Home
What's wrong with me? Hill climb season is upon us.

Heart rate: 185bpm, my lungs feel like I'm inhaling fire, they're searing, every breath is bringing a wheeze with it that makes me sound like I've got emphysema, need to take deeper breaths. 

Shouts ringing in my ears. 

I need to get out of the saddle, keep turning the pedals.  Cowbells. 

I'm staring at my front wheel, hunched low over the bars, trying to wrestle the bike up hill faster than it wants to go.

I look up, the next bend taunts me, I go back to staring at the front wheel, it's torture. 

Out of the trees... sunlight... the gradient slackens, it's all I can do to jam my fingers at the shifter and click up a couple of gears then sprint for the line.  It's not a sprint, it's a pedal-mashing lunge. 

It's over.

I'm wheezing like a broken bellows.  I can't stop the bike or I'll fall over, I cough... tastes like blood.

Hill climbing is painful, you know it's going to hurt but you still do it, you know you're not going to win, but you still do it.  Bike and rider versus gravity, or is it all a mental challenge, to keep pushing yourself when every fibre of your being is telling you to stop.

It's addictive.  I hate it.  I love it.

The Stirling Bike Club end of season hill climb takes a tortuous route up the road to the Wallace Monument in Stirling, in 2010 I did 2mins 27sec, this year it was 2min 03sec.  Good enough for joint 9th place.  I was elated and equally dejected that I didn't get under 2mins.  I could've tried harder, I know I should've pushed harder.  Next year.

I don't know why hill climbs are so attractive, they hurt, they're intense, I'm never going to win one, but I've entered another, the Up the Kirk hill climb at the end of September.  I know the road well, I cycle it once ever couple of weeks or more, I also know I'm not quick up it.  There's a great prize fund, I'm not going to win any of it, but I'm going to do it.  I'll hate it, but I'll love it. 

What's wrong with me?

9 comments

Avatar
scook94 [40 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Fabulous write-up Sam!  41

So glad I have no inclination to do one!

Avatar
Simon E [2773 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes
scook94 wrote:

So glad I have no inclination to do one!

No, you should. Honestly.

As Sam says, everyone who does them questions what the attraction is and can't describe it but hill climbs are somehow special.

Both Paul Jones and Tejvan Pettinger write good stuff about hill climbs.

Avatar
ploughclose [18 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Oh, boy - do I ever identify with this. Did Marmotte earlier this year - one of the ultimate hillfests. At the end is the fearsome Alpe d'Huez. I could have copped out at that point - I'd already climbed three whoppers. But no - I forced myself to climb it. Very, very slowly. The feeling of turning a hairpin and being faced with yet another stretch of 11-12% was really hard to deal with physically and mentally, as I was so knackered. Something, something just keeps you going. It's just adrenalin and the sense that you haven't achieved your goal unless you've done it. I hated the experience, but I love the fact that I've done it now!

Avatar
SamShaw [266 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes
ploughclose wrote:

The feeling of turning a hairpin and being faced with yet another stretch of 11-12% was really hard to deal with physically and mentally, as I was so knackered.

I had the same experience climbing Honister pass during the Keswick Sportive in 2010, it was the first sportive I'd done, and the first time I'd climbed anything like it, I was less fit and heavier too. My HR was way up at 192bpm and I got to the top and dumped myself and the bike on the grass!

Still love thinking about that achievement!

Avatar
minnellium [87 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

I used to do all out club hill climbs through necessity for a points competition when I did a bit of time trialling. I was okay (in a club context) on flat time trials so had to bang it out on the climbs. I was 13.5 stones at the time. All I can remember was the sick feeling that remained for hours after a hill climb. I take my hat off to successful climbers. It's a tough thing. Stick at it Sam.

Avatar
russyparkin [570 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

going downhill- easy.
going along the flat- easy
going uphill - THE only challenge left, a proper physical and mental challenge, people look at me like im insane as i look for routes with the biggest and nastiest climbs.

loooooooove hills, according to my strava i have since january-

ridden- 3377 miles
climbed- 257,828ft
time - 223 hours

 1

Avatar
scook94 [40 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes
Simon E wrote:
scook94 wrote:

So glad I have no inclination to do one!

No, you should. Honestly.

As Sam says, everyone who does them questions what the attraction is and can't describe it but hill climbs are somehow special.

Both Paul Jones and Tejvan Pettinger write good stuff about hill climbs.

No thanks, I have a 400km ride planned for the weekend of Up The Kirk (I'm local to Stirling also), I think that's a far easier option!  3

Avatar
SamShaw [266 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

One of my club mates has produced a short video of the event, there are some grudge matches!

http://www.pinkbike.com/video/276334/

Avatar
James Warrener [1083 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

I am desperate to enter my clubs this year even though I know I am going to get a beating  1