Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Hills

Getting over the hills is one of the ways I gauge my stamina every week, now that I'm over the hill. We've got three cardiac tests on our eight mile loop mountain bike ride around Deem Hills Desert Preserve, a chunk of open space spared by the development industry of Phoenix. I figure if I can make it up these without bailing out and walking, I'm still doing okay. This is my new alternative to trying to fit into the wedding gown I wore at the age of 25, which doesn't even squeeze onto my petite 18-year-old daughter, certain proof that it must have shrunk!

The first of the hills has been dubbed Boulder Hill, because it is strewn with rocks the size of baby heads and small dogs. Navigating among the rocks adds a significant challenge to the ten percent grade, but it's just a warm up of a couple hundred yards. I still have a hard time with this one.

A mile long five percent grade through deep sand ending in a steep pitch of about a hundred feet we call Bolder Hill. If we do our route counter clockwise, the same hill climbs for about a quarter mile on a thirty percent grade. But then you miss the uphill, heart-pumping, quad-building, balance-testing mile, which becomes a sluggish cruise going downhill. To achieve success here you have to plan ahead, as if you are running a technical river rapid, to avoid pointy rocks. So you have to begin on the left, then ferry over to the far right and then push hard over a ledge near the top. I always stop to catch my breath, take in the view, and have a drink here.

The crux of our tri-test is named Shoulder Hill, in honor of an unfortunate accident that my husband Tom suffered at its summit a few years ago. After surgery and four months of rehab, he has banned toe clips from his mountain bike, which were the primary culprit in the spill. For this one, you have to shift down to your lowest gear quickly, in order to pump up a short narrow, loose, gravelly grade that tops out onto a roadside curb. It took me a while to master this one.

We do this ride about twice a week, same old ride every time. The triple hill challenges make it fun, but the best part is the triple benefits: getting outside, getting exercise, and enjoying time with my favorite biking partner.

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