I was very excited to hear about John Key’s plan for a country long cycleway last week. If only a politician had the idea two years ago. Although I wont be able to ride it on my trip, it does give me one thing, validation that I am not just a nut job. Over the last month I have had to put up with a few nay-sayers trying to convince me I am mad, and so having John Key on my team makes it harder for them to taunt me know. Also Phil Keoghan, kiwi done good and host of The Amazing Race has announced he too is on a bike mission, riding from one side of the US to the other. As each week goes by I am finding more and more people around the world getting off of their asses and getting on a bike. All I have to do is make sure I can survive six weeks on a bike.
I have been making good progress on my riding preparation, I am happy to say. Well at least I think it is good progress. I have been doing a lot of short evening rides around my neighbourhood as conditioning, and I figure every hour on the bike is good preparation, considering I will be shortly be living on one for 6 weeks. My neighbourhood is not your typical suburb. For a start it is not a suburb. I live out in the boonies, on a rather hilly peninsular. As soon as I am out of my driveway I have hills hills glorious hills all around me. I never really noticed them before, in my car, well I knew they were there but rather they didn’t exactly bother me.
So I have been doing a fair bit of hill practice. I figure (or rather hope) that the rest of New Zealand is not a quick succession of hill after hill, so if I can master riding the local hill-a-rama then it should leave me in good stead for the rest of the country. Here is a typical route I take.
As you can see from the elevation diagram, there is a bit of flat, but a lot of up and down. I know each of the hills by heart and have found that I have named them. There is Sarah, Bob, Harry and Frank to name a few. Why have I named them, I have no idea, but it just seemed like the thing to do. It is hard to hate inanimate things, so I thought by giving them names I would find hating them easier. You see, the good thing, apparently, about going up a hill is going down the other-side, but the pain of 5 minutes going up is not sufficiently redeemed by the 20 seconds going down. I don’t really think the whole set-up is particularly fair to be honest. Grind grind grind grind grind grind, followed by a quick and very short “wheee”, which is in turn followed by more grind grind grind grind kinda pisses me off. After consuming most of my energy going up the damn thing, I am far too buggered to enjoy the downward rush and the wind racing through your hair and my head seems to manage to find every flying insect on the way down. Then I have to repeat the whole damn procedure again, and again and again. I fantasise about the short steep hill going up, that becomes a gentle decline over 200kms. I think that is the sort of hill I can love, and have babies with. Instead I am surrounded by a pack of sadistic mean spirited bastards.
Also clearly when the roads were built in the countryside around my house they, being the road builders, had absolutely no idea what they were doing. For a start, why go around hills when you can build your road OVER every hill? Obviously a popular design with roads at the time, and a way for man to demonstrate his might and power to nature. “You, Nature, have put this hill in my path, but it will not stop me from building my road. I shall go over you hill, because I can, because I am man and I have a car.” So even in a car, which seemingly has no issue with hills, because of the might of clever man, actually burns more fuel and energy to get over the hill. However building the road around the hill, would seem slightly longer, in the long run the cost of the energy for vehicles to go around the hill would be far less than the cost to go over. Something you don’t really appreciate until you are on a bike.
There is one point on my route where after successfully ascending one of the larger hills the road quickly descends down into a vally. On the way down the hill I can see the road ahead snaking back up the same god-damn hill I am currently going down. I hate that hill. I despise that hill. I detest that hill. And it is always the last hill on my journey as it leads me back to home and I always have to walk up it. I have a hate hate relationship with that hill, not only because of the poor design of the road, but mainly because I can not avoid that hill. I could of course put my bike in my car and drive elsewhere to ride, away from that hill in particular, but I refuse to let one hill, and one so close to home, screw with me. That hill is Frank.
Frank and I got off on the wrong foot to start with. On my initial rides my stamina was so appalling that I could never face riding back up it after a long ride. As I approached, I could feel Frank with his evil grin sucking the energy out of my legs. My bike would quickly slowdown and as spooked horse senses evil, my bike clearly wanted to go as far away in the other direction as possible. I had other hills that I struggled with, Bob was pretty mean, but in a good challenging way, Sarah was fun to go down, but no hill was more evil than Frank which everyday stood in between me and collapsing on my couch. The more I rode around the countryside, I found myself one by one knocking off each of the other hills in the local area with much celebration. I had a couple of routes that pretty much covered every hill. With every ride I seemed to be going faster, and had more stamina. When I rode up a hill I hadn’t before I had a little dance, and congratulated myself. It was a great feeling. But every time I would have to return to face Frank again and again and again.
I went out on a particularly long ride one day. It was a Saturday and I wanted to do a 3+ hour long ride. Going up and down hills was one thing, but going a long distance for a long time was another story, so I wanted to give it a go. I had originally planned to put my bike in the car and drive somewhere particularly flat, but with a few good hills, but as I thought about it I could hear Frank’s evil hill laugh. So I thought “screw you” and set off from home, down Frank, up the peninsular over every hill and to some flat-ish land. I punished myself with the usual routine, but instead of stopping and collapsing on the couch, I kept going and rode for a couple of hours. It went exceptionally well, the further I went, the more energy I seemed to find from somewhere. I took a few short drinks breaks now and then, and just kept going, and I felt fantastic. I was burning up distance relatively quick, although I wasn’t really pushing hard. But the longer and further I went, I knew I was just delaying the inevitable return to Frank, and I would be again forced off of my bike to walk up the hill. I returned back along the same gruelling route , back to Frank, and I knocked that bastard off. The next ride I did a regular route adding a kilometre to it and did it in two minutes less time. The next ride, I shaved another two minutes off, then the next ride, another three. I had beaten the Frank voodoo. It made me feel fantastic. Every time I approach Frank I still get the feeling of impending doom, and I push myself up and over.
I have also been measuring my distance and time, to the second, and although I know that the big ride up the country will not be a race, by aiming to beat my previous time and speed each time gives me another reason to rub Frank’s face in it, and in turn I get better at riding.
I have six more weeks of training before I leave and right now I am feeling pretty positive about how things are going. Since deciding to turn my life around, I have lost 10 kilograms and four belt sizes, can ride up hills without letting them push me around, or vomiting.