A doughboy's cronoscalata tale...

It was 'Back to School' this past Sunday... at the Berkshire Cycling Association's Mt. Greylock Hillclimb.    Fun race, run by a really nice bunch of guys from what looked like a great bike club.   (Thanks Kurt, for putting on a great race!)

OK, so maybe a hill climb is not the ideal debut effort just coming back after a broken collarbone, with no intensity training in months, and still ~10 pounds or so over a reasonable fighting weight.  But 8 miles flat out up Rockwell Road to the highest point in Massachusetts was just what I needed both physically and spiritually.

For a guy who never had 'natural climber' at the top of my cycling attributes list, I'm still attracted to the challenge of trying to improve on the big climbs.   The Quest for VAM.  Finding your inner Charly Gaul.

In the truth-be-told dirty little secrets department, I never finished a hill climb time trial happy with my effort.  My first time up Mt. Washington I put my foot down a few times (oh, the shame!)

My last clmbing TT was in the Tour of New Hampshire Milk race - way back in 1983 - up Vermont's Mt. Ascutney.  I was simply pathetic.  From top 10 in flat stage 1 - to bottom 10 on the big climb.  That memory is still the source of 'drowning man' nightmares - getting caught by rider after rider, zig zagging up the climb, praying for it to be over.   Demoralized and unfocused.  Like those dreams where you're running from something and the legs won't move...

So call it unfinished business if you will.  The ideal of climbing to the absolute limit.  A bloc.  With lionheart courage.  Penance for personal failings of character in too many other similar moments of truth.  Henious sins against the spirit of the ghosts of grimpeurs past.  It can't end like that, can it?

What's really fascinating to me about hill climb time trials is the mental concentration aspect, and the quest to learn (you'd think I'd have figured it out after all these years) how to balance cadence, gearing and breathing to stay right on the knifes edge of blowing up, without going into the red.   I feathered that edge Sunday at 168-172 bpm, spinning away at 90-100 rpm.   Panting.  I erred on the side of smaller gears (compact) and it kept me from my usual overgearing and blowing up, but unfortunately didn't propel me up at a very competitive velocity.

My time?  Bah, a mediocre-to-poor 42 minutes...totally forgettable.    I caught a few guys, but also got passed by a few including the winner Team Type 1's Will Dugan who blazed up in ~30 minutes.   Not very good, but I suppose it wasn't so terrible either after a month and a half of no racing or max level intensity.  I'm quite sure it's the hardest I've pushed myself for 42 minutes straight in decades.

What was positive about this test was that for literally the first time ever, I didn't get demoralized or quit mentally... I fought to the line and am satisfied knowing it was the most I could do that day.   Finally happy with the effort, if not the result.

It felt good to suffer again.   That's what it's all about.


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