Race Report for ITU Age Group Worlds Standard Distance Duathlon (Guest Post)

by Cathy

Race Report for:               ITU Worlds Standard Distance Duathlon, Penticton, BC

Distance:                             10.0 km – 40.5 km – 5.1 km

Date:                                     Monday, August 21, 2017

Weather:                            ~20-25C, full sun with moderate NE winds

Description of Course:  asphalt streets and interlocking bricks run, mostly flat with some false flat up and back down (Run 1 = 4 loops, Run2 = 2 loops, bike mostly flat, head/side wind out and tail/side wind back (2 x 20km out & back)

Actual Time:                      2:50:40

Goal Times: Low Mid High
Sub 2:45 2:47 Sub 3:00

 

Personal Best Times: Lifetime Recent This Race Last Year
2:38 Esprit 2013 This is my only standard distance du this year 2:58 but run and bike courses were a bit different

 

Category Place
Women 50-54 25/29 finishers
All Women 154/220
Overall 467/603

 

Goal Pace: Actual: Overall Placing Heart Rate:
Run 1: 55:00 (5:30/km) 55:02 (5:30/km)

 

25th 168
T1 1:45 Not ranked
Bike:  sub 1:20:00

(+30 km/h)

 1:20:48 (29.7 km/h for 40k per Sportstats, = 30.2 km/h for 40.5k) 24th 148

 

T2 2:59 Not ranked
Run 2: < 30:00

(sub 6:00/km)

30:06 (6:01/km) 25th 159

 

Description of Race:

I had done this race course for Nationals last year, so I was very familiar with it.  The only differences were that they changed the run course to take out the big Vancouver Ave hill, to make an almost flat course, the bike course was a bit longer, the transition area was a bit further away and the transitions themselves were a bit longer.  With better fitness than last year, I expected to cut a fair amount of time off of my 2016 result of 2:58.  2016 was my return to racing after a lot of personal issues in 2014 and 2015 (my concussion, cancer death of very close friend, menopause, weight gain, plantar fasciitis) affected my training and resulted in next to no racing.

My training this year was affected by the illness and death of my mother in the winter/spring, followed by a viral infection that knocked me out for almost two weeks in July.  I had intended to lose at least 20 pounds since my 2016 race, and I had lost 10 pounds by mid-March but stress-eating caused me to gain that all back by May.  Once my training increased again after that, I found it very difficult to lose weight, and decided to just maintain my food intake to fuel my workouts, and deal with weight loss after Worlds.

Lead-up to race – We arrived four days prior to the race, which was enough to get settled and complete all the tasks required at a World Championship race, such as the Parade of Nations, run and ride course familiarization and team meeting, not to mention socializing.   With this being my third Worlds, I knew what was involved in the lead up and I was determined to minimize the changes to my normal routine.

I was able to do my assigned workouts for these days although not exactly as planned, due to various factors.   No excuses, but it’s not as easy to head out the door in an unfamiliar place, as it is at home.  I felt good during the workouts since my quads were finally rested and my ongoing tight calves were no longer tight.   What a relief.  It made me wonder if that calf tightness might be related to my desk/chair position at work, and being away from work resolved it.  Will have to look into that further once I’m back to work.

We stayed at a motel on the Penticton lakeshore strip and made most of our own meals to avoid sitting in crowded restaurants waiting for food, and having to worry about not getting the type and quality of food I wanted.  I slept in every morning until I woke up naturally so I was getting 8-10 hours of sleep every night.

Race Day:

Warm-up – about 15 minutes of easy jogging on and off.  All good, no hamstring or calf tightness.  Nutrition good, bathroom good.    I did my sighting of the Run In/ Bike Out/Bike In/Bike Out, which was a bit of a serpentine path.

Run 1 –  We (Women 40+) started in a corral, about the fourth wave to go.  I felt happy and calm at the start…. It had been a long journey back to being at Worlds, with my last one being Ottawa in 2013.

I always view the first 10k of a standard distance duathlon as something to be gotten through, so that I can get onto the bike.   It always seems to go on forever and you have to push hard, but not quite as hard as a standalone 10k.   This day, it went fairly well.   There was a long stretch on each of four 2.5k loops that was a false flat uphill but this was followed by coming back down it, so I don’t think I lost too much time due to this.  By the second loop, I could see that I was pretty far back in the pack, but this was not unexpected so I did not get too discouraged by this.  I kept on at a steady pace, trying to keep my pace below 5:30/km.  When I finished, my Garmin said 5:25.  Sportstats says 5:30, which was my goal, so close enough.

