Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Taking Care of Business

Last Saturday I had intended on heading out to Mountain Park Boulevard on Squak Mountain. My goal for the day was to pick off the fourth of five climbs I had targeted for PR’s in 2010. As a matter of fact, setting new PR’s on these climbs was the only specific goal I had for 2010, but for me it’s quite important:

On Saturday, I just didn’t have it in me to head out to Squak, but I did give enough to get my PR at 164th on Cougar Mountain, the other missing link climb of my five (and the shortest climb). Thinking that I had pretty much thrown in the towel for the year, and rationalizing that four for five was “pretty good,” I thought I was done with going for it on hard climbs for 2010:

But something kept gnawing at me during the week. You don’t check off on a goal with 80% of it done.

Ending 2010 without attempting a run at a PR on Mountain Park Boulevard would have been like David Longdon and me leaving the Sierras without adding a day to do Onion Valley, one of the super hard classic climbs. We would have still had a great trip, but over the winter, I know I would have been thinking about Onion Valley. Who knows if or when I’ll be back to the incredibly remote eastern Sierras?

I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to get out there today and crank really hard on a 1000’ vertical climb. In fact, had Reg N. not been with me, I doubt whether I would have even made the trip, let alone the effort required. Both mentally and physically, I don’t think I had it all together today, but you gotta at least try!

Despite this waffling, I still had the confidence gained from going well on the other climbs, as well as the knowledge that I had never even done a “one off” on Mountain Park Boulevard. I’ve certainly made some hard runs up the climb during the HOWC, but never as hard as I could go.

I was using my heart rate band, as I am sometimes curious as to what my heart rate will be on a hard climb. I don’t use the HRM often, and once again, looking at my heart rate almost cost me dearly. As I worked my way upward, I felt like I was going pretty well. I wasn’t paying much attention to the power meter reading, instead relying on good old Rate of Perceived Exertion. I don’t have any sense of mid-climb “split times,” and while I know this climb intimately, I have no idea of what is a good time for me to any certain point…other than the top.

I didn’t feel great, but then I wouldn’t expect to when I was going so hard. I guess subconsciously I might have been looking for an excuse, because about 2/3rds of the way up I glanced down at my heart rate number. It was lower than I thought it would be, so my reaction was to think, “Hmmm…must be tired…can’t be going that fast without a high heart rate like I had on Horizon View.” Something in the back of mind told me, “Give up,” and shut it down I did, backing the effort way down. For about two minutes I dialed it back.

I caught myself thinking, “This is not the way to finish this off. You aren’t going to feel good about this if you don’t get going. Don’t quit on this climb like a (insert word of your choice); finish it like a (ditto).” And then something else hit me—I really didn’t have that much more to go. Why not use the unknown as motivation?

So I put my head down and I pedaled harder. The heart rate was up at the end of the climb, and I broke my PR by 12 seconds. Could I have gone faster? Well, I could have tried hard the whole climb, so I think so, but I think I’ll save that for 2011 when I will once again be trying to prove to myself that I am not another year older.

What’s my lesson here? First off, take the advice I give people that I coach. Listen to your body! Forget about numbers, how do you feel? How hard does the pace feel? Second, if you have an objective, focus on it and commit—if you are going to bail, bail before you start. Or as Chris Ragsdale (a man who knows something about suffering on the bike) says, “Every hill, every moment, right here, right now, re-commit, re-commit, there is nothing to save, give more right now. That's the Mantra.”

Tracy had the idea to order pizza tonight, and I kinda feel like celebrating. Over a span of 15 days, I set new PR’s on the five climbs I had targeted for 2010. Pizza did hit the spot. I’ll sleep well tonight, and I just know that I’ll have a nice content feeling when I think back to 2010 over the winter. When I get caught out in a deluge, I’ll draw upon reaching my goal for some motivation to keep on rolling.

Four for five? I don’t think that thought would put any zip into the pedals for me.

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