Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Hill

After having a great weekend hiking and hitting the beach, I woke up Monday morning with a positive attitude about the week.  I decided to start my day off right by going for a jog.  Jogs on this island are no easy task, as I now live at the very top of a large, steep hill that includes at least two very challenging switchbacks. 
I planned on running down the hill, into the valley, up to the beach, then back through the valley and up the hill.  This is about a 3 mile run split evenly among the downhill, uphill and valley portions.  I’ve been running long distance for nearly 20 years, and a 3 mile run is something that I probably could have done on one leg back in Chicago.  No sweat, I thought.
I started out, blazing a trail down the right side of the hill (we drive on the left now), with all kinds of pleasant thoughts.  It was a nice sunny day, and I was looking forward to the benefits that running the hills would bring me.  In particular, a tighter ass and more toned legs.  I took in the ocean view to my right and enjoyed the decline.  As I passed people along the way, I made it a point to offer the standard and very much expected island greeting of “good morning” to each one of them.  I even cheerfully said hello to a lady curiously going up one of the switchbacks backwards.  And, of course I waved to all my neighbors when they drove by in their cars.  
Things leveled out when I reached the valley.  I was feeling pretty good at this point and contemplated a quick swim in the ocean when I reached the shore.  However, I decided to turn around and continue with my jog.
Everything changed quickly and dramatically upon starting my incline back up the hill.  All positive thoughts and happy greetings went out the window, and I switched into survival mode.  As I pumped it up the first hill toward the entrance to my neighborhood, I became conscience of how much I was sweating.  God it was hot.  Were my lungs burning?  I was approaching the switchbacks and decided to walk so that I could rest a bit before taking on the hardest part.  To me walking is demoralizing, as I've always thought walking during a run is admitting defeat.  This damn hill, the stifling humid air and the blazing sun had defeated me.  So, demoralized, hot, sweaty and with burning lungs, I gathered up as much strength as I could, turned up Rhianna on my IPod and ‘jogged’ my way up the switchbacks.  Thinking back to that strange lady, I wondered if it would be easier to turn around and do this backwards.  I was desperate.
After reaching the top of the switchbacks, I was probably a quarter of the way up the hill and completely out of breath.  I stopped.  I don’t mean I stopped running to walk a bit.  No.  I completely stopped.  I can’t remember the last time I was so out of breath, and I was no longer concerned for my safety as cars passed me by on this narrow, winding road.  I realized that there was no amount of Black Eyed Peas, Rhianna, Nine Inch Nails or Lady Gaga that could help me through this.  I was on my own - just me and the hill.       
I won’t bore you with the rest of the pain I endured as I made my way up the remainder of this mile incline.  Suffice it to say that I did make it home eventually, where I treated myself to a cold shower and some Gatorade. 
I will live to see another run.          

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