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The Hell Hill

cedartown

 

So the day after the Cedartown 5k, my plan was to sleep in. But rooming with Sus (my teammate and close friend) literally inspires you to be a better person so I got up early, chowed down on some Special K, and hopped in my racing chair for what was to be our last long run in Georgia. There weren’t many people in our group that morning, but it kind of made the run feel more special. Everyone who was there that day was there because they truly love the sport, not because it was mandatory.

I rolled out to the front of the hotel and asked Coach how many miles he thought I should go. “Whatever you want. Today’s practice is just for fun, go however far you want to go.” My immediate thought was back to my warm, cozy, hotel bed was about as far as I wanted to go, but I should have known better than to ask.

Coach’s philosophy is something I’ve been trying to decipher for two years now. It’s something that makes him very unique as a coach, but extremely effective, in my opinion. His methods teach you to develop a sturdy work ethic and also listen to your body at the same time. He’ll help you with as much as you need when it comes to workouts, technique, and form, but when it gets down to the nitty gritty, it’s really up to you to push yourself towards your goals. No one else can do that for you.

So with all of that in mind I settled on doing 8 miles. Not too long, not too short; I did the same course two days earlier and was fairly confident I wouldn’t get lost. Plus I figured I could get it done and have some iced coffee all before 10’oclock, which sounded like a pretty productive morning to me.

The start of this beautiful Georgia route, aptly named “the river run”, began with a long descent down a decent size hill. It had multiple flat sections in between slopes, but it was over a half mile long- enough time to hit a solid 25mph without having to put much effort into it.

Since I’m one of the slower folks on my team, I always feel on top of the world when I’m able to stay with the pack. I hung in there for about a mile and then I watched them take off at the bottom of our first climb. Let’s just say hills aren’t really my thing- but I’m working on it.

We had two bikers with us that day who knew the area well. One went forward with the pack and one hung behind with me. I immediately felt guilty and wanted to encourage him to go ahead with the others. My pace is just fine for me, but I imagine it must feel monotonously slow on a bike. But I did actually feel safer having him there, especially since multiple teammates had had some run-ins with some pretty fierce dogs in the past few days. I kept imagining that around every corner was hound dog ready to attack anyone who encroaches on his property, and… I suddenly felt no desire to be alone.

It was a hot July day, but the first three miles flew by. The land was gorgeous. I found myself wishing I had brought my GoPro camera along for the ride, but I think part of what makes some runs so magical is the stark contrast between the pain you feel while running combined with the beauty and serenity of your surroundings. Stopping to take a picture would make the whole occurrence less personal and in my mind less meaningful. Some things are truly best kept in just a simple memory.

At mile four we arrived at the turn around point. Fred, the man who was biking with me, had been joking for some time about me opting to do eight miles instead of twelve (like everyone else) because I was doing my best to avoid something I cannot name anything else but the Hell Hill. For the eight mile course you simply stay left at the fork in the road, and you escape the hill’s wrath entirely. But for the twelve mile course, you climb that beast of hill and whatever comes after it- I had never made it to the top to find out.

I wanted to prove to Fred (who was really only kidding) that I indeed was not a wuss, but just the thought of trekking up that monster made my triceps throb. Right before the fork the thought popped into my head that if I did decide, in fact, to climb that hill, then that meant I got to fly down it.

I live for racing down hills. The adrenaline rush is like nothing you’ve ever felt before. You’re proud of yourself for making it to the top, and then you are instantly rewarded with the thrill of rushing down the other side, dodging potholes and roaming squirrels. The whole time knowing that if one little rock happens to get in your way, or if you turn your steering just a millimeter too far, then you could be tumbling head over heels all the way to the bottom. Thankfully, of course, that’s never happened to me- but the thought that it very possibly could is extremely exhilarating.

We got to the fork and I decided to go right. It was either going to be me or this hill- only one of us could come out on top. Fred looked at me with confusion, but realized what I decided to do and immediately started talking in an effort to keep my mind off of the task at hand.

I climbed for what felt like hours. After about seven or eight minutes of a grueling 5mph pace he turned to me and said “Okay, you made it through the easy part.”

I wanted desperately to turn around. The section I climbed was easily long enough to hit an exciting speed, but I knew I would feel crummy all day if I gave up now.

I kept climbing and climbing. I was going so slow I was surprised he didn’t get off his bike and just walk next to me. Every muscle in my upper body was on fire and there was nothing I could do but keep going. Fred started explaining the percentage grade of the hill and how it was just going to keep getting steeper.

