Monday, 23 April 2012

Cycling uphill

I’m in training for a family cycle ride from Carlisle to Liverpool.  After struggling along the Coast to Coast last year, I realised that I need to get to grips with cycling uphill.  Distance is not a problem. Downhill is a doddle.  But uphill is different – it hurts!

So on Sunday mornings you’ll often find me puffing and panting my way up Parbold Hill, about 15 miles north of Liverpool. It’s a mile or so of 15% gradient, which is a serious climb in anyone’s books.  It starts off steep enough. After a few corners, when you’ve reached the village church and convinced yourself you’re nearly at the top, you turn around another corner and – oh no, please no... but yes! – it gets even steeper. 

The first time I tried it, I thought I was going to die.  No, I tell a lie - I was sure I was going to die. My lungs were bursting, I was sweating (and swearing) and needed three or four stops before I finally made it, just about in one piece, to the top – where there is a great view across West Lancashire and Liverpool, assuming you have enough spare oxygen to keep your eyes working.

The next few times, I realised death was probably not an immediate threat.  I could get to the top of the hill as long as I didn’t mind stopping a couple of times on the way. Two weeks ago I got to the top with just one stop. I found going as slow as possible was the best way: it takes less energy and means I can keep going a bit longer. Last Sunday, somehow, I made it all the way up with no stops at all.

But even when I realised I could get to the top in one piece, I was thinking to myself  ‘Why on earth am I doing this? What is the point of choosing to put myself through so much pain and agony, when there is absolutely no need at all to do so?’ How does this square with my ‘Best is yet to be’ post, where I was writing about just being, and not needing to achieve so much any more? Why can’t I just be sitting at home watching cricket, or taking the dogs for a stroll?

Hmmmm.  It is a bit confusing.

Why do we sometimes choose to do difficult things, when we really don’t have to? 

Surely we have enough tough times in our lives without having to go and deliberately find ourselves some more.  Am I trying (in vain!) to preserve my alpha-male status? Or maybe it’s just a way of keeping boredom at bay.

But I don’t think so. It seems to me there something important about setting ourselves challenges to keep us ticking over, to keep us feeling alive. And I guess there’s a balance to be struck between being and doing.

What do you think?  Have you done tough things that you didn’t need to do?  And why did you do them?


  1. Thats good going Chris, you'll be leaving everyone in the dust from Carlisle.
    Did you get to the top and think 'where is the next hill?'


    I love doing these sorts things. Most of the time it just give's me that sense of achivement and makes me feel good and proud that i achived that.

    Ive been going out with a cycling club this year and have had some realy good rides.

    Sometimes there can be a race to the top of the hill which is competitive and fun and good for moral.

    And other time's we stick together and help each other get to the top which is good for the camaraderie.

    Love the old picture of Parbold Hill by the way.
    Im glad its not cobble stones anymore though. Its hard enough riding up on smooth tarmac.

    ...right wheres the next hill

  2. Great blog! The bad weather has prevented me from starting training yet and I am not looking forward to the first big hill.

    Incidentally, England are playing West Indies on the 16th June, it probably isn’t too late for us to wimp out and watch that instead...

  3. Man maketh the wheel...........
    Most creatures l think like to test themselves ability control strength achievement to gain the winning streak with in .

    How the serotonin levels must be high!!

    And surely this gain must be a wellbeing of pleasure to which enables us to share and encourage others to try out

    their own challanges be happy carry on.
    A neigbour and I meet up and walk around the village and canal bank to off load thoughts or say nothing at all.
    Yet we both feel so Rich at the views and findings in front of us.Awakening out of the dark and into the light of life.
    This is our challange problems/worries are life at home for a while OUR TIME OUT release !!

    Hope Chris you found the nice pub at the top of the hill !!!!

  4. Well somehow I've managed to lose a month.
    Where did April go? I think there is only 11 months in the calender this year.

    I had flu for a couple of weeks and it wiped my energy levels out, and only just getting back into a rhythm of things.

    I'm always climbing hills and mountains, i get to the top of one and there is another one to go up, and its OK because that's what i was expecting anyway.

    What annoys me is when i slip down the one's Ive come up and have to climb them again. Grrr!

    Think: Persistence, Determination, Pace, Self Belief, Patience, Rhythm.

    All needed when climbing hills or mountains, in every sense.