As I cross the white lines of the cross walk my right hand leaves the bar and hits the lap button on the Garmin. Just as the road tilts up. I love to climb, but I’m not a climber, in fact I’m not even close. At 5’8″ and a shy under 160 (maybe a bit less now) I’m a far cry from the 2.1 height to weight ratio of even the slowest Grimpeurs. Still, going up is a good way to build strength and test one’s fitness. Both physical and mental.
There are more scenic ways into the West Hills. There are also harder, steeper hills, but this way, up Lovejoy and Cornell is just about right for today. At the start of climb I watch the numbers. “Am I spinning enough, or am I geared to hard”. “Where’s my heart rate at?” “If I go harder will I crack up high when it gets steep”. These are all distractions. A way for my mind to wrap its self around what I’m putting my body through. It give me an excuse for not listening to my body and follow the tiny observant task master attached to my bike.
My legs are starting to burn from the build up of lactic acid. That and the embro is starting to kick in. Doubts start to fill my head. I’m starting to overheat. I debated taking my jacket off and decided (wrongly) against, now I have to slow up and unzip it. My gloves are thick and heavy, making it hard to grab the zipper. Should have taken those off too.
Just as I get it unzipped the rain starts. Not heavy, just a light mist really. The type that hangs around Portland most of the winter. The rain brings a smile to my face. This is just how I like it. Before I left work for the week my boss told me that he hoped it “pissed rain” on me all week. It’s kind of been like that and I don’t mind. I’m no longer filled with doubt. Now I’m a Belgian style hardman version of myself. With that thought I jump up a gear and stand on the pedals upping the pace.
Now I’ve reached the goods. The scenes along NW Cornell fall away and I’ve become the act of pedaling up hill. I sit when its time to sit and spin my legs out, which actually give me more speed. I gear up and stand when its time to stand. Cars pass, my headphone play alt country. All of these things just pass through me. I’ve become the moment. Which means way more to me than winning a race, or a Strava KOM. I’m just me, doing my thing for no other reason than the enjoyment of it.
People who don’t ride, who maybe don’t have the knowledge that comes from doing something just for the sake of doing it, often commend me, or my companions for going out in weather like this. On Wednesday a woman in Banks told us that she admires us for going out in “weather like this”. We laughed uncomfortably. Because for us doing rides like that in weather like that has stopped feeling special and has become just something we do.
NW Cornell kicks up a little bit more and my cadence drops precipitously. I’m no longer flowing, but pedaling with a total lack of form. My body pumps up and down with each pedal stroke. I no longer feel the Belgian Hardman version of myself. Just a broken man trying to get up this hill.
But its still an improvement.