The name is slightly intimidating -- the Niagara Escarpment.
It was formed millions of years ago through ice ages and erosion. The most significant part of the Escarpment comes in the way of Niagara Falls.
And this would be the primary riding route for the weekend's long ride.
In search of more hill work, the training ride headed to Niagara County. A friend of mine created a ride which would start out relatively flat (to warm up) as the route moved north and west. Then, it zig-zagged east to include four passes of the Escarpment.
The thought of four climbs of this natural wonder of the world was, in a word, daunting.
But this was prime Muskoka training territory, especially for area triathletes. And with the race two weeks away, it was time to just tackle whatever the day would bring.
While the roads were familiar, the layout of the route was new and neither my friend nor I were completely certain where potential store stops would be (important primarily for access to water). So when opportunity came by, we took it, including a stop 18 miles into the ride. The small building on a corner was a local restaurant, which appeared nameless from the outside. Clanking on the floor in bike cleats early in the morning I asked if by chance they sold bottled water. They didn't but were kind enough to let me top off my water bottle from the faucet and use their rest room.
The mental note was already made -- post-workout refueling would occur here.
Then came the first climb up the Escarpment.
Challenging. Granny gear. Pull down the arm-warmers. Spin up around 6 miles per hour.
But hey, that really wasn't so bad.
And so went the next four passes.
It wasn't that the climbs were easy just that they weren't daunting. They were doable.
The idea is that on race day when those hills of Muskoka present themselves on the bike course (which by now have taken on mythical proportions among participants) it won't be anything new. There is no type of hill which that course can present me which I haven't already climbed at some point -- from short and steep to long and steady and every combination thereof.
The notion isn't to prepare to hammer up the hills. The physical challenge is only part of it. What's more important is what's going through my head.
And today, those climbs were literally fun. Short and steep and plentiful in the middle of the ride.
The crest of each brought a smile. Not because it was over, but because there was a sense of accomplishment, of improvement and of joy.
During the ride, we spotted three other local triathletes training for Muskoka out doing their hill work on the Escarpment. Later, we crossed paths with two more. It almost felt like a communal training camp.
Off the bike was a 30-minute run which actually felt great.
"Why are you so surprised you're doing well?" my friend asked.
The answer is formulating.
But in the meantime, there was that return to the little restaurant for our breakfast recovery meal. There's little time for philosophy over a stack of homemade pancakes.
--- Amy Moritz
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