The Hills, Part II

Guest poster Don Blount continues his account of his struggle with the hills.

Part II

On a recent Saturday I joined a club ride, a roundtrip starting in Wallace, Calif. to Mokelumne Hill, Calif.

I thought this would be a route of about 40 miles with some 3,000 feet of climbing. I thought this would be a good test as I had completed rides of this length with just a little less vertical. In reality the ride was really 48 miles with 3,400 feet of climbing.

We started the day and I was fine. I rode from the middle to near the rear of the pack and stayed within my comfort range.

So far so good.

For a short time I had forgotten that hills are evil, and they hate me. I was actually enjoying myself!

We eventually came to a series of three long rollers. I made the first two but never recovered for the third. As Phil Liggett would say, I had cracked. And in short order, the group was long gone.

A rider riding sweep came upon me and asked if I was dizzy – I was walking or maybe even just standing at this point. She encouraged me to walk and would later tell me that I was weaving when she found me.

The sweeper continued on and disappeared over the hill. A bit later another rider came over the hill toward me. It was the cavalry. He and another rider paced me to the rest stop a few miles away.

I ate a Clif Bar, drank water and a Dr. Pepper and rested. I felt fine.

We left and I thought I would be in good shape on the return trip as the heavy climbing was behind me.

And I was fine most of the way, until we hit the last big climb of the day just after traveling over Pardee Dam, which  borders Calaveras and Amador counties in Northern California. Did I mention that the temperatures had risen and it had become quite toasty?

Now I had never before experienced leg cramps and after this day, I pray that I never do again.

The contractions in my quadriceps and hamstrings were so painful I thought the alien was going to burst through my skin. I unclipped and tried to stretch my legs. I massaged them. I pounded them. I stopped and walked. Yet the cramps came and went as they pleased.

I could not ride the inclines. I struggled to ride the flats. And I hoped my whimpering was inaudible. Any substantial stress on my legs brought on hellacious cramps.

Somehow I made it back to the starting point with the group. I purchased a 32-ounce Gatorade from a convenience store and drank it in what seemed like 30 seconds.

My legs cramped on my drive home and with less than ½ mile to my house, I pulled over because of the cramping.

Yet, I had survived the ride. In reflection people were right. Riding in the hills had brought variety to my workouts, made me a stronger rider and contributed to a weight loss. I would continue to ride them. That night I ordered an 11-28 cassette. I need to be prepared for my next time out.

Yes, I am going to continue riding in the hills, even if they hate me.


  1. says

    I have sympathy with your experiences especially being a big lad. Hills are no friend of mine either. But reading your very entertaining write up it seems to me that what you are so eloquently describing could have been lessened by looking at your nutrition intake during the ride. It might pay to chat to some of your mates and see what they do to keep hydrated and fuelled correctly during a lumpy route.

    • Don says

      I drank 20 oz of water and 20 oz of gatorade during the ride. At the rest stop I had a 16 oz soda and more water. I ate a Clif bar and a pack of shot blocks. I think I needed a banana and another 16 oz of gatorade. First time and I hope the last time I have this experience.

  2. says

    Well done! I’m a bit dismayed that an experienced rider in your group with the specific job of checking on lagging riders abandoned a man who was weaving while walking his bike. You were exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion and I’m very happy to see you didn’t collapse or worse. Cramps are another indication of dehydration. If you are riding on a hot day, I recommend one 20 oz bottle per hour.

    • Don says

      @Steve In the sweeper’s defense, I sent her one her way but she did not go far as the regroup point was just over the crest of the hill. And I believe she went to get help. I actually heard her talking to someone. She said: “He’s dizzy.” I replied: “I never said that!” Also, I tried to eat and drink properly but obviously did a poor job of that.

  3. John Z says

    When you cramp, don’t stop pedaling! Just pedal slowly. Yes it will hurt but a helluva lot less than stopping and having your legs seize up. I have found that Gatorade is insufficient and have tried a few things like Hammer Enduralytes. That helped but after some research, I am using mineral supplements (potassium, magnesium, calcium), and it seems to work well. The causes of cramping have long been debated, so you may need to experiment to see what works best for you.

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