How I became a hill climber

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I used to consider 50 km’s a long ride.  Several months after starting to ride I really had the bug to go in a bike event.  Everyone I found tended to be too long.  I eventually found one down the Bass Coast in Archies Creek which was only 39 km’s.  This seemed perfect for me.  Given I had never climbed before, I honestly had no idea what the elevation graph for that 39 km route meant.  When I showed up, I was a bit shocked to see a nice steep climb right from the start line.  I started out great, and I did well for the first km before completely cooking myself.  In hindsight I  can kick myself for not realising that the event started with 9 km’s of climbing. 

I made it about 2/3 of the way up the climb before pulling over and throwing up half a dozen times.  I ploughed on, and somehow I ended up coming first out of the 39 km group.

You think my bad experience on the climb would have turned me off climbing……  A month later, I was in Cycle Express, and found that they did group rides in the Dandenong’s.  I had just bought a Road bike, and had little experience riding it, but I thought what the hell.  They took me up the 1:20 and I was in pain the whole way up.  But fell in love with the descent down to Montrose.  I commented to the guy that we were doing this for the descents.  He looked at me & said: “no its all about climbing”.  Which I thought strange at the time, but so much has changed since. 

My next two rides with them weren’t so good.  There was a guy by the name of Sam who took us out on the next ride, and was unbelievably fit.  There was about 15 riding that day.  He didn’t seem to care that there was a real inexperienced climber (rider) in the group, and took us up Terry’s Avenue.  This was the second time I had to walk up Terry’s Avenue.  

Not a pleasant experience having over a dozen guys wait around for you whilst you are walking up Terry’s.

My third ride with them I was dropped on every climb, and ended up cooking myself and throwing up.  You think I would have realised this was bad for me.  I came into cycling after rupturing my Achilles Tendon.  Having to battle a lot of demon’s to get my body right that first year.  Later that ride I was introduced to the Wall, and right from the outset I couldn’t breathe.  I thought that this was the most hellish climb I’d ever experienced.  Fighting for breath the whole way.  To my credit I never stopped, and wish I had a heart rate monitor, as reckon would have been averaging close to 190 bpm. 

At the top, oxygen never felt so good, and I was sucking in as much as I could all the way to the bottom of the 1:20.

I wasn’t strong enough to ride with these guys and stopped going.  Without guidance, it was a long & slow road to discovering where and how to climb.  I threw up on half a dozen occasions during the first 6 months.  The accidental tourist who didn’t know what I was doing, and how to pace myself.  I discovered the Climbing Cyclist Website.  That was a goldmine to work out where the best climbs were, and read his weekly blogs which also helped me develop as a cyclist.  I wasn’t a natural, and it took me about a year till I was able to develop the core muscles to start climbing well.  Every year since then I have gotten stronger.  In 2014 I climbed 300,000 vertical in the year.  Which wasn’t easy.  I never really let the body recover from the last punishment before my next lot of punishment.

I love helping others getting into climbing.  And set-up the Dandenong Ranges group on Strava with the thought of showing others the little known climbs that I discovered along the way.  I have been blown away with the response I’ve gotten with the Dandy Ranges group.  It takes a lot of guts and determination to be a climber, but if you do it right you don’t have to go through the pain I’ve gone through.  I was happy to find my niche in cycling, and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Here is a link to the Dandenong Ranges Club:
How I became a hill climber
How I became a hill climber
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One thought on “How I became a hill climber

    Karl Billeter said:
    February 25, 2015 at 1:27 am

    Inspirational & thanks for the Dandenong Ranges Club! I love the way climbing rewards effort whether you're a natural or not – just need to be prepared to go though “a touch” of hell 🙂

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