I've been working to rid my head of the thoughts which always enter just prior to the hill. They go something like this:
"Oh, crap ... here comes the hill ... I hate hills ... I hope I can make it all the way this time without having to go back for my lungs."
Those kinds of thoughts only serve to make the hill experience much worse than it actually is, so I've been re-training my brain to think differently ... like this:
"Okay ... this set of hills is getting easier, because I'm getting better at climbing ... last time was much easier than the time before, and this time will be even better."
I've also been offering myself some positive reinforcement ... like this:
"You are strong like bull ... you have legs like ox ... if you were a bowler, you would do it overhand ... hills will flatten at the threat of your approach ... you are the most interesting cycler in the world ... you don't always drink beer, but when you do, you prefer Guinness Black Lager ... stay thirsty, my friend."It works ... sometimes ... sort of.
I'm also now learning that I really need to be relaxed in order to control my breathing and get into a good groove on a long steep hill. Sitting back and making sure every limb isn't tense makes a huge difference in the level of perceived effort.
I noticed a funny thing the other day while climbing one of my usual hills toward home. My brain was working hard to make my body relax, and the way it was doing that was to start singing. Not actually out loud, since heavy breathing and singing don't generally combine well .. no, this was mental singing. And not just singing any old song ... but adapting the current thought into revised lyrics for popular tunes ... you know, Weird Al style.
As I approached the first part of the climb, I remembered that it's the steepest portion ... and my brain began to sing to the tune of a song you may remember from Sheryl Crow ...
|Cartoon Sheryl Crow|
However ... the song was originally written and performed by this guy:
|This Cat can sing ... and write songs and stuff|
Yes, that's Cat Stevens ... who was born with the name Steven Demetre Georgiou ... but is now known as Yusuf Islam, although performances may advertise a combination:
|Steven Cat Demetre Yusuf Georgiou Stevens Islam, circa 2011|
Anyway ... in case you haven't already guessed, the tune to which my mental singing was adhering itself is "The First Cut Is The Deepest". Cat Stevens wrote and first recorded the song in the mid 1960's and put it on his first album in 1967. That first album that was a complete failure, after which he sold the song for 30 British pounds to another artist who made it a huge hit ... and it was later recorded by four other artists, for whom it was also a hit, including the aforementioned Sheryl Crow. Forty years after he recorded the first demo of the song, Cat received back to back ASCAP Songwriter of the Year Awards for it in 2005 and 2006. Just a little trivia for you ...
Back to the ride ... my revised lyrics went something like this:
"The first hill is the steepest ... baby, I know ... the first hill is the steepest ...
If you're breathing really heavy, just curse ... 'cuz gettin' off and walkin' is worse ...."
Oddly enough ... by the time the new lyrics had solidified, the steepest portion of the hill was over ... and I was pleasantly surprised at the seemingly smaller effort expended. Hmmm ... could that be the answer? Don't think about the hill ... just make up corny lyrics to pop songs while climbing ... and the hills will pass like a flat road?
So ... the next day, I tried it again. This time, I enlisted the help of a more aggressive musical force .... yes, I mean Metallica:
|If these guys can't get you up the hill, you should turn around and ride the other way ...|
I chose the most perfect Metallica song for my climb ... "Enter Sandman". Of course, the words were changed just a little ... into this:
"Climb .. like a goat ................. not .. like a boat ............
Heeeeeeyyyy, Old Man ....... Climb that freakin' hill again!"
And with a good dose of metal head bobbing thrown in for good measure, the hill was thus conquered.
What can I say ... as an aging music dude, I'm shocked I never thought of this sooner! Hills will never be the same again ...