I started writing this in my workout feedback for my coach, but then felt like it turned into a nice little story about weekday workout struggles and the daily choice of victory or defeat that I’m sure a lot of athletes can relate to. I usually have big race day glory on my mind when I’m training, but sometimes these little day to day victories make the process feel worthwhile regardless of the race day outcome. Just wanted to share a feeling I hope many of you can appreciate.
For background, The Dirty Dozen is a bike race to the top of Pittsburgh’s 13 steepest hills. Center Ave/Guyasuta Rd is climb #1 and on the milder side of the 13.
My Thursday evening workout was 8 x bike hill repeats up Center Avenue. I’ve attempted the Center Ave climb once before. Kyle decided he wanted to ride the Dirty Dozen course since he’d never been around for the race over Thanksgiving. I offered to drive the SAG car but he forced me to come along by bike. This was pre tri bike days and all I had was a heavy 8 speed road bike. I didn’t even make it past the first bend in the road where it turns left before I got off my bike and walked up the hill. So, I had some nightmares about that hill. But I figured with my new lighter bike and new stronger legs, it would be a totally different story.
I was super confident about this workout until I actually was at the bottom of the hill looking up. Then I had a mini panic attack. Going up the first time was way harder than I thought it was going to be. It felt like one of the worst things I’d ever done in my life. I spent a long time thinking about quitting, but felt pretty embarrassed to have to admit to my coach and to Strava that I only made it up the hill once. I hoped I just felt that way because I wasn’t warmed up yet. Nope. The second time up was probably the second worse thing I’d ever done in my life. I was riding around the flats at the bottom and thinking about ending my ride when I saw another cyclist going up the hill. They had a flashing light on the back and were wearing a pink shirt, so I immediately assumed this was a girl on a commuter bike, and if she’s making it up that hill I might as well go again. I caught them just past the fire station and saw it was one of those older guys with super ripped calf muscles because they spend more time on their bikes than doing anything else in life. I felt more jealous of his lower gearing than I felt accomplished at catching up to him. As I went past he said “Good riding. I’m on my 4th time up”, you know, just so I was aware that’s probably the only reason I was passing him. Well shit. I guess I’ve got to go at least 4 times up now. The 4th time up, it felt like I was in a harder gear than the 3 previous times. I desperately tried to shift down hoping I still had one gear left, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. My legs were just mushier than the 3 previous times. My garmin auto paused most of the way up because I was climbing so slowly. Someone in a car driving by gave me a “woohoo!” which was a nice boost and also a nice reminder to stop careening all over the road before I get hit by a less friendly car. When I made it to the top, the sun was getting low in the sky, so it seemed like a poetic and peaceful end to the session. That, plus I felt totally beat and was highly unlikely to finish my remaining 4 hill repeats as prescribed. I just had to laugh at the absurdity of doing 8 of those bad boys.
Hopefully I gained some fitness, some confidence, and some Strava kudos. But nonetheless, what a great day.