This past weekend, I came to a fork in the trail. After slugging it out in the mountains for miles with friends, there was a decision to be made. It was time to either head back to the car or go for bonus miles on a steep, long climb with little payoff on the other side. We are hit with this decision a lot in our rides. The truth…the only way to get back into peak riding shape is to do some things that stretch our abilities. Just sitting back and hoping the power comes back to our legs is not going to cut it. I sucked it up…tried to muster what was left of my legs forward…and hit the climb knowing it was going to hurt like hell.
Conquering the Climb Even When It Hurts
These kind of climbs serve two distint purposes.
- You are on a mission to get to a killer downhill.
- You are trying to get into better shape.
- You are a freak and love climbing.?
Ok…I know…that was actually 3 reasons but I don’t consider the 3rd one to be real…or human for that matter…so it doesn’t really count in my book.
When I hit the trailhead on Saturday, I didn’t have much left in the tank. Being a rider of heavier, longer travel rigs, there is an amount of power you need to have to get through the longer rides with mountain bikers on light bikes. To get this power back (or get in better climbing/overall shape), you have to start to push your limits and extend your fitness. What this creates is a painful experience that pays off huge dividends in the long run.
When you go to start one of these climbs, mind and body management is key. Most of the time, it will be the concentration on the task at hand and managing what power you have left that will get you over the hill. With cramps and mental breakdown looming on the horizon, what can you do to insure that you will get to the other side without falling on the side of the trail gripping your CamelBak crying for your mommy?
Tackle Your Climb 50 Feet At A Time
If I look all the way forward to see how much I really have left to muscle through, my mind will want to quit. Part of the trick I play on myself is tackling the climb in sections instead of worrying about the entire process.
“Just get over that next steep pitch.”
“You can make it that next 50 feet.”
By sectioning off the climb and mentally preparing myself for each section, the climb seems to go by quicker and it keeps me on the bike not thinking about the miles ahead.
Stay On The Bike and Smooth
One of the biggest mistakes riders make when trying to make it through a grueling climb is getting off the bike. 99 times out of a 100, you are better off gearing down, slowing down, focusing on smooth pedal strokes and lowering your heart rate. When you get off the bike, you are making your legs cool down again causing lactic acid build up and the need to warm back up again. Unless your completely locked up with cramps, do everything you can to stay on the bike and moving forward.
Think About Anything Other Than Your Burning Legs
While I am tackling these climbs on my mountain bike, I do everything in my power to try to block out that insane burning sensation that is coming from the muscles in my legs. I’ll put on music, count the rocks I am passing, argue with myself, sing an annoying song…anything other than think about that pain. If you focus on how much it hurts, you will just end up giving in and giving up (unless you are the freak that applies to #3 in the list above).
You Can Do It…You Just Have To Try
While it absolutely sucks while you are in the process, it is very satisfying to finish a painful climb victorious. On top of that, the next time around will be easier because you bit the bullet and made it happen. If you are wanting to become a faster and stronger rider, you can only achieve that through extending what you consider normal riding. If you plan on doing the same thing day in and day out…you are just going to get the same results.
If you are ready to push your mind and body even just a little bit, the results will be mind blowing. You just have to mentally prepare yourself and apply a little bit of riding technique. The rest will be just dirt under rubber.