Bike – I had my bike shoes on my bike already (new strategy for me this season) and had a fairly good mount.  Not a full flying mount, but I got my left foot in, got rolling, swung my right leg over and I was off.  Much better than running to the mount line in my cycling shoes as I used to do.

I was expecting my ride to be a fair bit faster than last year, as I am fitter, the course was the same and the forecast was for very low winds (last year 1:23:38, 28.7 km/h).  I was a bit disappointed to only be 3 minutes faster in the results but given a couple of mitigating factors, I’m satisfied.

  • The wind was definitely stronger than last year, which slowed us down on the out portion of the double out & back course, but it didn’t feel like we got a pure tailwind on the way back. My speed was only about 3-4 km/h faster on the south bound course versus north bound.
  • Last year, we rode in the far right and far left lanes. This meant that the traffic was still flowing in the two inner lanes (and was halted at the turn around). This made for some scary moments when transport trucks passed us, but we were all amazed by the slip stream effect we got from them. It was almost like we were pulled along when they passed.  That was definitely missing this year as they had us ride in the two lakeside lanes while the traffic was in the two mountainside lanes.   It made for a much safer race course, but we all agreed that we lost a bit of speed that way.
  • The course this year was about 0.5 km longer, with a dogleg near transition that required a real slow down.

My power number was a bit lower than we had hoped for but my average HR # was good as a measure of effort.  As I finished the bike, my Garmin said 30.4 km/h.  I was very pleased to be over 30 km/h, but Sportstats has me at 29.7 km/h, I think because they divided by 40km and the course was at least 40.5km.  Either way, I am still satisfied as this is the first 40km effort I was able to do this season due to scheduling conflicts.  I had feared that I would falter at 30km and end up with a 90 minute split.

Run 2 –  this run was 2 loops of the run course, so I knew what to expect.   I was aiming to go sub 6:00/km overall.  I started out very slowly at closer to 6:30 but pressed on and eventually got my average speed down to about 5:55/km.  I was able to hold this until about the 3.5km mark, when I really started to slow down.   I tried my best to keep my speed up but the final uphill did me in, and I finished up with a 6:05/km average per my Garmin, although Sportstats had me at 6:01.  I’ll take it!

Finish – I crossed the line and immediately felt very faint, which is pretty normal for me with my low blood pressure.  Dan and my friends were at the fence and saw this and got me hooked up with a fellow Canadian finisher to hold onto me and guide me through the line.  Once I got some food into me, I came back to life quickly.

We got a very nice medal at the finish line and further on, we got a duathlon finisher scarf which was a nice touch.  The finisher area opened up into the spectator area and I was able to meet up with Dan.

At this point, things got a little weird as the solar eclipse was at its maximum.  The sun clouded over, the temperature dropped quickly by 5-10 degrees at the same time my body was cooling off, and people were stumbling around with eclipse glasses and boxes over their heads.  It was a bit surreal!

Final Thoughts:

When I describe Duathlon Worlds to someone who hasn’t done it, I say, it’s like being the smart kid in your high school, then going to university and realizing that everyone else there is as smart or smarter than you, and it can be pretty intimidating.  This time around, I knew I would be closer to the back of the pack than I was in Ottawa 2013.  I purposely didn’t say, “I don’t want to be last,” because you don’t have any control over who else shows up, and really, what’s wrong with being last at this level of competition???

Leading up to the race, I was getting really sick of training and really tired of thinking about the race.  I felt like I didn’t want to put myself through this very long lead up again.  I also felt like, I just wanted to prove to myself that I could get myself fit enough to participate at this level again, and then maybe put this level of competing behind me.  I purposely had not attended any qualifying events for 2018 Worlds.

However, a day or two after the race, I had decided that I wanted to at least consider qualifying for Worlds 2018 which will be in Odense, Denmark ….. but that’s a story for another day!

Gratitude:

A big thanks to my family for supporting me emotionally and physically and for tolerating the bikes in the kitchen!

