Wednesday, October 14, 2009

the final mile

why is the final mile of a climb always the most difficult?
is it because you know you're so close to the end that you start to realize how hard you've worked and how tired you are?
or is it because you feel the pull of the end, you start to envision it, and your body reacts by trying to act out what it will soon be doing?
or is it because the last mile is always the steepest?

big mountain is the starting point for a few significant running races, and thus there are distance markers painted in white on the road. they continue all the way down emigration canyon as well, and they are such a familiar part of the terrain that I know them all by heart.
it helps that they go in order, of course.
the first one that really jumps out at me as I'm riding up big mountain is the big "5k" that tells me I'm five kilometers from the top. this is when it starts to get serious. I'm usually grinding away in my lower gears, sailing along at an exciting 7 or 8 miles an hour. the marker, which I always convert in my mind to miles, is soon behind me and I can look forward to the next one, the big 3.
3 miles, that is.
[I really don't know why we get to jump back and forth between miles and kilometers: are we just trying to please everyone? I could handle strictly miles or only kilometers, and just do the math on my own. or maybe there is a reason, and it's written in that rulebook I haven't yet read.]
next comes 3k, then 2, then 2k, then 1.
and then about a mile later comes 1k.
at this point I am aching for the ride to be over, for a gentle downhill glide, for a bit of rest, for anything but the damn hill I'm on.
and then about a mile later comes 500m.
and then after another kilometer or so I see the 200m written in barely visible, weathered white paint.
and then after about a kilometer, I reach the summit.

you do the math.

that last mile lasts forever, and it's relentless.
it's not just the last mile up big mountain, either. it can be the last mile up millcreek, or city creek, or big cottonwood, or any mountain I choose to climb.
metaphorical mountains, as well.
is it that we've worked so hard for so long, and still aren't there?
is it that the entire road has been littered with potholes and obstacles and challenges?
is it that it's truly steeper at the end, the final test?

all I know is that the last mile is part of something much larger and longer than a mere 5280 feet.
and it's okay to be tired, to go slowly, and to feel as though it will never end.
to watch the markers change from 2 to 1 to 1/2 to 1/5, and know that you still have to pedal.
because as long as you keep pedaling, it will eventually be whittled down to less than zero.

and then you can swoop.

which could never happen if you gave up at some point along the way, if you gave into your mind's math instead of the actual numbers painted on the road.

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