Friday, September 19, 2008

When I first moved here to Western Mass, I wrote a piece on Velophoria about my concern that the hillier terrain out here would drag my average speed backward and make me dread riding instead of savor it. Well, I’ve been riding out here for the better part of a month, and things haven’t turned out quite like I thought.

At first the hills certainly did slow me down, and I found myself hating the feeling of being a weaker rider. However, after building up distance and intensity for a few weeks, I began to feel a bit more confident. I also found a climbing repeat hill not too far from my house, a two-miler that goes consistently up (and up). After a few weeks doing hard repeats on that baby, I’ve found my average speed sneaking upward on other rides.

Last Sunday, I was out for a moderate 30-miler on a nice, warm September afternoon. I was motoring along, listening to some great tunes (turned very low, through over-ear, not in-ear, headphones) and the music was lifting my spirits, which were low before the ride. About half-way through, I glanced down and saw that my average speed was a full two miles an hour faster than my average during my rides during the last month. I had one of those amusing moments of cognitive dissonance: “Shoot, my cyclometer’s broken… Hey, wait a minute!”

Taking the hills out here head-on as a challenge, instead of shrinking from them, seems to be paying off in spades. It seems like, instead of feeling like a weaker rider in harder terrain, I feel like (and am riding like) a stronger rider than I was on the easier terrain! Perhaps I have to add a new principle to my personal training manual: Take on a moderate challenge, and I’ll become a moderately good rider. But take on a big challenge whole-heartedly and with a good program, and I’ll become an exponentially better rider. Meaning, I think it would have taken me longer to get that two-mile-per-hour increase on the easier (flatter) terrain in Eastern Massachusetts!

Ironic, no?