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.