I was riding with Amy and Erin on the final leg of the Lake Placid Ironman bike course. By this time, I was pretty loopy (I know, it's hard to tell the difference), screaming about how I love chocolate milk, singing Ricky Martin songs and then eventually making up my own songs. A long, hilly course will do that to you.
Luckily for me, I had only one loop to finish. Amy and Erin still had another to go, so they were working on a different pace.
There was a slight downhill and I geared low into the big ring and gained momentum. I passed by bike mates confident they would catch me on one of the ensuing hills. But they never did as they kept a good, solid pace and I tore through the final 11 miles as hard as I could.
Helping that cause, though, was using the gears on my bike. Some people will brag: "I made that climb in the hardest gear possible." Great for you but, uh, that's why there are gears on the bike.
And I use every single one of them.
The blog Canadian Triathlete has a good post on how to use your gears while climbing. I learned a lot through trial and error and while terms like "big" gears or "low gears" tend to confuse me, I basically think of my gears this way: the farther away my chain is from my bike, the more resistance I have while the closer my chain is to my bike frame, the easier it is to pedal. It's not very scientific, but it gets me through the climbs.
If you're new to playing around with the gears on your bike, check out this video which explains what cross-chaining is and why it's bad for your bike. That will save you many headaches.