Somewhere along the line I decided I was fit enough to enter one of these mountain climb races. I mean I could get up Gulf Road in Northfield. I came across the Mt. Washington Race and was going to enter but it was already full. I knew nothing about these races.
I just figured they could not much could be worse than Gulf Road.
I have been educated.
Gulf Road is maybe an average of 6% grade for a mile. The steepest section is maybe 10% for 40 yards. Mt. Washington averages 12% for 7.4 miles. Who knew? In retrospect, I am glad they were sold out. Most biking veterans consider Washington one of the most difficult climbs the world has to offer. I did not know that either.
A year or so later, ignorant as can be, I entered the Washington race. I also entered a bunch of easier races. They were my education. I always came in last or close to it. But I made it. Then I ventured to Mt. Ascutney to train. Ascutney is the same steepness as Washington, but half as long.
I knew then I was in a heap of trouble. I could barely keep the bike from falling I was going so slowly. The grade is so steep I realized there was not a shot in the world I could keep up that kind of effort for an event twice as long. So I talked to a lot of folks far wiser than I am.
I learned about changing gear sizes on a bike (who knew?) I also discovered everyone who does Washington messes around with their gearing. Use hard gears and you can barely turn the pedals and your legs give out. Use too easy gears and your turn your legs like a mad person and you get nowhere. Gotta find the sweet spot.
I made it up Ascutney a few more times – barely, but hope was born. Be open to learning from others. They can be God’s gift to us. I was blessed by them.