I would call my bike ride on Saturday a grind, but that doesn't really do it justice. A total slog isn't accurate enough either. Three-and-a-half hours during which I threw out the f-bomb more times (into thin air) than I'd want to admit, 210 minutes during which I was just thoroughly, completely bitchy and bitching.
A little background: the ride itself is a grind. Nearly 4,000 feet of climbing over 25 miles. The last time I did this ride around and up Deer Creek Canyon was over two years ago. In other words, plenty of time to forget the intricacies of the ride.
After 45 minute of I did my best to get over myself. I tried to smile, as we talked about on a recent podcast. Eases the effort supposedly. Felt too forced.
I counted cracks in the pavement: ride over 5, start over again. I got to about 30 before I fell back into my mood.
I asked myself, "Would Susan quit right now?" No. "Would Michelle quit right now?" No. "Would Cynthia quit right now?" No. "Would any mother runner quit right now?" No. I didn't care. I wanted to quit.
I told myself I was so lucky to be climbing in Colorado, that one day, I'll long for the days when I could actually do this. No dice.
I told myself I needed a training partner. I'd be much happier if I had a pal next to me. But who would want to be with me right now? I thought.
My Garmin, which, when it is in bike mode counts each "lap" as five miles—instead of one, when its in running mode—didn't help things. As I was teetering along, something like "32:30" came up as a lap time. I'm not even going six miles an hour, I thought. Just pissed. I promised myself that would be my slowest lap time for this ride. For sure. I would pick it up and push harder. 37 minutes later, another lap came around. F*&^.
The sky was flat and listless, and so were my legs. The canyon looked brown and weary, like spring was never going to come. My thoughts exactly. I was supposed to keep my heart rate below 155; even in my easiest gear, I couldn't get my heart to work less than 160 beats a minute. I felt defeated, alone, so sick of training, and most of all, so sick of myself and my attitude.
Somehow, I slogged it out to the top, and relief flooded through me. Done. Then I headed down the way I came. Dare I say it was worse? It may have been.
I am pretty good at knowing how to dress for a run, but knowing what to wear on a bike on a 45 degree, overcast day is different. Especially when I'm climbing (sweat-tee!) and then descending (freeez-zing!). I brought a windbreaker, which I put on before I went down, for a fourth layer on top, but I didn't bring thick enough gloves. By about halfway down, I couldn't squeeze the brakes hard enough. I had to stop, take off my little Lycra numbers, and stick each hand under my layers and in its opposing armpit to warm up. And before I left home, I didn't want to waste time trying to track down my shoe covers, so my feet felt like I was standing barefoot on an ice rink.
Have I made it clear how unhappy I was?
Because then mile 40 came. And Bri, my coach, loves to throw in pick-ups; run fast for 30 seconds every mile or speed up for this lap in the pool. Even though I know they are beneficial, I do not like pick-ups. Especially because I'm not the type of person who, when I'm in a race, thinks, "Oh, that person is passing me. I should pick it up so they can't get by me." Instead, I think, "Oh. And I'm passed yet again. By somebody looking stronger than I feel." I am just not a pick-up gal.
Anyway, mile 40. When that magic number hit, I was supposed to get my heart rate up to at least 160 so I could have one strong effort when I was tired. I was still descending at mile 40, which meant I had to turn around and head back uphill.
I could've pretended I didn't read the instructions. (I almost didn't, actually.) I could've just said no way, I'm so wiped and I want to be done. But I'd made it to the top of the climb, in spite of my listless legs and awful attitude, and now I'd made it this far. I hung a U-turn and headed back up.
My legs groaned as they were called back into action, and despite shifting into my second and even third easiest gear, I couldn't get my heart to cooperate. I hit and plateaued at 153. Winning the lottery would've been easier than finding 7 more beats. I huffed and puffed for about 5 minutes, and then swung around again and finished the ride.
I could zoom out and say, as I was strengthening my quads, I was also building character and mental toughness. And I guess I was, but really, that feels more lofty than how I felt.
I wish I ended the ride having some amazing insight about toughing it out when I'd really, really, really rather not, when ever fiber of my being is saying, "What in tarnation? Why are you even out here on a Saturday morning, by yourself, climbing these crazy hard switchbacks? Who even cares? Go home, have a latte, read the paper, play Apples to Apples Jr., and just get over it."
That's the thing: I'll never get over it. For better or worse, challenges like Mile 40 define who I am. Even on the days when I question my goals and my lifestyle with every.single.pedal.stroke, I take comfort and pride in the fact that I will always turn around at Mile 40. I will always do, to the best of my ability, the work that needs to be done.
And that, I realize as I type this, is more than enough wisdom to come out of a crapalicious Saturday morning ride.