I’ve been on the loose in Catalonia for a few weeks now and, I’ll admit, the roads are making up for the single digit temperatures. It’s base training time which means I have the freedom to see what’s over the next hill, and the next one, and even the mountain past that. Let’s just say the foothills of the Pyrenees make a pretty good playground. But, and I mean literally, I’ve had a few other things on my mind.
In the first week I eagerly tackled the big local mountains of Rocacorba and Del Mont. I had cruised through the ever-rolling Parc Natural de la Zona Volcànica de la Garrotxa. I was loving my new hilly terrain complete with dozens of new roads that seemed to keep me climbing forever.
Then came what is now known as the “‘4km’ climb.” A few kilometres from the house and I knew the following day needed to be a rest day. My legs were tired but, after having a few weeks off, mentally I was fresh enough to overcome even the worse legs so I was committed to my three hour ride. Thirty minutes later, however, and no amount of positive thinking could get me to forget my bum. Apparently during my time off the bike my body had completely forgotten the previous weeks, months, and years it had spent sitting on a saddle. For over two painful hours, my only thought was “how the heck do I normally sit on this thing?”.
You can overcome pain, ignore it, push through it, embrace it…blah, blah, blah. That wasn’t happening today. That wasn’t happening on this climb. Not knowing the roads yet, I had started up a climb and didn’t know how long it was to the top. It seemed like forever. “Why is every climb here steep?” I moaned to the empty road. The 10% gradient wasn’t really helping my sore bum situation and, okay, I may have sought out the hills, but now all I wanted was a little downhill for gravity relief.
I did have the option of turning around. I ticked over the half way mark time wise so it was warranted. Plus, the sooner I turned around, the sooner I could get off the leather-covered metal thing passing as a seating apparatus and return to the land soft beds and comforting couches. But while the bottom half of me longed for softness, my top half couldn’t imagine a worse reality. No cyclist wants to be “soft.” Giving up on a climb because of a sore bum? No way. “Stupid competitiveness,” I admitted, allowing my spirit to overcome logic. With my attitude as my new arch nemesis, I begrudgingly continued.
By some miracle, I made it to the top. As the gradient flattened out, I expected to feel a sense of accomplishment but I was just feeling relief. I instantly turned my bike around and tucked into the drops. Speed was a welcome change and, as I settled into the descent, I noticed the amazing view. I was nestled in rolling tree-covered mountains that stretched as far as the eye could see. My sore bum hadn’t just made me miserable, it has also made me blind.
I continued to suffer the rest of the way home, finding relief only in knowing that, like every other seasonal start, my body would eventually be beaten into submission and get used to sitting on a bike for hours on end. Happily seated on the couch later that afternoon, I did finally feel a sense of accomplishment. In the end I had pushed through the pain, I hadn’t given up and I had climbed to the top of that mountain…until I was told that mountain, Coll de Bucs, was only 4 kilometres. “Four kilometres?! You have to be kidding me.” I doubled check on Strava. Then on Garmin Connect. Then Google maps. Technically it was true but I couldn’t believe it, at least, not from where I was sitting.