I live in an area of Sonoma County where you can’t go many places by car, foot or bicycle without encountering a hill. Maybe that is why I don’t loathe hills like so many people do. In my life, they are just another thing to get over in order to get to that next destination. Yes. I think hills are hard. But no, I am not afraid of them. They are just another obstacle to climb to move on in life.
Since signing up for Barb’s Race I have heard, “so, you gotta climb Chalk Hill, huh?” so many times, often said with a look of fear or sympathy for me, that it was starting to scare me. Chalk Hill started to seem more like Chalk Mountain to me, and I was not looking forward to it. Add that to the knowledge that it came at mile 48 of a 56 mile bike ride, and the anxiety about this climb sunk in and took hold.
I often played down this anxiety, to myself and others, by saying, “I have ridden my bike on Highway 1 into and out of Stinson Beach, so I can take any little hill Sonoma County can give me.” But somewhere deep down lurked that little bit of fear – a little bit of self doubt. What if I couldn’t make it up this hill? What if this was going to be the big obstacle standing in my way of achieving this feat I had set out to accomplish?
Enter the brilliant training plan of Coach Erin – we are going to ride the course so we know what to expect. Erin’s training plan, while a bit daunting when you look at it (I believe I actually laughed out loud the first time I saw it thinking, “she thinks I can do what?!) is filled with workouts to best help us reach our goal successfully. Part of that plan is swimming the swim in the Russian River so that we can see that we can do it, and riding the entire bike course so we know what to expect.
We rode the last half of the course on Saturday. When she handed us our directions, I felt my heart skip a beat when I read “turn right on Chalk Hill Road”. Really? I have to do this today? I really didn’t sleep very well. What if I don’t make it to the top in the training, would that mean I wouldn’t make it on race day? I would have plenty of time to think about this hill because it wouldn’t come up for about 20-25 miles, so all I could do was hop on my bike and pedal.
I can’t even remember the mile distance into our ride when we hit Chalk Hill Road, but I do remember every incline from that right turn on because every time it came up I thought “Is this it?” Funnily enough, when I said this out loud to Julie, she laughed and said she thought that same thing every time the road veered upward. Suddenly, the road started going up and Tammy confirmed that this indeed was Chalk Hill. (Cue scary music.) My heart skipped a beat, but only for a second because as I looked at it I thought, “this doesn’t look nearly as daunting as some of the other hills I have climbed”.
Pedal. Breathe. Down shift. Pedal. Breathe. Down shift. Top. This is Chalk Hill? That’s it?!?!?! That’s nothing. Descend. (Cue that music that always comes in at the moment when whatever athlete in whatever athlete movie makes whatever play it is that helps them win, or their team win.)
As Holly Wick, triathlete extraordinaire and owner of Athletic Soles once said, “It’s a hill, not a mountain”. Words truer have rarely ever been spoken.
With every obstacle that comes ones way, we have to look at it and know whether to dub it a hill or mountain – not to determine whether getting over it is attainable, but to ascertain just how much effort it is going to take to get over it, because stopping in the middle – letting it conquer you, is not an option.