Tag Archives: hill climbs

Skull’s Crossing – Conquered

Last year, shortly before I started the “Blazzin Saddle” ride, the men parked beside us started talking about “Skull’s Crossing.” They told stories of a climb so difficult people fall over in the middle of the road. They said the road narrows at Skull’s Crossing just before you climb the steep hill. So people that were spread out across the country roads, suddenly crunched together to climb the impossible climb. DSC_0915
The description of this ride states it will challenge top level riders with its hilly terrain. Needless to say I freaked out a bit.
We reached Skull’s Crossing before the first rest area (less than 10 miles). The road curved right, then left. It dipped drastically across a small bridge, then it began to rise.

I made it about half way up and noticed a woman had flipped her bike into the ditch. I also saw people stopped along the side and people weaving back and forth in the middle of the road. It was like a war zone, with bodies strewn across the road (slight exaggeration…but you get my point!) I was no longer afraid of the hill, I was afraid of the riders around me. I was afraid of crashing. I unclipped my shoes (clips are used to attach a riders shoe to her pedal), to avoid a fall (if you are familiar with cycling you will understand I was still new to clips and lacked confidence in my cycling ability). Once I unclipped I lost all momentum. Needless to say I did not complete the hill on my bike, but I finished it pushing my bike.

This year I was determined to beat Skull’s Crossing. My hill climbing has improved. Wearing clips is now second nature and I feel much more in control.
I rode along a winding country road, my surroundings felt familiar, I knew Skull’s Crossing was getting closer. I tried to avoid the crowds so I could approach the hill without anyone near me (that didn’t happen). DSC_0912
The amazing thing is, once I started climbing the hill I felt focused on the climb. I felt all my energy pushing the pedals, pulling the pedals and I watched the road in front of me pass on by.
About midway up the hill I noticed my riding buddy to my left. Typically she beats me up difficult hills. I encouraged her, “We got this!”
As she quickly fell behind me, all I heard was “Damn it..(not sure what is said here) …came off!”
I had no idea what happened to her bike. I knew stopping in the middle of the hill was not an option. I turned back toward the hill to find a rider directly in front of me. I told the rider I was preparing to pass her as I guided my bike around on her left side.
As I crested the hill I worked my way through the other riders to the right side of the road so I could stop and wait for Rachael.
Although I was panting heavily from the climb, I felt like riding back down just to ride back up again. I was that excited about conquering Skull’s Crossing. No worries though…I was that excited…but not that stupid!
By the time Rachael caught up I had calmed down. She recently got new clips and one of her clips slipped out of the pedal. Fortunately she did not crash unfortunately she was not able to complete the hill.
The next day I revisited Skull’s Crossing. This time in a car and with camera in hand. Usually when I’m on a bike hills look really big…but as I stood at the base of this hill preparing to take a picture, it looked extremely steep and bigger than it looked the day before.DSC_0919

I was even more excited that I had conquered Skull’s Crossing!

Was it Failure?

At 7:30 this morning I had every intention of completing a 70 mile bike ride. By 1:00PM I arrived at the 55 mile rest stop with absolutely no energy and a horrible feeling of failure. I sat on a cooler, against a truck in a sliver of shade. The oppressive heat that radiated from the black pavement and the lack of shade, for miles at a time, had taken its toll.
Did I mention the hills? This particular ride is known for its hills. Yes, hills in Texas. The ride description said “The Goatneck Bike ride is a rolling hill course which averages around 35 feet per mile of climbing.” I’ve been doing hill work. I’ve been trying to ride in the heat….it just wasn’t enough.

As I sat in that sliver of shade, pouring ice water over my head, my riding buddy (Rachael) and a nice gentleman (Pat) that I rode with off and on throughout the day, helped me realize the importance of knowing when enough is enough. Pat said to me several times how difficult it is to come back from a heat related illness. Rachael simply helped me understand taking the SAG ride to the finish line was not quitting, it was the smart choice.

As I rode in the SAG truck, I still wasn’t convinced I had made the right choice. Then we rounded a bend in the road and I saw yet another long (very long) hill. I looked at the SAG driver and said, “If I were still on my bike I think the sight of that hill would have caused me to just sit down in the middle of the road.” I had made the right choice, my legs were shot for the day.

It was a humbling experience. I hate giving up, especially when it comes to an athletic activity. One of the mantras I use is, “just keep moving forward.” Today I could not.
The first half-marathon I ran, I didn’t think I would finish. I struggled the last 3 miles and crossed the finish line with calf cramps and knee pain. Instead of deciding this wasn’t for me, I started planning how to train smarter so I would be better prepared for the next one. The same thoughts crossed my mind today. Instead of giving into my frustration and anger I started planning for next year. I started thinking about where I could do more hill work, how to strengthen my back and my core and how to return next year better and stronger.