Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday Night Hillz

Waiting in our cars until the last minute
No matter how many times I ride with my Tuesday night hill group, I always get nervous. A wave of anxiety comes whenever I think about it…just there it did and I had to get up, walk around, and take deep breaths. By Tuesday afternoon, my productivity at work begins to plummet and I need to stop at the bathroom every 15 minutes. I’m constantly wondering “Did I eat enough lunch? Did I eat too much? Will I be dressed properly? What if my light goes out? What if I get dropped? Will I get frostbite?...and on and on.”

I started riding with a group of roadies last winter and they lured me into joining their Tuesday Night Hill group. We meet on a weekly basis from January to July and ride ~2 hours covering 30-40 miles with anywhere from 2500-3500 feet of climbing. During the first few months of the year, there isn’t much to say about these rides except that other than being cold, wet, and scary, they are hard, intimidating, and often windy.

At first we had a pretty even number of men and women so I’d ride with the girls, do my share of pulling, and work the hills, typically reaching the top first. (I’m not trying to brag – my weight to power ratio and climbing abilities are a product of my Russian hockey player sized quads, terrible for buying skinny jeans, but great for tackling hills.) The group has dwindled and this year I am one of two girls who show up on a regular basis, which means there is no “slower group,” just a bunch of fast guys.

But even in the dark, cold rain, I love (in a sick way) these rides because I know they make me stronger, faster, and tougher. Mike, who picks the routes and organizes the rides, compared them to a cold, rainy soccer practice – it’s definitely not why you play the sport, but it’s an important part of improving. So I think that’s what it comes down to: you have to go beyond your comfort zone and often take the harder, scarier route in order to improve. It’s like Jordon Rapp said after winning Ironman Canada in 2011, “Nobody gets together over a beer and recounts war stories like, ‘hey, remember that time we ran a 5k in totally perfect conditions?’ Adversity is one of those things that truly implants a memory in our brain.” I’m not saying finishing a Tuesday Night Hill ride is anything like winning an Ironman or even finishing an Ironman, but it is something that challenges me weekly on mental and physical levels unlike any trainer workout.

Random sampling of Tuesday night weather. It snowed on us tonight - sub-optimal. :(

My fitness has improved tremendously over the past three years and it's mostly from working with a coach who has helped me train correctly and efficiently and has also encouraged me to get outside my comfort zone. When I first started training with Coach Kainoa, it was my first time swimming with a Masters group. I didn’t know flip turns or anyone in my lane. But I stuck with it, got faster, and I now swim with that group (now a faster lane) 3 times a week. She introduced me to more experienced cyclists so that I would ride with them. At first, I was nervous in my abilities to keep up and scared of getting dropped. But before I knew it, I was taking pulls on the bike and getting stronger. And on the run, she gives me a pace goal for speed workouts and although it is anything from comfortable, my marathon times have improved incredibly.

So whether it’s trying to keep up with faster swimmers, riding the scary hills with a bunch of guys, or head popping tempo runs, the important part is to get outside your comfort zone and push your limits of adversity. You'll come out a stronger athlete (and person) with new limits to keep pushing.


  1. Replies
    1. THANKS! I'll try to keep the posts insightful and/or entertaining.

  2. Jason: "I would have gone with 'Finnish speed skater' quads." But yes, we're both envious of your mighty thigh power.

    1. I love it! Thanks. I also often use, "freakishly large."