Thanks to my coach Mike Coughlin, of Discomfort Zone Performance Coaching, especially for that phone call in the final week.

Thanks to my training partners, especially the two Mikes.

Thanks to my technology guy, Spencer.

Thanks to my nutrition coach Michelle Goldrick for steering me in the right direction.

Thanks to Tracy my trainer, Dr. Tina my chiro and Andy my physio for fixing my broken body last year.

Thanks to the Girls Who Bike, 20 Minute Daily Groove, London Centennial Wheelers, Cycles London, Runners Choice and Nordic Cat CX peeps.

Thanks to all my friends, both athletic and not, who have pushed, prodded and propped me up, when I lost the faith so many times in the past year.  It was so very much appreciated.

 

Cathy is a 54 year-old duathlete based in London, Ontario. When she’s not running and cycling, she’s a sole practitioner CPA and the co-manager of a family unit, aka a wife, and mom of two young adults. She is very excited to be entering a new age group next year!

The point of all the fitness stuff

I’ve had a great summer. I got to do the MS Bike Tour from Grand Bend to London and back again the last weekend in July. I was able to join my corporate team and met all kinds of great humans.

A bald man with glasses smiles at the camera looking over his shoulder. Natalie is next to him, spinning and smiling. The back drop is a bake sale table with food on it

Rock and I spinning to recruit and fundraise

I also got to ride with my partner Michel and our longtime friend Al.

Al and I lining up for Day 2

The weather was wonderful and the route beautiful. The rest stops were plentiful and there was lots of road support.

For a few stretches I rode with some of my colleagues. One of the best parts was staying at the dorms and socializing with all the lovely humans. My friend, colleague and mentor Bonnie is an avid cyclist and convinced me to join the fundraising committee. I loved seeing that side of her and we had many months of fun leading up to the ride and many laughs the whole weekend. Thank you Bonnie!

Bonnie and I at the Saturday night ceremonies.

I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and have already signed up for next year.

I also had 2 weeks of vacation with my family. We did amusement parks, camping and toured about Washington, D.C.

Sometimes we over did it a bit and got tired. When that happened I’d take a picture just to remind us all of the fun we were having:

We averaged 21,000 steps per day and we were all able to keep that pace up for 10 days.

The point of all the fitness stuff I do is to be able to continue to connect with people and have great experiences.


There were many great memories made and I’m thankful I could do so much this summer.

Here’s to September bringing more moments of joyful movement with awesome humans!

Bikes and boats!

Tracy knows this much better than I do. It’s hard to get much movement on a boat. You can read a bit about that here. Though she’s had some success with sun salutations and end of day dancing.

Jeff is spending the summer on his boat, touring canals and waterways, going through locks, exploring new places. You can read about Jeff’s boating adventures over at his boating blog! Mostly I prefer the land and I prefer active weekends, usually on my bike. Often we’re happy to each do our thing but we’ve been scheming about ways to combine the two activities and this weekend we had some success.

Here’s his boat:

One challenge of visiting Jeff on the boat is getting back to your car. You see you drive to where the boat is but that’s a moving target. You get on the boat and motor away from your car. For those of us just enjoying weekend bits of boat life, we need to get back to the car to get to work Monday morning. Bikes are the obvious answer since Jeff’s cruising at slower speeds the distance works out okay.

Sarah and I boarded the boat in Westport with our bikes on Friday, leaving the car there. We noodled over to Perth for lunch on Saturday, and then anchored for the night near Rideau Ferry. Sunday morning we hopped off the boat and got on our bikes.

The little trip over to Perth was my favorite part of the trip. All of the locks are manually operated but these ones seemed especially old and quaint. The trip after the lock was through beautiful park land. We couldn’t quite make it to downtown Perth. Instead we tied up at the public dock and walked over to grab lunch at a Mexican restaurant on the water.

The only downside of our plan was carrying stuff in backpacks. Next time we’re leaving things on the boat for their return journey home.

Here’s the bikes on the boat, still with their bike rally plates attached:

I got some relaxing in, putting my pink toes up:

While Sarah and Jeff did the work of actually getting the boat through the locks:

Here’s Jeff on the Beveridge Lock:

And more:

And I did less useful things like take a boat selfie:

From boat to bikes!

There might have been a few hills on the 40 km ride back to the car. Luckily at the end there were also blueberry scones and lattes!

