Several weeks ago, I programmed a segment called “Tarzan Pond” on Strava that is a category 3 climb starting from my driveway and going 1.5 miles up Battlecreek Canyon, climbing 650 feet with an average 8.2% grade. I live in a pretty cool place. I figured that I would be King of the Mountain on my own segment. But I forgot to designate it “private,” so Strava churned through its database and found one other rider who had ridden the segment previously: Josh Nelson.
He was King of the Mountain on my segment!
And his ride up to Tarzan Pond had occurred over a year ago. Josh is a good friend who used to live down the street until he left on a 2 year Mormon mission 9 months ago. And not only was he KOM, but he was KOM by a couple of minutes. He had blown me away. (Disclaimer: He was 18.)
I have cycling goals because I am trying to improve myself and get into better shape, but for Tarzan Pond, I had ulterior motives. I couldn’t let Josh keep his KOM status, and so I rode the ride again. And again. And again. But couldn’t seem to beat him. He was still 90 seconds faster than me. It wasn’t even close.
This morning I only had 30 minutes. I had nowhere better to ride. So, I set a mini-goal for myself. I wanted to give Tarzan Pond my best effort. Catching Josh was probably not in the cards, but I wanted to beat my own best time and go for a PR (Personal Record).
In the first part of the climb, I started looking at my watch. I really did have to get back or I’d be in trouble. And I seemed to be laboring harder than normal on this ride. It was cold. The ride was steep. I was cutting it close for getting back for work. Excuses were plentiful. But I pushed through. I kept pedaling.
I hit the first steep part of the climb about 1/2 of the way into the ride and really wasn’t confident. I looked at my watch. I had already made a pretty good climb and had good excuses to get home for work. Or I could change course and traverse the mountain and just take an easier route instead of climbing the canyon.
But then I made the decision. I was going to give it a shot. So I stood up on my pedals and pushed it. The final dirt portion of the ride has sections well over 20% grade. I pushed through. There is a white tree that hangs over the creek that marks the final corner. I focused on it and pushed through. I finally arrived at my goal and as I didn’t have time to celebrate, I immediately turned around to get back for work.
The return trip is great. Destination achieved, you can fly home, perched on the pedals like eagle’s wings. And if you’re young and crazy, and if you lay off the brakes (this is the first time on the ride you’ll touch the brakes), gravity helps you get some serious 30, 40 mph+ speed. I had no idea what my time would be on this climb. But I had the adrenaline rush and felt good.
I had given it my best shot.
I pulled into the driveway, clicked “finish” on Strava, parked my bike, and went into the house. Then I looked at the results. I had just 1 single Strava achievement for my ride, but I had a good idea of what it was. I quickly scrolled through the screens and found this: Not only had I achieved my PR, but I had conquered my mountain. I had shaved almost 90 seconds off my previous best time. 15:47. And I beat Josh. By 2 seconds. I was KOM.
Total ride stats: 22:11, 3.6 miles, 674 feet climbed.
Normally you’d put preparation at the front of a story like this. But I think the bottom of the story is an appropriate place. It’s the foundation. 2 years ago, I couldn’t have made it up 1/2 of this climb without stopping and gasping for air. But gradually, gradually, I’ve gotten stronger and better. It’s riding again and again, pushing through time after time, and conquering my own worst enemy: myself, and my good excuses.
That same old mountain is going to be there tomorrow! Will I go conquer it again? And now that I’ve posted this, other young studs out there will probably try to knock me off my mountain. But today — I’m King of the Mountain!
That’s life, isn’t it? Setting goals, getting knocked down, discouragement, work, pushing through, and euphoria with small daily accomplishments! Until I publish this post, only I know what really happened today. I conquered my mountain. I conquered myself.
You can learn a lot riding a bike.