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Clydesdales/Athenas (200+ lb / 91+ kg) Looking to lose that spare tire? Ideal weight 200+? Frustrated being a large cyclist in a sport geared for the ultra-light? Learn about the bikes and parts that can take the abuse of a heavier cyclist, how to keep your body going while losing the weight, and get support from others who've been successful.

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Old 07-31-07, 11:05 AM   #1
Slothman
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For the love of the Hills

This past Saturday I joined a local group and went on a 20 mile loop to the west of Madison. I've heard that west of Madison is pretty hilly (that's where the "Horribly Hilly Hundred" is), but for some reason I thought that it was a different "west" of Madison. Ha. I was wrong.

I ended up doing the loop myself - everybody else who showed up wanted to go on the 50 mile ride (the group had a 20, 35, 50 mile rides planned) - I'm not there yet, especially with those hills. So I went alone. I had checked gmap-pedometer.com on the route - http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=1176534 - and for some reason thought that besides the scary looking hill around mile 13.5, it should be a pretty easy ride. And it was, for the first ~5 miles.

Have I mentioned that it was hilly? Bigger hills than I have done yet, and one after another. The scary one at 13.5 was long, and not as steep as I thought it would be, but the road had recently had gravel put down on it. I had never ridden on gravel before (road bike + gravel = 1 scared Clyde), so I was taking it real slow.

I made it up the scary hill, finally, and prepared for a nice ride back. That wasn't to happen. It was just the beginning of the hills! The next one I went up beat me. I hadn't had a hill beat me yet, but this one did. Still gravel, so I was trying to go slow still. I made it 75 to 80% of the way up, and gave up. I was doing all of the positive talking I could to get myself over the hump, but I just couldn't do it. I'm pretty sure that my heart rate was at 110% of maximum. I was beat. I couldn't even dismount. I unclipped and waddled, hunched over the handlebars, the rest of the way up. Then I got back on and made it back to the car - there were more hills, but on pavement, and none that were big enough to beat me anymore.

So. I had a hill beat me. What do I do now? Way inside, in the deepest corner of my emotional fear closet, I apparently had begun to form a nice place for hills. I was afraid of them. I didn't know it consciously, but it came out this morning on my ride.

I was riding with a friend whom I ride with often, and he was taking me on a pretty flat route. about 3/4 of the way through it, he said, "Do you want to do a medium hill, or a big hill?" I said it didn't matter - I was up for either. At that point I was. So he decided on the big hill. Then he changed his mind and thought the medium hill would be better. Okay. "Let's do Hillcrest." Okay. I've done it before. And it was the one hill that came close to beating me before the one on Saturday.

So here's where this lengthy post redeems itself. As I approach the hill (a two parter, not that big really), I realize that I've made a cozy place in my fear closet for hills, and this one is sitting there staring at me. I also realize that until I saw it, I had been fearing it, and preparing for the worst. I was thinking, "Okay, gear down and spin early so you can make it up. You can make it, right?" Then I changed it. I had a "BING" / lightbulb-over-the-head moment, and decide that I'm going to beat this hill.

I changed my attitude towards the hill. You know what? I beat it! I had a plan of attack (assisted by my friend), and I executed it. When I got out of the saddle to power up the last bit of the hill, I used my big 'ol clyde thighs for what they're made for - POWER!

Once we got over the hill, my friend offered some congratulations to the effect of "you owned that hill!" It was great. I did own it. I'm not afraid of it.

So, use this as some sort of encouragement - despite being a Clyde / Athena, you CAN do the things you're scared of. Whether it's a hill that beat you, a longer route, a different group to ride with (or without), or even just the idea of getting on a bike at all - change your attitude about it, USE what you've got to your advantage, and reap your results!

Whew! I'm pretty pumped up. Sorry, people! Thanks for putting up with me!
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Old 07-31-07, 11:22 AM   #2
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Nice job!

Reminds me of a couple of years back when some friends of mine were (they thought) training for a bike tour in Banff. One of the girls hadn't ridden since she was a kid but really wanted to go because of how fun we told her it was. We did a training ride in the Oakland (CA) hills, and the first one we got to almost thrashed her. I was hanging back to make sure nobody got lost and stuck it out as she worked her way up. Never be ashamed to walk a big one and I always try to come back within a week to any hill that beat me and return the favor, just like you did.
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Old 07-31-07, 11:43 AM   #3
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No problem! Welcome to your new paradigm!
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Old 07-31-07, 11:52 AM   #4
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Excellent!
I'm getting to be more and more of a hill-ride fanatic, and I'm working on converting more riders to this way of thinking. Glad to see that there are hill fanatic converts everywhere.

