I had a bit of a revelation during last weekend's inaugural Gran Fondo Los Angeles. Not that I suck at hills. I already knew that. Well, it had something to do with that. Anyway, I was finally out of the hills and heading east on San Vicente Blvd in the last few miles of the ride. I was waiting at a stoplight when some other guys from the ride pulled up with me and said we should ride back together. Cool! The light turned green and we were off. Even though my legs were trashed from the climbing, meaning I was no good up even the smallest hill, in the flats I was doing okay. I figured I'd stay in front and pull the guys along and I could rotate back when I got tired. I glanced at the Garmin and saw I was doing a respectable 21.something mph. I had to go around a parallel parking-car so I looked back to check the traffic and I saw that those guys were gone. They hadn't just fallen behind, they were nowhere to be seen. Okay, I'm not the fastest guy in the world so how could I drop four guys when my legs were as tired as they were?
That weekend really got me thinking. I'm never going to be good at hills. Let me repeat that: I am never going to be good at hills. The skinniest I could ever hope to get is 170 lbs., which is what I weighed when I was a skinny high school senior. I am not going to get down that far in weight but that's the lowest I figure I could get. If you're a professional cyclist, 170 lbs. is huge and those guys are either sprinters or time triallists and they're pretty terrible at hills (I know it sounds weird to compare myself to pros but consider that they are way stronger than I would be at that weight). No matter how much hill work I do, I am going to get faster and stronger but I will always suck compared to others. Heck, the Gran Fondo had a timed climb, 5 miles with 1650 feet of climbing, and I placed 550 out of 609 people. Suck. But I still had enough power to drop those guys without even trying. Hmm.
What to do? Well, the first thing I did was re-think my planned entry into October's Magic Mountain Man as my debut half-iron-distance triathlon. Lots and lots of tough hills. Why ruin my race time because of something that I know is my weakness (and always will be my weakness)? Off the schedule it went. I found a new, flatter triathlon in the Soma Triathlon. Doing that race, though, meant that I need to pick a new debut marathon since the Two Cities Marathon is only two weeks after Soma. Sorry, Fresno. Some other year. Next I took all the very hilly rides and races (except, maybe, the Solvang Century...someday) from my planned calendar (I plan these things years in advance). Goodbye Death Ride. Goodbye Ironman St. George. All that stuff, gone.
Where to go from here? Remember where I wrote that big cyclists are either sprinters or time triallists? They can also be track cyclists so I want to check out track cycling. There is a beginner clinic at the Encino Velodrome in a few weeks that I might be able to attend (things are pretty hectic right now so that might have to wait a month or two). I also need to find some flatter training routes. I will still hit the hills (you really can't avoid them in Southern California), which will continue to build my strength and improve my descending skills, but I am going to be looking to avoid the really gnarly climbs, like that Cat 1 Piuma Road Climb last weekend. No, I don't need to do those anymore. I can still feel it in my legs a week later!
Then maybe someday I can get a time trial bike.