An unexpected climb …


I didn’t set out to climb Mount Seymour yesterday. On the contrary, I had already completed a 45 km workout on the hilly terrain at UBC. But, after running an errand on the North Shore, I found myself at the foot of the mountain with the bike on the rack.

I couldn’t resist.

Mount Seymour is a 12.5 km climb up the the popular ski and hiking destination. It is the most difficult of the 2 local mountains road cyclist train on with an average grade of 6.7%  and, sections as steep as 18%.

I have completed this climb before. For the past several years, I do it at least once a season. This time, I was not properly prepared. I wasn’t prepared mentally (I wasn’t planning to do it that day), I was tired from my earlier ride, I didn’t have any food, and my water bottles were empty. I decided to try the climb anyway. I could always turn around if it got too tough. Right?

This was a tough climb. Hot. Long. And steep. I needed water. And food.

I learned a lot with this climb. I learned climbing is largely mental. It is digging deep, and not letting up. It is continually fighting against not only gravity, but a multitude of negative thoughts.

It was difficult right from the start. I said to myself, “I’ll do 3 km and then turn around”. But when I got to the 3 km marker, I said “I’ll go to the 5 km marker and turn back down”. When I got to the 5 km marker it got a little easier, and I said “I’ll go to the 8 km marker and turn around there”. But when I got to the 8 km marker i said “I’m almost there. There is no point turning back now”.

I had one thought in mind. I wanted a picture of myself at the top that I could share with friends and family. I wanted proof I had done this alone on the hottest day of the year after completing a 45 km ride earlier. Without the picture, no one would believe me.


I didn’t set any records. It took me an hour. People climb it in 30-45 minutes regularly. But I did it, and was exhilarated at the top. I know I can do better. If I was properly prepared, had gels in my jersey pocket, and water in my bottles, I am sure I could climb faster. But, in a way, it was more rewarding completing the climb without fuel. It taught me the mind is the real fuel. By climbing 1 km at a time, fighting off negative thoughts, and focusing on the end goal, I completed the climb confident there are longer, stepper climbs to come.

10 thoughts on “An unexpected climb …

  1. Just tell yourself next time…Calgary is 1,000 metres above sea level. Next time it’ll be psychologically easier for you.


  2. Funny thing, I am working on a post in which I discuss my lack of a need for food and excessive amounts of water on a ride. Yesterday I rode a 65 miler on a small bag of Gu Chomps and two water bottles. Today, 57 miles, even faster, on 1-1/2 bottles (one had Perpetuem in each ride) and a half a Payday candy bar. In my first couple of years this would have been near impossible but now it’s not as big a deal.

    Nice job man, and to climb after you’ve already ridden and cooled down? That’s pretty tough. Too cool.

    • Interesting. I find I need less water. A bottle will last me 2 hours. I am told you need to take in a bottle every hour. It depends on the heat, how hard you are working, the terrain, and your fitness level.

      It was a tough climb only because I was ill prepared. It was more mental than physical, and I was pleased I dug in and was able to summit in reasonable time 🙂

  3. 😀 I love that you started with small markers but I bet you deep down, you knew you wanted to go to the top. And I think that inner voice helped you get there.

    I use motivation in the same way. If it sounds like something worth sharing, I’ll push myself, 90% for me, 10% for the others (the percentage varies according to the activity and the stakes…) but I think this balance is crucial.

    It reminds me of Into The Wild, have you read the book/watched the film? “Happiness is only real when shared.”

    • I have seen the movie. Such a tragic ending but you/he are right – happiness, like most things, is only real when shared. 🙂 My daughter’s friend (also an architect) was travelling alone in Europe a few years ago, and returned much earlier than planned because, in her words, “I had no one to share the experience with. I’ll return when I can.”. Happy hiking, and be safe 🙂

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