Serious Training Begins

[written two months ago…]

My serious training has officially begun!

I actually feel extremely lucky to find myself training in Pittsburgh—the city of many hills. Working in Downtown Pittsburgh, and living at the top of the West End (with hills—or maybe I should call them mountains—rivaling that of Mount Washington) has given me some serious goals to tackle, literally right in my backyard. By the end of this crazy training regimen, I hope to find myself after work cycling all the way up the hill on which I live. Currently I ride up a long but gentle (in Pittsburgh terms) slope, and then walk up the extreme mound of doom that my house sits atop.

My dad visited this weekend and, before leaving, challenged me to take the Incline up to Grandview and ride around Mount Washington. We both agreed that it probably was flat at the top of the mount. Mistake number one! Unbeknownst to us, the top of a behemoth of a hill is not any more likely than the bottom to be flat. And, in this case, it is most certainly not!

After hugging my dad goodbye for his long return trip to NYC on Sunday, and a sad attempt to change my pedals from clips to clip-less (which did notresult in a success), I hopped on my bike, and headed out into the warm(ish), super sunny day! My goal was to try my legs at my first ever 30 mile ride.

I started out the way I always do, down the big drop from my house, through the West End, up West Carson, and over the Smithfield Bridge into Downtown. Then I hopped on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and followed it into Lawrenceville. It was at this point, when I had only gone about 8 miles, that I realized Pittsburgh might not be big enough to do 30 miles in without some serious looping!

I was pleased with myself for charging up the giant hill that leads into East Liberty, and then through Shadyside into Squirrel Hill. Cars were courteous, wind was non-existant, and my legs were holding up surprisingly well, lazy though they (and I) were.

The decent through Schenley Park felt glorious until an evil little voice in my head told me I should really be trying the ascent. We’ll leave that cruel training torture to another day!

Bridge and shadows during cycling ride.

Returning to South Side over the gorgeously shadowed Hot Metal Bridge, my dad’s challenge started ringing in my ears. I had to get to the top of Mount Washington!!!

And then I saw it: Arlington Avenue. The steep grade called my name, so I launched myself up it. But that wasn’t enough pain for me, so I turned onto Sycamore Street—one mountain of a road. Half way up the deranged twisty-turny road, I knew my heart would jump up and out of my throat if I continued, so I let the grade crush my spirit, grabbed my bike, and started carrying us up the city steps—which was a whole different kind of pain.

The crumbling and beer can-strewn steps eventually gave way to a quaint cobblestone road. I bumped my way over the uneven cobbles, and was rewarded by the sight of a city becoming overtaken by the colors of a setting sun—a prize that made my minty lungs calm their gasping.

View of Pittsburgh from Mount Washington.

I am proud to say that I finished my 30 miles, and treated myself to a tasty meal at OTB (the best [and only?] cycling restaurant in Pittsburgh!).