On the weekend, I went with a few mates who are seasoned riders. They were kind enough t give me tips and advice on improving my cycling technique. They decided to take me up Willunga hill on Saturday. I wasn't expecting it, and was kind of unprepared. (late night with not enough sleep, didnt water load as much as I should, felt a bit off with lungs) but I went along anyway to see what the fuss was about.
On the way there we did some mini sprints, learning the techniques of wheel sucking, maintaining cadence, finding the best aero position and overall trying to keep up with these guys. I think they were being kind and toning the speed down for me. I didnt have a bike computer but was told the overall average speed leading up to Willunga hill was about 24kph. Considering I rode from my house in Christie Downs to the base of Willunga, I thought 24kph wasnt too bad for me. Its was the best average Ive done so far thanks to my new bike.
Well the hill, I wasn't sure what to expect. The guys were telling me what cadence, gear and position to attack the kicker at the bottom of the hill. I shifted down to the lowest gear I could. Btw, I dont have compact cranks or cassette. 53/39 crank and 12-27T cassette. Even the lowest gear didn't feel low enough, but I kept on believing I could at least kick on over the crest. Cars and motorbikes wizzed by, and we got a few irate drivers giving us dirty looks as we were weaving all over the road to gain what ever respite we could up the hill. I got to the house driveway (known as midway point) and at that particular time, I stopped and scoffed down what nut bars, choccys, lollies we had on us. (I did consume some energy bars prior to the hill) Yeah I know I shouldn't have stopped, but it was my first time up there and I underestimated the climb. After a breather, quick swig of the water bottle, a piss and some food, we got back on, and pushed further. I was told, that it flattens out from here and its pretty much home sailing. I didn't bloody look or feel like it. By this time, my energy was sapped, I was tiring fast, and my calves decided to cramp and lock up in protest to the punishment, not even standing climbs were helping as the calf muscle just didnt want to give anymore. A small kick around one of the corners took its toll and I was forced to stop and stretch the calf for a minute.
I didn't want this mountain to beat me, so after a quick rub, another swig of water and I mustered up what mental energy I had left, to make the last 500m to the summit. By this time, I ignored what my legs were saying and just chose to charge harder on the flatter section. A few bends under some trees, I could see the crown on the road and my mate waiting up the hill with his phone out taking video of my triumph. I was stuffed, so stuffed and out of breath that when I stopped that I couldn't even answer him when he asked me how I was feeling.
I tell you what though, looking down at the valley from up there it did feel good knowing I had accomplished a climb I was dreading to tackle. Sure it wasn't ideal to stop to do so, but I did it to give my already ordinary lungs and legs to get some respite to continue on. I don't like giving up easily and if I feel the need to stop to gain composure I will, rather than fall over suffering from heart failure. I gotta thank my buddys on this one though, they are guns. In their mid 40s and just able to handle hills like it was yesterdays speed hump. My mate Dave, was chatting to me all the way up without a hint of being out of breath, it was uncanny. I was jealous of this no doubt, and to some degree its spurred me on to want to just get up there and finish what I had started.
The down hill descent was by far more fun. Paul had decided to lead the way and pick the line so I could follow. Not being an overly confident descender I chose to be a bit more cautious with the descent, not overly familiar with higher speeds on a road bike and and not knowing what my bike can really handle. plus I didnt like the thought of a fall and ruining the nice new paint work of the bike. So I took it a few kph slower. Braking a bit earlier and not letting too much speed mid corner compromise what I could safely handle. Paul and Dave shot on ahead like kamikaze's with a death wish, reaching well over 70kph on the stretch into the township. Well over the advertised speed limits I know, and I wasn't going to risk copping a fine if a 5-0 was at the hill waiting for people like us. So I tried not to ride the brakes too much and over heat the rim. Choosing the right time and location to brake.
Overall, the ascent took about 30mins to get to the summit, and less than 3 minutes to get to the bottom. I think I was told we did about 60km in total including Willunga Hill. Not too bad considering my limited experience. Average speed was 24kph, and fastest speed got up to 72kph.
Fast forward a few days and my calves are still making me pay. They do feel better today with some tiger balm and some light massaging. I will try and get back on the bike for a smaller, easier spin this week in preparation for some more riding this weekend.
My wife says Im crazy, but I love it, and feel the better for it. Im ticking off little goals and being able to achieve things I never thought I ever would. If someone told me I would be riding 60km rides, tackling Willunga Hill and the like about 5 years ago, I would have openly laughed in their face. Funny how life leads you in different directions further than you ever imagined.