I have kicked my climbing into a new gear. Well, truth be told, I just ended up doing two days in a row of climbing. I have always wanted to be a strong climber. There’s something about being able to defy the mountain. Laugh in the face of a 20% grade. Dance your way up a climb in the pedals, the bike rocking back and forth under you, a grim smile on your face as you watch the summit approach ever so slowly. You get it, right?
The reality is a little different. I’m a decent climber, sure, but it certainly does not come easy, nor do I ever feel that someone looking on as I climb would think me necessarily graceful or effortless. Some days are better than others, and there are occasions when I almost feel as if I am gliding up the hill, but those days are outnumbered by the times where it is just a hard grind, plain and simple.
Camilien-Houde is our principle climb, without leaving the city limits anyway. It’s 18 km to the base of the climbing, at the Atwater Market. From there you’ve got exactly 5 km till you’re at the very top of the mountain. There are two main stages of the climbing: the lower section that brings you up from the canal and up past the Montreal General Hospital to the base of Mount Royal. Then you have the climb of the mountain proper. As you can see from the elevation, you then enjoy a very fast descent down Camilien-Houde before turning around on the Côte-Ste-Catherine side and climb it again and descend the other side. You can repeat this as often as you like. Today, day two in a row of this circuit of mine, I did the mountain twice, and funnily enough, it always feels easier on the second climb. I supposed you’re warmed up?
Well, I obviously have to repeat this and keep adding a new peak every time, don’t I? When I was training for Race Across America (RAAM) in 2004 & 2005, I would do hill repeats at least once a week. Not only is climbing a good strength building exercise, but it is perfect to teach you how to suffer. You’ve heard many top riders say this. Being able to absorb the pain and keep going is one of the principle keys to success.
So as your climbing and your legs are screaming, your lungs joining in loud symphony, just keep turning the legs. If you stop, then you won’t start again. Another trick, if you can call it that, that I use, is not to look too far ahead. For me, staring at the summit, if you can even see it, is almost fatal. It does not come any sooner, in fact it’s like an illusion in that it seems to continuously drift farther away. I prefer to stay focused on the tarmac right in front of the wheel. The top just seems to come sooner.
I think my next ride will be a flat one. But it won’t be long before I am back on the mountain.