I was so tempted to just lift my front wheel and in one swift move of the torso turn around and start heading down, but I had already gotten so far; I owed it to myself to finish.

Fred said the peak of the hill was just up at a white mailbox ahead, and never had I been so excited to see a mailbox in my life. When I finally reached the yard with the box, I had the same feeling overwhelm me as when I hit the finish line after completing a marathon.

All the sudden I felt a new energy ignite in me. Now I get to go down! Now I get to explore new uncharted territory! I slowly started building speed, just extremely grateful that I no longer felt like a marshmallow roasting over a campfire, but something was not right. The fastest I was going was about 15mph. I was NOT about to let 15mph be the fruits of my labor, I hit 26mph going down Heartbreak Hill months ago in Boston, and this hill was way way worse. I realized the backside of this hill was much more drawn out and a lot less steep than the side I just climbed.

The first thing that I thought was that it was all for nothing, I had climbed that hill for nothing. I wasn’t going very fast, I now had to do an extra 4 miles compared my planned route, and I wouldn’t even be given the simple joy of speeding downhill. I was crushed. I didn’t even feel proud for getting up the hill, I just felt stupid for not taking that left and turning around where I was supposed to.

While I was busy wallowing in self-pity, I failed to notice that I was gaining speed. I felt the wind pushing hard against my face, but all I saw was another large hill looming in the distance and I filled with dread. But all the sudden I was climbing up that hill barely using any force. I looked down at my Garmin and saw I was going 25mph. Yes! I was finally going fast! I reached the peak of that hill and when I got to the top- the bottom looked like it was directly under me, a seemingly 90 degree drop.

I closed my eyes- just for a split second- and felt joy and relief rush through my veins. I glanced down and saw I was hitting 30.7mph. I felt limitless.

The rest of the run went swimmingly. I caught up with the rest of my team who stopped for a second for a quick hill climbing contest. It was very comforting to know that they were struggling with the hills too. As horrible as that sounds it really does make a difference knowing that your team is right there with you, experiencing everything you are, just a few steps ahead.

We made it back to the hotel not long after that, and I gulped down probably the best tasting blue PowerAde in existence.

I think the whole point of this story full of ups and downs (that was a hill pun) was to say conquering that hill and not getting that instant gratification is kind of a metaphor for things that happen in life. Seemingly frequent in my life nowadays.

Many times there are tasks that seem unconquerable. You have to build up enough courage to even attempt them. And sometimes when you think you finally reached your goal, the happiness doesn’t come.

Ever since kindergarten I’ve been taught I must set goals in life to succeed. After my training for my first Boston marathon, I came to the realization that setting a goal is great, but it’s more important to be present and soak in each moment, because those are what really count. Sometimes the competitive edge in me forgets that so occurrences like the Hell Hill are perfect reminders that I need to relax a bit and trust that happiness and success will come. And they always do.

 

 

Top Ten Things To Do in California Part II!

Top Ten Things To Do in California Part II!

 

#5. Dottie’s True Blue Café –San Francisco

If you like breakfast food (definitely my favorite meal of the day), then you absolutely NEED to go here! Definitely the best egg scramble I have ever tasted, and that’s saying something if you’ve ever had my dad’s cooking! The coffee was incredible, there was a mason jar of homemade raspberry jam on every table, and the chocolate chip French toast my brother ordered was probably the sweetest toast I’ve ever consumed. The line for a table was pretty long, about 30 minutes, but while we waited we discovered that this awesome joint had been featured on Diners, Drive-in, and Dives!

Notably, although the food is beyond amazing, it’s not typical of the “clean eating” lifestyle I try and abide by. Definitely worth a cheat day though. Definitely, definitely, definitely! And there are healthier options like wheat toast instead of white, and my scramble was full of avocado (healthy fat), and black beans (protein), and spinach… buried under a bed of cheese and salsa though (whoops!).
But hands down the best breakfast I’ve ever had, make sure to check it out next time you’re on the west coast!