Thanks Jeff and Sarah for the boat-bike adventure. Let’s do it again!

Joh goes again!

Joh writes, “Après avoir parcouru 110 km pour Friends for Life le 30 juillet, je vais maintenant pagayer 10 km et pédaler 125 km pour Nikibasika. La mission de Nikibasika est de former un groupe de jeunes gens instruits, sensibles aux enjeux mondiaux, orientés vers les communautés et dotés de ressources pour leur permettre de générer des occasions de développement dans leurs communautés en Ouganda.
L’objectif de financement pour 2017 est de 150 000 $. Mon objectif personnel est de 1 500 $. C’est par ici pour contribuer : https://goo.gl/tHA6mn
Merci!”

In English: “After biking 110 km for Friends for Life on July 30th, I will now paddle 10 km and bike 125 km for Nikibasika. The mission of Nikibasika is to create a group of well-educated, globally aware, community oriented and well- resourced young people in Uganda, who will in turn co-create development opportunities for their communities. Our fundraising goal this year is $150,000, and my personal objective is $1,500. I would appreciate if you could contribute here: https://goo.gl/tHA6mn Thanks!”

 

N+1: A Love Story (Guest Post)

I know many of the contributors and readers of this blog are avid cyclists. I’ve only recently discovered the joys of cycling. Although, like most people, I learned to ride a bike when I was a child, it never captivated me until I moved to Aotearoa New Zealand and started commuting to university by bike. My officemate, who was leaving the country, sold me his bicycle (whom I christened Beatrice), and my love affair began. After a few months of commuting (plus an unexpected influx of cash), I decided to buy a new bicycle that fit me well and expressed my personality. Beatrice was lonely and needed a sister, after all! Plus, I am told that it is a well-known adage amongst cyclists that the number of bikes you need is n+1, where n is the number of bikes you currently have.

A side photo of a bright orange commuter bike leaning against a white house in the sunshine.

Image description: A side photo of a bright orange commuter bike leaning against a white house in the sunshine.

My new bike, Jezebel, is a commuter bike with a temperament to match her bright orange paint job. I’ll be the first to admit that I know almost nothing about bicycles—although I’m slowly learning a few basic maintenance things—but that hasn’t stopped me from falling hopelessly in love with my new bike. Even though I grew up with a triathlete mother, I never really understood how some cyclists could develop such deep emotional attachments to their bikes.

Now I do.

So, I present to you, dear readers, a love letter to my bicycle*:

Dear Jezebel,

How happy I am that you are in my life! Your blazing orange coat fills me with joy every time I lay eyes on you. I can’t wait to show you all around the great city where we live, and I’m looking forward to taking you up and down roads, over hill and dale, along rivers and around the harbour. You will accompany me everywhere I need to go: to friends’ houses, my office, the supermarket, the swimming pool. I’ll tuck you in, safe and sound in the garage, and dream of speeding off into the sunrise with you in the morning.

You push me to be stronger and more adventurous, facing wind and hill and black ice with courage and determination I didn’t have before. You’ve also made me notice the small details I never would have seen otherwise. The potholes, quirks of the traffic lights at different intersections, hidden driveways, and roads that look flat but are actually very gradual inclines would have escaped my notice if you hadn’t pointed them out to me.

In you, I found freedom I didn’t know I lacked. Before we met, it took me ages to get anywhere. Although I enjoyed walking, it took up a lot of time. I didn’t drive anywhere because I don’t know how, and driving is impractical anyway because traffic is slow and parking is scarce and expensive. And if I took the bus, I was always travelling on someone else’s schedule. Now, you and I can go anywhere whenever we want. While the roads are filled with trapped cars waiting for the procession ahead of them to make it through the next light, we gleefully zip past them down the bike lane. I create excuses to go places simply so I can spend more time with you. I can’t wait for the long and happy life we will spend together.

Love,
Chloe

P.S. Be nice to Beatrice. Having a younger sister has been an adjustment for her.

A 26-year old white woman with short blonde hair, wearing a red and grey plaid shirt and black glasses smiles while posing with her orange bicycle.

A 26-year old white woman with short blonde hair, wearing a red and grey plaid shirt and black glasses smiles while posing with her orange bicycle.

*Yep, I know my bike can’t read.

PWA Bike Rally one-day ride: reports from the road (and the side of the road)

logo for the PWA friends for life bike rally, with red ribbon

Last Sunday July 30 was the much-heralded and anticipated kick-off of the six day PWA Friends for Life Bike Rally from Toronto to Montreal.  Samantha and her friend David were doing the six-day ride.  They will be blogging about their experiences this week.  For now, here’s my report and Sarah’s report.

Catherine: There were four of us doing the one-day ride with Sam and David:  Sarah, Judy, Joh and me.  Both Sarah and Joh had done the six-day ride last year, so they knew the route pretty well.

The route took us from the middle of Toronto, out through city streets (with lots of lovely folks cheering us on and holding up signs– thanks!) and into the suburbs and on to bike paths and neighborhoods by Lake Ontario.  There were some rolling ups and downs, and steady up near the last part of the ride, which ended on scenic farmland at Port Hope, along the lake.

For me, the ride brought a mix of emotions and physical states.  As Sam, Sarah, David and I rode to the start to meet up with the group, I was anxious.  This represented a very long ride for me, and although I had trained as best I could, doing a lot of mileage, I was still underprepared, and I knew this.  However, I was there, I was with friends, and I had even brought my bike on the plane with me– this was such a good idea.  All I had to do was keep pedaling, and I know how to do that.

So off we went.  It was so great riding in a sea of people all with the same jersey, same destination, and same cause in their hearts.  I felt moved, supported, convivial, and happy.

But also increasingly hot.  Despite hopeful early weather predictions of highs around 25 (77F), in reality the temperature kept edging upwards of 31, and a bit higher than that on the pavement.  I wore a camelbak mule hydration pack, so was hydrated, and I had lots of energy snacks (for me, clif shot bloks, honey stinger bites, and sport beans).  The scenery was really gorgeous, especially on bike paths by the lake.

With the lunch stop looming, however, I was starting to break down.  My legs started cramping, and I was extremely upset about the prospect of not finishing.  Sarah and Sam rode with me the whole way, and were patient and soothing.  I know from experience that the difference between feeling like all is lost and feeling like getting back on the saddle can be accounted for by having a coke and a sandwich.  So I did, and then I did (feel like getting back on the saddle).

Unfortunately, although the spirit was willing, the legs didn’t cooperate.  Soon after we resumed, I started cramping again.  After doing some side-of-the-road stretching, thanks to our team leaders Barrett and Brandon, I headed back out again.  However, ’twas not to be.  The cramps came back, and Sam said, “you’re done”.  She was right.  I was toast.  We called the van, and Sam and David and Sarah waited with me, then rolled out to complete the remaining 43km (27 miles).

Here’s Sam, Sarah, David and me by the side of the road before I got picked up.

Catherine, David, Sarah and Sam, all pouting for the camera in their PWA jerseys.

Catherine, David, Sarah and Sam, all pouting for the camera in their PWA jerseys.

I’m bummed that I didn’t complete the ride.  But I would not be in as good biking shape as I am now if I hadn’t signed up.  And this experience has motivated me to pursue more structured training– that is, add in high-intensity intervals and hill intervals to my riding.  And for sure I’ll be back next year to do the PWA one-day ride.

At the end of the day, being around all the other cyclists, I was happy that I had come, and looking forward to more adventures with these folks and my other cycling friends.  Here’s proof positive of the power of good cycling karma (aided by a lot of lasagna):

A happy and refueled Catherine, sitting in the dining tent at the end of the one-day bike ride.

A happy and refueled Catherine, sitting in the dining tent at the end of the one-day bike ride.

I’ve discovered what I really want for myself in terms of bike training and bike fitness:  I want to be trained enough to be able to approach a ride or an event thinking, “wow, this is going to be fun (even if it’s hot or cold, or long or windy, etc.)”.  I don’t want to start out thinking, “I have no idea if I can manage this”.  I deserve that, and the people riding with me deserve that.  That realization alone was worth all the effort.  Stay tuned for progress reports.

Sarah: A new job with less vacation meant that I was not able to do the 6-day ride this year, and I was a little forlorn at the thought of having to head back to the office on Monday while the rest of my teammates carried on to Montreal. That’s actually a big difference compared to last year’s nervous worrying about completing the rally.

I was really happy to know that Joh and Catherine and Judy would be joining us for the one-day version. I’d have company on the bus home!

Because my nerves weren’t in the way this year, I was more able to engage with the departure ceremony. I was incredibly moved by a new Canadian from Africa who spoke to us about how the programs that PWA offers have empowered her and transformed her life. I was still smiling and crying when it was time to jump on our bikes and head off on the 108 km trek to Port Hope.

The ride itself was grueling thanks to high heat and humidity. I spent a lot of attention on staying cool and hydrated. But it was so lovely to ride with Catherine and Judy as well as Joh, David and Sam, I hardly noticed the kilometres fly by.

Here’s Sarah and Sam at the yummy dinner at the end of the day.

Samantha (left), and Sarah, happy and refueled after the long hot day of riding.

Samantha (left), and Sarah, happy and refueled after the long hot day of riding.

I’ll be posting Judy and Joh’s reflections later.  Thanks for reading.

Kim’s Tour de Yorkshire*

*… in which Kim is bested by some outrageous hills, but not broken in spirit.

 

(A mosaic of images from West Yorkshire: Kim’s bike, saddle first, with the moors in the distance; a road sign that says “that was so Hebden Bridge”; Kim and her bike in front of a stone wall that says “lane end”.)

Remember how I always go on about hills? How I like them and am good at them?

Into each one’s life…

OriginalPhoto-521389833.670192

(A road sign that says “Cragg Vale: longest continuous gradient in England. Rises 970 feet (295m) over five and a half miles (9km)”)

I spent the first 10 days of July in the Calder Valley in West Yorkshire, famously home of the Bronte sisters, and the 2015 Tour de France Grand Depart, depending on your fetish. (Mine involves both – swoon.) There is tonnes to do in the pretty market town of Hebden Bridge, but my bike was with me so my first priority was the riding.

Here’s the thing about Yorkshire, though: it is a cycling Mecca (for mountain as much as for road riders) because the fine folk who built the lanes don’t believe in switchbacks.

If you’re going to do a road ride in the Calder, you need to be prepared to climb. Doesn’t matter what you do: there is ascent to be faced. I wanted, in particular, to partake of the fine views over the moors that make this part of the British Isles justly famous; that meant I really needed to be ready to get up off the saddle, early and often.

No problem! I thought. After all, I might not be a tiny cycling whippet, but I’m really good at that shit.

On my first day out, I chose a route (from the several on offer at the excellent Calder Valley Cycling website) that included a long, snaking climb with most gradients in the 5-10% range. That’s my preferred kind of climbing: you can sit and grind, and if, like me, your strengths lie with endurance sports, you’ll not max out and will really enjoy the challenge and the views. Although I won’t lie, I was nervous to start, I felt great throughout that climb as the sun broke through the clouds, and I was rewarded with some sloping descents and then a short punch up into the farm lanes above Sowerby and Mytholmroyd.

OriginalPhoto-520781974.002783

(Kim, in white cap and green helmet, smiles into the camera with green, sloping farmland in the background.)

As soon as I hit the lanes, though, I got my first taste of what was to come the rest of the week: narrow roads that don’t look like much to start, but wow, do they pack a punch, and sometimes when you least expect it.

Still, with the gorgeous views all around me and the happy feelings from the winding climb still in my arms and legs, I shoved my worry to the back of my brain. I took the set route’s lovely descent through Cragg Vale, the longest continuous climb in England, down toward Hebden, and then thought to myself: it’s cheating to go down but not up. So I turned around and did the climb (another happy, winding, mid-grade number), just to know that I could.

All in all, then, day one was terrific. But I knew it wouldn’t last.

My second ride out proved my rude awakening, though in a way I found really instructive: I learned a lot about myself as a cyclist that day.

I left in the early afternoon, and chose a short route with a big challenge: Cross Stone Road leaving Todmorden for more gorgeous views over the moors. The information online said the climb included a short punch of less than 1km followed by a longer, flat stretch, and then a steep but shortish kick up to the top. I reasoned that the word “short”, repeated a couple of times, meant I’d be fine.

Yup. Nope.

