The Journey Up

Posted on September 20, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Angel Moroni stands erect, head high and horn to lips at the tallest point on Stone Oak Parkway.  I’ve marveled at this golden statue perched atop the San Antonio LDS temple for the past few years.  The temple itself stands at the pinnacle of one of the highest hills in the area.  You can see both the temple and the statue from quite far.

This hill has been my nemesis, my nightmare—my dream, my goal—for years.  Each time I’ve driven it I’ve thought that maybe one day, maybe one, if I was lucky (or crazy), I would maybe give it a run.  And, if a miracle happened, I would make it to the top.

Until now, I have trained for nearly every half marathon alone.  My friend Carrie is training for her first half, and we are using the same plan, one that calls for hill repeats as one of its two days of speed/strength work.  We are both trying something new:  Carrie, a half marathon.  Me, a running buddy.  We don’t run together every day. Just the hard ones. The longest of the long runs.  The hills.

The hills. We figured if we’re going to run hills, we might as well run Hills.  So we chose temple mount.

Last week, our first hill week, we stood at the bottom of the mount and looked tentatively up.  We couldn’t see the top from the bottom, could barely see a jutting temple corner and the Angel Moroni heralding the dawn.  Four to five short hills is what our plan directed.  Our goal was to get as far as we could, maybe half way, for each repeat.

For the first repeat, we counted five lampposts, about a third of the hill, and stopped, excited.  Maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.  For the second through fourth repeats, we counted eight lampposts, somewhere around half way.  We struggled for breath, lungs searing, and made a fifth repeat, five lampposts.

We went home thrilled with ourselves (though we would barely be able to walk the next day), determined to come back and try again.

This week, we met at the bottom of the mount.  Three to four long hills, our plan said.  Long.

Let’s start where we left off, I suggested.  The first repeat to lamppost eight. Then we can shoot for the top.

Carrie looked at me sideways, hands on her hips, looked up the hill.  I think, she said confidently, that we should go all the way up the first time.  Get it over with.  Then if we feel like it, we can do it again.

So we took a deep breath and began.  We started up the hill in complete silence, eyes dead center on the cement in front of us.  At lamppost eight I was breathing hard, lungs tight but not searing, and we kept going, up and up. Before we knew it, we were at the top, over the last steep hump, the end in sight. I eyeballed a fire hydrant where the sidewalk leveled out, my stopping point.  Carrie bounded past me by two cement squares and stopped at the crosswalk.

We smiled, barely, and looked out and around.  Lights twinkled for miles in the distance, the sky predawn gray.  We sucked in air, high-fived, and jogged back down the hill.  It seemed to take much longer going down than coming up.

The thing about doing something hard once is that in having done it you have proof that you can.  It doesn’t seem right after that to not do what you just did and what you know you can.  It seems that if you do not put in your best effort and repeat your success, you are only cheating yourself.  And if you have a buddy, you are cheating her too.

Eight lampposts thus seemed like a silly goal for the second repeat. It was all or nothing.

This time rather than keeping my eyes trained straight in front of me, I glanced up from time to time, looking for the angel with his horn.  I could see him at the peak, gold and shiny, beckoning me.  I ran and glanced and ran some more, and before long the sidewalk leveled out and the fire hydrant appeared.  Carrie bounded two sidewalk squares past me again.

The third time, I didn’t count lampposts, nor did I seek out the angel.  I paid attention, instead, to my legs that did not hurt, my lungs that worked hard but were not searing, and my arms and hands and head that felt light as we ascended, and I thought how strange, it’s almost as if our altitude is increasing, like in the mountains, but my ears did not pop.  And I remembered the hill at mile 12 of the Austin half marathon, how I cursed the idiot course planner for the giant, steep hill right there, and how this part of temple mount felt like mile 12 then, but now I was not cursing and thinking, as I was then, who does this kind of thing? Who actually pays to torture their body and run like this when they could be in bed with coffee and the newspaper?  No. Instead I was running up and up and again, nearing the top, across the last stretch, fire hydrant in sight. And then I bounded past it, with Carrie, to where the sidewalk ends.

On the way down, that again seemed so much longer than going up, I told Carrie that if it wasn’t for her I would never have made it all the way. I would have quit near the top, would not have pushed myself until my arms and hands and head went light as a feather and I flew the rest of the way.

This is a much better plan than all my previous ones.  Hills are so much easier to ascend with a running buddy.

Advertisements

Make a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...

%d bloggers like this: