Getting Stronger

Written by J. Salvatoriello, Team Leader, Team Vermont/New Hampshire
On July 5, 2013


In the last blog I wrote, I talked about somehow getting over the worst hill I had ever seen on the hottest day of my life when it felt like the entire world was against me. Today I write about how I’ve gotten stronger since that day.

Julie and the team mid-ride from Middlebury to Rutland.

Julie and the team mid-ride from Middlebury to Rutland.

The first two days I road with my team I didn’t pull either of our two trailers that had very little stuff in them at the time. And the first day we biked mostly on a rail trail that was basically flat the entire time. I also got my first flat tire that day. I was terrified of those trailers.  I was weak.

I didn’t like bikes very much before I started the Climate Summer program because my childhood bike tires were always very flat, making it not only not fun to ride, but a pain in the butt.  A few months before Climate Summer began I was lent/given a bike by Richard, a friend and father of an old classmate (he also gave me a whole bunch of other bike stuff. He’s an awesome person). Before this bike, I don’t think I had ridden a bike in maybe 8 years (except for once when I was volunteering, but those were also slightly broken bikes). I did acknowledge a bike’s usefulness in travelling long distances easier than walking so I figured biking around wouldn’t be too hard. Richard, biking being a HUGE hobby of his, had given me a European racing bike with more gears than I knew what to do with, and special pedals with clip in shoes. Those clip-ins were perhaps the most frightening things I had ever worn. I still have a birthmark-like scar on my ankle from when I fell over and hit a curb with my feet still attached to that bike.

Julie and her European racing bike.

Julie and her European racing bike.

Anyway, so I have this bike. I definitely did not bike and train as much as the program recommended, and Richard told me that if I didn’t train right, that my first week was “going to be hell”. I thought: “Only ONE week of hell? Well, that’s not so bad.”  If you’ve read my previous blog you know that I no longer consider a week of hell to be acceptable. I was usually the last one to drag myself up any of the hills we hit, and maybe half of them I had to walk up (and walking a bike with full panniers up a hill is quite miserable). I was given great deals of support from my team, but there were still plenty of times that no amount of cheering could get me up over a hill without feeling like death.

I’m here to tell you, dear readers, that after my few weeks of hell (it was definitely more than 1 week), that I am getting stronger. I will say first that my improvement hasn’t all been in my muscles and stamina. Richard switched out my pedals so that I have normal pedals and no special shoes. This gave me more peace of mine and not having to pack extra shoes has allowed me to move some weight from my back into my panniers. Also, my team has learned a bit about spacing out when going downhill so when I drift downhill faster than everyone else (because I’m a road bike), I don’t have to break behind people and I can gather up as much momentum as I want to get back up opposite hills. I also know how to use my gears a lot better so I can build up proper speed and climb up miserable hills. And the weather the past few days has been in the 70s instead of the 90s. Also, thanks to one of my teammates, I now have a collection of songs to sing that motivate me up hills. “I Can Go the Distance” from Disney’s Hercules is a favorite.

Riding in a downpour: A typical occurrence for Team VT/NH.

Riding in a downpour: A typical occurrence for Team VT/NH.

But, also, my legs have gotten stronger.  The other day the team biked from Rutland to Middlebury- some 35 miles I think. I carried a trailer for 2 hours, over half the distance. Really, as long as I get a little recovery time going downhill, I can keep going for a long time. One of my teammates said that I’ve improved 1,000 times. I felt so proud.

The funny thing is that pushing myself physically is not difficult for me. I’m very used to that. It’s much easier for me to push myself and improve physically than it is to push my psychologically. Talking to people off the street is still super difficult for me, much more so than biking up a hill.

So, dear reader, what’s harder for you? Biking up a hill of death or public speaking? I actually don’t mind public speaking. It’s the perceived bothering of people when you stop them on the street to talk about your campaign that’s hard for me to get over. I wish there was a muscle to work for that.

This entry was posted in 2013, Team New Hampshire, Team Vermont, Team Vermont/New Hampshire and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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