competition · cycling · fitness

Getting over heartbreak, the hill, that is

Back in the 80s it seemed every small Canadian town had a gay bar called Rumours. Halifax did.

Now as a cyclist, I note that many cities have a hill known by local cyclists as Heartbreak Hill. London does.


As hills go, our Heartbreak isn’t much of one. I live in farm country, all flat land and rolling hills. We joke about hill training on highway overpasses.

Here’s some photos of roads I ride on from a recent flight to a conference:



You can also see the grid patterned roads, north of the city helpfully labeled as “8 Mile Road” for example. Riding these big square blocks makes it easy not to get lost.

But there are some hills at this edge of our small city even if they’re nothing compared to the hills I encountered in Australia, New Zealand, and most recently in South Carolina.

Heartbreak is not steep. It’s not even that long. It annoys me more than it breaks my heart. Why annoying?

There’s a few reasons.

First, it’s on the way home. We never seem to head out down Heartbreak on group rides but we often come back that way. Usually I’m hot and tired and getting hungry, at risk of getting dropped, and then there’s that hill.

Other slow riders claim to have commitments at the other side of the town so they can break from the group before that hill. But for me, it’s actually on my way home and lying isn’t my thing.

Second, and this is another feature of group rides, we tend to accelerate into the bottom of the hill. Why? No good reason. But it means we’re getting tired before the hill even starts. One of my favourite, older, experienced riding friends usually manages to hold the group back, “Please don’t sprint to the bottom of the hill, friends.”

Third, this particular hill has a false summit. It looks to be over at one point and then no, you’re not done for awhile yet. Blech. My infamous strategy is to sprint up the bottom third and then slow down and have everyone pass me.

But, I’ve got some good news. I’m getting faster. I blogged about that here.

And this week earned me a new personal best on that hill. Last year my times on that stretch ranged from 4:43 to 6:13. Chasing my friend Jacquie the other day, I did it in 3:57. Improvement!

Again, it’s only satisfying when I focus on my personal improvement. The fastest times for women are a full minute faster than me. The speedy hill climbers include this blog’s frequent guest Kim Solga. I’m just 22 out of 33 women who’ve got a time on Strava for that stretch of road.

But I’m getting fitter and faster and that’s exciting.

Maybe the days of that hill breaking my heart are over.

One thought on “Getting over heartbreak, the hill, that is

  1. Sam, I’m into calling it the Gideon Groan. 🙂
    Also: my PB came on a day when I tried this: start into the hill at a good pace coming out of the decline near the golf course (I think around 37kph), push to the third-way point in the saddle, get up for 100 metres to build some power, then sit back down. As i crested the false summit I got up again and went for it. The bit in the saddle in between meant I had the energy to build enough power to carry me over the top. I sat down again about 100 meters before The Tree.
    That seemed to work. though it’s still a work in progress!

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