Jul 5, 2011

The old man and the hill


The old man and the hill

(I hope Hemingway’s estate doesn’t come after me for copyright infringement)

My Mom was in town over the long weekend, so no long rides or races were to be had. I did manage to sneak out just before dawn on Saturday and do some laps on Hawk Hill. I had already done my set of repeats last week Tuesday, so this was just going to be a hilly ride simulation at a more or less endurance effort. But that’s really not what this blog is about.

I made my way to through the tunnel and up the hill through the morning fog. After making the final right-hand turn, signifying the top of the climb, it was time to come down and do it all over again.

As I made my way back to the base of the climb, I saw a man climbing up; we exchanged nods of acknowledgement. It doesn’t matter that we didn’t know each other, the fact that we were on the same cool foggy hill, at dawn, on a Saturday created a bond between us. He was wearing a maroon windbreaker, black bike shorts, an oversized bike hat that covered his ears and protruded so much from under the helmet that I don’t even remember what color the helmet was. I didn’t get a good look at the man’s face just then, but as I began to ascend once more, he was now coming down and I could take my time observing.


The rider was old, probably in his 70s. I could see from the way he was dressed and what he rode that he was not a racer, at least not now, not these days. We must have passed each other close to a dozen times, exchanging nods almost each one. Sometimes he was going up and I was coming down, other times the reverse.

The man’s face showed the effort he was making to get up the climb over and over again. He was not climbing gingerly, barely spinning an easy gear, oh, no; this rider looked like he was going uphill with a purpose, each leg firing like a piston with each downstroke. There was no longer any definition in those legs of his, and his upper body showed wear and fatigue, but his legs kept on pumping and his face had a story to tell.

A thought couldn’t help but wander into my mind, “why is he out here?” He was probably retired and it was a Saturday in any event. I could not figure out why he was out there, at that early hour, doing repeat, after repeat, after repeat. There were others on the hill, too, and reasons for their presence came at me left and right, but not where the old man was concerned. His face had a glare of purpose, his legs moved with intent, both of which remain a mystery to me.

One thing is certain - it was inspiring. I don’t know if I, at 70 plus years of age would get up at 5 a.m. and climb a hill in the cold fog over and over again, but I sincerely hope that I, too, will have a reason and a purpose that will motivate me to do so.


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