Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Climb West, Young Man

Friends, friends, friends -- I'm still here! After packing the house frantically for 10 days, moving frantically across state, and then vacating our new home for a family gathering in a neighboring state, I've returned home (such as it is, with boxes everywhere) and plan to make more regular contributions again. Sorry for the absence!

We're now living in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts, an area renowned for its culture, beauty and quality of life. I start a new job next week, about which I'm excited.

The cycling here is quite different, folks. I'm not very good at making allowances, but I supposed some have to be made for the amount of stress I've endured in the last few months, between finals, graduation, job searching, interviewing (77 miles away), apartment searching (77 miles away), moving (doing it ourselves, no professionals involved), and so on and so forth. All of that in three months. So, I reckon there's some effect on my energy, endurance and strength. I feel pretty off much of the time these days.

Even with that said, riding is different out here. As soon as I could, I bought the regional bike map from the redoubtable people at Rubel Bike Maps, and to my dismay, noted that roads I’d ridden since I’ve gotten here (three rides total) that I considered quite hilly don’t even get the Rubel symbol for a small hill. Hills that, on their Eastern Mass map, would have gotten an unmistakeable middle-intensity notation are completely unmarked on the Western Mass map. In our fine state, the terrain heaves more and more as one moves west toward the Berkshires, Massachusetts’ most notable mountain range, running all along our western border.

Now, like a lot of cyclists, I don’t like hills.

I don’t mind them, but I certainly don’t gravitate toward them. I can zip along faster than average on the flats – I think I have a closet time-trialist hidden inside me. A clandestine roleur, if you will. But when I hit the first long hill, those suprisingly fit riders I’ve been keeping pace with suddenly fade into the distance, along with my morale and my energy. I've done climbing repeats, not as much as I should have this season, mind you, but most weeks. And this is where I've ended up: I'm slogging on the hills. Really slogging.

Looks like I’ve got to change. I came home from a 28-mile ride – a distance I would have tossed off almost as an afterthought back in the Boston area – wearier than I expected. Which made me cranky, of course; I was at one riding level two weeks ago (before the move west), and now, magically, I’ve been demoted half a notch. The folks out here who’ve been riding this terrain all along are naturally way ahead of me.

Of course, it’s all relative: Send an experienced rider from around here out to Boulder, say, and set her against a woman who rides the same number of hours per week, and see what happens there. Same deal.

Anyway, I can see that my next project as a rider is to befriend the incline. Part of me bemoans the idea, and part of me is excited at a new challenge. Stay tuned for further exploits of a budding climber.

No comments: