It’s early March, a perfect temperature in Sedona, Arizona, with an elevation of only 4,350 feet (lower than my hometown Denver) and yet somehow my legs are still burning. My mind is running wild with disheartening thoughts. “I forget how hard climbing is!” “Is it over yet?” “My legs are on fire!” It’s early season and I’m not in the best shape after months off the bike, but still these unforgiving thoughts settle in and it’s a vivid reminder of how grueling the climb can be.
I’ve never much enjoyed the climb. Well, except for when I first started riding bikes and was so horrified of trying to keep up on the downhill that I learned to relish the climb in fear of the alternative. Now that I race and live for downhill, the tables have turned. Although the climbing never seems to get easier, there’s always a point in the season when you start accomplishing new uphill cruxes that make the climb fulfilling and totally gratifying. You begin to settle in and change your mindset. You remember that it’s just a piece of the equation, and when that equation makes you happier than anything, you’ll gladly take it in stride.
Ten years into the sport and I still have my uphill mantras and personal tactics to get me through the climb on those days it feels impossible. Some people love to suffer…that’s their saving grace. I don’t. For me, it never gets easy, it’s not supposed to be, so the only option is to embrace it as a small part of the greater whole.