August 22, 2018
After today’s 79 miles and 5,600 feet of climbing, we were on intimate terms with the hills of Northern California. Some cyclists don’t like hills, but I do. The Puget Sound region is hilly, so unless you restrict your riding to urban rails-to-trails paths, you’re going to learn the lessons of slow ascent and fast descent.
This was my favorite day on the road so far—from the standpoint of cycling. The Avenue of the Giants was incomparable as far as an awe-inspiring experience is concerned. But the challenge and reward of a difficult day on the bike is its own kind of gift—the feeling of being tested, stretched, and strengthened is very empowering.
When French mountaineer Maurice Herzog wrote his account of his 1950 first ascent of Annapurna, the first of the world’s 8000-meter peaks to be summited, he famously ended the book, “There are other Annapurnas in the lives of men.”
The same is true for hills of any height, of course. It isn’t the height or grade or length alone that tests and challenges us. It’s having to face our fears, doubts, limitations, and desire; and having to develop our own mental toughness and resilience to persevere in the face of the terrain—internal and external.
In this, hills are great teachers. But then, the whole world is a great teacher if we allow it to be, and are willing to listen to the lesson.
Today, I did.