Tuesday, July 01, 2008

It's a small thing, but I'll take it

Recently, I've really solidified my relationship with my bike.

I love her. I love riding her. I love hunkering down in aero and really powering through. I love what it feels like to stand in the saddle to get through an intersection, knowing that all ya'll are jealous of my fine bike.

And I've become a much better rider this year, so I'm finally feeling a little more confidence out there.

And last night I did something that -- for me -- was kind of brave. Or at least smart.

I looked ahead.

You see, normally when I'm riding hills, I'm so focused on my gearing and my legs and effort that my vision is just the eight feet in front of my wheel. Lest you forget, I'm terrified of hills. They're my weakness, my fear, my limiter. So when I get on one, I put my head down and just focus on the task at hand.

I've always avoided looking at the top of the hill. It would have some psychological effect on me -- somehow the grade and length would magically multiply and I would instantaneously become convinced I couldn't do it. I would feel my legs shrinking from the proposed effort and I would slow to a meaningless grind.

So I stopped looking up.

Until last night.

I decided when I went out to find something to challenge myself. I was heading out on my standard route out Rt. 322. Really beautiful, generally uninterrupted for upwards of 25-30 miles, and a lovely and safe shoulder. But I ride there a lot. A lot.

So I needed a challenge to keep me engaged. This time it was to focus on the top of the hill, not just ahead of my wheel, to really learn about my own strength.

And, as I suspected, the estimations my brain makes when looking at a grade or distance are far afield from what my legs are actually capable of doing. The hills that look scary from the bottom turn out to be just fine with the right approach. The steep ones leveled out a bit when I connected what I was feeling in my legs and what I was seeing on the road.

There had been a disconnect there. My brain was continuing to interpret hills with the muscle memory of my legs years ago. But I've changed and my brain didn't get the memo.

So, it was really nice to change my perspective and learn a little more about what I can do. I'm still no Lance or Floyd -- and I still get effortlessly passed by guys twice my age on a regular basis -- but I know a little more about myself now.

Because I looked up.

13 comments:

Wes said...

Savor the small victories, the huge ones are few and far between :-)

Flatman said...

Congrats on the breakthrough!

Kevin said...

Way to go. Keep lookin up and you will do great things on those hills

Trihardist said...

That sounds excellent! Way to push yourself!

I had a similar experience earlier this week. I think one of the greatest parts about this sport is when you feel you're beginning to plateau, you think you can't go much farther, and then--out of nowhere--you get a small glimpse ahead of what you're really capable of, and it's so much bigger than what you thought.

Which is actually a lot like briefly looking up at that hill; you only see it for a minute, but it gives you this sense of how much bigger your world can be, and how much more you can still improve.

LBTEPA said...

Being so scared of the "H-word" I can't even say it, I am going to try this. THANKS!

triguyjt said...

that is no small breakthrough...because its played on your mind so much...

congrats...
it will help alot..

Calyx Meredith said...

Congrats on meeting your challenges! I'm just catching up so have to add that my prayers are with you for Nana.

Trishie said...

Nice job! I can't do that tri (the Diamond in the Rough) -- wedding that weekend I completely forgot about ('tis the season.). Hopefully we can meet up in the future!

Pharmie said...

Small steps that'll lead to big rewards soon. Now if I can manage to look down on the hills...

TrainingtoTri said...

Congrats! That is a big accomplishment. I am working on learning to not constantly feather my brakes when descending,can't wait to get that small victory.

Viv said...

Way to view the hills differently. I had been given that advice just recently. Working on it still :-/
Great job, those hills will never see ya coming.

Steve Stenzel said...

Congrats on looking up!!

Trishie said...

Hey -- I think you live kind of near me (I'm in Baltimore) -- there is an Olympic on August 17 in North East, Maryland (45 mi from Baltimore, 70 mi from D.C.) that looks pretty cool!