Hot chocolate in a mason jar + little brother, it doesn't get much cuter than this folks

Hot chocolate in a mason jar + little brother, it doesn’t get much cuter than this folks

So much food, so much deliciousness

So much food, so much deliciousness

#4.  See a Groundlings show- Los Angeles

This was definitely a spur of the moment kind of thing, my family and I bought our tickets the night before not really sure what to expect, but oh my gosh was it fantastic! The Groundlings are an improvisational comedy group (picture SNL but better) and these were probably some of the funniest people I have ever seen. Stars like Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and Melissa McCarthy (all cast in Bridesmaids) are all Groundling alumni, along with SNL’s Taran Killam, Will Forte, Ana Gasteyer, Will Farrell, and Kathy Griffin, and and and the list literally goes on and on. Anyway, the sketches were more than side splitting funny. They sing, dance, and act their asses off, one of my favorite skits was a mash-up of the TV shows So You Think You Can Dance, and a CSI style drama. Sounds super weird and it was super weird but one of the funniest things I’ve ever witnessed. They also had some awesome audience interaction bits (I never made eye contact for fear I would be picked!), but those were hysterical too. The twenty dollar tickets were completely worth the incredible experience we had, and I’m definitely stopping by again for another show next time I’m in town.

#3. Warner’s Brothers Studio Tour

The next top three activities were very hard to choose between, but this tour was by far the most informational. If you have any interest in movies at all I highly suggest this tour! You get to see tons of real life sets that are used for hundreds of movies and currently 10-15 hit TV shows, like one of my personal favorites The Mentalist! We had a fantastic guide, he knew the history of the studio dating back to the thirties, and was able to answer every question we threw at him. He showed us the original set of Central Perk (from the show Friends), and for me that was a really cool experience having grown up loving the show.
We buzzed through the lot on an extended golf cart that was completely accessible so I used a ramp to get on, and never had to leave my chair (two thumbs up Warner Bros!). On top of the sets and sound stages, there was a mini museum that contained many props from major motion pictures, like the various Batmobiles, and the sorting hat from Harry Potter! Of course I was placed in Gryffindor, only the best house at Hogwarts. Unfortunately we were not able to spot any celebrities along our way, but the tour re-sparked my love for cinema, so much so that I begged my parents to go look around USC’s film school (which was absolutely incredible) and am now thinking about applying there for my Masters.  Need to start working on my first indie, film ideas anyone?!

 

List of movies filmed on this sound stage

List of movies filmed on this sound stage

Pretty badass

Pretty badass

I know what I'm getting for my next car...

I know what I’m getting for my next car…

Fam at Central Perk!

Fam at Central Perk!

Favorite movie was displayed inside USC...it's a sign

Favorite movie was displayed inside USC…it’s a sign

Douglas Fairbanks at USC

Douglas Fairbanks  statue at USC

 

#2. Bike around the San Francisco Bay

This is mainly my number two because it was my first time being on the road in a hand cycle!! And the views were incredible! I never biked much as a kid, but handcycles are cool as hell, not to mention speedy, and I would love to get more into the sport someday. My family had a difficult time finding any bike tours of the city that had a handcycle available for rent, but somehow my dad stumbled across BORP’s (Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program) Adaptive Cycling program! After a disheartening half hour of searching for the building (we had the wrong address) we finally found the small shop located along a loopy bike trail just under a high way. I was a little skeptical, but after about a mile we were riding right along the bay, and it was gorgeous! We couldn’t have picked a more perfect day to ride, cool air and sun shone on our faces, exercising together as a family, I couldn’t have asked for more.

JulyAug vacation 2013 197

JulyAug vacation 2013 200

 

My sweet ride!

My sweet ride!

#1. Kayak in Monterey with the sea lions!

I don’t even want to write about this experience because it might spoil the awe I felt for the ocean, and planet, and these amazing animals I got to witness from just a few feet away. Here’s some fantastic pictures courtesy of my lovely mother, thanks mom!! :)

 

Safety first!

Safety first!

Family vacation July Aug 2013 155

 

Family vacation July Aug 2013 141

 

Family vacation July Aug 2013 073

 

Family vacation July Aug 2013 061

 

Family vacation July Aug 2013 052

 

Family vacation July Aug 2013 043

Top Ten Things To Do in California!

Top Ten Things To Do in California!

(If you like fun and food and other cool stuff)

Part 1

Two weeks ago my family went on a vacation to California! The entire trip was a blast, but here are the top ten activities you MUST DO next time you’re on the west coast.

#10. Ghirardelli Square/Fisherman’s Wharf
If you like shopping and ice cream, this is the place for you! It’s located in San Francisco with a beautiful view of the bay. You can see Alcatraz from the boardwalk and they have tours of the island, but make sure to book them in advance because they were completely full when we looked into it. While we were there we did go to this amazing bread shop called Boudin Bakery. They turn sourdough into all kinds of shapes and animals, me and my mom split the cutest baby turtle, it was almost too adorable to eat. Almost. They have lots of fun touristy shops if you’re into that, but some cute original ones too. The one store I couldn’t get enough of was Jackson and Polk, everything was very urban and chic, it was perfect. Eventually my family had to pull me away so we could pick up our delicious Ghirardelli sundaes. I would basically recommend everything on the menu, let’s get real, ice cream is the best!!

