Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Seven Steps of Cycling Up Mount Washington

Mile 1 - Shock
It has been just about 6-minutes since the national anthem finished and just about 5-minutes since the the first wave of riders was released up the Mount Washington Auto Road. Given that the waves were scheduled to go off in 5-minute increments, go-time is drawing closer. You stand straddling your bike, front tire kissing the start line, with your left foot clipped into the pedal and your right on the ground for balance. Friends are planted in the same stance on either side and you try to take a deep breath.

The weather has cleared and it turned out to be a pretty nice start to the race. The cannon fires and it kickstarts your heart-rate up a couple beats-per-minute. You shove off the line and clip your right foot into the pedal. If the cannon served as a kickstart, the immediate incline of the Auto Road would equate to curb-stomp.

You are in shock as you pedal up the first mile of the mountain. You’re friends take off faster than you but your breath and heart-rate are through the roof. A lot is happening and you almost don’t notice the first mile because of the shock factor of the environment. The cannon fires again from back at the start line indicating that the next wave is released and that about 5-minutes have passed since you have started. But how can that be? You haven’t even gone a mile yet!

Mile 2 - Denial
Here’s where you stare down at the road and shake your head. You check your brakes to see if they are rubbing. There’s no way that they aren’t rubbing, right?

This is a joke. There is no way that this road is this steep for six more miles. There’s no way you are going this slow. There is no way your heart can beat any faster, the chest strap must be broken.

It is impossible to go this slow at this effort level. You must have forgotten to calibrate your power meter.

There is no damn way you aren’t even a third of the way there yet.

Mile 3 - Anger
Every pedal stroke now is not doing anything. Nothing you do is actually doing anything - and it all hurts. It’s an optical illusion and joke is on you. Your heart rate is now sky high and you can’t seem to get enough oxygen in your lungs no matter how hard you breath. You hear the cheers of the random people on the road; you want to strangle those people. You want to make them feel what you are feeling.

What the fuck are you doing here? Why do you think it’s a good idea to bike up steep roads? This hill sucks so much and you are nowhere near finishing. This sucks. Everything sucks and your legs hurt. Your lower back also hurts from trying to keep your body upright.


Mile 4 - Bargaining
The pain in your legs is now normal and you’ve found a tiny glimpse of a rhythm. Breathing still hurts but this is also the new normal now. Maybe you look down at your watch again to continue to count down the hundredths of a mile.

You say: Fuck I just have to make it to mile four because there are only two more miles after that. Just round the corner, yeah, that will feel good. Everything will be better once you get to mile four. You think to yourself, “I’m going to finish this, but I am definitely not signing up for next year. Just finish though… oh yeah, just finish and not only will I not sign up for next year, but I get to pig out on good food.”

Mile 5 - Sorrow
You made it to mile four. But everything still hurts. There is no hope for you. You are alone. Forgotten. Unwanted. You start to feel sorry for yourself but it doesn’t stop your legs. Your mind is crying - your legs are screaming - but they are still moving. Still spinning.

Mile 6 - Testing
Here is where you start glancing down at your computer and watch the turn of every pedal stroke. Every. Single. One.  “Am I going to make it? Maybe you start doing mental math for the next five minutes.

There are hundreds of other people around you - up front, and behind, they are all throwing down with you. They are all feeling the same way and they aren’t giving up… so you can’t either. Onward! Upward!

Mile 7.2 - Acceptance
You can’t breath. You’ve made it to the top though. Despite the 22% kick-in-the-face incline at the last quarter of a mile, you did it.
And that feels damn good.

So what that you had higher expectations at the start line, and know that you could have hammered it faster on “a better day.” You know you left it all out there and pushed yourself. You emptied the tank with what you had today and your happy with that.

These feelings are real. You’re happy with that.

You collapse. As a volunteer wraps you in a blanket.