Fitness, Travel

The Pilgrimage Up Mont Ventoux

The Pilgrimage Up Mont Ventoux
My schedule is becoming less hectic and the cold and wet weather settling in means I have more free time when I’m in town during the weekends (normally, I’d be out ALL day on the bike). And honestly, at the end of year, I always slide into a “slump” where I have less motivation to exercise… but it’s okay because I’ve been riding and lifting non-stop since January. I am still riding, but mainly commutes to and from work and if it’s a dry weekend, I may go for a nice and slow long ride. But only if I feel like it. No pressure or guilt.

The best way to get over slumps is to “slow down and smell the roses.” Stop riding for speed and fitness, but ride just to ride— when you take the pressure off of ‘wanting’ to go fast, it makes it a lot more enjoyable.

As avid fitness enthusiasts, sometimes it takes more discipline to not work out than to actually work out. That is what you call first world problems… so now is a good time to work on that discipline. Practice gratitude and start to notice everything that makes you feel good such as the cool, crisp air that wakes you in the morning, or when the sun peaks out from behind the clouds and you realize how lucky you are to be immersed in the glorious outdoors. All those little things add up and that is one of the keys to happiness. You can’t be sad or angry when everything around you is so uplifting!

Viva La France | I Fucking Love Fitness | June 2014

This entry is a way overdue but I still haven’t written about my Great Escape to Europe last spring. The trip changed my perspective on life in so many ways while I reveled in limitless experiences and worked on my bucket list.

One of them was a pilgrimage up Mont Ventoux.

Mont Ventoux is one of those mythical Tour de France climbs and although there are many mountains in Europe, I wanted to tackle this legendary one first. I was already a month into my travels. I had passed by London, Berlin, Munich, Santorini, and Athens, Rome and Nice. The ride always meant to be the highlight of my trip but it was bittersweet because the end was drawing near.

As for training, I went to a gym once in London and did a workout on my patio looking over the caldera in Santorini but other than that, walking was my main source of activity. Nice was supposed to be a vacation during my vacation. I was there for the longest duration of my trip to spend quality time with one of my best friends (whose on the extremely extroverted end of the Artisan temperaments… while I’m the extremely introverted version). I would go the gym every morning spinning out intervals and lifting weights— a last attempt to prepare myself for Ventoux, have lunch and shop, and then as soon as her restaurant closed late at night, we would hit the clubs. I work extremely well under pressure so sacrificing time to get my ass on the spin bike was not an issue when the clock began to tick.

Mont Ventoux's Malaucène Route | I Fucking Love Fitness | June 2014

After Nice, I took a train to Nimes, an old town that use to be a Roman village, where I based myself for the new few days. I wanted my vacation to be relaxing and completely stress free so I hired 44|5 Cycling Tours, ran by two cycling enthusiasts: John and Gerry. The company name are the map coordinates of Mont Ventoux a.k.a. their “local hill.” Just the sound of that fills me with envy! Can you imagine Ventoux in your backyard?  It’s like when my friend in Southern France tells me she goes over the border to Milan to shop while I go to Seattle. Ugh. The grass always seem greener on the other side.

There are three routes that will take you to the summit and after a bit of contemplating, I chose Malaucène. John picked me up from my cute little cottage that I rented from AirBnB, and drove me to the starting point where we also picked up my rental bike, shoes and helmet. They had everything planned out for me so this felt like a luxury cycling vacation… just so I can get all disgusting sweaty and really make the most out of my suffer-fest later on. That’s one of the best things about cycling— you can ride in isolation so no one can see the pain in your expression and not have to listen to your moans and groans as you slowly pedal yourself and your bike uphill. But I don’t moan and groan. I swear.

You can imagine the excitement building up prior to the ride. It’s been on my bucket list ever since I discovered cycling and although I couldn’t really train, I wasn’t nervous. After climbing so many mountains at home, this was just another climb… and I knew I would get to the top one way or another. Conquering mountains is all about mindset, but most importantly, you have to remember to have fun. When you choose to look at challenges in a different away, you can easily avoid any fears or anxieties. Just embrace it.

Mont Ventoux | I Fucking Love Fitness | June 2014

The beginning of a two hour spin up this mountain. I definitely took it easy and didn’t push myself because I was having knee issues caused by a tight ITB… which was fine with me. The climb turned out to be easy because of that but I wanted to enjoy the moment and not get caught up trying to get to the top within a certain time. That’s the reason why competitive cycling never interested me. Cycling is supposed to be fun and fueled by intrinsic motivation which makes it sustainable because it does not depend on external awards. Thus turning it into a lifestyle.

Mont Ventoux | I Fucking Love Fitness | June 2014

I stopped to stretch at one point when I felt my knees starting to get really tight. John was in a support car following me up the entire way, making sure I had everything I needed and more importantly, snapping photos so I can have solid memories of this ride! I love memories. I hope he didn’t get annoyed when I demanded him to take photos of this and that …and this and that!

Mont Ventoux | I Fucking Love Fitness | June 2014

I quickly settled into a rhythm and spun up the mountain. I spun and spun and spun while trying to take in all the beauty around me.

Mont Ventoux | I Fucking Love Fitness | June 2014

Freedom. This is truly what it means to live… when you are doing what you love!

Mont Ventoux | I Fucking Love Fitness | June 2014

I was climbing a road to nowhere… nowhere but the summit. The famous barren limestone tip of Ventoux was finally in sight! It was as if I was climbing towards heaven.

As I was counting down the kilometers and getting closer and closer to the top, I began to feel a little somber… I didn’t want the ride to end! After all these months of planning… it was going to be over. Only two hours of slow climbing up this monster they call the Beast of Provence? I wanted the moment to last forever!! Of course, I had to talk myself into realizing that all roads eventually come to an end so when I got to the top, I was ecstatic. You know that feeling when you finally achieve something that you’ve wanted to do for a long time? Epic. EPIC EPIC EPIC!!! I will never forget that moment.

Writing about this experience over a year later, all I can recall was how happy I felt during the entire climb. Emotions are what makes memories come alive. I know parts of the ride had to be grueling with the 12% gradients but like with any hard ride, I don’t remember it at all! Our brains are good at leaving out the details of the suffering and leave us with the only pleasant memories to dwell upon. That’s what makes cycling so addicting and makes you come crawling back for more… with tight ITBs, hip flexors and all. Every moment of pain is worth it because it never lasts forever.

Mont Ventoux | I Fucking Love Fitness | June 2014

So there we have Ventoux. Next year as I let myself aimlessly wander in Europe again, I will be joining John and Gerry on their Girona Breakaway Tour in Spain. I am naively letting all the stalkers of the internet know my whereabouts but I am happy if it’s going to get anyone on a bike.

If you are interested in climbing Mont Ventoux, mark your calendars in July (ahem *TOUR DE FRANCE*) and join the guys on their epic Highroad Ventoux tour where you will have a live view of the pros battling it out on the slopes, just after riding it yourself. How cool does that sound? If I didn’t have to be attending bridesmaids duties at that time, I would be on tour with them and perhaps get my chance to ride up all three routes in one day (so I can cross the Triple Ventoux off my bucket list). But I have all my life to do it again…

With Ventoux conquered, I hopped on a train and headed to Barcelona where I literally had 10 hours of sleep during my 5 days there. That’s how you celebrate crossing something off your bucket list.

Paying homage to The Beast of Provence

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