Tuesday, August 12, 2014

An Absurd Challenge

Saturday started like any other long ride day. Friday was a particularly busy, hectic and hellishly anxiety-ridden so I didn't have a ride planned. I looked at all my routes on Saturday morning and none of them were appealing. I innocently said to Ryan, “Where should I ride today?” expecting a “go in this direction.” and I would come up with a route based on that.

Oh no. I should know better when it comes to Ryan. He is king for coming up with ridiculous challenges and ideas. He spit out “25 times up Sydenham.” Maybe it was that I hadn’t finished my coffee yet, or maybe I was completely delusional and neurotic. I started to say “you’re NUTS” but what came out of my mouth was, “You’re nnnn….. wait a minute… maybe… that sounds like a torturous challenge!”.

He left for work. I attempted to prepare myself for something so absurd…

I’ve written about Sydenham before. We don’t have mountains with hour long climbs around here. What we have is the Niagara Escarpment. It's about 100m elev. gain at 1.4'ish km long with an average grade of 7-8%. (330ft, 0.9miles). It's nice because the road is wide, drivers are ALWAYS aware  of cyclists and the pavement is smooth.

When I do hill repeats I do at most 6 reps so the idea of 25 was the most unbelievably daunting challenge. What the hell, it’s not gonna kill me, what have I got to lose? (my sanity from going up and down the same 1.4'ish km section of road for 4 hours?!) As Ryan would say, “A challenge is something that’s just out of your reach, otherwise it’s not a challenge.”

My only concern was time. This was going to take me FOR FUCKING EVER! It’s not like I could attack the hill with the utmost power 25 times. This wasn't going to be any sort of show of awesomeness it was going to be a show of suffering. This is a task that once you start you just have to settle into it and take it slice by slice. Deal with the monotony.

I listened to some music and audio books but at the end, I listened to nothing at all but my whizzing whirring dehydrated brain.

I watched the sun move overhead and witnessed blotches of shade morphing and shifting. I started to memorize every crack and ripple in the pavement. Every little stone and leaf and stick and what I can only assume was a puddle of dried up vomit. I watched guys roofing a house at the base of the climb. At one point they stopped me and said they were enjoying watching me and said I was amazing. I dunno, maybe it was just the constant sight for hours of a chick in spandex because what I was doing wasn’t anything close to amazing.

SLOW doesn’t even begin to express my climbing abilities. I was adding 2mins/climb from my usual intervals on any other given day. I had my spots between signs and other landmarks that I would get out of the saddle but near the end my ass was firmly planted. I was pedaling squares and had given up any attempt at form or finesse. I was suffering. I tried it all. Mash the pedals, pull up on the pedals, sit back and use my ass muscles, drop my heels, use my toes, relax my shoulders, rest on the hoods, the bars, head up, head down, chest raised.... YOU NAME IT!

I stopped 3 times to chat with friends who had heard of my stupidity. I saw hoards of cyclists come and go. Some for one climb, others for a few more. I climbed with one guy for 3 reps. He was going even slower than me but I didn’t have it in me to pass him. Not like the view was great, he wasn’t anything worth watching (trust me). We spoke no words either, just climbed together. I feel like I experienced Sydenham for the day. People would come and park at the lookout. I’d see them for a climb or two. Then they’d move on. I saw 2 guys doing hill repeats running and one of them was faster than me which was degrading. I watched the hill like a reality TV show because for 4+ hours it WAS my reality.

Diabetes was pretty spectacular if I do say so myself. Though my nutrition was PISS POOR.

I reduced my Lantus down to 6 units that morning. I ate some oatmeal and took 1 unit of insulin for it.

I had some slightly concentrated Honeymaxx in one of my bottles which I drank in between the water and which also made me gag. I watered it down after awhile.

@5 climbs I stopped to check my BG, text Ryan and chat with a friend for a second. I was 3.4mmol/l (61mg/dl) so I had a GU.
@10 climbs I was 5.8mmol/l (104mg/dl). I did nothing because I was a bit nauseated from the heat
@12 climbs I chatted with a friend for a few minutes
@15 climbs I was 5.5mmol/l (99mg/dl). I had 2 shot blocks. I also went to the farmers market at the top of the hill to buy some water.
-----this is where I made the decision to stop at 20 climbs. I was feeling delirious and progressively more rotten. I hadn’t eaten anything since 8:30am and it was now 1pm. I couldn’t stomach anything either which is a bad sign. Mostly? It was time. I was out there already for over 3 hours. Another 10 climbs in the "feels like 31C (88F) heat"? I couldn’t bear to think about it. Physically I could have forced it but my body was already beyond the point of no return with regards to nutrition and dehydration.
@18 climbs I chatted with another friend for a few minutes
@20 climbs I had a little “WOO HOO-imaginary fist bump with nobody” celebration. It was just me, alone. I didn’t even stop, I just turned my bike around and went down the hill one last time. I didn't stop at the café (like I usually would) I didn't pass GO, I didn't collect $200. I went home because I was dying. BG was 5.9mmol/l (106mg/dl) when I got there.

the extra big bump at 15 is where I went to the farmers market further up the hill for water. The shorter bump at 18 is where I met with a friend at the lookout. After we chatted I turned around to go back down the hill and technically didn't finish the whole climb. *GASP*

I reduced my PM Lantus also to 6 units and for the first time ever after a ride like that I didn’t tank during the night.

12 units of Lantus and only 3 units of Rapid for the whole day. I swear, if only I could find a way to ride my bike all day every day I'd rarely require insulin.

I had only consumed 60’ish grams of carbohydrates. THAT’S WAY TOO LITTLE!! That’s probably a little more than how much I should be taking in PER HOUR. The ride time was 4:10 but the elapsed time was 4:50. I stopped to check my blood sugar, buy water and chat with 3 different people, otherwise I was consistently climbing. It was very hot. When I got home I was a wreck. I couldn’t think (or see) straight. I couldn’t get anything done that I needed to do (I was supposed to work). I never really recovered mentally until the following morning. It took me hours just to shower, clean up and put a load of laundry in. I was hardly able to eat so I took in what little calories I could. When I got in my car to go meet Ryan I felt unsafe to even be driving. 

Hello friend

Yeah, I could have done 5 more climbs but I know my body pretty well. I would have needed serious help and I didn’t want it to get to that. Not to mention nobody was around to help me.

It was absurd for sure. I got a lot of people questioning my sanity. Not me though. I thought the challenge was a great idea. Thanks to my Ryan for having such a wild imagination. What a way to really test myself. It's safe to say I won't be asking him for ride ideas again for awhile though.

In the end? I climbed 2,157 metres (7,077 feet). No it ain’t no Pyrenees but it’s the most I’ve ever climbed in one day.


  1. 7,000+ feet of climbing is pretty amazing! That's far bigger than anything I've ever done. Nice.

  2. I'm glad you listened to your body. I wish there was a magical way to get nutrition in your body without making you need to shit your brains out and writhe in pain :/

  3. You've still got it (and I'm not talking about the 'betes). Way to go... you should be proud of your accomplishment.

  4. I am tired just reading this. Way to go!!!

  5. I anonymously...think you are amazing!

  6. As I read parts of this, I get the sense that you you are feeling defeated -- But while you were doing all of this climbing, I was probably sitting on my ass being lazy. So whether you did those last for climbs or not, I'd say you win. Scully 1. Scott 0.

  7. "This wasn't going to be any sort of show of awesomeness it was going to be a show of suffering. This is a task that once you start you just have to settle into it and take it slice by slice. Deal with the monotony."

    Sounds like Type 1 diabetes.


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