Monday, August 11, 2008

Hills Are My Friends



I used to hate hills, dread hills, fear hills, loathe hills. On the bike, on the run, and I would thank God there's never hills on the swim. Sometime after moving back here to a place where I have to go up and over a big hill just to get to most of the great bike rides, hills became the norm. Just something you do, usually in the first couple miles of every bike ride. Eventually, I realized I was getting stronger on every hill, taking longer to stand up on my pedals. I used to get to the curve sign, now I made it past the mailboxes, now I made it past the picket fence, now all the way to the top. Hills weren't the horrible monsters I had made them out to be, but they still weren't my friends.

One fine late-summer day a couple of years ago, I had an epiphany. Epiphany is a favorite word in our family, largely because of an epic multi-day tournament of Ghost that my husband and I played on a long car trip when we were just dating and barely knew each other. He didn't know yet that his beloved was The Human Thesaurus and Dictionary all rolled into one, otherwise he wouldn't have blithely played word games with me in the car. I got him in several successive games of ghost with words like zweiback, gnu, and epiphany. Though that moment is now going on 16 years in our past, he delights in using the word epiphany in the most random and inappropriate ways, just to get my goat. Yeah, he's like that.

So like I said, I was out on my bike one day and had an epiphany (used correctly here) that hills were really my friends. Every single hill was helping me become stronger. I composed an epic poem about hills that my oxygen-deprived brain promptly forgot (this is most likely a blessing). Since that day, I've relished hills, delighted in hills, passed people up hills whistling dixie, and posted most of my best finishes on hilly courses. I'm too dense (not brain-wise, but body-wise) to be a really great hill climber, but it's no longer my achilles heel.

Yesterday I headed up what used to be a horrendous hill for me, now it's one of my best buds. It's a ride I look forward to and yesterday didn't disappoint with stupendous views out over the blue-layered hills and valleys to the South.

In just about four weeks, the famiglia and I will pack our tandems into suitcases and head for the hill towns of Tuscany and Umbria. I'm using Google Earth to carefully pick routes, but there's no getting around the fact that medieval people used terrain to their best defensive advantage when picking their townsites. Our ascent to our first hill town of Cortona climbs 780 feet in less than two miles. I think we may be pushing our bikes by that time. So over the next month, I face the daunting task of convincing my kids that hills are their friends too. Wish me luck!

1 comment:

TriGirl 40 (okay - 41) said...

What a great post - I have been struggling to overcome my hill phobia this year. I still don't love them - but things are better. Someday, I hope I have the same appreciation for them that you do!