After missing my turn on the way into Todmorden and having to backtrack, I found myself on a steep but manageable residential road. I made the mistake of standing and pushing hard at this point, taking the “short” thing literally. Mistake number one! I found soon the road was not levelling, and I had to sit and push hard, breathing at my threshold, for a good 500m before the flat began. I heaved through the growing heat (Yorkshire is not hot, but sun plus no wind plus exertion is what it is), and prayed the second bit would hurt less.

Then the second bit heaved into view.

To say I was slow would be an understatement. The walker I clocked about 200m ahead of me as I began the punch ultimately beat me up the hill – though in my defence I had to stop twice: once to negotiate the single lane with a grocery van, and once just because I needed to cry a bit and ask god to save me. (I also needed to catch my breath: you can’t ride at VO2 max for as long as I was taking to get to the top, and not risk puking, which I did not want to do in full view of the confused sheep around me.) But I made it on two wheels: crying and praying or none, I refuse to walk any hill I’ve started on the bike.

I’m vain like that.

The rest of the ride was hard: I was spent from the climb. I got back to Todmorden, snapped some photos of the start of the climb to remind myself of the pain I’d endured, and home I went to eat.

OriginalPhoto-520961962.374086

(Kim’s grey and orange bike against a stone wall, with a prominent white road sign that says “cross stone road”.)

The rest of my Calder rides varied between these two poles: long, picturesque climbs I’d ride again and again, and short, painful bursts of 18-22% gradients that I was convinced I had to do in order to prove I could, but that made me hate myself, my bike, and the world for the 5-10 minutes required to finish them.

Over the week, I began to think I had hold of the wrong end of the saddle, so to speak.

My first clue came from Strava. I’m a Strava junkie, and I uploaded my rides immediately upon each return. The long climbs were full of riders, many of them pro or semi pro. (My proudest moment: learning I was 32 on the leader board for the climb up to Oxenhope, with the British cycling star Emma Pooley at number 6. Squee!)

But hardly anyone did the crazy steep climbs: I’d be among 300-400 riders on the winds, but maybe one of 20 on the punches. I scored 8th overall on the climb where I stopped twice, for heaven’s sake! I think there were 11 or 12 of us in all.

Then there was the part where I felt joyous and free on the winding climbs, but sick and demoralised on the punches. Where I wanted to climb more on the winds, but I wanted to stop, cry, and turn around on the punches.

I wouldn’t let myself stop, though, because I thought stopping meant failing. It hadn’t occurred to me that, since punching is not my strong suit, maybe I shouldn’t have attempted those routes. Maybe they were not fun – not even a fun challenge, just a terrible, unhappy slog.

I’m a big proponent of challenging myself in sport, but the challenge needs to be both challenging and, ultimately, rewarding. I did not feel rewarded on any of those little punches; I was just grumpy and out of breath. What good is that?

On the train back to London I thought about this. Why did I really want to conquer the brutal little hills, when I train best, get stronger faster, and feel more satisfied on longer climbs? Why did I care about 500m at 20%, when as a cyclist I’m best suited to 5km at 5-7%?

Sure, you could say all climbing is learning, and all learning good training.

Except: the more I pondered it, the more I realised it actually, for me, had to do with body image.

I am not small: I am 174cm tall and I weigh 77kg. It doesn’t matter much that my fat to muscle ratio is such that I’m technically athletic; that’s still a huge amount of weight to haul up the side of a cliff, on the vertical.

My strength profile means I can kill a shallow climb, but my body weight puts me at a significant disadvantage the steeper you get. And that’s fine: there are climbers and sprinters and all-rounders in the world of cycling as a norm.

But for a girl alive and well under patriarchy, being too heavy to climb a steep hill easily has other reverberations; it smacks of the whole body-mass-index culture that tells us to be teeny, already, or hate ourselves forever.

And readers of this blog all know where that kind of thinking leads.

(My body mass index makes me technically overweight, just as my muscle ratio makes me technically athletic. Thanks, stupid and ineffective measures!)

Through one lens, you could say I learned in Yorkshire that I’m too heavy to punch, and should admit defeat and move on.

Through another, you could say I learned that I’m fit and strong enough to rate in the top 10% or better on iconic climbs that the pros even find challenging.

That punching is not what I’m good at, and so I need not worry about punching just for the heck of it when I could be winding up a mountainside, happily, instead.

And that, hey: if the walker beats you to the top, maybe you should just walk, already, and save the bike for another stretch of road.