Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The Hill

At first I hated the hill and never did I want to develop a relationship with this cruel task master. But being strong on hills gives added speed to the flats as your muscles have been pushed to the limit. I am not built for the climbs, but over the years the hate (an emotion so close to love, some would say a direct opposite) has matured into a estranged friendship. Slowly, as the Hill and the Climber have conversed, a relationship has developed and a dialogue beyond a few words are a more common place event. To say I love the Hill, well that would be untrue, but no longer do I fear its whip.

There is an honest work and sweat to be derived from the toil that a gradiant can bring. This may be the thing that drives us to achieve the difficult, to push ones self beyond our personal markers. The lure of the climb is so great that it not only attracts those who sore like eagles, but it also draws those for who it is the way of the cross, but the journey must be completed all the same.

Some hills are more challenging than others as they grow to form small then large mountains. Not always is it the height that can make it difficult. More often it is the gradient (& how long it lasts) that can truly define it, or it may be the type of surface covered in those final metres towards heaven. Cresting a climb is like watching a child take its first breath, the taste of clean fresh air at the top feeding a burnt out set of lungs, hot and dry from the effort, once again able to speak.

The high hills and low mountains, can be in there own way as tough as the big monsters of the Alpes. Let us not forget the bergs in Belgium or the Poggio in Italy. What they lack in length they more than make up for in how they influence a race.

Like life itself we seem to climb more than we descend. Part of this mind trick is the speed and effort required to get up; compared to the ease of the descent due to the lack of effort required. With speeds up to 100 km possible off a mountain, no wonder the reward of the descend seems so brief. Gravity can be a cruel mistress. With the unbridalled joy still flowing through every sinew, for a time those endorphins numb the pain of the climb to come.

The descent brings unparelled joy that ignites deep within the soul. It takes the rider back to it's childhood, to the point of the first descent. Many years ago in Club culture the art of the descent was as revered as those able to climb fast. To watch the best descenders in action is awesome to behold, dropping with the agile speed of a bird of prey, making 'normal riders' look stationery in comparison.

Go to any race, be it Road, Cross or even a city centre critrium, the crowd will congrate either on the climb (usually on the Road) or on the descent (a common place in Cross or MTB racing). For some it is sadist streak that can float to the surface to gloat on anothers pain. Others know that this can be a great location to take a prisesed picture, one to cherrish and prove that you were there.

The stages of the Tour that draw the largest number of spectators and tv viewers are normally the ones that feature a climb or two. Flat stages never have the lure that a gradient can provide, maybe only Paris-Roubaix can draw such fervour without having a climb of note.

Life it's self can draw parallels to the Hill. At times both are tough, but as there is always an up, at some point there must be a summit. Then comes the down, in this case a brief blast of joy to encourage and invoke the spirit to achieve higher and greater things. So often you have to struggle, work hard to reach your goal of mastering the hill, or at least mastering it on your level. As with life itself, there are those who will climb in the big ring and for others it will be the struggle in the right hand gutter.