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.