Besides, flexing your downhill muscle *pats belly* is always fun after a long uphill crank.
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Old 07-31-07, 12:59 PM   #5
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Good for you!

I realized that I'm very weak on the hills. I've restructured my workouts to off-set this. I've added more hills to my rides and added leg squats to my non riding work outs. I also plan to get a stair master for the winter months when I can't ride. Hopefully by spring, I'll be ready to attack the hills.
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Old 07-31-07, 01:17 PM   #6
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Besides, flexing your downhill muscle *pats belly* is always fun after a long uphill crank.
Ha! Yeah, I love that part. On Saturday (before the hill) I got going 42.5 mph on the way down a hill, and I wasn't even trying! That was the fastest I've gone so far. Today I hit 39.5 mph on a couple rolling hills. Pretty cool, but scary at the same time. It's scarier when you're following someone.
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Old 07-31-07, 01:21 PM   #7
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I too have a sick desire to punish myself on hills even at 250, but I think it's only because I know that I make little people hurt if they try to stick on my wheel. Just sucks being stuck in west Texas and everything being mostly flat. Another 11 days and I will be back in the land of cheese and beer looking for some hills to punish

P.S. Going down is always fun too ~52mph max downhill.
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Old 07-31-07, 01:30 PM   #8
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...in the land of cheese and beer...
Are you coming up this way, to the Badger state? Sure sounds like you are!
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Old 07-31-07, 01:31 PM   #9
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Yep, 50+ is a ball on the bike! It's especially fun if you are passing a car, the driver just stares in amazement!
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Old 07-31-07, 01:32 PM   #10
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Yep, 50+ is a ball on the bike! It's especially fun if you are passing a car, the driver just stares in amazement!
Seriously? Passing a car? That's amazing ... and dangerous, I imagine. Sounds fun! I would probably back off before passing the car, though. Wow.
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Old 07-31-07, 01:34 PM   #11
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Seriously? Passing a car? That's amazing ... and dangerous, I imagine. Sounds fun! I would probably back off before passing the car, though. Wow.
Yep, even better when you pass a State Trooper! They generally get a big grin and just wave at ya!
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Old 07-31-07, 01:42 PM   #12
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Way to go! The way that you look at it makes all of the difference in the world. I had a similar "thought shift" last year, and have been doing a lot of hills this year. While I still get dropped by most of the race-type riders around here (there are lots of them), I'm proud to say that I now pass about the same number of people as pass me on hills these days. There was a time last year when I used to walk up several hills around here, and a couple of places that I would not even attempt to go at all. Not anymore!

I know that there is lots of advice out there about hills, but I thought that I would share what has worked for me so far. I really had a "fear thing" about hills too. I've been following the advice of some cycling coaches that have published books and articles in magazines.

I have found that the best way for me to get better at climbing is to make sure to ride hills at least 2 rides per week (out of 5 rides), and sometimes design my whole week around different types of hill-climbing. Mixing up the steepness, distance, and working on different clumbing techniques really makes me climb better, mostly because it gives me more tools to use. I can switch back and forth between seated fast cadence (80+ rpm, I spin faster than that on flatter areas), standing/attacking medium cadence (70-90 rpm), mostly pulling on the pedals while seated and standing, and some longer climbs with an 8% slope or greater that force me to get used to alternating between sitting and standing while using a very low cadence (35-50 rpm - on easiest gear that I have). I also tend to throw in some pretty gradual hills that take more than 20 minutes to go up using a steady pace (just enough hill to feel like a stiff head-wind).

I'll never be a climber, but this routine has really helped me. I used to drop WAY off the back of groups whenever we hit hill stages. I still drop off the back, but these days, I also catch them going down the other side.

Have fun out there!

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Old 07-31-07, 01:56 PM   #13
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Way to go! The way that you look at it makes all of the difference in the world. I had a similar "thought shift" last year, and have been doing a lot of hills this year. While I still get dropped by most of the race-type riders around here (there are lots of them), I'm proud to say that I now pass about the same number of people as pass me on hills these days. There was a time last year when I used to walk up several hills around here, and a couple of places that I would not even attempt to go at all. Not anymore!

