Several weeks ago Heather, my sweet daughter-in-law, invited me to do the bicycle portion of a sprint (short-distance) relay triathlon. She will do the swim and run parts. It’s pretty exciting… now we’re not just mom/daughter, not just friends… we’re teammates! Ever since then, my view of cycling has changed. In fact, the whole world looks different.
Before: Yeah… bike, fitness, whatever.
Now: What if I get lapped on a two-lap course? How embarrassing!! I better find out a little about time-trialing!
Before: I’ll take this road. It’s flatter than the other way.
Now: Aack! The triathlon is in Austin! I’ve got to pull some hills, people!
Before: Why pedal when you can coast?
Now: Must practice holding a 115-rpm cadence for at least a minute.
Actually, I could use some coaching. Enter Brent. He doesn’t wear a whistle or carry a clipboard, but he does have some competitive experience AND a fancy-schmancy, GPS-enabled bike computer that tells you more than you care to know about your ride. He has suggested some helpful training strategies and fine-tuned my bike.
But then he had to start meddling. Last weekend he invited me to ride with him, and thought it would be good training to ride up an obscure little backroad called Texas Plume Road.
You have to understand: I ride down Texas Plume. I don’t ride up Texas Plume. That thing is steep. I didn’t know how steep; I only knew that when I rode down it like a sensible person, I hit 32 miles an hour. In low humidity, my hair would start to smoulder. At the bottom, where it ends at a four-lane divided road, Texas Plume levels off just enough so you can stop at the stop sign instead of hurtling past it and getting run over by some innocent guy in a pickup.
So, yeah, I scrupulously avoid riding up that particular hill.
But now I’m training to compete in a triathlon. At least, training to not embarrass my daughter-in-law to death in a triathlon. Either way, for the first time ever, I felt motivated to try climbing that hill. Off we went, along our usual rambling blacktop roads.
The route was familiar enough. At least I knew I wouldn’t get lost. All you do is cross the highway, turn south on the access road for a bit and then turn onto that four-lane road, the one with Innocent Pickup Guy driving past the stop sign. It goes downhill too, but at a more gentle grade. Turning to go up Texas Plume Road, it starts out pretty easy. For about 20 feet. Then you’re climbing. Then it gets steep.
So we turned onto Texas Plume, and I felt pretty strong. For about 20 feet. Then I was climbing. Then it got steep. I looked down to make sure I didn’t have a flat tire.
“Seven percent grade,” Brent called back to me. I gritted my teeth but I was handling it.
After a bit, it seemed to get tougher. I looked down to make sure I didn’t have two flat tires, which is what it felt like. “Ten percent,” Brent said.
When we came to an almost-flat spot, I quickly downed some Hammer Gel and some water. Seconds later, we were climbing again. The tendons in the back of my right knee reminded me that they had recently been strained, so would you please back off, already? But it was too late. I couldn’t have gotten off the bike without falling backward.
What can you do? I shifted to my very, very lowest gear and stood out of the saddle. Seriously, I could have walked faster. My knee started whining in earnest. I joined in. “Twelve percent,” was Brent’s sympathetic response.
“If I don’t make it, ride on home and bring me some ice,” I gasped, “and a car.”
Well, I did make it, to the top of the hill and all the way home where I promptly iced my knee. But that climb nearly did me in. You could have knocked me right back down that steep hill with a squirt gun.
Maybe that is why, every time I think of Texas Plume Road, a little tune runs through my head: “The eensy, weensy spider went up the water spout….”
Thanks for reading!
PS: This week I am linked up with Jen and the Soli Deo Gloria sisters!
I also joined the blog party with Rachel Anne and the Company Girls. (Click on over if you’d like to peek at Rachel’s latest professional project.)