A very tough club ride today. Tough for me, anyway. The A group was going on a “reverse” dam loop, which would take them through some hilly neighborhoods. After last weekend’s short ride, where I did well on some hills, I figured it would be fun for the B’s to follow the A’s for part of their route, but turnaround early for a 33-mile ride. Seemed great in theory, but when we got out on the road, the going was tough. I relearned some old lessons today:
The Wind is Not Your Friend
Lots of riders would disagree. Treat the wind like hills, they’d say. Then you can get a hill workout even on the flats. Nuh-uh, not today. The wind was blowing briskly from the west-northwest, and was forecast to pick up throughout the morning. Temp was 52℉ (11℃), but most of us dressed for colder conditions.
About six miles into the ride, we’re on Barton Creek Blvd., a wide, smooth road running through a ritzy neighborhood. The road rises, falls, twists and turns over the hilly terrain. We had been riding against the wind up to this point, which was hard enough, but now the wind got stronger — 25 mph, gusting to 36, according to various weather sites after the fact. The wind grabbed the front wheel, and if you weren’t fully concentrating, could easily have knocked the bike over. As it was, it was hard to hold the line through the curves. An aero position didn’t seem to help much, and I rode the brakes through a particularly fast downhill section.
Later in the ride, I was on the shoulder of an expressway, crossing a bridge over a wooded valley. The wind grabbed the bike, and pushed it into the traffic lane — this on a road where the speed limit is 65 mph, and never observed. Yipes! I must have avoided being hit by a car, because I’m here writing this.
To get better on hills — ride hills!
Last week, we rode a somewhat hilly route. It was shorter than usual, because we had new riders along who weren’t ready for the grades. I felt good — I even attacked a hill that had given me trouble in the past.
So when planning the ride for today, I thought hills would be a nice addition. I started second guessing myself once I hit Barton Creek Blvd., because the A peloton was nowhere in sight. They do hilly routes all the time. But I made good progress against the wind, except for the aforementioned gust problems. At the end of the boulevard is “Hail Mary Hill.” It curves up toward a stoplight at a major highway, and we all stop to rest in a church parking lot. (The church is a Presbyterian church, and Presbyterians don’t say Hail Marys — but I get a kick out of the name coined by one of our club members, so I’m sticking with it. If you want to discuss the finer points of theology, I’m sure there are other blogs for that.)
Anyhow, halfway up the hill, I knew I was in trouble. I was in my 34 x 28 granny gear, trying to turn the pedals easily and “walk” the bike up the steep incline. I did it last summer, but today it felt as though my heart would explode right out of my chest. I think I had the strength in my thighs to keep going, but I had to stop. I walked the bike the rest of the way up.
Disheartening, because I know I can climb this thing. But I haven’t done it since September, and I haven’t been working hill repeats into my regular weekday rides during the winter months. That may have to change. I was able to climb this same hill in September because I had done more rides with decent hills in them.
The quickest way to lighten your bike is to lighten yourself
I said I would get serious about losing weight this year. I’ve dropped three pounds since New Year’s Day, but that can be made up just by drinking lots of water. I think one of the reasons I had trouble on Hail Mary Hill is that I’m about 10 pounds heavier than I was in September.
It’s my usual winter weight gain, but it’s gotta stop. My wife is a fan of the Weight Watchers points system, and today we’ll be charting how many points I’ve been accounting for with my eating habits, and how they’ll have to change to get me to where I want to be. Meanwhile, every time I encounter a hill, I’ll envision myself climbing it with a bag of charcoal strapped around my waist. If I can lose the bag of charcoal, I should be in good shape. Stay tuned.