I know that there is lots of advice out there about hills, but I thought that I would share what has worked for me so far. I really had a "fear thing" about hills too. I've been following the advice of some cycling coaches that have published books and articles in magazines.

I have found that the best way for me to get better at climbing is to make sure to ride hills at least 2 rides per week (out of 5 rides), and sometimes design my whole week around different types of hill-climbing. Mixing up the steepness, distance, and working on different clumbing techniques really makes me climb better, mostly because it gives me more tools to use. I can switch back and forth between seated fast cadence (80+ rpm, I spin faster than that on flatter areas), standing/attacking medium cadence (70-90 rpm), mostly pulling on the pedals while seated and standing, and some longer climbs with an 8% slope or greater that force me to get used to alternating between sitting and standing while using a very low cadence (35-50 rpm - on easiest gear that I have). I also tend to throw in some pretty gradual hills that take more than 20 minutes to go up using a steady pace (just enough hill to feel like a stiff head-wind).

I'll never be a climber, but this routine has really helped me. I used to drop WAY off the back of groups whenever we hit hill stages. I still drop off the back, but these days, I also catch them going down the other side.

Have fun out there!

Thanks, I will! Wow, lots of good advice there, and from someone who rides in Colorado nonetheless!
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Old 07-31-07, 01:57 PM   #14
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You guys ever want to see a determined climber, ride with chunkyd sometime! He cranks hard up the hills, standing and actually visibly flexes an Aluminum Dawes frame! For a big guy, he also has an explosive sprint! When he gets down to "fighting" trim, I'll be completely UNsurprised if he doesn't make Cat! racing in Criteriums eventually, if he goes that route!
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Old 07-31-07, 07:45 PM   #15
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Yep, even better when you pass a State Trooper! They generally get a big grin and just wave at ya!
Heck if they did give me a ticket, I would want to frame that sucker......
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Old 07-31-07, 09:48 PM   #16
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I started riding routinely in the areas west of Madison this year as my capabilities started to advance. The first couple times, I'm not sure what made my heart go faster; the hills, or the fear of the next one.

I ended up getting mad (out of frustration of sucking) earlier this season on one of the nastier climbs, watching my buddies disapear helped fuel the fire. This was the kind of anger that trips something primal - Caveman mode on! I mashed up that hill in better form than I ever thought I'd have again.

Well, no tale of blasting past them. That wasn't about to happen. But what did happen was I did learn the same thing, the muscle above my neck still runs the ship - if it is enthused, good things happen. If it is bummed, the suck sets in.

I fight with this one, oh do I fight...
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Old 07-31-07, 10:02 PM   #17
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Mountains/Hills are the best! There's nothing like getting to the top of a climb that stretches for miles. The feeling of accomplishment heightened by the endorphine rush is an awesome feeling.
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Old 07-31-07, 11:07 PM   #18
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What a cool original post.

What I don't understand about hills is how deceptive they can be.

Sometimes, I look at a looming hill and think, "OK, I'll have to strategize that one when I get to it", but it just seems to disappear under my wheels.

Other times, it looks like any other hill but I almost run out of gears getting up it.
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Old 08-01-07, 07:47 AM   #19
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bass player, maybe we could ride together sometime - we're in the same area. The group I rode "with" leaves from Fleet Feet on Old Sauk at 8:00 every Saturday. Do you road bike?

ronjon - I have yet to climb a multi-mile hill. Oh that sounds painfull, but yes, exciting.

solveg - Thanks for the compliment! I've got the same problem. I'm sure there's a name for this phenomenon somewhere. I wonder what it is ...

"Hill Eyes" ?
"Eyes Are Bigger Than Your Legs" (and vice versa)

haha
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Old 08-01-07, 08:44 PM   #20
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Yup, I'm primarily a road biker, and I'm game to hook up some time to ride. 8:00 on a Saturday is a bit early for me this week, I'm gigging Thursday, and Saturday is when I finally get to catch up on sleep. Stay in touch!
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Old 08-01-07, 08:59 PM   #21
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ronjon - I have yet to climb a multi-mile hill. Oh that sounds painfull, but yes, exciting.
The first time I tried one last December, I think I stopped four times and was doing about 3-4 miles per hour when I was moving. The feeling I had when I made it to the top was, besides exhaustion ... euphoria. I knew then that I was never likely to be a fast climber, but would never again shy away from the climbs. I went back to that hill this June, 6 months later, and cleared it without putting my foot down while taking 22 minutes off my previous time.

The view at the top:

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