Last night I went out for a ride to prove something to myself and I have left myself in no doubt that two things are true.
I am fitter than I think I am, but not as fit as I would like to think I am. A bit pedantic maybe, but there is a point.
I took a route last night that I have been wanting to do since I came back from the knee issues of the past months. It is one that I have ridden a few times before, but always struggled with. I wanted to see if, with my new found power and leg strength, I could get up my ‘nemesis’ hill without stopping.
It’s not a long climb, just steep and winding. For Tour de France followers think Jenkin Road in Sheffield at the end of the second Grand Depart stage. Not that long and maybe not quite as steep, but one hell of a hill all the same.
I have always struggled to get more than 2/3 of the way up without stopping so wanted to see if I could get to the top, or at least to where I wanted to turn off and go off-road, without stopping. So I pushed myself to almost breaking point, telling myself that it was only a few more metres, I was nearly there, how good would I feel when I made it without stopping and some other stuff that I can’t write down!
I made it. Without stopping. But at what price?
I had used up so much energy on one small climb that over the next couple of miles, most of which is uphill, I had to keep stopping, taking a breather and then moving on.
There might be plenty of power in the legs these days, but I still have a long way to go with my fitness to be able to not just push myself up a hill, but to carry on and push myself through the rest of the ride. My chest becomes tight, I can’t get enough air in and my lungs are burning. My nose gets blocked so I can’t breath through it, so I have to gulp air in through the mouth which can sometimes lead to the odd fly or two being consumed!
So I am fit enough to ride around 15 miles without too many problems – last time I went out I broke 10 of my Strava segment records, but I’m not fit enough to ride hard for a couple of minutes and carry on without struggling to breath. Hence why I am not as fit as I would like to think I am.
I’m kind of happy though, I say kind of as a git on a road bike came past me that close he could have hit me (or I him had I stuck my arm out), not that I heard him coming, then his mate and some kid who must have been no more than 11. I’m happy because I am in a good pace but not happy because I know I can do so much better.
In order to get better I am looking at different kit, the dark side, a road bike. It won’t make my legs go any faster, it won’t make me fitter, allow me to ride up hills without feeling like my chest is on fire. But it might help me to go quicker, have less friction on the roads where I mostly ride.
If I do buy one there can be no more excuses!
Or maybe I should just buy some slick tyres for the mountain bike – sacrilege maybe?
I don’t ride for records, for PBs on Strava, but like most I like to see how I am doing against what I have done before. On this ride, although I went a slightly different way there and back I managed 3 personal best times, interestingly on the way home rather than on the way there, once I had got the breathing under control and felt less tired. It also maybe didn’t help that I decided to put my gloves on whilst riding along a downhill section towards the furthest point from home, a section that I can normally get a good time on.
Also interesting is that although the distance is shorter, the time taken and elevation gain is similar to my last ride, which shows that more hills and tougher conditions slow me down considerably.
Distance: 11.7 miles
Time Taken: 1:07:05
Elevation Gain: 792ft
Average Speed: 10.5 mph