I know you’re sick of me talking about hills, maybe just as sick as I am of riding them, but bear with me just one more time because I think there’s a lesson here. AIDS LifeCycle has a series of training rides each week that help get you ready for the massive 7-day ride in June. On my very first ride a couple of months ago, I started hearing whispered and horrific tales of massive hills that would kill a leg dead. These hills didn’t have eyes, they had names—things like “Three Bears” and “White Hill” and even one called “The Quad Buster.” Naming something makes it far more terrifying (e.g. chick with snakes for hair vs. Medusa – see what I mean?)
On the first ride I would overhear in hushed tones, “Has he done Camino Alto, yet?” followed by a smile that I couldn’t read, one that warned me of pain to come. Then one day I met Camino Alto. He was exactly the beast that everyone described—a winding monster, miles long that burned my legs with its dragon fire. I hated that hill. I hate that hill. But I got to the top of it and flew down the other side with a huge feeling of accomplishment and relief. Until I discovered I had to climb it again on the way home.
But apparently that was nothing. There were hills more terrifying than that, a whole family of dragons that increased in height and length. Last week, I made plans to do bike rides on Saturday and Sunday—the first time I’d be doing two long rides in a row—and again people were clear that these were much harder than the last (trying their best to describe them with encouraging tones and failing completely). So I did the Saturday ride and climbed that massive, horrible thing. Slowly but surely I made my way to the top, covering the road with curse words as my riding mate waited at the top, barely out of breath.
Then the Sunday ride. The hill on this one was supposed to be even worse. “White Hill,” it’s called. A pretty name for an instrument of torture. The worst part was that to get to this White Hill, I would first have to go over Camino Alto—the first terrible hill in this story. Funny thing was, though, that when I got to Camino Alto, I zipped right on up. It was hard, still unpleasant, but miles easier than the first time I tried it only weeks before. Yes, I’m getting stronger which helps, but what really helped was that it was no longer unknown. It wasn’t this thing of tall tales with a foreign name and a dark reputation. I knew this hill, and I knew what to expect. And when I finally reached White Hill, I just kept thinking “It’s like any other hill. It’s like any other hill.” And it hurt like the hell fire, and it was hard and seemingly never-ending, but it was just like any other hill.
The hills will keep coming, and there are only two options: you give up, or slowly and surely get yourself up until you get to the incredibly delicious coast on the other side. And those of us searching for happiness don’t give up. We may stop and rest, but eventually we get to the top. Then we do it all over again because sitting still can be awfully dull.