty ride. 41 miles, but I can say it was the toughest 41 miles I’ve done to date. I pushed myself the entire time. I had to yell at my legs several times to Shut Up! After the ride I was coughing and hacking and my legs felt like Jello.

And I loved it.

I rode up Chad and the Road Formerly Known As The Pyrenees, and the Tour de Cure Hill. I wanted to see what Hal said about the gradient. I wanted to see how close my estimates were… and guess what? I was not even close. Everything, I mean every single hill was much steeper than I had guessed.

Chad – this is the one by my house – the first I ever tried climbing, and the first I ever failed to climb, and was forced to do the Walk of Shame. I had guessed that Chad was probably 5-6% with some spots being 7-8%. Hal 9000 says Chad starts out at 5%, quickly goes to 9%, then – in the toughest section – hits 12%, before leveling off to a final stretch of 6%.

The RFKATP… this road is a series of rolling hills, short ups and downs, over and over. Prior to climbing Mt. Lemmon, it used to kill me. But I figured the hills were no more than 4-5%, it was just that there were so many of them. But if you recall, once I rode Mt. Lemmon, the RFKATP became a cakewalk for me. I now routinely try to see how fast I can ride it, not if I can ride it.Keep that in mind as you read on.

Well, guess what? The hills that make up the RFKATP all average 8-10%. That’s right. One even hits 11%.

And finally, the brutal Tour de Cure Hill, of my famed “Never Give Up” post. Guess what? Not 8-9%, with some 4% and 5% sprinkled in. Noooo. The TDC hill starts out with an immediate jump to 8%, then goes to 10%, then 12%, before finally hitting a staggering 16% grade, before dropping back down to 4%, and then a final little 8% lift for good measure.

If I had been given Hal back before I ever tried climbing these hills – all of which I failed on my first attempt – I would have either NEVER tried climbing them, or else tried, read the gradient and told myself “You are nowhere near ready to climb hills like this. You need to train for a whole ‘nuther year, lose another 30 pounds, and then try… on a carbon fiber bike.”

What does all this mean?

Pay attention, dear readers, here it comes… YOU, and I am talking directly to YOU – you who are reading this and struggling with weight or exercising or whatever else…


That is a God-honest fact. I bet the lives of my children on it. All of you are. It is our minds that get in the way. If my brain had heard 16%, it would have said – because it’s built to protect me – “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.

But it’s BS. Your brain tells you, “You are not capable of riding 40 miles…” or running 10 miles, or stopping eating junk food after 6pm, or whatever. And you believe it.

But it’s a lie.


I climbed these hills today in addition to riding as hard and as fast as I could on the flats. The last 6.3 miles were on a levee trail. My legs were spent, but I kept cranking as hard as I could until my brain would say “That’s all you’ve got, it’s over.” So then I would coast, push a couple of gears and…


And then I would hit it again.

And again.

For no other reason than I knew my brain was lying to me. Yes, I had those moments when I could no longer pedal hard, no longer push it. But I was not even close to being done. I just needed to recover. Once I recovered, I did it again, and again, and again.

If you take anything away from this silly little blog I’ve been keeping this year, PLEASE take away that you can do much more than you think you can. It is not my opinion, it is cold, hard fact. You think you can only ride 25 miles? I know for a fact you can ride 40.

You think you can only run 5 miles? I know for a fact you can run 10 miles.

You think there’s no way you can NOT eat that pizza or those chicken wings, or drink that beer? I know for a fact that you can NOT.

I’ll end with this: We all learned years ago about FDR’s famous quote “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard it thousands of times. But today, on the Unfat Machine, at 46-years-old, I finally got it. I got what he was talking about. I understood what he meant. It is arguably the second greatest quote by a mortal in the history of Man. The first, without question, being Henry Ford’s immortal words:

Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you are absolutely right.

Eat better.

Ride your bike.

Believe you can.






Fair winds and following seas, Willy


  1. “Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you are absolutely right”

    My favourite saying on my blog, and very true. henry Ford might be responsible for all the cars clogging our roads, but he sure knew a good motivational phrase when he saw one!

    keep on keeping on!



  2. I’m glad you’re enjoying the Garmin. After you changed your mind after I mentioned how much I liked mine, I was a little worried you’d be disappointed!

    I like to give things a shot and see how they turn out. If it’s important to me, it is very VERY hard to get me to quit!

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