Hills to climb

One of the parallels to life I draw from bicycling is the struggle of climbing a hill.

Not that I am a cyclist. More than a decade ago, a 20-mile ride on my bike was pretty much a daily thing. I was in college; I lived in the coastal planes of the Carolinas. My day wasn’t complete without one.

Twelve years, 45 pounds later and a bunch of greasy Southern food later, I have started to ride again, but now I live in a much hillier region of the South, farther inland than in college. So when I leave the house on evenings these days, I’m carrying the emotional baggage of a full-time job, a five-person household and awe that increased humidity can make 91 degrees feel even hotter than it actually is.

The hills suck.

A lot.

I RODE MORE THAN 20 miles one night last week. It resulted in a terrible leg cramp that recurred off and on throughout the following work day, trouble getting out of bed and a series of snide remarks from Hollie about how long I stranded her with the kids. I’ve since kept it to 10 miles per night, as these rides take about 45 minutes.

(There was once a day in my life in which I rode 100 miles. Unbelieveable.)

In all fairness to myself, 10 miles in western South Carolina is equivalent to 20 miles in Wilmington, North Carolina. No doubt. Eastern NC is just flat; it only requires time to maintain the same pace, effort and energy for 20 miles. While my region of SC isn’t the Rocky Mountains, it is more challenging than that.

I’m doing this fitness challenge through my work. Participants will post on the company’s social media page what he or she does for workouts. I posted one recently and said I’ll never do it again because it felt all uphill toward the end of the ride, after I was already tired. A colleague commented she could never ride uphill and I responded with my approach:

“I don’t look at the top of the hill. I just focus on a spot about 10 yards in front of me and try to find a rhythm. It’s over before I know it.”

THAT IS SIMILAR to approaches in life. We all face hills we must climb, but climb them we must. But if we remain focused on the task instead of agonizing over how long it takes to reach the top of the hill, we’ll be there before we know it. Life is about steps to the top of the hill; it is not about the top of the hill itself.

One advantage to being much fatter since I rode in college is the speed I naturally gain going down these hills. I don’t even have to pedal and I’m moving quicker than when I weighted 45 pounds less. That part is great. It, too, is similar to life: if you can endure the climb, the reward is great.

But is it worth the struggle? Do we bother climbing this hill or do we go around it? What if the ride down the hill isn’t nearly as long as the climb?

These are calculated risks we all must take. Maybe all we do is climb and never reach a plateau or descent. Perhaps we would have been better off not going in that direction.

Or maybe – just maybe – it will be everything we hoped for and more.

One thing is certain: we will never know if we take that side road.

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