Around here, the ride up to Oak Glen is one of those "bucket list" items for many cyclists. It's about 2000' in 6 to 7 miles (that's from the Stater Bros at the last intersection) - hard enough to require a serious effort but not out of the reach of any club rider who gets some good climbing training in during the year. If you go up, folks may ask "front side or back?" as there is some difference in the pitch and duration of the climb depending on your approach.
Roger and I have done this climb many times, both on our own bikes and on the tandem. When we ride the tandem, it's painfully slow and our friends are usually up at the top relaxing by the time we arrive. Since we arrived home last fall, I'd not been up there. And since I have only been riding for a few weeks, I was not at all sure how I would fare on my trip up there today.
It's not that I thought, for a moment, that I could not get up there. I knew that I would be able to do it. It was just a question of how painful it was going to be! And it was pretty painful. Mostly it was due to the heat. My Garmin read 105 degrees in the sun. Roger always says it's not accurate, and I suspect that is true. But everything being relative, when this particular piece of equipment says it's 105 - well, that's a lot hotter than when it reads 89!
So we labored on, in the heat, and I was very glad to get up there at last. Roger stayed behind me the entire time. It must have been all he could do to stay back and let me set the pace. But I was thankful for it. It is terrifically dispiriting to always be chasing him. And with this heat, and my present level of conditioning, I was happy to be able to go at my own speed, without feeling pressure to catch him.
We were there because the Redlands Classic was finishing today's stage up at the top, and since we have a team staying with us, we wanted to watch the race. That smiling young man in the picture is TJ, one of the Holowesko Citadel Hincapie riders who is bunking with us this week while they race. It's awfully fun to get to know the riders, and just thrilling when they do well. TJ pulled away on the climb and motored in alone, 40 seconds ahead of his closest competitor.
I figure he probably went about 4 to 5 times faster than I was going. As I rode, I gave some thought to the conditioning, strength and endurance of these athletes. They impress me with their skill, bike handling, power and speed. And then I thought, "well, that's all relative, too, I guess." Because I certainly had plenty of people comment that they could not believe we were taking six months to ride 9500 miles around the country. And I always felt like responding, "it's really only 4 or 5 hours riding each day. No big deal." You just have to keep doing it, day after day. That is certainly one of the things that came clear to me during our trip. Nothing is so large or so impossible to accomplish that you cannot get it done, as long as you take it in little pieces - just do a little bit at a time. You just have to decide that's what you want to do, and then get started.
Like climbing Oak Glen - take it at your own pace, stop when you need to, and you'll get there. I don't feel like I could ever win a race to the top but who knows? I have done amazing things, when you get right down to it.
For now, congratulations to TJ and to the entire team. Tomorrow they will be defending the yellow jersey. We'll be there to cheer them on, just as so many of our friends and family cheered us on in our journey.