Progress Report on My Mountain

I had a good ride yesterday, 41 miles after I remembered to start the tracking software. It was a good ride through some awesome territory, but that is not the ride I want to tell you about right now. (Except to drop the official tease that 40 miles is about all my left foot is willing to do in my current shoes.)

No, today I want to tell you about a ride I took a couple of weeks ago. It was my most recent assault on Mt. Hamilton, or, as I call it, My Mountain.

My Mountain is a long, steady climb up a twisty-turny road, with an observatory at the top. After the first six miles of climbing (about one-third of the ride), there is a brief respite. My goal that day was to get farther than I had before; my stretch goal for the ride was to get to that 6-mile mini-summit. And I did it! 1500 feet of elevation gain (not counting the climb to reach the official start of the climb), just crunching along. After that point there is a small descent. I didn’t go down there, because I wasn’t sure I’d get back up.

It took me almost an hour to cover those six miles. That’s… not fast. In fact, one of the reasons I made it that far is that I have gotten better at riding very slowly. After the descent and the ride back through town to get home, I was demolished.

When I related the speed of my climb to my buddy John, he said (more or less) “Your goal is to get up there before you’re sixty? You should probably start now.”

Strava, the app I use to track my rides, happily compares my efforts to others who have ridden the same route. Out of curiosity, I checked how I compared to others who have made the same climb. My effort, compared to the best efforts of 14767 other riders is… pretty close to the bottom. I’m a little confused because looking at the numbers tonight I am no longer as close to the bottom as I was (by a long shot), but I’m still way, way, down in the basement.

But Strava compares each person’s fastest times. So of the 14767 other people who have ridden that segment, almost all have better bests than I do. But that doesn’t mean all their efforts were faster than mine.

And you know what? I take a certain perverse pride in crawling up the mountain at 6 mph and not quitting before I got to that point. It was not a sexy ride, but it was a testament to sheer bloody-mindedness. As an athlete, that more than anything else defines me. I am not stronger, or faster, or more graceful, but I am a stubborn SOB.

I just have to find the legs to triple that effort by the time I turn sixty in 31 months. Piece of cake, right?

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3 thoughts on “Progress Report on My Mountain

  1. I called myself an “athlete” in this episode, and there is a significant internal backlash to that self-appellation. There is a pretense built into that word, a self-definition that doesn’t match the person I see in the mirror. I can (and do) flex my calf in flattering light and see the muscles defined there — some of them really minor but still clear as they move under my skin — and I laugh, because obviously these are not my legs.

    My body won’t fit into a bicycle jersey. I found, miracle of miracles, an aloha-themed bike jersey. But those clothes are simply not made for people with as much belly as I have. And yes, the belly is getting smaller and will continue to do so, but unless you count darts as a sport, what I’m carrying around is not the belly of an athlete.

    So I struggle with the word. But my goal is an athletic one, and if I’m not an athlete now, I will be when I get to the top.

  2. First, I’m definitely impressed by your 40 mile rides. Those are about 33 miles farther than I would want to go.
    In the spirit of Muddled Ramblings, however, I have some advice for your quest. I wonder if you are painting yourself into a corner by setting a goal to:
    a.) make the ride all by yourself, and
    b.) finish the same day you start.
    An explorer of privilege would have no such self imposed limitations. Imagine a small army of sherpas on pedicabs hauling your gear (tents, food, water, oxygen) from one camp to another as you ascend a brisk 3 miles a day between second breakfast and tea time. Six days up, one day down and you’ve conquered your mountain in a week!

  3. My name is John Hensley Jingleheimer Schmidt and I approve this joke.

    But many of you already knew I had a mean sense of humor.

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