When I first started road cycling, as opposed to around town and down the cycle paths, I was shown the ropes by a good friend who was coming back to cycling after a lengthy break. I turned up on my hybrid and he showed me a few of his old routes around Bath. Soon enough, as with many starting cyclists, the contentious parts of the rides were the hills. Even after I bought a road bike, and invested in appropriate clothing, it got to the point where I demanded to see the planned route and went over it mile by mile looking for the pain that it hid, namely, the hill climbs.
To say I was reluctant would not accurately describe how I felt about a route with a double chevron on it (which indicated a steep climb, often above 15%). My friend insisted we do these climbs, and furthermore banned me from using the granny ring, or standing on the pedals, forcing me to strengthen my legs. Stubbornness and a focused competitive attitude (I find myself selectively competitive, based mainly on individuals), kept me going. In that first year, I endured pain that these days I rarely put myself through. In some part, it’s because I am much stronger and fitter. Otherwise, it’s because I have a more laid back attitude. My heart issues made me re-evaluate. I ride a lot more for the sheer pleasure of riding and being in good company than ever before.
And having said all that, there is one inescapable part of me that remains when it comes to cycling and that is to occasionally push the limits. I tend to do it when I ride alone so as not to upset the group ride, but I still find myself inflicting pain on myself to see where those limits are. The difference to those early days is that it is considered effort. I understand much better the need for the full range of exercise, and spend as much time on low intensity work as high.
The cyclist I am now is very different from the one who started out, who was dragged up hills with huge reluctance and no small measure of moaning. The cyclist I am now enjoys the endorphin high of a hard ride and the feeling of exhaustion standing in a hot shower knowing I have left a part of myself on the road.