Sourdough turtle!

Sourdough turtle!

Happy brother with bread :)

Happy brother with bread :)

 

 At Ghirardelli on a chilly day!

At Ghirardelli on a chilly day!

 

#9. Driving down the Pacific Coast Highway (PHC)
This drive was unlike any other. You go right along the coast through gorgeous mountains that suddenly drop off into a crystal blue ocean. We saw loads of kiteboaders, which made me really curious about how to make that adaptive because it looks like it would be absolutely amazing to learn! There were also giant elephant seals basking on the shore, you definitely don’t get to see wildlife like that every day! Along the drive we stopped at a beautiful restaurant called Nepenthe. The view from our table was incredible, and I had one of the most delicious veggie burgers I’ve ever tasted. Also the berry pie, out of this world! And that’s a pretty big compliment coming from a girl who doesn’t usually like fruity desserts.

Along the PCH

Along the PCH

Kite boarders!

Kite boarders!

 

Elephant Seals

Elephant Seals

 

Family at Nepenthe

Family at Nepenthe

 

#8. The Mission and Haight Districts
These were two places I wish I would have had more time in. The thing I love most about these two San Francisco boroughs was probably the uniqueness that was all contained within a few blocks. The mission district had these amazing murals on the walls of their buildings, and this part of the city just had this indescribable charisma to it. There were tons of little book stores and we had some amazing Mexican food at this unexpected “hole in the wall” kind of place, but I couldn’t have asked for better. The Haight district was filled with the chilliest most down to Earth people. There was a giant Amoeba Records there which I could have spent hours perusing, but once again my family literally dragged me out, but not before buying Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication (had to), and a Cold War Kids CD. After leaving the records we went to The Ice Cream Bar, a 1930’s style vintage soda fountain, with some of the coolest drinks around the block. I was brave and had a Bonne Vie No. 2 containing “Fresh pink grapefruit, turbinado syrup, citric acid, basil ice cream, and fresh basil”. It was weird, but in an unexpectedly very very good way!

Menu at The Ice Cream Bar

Menu at The Ice Cream Bar

My super weird delicious drink!

My super weird delicious drink!

Wall art in the Mission District!

 

#7. Japanese Tea Garden
Located in Golden Gate Park, this garden was perfect for a chilly day (especially when paired with a cup of jasmine tea). Not only was it gorgeous and relaxing, it was also very accessible and I was able to get around easily over the paved pathways and bridges. There were Koi fish in the pond, and statues everywhere that really made you feel like you stepped into Japan for a couple hours.

My tea getting photo bombed

My tea getting photo bombed

Buddha!

Buddha!

Almost* Accessible

Almost* Accessible

 

#6. Santa Monica Beach
Growing up in Florida I was practically raised on the beach, but this one was especially beautiful. Although the pier was not very accessible due to the bumpy wooden planks it was built on, the beach itself was wonderful, filled with stands selling everything you could want on a sunny day. What I thought was really cool was all of the workout equipment that was permanently built into the sand, and bike paths for days! There were beams and bars and giant rings that a talented few could swing from without falling. There was a small group of boys that were the most amazing slack liners I had ever seen. If you haven’t heard of it, slack lining is similar to tight roping, but usually 2-5 feet off the ground and the “rope” is a fabric strap that is purposely loose so it gives under your weight. I see them all the time on my college campus, but these young kids were flipping and doing stunts that I couldn’t believe, it was so cool. It looked a lot like this…

Slacklining

Slacklining



 

The only thing that was a little disappointing was there was no path for wheelchairs to get right down to the shore line. Sand can be a b!tch to get a manual wheelchair through, I sink and sink to the point where my wheels are so stuck they can’t spin. This is a pretty big bummer because I love the beach so much, but I also love my independence and having someone drag my chair through the sand isn’t fun for anybody. In Barcelona a few summers ago I saw the perfect solution! Right there on the beach was a smooth wooden path that went from the street to the water, once there I could either swim or push myself on the hard packed sand. I didn’t expect anything like it to be in Florida, but California, one of the most accessible states in the country, I thought for sure they would have it. Sadly they didn’t, and there was so much beach before you hit the water, it would have taken days to get me there. I still had a fabulous time, but by just simply adding one path, they would have made this Cali girl very happy.